“You don’t have Google Analytics on your site?”
“Nope, or the Facebook Pixel.”, said Tim.
You don’t have the Facebook Pixel on your site?”
“Nope”, said Tim Soulo from Ahrefs.
Ahrefs (SEO tools company) like to do things their way.
Since joining the business as Product Marketing Director (he was the only person in marketing) in 2015, Ahrefs has grown from 15 to just under 50 employees and over $40m in ARR.
That’s approx. $800k in revenue per employee – the same as Facebook.
And the kicker?
They are 100% bootstrapped.
This article explains…
Note: Below you will find a list of 19 strategies with only a few of them explained. The full article (link at the bottom) has detailed descriptions for all of them.
Ahrefs Marketing Strategies
- Strategy 1 – Product Quality Driving Word Of Mouth
- Strategy 2 – Rejecting Conventional SaaS Marketing Wisdom
- Strategy 3 – Hacking The Conference Code
- Strategy 4 – YouTube Continuous Improvement
- Strategy 5 – Relentless SaaS Marketing Focus
- Strategy 6 – Pouring Fuel On A VERY Simple Customer Acquisition Strategy
- Strategy 7 – Blog Posts As Advertising?!?!
- Strategy 8 – The “Unheard Of” $7 – 7 day trial
- Strategy 9 – Ranking #1 Through Landing Page Engagement
- Strategy 10 – Creating A Course (And Giving It Away For Free)
- Strategy 11 – Get Every SaaS Marketer In Your Team To Do This
- Strategy 12 – Big Data Driving Word Of Mouth
- Strategy 13 – Promoting Your Employees?
- Strategy 14 – Is This Product Marketing?
- Strategy 15 – The Recurring Reddit Feedback Trick
- Strategy 16 – Content Channel Segregation
- Strategy 17 – “In Product” Education Reducing Churn
- Strategy 18 – 20 Podcast Interviews In 4 Months
- Strategy 19 – A Seamless Prospect Journey
Strategy 2 – Rejecting Conventional SaaS Marketing Wisdom
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”
There are standard ways (read: groupthink) of doing things in every industry:
- Online marketing – Track everything, offer eBooks and retarget
- Sales – Hire SDR’s, get them to call, send emails and videos
- Podcasting – Interview industry thought leaders
Ahrefs ignore conventional startup marketing wisdom.
And it’s working for them.
Here’s a list of the things that every startup marketing expert would laugh at you for not doing… that Ahrefs definitely are not:
- They don’t use Google Analytics (yes, they can’t see how much traffic their landing pages get and from where):
- They don’t use the Facebook (or any retargeting) Pixel (yes, they cannot show ads to people that have bounced from a landing page or blog post):
- They don’t use email nurturing campaigns (yep, if you sign up on their blog you will only receive a weekly broadcast email with their latest posts)
- They don’t do product content upgrades or eBooks (yep, their website has just two CTA’s: sign up to their blog or sign up to their product):
It isn’t that these things are harmful, or will have a negative impact on their growth, it’s that they detract from the important things.
- Talking to customers
- Creating and promoting insanely good content
The Ahrefs marketing team is not checking GA every hour, building custom audiences or writing long email nurturing campaigns.
They are doing things that move the needle.
LEARNING – What are you or your marketing team doing that is not talking to customers or creating and promoting insanely good content? Do you really need to do it?
Strategy 6 – Pouring Fuel On A VERY Simple Customer Acquisition Strategy
Ahrefs don’t spend on Google Ads:
CPCs for their target keywords can cost up to $40, and with a relatively high friction $7 for a 7 day trial, their conversion rates vs competitors with a free trial won’t be favourable.
And as discussed in Strategy 1, Ahrefs don’t retarget as they don’t have the Facebook Pixel installed.
So how do they spend?
Simply by investing $5-10k per month in paid social, boosting their regular blog posts:
They do this to get more eyeballs on their actionable SEO content to add fuel to their extremely simple marketing funnel:
- Person hears about Ahrefs through word of mouth or searches Google for an SEO related term
- Person lands on Ahrefs blog
- Person learns something about SEO and how Ahrefs helps with SEO
- Person either leaves or signs up for $7, 7 day trial
The final step is the most important as the majority of people will not convert on the first visit, they will need multiple more touches before they are ready.
So how do Ahrefs do this without retargeting?
Either with the only other email capture offer on their site:
Or they boost each new blog post on social to:
1. Attract new visitors
2. Catch those that have been to the blog before but have not converted
LEARNING: What is your customer acquisition funnel and how can paid social fuel this fire?
Strategy 15 – The Recurring Reddit Feedback Trick
4 years ago Tim posts this on r/bigseo:
Early adopter communities on subReddits like r/bigseo LOVE to have their voice heard. Apart from being a lovely awareness driving post, Tim also received 122 comments with product feedback.
With a shedload of comments like this:
Providing social proof to those in the subReddit that had yet to sign up.
Two years later and he’s back:
And then again two years later:
To this day, all three of those posts are incredibly good social content pieces that no doubt send a number of trials through to Ahrefs.
Though the real lesson here is not that you can get free exposure by repeatedly asking for feedback on Reddit… it’s that Ahrefs really care about how their product is being received by the market.
LEARNING: How can you continuously obtain feedback on how your product is being received by the market?
Strategy 17 – “In Product” Education Reducing Churn
Customers churn for a variety of reasons…
Most of these, you unfortunately can do nothing about. But there is a couple that do sit within your circle of influence.
And the lowest hanging fruit?
A rational customer is NOT going to continue paying for something that they don’t know how to use.
If your job as a business to get people results… you can build an awesome tool, but if your customers don’t know how to use it, you will lose.
Ahrefs understand this and recently incorporated “How to use” links on a number of their key reports:
These tutorials also link out to related blog articles:
These “how to use” links are getting between 5-15% CTR – people are clicking and consuming the content.
Though this strategy won’t show an immediate impact on growth, it is very likely to reduce churn over time.
LEARNING: List all the actions that customers can take within your SaaS that seem “simple” to you and test including “how it works” buttons to increase usage.
And there you have it. 19 SaaS marketing strategies from one of the most unconventional growth stories.
What did we learn?
- For a kickstart on how to build remarkable products that drive word of mouth, go read these two books: Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger and All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin.
- What are you or your marketing team doing that is not talking to customers or creating and promoting insanely good content? Do you really need to do it?
- Do something different at your next conference and when it gets traction… fuel the fire with paid spend.
- If you are going to commit to create an organic audience on a channel, put in the years of hard work.
- What do you do really well? And what don’t you do so well that you can completely ignore.
- What is your customer acquisition funnel and how can paid social fuel this fire?
- Is there a way that you can create content that your prospects and customers LOVE… that still sells your product?
- Where can you add friction to your sign up process to increase the amount of resources you invest in those customers that are willing to pay?
- What can you put on your SEO optimised pages to SHOW Google that people like you?
- Can you create and giveaway information that helps prospects achieve a desired end result whilst advertising your product or service?
- Consider making customer support a mandatory part of your onboarding process.
- What is the big trend you can jump on to propel your word of mouth?
- If you are an employee – build your personal brand. If you are not an employee – allow your employees to build a personal brand
- Is there anyway you can show that value of your SaaS without requesting any investment from your prospects?
- How can you continuously obtain feedback on how your product is being received by the market?
- How focussed is the content on your blog/YouTube channel… and should you split our different types to focus growth?
- List all the actions that customers can take within your SaaS that seem “simple” to you and test including “how it works” buttons to potentially increase usage.
- Podcast interviews may not result in a direct uptick in revenue, but the time investment Vs brand benefit is favourable
- Understand your prospect journey from awareness to consideration to purchase and place strategic CTA’s to minimise interruption to the flow whilst maximising conversions.
All strategies in detail here 👇
19 SaaS Marketing Strategies That Bootstrapped Ahrefs To $40m ARR
PS. Of course, first you need to have a good product. Without it, no strategy will help you. A few might work short-term but ultimately you’re doomed without a good product.