How to Grow SaaS Leads Using ROI-Driven Content

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If you’ve done SEO or content marketing for SaaS, you’ve probably experienced the ultimate “blank page” problem of creating a content strategy from scratch.

Where to begin? Which keywords to target? Which topics and content formats will actually grow leads? 

The feeling is overwhelming

It’s at this point that many turn to a familiar concept for guidance: the marketing funnel. 

However, as we’ll argue, the marketing funnel as a framework is limited in its usefulness for creating a SaaS content strategy that delivers real business results.

In this article, we’ll present an alternative approach we call “ROI-driven content.” Our goal is to leave you with a practical framework for creating a content strategy that drives leads, not vanity metrics.

Let’s dive in. 

The problems with the conventional funnel model for SaaS

We’ve used the funnel analogy countless times throughout our conversations with clients, in blog posts, and in our internal training materials. It helps visualize roughly how strong purchase intent is for a given search term. 

The problems with the conventional content funnel aren’t that it’s somehow wrong or outdated but rather that it’s simply not the most useful framework for creating an effective SaaS content strategy.

Here’s why:

  • In many cases, it’s not really that accurate. Many user journeys don’t happen linearly. It’s also not necessarily the case that someone searching for “best {product}” (usually considered lower funnel) is actually closer to converting than someone searching for, for example, “how to do {task}” (usually considered higher funnel).
  • The funnel is poorly defined and often leads to the illusion of agreement among stakeholders. One person’s bottom-of-funnel is another person’s middle-of-funnel. 
  • Perhaps most importantly, it’s not specific enough. Even if the funnel were mostly accurate most of the time, it doesn’t really tell us much about which topics we should target if we want to attract qualified leads. It’s descriptive, not prescriptive.

These are things we’ve learned through our experience working with SaaS clients and they’ve led us to what we think is a more useful framework.

An alternative approach: ROI-driven content

Rather than rely on the traditional funnel, we’ve grown to think of SaaS content strategies in terms of the customer needs they address. By doing so, we can align the topics we target to our clients’ products and their customers’ needs.

This way, we’ll not only know which types of content we should focus on but also how to write that content in a way that serves search intent and drives conversions and return on our content investment.

Broadly speaking, the customer outcomes we focus on can be grouped into two major categories:

  1. Help me evaluate product options: the intended audience is solution-aware but needs guidance finding the product that best meets their needs. 
  2. Help me do something: the intended audience may not be solution-aware but is looking to take action or solve a pain point that’s relevant to our product.

Let’s break each of these out in order to better understand the types of content and customer outcomes that fall into each of these categories. 

Help me evaluate product options

Choosing a SaaS product can be a big decision. Customers who are solution-aware, meaning they know they’re in the market for a SaaS product, will often need help evaluating their options. We can look no further than the proliferation of software aggregator sites as evidence of the fact that most people like to compare similar products before making a decision. 

The problem for most people, though, is that aggregator pages are often unsatisfying and programmatically generated. They don’t provide much, if any real insight into what makes one product better or worse than another for a given use case. People want to know what their options are, but they also want to have the context needed to confidently decide which product is right for them.

This presents a major opportunity for SaaS companies who are willing to buck the conventional wisdom of never mentioning competitors. By being willing to honestly compare their products to the competitive field, SaaS companies can take advantage of an opportunity to own the narrative. And, as we’ve written about in our article on competitor comparisons, the common fears of “advertising” competitors or facing retaliation are largely unfounded.

Below are several examples of content formats that fall into this category and the outcomes they aim to fulfill. Note the scalability of these examples and how layering on variables opens up new keyword opportunities.

Content TypeOutcomeExamples
Product roundupsHelp me narrow my optionsBest {product}
Best {product} for {use case}
Best {product} for {audience}
Best {product} under {price}
Best {product} with {feature}
Product comparisonsHelp me decide which category of product I need{product category A} vs. {product category B}
Competitor comparisonsHelp me decide which product best meets my needs{brand A} vs. {brand B}
{brand A} vs. {brand B} vs. {brand C}
Brand alternativesHelp me discover other brands that could meet my needs{brand} Alternatives
Product alternativesHelp me discover alternatives to a product category{product category} Alternatives
Product capabilitiesHelp me understand product functions and capabilitiesCan {your product}...
Does {your product}...
Why is {your product}...
Is {your product}...

Help me do something

People who aren’t yet solution-aware are nonetheless searching for ways to take action. They have things to do and problems to solve but they don’t yet know they need a SaaS product to help them get there. This is a chance to step in and help them reach their destination by way of your product. 

The conventional model would position this category higher up in the funnel than product evaluation content. That’s true in the sense that people searching for these topics often don’t know they’re even in the market for a product. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re further away from becoming customers. In fact, we’ve had clients for whom these types of articles have driven the most leads.

The key is to always position your product as the clear solution. These resources should make subscribing to your product feel like a no-brainer. That means they need to be useful and serve search intent exceptionally well, but also that they should feature the product prominently throughout, include plenty of screenshots, and not shy away from using in-line calls-to-action. 

Content TypeOutcomeExample
How-to contentHelp me complete a taskHow to {complete task}
Fastest Way to {complete task}
Easiest Way to {complete task}
Free resourcesHelp me complete a task better/quicker/more efficientlyFree {job-to-be-done}  template
Free {job-to-be-done}checklist
Free {job-to-be-done} tool
GuidesHelp me solve a bigger problemReduce {problem}
Manage {problem}
Guide to solving {problem}

How to create an ROI-driven content strategy

We mentioned earlier that one of the benefits of using the ROI-driven framework is that it’s prescriptive. It helps us know which types of content we should target to meet potential customers where they are.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all SaaS content strategy. Different SaaS products will need to emphasize different types of content based on a host of factors like pricing, product features/complexity, length of sales cycle, and more. 

This means that, before even starting our keyword research and putting together a coherent content strategy, we’ll need to do a good amount of research on the front end. 

Let’s walk through how we approach content strategy development for our SaaS clients. 

In-depth customer onboarding

Each of our strategy development projects begins with a discovery session in which we seek to understand as much about our client’s business and product as possible. During this session, we talk about things like:

  • The history of business (origin story, high-level company bio, etc.)
  • Customer insights that will help us better understand the business and target market
  • Common customer pain points (what problems do customers have that the client’s product can solve?)
  • Competitor information (vertical leaders, comparable apps, competitors who are doing well in search, etc.)
  • General industry information 
  • The client’s search marketing goals and objectives
  • The client’s internal marketing resources and processes

Our clients are sometimes caught off guard by the breadth of questions we ask during a discovery session but this information lays the groundwork for what will become our content strategy.

Stakeholder interviews

After our initial discovery session, we’ll meet with at least one subject matter expert - often a member of the client’s sales or CX team - to drill down deeper into the product itself and the nature of their customers. Whenever we can, we like to pair this conversation with a demo of the product.

While executives and marketing team members often provide valuable high-level insights, sales team members are having conversations with prospective customers every day. They know their product better than virtually anyone else and can speak in detail about its capabilities and the problems it solves. They can also list common customer questions and objections, many of which can then be readily mapped to target keywords and used as blog content topics. 

Stakeholder interviews were once upon a time considered a “nice-to-have” part of our strategy development process but they’ve so consistently proven invaluable that they’ve become a staple of our process.

Focused keyword research

Once we’ve gained a clear understanding of the product and target audience, we’ll begin focused keyword research. The learnings from our client conversations will steer us toward certain types of content and away from others. 

This is important because it allows us to avoid trying to “boil the ocean” and engaging the typical scattershot approach to keyword research. Instead, we can evaluate each content format and corresponding keywords based on what we’ve learned. 

Topic refinement

A key difference between our approach to keyword research and the conventional approach is that we add a feedback layer. After we compile our initial list of high-priority keywords, we share the list with our client stakeholders for review and feedback. This step is essential because it helps “train” our team on the topics that are most relevant to the client’s product and audience. 

Only after this step will we once again prune and  prioritize our list of keywords based on their lead-driving potential and add them to our content calendar for the coming months. This is in contrast to the typical approach of simply seeking out keywords that are high-volume and low-difficulty for the sake of building up organic traffic numbers. 

A better way to approach content marketing for SaaS

In the hyper-competitive SaaS marketing space, relying solely on the funnel as your guide might not cut it. Instead, consider a more direct and impactful approach: ROI-driven content. Tailor your content to help people either evaluate product options or get things done, and don't shy away from honest product comparisons; they can be effective at building trust.

To implement this strategy, it’s essential to deeply understand the product and involve key stakeholders. Use focused keyword research and feedback to refine your content topics. 

The ultimate goal is clear: shift from a generic funnel-based approach to a strategy that aligns with your business objectives and genuinely meets customer needs. It's about driving leads, not chasing fluff numbers.

Ready to make the move from incoherent content marketing to ROI-driven lead generation? We’d love to chat. Our content strategies are designed to grow leads and revenue, not vanity metrics. Let’s have a conversation to see if we can help you reach your business goals. 

Dave Sewich

Dave Sewich

Dave’s a Minnesota-based SEO who's worked in digital marketing since 2013. In his time at Uproer, he's had the opportunity to lead client engagements with a wide range of ecommerce and software companies. The experience he’s gained along the way has made him a trusted advisor to both clients and colleagues. In addition to SEO work, Dave’s actively involved in company operations.

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Sr. Manager, SEO & Operations

Dave Sewich

Dave made an accidental foray into digital marketing after graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth and hasn’t looked back. Having spent the first part of his marketing journey brand-side, he now works with the Uproer team to help clients realize their goals through the lens of search.

When not at work, you’ll find Dave staying active and living a healthy lifestyle, listening to podcasts, and enjoying live music. A Minnesotan born and raised, his favorite sport is hockey and he still finds time to skate once in a while.

Dave’s DiSC style is C. He enjoys getting things done deliberately and systematically without sacrificing speed and efficiency. When it comes to evaluating new ideas and plans, he prefers to take a logical approach, always sprinkling on a bit of healthy skepticism for good measure. At work, Dave’s happiest when he has a chance to dive deep into a single project for hours at a time. He loves contributing to Uproer and being a part of a supportive team but is most productive when working solo.

Founder & CEO

Griffin Roer

Griffin discovered SEO in 2012 during a self-taught web development course and hasn’t looked back. After years of working as an SEO consultant to some of the country’s largest retail and tech brands, Griffin pursued his entrepreneurial calling of starting an agency in May of 2017.

Outside of work, Griffin enjoys going to concerts and spending time with his wife, two kids, and four pets.

Griffin’s DiSC style is D. He’s driven to set and achieve goals quickly, which helps explain why he’s built his career in the fast-paced agency business. Griffin’s most valuable contributions to the workplace include his motivation to make progress, his tendency towards bold action, and his willingness to challenge assumptions.