This is a guest post from Jessica Day - Co-Founder, Chief Marketing Officer at IdeaScale.
The term “inbound marketing” has been around since the 90’s but didn’t really start to get popular until the mid-2000s when all of the major brands started to shift their thinking about how to grow their customer base. Instead of “pushing” messages out to consumers and interrupting them (on billboards, television commercials, podcast ads) they started to “pull” people to them who were already interested in hearing their message by appearing in their path when people were looking for them.
Maybe that new customer had discovered a problem that they wanted to solve or maybe they’d already heard of a company and were looking to find out if that solution was right for them. The point is, companies started to lay the bread crumbs to be FOUND instead of doing the finding themselves and some start-ups built their entire business this way. After almost a decade in business, IdeaScale is still almost 100% inbound and we’ve grown into a global multi-million dollar business that way. But what did we have to get right to do it?
Odds are you haven’t heard of the term “innovation management software” or maybe even “employee crowdsourcing” but that doesn’t necessarily matter. The point is, once you know what it is, once you know that you need it, when you search for it on Google… IdeaScale will be on the first page of results. So we do some very simple things to make sure that when you’re ready for our message you’ll find us.
Start with Research
No matter what tactic you’re focusing on [search engine optimization (SEO), PPC (pay per click), or social media], you must start by developing prospect and customer empathy. Find out what terms a prospect would use as they started having awareness of a need, develop other terms for when they’re looking to buy. For example, someone who is worried about ideas being transparently shared at their company might search for “ideation transparency” before they learn about and search for “idea management software,” which is why IdeaScale has developed content for both. To do this, you have to develop true customer empathy and let this be the roadmap for your strategy. And then you need to see what other content and messages are out there, what other people enjoy and share (BuzzSumo is great for this) and create your own messages that fit into this universe.
Create Content People Want to Share
Links back to your site are absolutely still the most important way to drive traffic back to your site. Not only are those links messaging outposts that will get people back to your site, but they signal relevance and importance to the search bots so will help you level-up your search results. So take all that research that you used to understand your customers and prospects and create content that they want to engage with. Oftentimes, IdeaScale will take a book that we admire or quote a thought leader that relates to our business and repackage that message in a meme, infographic, or blog post and then share it with that author or thought leader’s audience.
Social Media Marketing
Your approach to social will vary a great deal depending on your business, but don’t ignore social. Not only are social media platforms an environment for links back to your site, but they allow you to develop your brand voice in a different context. And don’t forget to encourage your most passionate employees to participate with and augment that voice.
Develop an Easy-to-Understand, High-Speed, Mobile-Friendly Website
Your website is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And, of course, it should be filled with relevant, high quality information. So do all that, but Google’s search algorithm prioritizes sites that function well, as well. That means having a valuable sitemap and good information architecture, it means being able to load fast and if you’re site isn’t optimized for mobile, just forget about it. Think about content when it comes to your website, but also think about function.
Develop and Iterate Your Pay Per Click Strategy
Every time you search for something, not only do you get content results, but you see ads, as well. And these ads are far more likely to convert into a paying customer, because that person was already searching for that term. They want to see your content so take all that research and create a PPC strategy that makes sense with you and test multiple messages and calls to action. We work with Level-Up to do this and it already delivers top-line revenue growth.
This is just the beginning, of course, but when you’re growing an inbound SaaS business, understanding your prospects, developing great ads and content and a social presence that leads to a stellar website are the things that you absolutely MUST get right.
Jessica Day, Co-Founder, CMO, IdeaScale
Jessica Day is Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at IdeaScale, the largest idea management platform in the world with more than 35,000 communities and 4.5 million users. IdeaScale empowers organizations to crowdsource ideas from their employees or customers who then collaborate, evaluate, and further develop those ideas into products, processes, and new initiatives. IdeaScale’s client roster includes industry leaders, such as Citrix, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, NASA, the New York City Police Department, Princess Cruises and many others. As part of her role, Day analyzes and articulates patterns appearing in crowdsourced innovation.
Day volunteers for sustainability organizations and lives in Berkeley, CA. She holds a MFA in English, Creative Writing.