One of the most significant challenges faced by tech startups is scaling after attaining product-market fit. In today’s competitive landscape, theirs less funding happening because VC’s are now looking for startups that can prove they can scale their marketing and sales efforts with a proven analytical framework. It can be difficult for a startup with limited capital to gain traction, primarily since they are working with limited resources.
When you receive a seed round or series A it’s time to get hell’a scrappy to make sure you continue to secure the bag.
It can be very tempting for startup founders like you to delve into outbound marketing techniques to gain some traction and get money to come into your business. While tactics like paid advertising, cold calling, and participating in trade shows can get you some results, it’s only a matter of time before your customers start tuning out and blocking your efforts. I recommend using inbound marketing and inbound sales techniques for long-term success.
People today are extremely busy, and the last thing that they want is to get interrupted by an ad or a cold call. It’s for this reason why ad blockers are so popular.
Fortunately, there’s another way: inbound marketing.
In this guide, I will be sharing with you what inbound marketing is all about as well as why HubSpot provides startups with the best marketing automation software to scale. I have professional experience using HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, & Salesforce within companies so those are the all-in-one marketing automation software tools I will be referencing and comparing within this guide.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy where you create content that appeals specifically to your ideal customers. Instead of having to fight for attention (and spending your money in the process), inbound marketing helps you lure and draw your potential customers to your business website. The idea here is that the more that they keep coming back for more educational content, the more they become convinced that your product is the solution to the problem they’re currently facing, making them more willing to convert into customers.
How does inbound marketing fare compared to outbound marketing? Well, just take a look at these stats:
- Inbound leads cost 49% less than outbound leads.
- Inbound marketing delivers 54% more qualified leads through a sales funnel than outbound marketing.
- Companies using inbound marketing campaigns experience 3x higher ROI than what they get from outbound marketing campaigns.
Still need more convincing? Check out the articles below on how startups like you have used inbound marketing to launch and scale:
- How Inbound Marketing Helped These 7 SaaS Startups Grow
- 15 Inspiring SaaS Startup Inbound Marketing Success Stories
Niti Shah of the HubSpot for Startups program explains it best in her talk at StartCon.
“In today’s competitive landscape make sure your producing quality content (=inspiration, empathy or utility).”
The Inbound Marketing Methodology
The inbound marketing methodology is broken into four main stages: attract, convert, close, and delight.
Let’s take a closer look at each one of them.
The attract stage is the beginning of the inbound marketing methodology, and it starts with developing your startup’s buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Creating a compelling buyer persona goes beyond just what does he or she look like concerning demographics. Your startup’s buyer persona is supposed to give you a holistic representation of your ideal customer inside out. That means you need to know what are their most significant goals, pains, and challenges.
Having a specific buyer persona will help you become laser-focused on your inbound marketing strategy to attracting prospects that would most likely convert into customers even with a very lean marketing budget. It would also help you create your startup’s buyer journey, which is the path prospects that visit your page to go through to become a paying customer eventually.
A quick and easy way to create a buyer persona for your startup is through HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool. This free online tool will guide you through the process of developing your startup’s buyer persona that you can download as a Word document you can use for reference.
Once you have come up with your buyer persona and journey, the next thing you’ll need to determine is which keywords do you want your site to rank for in Google and search engines. This is extremely important since up to 92% of people that use the Internet visit sites listed on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP).
Here are some tools that you can use to research for keywords for your startup’s website:
When you have your list of keywords, it’s time to start creating content for your site. Although there are lots of different types of content that you can publish, blog posts remain one of the most vital pieces of content to create for your site. Not only does each post give search engines an additional page to index to help your website rank higher, but it also gives you the opportunity for visitors to convert into leads, and eventually to paying customers.
The most significant challenge is coming up with topics that your buyer persona will find interesting. Here are some free online tools that you can use to help you generate a list of topics based on the keywords you’ve chosen:
Last, but probably not the least, in this inbound marketing stage is checking your website’s speed. No matter how beautiful and user-friendly your site may be, if it loads very slowly, it can only mean disaster for your startup.
Below are online tools that will help you not only find out your website’s speed, but also give you suggestions on how to further enhance it.
Additionally, here are some resources to with more strategies on how to attract your ideal customers that you can implement for your inbound marketing strategy:
- Brand Awareness: Lessons from 3 High-Growth SaaS Companies
- 4 Personal Branding Strategies for Startup Founders
As its name suggests, the next stage of the inbound marketing methodology is to convert prospects into leads and eventually into customers.
To achieve this, you need to make sure that you include a call-to-action within every single piece of content you publish on your website, whether it’s a blog post, video or podcast. Your call-to-action should be noticeable enough to get your visitors to click on without coming across as interruptive.
Here are some helpful resources to give you ideas on how to do this:
- 25 Lead Generation Strategies for SaaS Startups
- 5 Ways to Squeeze the Most Use Out of Your Content
- 10 Landing Page Optimization Tips for SaaS Business to Generate More Leads
Admittedly, the trickiest part of the entire inbound marketing methodology, but it’s also perhaps the most crucial since this is where you convert your leads into paying customers.
That said, you need to have not only the right tools in place but also your marketing and sales team have to be aligned with each other. Otherwise, your marketing team may be generating tons of leads that your sales team can’t convert into customers.
Check out these helpful resources to achieve this:
- How Inbound Marketing and Sales Can Work Together to Close More Leads
- How to Align Your Online Marketing and Sales Efforts with Stories
- 10 Tried-and-True Tips for Sales and Marketing Alignment
- 25 Tactics to Increase Your Online Sales
Did you know that acquiring a new customer can cost you up to 25 times more than keeping an existing customer? As a startup with limited financial resources, it only follows that you need to make sure to continue delighting your current customers. Not only will this encourage them to become repeat customers, but will also help scale your startup further by becoming promoters of your brand.
This is critical as you scale your startup. 90% of people trust product and service recommendations given by their family, friends, and other people. 29% will become customers on the same day that they visit the site recommended to them.
Here are some additional resources that can help you make sure that your startup continues to delight your existing customers and clients:
- Go Beyond Good Enough: How to Delight Your Customers
- 5 Simple Routes to Better Customer Delight & Increased Retention
- How Inbound Marketing Works for Small Business Part 4: Delight Promoters
Scaling with HubSpot for Startups
HubSpot is the first company that comes to mind when it comes to inbound marketing. Not surprising since it was they that revolutionized online marketing not only by advocating this effective marketing strategy but also by providing a comprehensive platform to carry this out.
Since it was launched in 2006, over 2,000 startups are now using HubSpot’s sales and marketing automation software to carry out their inbound marketing campaigns. Among these include Shopify, Mention, Bynder, & AnswerDash.
I’m the first to admit that there are lots of marketing automation software tools out there that you can use to launch an inbound marketing campaign for your startup. However, there are several reasons why I personally believe HubSpot’s platform continues to lead the pack.
All-in-one Marketing Automation Software
One of the most significant benefits of using HubSpot’s marketing software is that it’s an all-in-one software program that includes all the tools you need to plan, launch, and analyze an effective inbound marketing campaign. There’s no need to struggle with getting multiple 3rd party platforms to integrate and work together. Besides all of this, the #1 reason to use an all-in-one solution is because it’s more cost effective.
Effective Lead Generation
Another huge benefit of using HubSpot’s marketing software is that it allows you to create high-conversion landing pages in a matter of clicks. At the same time, it also has its email marketing platform, which is already integrated most significant your site so you can quickly launch this, and start generating leads for your startup.
Easy to Use
HubSpot’s marketing automation software allows you to create landing pages, blog posts, and even sales funnels even if you don’t have any web development or IT background. That way, you’re able to consolidate all your marketing efforts quickly and efficiently without the need for an in-house web developer or IT professional. As well it should be noted they provide onboarding and support to help you with any technical problems you may have.
Beyond Marketing Automation Software
Perhaps the best thing about HubSpot is that they provide more than a robust marketing software program. They also offer a host of educational resources and training programs all focused on how marketers, small business owners, and startup founders learn the ins and outs of inbound marketing. I truly believe every marketer should go through HubSpot’s inbound certifications!
The Challenge Faced by Startup Founders
No doubt, HubSpot’s marketing platform can be a worthwhile investment for any startup. However, let’s face it: it doesn’t come cheap. For many startup founders, the price tag of this robust marketing software is just beyond their budget.
That, however, all changed in July 2013 when HubSpot launched its HubSpot for Startups Program.
What is the HubSpot for Startups Program?
Formerly called the HubSpot Jumpstart Grant Program, the HubSpot for Startup Program was developed to give founders of the most promising startups from different parts of the world with the tools and guidance to help them focus on their marketing and sales efforts to scale quickly.
As a former startup, HubSpot understands the struggles of startup founders like yourself face when it comes to getting your brand and products the attention it deserves. Through their HubSpot for Startups program, they aim to provide startups with the guidance and tools to empower startup founders to promote and grow their startups through their marketing and sales efforts.
Benefits of the HubSpot for Startups Program
Discounts on Software Tools
One of the main benefits of qualifying for the HubSpot for Startups Program is that you can avail up to 90% discount on their marketing and sales software program for the first year.
Qualified startups to the program get access to a range of world-class training and educational courses that are trained by members of the HubSpot team and other experts in their own respective niches and industries.
At the same time, qualified startups can network and learn from each other through the program’s exclusive community.
Each of the startups eligible for the program will gain access to HubSpot’s Startup Onboarding. This is an exclusive service that includes a strategy call with one of their Startup Specialists to help qualified founders develop an inbound marketing strategy for their startup to help them achieve their goals.
HubSpot’s onboarding also provides qualified startups with the technical assistance they need to set up their portal and round-the-clock access to their support team.
In addition to getting access to exclusive courses and tutorials in HubSpot Academy, qualified startup founders will receive a training session how to implement the inbound marketing methodology using the different tools provided to them so that they attract more qualified visitors to their sites, convert them into leads, generate sales, and retain them. This training will be done every quarter.
Two Ways to Qualify for the HubSpot for Startups Program
The HubSpot for Startups program has two different categories that startup companies can qualify:
The seed-stage startup category is for those startups that meet the following criteria:
- Are in or within 12 months of graduation from a HubSpot partner incubator or accelerator
- Have less than $1 million in funding
- Have less than $1 million revenue
- Have less than 10,000 contacts
- Are not an existing HubSpot customer
- Are not categorized as a marketing agency
Although the Series A startup category is still currently in beta mode, startups that meet the following criteria can submit their application:
- Must have received Series A funding from one of the HubSpot network of VC firms (click here to check if your VC is one of them) within 6 months from their funding date
- Have no funding or revenue amount ceiling
- Must be able to provide SEC filing documents or any other proof showing the funding date from the VC
Limitations of the Program
While all these may sound well and good, the HubSpot for Startups program does have its limitations.
Time to Learn the System
Like all systems and methodologies, you’ll need time to learn and grasp the entire inbound marketing methodology and the HubSpot sales and marketing automation software, even with the training provided.
That said, your success (or failure) to scale your startup dramatically depends on how quickly you can grasp and apply the principles and methods taught.
If you’re strapped for time but have some cash to invest, consider
- Hiring 1-2 full-time staff members
- Hiring an growth marketing agency
- Hire a remote freelancer
Focus on Content Marketing
Central to the inbound marketing methodology that HubSpot promotes is creating a gated content offer (ebooks, white papers, case studies) and blog posts. If you’re not a good writer, can’t afford to hire a writer, or simply aren’t looking to use content marketing as part of your startup’s lead generation efforts, then this may not be the program for you.
Reliant on the HubSpot Marketing Automation Software
Since HubSpot has its marketing and sales software program, it’s only natural that qualified startup founders will be required to purchase this in order to take part of the program. If you’re already using another marketing automation tool, more than likely you’re locked into a 1-2 year contract. Unless you can finesse your way out of your current contract then this startup program may not be a good fit for you.
Integrating Your Tech Startup With HubSpot
From my personal experience working with clients who are tech startups often they have proprietary technology and have their websites hosted on AWS. 9 out of 10 times I recommend startup founders to host their website and landing pages on HubSpot using a subdomain. You lose some personalization features but it will allow you to sleep at night. In defense of HubSpot, this problem currently occurs with any of the big 3 (HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo).
Paying Per Email/CRM Contact
It should be known I’m a HubSpot Partner that runs an inbound marketing agency. One problem I have with the current pricing model is that you’re charged per contact that’s in their marketing and sales automation software.
Due to this I highly recommend clients to only put inbound leads in HubSpot and use a tool like SendGrid, GrowBots, MixMax, or MailShake for cold email outreach. Only when someone opts in or becomes a MQL should they be inserted into your CRM.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Given the different limitations of the HubSpot for Startups Program, you may be wondering, “is it really worth my time?”
Well, just take a look at what some startups have to say about the program:
“HubSpot has been a key foundation of Foundersuite.com’s growth and ongoing success. We use it extensively for our content marketing, blogging, and outbound sales efforts. We also use it to track leads, which bring useful accountability into our process. I recommend it without reservation to fellow startup CEOs.” – Nathan Beckord, CEO, Foundersuite.com
“When we started our marketing was so scattered and had no way to pull it together to track if our marketing efforts were successful. When you have a tool like HubSpot that can unify your efforts across 5-6 different platforms, it saves you so much time and allows you to be efficient — so you can close your deals.” – Chelsea Ogozaly, Marketing Director at ViralGains
“When I first looked at HubSpot, I saw it as a collection of tools. It is, but what really makes the difference is how all of those different pieces work together…I highly recommend adopting the system and seeing how each of these pieces come together.” – Dave McCormick, Director of Product Marketing, Alpha Software
“HubSpot’s services have been a huge reason for our marketing success. As a startup, it was important that we hit the ground running when we started using HubSpot. HubSpot’s onboarding professionals and tech support helped us transition and launch our campaigns while we got up to speed on the robust toolbox that HubSpot offers. Thanks to their attentive, dedicated support teams, we didn’t miss a beat in our communication with new and existing contacts.” – Dave Longwell, Director of Marketing, Rent Like a Champion
Growth Marketing for SaaS Startups Course
As a HubSpot partner, I have personally experienced how marketing and sales automation software have helped my business and that of my clients, so I highly recommend taking part in this fantastic program.
But what if you don’t meet the stringent criteria of the program or simply don’t have time to train your staff?
Well, that’s where I can help you out.
I have developed my Growth Marketing for Startups course based on my years of experience helping tech startups increase their website traffic, convert more qualified leads, and generate revenue using the content marketing.
Who is This Course For?
I designed this 12-week intensive growth marketing course to cater to tech startups with 1-2 in-house marketers. It’s also an excellent fit for startups that don’t have the staff but have the financing to scale and hire freelancers and third-party agencies.
What Can You Expect From This Course?
By the end of this course, my goal is to help you:
- Run your own monthly growth marketing campaign sprints that will help you double your website’s traffic within 180 days;
- Learn how to automate your sales prospecting efforts using LinkedIn and email;
- Reverse engineer what your competitors are doing so that you can use their strategies to your advantage;
- Develop a blogging plan that will help boost your account-based sales efforts;
- So much more!
My ultimate goal is to make sure that I give each and every startup founder the attention and mentorship they deserve throughout the entire course.