In this SaaS marketing agency “win” story, we reveal how we helped one software company pivot their strategy and build a powerful new marketing funnel that delivered a 7-figure deal (plus, other exciting results.)

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Digital Marketing For Software Companies (A 7-Figure Agency “Win” Story) >>

Introduction

We were working with a software company who traditionally catered to nonprofits and associations. But they wanted to get into the highly lucrative (but notoriously difficult to penetrate) world of government, specifically federal and state.

They put us in charge of figuring out how to “crack the code” in the public sector, while also not completely losing sight of their bread and butter nonprofit audience.

Let the games begin!

Pivoting our SaaS marketing strategy

There were three primary marketing-specific challenges our client needed to overcome in order to make their pivot into the public sector a success:

  1. Where do we find them? By and large, public sector and non-profit prospects search very similarly. There are a lot of buying influences and the buyer you’d think to target, isn’t always the one who does the preliminary research.
  2. How do we engage them? Government buyers can be a finicky bunch. Unlike non-profit buyers, public sector prospects were proving a smaller, more “silent” and elusive audience to reach. Targeting these almost “invisible” prospects on the web would require a different approach.
  3. How do we avoid alienating our existing audience? Our client didn’t want to miss out on opportunities to continue closing more non-profit clients either. This would certainly be a delicate balancing act.

In short, we had our work cut out for us.

The riches in the niches…

Clearly, we needed to test multiple different messages across multiple different channels. Here’s what we did…

Nichey, nichey keyword targeting

At the heart of our market research was a fundamental question: “How do public sector prospects search differently than other prospects?” It turned out these prospects were so “nichey” that we got very little search volume from Google’s Keyword Planner… we needed to go deeper.

So we used search query data wherever we could find it—Ubersuggest, Soovle, YouTube, site search, live chat transcripts, Analytics/Search console, AdWords broad match campaigns and query analysis, interviewing the sales team, 3rd party tools like LeadLander, you name it.

Out of our deep niche keyword research, we developed a highly-segmented “keyword universe” focused on public sector queries.

Software-keyword-universe

This “universe” measured more than just search volume of specific keywords; we also evaluated keywords by how easily we could compete on the search engines (organically and through paid channels.) The keywords were then categorized by market segment, level of buying intent, overall ease of successfully targeting and potential size of return.

With our new set of keywords at the ready, we were able to develop campaigns that zeroed-in on public sector prospects.

SEO/content marketing

We used our keyword and market research to create two new kinds of website content:

  1. Product pages targeting public sector keywords with:
    1. Healthy Search Volume
    2. Explicit Buying Intent
    3. “Winnability” vs. Competitors
  2. Fresh blog content, optimized for:
    1. “Long-Tail” Queries (with high relevance to public sector buyers)
    2. Low Competition
    3. Research-Stage Intent (i.e. “Upper Funnel”

New blog content was published on a weekly basis with a focus on insights for public sector decision-makers.

In addition to driving traffic, the content also positioned our client’s CEO as a thought leader in the industry and boosted his “star power” within the public sector.

PPC campaigns

Using Google AdWords and BingAds, we were able to directly target those nichey keywords that were unique to the public sector while maintaining our foothold on more broad, categorical keywords.

We also sent visitors to highly-targeted, lead-generation focused landing pages. These pages offered downloadable case studies specifically relevant to public sector prospects.

As we investigated our campaign results, we made an interesting discovery: our best public sector leads came from BingAds rather than Google AdWords (despite the fact that the budget was just a fraction of what we were spending on Google.)

Eureka! Our first breakthrough…

Software PPC leads

Government prospects generally use Internet Explorer and Bing as their default browser, makes sense. We immediately started shifting as much budget as possible over to Bing and quickly started capturing more public sector market share.

Finally, we used remarketing to get back in front of prospects once they left our client’s website. We were able to better target ads to our government prospects by delivering ads to audiences who visited “public sector” pages on the client’s website.

Niche ad networks

Our keyword-focused campaigns were a great start to generating public sector demand, but we’d maxed out all the volume and still hadn’t hit the goals.

Google isn’t the only game in town. In fact, there are hundreds of little ad networks out there that none of our competitors knew about. These networks offered placements on select websites that catered to our exact target prospect (i.e. public sector executives.)

In order to truly capture the attention of the public sector market, we had to meet our ideal prospects exactly where they are looking for solutions on the web.

We tested multiple niche networks that ran display ads on a CPM basis (cost per thousand impressions) on select government-focused websites.

Note in the graphic to the right that our first several attempts flopped. But we persisted and finally struck gold with an obscure little network called “Industry Brains.”

Our niche ad targeting approach converted at a higher rate than almost all other channels (7.32%), including other paid channels, organic search and most referral sources.

niche ad network conversions

LESSON: #NeverGiveUp #LeastLazyWins

We always like to “close the loop” when it comes to reporting. That is, follow leads all the way through to revenue. We discovered to our delight that leads from niche ad networks (compared to other channels):

  • Converted to opportunities at nearly twice the rate
  • Had a higher average opportunity value
  • Closed at a significantly higher rate

By doing a little “out of the box” thinking and working a little harder, we were able to open a highly profitable marketing channel that none of our client’s competitors were taking advantage of.

Vertical-specific marketing funnels

Before the pivot, our client’s website was highly focused on the not-for-profit sector. We needed reposition our client as a leader in the public sector while not losing any ground in the non-profit market.

Here’s how we helped our client make a clear and distinctive shift in their SaaS marketing funnel:

Homepage refresh

Using insights from our client along with data from online user surveys, we re-engineered the homepage experience to speak to the needs of government agencies.

Adding public sector navigation

Referring to “hundreds of other high-performing agencies,” delivered rock-solid evidence that our client’s solution was the preferred choice. Rather than focusing on product features, the new homepage focused on the benefits our client’s product delivered to its clients.

We changed the navigation to put the public sector front and center, while leaving an easy avenue for non-profit prospects to follow.

Landing pages & targeted offers

We created unique landing pages and offers designed to cater convert the public sector market.

Using case studies on landing pages

Instead of pushing a product demo on every landing page, we created “upper funnel” offers that required only a name and email. We offered case studies that explained how our clients’ customers were able to solve major pain-in-the-neck problems using their product.

This approach quickly reduced conversion “friction,” resulting in a healthy increase in conversion rates and lead volume.

SaaS marketing agency wins

Thanks to our efforts pivoting the marketing strategy from B2B to B2G prospects, our client experienced a substantial increase in high-value public sector traffic and leads.

B2G software traffic

In the 6 months after the shift to targeting B2G prospects, our client enjoyed a 43.45% lift in total website visitors from prospective public sector accounts. Prospects were also more engaged than before the pivot, with a 35.27% uplift in total pageviews.

B2G software leads

Even better… compared to the 6 months prior to the pivot, our client experienced a whopping 160% uptick in public sector leads, and was converting public sector website visitors at an 81% greater rate.

The best part? When we “closed the loop” we were delighted to see lead quality holding steady.

We were on to something!

$1 Mil.+ marketing-originated deal (the biggest of all time!)

Not long after the initial successes from our B2G pivot, our client landed their biggest deal of all time—a contract with a major government agency that netted over $1 million in annual recurring revenue!

When we traced the opportunity through their CRM back to its marketing source, we discovered that the lead came through an organic search.

public sector software lead growth

All the hard work and investment put into creating content, building sophisticated campaigns and re-orienting fully overhauling our digital strategy had paid off… well over 10X from this one deal alone.

[COMMENCE VICTORY DANCE]

Successful 9-figure exit (via acquisition)

Soon after the 7-figure public sector deal landed, we received more exciting news from the client. The company was being acquired by a private equity firm for a healthy sum.

Sometimes acquisitions mean shake-ups and potentially losing an account. But this private equity firm was very clever, they loved the work we were doing and promptly renewed with an even bigger scope of work. Gotta’ love it when that happens.

Our agency continues to work with our client to this day, as they grow through mergers and acquisitions. In fact, our client’s marketing is still one of the most successful in the equity firm’s portfolio with over 70% of new revenue coming through digital marketing channels.

Conclusion

Making a fundamental shift in our client’s marketing strategy was no easy feat, but the results showed it was clearly worth the effort.

Here are three of our key takeaways from this success story, which we recommend you apply to your own campaigns:

  1. If you’re going to pivot, go all-in. We didn’t eliminate marketing to non-profits altogether, but we did make a major shift in our messaging and targeting. If we had kept trying to please all of our client’s personas, we would have made an impression on none of them (and seen far less success!)
  2. Don’t be lazy. From the market research to understand the public sector prospect to the endless hours identifying niche opportunities and building campaigns, success took a lot of work. This extra effort separated our client from 99% of other SaaS marketers competing in their space. When you put in 2X the effort, you get 10X the results.
  3. Focus on systems, not tactics. We could have run a bunch of one-off campaigns and maybe gotten a few leads out of them. But by focusing on systematically developing the right channels, we were able to help our client generate a steady, sustainable increase in traffic, leads and revenue over time.
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Have you ever had to pivot your company’s digital marketing strategy? What challenges did you face? How did changes you made to your marketing funnel impact your results? Let us know in the comments below.

Analytics / Content Marketing / Conversion / PPC Management / ROI / SEO

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