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.”
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?
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:
- What is a Content Marketing Strategy and how does it relate to an Inbound Marketing Strategy?
- 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
- Set Goals
- Track Success: Metrics
- Analyze your audience and your offering
- How to build your content marketing team structure and integrate it within your organization
- Design a Framework and build your Plan inside it
- Design for Modularity
- Create a Style Guide
- Plan your Content Conversion Flow
- Choose your Content Mix
- Where do we Publish?
- Ingrained Organization – AKA How will we stay organized?
- 5 Steps to Building a Content Marketing Strategy
- Executing your Content Strategy
- How / Where can I get content ideas?