This is the second post in my Inflections blog series where I lay down the hard truths and remedies for SaaS marketing.
The reason why a lot of companies don’t find success with direct response channels like AdWords, Facebook, and Bing Ads is that they don't spend enough time running small tests to see if the channel is right for their product and audience.
Over the years, I've learned that AdWords and Facebook definitely work better in some industries and markets than others. This is because people research and buy different products in different ways (I'll explain below).
Here are three principles that will help you decide whether direct response channels like AdWords and Facebook are the best place to get customers.
Find your Zebras
You are focused on selling your product. So you go into hunting mode. You find out where your customers live online and then try to gain access to them. Simply knowing the watering holes of your target customer isn’t enough. You need to align your selling activity to how your prospect discovers and researches products like yours.
For example, LinkedIn might be an easy place to target lawyers and sell them your enterprise law firm management software.But is this how lawyers typically buy enterprise software?
They might see your ad as weak and scammy. From their perspective, anybody-who-is-anybody in the legal profession would attend the annual Law Solutions Conference. That's where they meet all the trusted vendors and make large purchase decisions.
This is why I think that consultants like Marcus Sheridan, the inbound marketing ‘guru’ and Hubspot consultant, often offer terrible advice. Sheridan rose to fame after using blogs to get leads for his pool company and then leveraged that success into starting a consulting firm. He has good things to say about getting traffic but you can't pretend that a tactic that worked in one industry is the best route for every product.
For example, we've done work for Thomson Reuters, one of the world's largest digital media brands. We helped them launch Time and Billing (powered by eBillity), a SaaS product for law firms. They found that one of the best uses of their marketing dollars was hosting a "lunch & learn" for firms. They rented a nice room, paid for lunch, and then would demo different legal solutions.
Context always trumps best practices. Inbound marketing and direct response definitely works better in some industries than others simply because of the different ways buyers discover and research products.
It’s all about purchase intent. How does your audience buy your product and how do they use the channel? The concept of the Zebra, by the way, is from an excellent book called Selling to Zebras, which is worth a read.
Don’t cry over clicks
Lots of digital agencies and clients still have a tendency to view marketing as “campaigns.” They plan and execute short bursts of marketing activity. It’s a fail or succeed mentality.
Digital marketing, though, has really killed the campaign aspect of selling products. Audience reach is now continual and your selling activities can be iterative. You aren’t going to hit a winner on the first swing. To succeed with direct response, you need to test and discover how to improve. Give yourself some time and relax if the sales don’t flood in on the first day.
The companies that are killing it online (like AppSumo) give themselves permission to try different tactics. They don’t just spend six months planning a big social media ad spend, watch the money float away, and then fire the team.
What are the chances that a prospect wakes up, needs your exact product that very day, and sees your ad? A tiny amount of customers are ready to buy right away. Everyone knows this. Yet, everyone still hopes for that magical instant conversion.
Use paid search and Facebook Ads to either 1) collect an email address 2) assist prospects with evaluative content as they will take a few visits or weeks to finally pull the trigger.