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do you know why your saas marketing plan should be inbound vs outbound?
Lucas HamonApr 30, 2015 4:30:00 AM8 min read

Why Your SaaS Marketing Plan Should be Inbound vs Outbound

SaaS & Inbound Marketing may be long lost siblings.

We are both rooted in idea that they can make life better for our customers from the cloud. We explore and celebrate what it means to integrate and compliment. We are both bottom-line focused, and although we're highly-technical in nature and logical both in construction and execution, we cannot exist without human contact, creativity, and all of the imperfections that make us real.

We apparently share the same DNA (which I imagine consists of ones and zeros)!

Okay, but what about outbound? Is it not still valuable or effective? You're likely receiving dozens of calls, emails, direct messages, and more from saas marketing agencies and self-proclaimed SEO marketing experts trying to sell you leads, right? So, they MUST work. The question is, does it make sense for your SaaS marketing plan?

Here it is - How and WHY SaaS marketing is so much more effective when going inbound vs outbound with respect to each stage of the buyer's journey:

~ Awarness: Top of funnel

~ Consideration: Middle of funnel

~ Decision-making: Bottom of funnel

Your software subscription will transform the lives it touches - if we can get that far...

Marketing shouldn't be forgotten just because you have a great product or service. How you package and deliver it to the public is just as important as the services it provides its users. SaaS marketing manifests itself in every interaction your brand has with the public, not just while they're using the software.

Inbound marketing is all about being digital, and so is your software - And, actually, it may be difficult for your audience to know where one ends and the other begins, so you should provide the same superior experience during the buying phases as when they sign up and start paying you those juicy monthly fees.

Digital outreach comes in a variety of flavors, and there are dinstinct differences between the mindset of inbound vs outbound marketing methodologies. I believe that SaaS marketing is best served inbound because we believe in the same ideas about how technology can and should augment our personal and professional lives.

Your software is a revolutionary step forward - your marketing should reflect that.

1: Top of Funnel

Top of funnel sales leads through inbound marketing

Attracting visitors to your website is numero uno when it comes to the list of most important attributes for your marketing plan. You cannot convert strangers into leads or clients if they don't first start off as visitors.

INBOUND: Attract visitors with a blogging strategy deeply integrated with your targeted keywords (SEO). Use social media to connect with others, distribute your content, and attract more interest with 3rd party content curation. With inbound, you are PART of the conversation, which means you steer clear of broadcasting your message over and over.

Our website is also optimized with our targeted keywords, both long and short tail, so we'll start to show up in organic search queries through Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. In fact, we'll start showing up in search queries through our site pages, blog posts, AND social media posts.

This method takes time to really work, but somewhere between 4 and 6 months we'll see a nice mix of traffic coming from nothing but organic sources, like unpaid search, social media, and even inbound links. This happens because we've been following a quality standard set forth by Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to elevate educational content over static websites. We'll start ranking in top 10 results for keywords we've been blogging around and focusing on for the 4-6 months prior.

Every additional blog we post or landing page we add with optimized content and linking will compound the effectiveness of our prior and future efforts. Our blog posts from 3 years ago will continue working for us as long as the topics are relevant (think "evergreen marketing"), which means that they'll contribute to your overall keyword rankings as well as surface in search results well after they were originally posted.

OUTBOUND: Attract visitors using pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns in search and social media. You'll have banner pop-ups, and you'll probably have purchased lists that you'll email and/or call. You may even explore radio or print ads.

On social media, you won't be actively connected to your community and followers, but rather, will spend your time broadcasting company advertisements. Because followers don't come naturally, you'll also spend money on follower-based sponsorships.

You may have a blog, but it will probably be advertisements and case studies, not helpful articles. And since you're emailing and calling off of purchased lists, you risk being placed on the National DNC registry and having your domain blocked by major servers because your emails keep getting marked as "spam."

This method generates traffic immediately. However, once you turn off the ad, it disappears. Like, completely. Even your blog posts won't do much for you, because people don't respond well to bait-n-switch tactics once they realize what's happening. Calling something a "blog," for example, but really using it to advertise, will turn off most of the people who click. If they bounce too quickly, Google sees that as a red flag, which means gaining favor in the rankings will be tough.

Speaking of SEO marketing... This is where things get a little fuzzy, because if you're not approaching it with the mindset of an inbound marketer, you're probably using tactics that go completely against the quality control mechanisms set forth by our favorite search engines. I'm talking about link farms, keyword stuffing, and anything else they despise.

That said, black-hat seo marketing tactics were quite popular because they worked. The problem is that once Google finds out what you're doing, it stops working overnight, AND they'll probably ban you. Good luck if that's the case, because they won't let you back in until you fix your bad links, and a lot of these old agencies are charging money to do this. Yikes.

2: Middle of Funnel

This is where we convert visitors into actual contacts we can manage, email, call, and nurture. Not everybody who visits your site is going to buy right away. In fact, most would rather get to know you and your brand first - which means going through a nurturing process. But first we have to convert visitors into leads

INBOUND: We provide content that can be downloaded in exchange for contact information. Typically, we'll blog around our favorite keywords that relate to certain content offers that we link to throughout the post. We'll also offer our content directly to the public by posting in social media. When they fill out the form, they are officially a lead that's engaged and interested in what have to offer.

But the sale isn't closed yet, so we don't want to stop developing the relationship, but because the lead gave their information willingly, we know that their likelihood of being qualified for our services is much higher than with paid lists - AND they already see us as a source of valuable information. That's great for lead conversion!

OUTBOUND:  Their lists are purchased - either they bought emails or phone numbers or both, or paid for sponsored posts on Facebook to get followers.

This outcome is almost immediate, which means they can start calling their prospects on day 1, as opposed to with inbound marketing, which will definitely take longer. But what about the quality of the leads and their initial levels of interest? Those two categories are killers for outbound, because their calls are stone cold, and their emails will feel very spammy. (because they ARE)

3: Bottom of Funnel

Closing the deal is much easier when your prospects are already asking for a proposal

This is your nurturing phase - where leads become either lost deals or customers..

INBOUND: One of the great benefits of working with an inbound mindset is that you're using a shotgun approach from the very beginning. You use blogs to attract your audience, but you also continue to nurture that relationship by providing blogs that get more granular, speaking to them as if they are already in the decision-making stage of their buyer's journey. IE - proving that YOUR software is the answer vs your competitor's.

So, we're going to continue working with them with our blogs and social media curation, but we're going to step it up a notching using emails and intelligence-based context marketing.

Okay, emailing is self-explanatory, except that we take a very specific approach to it. What comes next depends on their behaviors. For example, if they downloaded two pieces of bottom of funnel content but still haven't requested a meeting, now would be a good time to call. Sometimes they just need a little extra nudge.

But what happens if they only download one piece of content, then ignore the emails for a few weeks? At this point, we regroup, take our foot off the gas, and enroll them in an email campaign that is much lighter (like once a month + the blog). Let them find their way back at their own pace.

OUTBOUND: They have no idea whether the leads they're calling are actually viable, because they came off of purchased lists. They're calling competely cold, which means they have about 10 seconds to stuff their entire value proposition into the air before being hung up on. That, or they email out of the blue, and face similar consequences - only instead of being hung up on, they're being marked as "spam." Too much of either will set them back big time with our search engine friends.

But sometimes they'll catch somebody off guard and reel in a decent deal. But by this point, aren't you starting to see how clumsy outbound sales can be?THAT'S WHAT I CALL SYNERGY!

What kind of message does it portray to your prospective customers to communicate to them in a manner that is disruptive and clumsy? You're selling software services that are supposed to be intuitive and complimentary to a more efficient professional existance, but if your software can't find its way into their lives naturally, they may find it hard to believe that being your customer will actually benefit them.

But if you align yourself in a positive light from the first "hello," they'll be quite a bit more receptive, and cost quite a bit less to procure. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that - inbound marketing customers cost between 1/3 and half as much as outbound customers.

Put your inbound marketing plan for lead generation together with this free playbook:

inbound marketing and SAAS are long lost lovers on a quest to reunite


Lucas Hamon

Over 10 years of B2B sales experience in staffing, software, consulting, & tax advisory. Today, as CEO, Lucas obsesses over inbound, helping businesses grow! Husband. Father. Beachgoer. Wearer of plunging v-necks.