Month 3: Engage Your Thrusters with Content and Advertising
By Trenton Crawford
Last month, we picked our goals, set the course, and loaded up the spaceship. This month, it’s time to get the party started with some jet fuel.
This eBook is about marketing growth, so we can’t advise you on the business or operational aspects of your SaaS company.
But when it comes to using digital channels to get new users for your SaaS company, there are three types of fuel:
Organic content: blog posts, eBooks, webinars, and social interactions.
Earned media: PR mentions, citations in blog posts, tweets about your product.
Paid exposure: PPC, paid search, remarketing, and display advertising.
It doesn’t matter if you are a 150 million dollar company or a bootstrapped start-up, you need to promote your product and help prospects find you.
Which should you do? Attack the blog? Deep dive into paid search? Hire a PR firm?
Most successful SaaS companies we work with tend to focus on multi-channel strategies.
The less successful ones spend their time looking for a magic lead generation bullet.
That said, the more important question isn’t about how you will promote your business. It’s how you will reach and develop a relationship with your audience.
Buying access versus earning it
Let’s demystify where traffic actually comes from.
You can either build your own audience, or pay to access someone else’s audience.
This means that there are two basic ways to drive traffic and customers to your SaaS company. You can buy your traffic (paid search and display advertising) or you build an audience and then sell them products.
Moz’s community SEO blog is an example of the latter. They’ve built an audience asset that is independent of their product. But as they have a steady flow of visitors, they can then invite them to their conferences, pitch new launches on their blog, and drive sign-ups from the blog.
Building your own audience is often referred to as organic traffic or inbound marketing. It’s a tactic that we promote heavily at One Net and involves the creation and distribution of content for SEO, Social Media, Email and Content Marketing.
Most SaaS companies will probably use a combination of organic and purchased traffic. Money and resources will determine which tactic you pursue.
Paid exposure is a great accelerator
Content marketing, of course, is very fashionable and effective.
However, paid exposure through the Google Display Network (use Remarketing) and paid search can really help to give you a quick boost forward.
Blogs do take time and often SaaS companies need to feed the engine.
So, we recommend that you begin some paid campaigns, as well as start working on your content marketing.
The topic of content strategy and online advertising is much too big to break down here.
But you should know that we run profitable campaigns for our clients and it is possible and achievable for your company to also master these channels.
There are a zillion articles out there to get started. Here are a few ones that we’ve found useful.
Before you flood the engine with paid campaigns . . .
But before you just start racking up the credit card with display or paid search ads or pumping sponsored posts on Facebook, we have some advice.
The secret to any marketing success is this.
- Have an idea. Example: We should use Facebook ads and create a social contest for a year free of our product!
- Create a small test. Example: Let’s allocate $1,000 in Facebook ads and a customized landing page for the contest.
- See what happened. Example: Shucks, we got contest entries, but nobody signed up for a free trial.
- Refine and get better. Example: Let’s require that a user signs up for our free trial before they’re entered into the contest.
- Improve your funnel. Example: Let’s remove all social media buttons from our contest landing page and focus on capturing a sign-up. After all, an email address is more valuable to us than a Facebook like.
- Only scale when you’re awesome. Don’t apply more ad spend until the metrics tell you that you’ve succeeded. You don’t need 5 tests at $1,000 per to tell you that your campaign didn’t work. Instead, test and refine within your original $1,000 budget. Apply $200, then measure the results. Tweak your landing page and test again with another $200. Continue in this fashion until your $1,000 test budget is exhausted. Scale (increase ad spend) once the campaign is profitable.
Too many marketers rely on win-or-lose tests instead of working logically and iteratively through the problem. They run one big test and quit.
Keep iterating and improving until your test budget is exhausted. If it didn’t work – think of a new campaign or a different channel (opposed to an iteration to the existing campaign) and try again.
Our recommendation is to put some gas in the tank so that you start moving. Experience is the best teacher and reading more blog posts won’t tell you if paid search is the right channel for your product.
But before you invest too heavily in any one channel, make sure you read next month’s lesson on how to measure your advertising results.