If there was a picture of what publishing content with vs. without a strategy looks like, it’d look something like the illustration above.
It’s like that classic story of a chicken running around without a head — no content strategy (head), no direction, no results.
But you already know strategy is important.
What you want to know is how to build a content strategy that’ll hit your desired goals — whether that’s getting more traffic/awareness, demand, leads, and so on.
This is my 8th year in content marketing, so I know a thing or two (or three, four?) that can help.
Let’s get into it.
First, what does a successful SaaS content strategy look like?
There’s a misconception I’ve seen many times in the SaaS space where the success of a content strategy gets defined by how many sign-ups it’s driving.
But success doesn’t always mean “more sign-ups.”
It might be just that for the first few years of your SaaS business, but after a while, you’ll start targeting other success metrics like:
- dominating a market category or an industry,
- establishing a thought leadership position,
- improving retention and customer loyalty,
— and so on.
For each of these goals, you’ll need a different approach (strategy) to content creation and distribution.
So a successful SaaS content marketing strategy isn’t always the one that drives the most sign-ups; it’s the one that helps you hit the goals you want it to — whatever that goal is.
In the rest of this article, I’ll share how I build content strategies for the three most common goals I’ve seen my SaaS clients have:
- Content strategy for driving sign-ups
- Content strategy for thought leadership
- Content strategy for thousands of organic search visitors per month
Let’s dive in.
SaaS content strategy for driving product sign-ups
In most cases, you’ll need to follow a simple 5-step approach to drive sign-ups with content marketing.
Step 2: Identify common traits they have
Now let’s dig into each step in greater detail.
Step 1: Pinpoint who your best customers are
You want to be laser-focused on who your best customers are so you can target them specifically. It’s the very first step in building a content strategy that drives sign-ups.
For example, if you’re selling a CRM product, your customers are likely marketing and/or sales teams in B2B businesses.
But that’s just surface-level information.
You need to pinpoint exactly who among those businesses are your very best customers — the ones that’ll stick around and pay you consistently even if the world is neck-deep in recession. Those are the ones you want to target.
One of the best ways to find this type of customer is to look at your existing customer data and find customers that:
- have stayed with you the longest (maybe even through the pandemic or recession — when most clients were cutting budgets, they stayed and kept paying).
- pay you the most consistently (i.e. they sign long contracts or don’t churn for months before coming back).
- provide the most in terms of customer feedback and recommendations (because they know your product’s success is important to their success).
- keep sending you more customers (without being asked)
Once you narrow down who your best customers are (aka the ones you want to target), go to step #2 below.
Step 2: Identify their common traits
Now that you know who your best customers are, identify their common traits and start finding patterns.
You want to do this because you’re looking for common characteristics that’ll help you target the same type of customers and bring them in with your content.
For instance, are they mostly coming from one particular industry? If yes, then you’d want to publish some or a large part of your content for that industry.
Or are they signing up because of a certain feature or benefit? If yes, then you’d want to craft content focusing on that feature/benefit.
Case in point: if a SaaS business like Asana finds that their power users come from the project management market, they could craft content around topics such as “Common Project Management Risks And How to Prevent Them.”
And they did — maybe because they actually figured out that their power users are project managers:
It’s a smart move that helps them capture the attention of project (or other types of) managers who may need Asana to help with organizing their projects better.
And they’ll likely realize it as they read the article — because Asana dropped “relevant mentions” of their tool across the piece.
So, once you find the common traits your best customers or power users have, find topics related to them and build content around those.
And in many (if not most) cases, the traits are obvious, so you won’t have to look too far to find them.
Step 3: Identify search keywords around those traits
This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
After identifying the common traits of your best customers, determine the keywords and phrases they use when searching for solutions related to your product online.
For instance, let’s say you’re selling a CRM product and have found from your research in step 2 above that your best customers come from the manufacturing industry, simply take the two data points you have — “CRM” and “manufacturing” — and plug them into a keyword research tool.
This will show you the most commonly searched phrases related to those two topics.
There are several keyword research tools out there but I use and recommend Semrush; it can help you see which keywords and phrases people are using to search for that topic.
For example, when I plug “CRM manufacturers” into Semrush, it shows “CRM for manufacturers” is one of the most searched keywords related to the topic:
The keyword itself attracts over 700 searches per month, while 29 other keywords related to it collectively attract 1800 searches per month.
Next, find other traits your best customers have and repeat the same process, recording the keywords and phrases you find for each in a spreadsheet or any other tool.
You want to do this because, besides the first trait you find about them, they’ll usually have other traits in common — like being small-medium businesses (SMBs), using a certain technology to run their business, and so on.
For instance, if one other trait they have is being SMBs, then type “CRM small business” into Semrush or any other keyword research tool and see which related keywords your potential customers are searching for.
Here are a few other traits to consider when looking for common characteristics of your best customers:
- Product alternatives they switch from
- Product alternatives they consider before signing up
- Job titles
- Challenges they face that your product solves
Bottom line: These “traits” are elements you can use to identify your best customers, so use them to find keywords potential customers are searching with and create content around those topics.
Step 4: Start creating content and promoting it
Now that you have the topics and keywords your best customers are searching for, it’s time to start creating content and promoting it.
In many or even most cases, this step is often easier than all the research above — because you already know:
- what your best customers are looking for
- what topics they’re searching for
- the exact words and phrases they use when searching
Now you just need to create content that answers their questions and provides the solutions they need. And then promote it where they’re most likely to find it.
Unless you’re a one-man team, the bulk of the work here is usually finding talented writers, and editors, and setting up your content team.
Once you get the people you can trust to deliver excellent content, you’ll be able to move quickly and create high-quality content. Distribution will also become a lot simpler once you have a good content team in place.
If you’re a content marketing manager, you’ll be looking at hiring:
- an SEO manager,
- a designer, and so on.
(The larger your budget and project scope, the more roles you’ll need to fill.)
But if you’re a CMO or marketing manager, you’ll likely have to add a content strategist to that list — if you’re not doing the content strategy and management work yourself.
Step 5: Monitor performance and adjust as you go
At this point, you’re all set. You’ve:
- done your research,
- identified topics and keywords,
- set up a content team, and
- started creating and promoting content.
Now it’s time to monitor your content performance and make adjustments on the go to maximize your results.
But there’s one small problem here: there are a bazillion metrics out there, but you only need a few to effectively measure your results.
The trick here is to pick two to three key metrics that matter most for your content, and measure them.
Remember our goal here? That’s right — it’s to attract your target customers and drive sign-ups. Here are the metrics that matter most to that goal:
- Traffic: shows if your content is even working at all to drive traffic to your business.
- Time spent on page: shows you whether people are actually reading your content or just skimming it.
- Engagement from target customers: shows if you’re getting the right type of traffic and if you’re getting your target customers’ attention.
If you’re creating content on your blog, you can use a tool like Leadfeeder to see which companies your readers are coming from. Or if you’re only doing social media posts, you can see if engagement is coming from your target customers in the form of likes and comments.
- Content-to-sign-up conversion rate: shows you if the content you’re creating is actually convincing people to sign up for your product or service.
SaaS content strategy for thought leadership
With thought leadership, your primary goal isn’t to drive sign-ups. Instead, it’s to create a wide range of content that positions your company as the go-to source of industry knowledge and insights.
And if you’re able to achieve that, you’ll have a much easier time driving sign-ups, leads, and sales — even though that’s not your primary goal with thought leadership.
So how do you build a SaaS content strategy to establish a thought leadership position in your industry? Six easy steps:
Step 1: Identify your target audience’s major interests
You’ll notice I’m using the term “target audience” instead of “target customers” here.
That’s because when building a thought leadership position in an industry, your goal is to reach a wider spectrum of your industry than only potential customers — from industry influencers to competitors, market newbies to seasoned veterans, and so on.
So start by asking yourself:
- What topics are my target audience interested in?
- What do they want to learn more about?
- What unique experiences can I share that are relevant to my specific audience?
Answering these questions will help you identify topics that will resonate with your audience — so you don’t end up publishing content your audience won’t be interested in.
And there are a few ways to answer those questions; you could:
- look at existing industry trends and insights
- look at competitor content and see what resonates with their audience,
- ask your team about matters arising in their industry networks.
… and so on.
But one of the simplest ways I’ve found is to find trends on LinkedIn (or wherever your primary audience hangs out) and look for the topics they’re talking about the most.
Or just use a trend detector tool like Exploding Topics to see what topics are trending in your industry.
For instance, when I check trends in the marketing industry over the last year, this is what a part of the result looks like:
The tool lets you see up-and-down trends in major industries — and you can view trends for 3 months to 15 years. So it’s a great way to get an overall idea of the topics that are trending in your industry.
Once you have some ideas, it’s time to create content around them.
Step 2: Filter and pick topics you have expertise on
As you do your research, you’ll eventually find a bunch of topics that seem relevant to your audience.
Tread carefully here, though — because of the sheer number of topics you’ll find at this stage, you might get tempted to go after topics you don’t have any experience or expertise on.
But fight off that temptation. You’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader, and that means you need to focus on topics where you have “leading thoughts” from actual real-life experiences to share.
You want topics that’ll give you the opportunity to shine (or to call it what it is, show off) your expertise as much as possible.
So before you decide which topic to write about, ask yourself:
- Do I have expertise on this?
- If not me, does someone on my team have expertise in this?
- Do I have enough experience to write an informed opinion?
If the answer is no for all three points, you may want to reconsider writing about it and move on to the next topic on your list — because you won’t be able to position yourself or your company as an expert on it if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
But if your answer is yes, go ahead to step 3 below.
Step 3: Filter and pick topics you want to be known for
There’s just one more filtering to do before you can start creating or writing content — filtering the topics you actually want to be known for.
Again, go through your list of topics and ask yourself:
- Do I want to be known as an expert on this topic?
- Will I get good exposure in my target market if I write about it?
- Will this content help me build a reputation in my industry?
If the answer to all three is yes for any given topic, go ahead and create content on it — because you’ve found a topic:
- you know a ton about,
- that your specific audience will love, and
- that can help you establish yourself or your brand as an expert in your industry.
And once you have those topics, you can start creating great content that positions you and your brand as an authority in the industry.
Step 4: Create content around those topics (and optimize for search)
Finally, you have your topics and you can start writing.
But just before doing that, there’s one more tiny little thing you need to do — basic keyword research.
You already have your topics, so I’m not asking you to do a full-blown keyword research project.
But just spend a few minutes looking up some related keywords to your thought leadership content ideas — so you can use them to optimize content and drive organic search traffic.
This way, even though your content is primarily for thought leadership and will be promoted on social media, basic on-page SEO will help to make sure your content shows up in related search results. This:
- gets you more exposure,
- helps you reach more people for months and years to come, and
- ultimately helps to build your reputation as an industry thought leader.
Case in point: Buffer has published an article about “how to build a thriving community” and it currently sits at #1 on the search engine results page (SERP) for “build a community” — a keyword that pulls over 6,000 searches per month.
The article also ranks for 82 other related keywords, which means a lot more clicks and exposure.
But guess what? It’s a thought-leadership-styled article.
The piece was written by Kaylin Marcotte, someone who’s built two thriving online communities and is now sharing advice and tips based on her real-life experiences.
Content like this is a superpower for most SaaS brands because:
(1) it instills trust and confidence in your readers, who will see you as an expert — because they know you have real-life experience with a topic important to them and can give credible answers they need to make decisions
(2) it’s driving targeted organic traffic for months and years to come — because it’s optimized for search.
Bottom line: while you create content for thought leadership, it pays to look for related and relevant keywords to optimize it with.
This way, even when traffic from ads, email, and social media stops, you’ll still have a steady stream of organic visitors who are interested in learning from your experience.
Step 5: Take an opinionated stance on your topic
This is more a best practice than a step, but it’s worth mentioning because it has such a profound impact on the quality of your thought leadership content.
An opinionated stance is simply taking a position on a topic — no matter what it is. And this is what usually separates thought leadership content from regular blog posts; it’s filled with personal opinions and perspectives, not just facts and numbers.
A real-life example of a SaaS brand taking an opinionated stance on a topic is this blog post by HubSpot on “10 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a CRM.”
It’s a great example of taking an opinionated stance: the blog post starts with a brief description of what a CRM is and then proceeds to list 10 really good reasons why you don’t need one.
The catch, though, is each reason is actually a disguise for why you do need one.
For instance, the first one says, “You don’t want your contact data kept in one central location” — but then they make it obvious why you, in fact, need a CRM, sharing how spending your precious time hunting through spreadsheets, emails, and paper trails to find all your customer data can be very inefficient.
An opinionated stance like this is one of the best ways to position yourself as an authority, but tread carefully.
Your opinion should be based firmly on facts, not just your personal preferences — and it must add value to the readers. It’s not just about presenting your unique point of view (POV), but also making sure your POV is helpful to your readers.
Step 6: Promote the content and track results
Of course, none of the hard work you put into creating thought leadership content will matter if no one reads it.
But your content distribution strategy here will be quite different from the one you use for everyday blog posts.
With most other types of content, your distribution method will likely be driven by SEO.
But because thought leadership content is often written around topics that don’t have much search volume, SEO won’t be your primary focus — even though, as I’ve shared earlier, you should still optimize for search.
Put another way; where other content types are always getting search traffic, thought leadership content may or may not get found through searches.
Instead, distribution will rely heavily on social media, industry communities, and email marketing — channels your audience is likely to be active in.
These are the channels that’ll put your content before relevant people when organic traffic from search engines isn’t much of an option.
Once you figure out where your target audience hangs out online, promote the content there and track your results. Key metrics you’ll want to track for thought leadership content include:
- Engagement from your audience: who’s liking, sharing, and commenting? If they’re your target audience, you’ve got a good thing going!
- Brand awareness: how much people are talking about your content in industry networks.
- Time spent on page: how long people are spending on your article is an indication of whether or not they find it useful enough to stay.
- Unsolicited backlinks: good thought leadership content would often bring in links from other websites where your content was shared or praised.
- Mentions in sales conversations: did any of your customers or prospects mention the content during sales conversations? It’s often a sign of great thought leadership content.
These metrics will give you a good indication of which topics and content formats people are interested in and which ones you should focus on in the future.
SaaS content strategy for organic search traffic
Whenever SaaS marketing clients tell me their primary content marketing goal is to drive “organic search traffic,” what they often mean is:
“We’re looking to build topical authority and dominate our industry; we want to show up whenever anyone in our industry searches for something related to our business. And more importantly, we want to capture the attention of potential buyers regardless of what level they are in the customer journey.”
So, while your content strategy for product sign-ups or lead generation focuses on attracting customers, and…
… your thought leadership content strategy focuses on building trust with your target audience,…
… a content strategy for organic search traffic focuses on helping you dominate an industry or category, consistently capturing traffic from all stages of the customer journey.
A good example of a content strategy for organic traffic is like what HubSpot is doing; there’s hardly anything you search in marketing or sales they don’t rank for.
There are several tips out there on how to build a traffic-driving content strategy, but here are the five I know to be most important:
Step 2: Pick keywords you can rank for
Step 4: Build backlinks to your content
1. Identify your niche and the keywords in it
Your content marketing efforts will struggle to deliver results if they’re not focused on a particular niche or industry.
This is because topical authority is important for most search engines, especially Google. These platforms want to make sure you’re an expert in a particular field before they rank your content high up.
So, conduct keyword research and look for terms related to the niche you’re writing about and the products or services you offer, and stay focused on those.
But you also don’t just want to pick random keywords, you want to pick keywords you can actually rank for — which leads to my next point.
2. Pick keywords you can rank for
There are some keywords that a way too competitive for your site to rank for, and if you try to go after them you’ll just be wasting time and resources.
But if you have a super high-authority site, you might be able to get away with it.
There are several tools used to measure authority in the SEO industry. But the most popular ones are:
– Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR)
– Semrush’s Authority Score (AS)
– Moz’s Domain Authority (DA)
They work in similar ways, comparing your domain against others to give you a sort of “authority score.” These scores range from 0-100 and the higher the score, the more likely you are to rank.
Image source: Semrush Authority Score
So, if you want to try and dominate a particular niche, make sure it’s one that your domain can actually rank for.
A best practice is to start with low to medium difficulty keywords and slowly work your way up the authority ladder. And it works.
For example, if you’re selling a customer service tool and your site has a Semrush AS of 25 or a little above that, target keywords with a KD (keyword difficulty) score of between 0-30 and lots of search volume. And as your site’s authority scores get higher, target more difficult keywords with higher search volume numbers.
3. Create search-intent-driven content
Search engines exist to provide users with the best possible answer to their queries.
So, while your primary goal here is to drive traffic organically, you still need to make sure your content aligns with user search intent — because you want them to have a memorable experience no matter what type of content you’re creating.
This means placing a premium on the quality and usefulness of the content. If you’re not creating the content yourself, hire writers who know what they’re doing and produce content that’s going to help your target audience with their problems.
And this often means you’ll be paying more for content, but it’s worth it in the long run as search engine algorithms will reward content that provides users value.
4. Build backlinks to your content
Remember the authority score we discussed earlier?
Backlinks are one of the most important factors in determining authority. So, if you want to rank higher, build backlinks.
There are several ways to go about this, like guest posting, link-building campaigns, and content promotion.
But my best method is usually to publish opinionated, thought leadership pieces.
This type is often more likely to be shared and cited and can help you establish your brand as an authoritative voice.
But use what works best for your link-building strategy, as there are many ways to get backlinks – just make sure they’re high-quality links from reputable sources.
5. Publish your search-optimized content
You’ve done all the necessary steps and your content is now ready to be published.
Look through it one last time to make sure it’s up to par and then hit the “publish” button.
Once your content is live, monitor its performance — Google Analytics comes in handy here — and use the insights you gain to optimize it further.
If the content is really good, you might even be able to repurpose it into other formats like social media posts, videos, or infographics.
Lastly, track your keywords (I use Semrush for this too) to monitor your overall SEO performance and get real-time insights on how well you’re doing.
Recommended next steps
Two next steps to take once you have a content strategy in place:
1. Document your SaaS content marketing strategy
From everything I’ve shared above, it’s pretty obvious there are a lot of moving parts involved in building a SaaS content strategy.
So the best way to make sure you’re on track is to create a written document that outlines all your tactics, goals, and strategies.
This document should include:
- Your target audience (who you’re aiming to reach)
- Goals you want your content to achieve
- Types of content you plan to create to hit those goals
- A timeline for creating and promoting the content
- A plan for tracking and measuring the success of your content
By having a written document that you and your team can refer back to, it will be easier for everyone to stay on track and remember the impact of your content efforts.
You should also make sure to review and update this document regularly — at least once every quarter — so you can adjust your strategy if needed.
2. Get a workflow or project management tool
Whether you’re a one-man show or a large marketing team, having a workflow management tool is essential for the smooth execution of a successful content strategy.
This tool will help you keep track of:
- who is responsible for each step,
- who should review and approve content before it goes live,
- when to publish or promote a piece of content, and
- when/how to perform every other step in the content creation and promotion process.
It’s important to note that most workflow management tools are not created equal. It’s best to do your research and choose one that’s right for you, based on the size of your team, the complexity of your content operations, and your marketing budget.
Internally, I use Asana with my team; it’s what most of my clients use too. But there are many other great options like Trello, JIRA, and even simpler solutions like a good ol’ spreadsheet.
With the right tools in place, you’ll be well on your way to creating and executing a successful content strategy for your SaaS business.
If you need help with content strategy or executing it, let’s talk
If you need help with putting together a SaaS content marketing strategy or executing it, I’m here to help.
I specialize in planning and producing content for SaaS companies and I’d love to chat about how I can help you hit your content marketing goals. So feel free to reach out.