The term ‘inbound marketing’ has been the buzzword of the digital marketing world in recent years. Yet, what actually is inbound marketing?
While we can use all the fancy words and technical jargons to describe inbound marketing, in its essence, inbound marketing is about using relevant and valuable contents to draw your potential customers ‘inward’.
The opposite of the idea is outbound marketing which some people will address as ‘traditional’ or even ‘old-school’ marketing. Here, we go ‘outward’ to obstruct potential customers with advertising, events, and even cold calls.
So, the main idea about inbound marketing is about interruption. Instead of interrupting your customers, you create something valuable (mostly contents) that will draw your customers in your direction.
As you can see, a huge part of inbound marketing will be content marketing (link to previous content marketing guide) but it is also important to understand that content marketing is not the end of it.
Since in SAAS businesses, content marketing is already essential, applying the whole concept of inbound marketing will also be beneficial to the whole business.
In this guide, we will learn the basics of inbound marketing, and the specific inbound marketing techniques we can apply to SAAS businesses.
Inbound Marketing VS SEO
Since both inbound marketing and SEO are mostly about contents, there is a growing assumption that inbound marketing is simply a modernized SEO with a shiny new name.While there’s truth to that assumption, that inbound marketing and SEO do cross path fairly often, they are not the same.
Here are the key differences between the two:
- SEO focuses mainly on search engines, while inbound marketing is about participating in all the different channels effectively
- SEO is mainly about being discovered on search engines, and gaining traffic from it. Inbound marketing focuses more on customer loyalty, lead generation, and ultimately, conversion. So, we can say that inbound marketing is more about the long-term
- In modern SEO, we aim to please both people and search algorithms in equal measure, although we can argue that the emphasis is still a little more on the search crawlers. In inbound marketing, people are always the focus.
- SEO is focusing on anyone searching for that specific keyword. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is targeted at a specific audience according to your buyer persona
As we can see, there are several key differences between inbound marketing and ‘traditional’ SEO. However, as we have mentioned, SEO does play a major part in inbound marketing. We can indeed think of inbound marketing as an expanded, ‘more complete’ form of SEO.
Refer to our previous guides on SEO for SAAS businesses here. (link)
Why You Need Inbound Marketing
Here are the key benefits to inbound marketing over traditional marketing strategies:
- Inbound marketing is typically more affordable compared to traditional marketing campaigns like PPC advertising, or even SEO
- It is relatively more accessible than most forms of traditional marketing. Everyone have access to blogging platform like WordPress or video platform like YouTube.
- Inbound marketing is easier to track even with free tools like Google Analytics
- Inbound marketing is targeted at specific audience, while traditional marketing uses a more hit-and-miss approach
- Since the main aim of inbound marketing is to avoid interruption, it is generally more accepted by your audience
As we can see, there are many benefits offered by the inbound marketing approach. Yet, inbound marketing by itself is a pretty broad term involving a lot of tactics and marketing techniques. So, how can we begin? Here are the inbound marketing techniques every SAAS businesses can (and should) use.
Inbound Marketing Techniques for SAAS Businesses
1. Developing and Publishing Valuable Contents
We have mentioned that the core of inbound marketing is content marketing, and the quality of your content will the the most important aspect of your inbound marketing strategy.
Now, we won’t give it much justice discussing content marketing as just a small part of this guide, so refer to our previous guides on content marketing strategy (link).
However, here are the key principles on developing successful content:
- Unique and Value are your core principles: The content must be unique so you wont get penalized by Google (link to Google penalty article), and it must be valuable enough to pull your audience
- Headlines do matter, and we can even argue that it is an art into itself. Check out this nice guide by WordStream to start writing great headlines
- In general, 1000 to 2000 words are the perfect length for textual contents. For the SAAS audience, longer, data-driven contents are generally preferable
- Diversify your media, even if it’s a technical, textual content, you can include images, infographics and even video
- We all love great stories. In fact, I personally believe that stories are one of the biggest driving elements in human lives. Include stories or elements of storytelling even in your most technical, academic contents when appropriate
2. Influencer Marketing
Now that you’ve developed your excellent contents, it’s time to get the word out so that more people can consume your contents.
While there are many strategies and methods you can use to promote your content, arguably utilizing an influencer marketing campaign is the most effective.
Influencer marketing can be expensive, depending on which influencer you approached. For a successful SAAS influencer marketing campaign, here are the two main aspects:
- Finding The Right Influencer
Finding the relevant influencer for your contents that are aligned with your brand and can engage with your customers is difficult. There are, indeed, many influencer identification tools that can help you, such as BuzzSumo, but arguably the best way is to recognize the right influencers manually by monitoring social media and trends.
- Building Relationships With Influencers
Here’s the catch: even when you’ve found the perfect influencer for your business, doesn’t necessarily mean they want to promote your content or your business. Sometimes, a simple email is what it takes, but most of the time you will need to build relationship and trust with them. Start by simply engaging them in their social media: mention them about their specific content and how it inspired you. Join the conversation in their channels with valuable insights or even interesting questions. It will take time, but even if you don’t get them to promote you in the end, there’s a good chance some of their followers will be aware of your business.
3. Maximizing SEO
We have repeatedly stated that SEO is a huge part of inbound marketing. Why? Because SEO is also one of the most effective ways to indirectly promote your content.
Almost everything in the internet nowadays begin with a Google search. Most of the contents we assessed are a click from search results.
For the inbound marketing purpose, there are several key SEO aspects you should focus on:
- Optimizing Keywords
Yes, no matter how many people said otherwise, keywords are still very important for SEO.
It is true, however, that the modern SEO approach is a little different: instead of simply stuffing each page with your target keyword(s), we can also utilize words that are semantically related to the target keyword. We call this method Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), and you can check out our previous guide on LSI here (link).
The key here is to aim for just 1-2% of keyword density on each page, and use LSI to optimize related words.
It is no secret that backlinks are the most important aspect in SEO. The great think is, the inbound marketing strategy itself in a whole, is a great strategy to build backlinks, making it an excellent symbiotic relationship.
The idea of inbound marketing is to produce and publish excellent contents, and guess what? Great contents will get backlinks by itself. Promoting your contents through influencer marketing, guest posting, or even comment posting can also get you backlinks.
Again, check out our previous guide on backlinks (link) to learn more.
4. Keep Your Contents Free
While it’s always tempting to monetize a content you’ve worked hard upon, it is almost always better to keep your contents free for inbound marketing purposes. Instead, if you have a content you feel will be really valuable for your audience, offer it for free in exchange for an email address or other contact information.This way, you can turn your content as a valuable lead generation machine. (link to lead generation)
Another benefit is SEO, as free contents are more likely to rank higher than password-protected and contents in a form of downloadable PDB.
Inbound marketing is especially powerful for SAAS businesses because most of your leads will come from organic searches about valuable contents. So, creating valuable contents and putting it out there will be truly beneficial to your business. There is even a growing belief that for SAAS businesses, your content can also be considered as your product besides the software itself.
While the concept of inbound marketing might be alien for those who haven’t practiced it before, the idea is actually fairly simple. The fact that inbound marketing is relatively affordable should also make it worth considering as an integral part of your SAAS digital marketing.