Inbound marketing can be very cost-effective, but it can also be slow.
Inbound marketing relies on prospective customers making contact with vendors. That's the other way around from traditional marketing, where vendors try to make contact with potential customers.
What that means is that by the time the vendor engages with a prospective customer, that prospect is already fairly far along in the evaluation process. They're already familiar with the vendor and the solution. In other words, they've qualified themselves.
That’s perfect for software-as-a service (SaaS) vendors. They can focus their sales and marketing activity on well-qualified prospects.
That fits well with the SaaS business model which demands that companies spend their sales and marketing resources wisely. (See"SaaS companies can't afford to sell")
Finding customers in the short term
But it’s not so perfect for SaaS vendors in a hurry.
While inbound marketing makes sense - and the process usually works over time - it can be a long journey. The prospective customers move at their own pace, not the vendor's pace.
If you're a SaaS vendor that needs to close business in the short term, you need to add in some other tactics. Inbound marketing may not have the instant impact you need.
Friends & family
There’s a reason most vendors’ early sales are to friends & family. These folks already have some connection to the vendor. They might be a previous employer, an investor, or former colleagues, for example.
Vendors looking to quickly sign on some early customers should focus their efforts on these friends & family.
These folks are already familiar with the vendor, which means they’ve already passed through the early stage of the evaluation and purchase process. They're more likely to buy the solution in the short term.
The early adopters
In most markets, there is usually a cadre of early adopters, folks that are actively looking for innovative solutions. To gain a competitive advantage and bolster their credentials as market leaders, they are more willing to try technology solutions before they become mainstream.
If you're looking to close business in the short term, seek out these early adopters.
Where do you find them? Look at the press announcements for vendors selling solutions that are complementary to yours. See who’s speaking at relevant conferences. Find out who's publishing a blog that describes their experience using new technologies.
Leverage the early adopters
One of the reasons early adopters want to be out front is that they like being known as innovators. They want others to take their advice and follow their lead.
So once you've secured one of these folks as a customer, enlist their help to find others. They tend to have a wide sphere of influence. They post, they speak, they network. And they’re often willing to help.
Don’t abandon inbound marketing
Do keep one thing in mind: While you’re focused on closing a few deals in the short term, don’t forget about inbound marketing. That's what you'll need to attract the prospects that will fill your sales pipeline over the medium and long-term.
These are the customers that will get you “across the chasm” and help you establish a sustainable revenue stream.
Yes, it may take them some time for these prospects to get to know you, assess their needs, and evaluate how well your solution fits their requirements and budget. (See "Winning SaaS customers requires patience.")
But when they do eventually get there, they’ll be well-qualified and ready to seriously evaluate your solution. You just can’t rush the process.