In the context of developing a SaaS content strategy, user research serves a couple of purposes:
gathering raw data from users regarding their pain points
finding out how they solve their problems at the moment, without your product
getting a sense of the context in which a user starts searching for a product like yours
understanding what convinces them to buy a product and what prevents them from doing so
finding out what users love or dislike about your product and competitors
Once you have enough data to work with, you can start looking for patterns.
A structured way to do this is to organize the needs by type, associate them with user profiles and segments, then rate the importance of those needs.
By identifying the pain points that are mentioned the most often and rating their severity, you’ll know where to start from when building your content strategy and messaging.
If you’re at a later stage in the product lifecycle, this exercise will help you find the gaps in your content strategy and adjust your channels, USPs, content types, messaging, and incentives.
These are useful for specific questions such as pricing brackets, product features, or satisfaction with the product.
You can send surveys via e-mail or run in-app or on-site micro surveys which focus on one-two questions at a time.
You can find some sample surveys questions here.
With focus groups, you bring together users who have something in common: the industry, location, job title, company size, age, product usage patterns, and so on.
Your goal is to understand how they think, feel, and use a specific product or feature, so you should avoid leading the users or influencing their behavior. Let them interact and influence each other and let them start conversations; listen and observe.
Aim for groups of 8–10 people.
If you don’t have a user base that’s big enough for surveys and you don’t want to pay for focus groups, you can do 1:1 interviews as well. These have the advantage of telling you much more about the users, their problems, and how they perceive your solution.
In principle, you should aim for 5–20 interviews.
You’ll find some sample questions to ask during interviews in the last section of this article.
If your sales team records customer calls and demos, go through the calls and write down all the pain points mentioned and all the questions asked by the users.
Keep track of these in a spreadsheet where you collect also the job titles and company profiles, the industry, and any other information that’s relevant for your customer research.
Ask for access to your ticketing system also, to see what are the most frequent complaints and questions that your customer service team receives. Again, add these to your customer research spreadsheet and look for patterns.
Look at your competitors’ sites:
Which companies do they have testimonials from? What job titles?
Which companies are featured in their case studies? What were the problems solved, and what were the solutions?
Analyze their content — what are they writing about that gets shares or comments from your target users?
Look at their social profiles — what are they sharing that gets more engagement from your target users?
Look at LinkedIn profiles of people who have the job titles that interest you.
Are they sharing specific content types or topics?
What are they posting about?
What companies are they following?
What are they commenting on?
Check Quora and Reddit for questions about your competitors or about the problem that you’re trying to solve. See if there are topics that come up more often, and what are the solutions mentioned.
Polls and paid ads on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit can also help you gather insights.
As SparkToro is relatively new, these tutorials might be handy.
If your product is creating a new category in the market, your content may need to hook into your users’ existing stories and present your solution as the new way of solving a problem.
An example would be the no-code platforms that allow users to build apps without help from developers.
Without this option, businesses interested in having their own app would need to hire a developer or an agency and this would mean an extra expense.
The alternative would be to find a freelancer who can do the job for a much lower fee, but in this case, the turnaround time and quality would suffer.
No-code platforms are a new way of building apps. They give business owners full control over what they build and allow them to test their ideas and create prototypes without hiring developers.
However, keep in mind that the users who will give such solutions a try would — very likely — be the early adopters. So the message and content that you’ll create to attract and convert this segment will not work for the early or late majority.
This needs to be reflected in your content strategy and translates into creating separate landing pages, blog articles, case studies, and sales collateral for the two groups.
If you want to reach the mainstream market, your content needs to present your product as the improved way of doing something.
So your message will change from “this is a completely revolutionary product” to “this is like Wordpress but for building apps”.
Your content will therefore have to be enriched with user guides in written and video form, integration guides, free webinars and tutorials, blog articles describing individual features, testimonials, and success stories.
At the same time, your content strategy will need to include a referral program to help with word-of-mouth or another form of incentive to make users want to try your solution.
Start with the segment of users that you’re trying to attract. If you’re going after early adopters, you can recruit people from communities dedicated to entrepreneurs, startup founders, technology enthusiasts, and so on.
If you want to adjust your content strategy so as to reach more of the early majority, look at social media groups and communities gathered around a specific market or solution, not around an idea.
The following places can be a good starting point:
Ask your connections, if they fit your target profile
Ask in LinkedIn or FB groups
Ask in Reddit groups and Slack channels
Find relevant communities for your niche and target group, like Indie Hackers, Hacker News, Product Hunt, Growth Hackers, etc.
Ask on Twitter, based on relevant
Reach out to newsletter owners
Reach out to podcast and YouTube creators
Find participants who attend Meetups in your niche
Reach out to bloggers and vloggers in your target group
Reach out to the people featured in case studies posted by your competitors
Reach out to Quora or Medium users who are in your target group
Place your interview invitation on Haro
Make sure to also interview your internal team, as follows:
SMEs: they can help you understand the market and target audience, the industry and product specifics, the problem that you’re solving, and its importance in the big picture.
Product team: they’ll help you understand why the product exists, what its benefits are, and why users should care about it.
Salespeople: they’ll tell you which type of customer is easier to convince and what message or solution is easier to sell.
Developers: they’ll tell you what the product is doing versus what it could do, and they’ll help you understand whether your messaging and content is on point or over-promising.
Customer service team: they’ll tell you what customers complain about, what’s unclear when using the product, how they try to work around the product issues.
If you need help with user interviews and defining your personas and their pain points, get in touch with our team.
To create a content strategy that speaks to your potential customers, you need to first get to know them, so your user interviews will focus on three aspects:
the person in front of you
the problem you’re trying to solve for them
the solution you’re offering
The introduction should focus solely on the user. For a B2B tool, for example, ask the users to tell you about themselves, who they are, what their role is, what they do in their daily work, what their place is in the bigger picture of the company.
Then, move on to the pain points. What are their workflows, what products they use, how does a typical day look like? What takes the most time? What are the most frustrating tasks and how do they handle them?
If they could eliminate one task from their to-do list, what would it be and why? What are the cheapest and the most expensive solutions they use? Who decided to buy them? Who is actually using them?
Forget about your product or solution for now, you’re not there to sell. You want to focus on the users and their needs, so don’t ask leading questions. Instead, let them do most of the talking, listen, and observe their body language.
Remember, the purpose of these interviews is to help you:
get insights into user behavioral patterns
understand your target personas and segments
map their user or customer journey
understand what matters for them from a customer experience point of view
understand how they feel and what they think during each stage
Ask about their current behavior (as per “the mom test”), not about their potential future actions.Don’t speculate about what they would do; instead, ask them to give you specific examples of situations when they tried to solve their main pain points.
How did they approach the problem?
How did they research potential solutions?
Did they first talk to friends, did they google, did they ask for references in a group or community?
Which were the exact steps they took?
What happened after they got some recommendations or found some potential solutions?
When searching for a solution, how many options are they considering?
What are their main criteria for making a choice?
What’s a deal-breaker?
Ask them to rate the difficulty and frustration of each step, and pay attention to the words that they use most often.
When creating your landing pages, copy, sales collateral, or blog articles, borrow the words that your target users used during interviews.
To make sure you don’t forget anything, record the interview even if you’re taking notes during it. This will allow you to focus on the user and will make it easier to extract insights at the end when putting all the gathered information together.
I hope this gives you some direction in approaching user research for SaaS content strategy development.