The Type of Content To Produce At Every Lifecycle Stage (Part One)

January 23, 2020

Editor’s Note: This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series covering content creation at three different lifecycle stages.  

In general, SaaS companies—particularly those in the early stages—invest in and care more about the product, but not so much about content. However, examples like Ahrefs, Close and Buffer show us that if a SaaS company has a solid content strategy as well as a good product, it can accelerate the growth process even further.

Why is it though that most SaaS companies are hesitant to invest in content and commit to an effort that will most likely benefit them in the long term? There are many reasons why this may be happening, but we aren’t going to cover them here.

Instead, this 3-part series will discuss what kind of content SaaS companies should be publishing based on their lifecycle stage. So, if you’re running a SaaS organization—and especially if you’re in the early stages of the process—this guide will be invaluable.

Throughout this 3-part series, you’ll see examples of SaaS companies that belong to each of the stages described. These examples will help you understand what kind of content you need to publish based on lifecycle stage.

Stage 1: Early Stage

Although there are many different approaches to the stages a SaaS company will complete throughout its lifecycle, we’ll keep things simple and discuss three:

  1. Early Stage
  2. Product-Market Fit
  3. Scale

For each of these stages—based on some facts that companies need to face—we’ll try to deploy the strategies that companies need to use on a content level. Let’s start with early stage.

A quick overview about the early stage of a SaaS company:

      • You don’t have authority in your niche—people don’t know you or your product
      • You probably can’t allocate budget to content because you have other priorities
      • Your website has low authority—it doesn’t rank for commercial keywords
      • You may pivot or simply don’t last to see your content start performing
      • People don’t know if they can trust you and bring them results
      • You don’t yet have an audience yet
      • You don’t get sales yet

All these are (unfortunately) things you need to deal with when starting out with your SaaS company. This is the reality for most SaaS founders, regardless of whether you already have previous experience in the industry. Here’s how most websites look while in this stage:

Image Source: Ahrefs UI

At this point, not many people are paying attention. Most importantly, people don’t know if they can put their trust in you. This means that, along with building a product that can potentially solve people’s problems, you also need to start building trust and make people understand that you’ll be around for a long time.

So the question is, what can you do in terms of content to make sure you’re dealing proactively with all the facts that we just mentioned? Here are some of the most important things to do when just starting out.

1. Publish guest posts

One of the best ways to a) increase the domain authority of your website, b) build authority in your niche and c) acquire referral traffic is by guest posting on other people’s blogs.

Of course, you may be wondering how this is possible when you’re in the very early stages of running a business. The problem is that when people do guest posting, they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Some common misconceptions include:

      • Links matter more than anything else. They don’t, they are just a part of the algorithm
      • A single link on a website can drive lots of traffic to your website. It can’t and in most cases, it won’t
      • Guest posts should be of lower quality than what we publish on our website. They shouldn’t. If anything, they should be of an even higher quality
      • Guest posts alone are enough to grow your website’s domain authority and start getting organic traffic. But, they don’t work as a standalone solution and shouldn’t be treated as such

An example of how you can do guest posting the right way in the early stages of running a SaaS business can be seen by Clearscope’s Co-founder, Bernard Huang, who in the early steps of his own endeavor was publishing guest posts on high-authority websites like IBM’s blog.

Image Source: IBM Blog

The objective here wasn’t just to earn a link or generate traffic, but to establish trust and authority around Clearscope. Unfortunately, most SaaS founders don’t treat content that way and thus, most of the time, don’t get the results they’re looking for.

2. Publish content that demonstrates the value of the product

When you’re early on in the process of growing a SaaS business, you mainly care about one thing: sales. That priority is fine, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons and with the right approach.

In order to get more sales—in other words, to get people to sign up for a free trial or try the product—you have to create content that demonstrates the value of the product. What’s a good way to do that and what kind of content formats work best in this case? Let’s take a look at some examples.

Drift is a conversational marketing tool that allows you to communicate with your website visitors and customers in real-time. From the very beginning, Drift’s main selling point was the value that users were getting out of the product. It may now have a dedicated page with real case studies from its customers, but this was part of Drift’s content strategy since the very beginning.

Image Source: Case Studies

The truth is that case studies demonstrate the value of any product in a profound way; they aren’t sales-y, yet they carry powerful sales messages. This is why you should be using them while in the early stage.

Do you have a power user who’s found creative ways of using your product? Another one who had an x% ROI using your product? Or another who transformed their business or way of doing things through your product? Then you should make a case study out of it and promote it heavily.

Aside from case studies, you can also publish content that shows what the product can do. This can also help your small customer success team do their job better and scale their time. In any case, you should be trying to demonstrate the value of the product and make the few visitors that you have give your product a chance.

A link building and outreach tool Respona, is doing this by creating content that a) educates their audience and b) demonstrates the value of the product at the same time.

Image Source: Respona Blog

This way, people get answers on how to solve their problems and also get to familiarize themselves with the ways in which Respona can help them solve those problems. It’s a smart approach that can help your business in the long term.

3. Arrange content swaps and co-marketing activities

Another thing you can arrange is co-marketing activities with relevant SaaS businesses. An objection here could be: But no one knows about us or our product and we have no audience whatsoever—why should people care?

That’s a valid objection. In my experience, there will always be someone looking for the exact same thing you are. You just have to find and help each other.

There’s nothing wrong with finding another product that supplements yours in some way and arranging a co-marketing activity. This could include a webinar, an email campaign, a blog post or several social media posts.

The benefit here is obvious: the small audience that each of you have will get to know each other’s products, and thus you’ll be able to generate some awareness or even drive several high-quality leads.

A good place to start your research is Crunchbase—an online database of tech companies from all around the world. You can use tools like Crunchbase to research and find companies that are relevant to yours and might be interested in a co-marketing activity.

Image Source: Crunchbase

With Crunchbase’s advanced filters, you can get as specific as you want with your research. Then, it’s only a matter of establishing a good relationship based on mutual goals and objectives—and of course, a common effort—to add value to each other’s audience.

4. Invest in your brand and build a community

The last thing that you can do as a new SaaS startup is to invest in brand building and build a community around your product. Even though there are several ways to do so, I’ll mention an example that I personally find interesting.

GrowthMentor is an online platform that allows you to find a mentor for your startup based on your individual needs for a monthly flat rate. A few months ago, GrowthMentor organized an online summit with more than 50 growth experts from different companies and industries.

Image Source: GrowthMentor Summit

Essentially, we’re talking about hours of video content on very specific topics that interest a lot of people from around the globe. If we break down the benefits of this summit for GrowthMentor—among others—we’d say that it helped the platform raise awareness, establish even better relationships with industry experts and help its brand grow.

When just starting out, no one is going to look for you online (especially if you’re a category creator). They simply don’t care that this product/service exists and thus are not looking for it (in the same way that almost no one was using the term “product led growth” before OpenView introduced it a few years back).

The same applies to many companies and across different industries. Most of these actions may not have an effect on an SEO/organic growth level, but in the long term, they can contribute to a company’s overall growth.

Brand building can create demand—it can help people make associations with their problems and pain points, and start searching based on brand rather than on the explanation of the problem or description of the solution.

We’ve seen what kind of content early SaaS companies should publish based on the realities they have to face. In the second part of this series, we’ll move on to the next category, which is companies that are a bit further down the road and have found a product-market fit.