Anyone trying to grow a SaaS startup with limited resources knows it can be a huge challenge, especially if they’re trying to break into an established market. Consider that 77% of consumers research a brand before actually reaching out to them. But if you’re looking to build visibility and rapport, content marketing is one of the best ways to overcome some of the initial challenges you’ll face today:
- Google turns up the prominence of ads and direct answers (especially on mobile), making it important to keep the traffic you do get engaged on your site
- Content marketing can build rapport upfront to help shorten the sales cycle by fostering trust (a key driver of conversion)
- Buying ad space is expensive and not a particularly good growth channel for early-stage startups – but content only costs time and can be an effective way to gain free traction.
However, content marketing isn’t foolproof. One of the biggest mistakes is to start too big – thinking you need material for every channel on every platform.
Content marketing success doesn’t always come easy, which is why it’s important to do it right.
Startups need to make the most of available funding, and running lean is the name of the game. They can approach content marketing the same way they approach product development – through iteration.
Instead of trying to plan out everything up front (delaying the actual execution), focus your early efforts on one or two things and use feedback to improve your content strategy. Think of approaching content marketing through the lens of Minimum Viable Product – release an early vision that provides the core value and then work to improve it.
The benefit of starting small is that you can easily make adjustments and change direction without disrupting your whole content ecosystem. It’s about starting with the basics and then using results (SEO, traffic, engagement) to guide the expansion of your content.
… and Scale Up as You Go
Lets’ break down content marketing efforts into three progressive stages. In the early stage you might have 5 or so landing pages, use 1-2 formats (blog, case studies, etc.), and only a couple of distribution channels alongside your email list. At this stage, you are measuring traffic and engagement.
As you start to gain traction (through increased traffic and engagement), you’ll naturally want to expand and develop additional formats and promote them through additional content distribution channels. In the traction stage you’ll want to be carefully measuring business impact as you try out new formats (e.g. webinars and ebooks) and expand to new channels.
The growth stage is where the flywheel effect starts to make itself known – when your metrics start to overtake the effort you are putting into it. That is, your assets continue to attract and convert leads quicker than you can add to (or refine) them. At this stage you’ll likely be covering all your relevant format and channel bases and offering more refined and topical content.
Putting it into Practice
So what does this process look like in a practical sense?
1: Identify Your Core Product Value
First, you need to identify your core product value. What function does your SaaS deliver? By identifying this, you’ll be able to start creating content directly related to your product, which will make it easier to get started. Often, this will lead to writing about the “how” – how your product differs from competitors, and how it solves your clients problems.
2: Research Your Audience
Second, it’s important to do some research before you start creating content – not just SEO research, but your target audience. This is where the concept of personas comes into play. Reach out to customers, send out some surveys, and pay attention to recurring topics, questions or problems to guide your keyword research.
3: Focus Your Blogging
Third, developing a blogging strategy that isn’t scattershot. This often means focusing on the idea of topic clusters – supporting content that focuses on one specific topic (re: problem or paint point).
While it can be tempting to jump around to try and cover all your bases, when starting out it’s a good idea to focus on building out one topic at a time before moving to the next. This is because Google measures topical relevance, and a strong body of content that is interlinked and shares keywords will improve your ranking quicker than bouncing back and forth.
4: Create landing pages that showcase the product
Fourth, you want to create product or feature pages – here is where you can start to show off the specific functionality of your SaaS product in more depth. For example, you could have a page on built in security features, or integration with popular apps, or cross-platform mobility. These will often be Landing Pages geared towards lead capture – free trials or demos, registration for a webinar, consultation booking, etc.
Finally, it’s time to iterate and expand to new topics. Examine what pages and topics are gaining traction, and build on them. For those that aren’t, consider why. Are the keywords too competitive? Is the topic cluster not robust enough? Is the content not addressing the right issue or concern?
It’s not enough to keep cranking out content – you need to have a way to evaluate its impact and effectiveness, and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the effort put into it is feeding the momentum of the flywheel. This might mean changing up delivery channels and developing new formats (like video!) to ensure your content is reaching (and engaging) the right audience.
If you are a SaaS looking to increase visibility and attract more leads in a crowded B2B market, a solid content marketing strategy can definitely give you a boost. But content marketing really comes into its own when it is incorporated into a larger inbound marketing effort.
At Flawless Inbound, we maintain an expert team of marketers, strategists, content producers, and technologists who create results-driven campaigns designed to grow B2B organizations’ revenue. We’ve had so much success with SaaS — read more about what we do for the industry here.