Last updated 05 May, 2020.
The rapid growth of content marketing is undeniable. B2B SaaS companies are churning out blog posts left and right, but the reality is few marketers are creating strategic content aligned with their business goals—whether that's increasing retention, generating leads, or boosting brand awareness.
In fact, just 39% of B2B marketers say they have a documented content marketing strategy.
No strategy means no goals, no action plans, and no way to measure your efforts. But successful content marketing is never a shot in the dark.
Not sure where to begin when it comes to building a content marketing strategy?
Fear not. Here’s a breakdown of how to build the ultimate content marketing strategy for your B2B SaaS business—and why it matters.
- Know your ideal customer
- Set goals that support the business
- Establish an editorial mission
- Assess your current position
- Choose a content framework
- Choose the right content themes and formats
- Find and maintain your brand personality
- Distribute and amplify your content
- Adjust your strategy as needed
What is a content marketing strategy, anyway?
Let’s start with a definition: A content marketing strategy is a living document that exists as part of your overall marketing strategy. It’s a Commander’s Intent that guides all of your content choices. At the heart of it, your content marketing strategy outlines the “why” for all your content marketing efforts.
While it takes time and effort to produce, it makes content planning and production a lot easier—and more effective—down the line.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all content marketing strategy. You won’t find a fill-in-the-black template here. For your content marketing strategy to be effective, you need to consider your unique business situation and answer the following questions:
- What are the goals of content marketing, and how do they support the business goals?
- What metrics do we use to measure success?
- Who is the content for? (spoiler alert: it shouldn’t be “everyone”)
- What topics will we write about, and how will they help our audience?
- How will we plan, create, and distribute our content?
Why should B2B SaaS companies build one?
Companies that create a content marketing strategy see roughly 30% higher growth rates than companies without one. Benjamin Franklin got it right: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
A content marketing strategy focuses your day-to-day efforts and helps you understand the role content plays in the big picture. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with the content you’re creating. Otherwise what’s the point?
Content shouldn’t be created in a vacuum. If you just create a few blog posts when the mood strikes, you simply won’t see the results you hope for (and you won’t even know what results to hope for). You’ll have no way of knowing whether your content is resonating with readers, or having any impact whatsoever.
A content marketing strategy gets everyone at your company (marketing, sales, product, etc.) on the same page with your content marketing goals. Simply put, it helps you decide what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
Let’s get practical: How do you go about building a content marketing strategy?
1. Know your ideal customer
You’ve likely heard this a thousand times before, but because it’s so critical it forever bears repeating: Know your ideal buyer and create content that speaks to their wants and needs. This is your #1 priority. When you don’t have a deep understanding of your ideal customer, it’s impossible to reach your business goals.
So how do you truly understand your customers? How can you find out what they need, what they value, and what motivates them?
It all comes down to customer research. To step into your buyer’s shoes, speak to them directly. By interviewing potential, current, and past customers, you get a real sense of who your target audience is and what problems they’re facing.
You want to go beyond the superficial demographics like age, gender, and profession, and understand their needs in relation to the solution you’re offering. In other words, less “Marketing Mary” and and more insights on your real-life customers.
What’s truly important is figuring out your customers’ struggle. What causes them to seek out solutions and make a specific purchase? These struggles can also be called “jobs to be done”—you can use the jobs-to-be-done framework to conduct better customer research.
To define this framework, let’s refer to Clayton Christensen—the man who coined the term: “The theory of Jobs to Be Done is a framework for better understanding customer behavior. While conventional marketing focuses on market demographics or product attributes, Jobs Theory goes beyond superficial categories to expose the functional, social, and emotional dimensions that explain why customers make the choices they do.”
To understand what jobs customers are truly hiring your company to do, you need to talk to them. This is the only way you’ll get at the causal driver behind their purchases. For example, what we assume people do with SaaS products might be completely different from the actual value they get from them.
Once you know your audience’s struggle, you can create content that speaks to that. Find the questions your current and future customers ask, and answer them.
2. Set goals that support the business
Without concrete, relevant goals, the content you put out there is just noise. Your content fits into your larger company picture, and you need to know its purpose.
Identify what exactly you’re trying to achieve, and ensure everyone on the team understands this goal. Marketing and sales alignment cannot be overstated, as you can only set meaningful KPIs and metrics to measure success in content marketing once you know your overall business goals.
For example, if your business goal is increase customer retention, you’ll measure your churn rate. You’ll create valuable content that educates customers on new products and features, and look at the impact of lead nurturing workflows.
On the other hand, if your main goal is lead generation, then the metrics will look different—you’ll focus on new contacts, the number of free trial signups, and new customers.
3. Establish an editorial mission
What do you want to achieve with your content? Who are you trying to reach, and how will you reach them?
These are the questions your editorial mission (also called a content marketing marketing mission) will answer. Without a clear mission, you’re writing for the sake of writing. And that simply isn’t content marketing.
All your content should be created with one goal in mind: to help your audience succeed in their job—this is why deeply knowing your audience is vital. Your editorial mission is a key piece of your content marketing strategy that guides all content planning and production. It helps focus your efforts as your team grows, helps align all your writers, and helps you prioritize what type of content to develop (and what not to develop).
Finally, make sure everyone involved in content marketing has access to your editorial mission.
4. Assess your current position
To get where you want to go, you first need to take stock of your current situation.
The next step: Run a content audit to get actionable insight on the current state of all web content. This will tell you what content is performing best and what content your audience appreciates the most so you’ll know where to focus your efforts.
How do you run a content audit? There’s no one-size-fits-all process, but generally, you’ll follow these three basic steps:
1. Create an inventory
First, collect all the URLs of web pages you want to analyze. Then catalog your content using a spreadsheet or online tool according to different criteria including content type, content format, and buyer’s journey stage. You can also include some basic info in the sheet like content author, word count, and publication date.
2. Collect and analyze data
The next step is to collect and analyze data, which you’ll then add to your spreadsheet. Metrics you can track include page views, sessions, average time on page, social media shares, backlinks, and bounce rate.
To make sense of the data, look at all the metrics as a whole. Then, assess your content based on your goals, and decide whether you want to keep it as is, update it, or delete it. You can also use a tailored point system to grade your content. But unless you have a ton of content, that might not be necessary.
3. Create action plans
Based on your assessments, create action plans for each piece of content. Provide recommendations for improving your site according to:
- User friendliness (structure, navigation, content, voice & tone, readability)
- Business goals (increasing organic traffic, increasing the number and quality of leads)
Will you add new internal links to older blog posts? Update the CTAs to replace irrelevant or outdated ones? Reuse a well-performing content piece or publish it in a new format?
If you already have a content marketing strategy, conducting a content audit helps you assess how it’s currently working. And if you don’t, you can build your strategy based on the findings of your audit.
5. Choose a content framework
A content framework represents the how of content creation. How will you organize content on your website and optimize it for search?
There are a few different frameworks you can use to manage your content, including:
- Topic clusters
- Blog categories
- Content format driven hubs
The topic cluster approach brings many benefits, including getting an increasing flow of organic traffic. Applying this framework allows you to think of your blog as library of information rather than a publication. As Jimmy Dally writes, “Content that lives alone dies alone.” You want to build a vast library of information that will earn traffic well into the future.
Depending on your business and goals, the topic cluster approach may not always work best. But whatever framework you choose, quality and depth is better than volume and breadth. Rather than cover a broad range of topics on a superficial level, you want to create substantial content that will provide more value to your audience.
6. Choose the right content themes and formats
What are you writing about, and does it make sense for your business?
Choosing the right content themes (or topics) ensures all your content fits into both your short- and long-term goals. All content themes should tick the following boxes:
- Your target audience is interested in the theme
- The theme is consistent with your company’s offering
- The theme is close enough to your business to make the connection seem natural
- The theme is broad enough to allow producing at least 10 stand-alone cluster pieces
- You have the domain authority to rank for the base search term (e.g. “organizational development”)
When creating a new content piece, you want to know what part of the buyer’s journey it’s for and identify specific KPIs:
People are experiencing symptoms of a problem or opportunity and are looking for answers, resources, opinions, and insights. Content at this stage can include blog posts, ebooks, webinars, and podcasts. Your KPIs can include organic traffic, page views, and social media metrics.
People have clearly defined their problem or opportunity, and are doing research on whether your product or service is a good fit for them. Content can include case studies, comparison whitepapers, demo videos, checklists, and FAQs. KPIs can include traffic, time on site, and lead gen rate.
People are deciding on their solution strategy, and figuring out what exactly it would take to become a customer. Content can include feature guides, live demos, free trials, consultations, and product pages. KPIs can include marketing- and sales-qualified leads.
Your customers want to get the most out of your product and reach their goals. The content you share with your customers can include guided and self-service educational pieces that provide real value and empower them to become promoters of your company.
You also want to make sure each theme supports your end-goal of converting visitors by having a natural conversion point like an associated eBook or landing page.
7. Find and maintain your brand personality
Brand plays a big role in the success of your B2B SaaS company. SaaS companies report having an average of nine competitors and are starting to invest more in their brand to stand out in a crowded market. Why? Because brand, not features, is the biggest differentiator.
Your brand is essentially how your audience perceives you. And your voice is the representation of your brand personality. Even if you don’t take the time to define your brand, your audience will still form an impression of you.
Of course, establishing your brand’s unique personality and tone of voice is no easy feat. It’s not something you can whip up overnight. It’s important to take the time to involve key stakeholders in your company and get everyone on the same page.
When refining your brand personality and voice, ask yourself the following questions
- If your brand were a person, how would you describe them?
- If your brand was an emoji, what would it be?
- How do you want people to feel when they visit your site and read your content?
- What brand voices do you admire, and which do you dislike? Why?
Keeping a consistent tone with everything you write is crucial to build trust with your audience. To nail down your tone of voice, you can also complete these two exercises developed by Nielsen Norman Group with your team, .
8. Distribute and amplify your content
If you create a blog post but nobody reads it, does it really exist?
Don't let all your content creation efforts go to waste by failing to distribute and promote your content.
Distribution shouldn’t just be an afterthought. Rather, it should be built into the planning phase of every content piece.
How will you reach your audience? There are a few ways to distribute your content:
Search engine optimization (SEO)
A well-written blog post or insightful podcast isn’t the key to content marketing success. You need to optimize your content for search so that the right people can find it. Your SEO strategy will depend on your primary business goals—for example, are you trying to increase awareness, or boost conversions and sign-ups?
By taking a pain-point driven SEO strategy rather than a keyword-first approach, you’ll be well equipped to come up with with topics that generate leads and increase conversions.
Organic social distribution
You’ll know where your ideal buyers hang out online based on your customer research. You don’t need to include a strict channel plan in your content marketing strategy, but you can talk about some of the most important ones. Share content on these channels and interact with your audience there.
You’ll also want to leverage you and your team’s personal networks. People generally prefer following individuals over companies on social media. Whether they’re on the sales, marketing, or product team, employees can share content and engage with current and potential customers.
It’s generally a good idea to start with organic distribution before jumping into paid distribution. Especially in the SaaS industry, organic search results are considered to be more trustworthy than paid ads. But targeted paid search and social can do wonders if you’re just getting the word out about your business and have a low domain authority.
Out of your existing contacts, who would benefit the most from your new piece of content? Create personalized emails to specific segments—such as people who downloaded a similar content piece or your blog subscribers—and explain why you think they’d value the information.
Your sales team can also include a link to your content in their follow-up emails to prospective customers. This works best with actionable content that answers your prospects' specific questions.
When it comes to email marketing, don’t underestimate the value of building human connections and opening up a two-way discussion.
9. Adjust your strategy as needed
Your customer research and content marketing strategy should be living documents. Don’t let them sit in the deep dark depths of Google Drive never to see the light of day.
Instead, make it a point to revisit your strategy, refine it, and rework it on a continual basis.
Have aspects of your business changed, but you haven’t updated your content marketing strategy and messaging? Have you noticed a drop in traffic, or lower conversion rates? These may be signs it’s time to delve back into customer research. Since this research guides your content marketing strategy, it makes sense to start by reviewing your ideal customers.
Plus, you learn more about your customers over time. Down the line, you might find your early customer research was focused on a different segment than what you’d like to go after next.
Once you’ve discovered new insights and refined your strategy, make sure to communicate them with your entire team.
Content marketing: It’s a marathon, not a sprint
When it comes to content marketing, there is no finish line (yes, marathons do have finish lines, but you get the point).
“Set it and forget it” content marketing won’t get your business noticed online or drive relevant traffic to your site. Instead, you want to test different tactics, measure your progress, figure out why something is or isn’t working, and make the necessary changes. And all that requires continual energy and effort.
Ready to get to work building the ultimate content marketing strategy? Whether you're starting from scratch or want help refining your current strategy, don't hesitate to get in touch with us 👇