Last week, I broke down why static, blind marketing no longer works in the SaaS world. I’m a bit biased here, but I’m convinced my case was pretty strong and you’re left hungry for applications. Ok, well – your wish will be granted.
Why Timing Matters
Timing is a core piece of any purchase decision – be it software or even consumer. Anyone who has experience selling or closing deals know this; there are seasons, there are schedules for each person – sometimes you get them at “just the right time.
But the “Is the customer ready for our product?” question is more complicated then it seems and can actually be broken down into several uniquely separate qualifications:
- Are they actually in a situation where they can read about your product or take the desired action? (A)
- Do they recognize your brand enough to pause their feed? (B)
- Do they understand your product enough to want to learn more? (C)
- Do they have the bandwidth to consider a purchase decision? (D)
- Are they using a competitor product or not in the market right now? (E – only applies to seasonal companies in most cases)
Timing and Focus Are Random
The biggest enemy of your sales and marketing funnel is distractions. The nature of advertising is you can’t really control when your customer sees ads – maybe you can control the platform (mobile vs desktop) or even add time windows to when a network like Facebook shows your ads; but that doesn’t guarantee anything about the temporal status of your target’s focus and activities.
Here’s a pertinant example; I was walking down the street in NYC; got an ad on Instagram for Lendio (a business loan comparison site – which we’re correctly in the market for) – I’ll almost got hit by a car looking at my phone, and had to x out of the window/popup- even though I clicked. I didn’t even consider it again until months later when I got hit by another ad.
Just imagine how many distractions and nudges we get each day; how often do you find yourself stopping your quick Facebook or LinkedIn check to notice and click ad? It does happen, but its rare. And if you really, really think hard – I bet you’ll realize that it wasn’t just an accident. You were familiar with that brand – the images, the copy, the brand name….SOMETHING made you stop.
So just because your Facebook Business manager tells you there were 1000 impressions doesn’t mean you can rest easy.
Getting Recognized; Creating Familiarity
Every company we work with is a startup; that means brand recognition is rarely if ever a given. We know more then anyone that it’s critical to create familiarity if you want to get people to stop in their tracks – and ultimately, its the beginning step in a long process of rapport building.
If you are starting to market to an audience with your product features, your videos, or your blogs – you are making a big mistake. Yes, some headlines and content are quality – but let’s be real. They don’t know you – imagine I gave you two headlines; one was this article on our blog, and another had the “New York Times” logo clearly beneath it. If we’re doing something right, you’re probably attracted by the title alone – it rings true. But to disrupt your usual “scrolling” routine, you are going to need a little more. That familiar logo might convince your subconscious mind it’s worth going after – and the combination of the content and the brand recognition creates the actionable interest.
We’re not quite there, but maybe You Don’t Need A CMO created some trust for you too…
How To Run a Brand Recognition Campaign
Brand ads. You’ve seen these before – your typical, sidebar banner ad. And you probably distinctly remember not clicking on the banner – bet you didn’t realize that in some cases, its actually not the purpose. Yes, they may have buttons – but studies have shown merely seeing the offer – if only for a second – can help increase your brand trust and help you stop scrolling next time. It’s a subtle conditioning process that ends in a memory imprint that expresses itself as familiarity.
To create recognition, we recommend keeping it simple – your logo, a simple, noun laden description of exactly what you do. Make sure you are hitting a discrete, targeted audience so you know if it’s effective. (Please Read Our Earlier Article to Understand the Terminology Around Direct Marketing)
Your advertising guru should manage this one for you, but it’s critical to create a budget just significant enough to ensure you hit the audience a few times over – maximizing that timing and minimizing the effect of randomness. We recommend running several campaigns on the same audience over the course of a few weeks to a month. This is controversial – but we recomend running the same campaigns on customers and leads farther in the pipeline. It helps reinforce that memory.
Customer Education Phase
This is where the meat of our process lies.
If you’ve ever heard the term “lead funnel” this is roughly what we’re talking about. Before you can sell to your SaaS/niche-based audience, you need to speak to their pain points – build real trust in your thought leadership, and qualify based on their expressed level of interest.
How do you do that? It’s simpler then you think. Just use logic – you want to gradually introduce info (stats, collateral, stories) to your targets that both provoke their pain and lead into your solution.
Here’s our 3-phase “mini” sequence that can be delivered exclusively via advertising:
1. Basic Content
Start simple – use what content you already have. All you need is something that provides definitive value to your audience. I’ll bet you have something out there that satisfies this criterion – maybe an old blog post, pitch deck – even a tweet. It just needs to be validated, so lifting from a more successful competitor (if you can validate how good it performs) isn’t a totally bad idea.
If you’ve got the budget to produce one, a short animated video with industry stats or a customer story is going to be the best bang for your buck. Make sure its provocative, and don’t plug your product. You want people to get their foot in the door, and not be scared away – don’t ask that girl out before you talk to her first.
Remember – you can run multiple creative variations here until you find one that performs well on paper. (CTR etc)
2. Opt-In Content
Take your best performing creative – blog, video etc – and build something bigger and with more value. Do research – maybe its an ebook; maybe its a recorded workshop – maybe it’s even a demo or one on one pro-bono consultation. Use your best judgment, always.
This ad will be shown to people who visited the designated page from the previous ads – directly after they did. You’re going to want to use a leadgen ad or have a lead form because the purpose here is an email opt-in – not just to have it, but to activate the “compliance” effect – how one fulfilled request naturally leads to another.
It should be an extension of whatever basic content you show. We ALWAYS split these into multiple sequences based on personas and corresponding problem areas (or USPs) – and each piece of content follows the general theme.
3. Introducing Your Customer
This is the most critical piece – it’s the transition from a content-driven campaign to a product-driven one. Anyone who is in the sequence at this point is going to be warm, but not necessarily ready to consider buying or trying. The customers that were ready to buy would have already pre-qualified themselves – if your site is set up well, it’s likely they visited the pricing page or even booked a demo, or trial. In this case, you must make sure to exclude them from the ad-sequences. This will ensure your data is clean and budget is best spent.
The best way to make the transition is to run through your solution – discuss it – without mentioning the product directly in the copy. The ad will not mention the product – but in the destination (where the ad leads) your product will be introduced naturally and efficiently. Some examples:
- Interviewing your customer about a given use case (video clip or blog snippet) that creates empathy and “visualizes” the benefits.
- Doing a webinar on how companies are using software to address “x” problem.
- Promoting a blog post or social post from your customer and linking into a case study.
You’re going to want to run this for a few months to allow everyone to “pass-through” – by its nature (audiences created based on interactions) some will move faster and into your sales sequences sooner than others.
The Good News
Luckily, since they are already familiar with your brand, this is going to be a lot more direct and easy. You should have been using our methodology to score lead interactions (clicks and visits towards specific areas of your site) and have a tighter audience – meaning you are only going to be targeting people who have had exposure to your brand and confirmed the exposure by clicking or something similar. (social engagement)
Watch me break down sequencing for this phase below.
Graduating to Sales
Once their lead score reaches a sufficient level (as determined by you and your marketing/scoring experts) they can graduate to direct sales sequences. We recommend cold emails (if you got the email opt-in from the customer education phase) and a sufficient budget for display ad PPC (native ads on FB, LinkedIn etc) targeted at conversion. The CTA (call-to-action) depends on your preference and objectives but generally should be a trial or demo. The strategy for this is beyond the scope of this article but safe to safe you should have a varied and complete campaign structure; the same timing principles (A) apply here – so you need to be cognizant of that even though your leads have warmed up.
Please keep in mind – if you were not tracking your data through an ABM system (Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot) that tracks cookies – ad information, google analytics UTMs, etc – then none of this advice applies. You need to track the interaction data and create custom audiences by stage – or you will not actually be creating a sequence, but a random hodge-podge of ads.
All in all, this customer education process really should make up 80% of your sales and marketing activities – the rest should be focused on SQLs who have already engaged in a demo/trial or whatever the initial action you wanted them to take was. A lot of this can be mirrored…which will be next week’s topic. (subscribe for updates!)
Stay tuned next week to see how marketing plays into tightening the bottom of the funnel and re-engaging churned leads. As always, email me if you’re in need of some quick advice or book a time to speak if you need something more substantial.