We sometimes lose sight of how much data we as a species are currently producing. A little perspective: A 2017 IBM Marketing Cloud Survey estimated that 90 percent of all human data had been generated in the preceding 24 months.

Content marketing probably represents a significant portion of that data. Nearly every business with an online presence engages in some form of content creation or content marketing, and many have made content marketing a core part of their overall marketing strategy.

When your company isn’t seeing results from those efforts, though, it can feel like you’re just throwing content into an ever-growing pile.

It may be time for a better content strategy.

One option? Customer surveys.

Many SaaS companies eschew customer surveys because they feel like more work with little payoff. After all, you have customers’ behavior data. You know what they clicked, what they paid for and whether they came back. That’s plenty to work from, right?

Not so, says Colleen Jones at Content Marketing Institute. Behavioral data only tells you what people actually did. Iit doesn’t explain who those people are, what they think about your brand or services, or why they took the actions they did.

It also doesn’t tell you what they did before or after their contact with your content.

It doesn’t even tell you why they ended up on your website in the first place.

Customer surveys can, though. Here’s how to incorporate customer surveys (and their resulting data) into your SaaS content marketing strategy.

Go To the Source: How to Solicit Information (and From Whom)

“The purpose of content is to build the relationship between the business and the buyer,” notes an article at The Daily Egg. And it’s easier to build relationships when you know something about the person you’re seeking to connect with.

SaaS companies in particular understand the value of relationship-building, since software as a service isn’t a one-time transaction. Done well, it builds longstanding partnerships.

Building relationships with the right decision makers is key. If your company offers software as a service aimed at accounting for mid-sized construction businesses, for instance, effective content marketing should reach the people who work for mid-sized construction businesses and who have some influence there over the accounting process.

While basic demographic information can give you a broad overview of your audience, it doesn’t always translate into actionable marketing insights, as Jebbit cofounder Jonathan Lacoste notes at Inc. For instance, while you may know that most of your social media followers are women ages 25 to 40, that data doesn’t tell you why those women like your brand or what they’re looking for.

Naturally, you could go to each of these visitors and ask them to dive into a survey. But to do that, you’ll need to know how best to reach them and how to present the survey in a way they’re most likely to respond to.

And if you knew that, half the survey questions would be moot.

What’s the answer? According to Katrina Pfannkuch at Kapost, it may be time to build buyer personas. Liz O’Neill Dennison offers three steps to understanding the people you want to reach and how to reach them:

  • Review and use visitor information you already have.
  • Ask established customers about their process.
  • Draw a map of the motivations, questions, needs and behaviors that potential customers are most likely to bring to your content.

Once you have these details in mind, it’s easier to spot places in which customer surveys about more specific topics — from the value of your content to their impressions of a particular interaction or service — will allow you to dig one level deeper into improving your content.

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You Can’t Know What You Don’t Ask: How to Choose the Right Questions

Once you know who you want to reach and where to get their attention, it’s time to decide what you want to ask. After all, you can’t get the right answers — those that will be most effective for your marketing goals — by asking the wrong questions.

Some of the most common right questions SaaS content marketing teams ask are:

  • What do people think of your content and your brand? In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Frank V. Cespedes and Russ Heddleston note that the average time users spend viewing content is 2 minutes, 27 seconds. Customers’ impressions of your content and brand develop in this time — and knowing what those impressions are can tell you how quickly you’re engaging potential buyers.
  • Why do people respond to a certain piece of content? Jones recounts a story of a client who saw 10 percent of its videos driving 90 percent of its traffic. Naturally, the client wanted to replicate the successful elements of that 10 percent — but they had no idea why those particular videos were so effective. Behavioral data showed what was happening, but not why.
  • How did the content change a person’s decisions or behavior? Cespedes and Heddleston found that, for B2B buyers, good case studies led to a higher purchase rate because buyers could see what other businesses achieved with the product or service. Surveys can help you determine exactly how content gets transformed into behavior, allowing you to focus on the content that drives the actions you want.

With your questions in mind, it’s time to design a survey.

First, don’t make it too long. IZEA emphasizes the interactive nature of customer surveys, and for good reason: According to Kevin McSpadden at Time, the average attention span for Internet users is eight seconds.

Eight seconds is tough when you’re trying to communicate core product, service or brand ideas. But it’s actually great for surveys.

Every time a new questions appears, the eight-second clock resets — as long as the questions are well-designed. And designing questions to fit both customers’ engagement needs and companies’ data needs is easier than many SaaS companies realize.

That said, it’s best to limit the questions you ask. And let customers know in advance how many you’ll be asking so they don’t quit in frustration before the end.

Once the survey is ready to go, place a clear call to action in an opportune place. For instance, if you want feedback on a particular video, place a link at the end of the video or in the video description. To ask questions about particular products or services, consider placing a call to action and link to the survey at the bottom of blog posts that focus on that product or service.

Have you created a survey but gotten no responses? Offering an incentive, like a small discount or freebie, can encourage greater participation. Get creative!

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Have Data, Will Market: How to Transform Survey Answers Into Intel

In addition to choosing which questions to ask, you’ll also need to consider how to ask them. “Surveying is a strong quantitative methodology when used correctly,” says Jones.

For instance, closed-ended questions about the past tend to generate more useful data. Many people enthusiastically state what they will do, but when the opportunity appears they don’t do what they said they would.

Instead, ask questions about what customers did. “Did you recommend our services?” will gather more useful information about word of mouth than “Would you recommend our services?”

Many seemingly open-ended questions can be turned into closed-ended questions in a survey. For example, instead of asking “What do you think about our service?” and providing a text box for typed responses, consider asking “Which of the following statements best describes your impression of our service?” and providing three to five answer options.

Don’t shy away from online survey creation tools. Tools like SurveyMonkey allow you to create several different types of questions for free, with the option to upgrade to a paid account if you want access to a fuller range of tools.

The Bottom Line

According to a study by CoBloom, 11 percent of the world’s largest SaaS companies in 2017 didn’t even have a blog, while 60 percent of the top-performing companies blogged about educational or news topics. Thirty-six percent of SaaS blogs had no clear call to action.

Content marketing is a wide-open field for SaaS providers. But, as with any form of marketing, content works best when it’s tailored to the people you want and need to build relationships with. Well-designed surveys provide an opportunity to build those connections.

Images by: jager/©123RF Stock Photo, rawpixel, Mikael Kristenson

Casey Meehan