As the number of SaaS startups has grown, going to market has become more complex for early-stage founders. However, at the same time, I believe that the go-to-market motion is often an opportunity to differentiate and build moats. Content marketing is a powerful way to stand out from the crowd and fill your inbound funnel.
Recently, I talked to a post-Series A founder who had a strong outbound motion via email but needed to grow faster and build an inbound funnel. I’ve often seen that founders don’t think about inbound marketing until the Series A or post-product market fit. In actuality, most startups would be better off focusing on the inbound funnel over the outbound funnel in the earliest stages.
At my company, ContainIQ, a Kubernetes native monitoring and tracing platform, we've invested heavily in inbound in the first year of our business. And it's working!
It is pretty easy to spend $100k, or even $1 million, on a channel like Google Ads or Facebook. But it's difficult to spend $100k on content marketing.
When you buy CPCs (cost-per-click) on a channel like Google Ads, you lose that money instantly. But when you invest in evergreen content, for example, How-Tos or Glossaries, that content can continue to exist and add value for your company over many years. When done correctly, content has a long shelf life and can add value over a long period.
To optimize your blog for SEO, focus on evergreen content. Only write about timely content if you think you can capture the wave of interest and influx of searches. For example, X Key Takeaways I Learned From XYZ Conference in 2021, might do well in a newsletter or on social media but won't help you rank on Google.
Investing $100k in content today may seem expensive, but I can guarantee that over the long term, content marketing will be your highest margin channel as the investment from previous years continues to deliver leads and revenue.
Content takes time to create. And it also takes time for search engines like Google to index and rank your content. Once it ranks, your content will continue to appear in search results and deliver traffic to your website for years.
Prospective customers are searching every day, and your content will drive traffic into your funnel passively. It's an annuity. You're creating an asset that will continue to deliver traffic well after the initial investment.
In early-stage SaaS, being able to count on a recurring funnel source allows you to focus even more of your energy and your team on the product. It gives your company a set of regular new users to test ideas, pitches, and features. As you are looking for PMF, having a recurring source of interested readers is valuable for testing new hypotheses.
Search engines are the first place you go when you have a question. Maintaining an active blog with SEO as your content goal is a way for a future potential customer to learn something about the space you are in. You want to position your brand as an authoritative source of knowledge. You can strengthen the relationship with those future customers by first educating them and answering their questions.
Online and offline, I’ve found that helping people answer their questions is a great way to build a relationship. Positioning your SaaS startup as that helpful friend with all of the answers is a powerful brand-building activity.
Most of your blog readers won’t be ready to subscribe or sign-up for your SaaS product. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t extend the relationship. Instead of adding an extra call-to-action, or bugging them with pop-ups, try focusing on adding value.
At ContainIQ, our weekly blog newsletter automatically goes out with the new content that we published that week. And we get several new subscribers to our newsletter every day. Our goal here is to continue to educate the reader so that we continue to be top of mind in the space the next time they need something.
Content marketing takes time. Waiting until your Series A or B will only extend the time to build the channel. As you can see above, it has taken us about five months of consistent effort to get to a run rate of over 10,000 monthly visitors from organic search. But after about three months, things started to accelerate (ignore that big spike in late August, caused by YC Demo Day).
My rule of thumb is 6-12 months of consistent effort is required to see results. But your blog won’t begin to hit its stride until 1-3 years in. As your content matures, it will age, and search rankings will generally improve as Google can determine that you are creating valuable content for users.
Over time, it does make sense to dedicate time to previously published content. Updating old content and repurposing it on other channels or in different formats over time is an easy way to boost your readership.
Content marketing can become a predictable and high-margin channel for most SaaS startups. Just remember, create great content that will last over a long period and get started early.
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