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Decide how to structure your content marketing team and marketing organization

We’ve answered a lot of content marketing strategy questions so far in this series. Today we’ll focus on the following:

  • How can I structure the content marketing function in my B2B SaaS startup?
  • What roles are important in a content marketing team?
  • How should content marketing be integrated within my marketing organization?
  • What are example marketing team Org Charts that I can use?
  • Real life example: How does HubSpot organize their Content Marketing Team? How has this changed over time? Bonus: Interview with Mike Volpe (HubSpot CMO)
  • What org structures tips does the Content Marketing Institute recommend for B2B SaaS startups? Bonus: Interview with Robert Rose (CMI’s Chief Strategist)

Marketing Organizational Structures and Org Charts

Let’s start at a high level, looking at marketing organizations in general, then deep dive into the content marketing function, roles, and changes over time. Take a look at The CMO’s Guide to Marketing Org Structures by Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot. It’s a great slideshare that describes how different marketing organizations are structured in 2014 – with real-world examples. For a B2B SaaS startup in the early or growth stage (between $500k – $15M ARR), your 3 goals are typically the following (and here’s how some organizations tackle them, according to that slideshare):

  • Goal: Understand our customer, their needs, and their buying process. Function: product marketing. Example: MindJet’s Elastic Org
  • Goal: Attract and convert leads into customers. Function: Top-of-funnel growth. Example: Zendesk’s ToFu Org
  • Goal: Minimize churn Function: Customer Retention. Example: Atlassian has a “Customer 4 Life” team, specifically dedicated to this function.

Content Marketing Team Roles

Content marketing plays a part in each of the marketing organizations listed above. In order to figure out which team is right for your environment, your goals, and your budget, I’ll outline the roles that you can fill, and let you decide what works best for you. You can combine these roles into one position or split them into more than one position as needed.

Leader: Builds your strategy, designs your framework, sets goals. This person should be experienced in all the roles – ready to help out when needed, and comfortable working with analytics. They need the authority to approve the goals and inspire other departments to create content. They also need the resources to execute the strategy. VP or higher.

Writer: Whether it’s an offer that converts visitors into leads (such as a whitepaper or ebook), or an email that nurtures a lead into an SQL (sales qualified lead), or a video that describes your product on your homepage – you’re going to need someone to put the words together. You will likely have many writers throughout your organization, at various skill levels. You’ll want a really good one on your content team. It helps if they are multi-talented – creative, visual, textual, and really in tune with your various audiences. They should be able to repurpose content and approach the same topic from multiple angles to maximize the effectiveness of your content machine.

Editor: Since you’re sourcing content from different places in your organization, you’ll receive content of different qualities. Your editor is able to improve the quality of every writer in the organization by identifying what makes content amazing, describing that to the contributors, and helping them to improve their individual pieces. If needed, they’ll fix it themselves.

Infrastructure and SEO: How do you get your content in front of the most people? Often, it means choosing the right words, and ensuring that your content shows up when the right people search for it. An SEO specialist is invaluable – they can turn your post-and-pray approach into a methodical process and show you specific results of their work, in terms of an increase in inbound links, backlinks, higher page rank, and higher page authority for your content. I lump this together with infrastructure because you often find that SEO specialists are more technical than others on your team, and they can be good at setting up your email marketing, connecting your analytics, creating campaigns and codes for them, and tracking the effectiveness of your programs. Marketing infrastructure can grow into a sub-team of its own quite easily, especially as you grow into marketing automation.

Channels & Social Media: Besides posting the content on your blog, and using SEO to improve visibility, you’ll need someone who is an expert at finding the right locations to talk about your content. They should be able to get involved in the community, encourage sharing and awareness of your content, and pull more ideas from the community to inspire your content creation process. They’ll often be quite comfortable with social media management tooling like Hootsuite.

Design: I look at the quality of your design as an expression of the quality of your product – and I’m not alone… your customers make this connection too. You’ll want designers to handle everything, from online ads to tradeshow exhibition booths, to email templates, landing pages, presentations, videos, and more. When you’re ready to get someone full-time, pick someone up from an agency – they’re used to handling many diverse projects, and they’re often overworked and unappreciated. With your culture, you’ll get top talent and a loyal employee at the same time.

How does HubSpot organize their content marketing machine? An interview with Mike Volpe, HubSpot CMO

For my readers, I’m going to assume you know what HubSpot is, and jump right into the interview. If you don’t, check them out – they’re a leader in the Marketing Automation space and they coined the term “Inbound Marketing” in 2005.

David Booth: How is the team organized today at HubSpot?

Mike Volpe: “The content team is led by Joe Chernov, our VP of Content, and is split pretty evenly between blogging, offers, and a hybrid. Our marketing blog gets about 1.5 million views per month and we have three full-time bloggers (and currently, one blogging intern) dedicated to maintaining our traffic and crafting original content to attract new visitors and qualified leads. There are content strategists on the team dedicated to creating longer-form offers (ebooks, SlideShares, templates, and guides etc.), and one that focuses solely on crafting offers and blogs for our Partner agencies. Our inbound marketing fellow, Dan Lyons, runs the Up and to the Right blog and publishes offers as well. There is a lot of crossover and collaboration within the larger content team; the offers team frequently contributes blog posts and vice versa, and the larger team meets regularly to align their goals and evaluate their efforts so that they can take a holistic approach to creating and sharing content.”

HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Organization, Originally published in The CMO's Guide to Marketing Org Structure

Originally published in The CMO’s Guide to Marketing Org Structure

 

Roles within a marketing team, HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Organization, Originally published in The CMO's Guide to Marketing Org Structure

Hubspot Content Marketing Team Org Chart, from interview with Mike Volpe, HubSpot CMO

HubSpot Content Marketing Team Org Chart, from interview with Mike Volpe (CMO)

On team evolution: From 1st hire to your team size today, how did the team that executes HubSpot’s content marketing strategy evolve? Could you identify stages in that evolution?

Mike Volpe: “We’re an inbound marketing company, so from day one we’ve believed that content and free tools are the key to connecting with your audience in a way that is valuable, effective, and relevant. I joined HubSpot in 2007 as the fifth employee and like any bootstrapped startup, it was all hands on deck when it came to creating content and marketing our free tools. We couldn’t afford a full-time blogger so our co-founders and myself both set time aside to write weekly. Eventually, the blog became HubSpot’s biggest source of website visitors and our free tool Website Grader became the second biggest source, so we proved that this whole inbound marketing thing actually works.

For the first few years, we didn’t have a formal content team for the blog. Everyone in marketing was required to spend part of their time writing for the blog. Even though our budget and resources were limited, we had a scrappy team that pumped out content from clever YouTube videos like Baby Got Leads and lipdubs inspired by Alanis Morisette to blog posts analyzing Twitter data and lots of great webinars. We jumped at every opportunity to post new types of content and over time, we doubled down on what was working best. One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is generating the same content as everybody else; trying new formats and taking risks with your content is good, but once you can evaluate what’s performing best, opt for quality over quantity.

We started publishing ebooks and webinars around 2008 to start nurturing leads with longer-form content and realized we needed to scale our efforts more effectively so we broke the team into two parts: top of the funnel content and middle of the funnel content. From that point, the team slowly started to grow into what we know as HubSpot’s content team today. We were able to hire two full-time bloggers and introduced a blogging quota for every team within marketing (Brand & Buzz, Funnel, Product Marketing) where, depending on how large your team is, you were expected to publish X blog posts a month (we stopped doing this recently as our dedicated blogging team grew). We had one person dedicated to brainstorming, writing, creating, and publishing behind-the-form content like ebooks and webinars, and over about two years, this grew into a full-fledged Offers team. Today, the structure of HubSpot’s content team is a direct result of how we saw content working best to support our overall inbound marketing strategy and align with our business’s goals.”

On planning a new team: If you were in a B2B SaaS company that just received a $5M Series A,has $1M in ARR, and you were using a content marketing strategy – roughly – how would you structure your team? why?

Mike Volpe: “Creating an inbound experience requires creating a systematic approach to delivering the right content to the right people at the right time. As a result, you need to think early on about people who can be utility players and be incredibly effective at content creation, promotion, and alignment as part of a broader inbound strategy. Utility players are incredibly valuable in the startup world, and marketing is no exception. Build a team with Digital, Analytical, Reach, and Content (DARC) top of mind. When it comes to content creators, it isn’t hard to find someone that’s a good writer anymore, or someone who has blogging experience, but you want a team that not only knows how to create content, but understands how to distribute, evaluate, and optimize it. At this stage in your business, you’ll want employees who can wear different hats and extend their inbound marketing skills across the board.

In the early stages of your company’s growth, blogging is your best friend. Say you have two dedicated content creators, have them spend about 70-80% of their time on blog posts and lead gen content, and the rest of their bandwidth producing offers (e.g. ebooks, guides, benchmark reports) to convert qualified leads. These content creators, along with your CMO, should also be the ones analyzing your content’s performance and strategizing around what’s working and re-evaluating what isn’t. The structure of your team will take shape as your business grows and as leads, prospects, and customers provide feedback, directly or indirectly, on your content.

While the structure of your team is important, it’s more crucial for businesses in their early stages to be producing quality content at a steady pace and reiterating their content strategy constantly as they go based on the audience’s engagement and feedback. The best way to get started on this approach is to find rockstar content creators that solve for DARC.”

What org structure tips does the Content Marketing Institute recommend for B2B SaaS startups? An interview with Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategist.

David: Can you identify stages in the content marketing function within an organization? How are content teams often structured at each of those stages? (eg: I see company size, revenue, and other factors determining a company’s team structure. Are there other factors? How do they relate specifically to content marketing teams or the function of content marketing within a company?)

Robert Rose: “Indeed, this is going to be very different at a large, global (read siloed) organization than it would for a startup.  I find that with the startup companies in the SaaS space (including the one I built) that the content marketing functions – at least initially – are certainly going to be roles filled by the marketing team and then slowly as the CM effort becomes more mature can grow into its own.  This is certainly what some of the earlier “superstars” such as Hubspot and Eloqua did effectively.

The biggest factors – and what I advise startup CEO’s (or CMO’s) to do is to first understand where the goals of the company are.  If the startup is bootstrapping – then it’s a much different story than if they’ve gotten their first round – and are looking for big growth.  Also – what’s the event horizon (if they even know it) of exit. Finally, to whom are they trying to appeal?  For example – one of the primary drivers of my initial content marketing efforts was to bolster the confidence level that enterprise CIO’s would have once they looked at our website.  As a startup SaaS appealing to very large enterprises I absolutely had to make the company look every bit as respectable as the big companies we were competing against.   All of these things factor into how CM is (or should be) rolled out in the startup.”

David: What are some of the most effective team structures that you’ve seen, for driving leads and conversions to sales?

Robert Rose: “One of the key team structures that I’ve seen is where the CMO (or whomever the leader in marketing is) is usually going to act as Chief Content Officer. Then – initially we see a traditional marketer focusing on the sales enablement piece since that’s usually the first pressure point for any startup. Most of the content is initially focused on awareness (e.g. inbound) and lead nurturing. This means: thought leadership, high velocity blog posts, webinars etc… They are usually leveraging some level of existing personnel such as the CEO, the CTO or others that they need to put a “vision” to the brand.  This is also what Hubspot did so effectively early on with Volpe, Dharmesh, and Brian….  Eloqua did this really well – and Marketo is also really good at this.

As the company grows and CM expands to other parts of the funnel – that’s when we see the Content-Marketing-specific roles start to be hired. And teams being grown for that. Again, Eloqua and Hubspot are great examples of this. The rule of thumb I like for SaaS companies is that it’s time to start expanding CM when marketing starts to moves beyond the awareness and lead nurturing stage and into other areas of the funnel (upsell, cross-sell, loyalty, retention etc…) that are SO important for the MRR number in a SaaS.”

On planning a new team: If you were in a B2B SaaS company that just received a $5M Series A, has $1M in ARR, and you were using a content marketing strategy – roughly – how would you structure your team? why?

Robert: “So – it’s a small company… And so $5m doesn’t go nearly as far as you think it will…. And assumably the marketing person is getting probably one hire (maybe two) with that money….  In that case, I’d definitely hire someone who was an AMAZING coordinator of resources and generally good marketer (more broadly) and a great communicator… And, I’d leverage my team (to the extent that I can) to create all the thought leadership content – and then I’d outsource (through an agency) the execution of all the “awareness content” (e.g. the blog posts ABOUT the thought leadership pieces) as I could…. 
 
In short – I’d have one guy doing my demand gen – and coordinating thought leadership pieces from my team (CEO, CTO whoever) and also doing some influencer outreach.  He/She would coordinate the creation of those pieces – and I’d outsource to an agency the creation of high velocity blog posts etc.. promoting those pieces….   I’d be testing gating/non-gated (depending on my niche/vertical) and I’d be slowly building an incredible owned media platform that I could use to build awareness about our approach – and pull people into the funnel… “

Conclusion

In this post we covered everything from organizing your marketing team, to organizing your content marketing team within it. We explored the roles involved on the team, and looked at tips from HubSpot and the Content Marketing Institute.

If you’re the leader of a B2B SaaS company – how did you structure your marketing organization, and your content marketing function? (answer in comments below)

This post is part of my series on Best Practices: How to Build a Content Marketing strategy for your B2B SaaS startup in the Early or Growth stage.

Other topics we cover in the series:

  1. What is a Content Marketing Strategy and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
    1. 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
      1. Set Goals
      2. Track Success: Metrics
      3. Analyze your audience and your offering
        1. Develop Personas to clearly answer, “Who am I writing this content for?”
        2. Create an Inbound Marketing plan using The Buyers’ Journey concept
      4. How to build your content marketing team structure and integrate it within your organization
        1. Marketing Organization Charts
        2. Roles on the Content Marketing team
        3. How does HubSpot organize their team? How did that team evolve from day one? – An Interview with HubSpot CMO, Mike Volpe
        4. Tips for a B2B SaaS company with a $5M Series A
      5. Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it
        1. Design for Modularity
        2. Create a Style Guide
        3. Plan your Content Conversion Flow
        4. Choose your Content Mix
        5. Where do we Publish?
        6. Ingrained Organization – AKA How will we stay organized?
  2. Executing your Content Strategy
    1. How / Where can I get content ideas?
  3. Conclusion
  4. Sources

The most important metric in SaaS is Lead Momentum (formerly: Lead Velocity)

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About “Lead Velocity”

If you google the words “Lead Velocity” you’ll get a bunch of different definitions, the most notable of those is the one provided by Jason Lemkin on SaaStr back in December of 2012 titled “Why Lead Velocity Rate (LVR) Is The Most Important Metric in SaaS

I’m a huge fan of Jason’s work, so I want to make sure I not only explain what his definition of “Lead Velocity” is, but also discuss that while I’m in complete agreement with his argument that it is “the most important metric in SaaS”, I’d like to improve upon the name, and provide my reasoning, based on correct terminology in physics. Here, we’ll compare and contrast terminology, and suggest that “Lead Velocity” as he uses it, should be called “Lead Momentum” , as that more accurately describes the metric.

Before we get into SaaStr’s definition of “Lead Velocity”, let’s first acknowledge that what we’re trying to do here is get scientific with our revenue models. We want the same level of understanding, control and predictability with our sales revenue as physicists have in sending a rocket into space. There are precise equations that govern the speed and location of an object in motion, given a specific set of assumptions – and equivalently we want to write down the set of equations that govern the path of a sales lead on the journey to revenue.

In physics, what does “velocity” mean?

Velocity is the rate of change of the position of an object, equivalent to the specification of its speed and direction of motion, e.g. 60 km/h to the north.

Or more precisely:
The average velocity  (\bar{v})  of an object moving through a displacement  (\Delta x) , during a time interval  (\Delta t) is described by the formula:

The velocity equation. Velocity is the change in displacement over a period of time.

So – let’s break down the formula into parts, and find the equivalent concepts in lead and revenue generation processes.

Change in Distance  (\Delta x)

How can the idea of “distance travelled” be applied to leads in your funnel?  We’re obviously not talking about a prospect moving addresses from California to NY 🙂

Think about it in terms of the stages of the customer lifecycle journey. For this conversation, we’ll use a simple model, but you can imagine how it would extend to the stages you use in your process. Initially, we find a prospect in stage one of the Buyers’ Journey – seeking to clearly understand and define their need and their willingness to solve that need. Later, this person (or company) becomes a lead (first MQL, then SQL), prospect, and customer.  The movement to a new stage can be thought of both as being driven internally by the customer (they are actively interested in finding a solution) and also being pulled and pushed at the right time and place by the sales and marketing functions (promotions, resources, etc) of our revenue engine.

We want to be very specific about our buyer’s journey to customerhood – and therefore define the path that they must take and the distance that they travel.

Going back to the definition of velocity, the displacement or the change in distance of a lead refers to how far the lead travels forward along the customer lifecycle journey:

delta x is the change in distance, or the number of conversions a lead has gone through in the sales process (eg: Lead, Opportunity, Sale, Repeat Customer)

In the example above, we have a simple lead lifecycle model that turns leads into sales opportunities, which become customers and who in turn become repeat customers.

The distances that we would then be concerned with are:
• Lead to Opp
• Opp to Customer
• Customer to Repeat Customer

or any other combination of the four stages.

So – what do we measure as a lead moves between these different lifecycle stages?

Time (\Delta t)

We want to know how long it takes for a lead to go from stage to stage.

For example, how long does it take for a person/company to convert from Lead to Opportunity? Or how long does it take to go from a new opportunity to winning the deal?

The time it takes is usually measured in days, but I’m sure you can find examples where it makes sense to measure hours or minutes, if not seconds.

Velocity  (\bar{v})

And we now finally arrive at good equivalent definition of “Lead Velocity”:

Lead Velocity is how long it takes a lead to move between specific stages of the lead lifecycle.

Lead Velocity is how long it takes a lead to move between specific stages of the lead lifecycle.

As you can see, we can talk about many different variations of lead velocities depending on what we’re looking for, for example:
• Lead-to-Opp Velocity
• Opp-to-Customer Velocity
• Lead-to-Customer Velocity
• etc

Now that we’ve got our definition — let’s take a look at SaaStr’s:

Qualified Lead Velocity Rate (LVR), [is] your growth in qualified leads, measured month-over-month, every month.

Jason’s talking about the growth in qualified leads, month over month, rather than the length of time a lead takes to convert through the buying process.  Perhaps the word “velocity” was more for the literary flourish than anything to do with velocity at all?

I’m actually going to give Jason a lot more credit here, because what he’s talking about is both the growth in sales qualified leads, as well as the assumption that SQLs convert to customers at the same, constant rate. This is in fact a key stretch of the road!

The reason it’s key is because of the word “qualified.” A “qualified lead” is the great equalizer, in that it doesn’t matter where the lead came from – because it’s been allowed to pass to the stage of being “qualified”, we can begin to assume that all else being equal, both the velocity and the conversion rate of the leads will be the same, month-over-month.

What Jason’s saying is that if you can establish such a solid relationship – a correlation between the number of qualified leads, and the number of wins, then increasing the number of SQLs (while keeping the lead scoring process constant) will increase the number of wins, and therefore revenue. That’s why qualified leads are a much more accurate predictor of future revenue than your sales pipeline.

This sort of combination of increasing quantity (ie increase the number of leads) combined with the assumed constant velocity, also has a name in physics: momentum.

The momentum of a particle is traditionally represented by the letter  p . It is the product of two quantities, the mass (represented by the letter  m ) and velocity  (v) :

Lead Momentum equals mass (the number of leads) times velocity (the rate at which the leads are converting into customers).

Mass here is the number of your leads, all traveling towards becoming a customer.

I love the resulting imagery, and the name is just as cool if not cooler than before.

Therefore, the most important metric in SaaS is “Lead Momentum”, and the definition of Lead Momentum is: the month over month increase in the number of Sales Qualified Leads.

It’s more accurate this way.

Inbound marketing vs Outbound: Is Inbound making outbound redundant?

I was just asked to respond to a well thought out argument by @ZamirJaver entitled: Is Inbound marketing really making outbound redundant? It’s a post worth reading.

Inbound marketing vs Outbound is, I think, not the real debate here. There are a LOT of good reasons to implement an inbound marketing program. Content marketing, lead nurturing, and using the buyers’ journey concept to really guide potential customers through the research that you KNOW they’re going to do anyway just makes sense.

As we get better at tracking the effectiveness of marketing in creating leads (and closing deals with or without a sales team) it feels like we’re making a compelling argument against outbound marketing altogether.. but my thought on this is…. Outbound marketing (if done efficiently) is not only highly scalable and cost effective, it is a perfect compliment to inbound marketing – particularly inbound lead generation.

Imagine a world where everyone does inbound marketing really well. Everyone is creating content, and everyone is competing for online eyeballs. In that world, offline marketing – such as a well-timed phone call, about a topic that you are interested in, by someone who understands your needs might be somewhat refreshing — in that 5 minute phone call you can get the answers that you were looking for, and build trust with a real human who you have had voice contact with — the same human who can help guide you through the purchase process.

My point here is this: It’s not inbound vs outbound that we should be debating… it’s how do we use the two in combination to give the potential customer the best experience, and to drive the most revenue for your company?

Best Pratices: How to Build an Inbound Marketing plan using the Buyers’ Journey concept

The two most common questions that I get asked by startups (whether they’re earning under $1M ARR or over $10M) are:

  1. How do I attract more of the right visitors to my website?
  2. How do I convert those visitors into leads better?

There are multiple answers to those questions, so today, we’ll explore one of them by creating an Inbound Marketing plan. I’ll also provide you with a template based on the concept of the Buyers’ Journey, so that you can do it yourself. This post is part 3 of the Best Practices Series: How to build a Content Marketing Strategy for your Product or SaaS Startup.

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Quick Recap: I’m David Booth. I helped build ZeroTurnaround (as CEO) from $0 in ARR (annual recurring revenue) to $2.5 million USD in ARR in 3 years, profitably, on a minimal budget, largely using inbound and content marketing. #humbleSelfPromotion.

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If you’ve read my previous posts in this series, then you know it’s important to set goals, pick target metrics, and target an audience before putting together the plan. For our example today, let’s set the following:

  1. Goal: Increase leads for our sales team by X% over last year
  2. Target Metrics:
    1. Revenue Contributed by Content (ARR) of $A
    2. Conversion Rate from Visitor to MQL of B%
    3. Conversion Rate from Visitor to SQL of C%
  3. Target Audience: User Champion Persona (as defined in Best Practices: How to Build Personas for your Content Marketing Strategy), within a niche market (in our case, she’s an online marketing manager for a software firm considering the need for content curation tooling). Who’s a good target in your case?

Start your inbound marketing plan by thinking like the human you are targeting.

You are now the B2B user-champion persona. You’re an optimistic problem-solver. When you go to work, you kick butt. You’re rising up the ranks of your organization, learning great things, and overcoming hurdles as fast as you discover them. You’re active and motivated, and you’re constantly looking for solutions that could help your team to get more from their resources (employee time & company budget) – so that you can fulfill the company mission, get recognized by your VP and the CEO, and gain more responsibility in the company.

Tweetable Tweets: “Start your #inbound #marketing plan by thinking like the HUMAN you are targeting” by @DaveBooth  ow.ly/w3XzG #startups #SaaS

While perusing the interwebs one day, you come across a concept that some other people are using to solve an insidious problem in their organization called, “Problem Alpha”. It strikes a chord, and you decide to learn more. “I think we might be suffering from Problem Alpha in our organization too..”, you think. “How can I be sure? What complaints are typical symptoms? Are other teams affected? Does it affect our customers? If we solve this, what benefits could we expect?” At this point, you’re focusing your web browsing, as you research answers on a specific topic, and although you’re not interested in sales pitches at this point, you’re engaging in Stage One of the Buyers’ Journey.

Inbound Marketing Plan: the Buyers’ Journey

Using the Buyers' Journey concept to create an Inbound Marketing Plan

modified from Matthew Sweezey’s article The Keys to Understanding the Buyers’ Journey

In Matthew Sweezey’s article The Keys to Understanding the Buyers’ Journey, he describes the blue line as:

“the average amount of content a person will engage with on a daily basis over the course of their buyer’s journey. The key takeaway is that these engagements are not implications of buying habits, but of personal interest.

[The red] spikes on the graph depict when a person researches a topic, and represent the increased engagement with content outside of their average content consumption. Notice that the spikes go up very quickly, before dropping off drastically. They are spaced out, and there are three of them. These are the three stages of the buyers’ journey within the marketing life cycle, where your content can have the greatest impact.”

Matthew is the Head of Thought Leadership for B2B Marketing at Pardot – a Salesforce.com company, and he’s not the only one talking about this. Take a look at Nathan Safran (Director of Research at Conductor) – How Content Marketing is Changing & What we can do to be ready, and Hugh McFarlane (@funnelguy) who originated the concept in his book, The Leaky Funnel.

Let’s go back to walking in our persona’s shoes:

In Stage Two, you have a relatively clear idea of what Problem Alpha is doing to your company, but you still need to figure out how to prove the need for a solution internally.  So you research more (red spike #2) – and once again, you’d love to find content that gives you the answers you’re looking for. In this case, content that helps you answer B.A.N.T-related questions (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline). How much will it cost to solve this problem? Who typically makes this decision internally? If we solve this, exactly what benefits will we receive? How much time will it take to solve it? What’s the priority of solving it? When should we start? In Stage Three, you’ve identified B.A.N.T, and you’re looking for vendors who can solve Problem Alpha. You discover a new product by a credible-looking company that might be interesting for your team. How you react to this company depends on:

  • Situation A: You just found them at this stage, and you’re not exactly sure what the product does, how it works, who else is using it, if it does the job well, or if you can believe anything that you’re reading on their website. Maybe you watch a video or read more content from their site.

  • Situation B: You heard about these guys back at Stage One, and they seemed respected in the space for their thought leadership. You heard about them again at Stage Two, and they provided a handy ROI calculator that helped you to make the case to senior management. You’ve even started reading ahead a little, so you have a decent idea of how their solution works, and the solution is compatible with other infrastructure you already have in place. You schedule a demo with a sales rep.

Be the company that leads a majority of potential customers to Situation B.

What content should I create for each stage of the Buyers’ Journey?

If you want a rough and quick answer to this question, try this exercise:

  1. Think about each of the people involved in the purchase decision at your customers’ office.
  2. Write down the Top 5 Questions that each of them is likely to ask, and create content that answers each question. Use the question itself as the title of that piece of content, and post each of them in places that those people are likely to look.
  3. Create a summary of those content assets, turn it into an ebook called “Everything you need to know about <solving Problem Alpha>”. Gate this asset on a landing page of its own, behind a form that requires First Name and Email Address. Link to this landing page from each of the separate content assets.
  4. Congratulations – you’ve just created your first funnel that converts visitors into marketing qualified leads!

Tweetable Tweet: “What #inbound #content should I create at each stage of the #buyersjourney? @DaveBooth ow.ly/w3XzG

A more in-depth exercise will likely give you better conversion rates, and it will serve as the framework for your inbound marketing strategy as time goes on. So far, I’ve loosely termed your industry, solution, space, tool, or product: “Problem Alpha”, but feel free to substitute any other appropriate keywords that define the problem, solution, or space below.

Stage Questions our user is asking Content we’ll use to answer the questions Where do we post it? Metrics we track
1 What is <Problem Alpha>?How can I <solve Problem Alpha>?How are other people <solving Problem Alpha>?Roughly, what are the benefits for my team if I <solve problem alpha>?What are the benefits for <other teams> if I <solve Problem Alpha>?What are the benefits for our customers if we <solve problem alpha>?Who are respected vendor and non-vendor experts in this space?

Blog posts, thought leadership articles (ebooks, guides, whitepapers, analyst reports), slideshare presentations, presentations at events & conferences, videos of those presentations

Our blog, Offsite: community forums, targeted media channels, collaborations with other people respected by the persona

# unique viewsconversion to website visitor (make sure that you track each piece of content a visitor engages on site, and use campaign tracking for all links shared offsite)conversion to MQL (passive attempt – don’t push too hard at this stage)

2

How can I solve this problem on my own, for free?If I pay something, what additional benefits can I receive?What could we afford to pay to solve this problem?Who typically makes this decision internally?What helps that person to understand the problem clearly?If we solve this, exactly what benefits will we receive? (ROI)How long will it take to solve it?How many people need to be involved to solve this?What’s the priority of solving it?When should we start?

Webinars, product comparison charts, white papers, ebooks, infographics

Our site: blog, landing pages, homepage

number of unique views of content assetconversion to MQL

3

Which solution works best for us?What solutions make it onto our shortlist?Which solution are other companies using?Which solution fits our budget?Which solution fits our team?

trial download, product walkthroughs, customer case studies

Our site: blog, homepage, product description pages, inside our tool

conversion to SQL

You will eventually use both off-site and on-site content to attract leads for each stage of the buyers’ journey. Remember to track leads sent from offsite content so that you can account for it when you measure Revenue Contributed by Content. Based on the piece of content a visitor is looking at, you’ll know approximately which stage of the journey they are in. From there, you can recommend other appropriate content, and create timed lead nurturing email campaigns that help to guide that potential customer through the rest of the journey.

Lead Nurturing emails are part of your Content Conversion Flow. We’ll get into these in more detail in an upcoming post, but for today, an example of medium complexity might look like this:

Example of a medium complexity Lead Nurturing Campaign and Content Conversion Flow in our Inbound Marketing Plan

Example of a medium complexity Lead Nurturing Campaign and Content Conversion Flow in our Inbound Marketing Plan

Your goal is to nurture your lead through the stages of the Buyers’ Journey, as they convert to a Marketing Qualified Lead and then to a Sales Qualified Lead. When you are creating a content conversion flow of your own, think of the topics that answer the questions that your lead is asking at each stage. Experiment with different types of content at each stage, or start with this advice from Julie Spatola’s The Marketer’s 3 Step Guide: Mapping Your Content to the Buyer’s Journey.

Inbound Marketing Plan content, organized by stages in the Buyers' Journey

Let’s pull this all together and make a plan

  1. Remember A) our goal: Increase # of SQLs by x% over last year b) our example target audience: The User Champion Persona, in a software firm, considering content curation tooling
  2. Assess your team to predict how much content you can create per month
  3. Assess your market to get a list of keywords that are relevant for searches at each stage of the buyers journey
  4. Create a list of all the content you already have, and assign it to stages of the buyers’ journey
  5. Look for visitor and customer behavior that shows a content conversion flow. Can you see patterns in content consumption that lead visitors to becoming clients? If so, emphasize and encourage that flow of content with supportive email lead nurturing campaigns.
  6. Organize your plan. You can start with a simple template like this, and then get much more detailed as we move on to marketing automation.

Coming up next in the Best Practices Series: How to build a content marketing team to execute my content marketing strategy

  1. What are the key roles in a content marketing team?
  2. How do industry leaders HubSpot and Marketo structure their teams?

Other topics we cover in the series:

  1. What is a Content Marketing Strategy and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
    1. 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
      1. Set Goals
      2. Track Success: Metrics
      3. Analyze your audience and your offering
        1. Develop Personas to clearly answer, “Who am I writing this content for?”
        2. Create an Inbound Marketing plan using The Buyers’ Journey concept
      4. How to build your content marketing team structure and integrate it within your organization
        1. Marketing Organization Charts
        2. Roles on the Content Marketing team
        3. How does HubSpot organize their team? How did that team evolve from day one? – An Interview with HubSpot CMO, Mike Volpe
        4. Tips for a B2B SaaS company with a $5M Series A
      5. Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it
        1. Design for Modularity
        2. Create a Style Guide
        3. Plan your Content Conversion Flow
        4. Choose your Content Mix
        5. Where do we Publish?
        6. Ingrained Organization – AKA How will we stay organized?
  2. Executing your Content Strategy
    1. How / Where can I get content ideas?
  3. Conclusion
  4. Sources

Best Practices: How to build personas for your Content Marketing Strategy

This is Part 2 of the “Best Practices Series: How do I build a Content Marketing Strategy?”. Click here for Part One: Inbound vs Content Marketing, Setting Goals, Tracking Success

How much do you know about your audience?

Robert Scoble and Mark Zuckerberg, photo courtesy of Mr. Scoble.

Media or C-levels

HP manager Regine Pohl demonstrating the webOS based Touchpad Tablet @ DLD. Photo courtesy of Innovate360

or Managers or someone else?

As with building a complete marketing strategy, a content marketing strategy needs to segment your audiences from the rest of the world and clearly identify your targets. Your audiences might look different at a granular level, but from the 10,000ft view we’re talking about:

  • Customers
    • Users
    • Decision makers (budget authority)
    • Purchasers (transaction-oriented)
    • Purchase-Decision Influencers
    • Partners, sales team, and resellers
  • Market Influencers
    • Analysts
    • Media
    • Advisors
  • Financial Influencers
    • Investors

“You will need one persona for every distinct group to which you are marketing. In other words, if a person goes through a different buying cycle, he or she is a different persona.” – The Content Marketing Institute 

I believe that you should develop personas for segments within each of these audiences, even those that are not directly purchasing your product. An analyst will look for different content than a potential customer, and the right content could help that analyst decide to include you in an upcoming report. This is another example of content marketing being more than just inbound lead generation (which we went into detail on in Part One, where we included this image of Content Marketing’s Winning Drive).

Let’s start today by looking at your Customer audiences in more detail, as we move towards building a framework for creating content that addresses their needs throughout the Customer Life Cycle.

Develop Personas to clearly answer, “Who am I writing this content for?”

 “Persona development helps you understand who your audience(s) are, what are their pain points and what type of content they like to consume. You can then map this against the type of content assets you develop. Persona development could take months or days, depending on how comprehensive you need it to be.” Marketo – How to create a winning content marketing campaign

Let’s start with an example. Pretend that you are the vendor of a B2B content marketing solution. Your tool helps curate and share content for the companies that you work with. You employ a user-up strategy to drive leads into your sales pipeline, and you’d like to get a clear picture of who your users are. One user example is the “activated user” – the “product champion”. For a company like yours, what does a Product Champion Persona look like?

Persona Odysseus
Role A user-champion at a potential customer

Picture

3ea2557.jpg
Job Title(s)
  • Content Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Programs Manager, Content
  • Content Marketing Specialist
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Content Marketing

Name

Sarah Lieber
Description

Sarah is our hero. She’s smart and she’s trying to solve a real problem. She may not have control over a large budget, but she gets us in the door, and can introduce us to Directors and VPs. She started using our product at her company first, and signed up with a personal email address before her work address.

LinkedIn Profile www.linkedin.com/in/sarahmlieber
(B)udget some influence
(A)uthority (to make the business purchase decision) no
(N)eed – what is the problem that persona wants to solve? She wants to engage with potential customers earlier in the buyers’ journey, to establish credibility for her company and brand. She feels that if she could share valuable 3rd-party content with her company’s social media followers, then her company will a) receive more activity on their own content – tracked by number of new unique visitors, and b) receive a higher number of more qualified leads to hand off to sales – as tracked by their lead score, number of leads, and lead velocity rate.
(T)imeline She’ll turn into a user quicker than anyone else in her company, and advocate for speeding up the purchase decision process.
How much content will they consume at different stages of the buyers’ journey?
(see the next section of this article for info on the buyers’ journey)

Stage 1 (Unidentified Need) +++ Sarah reads about one thought leader article per week and a number of tactical posts that help her to do her job better. When interested in a topic, she sometimes spends 1-2 hours researching more about it.

Stage 2 (Defined Pain) +++ Because she has personally experienced the problem, Sarah can explain how it affects her work day. She needs some help to put together a business case for implementing a solution, so she’ll do some research for guidance.

Stage 3 (BANT) +++ Sarah knows that she’ll be using the solution if the company chooses to buy one, so she wants to make sure that it meets her requirements. She’ll attend demos from multiple vendors, ask questions, and help shortlist products for trial.

What type of content will they consume as they go through the buying process?

Stage 1 – Thought leader content. 3rd party content that mentions our company is effective. Our own content that provides tips on how to solve the problem for free or on her own, before graduating to other solutions – will be well-received. If barrier to trial is very low, she may sign up at this stage from a personal account.

Stage 2 – Our site & blog. She’ll consume content that adds credibility, helps prove ROI, and shows how quickly benefits can be seen from implementation. Infographics, webinars, and visual content seem to work well – we should test this more…

Stage 3 – Trial. Product walkthrough. How To documentation. Webinars. Customer support. Lead Nurturing emails. She wants to get setup and running with our product, to see if she can recommend it.

What unique value proposition (UVP) do you offer this persona? Besides providing the best content marketing curation tool in the market (recognized by credible sources), we have content that shows we understand her need and provide a solution for it (see need above): sharing 3rd party content with her audience will allow her to interact with potential leads earlier in the buying cycle. It will also result in more unique visitors to her company’s site and more qualified leads in their sales pipeline.
What topics and keywords are interesting for this persona? content marketing, social media curation, social curation tool, content marketing strategy, content strategy, content marketing strategies, website content strategy, content strategy news, marketing content strategy, blog content strategy, what is a content strategy, web content strategy, content marketing software, content marketing metrics, content marketing blog, content marketing blogs, content marketing video, online marketing plan, internet marketing plan, web marketing strategies, seo web marketing, web marketing search engine optimization, online marketing strategies, online marketing tips, online marketing jobs, online marketing techniques, social network marketing, social networking marketing, social media marketing facebook, social media marketing twitter, best internet marketing tools, email marketing best practices, best online marketing tools, online marketing tools, internet marketing tool, b2b email marketing, b2b online marketing, b2b internet marketing, free online marketing tools, free internet marketing tools, internet marketing strategy, internet marketing software, internet marketing resources, internet marketing tips, internet marketing jobs, internet marketing seo

+ 243 more…

Where do I find this persona most often?

Blogs:

+ 28 more…

  • LinkedIn (make a list of the groups)
  • Twitter (make a list of commonly-watched & used hashtags)
  • Facebook (groups)
What time are they usually available/active? 8am – 6pm in their time zone, Monday to Friday

What requirements do we need to fill for this persona to recommend our product?

a) it solves her problem

b) it’s easy to use (UX)

c) we provide customer service that keeps her motivated

worth testing: giving her some sort of subtle acknowledgement as a champion or thought leader at her company post-sale may inspire brand loyalty and increased sharing behavior.

Who and what influences their purchasing decisions (sources of influence).

She doesn’t make the purchase decision today, but she is an influencer of that decision. Sarah herself is influenced by her trial of our product, her teams’ opinions, other users who make public statements, and thought leaders who guide the debate over whether our product is considered “best practice” or “spam”.

Most common objections to our product/services (the perceived barriers).

  • “We’d like our content to feel personalized for our audience – so we only publish content that we create ourselves”
  • “We don’t want our social media channels to be full of content that doesn’t directly relate to our company and our offerings”
  • “We don’t want to spam our audience with too much information”

As you can imagine, it can be grueling at times to create personas for each audience that you target, and each type of person that moves through the buying process in a different way. For that, I give 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Look at all the information written in the persona above. Even though that isn’t your product, I bet the persona inspired all kinds of content, and gave you a lot of ideas for where you could put that content, or who you could partner with. The exercise itself makes you a better marketer, gives you a better understanding of your audience, and gets you one step closer to your repeatable, scalable business model.
  2. If you do it and your competitor doesn’t – you will be the agile chimp who owns your audience and your competition will always be playing catch-up. If you don’t do it and they do – start copying, monkey.
  3. Put the completed personas on your wall as a badge of honor, update them frequently as you learn more and target better. Go Champion!

Audience Question 1: Dave, you used a ranking scale to describe how much content a persona will consume at different stages of the buyers’ journey. Can you explain that scale for me?

I’d be happy to. We want to give an indicator of the degree to which a person is open to researching for content at different stages of the buyers journey. More about the journey itself is described in the next part in this series. I use a 4-point system.

~

No active research. If content finds persona, persona might read it.

+

No active research. If content finds persona, it’s highly likely they will read it.

++

Some active research. Persona will likely type their question into google and click the most relevant post.

+++

Lots of active research. Persona will try different searches in google to find what they are looking for, and will likely open multiple sources to get a thorough understanding.

Audience Question 2: Do you have a list of questions that I can use for building personas of my own?

Indeed I do – I’m glad you asked. Mix and match them with the list above. Some are the same. Some different.

  1. Who is this person?
  2. What is his or her need? (eg: what problem is he/she looking to solve?)
  3. Why should she care about you?
  4. What unique value proposition (UVP) do you offer this persona?
  5. What topics and keywords are interesting for this persona?

Adria Saracino on Search Engine Watch: The Quick Guide to Developing Customer Personas

  1. Where do I find this persona most often?
  2. What time are they usually available/active?
  3. How much content they consume at different stages of the buying process.
  4. How the format of content they consume changes throughout the buying process.
  5. The driving factors and pain points that lead to purchasing decisions.
  6. Who and what influences their purchasing decisions (sources of influence).
  7. Their role in the decision-making process.
  8. Most common objections to your product/services (the perceived barriers).
  9. Where they go for information.

Hubspot / Evernote slideshare presentation: The Content Marketing Blueprint

Audience Question 3: You mentioned…. stages for content? and something about a Buyers’ Journey? … and… you named your user-champion persona Odysseus… are these things somehow related?

Oh. You. You’re good. We have a sharp one in the audience tonight. Very well done. I’ll leave the Odysseus reference for you to figure out on your own, but for now, think about life from your user-champion persona’s point of view:

You are the B2B user-champion persona. You go to work and you kick butt. You’re rising up the ranks of your organization, you’re learning great things, and you’re overcoming hurdles as fast as you discover them. You’re active and motivated, and you’re constantly looking for solutions that could help your team and company to do even more awesome things, while pursuing your dreams to change the world and make it a better place for everyone.

Consider: the Buyers’ Journey.

While perusing the interwebs one day, you come across a concept that some other people are using to solve an insidious problem in their organization, called: Problem Alpha. It strikes a chord, and you decide to learn more. “I think we might be suffering from Problem Alpha in our organization too..”, you think. “How can I be sure? How painful is PA for my team? Are other teams affected? Does it affect our customers? If we solve this, what benefits could we expect?” At this point, you’re focusing your web browsing, as you look for answers on a specific topic, and although you’re not interested in sales pitches at this point, you’re engaging in Stage One of the Buyers’ Journey.

Coming up in Part 3 of the Best Practices Series: How to build an Inbound Marketing Plan using the the Buyers’ Journey concept.

  1. What is the Buyers’ Journey?
  2. What role does the Buyers’ Journey play in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Lead Generation?
  3. How can I use the concept of the Buyers’ Journey to improve my conversion rates to MQL and SQL?
  4. What types of content are best suited to the three stages of the Buyers’ Journey?

Other topics we cover in the series:

  1. What is a Content Marketing Strategy and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
    1. 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
      1. Set Goals
      2. Track Success: Metrics
      3. Analyze your audience and your offering
        1. Develop Personas to clearly answer, “Who am I writing this content for?”
        2. Create an Inbound Marketing plan using The Buyers’ Journey concept
      4. How to build your content marketing team structure and integrate it within your organization
        1. Marketing Organization Charts
        2. Roles on the Content Marketing team
        3. How does HubSpot organize their team? How did that team evolve from day one? – An Interview with HubSpot CMO, Mike Volpe
        4. Tips for a B2B SaaS company with a $5M Series A
      5. Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it
        1. Design for Modularity
        2. Create a Style Guide
        3. Plan your Content Conversion Flow
        4. Choose your Content Mix
        5. Where do we Publish?
        6. Ingrained Organization – AKA How will we stay organized?
  2. Executing your Content Strategy
    1. How / Where can I get content ideas?
  3. Conclusion
  4. Sources

Best Practices: How to build a content marketing strategy and inbound marketing strategy for your product or SaaS startup (in the Early or Growth Stage)

Part 1: Intro

Real life, Inbound vs Content Marketing, Setting Goals, Tracking Success.

“…content marketing strategy is critical to the success of a content marketing project. Not having a content strategy is like playing baseball without the bases (envision people running everywhere…not a pretty sight)” – Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute

I’m passionate about content marketing – it helped to launch my career and my first multi-million ARR subscription software startup.

This article picked up by CMO.com http://www.cmo.com/articles/2014/4/24/how_to_build_a_conte.html

This article picked up by CMO.com

I feel that a lot of content marketing is written in short, bite-sized articles – and many of them are fluff. I prefer detail and depth, so this content marketing strategy series is comprehensive. After this series, you should be able to build an excellent content marketing strategy, inbound strategy, framework, and plan – and have a pocket full of tips on how to execute them successfully. I’ll even share links to all the valuable templates that I can find, including some of my own, so that you can get a jump-start on your work.

This series is for C-levels, VPs, and Directors – people who want answers, quickly. For you, I’ll take my years of experience, and spend more than 100+ hours analyzing and organizing content from thought leaders, including: the Content Marketing Institute, Jason Lemkin, CMO.com, Demand Gen Report, SearchEngineWatch, LinkedIn, and marketing automation vendors (HubSpot, Eloqua | Oracle, and Marketo) — so you can focus on what’s important: applying this information to your company. I plan to save you months of article-reading, and take you right to the nourishing oasis in the barren desert (after all, who can survive on fluff?).

This series is ambitious. I would love your help to complete it and fill in blanks as they appear. Comment below, or contact me directly at david@revenify.com.

Share. If you bookmark or share anything about building a Content Marketing Strategy or Inbound Marketing Plan this year, then I hope this series will be included. Humble thanks to you!

Real Life Story

It’s June of 2009 and I’m the new, first-time CEO of ZeroTurnaround. I have just recommended that we switch from a permanent licensing model (customers pay once, get free upgrades for life) to a subscription model (#bestDecisionEver). I have a revenue target, which, if I hit it for 3 consecutive months, gets me a nice bonus package, and gives me credibility with the founders and investors. Additionally it proves that our tool, the freshly released JRebel 2.0, is able to get traction in the marketplace. I want to hit that target – but we have challenges.

We have no budget for a sales team, no budget for advertising, 6 months to prove that we can get traction, and a mailing list of about 1200 people (including the 1000 fresh contacts that we just got from scanning badges at the JavaOne conference a few days before). Our solution? Build content that is interesting for our audience, start conversations, build a community, learn more about our customers’ needs, nail our product-market fit, describe that fit using words that our audience use themselves, nurture our leads and convert them to sales through an organic process (without a sales team – other than myself personally handling larger deals). Spoiler: we were highly successful.

We started by writing one piece of content at a time, and later got better at planning and strategy. This series will take everything I’ve learned from that startup and in the 2 years since then – so that you can benefit from it and improve upon it. Let’s get started!

Today’s Goal: Build a content marketing strategy and rollout plan – for a SaaS or software product startup – using the best tips and templates from thought leaders.

Assumptions:

  • Your startup is in the early or growth stage
  • The strategy should be strong enough to last a year, the rollout plan should be modular – so that content themes, campaigns, and topics can be prioritized as needed, and the next 3 months’ priorities should be set.
  • Tracking the effectiveness of your content strategy is a priority. Note: we will not deeply cover analytics in this post – but in the future we will cover analytics, business modeling, and much more. (One highly-detailed topic at a time please!)

Warning: Failure Imminent?

Content Marketing Institute: There is no “template” for [documenting] a content marketing strategy, because how much and in what format you need to document your strategy is unique to your business.

That’s fine for us. Take the example templates we post at the end of this series and use them to inspire your own.

Topics we cover in the series:

  1. What is a Content Marketing Strategy and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
    1. 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
      1. Set Goals
      2. Track Success: Metrics
      3. Analyze your audience and your offering
        1. Develop Personas to clearly answer, “Who am I writing this content for?”
        2. Create an Inbound Marketing plan using The Buyers’ Journey concept
      4. How to build your content marketing team structure and integrate it within your organization
        1. Marketing Organization Charts
        2. Roles on the Content Marketing team
        3. How does HubSpot organize their team? How did that team evolve from day one? – An Interview with HubSpot CMO, Mike Volpe
        4. Tips for a B2B SaaS company with a $5M Series A
      5. Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it
        1. Design for Modularity
        2. Create a Style Guide
        3. Plan your Content Conversion Flow
        4. Choose your Content Mix
        5. Where do we Publish?
        6. Ingrained Organization – AKA How will we stay organized?
  2. Executing your Content Strategy
    1. How / Where can I get content ideas?
  3. Conclusion
  4. Sources

 

What is a Content Marketing Strategy, and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?

In short, Inbound Marketing is a subset of Content Marketing.

A content marketing strategy is the gameplan that you use to achieve your marketing goals. I’ll describe some of the goals you can achieve with content marketing later, but for me, since I primarily work with early and growth stage startups, our goal is to a) create a scalable and repeatable business model, or b) optimize the model, processes, and teams that execute on it.

In order to prove that your model works, the metrics that content marketing can provide us with are very handy: unique visitor #s, Lead Velocity Rate, conversion to Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) / conversion to customers, and more. Content marketing can be an effective strategy to help show that our model works: predictably and repeatedly.

Content Marketing Winning Drive Although their bit.ly link doesn’t seem to work anymore, the Content Marketing Institute created this great infographic to clearly demonstrate the Customer Life Cycle, and the difference between Inbound Lead Generation (often shortened to #Inbound), and Content Marketing as a whole. Inbound Marketing is focused on attracting visitors to your online presence, converting them into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and using Lead Nurturing techniques to help convert them into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), before handing them off to your sales department. For an organic sales model, (one which doesn’t use a sales team), you would extend lead nurturing right through the buying process – providing the right content (often using email marketing) to guide your lead to make a purchase on their own. Inbound marketing is an important subset of Content Marketing, but if you’re interested in minimizing churn and increasing the virality of your product through word of mouth, then you want to retain your customers and turn them into vocal evangelists. Content marketing covers the spectrum.

5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy

I believe that strategy is fundamental to the success of a content marketing program. Here I outline a 5-step process to building your strategy:

  1. Set Goals
  2. Track Success
  3. Analyze your audience and your offering
  4. Assess your team and its structure
  5. Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it

Set Goals

Deciding on your goals is the most important part of this process, so that’s where we start. If you’re not the CEO, then your job is to realize what your CEO needs. For insight, Marketo’s Maria Pergolino gives four tips in What the CEO needs from Marketing.

There are a lot of benefits from building a successful content marketing strategy, but don’t get distracted by the buzz. Set goals on metrics you can track. As your program and your company grows, the sheer number of metrics you can track will grow – but focus on those in the next section, and you’ll do fine.

“Readers always wonder why HubSpot cranks out such a high volume of ebooks, templates, and webinars. What they don’t see is that every piece of content has a purpose — to educate, to blow up the internet, to generate leads.” Corey Eridon – How Hubspot does Inbound: Create a Content Machine.

Track Success: Metrics

Today, let’s discuss the metrics, and save the analytics and tooling that help you track them for another day. There are many ways to do that, and they deserve posts of their own.

Personally, I like to set targets that correspond to each of the following metrics:

  1. Revenue (ARR or MRR) originating from content – Although there are many goals for content marketing, I believe that at your stage of startup, you want to get to your repeatable, scalable business model as soon as possible, then optimize it. If you can track revenue back to the content that attracted the lead – then you’re doing your job. Track each content asset that a visitor clicks on or downloads – right up until they purchase – then look for trends, and see if you can improve the process (explore The Buyers’ Journey in the next post). At the end of the day, you should track your effectiveness by the amount of revenue your program originated.
  2. # Unique Visitors – this shows how much traffic you get.
  3. % Unique New Visitors – you want to see that you are getting new visitors. On the other extreme, you want repeat visitors too. If your % of new visitors is really high, then it’s a sign that you are launching for the first time, or people purchase on their first visit.
  4. Conversion rate from Visitor to Marketing Qualified Lead (%) – Your visitors sign up for something, and give you their contact information. They are open to receiving information from you.
  5. Conversion rate to Sales Qualified Lead (%) – score each lead, based on behavior, and decide what warrants hand-off to the sales department (or, if you don’t use a sales team, then decide what warrants triggering more sales-focused email campaigns).
  6. Qualified Lead Velocity Rate – This is the time/time growth of # SQLs. It’s the growth of leads generated eg: Quarter over Quarter. Jason Lemkin (who sold EchoSign to Adobe) describes this as a better metric than sales for predicting future growth.
  7. Conversion rate to Customer – I like to track all 3 of these: Unique Visitor – Customer, MQL to Customer, and SQL to Customer.
  8. Average Sales Price (ASP) – this is your average deal size.
  9. Churn – this describes the rate at which you lose customers or revenue. eg; 1- (number of customers at the end of the month) / number of customers at the beginning of the month). You do not include any customers that you gained during the month in this calculation. You can segment this churn number by pricing tier. If you use a SaaS pricing model, then it makes sense to do this with Monthly Recurring Revenue as well.

Your marketing team should be able to track and dashboard each of these metrics, for your program as a whole, and segmented by visitor source, lead source, and campaign – as needed.

Now that you know what you want to achieve, the next logical step is to ask: Who will we work with to achieve it?

In Part 2 of the “Best Practices: How to build a Content Marketing Strategy series”, we’ll look at your audiences and answer the following questions:

  • Who specifically am I writing this content for?
  • How much do I know about these people? Can I categorize or segment them into a persona?
  • How do I develop audience personas?

How we created our company name in 90 minutes

Branding is fundamental. Branding is basic. Branding is essential. Building brands builds incredible value for companies and corporations. Forbes.com

So, my question is… “Is it a huge mistake to create your company name in 90 minutes?”

This was our process:

  1. Make a list of:
    • Our goals for the brand
      • showcases our creativity
      • highlights our focus on revenue in our consulting practice (we cover many aspects of the sales, marketing, and operational functions – but at the end of the day, long-term revenue (and a scalable, repeatable business model) is what our clients are looking for).
      • feels startup-centric (since we work exclusively with early and growth stage companies)
    • The 2 audiences that we are interested in working with:
      • Primary: Amazing Clients
        • Want to grow rapidly
        • Have a software product or SaaS business
        • Target salespeople, marketers, or software development teams (always B2B)
        • Are looking for someone with my skillset
        • Are comfortable working with a consultant
        • Are comfortable working from a distributed environment
        • Have a suitable budget
      • Secondary: VCs who work with companies who fit the criteria for Primary Audience
    • Words that are important to us
  2. Open up our trusty whois.net so that we could quickly discover if the .com domain is available
  3. Choose some of the words that are important to us, and start discovering how they sound in other languages. I like Nice Translator for that.
  4. Try to create a word of our own by mashing two important words together. For that, I used Invent a Word.

When we hit the word “Revenify” everything came together – and we even got logo ideas out of it. Here’s why:

  • Reven is:
    • a prefix of Revenue (one of our important words)
    • Norwegian for “fox”
  • Ven is spanish for “come here”, which is nice, because it connotes well with inbound marketing (which we’re good at – that’s why you’re here after all 😉 )
  • -ify is:
    • a suffix often used by startups companies

So that’s it. Revenify. 90 minutes after beginning, we had a name, a domain, and some ideas for what our logo would look like.

Early branding of a small or emerging company is key to business success. It is the quickest way for your company to express what it is and what it can offer. Inaccurate branding of a new business can make it difficult for people to grasp why the business exists in the first place. New York Times

What do you think about our process? Our brand? What could we improve upon? What did we do right?

Introducing Virality – example

John Biggs is the "biggsest" guy who follows me on twitter. #cheesyPun

John Biggs is the “biggsest” guy who follows me on twitter. #cheesyPun

Built directly into the signup process of Socialrank.co they ask you to tweet your most influential follower (determined possibly by their number of followers) just to let them know. How many people do this? I’d be curious to find out – but even if it’s a tiny %, and that guy/girl starts using the tool — or even better, maybe talking about it (like me) – they sure have a large audience to share with. Nice strategy.

Who is David Booth, how does he think, what has he done, and why might we work together?

This blog post is organized into 4 sections:

  1. What is my work background and skillset?
  2. How do I think?
  3. What environments have I been successful in?
  4. What tools do I use?

Who is David Booth? How can he help increase revenue in my SaaS startup?

What is my work background?

Most notably, I was the CEO of a quickly growing startup in the java developer tools space for 3 years. I started as a consultant, and after 6 months was asked to be the CEO. Over that time, ZeroTurnaround grew 25x, from $100k in one-time revenue to >$2.5M in annual recurring revenue, from 4 to 45 employees, and we set the stage for even greater future growth. We changed our business model, pricing model, marketing strategy, and internal organization – then executed on it. Later we raised an angel round, brought in Bain Capital Ventures, and moved the company from Tartu, Estonia to Boston, USA – where it continues to grow.

I spent most of my time working on answers to 5 major questions in the business:

  • Who is our target audience and what need are we solving?
  • How does our product fill that need and what is the value of that solution?
  • How do we increase awareness, and how do we convert that awareness into customers?
  • How can our company earn more, while delivering greater value to our customers over time?
  • How can we increase the value of our company?

In a little more depth, it looks like this:

What questions are you working on today?

What questions are you working on today?

See my LinkedIn Profile for more work history.

 How do I think?

For those of you who give credit to the Briggs-Meyer personality test, I recently took it online (it excluded the one-on-one interview). The results were very close between ENTP and ENTJ with most emphasis on the Extroverted (E) and Thinking (T) attributes.

I often start out working as a visionary, then get organized, and finish up as a task-driven machine. My process often looks like this:

High level thinking and goal-setting –> then creative brainstorming –> followed by medium-term organization and planning –> detailed execution –> and finally reporting against goals and targets. Then we can automate what’s working and chose to either improve what’s not, or accelerate our successes.

From concept and planning to execution. 5 days of work.

From concept and planning to execution. 5 days of work.

As an example, here’s how I time-blocked the rollout of this website and company.

I love doing this, and my teammates love working with me (mostly 😉 ). Here’s one example, but there are many more on my LinkedIn profile:

David Booth was my first direct experience with a boss in the IT field who not only lead and inspired greatness in his subordinates, but also would get his hands dirty to show others how it’s done. One of the most gifted strategic marketers I’ve ever known, I am pleased to say that my 1.5 years experience with David as CEO of ZeroTurnaround was incredibly educational and fruitful to my career as a sleeves-up, start-up junkie. He is a superb asset to any company in the strategic growth phase and should be considered a very worthwhile human investment. I’d work with him again anytime.  — Oliver White, Head of RebelLabs at ZeroTurnaround | Co-organizer of VirtualJUG (vJUG)

What environments have I been successful in?

Given my thought process (high-level vision –>  detailed delivery), and my need to have a large impact on revenue and company value: I tend to thrive in smaller teams where I work with key people to understand needs and set goals, then either organize their team to deliver more effectively, or plan and execute them myself.

What About You?

I only want to work with teams that meet at least 85% of these criteria, because that’s where I’m most experienced and helpful. Let’s set up a call if you:

  • Have a strong desire to grow rapidly
  • Have a B2B software product or SaaS business
  • Are looking for someone with myskillset (see above)
  • Are looking for a consultant (full-time consulting may be possible)
  • Are comfortable working from a distributed environment with timely on-site engagements
  • Have the budget to work together
  • Are in the Early or Growth Stage:
    • Early stage
      • probably under $1M in annual revenue
      • still looking for product-market-fit
      • Goals: Build awareness for your product, start putting the pieces together that will lead to your sustainable, scalable, repetitive business model:
        • target market analysis – who is the best target audience at your stage, and why, and how will we reach them?
        • awareness campaigns
        • Go To Market strategy, Inbound Lead Generation, Content Marketing, Lead Nurturing,  Metrics-Driven strategies, debate between organic sales conversions and low-cost sales team, CRM, basic Marketing Automation and more…
      • need to execute the strategy while building the infrastructure skeleton that will help you scale
    • Early-Mid stage
      • You’ve nailed product-market fit and are looking to grow and scale
      • under $15M in annual revenue
      • You’ve got strategies and infrastructure in place, but they need improvement and you’re feeling growing pains. You may have gotten here on instinct and execution, but feel that marketing and sales are not as planned or predictable as you’d like. Effort is being wasted – and it’s tough to tell where.
      • Goals: continue to increase awareness, prove that $X invested in strategy Y will lead to profit $Z, improve conversion rates, increase market share and set the foundation for hockey-stick growth: your mathematical business model.
      • Need to analyze the work your team is doing, then provide deeper analytics, tracking, modeling, marketing automation, streamlined sales strategies, and more…
      • Or, you’re introducing a new product line and want to get things right from the beginning.

If you fit this criteria, apply for a checkup and get your first 2 hours for free.

Key Markets that I’m fluent in:

  • B2B
  • Software for marketing teams
  • Software for sales teams
  • Startups
  • Tooling and infrastructure for software development and production teams

What tools do I use?

  • Communications:
    • Skype: DavidGBooth
    • Email and Google Hangouts
    • GoToMeeting, JoinMe, etc
  • Organizational Tools
    • Google Drive (docs, spreadsheets, forms, calendar, etc)
    • Asana
    • Bootcamp
    • Atlassian: Jira, Confluence, BitBucket
    • Trello
    • Coggle.it
  • Marketing and Sales
    • Universal Analytics (Google Analytics new version)
    • MailChimp
    • Marketing Automation: Marketo, Hubspot, Eloqua
    • Salesforce and other CRMs
    • Hootsuite
    • InDesign
    • WebStorm (HTML editing)
    • WordPress (site construction, some design – my team does better design than I do personally 🙂 )

Apply for your revenue-channel checkup now.