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Developing a winning SaaS content strategy

As a new CMO, I focused on content marketing to make a big impact with minimal costs. Refinement of our SaaS content strategy proved valuable, as it allowed us to create high-value, trackable content.

By repurposing content and building clear processes, we scaled efficiently. Our team now includes SEO experts, journalists, and demand generation content executives, each playing a vital role in our growth strategy.

Diary of a first-time CMO by Alice De Courcy
By: Alice de Courcy
1 minute read

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The Importance of Content Marketing for a SaaS CMO

I’ve talked a fair bit about content so far in this diary, but it’s because I genuinely believe it can be such an important lever without having to spend huge amounts of money.

Content marketing is something I know and understand. So as a new CMO who wants to make the biggest impact with the smallest costs, I knew if I could invest a little of my own time to refine the process then it could be built into something long-lasting.

Content is something you can track - for the most part anyway - and you can use the data available to you to deliver high value. For example, targeting high-intent keywords for SEO.

I really recommend anyone who’s a new CMO getting involved in this process because it teaches you so much about who you're targeting. This helps to inform all your other decision-making.

Understanding Buyer Personas

Getting down and dirty in the content strategy gave me the insights I needed as a CMO to understand our buyer personas. For example, at Cognism our buyer personas are the sales persona and the marketing persona.

And I felt like I knew the B2B marketing persona, as a marketer myself (although you should still always do your research - don’t assume you know your audience without evidence! That's a recipe for creating content that doesn’t resonate.)

But I didn’t really know anything about the B2B sales persona. I needed to learn what made them tick before I could really do any of the work of marketing to them.

Refining the Content Creation Process

Developing the content strategy gave me the time to delve into the data around the content they engaged with and the messaging that resonated. This was hugely valuable.

I needed to get into this level of insight and detail to really be confident in my plan moving forwards.

When looking at what was working and what wasn’t, I learned that we had a good process in place where our SDRs would reach out to people who had downloaded e-books.

However, how these e-books were ideated, written, published and promoted all needed a little finessing.

I felt the old process was simply marketing working as a sales function, without having the autonomy to make bold moves as a revenue-generating team in its own right.

So I decided to focus on levelling up our content, making it more expert-led, value-led, practical and tactical.

Scaling SaaS Content Efficiently with a Small Team

I also overhauled our process for how we go about creating new material, such as:

  • How we decide what to work on next.
  • What we included in the content.
  • What tone of voice we used.
  • What topics we covered.
  • How we promoted it after it was finished.

I wanted us to be a brain. Using the clues around us to make smart decisions that could drive our marketing function, rather than blindly doing what we were asked to do by sales.

It all started with a deep understanding of our buyer personas and then mapping out content based on intent and its purpose. For example:

  • Was it a piece for SEO?
  • If so, was it a pillar page?

If it was then x, y, z would need to happen.

If the content was intended for an e-book for a lead gen campaign, then that sparks another series of activities.

And again, if we were creating a content piece for the blog.

We built out a clear process around each type of content, including:

  • Goals and objectives depending on the individual use case.
  • An understanding of what it would mean for each to be successful.

We used a content calendar in the early days too. We were a small team; it helped us to structure and keep track of our workflow, especially when we needed to get work off the ground quickly.

Building a Specialised Content Team

Now that we have a larger team and dedicated content roles based on purpose, we don’t - so we can be more reactive, but it’s something I recommend if you’re in a similar position to how we were then.

Again, because we were a small team initially, with very few content roles in-house, I wanted to find ways to repurpose content to scale.

Rather than spend six weeks writing an e-book only to publish it and find out it’s a flop, I would use insights from blog articles we had written in the past.

I was looking for any trends in the data and which topics we’d get the most engagement on.

We’d then use those insights to build out long-form content, compiled from relevant blog posts around a similar topic.

This meant we could still get the SEO and organic gains, while building out longer-form content that drove the lead gen plays. It meant we weren’t having to reinvent the wheel each time.

Meaning we could scale fast, despite having a small team.

Strategic Content Repurposing for SaaS Growth

Any (first-time) CMO will need to plan for the resources they have. You can be clever, re-package and re-purpose, re-design and re-share. It just takes a little more planning.

For a cornerstone topic - one that we’d established had good commercial intent and interest - we would activate the content in a number of ways:

  • Blog articles.
  • Video/s.
  • Template/s.
  • Cadences for the sales team.
  • Email signatures.
  • Webinar/s.
  • Paid ads.
  • Organic social posts.

Balancing Long and Short-Term Gains in Content Strategy

As I’ve said many times before, our budget was small, so we didn’t spend a lot on content in the early days. But we did slowly learn where to invest more time, effort and money based on where we saw results or gaps.

Our focus was on quality and not quantity, so first we invested in subject matter expertise, over just hiring more writers or freelancers.

Today we have content expertise sitting in 3 unique areas, each of which has proven to be vital to our scaling and stacking growth success.

1. SaaS SEO

We have 2 SEO experts who are 100% dedicated to working on our key SEO projects, along with maintenance and defence of our current rankings.

2. Journalists

We have 2 writers who are our ‘story finders’. They spend time hanging out where our buyers hang out, in communities, in Slack groups, talking and listening to subject matter experts.

They’re tasked with finding what's trending and writing about it in the most actionable, helpful way. Our journalists are a crucial part of our media machine approach.

3. Demand generation content executives

These are content execs who sit in a pod with DG marketers. We have 2 pods, each focused on a specific persona (sales or marketing).

Their responsibilities are:

  • Becoming experts in their persona
  • Working with subject matter experts
  • Producing content in all formats that can span and fill all 4 of our paid social ‘create demand’ buckets: Thought Leadership, Content, Product and Social Proof
  • Briefing in scripts for videos, writing campaign-focused blog posts, or helping out with landing page copy

Transitioning to an Ungated Content Model

As you scale, you have to think about stacking growth almost like a game of poker:

Where are you going to place your bets? How do you balance long and short-term gains?

Publishing quality, expert-led content and being carefully process-driven to ensure delivery and output was my big bet coming into Cognism.

From there it’s been a case of intuitively scaling this engine.

We’ve gone from gating content where we could easily track the source of a deal back to a single downloadable content asset, to running a fully ungated content model, where content is firmly wedded into nearly every play we run.

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