The Software as a Service (SaaS) industry is growing at a rapid rate. According to Statista, this year its value is predicted to reach around $124.53 billion worldwide.
While growth is excellent news, it also means that your competition is getting stronger. SaaS companies need to keep up if they want to stand out, and one of the best ways to stay ahead is to tap into marketing practices that are sometimes overlooked by your competition.
Surprisingly, content marketing is one of the most popular marketing strategies in the wider world, but it often gets disregarded or—worse—is done haphazardly in the SaaS space. This shouldn’t be the case.
Given its efficiency at attracting new leads and nurturing existing ones, content marketing is a perfect opportunity for you to respond to your prospects’ needs in a unique way.
In this article, I’ll suggest a few types of content that are efficient in different stages of the customer journey, starting with interactive content. We’ll also focus on one SaaS marketing technique that has been somewhat forgotten in the digital sphere: direct sales.
Let’s dive in.
1. Use Interactive Content to Offer Personalized Solutions
Creating interactive content (like quizzes, surveys, polls, and calculators) is one of the best ways to attract new customers and engage them in a conversation. According to Kapost, interactive content generates twice as many conversions as passive content. And around 88% of marketers who use it say that interactive content helps them stand out from competitors.
Why? Interactive content is solution-oriented. It taps into the primary need of an average SaaS customer.
And this, in turn, enables you to learn more about your customers (about, for instance, any problems and issues they might be facing or goals they’re looking to achieve). Then you can offer them a personalized solution that will cater to their specific individual needs. After all, your software already solves a particular problem—be it organizing employees, setting up an accounting system, or helping someone lose weight.
Put simply, when you start off creating interactive content, you’ll want to think about the following questions:
- Who is my customer?
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- Which solutions and features do I offer?
An Example of Interactive SaaS Marketing
LeadQuizzes is marketing automation software that started off as a marketing agency. After repeated success with using quizzes to build our clients’ email lists, we decided to turn quizzes into a business in its own right. And what better way to advertise quiz software than to use it to reach potential customers among the target group of professional marketers and small business owners.
With this in mind, we created a quiz that sought to address one of the most common challenges in the digital marketing world: generating leads and sales. The quiz targeted marketers and small business owners in the form of the Facebook quiz ad.
The questions we asked focused on the potential client’s existing website traffic, budget, and marketing objectives. Here are a few examples:
How much website traffic do you receive per month?
- 0 – 5,000 visitors per month
- 5,001 – 10,000 visitors per month
- 10,001+ visitors per month
How many leads are you getting each month?
- 0 – 500 leads per month
- 501 – 1,000 leads per month
- 1,001+ leads per month
Do you offer a discount as an opt-in on your website?
Before they got the answers, they had to fill out an opt-in form asking for their name, email, and number. And based on the respondent’s answers, we offered personalized solutions in the form of the quiz results.
In the first quiz, results led to a Calendly page where a potential customer could schedule a consultation because the goal was to acquire as many early adopters as possible. (Today, a similar quiz on the website leads customers to the landing page that includes useful marketing tips, an industry leader’s testimonial, and an offer to sign up.)
This is what worked for us, but if you feel that personalized results aren’t enough of an incentive for people to share their contact info, you can always use a lead magnet, such as a free ebook or discount, in combination with the quiz.
What’s the lesson here?
Based on the buyer’s needs and readiness, as well as your ultimate goal, the results can differ greatly. That’s why your landing page is a crucial detail that can make or break your user’s interactive experience. This is where your goal and their need should ideally meet.
Median conversion rates for classic PPC ads are between 3-6%, according to Unbounce’s Conversion Benchmark Report. Interactive content can double this percentage, while an effective landing page can boost it to 27%.
Using interactive content along with optimized landing pages, LeadQuizzes went on to close 189 clients in 2 years and generate $720,000 in annual revenue. But the road to that number took more than two steps.
Inevitably, however, some people who engage with your interactive content and landing page simply won’t sign up for your software. That’s life. The reasons may vary: they don’t need it at the moment, or it doesn’t entirely meet their requirements. So how do you keep them coming back?
2. Use “Passive” Content to Nurture Leads
Around 70% of people who leave your website will never come back. Collecting their email addresses using interactive content is an insurance policy against this problem—and a way to stay in touch. If they’re not interested in your product, of course, they’re likely to unsubscribe. As long as they remain on your list, though, you keep the opportunity to offer them the right answer at the right time.
Having access to your potential and existing customer’s inbox is a perfect opportunity to build and nurture a good relationship. High-quality, personalized blog content enables you to assert yourself as an industry authority and a friendly partner to your customers.
But what does make a high-quality blog content? According to Single Grain, some of the most important lead nurturing content practices include:
- Adjusting content to your sales funnel
- Personalizing your content
- Using marketing automation
- Doing follow-ups
Let’s look at how each one of these practices builds upon the data you can gather using interactive content.
Adjusting content to your sales funnel
Using interactive content allows you to understand the level of customer’s buyer readiness, which dictates how “sales-y” your content should be. For example, if you sparked a customer’s interest but they didn’t purchase your product yet, you may want to use content to educate them. You can start with basic guides and 101-themed posts, and slowly build up their knowledge to more specific topics.
For example, this is the welcome email I got after I subscribed for the lead generation tool. In it, the Oxyleads team outlines our future communication:
It’s a good example because they’re setting the expectations in terms of the follow-up emails that are to come (so they won’t seem too spammy), while the content of those emails is expected to educate you about the tool and convince you it’s valuable enough to make a purchase.
Personalization comes in different forms. It starts with basic things, like using a personalized subject line that addresses the person by name. This small detail increases your open rate by as much as 50%. It’s also important to email your leads according to their time zone and location.
But personalization also means crafting content that responds to the person’s specific needs. A small business owner and manager in a large corporation may use your software. But they probably use it differently, face separate challenges, and have different goals and benchmarks.
Here’s an example of an email I got from a content aggregation platform Zest. One of their projects is creating an algorithm that will display super personalized content for each user inside the browser. This is one part of the experiment.
Social Media Lab (from social media management software Agorapulse) provides another good example of SaaS marketing at work. They seek to educate their customers through engaging experiments. While this email is fairly rudimentary (and lacks a simple personalization tweak: my name!) its content manages to be straightforward while arousing curiosity.
Finally, here’s an amazing example from Grammarly of personalizing content in a less formal way. Every week, they inform me about my writing stats:
But apart from inspiring a sense of accomplishment with personalized insights, this email also sneaks in a call to action to upgrade my plan:
The great thing about generating leads using interactive content is that it allows you to take the guesswork out of this personalization. By asking the right questions, you can understand your target customer’s varying needs and problems, and write content accordingly.
Using marketing automation
Once your email list grows to a certain point, using automation becomes a must. Marketing automation allows you to analyze your leads’ interaction with emails and your content, and optimize them for maximum effect.
Most importantly, automation enables you to forward the right messages to the right people at the desired time, without having to waste a lot of time doing everything manually. There’s a wide variety of available marketing automation tools that can help you scale your lead qualification and nurturing efforts.
How often you’re going to follow-up depends on your customer’s current position in the sales funnel. The “hotter” the lead, the more information they need.
For example, here’s the follow-up email I got from Oxyleads a few days after I spent my free credits:
3. Gain Credibility with White Papers and Case Studies
While white papers and case studies are one type of classical passive content, they deserve special attention in SaaS marketing. In B2B SaaS, in particular, you’re going to engage with people who are professionals in their industry. And wowing them takes more than a good ad copy or engaging blog post. They want to see credibility and authority.
White papers are used in numerous fields, but the general definition is an authoritative report that addresses certain issues and offers solutions for them. In terms of SaaS marketing, a white paper represents a theory behind your product or technology. Just like with blog posts, its main purpose is to educate customers and help them make a decision.
A high-quality white paper typically includes:
- Structure and length. While a white paper is longer than a blog post, it’s still shorter than an ebook. It has at least six pages and can take between a few weeks and a few months to write.
- Format and style. A white paper is formal, detailed, and informative, often written in an “academic” style (i.e., it shouldn’t sound like marketing, even if it is).
- Good design. Even though the tone might be academic, that doesn’t mean your white paper should look like a college essay. Compelling design is a must!
The white paper’s main purpose is to assert yourself as a credible, authoritative solution and source of guidance. More than half of business-to-business marketers consider white papers effective marketing tools, and we agree. (Check out this sample of Google’s white paper for a little inspiration.)
Case studies can also take a long time, although they are easier to assemble than a white paper. While they can be written in an informal style, and require only essential information, they still demand serious research.
But it’s worth the hard work: case studies help convert and accelerate leads, according to Marketing Charts. A case study can give a huge boost to your credibility—people automatically feel more confident about your software if they see you are working with big brands they already know and trust.
The case study requires your client or customer to be ready to reveal their specific, detailed business strategy, show you and the rest of the world their numbers, and prove that it was your software that helped them reach great results.
But how can you produce case studies if you’re just a beginner in the industry? Apart from approaching your existing customers, it’s also possible to approach the industry leaders with fine-tuned cold outreach. But these users have to be incentivized to share their business secrets with you—whether it’s going to be a discount, free subscription, mutual marketing arrangement, etc.
Editor’s note. Seeing is believing. Here are some examples of how Unbounce uses customer stories and case studies to highlight the effectiveness of landing pages, popups, and sticky bars.
4. Use Traditional Sales (No, Really)
It’s all too easy to forget the power of 1-on-1 conversation in the world of digital solutions. But sales are a marketing technique in their own right and doing them like in “the good old days” may be just what makes your SaaS business stand out.
Of course, we’re not talking about the annoying telemarketer calls. We are talking about reaching out to the customers who are ready and highly likely to buy your product. Engaging them with each type of content we’ve mentioned so far will give you a fairly clear picture of their readiness over time.
Remember that we mentioned in the first section that LeadQuizzes led some quiz takers directly to a Calendly page? Alternatively, some were contacted after a lead nurturing email sequence. But in both cases, the phone calls were incredibly successful and the investment paid off.
Why are traditional sales so effective in SaaS?
They help you close a mutually satisfying deal. Sure, you can list all of your software’s features on the landing page. But presenting them to a client personally, explaining how each feature plays into their specific goals, is much more effective. It enables you to improve retention and reduce churn early on because you are making sure the customers get everything they need in their subscription plan.
Don’t worry that this technique will come across as aggressive—remember, this is the sales part reserved for leads who are genuinely interested in your software.
Making your name in the crowded SaaS world isn’t easy, but it becomes easier when you realize that your marketing strategy stems from the specific nature of your product. As you’re building software, build it with the user in mind. You want to make things simpler and more effective for them. SaaS marketing is all about communicating these thoughts to the customers.
Content marketing and direct sales are a fantastic way to truly empathize and connect with your customer. Once that happens, you build a mutually beneficial relationship in which enables you to develop your product and stay ahead.