The 3 Key Phases of SaaS Content Marketing

There are three major phases to marketing for Software as a Service. The first is to get your lead into your funnel and interested in signing up for a free trial. The second is taking them from the free trial into a paid membership at the highest possible level. The third phase is keeping that customer and moving them towards higher levels of membership when and where it makes sense for them. Beyond that, it helps to continue engaging that customer/user community so that they share their delight with others to bring them into the first phase, starting the process over again.

B2B SaaS Marketing Works

One major piece of your strategy that makes this all happen is content marketing. If you want to gain your lead’s interest, then share enough about your product to convince them they can’t live without it. In order to entice them to take the next step to subscribe, you’ve got to have carefully-planned content.

And nowadays with so much content overflowing everywhere online, your content has to be great. You have to plan, create, publish, and promote top-of-the-line content that hits all of the right points. Otherwise, it’s very hard to get a prospect to sign up for your list, or experience your trial in the first place. And, it’s hard to turn the lead into a paying subscriber without sharing some kind of content about your business. 

The first step is turning visitors into users. Let’s go.

1. Turning Viewers Into Users

The first phase of content marketing for SaaS is turning website visitors and viewers into users by getting them into a free trial. To get these viewers in the first place, it helps to have a very solid strategy around SEO for SaaS. (We go in-depth on that in another article.) You will also want to have a solid content marketing campaign, in many cases centering around an inspiring or fun video focused on the benefits of your solution - think and their ubiquitous YouTube video ads.

2. Turning Trial Users Into Members

The next step in your marketing is pulling people from the free trial into a paid membership within the timeframe of your trial. This involves carefully timed email campaigns, strategies for social and community engagement and building the brand story and trust along the way. This is the part where you move your leads from Engage to Close in the inbound marketing process.

3. Delighting Members Into Upgrades and Brand Advocacy

The third phase is continuing to engage the customer base, and move them along in membership levels for the best possible lifetime value of each business or individual using your solution. In addition, delighted customers share your solution with others around them, so continuing to communicate and serve them with great content only serves to help you more.

Content Marketing Objectives

Once you get your product set up and your CRM layer in place, you need content to start the marketing and sales journey. Content is the gasoline that keeps the engine of your marketing funnel running. It brings in organic search leads, entices social media followers to click to your website, and provides material for your paid advertising. 

Specific to Software-as-a-Service, your content needs to achieve three key objectives:

  • Outline the Main Functionalities
  • Convey the Benefits 
  • Show That Adoption is Possible (and Easy)

Planning SaaS Marketing Content

Content should rarely be planned based on medium first. In other words, it’s not about how many blogs, e-books, and social media posts you plan out per month. Rather, the more important approach is to think about the most important messages to convey to someone in order to pull them toward your software or SaaS solution.

It helps to remember the pillar content and topic cluster planning approach, our recommendation for best SEO optimization. Start out with one pillar page that captures your most important priority. This pillar page is a very long-form master article on your chosen topic. The goal is to cover every single important aspect of that central topic so Google can begin to index your page and show it in search results. 

Clustered around the pillar will be shorter-form content diving into one detail at a time. This, for example, is where most of your blog content planning will come from. Those blogs can then additionally be repurposed into social media content, scripts for videos, or even podcast topics.

The point is, all of the content in a particular topic cluster is revolving around one central pillar topic, and among these different resources will be information appealing to different buyer personas at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

If you're unsure about what topic would make good pillar content, a great place to start is addressing your user's pain points. Buyer persona research will help you understand what your users worry and get frustrated about. Producing content that addresses your user's wants and needs is a great way to build trust with them.

We dive deeper into how to implement pillar content and topic clusters here and here.

Your Knowledge Base is Marketing Content Too

It helps to think of every piece of communication you have with your leads and customers as marketing content. One overlooked but very important place that your content planning comes together with your user experience is in your Knowledge Base. For Software as a Service, this is usually a self-serve library of how-to’s, walk-throughs, and helpful tips that allow the user to self-educate and better use your tool. Don’t make this Knowledge Base an afterthought! Every piece of its content requires cooperation between your product teams,  technical teams, and your marketing and communication teams. The information has to make sense from a technical standpoint, but also must be within your brand voice and clearly communicate to the layperson. Your Knowledge Base not only helps your customer with their experience of your technology, it also frees up customer service time. 

Having an excellent system for getting help, answers to frequently asked questions, and customized solutions when they’re needed helps the whole process to move smoothly. Part of this support equation involves content marketing, because the material surrounding the knowledge base directs people to resources and takes them along the process. This can happen in the form of emails, chatbots, responses to service requests, website copy, and other places where your leads and customers will be trying to connect with you for help. 

Email Marketing Content for SaaS

Email marketing is an important piece of the communication strategy for SaaS companies, because it offers you a chance to create segmented communication based on your users’ needs. These emails can take the form of segmented batch email messages, or the more sophisticated automated email marketing campaigns offered by systems like HubSpot or Marketo. The key to either – and all email marketing in our opinion – is relevant segmentation. Personalized, segmented messages are much more effective than broad, “blast” emails to your entire email list.

For example, some crucial segments to include are:

  • A segment of people currently segmenting not only by participation in your free trial
  • Segments of people at different stages of your free trial (just started, halfway, through, about to end, and so on)
  • Segments based on specific interactions people have had or not yet had with your platform
  • Segments based on peoples’ subject matter interests regarding your product based on their Knowledge Base usage

Segments like these will help you to further specify your content planning to connect with that user exactly where they are. Feeling seen, understood, and supported in the process of adopting a new software solution is crucial for that final purchase decision and sustained subscription.

Don’t Forget About Social Media Content

Social media is an important part of the picture for tech companies, because so many people nowadays practically live in these apps. Think about where your target customer socializes online. From LinkedIn to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, even TikTok — your SaaS company has a role, because your customers are there. Use social media as one more opportunity for your leads and customers to connect with you for support and ideas. One company that does this well is Kajabi, where their online user groups help to answer each other’s questions and up-level each other’s use of the platform, thereby securing long-term customership even further

Finally, Whatever You Do in SaaS Content Marketing, Show Me. Don’t Tell Me.

Software and SasS marketing are unique in that it’s not enough to tell about what your product can do. It is so very important to demonstrate what it’s actually like inside the technology, including detailed walk-throughs, and case studies the results it can provide. Don’t be afraid to crack open the lid, and show your potential audience inside the technology including all of its glorious settings. The idea is to show the functionalities, the experience, the results, and the benefits. Let your prospects see for themselves.

In a practical sense, what this looks like is video walk-throughs, webinars, live Q&As, live demonstrations at tradeshows, and even short GIFs looping to show particular functionalities. If customers use your technology to make something, feature them and show what they are making. If your customers are using your technology to improve their processes, show the results of improving that process.

In SaaS marketing, it is all about showing, not telling, so show your solution off!

This post was originally published May 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.