If you are a SaaS company that does not rely on a sales team to close deals, then there’s a good chance that content marketing deserves some credit for your stream of leads and customers.
Content is the vehicle that helped you build awareness, trust, and ultimately in some way helped convince users that you can solve their problems.
But do you apply the same strategy of communicating value and education to your existing customers?
A great content marketing strategy can be leveraged to engage, educate, and ultimately retain customers.
You have already heard probably seven hundred times that acquiring a customer is more costly than retaining a customer (5-7x to be precise).
So armed with that knowledge, why is there so much focus on creating content for the top of the funnel?
In this article, I want to show you how content can help with more than just generating you leads, but can also help with improving customer retention, customer lifetime value, and ultimately drive more profits.
Content marketing has a value that spans the entirety of the customer lifecycle, from the very first touch point through to helping create wildly successful
Content Marketing Meets Sales and Customer Success
Your product, and the content that you create, are geared towards one goal: to make your customers successful.
Sam Hulick of UserOnboard has created this fantastic image of how a user immediately gains super powers when properly using a product:
The guidance and education, in the form of content, do play a role in making Mario a Super Mario….
You create resources to help users bridge the gap between where they are currently and where they want to go.
The secret sauce here is getting the relevant information to them at the right time.
This means that you are delivering well-timed messages in the onboarding process that progressively unveils key features to help users realize value.
This content can include webinars, case studies, customer success stories, testimonials, product marketing and best practices and strategies.
Most importantly, the content that you create will help your customers accelerate their learning curve, so that they realize the value of your product faster.
This has a direct impact on there are there speed of onboarding, and their Time To First Value, which directly impacts the retention rate.
Narrow The Focus Of Your Content
Step 1 – Identify customer personas
Who are you creating content for? If it doesn’t speak to a particular use case or persona, then it is effectively useless
This is a bit easier when creating content for existing customers rather than leads, as you have presumably interacted with these customers before–support tickets, social media, chat, or whatever channels you use.
You have the opportunity to listen to what type of content they want to see, and what problems they are having.
This is the critical step in creating content that can impact retention rates. Deeply understand what their needs are, and create the content to help them meet their objectives.
Creating the right customer personas is critical of course in content marketing in general, when targeting leads at the top of the funnel, as you need to attract and acquire the right customers. If there is a misalignment in expectations or fit, then a churning customer will be the inevitable outcome.
So this stage of understanding the ideal customer persona is something that is critical at the earliest stages of building awareness through content marketing. If you are able to nail this, then customer retention, expansion and ultimately customer success become far easier!
Step 2 – Stages Of the Funnel: Focus on Bottom of Funnel
Content marketing that impacts churn ultimately anticipates the questions and challenges that customers will encounter, before they have to ask them.
This is where the timing of content, and proactive outreach that customer success teams deliver, make a huge difference.
The immediacy of an answer is critical in maintaining a happy customer. Moreover, finding that answer without reliance on another human can make a big difference.
Thus, having a robust library of support documentation that appears for a given search query can be the perfect answer. The immediate answers here can prevent a frustrated, and soon-to-be churning customer.
The idea from content here can be informed by the sales, support, and customer success teams, as they have the front-line view of interacting with leads and customers and have a great understanding of the questions and objections that come up.
Step 3 – Set Up Timing and Triggers
Once you have created the content, there are a few important steps.
Of course, you want to ensure that the content is optimized for search engine results–in terms of on-page SEO like targeted keywords, title tags, descriptions, and more. This ensures that the content has the greatest likelihood of appearing in the search engine results page for a customers that searches for an answer.
The other important component to the distribution is making sure that the Customer Success and Customer Support teams are armed and aware of all the resources available to help customers get the best possible experience.
Moreover, if your team relies on automation to provide timely communication to customers, make sure that the new content is updated frequently.
Continuing to educate customers on how to use the product, and updates on new features, increases the likelihood of a happy and productive customer.
Match Your Content To The Appropriate Stage of the Customer
The first step in creating content that improves retention is to figure out exactly who you are creating your content for, and what the mentality of these customers is.
It’s no different than any other form of marketing: know who you’re targeting, what they need, and then present it to them in a clear and compelling way.
As a customer moves down the funnel, after converting into a paying customer, the most effective content shifts towards product education, how-to content, and topics that accelerate customer success.
Source – JB Media
How to find relevant content ideas
Look at your support desk
Your helpdesk software should have the metrics of what the most visited articles. This is a straightforward heuristic of what problems your customers need help with.
For example, with Groove, you can see what the most popular articles are:
As well as what customers actually searched for:
The actual search query report is an important additional piece of data to see, as it can highlight gaps where customers are searching for topics or questions that do not have any support documentation or other content yet.
Search Engine Queries
While it is great to know what questions customers are searching for, that is only one piece of the pie.
Users will often simply refer to a search engine for a question, under the assumption that there may be an answer elsewhere on the interwebs that is helpful.
To get a peek at this data, open up your Google Search Console and browse through the actual search queries that people are searching for.
Source – search console helper
Ideally, there is some content to address each of the most frequently asked questions that people are searching for in Google.
Alternatively, you can also pull up a keyword research tool to see what questions people are searching for related to your brand.
Ubersuggest is a free tool (requiring a log in via your Google account) that includes some helpful data points in terms of keyword ideas and search volume. The search volume is a high level estimate, but is generally directionally accurate, so can be helpful in determining which terms are searched for most often.
Simply enter your brand term, and see what the results are…..
If I worked at SurveyMonkey, I would add “Surveymonkey” into the search bar, and scan through the results:
I would double check the results on Google to make sure that the best, and most relevant, content appears.
Interestingly, it looks like there is a marketing page showcasing the SurveyMonkey and Salesforce integration, and then the second result is a page on the Help Center to troubleshoot problems that customers may have with the integration:
So this looks like the bases are covered, but maybe there is a more granular question about the integration, or specific questions that can be a standalone article to reduce any additional customer friction.
Reasons for Churn
The feedback that your customers share with you as they are churning out (assuming that you are asking churning customers for feedback…if not, you should do so ASAP!) is a gold mine of additional content ideas.
Are there reasons for churn that are addressable that can prevent future churn?
Assume that your breakdown of churn looks something like this:
Source – Super Office
Nearly 70% of customers leave due to customer service! Dig a layer deeper, and what about the customer service was the problem? Ideally, you are able to identify where there are shortcomings in the customers’ experience and education that you can prevent by helping with product education, strategy, and overall support.
Remember, improving retention is all about helping more people get continued value from your product. So creating a wide array of content addressing specific reasons that your customers have cited for reasons that they churned is simply a no-brainer!
Examples of Great SaaS Content That Drives Retention
OK, quick caveat: I can’t verify the impact of these pieces on improving retention.
However, I can objectively say that these are examples of thoughtful and strategic pieces that nudge users along in getting more from the product and understanding how to approach the problem that the software is addressing.
I chose to include these as examples because these are industry-leading SaaS products in their respective fields, and raising the bar of customer-centric content marketing.
Customer Success Stories and Use Cases
Creating a collection of customer success stories is a common thing for SaaS companies, as it creates social credibility, trust, and showcases the product in a favorable light.
This type of content can be helpful for Bottom of the Funnel leads, when they are “kicking the tires” of the product to see what can actually be accomplished with the product. Moreover, there is the subtle aspirational element, that potential leads want to use the same tools as other recognizable brands.
Wistia, a video marketing software, showcases various customer use-cases and videos. The beauty of this is that video is such a blank slate that is only limited by creativity (and budget!).
To make the value of Wistia abundantly clear, there are various use cases that many companies face (Giving a Product Overview, Showcasing Your Stuff, Raising Awareness, etc).
Source – Wistia
Customer Use Cases
Another related example is making the Use Cases straightforward, based on the job role of the end user.
Take a look at Loom, a screencasting software.
Communicating with short videos is very effective (quicker to create, easier to consume), but people do not necessarily know how the benefits can be applicable to them.
The content here is laid out in a very clean manner:
What’s great here is that Loom demonstrates that they “eat their own dog food”, as members of the team share how they use it, with easy-to-understand benefits, and actual examples with a Loom video. Brilliant:
Product Education & Deep Dives
The success of a company is won and lost with the people (sure, there are a ton of other factors, but let’s disregard those for now….).
Recruiting and hiring is a tough job, yet ever so important.
Recruiting software JazzHR is a robust tool to help with the recruiting process. And as it is a complex product with a wide range of features, the product education is crucial.
They do a nice job of including video and text, as well as breaking down the daunting recruiting process into bite-sized chunks. Take a peep at the Training Portal:
What I really love though is the content that they share in terms of strategy and best practices.
These efforts to educate with Best Practices ensure that users are armed with the knowledge to find and hire the best possible candidates.
And remember, as retention is all about driving customers to succeed, these small content efforts can have a huge long term impact on helping users meet their goals.
Strategy & Best Practices
What happens when you take JazzHR’s approach to sharing best practices and inject some steroids?
You can Coschedule’s Academy.
Coschedule is a project management tool for marketers (I have not personally used it, but heard good things).
The Academy is a collection of courses on marketing and project management. If they can make users more effective marketers, and thus more successful, there will be an ongoing need for these marketers to need a tool like Coschedule.
Interestingly, the company has made such a commitment to these content efforts that it has become an additional revenue stream, as they charge for some of the educational courses.
However, as you can see in the image below, Coschedule also includes some modules on Coschedule itself, with the Onboarding Certification.
Source – Coschedule
Marketers can use the wealth of data available on their customers to tailor programs that build intimacy, deliver value and drive towards up-sell. One example is to monitor product usage in order to understand how customers are interacting with the product – identifying opportunities to nurture based on which features are under-utilized. You can trigger a “how-to” email series on that specific area where training is needed most.
The role of content marketing should not end once a customer is acquired.
Instead, it is imperative for the customer to receive the same level of education and inspiration, just with a slightly different goal once they are paying customers.
If you are able to distill down your existing customer’s needs in terms of product education, strategy, and best practices, and deliver it at the precise moment of need, then you can directly impact the likelihood of the customer remaining a successful (and paying) customer.