Whether you just launched your SaaS startup or are still contemplating on the idea of starting one, you are sure going to learn a lot of valuable lessons from the inbound marketing success stories of these 15 SaaS startups I will be sharing in this article.
I believe that if you want to become successful, you have to study what successful people have done. More importantly, you also need to know what you need to avoid. That is why I have also included in this article three reasons why startups fail in inbound marketing.
That said, let's start things off with the most successful of these SaaS startups and my source of inspiration, Hubspot.
Founded in 2006, Hubspot revolutionized online marketing by providing businesses with a comprehensive marketing software platform that allows them to market like humans to humans. It has since helped hundreds of companies worldwide develop their inbound marketing strategies.
After reading about their impressive rise, the one thing that struck me the most was that their success began by giving their target market a simple but highly valuable resource as a way for them to develop leads.
Between 2006 and 2011, they launched the Website Grader, which gives an analysis of a site based on its performance, SEO, and security features.
This resource tool also served as a free consultation without the need of salespeople. It also gave users a glimpse into the range and quality of services they provide.
This campaign became so successful for Hubspot that they brought it back, adding mobile-friendliness among the factors that their updated Website Grader provides.
Formerly known as Qazzow, AnswerDash is a SaaS startup that provides businesses with time-efficient solutions in gathering in-depth insights about their target customers to help increase sales and reduce costs.
One of the key things in their inbound marketing playbook was rebranding themselves to AnswerDash.
Sounds simple, but it did wonders concerning their inbound marketing campaign.
Qazzow admittedly sounds more catchy. However, it is more important to make a quick and memorable first impression. One of the best ways to do that is to use a name that immediately tells your target customer who you are and what you offer. By rebranding themselves to AnswerDash, their target customers no longer have to wonder what it is that they do or offer.
Founded in 2012, Applango is a SaaS startup that provides Salesforce users to review the performance of their sales representatives and pinpoint areas for improvement.
Although they were successful in acquiring a host of high-profile clients, including Fortune 500 companies, Applango fell short in reaching one significant segment of their market: Salesforce users.
To overcome this, they created an inbound marketing campaign where they created a whitepaper that included insights from key influencers of their niche.
By taking the initiative to reach out to the key influencers in their niche, they had a better picture of the pain points and goals of their target market. At the same time, Applango was able to build a working relationship with them and get them to help spread the word to their loyal followers.
4. Golf Genius
Golf Genius is a SaaS startup that offers affordable, fully-featured cloud-based software for golfers to help further enhance their game experience.
Despite a niche-specific market, Golf Genius was successfully able to launch not one, but two, cloud-based golf software programs through inbound marketing.
How did they do it? They took the time to re-evaluate their startup’s buyer persona.
Creating a buyer persona is one of the key elements in inbound marketing. According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is:
“A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing clients."
By re-evaluating and enhancing their buyer persona, Golf Genius was more able to address the specific needs of each segment of their target customers in their inbound marketing playbook. As a result, they generated a 367% increase in direct traffic and 114% increase in generated leads.
5. Varnish Software
Varnish Software is the startup behind Varnish Cache—an open source HTTP engine currently used by over 2.5 million websites worldwide including popular brands such as the New York Times, Nikon, Vimeo, and Thomson Reuters.
Their secret for their inbound marketing success to build a repository of expert content.
According to Varnish Software’s VP for Global Marketing Hildur Smáradottir, she discovered that the lack of expertly written content was the reason they were not generating as many leads as they wanted.
"We did not have much content on our site," she explained. "Consequently, we did not have many calls-to-action…the only way we got any leads was through our ‘contact us' page."
After creating a database that included whitepapers, videos, and ebooks on industry trends, they began to see an increase not just in the number of leads generated but in the number of leads that converted into customers.
Finnish SaaS startup Paytrail helps customers have more control over their buying processes through their cloud-based software solutions.
The secret behind their inbound marketing success was choosing the right tools to use.
Providing high-quality content is essential for a great inbound marketing success story. However, if you are not able to properly distribute it to the right channels and keep track of it, then you will not be able to measure the results and see if they are working. You need to invest in the right kind of tools that will help ease the process of creating, distributing, and measuring the performance of the content you publish.
That is what happened to Paytrail. They had all the tools, but these were not "communicating" with each other. Only after they got their hands on tools that worked properly together where they able to automate their inbound marketing strategy and scale their business.
Scrive is a Swedish SaaS startup that provides premium e-signature data service to customers spanning 21 countries worldwide.
Scrive's inbound marketing success was finally achieved after they decided to keep things simple.
Scrive’s VP of Marketing and User Experience Joel Marsh pointed out that their "target customers are big, and their requirements are complex." They needed an inbound marketing strategy that would eliminate the need for their prospective clients to their product, and market this to them on a personal level.
By streamlining their processes and workflows, Scrive was able to provide their customers with the right information to guide them in the right direction. Simplifying their processes also gave them a clearer picture of the actual journey their customer go through.
8. Amadeus Rail
Amadeus Rail is a part Amadeus Travel Technology Group, and the leading provider of booking and transaction software for rail travel agents in Europe and North America.
One of the crucial things that Philip Martin, Amadeus Rail’s Head of Marketing, did when creating its inbound marketing playbook was to calculate the traffic and leads needed to generate ROI and incorporate the results into the startup's inbound marketing strategy.
Although Martin saw the benefits of using inbound marketing, he still needed to convince the company's VP to provide him and his team with the budget they needed to get this going. Along with a host of white papers that prove inbound marketing works, Martin also presented the VP with a realistic and detailed computation to show that his inbound marketing efforts will greatly benefit Amadeus Rail.
Using a tool like Hubspot’s traffic and leads calculator is an easy way how you can calculate the amount of traffic and leads to generate based on the conversion rates you need to reach your startup's revenue goals.
9. EHS Insight
EHS Insight is a SaaS startup that provides easy-to-use environmental, health and safety software solutions to help businesses lower the impact their operations have on the environment. Their secret to success is to combine paid advertising with inbound marketing strategies.
While it is true that inbound marketing does a better job of converting leads to customers, that is not to say that you need to completely let go of outbound marketing strategies like paid Google Adwords, PPC campaigns, and sponsored ads on social media. In fact, as EHS Insight discovered, these outbound marketing strategies helped them open the door and make their target customers find them more easily.
Once they got their prospects to their site, they nurtured their prospects using inbound marketing strategies so that they become qualified leads, and eventually, paying customers.
iAdvize is a French SaaS startup that offers its clients a unique platform allowing them to pinpoint opportunities within a website, social media network or messaging app so that they can provide visitors with real-time advice.
Maxime Baumard, VP of Marketing in iAdvize, notes being able to create smart calls-to-action is one of the secrets to their inbound marketing success.
Smart CTAs display a different button, depending on where their customers are in their sales funnel.
These also allow them to create messages and offers based on their customer's industry, interest level, and geographic location, further personalizing the entire buyer’s journey.
Ameyo provides its clients with an all-in-one communication solution to help them manage end-to-end customer journeys.
Getting and staying educated about inbound marketing is the key to this SaaS’ inbound marketing success.
To be successful in inbound marketing, you will need not only to explain what it is, but what it entails. According to Sandeep Kuvvarapu, Ameyo's Product Marketing and Strategy Manager, getting everyone in his team to complete the Hubspot Inbound Marketing certification made it possible to get everyone on the same page and have a better understanding of what they want to achieve.
12. BrightGauge Software
BrightGauge is a SaaS startup that provides IT service providers with a business-intelligence platform that generates performance reports and dashboards from their unique data sources.
BrightGauge began to experience inbound marketing success after it started to use targeted questions on lead forms they incorporate on their landing pages. These questions are open-ended and encouraged their visitors to give in-depth answers.
With the replies their visitors provided in their lead forms, BrightGauge was able to develop a content and inbound marketing strategy that catered to their pains and needs, significantly contributing to their lead nurturing efforts that resulted in an 87% increase in paying customers.
Glofox is an Irish SaaS startup that offers business software solutions catering to the specific needs of the fitness industry. They initially gathered great success through direct sales. However, it was after they decided to develop a content strategy for consistently providing quality content that they were able to scale their business successfully.
Based on their buyer personas, they decided that the best approach was to combine different content formats as part of their content strategy. They understood that their customers consume content in a variety of ways. Using different content formats like a podcast and downloadable ebook guides ensured that they are maximizing their reach to their target customers. At the same time, incorporating different content formats gave them room to repurpose their content.
EON provides a holistic platform that aggregates and integrates strategy setting, project management, best practices implementation and performance analytics.
For EON, establishing a strong online presence was critical for their inbound marketing success. Even though they have a unique product to offer to its target customers, the fact that EON was a startup SaaS meant that no one has heard of them.
EON geared their inbound marketing efforts to promote their brand and establish themselves as an authority. They began by creating blog posts and other pieces of content that answered the main pain points of their target customers. By shifting gears to focus on building their brand and presence they increased their web traffic 42 times higher and converted four times more leads to customers than what they did before they made the switch.
Critizr is a French-based SaaS startup that helps businesses quickly collect and manage customer's feedback. Today, they are considered as one of the most trusted third-party customer relations platforms, catering to large retail brands like Carrefour and Total.
Using a robust growth stack was the turning point for their inbound marketing playbook to become an inspirational success.
As your SaaS startup grows, you will need to have a growth stack made of the right tools and solutions to help support your inbound marketing playbook and cater to your growing demands. Moreover, like in the case with Critizr, it will contribute to align both your startup's sales and marketing functions.
Why do SaaS startups fail with inbound marketing?
Reading through all these inspiring inbound marketing success stories can convince startups that inbound marketing works. I, myself, have started experiencing success in my business thanks to inbound marketing.
That does not mean to say that it is fool-proof. In fact, there are lots of SaaS startups that tried to use inbound marketing and failed.
While working with several of my clients, I discovered that there are three main reasons why SaaS startups struggle with creating inbound marketing success.
No apparent buyer persona
The focus of inbound marketing is the customer. Without having a clear understanding of who is your ideal client, you are throwing "Hail Mary passes" into cyberspace, hoping that these efforts will catch someone's attention long enough for them to check out what you have to offer.
To create an effective buyer persona for your inbound marketing success story, you need to study their pain points, goals and behavior patterns carefully. All these additional pieces of information will not only help you decide what type of content to create but also what format would be most readily accepted and where to publish these.
Hubspot has a tool to help busy SaaS startup founders create a buyer persona that looks something like this:
Your website is not set up correctly
People can be very demanding when it comes to websites. They want them to upload fast and want them to be very easy to navigate.
Using a responsive theme for your website is the best way to go about this. These themes are not only cost-effective but also provide your site the flexibility it needs so that it is easy to view and navigate whether your audience is using a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This is very important since 62% of Americans use their smartphone to browse the web.
Speed is also essential. Websites should not take longer than 3 seconds to load. If your site loads slower than that, you do not only lose potential leads but also severely hurt your search engine rankings, which can make your content that much harder for your buyer persona to find.
Pingdom is a free online tool that you can use to check how fast or slow your website is loading.
Expecting results overnight
Business owners can be extremely impatient when it comes to inbound marketing. They are not at all too crazy about the fact that they are starting to gain leads if they are not converting into customers almost immediately.
The truth is that there’s no such thing as a quick, overnight fix when it comes to getting your SaaS startup off the ground. Inbound marketing is a carefully thought out marketing strategy that takes time to develop, starting with creating an inbound marketing playbook.
What inbound marketing success tip do you want to share?
Have you used inbound marketing for your business? If so, why not help make this post more valuable by sharing your tips in the comments section below.
Oh, and if you want to get some more tips on creating an inbound marketing strategy for your startup, make sure that you get a copy of my inbound marketing playbook guide below.