Building a successful SaaS org isn’t just about growing your customer base, it's also about creating a firm foundation of trust with your existing customers to ensure solid retention. 💪
No one wants a leaky bucket org, and you can seal up the cracks by creating and curating content around SaaS thought leadership.
Thought leadership is not a new term, it was coined by Joel Kurtzman, Editor-in-Chief of Strategy+Business Magazine, in 1994. He defined it as follows:
“A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate.”
But what kind of content format should you be producing, and can it really boost your growth? 🤔 That’s what we’re here to find out, but, first, let's deal with the hows and whys.
Why should I care about thought leadership?
Great customer retention might be the holy grail for SaaS orgs looking to reach sustained growth, but the truth is, there’s nothing magic about the path you take to get there.
It takes rigorous, methodical work, and there are many strategies you can take to get there, including customer analytics, great customer service and customer advocacy.
Building out great content is just another channel through which you can engage your customers. But there’s something more important than that…
By positioning yourself as an authority in your field, you’re gonna give your brand that air of credibility. This is where the thought leadership element comes in.
In other words, you’re framing your brands not as cynical cash-grabbers, but as orgs that have a finger on the pulse of new developments within the industry, and actively trying to shape solutions within the field.
Marketer Liz Willits, defines the process as follows:
“A content marketer's job is NOT to create content. Their job is to turn your company into an industry thought leader. And to flip the buying relationship. So that your company doesn't need to chase down leads. Instead, leads come to YOU.”
Now let’s get to the how… 👇
How content increases engagement
It does this by encouraging discussion within the sector. Customers like to feel like they’re being seen, heard and that their opinions are valued.
By putting out content that they can actively engage with, and by facilitating discussion between other professionals, you can position your brand as one that actively seeks out the opinion of potential and existing customers.
Social media platforms like LinkedIn can get eyes on your product, that goes without saying, but if you’ve spent much time on LinkedIn you’ll know that articles focused on hot topics often encourage sustained discussion and debate.
Sustained engagement with your content means more visibility and a higher chance that potential customers are going to be curious about your brand. Another holy grail, your brand visibility increases as well.
How content creates community
The chances are you’ve heard of community-led growth, the process through which a brand’s users can become advocates in online communities. But an online community is difficult to hold together without its talking points. Content is the glue that holds communities together.
By creating great thought leadership content, you’re able to keep the conversation going within your online community, a thriving community is more likely to grow, and pretty soon (hopefully) you have a chance of increasing customer conversions.
Similarly, your most engaged customers become ambassadors for your community, creating the impression that your brand is worth shouting from the rooftops about. Engaged ambassadors can also potentially answer and resolve customer queries.
So, have we convinced you that thought leadership content can be an asset to your org? Great. Now let’s dig deeper into the kind of content you should be looking to create.
Leveraging blog articles for growth
Having your founders and senior personnel publish articles can boost their credibility, and by association, the reputation of your org.
But this must be handled with delicacy. Yes, your ultimate aim is going to be increasing sales on your product, but that credibility can be undermined if your post is transparently a tiresome sales pitch.
In order to fashion your content as genuine thought leadership, it’s important that it’s geared towards enabling potential customers to arrive at solutions, taking into account research and developments occurring elsewhere in your industry.
You’re not just a revenue-chaser, you’re a problem solver, but in order for your piece to be taken seriously, it should be well-researched, organized, concise, and informed by the experience of and expertise of your author.
Potential customers are going to feel like they’re in good hands if your org is headed by a genuine SaaS whiz.
You should be mindful of the publications that you put your content out there on, aside from your own blog, of course. A reputable publication can be a subtle endorsement, and if you’re able to secure a backlink from their site, it’s going to do wonders for your search engine ranking. Again, increasing your likelihood of engagement.
Research reports and whitepapers
Reports and whitepapers can be a time-consuming endeavor, but research shows that marketers consider them to be a valuable channel for engagement. According to a study conducted by Content Marketing Research, 50 percent of businesses rank white papers among the top three most effective content marketing tactics.
In terms of credibility, a whitepaper will serve a very similar purpose to an article, but it allows further scope for research, which is going to further reinforce your role as an authority in your field.
The greater scope for length allows for more in-depth solutions. The impression this creates? That your org is truly committed not just to selling, but to resolving the problems of potential customers.
It can also be a more collaborative piece of content, allowing you to incorporate the expertise of other thought leaders in the industry. This will give your content, and by association, a rub of authority. It’s an endorsement that can boost your reputation.
Although a whitepaper is a broader piece of content, again, concision and accessibility are key. Don’t spend too much time trawling through research and stats, instead use them to complement the solutions you’re offering.
Just because you have a loyal fanbase of customers doesn’t mean they’re necessarily engaging with your content.
As a form of content on its own, an exclusive regular newsletter to your customers can be a great way of giving them the signal that they’re not being neglected, and that your org is committed to providing them with advice on a regular basis.
It can also provide your customers new information on new updates and features for your product.
You might have produced a great piece of content that, for whatever reason, has gone unnoticed or hasn’t had the engagement it has the potential to reach online. A newsletter can be a great way to spotlight this content, and target it more intentionally to your audience.
Webinars and podcasts
A 2021 study by Podcast Insights reports that 50% of Americans listen to podcasts. This has risen by 6% since 2018, where the same study reported a figure of 44%. This may be due to the emergence of remote work, with more and more professionals now working in relative isolation throughout the week.
Podcast discussion may have become a substitute for the background chatter of an office. But either way you look at it, podcasts continue to increase in popularity.
In terms of its potential appeal, podcasts and webinars are a more flexible form of content. Consumers can do other things whilst still dipping in and out of your content, which makes them more accommodating towards your customers’ busy schedules.
They’re often conducted in the form of discussion, which allows more than one expert to bring their thoughts together and arrive at new strategies together. Hot tip: you can give your podcast considerable credibility by having a host who carries some influence and reputation within the SaaS sphere.
There’s so much scope for utility in video content. A blog article demands more concentrated, prolonged engagement, while video content presents you with an opportunity to condense that information into snappier, bite-sized chunks.
Compare an article that takes 5+ minutes to read with a video that takes 2+ minutes to consume. Which is more likely to entice clicks?
Having said that, there are production costs to factor in when producing video content. Especially if you’re rolling out a youtube strategy, you’re going to need to invest in higher production values in order to be competitive. It’s a gamble, but the effort can pay off.
SaaS founders who’ve found success in content
We’ll leave you with some shining examples of SaaS leaders who’ve found success in thought leadership content.
Brian Halligan, Founder and CEO of Hubspot, and Neil Patel, Co-founder of several multi-million dollar companies, were able to boost the reputation of their orgs by becoming established thought leaders, committing to staying up-to-date on new trends and regularly authoring long-form article content.
Similarly, Slack Founder and Flickr Co-founder Stewart Butterfield has boosted his own standing in the SaaS space through publishing blog articles in reputable publications such as Inc. Magazine.
If you decide to commit to a thought leadership strategy through content you’ll be in good company. The potential for content is limitless, so get creating!