In the current digital era, traditional advertising is gradually taking a backseat. An increasing number of businesses are inclining towards digital marketing, especially content marketing, in order to increase their brand awareness and boost revenue. Businesses that have adopted a proper content marketing strategy have seen a significant growth in their website conversion rate compared to those who are yet to leverage the power of content.
In fact, according to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. It is, therefore, no surprise that almost 86 percent of B2B marketers and 77 percent of B2C marketers invest in content marketing to boost their bottom line.
However, you need to do it right to maximize your ROI and improve your brand’s reach.
Here are a few tips for SAAS businesses to get their content marketing right:
Develop a SaaS Go-To-Market Strategy Built on Content Marketing
Content marketing allows you to go to market in a way that captures and redirects existing demand for information, allowing you to capture demand even if your product is in a market where the need for it is not yet apparent.
Before building a go-to-market strategy for your business on a foundation of content marketing, you need to define what content marketing means for you in terms of these three primary considerations:
- Your customers
- Your company
- Your competition
The purpose of a go-to-market strategy is to deliver your unique selling proposition to the right audience in a way that effectively differentiates you from your competitors, or your market strategy will fail.
Through the lens of content marketing, there is an added complexity: your content alone must have its own “unique selling proposition.” In other words, your audience, search engines, and digital influencers need a reason to go to you for content rather than competitors in the industry.
Here is a broad series of steps to follow in developing your go-to-market strategy:
- Identify your target audiences
- Identify the platforms and influencers associated with these audiences
- Identify top, middle, and bottom-of funnel topics your audience and their influencers take an interest in
- Get more granular by identifying specific keywords associated with these topics
- Identify “micro-products” or “list-builders” that your target audience would be willing to join an email list in order to obtain. These must have USPs not met by any other competitors in your space.
- Develop authoritative guides on your chosen subjects that naturally lead your audience toward attainment of your list-building products
- Promote your content by involving influencers in the process
- Develop a strategy for bringing email subscribers from the top to the bottom of the funnel
Content marketing is a low touch or touchless acquisition strategy centered on cultivating leads. An enormous part of making this successful is the use of a “market-product fit” approach, as opposed to the traditional “product-market fit.”
While it is not always possible to develop your core product as a response to market needs, this is all but strictly necessary for your content products. Even though your audience isn’t purchasing your content, you will need to approach the process as though they are in order to capture the kind of long term attention needed in order to monetize it.
Factors to consider while you develop your strategy:
- Are you selling to small, medium, or enterprise businesses, or to individuals?
- Will you be using content marketing to develop a strictly no-touch acquisition strategy, or will you be using content marketing to enhance a sales-based strategy with more leads?
- Will your content marketing strategy focus on reaching the individuals who will buy your products, or reaching the channels that act as an intermediary?
- What is your product complexity? How much of your content marketing efforts should focus on defining the problems your product solves, versus on helping them solve related problems to build trust?
- How does your product price influence your content strategy?
- How will your users adopt your SaaS? Will it spread in part by word of mouth as individuals come across it, or will it be spread from the top down by a company who will be onboarding the other users? This will help inform who your target audience should be when you develop your content.
Share Something Useful with Your Readers
Perhaps, you already know that you need to create compelling content for your readers. But how do you create something genuinely worthwhile that your readers will love to read? Simple, create something that they will find useful!
Here, you need to understand one thing: Content marketing isn’t really pure marketing or pushy marketing that usually annoys people. The success of content marketing lies in creating content that adds value. This means, your content must solve the issues or immediate problems faced by your readers and if you can do this right, you will never have to beg people to share your posts. They will do it voluntarily.
This, again, will help you improve your site’s traffic. Let’s consider these findings:
- KISSmetrics receives 70 percent of its traffic to its blog, which features a mix of articles, infographics and tools
- HubSpot too receives 37 percent of traffic share to its blog, whereas the homepage receives only 13 percent of traffic
- The blog and research pages of Moz are the most popular, each receiving 14 percent of traffic share
So what exactly do these people do to attract their readers? Basically, they share insightful data and stats, information about helpful tools, services and tips, etc. that add value to readers. In fact, creating pro-tips is one of the best ways to attract the attention of your readers. Kelloggs, for example, is leveraging this by sharing some of their tastiest recipes with some pro-tips to add a flavorful twist to an otherwise ordinary recipe.
But then almost all businesses with food-related websites do this. What else can be done to be different? You can target different age groups. Now you may think many food bloggers are doing the same thing. How can you stand out? The secret lies in the way you treat your content. Nestle, for instance, clearly targets female buyers, especially moms and homemakers with their content. In this particular post, Nestle targets people who buy products similar to theirs (a particular age group) with information that readers really find useful.
Toyota does something similar as well. They target people who drive without using their content to advertise their company or product. Rather, Toyota Safety Sense is all about making the road safer, “together.”
In addition to this, you need to think beyond your current audience. See how Pampers, a company that is in the Forbes Top 50 Brands list, is targeting customers apart from their current audience. Although their main product is diapers and baby wipes, Pampers offers quality content on myriads of topics, ranging from pregnancy, and sleep training to the different stages of motherhood in order to connect with their audience.
The above brands will inspire and help you discover new ideas to attract your target audience through content.
But make sure your users know whenever you are posting something important and useful. Creating newsletters is the best way to do so.
You will do well to add a synopsis of your latest blog posts along with their links in your newsletters and send them to your subscribers so they know what you have published and can access the content, as and when they want. However, it is also important to make your newsletter visually appealing so that it catches your subscribers’ attention immediately and they feel compelled to click.
Publish Use-Case Content Periodically
While stats and tips are good enough to attract your target audience, a mix of use-case and tutorials can be even more beneficial. IKEA has a dedicated page for ‘Assembly videos’ where they have video tutorials to help users assemble some of their most popular products.
Create content (either video or text with lots of pictures and screen shots) to tell people how they can use your product(s). Elaborate the different features of your product. See how Trello helps their audiences learn about how to add a calendar to Trello boards.
In fact, their blog has a specific section to help users dig into its different features so that users can use the Trello boards more effectively.
Show People How They Can Use Your Content
You already have pro-tips, stats, use-case and tutorials in your arsenal, but you will need something more to provide compelling content to your readers. One of the best ways to do so is by telling your readers how your products/services can benefit them, i.e. providing a tangible usability for your posts. Here is how Trello did it with one of their posts.
This particular post tells freelancers how they can improve their client collaboration with Trello boards. In fact, with this post, Trello not only pointed out who can use their product in detail, but also showed how to use it in a particular way (in this case, collaboration).
Integrate Your SaaS Sales Strategy and Content Marketing
Marketing and sales are often treated as though they are two completely independent agencies, and unfortunately, this is true more than it should be. This goes double for content marketing and sales, since content marketing is, itself, often treated as though it is a splinter group of your marketing team.
One major obstacle to this integration is a firm understanding of the sale funnel, an issue that plagues content marketers as often as it does sales professionals. Amazingly, 68 percent of B2B marketers have not clearly identified their sales funnel. This is unacceptable, especially in the B2B sector where sales is almost always a crucial aspect of business.
Content marketers who are building an email list full of leads that do not convert are not doing the sales staff any favors.
A major source of friction here is a failure to clarify during the signup process exactly what a lead is signing up for. If they do not expect and will not appreciate being contacted directly by sales staff, they are the wrong audience to approach with your content marketing efforts if high-touch acquisition is an important part of your strategy.
Sales staff and content marketers should be in high touch communication themselves.
Related, it’s important to clearly define when a lead becomes qualified. When is a lead qualified for marketing follow-up? When is a lead qualified for sales follow-up? At what point is a lead hot?
It depends heavily on your product, but a lead who reads every marketing email is still not necessarily a lead who is ready to be contacted by sales staff. And if your content marketing strategy isn’t designed around making that transition, it is a strategy doomed to fail.
The primary thing content marketing professionals need to realize in order to effectively market an SaaS product is that exposure is only the first step in the sales funnel. Your strategy must be designed to build and convert leads, not merely to increase web traffic and social media metrics.
For that reason, it is infinitely more valuable to develop a content marketing strategy devoted to building an email list consisting of leads who are interested in solving problems related to your core product than it is to earn exposure in any major publication.
Ask for Opinions or Reviews from Experts and Industry Leaders
You can also seek opinions or reviews from experts and industry leaders. For example, you can get a few popular bloggers to promote your product/services. All you need to do is identify a few big bloggers whose audience will find your products interesting, initiate a long and intimate conversation with them, and encourage them to talk about your product.
However, don’t ask bloggers to lie for you just to receive a positive review as this might cost them their integrity, and not to mention their audience. Rather, let them speak their mind. Just provide them with everything they need to evaluate your product/service properly.
See how BuzzSumo got an honest review from Search Engine Land author Larry Kim for their new Pro tools. Larry not only explains and reviews its features in detail, but also speaks his mind while evaluating the tool. In conclusion he says BuzzSumo Pro is a great product, but not a perfect one.
What to offer to industry experts to get their reviews:
- Give them free access to your product
- Provide free swags
- Involve them in offers that you come up with
- Help them with the data/statistics from your tool
- Help them proof-read content & copy-edit it, if required
- Provide more insights about your tool on how end-users can make best utilize it
- Help them spread the content through social media sites
Reach out to video bloggers.
Video is a powerful tool when it comes to convincing and influencing your target audience. You should, therefore, reach out to a few of the popular video reviewers relevant to your industry. Identifying such video reviewers is pretty easy. Just look at their videos and their view count to understand how influential they are.
In fact, it is very easy to contact them. You will usually find their contact details or the link to their blogs/websites at the end of their video. Once you convince the video reviewers to review your product, ask if they would like to provide a link to your product page as well in their video description. If they don’t, you still have the review from an industry influencer.
Get featured in magazines and influential blogs.
While you should primarily target blogs/websites related to your particular domain, don’t overlook other leading blogs and sites that are relevant to your products. The goal is to get as many reviews as you can in order to expand your market reach.
In fact, do not just limit yourself to industry experts and bloggers. Your users are as important as industry experts, if not more. So, here’s what you should do –
Ask your users to share their reviews/experiences about your product on their website.
Your active users are, perhaps, the best people to evaluate your products/services. They are already using them on a regular basis and are aware of their features, benefits, limitations and everything else. This can even help you get featured in magazines and influential blogs.
All you need to do is find related blogs and get your company/product featured there. See how Buffer got featured in Crazyegg.com, one of the most popular blogs of our time. Similarly, you can target blogs like TechCrunch, TechRepublic, and Mashables, etc., which are dream blogs for technology related products. You will find many such reviews in PCMag.com.
In this post, Pauline Cabrera reviews SEMRush, an advanced reporting tool that she uses for keyword and competitive research analysis. This is one of the best examples of user reviews. Pauline starts with explaining what is SEMRush and who will find this tool beneficial. She gradually moves to how this tools works, its pros and cons (she even explains the things that annoy her), and her favorite features in details.
Clarify Your SaaS Business Model Metrics
You cannot develop a content marketing strategy that helps you accomplish your goals if you are not clear about your metrics. The default metrics of choice for content marketers are things like web traffic, Facebook likes, and search engine rankings. It is important and useful to track all of these, but these are seldom good choices as guiding metrics.
Business model metrics go much deeper and will deeply affect the way you approach your content strategy.
Furthermore, the business model of SaaS is very unique, for reasons we will cover here.
First, SaaS has some important financial differences when compared with other businesses:
- Revenue isn’t just determined by price and number of buyers; it is determined by how long each buyer decides to use the product.
- The product can be given away for free at minimal cost.
- The sales cycle is typically very short.
- Good service is expected as much as a good product, because it’s in the name.
This effects metrics in very important ways:
- The full value of a customer acquisition is not apparent for a very long time after the acquisition takes place, since it is so heavily dependent on the customer lifespan.
- Costs of acquisition can be a major obstacle to growth since it takes a long time to recoup the losses and reinvest them, which makes marketing strategies with cumulative benefits that much more important.
- Related, growth that occurs too fast can put heavy pressure on profits and force the business into negative cash flow. While this ultimately pays off it can put major strain on the business if it isn’t handled smoothly.
- Staying ahead of competition is crucial, and USPs cannot be duplicated. SaaS is primarily a winner-takes-all industry, and that makes competitive metrics even more important.
The two metrics a SaaS company cares most about are the cost to acquire a typical customer, and the lifetime value of a customer. Your content marketing efforts must prioritize those two figures by investing in cumulative sources of leads and customer loyalty, and tracking the results in a quantitative and attributable way.
In general, a viable SaaS company needs to have a customer lifetime value (LTV) three or more times higher than its cost to acquire a customer (CAC). Additionally, the CAC should be less than 12 months.
These are factors your content marketing efforts can directly influence. Invest in strategies that build a continuous pipeline of new leads every month, as opposed to a temporary surge in traffic with no lasting impact on leads. This drives down the CAC better than any other approach.
Furthermore, you can boost the LTV by continuously showing your customers new ways to make the SaaS accomplish tasks for them, by developing solid product guidelines and sharing clear examples, and by cultivating helpful communities.
Track Your Metrics
It is important to understand whether or not your content marketing is profitable. And tracking your metrics will help you determine that. Here are the metrics you need to track:
1. Inbound Links
All the above-mentioned activities will help generate good inbound links, if done right. In fact, it is extremely important to have more numbers of inbound links from quality and authoritative websites. They are the unsung heroes of inbound marketing that helps you improve your ranking dramatically on search engine result pages. In addition, it also helps you generate referral traffic from other quality website.
2. Traffic and Leads
How many people visit your blog? This is the most basic metric you need to consider. Your traffic flow helps you determine if your content creation and distribution techniques are on the right track. Besides, it also helps you identify the best-performing distribution channels for your content, especially those generating quality leads.
The below two images represents our clients featured at various locations such as TechRepublic, LexisNexis, Entrepreneur, Small Business Trends, etc. by real users and industry locations. And many of the sites are generating really good visits and leads for their website.
Don’t you think 1000 to 1500+ monthly visits to your website are worth your effort?
3. Social Share
How many people share your content on their social media profiles? Are your readers talking about your content or referring it to their friends and followers? Since your content goes beyond what your traffic indicators show, it is important to have a clear understanding of your extended online audience so that you can better connect with your prospective leads as well as build a long-term relationship with your loyal customers.
The below image shows the number of social shares that one of the posts by BuzzSumo generated.
4. Number of Downloads
How many people consumed your content? The number of downloads helps you determine that, especially if you have eBooks or downloadable guides to offer. This is one of the most fundamental content metrics and a critical data point that you should not overlook.
Let’s consider this guide from Getvero. According to their marketing head Jimmy Daly, this post has been read more than 100,000 times and ranks in #1 position in the first page for more than 10 variations of ‘email marketing best practices.’ It’s also generated more than 1,500 email signups.
How to Price SaaS in Concert with Content Marketing
The choice to use a content marketing strategy can affect your pricing strategy considerably, although this will also depend heavily on how you choose to approach your content strategy and whether it is part of a high-touch or low-touch acquisition model.
Consideration number one is the free trial: whether you should have it, how long it should last, whether it should be a trial or a freemium model, and so on.
Content marketing works especially well with a freemium model, in particular because of the fact that the freemium product attracts a larger audience, which attracts a larger audience for the content associated with using your freemium product, which attracts far more positive signals and network effects that can grow your audience to a much larger size.
The downsides of a freemium model are obvious but should still be stated here. If your product is computationally expensive it can drain resources to offer unlimited free use, even for a limited version of the product. Freemium SaaS inevitably raises your CAC, so if it does not either increase your LTV or increase the number of acquisitions adequately to cover the costs, it is clearly not worth the investment.
Content marketing also works great in concert with a low-touch acquisition model, allowing you to sell at low prices to high volume. This can dramatically reduce volatility in your revenue but it can also limit profitability and return on assets.
The freemium plus low cost high volume model may seem like the most natural fit for content marketing, but this is only true for a content-marketing first approach. By this, I mean that content marketing is traditionally thought of as a way of scaling traffic, reach, and attention.
This is not the only way to approach content marketing, however, and it would be a mistake to think so. Content marketing that places an emphasis on building email lists and leads that are warm for a sales staff is not only possible but beneficial and more than worth the investment. Content marketing that focusses on customer retention and maximizing LTV is also crucial for many SaaS business models.
In short, any pricing model can work with a SaaS content marketing strategy, but it will have a dramatic impact on the way that you approach your content marketing.
Here’s What Industry Experts Have To Say About Content Marketing
Marketing Head, Getvero
“Content marketing drives traffic and leads for Vero. It’s been our best source of new business. To keep the blog interesting, we publish one new post every week and several guides per year. I’m a big fan of case studies since it helps others understand how to run a successful email campaign.”
Content Crafter, Buffer
“Yes, content marketing has been really helpful for us at Buffer. Early on, it was the primary way in which we got new users into the app, and it continues to be a good source of signups and revenue. Moreso now, I think the blog has been really vital in helping to set us up as thought leaders in the social media space (that sounds a bit egotistical – I’m not sure you’re supposed to call yourself a thought leader!) and to bring added awareness to the app.”
Lead Content Strategy, Help Scout
“Creating content readers enjoy has been a huge part of Help Scout’s growth. There’s a lot of advice out there on how to make it work; I think we’re all sick of hearing about ‘great content,’ for example. Here are two uncommon approaches that have worked for us:
A. Talking about your product can be interesting
When launching a new feature, it’s tempting to rest on your laurels and just publish an ‘It’s here!’ piece. But there are bigger and better ways to go about it, and all of them revolve around pulling out the story behind the feature — why does it enable customers to do? Why does that matters? What’s the best way to use it? What are some pitfalls to avoid? There’s a story behind every feature.
For example, we try to time bigger features with a dedicated post. We launched Satisfaction Ratings in Help Scout with a post titled Customer Support is More Than High Scores, detailing how happiness ratings can sometimes be used to rank support agents, and why that’s a bad thing. For smaller releases, we like to get a post in when time allows. Mo wrote a really great post on using GIFs in customer support, which plays nicely with Help Scout’s inline images feature. Customers are happy to hear about what your product does, but you have to make it interesting.
B. Content as a recruiting strategy
There’s a great quote from John Hall on this concept:
When it’s done right, digital content can have the same transformative impact on HR as it does on marketing. It’s simple: Great content attracts great people, and it encourages the people who are creating it to stick around.
Talking about how your team works is a sincere form of transparency that builds trust with customers, investors, and future teammates. Not every company benefits from this approach, but many do — businesses love hearing from other businesses, even on so called “boring” topics like employee onboarding, water-cooler talks, and business writing.”
There are several content marketing tips out there that will help you improve your brand’s market reach as well as boost your ROI. But the above tips here will help you generate better content for your target audience; create something that they will find compelling enough not only to read, but also to share with their peers.
While content is a must for improving your search traffic, valuable content will encourage your visitors to keep coming back for more. When you create great content consistently to address the definite problems faced by your audience, you will not just win loyal customers but also sell more. Isn’t that what you really want?