Content Marketing

SaaS founders, let's create a content strategy that works!

Sustainable SaaS businesses rely heavily on the power of content. They frequently try to write about things their audience cares about, all in an effort to woo the person sitting at the other end of the screen performing a Google search.

As we have seen earlier, even businesses like Hubspot and Buffer rely heavily on content, drawing as much as 40% of their already massive traffic from search engine results.

There is no one disputing the irreplaceable value content marketing can add to the growth of your business, and its long term sustainability. The problem is it’s hard.

It’s hard to frequently push out new content when you have a dozen other things - all critical enough to have the need to be addressed on priority. It is hard to come up with content ideas that matter to your audience. And most of all, it is hard to keep at it when you do not see it yielding results. (Content marketing does take a little bit to take off, but when it does, each individual piece of content continues to deliver results for months and years to come.)

So, today, I figured we would talk a little bit more about content marketing, including distribution (when you have just started).

What are the goals of content marketing?

The most common and macro level goals that would be applicable to most businesses:

  1. Traffic
  2. Trust and credibility
  3. Brand recall

Revenue is not a goal of your content marketing efforts. At least not a direct goal. That would be the responsibility of your landing page, and its ability to keep those conversion numbers up. Your content is supposed to generate enough intrigue for your audience to further check it out, and to demonstrate capability.

Traffic is two pronged. On one end, you want your content to be diverse enough in some cases, and precise enough in others to be able to drive traffic to itself from the search engines. And on the other hand, you want the ‘content of your content’ to be able to push its readers out to the destination you prefer them to go to. That would be a landing page, the pricing page, the feature page, or even the product’s homepage.

Trust and capability comes from the actual content itself. Is your content valuable? Did it address the questions the user may have had when he discovered your content? Was it engaging enough? Did it answer questions, or did it leave users with more questions than they initially had? Did it address few points that might have come as a surprise to the user (the wow factor - basically, before reading your content, the user wasn’t even aware of this point, so it was a ‘TIL - today I leant’ moment for them.)

Brand recall. This once again is all about your content, and borrows a bit from the trust and credibility you built in the last point. Consider a simple example. Whether it is looking for a new recipe, or learning a new programming language, you probably have a youtube channel in your mind. The first place you look. Why? Because you love their content. You trust their capability enough. You feel entertained, and intrigued enough. That’s brand recall. You want your audience to prefer referring to your content and your website instead of the other options they have. The higher brand recall you have, the more trust and credibility you would be able to build, the more conversions you’ll eventually drive.

The biggest challenge in content marketing, much like anything else you’ll do, is crafting those initial pieces. Laying the foundation. That is where the real work is. So, how do you overcome these challenges?

Know thy audience

​​ know thy audience

While I completely agree with Joshua there, the irony isn’t lost on me. Joshua is the principle designer at Twitter, so naturally when I first came across this quote, the first thing that came to my mind was - “Sure, so what about the ‘Edit Tweet’ feature?”

It is as true for content marketing as it is for product design. The better understanding you have of your users, the more refined, concise and valuable your content will get.

You want to ensure that your content appeals to your audience. Without that, you won’t be able to achieve even one of three goals we talked about earlier.

But wait. What audience? If you are just starting up, you don’t have an audience. What do you do then?

You map out the characteristics of your ideal (or preferred) audience, and then you start crafting a strategy that helps you push content that would appeal to them.

So how do you define your audience?

Most of the answers you’ll come across will lay out the traits. What your audience looks like, where they live, what they do etc. I believe that is not the best approach. You need to start with “what are they trying to achieve”. This will help you understand their painpoints, their motivations, what drives them, and even help you predict their search and browsing behavior.

The last thing you need to remember is not to spread yourself too thin. Focus on one audience set, win their trust, win their business, and then add another layer of audience to your focus.

Take our example. Our product helps businesses grow their traffic by presenting an analytical, growth-focused overview of their web-traffic. So, by definition, our audience is anyone with a digital presence. Any website that has ever installed Google Analytics is a website we want to add to our roster. Yet, almost all our content deals with SaaS businesses and the painpoints they come across. Because, at this stage, that is the only segment we are trying to win. This helps us keep our communique focused and extremely targeted. Would we be losing customers from other segments that we could have otherwise converted? Maybe. One or two, here and there. But I would rather focus my energy on making sure that our conversion amongst SaaS businesses is as high as possible.

Also, don’t do this:

​​ dilbert user design

Be a guide to your users

With or without you, your audience are already on a journey of their own. They have their own goals, their own targets, their own mountains they are trying to scale. That is the only thing they care about. If it fits into your business’ narrative, you should care about it as well.

Formulate your content strategy in a way that acts as a guide to your users helping them achieve their goals.

Once again, taking our example. Our customers are looking for growth. More traffic, more leads, more subscribers, more trial activations, more paid customers. Every single piece of our content addresses one of those topics. Our product enables growth for our customers. We want our content to do the same. It fits the narrative, so that’s what we do.

A few weeks back, I wrote about why every website needs to set up goals in their analytics dashboard. Now, typically someone with a personal blog may not have thought of having goals for their website. After all, it’s just a personal blog. But, they do need goals. Just think about it. Your personal blog is your brand, or at least a part of it. And the second the term brand gets introduced, it starts behaving less like a random insignificant entity and more like a business. Wouldn’t you want your brand to grow? Goals help you with that. (This specific example probably would not be related to any of the search queries my users would be making on Google, but I do think it’s important for them - even if some of them don’t realise it yet. So, despite the exposure of this article being limited to my blog, I decided to write about it.) It fits the narrative.

So, ask yourself this: what is your blog helping your readers accomplish? If you don’t have a good enough answer to that, back to the drawing board we go.

What we know so far?

#1. We know content marketing is crucial for businesses, no matter how big they get.

#2. We know the basic goals that you need to list down before you start creating your content strategy.

#3. We know we need to understand our audience better for us to be able to create a content strategy that’s cohesive and helps achieve the goals we listed in #2.

#4. We know our role in the whole process. To be a helpful, trusted guide, enabling our audience’s journey.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about some of these topics:

  • How should you design your content to facilitate moving your users from point A to B?
  • Do your competitors matter? Why? Why not? And how much?
  • How do you create a system that helps you push out content consistently? And what would such a system look like?
  • Examples of some content types
  • Promoting your content, specially in early stages of your business

Questions, Suggestions, Feedback, Criticism? I would love to chat.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers

Abhishek

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