If content marketing is so effective, why do most SaaS businesses have such poor results?
Why are some companies missing the ball while others are consistently hitting it out of the park?
I know you’re here for content strategy advice and helpful tips on how to do SaaS marketing, but bear with me for a sec.
Ever wonder why so many movies these days are sequels, remakes, reboots, or part of a franchise?
Is it because today’s filmmakers are less creative?
No. Today’s larger budgets allow filmmakers to create critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies that would have been impossible years ago.
Is it because that’s what their audiences want to see?
Well, sure that may be part of it, but it’s not the whole story. Reboots and updates remain in high demand because studio execs are looking for proven intellectual property with a built-in audience.
So… what is it?
The answer is… *drum roll, please*…
That’s right… it’s risk.
For B2B SaaS companies, playing it safe is riskier than you think.
Image credit: Tom Fishburne
Doing what everybody else is doing seems less risky to the people making decisions about what movies get made.
So, they tell stories similar to what the audience saw last time because they figure it’s the safe play.
It’s like the old adage, “Nobody gets fired for buying IBM.” Except that sometimes, playing it safe is actually the biggest risk you can take.
Something I’ve learned after working with 100s of clients on marketing initiatives over the past eleven years is…
…the majority of marketers fail to take actions that produce results and help them meet their business objectives.
It would seem that the smart money agrees with me.
In their book Corporate Blogging For Dummies, Douglas Karr and Chantelle Flannery write, “Most corporate blogs fail. As Seth Godin states in his book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, ‘most corporate blogs suck.’ If you don’t want your corporate blog to fail, you’ll need to develop a strategy before you ever publish your first blog post. You’ll also need to stick by that strategy and build momentum over time.”
Instead, many companies — especially big, enterprise SaaS companies — fall into the trap of blogging because it’s something they “should be doing.” And they do so without spending any time developing a strategy to convert first time blog visitors to returning visitors, subscribers, or leads.
Just like the movie execs, B2B marketers play it safe by sticking with the “tried and true” formula because it seems like a relatively low-risk strategy.
“We’ll publish a few 500-word blog posts and tweet about them.” That won’t require a huge budget or a lot of time. “What could go wrong?”
Nothing, except, as in most cases, that low risk equals low returns.
That’s why generic, 500-word, product-focused blog posts don’t produce results.
It’s getting harder than ever to stand out in the sea of content. But for SaaS companies, it’s increasingly critical they do stand out.
Robert Rose and Joe Pullizi advise marketers in their book, Managing Content Marketing: The Real-World Guide for Creating Passionate Subscribers to Your Brand, “…remember: the point of developing our story is that we are trying to differentiate from our competition.
“Look at the word. Differentiate means telling a DIFFERENT STORY — not the same story told incrementally better. As you’re well aware, sequels are almost always highly unsatisfying. So too, if we tell the same story as our competitor but with a slightly better punch line, we simply create sequels.”
And that’s where content strategy comes into play. Because you’re definitely not trying to make a bunch of sequels, amiright? (OK, I’m done with the movie metaphor, finally. 😉)
Blogging when done strategically can attract qualified prospects, bring in low-cost leads, nurture and educate those leads, and pave the way for a sale, but too many company blogs are merely ticking boxes… especially in the SaaS world.
According to Cobloom’s 2017 report, The State of SaaS Content Marketing, “Almost all big, successful SaaS companies use content marketing. Most of them don’t understand it and don’t execute it properly.”
OK, so without a sustainable strategy for executing content marketing, your blog is doomed.
But how can you develop a strategy that will help you reach your business goals?
Let’s dive right in…
Inside This Post
The critical importance of a website to SaaS businesses
Your website is the central hub of your digital ecosystem.
When your potential customers search for information on Google, they’re essentially looking for an answer to a question.
Maybe that’s why Christoph Janz advises you to “make your website your best marketing person,” and notes that “if you’re building a modern SaaS solution for the Fortune 5,000,000, the importance of your marketing website cannot be overstated.”
With the average B2B buyer completing 57% of their purchase process before engaging sales, you need to make sure your website functions as an “always-on” sales channel.
After all, 47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, according to a Demand Gen Report. But, you don’t want your website to come across as a scammy “buy now” kind of sales channel.
More like a trusted advisor. After all, SaaS marketing is customer education. The goal is to help your prospects solve their problems using your content so your company will be top of mind when they’re ready to buy.
Does your SaaS marketing engage your audience?
Lincoln Murphy, an expert growth consultant, says “It starts with attracting the correct kind of audience to your site. Because attracting the right audience in the form of a steady (or steadily increasing) flow of relevant traffic to your marketing website is absolutely required for the scalable and sustainable growth of your SaaS or Web App company.”
And that’s where a high-converting SaaS blog comes in.
Blogging is the way most SaaS companies attract the right audience to their website and how they get that audience to return.
SaaS buyers do their own research and the information they consume helps them move towards purchase.
If you want your site to convert visitors into leads, you need website content for each stage of the buyer’s journey/lifecycle for each of your target audiences.
Ideally, each of these stages of the lifecycle, for each of your key customer segments mentioned above, should be handled by content marketing in some form. You need a repeatable way to generate QUALITY traffic that will convert to sales.
And this means you need to share expert insights, industry trends, and other helpful information that will help build their trust and confidence in your company and product.
Why should you focus on blogging?
That’s a big question, so let’s start at the beginning.
For most SaaS and technology companies, a blog should be the cornerstone of their content marketing program.
The Content Marketing Institute notes, “Blogging is also a powerful means of building an audience for your brand, and sustaining their interest over time – something every content effort should strive to achieve. Not to mention it can help fuel your other content marketing channels since blog posts are easily adapted for use on social media or in email newsletters.”
Why else should you focus on blogging?
Because the most successful marketers are blogging, and more importantly, B2B buyers want you to.
- 80% of B2B marketers in the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends study include blogging as part of their content program, with other sectors (such as B2C and nonprofit) reporting similarly high usage rates. CMI research also found that blogging is consistently among the top tactics respondents consider most critical to their content marketing success.
- HubSpot data reveals 55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.
Blog posts are the #1 content format for B2B audiences.
As you can see, blogging is still among the most popular B2B content marketing formats.
Blogging can also build a brand in a scalable and cost-effective way.
Because when you blog consistently, you’re (hopefully) publishing the best answer on the internet for questions your ideal prospects are asking. This can boost your search rankings, web traffic, credibility, and sales.
I’ve been helping B2B software and technology startups create blog content for years, and I’ve seen how a successful blog can supercharge your SaaS marketing — attracting more traffic and increasing the number of leads coming from your website, making it the workhorse you center your content marketing program around.
So how does blogging help you get more traffic, leads, and customers?
- Blogging helps you rank higher in organic search which helps drive targeted traffic to your website. Your job is to get your site visitors to join your email list. Like Jimmy Daly says, “When it comes down to it, organic search and your own email list are the only channels you can count on.”
Using your blog to attract targeted traffic and then staying in touch with those site visitors through your email newsletter is a great way to nurture leads for your sales team.
Tomasz Tunguz notes, “For a SaaS company, a blog’s measure of worth is the rate at which it adds email subscribers to its newsletter. In the world of content marketing, emails are the most direct way of translating page views into revenue. Each email address on that list is a lead for the sales team.”
Typically, customer acquisition cost is an important KPI for SaaS companies because improved conversion reduces customer acquisition costs. When you blog effectively and attract your target customers, you can significantly reduce your CAC. If publishing more blog posts per month can get you more traffic without sacrificing quality, it’s worth investing in hiring freelance writers to create more blog content.
- The blog content you create is an asset that generates compounding returns.
As Hubspot noted, “…content continues to drive leads, whereas other forms of marketing, like pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, will only do so for as long as you continue spending. It’s for this reason we think of content as an asset that businesses own, whereas online advertising is rented. This distinction is important for SaaS marketers to consider.”
If you want to see a detailed breakdown of how evergreen content contributes to traffic growth, brand building, and generating sales, check out this blog post from SaaS expert Tomasz Tunguz who agrees that, “Content is one of the few forms of marketing that has a compounding return.”
- Effective blogging is a demand-gen tactic. Out of all the B2B marketing tactics you can use, one of the simplest inbound marketing tactics is a basic demand gen strategy using top-of-funnel blog content with relevant calls-to-action with a conversion goal of growing your email list.
If you’re strategically publishing valuable content around customer pain points or things your prospects are interested in and staying in touch using email, you’re on your way to nurturing prospects and building relationships — the goal of demand gen.
Tomasz Tunguz said, “Whatever you may be selling, you should design your content to shepherd potential customers through a buying process: educate customers about a product area, cultivate people into experts, convince them to buy your product, and equip them with the tools to close the sale internally. It’s important to identify your customer segments and publish content for each of the different stages in the buying process frequently.”
For example, let’s say a potential customer reads a few of your company’s blog posts. They eventually download a lead magnet related to a particular topic. That person has essentially “raised their hand” and said that they’re interested in that topic. As you continue to publish and email content they find valuable, your content becomes the bridge between your marketing and sales teams.
Don’t take my word for it. According to research from Chief Marketer, 49% of B2B marketers say blog posts are the most effective type of content for moving prospects through the sales funnel.
B2B marketers say blog posts move prospects through the sales funnel.
The benefits of publishing and promoting effective blog posts are enormous. But the problem is that generic blog posts won’t get the job done
So how do you create this content for your B2B SaaS website in a way that attracts your target audience and converts them?
The same way you eat an elephant…a bite at a time.
How to do business blogging the right way
So, if most blogs are duds, what can you do to succeed? I’m glad you asked.
If you want to develop a sustainable content strategy that generates traffic and leads from your blog, I’ve got a few recommendations.
- Start with a strategy: Develop and document a content strategy before you publish your first blog post. If you’re already blogging and you don’t have a content strategy, don’t publish another post until you do.
How to create a content strategy is beyond the scope of this post, but you should definitely establish key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to business goals, identify your customer segments, and develop your pillars of content.
If you need help, I created a FREE email course for B2B marketers. After conducting exhaustive research, CoBloom found “…many companies — especially big, enterprise SaaS companies — fall into the trap of blogging because it’s something they ‘should be doing,’ and start doing so without spending any time developing a strategy to convert first-time blog visitors to returning visitors, subscribers or leads.”
Without strategy, your content is just words and pictures. Or, as I like to say, “Marketing without strategy is just noise.”
- Measure what matters: If you run content marketing for a startup, your objective is to drive people to your blog, establish your company’s value, and guide them through the rest of your marketing funnel.
Your blog is where you’ll publish content for the different stages in the buying process, but you’ll need to know which content marketing KPIs to track to know if you’re successful.
For example, you may want to measure the number of blog visits per month, the total number of website visits per month, conversion rates for call-to-action content, or email subscription growth.
As Content Marketing Institute discovered, “What might be holding businesses back from getting more benefits out of their blogging efforts? For starters, our B2B research found that more than half (59%) of content marketers may lack a clear idea of what content marketing success looks like for their organization. It may seem backward, but many businesses begin blogging before they outline the goals to which they want their efforts to contribute or before they even understand how to gauge its performance.”
- Focus on subscriptions: You need more than website traffic; a one-time visitor isn’t valuable (and probably isn’t ready to buy yet). You need a strategy for converting blog readers into customers. My recommendation is to convert your company’s blog readers into email subscribers and use email marketing to attract and nurture your leads.
The author of The State of SaaS Content Marketing 2019, Emily Byford, Content Marketing Manager at SaaStock, found only 42% of SaaS blogs have a ‘subscribe’ call to action.
Content Marketing Institute research supports her observations. They found less than 1 in 3 organizations have subscription growth as a content marketing goal and subscriber growth is the lowest-ranked metric.
Capturing reader emails and emailing them is a great way to educate potential and current customers. If you want details on how to execute this, Lincoln Murphy has a great guide on SaaS Email Marketing.
- Stop sabotaging your blog: As content marketing is becoming more important and competitive — especially in B2B — more and more marketers are asking, “How can I make my business stand out among the noise?”
Guess what? It turns out there’s an easy way to do this. Most SaaS companies take the same approach to blogging: publishing industry-specific, product-focused, 500-600 word blog posts as regularly as they can.
Stop following the crowd. An analysis of 912 million blog posts found the best performing blog posts are longer. Longer content is more likely to get social media shares, backlinks and organic traffic than shorter blog posts.
This means you should be creating high-quality, industry-specific content that is useful for your audience — content that solves their problems or helps them succeed, is genuinely helpful, and dives deep into solving their problems. This is the type of content that people share and link back to.
Instead of publishing random pieces of content, take the time to develop your pillars of content and you’ll find unique ways to add value to the conversation even if the topic you blog about is one that has been done to death. Use your company blog to create an emotional connection and share some detailed tactical advice with your site visitors.
Final thoughts on blogging
In today’s competitive world, it is simply not good enough to have a website. You need to understand how to attract a large, targeted audience to your website — an audience that will create buzz for your products and services.
If it’s done right, blogging can get you more traffic, conversions, and revenue, but you need to take the time to document a sustainable content strategy.
Content strategy boils down to figuring out what content will help your target audience and inspire them to take actions that boost your business. Doing this successfully requires melding together some moving parts. To name just a few, you need to set goals, research your audience, and map out how buyers will interact with your content.
How you craft a content strategy will ultimately be unique to your situation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that every company can copy. However, implementing a few tactics like using your blog to attract targeted traffic, then nurturing them with email marketing will set you on the right path.
The bottom line: It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Your software isn’t mediocre and your blog shouldn’t be either. When you take the calculated risk of doing something different, you reap disproportionate rewards.
The risk is worth the reward.
And you’ll find that content marketing has a payoff that’s well worth the investment.
At Professional Pen, we help SaaS and technology marketers with content strategy, content creation, and content promotion. So, if you need help with blogging or with your content marketing strategy, let’s connect to discuss your situation and see how we can help.
Click here to schedule a discovery call.