Lessons From Working for a Whole Year at a Top B2B SaaS Content Marketing Agency

Here's everything that I learned after working for a year at Optimist — a B2B content marketing agency for SaaS startups.

I’ve had a bit of an unusual career. I started out working as a freelance journalist covering tech and science. One of my first articles was for a publication called Popula. From there, I kept going until I was doing contract work for the likes of Quartz, Gizmodo, and Medium. The work was difficult, but the challenge was exactly what kept me so interested.

But when the pandemic hit and the entire publishing industry was left reeling from budget cuts and mass layoffs, I decided it was time to do something new. I joined a very niche tech-focused content writing agency called Eleven Writing, where I got to work on content production with the editors from Techradar, Tom’s Guide, and Creative Bloq.

Most recently, however, I’ve been working with a full-service B2B marketing agency called Optimist. Through them, I’ve worked on content marketing with startups like Glide, Superhuman, Kubera, Datanyze, CoPilot, Sendbird, 7pace, and Popmenu. Yes, it’s been a long and exciting journey for sure.

I’ve been realizing recently that a lot of the stuff that I take as standard practice in my work is actually something many B2B businesses are still not aware of. So, I thought I’d compile everything I’ve learned from my 5-7 years of time working in media publications and content agencies into a single article, so that it might help startup founders who are new to content marketing to grow their businesses by attracting more of their target audience to their online presence.

Forget Awareness, Content Marketing Is About Sales

A lot of people don’t realize this, but the ultimate goal of any type of marketing strategy is to drive sales for your business. You might think that’s obvious, but there are enough content producers out there who get sidetracked by things like traffic and reach.

But here’s the thing: traffic ≄ sales.

You could be attracting thousands of visitors to your website every day through content creation, but unless those visitors translate to qualified leads that turn into paying customers, it won’t matter much in the end.

The primary goal of inbound marketing isn’t brand awareness. It’s revenue.

So, attracting organic traffic to your blog is only half the goal of your content marketing strategy. The other half of the effort has to be focused on lead generation, i.e., converting those visitors into people who actually want to pay for your product.

This is an even bigger challenge in B2B SaaS. Since the cost of the individual purchase is much more than a consumer product, turning a visitor into a client usually means going through an entire funnel that involves multiple sales meetings and a tenuous onboarding process.

The Sales Funnel Isn’t Straightforward

If you’ve been doing any research into running content marketing campaigns at all, you’ve probably found a few articles that talk about the importance of a sales funnel and how every visitor goes through multiple stages before turning into a paid customer.

But what most people don’t realize is that while every buyer goes through a journey, it’s not necessarily a linear one. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that a customer will go through the entirety of the funnel with the same product or brand. What this means is that a lot of clients will only read one or two of your blog posts before making a purchase decision!

Just to be clear, the traditional sales funnel is still valid. And marketing companies should be creating content for each stage of the funnel. However, don’t expect a single visitor to go through the entire funnel in a linear fashion by choosing to read exactly what you want them to.

That’s why every piece of content that you write should walk visitors through the entire journey and not just attempt to lead them to the next stage of the funnel. If you’re creating content for the top of the sales funnel, prepare it in a way that it walks visitors through the middle and bottom of the funnel before making a pitch to buy your product within the same piece of content.

While it’s true that most people will read more than one article before making a decision, there’s no guarantee that they will all be produced by your brand. There’s also no telling if a buyer will consume content in the same linear and predictable fashion you expect them to.

There’s No One Metric You Should Track

Lots of decision-makers at business-to-business organizations expect their marketing teams to show concrete stats about demand generation to back up their content marketing efforts. While it’s true that your content marketing plan should always be results-driven, there’s no one metric that can accurately tell you how much sales you’re making from your content production.

So, what’s the solution?

Use a combination of different KPIs to measure the success of your content. Alone, these metrics won’t paint a complete picture of your content’s performance. But together, they make a lot more sense.

Here are a few things you should track to gauge the success of a content marketing service:

  • Search rankings
  • Organic traffic
  • Conversion rate
  • Number of sales

If you’re a decision-maker for your company, it’s important to understand that content is a long-term effort and not everything is exactly cut-and-dry. Investing in content marketing solutions means playing the long game and not looking for instant gratification.

The content marketing trifecta model by Optimist.

Use Different Content Types to Serve Different Goals

Generally speaking, any piece of content you create should strive to achieve one or more of these goals:

  • Attract high-quality organic traffic through search engine optimization
  • Drive social virality through comments and shares
  • Support link-building efforts with other brands and websites

But content strategists will often make the mistake of trying to juggle too many things at once. Using the same exact piece of content to achieve all these goals is a fool’s errand. Instead, use a healthy mix of evergreen content for search traffic, original research for social shares, and case studies for link building.

At Optimist, Tyler Hakes calls this the Trifecta Model. It’s what he used during his time at College Raptor to grow their visitor count from 0 to 1 million. It’s a great system for creating silos within your content efforts to drive specific goals instead of trying to do it all at once.

Marketers Aren’t SMEs, So Go Interview One

Most marketers don’t have the relevant subject matter expertise to create content around highly specific topics in a way that resonates with your target audience. They don’t understand your product, or your industry, as much as you do. They also may not have the technical expertise to provide actual insights regarding your business.

But there’s an easy solution to this problem: interviews.

Creating quality content means interviewing subject matter experts both within and outside your company to acquire specific industry knowledge. Journalists have been doing this for centuries.

Of course, not every startup can afford a content budget that allows for in-depth interviews with external influencers. But you always have the people who work at your company and your existing community of users for thought leadership.

As a content marketer, set aside some time every week to interview clients and stakeholders on the nature of their product. As a startup founder, provide detailed information about your product and share industry insights where you can to make sure the content is relevant and informative.

Repurpose Content for Maximum Distribution

SEO, email marketing, in-person events, social media marketing, guest posting — there are a lot of different ways to distribute content to ensure the widest possible reach. And while you should never repost content from one marketing channel into another, you could always repurpose it.

Repurposing helps you use the same original research and data points across multiple channels and distribution formats. If you want to repurpose your existing content, there are a few ways you can go about it.

The first is to simply change the content format. For example, if your company just made a video tutorial outlining your onboarding process, consider turning it into a blog post for those who prefer the written medium.

Another way to look at this is to add incremental value to your content by updating it with more information, latest facts, further research, etc. If you ran an article on your blog titled “The Top Martech Tools of 2022”, chances are that your recommendations and messaging might change a fair bit a couple of years from now, giving you a chance to repurpose it.

Finally, you can always retarget your content by spreading into across a different marketing channel or platform. You can also retarget your content to attract a different buyer persona or audience segment.

Want a 1-on-1 Consultation to Flesh Out Your Content Strategy?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There’s so much more that I’ve learned from my time as a journalist and marketer — from strategy to ideation to publishing to promotion. And, I’d love to share it with you.

If you’re a B2B founder who’s tired of working with in-house writers who fail to make a tangible impact on your MRR, try working with a full-stack service provider who understands the overarching goal of your content efforts and knows how to create relevant material to support those efforts.

I’m Ritoban — a full-stack content marketing professional who can help you plan and execute and a content campaign from strategy to production to outreach.

If you’d like to learn more about my systems and workflow, let’s talk!