inbound-marketing-strategy-for-europe

How Freshworks is scaling inbound marketing in Europe

Written by on September 10, 2019

For growing SaaS startups across the world, the US is probably the first market where they find their feet. With its quick technology adoption and inherent need for multiple solutions, the US often feeds the growth of many SaaS companies in their early stages. So it is not surprising that most businesses design their inbound marketing strategy with the US market in mind. But when they are ready to take their next big leap, they will look to make an impactful mark in the complex yet thriving European market. 

At Freshworks, we realised that the leap into the European market could not be achieved merely by replicating  what we did in the US — and decided on a completely new inbound marketing strategy for Europe. 

But, there were several problems we had to counter, such as:

  • The sheer number of countries
  • Scalability in individual countries 
  • Accommodating 24 languages 
  • Website maintenance and the strong need for a CMS
  • English versus appropriate native languages 
  • Keywords to capture the intent of the user

Understanding the European Market

The key to ‘cracking’ the European region is to understand how it works. Europe is a heterogeneous market — with its 44 countries exhibiting subtle and not-so-subtle differences in language, culture, purchase behavior, tech maturity of customers and the like. Every niche needs a different  strategy tailored to that market. Although many Europeans are now fluent in English, they prefer communicating through their native language to a common lingua franca. 

Aligning Marketing Strategy with ROI

The first step to devising our inbound marketing strategy for Europe was to perform a complete country-wise payback analysis, and restructure campaigns based on that. We eliminated countries that belonged to the Low Revenue X High Spend quadrant, and instead decided to focus only on countries with high ROI. Targeting these high ROI countries also meant that we didn’t need websites unique to all 24 languages, but only for the top eight that were spoken in these countries. Once we chose the countries where we were confident of sustainability, we started digging deeper into our major marketing channels, to fine-tune them for performance. 

Restructuring Search Marketing

Paid search (Google Adwords/Bing Ads) is an effective marketing channel for Europe — as it is for the US — but with certain tweaks, given that search behaviour is varied across different countries. This meant we had to restructure our existing European paid search campaigns based on language preferences of users, their search patterns, and keyword volumes. The idea was to split Europe into subregions containing countries that have similar user behaviour and substantial search volume. Based on this, we created separate campaigns for DACH, Benelux, Sweden, France, Spain, and Italy. 

Benelux and Sweden are similar markets where users engage more in English than in their local language when it comes to navigating the web. So we created two different campaigns for each of these regions.

Campaign Set 1: English campaign

  • Target country: 
    • Campaign 1 targeting Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg (Benelux)
    • Campaign 2 targeting Sweden
  • Campaigns have a mix of English and local language keywords
  • Users are shown English ads and English landing pages
  • Target audience: Users with browser language setting as ‘only English’

inbound-marketing-strategy

Campaign Set 2: Dutch/Swedish campaign

  • Target country: 
    • Campaign 1 (Dutch) targeting Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg
    • Campaign 2 (Swedish) targeting Sweden
  • Campaigns have a mix of English and  local language keywords
  • Users are shown Dutch/Swedish ads and Dutch/Swedish landing pages respectively
  • Target audience: Users with browser language setting as only ’Dutch/Swedish’ respectively

inbound-marketing-strategy

DACH, France, Spain, and Italy are somewhat similar markets with more regional language speaking users and fewer English speaking users. We created two different campaigns for each of these regions.

Campaign Set 1: English campaign

  • Target country: 
    • Campaign 1 targeting Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH)
    • Campaign 2 targeting France
    • Campaign 3 targeting Spain 
    • Campaign 4 targeting Italy
  • Campaigns have a mix of English and local language keywords
  • Users are shown English ads and English landing pages
  • Target Audience: Users with browser language setting as ‘only English’

Campaign Set 2: German/ French/ Espanol/ Italian campaign

  • Target country: 
    • Campaign 1 (German) targeting Germany, Austria and Switzerland
    • Campaign 2 (French) targeting France and Belgium
    • Campaign 3 (Espanol) targeting Spain
    • Campaign 4 (Italian) targeting Italy and Switzerland
  • Campaigns have a mix of English and local language keywords
  • Users are shown German/French/ Espanol/ Italian ads and German/ French/ Espanol/ Italian landing pages respectively
  • Target audience: Users with browser language setting as only ’German/French/ Espanol/ Italian’ respectively

This campaign structure helped us make sure that we target all search term language vs browser language quadrants (highlighted below) and get more leads at a lesser cost. We were now targeting the right audience with the right ads.

inbound-marketing-strategy

Introducing YouTube and LinkedIn into our marketing mix

Displaying banner campaigns via Google Display Network (GDN) comes with certain limitations. Unlike in the US, aggressively displaying campaigns targeting competitors doesn’t work in Europe. We have seen cases where multiple ads of the same company/product are shown on the same page at the same time, and this is a terrible user experience. This is where our YouTube and social media campaigns were saviours. We started showing YouTube video ads in local languages to prospects who’ve searched for our core keywords in Google. YouTube, by the way, has a lower cost per conversion and better ad recall than GDN.

We also started making use of LinkedIn to nurture our website visitors with Europe-specific customer case studies/ white-papers etc. With Linkedin, we were able to target the right audience/industry and show them the right content.

Conversion Rate Optimisation: Gearing up your website for better experience

There are two key contributors to better conversion rates in Europe. You must ensure that you win the trust of your prospects, and that they are led to relevant content. 

Trust

A good marketing strategy must have the right elements, which will nudge your users to trust your products better. Europeans like to see if a company has customers from their region. They like to read case studies of similar companies that use the product, and how a product or service helped solve their problems. You also gain their trust if your product has received high ratings, awards, or other accolades from reputed sources. 

Given that it is difficult to manage multiple versions of the same landing page for each region, we used our own CRO tool, Freshmarketer, to customise the pages. This enabled us to show country-specific customer logos and testimonial quotes. In fact, even though we were showing the same Dutch page to Netherlands and Belgium users, for instance, with Freshmarketer, we were able to show Netherlands-specific logos and quotes to a Netherlands user and Belgium-specific content to a Belgium user simultaneously. 

Also, maintaining multiple language websites, doing CRO activities, and updating content constantly is possible only if you have a strong content management system (CMS). So we made sure we had a strong CMS in place before we started our Europe campaigns.

We also made sure we are visible in review based channels like Trustpilot, Trustradius, Gartner Networks, etc, that have more users from Europe.

Content is always the hero

European users have certain parameters that determine their buying decision. We made sure our ads, extensions, and landing pages are aligned with what European users are looking for. Data security is a huge purchase factor, for instance, and hence we tweaked our ads and extensions to include our data security/data centre-related product highlights.

inbound-marketing-strategy

 

All this helped us improve our conversion rate by 17%, new users improved by 18% and we saved 14% of our annual spend. 

I am sure these are not the only steps that can be taken to tailor strategies for European markets. But this is definitely the right start, given the growth potential of SaaS businesses in Europe. 

As for us, Europe is now our second-largest revenue generating market. The journey wasn’t easy, but the effort was certainly worth it.

Anand Nambiar

Lead - Digital Marketing at Freshworks