This I’m sure you already know – to grow your SaaS, you need to create and publish incredible content.
And you also know that you need to focus on solving specific problems if you want to get it noticed.
But let me guess:
You struggle with finding content ideas that can deliver value to your business, and ultimately, grow your user base, right?
In fact, at the end of last year, I asked SaaS founders and marketers I know about their biggest content-related challenges. And pretty much everyone concurred – it’s finding ideas for blog posts, and then, promoting them to the target audience.
So, in this post, I decided to help you with the first of those two problems.
I’ll show you 4 strategies you can use to find content ideas that will grow your SaaS. Guaranteed!
Intrigued? Then let’s get right to it.
Strategy #1 (Ridiculously Simple And The Most Effective): Ask Your Current Users
Because of its simplicity, using this strategy can almost feel like cheating.
After all, you hardly need to lift a finger and still can get an astonishing number of highly-relevant content ideas.
And yet, that’s exactly how it works.
But before I get to the technicalities, there’s one thing we need to cover – why current users?
After all, what the heck have they got to do with a strategy aimed to attract NEW people to your app, right?
Well then, hear me out. And I can actually give you two answers:
- First. Because you have direct access to your current users. Be it Intercom, your email list, Slack or any other communication channel you use. And you can quickly reach out to them for opinions and insights. Plus, given your already established relationship with your user base, you have a great chance of getting many replies
- Second. (And hey, this is the most important reason). Anyone paying you money to use your product most likely represents your target audience. And no doubt you’d want to attract more of those people to your app.
And here’s the catch:
If your current customers are struggling with certain challenges, then there’s a big chance that your potential users face the same problems.
So, you could safely assume that by creating content that answers your current users’ questions, you will attract people who match your ideal customer profile.
But how do you find out your current users’ challenges?
The prospect of interviewing current users might feel … intimidating, at least.
After all, you don’t want to spend days on end, chatting with clients about the content they’d like to read. And then, sifting through your notes to distil their feedback to actionable insights….
Well, the good news is, you don’t have to. In fact, I’ve found that sending a short email delivers the best results.
But to make it work for you, you need to follow a couple of rules:
Ask only one open-ended question. Anything above that will taint the insight you’re trying to gather. I recommend using the following question formula in the user survey (disclaimer, I picked it up from my good friend and a fantastic copywriter, Alex Lee):
“If you don’t mind, can you tell me what challenges you’re facing with [Main Problem Your Product Helps to Overcome]”
You can wrap it with whatever copy you want (although, as a general rule, the shorter the email, the better) but keep the question short, and to the point.
For example, here’s the email we sent out in December:
Don’t ask users for their opinion. A common mistake I see marketers make with user surveys is asking to rate something, in this case, your blog or the quality of your content. And I admit, at first sight, it might seem that an opinion would deliver better insight into your strategy.
Unfortunately, it’s typically quite the opposite. Sure, your users might tell you that they like your blog, but they most likely won’t offer any actionable insight as to how to grow it further.
Plus, your response rates will be significantly lower. For one, many of your users will surely feel intimidated by the prospect of having to share an opinion and choose not to respond.
PRO TIP: To ensure the best possible insight, consider segmenting your user base by app usage, for example, and email the most engaged users first.
Another way to ensure quality responses is to email paying users only. After all, that’s the segment of your overall user base you want more of.
Strategy #2. (A Bit Harder But Works Almost As Well As the Survey): Research Your Audience
This strategy can deliver equally good results as the survey. However, it requires a bit of an analytical work from you.
That said, I’d recommend doing it EVEN if you’ve asked current users for help. In fact, at Usermagnet, we do both. In the first month of engagement, we survey our clients’ current user base AND research their target audience to create an initial content strategy.
Here’s a quick run through of the process:
To kick start the strategy, you first need to define the target audience you want to attract. And if there’s more than one, order them by importance to your growth strategy.
You can do it in two ways:
The simple approach. In the first episode of the SaaS Content Marketing Show, Dave Gerhardt from Drift suggested creating content based on assumptions and customer segments your product team has been building for.
You can hear the interview below. The section about content personas starts at around 13-minute mark.
A bit harder approach. Alternatively, you could build a full-blown persona for your target audience. However lengthy, the process could provide a deeper insight into who you need to be targeting with content.
With the audience profile ready, you need to go online and research the heck out of their needs and challenges.
Here are some suggestions for that:
#1. Scout Quora.com
Quora is a real goldmine of awesome topic ideas.
But the challenge with using Quora, however, is that you either need to have a question in mind and only use the site to validate it or browse through categories looking for inspiration.
And that’s hardly ideal if you ask me.
Luckily, there’s a better way – research Quora questions in Google.
Do it by using a search query like this one:
‘Topic – typically something relating to my client’s product” + “Their Audience” inurl:quora.com
“marketing automation” + “SMEs” inurl:quora.com
The search engine immediately retrieves Quora entries focusing on the topic and the audience.
Experiment with topics, be more specific or leave them broad, and you should quickly find problems your audience wants you to help them overcome.
#2. Use Buzzsumo
Buzzsumo is an incredible tool for gaining an insight into what content engages your audience.
(Worth to note: I’ve heard some privately shared opinions that often, the metrics the tool reports, albeit accurate, don’t paint the full picture as to how a particular piece actually performed. And true as these opinions might be, I still find Buzzsumo as a great place to start a deeper content research.)
So how does Buzzsumo work?
At its core, the tool allows you to research and assess the content’s popularity (measured by social shares) using different search methods:
You can identify content by a keyword, domain, or a combination of both.
And then, filter those results by date, content type, and many other factors.
(Note: Buzzsumo offers many other tools, i.e. influencer research. However, for the purpose of this article, I focus on the content research only).
Here’s a specific process you could use to research our clients’ target audiences needs and interests in Buzzsumo:
- Identify websites your audience frequents the most, and research their most popular content. Filter those results by date, first analyzing content for a longer period (i.e. a full year), and then, the most recent articles to spot potential trends.
To research domains in Buzzsumo, simply paste the domain into the search box.
- Research those domains again. This time, however, focus on content relating to your audience’s pain points. To do that, use the “domain.com your topic” query (note, without question marks.)
PRO TIP: You can use Buzzsumo to also research your competition. To do it, scout their domain to see what topics generate the highest engagement.
Limitations of this Approach
It’s worth to mention that the above strategy has its limitations. None of this should deter you from using it. However, it’s worth to keep them in mind.
Limitation no. 1. The inability to precisely define the audience. Even though you’re researching sites you know your audience reads, you cannot be sure as to who has really engaged with those popular posts. It might have been your audience. But the chances are that it was someone else.
Limitation no. 2. Potentially skewed metrics. As I already mentioned, metrics that Buzzsumo reports on may not paint the whole picture. For example, many people add RSS feeds from authority sites to their social media publishing tools, sharing their content on autopilot.
As said, none of these should stop you from using this approach. But it’s good to know about them.
#3. Survey Your Website Users
If your site already receives considerable traffic, then you can try suss out content ideas from people who visit it.
I’ve tried this strategy successfully with one client, and it allowed us to quickly identify additional topics to expand the strategy.
To use this strategy, install a simple survey widget (through Hotjar, for example), asking site visitors about their content needs.
My friends at Pixelter, for example, run this strategy right now.
And although, as John, the company’s CEO admit, they don’t get that many responses, the insight they do receive is invaluable.
Strategy #3. (The Hardest and Doesn’t Always Deliver Ideas That Are Specific Enough): Keyword Research
Let me start by clarifying this:
I’m NOT against keyword research.
Quite the contrary, in fact. I consider it a valuable strategy to ensure a post performs well in search and attracts relevant traffic.
And of course, we optimize every single post we create for relevant keywords.
But I never start the topic generation process with keyword research.
I believe that basing content ideas purely on keywords is an outdated approach, delivering hardly any useful results today.
Searchers no longer think in keywords. They focus on problems instead.
Just take a look at your search behavior. In the past, when searching for information, you’d focus on a specific phrase that was as closely related to what you’re looking for.
For example, if you needed suggestions for a CRM app, you’d type “CRM software” into Google.
But the way we search has changed:
- Today, we ask Google questions. And we expect to receive relevant answers, something that the search engine got incredibly good at providing, by the way.
- We include bits of information we want to know more about. And these could be anything from quotes to loose thoughts.
- We describe problems using our own words (worth to mention that thanks to RankBrain, Google can actually process those and still deliver relevant results).
Search isn’t the only channel we use to find information. Social media, sites like Quora or Reddit, online ads, and many other channels point us to articles worth noting. And what’s important, we pick the content we read based on its relevancy to our problems, not keywords.
And most importantly, we look for more specific information today. As searchers, we’ve learned that Google can answer our questions, and so, we rarely just look for something generic. Instead, we ask it for highly specific advice we need right now.
And needless to say, short tail keywords rarely deliver insight into what those particular problems are.
And yet, many companies still base their content ideation process on keyword research.
They find some relevant keywords, and then string a couple of words around them to form a title.
The problem with this approach, however, is that it doesn’t focus on the most important element that differentiates content from the competition – specificity.
As Benji points:
“The #1 reason why companies are failing to write compelling blog posts is because their topics aren’t specific enough.”
And personally, I believe one reason for that is starting with keywords as the main indicator of the post’s topic.
But hey, if you really must use keyword research, here’s a process I recommend you follow to ensure that you end up with generic content nobody wants to read:
Use tools like keywordtool.io to find keywords relevant to your pain points. Don’t get too obsessed with search volumes, instead, look for phrases that indicate a specific problem. For example:
Search for those keywords on sites like Quora to confirm that your audience actually has this problem or identify similar challenges you could help them overcome.
Finalize topics based on the actual problems you’ve identified. But of course, optimize the content for the keywords you’ve found.
Strategy #4. (Long-Term And Delivering Incredible Insights): Build Feedback Loops Into Your Marketing Communications
My very good friend, and a fantastic website copywriter, Alex Lee sends this email to anyone who signs up for his email list:
If you sign up for the Drift’s newsletter, you’ll receive the following email:
And if you join our newsletter, we’ll send you this:
Noticed something about those emails?
Yup. They all ask you to provide some insight about your challenges or business needs.
This strategy is called feedback loops, and although it typically delivers results in a long-term, it can provide you with an insane insight from your users.
Here, take a look at an example of a reply we got recently:
How do you create feedback loops?
Identify various touch points users and leads have with your brand and add relevant requests for feedback to them.
It’s that simple.
(Note: You can also listen to Benji Hyam explaining it in more depth in our interview with him below)