It can be difficult for any business to know how to use content to market themselves effectively to their customer base, and, in particular, SaaS companies.
You may have an amazing product, but without effective content marketing, you will not be able to get it in front of the right people with the right messaging.
For many organisations, there are two roads you can take – you can either go in-house and work on creating content, or you can go through a marketing agency and use their expertise to help drive a strategy and your content marketing efforts.
In this guide, you will learn everything that content marketing covers, what you need to look into for producing an effective content strategy, along with diving into each element you must consider.
What is Content Marketing for SaaS
Content marketing is, simply put, a long-term strategy used to attract, convert, and retain customers through the use of high-value and unique content that is delivered on a consistent basis. For many SaaS companies, this will be done through the use of a blog.
Content marketing is an extremely powerful tool when done right. With the right focus and strategy, content can be used to source and attract new customers organically.
Instead of relying on ad spend to target the same audience all of your competitors do, you can create content that will bring in your desired audience naturally.
In order for any SaaS business to have a successful content marketing strategy, it will need to take considerable time to plan. An organisation will need to think about who they are trying to target, how they are targeting them, what budget might be required, and over what time period the strategy be used.
When it comes to considering the different channels that should be used, organisations should prioritise looking at who their customer base really is and which channels they can be found. Many marketing strategies will fail by focusing on the wrong people and the wrong channels.
Why You Need an Effective SaaS Content Marketing Strategy
SaaS businesses face greater challenges than other organisations when it comes to content marketing. This is due to the fact that SaaS businesses offer both a service and a product that can be marketed in very different ways.
Effective marketing involves educating users on what your product or service is, what benefits they provide, and, ultimately, why they should buy your product or service.
With a product, you tend to focus more on the benefits it has over competitors. This could be price, features, endorsements, etc.
With services, you will tend to focus more on the benefits to the end user, how it helps them, how it integrates with what they currently use, how it saves time, etc.
For a SaaS organisation to market itself effectively, it will need to do both at the same time. Messaging will need to be concise and easy to understand so as not to lose people’s attention. One way that this can be done is through the use of user reviews. This is a popular tactic often used to drive sales and to show prospective customers everything they need to know.
Competition within the SaaS industry is extremely high so you will need to excel in every area in order for them to be effective. Through the use of brand content, you should deliver something that demonstrates why the audience should invest in your brand.
This can be further built upon by creating content around your organisation’s expert knowledge in your field. A huge ranking factor for search engines is the ability of websites to show their authority and knowledge. By creating content that achieves this, not only will you be better able to convince prospective users, but you will also be able to improve your ranking among search engines.
Evergreen content can help you focus on the product side of your organisation and is another strategy that businesses can use in order to better rank from an SEO perspective. It can better appeal to a larger audience, doesn’t come across as salesy or pushy, and can provide readers with genuine insight and benefits to your product.
Through these tactics, you will begin to orchestrate an effective content strategy that can deliver on all fronts.
How to Create a SaaS Content Strategy
Here, we break down how to create a SaaS content strategy by looking at each of the individual components. We will cover all of the following areas:
- Define Your Strategic Business Goals
- Identify Your Target Audience
- Determine the Types of Content to Create
- Define Your Metrics
- Identify Keywords
- Draft Your Content Lifecycle
- Define Content Production Procedures
- Create Your Content Distribution Strategy
- Assess Content Performance
- Define Your Strategic Business Goals
Defining your strategic goals is vital to the success of any content marketing campaign. By understanding what your goals, aims, and objectives are you will be able to cater content to fit them and the desired audience.
This is often where many organisations fall short, they either do not clearly define their aims, goals, and objectives and start creating content without a focus. Or, they end up targeting the wrong audience.
Here are a few examples of strategic goals an organisation might use:
- Increase brand awareness – this could be to a specific section of an audience, a certain industry or they just wish to generally increase brand awareness.
- Grow a list of important/valuable contacts – content may be designed to bring in valuable contacts within the industry or similar industries. It is about understanding what this audience will want to read about and how it can be used to gain those contacts.
- Drive leads – a key objective for any organisation. Content can be created to show off the benefits of their service and product. This can then be used to generate leads and drive sales.
Identify Your Target Audience
As we mentioned above, through the use of understanding your aims and objectives you can begin to define your target audience. Knowing who you wish to target is vital to the success of any campaign as it ensures you achieve the right messaging.
If you are looking to target business owners or high-level decision-makers, you may know that they have little time to be reading lots of content so you may keep it short and to the point. If your audience only really spends time on LinkedIn, then this may be the best place to publish or promote content.
One way to successfully identify your target audience is to come up with their key attributes. A way that we find helpful is by creating ‘personas’. This can be done by looking at the following areas:
- Who is the target audience – provide an overview of what you are looking for e.g. female, upper management, 30-40, who works in the UK and Europe
- Location – where are they based? Where is their company based? Are they international?
- Role(s) – Are they high up the management chain? Are they decision-makers? Do they have multiple roles?
- Income – what income bracket are they in?
- Online behaviour – how much time do they spend online? What websites do they visit?
- Determine the Types of Content to Create
With a target audience in mind, you will begin to understand exactly what types of content you will need to create.
This can be looked at from a sales funnel perspective, where you look at whether the content is required for the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, or bottom of the funnel.
Alternatively, this can be looked at from a content-type perspective. Are you looking to create blog posts or more long-form content in expert guides? Will video content be more effective and impactful or is social media the best place to promote and publish content?
Once you get a clear perspective of what part of the funnel content needs to be and what the best types are to use, you will be able to create high-value content that hits your target audience with the right tactics and in the right locations.
Define Your Metrics
A vital component of any content marketing strategy is measuring and assessing how successful it is. Without this step, you will not be able to see whether what you are doing is actually working. For many, it can even be a case of measuring the wrong metrics.
The metrics you choose should align with your goals and objectives. If you are looking to increase brand awareness then you can measure growth in organic traffic as well as new visitors vs returning visitors. You could also look at things such as social shares and referring domains.
For leads or sales, you should focus on how many new email sign-ups you might have or how many sales have been made during the campaign.
By aligning your metrics with objectives and goals, you can begin to evaluate how successful the campaign is. It will show you whether the audience members you have defined are accurate and whether the places you are publishing and promoting content are the right ones.
Keyword research is the foundation of content creation and is one of the most vital steps in driving a strategy. By identifying keywords that are relevant to your organisation and target audience, you have the building block on which you can build out the different types of content you wish to create.
It is important to find keywords that relate to the stage of the funnel that you wish to target. Top of the funnel keywords tend to be more informational, the middle of the funnel tends to be more commercial, and the bottom of the funnel tends to be more transactional. Knowing which part of the funnel you wish to target can help steer a direction for keyword research.
There are a number of platforms that can be used to carry out keyword research, the most notable ones are:
- Google Keyword Tools
With these tools, you will be able to look at their monthly search volume, how competitive the keywords are, what the search intent behind them is, and any other similar keywords.
When first conducting keyword research, you may want to focus on the less competitive ones by looking at the level of competitiveness alongside their search volume. Or, you may want to start with low search volume terms and work your way up to those with a higher volume.
Draft Your Content Lifecycle
A major part of producing a content strategy is defining the production and life cycle of your content. You will need to look at all of the steps involved in creating a piece of content, from identifying your audience all the way to assessing how it has performed.
It is also important to gain an understanding of how long the process will take and when you might need to recycle through the process when assessing performance.
Here is each step of the process and why it is important:
Identification of the target audience – and what they want
- Without knowing your target audience and what they need you will not be able to create content that solves their problems. You may be writing an amazing piece of content but if it is aimed at the wrong audience or does not provide what your target audience needs, then you will not see the right results.
- To produce content that provides users with the answers they need, you will have to target the right keywords. It is vitally important that all keywords targeted in a piece of content are relevant to the piece and the questions you need to answer. If the content isn’t performing well, it is often due to targeting the wrong keywords.
Target channels for content distribution
- The content you produce needs to be distributed on the right channels in order to be successful. This is how you can easily reach your target audience. It is no use writing long-form content to then only share it on Twitter where audiences want to see short and snappy content.
Draft content brief
- By knowing where you want to distribute content and the keywords you need to include a brief needs to be able to place all this information in a concise manner that can be passed on to writers. When done effectively writers will be able to create a piece of content that covers everything it needs to in a way that audiences will relate to and understand.
- One of the most important parts of the brief creation process, research will show you what others have done well and where they might be missing information. Poor research will result in a poor brief and poor piece of content. You can never be too thorough with your research.
- Production will not only look at the meat of the content but also at how it will be presented. Blocks of text do not make for easy reading, so you will need to consider whether content should be broken up into smaller chunks, make use of bullet point lists, and where images are required. You also need to remember that production comes through as drafts, they are not written once and then completed. Changes will often need to be made to really get the content you desire.
- This is not just about uploading it to a website/blog, it is about publishing it with the right look and feel. If this is a long piece of content then consider using jump links so readers can go to certain sections. Make sure the design of the page is good and makes it easy to read. Ensure all text is visible and consistent throughout. Many times there may be issues with formatting that can put readers off.
- Once a piece of content is written you don’t need to just leave it in the void hoping that readers find it. Use the earlier distribution channels to promote it. This allows you to receive instant feedback on whether it feeds the need or not. If sent out to your mailing list and they click through to read it and immediately leave then you know something is wrong. A final point is you can promote content more than once – avoid only talking about it when first written.
- Assessing content performance allows you to see whether your content hit the mark and can help you diagnose what part of the lifecycle it went wrong. You may be able to see that the content written is ranking for different keywords than you originally targeted. This may mean you go back to the brief and re-write it or even change the keywords that you were focusing on and start again from there. Assessing content can also be used to see what types of content work well for your target audience.
Define Content Production Procedures
- When creating content you will need to have procedures in place. This will ensure you keep content consistent in quality, maintain timeframes for each step of the procedure, keep tight delivery times, and will enable you to track performance.
Every step of the content creation process should have a procedure – this will start from keyword research all the way through to publishing content and assessing its performance. Through the use of procedures, it enables anyone to follow them no matter their experience and still deliver content to the level you are looking for.
A major part of each procedure should be having another person sign off on what has been done. When keyword research has been completed, make sure that another person reviews and signs off on it. This ensures that this part of the process hasn’t gone off in the wrong direction and keeps the consistency that you are looking for.
A procedure may look like the following:
- Keyword research is conducted to see where there are gaps in content and keywords that you will be able to create content for and rank for
- Collected keywords signed off by another member of the team
- Keyword research is used to create topics for blog posts
- Suggested topics are agreed upon by another member of the team
- Content briefs are created around the agreed topics and include the keywords that have been previously researched. The brief creator will also conduct research on what other pieces of created content look like around the target keywords
- Once the brief is created, it is signed off by another member of the team
- Content is produced in line with the brief
- Produced content is then reviewed by another member of the team and either signed off or returned with changes/feedback
Create Your Content Distribution Strategy
Writing a piece of content is not the end of it, you still need to have an understanding of where you are going to publish it and how you are going to promote it. This is where your distribution strategy comes in.
You will need to look at the following areas:
Define exactly where the content is to go
- What part of your website do you want to publish it on?
- If it’s a blog post do you want to promote it on your home page or will it only sit at the top of your blog?
- Will you be looking to hide content behind an email sign-up?
- Is it not content for your site at all but what you will send out as a series of emails/social media posts?
Who will be able to access the content
- Will the content be visible to anyone who comes to your site?
- Is it something you have written explicitly for a section of your audience?
- Will only email subscribers be able to view it?
Which third-party sites will be used for content distribution
- Have you done this to act as a guest post?
- Are there third-party sites in your industry you want to publish it on?
- Is this written as a part of a partnership and should also be published on their site?
How will content be published via social media
- What social media site is it best published on?
- Which site will best reach your audience?
- Should it be published as one post or a series of posts?
Assess Content Performance
To assess how well your content has been performing, you will need to look at performance in relation to the metrics you defined earlier in the process. This will allow you to make data-informed decisions when evaluating performance.
This is a vital part of your content marketing strategy and how you measure its success. The great thing about assessing your content’s performance is the fact that it is a powerful tool for optimising your performance.
Through assessment, you can begin to see which pieces of content perform better – whether that be more long-form content, article series, short-form content, infographic, etc. With this information, you can begin to edit your content to match what performs best along with creating a new strategy based on the valuable insight you have gained.
It is important to remember that a piece of content cannot excel in every metric you want it to. It is about assessing its overall performance in line with what you have wanted it to do. Some pieces will be great at engaging users, keeping them on the site, and reading multiple posts. Other pieces will be better at converting, whether this is through demos, signups, or purchases.
This is the information that will really drive you to the next level and improve your content marketing strategy moving forward.
Next Steps for your Content Marketing
Content is not as easy as people believe, there are a lot of processes and difficult decisions required in order to create an effective strategy. For many organisations this can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. That’s why working with an experienced agency can provide such great results.
It’s beneficial to have a team in place to work with you on creating a strategy and diving into the nitty gritty, leaving you with the rewards it reaps. Agencies will be more experienced in keyword research, strategy creation, writing briefs, and writing content. They can help you define the metrics for success and provide updates on performance so you don’t have to worry.