Writing for the B2B market is often challenging, and never more so than in the world of the software as a service (SaaS) industry. When such a detailed, intense focus on technology is required, it is easy to get caught up in the content itself and miss the bigger picture. That can lead to a number of bad habits.
Here's our list of some of the worst offenders so you can recognise and deal with them.
1. A lack of focus
Every piece of content you create should fit into an overall plan, and be specifically targeted and written. Each item of content should be aimed at one of your buyer personas, and focus on a specific step in the buyer's journey (awareness, consideration or decision).
At a more detailed level, the content itself should be planned out – what are you trying to achieve? What are you going to say? How will you start the piece, and how will it finish? What stages do you need to cover on the way? How it is delivered and promoted should also be carefully defined – which distribution platform, what timings, and what means of promotion?
By carefully planning each piece of content and ensuring it fits into an overall strategy, you are improving its chances of successfully contributing to your organisation's marketing goals.
2. Saying too much
Remember that you are aiming to help the buyer come to a decision – not giving them in-depth training to use and maintain the product or service on a daily basis. How much detail is too much though, will depend on which role within the buying team you are aiming the content at. Clearly, the technical buyer will require more detail than the managerial or financial buyer. And they will be looking for different information too.
The stage your buyer is at within the buyer's journey will also be a factor – at the awareness stage buyers will be looking for an overview; a map of the possible choices along with the pros and cons of each route, whereas towards the decision stage, they will be looking to refine their specification and get to a point where they can get a quote based on a solid understanding of the product and service.
All of this reinforces the need for a plan and a strategy so you know your intended audience.
Overall, you need to be helpful and informative, but avoid concentrating on endless small details that are not directly relevant to the message of the piece.
Conversely, keeping it simple does not mean you should be in any way patronising. Experts in any field can suffer from a tendency to patronise their audience, so this is a habit to look out for and avoid. There is a clear difference of tone between being informative and helpful, and being patronising and unhelpful.
4. Not cross-linking
If you are writing for different personas, at different stages of the buying process – perhaps across multiple products and/or services, then it follows that you will need a wide variety of content, and lots of it.
You should not underestimate the amount of content you need.
Once you have a body of content, you should ensure that within each piece you link to your relevant content elsewhere. This also helps with the level of detail issue. If you keep a piece of content as a simple overview, then you can link to more detailed content throughout, creating a structure that can be several levels deep – allowing the reader to determine their depth of engagement and remain in control.
Links should be helpful to the buyer – and not just link to any related article you happen to have.
A carefully planned series of articles at different levels with cross-links and an introduction or overview piece at the "top" is incredibly useful to a buyer, and a tremendously effective resource for you.
5. Ignoring content from other sources
When you are planning the links from your content, you should not ignore useful content that others have produced. Remember, your prime aim is to be helpful to the buyer, so if there are some great resources out there that are relevant to the topic under discussion, you should link to them. You might want to avoid linking to competitors, but always consider whether they are a direct competitor. For example, if your product or service is local in nature and your prospects will never buy from a competitor in a different part of the world, sharing their content will not harm your sales.
As well as linking to other organisations' useful content, you should be curating content too – finding content that would be useful to your audience and sharing it on social media.
6. Not fact checking
Another little sin that technology writers are guilty of from time to time is not checking their facts. When you are knowledgeable about a subject you can fall into the habit of relying on your knowledge rather than fact checking.
A buyer's trust is a very precious commodity - it can take a long while to gain, but it is shattered in an instant if you publish incorrect information or you are economical with the truth.
Environmental or outside factors can also change, affecting your product and service, so keeping up with the news is essential. There is nothing worse than making a statement that is superseded by events in the real world.
7. Ignoring your company's expertise
Trying to do everything yourself is another bad habit to break. No one person can know everything and within every company there are always experts in different areas. Consulting with sales, technical, support and customer service staff within your company should be an essential part of the content creation process.
Not only can you ensure you are up to date on the company's offerings and your customers' interests, but you will find a wealth of potential stories and topics for your content.
8. No measurement and idea of ROI
You content marketing strategy has to include a set of goals and performance indicators so you can measure the effectiveness of your content. Blogging without analytics, measurement, analysis and reporting is simply not a good idea – you need to know which content is effective with which audiences.
Perhaps harder, but no less important is an idea of the return on investment (ROI) that you are getting from your content marketing programme. This entails working out the value of a prospect/lead to your organisation – not always easy or straightforward.
9. No calls to action
However exciting, informative or well-researched a piece of content is, it is pointless without at least one call to action (CTA). Although we would always stress the importance of being helpful and not pushing your own company's products and services relentlessly, the point of publishing the content is marketing – it is to attract prospects, generate leads and, ultimately, make sales. So, feature a relevant call to action within the content.
SaaS buyers are intelligent enough to realise that you are a company with products and services – so they are expecting to be sold to at some point.
Likewise, making it easy to share content is also important. Creating "Tweetbites" – short quotes that are easy to share on social media - along with social sharing buttons, are just two great ways to encourage the sharing of content.
Content marketing is vital in the world of SaaS marketing, providing content for buyers who are researching the issues and looking to map out a solution - ultimately, becoming a prospect and making a purchase. If SaaS content writers can avoid these bad habits you will be well placed to reap the rewards that this form of marketing can deliver.