In general terms, inbound marketing is about leading people to your website from other areas across the Internet. The attraction is the key to this method of online advertising, but often marketers resort to interruptive technologies like banners and popup ads, cold-calling, and email campaigns.
These strategies do work well for some industries, but in the area of subscription-based software, like SaaS, they are not as effective as content marketing, where people are attracted to a site based on the information and services they offer online alone. One such example is Hubspot, which attributes 54 percent of its leads to content marketing instead of paid traditional marketing.
What kind of content marketing strategies can you implement if you want growth in a SaaS-like environment? Here are five simple steps to get the job done.
1. Engage a Targeted Audience
You can’t really sell to someone if you don’t know who they are and what they want. Inbound marketing works better when you get some statistics on your potential buyers.
This should include:
A Customer Profile - You want to get a good idea of how old they are, income levels (if possible), ethnicity, gender, and all the usual demographics. This should match your ideal target customer as much as possible or it can be an indication that your content is being marketed to the wrong demographic for your particular business.
A Customer Category - Should you market high income offers to them? Not, if they’re not high income. By understanding what segment of the market is seeking what offers, you have a better chance of inducing them to make that purchase.
Points of Entry - Where is your traffic coming from? Find out which social networks generate the most traffic and why.
Content Likes - Which content on your site is most visited, most liked, shared, and commented on? This gives you a good vein of information to mine for future publishing schedules.
2. Do the Heavy Lifting with Goals and Calls to Action
You should plan content with some sort of strategy in mind, even before you write a single letter. You should know what type of content your audience finds most appealing and where to publish it so it gets noticed the most. You also want to have content that generates sales, like landing pages and a call to action on every piece of content you publish. Even content that just gets a marketing lead, like fill-in forms for email marketing and inquiries, should be made available. Your content marketing should always keep in mind: Goals, calls to action, and publishing opportunities.
3. Create Compelling Content
It’s not just in what you say (although that is a large part of it), but it is also in how you say it. Video is one trend that is ever-increasing and needs to be a part of any forward-thinking content strategy, particularly in IT. If you can’t manage videos, at least add images to your text.
Types of messages that are appealing to subscription-minded individuals and companies are:
Value-Added Reasoning - You are the expert on how to best use your product or service to someone’s best advantage. Share that information in your content through tips, how-to’s, and even a knowledgebase of indexed articles. This will keep your technical audience coming back again and again.
Benefits - How does a product or service benefit a buyer? How does it set them apart from the competition? Specifically, a tech buyer wants to know how this software subscription will save them time and money. The more specific you can get the better.
Case Studies - Just in case they don’t believe the benefits you say are there, you can always publish a shared experience of someone else’s implementation of your software (with their permission, of course). This is one type of content marketing that is especially effective for technical audiences who want to see hard numbers with actual rollouts.
Inspiring and Futuristic - How does your software put a company on the leading edge of their industry? By inspiring them to take the next step into their future, you invoke a deeply held desire in all tech companies - creating a new life with limitless possibilities. It’s this desire to excel and be part of the vanguard of new growth that inspires people to be in the IT industry to begin with and you can use that to your advantage.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Blog Posts
Content marketing is more than just publishing twice a week on a blog. To be effective and get the word out, include more than one format in your content marketing schedule. Here is a list of a few different venues to try to mix it up a bit:
- Slide Presentations
- Online Seminars and Classes
Also, re-use content whenever possible so that you reduce the need to create new content while getting the most out of your old content. For instance, if you’ve done a video, transcribe some of it and put it in text format elsewhere. Or, use information from a presentation in an online class. There is no reason the content can’t be added elsewhere on your site in different formats. Just be careful not to post the exact text copy of your content in different places, as it appears as plagiarism to the Google search engine.
4. Publish Content Where It Gets Noticed the Most
If your customers are on LinkedIn, there’s no point to publishing tweets on a regular basis. Similarly, if you publish content and it is not SEO-optimized, Google may not even notice your content updates as much.
Catching the attention of your prospects with your content means you need to place the content where it will be found by them first. Are you posting content where your prospects are? If not, you'll need to get that working in your favor sooner rather than later.
Here is a good step-by-step plan to optimize your content for different distribution channels so that it brings in the most traffic possible back to your website.
Link Back to Your Website - Draw them back to your homepage or blog. Always seek to have your content in other areas of the web move traffic back to your site with links.
Set Up an SEO Strategy - Research good long-tail keywords that can help you capture attention in your industry. Long-tail keywords are phrases of 4 or 5 words or more that have low competition, but can still generate higher traffic. Instead of “subscription software” for instance, you might find that a better keyword to add to your content is “SaaS trend reporting subscription software.” Also, remember to use alt tags for your images so that they can also be properly searched by Google and other search engines.
Regularly Contact Your Known Fans and Followers - These are people who have self-identified by adding themselves to an email list or linking to you on a social profile. You will create specific content for them and publish it regularly. You may update them with the new content via email or social networks.
Identify and Cultivate Influencers in Your Network - You may notice some die-hard fans that always comment and share your content. Check out their profiles and see how much influence they have. You can find out more about their overall influence through apps like Klout. If you’re interested in a particular social network, just visiting their profile can tell you a lot about their influence.
Look for Outside Publishing Opportunities - Don’t just settle for your own website and few social networks to publish on. Check out other high profile opportunities like Growthhackers.com or TechCrunch.com. Keep a list of sites like these to check regularly and offer them guest posts to get yourself noticed more in your particular industry.
5. Measure Your Content Marketing Performance Regularly
Once you set your goals and objectives, how can you tell if you’ve met them if you never measure your performance? You need to be able to analyze not only the content but how that content has affected traffic and sales numbers. You can use any URL builder to track the performance of specific links, like Google URL builder. This tool, along with Google Analytics, is one way to keep track of traffic and campaign performance. You can also use your own website analytic tools or use the ones provided by social networking companies tracking the performance of campaigns on their platforms.
Try to answer the following questions to understand how well your campaigns are performing:
- Which campaigns bring the most traffic back to your site?
- What specific content in the campaign was the most effective at drawing traffic?
- Where is the traffic coming from?
- Which keywords were most effective?
- Are people visiting your site new or returning visitors?
- What is the average amount of time people spent on different pages of your site?
You will not only want the answer to these questions, but also keep in mind that you will also want to know the demographics you are attracting and what content they match up with to properly analyze the segment marketing.
Customize Your Content Marketing Efforts
Content marketing for your company may follow the same guidelines as any other company, except that it will use different keywords and the audience will generally be more technically proficient. They may require a more authoritative approach, along with social proof. Either way, once you start doing the work and measuring the results, you will get a very good idea of what your audience is looking for and be able to serve that up to them on a regular basis. Once they trust your brand, you will have lowered the bar to get them to buy from you and your sales should increase over time.