You've just sent your proposal to five potential clients. You're about to rush out to the first of three meetings with your existing clients. That's when it hits you: you still haven't written up that post for your business' blog and your designer is waiting for your approval for those call-to-action buttons and premium content offer you are launching tomorrow for your inbound marketing campaign.
Running a SaaS startup can demand a lot of your time and attention, especially when you only got a small team to help you through. Between product development, handling sales, customer service, and administration tasks, 24 hours sometimes aren't enough. Add all the things you need to do to run a successful inbound marketing campaign. You cannot help but wonder how did some of the successful SaaS startups manage to pull it off despite having such a small team.
The answer: it’s all a matter of effective time management.
That’s why in this post, I will be breaking down for you just how much time you should spend on inbound marketing as well as some productivity tips.
A Rabbit Hole Waiting To Happen?
Inbound marketing is sometimes called "pull marketing" because it uses different strategies to attract or "pull" prospects towards your business and away from your competitors. Admittedly, some of these strategies can quickly take a lot more time than others.
Take publishing a blog post for your content marketing strategy, for example. According to a study done by Hubspot, 1-2 hours is the average time it takes a marketer to write a 500-word blog post.
You might be thinking, "1-2 hours writing up a blog post is not so bad." However, this time only covers the time it takes to write the blog post. It doesn't include the research and outlining done before the actual writing process. It also doesn’t include other methods that come after the actual writing like proofreading, editing, revising, more proofreading and editing, search engine optimization, creating and adding relevant images and visual aids (e.g., graphs and charts), uploading to the site, and scheduling.
This, of course, is just one of the many tasks when running an inbound marketing campaign. Add other forms of content like premium content offers and videos as well as different strategies like email marketing and social media marketing.
It is clear to see how inbound marketing can quickly take up a massive chunk of your time. If you are not careful, you and your lean SaaS startup team can spend so much time here that you hardly have any time to devote to other parts of running a business like meeting with prospective clients, taking care of your existing clients, and further enhancing your products or services.
How Much Time Should You Spend On Inbound Marketing?
Creating Blog Posts
High-quality content is the cornerstone of any successful inbound marketing campaign. That's why it's important to make sure that you publish blog posts that offer value to your audience on a consistent basis.
If you’re writing your own blog posts, set aside 4-12 hours per week to research, write, edit, and publish your blog posts. If you’ve outsourced the actual blog writing task, spend only between 2-5 hours per week to do the editing, optimizing and scheduling of your blog posts.
Of course, this will all depend on how many blog posts you intend to publish each week. Four blog posts are ideal, but if you're just starting your SaaS business and you have a very limited team, 11 blog posts per month (2-3 blog posts per week) will give your site the traction it needs to generate leads as we see in the chart below.
Social Media Marketing
According to SmartInsights, 76% of Americans that use the Internet. Given this data, it’s no surprise that social media is an integral part of any inbound marketing campaign.
You should spend only between 2-10 hours per week to promote your business on different social media channels. Yes, you read that correctly. 10 hours per week is the maximum amount of time to spend on ALL your social media channels, and that's if you're using a lot of different social media channels to drive traffic to your website.
I know that that’s easier said than done, especially since we all know that social media is a time sucker with the average time a person usually spends in social media is two hours per day.
Since I’m using Hubspot for my site, I’m able to publish my posts on social media without putting myself in a position where I’m tempted to peek in my news feed. But if you’re using a different content management system (CMS) for your website, using a third-party tool like Buffer or HootSuite can do wonders in helping you keep track of your time while promoting your posts and business on social media.
Another way to efficiently use your time here is to be selective on which social media channels to distribute your post when you create your social media marketing plan. Stick to distributing your business and promoting your content in just one or two channels. Twitter and LinkedIn are among the top social media channels for SaaS startups. You can always expand to other channels as you scale your business.
Premium Content Offers
Another inbound marketing activity that tends to take much time to complete is creating premium content offers. That is because they involve a lot of different components: the actual content offer, a landing page, a thank-you page, a follow-up email, and calls-to-action.
Set aside 5-8 hours per week to create all the different components for your website, unless you're offering something new each month. Otherwise, you might want to consider outsourcing the various parts of your premium content offer like writing it up and designing the cover and call-to-action buttons to help you speed things up. Also remember to setup Google Analytics Goals to measure your content offer conversions.
Emails are essential to inbound marketing because they help guide your leads down your buyer’s journey. That said, make sure that you devote 2-5 hours per week to update, segment, and clean up your startup’s email list. Doing this will help make sure that your email list is “healthy” and help you increase sales conversions.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
The time that you devote to doing SEO on your website much depends on whether you're just about to launch your startup's site or if you have it up and just need to do a maintenance check on it.
Setting up and doing on-site optimization the first time around will really take some time. I suggest that you don't rush this part since you want to make sure that everything is set up correctly. Otherwise, this can severely affect the performance of your website and inbound marketing efforts in the future.
Once you get everything in place, spend on between 2-3 hours per week doing maintenance checks on your site and new pages to make sure that everything is working fine.
Analyzing and Strategizing
These two inbound marketing activities are perhaps the most important in the bunch so much so that all the other tasks I mentioned earlier are a complete waste of time without these.
Invest about 2-4 hours per week in reviewing and analyze your current inbound marketing results and comparing these with your overall goals. Share these results with your team so that you can efficiently come up with a strategy to either build on it if the results are good or ways to improve if the results fell short.
Time Management Starts With You
Setting a schedule for your inbound marketing activities is one thing. To actually be disciplined to follow through is an entirely different story altogether. For you to maximize and efficiently manage the time you spend on inbound marketing, you need to develop the discipline in you so that you're not only able to stick with your set schedule, but you become an example for your team to follow.
Here are some of the things that you can start doing to help you develop a healthy habit of managing time to become a more productive SaaS startup business owner.
1. Begin With The End in Mind
This is one of the principles that Steven Covey teaches in his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Effective People.
What this essentially means is that you need to have a SMART end goal in mind when creating your inbound marketing plan. By SMART, I mean that the goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. This will give you a clearer picture that will help guide you when you create your inbound marketing campaigns.
Another thing to consider here is your startups’ buyer persona—the semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Knowing your buyer persona will not only to determine the kind of content to create for your inbound marketing strategy but also where to distribute the content.
2. Have A Game Plan
Surprisingly, 90% of marketers do inbound marketing without a defined marketing plan in place. A third of them admitted that the reason is that they are only trying out a combination of different marketing tactics to see what works and what doesn't.
Inbound marketing is not something that you do a couple of weeks or months just to see how it goes. It's a long-term strategy that you develop and adds onto as time progresses as your startup begins to scale. This is why creating an inbound marketing playbook is essential. This gives you a detailed "plan of attack" each time that you launch an inbound marketing campaign.
I have recently written a post where I explain step-by-step how to create an inbound marketing playbook. If you still don't have one for your startup yet, make sure that you check it out.
3. Have A Checklist
Checklists are one of the fundamental tools in time management and are extremely helpful when creating your inbound marketing campaigns.
For starters, it helps you save time since you do not have to pause and think about all the things that you need to get done when launching an inbound marketing campaign.
On top of that, you do not have to spend much time explaining the processes to new team members that will join you as your startup scales. All you have to do is to provide them a copy of the checklist for them to follow.
You can download my free inbound marketing checklist that lists down all the critical tasks you need to accomplish to successfully launch an inbound marketing campaign for your SaaS startup business.
4. Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
Quality trumps quantity every time in the world of inbound marketing. That said, if you're only able to create two high-quality blog posts a week right now because you have a tiny team, then stick to that number.
Remember, the crux of inbound marketing is to let your target market see that you understand the pains and challenges that they are going through, and you're offering a solution to their problem through your content and your product.
5. Practice The Pomodoro Technique
Source: Luca Mascaro @ Flickr
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple, but very useful, time management and productivity system. I use this whenever I create my blog posts and premium content offers. This a straightforward method developed by Francesco Cirillo combines intervals of laser-focused working time with short, scheduled breaks to help you get more work done, prevent burnout and fatigue, and become more productive.
To do the Pomodoro Technique, all you need is a timer (you can download a lot of free apps on Apple's AppStore or GooglePlay if you're using an Android phone), a pen, and paper.
Start by listing the tasks that you plan to work on for the day, and budget a set number of sessions (called Pomodoros) for each is. Set your timer for 25 minutes. Do the task you need to accomplish nonstop until the timer goes off. After this, take a short 5-minute break. Do this three more times. After the fourth Pomodoro, take a 15-minute break. Repeat this until you finish your task.
I know what you're probably thinking: 25 minutes doesn't seem like much time to do anything. However, as I mentioned earlier, this is 25 whole minutes of work on just one task. That means that you don't answer your cell phone when it rings. You don't take a quick peek at your inbox or your Facebook news feed. You don't jump from one task to another.
This will take some getting used to, especially if you're used to multitasking. However, give it a try, and you'll be surprised how much work you can get done with it.
6. Schedule all your activities
As the saying goes, "there's a time for everything." That includes emails, phone calls, and even meetings with your team and clients.
Email may be one of the top business communication tools we use today, but that doesn’t mean that you need to check your emails nearly every two minutes. In fact, many productivity experts recommend checking your emails two times a day, and no more than 30 minutes at a time.
Also, kick the habit of checking your emails as first thing in the morning or before you go to bed at night. Checking your email as soon as you wake up opens the door to you attending to a whole lot of other tasks that you didn't include on your to-do list for that day. As a result, you end up with lesser time to do the pending paperwork, meetings, and client calls you initially intended to do.
On the other hand, checking your emails right before you go to bed can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and cause you to wake up feeling tired and sluggish the following day. That’s because instead of winding down, your brain will start working again, especially after reading an email that tells you that there’s a problem in your business.
Just like emails, you don't have to answer every call you get on your phone, especially if it's on your cell phone. Record a voicemail specifying what time of the day is the best time to call you. Or better yet, hire a virtual assistant to take your calls for you. Having a virtual assistant onboard can help you screen your calls and weed out the important from the not-so-important ones. That way, no one feels ignored, and you can focus on the tasks at hand.
While meetings are essential to brainstorm, strategize and get updates about your inbound marketing strategies, they can quickly turn into time-consuming affairs among your startup team members. Make sure that you write up an agenda of the things that you want to discuss, and send this out to your team members before the meeting. This will help eliminate—if not, prevent—the chances of the meeting getting dominated by useless chatter.
7. DASE your tasks
DASE is an acronym I use to stand for Delegate, Automate, Simplify, and Eliminate. This is, by far, one of the most efficient time management techniques I’ve used so much that I even recommend this to all of my clients.
While it’s true that no one may understand your startup better than you, that doesn’t mean to say that you need to do every single task. Before you handle a task, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can someone else do this without compromising the quality? If so, then by all means, delegate the responsibility to someone else.
- Is there a way that I can automate this by using a third-party tool? If so, take the time to set it up so that you don’t have to do this manually.
- Is there a more straightforward way to do this task? If your answer is yes, then go for the more straightforward approach.
- Do you need to do this task right now? If not, then set this aside and come back to it later.
You’ll be surprised on how much you can take off your plate just by doing this.
8. Avoid Multitasking
Lots of people take pride in being multitaskers. However, if you want to be successful in managing your time, you have to kick the multitasking habit.
According to a study published by the American Psychology Association (APA), multitasking makes you less productive. That's because your brain can only handle doing one task at a time. When you multitask, your brain has to switch off from doing the previous task to do the next task. This is what eventually causes you to experience brief moments of mental blocks, and lowers your productivity by as much as 40%.
There’s A Better Way
The most significant challenge that SaaS startups face when doing inbound marketing is their limited amount of resources. They just don't have enough bandwidth, manpower, and internal resources to help them efficiently complete an inbound marketing plan.
An alternative solution to help you efficiently maximize your time and resources while you're still trying to get your SaaS business off the group is to hire an inbound marketing consultant. That way, you got someone who not only has the experience, knowledge, and understanding to help you come up with an inbound marketing solution that will help you reach your goals and scale faster.
Of course, you’ll still need to budget some time to communicate with your inbound marketing consultant, especially during the first 90 days to be able to lay down the groundwork: discussing the processes, brainstorming, and deliverables. You’ll also need to set aside some time to review the deliverables, monitor your inbound marketing analytics data, and review your inbound marketing campaigns progress. All these should only require 2-4 hours per week, depending on how hands-off you want to be.
Starting up a SaaS business can quickly give you so much on your plate, and leave you feeling overwhelmed and you don't have enough time to do inbound marketing. But if you budget your time wisely and be vigilant with your set schedule, it's possible to squeeze this in and get it to start generating leads for your startups.
What’s your favorite productivity tip that you do when doing inbound marketing? Share it in the comments section below.