There are many different ways to create and package a product or service, but the one quickly becoming the best approach is SaaS - software as a service. SaaS applications are delivered in the cloud, so there are no downloads, no licenses; customers typically pay a monthly subscription and access the service through their browser.
There are a lot of SaaS-based applications covering a wide range of services - marketing automation, project management, content management, portfolio management, file sharing, video management, etc.. You may think you have the best SaaS application for your market, but so do the other guys.
While it’s especially true in the SaaS world that your product ultimately attracts and retains the customer, marketing also plays an essential role, in particular content marketing can help make your success story.
Content Marketing Defined
The Internet is full of content. Much of this comes from the digital marketing efforts of organizations selling their products and services. Content marketing is the important marketing activity every organization needs to do if it wants to attract and retain customers.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined as,
“a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Content Marketing can be done at the beginning to help win customers, but it can also be done during the lifetime the customer stays with your service. In fact, content marketing is probably the most beneficial during service use because it can show your customers that you understand their needs and how the market needs to work - driving success for your customers.
Let’s look at five content marketing tactics you can leverage to make your SaaS service successful.
1. Your Blog
A blog can be used in a number of ways, but the goal is to provide your customers or prospects with information on how to do their job better. This could involve using the SaaS application as part of that blog post, or the information could remain more high level.
Canva is a great example of a SaaS company who creates great blog posts related to designing graphics and infographics. These posts are not always about Canva itself, but about graphic design overall. Canva’s blog is actually located on a separate URL called Design School. If you are not an experienced graphic designer (or even if you are), Canva’s blog is packed with great information about learning graphic design.
Ebooks are a very popular content marketing tool, but not all of them are useful. The best ebooks are packed a ton of information on the market the SaaS company is in, and offer best practices, insights and guides to doing something better.
Marketo immediately comes to mind for ebooks. Marketo is one of the most well know SaaS marketing automation platforms and its Definitive Guides are some of the most detailed ebooks available for free that focus on marketing automation. From email marketing, to mobile marketing, to lead generation (all important elements of marketing automation), these detailed guides work for both the inexperienced and experienced marketers.
Another example is from Akoonu, a new startup offering SaaS based persona and journey mapping. Its ebooks on creating personas and understanding journey mapping are essential reading to any marketer trying to wrap their head around this much needed, but complicated process.
The Akoonu ebooks are much shorter that the Marketo ones, but are equally effective. For an ebook, it’s not the length that really matters - it’s the quality and usefulness of the content.
Free online training on a particular subject is becoming a very popular way for SaaS companies to win and retain customers. This training is usually in the form of a series of videos and/or short guides and, in some cases, testing and an official certification.
Canva offers a series of 30 different tutorials that will teach you the basics of graphic design. Unbounce is a SaaS-based landing page creation company that provides a free email course on landing page conversion (you get 11 separate emails that take you through the process of creating your own landing pages, using ubounce as the tool). In this case, you learn to use the tool as you learn to build landing pages the right way.
HubSpot is another great example of free online training. HubSpot Academy is a free online training program for inbound marketing and it comes with a testing and certification.
A regular newsletter is another great example of content marketing. But this shouldn’t be a regular outbound marketing newsletter talking about your company and product. Instead this newsletter should be packed with information focused on your market and important trends, events, and other information. In most cases, these come in the form of regular updates from vendors on content in their blog and events focused on the market. These are pretty good, but also consider including relevant content from other places - industry blogs, influencers and experts who regularly blog about the market.
5. Service Monitoring
Most of the content marketing assets described above work for both customers and prospects. But if you are looking to better serve your current customers, possible convert a free subscriber to a paying subscriber (if you have a freemium model), then look at regular service monitoring for each of your customers and serve up personalized content to them depending on what they are doing with your service.
For example, if someone signed up for the free edition, but has only used it for one or two days, sending them an email with some content focused on getting started with your service and best practices, how-to guides to get them to come back and start using it.
If you notice a customer is using your service regularly, maybe you want to send them some expert tips and special content created only for your most advanced subscribers.
The key is to monitor app usage and deliver relevant content based on the subscriber’s current context. If you show them you are paying attention and want to help them be successful, they are more likely to stick with you, then move to another vendor offering a similar service.
Content Marketing for All
Not a content marketing expert? You don’t have to be. You do need to understand your market, understand the customers you want to subscribe to your content, and figure out what type of content marketing will resonate the best.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here, and it’s usually a combination of tactics that deliver the best success. Don’t be afraid to try a few, putting in place the metrics to understand if the content is effective, and be willing to stop and start something new if what you are doing isn’t working.