I have never seen content marketing fail in terms of ROI, branding and thought leadership, given enough time and being done consistently. Even mediocre attempts can work pretty well.
There are a ton of content marketing strategies and tactics, both advanced and basic ones. To keep things simple in this post, let’s assume you are a 20-50 people SaaS business and let’s discuss about basic and important ways to get the most out of your content marketing efforts.
I am sure you know what customer personas are and who you are targeting as a business.
But. As I hinted in my answer on GH, it’s good to check your customers every 6-12 months and challenge your assumptions.
I would set standard dates to do this. I am willing to bet $100 that if you haven’t dug into your customers for over 12 months, you will be intrigued by what you will find.
Ideally you will have written down, in some form, what your customer personas are and what characteristics they share. But, ideal is not the same as real world, right?
So, at the worst case, we simply need to dig into our customer database and try to answer the following questions mentally:
- What kind of industries bring the most revenue?
- What types of businesses?
- Who is the final decision maker and who has influence over the decision (our best guess)
The answers to these questions will help you both with content marketing and with what to talk about. They might also influence your product roadmap.
But, what if you are targeting medium businesses and/or enterprises?
Well, the more enterprise you go, the more complex it gets and from what I have seen, you can never be 100% sure of your personas. The reason for that is that many departments and influencers have to approve the decision.
So, take a best guess, test and reiterate!
Ok we know who we are targeting but what content should we produce and more importantly how?
Now that we know who we are targeting, we can learn what they are interested in. We can visit their favorite blogs, publications, Quora and check their influencers and who they follow on Twitter to get a better grasp of what they want to hear about. Reddit can also be a good source of ideas.
Then, if we want to have a constant stream of content ideas we can monitor those puclications’ RSS feed and subscribe to their newsletters. To avoid getting your inbox flooded, you can filter all those newsletters to skip inbox and label them as “content” or something similar.
Regarding what content to produce, as I have said in my previous blog post, I would start with case studies, move on to blog posts and maybe later whitepapers.
Wondering how to produce high quality, insightful and relevant content?
Here are some ideas:
1) Find influential writers or journalists in the space and pay them to write for you
2) If you have an industry expert in your team, convince her to write a weekly or a biweekly blog post. Convincing her might include paying her extra and/or letting her know that she will improve her personal branding
3) Throw a job ad at Problogger’s job board
You will want to find writers who have at least some experience in the field. Otherwise, you might end up having writers researching a topic and regurgitating same old stuff, perhaps with a twist.
It’s not bad content, it’s average. And average doesn’t get you exceptional results.
Now, of course most companies do it like this with non-expert in the field writers (that’s the definition of average anyway), so don’t feel bad if you do it. Just explore adding perhaps a semi-influential writer in the mix and see how she performs.
From my experience, these writers tend to get more views and shares, regardless of if they promote the content they write for you or not. Of course views and shares are a proxy to success and they are not actionable metrics, but you get some insights.
Content Marketing and SEO Related Keyword Topics
Content marketing can and should go hand-in-hand with SEO. First of all, you must make sure you are covering keywords and search queries tightly related to your SaaS. These might include “what is so-and-so software”, “how to solve x problem (that your software is solving)” etc.
Of course, make sure these searches have some search volume.
Optimizing specific post titles and their bodies and the like for maximum SEO results is also a sound procedure. I don’t want to dive into the nitty-gritty of search engine optimization, but you get the picture.
Now, these topics and blog posts are the core of your content marketing, or rather the foundation. You have to have them to do some basic education to your target audience, help them improve professionally and ultimately convert some of them to users of your SaaS. If this content is much better than your competitors’ content, it will give you an edge when you promote it and it will rank easier.
However, this foundation is not enough. To establish thought leadership and separate your SaaS from the competition, you will also need to talk about topics that your audience isn’t searching for, because they haven’t thought about them yet!
To craft such content you need someone who is truly experienced in the field to tap into and share insights and experiences that your competition’s content writers won’t know, due to lack of experience!
This content probably won’t be found through search engines, since the industry won’t know about it to search it, but later in the article, at Distribution Channels, I will talk about how to get it in front of the right eyes.
So, your content topics should be a mix of your writer’s suggestions, industry expert’s suggestions and SEO keywords/search queries.
Isn’t it truly odd that there is so much talk about content creation and promotion, but hardly anything about readability?
Content needs to be consumed, or at least get the main idea across, otherwise it’s no use.
I will give you some tips I have used to increase readability in my blogs. My articles on WeeklyGrowth are being read fully by 1 out of 3 visitors on average, which is pretty good.
i) Write short paragraphs, max 3-4 lines and avoid lengthy sentences. Use headings, sub-headings, bullet points and lists when appropriate. Use bold, italics and underline appropriately.
ii) Care for aesthetics and your web design. It must be clear, professional, modern, with a white background, black letters, a 14-16 sized font for easy reading and a font that is easier to read like Arial, Open Sans or something similar.
iii) Reduce friction and distractions, without eliminating them; be strategic. Have a few call to actions, cleverly targeted and placed. Then A/B test them.
iv) Be yourself and write conversationally. Noone reads academic-like content. Ideally, you will be a little bit entertaining from time to time, but more importantly be yourself. Write like you talk, so it comes from within and doesn’t feel forced or fake.
v) Use SumoMe to track your content’s readability, try to improve it, find your most read content and try to identify why it is being read more than the rest.
Content Distribution Channels
Content distribution channels are vital for spreading your content and getting it in front of your target audience. The basic ones are Social Media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
You can take it a level higher by allocating a small amount per day for the promotion of that week’s blog post, through social media ads (no goal tracked). Yes, without tracking it. In my opinion, some level of serendipity is good to have.
— Alex Chaidaroglou (@AChaidaroglou) January 5, 2016
Slightly more advanced channels are industry specific aggregators and communities (for example GrowthHackers.com), specific groups, forums and content syndication. Content syndication is a bit tricky, but this post should help you decide on whether you want to go down that route or not.
To sum it up, content marketing simply works, it’s the truth. It needs time (like any skill) to hone it, get better at it and see results. It’s a long term strategy that by following the above guidelines, promoting it and breaking through the noise through knowledge and expertise that only you possess, can bring inbound leads for a long time to come.
What are your experiences with content marketing in SaaS?
Let me know in the comments below!