Sunday, February 11, 2024

Ten Obvious Tips for SaaS Marketing

Standing out among a rapidly swelling and roiling sea of SaaS offerings, fulfilling every software niche from AI podcast managers to ML behavioral baselining solutions (or whatever) is going to require an innovative strategy and (likely) a deeper understanding of your audience and the ongoing friendship of your resident Product Marketing Manager. 


However, there are similarities and basic principles we can explore as a foundation for some good working strategies. By way of bullet points (and rocket science, it ain't), the notes for this post were corralled together as part of my visiting lecturer series at Nottingham Trent University in 2013, basically the same but now fluffed a little for 2024. Software as a Service (SaaS) is a cloud-based service model that allows users to access and use software applications over the internet, typically on a subscription basis. In 2013, it was a moderately cutting-edge and a mildly revolutionary thing where I wanted to show that core marketing theories, with a twist, still apply. I’ll leave you to expand on these bullets yourself, but trust me, if it was difficult, I wouldn’t do it for a living.


1.  Audience Understanding

Success begins with knowing your audience inside out. Use analytics, surveys, and direct engagement to uncover their needs, preferences, and pain points. Create buyer personas. Tailoring your marketing efforts to address these specific prospects and their genuine needs and cares can seriously increase any product's appeal and customer satisfaction. What boxes does your SaaS product tick for prospects?


2.   Sell Solutions, Not Features

It’s a classic. No one wants to buy an electric drill; they probably just want a perfect hole. Customers are looking for solutions, not just software. Sell them the perfect hole. Highlight how your SaaS solves problems or improves their life or business. Transform features into benefits in your messaging, making it more relatable and compelling. 

 

3.   Content Rules

Create valuable content that prospects will give a damn about that educates, entertains, and engages your target audience. Blogs, eBooks, webinars, sales support with solution briefs, and videos that address cover the challenges or questions position a brand as a thought leader and build trust with potential patrons.

 

4.   SEO: Your Best Ally 

Visibility is gold, and organic SEO is still an important factor for any content marketing efforts. Bootstrap your site for mobile. Do some keyword research and lovingly roll content in relevant keywords. Use H tags, internal cross-linking, meta descriptions, and court high-quality inbound links with guest-posting and digital PR to increase rankings. For more in-depth advice on this, see my post on SEO in 2024.

 

5.   Harness Social Proof
Testimonials, reviews, and case studies are gold in establishing credibility. The SaaS audience also traditionally loves things like the Garner Magic Quadrant and (sponsored) brand placement in Forrester Reports etc. If you can afford to take part, it’s also good for decent inbound links from reputable and decent PageRank sites.

We can showcase customer success stories and ratings on our website and across social media to build trust and encourage conversions. If you’re one of those industries, like microsegmentation tools, where getting clients to take part in case studies is as rare as rocking horse do-do, get creative with something like this (which I made last year).

 

6.   Prioritize Customer Success 

Beyond acquisition, focus on retaining customers through exceptional support and success programs. Happy customers are more likely to become brand advocates and contribute to organic growth through word-of-mouth. The importance of keeping punters happy and keeping them renewing can’t be overstated for SaaS products.

 

7.   Free Trials and Demos

Offering free trials or product demos lowers the barrier to entry, allowing potential customers to experience the value of your SaaS firsthand. Show ‘em it’s good and get ‘em hooked—if it works from drug dealers in 80s cop shows, it can work for us. Make sure the trial/demo process is straightforward and supported by sales engineers to make the most of conversion opportunities.

 

8.   Pricing Strategy

How is this the job of marketing? A pricing strategy can make or break a SaaS product, trust me. It needs to reflect the value you provide while remaining competitive. It's too expensive; there are plenty of alternatives. If it is too cheap, our skeptical online audience won’t see the value. How about flexible pricing tiers to cater to different customer segments or needs? Be transparent with the cost, and clearly show the ROI. Marketing absolutely should have a say here. Do some competitor research and come to the pricing meeting armed with the facts and a solid solution. 

 

9.   Build a Community
Fostering a community around a product encourages engagement, feedback, and loyalty. Make the most of your own technical/community forums, social media groups, or user events/webinars to create a space for patrons to connect, share experiences, and provide valuable insights for product improvement. Do not underestimate content and community marketing for renewals, as well as new business; this is where we give away our swag and make our evangelists.

 

10. Be Data-Driven
Make the most of analytics to track the performance of marketing efforts—continuously. If you’re not data-driven, even casually, you were dead in 2013, and you’ll be doubly so today. Know what you want to achieve; qualified leads, demo requests, installation documentation downloads, whatever, and measure it religiously. Understanding what works and what doesn't lets us iterate and adapt strategies quickly, meaning our marketing remains effective, agile, and ROI-positive. 

 

By way of inspiration, dive into these tips, and you can not only attract but also retain customers, which is absolutely death-row serious for safeguarding any long-term success for any SaaS business. Who’s demoing the new features and getting the existing customers talking? Who’s answering the FAQs? How are you teasing the next release? How’s the community using the software already?

 

Now, SaaS marketing is an admittedly evolving field that requires a blend of creativity, analytics, and customer-centric strategies—and far more in-depth than the bullets above. This, however, is a starting point and will hopefully get the creative neurons firing. Stay agile, keep learning, and always put your customers at the heart of your marketing labors. 


If anyone wants to buy me a coffee, I’ll be in the refectory.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Has Using AI Made Me a Better Writer?

Unexpectedly, yes. I think it has.

As I’ve said, many a time and oft, I’m not a trained writer nor hold any formal degree in copy creation beyond a module in scriptwriting when completing my MA. And, for the record, I don’t use AI to write things for my blog. I have been doing this for over 30 years, however, and do use Artificial Intelligence (AI) regularly for work (check out my interview w/ Skedler) and in creating imagery and copy for RP games and personal projects—daily.


AI has been a massive disruptor over the past year, revolutionizing fields including (but not limited to) brand journalism, marketing, and copy/design creation. As a writer, though I hate to leverage the title, integrating AI into my workflow has undoubtedly enhanced my efficiency and, surprisingly, sharpened my skills, making me a better wordsmith in directions I’d have never anticipated when I penned my initial feelings less than 12 months ago.


Here are a bunch of ways I’ve found that using AI has made me a better scribe, specifically within the arena of daily copy creation, as a hobbyist RPG writer, and as a head content marketer for the world’s leading zero-day protection solution.


Research


At advantage one, AI tools have drastically improved my research capabilities. I mean, DRASTICALLY.

AI has access to vast databases of content and can process information rapidly, meaning I can gather and sort relevant information quickly, providing a solid foundation and helpful reassurance for my daily output. I don’t have to constantly be hassling people for general facts, explanations, and figures, asking, “Is this right,” and cruising the Interwebz for assorted fluff to inspire and pad out my copy. It’s all a (curious) prompt away, all backed by accurate and comprehensive data, seriously elevating the quality and the speed of publication for the bulk of the content I produce. I mean, sure, I still double-check anything I’m not 100% sure about, especially in relation to our specific product or in reference to the AIs knowledge cut-off date, but (certainly for mostly top-of-funnel things like blog posts) it’s a game changer.

It's worth browsing around and adding a few bolt-ons and specialist plugins. I use Chat GPT with Wolfram Alpha, AskYourPDF, Advanced Data Analytics (to give me insights into CSV files, etc), Show Me plugin, WebPilot (super handy for rewriting and translating), and others.

Google Scholar, boosted with AI capabilities, is a great one for casual researchers and scholars needing up-to-date academic research, including scholarly literature, articles, conference papers, and theses. With the traditional Google interface (so we don’t cut ourselves) and the painless ability to find elusive publications and citations, I’ve found it indispensable for more academic learning.

Scite, another academic research tool, uses natural language processing to analyze articles and find definitive references and sources, assessing the dependability and “impact” of references, and offering visualizations and metrics for those of us with a more visual appreciation of things—which is often inspiring.


Grammar and Style


AI writing tools are excellent for refining style and morphology, and I’m a big Grammerly fan-boy. They provide suggestions for syntax, word choice, and sentence structure, letting me polish my work to a more professional level, or not if that’s the voice I’m using, inline and as part of the process. This constant feedback loop has honed my understanding of grammar and style, undoubtedly making me a more proficient writer, with and without AI tools.


Learning and Improvement

Having used copy assistants like this for a while, it’s had a direct impact on my initial output, meaning I now rely on them a lot less, but having a copy editor in my pocket is a serious boon. Being able to specify brand traits for voice, as well as general assistance with clarity and form, is a constant teacher of the best form and a reminder of best practices. I don’t need to know all the in-depth punctuation and grammar rules when Grammarly has my back, but having a constant tutor has significantly upped my personal and professional growth as a writer and content creator, and this kind of feedback is far harder to get outside of an agency environment.


Writing for the Audience


AI's can review large sets of data and have empowered me to tailor my content to the preferences of my target audience more effectively. By understanding trends, industry terminology, reading patterns, and engagement metrics, I can subtly adapt my writing style, tone, and content to better resonate with my readers, a notoriously skeptical and specialist audience of CISO, network engineers, and the c-Suite, undoubtedly making my writing more impactful and relevant.


So, in case you didn’t realize, on this blog, I write like I speak. I’m happy with that here, and it's purposeful. It’s very useful for scripting explainers and VO, but it doesn’t translate well to the likes of technical documentation, and I have to cater my wording accordingly. I also write in other voices, as appropriate for the forum in which I'm writing or the brand style for whom I'm writing. It's like being a creative sociopath. Chat GPT, bless its little digital heart, gives me (with a consistent and well-tweaked prompt) a consistency and readability that has shown me how to better present data for maximum readability and understandability, tailored to a technical and professional audience into which, very often initially, I only have casual insight. As a content creator who’s worked on subjects as random as sustainable fisheries and kids' history education, this is pure fried gold.


Productivity 


The automation of repetitive tasks, such as formatting and even initial drafting, has freed up more time for the creative aspects of my writing and for further content creation. AI's efficiency has not only sped up the writing process but also allowed me to focus on brainstorming, structuring narratives, research, and refining arguments—leading to richer and more thought-out pieces, leading to better traction and distribution.


I’m not joking when I say that AI has given me around two extra hours a day to produce two extra hours of output. This, alone, makes AI a must-have for any marketing team and sets those of us who’ve adopted AI working practices as stand out assets to recruiters and CMOs.


Inspiration


Finding creative and relevant inspiration is a common challenge, and I wrote more about this last year in my post on Staying Creative as a Content Marketer, but AI has been a help f’sure. 


AI-powered writing assistants can suggest ideas and prompts and even draft small sections of more ‘explainer’ content, kickstarting the creative process. This not only saves me time but also keeps the creative juices flowing, promoting a steady stream of potential posts and topic ideas for a given target audience. Admittedly, it’s not where most of my inspiration comes from, but it can help.


AI has also pushed me to explore new genres and styles of writing. With AI-generated suggestions and examples, I've been able to venture out of my comfort zone a little more, experimenting with different formats, narratives, and themes, thereby expanding my creative horizons. This has been especially true in my personal work when penning scripts for my fan podcast or intros for RPG sessions.


Supporting SEO


For digital content, SEO is key. Check out my post on Why SEO is Still Important for Content Marketing in 2024.


AI tools have equipped me with the ability to optimize my content for search engines more effectively. While I don’t use AI for integrating the right keywords, creating H2/H3 titles, or for structure to improve online visibility, I believe you can. Using AI to write SEO copy, for me, is a bit like putting parking sensors on a Smart car, and if you need parking sensors to park a Smart car, you probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place. After decades of writing SEO, I don’t need it and actually find its input frustrating. However, it’s fantastic for shortening copy and writing to word (not character) length.

I do use ChatGPT to some degree when streamlining keyword research, putting target keywords into the chatbot, and requesting related suggestions before heading to Moz for confirmation and further insights.


Plagiarism


Ensuring originality in writing is crucial, and the AI plagiarism checker in Grammarly has been indispensable. It provides peace of mind by ensuring that my content is unique and free from unintentional penalties while maintaining the integrity and originality of my work.


In truth, I’ve never seen a notification from Google Search Console that I’ve been penalized for duplicate content; however, an absence of alerts doesn't necessarily imply that a website is free from penalties for hosting identical or similar content across various pages or multiple sites. Better safe than sorry, and it’s a piece of black forest gatteux with AI.


Always on 


Unlike human editors and collaborators, AI tools are available 24/7, always on, in my pocket, providing that assistance whenever inspiration strikes. Invaluable, when one works in a different time zone from 80% of one’s colleagues, and this round-the-clock sounding tool has undoubtedly made my writing process more flexible and less interrupted. 


So am I a better writer?


Yes.


AI has not just been a tool; it has been a genuinely transformative force in my career and content output. It has made me more efficient, creative, and adaptable, allowing me to consistently produce higher-quality work. I spell, punctuate, and structure content better—having been led by my learning from the copy I’ve created with AI collaboration.


As AI continues to evolve, I’m genuinely excited to see how it’ll further shape the future of content marketing and continue to improve my abilities as a writer. It's only been a year, and I look forward to the year to come.