As an avid blogger and content marketer, here and here, I'm always looking for new angles for content creation. Of course my content needs to be hella engaging and incredibly useful for a particular user niche. I've found that having a unique angle really makes the difference.
For example, I often read Groove's blog a Founder's Journey, in which the Alex, the founder, takes the approach of sharing Groove's challenges around building a SaaS startup. His articles may thread in topics on customer support or marketing or customer development, but they are rooted in the personal challenges he and the team are facing. People really resonate with that.
One approach I've been using recently is using my own product, Markup Hero, a screenshot and annotation app, to write detailed product reviews of other SaaS solutions. I incorporate annotated walkthroughs of features and benefits so the article tells the story visually as much as it does in words.
So far I've written five of these reviews. They're juicy and take some real effort. But they're informative, engaging, easy to consume and valuable to both the SaaS business directly and their potential users.
Why it Works
This idea was initially interesting to me for a few reasons. First, I was already writing these types of articles on my personal blog. When I find a tool I like, I'm all in and I often write about my experience. I never really thought of it as a content marketing angle, I just did it because I wanted to share my experience. One such article I posted on Medium in early March comparing Evernote to Notion has decent traffic and continues to grow in views and reads.
I ended up using Markup Hero to create the screenshots and annotations in the article as we were in early beta at that time, but I didn't really think about doing more product reviews as a content marketing strategy. In fact, it didn't dawn on me until someone from a SaaS Facebook Group asked me to do a review of their product. That company was Spike, a unified communication tool to replace Slack, iMessage and Gmail with "conversational email" as they call it. I agreed to write a detailed product review of Spike and asked them to post on their social outlets and add a backlink from their blog with a blurb about the review.
In the 15 days following the posting of the article on our blog and Spike posting on social and adding a permanent link to their site, we saw a meaningful lift in site traffic, downloads and signups for Markup Hero.
- Search Impression w/ Spike Keywords for Blog Post: 66
- Unique Users from Spike Keyword Search Impressions: 11
- Direct Traffic from Search to Blog Post: 44
- App Downloads from Above Traffic: 17
- User Accounts from Above Traffic: 8
It quickly became apparent to me that this approach could work. Soon after writing the article for Spike, I floated the idea of writing similar reviews for other SaaS companies in the same Facebook Group and got 33 comments, from which I have a list of 19 companies that want to do this with me.
Benefits to the Partner
Getting other people to write about your product is a big goal, especially for SaaS companies. So the benefit of this approach is pretty evident to partners. My personal reach on Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter certainly helps, but Markup Hero is a new startup and our reach as a company is not big. Our site has a current ahrefs DR of 13 and we have just over 1000 users at the moment. So anyone that does this with us isn't getting a ton of backlink value. But 3rd party, seemingly unsolicited, review content is without question, valuable.
Benefits for My Company
For Markup Hero, the benefits are nearly obvious. In most cases, the partner company has bigger reach and traffic than we do, on social, and on their site where the permanent backlink goes. Spikenow.com has a 63 Domain Rating with nearly 10K verified backlinks, 5.4K Facebook likes and almost 2500 Twitter followers. So yeh, we got value from doing this.
Moreover, SaaS product reviews really lend themselves to using our own product. Content and images are one thing. But when I'm trying to visually show-off the unique feature set of a product, detailed annotations are critical (example from Spike article below). That's exactly what Markup Hero does. So the alignment of content niche, storytelling voice and our own toolset make this approach really perfect for us.
Engaging Users and Collecting Feedback
One challenge with this approach is converting readers into users for our product when they originally came to read about a completely different solution. Partly this happens organically because users see my review and use of Markup Hero to create visuals. Sometimes we request feedback from users to start a dialog with them. A good tool to engage with customers is JotForm. Their PDF editor makes it easy to create elegant PDF templates and organize the data.
Ideas for Iteration
I've now completed 5 of these reviews (all here) and have a queue of about 25 SaaS companies ready to go. One of the biggest challenges with this strategy is the time it takes to write a good product review article. But writing any good content takes time. Going forward, I'm going to try a shorter-form version of this where I review the top 2-3 features of a particular product — those key features that really make a product worth using. I'm going to start with Shift, a desktop app for streamlining accounts, particularly Google accounts and services. I'm a huge fan and have been using for over a year, but it's really just 1 feature that has me sold on that software. I can write a shorter article if I focus on just that feature, but hopefully still provide enough value to users and Shift directly that they get onboard with sharing the story. TBD. I'll update this post with the link and result of the ask when I've finished.
I'm sure I'm not the first content marketer to take this approach. And certainly people will always come up with new ways to do content marketing. This is just one strategy that I stumbled upon that seems to work, is right up my alley, and fits our product oh so well. Share any suggestions about how I could make improvements or other ways you've done content marketing that's worked. Love to hear them.