A SaaS entrepreneur should know how vital content marketing is for their startup. But how can they use the content to find and retain new customers?
You might think content marketing is as simple as creating compelling content for your blog. While reader interest is a key ingredient, you have to think about utilizing multiple channels to reach potential customers and to keep a running dialogue with your current customers. Also keep in mind you are going to be competing in a tough environment to gain each reader’s attention.
So, how do you go about launching a successful content marketing campaign?
Ultimately, you’ll need to establish yourself as a leader in your industry. You’ll have to figure out what sets you apart from your competition. And your content should be written with the goal of helping your customers.
Before you can get started, you need to develop a good content marketing strategy for your SaaS startup. And the nature of your startup can inform the types of content marketing strategies you should pursue.
Now, it goes without saying that most of your marketing efforts will be primarily focused online. As a SaaS entrepreneur, your outreach begins online, as does the testing of your product.
Also keep in mind that you will need to have at least one traditional marketing channel.
Traditional advertising methods are all forms of outbound marketing, meaning you will have to create your own leads at times — or receive some outside help. These channels include print, television, banner ads, search engine marketing (paid results), and partnership programs.
So, how can you make traditional marketing work for you? Of course, it depends on your budget and audience, but you should use the most effective and direct methods to bring more attention to your product.
With this in mind, here are a couple of methods you should consider:
Search engine marketing involves buying ad space on search engines like Google and Bing. These are good options because your prospective customers might want to find specific products.
Paid results can quickly lead consumers who are looking to make a purchase from your site.
Since Google is the number one search engine by a large margin, it makes sense to use Google AdWords as one avenue to advertise your product. Bing Ads could be a nice supplemental avenue to attract traffic where Google is banned, like Russia, China, and Cuba or to get more exposure to the audience. But both search engines have stipulations about transparency and quality of advertising.
Want to know how a Microsoft product can beat Google in the cloud-based market?
It’s through their partnership programs, which involve third-party resellers, including IT based resellers. Microsoft already had the infrastructure to sell the cloud-based Office 365 because its previous business products were being sold at retail.
Now, imagine how a partnership can help your SaaS product. Often, established resellers will help you expand your customer base.
Internet marketing comprises inbound marketing, which involves multiple channels, like social media, that allow you to connect with your audience (and bring more visitors to your website). I will explain those methods below, but here are some fast facts:
On the surface, content marketing has an immediate advantage over traditional advertising.
1. Internet marketing is generally cheaper. Traditional advertising costs money and internet marketing costs 62% less on average.
2. With traditional advertising, you may have to contend with ad blockers. Depending on the website, certain ads are often seen as nuisances.
According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau study published in 2016, 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile users installed some form of ad-blocking app on their systems. Although a smaller percentage of mobile users had ad blocking apps, there were more mobile ad-blockers overall, especially in parts of Asia. And anti-ad sentiment was stronger with the users who had mobile apps.
3. Content marketing yields more leads. It produces 3 times as many leads as paid results. And companies that do most of their marketing online are twice as profitable than companies that don’t.
Startups are looking for fast, exponential growth. Content marketing serves as a quick way to help you build business relationships and garner attention for your product.
In general, these are the three areas where content marketing can come in handy:
Depending on the size of your initial budget, you might not be able to afford long-term paid advertising… yet. In this case, an effective content marketing campaign can help you expand your audience on a small budget.
You will need a website and that costs money. But there are cheap options out there.
Beyond that, writing content, like blog posts, is generally free. Basic SEO knowledge and applications are free, as well.
Content marketing is a two-way street. With the right content marketing strategy, you may be able to learn more about your audience and show them content to make them interested in your products.
Create content that is appropriate to the audience you want to reach. Use different avenues, like social media, to entice people to visit your website and to buy your product.
If you are offering a new SaaS product (and have a relatively new company), you have to earn the trust of consumers.
You can build trust by having a good product, but you will need to use your content to convince people to buy it.
Building trust involves engaging with prospective customers and maintaining a dialogue throughout the sales funnel. Make yourself and members of your team available to answer their questions and resolve their issues.
Before you can get started, you need to make a series of important decisions. And as you move forward, your strategy needs to be mapped out and periodically monitored.
For starters, a team can help you execute this strategy. Tending to each channel and conducting analysis takes quite a bit of time. In fact, it will take more time to promote your content than write it.
With that settled, remember: No content strategy will be effective without keywords. Search engines will be a key source of traffic to your website, and the right keywords show up in searches.
Yet before you can get started with keywords, you will need to decide on your mission.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- What are your business goals?
- Who are your potential customers?
- What type of benefit will your product/service give consumers?
- What sets your offer apart from your competitors?
Once you answer these questions, these should guide your content marketing strategy.
But first, you will need to create a mission statement. You might also want to create a separate mission statement for your content marketing strategy. Whenever you feel lost on either level, you can come back to these statements to regain your focus.
After your mission statement, think of your audiences and show how your services will help them.
Which forms of media will you use? And which forms of media will work best for your company?
Once you can answer these questions, start to develop calendars for posting content (like blogs, and even social media posts). Then start testing these channels.
You should choose those channels where your target audience hangs out so that your marketing efforts don’t gets wasted.
A blog is an effective tool in your content marketing strategy.
Blogs are versatile. They can be used as conversation starters, how-to guides, an informative story-telling medium, and opportunities for you to show your expertise in a specific field. You don’t need to hard-sell your product, but establish yourself as an authority.
SaaS companies have to deal with stiff competition (in the market and in the content marketing arena), so creativity is key. Thus, your content marketing strategy needs to be unique while retaining reader interest.
You can use your blog to bring in influencers. Or vice-versa. This method alone serves to expand your audience and to get prospective customers interested in your brand and service.
Additionally, you can include a call to action in each post. Tailor it to entice readers to read more posts or consider your services.
Kissmetrics is great at this.
Finally, your blog allows you to directly communicate with visitors, especially if you include a comment section. You can answer questions about your business and help them out with customer service. This also helps to foster business relationships and establish trust.
Social media is your most important tool outside of emails because it is also an avenue by which you can directly communicate with prospects and current customers.
Social media platforms are also versatile.
- They allow you to craft messages to build your brand.
- They serve as avenues for lead generation.
- They allow you to use text and imagery to (display the aspects of your product or service).
- And depending on the platform, you may also be able to advertise to consumers.
Facebook ads are effective because they’re developed from user input. Facebook shows users ads based on where they’ve been and their stated interests. But the platform has made their ads appear in a way that is transparent yet not off-putting.
In a way, ads on social media channels merge the traditional with the modern forms of content marketing. Not only can you develop leads, but you can use some of your SEO knowledge to craft effective ads and reach a larger audience on a limited budget.
Email lists might be your most important tool. All SaaS companies should employ these. Use email lists to increase leads and improve customer retention.
When you keep email lists, you can:
Let’s look at the last benefit for a moment. Emails can be personalized, allowing you to reach different types of users and retaining customers.
Take the example of Groove. It is a great example of how emails can be used to engage users and convert them into long-term customers.
First, new users are sent personalized emails with calls to action. Later on in the funnel, users are sent emails based on their knowledge of the product and usage levels. Emails give customers tips and show them new products.
Visual content should not be ignored because people retain 80% of the information they take in with the help of visual aids. Think about creating things like illustrated eBooks, videos, and infographics. You can also increase your profits by 74%.
In particular, videos are an effective tool you can use to introduce prospective customers to your SaaS product. For example, you can create explainer videos to show viewers your software at work. Or you can relate to consumers by showing how your product can make their lives easier.
While you’re writing that blog, you might want to consider how much free advice you want to give.
On the whole, free and premium content have two immediate benefits:
Free content is searchable, which leads to increased visibility. It allows more people to quickly find answers and know about your product.
Premium content serves as a way for you to separate your best content for customers, giving them more incentive to patronize your product. You can also tailor content for customers to help them with product-specific concerns.
However, if you decide to lock some of your content, you might be locking out some potential customers.
Every now and then, you will have to see how productive your methods are through each channel. Find out the costs of using each channel (paid and organic) against the profits you yield.
Remember. Analytics takes time. Depending on what you find after a few months, you might need to adjust your content marketing strategy and your target audience accordingly.
Use tools like Google Analytics to see where your traffic is coming from, who is likely to buy your product, and to view their path throughout the customer funnel.
Pay close attention to the length of sessions, the time spent on page, and repeat visits.
Depending on the social media platform, there are built-in tools to allow you to see how users are engaging with your content.
For example, Facebook allows you to trace how many people interact with your posts there. You can find out which posts (paid and organic) have the greatest reach and which ones led to more clicks.
Figure out which elements made those posts popular.
Also, if you use an email automation service, it has analytic tools to help you see how users interact with your emails and how much traffic is driven to your website.
Source: Constant Contact
Beyond traffic and participation, keep track of conversions over time, across channels. You need to keep track of users who may have taken advantage of free trials you offered and who stayed on as paying customers.
Kissmetrics offers an analytical tool which shows you how much traffic you receive each month and how it applies to your customer funnel. You can compare the number of customers you gain to the number of customers retain over time.
Using the above information, you need to look at how many customers came to your site via content marketing.
Tools like Google Analytics will also show you where your traffic is coming from. But the built-in tools from social media can show you which posts led to conversions.
Are more conversions coming from your blogs, email or social media?
If some channels yield high traffic lead to few conversions, you’ll need to spend additional time on more productive leads.
As you can see, content marketing is an intensive process, particularly for a SaaS startup. Stick to your mission and have a game plan for each channel you pursue.
While you will primarily be using inbound marketing techniques, consider all your options. Pursue methods you can afford and channels which yield a higher ROI.
It’s not enough to receive high traffic, but to see how that traffic turns into conversions. Create content that addresses consumers’ needs and moves them along the customer funnel.
* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com