Making content work for a SaaS company: approaching 100k content downloads at TrekkSoft
In the three years I spent managing content marketing at TrekkSoft, we wrote a lot of words: probably hundreds of thousands of them. Before mid-2017, we probably published too much. After that, we moved in the other direction and slowed things down; but by then we had a firm foundation to work on.
We launched the TrekkSoft Library in February 2016, and it has since become a cornerstone of TrekkSoft’s marketing strategy. As of May 2018, the 40+ ebooks, checklists and other resources have been downloaded nearly 100,000 times. Publishing content has been a good tool for both lead generation and activation of existing leads, such as with email nurturing.
We started in English, then started translating much of our library to Spanish, German and Italian (with a bit of Portuguese on the journey too).
This month, I left the TrekkSoft team to focus on new projects and business consulting. To close this chapter of my work, here’s my round-up of how we built the TrekkSoft content machine — and what we learned in the process.
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How we chose what to write about
Our main content goal was lead generation. We were inspired by HubSpot’s inbound marketing methodology, having used their software in our marketing and sales teams from TrekkSoft’s early days.
As everyone who follows inbound marketing says, we wanted our content to provide value. So with our blog, and later with our resources, we approached each piece of content with these questions:
- What are our audience’s pain points? How can we help them to solve these problems and simplify their work life?
- What are our audience’s goals? How can we help them to reach these goals?
- What skills do our audience require for success? How can we help them to build these skills?
Use your blog content as a testing ground
We brainstormed a wide variety of topics to write about, using the questions above to launch off, and started covering them one by one. If you do this, every so often you’ll get a clear winner: a piece of content that does much better than everything else when distributed via email and social media. After a week or so, if it’s really great content it will then start picking up organic traction.
If you get good results with initial distribution and it starts ranking well organically, run with it. Distribute it in more places and write content on tangential topics. Use Google Search Console for the best idea of which keywords are bringing people to your content.
Build off your blog content with gated resources
A successful blog post provides a great foundation to build other content on. A good next step is to create a gated lead magnet, like a checklist or short guide. You can then add a CTA at the end of the blog post to download the resource. This is what we did for the majority of all blog content at TrekkSoft (our 2018 travel trends blog post is one example).
You could also use the resource to collect emails via a popup on your website. We had brilliant results using SumoMe (now Sumo) in 2016, with over 10% conversion for our best popups, but this decreased over time — perhaps due to shifts in general audience behaviour, but maybe also due to our wider marketing mix changing.
Choose your pillar content
After the first TrekkSoft Travel Trends Report worked well in 2016, we decided to make it our big top of funnel resource, published once annually. The chapters would also provide the bulk of our top of funnel travel trends content for the blog. This worked better for us than publishing several smaller resources aimed at a wide audience.
Over time, we also wanted to direct more of our attention to creating content further down the funnel, aimed at talking to relevant leads (tour and activity companies) about our software and how it can solve their pain points. Having one big annual report that easily filled the top of our funnel allowed us to free up our focus for the rest of the year for this.
Know what brings in relevant contacts
There’s one issue that comes with bringing in such a big volume of top of funnel contacts: a lot of them aren’t going to need your product. With our travel trends content, we cast a very wide net. In the process, we brought in a lot of contacts that were in the travel industry, but weren’t going to need booking software.
We dealt with this by using our forms to qualify leads. In every form, we now ask “Are you a tour operator?” This is our main target, so it gives us a good idea of if we’re hitting the mark.
We brought in a lot of press contacts and people from the wider industry, but the absolute volume of qualified leads made it worthwhile for us.
There’s also of course the brand value that comes from publishing wide-reaching content. TrekkSoft has been mentioned in research papers, university modules, and gathered a good number of backlinks across the web.
Our content formula has allowed us to publish one massively successful top of funnel resource a year, use that to supply most of our blog content, and focus the rest of the time on talking more about our product and the pain points it solves.
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Some lessons learned along the way:
- Start with a few pieces of core content and do it well.
- If quality slips, make things even more simple.
- Once you’ve built up a library of core content, slow down and measure what it’s bringing you.
- Keep asking: are you getting enough of the right audience?
- Know when you need to pivot.
- Translations will bring in a fraction of the results of English language content (but they can still help you to access valuable audiences).
- Focus on a few key topics, repurpose your content across several channels. You could start with an SEO blog post, publish an accompanying checklist, host a webinar, and wrap it together in an email workflow.
- Make it your goal to build up organic traction and make your marketing mix sustainable. Build your email list instead of social media followers.
- Know exactly who you’re speaking to with your content. Speak directly to your audience, help them reach their goals, and build trust by continuing to build value over time.