A couple of months ago, we wrote about the challenges of scaling inbound marketing for a company which just clocked $100 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). Inbound marketing has been the biggest contributor to our Freshworks growth story over the years. Today it might look obvious to anyone that with a great product, pull-based digital marketing can help acquire customers worldwide while operating out of India. But back in 2011, the model was unchartered territory for SaaS businesses.
In the first part of a two-part series, we pick some of the essential online lead generation tools that helped us scale our inbound marketing and got us to where we are today!
It is not surprising that AdWords was our very first paid marketing tool/channel. For a startup which needed to work purely through pull marketing, AdWords (specifically Search Marketing) was a natural choice. When Freshdesk won $40000 in Microsoft India Bizspark Challenge in 2011, our founder and CEO Girish Mathrubootham spent the entire amount on Adwords.
The model was simple: serve ads to people searching for keywords like helpdesk software and customer support software, get them to sign up for a free trial and our product should do the rest. Soon after, we had our first customer from Australia. For a startup based in Chennai to get its first customer from a different continent was a testament to the customer acquisition model Girish and his team was pioneering. Adwords is probably one of the best marketing tools for a startup looking to transcend borders and acquire a global customer base.
Initially, we started using DoubleClick Suite for prospecting and remarketing because its reach was wider than Google Display Network. Our initial forays weren’t successful. The features and levers available weren’t as sophisticated as GDN. But in recent years, we have realized that the power of DoubleClick products lies in measurement and tracking. Floodlight tracking helps us to granularly track our visitor data and also helps identify the placements and targeting options that generate qualified leads and revenue. This has made DoubleClick suite a handy tool to run campaigns in DoubleClick network as well as work as an ad server for third-party prospecting and remarketing channels like AdRoll and Quantcast.
If there is one advice that we would have given our younger selves, it would be: Be an SEO first marketing company. Getting your SEO strategy right early on could set your startup on a sustainable growth path for years to come. The first tool (which is fortunately free) that you should turn to is Search Console (previously Google Webmaster tools).
In its most basic form, Search Console acts as an SEO health check for your website. It acts as a portal to help Webmasters make sure that the website is properly indexed and free from any indexing or server errors. But, Search Console is also an effective tool for SEO analysts to check their organic search performance and analyze the performance of their pages for the targeted keywords. SEO analysts can further use the tool to improve their web pages, plan for future blogs, and SEO content.
SearchConsole is a great tool for setting up and executing an SEO strategy. But when your startup wants to shoot to a higher trajectory of growth in organic traffic, it could feel like a sword in a gunfight. That is where an SEO planning tool like Ahrefs can help. It is a comprehensive tool that can help you research organic keywords and backlinks, explore top and trending content topics, audit and track your site performance. Equipping your SEO team with a tool like Ahrefs can go a long way in setting up them for success.
Bringing the potential customer to the site is just half the job done. As startups grow, they realize that the more the visitors they bring, lower the conversion rate. When the leads growth doesn’t correspond to the visitor growth, it is time to look out for a good conversion rate optimizer tool. A good CRO tool would help you understand user behaviour and test out what works on your website for the visitor and what doesn’t.
At Freshworks, we have been using Freshmarketer (Previously Zarget) for the past few years. With features like A/B testing, split URL testing, and heatmaps, it helps us figure out how the visitor responds to our web pages and use that to improve our conversion rate. For example, which would have a higher signup rate: a conspicuous signup form on the first fold of the page or a signup button which takes you to a signup form in a new page? We used an A/B test to find out. Counter-intuitively the visitor is more likely to signup if the form is not present on the landing page. Freshmarketer allows us to test out these burning questions in a quick and efficient way. It is a must-have in a content marketer’s toolkit.
If CRO tools help us design pages that engage visitors better, chat tools take engagement one step further and gives an opportunity to engage directly with a potential customer. It is not possible for a web page to answer every question that a visitor might have about your product or service. If the visitor cannot find answers, you might lose a potential customer. This is where chat tools can fix the leakage. Be it an automated message leading the visitor to a different but relevant page or a conversation with a specialist, chat tools can help visitors figure out why they need to choose your product or service.
Our marketing team was among the earliest adopters of Freshchat, our very own modern messaging software. Today, we use it for a wide range of purposes, from collecting the contact information of prospective customers to pop-up personalized messages that helps drive visitors to relevant pages. The icing on the cake is the integration with our CRM tool, Freshsales, and support tool, Freshdesk. This helps the sales team shorten the sales cycle and close deals faster.
Another way of engaging visitors is to influence the journey of the visitor on your website proactively. Nudging the visitors to engage with specific content or pages (your most-loved feature or a seasonal offer) can often increase the conversion rates of these visitors.
SumoMe is a simple tool designed to achieve exactly that. With SumoMe, you can set up announcements and banners with relevant messages on your web or landing pages. At Freshworks, we have used such banners successfully to direct visitors to webinars or white papers. Even if the visitor doesn’t sign up for the product immediately, engagement with relevant content has helped us increase our brand and product recall.
Another useful feature in SumoMe is exit intent pop-ups. Pop-ups are usually considered annoying by visitors. But with the right content, they can increase the time spent on site by the visitors and eventually lead to a conversion or improved brand perception.
These are some of the tools that we have used to scale Freshworks. This is neither a comprehensive list nor a definitive one, but we hope it would have given you a good sense of the various tools that can help a young startup with scaling their online lead generation. In part two, we will talk about the other critical aspect of marketing technology: the role of measurement, analysis, and visualization tools in efficiently scaling inbound marketing.