An analysis done by CoBloom on 250 world’s biggest SaaS companies revealed that the top 10 percent of SaaS blogs brought in an average of 45,700 organic search visits, while the bottom 10 percent brought in only seven. The typical blog brought in 573 visits.
These numbers make it obvious that content marketing is a tremendously powerful lead generation tool. That’s because relevant content can help customers understand your product or service without making you sound ‘salesy.’ It can be used to engage customers through the sales funnel.
Virtually every SaaS company is using content as a part of their marketing strategy. 85 percent of the largest SaaS companies have a blog for sharing content and this number seems to be increasing year on year. However, not all of these blogs are able to produce the desired leads and conversions – the ultimate goal of every SaaS business!
Content marketing for SaaS is easier said than done. Marketers need to focus on offering creative and engaging content rather than boring their audience with mere technical jargon. Not to forget, the immense content clutter that exists in this USD 157 billion SaaS market. Making your content stand out amidst this sea of content can seem next to impossible.
So, how can SaaS businesses step up their content game? Read on to know more!
1. Identify Your Strategic Goals
No company would turn down the 45,700 organic search visits brought in by the top ten SaaS blogs. But traffic is only one way to measure the success of a blog.
Setting apt strategic goals will help you optimize your content to achieve them. A strategic goal is not a metric or a figure. It should clearly state what role content marketing will play in your business structure and processes.
Here are a few examples of strategic goals for your content marketing strategy.
- Increase brand recognition among leads who are higher up the sales funnel than you have previously targeted
- Develop a two-way relationship with your audience in order to encourage network effects and reciprocation that will strengthen your business
- Build a list of contacts, with information useful in identifying which contacts are most likely to make the transition, from lead to customer
- Grow a cumulative stream of monthly leads for your sales staff
- Provide a steady stream of leads to automated sales pages and other automated acquisition systems
- Encourage brand advocacy and customer loyalty
Also, see the section on mapping your funnel for the three strategic goals that a content marketing plan should incorporate
Content marketing for SaaS should typically focus on cumulative growth methods. This means that investing the same amount each month results in a greater outcome each month. This is in opposition to non-cumulative methods like PPC, in which investing the same amount each month results in essentially the same outcome each month.
For instance, content marketing built on sound SEO principles will add to the number of organic search visits you receive each month. This figure will grow, stagnate, or decline based on your content marketing efforts.
Similarly, content marketing built on strong list-building principles will grow your list of email, phone, and mailing contacts each month, allowing you to speak to a larger audience every month. If list-building efforts are ceased, the number of contacts will decay only as slowly as the unsubscribe rate.
Therefore, it’s critical to consider content marketing’s cumulative nature as you develop your strategic goals.
2. Define Your Metrics
Once you are clear on the strategic goals, it’s time to define the performance metrics. Here are a few metrics that should be considered in content marketing for SaaS.
- Increase in monthly visits per dollar invested. Organic search traffic grows in a roughly cumulative fashion. This metric can tell you a lot about how each dollar spent increases the total number of leads you have access to.
- Channel of the first contact, the content of the first contact, time from the first contact to sale, path from the first contact to sale, and similar metrics. More often than not, SaaS businesses ignore these metrics and proceed to the final step in the sales process. The first-touch attribution is as important a consideration as the last-touch attribution. Never assume that only the bottom of the funnel matters just because every contact passes through it.
- The average lifetime value of each unique visitor. On average, how much will each unique visitor ultimately end up spending on your company? This metric can offer interesting insights about the quality of keyword choices, sales funnel and list building, and customer longevity. It can also point out a lack of investment in determining whether current buyers were previous visitors.
- Percent of visitors who are new and returning. A high percentage of new visitors usually correspond with an influx of traffic while a high percentage of returning visitors indicates loyalty rather than stagnation. Weigh these metrics against historical growth for insights.
- Increase in subscribers or contacts per dollar invested. If this metric is low, it’s important to ask if it’s due to low traffic, low conversions, high subscriber turnover, low prioritization of lead magnets and other list-building sensibilities, or other factors.
- Sign-ups per visitor. This measures signups for the SaaS or signups for a free trial. While this metric isn’t as immediately financially informative like the average lifetime value of each unique visitor, it can be quite strategically informative. If this number is high but the average lifetime value for each visitor is low, it could potentially speak more to issues with the SaaS than content marketing. This can reflect the loss of opportunities to increase customer loyalty through content marketing for SaaS.
- Any of the above for specific channels, such as organic search, referrals, email lists, social media, or even specific pieces of content.
In addition to metrics as a tool for making strategic decisions, it’s important to consider the growing role of analytics in personalizing marketing, especially through lead automation and email marketing.
Leads, who visit specific pages regularly, are more likely to end up buying the product/services offered. If this is the case, it may also be worth using marketing automation to target leads who have visited these pages without making a purchase with a related offer.
Likewise, it is worth testing whether leads are more likely to make a purchase if sent a message about pieces of content that have led others to make purchases, especially if their journeys have been similar.
Marketing automation is no longer in its infancy. Consider these factors to incorporate it into your content marketing strategy.
3. Map Your Funnel
Using real-world data as well as your own conceptual and predictive models, a solid content marketing strategy absolutely must incorporate three primary strategic goals:
- Place the funnel where your leads are
- Increase the size of the funnel
- Guide the leads through the funnel
The question to answer here is what it looks like for a lead to make the journey from where they start to where they make a purchase.
Rather than merely naming the standard steps of the funnel, consider a more concrete sales funnel that has been formed naturally using your own data. Also, determine how these natural funnels could be optimized, the other potential forms the sales funnel could take, and how these existing and potential sales funnels interplay with the brand identity you are trying to build.
Here is an example of a specific battle-tested sales funnel that can be personalized to your content marketing strategy.
- The lead discovers a blog post related to a problem
- The blog post is uniquely helpful enough to hold the user’s attention to completion
- The lead is satisfied with the solution provided by the blog post
- The blog post naturally directs the lead to a resource that will assist them further with the problem, or with a larger problem
- The blog post has built enough trust and the problem addressed by the resource is important enough that the lead is willing to join an email list to obtain the resource
- The lead receives emails via the email list that further addresses the problem and related problems
- Satisfaction with the solutions presented in the emails builds trust in the lead
- The lead is made aware of a problem, solved by your SaaS, or their awareness of and interest in that problem is enhanced
- The lead visits a page on your site that is often visited by leads shortly before they make a purchase
- A marketing automation event is triggered that sends a special deal to the lead
- The lead signs up for your SaaS
- The lead receives a steady diet of helpful information about how to use the SaaS to solve various problems
- The lead uses the SaaS to resolve an increasingly large number of problems and becomes increasingly reliant on the product
It’s important to build these funnel models conceptually, make calculated assumptions, and measure them to hone their efficacy.
However, it is dangerous to assume that the optimization of existing funnels is the only way to improve the results of content marketing for SaaS. Expanding the funnel into new markets and higher stages of the funnel is also crucial as it can discover new business opportunities that are otherwise untapped.
4. Find Your Audience
The most common errors made in any given SaaS strategy fall towards one of these extremes:
- Focusing on a narrow audience
- Focusing on a broad audience
Writing relevant content for your audience requires research. You need to peek behind mere keywords to know your audience’s needs. What questions are they asking for in forums? What nagging question seems to be continually evaded by the other major pieces of content? What is the elephant in the room? To find answers to these questions, go where your prospective audience is!
Avoid treating your blog like a PR outlet. SaaS companies who hope to achieve cumulative growth with their content strategy must focus on reaching leads who do not already have an interest in the business, and that typically means producing educational content that can capture a relevant audience for your brand.
These questions can help you determine where to find effective leads for your business.
- What kinds of queries will these leads be searching for in Google?
- Whom will they be following on social media?
- What social networks, message boards, discussion groups, and newsletters will they be actively visiting?
- What YouTube channels will they be viewing?
- What magazines, blogs, and newspapers will they be reading?
- How far can you stretch the use-cases to fit these audiences without the appearance of cynicism?
While it’s next to impossible to position yourself on every platform directly, you should be aware of all the platforms your audiences are interested in. This will offer you plenty of content placement opportunities, an improved understanding of your audience’s interests, and identify the influencers.
5. Analyze Your Competition
If you are considering content marketing for your SaaS, odds are you have already done a great deal of competitor research and identified the USP that sets you apart.
However, content marketing in this domain brings a host of competitive implications that need to be considered. For instance, your competitors in the content sphere will be entirely different companies from the ones you will compete with SaaS.
Do a thorough analysis of your direct competitor’s backlinks to see where they have been mentioned. Analyze their content for keywords and topics and the platforms they are targeting. Use all this data coupled with intuitive browsing to know what their content marketing strategy looks like.
Ultimately, this data should help you identify weaknesses that you can overcome in their content strategy. That can be built into a strong USP!
If you fully embraced the point of step 4 above, you should already recognize that analyzing your direct competitors would be limiting. Odds are, most of them don’t have particularly strong content marketing strategies. While this means you may be able to outcompete them in a few areas where their content strategy has been deficient, it also means that you won’t discover many novel opportunities.
Consider, instead, how your unique perspective from your own little corner of SaaS can be useful to those in other industries, in other areas of the content sphere, where audiences with a reasonable customer journey that ends with them signing up are reasonable.
Taking this approach, it becomes much easier to identify your USP as a content provider, in contrast with other content providers in these industries, who are all stuck in their own little niches.
Now that you have identified your audiences and your competition, you can start developing coherent content that revolves around the problem your leads are facing, customize it for the platform they are present on, and identify ways to draw them from those platforms onto your own properties and contact lists.
This takes us to the next point.
6. Develop a Sound Keyword Strategy
Effective keyword research tells you what people are looking for. Consider the following tips to develop an effective keyword strategy for your content.
- Count on Google AdWords Keyword Planner. The tool can show you how often leads initiate a search for specific phrases in Google. But use this tool as a guide. Don’t rely on it completely. Its suggestions are often limited, as far as non-commercial queries are concerned, and I have witnessed many circumstances in which a phrase which supposedly didn’t have much traffic, brought in a significant amount of visits.
- Use the KeywordTool.io for the biggest selection of questions and variations on a keyword.
- For competitive research, use SEMrush.
- Spend some time on all of the platforms identified to understand what your audience is looking for. Pay attention to the search phrases for these questions using a keyword tool.
It goes without saying that the types of keywords you choose will also depend on your content goals. Even so, I think some examples of this would be illuminating:
- Keywords are less of a consideration when you are producing content for distribution through platforms that you don’t personally own. This is especially true if the platform has a steady flux of its own traffic and the purpose of the content is to spread novel information through it. In places that already have a stream of traffic, novelty, leading to social sharing, is often more important than search engine traffic.
- For your own content, avoid targeting “commercial” search terms, expressing interest in buying a product, unless you are selling the product yourself. The search engines are quite effective at reading user intent, so when a searcher types “buy SaaS” Google will not return your blog post titled “How to Buy SaaS.”
- If your goal is to build up a subscriber base, try to focus on keywords that indicate a desire for something deeper than a blog post, such as an ebook, whitepaper, or case study.
- If your focus is list building, choose keywords that naturally lead to your lead magnet at the end of your blog post or to another piece of content. Your content should naturally lead readers to the next step.
- Search engines are smart. Stick to one or two keywords per concept to avoid overstuffing your content with variations on the same keyword.
7. Develop a List-Building Strategy
Your email list is the lifeline of your content marketing efforts. There’s no other way to state the importance of a solid list-building strategy.
Most list-building strategies focus on transitioning the lead from reading a blog post to downloading a resource that they need to sign up for. This resource is typically referred to as a “lead magnet” which can be one of the following:
- 30-Day Challenge
- Training courses
- Original research (surveys, case studies, proprietary data)
The important part here is to ensure a natural connection between your lead magnets, CTA, blog posts, and your SaaS itself. For instance, signup form placed directly within your blog content is by far the most likely place to pick up a conversion. Also, you can use signup forms as citations or recommend them as a source of additional information to make it look natural.
8. Develop an Outreach Strategy
Your outreach strategy can take two basic forms:
- Publication: In which you approach a contact or platform with content, with the goal of publishing your content on the platform and driving traffic to your site as a result.
- Promotion: In which you point your audience or their influencers in the direction of a piece of content you have published on one of your own properties. For instance, sending relevant outreach emails to your subscribers.
A powerful outreach strategy doesn’t rely exclusively on any one platform or method of promotion. For example, guest editorials are one of the most robust methods for distributing content; however, one should not rely on them completely.
Consider these tactics to create a winning outreach strategy for your content.
- Involve influencers in the content creation process. Ask them for a quote for citing them as an expert. Inform them once the content is published.
- Mention influencers in your content and inform them when the post is live.
- Address specific issues influencers have had with your content. Follow-up with them after publishing the content.
- Develop content with specific resource lists in mind.
- Connect with influencers who like to share ‘your’ type of content.
- Include your content in newsletters curated by well-known influencers having a large email list
- Become a regular columnist for a trusted publication
- Get in touch with websites linking to similar pieces of content.
Outreach strategies should be tailored to each specific piece of content. However, relationships also play a key role in a successful outreach strategy.
Here are a few important principles to bear in mind when connecting with influencers and major publications:
- Always give them context
- Don’t ask for something if you’re offering nothing
- Always start the conversation through an email
9. Define a Content Cycle
Don’t underestimate the role of a content cycle in developing and honing your content. Here are a few recommendations.
- A series of steps for each piece of content.
- Identify the target audience and the core problem
- Identify target keywords
- Identify associated lead magnet
- Identify a list of target platforms
- Analyze performance
- Hone content in response to keyword and analytics data
- Produce follow-up content
- Identify different content types with different associated goals. Next, develop a separate series of steps for each type.
- A content calendar.
- Clear role definition for each content marketing team member.
- Tools like Trello to track content progress and facilitate communication.
- Regular follow-up on the performance of content and identify potential opportunities.
- Evaluate your content organization at regular intervals. This can help you determine things like how leads should be expected to visit the site or how coherently your brand is presented and so on.
- Schedule a regular time for brainstorming new audiences, platforms, and SaaS.
A sound content marketing for SaaS considers, strategic goals before metrics, considers cumulative growth, uses a clarified sales funnel as its foundation, targets diverse audiences and carefully chosen keywords, builds a contact list, and sticks to a rigorous but adaptive production cycle. Use the information shared in this post to take your SaaS content marketing efforts to the next level.
(Image Source – A)