Software as a Service or SaaS is a concept that has evolved considerably during the last decade and it continues to develop. Basically, the term refers to a software or a software suite developed by a company and made available to their customers over the Internet, as a web-based application.
Why is SaaS popular now, more than ever? There are two reasons for that. First, we have the speed of the Internet which has become something common regardless of the connected device. Secondly, we have the increasing computing powers of the desktop and mobile devices, and access to cheap and accessible hardware.
Demand leads to competition
If you are a marketer that works for a SaaS company or for an agency that was hired by a similar company to help them increase awareness and sales, the first thing you need to acknowledge is the fact that you will have to face considerable competition. And, that will be a fierce competition triggered by the cold war generated by the demand. People got used with SaaS in their daily lives and they have assigned an increased number of their daily tasks to web apps. They depend on them and they are always searching for new ways to expedite their duties and make them more efficient. Moreover, according to this article, by 2022, companies will be running on SaaS applications for at least 86% of their tasks.
Popularity and demand have led to the development of thousands of new applications and this is only the beginning. More and more apps are being released on a monthly basis and they all have to face the competition created by those who were already established on the market. I am referring to those who were already there, reaping the fruits of success.
In order to promote a startup product or to increase sales and awareness on an existing one, you will have to adapt your marketing strategy to the audience and come up with something of value to convince them to switch to your app.
With this article, I am going to focus on a single aspect of the marketing process. We’re going to discuss the content marketing strategy.
Why content marketing?
I know, there are a lot of strategies, each of them already proven to be effective. Content marketing, on the other hand, is a solid marketing strategy in itself, whereas it is connected to all the other existing strategies through the creative process. Advertising depends on texts and images, two types of content. Video and audio TV/Radio spots are also types of content. Native advertising, even more, is based on content as a value added to the audience.
Everything is content related and content is everything in marketing.
Behind the obvious fact we’ve already mentioned above, there are also the facts that are backed up by the latest stats of the industry. Content marketing converts and it is doing it quite well considering the minimal investments and resources required in order to engage in such a strategy.
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According to a report published by Adobe, 61% of the consumers are open to the idea of being contacted by brands via email campaigns. However, most of them would want to see a change in the paradigm and get less information about promotions and sales and more real information.
Moreover, when it comes to young audiences, we’ve learned that 84% of Millenials don’t trust traditional ads. People want to see, hear and read real content from brands and companies instead. They want to get informed about what they are paying for before making an actual purchase. And, this is quite a normal behavior considering that the Internet has facilitated our access to information while social media made it easier to connect with peers and harder to lie about your business or hide your products’ flaws.
Therefore, now that we know how important content is, how do you engage in effective SaaS content marketing?
1. Do your research
Every good content marketing strategy starts with a research session. You need to know who you are, what you are supposed to do and of course, to whom you are addressing your message.
The first thing to do? Start with your competition. Analyze what they do and how they do it. Analyze the type of content they publish and the media they use for the publication. And, if you need some inspiration, you can start with this list that puts together some of the best examples in branded content marketing.
The second important thing is to learn more about your audience. Maybe, if you are just starting, you don’t even have an actual audience. Look, however, to the potential. Most likely, they will be people with the same interests as your customers. So, start with your customers and address the following questions:
Who is my software for?
What type of work is it good for?
Once you know the answers, you already know your audience and what type of content is suitable for them.
My advice is to try and consider all stages of the acquisition process. Start by generating awareness and move slowly towards customer acquisition and retention.
2. Start with your website/blog
Since we are talking about SaaS here, the existence of a company website is already implied. Due to the fact that your services are available online, the website has two major destinations here. First, it provides your customer with the framework for the software they use and secondly, it acts as an identity card for your company as well. In many ways, it is your window to the world. Also, a blog would make a great addition and I will explain my reasons in the following paragraphs.
The website and the blog. They are tied together and still, very different in every aspect. The website should encompass information about the software you are promoting, access for users, explaining visuals and if there are any… testimonials and third-party reviews as proof of quality and efficiency.
The blog, on the other hand, is where actual content marketing is happening. If you have enough patience to stay with us until the end, you’ll see that all the examples I am going to use throughout the article are engaged in some way or another in content marketing. And, they are all using their blogs as the main platform for it.
Types of content suitable for a blog focused on content marketing:
● Informative articles. Write about your industry, other similar or relevant industries, topics that seem to be appropriate and valuable for your target audience.
● Introduce your audience to the software you have developed and launched on the main website. Write tutorials, Tips, and Tricks based articles etc.
● Publish studies and reports relevant to your industry. They will attract a lot of readers and at the same time, a lot of backlinks. Other bloggers and content marketers will cite your numbers and your findings. Here’s an example from Wave. Their reports are not only informative but also accurate and thoroughly researched. And, they are a source of information not only to their readers but also for other bloggers as well.
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There is also another possible turnout. You can build a personal brand with a personal blog and later, add a SaaS or an entire suite to the scene. In this case, your content marketing continues to focus on personal brand and the software adds something of value to the audience, complementing your blog.
TIP: Consider guest blogging as well. Find blogs from your industry or from adjacent relevant industries and find out who allow guest posting. It’s usually free and it will get you in touch with a wider audience with minimal effort.
There are 3 types of content distribution: owned, earned and paid. The first two, which are free, are easily accessible via blogs and websites. Your blog and your main social media channels are what we consider as owned content distribution channels while all the backlinks and quotations you get via guest blogging qualify as earned content distribution channel.
Also, if your blog posts are really valuable and informative, other backlinks from third party blogs will follow. They will also qualify as earned media.
3. Use social media
Blogging is great because you get to publish whatever you like, on your own platform, on your own terms and wait for people to follow you, read you and register for your services. This is always a good strategy but it may not be enough. Sometimes, you need to go where your audience is and this is where social media comes into place.
This is where you will find your fans and customers and be able to engage with them for real.
This is where content marketing meets communication and public relations.
What social media channel is the best?
Well, this question can be answered only after you have carefully examined and researched your community. It may be helpful to include social media share buttons on your blog and count how many shares you get on each platform. Yeah, you can start from this point and adapt later to future changes triggered by shifts in social media trends and the release of new channels.
On social media, you can contribute to your audience with several types of content. Here’s a list of the most common types available today:
● Regular posts. Images, graphs, statuses etc. They are the backbone of any social media network and as of consequence, they should be your main focus.
● Links from your blog posts and other relevant articles for your audience. Here, you need to tread carefully and try not to over-promote yourself. Keep your balance.
● Comments, direct messages, group posts etc. They are not content marketing per se but they can add value to your overall strategies by showing you are there, you have a voice and, that you are able to help those in need with useful information, hints, and advice. Also, it is important to always respond to customers’ questions and, - if it is the case – to their complaints.
Here’s an example of a SaaS company can use social media for content marketing.
This one comes from Trello and focuses on providing valuable information for a specific segment of their audience/clients:
Another good example comes from Kissmetrics, a company that uses social media to post behind the scenes images and other relevant and inspiring visuals:
4. Use plenty of visuals
Visuals are and should be an important part of your content marketing strategy. 80% of marketers use them already. Why? Well, paired with informative and valuable text, images will make it easier for you to attract and entertain audiences. Plus, consider the fact that images are able to trigger emotions and convey messages faster than anything, since the eye needs only a second to understand them, compared to the audio or the text.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is to make sure you have at least an image on every single page of your blog.
Now, what about them? What kinds of images and other types of related visuals do you need?
Well, it depends on the type of content. Whenever you write about your software or other types of software, the most relevant visuals are the screenshots. You can write about some of the most important steps of using software but people will more likely understand your text better if you also show them, visually, how to work with it.
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You can also pair your blog posts with stock images if there is no other type of visual suited for your pieces.
On social media, on the other hand, you will have to work even more considering that these channels, are mostly based on visuals and the text input is limited. You need to attract your audience with images and hey will become as a consequence, your main type of content.
Creativity is therefore essential.
Here are a few examples of different types of visual-based content on social media, suitable for a SaaS content marketer:
When it comes to creative ways in which to attract visually, the sky is the limit. The next example, from Dropbox, comprises of a series of images that put together, take the shape of a single, larger image. It brings to the table attractive visuals, attractive colors and most of all, the power of anticipation. This is essential for user retention:
The next example comes from Google and it shows us the power of strong visuals combined with useful tutorial and tips in video and static format.
Also, notice the header image:
Finally, Shopify shows us how to use attractive, inspirational visuals, to attract fans on social media:
Creativity is not the only factor, however.
As you can see above, there is yet another factor that needs to be taken into account. I am referring to the professional look of your designs.
Considering that you want your customers to value your work, you need to show them that you are consistent in adding that value to the market. You need to show them that you are professional and that everything related to your brand is top notch.
As a content marketer, you may not have professional knowledge in visual design. Or, in the beginning, you won’t have a budget to hire a professional designer. Is there a way out of this?
Well, of course, there is and the way out is provided by other SaaS businesses such as Adobe, Bannersnack or Fotor. Lately, I have worked more with Bannersnack because it allows me to create full sets of visuals for all major social media channels based on the same photos and texts. It really helps me expedite my work and focus on other important things in the new gained free time.
I’d recommend such tools because they are specially designed to be used by all professionals, regardless of their background. You can compete with some of the best designers in the world and still have limited experience in that field.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of search engines
A lot of your audience will come from search engines. Actually, 39% of the web’s total traffic comes from organic search. This proves that SEO should be an important part of your content marketing strategy.
As of consequence, you need to include keyword research in your strategy and start with it whenever you research a topic for your blog. Based on your findings and on the latest trends, you should construct your articles with “position zero” in mind. Not all your pieces will qualify for this position but those who do will get you a lot of traffic.
What is position zero?
Well… this is:
Also known as a featured snippet, position zero places your content above anything else on the results page of Google’s search engine. If you want to learn more about how to qualify for this position, you can check out this guide.
Moreover, you should also think about optimizing your content for audio search in order to rank better in search engines. 20% of Google searches are voice searches nowadays and if you take them into account, it is easy to realize that they can get you a lot of traffic with minimal effort. All you need is a fast website, valuable well-written content and of course, answers to questions people ask the search engines regarding the topics you write about.
Google also values the relevant backlinks to your website or blog and your overall ranking will depend on that. Therefore, focus on the quality of your content and on thoroughly researching what you write about in order to generate backlinks from your peers and fans.
In order to generate more valuable backlinks, you can also publish research papers and original stats and reports. They are more likely to be picked by peers and get quoted and cited on other relevant blogs and websites as a reference.
Free EBooks and contests are also a great source of backlinks if you manage to get the word out there about your offers. And, don’t forget about reviews and testimonials which are easy to get if your services are great and your communication skills according to the demands of your audience.
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6. Embrace different types of media
Content marketing is not all about blogging and social media. There are other forms of content you can benefit from such as:
● Video. More likely, you will create video clips with your app in action, tutorials, and guides for your users. You can publish some of them on your website but you can also share them on your social media channels and of course, on video streaming platforms. You can learn a lot from Ahrefs in this case, a company that really knows how to use a video streaming platform in order to promote themselves. They share tutorials, guides, and reports that are interesting for their fans and followers but also for their peers and even their competitors.
● Audio. Podcasting is increasingly popular among young audiences. Audio is second only to video as people’s preferred content format and this is mostly because it comes in handy for people who want to consume content when they are on the road, commuting from home to work and vice versa or otherwise engaged in physical activities such as sports and home duties. A good example, in this case, an example that should inspire you comes from Drift and their Seeking Wisdom Podcast.
● Online Courses. If you have enough time at your disposal, you can consider stepping up and introduce your audience with relevant courses based on your professional skills and the public’s demand. Moreover, you can even repurpose old content and repack it in order to assemble a fully online course that may bring you even more customers and fans.
● EBooks and Guides. You can repurpose old content and create EBooks and Guides as well. Or, you can write them from scratch and cover different topics from your niche thoroughly. This example from Flipsnack I think is self-explanatory and also relevant in this context. You can distribute these files for free or sell them on your website.
Content marketing is powerful when you are doing it right. The important fact is that this is a free strategy and unlike traditional advertising, it may help you a lot with customer retention and building awareness on your brand.
I have covered a series of steps that are important in creating a lucrative content marketing strategy for a SaaS company. I don’t claim to have been thoroughly covered all the aspects of such a strategy but I am confident I have managed to cover the essentials and give you a head start in this process.
What other strategies are you currently using, to what extent and with what results?