Show me a SaaS startup without a lead generation strategy, and I’ll show you a company that’s heading for trouble.
Anyone can create an offer. The two most common mistakes we see with SaaS lead generation strategies are 1) they don’t have any apparent value for the audience, and 2) they smell like a typical sales job that does more to repel people than attract them.
As master marketer and copywriter Gary Halbert once wrote:
“You can do a better selling job when at first it does not appear you are attempting to do a sales job.”
The point is, lead generation is vital for startups. But as Ryan Scott notes in this piece on B2B lead generation pricing, “Everyone is doing the same things that worked for decades, but they aren't working anymore.”
Your target audience is subjected to numerous ads and offers every day, so they know how to spot the bad ones. However, not all hope is lost. You can create a lead generation strategy that your target audience will actually enjoy without spending yourself into oblivion.
In this post, we’ll cover what a real lead looks like, the basics of content marketing, and the three key pieces of a content-driven strategy, and how you can use them to build a sustainable, scalable lead gen engine.
Content is a Powerful Tool for Lead Generation
Why is content marketing a popular tactic for SaaS startups? Because it’s a compounding tactic, not a one-and-done play. Someone can read a blog post you wrote two years ago, be interested in the idea you are selling, and wind up becoming a customer.
Compare this to pay-per-click or social media ads. They are only visible so long as you provide the budget to buy the space. Once the budget is gone, the ads come down. One-and-done. Content may not be the only way to generate leads, but it is more efficient than paid strategies.
But before we dive too much into content for lead generation, let’s start with a basic question.
What is a Real Lead?
This may seem like semantics, but it’s vital to understand the different types of leads, how they’re different, and the importance of each in your lead generation strategy.
Leads: any contact in your database. They don’t fit your target customer profile and haven’t shown interest in your type of service.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): An MQL is a contact who matches your target customer profile and has the potential to buy from you. These are potential customers, but they haven't yet said they want to talk to you. The marketing team has said, “This is a good lead.”
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): An SQL matches your target customer 3profile and has shown a specific interest in your product or service. This usually means they've set up a phone call, consultation, demo, etc., to talk to a salesperson. The sales team has said, “This is a good lead.”
Original Content is the Starting Point for Lead Generation
Your original content should be focused on helping you build authority on topics relevant to your target audience. It should bridge the gap between the problems your target audience experiences and the solution you can provide.
One way to do this is to hone in on your audience's key questions about your product. Marcus Sheridan perfected this approach writing for the River Pools & Spas blog. The titles of nearly every blog post are questions River Pools & Spas’ target audience could have.
Creating this type of valuable content consistently can also increase visibility in search engines. It’s also a great delivery vehicle for the second element of content-focused SaaS lead generation: CTAs.
Your original content primes a reader with an idea. A call-to-action, or CTA, shows them the way to act on this new idea. This may be to download a lead magnet (we’ll get to those in a minute) or schedule a demo.
The type of CTA depends on the type of content, the audience, and the next logical step in their buying journey. It has to be relevant to the content they’ve just read. The CTA can be a designed visual or simple text link. It should always build on the value offered in the content it is paired with.
Great Examples of How to Use CTAs
The Lead Generation Resources Pack visual CTA (which we also used earlier in this post)
Qualio’s Self Assessment CTA: Qualio’s eQMS product helps medical device, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies build higher quality products. A self-assessment that helps these companies “find the cracks” in their quality management process is highly relevant and valuable content
The 4 Keys of High-Performing Lead Magnets
A lead magnet is an offer you can promote to prospective customers in exchange for their email address and other contact information. There are four keys to creating high-performing lead magnets for a SaaS lead generation strategy.
1. It has a high perceived value
This is the difference between your audience scrolling right past your lead magnet or clicking it and giving you their email address. Your lead magnet has to hold something valuable for your audience to get them to give up their email address.
Example: Lean Labs Growth Playbook
In both the CTA and the lead magnet landing page (click the CTA to see), we promote the “processes we use to 10X clients’ growth.” That’s an enticing offer for a tech or SaaS startup wanting a tool to help them grow.
2. Instantly helps solve a problem or fill a knowledge gap
A problem or lack of knowledge is often the impetus behind a Google search. If your content covers that question well enough to show up in Google search results, a lead magnet and CTA embedded in that content is a strong play.
Example: Qualio’s “12 Questions to Ask Before You Buy an eQMS”
Qualio sells an eQMS platform to medical device, pharma, and biotech companies. Choosing an eQMS is a crucial decision for these companies.
From their own extensive research and sales conversations, Qualio understands the most important questions prospects need to be answered as they are evaluating eQMS solutions. This offer fills a critical knowledge gap for a potential prospect who is evaluating eQMS platforms.
3. Demonstrates your expertise and knowledge
While you are positioning yourself as an impartial guide, your lead magnet should also leave a reader saying, “Man, they really know their stuff.” This positions you not only as a guide but as a legitimate provider they will want to consider purchasing from.
Example: POS Nation’s Retail POS System Buyers’ Guide
POS Nation’s expertise is in point-of-sale systems for all different types of retail stores. Their years of experience working with retailers of all kinds on their POS needs has resulted in a ton of knowledge and understanding of what retailers need in a POS system.
This offer is built on those insights to help retail store owners make the best decision when purchasing a POS system.
4. Qualifies a reader as a new MQL or converts the to an SQL
Generating leads you can follow up with and nurture to purchase is the goal. Your lead magnet has to lead them to conclude your product or service is what they need to get the job done. Hitting all three of the previous keys of high-performing lead magnets gives you the best chance of making this happen.
Tying Content, CTAs, and Lead Magnets Together
How do we tie content, CTAs, and lead magnets together into a SaaS lead generation strategy?
To start, let’s assume you have already created some original content of your own, such as blog posts. (If you haven’t and need help doing so, start here.)
Next, you need to determine what one or two lead magnets you can create to start building your email list. Use the four keys to high-performing lead magnets to brainstorm a few ideas.
Once you have your one or two lead magnets built, it’s time to create CTAs. These can be simple text links, designed visual CTAs, or a combination of both. Once you have them ready, place the CTAs in your relevant website and blog content and link them to your lead magnets.
From there, it’s all about measuring performance, making tweaks, and repeating. Specifically, you should be looking at:
Clickthrough rate (CTR) - many CTA views but few clicks mean you may need to tweak the CTA language.
Conversion rate (CVR) - if your clickthrough rate for your CTA is solid, but you’re not getting a lot of conversions on your lead magnet, review your offer using the four keys to high-performing lead magnets.
The cost of all of this? If you have the talent, platforms, and resources to do it all in-house, it’s simply the time to put it all together. If you don’t, that’s where an outsourced growth team well-versed in SaaS lead generation strategies is your best bet.
Content-Driven SaaS Lead Generation is Not Impossible
A lead generation strategy is vital for any SaaS startup. It helps build a list of qualified leads, reduces the need for cold-calling, and positions your company as both a resource and legitimate solution within your market.
However, this requires the right people, skills, and tools. This is where Lean Labs comes in. We have worked with both SaaS and non-SaaS clients of all sizes of budgets and across industries to develop a lead generation strategy.
Our Lead Generation Resources Pack is a great resource to get you in the right mindset for building a lead generation strategy for your company.