Are you considering using content marketing to grow your SaaS? Heard so many other SaaS brands praising content, and now, you’re wondering how you could be using content marketing to promote your product too?
YOU KNOW, IT’S AN UNDISPUTABLE FACT: All of the biggest SaaS brands use the content as the biggest part of their marketing efforts.
There really are no exceptions.
Pick a major SaaS brand, visit their site, and you’ll see it:
Plenty of blog posts, long-form content, case studies, courses, and other pieces of content that help the brand position itself along the customer journey, engage its target audience and boost free trial signups.
Analyze their marketing efforts, and you’ll be able to trace a big chunk of their growth back to content too.
This guide will show you how to do the same.
You’ll learn how to use content marketing to get your SaaS found online, connect with potential customers, and generate more leads. We’ll also discuss developing a SaaS content marketing strategy and go through some tools to help you get it done.
But there’s something else that we need to cover first…
Why does your SaaS need content marketing in the first place?
There are so many other SaaS marketing channels, after all…
There’s PR, email marketing, search engine optimization, PPC advertising, and so much more. With that, do you really need to create content to boost growth as well, then?
(Although, I admit that, as a founder of a boutique content marketing agency for SaaS, I might sound a bit biased saying the above. Well, I am not, and let me convince you to that.)
First of all, content allows you to be where your potential customers are as they research their problems. You can journey with them, offering advice and guidance, and connect with them so that it is you they know, trust, and like when they’re ready to buy.
Naturally, you could achieve a similar effect with PPC ads too. The thing is – Doing so would come at a much higher cost. You have to pay to keep those ads live continuously, and the cost is often quite steep. Most commercial keywords SaaS companies would have to use cost an arm and a leg today per click. Here’s just one example:
Content, on the other hand, requires zero payment to keep it accessible and ranking. Sure, there are costs associated with content creation and distribution. However, these are often incomparably lower (especially if calculated over time.)
Plus, let’s face it, ads lack the authority factor. You do place them to get sales, after all, and customers know that.
Content allows you to connect and sell without being sales-y, too. In fact, with content, you can approach and build a strong relationship with a potential customer without indicating commercial intent behind your actions.
Just think about what happens when you publish content. Assuming that you did a good job, the content is worth reading, and optimized well for SEO, your potential customers will find it. They might see it shared on social media or come across your page when they google for information or advice.
- If they like it and feel they got value from it, they’ll remember it. So these people might come back for more too.
- Because they remember it, they will be more likely to click on your pages next time they google information (or scroll their social media feeds.)
- All this exposure to your content results in trust and connects you with the person.
- When they’re ready to buy, your software will be the obvious choice.
That’s precisely how content fuels growth for the majority of SaaS companies. But don’t take my word for it; consider the evidence given by these founders:
“Content has been paramount to Castos’ success. We’ve been investing heavily into SEO-driven content from day one, and it paid off. As a result, our pages now attract a relevant audience from search engines and convert many of those visitors into signups.”
Craig Hewitt, CEO, Castos.com
“At Refiner, content is one of the major drivers of growth. We started investing in SEO content early on and are really happy with the strategic decision we took. Today, most of our converting traffic comes from organic search results, and we see a strong correlation between rankings and our business performance.”
Moritz Dausinger, CEO, Refiner.io
Now, I have to be upfront here – Such results don’t happen by themselves. Publishing great content might get you somewhere, of course. However, the chances are that it’s not going to be exactly where you’d hoped to get.
Why? Because there’s a trick to SaaS content marketing. To win, you must write about what your audience wants to read (which doesn’t often align with what you might want to talk about.) Your content should help them alleviate pain points, solve challenges, or offer guidance. When that happens, your content assists and accompanies customers along the entire buyer’s journey – from the initial problem research to evaluating alternative solutions – it becomes memorable. It builds that trust and confidence in your brand.
Here’s everything you need to know to make it happen.
What makes a perfect SaaS content marketing strategy
Look, contrary to what you might have read online – The most important element of your content marketing is the strategy.
(That’s the main reason why 60% of the brands that are most successful with content have a strategy, compared to only 21% of the least successful.)
You see, strategy is the roadmap outlining how you plan to be reaching your goals with content and SEO and includes a detailed plan for how you’re going to make it happen.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell.
- The perfect content marketing strategy for SaaS starts with thorough research to understand your target audience.
- You have to know how the people you want to attract to your SaaS search for information online – what information they seek and what phrases they use while searching for it.
- Based on that research, you build a plan and layout a content calendar for your marketing team.
- Then, you create content that matches the SERP intent to build search visibility.
- The last element focuses on the content’s performance. That’s when you use the data to evaluate how well you’re doing and what next steps you should be taking.
In total, the SaaS content marketing includes eight separate elements:
- Conducting target audience research
- Pain points analysis
- Keyword research and analysis
- Setting goals for the strategy
- Developing a content calendar to guide the content production
- Content creation
- Content distribution and promotion, and finally,
- Results and performance tracking
But here’s the thing – Each of these elements is unique and focuses on a separate aspect of the content strategy. And as cliche, as it may sound, it’s true that if you get even one of them wrong, your strategy might flop.
That’s why, when working on any of the elements above, you must keep certain best practices in mind:
Target Audience Research
There are two ways to research the target audience (only one of them works, though):
- You can construct an imaginary buyer persona that will act as the representation of your target audience, or
- Use real people, your ideal customers, to understand what information they need and how they search for it.
(And it’s option no.2 that works, by the way.)
Target audience research aims to understand the characteristics of the people you want to reach and attract with content. You can do that by looking at either your existing best customers or people whom you’d like to use your app and answer certain questions about them:
- What is your ideal buyer’s age?
- What is their income level?
- What’s their industry?
- What is their role in the company?
- How do they research information, typically?
Naturally, use the list above only as a basis for your checklist. Then, customize those questions, and add other elements, if needed.
TIP: Don’t automatically assume that you have to target the highest role in the company. Sure, reaching out to the C-level might seem like a great idea. But unless these are the people who initiate the purchase of software like yours in their company, targeting them is a missed opportunity.
When researching the target audience, focus on the very people who face the challenge your product helps overcome. They might not seem as lucrative an audience as the C-suite, but they will be the people who will bring the idea of using your solution to their companies.
Pain Point Analysis
Target audience research helps you understand whom you want to attract with content.
Pain point analysis takes it one step further and uncovers what you need to write about to connect with those people.
Your audience’s pain points are nothing else but factors that motivate their buying behavior. These are the problems they experience that your SaaS product can help them eliminate.
But, pain points for content strategy go beyond just the primary use case for your product. Most customers would experience other, associated pain points, and you should also create content on those topics.
Quick example – Let’s assume that you run email marketing software. Naturally, you will write about topics associated with the primary problem – Building an email list, and increasing sales with email marketing.
But what about email onboarding? Transactional emails? Various aspects of generating leads from website visitors? Although perhaps not immediately related to your product, these topics fall within the common pain points a potential customer might experience.
To uncover specific topics for your strategy, you need two things: 1.) A list of pain points and audience’s interests, and 2.) keyword research.
We’ve covered the pain points above. Let’s chat briefly about finding keywords to target, then.
Keyword research is a process during which you associate pain points with specific phrases that customers use when googling their problems online.
For the content marketing strategy, you focus keyword research on the top and the middle of the funnel (because the bottom is all about commercial phrases, basically.) Here’s how the typical breakdown of phrases for different stages of the funnel looks like:
- Top of the Funnel: High-level topics with informational intent. The goal for targeting these keywords is to position your brand at the start of the buyer’s journey, attract potential customers to your site, offer value, and introduce your brand to them. Example: Email subject lines.
- Middle of the Funnel: Keywords with transactional intent, aimed at people who have an intention to buy but haven’t zeroed on any specific SaaS product yet. Example: best email marketing software.
- Bottom of the Funnel: Keywords with commercial intent used by people ready to purchase your product. Example: branded keywords.
(A QUICK NOTE: For more detailed information on this topic, visit my guide to keyword research for SaaS.)
I guess this goes without saying – Your strategy will never work unless you clearly define what you want to get out of it. What’s more, your goals should reflect where your business is right now and the current state of your marketing efforts.
For example, if you haven’t done any SEO or content marketing, aiming to increase signups right away might be premature. Instead, you first must establish the brand as an authority in your space, build search visibility, and only then focus on generating leads.
But if you have been marketing the business for a while, and enjoy reasonable organic traffic, going directly for the signups is a great goal.
Once you have goals defined, decide what metrics and KPIs will best indicate progress.
The most common content strategy metrics for SaaS include:
- Free trial registrations or demo requests
- Growth of organic traffic month over month and year over year
- Rankings (particularly if you’ve only started positioning your brand in the search results.)
That said, you can measure other aspects of the strategy – email list growth, engagement metrics, and more.
Developing a Content Calendar
Developing the calendar is probably, one of the most challenging aspects of the content strategy.
Why? Because most brands only launching their content efforts try to do too much at once. So they stuff the calendar with all the ideas and keywords, only to realize quickly that they can’t support such a production schedule internally.
So, they give up.
The trick? Your content calendar should be as realistic as possible, even if you use an external content production agency.
Even if someone else creates your content, you still need to review the content, publishing, and promotion.
The calendar should outline your realistic publishing schedule with all the information about each piece to make creating and managing content production a breeze.
Some of the information I recommend you include on the calendar (for each piece) includes:
- Topic cluster
- Suggested title
- Status (i.e., scheduled, in production, published.)
- Primary keyword
- Search intent
- Suggested format
- Minimum length
- Suggested URL
- Conversion strategy
- Similar content to outrank
- Publication date
- Person responsible
Writing the Content
You can approach this element in two ways:
- Create all the content in-house, or
- Outsource the content creation process.
The approach you take will affect how you proceed with this step.
If you’re creating all the content in-house, you will need to define the content writing process:
- How you research information for each piece,
- Who is responsible for various aspects of content writing,
- Instill creation and editing guidelines to follow,
- Create processes for submitting the content to your CMS, final checks, SEO optimization, and publication.
If you plan to use a content writing agency, you won’t have to worry about the first 2-3 elements on the list above. The agency will have internal processes for researching and creating content. Its editors will also ensure that the quality meets your expectations, and an SEO strategist will optimize the content for publication.
Many agencies like ours will also submit the content to your CMS, leaving you with one thing to do only – the final check and publication.
FACT: SEO is the primary driver of traffic for SaaS companies doing content well. It’s not the only one, though, and you need a plan for promoting each piece to your audience.
Content distribution aims to ensure that your blog posts and other content reach the target audience initially. SEO takes time to deliver rankings and results; even if you’re an established brand, it’s important to have some strategy to put the content in front of potential readers.
Some of the most common content promotion strategies include:
- Sending email blasts about new content
- Social media promotion
- Other paid promotion strategies
- Content syndication, blogging partnerships, and more.
Look, let’s not beat around the bush here – Not all of your content will succeed on the first try. Some pages, although well-written, will fail to rank immediately. Some of it is because your site might yet lack the authority to push content to page one.
But it might also be that the content needs further work to rank better, and your best way to find that out is by measuring the content’s performance.
This element of the strategy ties up with something we’ve discussed earlier – defining your goals and metrics you’re going to use to measure progress.
Once the strategy launches, create a content dashboard (or use a spreadsheet where you’ll import the data) to track how each piece performs and the overall effect of the strategy on the business.
A QUICK NOTE: Don’t expect overnight results. Both content and SEO (which, in SaaS, are quite inseparable) take time to start bringing traffic and positively contributing to the bottom line.
Also, often, even when you get the traffic, the results might not be as good as you’d hoped for. In such a case, you might need to experiment with different ways to converting your traffic.
What tools to use to plan and deliver the strategy?
I get asked this question a lot. Well, it makes sense. It’s near impossible to collect all the data for the strategy and the content and then measure its performance without the help of various tools.
But with so many content marketing tools on the market, which ones to choose?
Well, here’s a no BS list of content marketing tools for SaaS:
- SEMrush – fantastic digital marketing suite that, among other features, includes great content marketing tools, keyword research suite, and more.
- Mangools – another suite of tools for research and analysis. My fav – SERPchecker, a brilliant tool for evaluating the SERP intent.
- YoastSEO – fantastic SEO plugin for WordPress. A must-have if your site is on WP.
- Screaming Frog SEO – without a doubt, the best SEO website crawler on the market.
- Google Docs – for writing, obviously 🙂
- Trello – content production planning and management
- SEO Content Template – A tool from within the SEMrush suite that does a lot of research and SERP intent analysis for you.
- WordPress – absolutely the best content management system for startups.
- ThriveLeads – brilliant WP plugin for placing various types of calls to action in your content, including lead magnets, signups, and more.
- WisePops – fantastic popup builder
- Social Intents – a live chat that connects to your Slack directly. Converse and convert readers without leaving Slack.
- Any rank tracker – really, any will do.
- Google Analytics – for comprehensive performance monitoring
- Google Search Console – for keeping an eye on your search performance, specifically
- AgencyAnalytics – great dashboard tool allowing you to bring all various data together and create actionable reports.
And that’s it.
Need help with your SaaS content marketing? We help SaaS brands get found online, increase traffic, and get more leads, and we would be delighted to discuss how we could help you as well.
About the Author
Pawel Grabowski is the founder, SEO strategist, and principal content creator at Smashing Copy.
Pawel specializes in building roadmaps that help our clients deliver more targeted organic traffic and website conversions. He also creates and optimizes our clients’ content and has been known for being able to breathe new life and rankings into any old content asset.