How to Use Content to Educate Users and Increase Engagement

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Note from the author:  This blog post was created based off specific work completed for a SaaS product. Although this is specific to SaaS the takeaways can be used for any business model. Enjoy!

As you probably already know, understanding your customer is by far the first and most important step when trying to increase engagement, reduce churn and increase lifetime value (CLTV). Why you ask? Well, if you don’t have a deep understanding of who your customer is then you can’t create content that is tailored specific to their lifestyles, the way they think, how they consume information or what they need.

Think about it this way. Let’s say your target market is someone in high school. You created a two-thousand word blog post using words like “essentially” and “modulation” and aimlessly posted your content to any and all social platforms. Trust me, I’ve seen this done before. Anyway, after all the time and resources you put into creating that content there’s a pretty big chance that you’ve missed out on any opportunity to engage with your potential customer.

We need to be focused in our approach so that we reach and engage our target customers effectively while making the biggest impact.

That’s where customer personas come in. Creating customer personas is the first step in truly understanding your customer. First you write down who you think your target customer is then you start figuring out who they are.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Personal Background: Where does my customer live? How old are they? Are they married? What is their gender?
  2. Work Life: What is their career path? What’s their income? What is their role and who do they report to?
  3. Problems and Challenges: What problem does my customer need to fix? How does my product help them overcome their challenges?
  4. Content Consumption: What websites does my customer go to? What media outlets or bloggers influence them? Do they prefer videos or blog posts? What device are they using?

There is usually more than one customer persona in any given buyer profile so make sure you cover all basis and dig deep when thinking about who you’re selling to and who else is in the decision making process. You can find more information about developing customer personas in this HubSpot blog post.

Creating the Right Content 

Now that we understand who are customer is we need to figure out what types of content to create that will attract, engage, retain and resonate with them right now; not last year or last month but right now (and in the future if you can predict that you are awesome).

First, let’s talk about what types of content is out there. Remember, content types will resonate differently with different customer personas. Here is a sample list of the types of content that is out on the internet:

  • Articles and blogs, list posts, influencer interviews
  • Whitepapers, case studies, ebooks, downloadable checklists, tools, training videos
  • Images and photos, short videos (Instagram Stories and Snapchat), podcasts
  • Geo-specific and local targeted content
  • Science and research, reviews, fiction and humor
  • Help center, knowledge base, webinars and emails
  • The list can go achat sildenafil citrate bull 100 on forever. It really can. Here is a link to a list of 105 different types of content you can test.

For the sake of this blog post let’s say we’re selling a scheduling software and the customer persona that we are creating content for is a 50 year old man who owns three retail franchise locations in South Florida. Let’s call him Jim. He’s married and has two kids (both in college). He’s not too tech savvy but he has an iPhone, has a Facebook profile and lives in his email account. What types of content should we create for this guy and how do we even get him to consume it?

This guy seems pretty busy so 2,000 word articles and whitepapers using chunks of text probably won’t connect well with him. But list posts that give him ideas to solve his problems right now might. He’s in South Florida so an article interviewing other small business owners in South Florida about how they are growing their businesses might resonate as well.

But, remember when I told you that we need to think of other customer personas in the buyer profile and to consider other people in the decision making process? Since Jim owns three different franchise locations, he probably has managers for each of them. His managers are probably a lot younger than he is and more tech savvy. Jim trusts their opinion when it comes to apps and technology. What types of content should we create for them? Think about this persona and write down your ideas.

New User Onboarding 

When it comes to a SaaS product, onboarding new users can be one of the most thought out, resource intensive aspects of the game. It’s all about testing ideas, analyzing data and testing again. It really is a science.

Most SaaS products have a free trial where the user gets to try it before they buy it. This is where onboarding comes into play. Keep in mind that all facets of the business such as usability, interactions with sales and support team members, email marketing and design all affect the conversion process.

But in this blog we will be specifically focusing on content and how we can use content to better educate, engage and convert our users. Here are some things to think about when creating onboarding content.

Think about user activity within the application and assign users to segments based off engagement levels (inactive users, active users and engaged users for example). This will allow you to send users different email messages and other forms of content based on engagement levels within your app.

For example, an inactive user should not be receiving the same types of emails and content as a fully engaged user. The inactive user still needs to see the benefit. They still need to experience the value propositions they read about before signing up. This is where educational content comes into play. You need to educate your inactive user and show them how the product will benefit them. Don’t just throw value props in their face. Show them how to achieve those value props.  

In this case, develop a quick setup guide that easily allows the user to engage with the app in three simple steps (it should be the first three things you want a user to do in the app for example, add a photo, invite other users and create labels etc). Look at your data and figure out what actions users who convert take over those who churn. Create onboarding videos explaining those actions so inactive users can start experiencing value now.

A more engaged user probably has already experienced the value and has already started seeing the benefits. These users are further down the conversion funnel where case studies have higher impact on sales.

For more information on user onboarding read my Definitive Guide to SaaS Customer Onboarding here.

Pro tip: Don’t be so salesy. Nobody likes a hard sell and it can hurt your brand more than you think. Using fear tactics to help convert someone might work for the insurance guys but in my opinion has no place in SaaS.

Continuous Improvement and Tracking Results 

Testing is the name of the game. Content pieces, marketing messages and onboarding tactics that work today might not work tomorrow. We must evolve with our users, test new types of content and stay on top of trends. There is no stopping.

Your technology will change and your content (knowledge base, setup guides and training videos) from last year won’t work; usability, design and features have all changed. Work cross-functionally with your sales, support, product and data teams to understand what’s changing and how we stay on brand when communicating and engaging with our customers. For example, always ask yourself these types of questions:

  • What new features are launching?
  • How does this change the way we educate our users?
  • What types of new content needs to be created?
  • Do we need to rethink our onboarding process?

Now that we have the flywheel spinning how do we track results? First, figure out your goals and KPIs. For most SaaS businesses there are common KPIs to start measuring (CAC, CLTV, and Churn).

CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) is calculated by dividing all the costs spent on acquiring a customer by the number of customers acquired within a given time period. This is like the holy grail metric for SaaS startups.

CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value) is the average amount of revenue generated over the lifetime of a single customer. Simple put it is the gross margin that you would expect to make from that customer over the lifetime of your relationship.

Churn Rate is a metric that tells you what percentage your customers are leaving you or unsubscribing to your service. It can be calculated by dividing the total amount of customers who left by the total amount of remaining customers in a given time period.

Here is a great resource from venture capitalist David Skok to learn more about CAC and CLTV.

Now let’s look at how creating content that educates your user can affect these metrics. First, educating your user gets them to see the values and benefits of your product faster. This leads to higher engagement and guides them down the conversion funnel where content like case studies will be more effective in closing the sale. Referring to my example above, when you have the right content pieces firing off at the right time during the onboarding cycle your conversion rate will increase. A higher conversion rate has a direct effect on CAC. If your expenses are constant and your conversion rate increases your CAC will decrease.

Content  that continuously engages your paying user such as updated training videos when a new feature releases or downloadable resources that help them grow their businesses, will add more value and benefit to the relationship increasing CLTV.

Lastly, understanding what makes customers churn in the first place allows you to create content that can actually solve their problems and handle their objections before they even begin. Start surveying your customers who left you and ask them why they left then take the top 5 responses and create content that will help explain and alleviate those pain points. This helps you stop churn before it even happens.

We have to think that a new customer has zero idea of how to use our products. We can’t assume anything and we need data to help inform our decisions. We need to create content that is specifically tailored to our users (who they are, where they are in the conversion funnel etc) and we need to educate them so they can quickly start experiencing the value and benefits our products have to offer. That’s when things really start cooking! Thanks for reading.

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