inbound growth strategy

Table of contents

Introduction
Why Is Content Important for SaaS Businesses?
What You Should Do Before Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
Narrow down your target audience
Conduct a pain point analysis
Conduct a comprehensive SEO audit
Set and track your campaign goals
Building Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now It Is Time To Execute Your Content Strategy!

Introduction

Let’s imagine two identical businesses with identical products and services, but only one of them has a content strategy. One regularly posts to their blog. The other does not.

Take a quick guess. Who will prospects buy from the most?

If you said the one with the content strategy, you guessed correctly.

When you help someone with valuable information, you build trust and forge a relationship. This is the crux of any business’s “content strategy”. 

The bottom line is that without a focused strategy to deliver high-quality content to your readers, your business is likely operating at a significant disadvantage.

That said, in this guide, we will explain the value of content strategy for SaaS businesses and the importance of a properly-executed SEO strategy that expands the reach of the content. 

More importantly, we will show you how you can set your SaaS business for success by following the tips from the guide.

Why Is Content Important for SaaS Businesses?

content drive revenue saas

Many SaaS companies do understand the power of content marketing. That’s why a whopping 85% of them have a blog section on their website. Content marketing is a powerful revenue generation tool that helps SaaS businesses scale by:

  • Driving organic and qualified traffic to the website, resulting in higher conversions and sales.
  • Engaging customers and guiding them through their customer journey.
  • Educating their prospects on their products or services without sounding too salesy right off the bat.
  • Increasing brand awareness, authority, and trust.

Content creation is one of the most powerful ways SaaS companies can execute awareness and brand campaigns. Carefully crafted content intrigues prospects and allows them to interact with the brand, making the brand more recognizable, approachable, and most of all, human. Even in cases where users don’t make a purchase right away, they’ll remember where they can find solutions to their problems.

Furthermore, content marketing increases a brand’s authority. Customers can get quite picky. For most of them, trust is something that plays a vital role in making purchase decisions. 

By sharing valuable information, answering the most common questions, and offering solutions to their problems through blog posts, SaaS companies can earn prospects’ trust, increase sales, and retain their customers longer.

Lastly, SEO optimization, both on-page and off-page, helps increase organic traffic to the website, resulting in higher sales. 

What You Should Do Before Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

Getting started with a content marketing strategy might seem daunting at first. However, once you realize which steps to follow (and in which order), it becomes much easier.

Before we explain these steps, remember that your main focus should be on educating your customers on the topics within your business expertise

Don’t just use your content to sell your readers as many businesses do—not only is this short-sighted, but also the quickest way to alienate potential customers.

Separate from your sales material such as landing pages and marketing funnels, your content should have its own purpose. 

When deciding on an overarching purpose of your content marketing strategy, the message is clear:

Whatever you do, put your audience first!

Once you’ve realized your priorities lie in educating and providing value to the audience, the next steps would be to:

  • Narrow down your target audience
  • Conduct a pain point analysis
  • Conduct a comprehensive SEO audit
  • Set your campaign goals and track your success

Narrow down your target audience

ideal customer profile

Your audience has a set of problems they need to solve. Therefore, your content should be built to answer their questions and help them in their efforts. 

The more closely their problems are aligned to the solution you are selling, the more likely you will attract the right audience for your business. However, their problems don’t have to be the exact same problems your business solves, but they should ideally be closely related.

Although your target audience can be the same as your direct buyers, you don’t necessarily have to limit your target audience that narrowly. You can cast a broader net than that.

For example, let’s say your customers consist largely of B2B executives or owners of small businesses. There is always a chance that someone who doesn’t quite fit your customer profile passes it on to someone who does. People share stuff they like on social media. 

People pass links to interesting articles to friends and family all the time, saying “thought you might find this interesting.” You just might get new customers in this way, whereas otherwise, they might not have found you.

To define your audience, you have these tasks:

1. Define your target reader

2. Define your set of core problems

3. Define topic ideas that solve these problems

So let’s get to it.

Ideal Customer Profile: Who are you writing to?

To define exactly who you are writing to for your content strategy, think of your readers as individuals whose problems are preventing them from reaching their goals. 

Let’s go through an exercise. This will help you build your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

Your content strategy needs to be built around the following concept:

Give the sword to the hero to help him slay the dragon.

Your reader is the hero.

The dragon is the problem.

Your solution that you are selling is the sword that helps the hero (customer) slay the dragon (problem).

Don’t make the mistake of positioning yourself as “the hero”. Instead, you are the guide

Many businesses and entrepreneurs have based their content strategies on themselves being the hero, and as a result, their readers have complained that the content came off as condescending or patronizing.

Anyhow, use these seven overarching questions to get to know your target audience and what makes them tick:

1. What are their goals and aspirations?

2. What problems are they having? How do their problems relate to your business?

3. How can you solve their problems?

4. How do they make buying decisions?

5. Where do they hang out online and offline? Do they have LinkedIn?

6. Who does your audience trust?

7. What kinds of emotions or ideas would be best to convey to this audience?

The last question is probably the most important because we make key purchasing decisions using emotion, then use logic to rationalize the decision afterwards. If you understand what drives the emotions of your target reader, you can use this in your content strategy while showing them how they can solve their problems.

After thinking through these questions and writing down your answers in detail, it is now time to define a set of core problems that your readers need to solve using your products and services.

What are the core problems you are solving?

Here’s the truth that nobody wants to admit. Most content strategies fail because they are meandering and unfocused. In other words, many blogs jump around between random and unrelated topics.

Don’t make the mistake that many others make:

Writing about one problem and then never talking about it again.

You can approach the same core problem through multiple angles, and therefore create multiple posts addressing the same problem in different ways. This is a great way to build authority on solving that problem.

Your content marketing strategy needs to be disciplined while addressing a set of core problems that your prospects want to solve.

This means neatly dividing your content into categories, keeping your content relevant within each category, and properly planning the next topics to write about next.

Using your definition of the target reader – your ICP – and their problems or pain points, look for common themes and distill them into 3 to 5 core problems that are connected with your product and service. Your blog, resource content center (or “resources page”), social media, and email series campaigns should all work in concert to help your readers learn how to solve these core problems.

Your core problems need to be easily recognizable and well-defined, but also broad enough to support dozens of content pieces so you don’t run out of ideas prematurely.

You should be able to group several topics together into a few recognizable core problems and provide actionable advice for each. However, don’t just brag about your victories. Do share stories about your mistakes as “lessons learned” pieces—your readers are likely to perceive them as more authentic, credible, and relatable than pieces that just tell about your victories.

Brainstorm topic ideas

We know it’s not easy to brainstorm new ideas.

It’s very easy to get stuck staring at a blank screen. We’ve found a few ways to speed up the brainstorming process.

1. Collect ideas from question-based queries

Use long-tail keyword tools (like AnswerThePublic) and Google itself to collect title ideas, especially question-based search queries. You can even use Quora to collect questions and ideas for answering them.

Next, use some free keyword tools to brainstorm some topic ideas.

For instance, the AnswerThePublic free keyword tool shows cool graphical views of potential long-tail keywords that make excellent article titles. It literally does all the brainstorming for you!

You can also look under “people also ask” for any search query you enter. You’ll get tons of blog title ideas! Don’t forget to look at the autocomplete suggestions on google’s search bar for some ideas, either.

These little tools are great for brainstorming some ideas but don’t obsess over specific keywords because—as was made clear in the June 2019 algorithm update—Google is smart enough to infer the searcher’s intent.

And don’t just stop at keyword tools. You also need to go to market

2. Ask your audience!

Bounce ideas off your existing audience using tweets, surveys, and social media posts, and see what the response is. If you get a lot of positive responses, add it to your content ideas. This is one excellent way to engage with your audience. 

Engagement is not just about increasing traffic, but also getting to know your audience on a personal level.

Ask your target audience some questions related to your product or service, and the ensuing conversations will give you a ton of content ideas.

When you have 3-5 core problems already outlined, you are now ready to build out a content plan covering the next several months to a year in advance.

Conduct a buyer journey analysis to find pain points

saas customer journey

After you’ve identified your target audience, you can move on to finding the pain points that motivate their buying behavior. This will allow you to craft a better content marketing strategy that will drive sales since it is focused on your audience’s needs.

A good way to discover what your audiences’ pain points are is to imagine your customers’ journey and create a map of it.  

Step in your customers’ shoes and follow the steps which lead them from an interest in your product to making a purchase. This is what we call a customer journey map

We list seven stages of the SaaS customer journey:

  1. Awareness of their problem
  2. Awareness of a solution to their problem
  3. Interest in your potential solution
  4. Consideration in buying from you
  5. Conversion into a paying customer
  6. Retention as a long-term customer
  7. Advocacy as a loyal customer or evangelist

The most important step of the customer journey for SaaS companies is to interview existing customers and your sales team. 

Your sales team will have front-line information on who your buyers are, what the buying process looks like, and what kind of objections your customers brought up. 

In the case of SaaS, you may find that some customers are:

  • Switching from a competitor
  • Looking for free APIs or alternatives
  • Frustrated with open source software and are looking for a paid service

This is where content and proper SEO comes into play.

Using the above examples in that order, you could create content using topics such as:

  • Top 10 Alternatives to the Salesforce CRM that Are Easy to Scale
  • 15 Free or Most Affordable Live Chat APIs for Your Inbound Leads
  • Best Open Source eCommerce Solutions (and Why You Need a Paid Service) 

SaaS companies need to address the customer’s pain points that led them to seek out a solution or aware customers of why they need services of that particular brand.

Pain points might vary. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Scaling challenges
  • Time management challenges
  • Revenue attribution challenges
  • Churn and retention challenges

Related reading: Is Revenue Attribution To Content Possible? 

Regardless of the problems your potential customers might have, your task would be to educate them on the problem they might have and explain to them what’s your role in this process

Using the concept outlined in Marcus Sheridan’s book They Ask You Answer, your content should address these pain points, answer all of their questions, be insightful and helpful – all of which work towards building trust between you and your consumers.

Conduct a comprehensive SEO audit

Now, when you know what your customer pain points are, it’s time to move to the more technical part of the job. In order to reach potential customers in the most efficient way you’ll need to:

  • Do detailed keyword research
  • Conduct a competitor keyword gap analysis
  • Conduct technical SEO audits covering page speed, mobile responsiveness, website structure, and internal linking
  • Conduct a backlink profile audit and disavow low-value links

Conducting a keyword analysis

You can first start broadly. Think about all the categories your business fits into. Think about what your product does, and how you would describe it. Think about the problems it solves, and which terms are already used in the industry that are related to your product.

To make this process much easier, you can ask yourself:

  • What problems does my product solve?
  • How does my product solve these problems?
  • Which features do my customers need?

You’ll get the best results by combining the list of needs, features, and solutions. When you finish it, you’ll have a long list of keywords you might want to use while optimizing your content.

You should also think about the search intent, find out why someone is searching for terms you wish to rank for and offer them a solution to their problems.

Conduct a competitor keyword gap analysis

competitor content analysis

Competitor keyword gap analysis is another important step that will help you set your business for success. 

You want to answer these questions:

1. What keywords are the competitors blogging about? 

2. What keywords are they ranking for?

3. Can we do better? 

It’s a process of identifying keywords your competitor ranks for and you are not. In more simple words, keyword gap analysis allows you to discover valuable keyword opportunities you might be overlooking.

A keyword gap analysis will allow you to:

  • Find new keywords you initially overlooked
  • Find questions your audience is asking
  • Determine what high-volume and quality keywords are
  • Discover gaps in your competitor’s content

Finding them will allow you to create a list of keywords your competitors are ranking for, and adjust your strategy accordingly. 

One of the reasons why keyword gap analysis is so important is the fact it lets you discover new keywords you can rank for, as well discover what the pain points for your audience are. When you discover what your audience is searching for, you’ll be able to cover these topics better, as a way to provide them with an answer to their problems.

We usually conduct a competitive keyword gap analysis to highlight the areas of opportunity. By analyzing competitors’ websites you can create a list of keywords they’re targeting, and find out how they’re targeting those keywords. This will allow you to determine if you should use the same keywords and how to approach them.

Another important thing in a keyword gap analysis is to avoid looking at the best of the best. You should find companies in your niche that are doing just a bit better than you, to avoid looking at keywords you have no chance of ranking for.

To identify what keywords a particular site is targeting, make sure to check:

  • Page titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Headers
  • Page content
  • Anchor text of internal links
  • Alt tag text

The next thing you want to do is to label the keywords. This will allow you to see the number of keywords per label, which words you’re targeting and what they are not and vice versa, as well as the number of pages per label. 

After you’ve done this, you can create the list of keywords that belong to these labels which will allow you to filter them further. During this process, you should have a better picture of what your keywords should be. 

Conduct technical SEO audits

Technical SEO optimization is important, as it allows search engines to seamlessly crawl and index pages on your website.

Here are a few things to consider while performing technical SEO optimization:

  • Website performance – customers want fast access to your website. The longer they wait, the chances are they won’t be patient to finally see what’s on your website.
  • User experience – fast page speed, mobile responsiveness, intuitive website structure, and internal linking for ease of navigation.
  • Meta tags – Meta page HTML tags allow search engines to properly “read” your content and determine what your content is about and how to categorize it.
  • Content quality – Analyzing your content will help you determine its overall quality and opportunities for improvement. You should especially look for duplicate and thin content that will allow you to build your content strategy and improve it.
  • Crawling & Indexing – To rank, you need to allow Google bots to seamlessly crawl to your website, and recognize it as valuable enough to be recognizable

Backlink profile audit – Your domain ranking performance is also influenced by the quality of backlinks in your backlink profile. When authoritative sites link to your site, it raises the quality of your domain and backlink profile.

Set and track your campaign goals

Now, when you discover what your keywords should be, and what improvements to your website you should make, the next step is to set measurable goals for your content campaigns. 

This will help you align your campaigns with your marketing initiatives as well to evaluate campaign performance.

The best way is to set a broad overarching goal, and then break it down into smaller milestones along the way. These milestones will help measure your progress towards your goal, rather than trying to achieve your goal all at once.

You could set inbound marketing goals such as getting more high-quality leads for your business or getting more organic traffic by ranking on certain keywords.

A few examples:

  • Increase traffic by 12% each month
  • Double your opt-in rates on lead magnets
  • Convert at least 10% of email subscribers to paying customers
  • Improve the number of free trial registrations by 10%
  • Improve the number of demo requests by 15%

However, you may also have more intangible goals such as “boosting engagement” or “increasing brand recognition” that are harder to measure than traffic and conversions. Plus, not all engagement is equal. What you do want is more engagement with marketing qualified leads (MQLs) rather than more engagement with just anyone.

Setting your KPIs will not only help you improve your content marketing strategy but also tune it to the needs of your potential customers.

The most important thing to do before you create a single piece of content is to decide what metrics you will use to track your content performance. 

You also need consistency. To ensure you’re consistent with your content marketing, set some publishing milestones to help progress towards your goals.

First, the obvious—how often will you publish content?

Daily? Weekly? Bi-weekly?

Second, you also need to think about when your content will be published.

Using a content calendar or social media scheduler will help you keep hitting those milestones.

Third, where will you publish your content?

The “Resources” page on your company website? Medium blog? LinkedIn? Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest? This also depends on where your target market hangs out on the Internet.

Finally, who will create your content? You may either hire and train a team of content creators yourself, or hire a professional agency.

Building Your Content Marketing Strategy

content without strategy

The most important thing when planning and executing your content marketing strategy is focus. This is where most people fail in their content marketing, as their unfocused blogs give readers the impression that the content is “all over the place”.

Without a focused content strategy, your content campaign is unlikely to succeed.

Categorizing and planning your content around the core problems you are solving is the best way to maintain focus in your strategy. Plus, by connecting your services and products to the core problems, you will attract the right attention to your site.

Five characteristics that make up a successful content piece

According to the Content Marketing Institute, there are four main traits of successful content:

  • Credible
  • Consistent
  • Cumulative
  • Personal

And I would also add a fifth, but very important trait: Unique

When writing content that meets these five traits, here are some good guidelines to follow:

Be engaging. Do not ask for something from the reader before you prove your value.

Deliver content regularly and reliably over time, using a content calendar or schedule.

Build on previously published content to make it more comprehensive and evergreen.

☞ “They Ask, You Answer.” Your content should answer questions and address feedback from your customers.

Avoid regurgitating the same stuff lest you write “me too” content that doesn’t stand out.

Tell unique stories about yourself or your company, and how your business came to be today. Not only success stories, but also failure stories.

Take a contrarian and controversial stance on an idea. Ask yourself – what are most people in your industry doing wrong, and how do you want to change it?

How to structure your content for maximum impact

content silo structure

The best approach from a user experience perspective is to organize your content into “silos”. Limiting one blog category (or silo) to one core problem helps with consistent messaging, keeps your content well organized, and makes it easy to measure content performance.

Each “silo” should be centered around one “cornerstone” article, an in-depth and well-researched article with evergreen content spanning beyond 2,000 words up to 5,000 words in length.

Use the skyscraper method to create a cornerstone article for each core problem. This method talks about looking at an in-depth piece that already performs well for a particular keyword, and then one-up that by writing an even better piece yourself.

Around each cornerstone article, you should create at least a dozen blog posts with attention-getting headlines that attract readers, engage qualified leads, and ultimately, convert them into customers.

For your internal linking strategy, each blog post or content piece should link to closely related content within each core problem.

Every content piece around a core problem should also link back to cornerstone content. Based on recent algorithm updates, Google wants to see relevant content that actually answers the searcher’s intent.

The Attract, Engage, Convert Framework

effective content strategy

We find that the 33/33/33 ATTRACT – ENGAGE – CONVERT framework works well for just about every business, every entrepreneur, and every blogger.

One third of your content should be geared to attract readers to you (awareness), one third to engage them (interest and consideration), and one third to convert them into loyal customers (conversion, retention, and advocacy).

Use the 33/33/33 framework when brainstorming topic ideas and building out your editorial calendar.

Capitalize on past successes

Build on what worked before, either for your own content or for your competitors’ content—ideally both. 

One way to do this is to update your best performing content with the latest information, new links, meta snippets, new images, and other on-page SEO optimizations. Those that performed well in the past and are trending downward in traffic are excellent candidates for SEO content updates

Content that has performed poorly in the past can also be repurposed into different media like videos, podcasts, infographics, etc.

This brings me to my next point. 

Your content strategy does not only have to be all blog post after blog post on a rigid schedule. You could create different types of content to reach your audience in three ways: text, audio, and visual – such as podcasts and webinars.

You could create all kinds of useful stuff wherever your imagination takes you.

Examples of engaging and informative content that provides value include the following:

  • Long-form blog articles
  • DIY how-to guides
  • Resource PDFs (case studies, white papers, industry reports, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Social media posts
  • Interviews with industry influencers
  • Gated content
  • Actionable lead magnets

We recommend picking three formats and sticking with them consistently. 

You may use enticing lead magnets that help your readers achieve quick wins to build an email list, and then engage your list with a drip email series. In your email marketing campaigns, you could also provide a menu of suggested pieces of content for them to read a-la Netflix.

Once you gain their trust, it is time to make an offer.

If you have an eCommerce or SaaS business, your offer might be a tripwire with a nominal price, or an upsell or cross-sell. If you provide B2B services, your offer could be a bundled package of your core services.

The point here is your content strategy needs to have a clear path towards customer acquisition.

Now It Is Time To Execute Your Content Strategy!

content marketing engine for sales and marketing

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork on your target market, defined the core problems, and created a content marketing plan with clear and measurable goals, you are ready to execute your strategy – armed with intel on your competitors and money keywords.

Create an editorial calendar

To keep your content team from going astray, you need to keep your content organized with an editorial calendar. With an editorial calendar, you would be better able to plan content around major product launches, conferences, company events, and even holidays. 

Any topic ideas you or your writers come up with, even ones that pop into your head once you wake up from a good night’s sleep, can be entered right into the editorial calendar with a future date.

It doesn’t matter which tool you use as long as you stick with it and maintain a consistent system for staying on track. 

As you expand your content strategy, managing your editorial calendar becomes more complicated when tracking multiple pieces of content, knowing what has been published and what has not, and assigning content ideas to writers or designers. 

For that reason, an editorial calendar becomes essential when you hire a content team or outsource it to an agency (though a professional content agency should be able to create one for you).

But if you prefer to DIY, you can use Trello, Coschedule, or other content calendar tools for this. Even old fashioned Google Sheets does the job.

If you’re serious about creating your own content empire, you should definitely check out 15 Content Marketing Tools to Create, Promote, and Manage Content Like a Pro.

Create content for each core problem

With your content plan and editorial calendar solidly in place, you now simply need to create the content. At least you won’t get writer’s block after all the groundwork you’ve done. 

However, for large content campaigns with ambitious goals, it is highly recommended that you assemble a team of writers, or hire an agency with expertise in your industry to handle this on your behalf.

Content creation is mostly about content writing, but to make your content stand out, you should also design for readability using best UX practices to build trust with your audience (i.e. no annoying popups or pushy upsells).

Writers and designers can work together to create aesthetically-pleasing lead magnets to grow email lists using squeeze pages. Some good examples of lead magnets include industry reports, webinars, courses, checklists, cheat sheets, and templates. 

Distribute through multiple channels

content distribution

Once you get your content published, don’t let it just sit there. After all the work you’ve done to get there, it would be a waste if you didn’t promote your content!

Remember where your target market hangs out online?

Find a way to promote your content in those places. The more relevant your content to your target audience, the more it will resonate with your readers.

And don’t forget to include calls to action. CTAs are diesel fuel for content. Without CTAs, content just sits there.

With social media, the platform on which you promote your content depends on your target market and the type of content. For video content, Youtube is the big dog where 83% of marketers believe that video content helps them grow their businesses. 

For graphics and visuals, Instagram and Pinterest would be most suitable as long as a sizable portion of your target audience is active on those platforms. 

For B2B content, LinkedIn would be best.

Note: Be careful about using automation tools to distribute content on LinkedIn. After a slap on the wrist, they will ask you to upgrade to a commercial account or in the worst case, suspend your account indefinitely.

Don’t forget to build relationships with influencers in your industry. Getting influencers to promote your content for you is like pouring gasoline on a fire. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way would be to spam your list of influencers with cookie cutter messages that lack personalization.

The right way would be to build warm relationships with them by engaging them on social media, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know you. Only then you could ask to collaborate with them. 

BONUS TIP

One question you might be begging to ask:

Should I promote my company in the content I write?

As a general rule, no. Almost all of your content should be educational and helpful to your readers without going overboard on the sales pitch.

You can, however, sneak some promotional material in there without turning off your readers by following the 80/20 rule. As long as you keep it 80% informative and educational, and 20% promotional, you won’t come off as a pushy used car salesman to your target market.

Do keep in mind that you are usually better off saving your promotional content for campaign-specific landing pages, social media ads, and bottom-of-the-funnel content pieces like case studies or sales pages.

And one last thing, don’t freak out if you see other blogs copying your content. Keep in mind that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that if you’ve done your strategy and SEO correctly, they will not get the same results as you would get.