Does Inbound Marketing Really Work for Early-Stage B2B SaaS Companies?Posted on 07 Nov
This article is the first post from our brand new blog series – “Marketing MishMash” – a compendium of valuable marketing insights specifically tailored for b2b SaaS companies.
Inbound is one of the hot buzzwords in marketing today. Back in 2012, Hubspot reported that inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads and, according to the ‘State of Inbound 2017’ report, 72% of companies use inbound as their primary approach to marketing. With stats like that it’s no wonder people treat inbound like a magic bullet that will solve all your marketing problems, as well as bringing world peace and prosperity.
But in my experience, for an early-stage B2B SaaS company, focusing on traditional inbound marketing does not work when you are trying to get customer/product validation.
The problem with inbound
First of all, I define an early-stage company as one still looking for their first 10-100 customers, in their first year of business. It’s also important to remember I’m talking about companies going after B2B SaaS clients. Selling B2C may be completely different, but for B2B early-stage SaaS companies, I firmly believe you need to focus on outbound activities.
Companies are pumping out high quality content faster than ever before. To stand out you need to create exemplary content. You need a dedicated content marketer or a lot of time to work on content.
If you can create great content, a bigger challenge is distribution. If your content isn’t reaching an audience, it’s useless. Typically this means you’ll need to use paid distribution channels, which are still going to take a lot of time to build up brand recognition. Growth marketer Sujan Patel has found that inbound takes a long time to start working for startups, and when you need to validate and prove traction early on, time isn’t something you have.
In those early days, people don’t know you. They’re not going to visit your website or read your blog. So how can you market to them?
Using outbound for growth
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. We’re a sales intelligence company, with a focus on outbound. So, maybe we’re biased? Well, yes, I guess we might be. But that doesn’t change our experiences as an early stage startup, and the experience of others.
David Skok, General Partner at Matrix Partners recommends B2B companies start with cold calling, along with a value proposition. I’ve found the best strategy is sending highly targeted outbound messages (e.g. cold email, cold calling, LinkedIn messaging, Twitter outreach, etc.) along with targeted paid search words pointing to a meaningful landing page/website. From there a typical process might be:
- Find 100 ideal companies that match your ideal customer profile.
- Find out who the persona is then look them up on LinkedIn and do a little research.
- Send them an email.
- Reach out to them at the time you think is right for them, when they might need your solution.
- Help them solve a genuine pain point.
- Demonstrate your product
- Nurture them as a lead.
Early on in your business, the goal should be to get traction, to capture leads and have meaningful discussions with them. Outbound helps you do this faster. You can set up a very successful outbound campaign in as little as 3 weeks, while inbound methods are going to take much more time and if you need some extra help finding quality leads to kick-start your outbound marketing, we can help you discover which leads are currently engaging with your competitors right now!
Using inbound for sustained growth
However, after you’ve gained that initial traction and you’ve hit your first 50-100 customers, it’s a different story. Then you need to do inbound marketing. You’ll need a good website with top quality content if you’re going to appeal to enterprise level companies.
Ideally, your outbound marketing will complement your inbound efforts.
For example, at Leadsift we primarily rely on outbound marketing. However, even though we were able to create lots of leads that way, we found that engagement dropped after they clicked through to our website.
So we redesigned the site. We spoke to our customers. We included relevant content, case studies and meaningful CTAs. The result? A 500% increase in inbound leads. The leads were also higher quality and better qualified after having seen our outbound messages and then engaging with the content on our site.
Which method should you use?
Inbound may be a powerful marketing tool, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for every business at every stage. By using outbound marketing to gain traction before focusing on inbound, you can validate your business quicker and enjoy faster rates of growth.
How about you? What marketing have you found most effective for your business? Let us know in the comments below.