Choppy Waters Ahead, Even for SaaS
Growth expectations for 2022 are grim and will likely affect every industry, including the inflation-resistant SaaS market.
But inflation is an altogether different monster now also:
An 8.6% annual increase in the consumer price index in May is the highest since 1981.
Energy prices increased by 34.6%
Food costs increased by 10.5%
All other categories increased by an average of 6%
What’s Already Here
Beneath all of this, the SaaS landscape is a raging battle between established tech giants and nimble startups (the survivors are now part of the latest gold standard: fast-moving, adaptive companies).
Thanks to the pandemic, consumer behavior, and buying experience expectations are more sophisticated than ever and will continue to evolve in novel ways shortly.
Still, more are the deeper economic implications high-interest rates will have in tandem with other market forces, including volatile social and political climates, rising global energy prices, food shortages (due to the Russo-Ukrainian war), and runoff effects from an ever-more-serious global warming situation.
This all points to a looming storm on the horizon. We're entering an even more volatile era where an update your SaaS marketing strategy is necessary, which is why we created this modern SaaS marketing playbook.
What Needs to Happen: Achieve Content at Scale
Simply put, you need to speed up and scale your content production.
Content at scale means producing high volumes of high-quality content quickly and efficiently.
The best response SaaS marketing strategies have to economic uncertainty and a looming recession—let alone, a hyper-competitive industry and volatile social, political, and environmental climates—is to actively create, experiment, learn, adapt, improve, and grow their website meaningfully by:
Integrating an engineering team, and...
Implementing a fast, scalable content marketing workflow
We'll get into how, but doing the above will supercharge your marketing team's production and agility, which invariably leads to higher-quality leads, more marketing qualified leads and a happy sales team.
Since both are central to implementing any marketing strategy, let's break each of them down.
What is a Content Workflow?
A SaaS marketing playbook wouldn't be complete without mentioning content workflows. A content workflow (a.k.a., a Content Governance Model) consists of the systems, processes, and steps content marketers use to create content for their website (e.g., new blog templates, landing pages, content hubs, partner ecosystems, test variants, etc.).
This workflow is the main focus of our SaaS marketing playbook below, and is the time between a content idea's conception and its deployment is the velocity at which a content workflow can deliver content.
You should always be searching for ways to speed up and scale your content workflow.
Why are Efficient Content Workflows Important?
It shouldn't be surprising that a stagnant website doesn't increase traffic, engagement, help discover opportunities, or spur new growth. It maintains the status quo, which isn’t enough in a hostile business environment.
Conversely, websites that have an active content creation process and constantly test, improve, and innovate their content offerings generate more revenue.
But without the right tech stack and organizational structure supporting it that empowers content creators, it’s impossible to build a content marketing workflow that delivers a lot of content quickly.
What Does a Content Workflow Consist Of?
There are three aspects of any defined content workflow template: people, tools, and process. Each is necessary to implement a content strategy, however how they intermingle for content creation purposes is where we see most B2B SaaS companies fall short.
Why Implement a Cross-Functional Marketing Team?
When implemented properly, a cross-functional "website product team" (a content team with an integrated designer and developer) almost always results in a faster content workflow (and speed to market), better quality content, a more impactful SaaS marketing strategy, higher team productivity and morale, and lower risk than traditional approaches can achieve:
Traditional Marketing Agencies: Knowledge of modern design and engineering techniques can be high, but traditional agencies don't view websites as fast-growing products and can't create content at scale. Effective cross-departmental alignment, collaboration, and iterative improvement take a back seat to blind "grand reveals."
Hiring Within: Salaries, benefits, and perks are expensive for an internal content team. Plus, marketers aren't properly equipped to hire engineers and create development tracks for them.
Engineering-Owned Website: It’s difficult and time-consuming to align with an engineering department that doesn’t care about content marketing because they're focused on improving the product.
Team of Contractors: Just like above, it's difficult and time-consuming to find and replace the top freelance design and engineering talent, let alone figure out the complex content creation processes needed to scale an integrated multi-stakeholder website with a team of disparate, part-time contractors.
Your website is the biggest piece of your go-to-market strategy and central to your content strategy. Implementing a content creation process without roadblocks, that allows content creators to deploy at will should be the goal of any content workflow.
The Long-Term Benefits of Efficient Content Workflows
Ultimately, a cross-functional and agile marketing team begets a fast and agile content workflow, and efficient content workflows are pathways to more innovative content, more leads, and more pipeline.
But other benefits abound for those who experiment purposefully with an agile and cross-functional team.
Collaboration and content production dramatically improve.
More projects launch sooner, perform better, and with lower risk.
Websites adapt quickly and grow meaningfully, actually helping their companies grow.
Morale, retention, and resiliency soar.
But how can such a content workflow be realized? Let's dive into our updated SaaS marketing playbook.
The Modern B2B SaaS Marketing Playbook: Scale Content with an Efficient Content Workflow
To help address the above realities, we created a content workflow template for SaaS marketers to show exactly how to achieve content at scale.
Play #1: Integrate AI in Your Content Workflow
If you haven't yet integrated artificial intelligence in your marketing strategy, then it's time to upgrade. We don't need to cover the obvious benefits.
Getting started is easy and not that expensive to implement, and the best place to start is with your blog research, planning, creation, and search engine optimization processes (areas that make scaling high-quality content difficult).
Tools like SurferSEO crawl top ranking pages—based off primary keyword inputs—and use AI and natural language processing to help you plan articles, grade drafts, audit an existing blog post, and/or create search engine optimization plans that include all the necessary related keywords Google expects to see in the article.
Acting as a blueprint on how to reach the top spot of Google for a primary keyword, tools like this significantly speed up any content marketing workflow by helping SEOs and writers make more informed decisions quicker and gain more website traffic sooner.
Play #2: Migrate Your Website to Headless Architecture
Content workflows that employ a "monolithic" CMS (where design and development functionalities are unified in the CMS) fall short of supporting multi-channel experiences.
On the other hand, a content marketing workflow that harnesses headless CMS architecture can power all digital channels your organization serves. You can have more than one contributor making updates, building new templates/pages, or pushing new content live.
But one of the main reasons to switch to a headless website architecture are the performance boosts it provides right out of the box. With headless, page load times plummet, providing instant benefits to SEO and CRO (better website performance typically leads to more organic website traffic conversions; we often see immediate 20% conversion hikes).
Even more importantly, for a speedy content creation workflow, a "decoupled" approach separates content and design.
Headless architecture decouples copy and code, enabling marketing and development teams to collaborate on the same content team while working on both frontend and backend code, significantly reducing speed to market. A decoupled architecture enables your content workflow to make rapid changes to the front end without disrupting the back end, and vice versa.
Decoupling may sound like a technical decision, but it’s a user experience issue with a significant business impact.
Are you curious to learn what it takes to go headless? Check out our free headless CMS implementation checklist for all the secrets.
If you need to obtain buy-in first, here are ways to achieve it.
Play #3: Implement Efficient Content Modeling
A SaaS marketing playbook wouldn't be complete without mentioning content modeling. You can speed up your content creation process even further by implementing an efficient content model for your website.
One of the best way to achieve content at scale, content models structure your content and streamline the content editing experience, directly improving content workflow speed and agility. Without models, content is aimlessly placed throughout applications, creating a protracted editing experience for content creators and potentially messy experiences for end-users.
The main benefits of implementing an efficient content model are:
Increased team alignment
Better decision making
Faster speed to market
Enterprise content models are motivated by headless content management systems (Play #2). With established content models, editors have pre-defined templates to ship content. The models help editors understand what each model is and how it should be used across the application—enabling them to create content faster.
Designers also harness content models in their UI/UX designs. With them, they know the types of messages and available information.
All teams involved can plan how pieces of content should work with UI modules built in the design phase to address a wide range of user scenarios. Addressing each user scenario promotes a consistent user experience that helps protect the bottom line—but it’s only possible by having a content modeling architecture.
A boon to content workflows, obtaining buy-in for content modeling isn't difficult. Here are ways to achieve it.
Play #4: Implement an Atomic Website Design System
You can speed up your content marketing process even further by implementing an atomic design system for your website.
Yet another way to help achieve content at scale, a design system is a collection of reusable components used to build application and website user interfaces. Design systems function as the design team’s central source of truth, helping ease brand governance across your defined content workflow and ensure cross-functional teams speak the same UI language.
But how do you build a structured design system that streamlines DesignOps? Answer: atomic design. A building-block methodology that starts with the smallest possible design elements (the “atoms”—think brand colors, font, spacing, etc.) and combines them to form bigger structures (called “molecules”) like buttons, and eventually whole page sections and entire page templates.
This process gives teams flexibility, making it easier to see what parts of a website can be reused and how they can be mixed and matched to form other components for content to live in—and construct the patterns users will engage with.
If you need to get buy-in to implement atomic design in your content workflow, here are ways to achieve it.
TIP #1: Develop Your Content Model & Atomic Design System Simultaneously
The main challenge is building a design system that coordinates with the content modeling structure of an application. Developing the content model and design system at different times results in generic systems that lack a mapping between them, slowing down your content workflow.
Decoupling the content model and the UI design system doesn’t mean they are treated individually. They are two separate elements that require coordination to classify and manage the user experience.
Build content models and design systems in a coordinated manner to achieve content at scale. Digital teams will have the flexibility to ship new experiences quickly and the reliability to deliver content and patterns consistently.
See how Calendly's content workflow benefitted from the atomic design approach.
Tip #2: Optimize Your Tech Stack
Your website is a well of potential that needs to be harnessed properly and purposefully, and optimizing your tech stack is another way to speed up your content creation process and unlock its potential.
A content marketing strategy that limits itself to “monolithic” (all-in-one) solutions create tech debt, lock users into inflexible tools, and reduce the ability of a content workflow to deliver digital experiences at the pace modern customers expect.
Conversely, “composable architecture” allows businesses to future-proof their tech stack, choose the best tools for their business needs, and use a modular approach to speed up their content workflow and deliver experiences faster.
Here are some solutions to look into to optimize your workflow:
Contentful: Launch faster with a modern content platform. It’s the easiest, fastest way to manage content: Integrate your tools. Publish across channels. Unblock your team (and content workflow) with our industry-leading app framework.
Gatsby: Gatsby is the fast and flexible framework that makes building websites with any CMS, API, or database fun again. Build and deploy headless websites that drive traffic, convert better, and earn more revenue!
Mutiny: Mutiny is a website personalization software that gives teams the tools to target audiences and accounts to increase conversions. Speak directly to different segments of an audience with diverse messaging, creative, and selling points.
Google Optimize: Google Optimize is the heart of digital experimentation, helping increase conversion rates by building and running A/B tests. For users with fewer testing needs, it’s the best tool, as it is the only free tool in the market so far.
FullStory: Introducing FullStory—a website optimization tool that tracks and monitors each customer activity. Make better business decisions by keeping track of every user’s website heatmap.
Segment: Segment is a customer data platform (CDP) that simplifies data collection and supports data aggregation with other tools on your tech stack. In short, Segment can send data to other tools such as Zendesk, Optimizely, or Google Analytics, serving as a connector between all marketing data sources.
Play #5: Integrate Engineering with Agile Methodology
If you want to take your content workflow to the next level and really start scaling production, integrate engineering into your content team.
(Psst. You probably should have done this a long time ago.)
As companies grow and progress through their life cycles—from development, to startup, to growth, to established—so do their content workflow complexities, gradually increasing the need to integrate cross-functional teams like marketing and engineering, and giving rise to four relationship types, outlined by The Harvard Business Review:
The Business Stages
The Development stage: In this stage, a founder’s best bet is to develop a detailed business plan. Whether they need funding, a set of goals and timelines, a detailed customer profile, or all the above. At the end of the day, speeding up its content workflow and achieving content at scale isn't a top objective since the business leader has bigger fish to fry. Learn about the Undefined relationship.
The Startup stage: In this stage, the viability of big ideas is tested as well as the effectiveness of the company’s capabilities. If things aren’t progressing the way they want or need, it’s okay to reassess and pivot. Flexibility is key and allows leaders to figure out what changes need to be made to build a healthier, more resilient business. Now is the time to define content workflow relationships. Learn about the Defined relationship.
The Growth stage: Matching the pace of increased cash flow and client base without losing sight of core tenets is a struggle that many successful companies at this stage have had to navigate. In addition to taking time to review and recalibrate the business plans, wise leaders upgrade their existing content marketing process to match their new reality. Learn about the Aligned relationship.
The Mature stage: In this stage, it’s time for businesses to extend their lifecycle by reinventing themselves and investing in new technologies and emerging markets. Scalable content workflows allow companies to reposition themselves in their dynamic industries and refresh their growth in the marketplace. Learn about the Integrated relationship.
Properly Equip Your Cross-Functional Content Production Workflow
To deal with complexity and scale of enterprise content management workflow needs, you need agile systems. Many SaaS companies need to systematize how they deliver messaging and experiences by developing design systems and seeking to structure their content.
Only a few have managed to combine these activities into an integrated capability. While they recognize the value of modular content and modular design, they have not yet managed to combine these approaches into an integrated framework.
Here is a checklist of elements of an integrated content management workflow:
Integrate Processes & Systems
Involve the design team early in marketing website project planning to assess user experience needs and expectations.
Involve the development team early in a website project’s design phase to assess needs, weak points, and limitations.
Implement “sprint” and iterative marketing methodologies.
Create a shared design-development language with an atomic design system.
Optimize website editing experience with a scalable content model.
Jointly involve design and development teams in signing off on marketing website assets.
Integrate & Scale Activities
Implement systems to track and manage the design and development team’s joint activities.
Utilize and regularly update shared processes.
Establish common metrics for evaluating the overall success of design and development efforts.
Create a reward system to laud successful efforts by the design and development teams.
Mandate that marketing, design & development teams meet periodically to review and improve relations.
Require marketing, design & development heads to attend each other’s budget reviews with the CEO.
Implement New Rules & Solutions
SaaS-familiar UX designer
SaaS-familiar front and backend developers
Content Model Architect
Quality Assurance Manager
Agile-knowledgeable Project Manager
Headless website architecture
Project management software
Website analytics software
AI-based content optimization software
A/B adaptive testing software
Emphasize shared responsibility for results between the different divisions of the organization.
Emphasize metrics with standardized, cross-departmental dashboards.
Tie rewards to results.
Enforce division’s conformity to systems and processes.
Integrate a dedicated marketing website product team.
Put Your Upgraded Content Workflow to the Test!
Once you've implemented your new content management workflow, here are three programs you can kickoff to put it to the ultimate test.
New Content Workflow Play #1: Consolidate Competing Content
Content creation has its obvious benefits, however content consolidation has its merits, too.
If good keyword research informs your content marketing strategy and you have a company blog with years of consistent publishing, this is one of the best and easiest ways to drum up new traffic.
Since company blogs typically stick to a handful of high-level topics, keyword overlap between articles on each topic is bound to happen. Over time, collections of similar content start to confuse search engines and weigh each other down in the rankings.
Consolidating these overlapping blogs and implementing 301 redirects should be one of your first plays, clarifying your content for search engines and giving you the best chance of reaching the first page.
Now It’s Your Turn:
Use your keyword rank tracking software to find a topically similar blog posts that rank for the same keyword over the last six months (at least).
Next, put a consolidation plan together. This can include completely migrating one blog post or multiple posts into a parent blog (in which case you’d implement 301 redirects) or migrating only some of a blog’s content to another to fix any keyword ambiguity for search engines.
Read about the benefits of content consolidation.
New Content Workflow Play #2: Implement Experimentation
The best data-driven companies don’t just passively store and analyze data, they actively generate actionable data by running experiments. The secret to getting value from data is testing. Implementing a well-executed and consistent A/B testing process is a necessity.
Digital experimentation is where businesses attempt to answer a question by establishing a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, and analyzing the results. By Optimizely’s definition, experimentation is “the reliable process of delivering winning digital experiences without guesswork or risk” to keep customers from losing their loyalty.
In 2011, AmericanExpress reported that 78% of customers had abandoned a purchase due to a bad customer experience. We’re now in 2022! This stat alone tells us other brands are ready and able to attract your loyal customers by providing them with relevant, consistent digital experiences.
Now It’s Your Turn:
Find the highest trafficked service page or blog post on your website and think of ways to improve the user experience. This can include something as simple as altering a headline, CTA text, an intro paragraph, or even the formatting of the page.
Create a process to collect ideas and queue them up for experimentation and attribution.
And remember to consider statistical significance!
New Content Workflow Play #3: Implement Personalization
Website personalization is a marketing strategy that creates unique experiences that include tailored recommendations, dynamic content, and exclusive offers for prospects and customers. Harnessing behavioral targeting, marketers can dynamically tailor experiences on mobile apps, emails, digital ads, and websites by using geolocation, site behavior, past purchases, and more.
In many cases, SaaS companies have diverse prospect and customer segments with differing needs and expectations. In these situations, it's crucial to have personalization software that easily fits into your current tech stack. A powerful personalization tool empowers marketers to test and experiment on their websites.
Now It’s Your Turn:
Get an understanding of all the high-intent interactions visitors take on your website. This includes high-intent keywords they searched for (if you run Adwords campaigns), a group of bottom-funnel pages they visited, a single button click, or data provided from lead generation campaigns or chatbot conversations.
Next, think about how the messaging or overall experience on high-value pages (like the homepage or product/service/feature pages, or the pricing page) can shift based on each segment you created.
Implement your strategy with personalization software (like Mutiny, AB Tasty, or Hubspot CMS’s integrated tool) and start driving those segments to those pages.
Read about how personalization drives conversions.
If your content management workflow can consistently deliver high-quality content under the load of the above plays, then you've achieved something few SaaS marketing departments have: content at scale!
Will another recession hit? Maybe. It’s always best to prepare for the worst—especially in SaaS where economic realities (like the one we’re facing today) shift our buying decisions. This playbook is meant to help you boost the impact your website is driving.
Or better yet, help you see the value in shifting your website technology stack into an integrated stack that can help you market your product better while spending less and achieving more confidence in your decision-making.