What is Code Marketing? B2B Digital Marketing Trends 2023

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    Code Marketing is the application of the “SaaS free trial” to a far broader range of products, services, and business categories. Essentially, Code Marketing is about enabling users to “try before they buy” and building trust and removing friction within the online buying process. 

    Code marketing was a term coined by Hubspot’s Brian Halligan to describe a strategy of B2B companies which allows customers to try their products through self-service and online channels, and then leverages this experience to deliver paying customers.

    What is Code Marketing?

    The SaaS (Software as a Service) subcategory was among the first in the business-to-business sector to immerse itself in a digital-first strategy. Adapting this strategy was largely by design, yet online sales are a natural fit for this sector. By understanding the factors that have made this strategy successful for SaaS businesses, you can help align your business with the foundational elements of a successful online B2B strategy.

    align strategy

    SaaS businesses are particularly compatible with online sales because of these characteristics:

    • Online distribution: SaaS products are provided through online channels. Digital sales, then, are a natural component of the process.
    • Low Average Contract Value (AVC): In general, customer contracts for SaaS businesses are low value when compared with the average contract value of many B2B companies. The low AVC has put pressure on these SaaS businesses to keep customer acquisition costs low to ensure profitability. Automated online processes have been critical to managing these balance sheets.
    • Quick sales cycles: When compared with a lot of B2B products, SaaS product sales cycles are short. Customers can decide without the need for sales staff to spend time nurturing the sale face-to-face.
    • Frictionless onboarding and free trials. SaaS businesses have long been able to provide users with free trials and freemium versions of their products. These free trials build trust with consumers and bridge the gap between prospect and customer.

    Userpilot free trialFree trial from Userpilot

    While you may not be able to apply all of these factors to your business, you’ll need to draw on their elements if you want to replicate the success of online SaaS sales. The best way to start is with a free trial — essentially Code Marketing.

    Code Marketing is one of Brian Halligan’s three C’s of digital marketing. The other two are content marketing and conversational marketing. Content marketing educates and engages your customers via online media such as blogs, podcasts, or videos. It is optimised so that potential customers find it easily with search engines. Conversational marketing interacts with customers and answers their questions quickly online without making them move through the entire Web site. It uses chatbots or human-controlled chats or both.

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    An example of Code Marketing

    To demonstrate how you can apply Code Marketing principles to a non-software based business, here’s an example of how we here at Gripped have applied these concepts to our own business. We use technology, but, unlike a SaaS business, our service is human-driven — not something that we can easily package as a free trial.human driven service

    We’ve embraced Code Marketing Principles in three ways:

    1. We’ve doubled down on actionable content marketing. We have always believed in inbound marketing, so content was already an existing staple of our internal marketing process and the strategies we execute for our clients. But to align ourselves with Code Marketing principles, we knew we needed to help prospects experience what being our client would be like. Now, we’ve focused on content that explains our internal planning and defines the value of successful campaigns. This useful content helps customers imagine the experience of engaging with our service. Some examples of this content are:
    2. We’ve created detailed case studies. While online case studies also were part of our existing strategy, we have amplified it. We gained permission from clients to publish greater details about the results we delivered for them. In this way, we’re providing “social proof” and building trust. Again, the goal is to help prospective clients to imagine the experience of being our client
    3. We’ve made doing business with us easier. We operate on a recurring revenue business model. Rather than focusing on one-off projects, we seek to build long-term relationships with our clients because we can deliver lasting results best through these long-term relationships. That being said, we’ve started offering trial services to allow clients to try us before committing. For example, we offer a persona building workshop, single-quarter content marketing, and account management plans, and independent website projects. Clients can vary their services on a month-to-month basis, and we’ve introduced a free growth assessment in which we provide some consulting services upfront for free.

    Unlike a SaaS business, ours isn’t well-suited to extensive free trials. But we’ve provided commitment-free trials that begin with a free analysis of what we can deliver.

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    What does Code Marketing mean for you?

    The majority of B2B purchase decisions are now made online, and 60% of customers would prefer not to deal with a sales rep as their primary information source. If your B2B enterprise is to succeed, you need to make online your primary sales channel. You’ll need to build foundations within your business model that allow you to adapt to digital-first strategies. For some businesses, these strategies will be obvious, but many will need to brainstorm about ways in which they can provide a free trial or an experience of the product or service.online sales channelsOne example

    Suppose you sell ergonomic desk chairs:

    • You might create video content that helps someone understand how it feels to work in one of your chairs.
    • You might also add blog content that offers a free download of an eBook on ergonomics and work safety. If you want some more tips on writing great content that converts, check out this blog.
    • You might write case studies that include a description from a client about their experience in working with you, as well as robust statistics demonstrating how their productivity improved because of the new chair.
    • Finally, you could offer a free 14-day trial period.

    The key throughout your strategy is to allow the potential customer to learn about the chair and order one for trial without needing to meet face-to-face with a human salesperson.

    Another example

    Suppose your company provides data — analytics, statistics, or custom-research information — to other businesses.

    data company

    • You might write blogs that would include sample data and explain how that data, and other more advanced data, can improve sales or operations for businesses in a specific sector.
    • You also could produce a video that shows your company going through the steps of designing a custom research project or that describes how you work with clients to design their studies.
    • You might allow potential customers to download a compilation of helpful facts specific to their industry for free by entering their contact information.
    • You might develop and post online specific case studies where customers describe how they experienced your work with them and how the data you provided helped them to grow their revenue.

    Dataform customerCustomer case studies from dataform

    • You might provide a complimentary online interaction where you share relevant, generic data and discuss what types of specific data would drive sales at their company.
    • Or, you might provide opportunities for customers to order less expensive, one-off surveys to allow them to try your services without a long-term commitment.

    Again, you design your online experience so that the customer can accomplish all these goals digitally if they choose.

    Simply augmenting face-to-face sales strategies with digital resources is not enough. You need to enable an online sales process and align your marketing and business strategy to deliver outcomes.

    You don’t have to be a technology-oriented business to develop a digital-first strategy. Incorporating foundations of a digital-first strategy is critical to the success of all B2B companies. The digital-first strategy will have many components — and Code Marketing is a vital component of that strategy.

    If you want some more information on improving your B2B marketing strategy and helping your business expand, our FREE Growth Audit can help. If you’re after some more reading material on how you can drive sustainable, long term growth, check out our free eBook — The Founder’s Guide to B2B SaaS Growth.