Have you ever tried fishing without a hook? Needless to say, this very peaceful outing will quickly turn frustrating without a way to bait your line to reel them in. Some would argue that if you were just going to watch the fish swim by, you might have had a better time at an aquarium!
Consider this parable within your company – you may have a fantastic brand, and a good sense of what you think makes you unique, but without a way to grab the attention of the consumers swimming by, you might in fact go hungry.
You may recall in our first blog we talked about how to polish the diamond on your brand – using some tried-and-true SaaS marketing best practices to get a clear picture of your excellence in the marketplace. Now, we’re ready to talk about demand generation – not just a way to bait your hook, but the tools and techniques to make you a top angler!
Let’s begin by talking about another example of where a hook is used for success – the entertainment industry. Arguably, it’s people in this business that are best at creating content that compels and excites – using a technique called a logline as a formula to create a compelling hook and movie pitch. The logline is built like this: When [INCITING INCIDENT] happens, [OUR PROTAGONIST] decides [TO DO ACTION] against [ANTAGONIST].
In the business world, we, too, can replicate this formula as a basis for understanding how to generate demand. For us, the inciting incident would be that motivating factor which is driving changes in behavior (in particular, focused at the persona whom we're selling to). The protagonist is, of course, us -- our business as it is viewed by the buyer. The action is the prospect becoming our customer by purchasing and using our solution. Finally, the antagonist is the factors that are inhibiting the purchase, which can certainly include going to war with your competition.
Now think back to the positioning exercise in the first blog. Hopefully, you were able to use the framework to create the positioning for your solution – the steps included capturing the prospect’s current state, the consequences, your unique capabilities, and the better business outcomes. If you haven’t yet completed the positioning exercise, consider doing it now. Don’t use more than one page or one slide as you put your positioning together.
Now, as you review your positioning framework, keep the logline formula in the back of your mind, and highlight what SaaS marketing strategies grab you most. This could be from any one of the four sections, or one of the customer proof points, in the framework. For example, what you pick could relate to the ROI you provide, or a particularly bad consequence, or even one of your differentiated features that really stands out and creates that “Aha moment” for customers. Use this highlighted selection as the basis for your hook.
Now, connect this identified hook, or selection, to an event or inciting incident – the way you solve the problem with your customer, and overcome the antagonist. The words in your hook should evoke emotion – perhaps it acknowledges a customer frustration, or a feeling of accomplishment by using your product or service. I’m reminded of what the late poet Maya Angelou once wrote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you’ve captured the emotions behind the hook at this point, congratulations! You’ve made good progress. You have your brand story, your positioning, and a hook or two. Now, it’s time to create pipeline and revenue by executing on your positioning. This is done by creating campaigns and fueling them with solid, creative content.
There are three different campaign types: demand capture, demand generation, and share of voice. Many organizations tend to focus primarily on demand generation, when demand capture actually is easier. It’s important to delineate between the two to be efficient, as they require different mechanics and yield different results.
A little background: At any point in time, roughly 30 percent of your market is looking for a solution, while 70 percent are not. For the 30 percent that are looking, you can achieve much faster sales cycles, as long as you catch them before they talk to your competition – a process we call demand capture.
For those who are not looking, the sales cycle will be longer, so demand generation activities are what is called for. However, for this group, the win-rate can be higher. That’s because the “not looking” camp is less likely to talk with your competition. This type of demand generation activity – aimed at “non buyers,” can be controversial inside companies hesitant to allocate dollars for SaaS go-to-market strategies against a group that won’t generate an immediate return.
What’s important to understand, however, is just how much of your market knows you exist. If you have a Total Addressable Market (TAM) of 1,000 customers and only 100 know you exist, your demand capture and demand generation campaigns won’t go very far. There’s another consideration for so-called share of voice campaigns—the conversations you’re hoping to stimulate among your personas. If you own the conversation, you own the market. For your market, when personas talk about their problems, and they reference you as a solution, business will come your way.
One additional consideration at this stage is whether you want to focus your demand generation at inbound activity, which involves, as the name suggests, queries coming into your company; or outbound activity, which encompasses things like emails, cold-calling, and events. One thing’s for certain – today’s buyer, plugged in and digitally aware – prefers to do their own research, checking online reviews and other resources, before talking to your sales reps.
To be relevant given these buying habits, you need to ensure your SaaS digital marketing presence is solid —a great website, blogs, SEO, backlinks, PPC, social, and online reviews. Your website is your primary storefront, so it better look good and engage your prospects and customers. Your prospect personas will be searching online to find answers to their questions and pain points, so you’ll need your digital presence to provide those answers, and to be recognized by search engines as the authority to do so.
Outbound campaigns generally will have a lower conversion rate than inbound campaigns. Outbound employs advertising, email, social, and cold-calling – things that are known to interrupt someone’s day or clutter up their mailboxes. No one truly looks forward to an unsolicited marketing email or sales call!
Given that reality, for outbound campaigns to be successful, they must be targeted, relevant, and provide value. The sales call that starts with, “I’m just calling to check in,” provides no value whatsoever – and in fact can damage your brand. However, if you send an email that targets a prospect who has a problem due to an event that you know how to solve, and you connect using a cool hook and some humor, your engagement — open rates and click-through-rates —will go up.
Live events – the last consideration in this triumvirate – can be interesting. Encompassing awareness, demand capture, and demand generation, such events can be good at maximizing the bang for your SaaS marketing buck. The two main types of events are industry conferences you attend, and the events your company hosts.
Whether it’s your own event or an industry conference, it’s critical to deliver presentations or sessions that help establish your company as a thought leader and trusted advisor. Pick topics that provide industry insights —for example, recent survey results, current macro trends, new approaches, and the like. When possible, I encourage you to put on your own events, whether this is a lunch-and-learn, roundtable, a customer council, or an annual customer event. In-person events can achieve a very high conversion rate - often over 20 percent of those you meet become customers. And if you mix great customers with prospects, prospects will hear from customers about why they should buy from you.
I mentioned briefly about speaking engagements and the importance of thought leadership. As we wind down this blog, let’s cover some best practices to inform your content strategy. Remember, a good content strategy and compelling assets are the essentials that power successful campaigns – creating the mindshare among prospects and customers that will compel them to choose you.
There is a trick to creating great content and it relates to two approaches. The first is to start with the easier content formats, and the second is to track what sticks - the topics and channels where you see higher traffic volumes and conversion rates. Once you’ve determined this optimal mix, double down. Create more content, and work to own the conversation.
In practice, the easier content formats include social media live broadcasts, webinars, presentations, and blogs. These are great ways to capture interesting ideas from subject matter experts and create derivative content. For the topics that perform, you can leverage eBooks, dedicated landing pages, and industry specific customer case studies. There’s a little spaghetti being thrown at the wall here, but it should always relate to your brand story and your positioning, and if it sticks, take it all the way to the bank.
In our next blog, we will shift our focus to The Metrics That Matter.