How to Develop a Content Strategy for SaaS

Are you intimidated even by thinking of launching a content strategy for your SaaS? Well, not for long. Below, I'm breaking down all the elements of a typical SaaS content strategy for you.

How come content marketing comes so naturally to some SaaS brands?

Take Drift. SEMrush. HubSpot. Close. Ahrefs…

  • People can’t get enough of anything they publish.
  • Their content seems to be everywhere, too, right? You always come across their stuff in search or on social media.
  • And these brands absolutely crush it. (Then again, judging by their content’s performance, their insane growth levels come as no surprise…)

At the same time…

You struggle to even figure out how to use content to stand out from your competitors (let alone build a content strategy to drive growth.)

  • You have no idea what topics to cover.
  • You can’t decide what goals to target with the content strategy.
  • And hey, there’s absolutely no way that you could define a conversion strategy for your content.

But you know what, it’s all about to change soon.

Why? Because in this guide, you’re going to learn how to develop a SaaS content strategy like Drift, HubSpot and other companies you admire.

By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have the same knowledge that helps them create those incredible SaaS content marketing strategies that always put their brands ahead of the pack.

We’ll cover:

  1. Why invest in SaaS content marketing?
    Discover why everyone in SaaS is practically going nuts about content (and why they're right about it.)
  2. Why SaaS content marketing is different
    Learn what makes SaaS content marketing so different from other industries.
  3. Developing SaaS content marketing strategy
    Understand the core elements of a typical content strategy in SaaS.
  4. Building a SaaS content team
    Discover the three main roles you need for the content strategy
  5. SaaS content marketing tools
    See what tools SaaS content marketers use in their work

Intrigued? Let’s begin at the beginning, then…

Why content is so crucial to SaaS success?

I guess the data says it all…

  • 92% of marketers admit that their companies view content as an important business asset.
  • In fact, only 15% of the world’s biggest SaaS brands don’t have a blog.
  • For most SaaS businesses, content has become one of the primary channels to connect with customers, engage them, and convert them into users.
  • Finally, SaaS brands with strong content marketing programs see much higher growth rates than those without.

These numbers make it clear that, for SaaS brands, content marketing is an incredibly powerful marketing strategy.

Here are just some of the goals and objectives that you can achieve with content:

  • Generate brand awareness. Blog posts and other pieces of content can help position your brand in front of potential customers and get your SaaS found online.
  • Help customers understand your product. Content can help you make them see it as part of the solution to their problem without being “salesy” or pushy about it.
  • Move customers through your sales funnel. Again, you can do this by targeting topics relevant to different stages of the customer journey and guiding someone to sign up without engaging in any selling.
  • Content can help you build credibility and trust, too, and achieve a whole range of other objectives.

But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed already, using content marketing to promote a SaaS product is no small feat.

A big reason why marketers struggle with it is that content marketing for SaaS works differently than in other industries.

Let me explain.

Why SaaS content strategy is different

At first glance, content marketing works in the same way in SaaS as it does in other industries.

With the strategy, you create content to connect with and engage potential customers, help them discover your brand, and attract them to what you sell.

That’s exactly what online stores do, too, with their content. So do small businesses, local companies, affiliate sites, and many other businesses.

So, what makes SaaS content marketing different (and so challenging to do for marketers coming into it from other industries)?

Let’s see…

To understand SaaS content, we need to step back and first look at SaaS in general. Because you see, there is a particular aspect of SaaS companies that affects how you write content in the industry.

If you look closely, no SaaS product is just a piece of software.

  • SaaS tools help us get stuff done.
  • They replace tedious tasks we’d normally have to do by hand.
  • Many SaaS tools automate, streamline, and scale our work too, and so on.

In short, SaaS products enable us to do more.

Understanding this unlocks the secret to SaaS content marketing.

In SaaS, content marketing focuses on educating potential customers about how they could quickly and effectively solve their problems with software products like yours.

And the primary focus in the definition is on the word, educate.

Let me explain.

In SaaS, the primary role of content isn’t to sell. Naturally, your ultimate goal is to attract more potential customers and increase signups and trials. But this happens differently than in other industries.

Online stores sell with content. Small businesses use the strategy to generate hot leads and direct inquiries.

But when you’re using content to promote SaaS, your immediate goal is to show and tell people how to solve their problems.

But don’t get me wrong – You do achieve your ultimate objective with content too. SaaS content allows you to connect with potential customers, introduce your product, and position it as a potential solution to evaluate.

But don’t take my word for it; consider the evidence given by these founders:

Image of a SaaS founder talking about the results his SaaS gets from content marketing. “Content has been paramount to Castos’ success. We’ve been investing heavily into SEO-driven content from day one, and it paid off. As a result, our pages now attract a relevant audience from search engines and convert many of those visitors into signups.” Craig Hewitt, CEO, Castos.com
Another example of a SaaS company sharing their results with SaaS content marketing. “At Refiner, content is one of the major drivers of growth. We started investing in SEO content early on and are really happy with the strategic decision we took. Today, most of our converting traffic comes from organic search results, and we see a strong correlation between rankings and our business performance.” Moritz Dausinger, CEO, Refiner.io

How to develop a content marketing strategy for SaaS

#1. Define your target audience

There are two ways to research the target audience (only one of them works, though):

  • You can construct an imaginary buyer persona that will act as the representation of your target audience, or
  • Use real people, your ideal customers, to understand what information they need and how they search for it.

(And it’s option no.2 that works, by the way.)

Target audience research aims to understand the characteristics of the people you want to reach and attract with content. You can do that by looking at either your existing best customers or people whom you’d like to use your app and answer certain questions about them:

  • What is your ideal buyer’s age?
  • What is their income level?
  • What’s their industry?
  • What is their role in the company?
  • How do they research information, typically?

Naturally, use the list above only as a basis for your checklist. Then, customize those questions, and add other elements, if needed.

TIP: Don’t automatically assume that you have to target the highest role in the company. Sure, reaching out to the C-level might seem like a great idea. But unless these are the people who initiate the purchase of software like yours in their company, targeting them is a missed opportunity.

When researching the target audience, focus on the very people who face the challenge your product helps overcome. They might not seem as lucrative an audience as the C-suite, but they will be the people who will bring the idea of using your solution to their companies.

#2. Analyze your audience's pain points

Target audience research helps you understand whom you want to attract with content.

Pain point analysis takes it one step further and uncovers what you need to write about to connect with those people.

Your audience’s pain points are nothing else but factors that motivate their buying behavior. These are the problems they experience that your SaaS product can help them eliminate.

But, pain points for content strategy go beyond just the primary use case for your product. Most customers would experience other, associated pain points, and you should also create content on those topics.

Quick example – Let’s assume that you run email marketing software. Naturally, you will write about topics associated with the primary problem – Building an email list, and increasing sales with email marketing.

But what about email onboarding? Transactional emails? Various aspects of generating leads from website visitors? Although perhaps not immediately related to your product, these topics fall within the common pain points a potential customer might experience.

#3. Conduct keyword research

To uncover specific topics for your strategy, you need two things: 1.) A list of pain points and audience’s interests, and 2.) keyword research.

We’ve covered the pain points above. Let’s chat briefly about finding keywords to target, then.

Keyword research is a process during which you associate pain points with specific phrases that customers use when googling their problems online.

For the content marketing strategy, you focus keyword research on the top and the middle of the funnel (because the bottom is all about commercial phrases, basically.) Here’s how the typical breakdown of phrases for different stages of the funnel looks like:

  • Top of the Funnel: High-level topics with informational intent. The goal for targeting these keywords is to position your brand at the start of the buyer’s journey, attract potential customers to your site, offer value, and introduce your brand to them. Example: Email subject lines.
  • Middle of the Funnel: Keywords with transactional intent, aimed at people who have an intention to buy but haven’t zeroed on any specific SaaS product yet. Example: best email marketing software.
  • Bottom of the Funnel: Keywords with commercial intent used by people ready to purchase your product. Example: branded keywords.

#4. Define your goals

I guess this goes without saying – Your strategy will never work unless you clearly define what you want to get out of it. What’s more, your goals should reflect where your business is right now and the current state of your marketing efforts.

For example, if you haven’t done any SEO or content marketing, aiming to increase signups right away might be premature. Instead, you first must establish the brand as an authority in your space, build search visibility, and only then focus on generating leads.

But if you have been marketing the business for a while, and enjoy reasonable organic traffic, going directly for the signups is a great goal.

Once you have goals defined, decide what metrics and KPIs will best indicate progress.

The most common content strategy metrics for SaaS include:

  • Free trial registrations or demo requests
  • Growth of organic traffic month over month and year over year
  • Rankings (particularly if you’ve only started positioning your brand in the search results.)

That said, you can measure other aspects of the strategy – email list growth, engagement metrics, and more.

#5. Develop a content calendar

Developing the calendar is probably, one of the most challenging aspects of the content strategy.

Why? Because most brands only launching their content efforts try to do too much at once. So they stuff the calendar with all the ideas and keywords, only to realize quickly that they can’t support such a production schedule internally.

So, they give up.

The trick? Your content calendar should be as realistic as possible, even if you use an external content production agency.

Even if someone else creates your content, you still need to review the content, publishing, and promotion.

The calendar should outline your realistic publishing schedule with all the information about each piece to make creating and managing content production a breeze.

Some of the information I recommend you include on the calendar (for each piece) includes:

  • Topic cluster
  • Suggested title
  • Status (i.e., scheduled, in production, published.)
  • Primary keyword
  • Search intent
  • Suggested format
  • Minimum length
  • Suggested URL
  • Conversion strategy
  • Similar content to outrank
  • Publication date
  • Person responsible

#6. Write the content

You can approach this element in two ways:

  • Create all the content in-house, or
  • Outsource the content creation process.

The approach you take will affect how you proceed with this step.

If you’re creating all the content in-house, you will need to define the content writing process:

  • How you research information for each piece,
  • Who is responsible for various aspects of content writing,
  • Instill creation and editing guidelines to follow,
  • Create processes for submitting the content to your CMS, final checks, SEO optimization, and publication.

If you plan to use a content writing agency, you won’t have to worry about the first 2-3 elements on the list above. The agency will have internal processes for researching and creating content. Its editors will also ensure that the quality meets your expectations, and an SEO strategist will optimize the content for publication.

Many agencies like ours will also submit the content to your CMS, leaving you with one thing to do only – the final check and publication.

#7. Identify the best content promotion strategies for your SaaS

FACT: SEO is the primary driver of traffic for SaaS companies doing content well. It’s not the only one, though, and you need a plan for promoting each piece to your audience.

Content distribution aims to ensure that your blog posts and other content reach the target audience initially. SEO takes time to deliver rankings and results; even if you’re an established brand, it’s important to have some strategy to put the content in front of potential readers.

Some of the most common content promotion strategies include:

  • Sending email blasts about new content
  • Social media promotion
  • Other paid promotion strategies
  • Content syndication, blogging partnerships, and more.

#8. Monitor content's performance

Look, let’s not beat around the bush here – Not all of your content will succeed on the first try. Some pages, although well-written, will fail to rank immediately. Some of it is because your site might yet lack the authority to push content to page one.

But it might also be that the content needs further work to rank better, and your best way to find that out is by measuring the content’s performance.

This element of the strategy ties up with something we’ve discussed earlier – defining your goals and metrics you’re going to use to measure progress.

Once the strategy launches, create a content dashboard (or use a spreadsheet where you’ll import the data) to track how each piece performs and the overall effect of the strategy on the business.

A QUICK NOTE: Don’t expect overnight results. Both content and SEO (which, in SaaS, are quite inseparable) take time to start bringing traffic and positively contributing to the bottom line.

Also, often, even when you get the traffic, the results might not be as good as you’d hoped for. In such a case, you might need to experiment with different ways to converting your traffic.

What tools to use to plan and deliver the strategy?

I get asked this question a lot. Well, it makes sense. It’s near impossible to collect all the data for the strategy and the content and then measure its performance without the help of various tools.

But with so many content marketing tools on the market, which ones to choose?

Well, here’s a no BS list of content marketing tools for SaaS:

SEO/Keyword Research

  • SEMrush – fantastic digital marketing suite that, among other features, includes great content marketing tools, keyword research suite, and more.
  • Mangools – another suite of tools for research and analysis. My fav – SERPchecker, a brilliant tool for evaluating the SERP intent.
  • YoastSEO – fantastic SEO plugin for WordPress. A must-have if your site is on WP.
  • Screaming Frog SEO – without a doubt, the best SEO website crawler on the market.

Content Creation

  • Google Docs – for writing, obviously 🙂
  • Trello – content production planning and management
  • SEO Content Template – A tool from within the SEMrush suite that does a lot of research and SERP intent analysis for you.
  • WordPress – absolutely the best content management system for startups.

Conversions

  • ThriveLeads – brilliant WP plugin for placing various types of calls to action in your content, including lead magnets, signups, and more.
  • WisePops – fantastic popup builder
  • Social Intents – a live chat that connects to your Slack directly. Converse and convert readers without leaving Slack.

Tracking

  • Any rank tracker – really, any will do.
  • Google Analytics – for comprehensive performance monitoring
  • Google Search Console – for keeping an eye on your search performance, specifically
  • AgencyAnalytics – great dashboard tool allowing you to bring all various data together and create actionable reports.

And that’s it.