For young tech companies, there’s no higher honor than a spot on the annual Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies. For marketing researchers, the Inc. 5000 represents a unique data set, ripe with opportunity to learn something about what great companies have in common.
Recently, I took some time to research the 2014 winners of the Inc. 5000 awards in the “Software” category. My unofficial study looked at each company’s website through the eyes of a marketer, with the goal of understanding what they might be doing differently than their non-ranked competitors. Overwhelmingly, I found evidence of inbound marketing across the board—of the top technology companies, most of them had a blog on their website, and many also featured a resource section with educational content.
So, what about their inbound marketing efforts stood out? I noticed two key themes throughout the companies I researched:
1. Humanization. This could mean anything from the use of buyer personas to featuring testimonials from real customers on your homepage. Essentially, it’s a commitment to strengthening your connection to the human element behind your products. Speaking to your website visitors as if they’re real people, featuring customer stories on your site, and tailoring your content to the different types of buyers who use and purchase your product are all examples of what I mean by humanization.
2. Consistency. A strategy that emphasizes consistency means your blog is updated regularly or, if a blog isn’t the right strategy for your audience, another educational resource on your website is regularly refilled with fresh content. Consistency shows a sustained effort to create new, relevant content on an ongoing basis, without major gaps in publishing dates. To your audience, it says you’re committed to being an up-to-date, reliable resource for information.
Each of the Inc. 5000 companies featured below elevated their inbound marketing strategies using both humanization and consistency. Read on to find out what they did.
Inc. 5000 Rank: #362
2010 Revenue: $1.2M
2013 Revenue: $17.1M
WebPT is a cloud-based electronic medical records (EMR) system currently in use in 6,000+ physical therapy clinics. In three years, the company grew its revenue by 1,316 percent. Its website shows a strong commitment to inbound marketing.
How it's using humanization: Job title-based buyer personas using pictures of real people on the homepage, with quotes from each about how the software has made their lives easier
How it exhibits consistency: New blog posts published with a near-daily cadence
Inc. 5000 Rank: #42
2010 Revenue: $192,784
2013 Revenue: $11.4M
SmartZip Analytics helps real estate companies do more targeted marketing through the use of SmartZip’s technology platform. With 3-year growth of 5,811 percent, it is obviously doing something right.
How it's using humanization: Personalized case study library featuring customer testimonials (each testimonial has a real customer’s name and picture)
How it exhibits consistency: Monthly educational webinar series for real estate professionals looking to grow their businesses
Inc. 5000 Rank: #650
2010 Revenue: $8.8M
2013 Revenue: $71M
Acquia, which provides products and services for the Drupal community, has shown an ongoing commitment to inbound marketing over the years. The company’s content is always high-quality, non-sales-y and an overall excellent resource for its audience of often extremely knowledgeable developers.
How it's using humanization: A blog with a rare and exciting human element that reads nothing like most corporate blogs. Authors are given bylines and use their own voices, making what could’ve been a bland blog into something you’d expect to see in a niche online publication.
How it exhibits consistency: Again, kudos to the blog for exhibiting the utmost consistency, with new posts across a variety of interesting categories appearing daily.
Across the Inc. 5000, these examples are plentiful. For more examples of 2014 Inc. 5000 alumni, see:
• Kareo’s truly humanized blog, featuring industry insiders with impressive credentials as guest authors
• Bigcommerce’s consistent blogging strategy, with a blog that’s updated daily (sometimes twice a day!) with new articles
• Good Technology’s personalized homepage, which uses buyer personas prominently to help website visitors have a more human user experience
If you’re a tech company doing inbound marketing and wondering where to focus your efforts, consider making both humanization and consistency a focus for your marketing this year. Do this well, and you might end up on next year’s list of winners! See you there!