My online marketing career began when I joined a young social trading start-up called eToro back in 2008. I joined a great team of bright marketers and was responsible for everything that wasn’t related to performance marketing: branding and creative, email marketing, content, website, PR, social marketing, CRO, localization, etc. Working closely with the media buying manager, affiliate manager and SEO & SEM manager gave me a 360 view of marketing, which served me a lot later on in my career. By 2011, the company became a market leader in a crowded space and I felt I wanted to diversify my marketing skills and move to B2B marketing. I met the co-founder of a startup called Incapsula, and took the role of the marketing manager. At the time, Incapsula has recently launched their SaaS product, and had a few initial customers. Its strategy was offering a security service for websites for $20-$60/month, and their vision was to get masses of small website owners as customers. After a few months, we noticed that the majority of our revenue is generated from large companies and decided to change our strategy and pricing. Within 2.5 years, in which I’ve built the marketing team, we were able to become a market leader, and get acquired by Imperva, a publicly traded data security company. Although Imperva’s marketing is located in the West Coast, they doubled our marketing budget and team so we can continue performing some of the strategies and tactics we executed for Incapsula.
B2B is all about communicating with real people
When I joined Incapsula, no B2B company added a live chat to its website. Everyone were skeptical about the effectiveness of it, as the claim was that C level executives who visit a website will feel it’s an intrusive sales tool that will deter them from converting rather than improving conversion rate. I insisted we try it and very quickly it became the marketing channel that converted most highly. Using livechatinc and with ongoing conversion optimization of chat triggers and visuals, we brought chat performance to perfection and we now have 24/7 chat coverage operated by 6 agents working in shifts.
Review Sites Rock
When I performed the initial market and competitor research for Incapsula, I was amazed to find out that there wasn’t any online comparison of the leading vendors in our category. This means that when a CTO wanted to decide which vendor to use, he had to review all the websites of each of the leading vendors. I decided to find a website that would agree to create an online vendor comparison. After a lot of efforts, I was able to convince a leading B2C comparison site to perform that review and very quickly it ranked high on Google and started delivering leads for Incapsula. Overall a one-time sponsorship of $3,000 brought us leads that converted into deals worth millions of dollars. That’s what I call growth hacking.
Combine On-Site and Off-Site SEO to Beat the Big Boys:
Incapsula offers 4 different products. The one that generates most revenues is DDoS Protection. When we launched it in 2012, we entered a market that had many strong and popular competitors, some of them focus only on DDoS protection. Ranking high in Google seemed like an impossible mission back then, but we created a smart SEO strategy that differed from our competitors and are currently ranked number 1 on the main DDoS protection keywords. This proves that small and young players can still beat the big competitors when it comes to SEO, if they come us with a smart strategy, and – my main recommendation here is use a combination of an in-house SEO expert to take on the on-site optimization and content writing, and an SEO agency for offsite placements. Hiring an agency without an in-house SEO expert will never bring optimized results because an agency can never monitor the content of your website and optimize it for SEO as an in-house expert can. But hiring an in-house SEO expert without working with an agency wouldn’t be optimal either as there is a limit to the number of quality SEO links an SEO expert can bring in high profile publications and blogs. This is why combining both is the ideal strategy.
My 4 Top Tips for Startups to Get Traction
- Find “wannabes”: There are a lot of bloggers and experts out there that when you look at their website seem like “hotshots” that would never help your startup. However, you’ll be surprised how many bloggers and experts are looking for ways to stand out. If you build a personal relationship with them, and also sometime sponsor an article on their site, they will be happy to help.
- Go head to head with your big competitors: if you are entering a market that already has established competitors that gained awareness, are ranked high in Google and have their voice heard in the media – piggyback on them. Use their popularity to your advantage: make sure that you are positioned as equal to them and as the better alternative. There will always be customers disappointed with your competitors – and you want to be there when they look for the alternative.
- Comparison site: today, much more than in 2011 when I joined Incapsula, there are many websites comparing top vendors in different categories. These websites usually rank high on google results. Map the different comparison sites, check if they have your category, and if not – approach them asking to create it (in some cases it would be free, and in others, may cost some money). These websites can drive a lot of great organic traffic that has an intention to buy to your website.
- If someone wrote about your brand, make sure that the top results on Google will include the right mix of your web assets (website and social networks profiles) together with other positive mentions of your brand on other websites. How can you control the results that will appear first when searching for your brand? You can’t exactly, but if you make sure that some bloggers, review sites and publications write about you – they will most likely take the first results positions. Also make sure that your website result appears together with 6 internal links below it – it looks much more impressive and from my experience, converts better.
Stop Thinking Short-Term
A lot of B2B startups begin their marketing efforts by allocating budget for performance marketing only (PPC campaigns) as they look for short-term results. They find it hard to understand that for long term growth, they need to optimize their website from day one for SEO, and invest in creating awareness and content.
Some startups also put too much emphasis on bringing new leads, on the expense of converting the website visitors they already acquired. I always say that it’s much harder to bring new traffic than converting the traffic you already have. This is why having a live chat on the website is crucial imho, together with constantly running A/B tests.
See People, Not Numbers
Talk to your website visitors, leads and customers (yes, actually pick up the phone and call them) – you’ll get the best insights on where to invest your budget for future traffic and leads if you just talk to the ones you already have. You wouldn’t believe how insightful these talks are so don’t try to avoid them by sticking your head in Google Analytics.
People also don’t like hearing others brag about themselves and that’s the case in marketing your startup. My moto as a marketing professional is that the website visitors that would have the best chance to convert to leads and customers, are the ones that were educated in a positive way about your brand by a third party, before they reached your website. Focus your efforts on getting as many websites and bloggers to endorse you. This is where your best leads would come from. If I need to summarize it in one sentence, I’d say: Let others do your work.
People I follow:
René Bonvanie - CMO at Palo Alto Networks. The best person to learn about enterprise software marketing.
Udi Ledergor - A marketing consultant and B2B marketing wizard.
Bill Macaitis - The former CMO of Zendesk and now CMO of Slack. Best CMO to learn from about SaaS marketing.
Blogs I recommend entrepreneurs to follow:
Moz WhiteBoard Friday - Best SEO and content marketing videos
GrowthHackers Growth Studies - Best marketing case studies to learn from
Conversion XL Blog - Everything you need to know about A/B testing
Marketing Profs – Practical education portal for B2B marketing
You can contact Dori on his LinkedIn page