March 22, 2017
According to Statista, the software as a service (SaaS) market is expected to reach $132.57 billion U.S. by 2020. While this number may seem encouraging for anyone planning to enter this market, the truth is that the competition in this field is cutthroat. In fact, if a software company grows by 20 percent or less per year, it has a whopping 92 percent chance of ceasing to exist altogether.
Just let this sink in for a moment. A 20 percent yearly growth is something that companies in other fields can only dream of. For SaaS companies it may be a disaster.
So, what do you do in a market where you have to grow fast or die slowly? What do you invest your marketing budget in?
It’s no surprise that SaaS companies, especially young ones, prefer PPC ads. They’re quick and, if done properly, very effective. But what about content marketing?
Very few of my agency’s SaaS clients have asked for it from the very beginning. Understandably, they want to jumpstart their growth. So they focus on ads instead of content marketing which is believed to be “slower.”
Let me tell you a story.
One of our clients, a freshly-established SaaS company, had a very clear growth target. It knew exactly what it was going to invest its marketing budget in – PPC, of course. I pleaded relentlessly for the company to give content a shot. I showed the CEO reports and statistics and even gave him examples of similar companies that had gained significant revenue through content marketing.
Can you blame someone for wanting to bring cold, hard cash to his business right away? Of course not! But you can definitely show him new ways of making this happen. After all, this is a marketer’s job.
The company’s CEO — let’s call him Brad — finally agreed to give content a small chance: he was going to (begrudgingly) commit to one blog post per week. I knew that wasn’t enough, so I suggested an alternative: we would write and promote two blog posts instead of one for the same fee. If there were no results after six months, we could quit content marketing altogether. If we had results, we were going to re-examine the content budget.
Yes, I gave something away for free. I know it’s a big no-no, but I treated it like a bet. I bet free work on the effectiveness of content marketing for SaaS.
The result? It took less than four months for Brad to ask for a conference to discuss moving forward with content creation and promotion. He cut a significant chunk from his PPC budget and invested it in content marketing instead. We ended up blogging for him four times a week and creating several white papers, eBooks and webinars. And yes, all of them were paid for.
What happened in these four months that changed Brad’s mind? The short answer is: what happens to all SaaS companies that invest in content marketing.
The lengthy answer is below:
1. Content marketing establishes you as a thought leader
…and you don’t even have to “give it all away”. Most SaaS companies worry that they will reveal trade secrets or give away too much of their “secret sauce” if they create content too often.
You don’t have to worry about that! You write for your clients, not your competitors. Your clients aren’t interested in your coding tricks; they are interested in industry insights and strategies on how to get ahead in their own market.
Just look at two competing SaaS companies, Buffer and Sendible, and their respective blogs. They blog for social media agencies and marketers and they go above and beyond to provide them with news, tips about the latest events in their field, hacks and so on. They also host webinars and publish case studies and white papers.
For social media managers, these two blogs are one of the go-to resources for such insights. Both Buffer and Sendible are credible experts in the field – they are thought leaders.
And what better provider for a social media management solution than someone who knows all the ins and outs of the industry and all your pain points?
2. Content marketing aids with brand discovery
Your SaaS solution is awesome, but so few people use it. Why? Because they don’t know about it…yet.
If all your content stems from your potential customers’ pain points, you will make it easy for them to discover you. They won’t be searching for your brand, but they will be searching for solutions to their problems. And you’ve got the all the right answers. These answers bring in leads that you can convert into clients through carefully-crafted CTAs and sales funnels.
Case in point: type “how to create a social media strategy” in Google’s search bar. You will see that the top results come from Hootsuite (another social media management SaaS) and Buffer. The marketer who clicks on these links is just one step away from learning how to create the strategy AND how to implement it using Hootsuite or Buffer.
3. You can go beyond brand awareness by educating your target audience
You want your name to be heard and well-known, but brand awareness itself won’t bring you any cash. Not unless people know exactly what your brand does.
When you educate your target audience on complex matters in their industry, you also get a chance to explain how your SaaS solution can help them solve their problems. There is no other industry more susceptible to misunderstood products and services than the software industry.
It takes a lot of patience and dedication to explain to non-techies what your solution does and what makes it unique (and, of course, worth their money). You can’t illustrate it with lines of code; you have to resort to words.
Jason Hill, GE’s global director of media and content strategy summarized this perfectly in an interview for AdAge:
“We have tremendously high brand awareness but not necessarily a deep understanding of what the brand does. Reason we’ve got into a brand marketing space is ours is a story that requires more than an ad. Content helps them explain the technology behind the logo.”
4. Content marketing brings traffic
…and, in turn, traffic brings customers.
According to Social Media Today, HubSpot gets 37 percent of its traffic through the blog (its homepage only brings in 13 percent of the traffic), while Kissmetrics’ state-of-the art blog brings in 70 percent of the website’s total traffic.
Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When you have a solid content library, you’re not just pleasing the search engines. Other bloggers and journalists will link to your content (like I did here, multiple times). The more links to your website, the more chances of getting discovered by someone who can turn into a customer.
5. Content helps potential buyers make a decision
It’s no secret that B2B buyers are savvy ones. They don’t make decisions lightly and they always do their homework before hitting the “buy” button. Driving content to your landing page through PPC ads is not enough for this target audience. No matter how well-crafted your landing page is, it will need more support from other types of content in order to “seal the deal”.
A recent study showed that most buyers need to consume two to five collaterals before making a decision. And no, sales e-mails are not enough. In fact, the collaterals with the highest conversion rates are white papers, also known as the epitome of content marketing and the hardest piece of content to produce.
6. Content marketing helps with client upselling and client retention
Even though most SaaS companies say client acquisition is their highest priority, it is much cheaper to upsell existing clients. Four times cheaper to be precise: the median cost for acquiring a dollar of new customer revenue is $1.18, while acquiring an additional dollar of revenue from an existing customer only costs $0.28.
Creating white papers, webinars and podcasts that only existing customers have access to makes them feel important. No matter how many clients your SaaS company has, you want each of them to feel like a VIP. Better yet, when you engage them with tailor-made content, you get a chance to learn about their grievances firsthand. You can upgrade your solution and create additional features that address new pain points. The upsell comes naturally after this.
In a nutshell: it is highly important to be present in your clients’ growth endeavors as much as possible. You want them to feel like you’re there for them in more ways than one. This is how you keep and upsell customers, not by cashing in their monthly payments and forgetting about them.
You can’t afford NOT to invest in content marketing
Remember that SaaS stands from Software as a Service. Don’t treat your solution as if it were a product that you sell once and hope the client comes back. Treat it as a service. The best, most praised services always come with something complimentary and extra care for the client.
Think about the level of service you get in a 5-star hotel. The personnel doesn’t stop smiling as soon as you finish with check-in and go to your room. They will smile until the very moment you leave the building; they will call a car service to drive you to the airport in style and they will also ask for your opinion about their services days after you’ve left their hotel.
This is why it’s not enough to create a sales page and hope it will yield enough conversions. Your customers need content support in every stage of the buying cycle.
Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.