We come across B2B SaaS companies that are so intimately familiar with the ins and outs of their solution—design, functionality, etc.—that they lose track of the fact that the rest of the world doesn’t understand their product as well as they do. Of course, B2B SaaS companies don’t need the whole world to understand their solution. But frequently, being too close to their own product prevents companies from effectively marketing the benefits of their solution (even to their ideal customers).
At root, they fail to address the questions underlying the most basic principles of marketing: Who is my ideal customer and what matters to them? Where and how can they be reached to convincingly communicate the benefits of my services in addressing their needs and goals?
It’s no surprise, then, when their efforts—chasing traffic goals and clicks, toggling randomly between marketing channels—fail to produce conversions, drastically driving up their customer acquisition costs.
By the time B2B SaaS companies approach us for help, virtually all of them already know the answers to the first two of those basic questions. But you often wouldn’t know it by looking at their marketing, and that’s because the where and how of an effective communications strategy can present a vexing challenge. At Powered By Search, we’ve designed a framework for overcoming it that can be applied to most any B2B SaaS company, and which consists of three basic ingredients:
- Intent: Understand who the ideal customer is and what matters to them—where they are, where they want to go next, and what they ultimately aspire to.
- Content: Create content tailored to the ideal customer’s intent, mirroring their pain points, prescribing a solution, listing its benefits, and identifying opportunity costs.
- Present: Deploy that content where it’s going to reach the most ideal customers (not where it’s going to reach the greatest number of people). That doesn’t mean targeting bottom-of-funnel traffic only; content designed according to intent should convert ideal but uninformed customers by explaining why a solution exists, what it is, how it works, and why now is the time to buy it.
These elements add up to a lead generation machine that we call the Intent Engine. It drives conversions using less content on fewer channels to narrowly target the right kind of traffic. On average, our clients produce roughly 90 percent less content than they did before—with vastly richer results.
In this article, we’ll demonstrate how we used the Intent Engine to help Hurdlr—a SaaS company that provides an expense and mileage tracker app to contractors, freelancers, and small business owners—increase their monthly impressions by thirtyfold while also doubling their site’s visibility. Specifically, we’ll explain:
- How we realized that seasonality was largely behind the middling performance of Hurdlr’s paid ads, and how we helped them shift resources to content marketing, where they would be more effective.
- How we addressed hiccups on Hurdlr’s blog, which featured lots of high-quality but unfocused—and ultimately unproductive—content.
- How we optimized Hurdlr’s web copy and landing pages to improve their search rankings and conversion rates.
By applying the same kind of thinking to their own clients, marketers can achieve results of a similar caliber.
Note: If you’d like to learn how we can apply the Intent Engine to help your business, you can learn more about our SaaS content and paid services here, or reach out to talk to us about whether we’d be a fit to work together here.
How We Distinguished the Problem from Symptoms of the Problem
When they approached us in 2018, Hurdlr, which is based in Washington DC, had a sleek, well-designed app for iOS and Android. The app allowed users to track mileage, income streams, tax deductions, and business expenses in real time. That way, freelance operators, small business owners, and others could maintain a live view of the state of their finances over the course of the year. The app also allowed users to transfer their data directly to accountants or external tax software, minimizing headaches at tax time. It was already beloved by thousands of users around the country, a majority of them drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft.
But like the B2B SaaS companies that we described above, Hurdlr knew that their business wasn’t progressing quite how they wanted, and they could point to a number of adverse signs to prove it. Also like the companies described above, they’d mistaken the symptoms of a larger, underlying problem for individual problems in their own right. Still, in business no less than in medicine, symptoms are clues, and they demanded our attention.
For one, despite having a nicely designed blog with plenty of evergreen content, and a strong in-house understanding of SEO best practices, Hurdlr wasn’t ranking for search terms that spoke to the core of their business, notably for “mileage tracking.” Furthermore, although the blog was generating strong traffic, with posts reflecting the interests of Hurdlr’s ideal customers—e.g. content about top gig economy jobs and calculating tax deductions—it wasn’t producing conversions.
Meanwhile, applying a process that we’ve written about in detail here, we quickly optimized Hurdlr’s paid ad strategy. But even then, with all the variables in their right places, for Hurdlr, paid ads proved to be marginally profitable at best.
The overall effect was a relatively high CAC and slower-than-hoped-for growth.
How We Identified Seasonality as a Key Strategic Factor
In most cases, we treat the Intent Engine as a process to be applied sequentially, with intent dictating content, and decisions regarding presentation left for last. In this instance, however, our analysis of Hurdlr’s ideal customers’ intent provided definitive answers about where to reach them—that is, where to present our yet-to be created new content.
Sometimes, when they come to us, SaaS companies don’t quite fully understand the intentions of their ideal client; we’ve written about one such example here. But with Hurdlr, the needs and pain points of the contractors, freelancers, and small business owners they were targeting weren’t hard to figure out: they wanted to save more money on taxes and business expenses without having to spend a lot of time on it or otherwise inconvenience themselves in the process. Hurdlr knew that.
But by drilling down further into their ideal customers’ motivations, we were able to extract a useful insight about the relatively poor performance of their paid ads: Most people don’t devote much consideration to their taxes except in the weeks just before they’re due, in mid-April. Independent contractors have good reason to be a bit more on top of the issue. But even the most financially savvy gig economy workers, we reasoned, were unlikely to give much thought to their taxes except for during the first 14 to 18 weeks of the year. If true, that would help explain why even an optimized paid ad strategy wasn’t doing much to move the dial.
It also provided a strong case for Hurdlr to divert some of their marketing budget away from paid ads and toward creating content that would improve their search rankings and conversion rates, building long-term brand equity in the process, and lowering their CAC. Yet having reached an important conclusion about where to focus on communicating with Hurdlr’s ideal customers, we were still left with the crux of the company’s problem: What about their existing content was failing to match their customers’ intent?
High Quality, Low Resolution
As it turned out, Hurdlr was making two mistakes, which, for reasons that we cannot quite explain, seem to be becoming increasingly common among B2B SaaS companies. Both also appear to be related to the tendency we described at the outset of this post, wherein SaaS founders become so intimately familiar with the benefits and functionality of their products that they begin to overlook the need to educate their ideal customers on the subject.
Problem #1: High-Quality but Unfocused Content
In Hurdlr’s case, they’d created an attractive website with plenty of high-quality blog content. But although the content suggested that Hurdlr knew their customers well, it very rarely had anything directly to do with Hurdlr’s solution.
In effect, they had a ton of great “top-of-funnel” content, good for getting people—even the right people—in the door, but nothing to explain to them, once they were there, how a SaaS solution like Hurdlr’s stood to help them. This pattern also went a long way toward explaining their poor search term rankings: How could they rank well for terms related to their core business when they weren’t producing content about their core business?
We proposed and helped implement a two-pronged solution:
- Add blog content built around Hurdlr’s core business
- Build upon and strengthen existing content by updating posts with lead magnets to deepen visitors’ engagement
Problem #2: Imprecise Website Copy/Landing Pages
But Hurdlr’s main site suffered from similar shortcomings. Here, too, they’d missed the opportunity to educate ideal customers about the benefits of their solution—the ways that Hurdlr could help them save money on expenses and taxes while streamlining the operation of their business. Instead, they’d opted for graphics and text that highlighted their app’s aesthetic features and more diverting functionalities. The site looked great, and the product sounded cutting edge. But it wasn’t clear how signing up with Hurdlr was actually going to help people improve their business.
As a fix, we suggested subbing in straightforward, educational messaging that would guide potential customers from naivete to understanding of the Hurdlr app’s functionality, and how it could benefit them.
As a complement to this new set of approaches, and a way of beginning to improve Hurdlr’s search rankings, we also started creating landing pages tied to specific search terms, so that potential customers already in the market for one or more of the solutions encompassed by the Hurdlr app would understand immediately that Hurdlr was the kind of product they were looking for. Since Lyft and Uber drivers made up the majority of Hurdlr’s existing customers, we began with a “mileage tracking” page.
Our engagement with Hurdlr is relatively young, but we’ve already seen a thirtyfold increase in website impressions and doubled search visibility. The next steps will include replicating our dedicated landing page strategy for some of the Hurdlr app’s other functionalities—business expense tracking, for example—in order to capture search traffic for additional, specific solutions that the product offers.
That will likely help broaden Hurdlr’s current user base, drawing in freelancers and small business owners who aren’t in the rideshare game. To encourage conversions once we’ve brought them in, we’ll also double down on our content strategy, optimizing both blog and web copy to communicate to a wider array of ideal customers just how the Hurdlr app stands to benefit them and their business.
If you’d like to learn how we can apply the Intent Engine to help your business, you can learn more about our SaaS content and paid services here, or reach out to talk to us about whether we’d be a fit to work together here.