In today’s digital landscape, content marketing has become a critical component of any successful marketing strategy, including for marketing technology and software companies.
In the highly competitive software industry, it can be difficult to prove the product’s unique value and the brand’s credibility to customers, and content marketing provides an effective way to do so.
By consistently publishing high-quality and relevant content, software companies can establish their credibility and build brand awareness: compelling content will drive traffic to the website, which will generate leads and, ultimately, convert these leads into paying customers to generate revenue.
In this guide, we will discuss a comprehensive overview of how to leverage content marketing for software companies. By the end of this guide, you’d have learned about the following:
- Identifying and understanding the target audience for your content
- Developing a content strategy
- How to develop a high-quality content
- Implementing SEO optimization to improve your content’s visibility
- Actionable tips and best practices to improve your content’s success
By following this guide, you will have a solid foundation on how to plan, execute, and evaluate a successful content marketing strategy for your software company and grow your business.
Without further ado, let us start right away.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing, simply put, is a strategic marketing approach that involves creating, publishing, and promoting relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a specific target audience.
In practice, content can take many different forms:
- Blog posts
- Whitepapers, research reports, ebooks
The goal of content marketing is to convince this defined audience to take a specific action: sign up for an email newsletter, download gated content, request a quote, sign up for a product demo/free trial, and ultimately, make a purchase
The main idea of content marketing is that by providing informative, relevant, and valuable content, businesses—including software companies—can establish thought leadership, build trust with their audience, and nurture them until they are ready to take the desired action.
Importance and benefits of content marketing
Why should software companies conduct content marketing? Below are some key benefits of content marketing and why you should consider it as a critical part of your marketing strategy:
- Establish thought leadership
With so much competition in the market, it’s critical for software companies to differentiate their brand and showcase their thought leadership to potential customers.
Consistent publication of informative and high-quality content can help software companies showcase their expertise and build trust with their target audience. Brands can also communicate their unique tone and value through the content to differentiate themselves from the competitors.
Content marketing is among the most cost-effective channels available for software companies to market their brands and products.
Compared to, for example, paid advertising, publishing and sharing content online can be much cheaper.
Not to mention, content marketing can offer more long-term, sustainable results than traditional ads. Blog posts can continue to drive traffic and generate leads even after you’ve stopped spending any money on them, but any form of advertising will stop giving you any impact after you’ve depleted your budget.
- Increasing brand awareness
Content marketing allows software companies to reach a wider audience and improve their brand awareness.
By creating and publishing informative content, software companies can drive more traffic to their websites, social media channels, and other platforms to help increase the visibility of their brands.
- Generate leads and sales
If a business doesn’t have a sustainable way to generate leads (and, later on, sales), it won’t grow.
With that being said, content marketing can be a very effective lead-generation tool for software companies, for example, by offering downloadable gated content such as ebooks, whitepapers, or webinars in exchange for contact information.
Well-crafted content can also help you nurture these leads and convince them to convert into paying customers.
- Nurturing customer relationships
Last but not least, content marketing can help software companies in nurturing existing customers to maximize retention.
Companies can publish informative and educational content that helps customers make the most of their software and improve their satisfaction. This will ultimately increase their loyalty and retention.
This practice can also enable word-of-mouth marketing and convert satisfied customers into advocates that are ready to recommend your software products to their peers and friends.
Developing a content marketing strategy: a step-by-step guide
Now that we’ve covered the concept of content marketing and its potential benefits for software companies, in this section, we will explore how to develop a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
By the end of this section, you’ll have a solid knowledge of how to develop a working strategy that resonates with your software company’s specific target audience.
Step 1: setting goals and objectives
Defining specific and clear goals is important so you’ll know how to measure success and where you should direct the efforts of your content marketing campaign.
It’s critical to define content marketing goals and objectives that align well with your software company’s overall business goals. So, you can start this step by first identifying or confirming what your business goal(s) is.
Common business goals for software companies include:
- Increasing revenue. Pretty self-explanatory, increasing revenue is a top priority goal for most businesses.
- Improving customer satisfaction. Many software companies nowadays are packaged as SaaS (Software as a Service) businesses with a subscription-based business model. So, improving satisfaction, loyalty, and retention is critical for success.
- Increase in market share. Businesses may aim to expand their market share and stay ahead of the competition.
- Successful launch of new products/services. Your software company may have a pipeline of new products/services in development.
- Building awareness. Building brand awareness, improving visibility, and amplifying reach are very important for growing a software company.
Once you’ve identified your business’s goal(s), the next step is to define content marketing goals and objectives that can support this business goal.
For example, if your business goal is to increase revenue, then you can set increasing lead generation and sales conversion as your main content marketing objectives.
We’d recommend following the SMART goals framework when defining your content marketing goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for::
- Specific: make sure your goal is specific and clear. It should outline exactly what you are trying to achieve. The specific goal should answer the 5W1H questions (what, who, where, when, why, and how.)
- Measurable: you should have a way to track your progress against these goals and objectives and measure success.
- Achievable: goals and objectives should be realistic and attainable while taking into account the available time, resources, skills, and constraints. Unrealistic goals may hurt your team’s morale and lead to frustration.
- Relevant: your content marketing goal should be relevant to your overall business objectives—as discussed above—and aligned with your business’s values.
- Time-bound: you should be able to assign a clear timeline/deadline for the completion of these goals.
Here are some examples of SMART content marketing objectives:
- Generate 1,000 new leads per month through content marketing by the end of Q4 2023.
- Increase organic website traffic by 20% in 6 months
- Create and publish 3 in-depth blog posts each week by the end of Q2 2023
Once you’ve defined your content marketing goals, identify the KPIs and set up measurement tools so you can monitor your content marketing campaign’s performance against these goals.
Step 2: Defining and understanding your target audience
Once you’ve identified your goals, the next step is to identify who is the ideal audience that can help you achieve these goals/objectives.
Remember that a good piece of content is one that caters to its target audience’s needs and resonates with their pain points. If you don’t know who your target audience is, you won’t be able to create and publish effective content, period.
There are several methods software companies can use to identify their target audience, including:
- Market research: leveraging tools, conducting surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions to collet data on the ideal audience’s demographics, behaviors, psychographics, and preferences.
- Analyzing existing customer data: for software companies that already have their existing customers, a viable method is to analyze their existing customer data (i.e., from their CRM). You can analyze information like purchase history, engagement metrics, and customer feedback to identify patterns and common characteristics among your target audience.
- Social media monitoring: you can use the built-in analytics function offered by the social media platforms (Facebook Insights, Instagram Insights, LinkedIn Analytics, etc.) to analyze your followers and engagement metrics. Alternatively, you can use social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to track mentions and conversations about your brand or your industry/niche. Monitoring social media can help you track brand sentiment and identify potential customers.
- Monitoring industry trends: staying up-to-date on industry trends and news, especially to identify emerging target audience segments.
- Competitive analysis: for brand-new businesses (without any customer base or website visitors,) a viable option is to perform competitive analysis, whether manually by leveraging Google Search or by leveraging various tools to identify who your
Develop buyer personas
Once you’ve identified who your target audience is, we’d recommend creating a buyer persona so you’ll have a clearer understanding of your target audience’s demographics, behaviors, interests, and preferences, among other information.
A buyer persona is a fictional model of your ideal audience that is created based on the data you’ve gathered using the various methods above.
The buyer persona should include a detailed profile of the identified target audience, including their demographics data (age, gender, job title, education level, location, etc.), their goals, challenges, obstacles, and purchase behaviors
For example, here is a buyer persona example for a software company selling project management software:
Buyer persona name: John Doe
Job Title: Project Manager
Company: XYZ Corporation
- Age: 35-45
- Gender: Male
- Education: Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration
- Income: $80,000-$100,000 per year
Goals and challenges:
- Improve project efficiency and reduce costs
- Increase team collaboration and communication
- Better track project progress and deadlines
- Ensure projects are completed on time and within budget
- Simplify project management processes and reduce complexity
- Extremely organized and detail-oriented
- Strong leadership skills
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Tech-savvy and comfortable using project management software
- Prefers to work in a team environment and values collaboration
- Lack of visibility into project progress and status
- Difficulty in managing multiple projects and deadlines simultaneously
- Inefficient communication channels that leads to missed messages and miscommunication
- Limited resources and budget to manage projects effectively
Map out your buyer’s journey
The next step is to map out the buyer’s journey of the created buyer persona.
A buyer’s journey, simply put, is the process that a potential customer goes through from when they learn about a business until they finally make a purchase.
While the actual journey may vary for each customer, a typical buyer’s journey for a software product consists of three main stages: awareness, consideration, and decision:
- Awareness stage: at this stage, the potential customer realizes that they have a problem and they may have a need for your software. Yet, they may not have identified the root cause of their problem and are not yet actively looking for a specific solution. In this stage, typically, they focus on looking for information (research) to understand their problem better.
- Consideration stage: the prospective customer has identified the root cause of their problem and is actively researching different solutions. They may compare your software product with your competitors, trying to determine which option will best cater to their needs.
- Decision stage: at this stage, the potential customer has decided on a product and is ready to make their purchase. They may be looking for more detailed information about the product, including pricing, before they commit to the actual purchase.
Map out the buyer’s journey of your buyer persona, so you can create content that addresses the specific needs of this target audience at each stage and maximize conversions.
Segmenting your target audience
Segmenting your identified target audience will allow you to create personalized content that speaks directly to each segment.
The basic idea of segmentation is to divide your identified target audience into smaller groups based on specific criteria, for example:
- Based on demographic factors: segmenting your audience based on gender, age, income level, or other demographic factors.
- Based on behavioral factors: for example, segmenting your audience based on their engagement/interaction with your content and other behavioral factors.
- Based on psychographic factors: dividing your audience based on specific personality traits, identified values, beliefs, or interests.
Conducting keyword research
Before you begin your content development process, it’s critical to first conduct keyword research as the basis of your content marketing strategy.
It’s important to understand that content creation alone isn’t enough. No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value if no one consumes the content.
Content promotion is just as, if not even more important than the content creation process, and SEO remains one of the most effective ways to promote your content and improve your website’s visibility.
Importance of SEO and keyword research in content marketing
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is essentially optimizing your website, its content, and its technical performance so it can rank higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs)
Google and other search engines rely on algorithms that take into account hundreds of factors when ranking different websites. However, basically, SEO is about three things:
- Making sure the search engine crawler bots can properly crawl and index the site
- Making sure your website visitors have a positive user experience when browsing your website and consuming your content
- Making sure your content is relevant, high-quality, and valuable to your target audience
In achieving these three objectives, keyword research is a very important foundation to help you identify the words and phrases your target audience is using to search for information related to your business or products/services.
Keyword research can also help you identify popular topics and trends related to your software company’s niche or industry. In turn, this information can help you to be more effective in creating timely and relevant content that resonates with your target audience.
In short, keyword research is a critical foundation in developing an effective content marketing strategy for your software company.
How to conduct keyword research
You can perform keyword research with various methods and tools, but there are three basic principles to uphold:
- Your target keyword should be frequently searched by your target audience. This is mainly performed by measuring search volume.
- The target keywords must be relevant to your software company and align with your business goals. Not all keywords that are popular with your target audience will be relevant to your business.
- Depending on your available timeline and resources, the competition for the target keyword must be realistic. If the keyword is too difficult or expensive to target, it might not be worth it.
You can start by brainstorming a list of basic keywords that are relevant to your software company’s industry or niche. Then, you can input these seed keywords into keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, or Ahrefts to get more related keywords. Search for keywords that fit the three principles we have mentioned above.
Don’t underestimate long-tail keywords
When performing keyword research, too often, we put too much focus on generic, short-tail keywords that are only one or two words in length.
However, especially for software companies in narrower niches, long-tail keywords can be more valuable than short-tail keywords. They are typically less competitive, more specific to a user’s search intent, and have a higher potential conversion rate.
You can leverage Google Autocomplete (Google Suggest), the related search section at the bottom of Google’s SERPs, or various keyword research tools to help you identify valuable long-tail keywords.
Prioritize and organize keywords
Once you’ve built your list of target keywords, you can start prioritizing and organizing them.
You can prioritize based on various criteria, for example:
- Search volume
- Competition (keyword difficulty)
- Potential impact on your goals
And so on.
You can also organize keywords based on themes or topics, which may give you an easier time when planning your content.
Types of content for software companies
When planning a content strategy, it’s critical to remember that there is a wide variety of content types to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages.
For software companies, here are some common and effective types of content you should focus on:
- Blog posts: one of the most popular content formats even today, and for a good reason. Blog posts are especially effective for showcasing your software company’s expertise and thought leadership, and they are also highly versatile. You can use blog posts to provide useful tips for your audience, promote your product/service, and even share your opinions on recent industry trends. Blog posts are also the easiest to optimize with SEO to generate more traffic.
- eBooks/whitepapers/research reports: these are longer-form, more in-depth types of textual content, ideal for discussing specific topics while providing in-depth guides or analysis. Typically used as lead magnets (offered for free in exchange for contact information) to capture visitors’ contact information. You can also offer them as free resources for existing customers.
- Video and webinars: video content is becoming increasingly popular in recent years. The fact that it’s now easier and more affordable to produce video content also contributes to its popularity. Software companies can use videos to showcase the product/service in action, provide tutorials, live demos, and so on. Webinars are another form of video content where the host can engage in two-way communications with the user in real time.
- Case studies: case studies and other forms of social proof content (i.e., testimonials, reviews, etc.) can be effective in showcasing real-life examples of how the product/service has helped the targeted customers. Very important for building credibility and trust with your target audience.
- Infographics: infographics are visual representations of information/data or knowledge, typically presented in a compelling, engaging way. Effective for communicating complex information, concepts, or statistics, and when used effectively, can attract a lot of traffic and backlinks.
- Podcasts: besides video, podcasts have been an increasingly popular form of content in recent years. Software companies can use the format to provide in-depth discussions on industry topics and showcase their expertise. Another popular approach is to invite and interview industry experts and influencers in the show.
When deciding on what types of content to create, it’s important to consider your target audience’s preferences and needs. Some audiences may prefer the textual format, like blog posts, but others may prefer to listen to podcasts while driving or commuting.
Also, consider the resources and talent availability. If it’s too expensive and/or lengthy to produce specific content types in your area or within your company, it might not be worth pursuing.
Crafting high-quality and relevant content
At the core of any content marketing strategy is the creation of high-quality, valuable, and relevant content.
While content creation is a pretty deep subject on its own, here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
Focus on the audience’s needs and pain points
Good content is one that answers its reader’s pain points and caters to the target audience’s needs. So, the most important factor in crafting high-quality content is identifying and understanding your target audience. Make sure:
- You have conducted proper market research and have gathered enough information about your target audience.
- To consider what questions your audience may have and what problems they are facing. Assess how your software product can help them.
- To use a conversational tone to directly address your audience.
- That your content provides value to the intended target audience, whether it’s providing education, inspiration, or entertainment.
- To address different types of audiences’ preferences. Some may prefer traditional blog posts, some may prefer videos or podcasts. Tailor your content according to your target audience’s unique preferences.
Balancing technical and non-technical language
To maximize the value of your content, it’s very important to speak your target audience’s language.
That is, if you are targeting a non-technical audience, avoid using technical jargon that might not be familiar to them and, instead, use simple and concise language. On the other hand, you may need to use technical language when you are speaking to a technical audience to establish expertise.
It’s very important to understand who you are speaking to and craft your content accordingly.
Incorporate storytelling and data-driven insights
Incorporating storytelling techniques in your content can be very powerful, especially when conveying complex concepts and ideas. Some popular ones are:
- Personal anecdotes: sharing personal stories and real-life experiences to build a connection with your audience
- Case studies: use real-life case studies to provide context for your audience and to build rapport
- Hero’s journey: using the classic storytelling structure, where the hero (protagonist) faces a problem or challenge and overcomes them (with the help of your product or service)
- Visual storytelling: using images, videos, and graphics to tell your story and enhance engagement
- Humor: incorporating humor to make your content more memorable and entertaining
On the other hand, data-driven insights can add credibility to your content and help get your point across. For example, you can use research findings, statistics, and other forms of data to support your claims and provide evidence for your arguments.
Combining storytelling with data-driven insights with the right balance can help you make your content more engaging while ensuring value. However, when using data, keep in mind to make sure your data is up-to-date, accurate, and relevant to your target audience. If you are providing irrelevant or misleading information, the content can backfire and may hurt your reputation.
Demonstrate your software’s unique selling points
While your content should not be a hard sell for your software products, it should properly highlight the unique selling points of your product.
- What makes your software stand out from your competition?
- How will it answer your specific target audience’s pain points and cater to their needs?
- The unique features and tangible benefits of your software
- Education on how prospective and existing customers can make the most of your software
Optimizing content for SEO
In content marketing, your job doesn’t stop when you’ve finished creating and publishing your content. In fact, it’s far from over.
No matter how high-quality, relevant, and credible your content is, it won’t bring any value to your business if no one is consuming it.
In short, promoting your content is just as, if not even more important, than the content creation process. On the other hand, SEO (search engine optimization) remains one of the most effective ways to promote your content.
Below we’ll discuss some important best practices to optimize your content and website for SEO.
- Naturally incorporate relevant keywords into your content and metadata (title tag, meta description, heading tags, content’s body)
- Focus on providing value to your human readers, don’t stuff your content and metadata with keywords
- Use keyword-rich but descriptive URLs. Use hyphens to separate words instead of underscores or spaces
- Use alt-tags on images, videos, or other non-text content to provide context to search engines and aid visually-impaired users
- Use internal linking to connect related content within your website
- Link to relevant and reputable websites (external links) to improve user experience and to show the search engine algorithms that your content is well-researched
- Mobile-friendliness: use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to assess whether your website is already mobile-friendly. Use responsive design and optimize all elements of your website to improve user experience on mobile devices.
- URL structure: create an organized and logical URL structure to help both search engines and users understand your website’s structure. Avoid using vague or generic URLs, and make sure they are descriptive and readable.
- Robots.txt: the robots.txt file tells the search engines about which pages of your website should be crawled and which shouldn’t. Make sure the file is properly configured so important pages on your website can be crawled and indexed.
- Sitemap: a sitemap provides a roadmap of your website to search engine bots. Submit an XML sitemap to Google Search Console
- Structured data markup: structured data (schema.org) markup provides additional information and attributes about your website to the search engines. This can help the search engine bots understand different elements on your website better, and make your website eligible for being displayed as rich snippets in SERPs.
- Canonicalization: make a habit of implementing canonical tags on the header of the preferred page when multiple URLs contain the same content. This is important to avoid duplicate content issues.
- SSL certificate: using an SSL certificate allows your website to use HTTPS instead of traditional HTTP, meaning your site is protected with end-to-end encryption. HTTPS is an important ranking factor, so make sure to enable the SSL certificate on your website.
Off-page SEO optimization refers to any efforts outside the website to improve its search rankings, especially to improve the site’s authority in front of the search engine algorithms.
Here are some important elements of off-page SEO optimizations:
- Link-building: getting high-quality backlinks to the website from relevant and authoritative websites. When building backlinks, it’s important to remember that the quality and relevance of the links matter more than the number of links. Some effective link-building techniques include:
- Broken link building: finding broken links (i.e., links leading to 404 errors) on potential backlink sources, then offering your content as a replacement for those links.
- Resource link building: publishing high-quality resources like guides, tutorials, tools, infographics, data/statisctic roundups that other websites would want to link to.
- Guest posting: or guest blogging, is creating content for other websites as guest contributors in exchange for a link back to your website (and increased awareness).
- Influencer outreach: reaching out to relevant influencers in your niche, and ask them (or incentivize them) to share your content with their followers.
- Social media presence: while social signals are not direct ranking factors, social media can help drive traffic to the website and increase your overall online presence. Share your content on social media platforms and actively engage with your followers. Encourage followers to share your content with their followers.
- Directory submissions: submitting your website or to relevant online directories can help improve its visibility. This is also an important practice for local SEO, so if you are a software company targeting a local audience, consider focusing on this practice. Make sure to maintain consistency of business information (name, address, phone number, etc.) when listing on multiple directories.
- Online PR: reaching out to journalists, bloggers, and other relevant media can help you get coverage and valuable backlinks from reputable sources.
- Community building: build a community around your brand to help establish thought leadership, credibility, and brand loyalty. Host and join online and offline events (i.e., trade shows, webinars), participate in online communities and forums, and encourage user reviews and feedback.
Content distribution and promotions
Effective content distribution and promotion (besides SEO) are critical for maximizing your content’s reach and impact.
In this section, we will especially discuss the importance of choosing the right distribution channels and promoting your content effectively.
There are basically three different types of potential distribution channels you can leverage:
- Owned channels: like your website, blog, or email newsletter
- Social media platforms: posting your content on LinkedIn, sharing a link to your content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, posting your video on YouTube, and others
- Paid distribution and advertising: sponsored content, paid influencer posts, PPC ads (i.e., Google Ads), paid social ads, etc.
The most important factor when choosing between these different channels is to consider where your target audience is spending their time online. For example, if they are mainly on social media, then focusing your effort on relevant social platforms can be an effective approach.
Also, consider the type of content you are looking to distribute. If you are looking to distribute long-form text content, for example, then your own blog, as well as LinkedIn, might be the best choice. On the other hand, if you are looking to publish visual content like infographics or videos, you can try Instagram or Facebook.
Here are some additional tips on how to effectively promote your content:
- Proactively share your content: share your content on social media, email newsletter, and other channels actively so you can reach your existing audience.
- Collaborate: consider collaborating and partnering with influencers or other brands in your niche/industry so they can help promote your content to their audience.
- Repurpose: repurpose your content into different formats. For example, turn your blog posts into videos, infographics, or podcasts. This can help you reach different audiences. Consider distributing and promoting on different channels.
A key element of the success of any content marketing, including for your software companies, is continuous improvement.
It’s critical to continuously improve the quality of your content, both in terms of being informative and engaging. Make sure your content is developed and optimized for both the search engines and human readers, and stay up to date with the latest trends in content marketing.
Obviously, creating and executing a successful content marketing strategy will take time, effort, and endless trial and error. However, with the right persistence and approach, you can gain the benefit of creating content that resonates with your audience, generate more leads, and acquire more customers for your software company.