According to Gartner (August 2021), there is no stopping the growth of SaaS. In 2020, in the US, SaaS sales were over $120 million. 2021 is forecast at $145 million and 2022 is $172 million.
Software developers want their piece of that pie and there are many of them. Competition is intense. To succeed it is imperative that SaaS businesses have an optimized content marketing strategy and that's what we will explore in this article.
Before we begin, what is SaaS?
It's worth answering this question to ensure that we have a common understanding of the term. SaaS stands for Software as a Service and is a software delivery and licensing model where users buy a subscription to access a centrally hosted application (or suite of applications).
The beauty of this model is that users can use any device that has a web browser to access and use, which can be, very sophisticated software that may need substantial resources to run. They can often start using the SaaS product on one device and later continue their activity on another device by simply logging in.
The pandemic has had a large impact on how many companies function. Many employees were told to work from home and they needed systems that would facilitate that. SaaS products have had a major role in enabling and supporting home workers.
The flexibility of SaaS is so attractive that many organizations are moving away from traditional software in favor of them. Around 60% of businesses and individuals are making the decision to buy only web-based software products!
Next, we are going to look at some of the implications of the SaaS model on pricing and sales.
With traditional software, there was a one-off cost to purchase and it may have included some support updates. The price was expensive when compared to the SaaS model. In addition to the cost of the software, hardware that meets its minimum requirements is also needed.
The SaaS subscription typically has these advantages:
Any PC/laptop/tablet can usually be sufficient to use the product
Pricing is usually monthly (or longer-term if you want to get a discount) and is cheaper than traditional software
The cost of SaaS subscriptions are usually tax-deductible
Usability and Support
SaaS products are designed to be user-friendly and extremely easy to use and navigate. Because of this, many organizations that utilize SaaS solutions, no longer require their own IT support staff, this can be a huge saving to many businesses.
As a company's software requirements grow (or shrink), they can add or suspend SaaS seats with very little effort.
SaaS solutions are very flexible.
In contrast, with traditional software products, if a company is growing and needs more seats, it may need to invest in more hardware and software licenses. It shrinks, then it is saddled with unwanted capacity that can't easily be recouped.
These benefits give rise to the huge demand for SaaS products and likewise, where there's a demand, there are very many software companies competing to fill that demand.
It is a crowded marketplace which is why it is incredibly important to the success and survival of SaaS companies to develop a compelling marketing strategy.
Content Marketing Strategy for SaaS Companies
The SaaS solution space is extensive and varied with new products being added to the marketplace daily. There are enterprise-level services to manage customer relationships, there are video streaming platforms for the home, you name it, it exists but the first breakdown is that of B2B or B2C.
There are these parallel paths. SaaS companies first need to define their target audience so that they can carefully craft content marketing campaigns for their ideal clients. A B2B targeted marketing strategy wouldn't work well for a B2C audience.
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
This definition tells us precisely what we need to know.
The whole concept requires that we have valuablecontent. It must be of value to our target audience, it must be relevant to them, it must attract them.
Without this, a content marketing strategy will not work.
So, you need to:
Clearly define your audience
Find out what would be of value to them
Create that content on a consistent basis
Use that content to attract prospects and turn them into leads
Convert those leads into paying customers
But when we are looking at content marketing for Saas, we have an additional consideration. Unlike traditional marketing, our SaaS content strategy needs to encompass the need to ensure low churn, we need to ensure customer retention.
Now let's take a deep dive into how we can do that.
How to Create Killer SaaS Content Marketing?
As already stated, our content needs to be valuable, relevant and attractive. But we also need our prospective customers to read it, to engage with it, and to get value from it.
It is imperative that our content creation process generates insightful, thought-provoking material that demands to be read from start to finish.
To be of value, it doesn't just need to hold the reader's attention, it must inform, educate and assist the potential client in their quest - maybe they need a little more insight into how a particular technology works and would work for them before they make the decision to buy one company's solution over another's.
Sometimes they need to be given a plan, other times a checklist, provide the tools they need, something to make them remember you, your company, and your product.
Here are the steps to building a solid content marketing strategy:
Who is your target audience?
The most important information that you need for any effective marketing strategy is a clear understanding of your target audience.
What does that mean and why does it matter? Let's answer the 2nd part of that first.
A content marketing strategy that's designed for someone whose main motivation is to save money would need to be very different from one targeting people that have quality as their main motivation. Creating content for each of these groups would involve very different messaging.
Back to the first part of the question, understanding our audience means that we know what is important to them, we know what keeps them up at night, what their desires are.
We need to know who influences them, where they go for information and where they look for entertainment. We need a complete picture of our target audience.
In a SaaS content marketing strategy, we may have several disparate target audiences for our product, each requiring a separate marketing approach. We may need to create content for each group, with individual messaging for each.
What are their problems?
Potential customers don't just head to their browser in the morning and think, 'What SaaS product shall I buy today?'.
They are motivated by solving problems.
Your SaaS takes them from a less desirable state (where they are now) to a more desirable state. This transformation is what they are really buying.
With this in mind, create a list of all the problems your product solves. Identify pain points, consider your different target audiences, imagine scenarios that would be applicable to each.
A survey of existing customers could provide the insights that you need.
Your customer support and sales team may also offer relevant and specific input.
What messages resonate with them?
Different content types (a blog post, ads, podcasts, white papers, videos and email) can be employed to inform, attract and engage your prospective customers.
Each of these will need to contain messages that resonate with your audience.
Within a content marketing strategy, you'll need to identify these messages and use them in your content generation.
With so much of your content being provided online, it's important that it can be found by search engines and your prospects.
One of the first phases of search engine optimization is keyword research, understanding what someone would type into Google, to find a solution to their problem or to further investigate their problem.
If they are further along in their customer journey, they may be searching for comparisons, for example, google vs bing. They may be searching for reviews, or they may be searching for the best price.
So you need to build a list of keywords for prospects at each stage of the buying cycle.
Those target keywords need to be used when creating content for each of the phases.
Ideally, you'll create a brief that includes the keywords and messages for each piece of content. The brief can then be sent to a copywriting agency for research and creation.
Only create the best content
Just as you are, no doubt, proud of your products, your SaaS company should be proud of the content it publishes.
Your content marketing strategy should be underpinned by valuable content that is of the highest quality you can possibly produce. If you have in-house writers to create content, great, but if you don't, it's worth the expense of finding an agency that can research and produce the content you need.
You want your white papers, ads, etc to promote the right impression, the right brand awareness. Providing the best quality content for your prospects will increase trust and perceived authority in you. and these are both required if you are to take them from engaged readers to new customers.
Lead generation often employes the use of a landing page that sells a piece of content. The price is usually the prospect's email address, something highly prized but SaaS companies and not easily given to them.
Here the landing page copy has to be highly effective at selling the gated content (the lead magnet), it needs to use intrigue, sell the benefits that will come from the lead magnet, it must dangle a lovely, succulent carrot, that cannot be resisted by any passing rabbit.
This strategy enables us to generate leads without the need for outbound marketing.
Everything piece of copy you produce has to be well thought out, planned and executed. Only the best will do in the highly competitive SaaS industry.
Define your SaaS content marketing distribution strategy
There are many channels that you can use to reach your prospects. You will of identified those that work best for your ideal clients when you mapped out your target audiences.
Much of your informational content will be ideal blog post material. This type of distribution can form a part of your SEO strategy and will be perfect fodder for organic search.
You've already identified keywords that are now baked into the content, all that remains is for google to bring organic traffic to each blog post.
Marketing automation will play a key role in your SaaS marketing. It will allow you to move prospects through your sales funnel with a minimal amount of intervention.
When a prospect reads one of your blog posts, a pop-up or another automated mechanism can offer them a Free Download or some other gated content.
If they sign up for that, we get their email address and permission to market to them. They have moved from the initial engagement/awareness stage and have become a lead.
When we generate leads in this way, the next goal is to convert them into a subscriber of our SaaS product.
Often they are placed into an automated email sequence that continues to deliver value and shows our interest in them and our authority for our topic.
In this email sequence, we can point them to additional blog posts or another type of valuable resource that further cements our SaaS company in their minds.
Brand awareness over a period of time is critical in ensuring that they buy from us.
Thus far, we have considered content delivered in the form of a blog post, lead magnets and email sequence campaigns, but there are other essential elements in our overall marketing strategy.
We need to get prospects to come to our website, we need to fill the top of our sales funnel.
With an effective SEO campaign, plus enough time and patience, organic search will ensure the success of our SaaS content marketing.
But relying on organic traffic isn't always a wise approach (especially if you have low domain authority, like many new SaaS companies).
How much traffic you generate isn't within your direct control. It's like waiting for a rain shower, you don't know when exactly it will arrive or how heavy it will be.
Successful content marketing needs to consider other ways of bringing prospects to the sale funnel.
Advertising is one sure way, if you know your ideal clients are on LinkedIn, then that's where it makes sense to advertise.
If it's Facebook, then go there. If they all read a particular blog, then explore the advertising options available on that blog ... etc .. you get the picture.
With advertising, you have control. You can decide how many prospects you want when you want them and where you would like them to arrive on your website.
If using organic traffic was like a rain shower, then paid advertising is like a fire hose, controllable, directable, and dependable.
Create a Quality Process
Most SaaS companies codify their best practices through SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). These enable scalability whilst also allowing quality to be maintained.
You should develop an SOP for content generation. One that ensures that nothing is missed and that quality is at the heart of each step of the process.
Your next SOP should cover content distribution. Your content marketing efforts may all be wasted without having this in place.
Learn from the competition
Whilst there are accepted practices for success, SaaS content marketing isn't a science but more of an art.
You may choose to develop content that covers particular customer pain points, but your completion may have taken another approach. Does their approach seem to be working better than yours? Why not get your marketing team to try out something similar to test if it's effective.
What does success look like?
You've implemented your SaaS content marketing strategy, but how do you measure its success? What are your key performance indicators?
Some measurements of success will be easy to identify and easy to measure.
I want 100 free trials per month.
I want to convert 25% of free trials to paid plans
I want a churn rate <5%
Those may be some of the most important KPIs by which to measure the effectiveness of your content strategy, but you might want to look at a few others.
For example, you may see value in measuring how engaging a piece of content was, how many people interacted with your advert and then visited your website.
How many prospects that received one lead magnet rather than another, converted into a free trial.
Looking at the effectiveness of resources used to generate leads, drive brand awareness and other finer details of your SaaS content marketing need specialized tools to collect and analyze information.
Free tools to assist with this are Google Tag Manager (records events on your website), Google Analytics (stores the events), and Google Data Studio (creates reports and charts). These tools, work together to provide comprehensive data and analysis.
Study the data and Optimize
As mentioned earlier, deploying and developing a content strategy is more of an art than a science, however, that it is still something that we can take a scientific (or engineering) approach to refine.
Search engine optimization is an area where you can iteratively improve results although you may make a change and then wait several weeks or months to see a result.
There are areas of your SaaS content marketing that can be tested and optimized in a much shorter optimization cycle.
A/B testing, if you're not familiar with it, is where for a given interaction with a prospect, you deliver content piece A or piece B. You track the results of the engagement and collate a result showing if you observed a difference in positive engagement, conversions, click-throughs, etc.
This type of testing is easy to deploy and can yield significant improvements to the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. On a landing page, you can see if a blue or a pink button is more effective in generating leads. You can try different ad copy and measure their performance. You can see which images on a web page have the best results. Almost everything can be tested with an A/B test.
Never stop measuring, testing, and optimizing.
Content Marketing Tools
Tools cannot replace a stellar content marketing strategy and a talented team of experienced individuals, but they can help with the management, speed of development and deployment.
There are a bazillion tools available for content marketers, CMSs, content ideation, project management, market research, AI to write content, UI analysis, etc.
So which tools should you start with when deploying your SaaS content marketing strategy?
Yes, WordPress. It's the most widely used CMS in the universe (we don't know of any other life forms in the universe using CMSs!). According to NVisage Digital, in 2021, WordPress powers 37% of all websites on the internet.
Why? WordPress isn't perfect, but it is easily extended and modified. You can quickly deploy an online presence that looks and feels just how you want it. Publishing content is a breeze. There are plugins for A/B testing, extensions to test how web pages are interacted with.
WordPress is scalable and can be used for simple brochure sites through to complex e-commerce and membership sites.
WordPress is the go-to CMS and you should definitely consider using it.
Google Docs, Sheets, and the whole Google Workspace
Google Workspace with its suite of applications the perfect playground in which to develop your content marketing. Collaboration is designed into Workspace, you can work on your marketing projects from almost anywhere with an internet connection and with just about any device!
Google Docs is a marvel. The perfect place to create article drafts, collect comments and allow edits. It integrates with Grammarly and Surfer SEO., what more could you want?
This is a must-have for everyone in the content marketing business.
Don't question whether or not you really need it. Just buy a subscription and get your team to use it on everything they write.
BuzzSumo is an excellent partner for every content marketer. Use BuzzSumo as part of your content research process, it will help you understand what content performs best for a topic or competitor.
It can provide metrics such as backlinks, social shares, and even the influencers doing the sharing.
Another must-have tool. Don't even start creating content without this tool and don't ask how much it costs, just buy it.
If you want your content to appear in the organic search results, you need Surfer SEO.
Surfer helps you go from a keyword idea, through to keyword cluster generation, competitive analysis and then creates a copywriting brief for the required document.
But it doesn't stop there. Surfer SEO helps you understand how to structure a document that can succeed in the SEO stakes.
Whatever your marketing budget, make sure this tool is at the top of your list - you can't produce cost-effective, SEO content marketing without it.
Content without images is like a hotdog without the onions and sauce, so that's where The Stocks comes to the rescue.
thestocks.im is a website that brings together photographs, color tools, icons, video and font selection.
Just remember this site when making the next piece for your content marketing, and you'll be able to navigate to just what you need from paid images through to Pixabay and Unsplash.
One of the most popular UX analytics tools is HotJar.
This tool can help you understand how a prospect looks at your web pages. How they interact, where they spend their time, where they move their mouse and hover.
If you want to get some real-world feedback on a landing page or another piece of content, take a look at Usability Hub. They have real people that provide feedback to help you make better design decisions before you put your new content into the public domain.
Traditional software is disappearing, SaaS is the new normal. That's right, SaaS is the norm, its benefits are winning the battle, traditional software didn't stand a chance except for in a few niche areas.
With the huge increase in SaaS companies comes intense competition to survive and prosper.
Without successful content marketing, SaaS companies will fail.
If you want your SaaS company to grow, gain clients and succeed, and if you want this through an automated marketing system, then get in touch to see how Graphene Digital can help you.
Most businesses lack the time and expertise to build a marketing system that gets results. At Graphene Digital we will build you an amazing digital marketing system at an affordable price so you can get more leads that turn into customers.