Optimist is a full-service SaaS content marketing agency and this case study is based on the content marketing strategy we executed with HelloSign’s team from 2017 to 2021.
It was a frigid cold day in Des Moines on January 28, 2019.
Like most January days, I was just hoping to hold on a few more weeks until the early signs of Spring would start to thaw things out and give me that yearly boost of energy.
But, it turned out that I was going to get a different kind of jolt.
“Dropbox Acquires HelloSign for $230mm,” the headline read in my push notifications.
I stared at it for a long time.
A combination of shock and elation took hold as I bounded out of bed.
HelloSign and Optimist had been working together for nearly two years at this point. But I had no idea that the acquisition was in play. The whole deal has been kept under wraps. Most of the team only found out about it right before it was finalized.
It was a momentous achievement for the HelloSign team—and I felt lucky to have been along for even a small part of the ride as their content marketing partner.
Over the preceding 17 months, Optimist worked closely with the HelloSign team to create and execute a strategic SaaS content marketing plan. During that time, we saw their organic traffic grow by 1,308%. This correlated almost perfectly with their business growth and subsequent acquisition.
This article is about our journey with HelloSign and what we learned about SaaS content marketing along the way.
From Series B to Acquisition: The Two-Year SaaS Content Marketing Journey
When our team first started working with HelloSign in 2017, they had just raised their $16MM Series B round. They were on a path to rapidly expand their eSignature solution, roll out HelloWorks, and move upmarket with HelloSign integrations and API.
There was a ton of content and strategy to figure out.
Luckily, both our team and the HelloSign team are full of outrageously smart people. We dug in and created a SaaS content marketing strategy that could support their very ambitious goals.
Throughout this process—and in working with many other SaaS companies over the years—we developed and refined some key strategies and tactics that we use to drive growth for all our clients.
We learned a ton about how content marketing for SaaS can provide value to prospects at every stage of the funnel, drive site traffic, and, ultimately, increase conversions.
What is SaaS Content Marketing?
SaaS content marketing is a broad term for when SaaS brands use content—written, image, video, or audio content—as a marketing tool to achieve marketing goals.
It’s a central pillar of a digital marketing strategy.
B2B SaaS companies, in particular, often invest in content marketing in order to execute an inbound marketing strategy—attracting traffic (primarily from search engines and social media, but also using other marketing channels) and converting them into users and customers.
Content marketing and SaaS SEO generally go hand-in-hand as a way to quickly scale traffic and user sign-ups without relying on paid acquisition.
Driving Product Sign-Ups with SaaS Content Marketing
Before we get into the specifics of how we executed this strategy, I want to reveal the framework that we use to shape our thinking and our approach.
This framework builds on our trifecta strategy that we originally developed from my work scaling College Raptor from 0 to 100,000 organic searches/mo.
But, given the specific nuances of the SaaS business model and the extended B2B buyer’s journey, it’s not a simple cut-and-paste process.
The framework that we developed integrates key insights about how buyers interact with SaaS businesses and which strategies are most effective for driving actual conversions.
For our work with HelloSign, we applied a framework similar to this. Ultimately, we’ve found that most SaaS businesses have similar goals and thus, the overall approach to content marketing is a variation of this general framework.
Although there are many potential content marketing goals that could be appropriate for a SaaS company, the vast majority have pretty straightforward needs:
- Increase qualified traffic
- Drive product sign-ups and/or trials
- Everything else (Brand awareness, leads, emails, etc)
HelloSign is no different.
Although there were a number of market forces and products in play, the ultimate business objective of our work with HelloSign was to increase user signups.
So, that’s what we set out to do.
The question was, how can you use SaaS content marketing to drive relevant traffic, show the product, and traffic into users?
Many SaaS companies struggle with this because they focus too much on one or the other.
Either they chase keyword volume and end up with lots of traffic and no sign ups. Or they focus too much on their product and struggle to get people to their site.
So, how can you strike a balance between providing value to your audience and value to your business?
The key is to unpack the various moving parts and create a SaaS content marketing strategy that addresses each specific goal and also solves for the overarching business objectives.
In other words, break it down and solve for each piece independently. Then pull everything together into a cohesive SaaS content marketing plan.
This is what we’ll unpack in our guide.
Our approach follows these steps:
- Define content marketing goals
- Identify target audience
- Research content distribution and promotion channels
- Determine content types and formats
- Map key content to the buyer’s journey
- Research and develop the content roadmap
- Create, publish, measure, and optimize
Let’s start by setting a goal that we’re trying to achieve.
SaaS Content Marketing Goals
One of the founding principles behind Optimist and our work with clients is that not all content is the same.
Different types of content can support different goals. And, that content should work together to drive the overall business outcomes (leads, conversions, sales, revenue).
Before you can put a plan into action, you need to understand the desired outcome.
That means pausing to ask, “What would success look like?”
For most SaaS companies, common goals for their content marketing involve driving product signup, trials, and website traffic.
But that’s not always the case.
Depending on your current growth trajectory, PMF, and product stage, there are plenty of other goals that can factor into your success. For example, some other SaaS content marketing goals that might be on your radar include:
- Building brand awareness
- Creating a pre-launch waitlist
- Generating leads
- Attracting a new market segment
- Growing your email list
- Upselling to larger plans
- Improving retention
- Increasing customer lifetime value
Keep in mind that the goals and metrics you choose will affect all of your content marketing choices. Of course, your goals might shift along with market changes, customer feedback, new releases, and your company’s growth. That’s normal.
Once we have a primary objective—a “north star goal”— then we can define the specific metrics that we’ll use to measure progress.
1. Define the current state of your product
This is one of the biggest factors when it comes to informing your SaaS content marketing goals—and it’s pretty straightforward.
Is your SaaS product pre-launch (e.g., in development or beta), recently launched (e.g., pre-traction or initial growth), or established within the market with clear product-market fit?
SaaS startups in the pre-launch phase—whether their product is still in development or beta testing—will have very different content marketing goals than businesses with a live product and growing customer base.
2. Decide where you want your business to be six months from now
Look at where your SaaS product is now and compare it to where you want it to be in the next six months.
Content marketing is not an overnight venture. So, you shouldn’t be setting plans for next week when thinking about the goals for your content marketing strategy.
Ask yourself a simple question: What would success look like 6 months from now?
Do you want to increase revenue from existing accounts, bump up your trial conversion rate, or tap into new lead sources? The more specific you can get, the better.
Ideally, pin a specific sales, lead generation, or revenue KPI to your content marketing.
3. Identify what needs to happen for you to get there
The magic happens when you recognize what levers need to be pulled in order to move from where you are now to achieving your growth goal.
- If you’re early stage in your growth and not seeing much traffic, then you’ll want to begin by building an SEO strategy and identifying the high-value keywords that will attract your target buyers
- If you’re seeing a decent amount of website traffic but struggling to convert, you’ll likely want content that demonstrates product value and helps convert blog readers into SaaS leads and you’ll want to focus on optimization—implementing CTAs, improving the quality of content, and increasing conversion rates across your site
- If your goal is to grow your email list so you can nurture prospects with a sales workflow—in which case a combination of mid-funnel blog content + qualifying lead magnets might be just what you needIn some cases
When we began working with HelloSign, their north-star goal was simple: Scale inbound signups and trial activations.
Based on that, we were able to define key metrics and tactics as part of the strategy:
- Grow top and middle of the funnel traffic from search
- Grow top of the funnel traffic from social
- Increase topical authority and rankings for middle-of-the-funnel product pages
The solution is to create a framework that leverages top of the funnel content to generate not just traffic, but also links (domain and topical authority) that help these important pages rank over time.
This has become the basis of our approach to SaaS content marketing for our clients.
Identifying the Target Audience(s)
Before we could tailor this framework to support HelloSign’s specific growth goals, we need a clear view of their potential customers and their ideal customer profile (ICP). That meant learning everything we could about their paying customers’ pain points, needs, and influences on their buying decision.
How well do you know your customers?
In addition to researching market trends and tracking the user experience and buying journey for your product, it’s worthwhile to ask customers for input directly.
- How did they first discover your product?
- What problems does it solve for them?
- What other solutions did they consider?
- What made them choose you over competitors?
- Why did they select their current plan?
When it comes to creating content that speaks to your audience, knowing your customers—who they are, what challenges are they facing, and what motivates them—is crucial.
Approaching SaaS content marketing through the lens of the customer allows you to:
- Understand the buyer’s journey – In order to create relevant content that helps buyers at each stage of their purchase journey, you’ll need to first understand who those customers are and then examine their path to purchase.
- Create content for individual buyers or decision makers – Creating generic content will never be as effective as highly targeted, specific content that speaks directly to the needs and pain points of a real human.
- Conduct keyword research – If SEO is one of your primary goals and channels, then you’ll need to understand the buyer so you can find high-intent, specific keywords to target with your pages and content.
- Identify relevant marketing channels – By understanding your audience, you can better understand where they spend their time and how they consume content.
- Define key content formats – Which types of content your target audience reads, watches, or listens to should inform your own content strategy.
- Position your product – The content itself can better position your product if you understand the context of the buyer.
- Create better content – Simply put, you’ll be able to create better, more relevant, more useful, and more effective content by better understanding your target reader.
By identifying your target audience(s), you’ll also be able to determine which channels and content types you should create in order to reach those potential buyers. This is the next key step to defining what your strategy will look like.
Content Distribution Channels
Depending on which channels you’re going to use to distribute your content (get it in front of your ideal buyer), you’ll need to also choose the right types of content that work well for those particular channels.
Some channels that you might consider including in your strategy:
- Social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit forums
- Search engines (SEO)
Again, the channels that you choose to target will play a big role in the types of content—and the content itself—that you end up creating.
For instance, the content that you create for an existing email list—people who are familiar with your product and have likely already demonstrated a specific need—should be different from the content that you create to build brand awareness and attract new potential customers from search engines.
Content Types and Formats
Now, based on the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels you’re using to reach them, you can define which content formats will work as part of your strategy.
If your audience is mostly knowledge workers who research and solve problems via the Internet, then you’re probably targeting them via search (SEO), which means you need to write and optimize long-from content targeting relevant keywords.
This content might look like:
- Blog posts
- How-to content
You might pair these with thought leadership content and other formats meant to attract backlinks, like infographics.
Other content formats work specifically for a sales-led buying journey.
For instance, white papers, ebooks, templates, and webinars are an effective way to educate and nurture potential customers who aren’t ready to enter into a sales discussion.
If you’re targeting buyers mostly through social media, then you might consider creating native-format content (Tweet threads, LinkedIn articles, etc).
Lastly, consider other media formats like video and podcasts, especially if your audience spends a lot of time consuming content on YouTube or their mobile device.
The SaaS Content Marketing Funnel: A Top-Down View
When we put together a content marketing strategy, we must begin by understanding the customer journey.
These are each of the steps that a potential customer may take before deciding to sign up or purchase the software. The customer journey itself will also be determined largely by the GTM (go-to market) strategy.
For most users, HelloSign is a product-led SaaS business, meaning that the main step we want users to take is to simply try the product itself—get a free trial or sign up for a free account.
But for enterprise users, there’s a more traditional sales funnel that includes a longer evaluation and buying cycle.
The SaaS content marketing funnel can be broken down into four main sections:
- Pre-funnel content
- Top of the funnel content
- Mid-funnel content
- Bottom-of-the-funnel content
Content played a key role at each of these stages in helping HelloSign attract, qualify, persuade, and convert traffic into users and users into customers.
But before we dig into the specifics of how we used content at each stage of the funnel to promote HelloSign’s goals, here’s a quick overview of the stages themselves.
Pre-funnel content is used to attract potential leads who aren’t necessarily shopping for a solution—yet. This content appeals to anyone who fits the ideal buyer persona and provides solutions and insights that don’t necessarily tie into the product itself.
Top of the funnel content is written for leads who are problem-aware and beginning to research solutions. This could be anyone who is actively searching how to deal with a pain point—but is still a long way from making a purchase.
Content geared for this audience is typically evergreen, educational, and problem-oriented. It often highlights the benefits of the SaaS product and positions it as a possible solution to the prospect’s problem.
Mid-funnel content is even more directly linked to the SaaS product. This includes features pages, case studies, and other product-related content like implementation guides and walkthroughs.
At this stage, the goal is to educate and persuade readers on the benefits and outcomes of using this product in particular.
Bottom of the funnel content can lean into more product-heavy sales pitches that position the SaaS product as the ultimate solution.
Leads interested in bottom-funnel content are primed to make a purchase and are looking for information and proof that either supports or changes their opinion. They might be comparing a few different brands with the intention of signing up for a trial or paid account.
Now let’s take a more detailed look at the various types of content that were part of HelloSign’s growth strategy.
Pre-Funnel SaaS Content: Targeting the Right Buyers
Before we dive into the actual funnel and the buyer’s journey, I want to begin with what we call pre-funnel or persona-qualified content. Although it’s often at least one step removed from a buying cycle, pre-funnel content can serve an important supporting role in a SaaS content marketing strategy. The idea here is to create content that attracts your target buyer broadly, even if they aren’t problem-aware.
Case in point: HelloSign speaks a lot to sales leaders in their content. We created a lot of content that was aimed at generally helping this persona do their job better, even if that didn’t involve using HelloSign’s products to do it.
This allows us to accomplish a number of things:
- Expand search/social footprint
- Build brand awareness and familiarity with our target personas
- Drive retargeting and email marketing
Pre-funnel content can be valuable in the right context, but it can also be a distraction from the key objective. It rarely translates into immediate conversions.
So, don’t let it become the center of your approach unless you have already built out every other part of the funnel in full.
Other examples of pre-funnel content might be live streams, webinars, and podcasts that include conversations with your ideal buyer persona.
Stampli hosts the Leaders of Modern Finance podcast, where they talk with CFOs and other finance leaders about lessons and strategies they use every day. The content itself isn’t necessarily a direct tie-in to their product. But it helps them to build an audience of relevant buyers, generate brand awareness, connect with these potential customers.
Top of the Funnel SaaS Content: Helping Prospects Solve Problems
In the world of content marketing—especially SaaS content marketing—the top of the funnel is often misunderstood.
Our take is simple: The top of the funnel is when a buyer begins to actively seek information about a problem they’re experiencing.
In our work with HelloSign, we considered a user to have entered the funnel whenever they began trying to resolve a pain point that could potentially result in a conversion.
So, for instance, if the buyer is a VP of Sales or Sales Operations Director, then they might begin their journey by looking for ways to accelerate their sales cycle—to cut down the days between contact and close.
One solution to this problem is to implement eSignatures.
From a content perspective, we target this initial need as an opportunity to reach the buyer at the point where they are looking for information and solutions to a problem. In my post about SaaS SEO, I talked about our process of using a JTBD framework to identify and map these specific pain points to key product use cases and features.
Within the top of the funnel content, we break down our content strategy into 3 key types of content that each serve a specific purpose. I’ve outlined this approach before, but it allows us to get very specific and tactical while staying strategic in our content planning and creation.
1. Thought leadership (Social-viral content)
For HelloSign, we used thought leadership content to generate shares and traffic around key topics related to workplace efficiency, productivity, and other broad problems.
Looking at our key framework, this is similar to what we might consider “social-viral” content in a B2C context.
We found that the stronger stance we are willing to take on topics related to work, culture, and operations, the more reaction we generate among our target readers. Of course, this approach can be polarizing as well.
We had to be thoughtful about where we plant a flag.
Knowing that readers who align with specific thinking are most likely to become users and customers, we can draw a line in the sand to help attract like-minded buyers who feel strongly about the nature of work and productivity.
For instance, we wrote about how nobody wants to be a paper pusher in the modern office. This resonated with people who were interested in creating a great work environment and also increasing productivity across their teams.
Keep in mind that the search (SEO) opportunity for this content may not be enormous.
The role of this type of content is to reach prospects through channels other than search: social and community channels. The goal is to generate buzz and demand based on the content and drive problem awareness.
The downside is that these topics often have a short shelf life.
They’re perennial rather than evergreen. We can circle back to them every few months or every year and use them to drive traffic through key channels.
2. Evergreen content (SEO content)
The meat and potatoes of effective SaaS content marketing–the workhorse–is evergreen content.
This topical, keyword-focused content ranks for relevant keywords our persona is searching at the point where they begin a buying journey. The beautiful thing about evergreen content is that it’s–well–evergreen.
It may not generate a giant spike in short-term traffic or go viral and spark a massive debate, but it brings in consistent, predictable, scalable, and targeted traffic every single week (almost) like clockwork.
Best of all, if you’re doing it right, that traffic compounds over time. And combined with the creation of new evergreen content, you’re able to accelerate and scale that traffic over time.
Building a strong library of evergreen content is the bedrock of high-growth content marketing for SaaS businesses.
But it doesn’t work alone. You also need links.
3. Linkbuilding content
Let me preface by saying that linkbuilding for HelloSign was a relatively light process. Because they already had an established brand and had generated a lot of PR, their site already had a pretty strong domain and topical authority when we began working together.
But, regardless of existing domain authority, backlinks are an essential part of any SaaS content marketing plan that involves search engine optimization.
Growing links to your site is critical to help your content (and pages) rank for the terms that are most important to your business. Many studies have shown not just the correlation between links and rankings, but that without building links to your site and your content, you are doomed from a rankings perspective.
Using tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can identify linkbuilding opportunities.
These generally involve one of two strategies:
- Creating original and compelling content (often data-driven) that naturally attracts backlinks over time
- Target outreach — “building links” in a more traditional way by creating helpful content and then finding partnership opportunities with other sites
Begin by analyzing your competitors and their pages and content that have attracted the most backlinks.
- Why did these pages accrue links?
- Can you replicate their success or learn from it to create your own version of what’s worked for others in your industry?
Middle of the Funnel SaaS Content: Driving Traffic to Product Marketing Pages
Prospects who land on content and pages in the middle of the funnel are typically solution-aware. They’re actively looking for information about a certain product category or key product features.
This is what makes these pages so valuable for a SaaS business.
Compared to top-of-the-funnel traffic, these prospects understand the problem they are looking to solve, they have higher intent, and they’re closer to making a purchase decision.
Rather than helping prospects understand their problem or pain point and then introducing a solution (generating demand), the middle of the funnel is the opposite. There is existing demand for the SaaS product and our job is to get in front of those people who are looking for a solution.
So how do we create content that captures this demand?
There are four main types of content (and pages) that we tend to focus on:
- Tactical how-to content
- Product and category lists (Best tools/products)
- Product marketing pages
- Case studies
But this is not exhaustive. Many types of content and keywords will fall into the middle of the funnel if they signal some level of purchase intent. That context will depend heavily on the SaaS business, the target buyer, the vertical or industry, and the overall buying cycle.
The key is that a buyer at this stage should be solution aware.
This means that they’ve researched their problem enough to know what a potential solution might look like. But they haven’t necessarily identified specific products (tools, software, etc) that will provide that solution.
For instance, someone looking for something as broad as “sales tools” could be considered in the middle stages of their buying journey.
Here’s how we worked with the HelloSign team to build out a middle-of-the-funnel content strategy.
1. How-To Content
HelloSign is a SaaS product with nearly infinite specific use cases.
They allow you to sign legally-binding documents online, meaning that they can be used in nearly every imaginable vertical and industry.
This means that there is a huge treasure trove of tactical, product-focused, how-to content that we can create to attract solution-aware buyers with all sorts of different problems and needs.
- How to sign a sales contract online
- How to sign a will online
- How to sign employment contracts online
These queries help the user solve a specific problem and showcase actual, tactical use of the product.
One simple trick that we use with this kind of content is to simply imagine that we’re answering the query with the specific product.
“How to sign a contract online,” becomes, “How to sign a contract online with HelloSign.”
This means that the content itself should answer the query broadly and then showcase the client’s product solving the specific problem.
2. Product Lists
Again, because HelloSign is such a ubiquitous product that can be used in so many different ways, there is a huge opportunity to inject the product into various tool stacks and product consideration sets.
There are obvious opportunities, like:
- Best eSignature solutions
- Best online contract platforms
But there are more specific, use-case-focused opportunities too:
- Top sales tools
- Best software for mortgage lenders
- Essential tools for seamless contractor onboarding
All of these speak to one of the ideal buyer personas that we identified earlier. And they address their needs at this specific step in the buying journey–when they’re looking for specific products that either provide a specific solution or fit into a certain product category.
3. Product Marketing Pages
Landing pages (not editorial content) are another key part of the strategy. Although this may not exactly fit under the “content marketing strategy” umbrella, it’s important to mention because they play a critical role in capturing buyers with high intent and converting them directly into sign ups.
Middle of the funnel are product pages include:
In HelloSign’s case, this content exists on the marketing site.
They have a healthy catalog of specific product pages, including all of the features, use cases, and persona-driven content that was well-suited to rank for middle of the funnel keywords and capture solution-aware traffic.
But getting these pages to rank can sometimes be a challenge, which in turn makes it hard to capture that qualified traffic.
One of our content marketing goals for HelloSign was to help grow the site’s authority to drive SEO for the product-marketing content.
We did this by:
- Creating “supporting” content that includes internal links to these product-marketing pages
- Driving social traffic and social signals
- Generating and building links across the site to increase authority
With this approach, we were able to create more value from the existing pages on the entire HelloSign website. Each link and social signal we generated helped give a small boost to every middle-of-the-funnel page on the product marketing site.
This is clutch.
But, again, not every buyer will enter the funnel through search.
So, we also created some middle-of-the-funnel content that could be used through other channels like social, email, and retargeting to drive prospects from the top of the funnel further into the buying process.
4. Case Studies and Product Content
We used content to drive awareness and traffic for middle-of-the-funnel prospects by creating case studies, product content, and tactical implementation guides. Case studies, in particular, play a huge role in demonstrating both the versatility and range of HelloSign’s use cases as well as the massive positive outcomes that their customers have experienced by using the products.
Fortunately, we had a great partner at HelloSign who collaborated with the product team to create impressive case studies.
We also used keyword-optimized content on the blog to focus on specific implementations of the product for key segments and buyer personas.
Once we reached this stage in our content marketing strategy, we’d built a solid collection of content to help SaaS buyers move from initial pain points to identifying solutions and product-focused MOFU content to insert HelloSign products into the reader’s consideration set.
But, there’s one more step left–that’s the actual buying decision.
The bottom of the funnel is where the buyer scrutinizes products most closely and determines which one is right for them.
Bottom of the Funnel SaaS Content: Converting Prospects Into Customers
Welcome to the bottom of the funnel.
At this stage, the buyer is well on their way to using or purchasing a HelloSign product.
They have identified and articulated a specific “job” that they need to be done (pain point), discovered product solutions, features, and integrations that will work for their use case, and are now aware of specific products that meet those requirements.
But now they have to decide which specific product or service they’ll actually buy.
Depending on the size of the market, they could be deciding between two options or 20. The key to winning at the bottom of the funnel is creating relevant content and pages that honestly position your product as the ideal solution for your best-fit customers.
This content usually fits into three buckets:
- Buying Guides
1. Comparison content
The first type of BOFU content for SaaS companies is a comparison – Us vs Them.
- HelloSign vs DocuSign
- HelloSign vs Adobe Sign
- HelloSign vs PandaDoc
HelloSign’s product marketing team handled most of this content, comparing their software to competitors or alternative solutions.
This type of content plays a critical role in completing the journey for buyers who are interested in HelloSign products but may be considering other options as well.
Keep in mind that some of the audience at this stage has followed along the entire content journey. Maybe they first discovered the company by reading a blog post that was at the top of the funnel (or even pre-funnel!)
But others have not.
Maybe they were this close to making a buying decision but decided to evaluate a few other solutions. Or perhaps their procurement process requires that they perform due diligence on three possible vendors before choosing the best one.
Whatever the case may be, this is a chance for you to reach the buyer when they are closest to making a final purchase decision.
And, hopefully, convert them into customers.
Another key strategy here is to position the product as a viable alternative to another product that your buyers may be familiar with.
For instance, HelloSign could be a viable alternative to both DocuSign or a more robust platform like Ironclad.
The key to creating this content is:
- Identify which alternative solutions your various buyers may be considering (or currently using if they are looking to switch)
- Determine the reasons why buyers may be unhappy with these products–what is driving them to look for an alternative?
- Outline how your product compares and can work as a viable alternative for buyers who aren’t bought in to the other solutions
- Provide guidance on other potential alternatives, too
3. Buying Guides
Finally, we can reach these bottom-of-the-funnel buyers by creating detailed buying guides to help them evaluate these various product solutions and decide which one is best for them.
- What features should they look for?
- What questions should they ask?
- How do they know if it will work for their specific use case?
Buying guides are a powerful tool for attracting these buyers when they’re making a final decision and can also help you position your product as the best solution for your most ideal customers.
Building a SaaS Content Marketing Roadmap
One of my favorite things to tell people is that content marketing is like chess–not checkers.
To win at SaaS content marketing, you need more than just a single move in your arsenal. You need more than good content. You need more than luck.
You need strategy.
And part of that strategy is driven by how the specific content that you create will work together–with other content, with other marketing strategies, and with your overall market or industry–to achieve the desired outcome.
This is what we call a framework.
It’s the skeleton of a strategy that you can fill in with the specifics of your company, your goals, and your market. Then you have something you can execute in order to achieve your goals.
The cool thing about content frameworks–and why I love writing and talking about them–is that they give us a shared understanding of what we are trying to achieve, what moving pieces are involved in the strategy, and how we will execute them in a way that becomes more than the sum of the parts.
It’s like a visual guide to chess openings and scenarios.
But there’s another level to consider.
Once you have a clear picture of how you plan to approach content marketing for your SaaS business, you need to figure out what content to make–and when.
How do you prioritize content and build a realistic roadmap?
There’s no one single answer. But we marry a few different methodologies when prioritizing and planning execution:
- Business value– The most important factor is how relevant the topics and content are to the core of your business. It’s always best to start by creating content that speaks most directly to your best-fit customers, most unique features, and most obvious benefits.
- Topical authority – We recommend planning content around core topics and building these out as a “cluster” rather than publishing content across a huge array of different topics. This helps from a content creation perspective and also helps you build topical authority to improve SEO.
- Reach – Lastly, we consider the potential reach or search volume of the content we’re creating. Obviously, the greater reach, the more potential impact it may have. But this comes last because reach doesn’t mean much if there’s no business value.
So far, we’ve talked a lot about content planning and strategy.
But, at some point, you have to start creating and publishing. So what does that look like?
Obviously, this isn’t a detailed guide on writing quality content. But I can share a bit about what the process might look like and how you can start to think about content operations and your content team.
Let’s start by taking all of the pieces that we identified as part of our strategy and turning it into an actual plan.
Most people would call this a content calendar. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be a running list of content you’ll publish on certain days. Many teams now operate using agile workflows–sprints, iterations, etc–to batch and release new content.
Especially if your main distribution channel is SEO, the timing of your publishing is less important than simply getting it on the site so it can be crawled and indexed.
There’s no right way to plan or schedule each piece of content.
But, in our experience, it usually makes sense to work through content around central themes (topic clusters) before moving into a new theme and topic. For instance, we might create and plan several articles for the Optimist site about different facets of SaaS content marketing before moving to another topic like content writing or SEO.
Many teams struggle to reach a manageable and scalable output for their content team because they often try to find one person who can do it all. While there are a few true “unicorns” out there who can be a one-person content marketing team, it’s a pretty tall ask.
Most successful content marketing teams generally have at least 2-3 people involved. And as the team scales, it’s not unreasonable to have 10-20 people – including in-house or freelance writers.
It becomes obvious when you consider all of the work that goes into executing a SaaS content marketing strategy from beginning to end.
Content marketing really includes:
- Content strategy and planning
- SEO (keyword research, etc)
- Content writing and editing
- Content design
- Production (setup, formatting, etc)
- Promotion and linkbuilding
- Measurement and analysis
- Content maintenance, updating, and optimization
In some cases, it makes the most sense to bring in a small team (or a great manager with a team of freelancers). In other cases, this is one of the main reasons why many SaaS companies decide to hire a content marketing agency that can provide a full-service team.
Choosing the Right SaaS Content Marketing Agency
When it comes to driving growth through content marketing, having the right team on your side can make all the difference.
If you want to see results, you don’t need just keyword research, strategy, content, design, or promotion—you need a full-service content marketing partner that can handle it all.
Optimist has been driving results with full-service content marketing for the past five years and we plan to continue elevating our clients’ businesses to new heights.
Our team is composed of amazingly talented designers, strategists, writers, and promotion experts. Each of us is dedicated to our craft and we come together to create custom growth-focused content.
We’re not generalists.
We’re not jacks-of-all-trades.
We’re experts at what we do—and what we do is SaaS content marketing.
From the top to the bottom of the funnel, we worked with HelloSign to build a SaaS content marketing strategy that helped them drive growth and take their business to the next level.
While our team obviously can’t take credit for HelloSign’s overall success and ultimate acquisition by Dropbox, we’re extremely proud of the role we played.
By working together with their team, we were able to put together a SaaS content marketing strategy that served an important role in driving the traffic and leads that they needed to fuel their growth.
It’s been a fun ride and we’re excited to see what they do next. And we’re also excited to continue applying the lessons we’ve learned to helping other SaaS businesses drive massive growth through content.So, if you’re a SaaS founder or marketer, I’d love to chat about how we can help you reach (or exceed!) your goals. Drop me a line to let me know what you’re working on and let’s see what we can achieve together.
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This kick-ass article was created in collaboration with Emily Bauer.