Creating a Content Journey for SaaS Products

By Akshay Iyer

Like me, if you are in the information business working in a software company, you may be wondering how to succeed in a rapidly changing world. I use the term information business instead of roles such as a technical writer or instructional designer, because these roles may not describe our future jobs accurately.

The traditional role of information developers has always begun after a company sells software. We expect the customer to use documentation to install our software, use various features, and troubleshoot some issues. Some of us also spend time doing UI reviews, providing usability feedback, and developing rich multi-media content for software.

These activities apply only after a customer has bought a software. Like me, if you and your company is working hard to create SaaS-based software, these activities are simply not enough. To win in a SaaS-based economy, we must evolve from documentation to user assistance and finally create content that acts as a strategic differentiator.

What is most important about SaaS products is that the purchasing power has shifted from the CTO and IT leaders to individual users. In most cases, developers and users within an organization see a business problem. They research for solutions, try the possible solutions for a few days, and finalize the one that fits best. It follows a demand for manager’s approval for a small paid engagement to use more features of the software. Gradually, the word spreads until the software starts gaining enterprise-wide credibility.

This shift in purchasing power means that we, as information experts, need to do a much better job of engaging with individual customers. To do this, we can take some lessons from Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies. If you are wondering why you should even think about FMCG companies, think about the last time you bought a packet of chips. Then reflect on the amount of content you have consumed about chips through various channels such as television ads, digital ads, attractive packaging, discount offers, and so on.  FMCG companies know how to sell to small buyers, and content plays a crucial part in the sale.

One of the most successful FMCG companies is Proctor and Gamble (P&G). They netted $65 billion in sales in 2017 and had multiple billion-dollar brands under their umbrella.

In 2005, P&G developed a three-step marketing model. They believed a customer would need a stimulus such as an advertisement or a conversation with a friend to pique their interest in a product. Customers would then encounter the First Moment of Truth (FMOT), where they go to a store and see multiple options on a shelf all vying for a customer’s interest. P&G knew that their product had to grab the customers’ attention. The Second Moment of Truth (SMOT) is when the customers purchase the product and start using it. Does the product live up to their expectations?

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In 2011, Google added one more step to this model and called it Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). They said that due to the proliferation of digital tools, there is a significant moment between the stimulus and FMOT when the customer is researching for reviews, features, feedback, and is open to suggestions on multiple products that can solve their problem. That is the time where you want to influence the customer to try and use your product. A great example of this behavior is how customers read reviews on Amazon, MouthShut, or watch video reviews of products before they make an important purchase.

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Let’s transpose the ZMOT context to a software company. Imagine that you work for a software company that sells a SaaS-based Infrastructure Monitoring (IM) solution. So, when your target persona, an Infrastructure administrator, is struggling to monitor their hardware and cloud infrastructure what do they do? They start researching about how to solve this problem and how other companies monitor infrastructure. This research process is your target persona’s ZMOT.

As a technical writer/information developer, it is your responsibility to develop information that helps the infrastructure administrator understand how your software can help them. More importantly, it will now become your responsibility to ensure that the customer finds such information when they are experiencing ZMOT.

How can you do that? How do you understand customer issues and how can you influence them?

To answer these questions, you need to understand how your company uses a digital marketing funnel to engage customers.

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The Exploration Phase

You need to guide your customer, an Infrastructure Administrator at the ZMOT stage, to the Exploration phase of your marketing funnel. You can start by working with your marketing team to figure out keywords that administrators use when they search for solutions to their problems. Your marketing team is most probably using Google Trends and other keyword analyzer tools to get this information. Another great place to mine such information is through technology forums where people pose such problems.

When you get such information, work with your product managers to develop a series of blog articles that highlight issues. Then talk about how these issues are typically addressed by using open source tools or by building some custom software. Finally, invite customers to see how they can use your software to resolve such issues effectively. This approach is very different from feature documentation which focuses on the solution. Here, the focus is on convincing customers that you understand their problem and thus know how to solve them. When you use appropriate keywords and write good articles, customers can organically end up on your blog while looking for solutions to their issues.

Another great strategy you can employ is to use MOOC style courseware, which is freely available to all customers and can be marketed heavily by the digital marketing team. In our fictitious scenario, you can create a MOOC course where experts from your company talk about the challenges and best practices for infrastructure management from an industry perspective. What are the key metrics that customers need to consider? What kind of metrics matter for what kind of environment? What are some best practices for alerts, alarms, and reports? Your role would be to work with domain experts to create, edit, and publish content (videos) on the MOOC sites. At the end of the MOOC course, you can have a quiz and give people a participation certificate. You can also end the MOOC course by giving a quick demonstration of your software and how it is solving some key challenges highlighted in your course.

Finally, ensure that your blogs and MOOC courses point to the location where customers can take a free trial of your software.

The Decision-Making Phase

In our fictitious scenario, a customer is looking for a SaaS-based IM solution. They read your blogs and now want to try the software. After, customers sign-up, you want to show them contextual content that helps gain value from the software. Ensure that you create a Getting Started series for your software, which includes a few videos that help the customer understand the UI and execute some critical use cases.

You can also use digital adoption tools such as Walk Me to create customized user journeys for users.

Customer Phase – Purchase

In our fictitious scenario, a customer was looking for a SaaS-based IM solution and found value in trying out your software. They have now subscribed to the software and are actively using it.  At this stage, the worst thing you can do is make customers feel abandoned. Hence, ensure that you create specific content that showcases additional value they have unlocked as premium customers.  You can also keep reviewing support cases and highlight some key workaround and troubleshooting tips by contextually embedding such content.

Customer Stage – Advocacy

In our fictitious scenario, a customer is using the SaaS-based IM solution and loves the experience. Work with your marketing teams to approach some key customers for video testimonials that describe how they used the product. User-generated content is gold and customers tend to believe other customers. Ensure that you embed some of these videos in the Getting Started series to ensure potential customers can see it when they are trying out your product.


When it comes to SaaS products, then high-quality content, made available at the right moment can make or break the user’s experience. As information developers/experts, we all have to embrace this opportunity to positively influence a customer’s journey as they find, try, and use our software.

About the Author

Akshay Iyer is Manager,  Information Services in CA Technologies. He has 12 years of experience in the content industry and has worked in Symantec, BMC Software, and CA Technologies. Previously he led and managed an instructional design team in CA Technologies. He is passionately engaged in finding out how content written by different teams can converge and create a seamless experience for customers.