Why B2B SaaS Brands Get Ignored

They're usually doing too much stuff.

And the stuff they're doing isn't ambitious enough.

Have you heard of the content marketing treadmill? 

It’s when you’re working your socks off and going nowhere. When the effort you’re putting in dwarfs what you’re getting back.

It’s something we see a lot, particularly in our early conversations with new clients.

You’ve got a blog, social channels, some lead gen campaigns, a newsletter. You’re doing all the stuff you should be doing and you’ve had some wins along the way. 

But your stats are inconsistent - the wins aren’t as often as you’d like. 

Also, you’re exhausted. Scrambling around for new ideas. Never knowing if next month’s results will be better than last month’s. Feeling the heat from sales and your leadership team.

It’s not a great place to be. 😞

chart showing disappointing results compared with impressive growth

You want steady growth in traffic and leads. You know that’s what the business needs but you can’t seem to get there.

So why does this happen? And how can you fix it?

Doing too much - and not enough

There are two reasons marketers end up on the treadmill.

They’re usually doing too much stuff. And the stuff they’re doing isn’t BIG enough. 💪

Let’s face it. You’re not going to move your market with tweets. You’re not going to move your market with blog posts.

You move your market with big ideas that are easy to find and impossible to ignore. 

Basically, if you want epic results, you need to do something epic. You can’t build a skyscraper out of matchsticks.

Here’s another way to think about it. 

Let’s say over three months you publish fifteen isolated pieces of content on different channels, about different things, with different CTAs.

You might get some traction.

But you’d get way more traction if you launched one massive campaign, with a compelling idea at its core and loads of supporting content for your blog, social media and emails. 

Sporadic content lives for a day and gets forgotten. 

Campaigns have impact. Campaigns have longevity. Campaigns get remembered. 

chart showing sporadic approach compared with campaign approach

Big-idea campaigns are at the heart of just about every iconic brand you can think of. Would IBM be where they are today if, instead of building their brand, they spent all of their budget on direct response ads? 

Of course not. 

B2B SaaS marketers overlook the importance of creativity and differentiation. Most SaaS brands look, feel and act the same. This is a massive problem.

As Seth Godin put it, “Being good is boring.” 

We don’t believe in the ‘little and often’ approach to content marketing. We believe in making big bets - and putting in the research so you can be confident those bets will pay off.

That’s what our High-Impact Content framework is all about.

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How we create High-Impact Content for B2B SaaS brands

Our High-Impact Content framework is a repeatable process that helps us come up with epic content ideas and distribute them to maximum effect.

It’s at the heart of everything we do and we’ve got really good at delivering it.

Here’s a quick rundown of how it works:

  • Speak to your customers
  • Create a piece of High-Impact Content we can build a campaign around
  • Distribute it like crazy 

It goes without saying that before we do anything we take the time to listen to your goals and understand your objectives. But since pretty much agency is going to do that, I’m not going to dwell on it. 

I don’t want to bore you with a super-detailed explanation of each step of the process of working with us. I tried to write one of those and it ended up being about 5,000 words long. 

Nobody wants to read that. 😐

What I want to do is give you an idea of how we approach SaaS growth and what makes us different from other SaaS agencies. 

Still interested?

Let’s do it. 👇

#1 - Speak to your customers

One of the golden rules of copywriting is that you don’t write great copy, you steal it from your customers. The same goes for content.

Speaking to customers is the most reliable way to come up with proven content ideas.

Marketers like to talk about ‘test and learn’. We prefer ‘ask, test and learn’.

Every client project we do starts with customer interviews and every one of those conversations pays itself back ten times over. They’re worth their weight in gold. 

If you’re not in the habit of regularly speaking to customers, get in the habit. It’s the single best use of your time as a marketer.

We usually try to speak to 5-10 customers before we come up with any ideas. But we’ll gladly speak to more if we can. 

These are the kinds of questions I’m asking:

  • What aspects of your role do you struggle with or find frustrating?
  • How are you currently looking for advice or information that can help?
  • What are your favourite websites / platforms / podcasts / blogs?
  • What was the last piece of branded content you shared with your team?
  • Are there any branded blogs or newsletters you really like?
  • Are you happy to hand over your email address in return for great content?
  • When was the last time a B2B sales process impressed you?
  • How do you research a product before you buy?

Basically, I want to know:

  1. What are they struggling with?
  2. How are they trying to solve these problems?
  3. What could we do to help?
  4. What’s their ideal sales experience?

We then follow this up with our own quant research. The questions we’re asking at this stage are:

  1. What can we learn from the best performing content on social in your niche? BuzzSumo is great for this
  2. What are the top-performing keywords in your niche and which keywords are your competitors targeting? We use SEMRush for this
  3. What else can we learn from your customer’s social and search behaviour?

By the end of the research process we end up with this.

venn diagram showing analytics, interviews and briefings

The research process is about de-risking your investment. If we’re going all in on a big idea you want to be sure it’s going to work. That’s why we take research so seriously. 

At the end of the research process, we’re able to make pretty watertight predictions about:

  • What content your customers want you to make
  • How you can help them find it

Armed with these scorching hot insights, we’re ready to move on.

#2 - Create a piece of High-Impact Content

At the heart of our High-Impact campaigns is an asset of some kind that we can use as our central CTA. The thing that will convert anonymous visitors into known contacts. 

These could be:

  • Premium content
  • Growth tools 
  • Webinar series / online workshops
  • Free trials
  • A podcast
  • Membership of a community
  • Etc.

It could be one of these things. It could be many. 

We’re consistent in our vision for impactful content marketing. But not at all prescriptive about the ideas we come up with. The ideas vary from client to client, project to project and what we discover during our research.

That said, we do have a couple of criteria that help us sort the good ideas from the bad.

 

Is the idea rooted in what your customers have told us they want?

I can’t tell you how many times, early in my career, I launched what I thought would be an awesome piece of content only for it to be a dud. 

You know why this happened?

Because I was relying on hunches. I was creating content that I thought people wanted. Unfortunately, I’m not psychic.

That’s why we always try to make sure that our ideas are rooted in first-hand comments from your customers. It’s the best indicator I’ve found that an idea is actually going to work.

Bonus points if we can back it up with some hard data.

 

Is it unique to your brand?

I’m a big believer in the idea that the best content ideas are ones that only you can make. This can be because...

One of the unfortunate bi-products of SEO is that a lot of B2B content looks the same. Google most high-volume B2B keywords and you’ll see the same ideas over and over again in the SERPs. 

That’s not to downplay the skill it takes to create good SEO content. We love SEO and it’s a central part of our distribution strategy (more on that in a sec). But your high-impact idea should be something unique. Something you can own.

 

Let’s look at an example

One of our clients is a SaaS platform called Solverboard. They wanted to launch their product to innovation managers in enterprise companies.

We used social media, PR and their personal networks to ask the enterprise innovation community:

‘What are the top five things that get in the way of innovation in your organisation?’

(BTW, everyone loves complaining about their industry. It’s a great engagement tactic.)

Then we rounded up a group of experts to explain how they’d tackle people’s problems. We created a report and then repurposed it into a massive range of imagery, videos, blog posts and assets for social media.

Within six months that campaign had generated:

  • 362 high-quality leads
  • 37 out of 100 targets account engaged through ABM approach on the platform
  • 102% increase in traffic to the site
  • Visit to conversion rate of 5.5% for their website

solverboard performance annotated

Here’s why that campaign worked:

  • We co-created the content with our audience
  • We collaborated with thought leaders to increase credibility
  • We distributed it relentlessly

That report has become an annual feature of their marketing strategy. Every year they survey the community and get innovation thought leaders to tackle the issues they identify.

That content is filling their pipeline and building their brand. That’s what we mean when we say ‘high-impact content’. Long-running, brand-building ideas that also generate leads.

If you want more info on that campaign, check out the full case study.

The number of leads would be enough but it’s just the quality and seniority of the contacts we’re bringing in too.

 

When you have the Innovation Director at a FTSE 100 company on a call explaining how they can use the platform before they’ve even seen it! He’s talking about it based purely on the report and the blogs he’s read. Well, I’ve never known anything like it. And it’s not a one off. It’s happening with Global tech firms, major-major banks… Outstanding.”

aaron
Aaron Slater, Head of Marketing, Solverboard

#3 - Distribute it like crazy

The final piece of our High-Impact Content framework is distribution.

I’ll be honest, this is probably the least fun part to read about. I could write thousands of words about how we combine lead nurture email flows with retargeting or how we optimise landing pages, but that would be really boring.

Let’s focus on the big picture.

Our philosophy when it comes to distribution is to spend 20% of your effort on creation and 80% on distribution.

What does this mean?

Basically, don’t create something amazing, share it a handful of times and then move on. Stick with it. 

Distribute it across every available channel at your disposal. Then distribute it again. 

Then hack it up and repurpose it. Take the topic and interview an expert about it. Take snippets of the interview audio and make audiograms. Take the best quotes from the audio and turn them into imagery. Combine all the imagery and make an infographic. Take each of the chapters, search optimise them and publish them as blog posts. Pitch the top podcasts in your niche to interview on the topic.

Basically, keep going. You’ll be amazed how far you can run with a good idea.

 

Won’t it get repetitive?

Just because it feels repetitive to you, doesn’t mean your audience feels the same way. 

70% of your site traffic is new visitors. The average open rate of an email is just 20%. A fraction of your social followers actually see your posts.

Most of our campaigns run for around three months. It’s only towards the end of those three months that we see engagement start to trail off.

 

Make it last 

We don’t want to create a campaign that delivers leads for a while and then fizzles out. We want long-term growth in traffic and leads. 

SEO is the ultimate long-term traffic source. Nothing else can touch it. It’s the only source of traffic that grows while you sleep - provided you know how SEO works. 

Once the launch campaign is live, we focus our efforts on creating an evergreen source of SEO traffic for your campaign, so it can keep generating leads for years to come. 

We’ve tried loads of different SEO frameworks over the years and the one that delivers the best results for us is the ‘hub and spoke’ model.

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick explanation.

hub and spoke visualisation

Let's say your short-tail keyword is 'saas marketing' and your first long-tail keyword is 'saas content strategy'. 

Your hub page would be: example.com/saas-marketing

You spoke page would be: example.com/saas-marketing/saas-content-strategy

The great thing about the hub and spoke model is that it improves your search performance, your website structure and your content planning. 

It's the most reliable SEO framework we've found so far.

Recap

We just covered a whole lot of ground, so let’s do a quick recap.

SaaS content marketing is undifferentiated. Most B2B SaaS brands look, feel and act the same.

This is a problem but also an opportunity. If you have the guts to stand out, you can radically set yourself apart from your competitors.

Content marketing is a powerful way to do this, provided that you:

  • Speak to your customers
  • Create content with enough to impact to cut through the noise
  • Distribute it like crazy 

We believe in our High-Impact Content framework and we’ll gladly talk about it till the cows come home.

So if you have questions, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m always happy to chat!

Or if you have a project you’d like to discuss, book a meeting with our founder, Tom. 

These results are the best I've seen. I think it's the best marketing investment we've made as a group.

phil
Phil Atherton, Director, Istoria Group