Content marketing is expected to be a $300 billion industry in 2019.

You’re dead on the money if you want to get in on the action, because content marketing (done correctly) can truly transform your SaaS business into a money-making machine.

Are you struggling to get started?

I don’t blame you.

Read any “ultimate guide” to SaaS content marketing and you’ll come across a set of rules that dictate starting with keyword research. That’s a good idea, but it’s tricky for new brands. You’ll head to Google and see the first page dominated by enterprise brands with enviable budgets and huge existing audience.

It gets worse: Competing against these huge SaaS brands isn’t going to get any easier.

75% of marketers are increasing the cash they’re spending on content marketing, so you’ll need to take an alternative route if you want to get a slice of the content pie.

So, is there another way to compete with enterprise SaaS companies but still get results?

Spoiler alert: Yes. Here’s how.

1. Research the type of content proven to perform well

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of creating stellar content, let’s iron-out the basics and brainstorm the type of content you’re going to create.

Got an idea already in your mind?

Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of starting with keywords you think your audience want. Spending time, effort and cash into a piece of content that you’re unsure will perform well is a total waste of time.

Instead, be one of the 90% of top-performing B2B content marketers who put their audience’s informational needs ahead of sales and promotional messages. Go straight to the horse’s mouth (your customers!) and ask them what type of content they want to see from you by:

  • Searching Buzzsumo for popular content in your industry
  • Surveying your customers
  • Answering FAQs sent to sales teams
  • Browsing industry research

Let’s put that into practice.

I might assume my B2B customers want to learn why receipts should be stored digitally. But after asking my sales reps for a list of FAQs they answer, I find out my target customers actually want to know how to store those receipts.

Get the gist?

I asked Marijana Kay, a B2B content marketing expert, to explain how you can do this for your SaaS company:

“To make sure that my topics are specific enough for my audience and strikes a chord with them, I use the good old Google search along with a free Chrome extension called Keywords Everywhere.

As I type the keyword/phrase I have in mind into Google, I look at two things: the suggested similar searches that are automatically populated, as well as the Keywords Everywhere monthly search volume next to them.

Once I take note of these, I hit enter and do two things:

  • Look for trends in the titles of the best-ranking content, such as the specific format they mention (ultimate guide, step-by-step, walkthrough, why, how-to…) or particular pain points they focus on
  • Scroll to the bottom to look at the ‘Searches related to’ section and their monthly search volumes. I take note of them, click through to relevant ones, and repeat this for as long as I keep getting results tightly related to my topic

This helps narrow the topic down to the pain point that resonates with target readers the most.

Finally, I’ll often hop into Google Trends and enter some of the keywords and key questions I uncovered and look at the ‘Top’ and ‘Rising’ related topics below the main graph, as well as related queries. This uncovers another layer of questions my ideal audience is dealing with, and how the demand for such content has changed over time.”

saas content marketing

2. Niche down, rather than generalizing

You’ve got a range of topic ideas that you want to cover. What happens next?

It’s time to niche down on one of those topics and elaborate in detail, rather than taking a broad approach like enterprise SaaS companies do.

For example: If you find your customers want to learn more about creating a go-to market strategy, create this blog post:

Why Content Should Be Part of Your Go-to-Market Strategy in SaaS”

…instead of this one:

“How to Create a Go-to-Market Strategy”

Notice how the first option is much more specific, and targets SaaS audience specifically? It proves your knowledge in that specialized area, builds authority, and could help you rank for long-tail, less searched-for keywords that drive organic traffic.

That’s what you want to replicate–particularly when long-tail keywords account for 70% of all search traffic.

Ruler Analytics do this with their SaaS content strategy.

The long-tail keyword “SaaS go-to-market strategy” has a low search volume of 90, but they’re managing to rank in position #4 despite not being a huge name in the SaaS industry:

saas go to market strategy

Not a bad result, right? Especially when they’re only a few spots away from beating content machines like ConversionXL and Advance B2B to position one!

3. Involve industry experts to raise awareness

Fancy creating an audience that enterprise brands would be jealous of?

Start your mission by involving industry experts to contribute to your content.

You could use a service like HARO or send personalized emails to people you admire, and ask them to answer a single question. Then, compile their answers in a blog post, link to their website, and send the published article to then.

Chances are, they’ll share it with their network because they’ve been featured–helping you to build more awareness, generate more social shares, and drive more traffic back to your website.

(Plus, with 69% of professional bloggers writing content over 1,000-words in length, asking industry experts to get involved is an easy way to compete with long-form content.)

The team at Databox are no stranger to this strategy.

Here’s one of their most recent round-up articles:

The article features 42 different agency owners, and since each has a link back to their website, it’s in their best interests to share it via social media.

71 shares in less than two weeks isn’t a bad result:

4. Invest in original research

Enterprise SaaS brands can rake in the backlinks without doing a single bit of link-building outreach because they’ve got large audiences.

Without backlinks, you’ll have a tough time ranking in Google.

However, smaller SaaS brands don’t have to head to dodgy SEO tactics to build backlinks that’ll help them rank. Instead, you can invest in original research (mainly statistics from a in-house survey) to build authority and generate powerful links from other publishers.

Just take this original research by Venngage, for example:

vennage research

I asked Nadya Khoja, Chief Growth Officer at Venngage, to explain the process behind this round of original research. She said:

“What I did was create a Google Form with all of the questions we wanted answers to. I knew I needed marketers that were doing some type of content marketing to partake in the survey. First I started by downloading an archive of my own LinkedIn Connections and filtering out all the people who were not marketers (that left about 1000 people to contact).

I created a drip campaign to let them know that I was working on a survey and would love their help (with a few customized follow-ups). After that, I also researched people who had written about content marketing, or mentioned/linked to an article about visual content and reached out to those people to ask if they would partake in the survey.

Then everyone who did engage in the survey, I mentioned that I would follow up when it was published and asked them to share/link to it.

Then of course, emailing it to our audience and other standard outreach methods on top of that. We also retargeted people who I reached out to but did not submit the survey on Facebook.

On Ahrefs, it indicates that the article generated over 1000 backlinks.

ahrefs content marketing saas

Do this to get a leg-up on your SaaS content marketing by:

  1. Using your round of content topic research to find a popular topic in your industry.
  2. Creating a Google Form with a selection of relevant questions, or using a provider like Pollfish to reach more people.
  3. Analyzing the results of your survey. What was the most shocking statistic?
  4. Creating some images from the data in your survey using Infogram.
  5. Publishing a blog post with the statistics and images, and promote it.

People will link back to your original research as credit if they’re using your statistics–making it a powerful way to get up Google’s ranks, even as a SaaS content marketing newbie.

5. Find unique ways to promote your content

Larger SaaS companies have huge audiences–both in email and on social media, meaning they rarely need to promote their content massively to make it seen.

Your smaller company, on the other hand, might not be as lucky. But you still don’t want a piece of content you’ve spent hours creating to end up rotting in your blog’s archive.

That’s why you’ll need to follow the 20/80 rule for content marketing:

…So, how exactly do you promote and distribute your content? The answer isn’t as simple as a few Twitter shares.

Start by surveying your audience and asking where they hang out online. That could be specific subreddits, Slack groups or forums, but it’s your job to get involved there. Make a name for yourself as being helpful, then begin to trickle links to your content once you’re a well-respected member of the group.

The content team at Quuu do this excellently. They promoted a recent blog post on Growth Hackers–a forum where their target customers hang out:

…and shared the link in various Slack groups to gain some traction on the platform:

As a result, they drove tons of traffic from the Growth Hackers platform, and helped build an audience around their content.

Distribution is a top priority for 47% of content marketers.

If you’re in that group, turning away from large social platforms in favor of niche forums could be the solution you need to drive eyeballs to your content.

Final thoughts

As you can see, it’s tricky to compete with enterprise SaaS brands when they’ve got millions of dollars (and hours of human time!) to create excellent content. But that doesn’t mean you need to fall behind.

Think about your audience’s needs before your promotional messages, invest in original research, and find unique ways to promote your content–whether that’s an industry forum, Facebook Group or Slack channel.

You’ll soon start to take a chunk of a big-name brand’s audience!