Want to know what’s really working in SaaS marketing in 2021?
In this complete guide, we’ll go beyond the best strategies used by our SaaS marketing agency and show you exactly how to do content marketing right and where to put your resources and efforts.
When done properly, your company’s entire marketing plan can be based around content. The trick is knowing what type of content to produce and how to leverage this content to grow your business.
This guide is fairly long and detailed, so if you’re looking for something specific, feel free to skip right ahead to the info you want:
1. Know your ideal customer (User research)
You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but you’ll never reach your ideal customers if you don’t know who they are. To get to know your customers, you need to go beyond superficial demographics like age, gender, and profession. This will help you understand your customers’ needs in relation to the solution you’re offering.
If you take away one thing from this guide, it should be this: There’s more to content marketing than creating endless ‘how-to’ blog posts! To create valuable content that converts, you need to step into your customers’ shoes, speak to them directly, and get a real sense of who they are and what problems they are facing.
The best approach is to use the jobs-to-be-done framework. The JTBD framework forces you to examine other perspectives and look at your product the way your customers do. This approach helps explain the various dimensions that influence why customers make the choice they do. It helps you uncover the social, emotional and functional dimensions that play a part in people’s decision-making process.
When you spend time going beyond market demographics or product attributes, you’ll see that there are numerous creative approaches you can take to reach your ideal customers and engage them with content about how great your software is.
So, how can you truly understand your customers? How can you find out what they need, what they value, and what motivates them? For that, you need user research.
How to do user research
To find out who your ideal customers are, you should begin by timetabling an extensive user research session with your employees. Organize a meeting with representatives from the sales development team, client support team, account management team and any other relevant employees that have direct contact with customers. This meeting should give you a good understating of your company’s ideal customer profile.
Next, you need to find out what issues customers are struggling with, e.g., their ‘pain-points’. Discovering these pain-points will offer you clues as to how you can create and deliver content that has real value and helps you connect with your customers in an authentic way.
To learn exactly what pain-points your customers are facing, you can try one or more of the following methods:
- Interviews with potential, current, and past customers
- Outreach emails
- Studying customer service chat logs
- Check competitors product/service reviews
Ask questions such as:
- What was the problem you were looking to solve before stumbling across our product or service?
- How were those problems solved once we started working with you?
- If you were to research our product or service, what would you search for?
Once you’ve collected the data, you’ll be able to identify the most common pain-points that your customers are struggling with. This helps you begin to create a plan for generating useful, valuable content topics.
2. How to determine your content strategy
Now that you know who your customers are and what issues they are experiencing, you need to determine your content strategy. This will help you engage potential buyers and encourage their ‘purchase intent’.
As soon as people come into contact with your company, whether through your landing page, website or via your content, they are entering into a ‘buying journey’. This gives you the opportunity to capture their attention and convert them into paying customers.
Understanding the ‘buying journey’
There are four stages in the ‘buying journey’ that any potential customer will go through:
Let’s look at each of these stages in more detail:
At the ‘awareness’ stage, potential customers are at the very top of your sales funnel. They are generally readers looking to learn more about an industry, or about its providers and their services.
‘Awareness’ level content topics needs to:
- Help first-time visitors
- Build brand awareness
- Generate interest
- Educate visitors
At the next stage, potential buyers will move from simply being aware of a company to actively looking at the solution it offers.
Content at this level should:
- Help would-be buyers evaluate and compare software
- Educate users about how software works
- Address pain-points that potential customers are experiencing
The best content for this stage should draw peoples’ attention to the value proposition that your company offers without giving them the hard sell.
For potential buyers to move from the consideration stage to the conversion stage, they’ll need content that:
- Provides detailed product descriptions
- Outlines specific value propositions
- Focuses on transactions
Retaining existing customers is especially important in SaaS content marketing. According to research by Gartner, 20 percent of your current customers will generate 80 percent of your future revenue. Research from Bain & Co. showed that boosting retention by just five percent can increase overall profits by over 75 percent.
Good ‘retention’ phase content will specifically address your existing customers by:
- Offering the latest news
- Explaining the benefits of other packages
- Helping them keep abreast of current industry trends
Link your content initiative to your business goals
A common trap that content marketers fall into is focusing on the production cycle and losing sight of the purpose that the content needs to serve.
Every piece of content should have a specific job to do, whether it’s supporting your sales team, underpinning other marketing initiatives or simply helping potential customers through a specific stage of their buying journey.
Instead of focusing on the number of views a piece of content gets or the number of backlinks it generates, you need to ensure that every piece of content is linked to a specific business goal.
That’s why your first step when creating a content strategy should be to identify your business goals and then link each piece of content you plan to create to a specific goal.
Link the content to every customer journey stage
Each piece of content you create can serve one stage, or multiple stages, in the customer’s buying journey. However, there are certain types of content that are ideal for each stage. Here are some examples of the types of content you may produce for each stage:
Awareness stage content
The best awareness stage content is informative and unbiased material without being promotional, such as:
- Research data: reports, insights, and analysis posts
- Tutorials and ‘How to’ guides
- Articles that address ‘core questions’ and offer solutions
- Resource guides: ebooks, white papers, reports.
Consideration stage content
Content at the consideration level includes:
- Case studies
- Product webinars
- FAQ pages
Conversion stage content
Good conversion stage content includes:
- Ratings and reviews
- Free trial offers
- Free quote or estimate
- Promotional offers
Retention stage content
Good retention stage content includes:
- Promotional offers for renewals or upgrades
- Free trial offers of premium services or packages
- Ratings and review articles
3. Keyword research
Unless you are brand new to SaaS content marketing, much of what you’ve read so far probably sounds very familiar. Know your customers. Help solve their problems. Create useful content.
You may be thinking; “I’ve done all that! Why aren’t I seeing results?”
To get content marketing right, you need to create content around keywords.
To begin with, you should have completed the following steps:
- Set up your blog.
- Set up goals in Google Analytics on your blog.
- Start tracking product conversions that come from content.
Once you have everything set up correctly and have published a few posts, you may notice a paradox:
The posts that generate the majority of your blog traffic aren’t those that have the highest volume of conversions.
So what gives?
The most likely explanation is that your keyword research isn’t looking at purchasing intent. You’re likely targeting volume-driven keywords, e.g., keywords that have the most people searching for them.
To address this, you need to use a variety of tools and techniques during keyword research to develop a keyword strategy that is ‘pain-point-driven’ instead of volume-driven. If you don’t have a SaaS marketing consultant or agency doing this job, here’s a three-step plan to do exactly that:
Step 1. Collect Keywords opportunities with Keyword everywhere tool
The Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere is a free keyword research tool that shows you the Google keyword search volume and cost-per-click (CPC) data on any websites or directly on the Google search engine result page. This is much faster and simpler than using the Google Ads keyword planner to see search volume and CPC data.
With the extension installed, simply visit Google and type in the pain-points you identified during your user research phase. By focusing on the problems and issues that your ideal customers are facing, you are more likely to find keywords used by people who have a much higher purchase intent that average internet users. In other words, people who are actively searching for a solution that your company can help provide.
Step 2. Spy on the competitor’s best keywords with SEMrush
Next, enter your competitor’s websites into SEMrush to check their organic search positions within ranking and traffic driven to their website for each keyword. You can use filters to remove branded queries or other irrelevant terms before exporting the data. Filtering our irrelevant content and keywords on your competitor’s sites will generate more useful keyword opportunities.
Step 3. Talk to your customers
The most critical, yet often overlooked, step of keyword research it to go back to your customers and double-check that the keywords you identified match their search intent. You need to check that your list of keywords is relevant to your ideal customers. This helps ensure that you can create content that directly matches their search intent and helps solve their most common pain points, questions and issues.
One of the most useful approaches is to invite customers to complete a short survey, perhaps incentivized with an offer of free software or a free upgrade.
4. Content framework with topic clusters
The way that people are searching for content is evolving at a breakneck pace. According to research from Ahrefs, almost two-thirds of people now use four or more words when searching for information online.
Part of the reason for this change is the increasing popularity of voice search, which makes searching for information using normal sentences far easier than type-based search. Voice search assistants begin by asking questions using normal phrasing, so it feels natural and comfortable to search in a similar way.
Another reason for this change is that search engines have updated their algorithms to better interpret search queries based on the way we talk. Google, for example, released Hummingbird in 2013 to improve its ability to understand search queries and later enhanced this with RankBrain, released in 2015.
To sdo SaaS content marketing right in 2019, you not only have to rethink the type of content you’re publishing, but also the way you optimize it too. This is where topic clusters come in handy.
What are topic clusters?
The topic cluster model helps you organize your content so search engines can ‘see’ how it relates to each other. This approach – formerly referred to as ‘siloing’ – shifts your focus towards targeting a specific topic and helps establish your brand as a trusted source.
A cluster is a group of four or five articles that relates to your chosen topic. The main piece of content is known as the ‘Pillar page’. This content focuses on your main keyword.
The other articles are known as ‘Cluster content’ and they focus on different keywords related to the content on your Pillar page.
To show search engines that these pages are related to each other, you implement the following linking strategy:
The Pillar page should have:
- · A link to your landing page or website in the first paragraph.
- · Contextual links to each of your Cluster content articles
Each of your Cluster content articles should have:
- · A link to your Pillar page in the first paragraph
- · Links to the other Cluster content articles
This strategy has a number of unique benefits. Up until recently, most SaaS content marketers created content using targeted long-tail keywords. This approach meant that every time new content was published, it competed with both your competitor’s content and any previously published content.
The topic cluster model eliminates this risk, while also boosting your content’s SEO by generating backlinks between each piece of content.
5. Content marketing calendar
If you’ve followed this guide so far, you’ll be on track to produce high quality, engaging content that will rank high and help drive traffic to your website. But the final piece of the puzzle that will help you generate leads for your SaaS business is developing a content marketing calendar.
A content calendar is like a road map for marketing your business. It helps you provide engaging information for your existing customers, and helps you get new customers into your sales funnel. Regularly posting fresh content on your company blog and through social media platforms will help keep your business fresh and relevant in your customers’ eyes.
So where do you start?
Many SaaS content marketers use a cloud-based spreadsheet such as Google Sheets. This gives multiple team members real-time access to the latest calendar and gives them the ability to make any changes or respond to any edits.
For example, if your marketing team notices an emerging trend in the software your company offers, but the planned content has a different focus, your business team can quickly modify the content strategy to take this into account. You can always push back previously scheduled content for a later date.
Your content calendar should include the following information for each article:
- The Topic Cluster it belongs to
- The type of content (Pillar content or Cluster Content)
- The headline
- The keyword(s)
- The URL of the article (when published)
- The online channels the article will be shared through (company blog, social media, etc)
- An outline
- Associated images
Try to plan at least one month ahead, to give yourself time to respond to any changes as they occur.
6. Repurpose your content
We’ve already discussed how following the topic cluster model can help avoid the pitfall of having new content compete with existing content that used the same keywords.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reuse existing content! Repurposing content is one of the best approaches for SaaS content marketing.
Consumers now have myriad options for engaging with content. As a result, everyone has their own preferred medium and formats; Some people like podcasts, some people like videos, some people love infographics.
You get the picture.
So, what better way to use your existing, well-researched and well-crafted content than to repurpose it in another medium or format?
Repurposing your content helps you maximize the value of the content you already paid for.
If you’ve already written a killer blog post, why not turn it into a podcast?
If you’ve got an awesome ‘How to’ article, why not use it as the basis for a video script?
If you paid for some cool infographics for a long-form article, why not use them as slide decks?
Get the idea?
If you’re still stuck for inspiration, here are some of the easiest, simplest ways to repurpose existing content:
- Republish blogs to Medium
- Compile blog posts into an eBook
- Use old blog posts as part of an email campaign
- Record an article, word-for-word, as an audio clip
- Convert a blog post into a video clip using a service such as Lumen5.
If you still need more convincing that content repurposing is worth a look, consider that:
- Videos get 6 times more retweets than photos on Twitter
- Video content accounts for over 70 percent of all internet traffic
- Research from SmallBizTrends shows that 64 percent of users are more likely to buy after watching a video.
With a well-planned calendar and the right content, repurposing content and putting efforts into the promotion is one of the smartest SaaS content marketing strategies.
If you were curious about what’s really working in SaaS content marketing in 2019, that’s about it!
In this complete guide, we’ve covered it all from researching your customers, to developing your content strategy, and optimizing the way you create, deliver and release your content.
By following the steps in this guide, content marketing can be the backbone of your company’s entire marketing plan. It can help you entice new customers, build your brand and establish your company as a trusted source of information.