Our simple rules for getting started with B2B content. Don't overthink it – start by simply answering questions for your customers, then work your...
BSMS 46 - A simple framework for content creation
- Understand the problem. Who are you talking to? What are the questions they’re asking? Articulate the problem in terms your audience will connect with.
- Look at existing content on the topic and ask yourself: “Can I add real value to these results?” Be critical: will your point of view make a meaningful contribution? If you can solve a problem better than others—you can probably say something about it.
Here are four criteria that should be fulfilled before you create new content:
- There is a collection of people who share a problem
- You understand and can articulate that problem
- You can expertly solve their problem (or answer their question) better than others
- People can find your answer
- Free content marketing hub from Kalungi: https://www.kalungi.com/content-playbook
- Executive SaaS marketing frameworks by Stijn and Mike: https://www.t2d3.pro/
- Instant marketing team for early-stage software startups: https://www.kalungi.com/services/full-service-b2b-saas-marketing-team
Welcome to episode 46 of B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks. I'm your host, Mike Northfield. I lead product marketing at Kalungi and T2D3, and I'm together again with Kalungi's co-founder Stijn Hendrikse, who is a serial SaaS marketing executive and ex-Microsoft product marketing leader. Today. I asked him to explain his updated thinking about how best to approach content marketing in 2023, to which he explained a really simple two-step approach that's focused on having a clear understanding of your audience's real problem, coupled with a consensus or critical mass of demand for the problem that you're trying to solve is a question that you're trying to answer.
If you're interested in more resources on content marketing, the content team at Kalungi just recently published a massive resource hub on our website. It's got articles, guides, and 12 templates, a lot of the ones that we use to build content programs for our software clients, actually. It's designed to help you execute a complete marketing strategy for your software company. It's free as of me recording this intro, but I don't know if that'll change in the future. So I would recommend checking it out if you can, and you can find it by going to kalungi.com/content-playbook, or you can go to just our website, and then in the top navigation, you can hover over the learn dropdown, and you'll also find it there. And then of course, we also have a ton of other B2B SaaS marketing resources on our site. If you want more frameworks and guides from Stijn and myself, check out T2D3. We have a book, we have additional templates that are geared at marketing leaders and founders of early-stage software companies, and then a Masterclass if you're interested in going deeper into any of those topics. And you can find that at t2d3.pro, all the way from the show notes. Okay, that's enough of that. Let's get into it.
How many words are, if it's 200 words or 2000, right, or the style rules or should it be a video or a written text or a set of slides? None of that matters more than whether you're adding value.
Ok, so I know that you're super passionate about inbound marketing and organic search and everything that goes along with that, and I heard you kind of recently talking about it in a different way, so I was wondering if you could maybe give me a little bit more color on how you're thinking about it.
Yeah, Mike, I think I can talk about organic and SEO and content marketing in 45 podcast episodes and still have more thoughts on it. We did an episode or a recording recently on product market fit, and this is a little bit related in the sense that I have found that in the last couple of years, most organic and content marketing efforts, they struggle because really everything that we've learned as marketers in the last 20 years doesn't work anymore. When it comes to SEO optimization or how long should an article be or how short or where should you write it and when should you write it; it all doesn't matter anymore because Google is just so smart. AI, the machine learning that if two sentences are written completely different, but they mean the same thing, Google knows that. Right? So figuring out what exact keyword to optimize for doesn't really matter anymore.
Google knows. Google understands how to connect all those pieces. So even when you write it and where you write it, it doesn't matter that much. There's a couple of other things that really matter, and they go at the heart of, do you have a viable business? And that's hands. I make the connection with, have you reached product market fit? What does it mean to have product-market fit that there is a problem? You kind of know who has this problem and you have a solution for the problem and you're able to articulate it and people find you, and people will use your product and they will come back using it. The foundation of good content marketing is that you actually can write about that and that you can turn that value proposition into the right content that people will now find and value.
So let's talk about my recent coaching that I do for CMOs, for marketing leaders when it comes to doing good content marketing. And we did this with T2D3, we did it with Kalungi, we've done it with many other companies and we know that it works. There're really two steps. It's super simple, only two things you need to do. It's not easy, but it's simple. First, you actually really need to know what problem you're solving for who, right? Who's it for, what it's for? We often talk about that. You actually have to do the really, really hard work to not only know what your persona looks like and where they live and what they like, but what are the questions they are really asking, and that's easier said than done, but there are a lot of sources, right? Go talk with your salespeople. Go talk with your customer success team. Go talk with other people in your team who have customer interaction and ask them, what are people really doing with our product? What are the problems they're really solving? What are the questions they ask on a sales call when they're comparing alternatives, when they are calling our support team and they have an issue, the product is not doing what they expect it to do, why is that important for them?
So there's many ways to find out what your customers now that you've reached, product market, fit, what they really care about. That's step number one. Easier said than done. Simple, not easy. Step number two, now you articulate that need, that problem in some kind of a sentence that you can type into Google. Again, don't worry about keywords that have a certain volume, don't worry about any of that. Just type in what you think your audience is actually looking for and look at the top 10 results. And now ask yourself: Can I add value? Considering all the other 10 things that I see there that Google has already determined are good sort of solutions for this problem, or that Google says to the world, if you have this question, these are the 10 answers.
Be super self-critical, and ask yourself: Can I add something of real value here? Can I write something new or can I write something that adds enough value to what's already written for it to be really, really meaningful? And this is why I like to connect it to product market fit, because if you actually solve a problem better, cheaper, faster than others, then you probably have something to say about that, right? And even if there's already 10 other answers that pop up in the Google search results, there's something that you should be able to add that is unique to your point of view, the way you solve this problem to your product. So that is really step number two to determine how you can actually add value.
And that's I think where a lot of writing and blog articles and content and videos fall short. Sometimes it's just more of the same or it's some kind of a summary or a combination, but you need to add something new. And if you do, it doesn't mean that you're immediately going to jump to the top of those search results. And there's still some things you can do in the way you, whatever, you pick your URL and you promote some of your...there's many things you can do that are not completely, haven't gone completely away that people have done for 20 years optimizing certain ss, e o, OnPage, inbound links, back links, all those things you can still do. But if you're not adding value, if you're not adding something net new and you're not doing it because you know your audience very well, ie. you may not have reached product market fit, then it's very hard to succeed. But if you nail this, Mike, you'll race through the chart in the charts. At some point you'll be at that number two, three, four search position, maybe even number one, and you will stay there because when people click on your link, what they find is actually going to be exactly what they're looking for.
Creating meaningful, helpful educational content actually makes SEO easy is what it is basically. And I think, so I was having a conversation with Brian, who's an associate CMO at Columbia. We were talking about one of our clients. And the challenge with a lot of companies that are just getting started with content and content marketing and SEO, is that a lot of founders will say, I want to go focus on SEO because I know that it's going to help me in the long run with inbound marketing and building a sustainable marketing engine.
The problem is that doing SEO is not the first thing that you should focus on. The first thing that you should focus on is creating meaningful content. And if you can do that really well, then it makes SEO easy to do later. So first few months, just write, just create things. Do what you're saying Stijn, which is understand: What are the actual problems that people are looking to solve? Go add value and fill the gaps in that spot. You have subject matter experts on your team. You have a sales team, you have support, people who get these questions, go kind of farm those questions from them, answer them really well in maybe a different way, create the content. Don't focus on SEO—obviously build it with consideration for it in the future—but you need to build a base of content before you can make any impact on SEO. So I think that that's a phenomenal point.
Yeah, something I recommend every marketer and every CMO, even CEO actually to watch this video: There's a class at the University of Chicago for their graduate school on writing. And so these are students who have been through high school, they've done their masters, undergrad, masters, so they probably can write, right? It's not that they don't know how to do grammar or even how to write a report or that doesn't mean they know how to add value.
And now when you're doing a PhD thesis or somehow you want to contribute something new to the world, you have to think about: What is it actually that I'm contributing? What is the value there? And can I make that not only useful, but also usable? Is it going to have a certain utility value? And what this professor also spends some time on in that class is talking about, don't worry about how many words there are, if it's 200 words or 2000 or the style rules, or should it be a video or a written text or a set of slides. None of that matters more than whether you're adding value. If you know that there's a very important question that your audience has, how much should I spend on X, Y, Z on this type of marketing when I'm running this type of business for this type of market? You know what the audience ideally would get just a number.
Just the answer. Yeah.
455 bucks. That would be a perfect blog article. If it has to answer that specific question, it's literally one word or a number in this case. Is that going to happen often? No, of course not. But don't get hung up on it has to be certain...of course, it's nice if it's an extensive piece of well-thought-through, research-backed, insightful content, and that's usually a couple of pages. But if you write a couple of pages and you're not actually answering an important question, then you're completely wasting everybody's time. So it's much better to have two paragraphs and maybe a list of five things that answers the question, exactly. And of course, that will not mean, oh, that the Google algorithm is going to give it as much validation as when it's two pages. There's absolutely, with all these robots, there's some things that get skewed where, hey, if someone talks about it five times it might be better than someone who talks about it four times. But that doesn't supersede that you actually try to understand: What question am I trying to answer, and how do I do that in the best way possible for my audience?
And often the simplest way too.
And the simplest way.
There are a lot of articles on the Kalungi site that perform extremely well, and they are very simple, and they have one specific message. Or sometimes in the case of even the product market fit milestones that we talked about in the last podcast episode, that blog post is really a bulleted list with a couple of paragraphs, and it does well.
So people maybe were looking for...sometimes they're just looking for a list, they're looking for a template, they're looking for an example, give them what they're looking for, and then if you have to add some context, etc., do so, but not to fill to get the 2000 words. Yeah, I think what we did with T2D3 and with Kalungi Mike also is try to solve the specific needs for the specific audience with the marketing leader of a B2B SaaS company. And the reality is they just need super practical solutions. They want a template for the budget. They want us to tell them, Hey, how do I start? And that's far more important than three pages on the history of marketing, budgeting, and all the percentages that people have used in the last 20 years. Thanks for the question.
Anything else on that one?
No, I don't think so. We can go on and on about all the details that could validate whether you're adding value, but honestly, Google is still probably the best judge, right? So, of course, you would measure your impact here by if search rankings go up, etc., but I always just for recommend people to not spend any time on SEO and analytics and academic optimization discussions before they've actually written down what are the two, three questions that my audience really wants answers to? And you Google it yourself and you see that there's not a good answer, not an answer that's as good as what you could provide. And you go write it.
Simple, not easy, simple. Cool.
Big thank you to Adriano Valerio for producing this episode, the Kalungi team for helping us make this whole thing work. And of course, you for listening. If you want to submit or vote on a question that you'd like us to answer, you can do that at kalungi.com/podcast. Every time we record, we take one of the top three most popular topics, and we jam on it. So if you want to hear us talk about something specific, you have that opportunity. Again, kalungi.com/podcast. Thanks again for choosing to spend your time with us.