With 19.47% of B2B buyers reading three to five content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson and 61% of consumers saying they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content, it's no wonder most SaaS companies are dabbling in content marketing.
And we say 'dabbling' producing content without a strategy, picking topics randomly, writing pieces without thinking about audience or buying stage and not measuring the success (or failure) is not actually content marketing - it’s just content. But content without measurement is also risky - how do you know if your content is landing? If it is engaging? Useful? There is already so much SaaS content out there. How can you differentiate yours?
Today, we're going to break down the key areas of focus in your SaaS content marketing strategy to ensure your efforts are not in vain and your content marketing is optimised for 2020!
Who are you writing for?
"If you’re writing for everyone, you’re writing for no one."- unknown
It's near on impossible to write meaningful, helpful and useful content if you don’t know who it is you're writing for. How can you be expected to help someone if you don't know what they need help with?
To properly understand your audience, savvy SaaS companies should create buyer personas. Personas created specifically for your business will drive your content strategy. Buyer personas aren't just surface-level demographics, Hubspot describes them as, "fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers."
Hubspot goes on to say that buyer personas help us to, "internalise the ideal customer we're trying to attract and relate to our customers as real humans."
So what do SaaS or software buyer personas need to include?
Demographics: Some basic information will help you get into your persona's shoes:
Job and industry: This is an important one for SaaS or software brands as your solution is probably targeted at a certain industry or a particular role within a number of industries. By understanding industry and role you can customise your messaging to be as compelling to each persona as possible.
Challenges and pain points: Dive a little deeper into a persona's pain points to discover where the magic happens. For SaaS and software businesses, your solutions, services and products are designed to dissolve a pain point, overcome a challenge or solve a problem, so knowledge of the ins and outs benefits not only your marketing but also your sales approach.
Targets, objectives and goals: Depending on your persona's industry and role, goals can vary from hard and fast metrics to more conceptual notions.
Decision criteria: what criteria do they prioritise when making a decision about your category? What is it they really care about at each stage of the buying journey?
Information sources: If you don’t know where your persona goes to for information, how will you know where to put your content? For example, many SaaS or software companies' personas will be on LinkedIn, but go deeper and note down the groups they are members of and the hashtags they follow.
What to write about?
Now you know who you're writing for, hopefully, what to write about has come into sharper focus. But even with buyer personas under your belt, it can be daunting for any SaaS company to create a library of helpful, practical, traffic-driving resources for their brand. Do not worry, dear marketeer, there is a method to picking great topics and we're here to share it with you.
Start with research
While we will delve into keyword research in a moment, first we're going to kick it old school and begin by telling you to talk to your customers (or if you're in the marketing department, talk to the sales team who talk to your customers on a regular basis).
Your customers are a gold mine of useful information.hey know better than anyone the types of information they were on the hunt for when researching SaaS or other software solutions. You’ll have asked them about their pain points and challenges when profiling your personas - so give them information that helps them fix them.
Also, find out where they went to find information on which software was best for their needs and what type of information they found most useful. If the majority of your customers are doing their research by watching Youtube videos but you only create blog posts then you’re not going to reach a huge pool of potential leads that your SaaS solution could help.
Hopefully, you’ve already talked to some of your customers to validate your persona findings. Talking with customers is helpful to create content for all stages of the buying process, but is particularly useful for the bottom-of-the-funnel content pieces. More on buying stages soon.
For now, let's talk about keyword research. You have the pain points, so now you can use keyword research to identify entry points for new prospects. The keywords you target need to be relevant to your business as well as match your audience's search intent. Intent can broadly be pigeonholed into three categories: informational intent, product research intent or navigational intent.
- For informational intent your user is not specifically looking for your SaaS solution, rather they are researching information related to their pain points, challenges or needs. For example, they may be looking for answers around how to better manage their digital document repository.
- For product research intent the user knows they have a problem and they know there is a solution. They are researching their options. To stick with the same example, they might be searching for electronic content management solutions now they've realised that's the answer to their problem.
- For navigational intent, the user knows who you are either through your content or maybe from a recommendation. This is where brand awareness is key and you'll consider using keywords with your brand name in them. For example, they might be searching for your particular electronic content management solution by adding the brand name to their search query.
Soon, we'll explore the buyer's journey and you'll notice that user intent neatly lines up with the stages of the journey!
After search intent comes search volume. Going after keywords with high search volumes is always a challenge so it's important to consider what is realistic for your brand. There is a sweet spot between 'not enough searches' and 'too many searches' that you'll want to target. That sweet spot isn't written in stone, and depends entirely on how niche your offering is. A search term of under 300 searches for word processing software in Australia might be unacceptable, where as the same for an english staffy dog walker in Indooroopilly might seem like a goldmine.
Along with volume, comes keyword difficulty. Most keyword tools will give you a percentage difficulty value and the higher that value the more difficult it is to rank for that keyword. Here is where the magic comes in - you need to find the balance between high search volume and realistic keyword difficulty. And as with anything marketing, document your decisions, test and measure the outcomes.
Get to know the buying stages
Now it’s time to take those great content ideas - fuelled by persona research and keyword research, and place them in their appropriate location in the buyer's journey.
There are typically three recognisable stages in any buyer journey:1. The awareness stage
In the awareness stage, a person has noticed that they are facing a potential problem, challenge or issue. For example, they have realised that their business is struggling with inefficiencies.2. The consideration stage
In the consideration stage, a person has clearly distinguished and named their problem. For example, they know that their mix of spreadsheets, manual processes and workflow bottlenecks is wasting time and money.3. The decision stage
In the decision stage, a person has determined their solution. They know that they need to invest in a new SaaS or software solution to sort out their workflow problems.
Your content strategy needs to include content for all three stages of the journey, to ensure you’re answering your persona’s questions at every stage, and leading them through to buyer readiness.
Create uncommon content with personality
In 2020 and beyond, your brand's voice may be the only thing that is going to set your content apart from all the other SaaS content available, which is why it's important to consider the tone of voice from the start.
Don't be lumped in with the rest of the SaaS brands that churn out done-before content.
It's at this stage of your content strategy that it's time to think beyond the actual information in your post and to instead consider the impression you'd like to make on your prospects. Think of all your content creation as a branding exercise, your opportunity to bolster your SaaS company's reputation and set you apart from your competitors.
For an example of a company that do this really well, take a look at Zendesk’s content.
How will you measure success?
A content marketing strategy without tracking and measurement is pretty much useless. Similarly, Wishy-washy goals or objectives misaligned with your overall business aspirations is a complete waste of money.
All content marketing strategies should start with a funnel analysis, identifying the number of website sessions, marketable leads and MQLs you need to create in order to create a converted customer. Wherever your funnel is underperforming against industry benchmarks is the obvious place to focus your attention first.
Fig. 1 Average Conversion Rates By Industry
You can also decisively measure ROI on your content marketing efforts, by dividing the lifetime value of the customer with the amount used to get that customer. Remember that for SaaS companies, the initial deal size does not represent the lifetime value of the customer. For that, you need to multiply your yearly subscription fee by the average period of time a customer will stay with you.
Where can you go for help?
If you're feeling simultaneously excited, chock full of ideas and overwhelmed with information, you're not alone. Content marketing for SaaS businesses is a not so simple task, which is why hiring an inbound marketing agency like Brand chemistry can help.
Some of the benefits of outsourcing to a marketing agency include:
- Access to top-notch marketing expertise. Your marketing talent pool expands rapidly!
- Pay only for the services you need for the time you require them or you create a longer-term partnership depending on your needs.
- Access to greater levels of both creativity and strategy in content creation.
- You don't need to recruit new staff or train existing staff.
- Agencies are on top of key marketing trends and invest in the training and resources needed to be the best at what they do.
- Marketing agencies only do marketing, keeping them focussed, streamlined and on track. Go even further by hiring an agency that only works in the B2B market and specialises in tech.
- Agencies are experts in customer retention, especially important for SaaS companies, where the true value of a customer is only seen as they stick with the service over time.
It's also probable that your business's marketing skillset has a few gaps and that's nothing to be ashamed of - strong content marketing requires a diverse range of skillsets including: Content creation, content marketing strategy, data mining and analytics, persona research, digital marketing, website UX design and development, and marketing automation prowess. Hard to find all of these in a small marketing team. Hard to find in a large marketing team, frankly.
Before you go ahead and hire a marketing agency for your SaaS business, it's crucial you make sure they have experience in the field. As we've noted throughout this post, there are some pretty unique things about SaaS and your chosen marketing agency should be across them. Choose an agency with a great track record of success in SaaS marketing to ensure the best and more appropriate strategies and tactics are implemented for your company.
Download the 7 step checklist to choosing your inbound agency. This handy checklist includes the questions you need to ask and how to score them, to ensure you choose the right agency for your business.