The SaaS market has been steadily growing over the years. And as many companies have moved to remote work due to the pandemic, SaaS solutions have become even more relevant thanks to their flexibility and affordability.
It’s no longer just a software delivery method. SaaS has evolved to become a software sales and pricing model, too.
You already know the advantages of SaaS, but do you understand why content strategy is important in a market projected to grow to $220.21 billion in 2022?
A sound content strategy demonstrates why your products are better than the competition. It helps your brand get noticed in the crowded SaaS and organic search landscape.
What is a content strategy?
In simple words, a content strategy is a plan to use content to achieve your key business objectives. Content types could be blog posts, email newsletters, videos, or virtual events — whatever your target audience prefers.
It is informed by two factors:
Functional business strategy
Content strategy cannot be directly aligned with high-level corporate strategy. You cannot use it to set actionable goals.
Instead, you can use functional strategy (i.e. strategy followed by functional business areas like marketing or customer service) as a guide to establish meaningful goals like:
- Drive X free trial sign-ups in 12 months
- Improve brand awareness by X% among a target audience segment
- Increase website traffic by X% in 6 months
User needs and preferences
Content strategy should be based on information gathered from actual users about their needs, pain points, and preferences.
Content teams often operate on assumptions about their target audience due to a lack of research. Or they try to speak to all types of audiences, effectively speaking to none.
Prioritize your target users and focus on delivering your message to them first.
A good content strategy also needs a clear understanding of the three pillars: Why, Who, and How.
- Why are you creating content as opposed to other marketing tactics? What are your business goals?
- Who are you creating content for? What are their needs? What path do they follow in the buyer’s journey?
- How are you going to communicate your message, brand story, and USP to target audiences?
If you don’t have a strategic roadmap, your content will not achieve the outcomes you want.
Your SaaS business has one or more of the following aims:
- Create brand awareness
- Educate customers
- Build credibility and trust
- Generate leads
Essentially, your goal is to help customers understand your software and how it solves their problems. B2B marketers reveal that the value their content provides is the #1 factor contributing to the success of their content marketing campaigns.
Tools cannot replace good strategy, but they can make your work easier and more efficient. Keyword research tools and editorial calendars are most popular among B2B marketers.
Some of the top tools categorized by each stage of creating a content strategy are:
1. Identify target audience
- SurveyMonkey and Typeform to create surveys to gather data
- AnswerThePublic for market research
- Google Analytics to track visitor behavior and location and site metrics
- BuzzSumo to track performance metrics, analyze topics, and find influencers
2. Conduct keyword research
- Ubersuggest and Ahrefs to find target keywords and related keywords
- SEMRush for all things search marketing – organic keywords, competitors’ keywords, backlinks
3. Choose distribution channels
- Social networks – Buffer, HootSuite
- Email marketing – MailChimp, Constant Contact
- Referral marketing – Buyapowa, Ambassador
- Influencer marketing – BuzzStream, BuzzSumo
4. Create Content
- WordPress for publishing editorial content and blogging
- Yoast for writing SEO-focused content
- Grammarly for editing and proofreading content
- Vidyard and Loom for B2B marketing videos
- Canva, Photoshop, and Visually to design marketing materials
5. Publish and Manage Content
- HubSpot and Contentools to create, publish, and analyze content
- Asana and Trello for collaboration and project management
6. Track Performance
- Hotjar for user experience analytics
- Google Optimize to A/B test changes to site pages
- Kissmetrics for product and marketing analytics
Your content strategy defines your distribution channel strategy. Prioritize a few channels where your target customers are present instead of spreading yourself thin across all channels.
Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook), email, and website blogs are the top three B2B organic content distribution channels. Among paid channels, marketers found social media advertising and SEM/PPC most useful.
It’s important to analyze your audience and competitors to figure out which content types and channels will work best for your SaaS business.
Why does your SaaS business need a content strategy?
A content strategy is the most powerful weapon in your SaaS arsenal to attract, inform, and convert customers.
Let’s explore the reasons why you shouldn’t wait to develop a content strategy in 2023:
1. It’s relevant in 2023
SaaS is here to stay! Gartner forecasts that SaaS will continue to dominate cloud services in 2023.
“The economic, organizational and societal impact of the pandemic will continue to serve as a catalyst for digital innovation and adoption of cloud services,” says Henrique Cecci, senior research director at Gartner. “This is especially true for use cases such as collaboration, remote work and new digital services to support a hybrid workforce.”
2. It sets the brand guidelines
Detailed brand guidelines ensure that your published content is consistent and recognizable. When you create a style guide as part of your content strategy, you lend your SaaS brand a personality, a voice, and a tone that prospects can form a personal connection with.
You may be selling to other businesses but the decision-making groups are human.
Source: Content Harmony
For example, MailChimp’s brand guidelines dictate that their voice and tone be uplifting and supporting. It ties into the platform’s ambition to be the go-to email marketing tool for marketers.
3. It sets the marketing objectives
You may assume that your content marketing objective is to get new customers. But SaaS companies have several messages to communicate to their audience, so there are other objectives like:
- Long-term lead generation
- Attracting and nurturing email subscribers
- Improving customer retention
- Building customer loyalty
- Building interest groups for retargeting
For example, Moz runs an SEO blog to bring in qualified leads, whereas Pipedrive offers a free trial to convert visitors into customers. Dropbox offers 16GB of extra storage for each friend that you refer, rewarding loyal customers.
4. It gives sales teams checkpoints to nurture leads
Creating content using a content strategy ensures that you prioritize high-value content that is most likely to reach prospects with high buying intent.
- Bottom of the funnel content (case studies, comparison pages, and “alternative to” pages) captures prospects who will book a demo or free trial. E.g. Vend has a library of case studies categorized by industry type.
- Middle of the funnel content (product tour pages, market intelligence pieces, interactive tools) establishes the value of the software.
- Top of the funnel content (how-to guides, listicles, thought leadership) educates cold prospects about the problem(s) that you solve and pushes them down the purchase funnel.
5. It clearly defines a buyer persona
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of who usually buys from you. Having buyer personas helps you create content that addresses the pain points of your customers in a targeted manner and presents solutions. Persona-based content helps you achieve more conversions or engagement quickly.
For example, Hootsuite explored the challenges of its target audience before creating content for its blog. Most of its content pieces are long-form, 3,000+ word, top-of-the-funnel how-to guides that educate readers about social media strategy.
6. It initiates the journey of market research
Market research and data are the foundations of customer insight and understanding. Your content strategy is built around a combination of primary market research, historical data, and third-party data.
Social listening and third-party sources provide informative research, which can be bolstered with interviews and internal analytics to provide a complete customer picture.
7. It sets the communication with your target audience
A content strategy helps you find content-market fit. By studying content consumption formats and the state of content behavior, you can find which channels to focus on.
You add value to the conversation with targeted messaging instead of trying to be everywhere.
For example, Ahrefs has a successful SEO blog but it also chose to create short, 10-minute YouTube videos to target their ideal audience on the platform.
8. It will be a source of revenue
You can draw a clear path to revenue growth with your content strategy in the following ways:
- Align sales and marketing strategies with content and sales enablement
- Set quarterly and weekly targets guided by functional business strategy
- Prioritize bottom of the funnel content to drive more conversions
For e.g., Loom focused on the keyword “Loom vs. Zoom” after its search volume increased and its sales and customer support teams were addressing more questions on the topic. It helped directly impact company revenue by boosting sales.
9. It allows you to better define roles and responsibilities in your team
Your content strategy will help you assign and map content to an editorial calendar that is categorized by topics, content owners, and campaigns. It will enable visibility and collaboration across teams and departments.
10. It gives you an idea of the content taste of your audience
Did you think long-form blog posts are the only way to drive qualified leads?
Perhaps your audience would like to consume other content types, such as explainer videos, webinars, podcasts, or case studies.
Test different content types as part of your strategy to get a sense of your audience’s tastes.
Source: Outspoken Media
For example, HubSpot constantly offers its audience fresh tips via live webinars, turning its content into an event.
11. It sets you apart from your competition
Your competition has the same goals as you do – generate leads, attract and retain customers, and build authority. With a content strategy, you uncover openings and content opportunities to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
For instance, ProofHub often publishes “alternative to” content on its blog to demonstrate how it works better than its competitors.
12. It saves a lot of time and energy
Not having a content strategy is quite like driving in an unknown country without a roadmap. Content creation takes plenty of time and effort and you maximize ROI when you use a well-researched strategy to guide the process.
13. It can make your SaaS brand more authoritative
Top-of-the-funnel content like opinion and leadership pieces, collaboration with influencers, and positive press coverage establish a brand’s authority as a leader in the market. Increased authority improves the performance of all your other marketing campaigns.
14. It reveals loopholes and opportunities in your in-house system
A good content strategy helps you determine what’s in focus and what’s out of scope. You can determine the gaps in your process and take stock of your resources – budget, people, competencies, and technology. This will help you find the right resource mix to execute your content program.
15. It allows you to leverage channels better
Instead of looking for ways to enter more new channels, a channel leverage approach can help you optimize your existing channels for profit.
For instance, you could make your sales efforts more effective by equipping sales personnel with data in the form of infographics and customer videos.
16. It opens the opportunity to scale your business
A content strategy can be adjusted to adapt to a growing business. Content creation is optimized by matching content goals with growing user needs, allocating in-house resources efficiently, and drawing up a content production plan for marketing new features or products.
17. It establishes processes
Your content strategy establishes the iterative process or workflow that allows you to prioritize high-value content and critical needs.
While SaaS companies are spending massively and creating large amounts of content, it doesn’t amount to much without a well-defined content strategy.
Content is a significant investment and takes time to show results as compared to paid channels. But robust and sustainable SaaS content strategy helps you reap benefits in the long term by establishing content-market fit.
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, promotion, and ongoing management of content to achieve your key business goals. It enables you to attract your target audience at every stage of the purchase funnel and keep them engaged even after a purchase.
“Content strategy(CS) plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”
- Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web
How to create a content strategy?
It is important to have a content strategy to get content marketing right. Take these 8 steps to create a content strategy:
- Set your business goals
- Identify your target audience
- Perform keyword research
- Analyze your competitors’ content
- Choose your distribution channels
- Create content across the buyer’s journey
- Create an editorial calendar and publishing schedule
- Build credibility and trust in your industry
What is a content strategy in UX?
Content strategy is not a part of UX but it directly impacts the end content product in the following ways:
- Relevant images with a clear structure and interesting labels make content easy to read and skim. Good UX design boosts content visibility.
- Content strategists collaborate with UX designers to plan how content will be organized and structured across a website.
- UX designers provide information about users to enable optimization of content with respect to tone, voice, and messaging.
When it comes to a long-term content strategy, what is an important buyer persona trait?
For a long-term content strategy, the following buyer persona traits are important:
- Demographic information: age, gender, location, income
- Challenges: struggles with achieving goals, roadblocks to success
- Identifiers: email address, user account ID, cookie data
What should a content strategy include?
Your content strategy should include the following elements:
- A core message that unifies the content you produce across all platforms
- Buyer personas and content maps: For whom are you creating content? What are their needs? How to deliver content to them throughout the buyer journey?
- Your brand story: What is your message? How are you different from the competition?
- Your channel plan: Which platform(s) will you use to tell your brand story and connect with customers?
- Testing: Track results and refine strategy based on feedback
What is the first step of creating an effective and targeted content strategy?
To create an effective and targeted content strategy, start by examining your customer’s buyer’s journey. Identify the steps your customers go through from the time they become aware of your software till the time they buy it.
For SaaS marketing, these steps usually include awareness, engagement/lead generation, exploration/trial sign-ups, conversion to paid customers, and making them stay. Once you have an idea of your SaaS purchase funnel stages, you can develop a plan around creating content to guide customers through each stage.
Why is content strategy important?
SaaS content marketing without a strategy can cause two kinds of problems:
- You waste time and effort creating content that is not likely to generate actual revenue. For example, you could be focusing your efforts on only creating top-of-the-funnel content like e-books and email sequences.
- Your content does not reach people at the right stage of the buyer’s journey. For instance, your middle of the funnel content with high buyer intent is read by people who haven’t formed an intention to buy yet.
A content strategy helps you prioritize high-value content and aligns content type with prospects at different stages of the purchase funnel. Thus, it helps generate meaningful increases in traffic and marketing qualified leads (MQL).
How to develop a blog content strategy?
The purpose of SaaS blog content is to raise brand awareness, drive conversions, and generate revenue.
Consider these steps when creating a blog content strategy:
- Determine a budget for content marketing, typically 30% of your marketing budget.
- Research your audience and establish content goals. Prioritize bottom of the funnel content with high buying intent over top of the funnel content.
- Perform keyword research – target keywords and related keywords.
- Gather feedback from the sales team about what works at the decision stage.
- Plan a publishing and promotion schedule with a content calendar and scheduling software.
- Track and measure performance and adjust to improve to get more ROI out of your content.
How to present a content strategy?
SaaS content marketing is intended to educate and inform people about your software and how it solves their problems. With a content strategy, you can guide interested leads toward testing your tools and eventually buying them.
Present your content strategy with the following steps:
- Outline your unique buyer’s journey for your software.
- Create content for each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Perform content ideation and keyword research focused on search intent.
- Determine metrics to track the performance of the content.
- Repurpose content for different channels to maximize ROI.
Image Sources –Alexa, Eleken, Powered by Search, Uplift Content, Crazy Egg, Inc., HubSpot, UX Collective, Medium, CMS Wire, SEJ, Brain Traffic, Content Marketing Institute, Terakeet, Advance B2B, Accelerate Agency, StoryChief, WordStream, BlueTree, One Digital Land, Rock Content, BMC, Content Harmony, Incredo, Shane Baker, Seismic, Provectus Digital, Duct Tape Marketing, SpeechSilver, Compose.ly
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Growfusely, a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.