Tough times call for creative approaches when it comes to B2B marketing. The SaaS market alone is set at $22.1 billion this year (Gartner), with an estimated 10,000 vendors hawking their wares to businesses. As more vendors crowd the SaaS market–CRM, Time Management, and HR software categories included–it’s time to add more promotional channels to your marketing arsenal to vie for prospects’ attention. We listed here six road-less-traveled marketing tactics that can give you an edge over the competition, which are crowding the popular advertising streams, such as, PPC ads and search engine marketing.
1. Get more links to your website
This requires that you have an established corporate blog, that is, you have a dedicated editorial team churning out regular topical content. If you haven’t got one yet for lack of resources and skills, it’s time to start publishing content by tapping an external team.
A corporate blog can host not just articles, but shareable content like infographics and videos. But instead of leaving the content idle on your blog, maximize their exposure by outreaching to business, B2B, and relevant blogs and websites that may need your content. Not only do you reach other websites’ audience, the backlink you get from these sites boost your SEO.
Just remember to talk about issues that matter to your audience, not about your software. But you can discuss the solutions that your software can perform. For example, as a vendor of CRM, Time Management, or HR software, you have a front seat view of issues that are relevant to relationship marketing, project management, or human resources.
2. Offer free version to influencers for review
You can also shortlist influencers in your category and offer them a free software version for review. Influencers can be individuals authors, speakers, thought leaders), professional groups, businesses, or trade societies that are relevant to your product category. By general definition, influencers have more followers and fans than you and their opinions matter to their audience.
In B2C influential bloggers are successfully tapped by brands in exchange for freebies or rewards, but hardly monetary value. Why not adopt the same tactic in B2B? There’s an unwritten agreement that in exchange for a deal influencers will favorably review your product, albeit with minor negative remarks to create a more balanced article. This is still a steal compared to paying to reach a big audience. Of course, the more popular the influencer the less chance this tactic will work unless you pay. Your best bet is to look for prospective influencers who are still under the radar but are starting to amass followers.
3. Guest blogging
Many top B2B-relevant sites including Forbes, Huffington Post, and CNNMoney have platforms for guest blogging, where, if you qualify, you write about a topic while your byline displays your company name. The more popular the website, the greater your exposure; however, expect more stringent editorial requirements. Besides promoting your business, you also earn more credibility as an expert in your field, a thought leader if you may, that will come handy once prospects look for your online social proof.
You’re thinking now that you have to be a writer to guest blog, but this can be circumvented by getting a ghostwriter (again, external B2B writers can help you here). The important thing is, the thoughts and key points are yours; the writer only puts them down into an article.
Getting accepted as a guest blogger takes time and requires building a relationship. You can start by identifying the editor or desk editor of your targeted website and engage him or her in social media by airing your opinion about shared issues or interests. Gradually introduce your content materials during this stage of engagement.
4. Promote your software on review sites
B2B review sites are the current battleground to vie for prospects’ attention for a compelling reason: 70% of Americans are reading product reviews before they make a purchase (Google), and they’re using review sites as a starting point to product discovery. Review sites offer prospects convenience and efficiency because readers can easily compare products down to specific features and terms. As more SaaS vendors introduce more software products to the market, the idea of visiting each of the product websites to match features becomes more unrealistic. So prospect go to review sites. The catch is, being present on review sites isn’t enough because your competitors are trying to elbow you and each other out.
To stand out, you can pay for marketing tools that review sites are offering. For example, at FinancesOnline.com, you can get a comparison highlight that focuses readers’ attention to your column in a product comparison table. You can also enroll your software to qualify for a Verified Quality Seal, a trust mark that can increase your conversion rate by as much as 14% by displaying the seal beside your software name. An Econsultancy study reported that displaying trust seals are the number one factor that helps visitors to trust a website, even surpassing referral by family and friends.
5. Create a publicity buzz
This tactic can work because hardly any B2B company is thinking of doing it. Meaning, it’s easy to create a buzz while the tactic is fresh and hasn’t been overdone. A publicity buzz can take myriad of forms and follows no formula to guarantee a successful campaign. The only pattern that we see is that the storyline should be timely and relevant to the issues that currently matter to the audience.
The best way to give you an idea how this stunt looks like is to give an example. CodeWeavers, a software vendor, riding on the public’s frustration with the falling U.S. economy in 2008, challenged then President George W. Bush to accomplish specific goals during his remaining few months at the office. The goals vary from returning the stock market to its 2008’s high to bringing down fuel prices to $2.79 per gallon, and to returning the median home price to Jan. 1, 2008 level. In fact, at one point, the government was able to push back fuel prices to CodeWeavers’ goal (not because of the vendor), and the software company delivered its promise of free download to “every American.” The story was distributed as a press release, but it easily got the attention of many news and blog sites.
So have your company gather the creative geniuses and rack their brains all day for that publicity buzz. However, don’t force or overdo this tactic if the shoe doesn’t really fit.
6. Give away a mobile app
Did you know that the App Store alone has had 75 billion downloads to date? For Google Play it’s 50 billion downloads as of 2013. Even if it’s primarily a B2C site, a substantial slice of this market is B2B decision-makers, who are browsing for personal apps for their smartphones and tablets. It’s a huge market waiting to be tapped for you as a B2B marketer.
Uploading a free mobile version of your software guarantees you have a presence in these two platforms. The free mobile app shouldn’t be the entire software; rather, a complementary function to the software. For example, if you’re selling CRM software, the mobile app can be an add-on that allows sales rep to upload or access customer data in real time. The free mobile app can also be a lead-generation stream, where you can funnel prospects into your software’s free trial or subscription plan. Moreover, since both App Store and Google Play have user reviews and ratings, these sections build user trust when prospects start to look for your social proof before making a purchase.
As more competitors join the market, you need to step up your creative juices to stay ahead of the game. Mainstream advertising and promotions are great, but they’re not enough if you want to outwit the competition.