Eric Siu is the CEO of the digital marketing agency Single Grain, co-founder of ClickFlow, an SEO experimentation tool, and host of the podcasts “Marketing School” and “Growth Everywhere”, joined up with the SaaS Mag team for our 4th edition to explain why you should rethink your current marketing strategy. To order your free copy of SaaS Mag issue 4, click here.
Now is the perfect time to rethink your company’s growth marketing strategy. As technology keeps advancing at a rapid pace, so do marketing methods and approaches. What’s new in 2020 is a major shift to making marketing human again. Chatbots are being replaced by machine learning, and overseas call centers are being swapped for in-country college-educated support reps. And all this is occurring in an environment where people no longer settle for local news or a single social media platform. They want hyper-specific content tailored to their tastes and a personal touch in their brand interactions.
Above all, they want help cutting through the ever-increasing noise. Software purchases take time, decision-maker approval, and a serious investment— and this process is badly in need of streamlining. It is up to marketers to filter the clutter and help potential customers make difficult decisions. While the volume of new marketing tactics that businesses can utilize can be staggering, the eight marketing channels below are worth considering as ways to make your brand stand out in 2020.
The 2010s were a breakout decade for podcasting—– one that resulted in more than 700,000 podcasts available (a number that shows no signs of slowing). In fact, 2019 podcast statistics show that 22% of Americans listen each week, a 17% uptick from 2018.
Consider this: nearly four times more people listen to podcasts each week than watched the final season premiere of Game of Thrones.
Podcasts provide advertisers with the ability to hyper-target their intended audience. If you’ve created the next greatest digital marketing tool, for example, it would be wise to advertise on a platform like my podcast “Marketing School” to get immediate access to tens of thousands of online marketers. Or if you’ve just launched a groundbreaking SaaS product that’s going to devastate the real estate market, you’ll probably want to get some airtime on the “Bigger Pockets” podcast.
What’s more, this is a great time to start your own podcast. You might think that 700,000 podcasts are a lot to compete with, but when you consider that there are 1.7 billion websites in existence, that number seems a lot less daunting. In short, there’s still plenty of room to make an impact—and to do so quickly and cheaply.
Customer Data Platforms
Closing a top-dollar SaaS deal is no easy feat. It requires a stellar product and also that you be two steps ahead of your prospects at all times.
Making use of the right stack of customer data platforms can give you an edge over the competition. With Hull, a customer data aggregation tool, you can combine all your data into a customized user profile fed by all sorts of personal data sources like Salesforce, Hubspot, and Outreach; this will help you make better-informed business decisions. Clearbit Reveal is another tool that can deanonymize your website traffic, identifying which companies are visiting your site and reading your content.
Once you’ve got a shortlist of prospects, you can take it a step further with Clearbit Prospector to find the names and email addresses of a few senior decision-makers.
From there, it’s as simple as plugging their contact information into Outreach, a sales engagement platform that aims to drive efficient growth, in order to initiate a conversation.
We use that exact process at my digital marketing agency, Single Grain, and it has resulted in a 25% response rate for calls and a 10% response rate for automated emails. Our automated account-based marketing (ABM) approach to leverage customer data platforms has helped us generate countless conversations with qualified prospects and even brought us a million-dollar deal.
Information overload is a real problem that is only getting worse with time and technology. Consider these statistics:
- 2.75 million posts are published each day on WordPress sites alone.
- Instagram has more than 95 million posts and 400 million stories per day.
- More than 500 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube every minute—which means that it would take your entire life just to watch one day’s worth of video.
The average marketer can be forgiven for feeling as if he or she is fighting an uphill battle, but thankfully, omnichannel marketing is here to help solve the problem. Otherwise known as the content sprout method, this type of marketing helps you increase your content output without exhausting yourself. This approach involves using one central piece of content as a jumping-off point to create related material, often in different formats, across multiple channels. It’s one of the best ways to double or even triple site traffic.
The content sprout method can be broken down into three distinct phases: seed, sprout, and pollinate.
Seed content has to be the best of the best. It should be content that is already popular with your audience. It shouldn’t be low-quality, low-engagement, or non-evergreen content. It could be an in-depth skyscraper blog post, a powerful YouTube video, an in-person speaking engagement at a large conference, or even a passion-filled podcast. Regardless of the format, your seed content should be the best piece you have created on such a topic (or that anyone else has).
Once you’ve created or identified that high-performing seed content, it’s time to “sprout” it into other material suitable for additional marketing channels. For example, if your initial seed content was a blog post, possible “sprouts” could be:
- YouTube video utilizing the blog post as a script
- 60-second Instagram story, complete with a swipe-up link to the blog post
- Facebook post developed from a condensed version of the blog post
- Podcast episode with other industry experts
- Instagram photo or graphic and a detailed caption on the subject
- Infographic that breaks down the blog post’s subject into easily digestible images
The list could go on and on, and you and your team should brainstorm additional ideas.
Find out where your audience congregates, be it Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Spotify, or TikTok. You may have reached a broad audience of readers with the original blog post, but the crucial next step is to repurpose the content and reach the YouTubers, the social media scrollers, and the podcast listeners. Sprouting, or repurposing, content is a game-changer when your goal is to expand your reach and grow your brand.
Finally, phase three is “pollinating” your content. Now that the content is performing across several marketing channels, it’s time to capitalize on this by:
- Driving even more engagement
- Doubling down while the iron is hot
- Investing in paid promotion
- Offering up prizes (for example, autographed books, an hour-long strategy call with an industry expert, a pro plan of your SaaS product for a year).
Whatever you do, get creative to make it lucrative.
Creating a product and giving it away can lead to massive growth. A popular example is HubSpot, which offered its CRM for free so users could have a unified view of their customers. Putting out next-level content and providing a valuable core product without charging for it caused the company’s user base to skyrocket, which later gave HubSpot a captive audience to whom it could sell additional marketing and sales tools.
Another example is found in the path pursued by online marketing expert Neil Patel. Instead of opting for yet another lead magnet like a webinar or e-book, he purchased Ubersuggest, an SEO and content marketing research tool, and made the decision not to charge for its use.
People sign up to use the free tool, which then gives Patel a way of offering his agency’s services. It’s a win-win for everyone. (Incidentally, Patel is no stranger to giving stuff away – he used to create marketing guides and offer them at no charge.)
If you don’t have the know-how or resources to build a product, don’t worry—it’s easier than ever to purchase online tools and repurpose them to grow your brand.
Organic LinkedIn Posts
LinkedIn’s organic reach is high right now, and posting on this platform—even without paying—will likely result in your post being seen by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Take advantage of this while it lasts! Facebook, along with other social media platforms, used to have a great many organic posts, but the company has now adjusted its algorithm to incorporate more ads than organic posts.
Text posts are great on LinkedIn, but there’s also a serious opportunity to be had in uploading video content. LinkedIn currently lacks video content, which means there’s a gap that can be exploited. Here’s a pro tip: Go to Rev.com and get your video transcribed so you can upload an SRT video file. This means that when people are scrolling through their LinkedIn feeds without sound, they’ll be able to read the subtitles on your video and thus consume your content. This is a great way to reach more people.
And don’t skimp on tags on LinkedIn. Very similar to hashtags on Instagram, they allow you to post a handful of keywords that help people find your content.
TikTok exploded onto the scene just a short while ago and has quickly become one of the most downloaded apps in the world.
The short-video platform, popular in North America and Asia, allows users to upload short music and lip-sync videos (between 3 and 15 seconds long) or short looping videos (between 3 and 60 seconds long). TikTok’s user base is very young, with 41% of users aged 16 to 24. While TikTok started with a focus on music, the content has since expanded to material posted by athletes, pranksters, comedians, dancers, beauty experts, and artists. Now that TikTok has hit its stride and is attracting widespread attention, more brands are starting to take notice.
Typically, there are three ways a brand can market itself on TikTok:
- Create a channel so the company can upload videos on its own
- Work with influencers to reach a broader audience quickly
- Paid advertising via TikTok
You could consider one or more of the above strategies for your company’s TikTok plan.
One content idea that has been gaining traction is the hashtag challenge: You encourage your audience to make videos and provide a hashtag so that they’re easy to find. To date, the most popular one has been Jimmy Fallon’s #tumbleweedchallenge , in which he challenged users to drop to the ground and roll around like a tumbleweed with country and western music playing in the background. That challenge alone got more than 8,000 submissions and generated more than 9 million views.
If you do decide to use hashtag challenges as a means of sparking engagement, try partnering with an influencer—it will help spread the word and generate buzz. DIY videos are another fun way to get your audience involved. Many restaurants are showing their audiences how they can make their signature dishes at home and then challenging them to upload videos of themselves attempting to whip up the dishes!
AI for Ads
We’ve all heard that artificial intelligence is a key driver of the fourth industrial revolution, but what does that really mean?
At its core, it means that the way we live, interact with others, and work will fundamentally change in the near future. Supply-chain logistics should improve, which would reduce communication and transportation costs. Manual processes and repeatable work are likely to disappear, which means that many people will have to change jobs.
AI has already been disrupting advertising— think programmatic advertising, smart bidding, and IoT ads. Brands are also taking advantage of AI for super-targeted messaging. One such tool, Pattern89, can be used to optimize ads on Google, Instagram, and Facebook.
Pattern 89’s artificial intelligence can cut costs, maximize ROI, and enhance creative performance by predicting which content will be successful. It does this by analyzing previous ads a company has posted and comparing them to billions of other advertiser data points.
Single Grain was able to leverage Pattern 89’s capabilities with one of our clients, a top transportation brand so that we were able to analyze the client’s ads and then, in mere minutes, make surface-level adjustments to the ads in order to optimize their performance. The result was a 9% increase in conversions and an overall 21% performance increase—with an average of just six minutes spent on the platform each day.
Funnels Imagine that you’re on the hunt for a new TV and you just walked into a big-box electronics store. In which of the following two scenarios are you most likely to make a purchase?
Employee: How can I assist you today?
You: I’m looking for a TV.
Employee: Aisle 8, all along the wall on the right side.
Employee: How can I assist you today?
You: I’m looking for a TV.
Employee: Great! Follow me. There are several options to choose from. Are you looking for a particular size? Are there any specific features you’d like? Also, what sort of budget range are you looking at?
Scenario B is the no-brainer choice, of course. You’re much more likely to purchase from someone if they guide you along the way and help you narrow down the plethora of options to the one that best suits your needs and taste. If you’re selling a SaaS product, there’s very little face-to-face interaction, meaning that you have to optimize your content and your website to resemble Scenario B as much as possible.
At the heart of every successful SaaS marketing strategy is some sort of conversion funnel. A conversion funnel is the series of stages or steps that a prospect goes through, from learning about the company to becoming a customer. In SaaS, a conversion funnel might look something like this:
- Acquisition: Acquiring the customer’s attention or contact information
- Engagement: Positioning the right content or the right questions to engage the prospect
- Exploration: Getting the prospect to explore the product or service offering
- Conversion: Closing the sale
- Upsell: Showcasing the value of add-ons and other product offerings
- Retention: Reiterating the company’s value proposition and sharing product updates
Setting up and optimizing the perfect conversion funnel takes time, but it’s worth every bit of investment. Email and chat funnels are particularly effective because they are ripe for automation.
The key to building a working conversion funnel is to start at the end instead of the beginning. Focus on what you’d like prospects to purchase and then work backward to determine what they would need to know in order to make a purchase decision.
You’ve probably already considered whether any of these tactics might work for your business. Remember that your competitors are adopting new strategies, methods, and approaches every day, and you don’t want to get left behind. You want to strive to be the SaaS company on the cutting edge of technology and all the latest trends.
Growth marketing is a never-ending game. Its inherently dynamic nature forces marketers to stay on their toes, continuously evolving their tactics, learning new tools, and staying ahead of new developments.
While advanced tech like AI and customer data platforms and innovative ideas like content sprouting are trends to watch in 2020, it’s important to bear in mind that the overarching emphasis this year (and likely this decade) will be on the human experience. Your company will need to put in place more human touches, an enjoyable user experience, and a laser-like focus on doing whatever it takes to create long-term customers.
Executing on all of the above will take your brand to new heights, and you’ll create a diehard fan base of customers who will organically promote you at every opportunity.