Your growth is stuck because your content doesn't solve any real-world problems
Scale your content engine with content marketing that actually solves problems.
Every buyer starts with a problem. To buy, they need one of 2 things:
- To know you can solve the problem (first-hand experience, like a software demo)
- To trust you can solve the problem (social proof, great understanding of the problem & solution)
Most companies ignore the problems they solve in their marketing. They get seduced by jargon, fancy acronyms or nonsensical concepts (hello, demand generation).
Marketing is simple at its core: identify the problems you solve and how people express them. Find out where these people are, and market to their problems.
Our entire process is designed to do exactly just that with your content marketing.
Email Vince @ ScaleCrush
Here's how we work
It's getting harder and harder for companies to find reliable partners (I've written about it here).
This is because 95% of the SEO & Content Marketing services out there are 💩, making promises that are too good to be true, and looking for shortcuts.
Chances are you're not investing in content because you don't know who to trust anymore.
This is our effort to show that you can trust us.
Here are all our secrets, processes and method, available for free.
You want to skip to the good bits? Tired of my writing already? 😔
- Why it should all start with user research, and how we do it
- Using Jobs To Be Done to identify content that converts
- Auditing your existing content to make the most of it
- Building a user-focused content strategy
- Writing content like you would've written it yourself
- How much does it cost, dammit? 💲
Uncover Problems through User Research
Customer research is the a marketing activity that everyone praises, but no one actually does.
If you only have to remember one thing, remember this:
Your customers are the most important part of your business.
We need to start with them to figure out what to do - not work off of assumptions and wild guesses.
Why Customer Research Is Important
The goal of customer research is to understand:
- What people use your product for (it may be different from what you created it for)
- What made them buy it
- What the buying process was like
- What emotional states they went through, and what triggered them.
We want to remove assumptions and guessing from our decision-making.
I know it’s annoying to conduct interviews, transcribe them and analyze them.
But it’s worth it.
Who to Interview and What to Look For
Picking who you interview is very important to avoid selection bias.
Even though we’re not doing statistical analysis, we still want to make sure we select the right sample.
You want to interview the type of customer that you want, but also those who churned or might churn, so you don’t get into survivorship bias.
(i.e. “this $150k/year decision maker told us he bought because I was wearing a pink hoodie on the call, so everyone has to wear only pink hoodies now.”)
If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.
But some business decision have been made on less evidence than this. I once worked at a company that banned green for some reason.
Always remember that it takes time to get to the root cause of a problem.
This is why the “5 Whys” exist.
When interviewing people, we always want to be asking “why” a lot, even when that sounds dumb.
People are keen on offering solutions instead of explaining problems because that’s easier.
We don’t want to hear about proposed solutions, we want to hear about problems.
It’s also important to ask questions about the emotional aspects of the problem & solution - this can greatly help with positioning work.
Recording and Transcribing
- Recording and transcribing interview is paramount
- It helps ensure we understand exactly what customers meant
- We can also run a search.
Most of it can be automated thanks to Descript/Audiate
Our Customer Interview Script
Here’s a pretty basic script that we use and customize based on client needs:
- “Oh, I noticed you went to [school], my brother went there as well”
- “Is it not too cold this time of year in Canada?”
- Can you tell me more about what you do at [company]? What are your main goals?
- What are your main responsibilities?
- Who do you report to?
These questions will help frame the discussion in your mind. Make sure to always refer to this context to understand subsequent answers.
Exploring the Challenge
Keep asking why, empathize and listen for the way they describe the problem
- What would you say is your biggest challenge right now as [position]?
- Why is this a problem for you?
- Why is it important to solve that problem (that question may not apply - use your judgement)
- Can you describe a typical time this problem occured?
- What did you feel like when experiencing this problem?
Mapping out the steps to a solution
- When was the last time you tried to solve that problem? (this is a really cool question to make sure the problem is important to them. If they didn’t try solving it, reconsider the problem)
- How did you look for a solution?
- What did you try to solve this problem? (before using [solution])
- Why do you think that did not work - what isn’t ideal about current solutions?
Understanding the solution
- How did you first hear about us as a solution?
- What made you think we could fix that problem?
- What made you feel like we were a good fit?
- Were you reluctant about switching to/implementing [solution]?
- What made that reluctancy go away?
Gauging the implementation
- Did you face any challenges during the implementation?
- If yes, how did you overcome them?
- What do you feel like now that the solution is in place?
JTBD as a basis for content
When trying to market their product, most companies start by marketing features:
- “Our product does this”
- “Do XYZ XXX% faster”
- “Bring all your data under one roof”
There’s an issue with this approach: no one buys features.
They buy a solution to a problem.
Marketing teams should be working super hard to uncover those problems, but 95% of people don’t.
Customer/User research allows us to uncover problems that your product solves.
But in order to raise awareness around your product, you can also focus on problems that you don’t solve first-hand, but that people using your product have.
To uncover this, we use the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework, or at least our own version of it.
What is JTBD?
The JTBD framework was born as an innovation tool, and most of the content you can find around it online revolves around milkshakes and chocolate bars.
The idea is to identify “jobs” that your customers/audience/target market have to do every day.
Some of them can be small jobs (writing a welcome email), other big jobs (doubling ARR this year).
By looking at jobs, we can focus on problems instead of people, which allows us to make sure we connect with our audience.
There’s a great Intercom eBook if you want to dive deeper.
Basically, we’re trying to frame JTBD in this fashion:
“When I _____, I want to _____, so I can _____.”
This gives us Situation/Motivation/Outcome.
Let’s look at a real-life example.
Applying JTBD to Content Marketing
Let’s take my agency as an example. That’s real-life enough, right?
We provide content marketing services to tech & software companies.
We want to get in touch with CEOs, Founders, CMOs, Procuct Marketing Managers at tech and software companies.
Preferably if these companies have already grown to at least $1M ARR, as our services aren’t cheap, and we need to provide long-term value to our clients.
We don’t want to focus on people here - just on jobs.
Some people might have similar jobs.
Here are some JTBD Examples:
- “When I build a content plan for the next quarter, I want to find new topics that connect to my audience, so I can generate more organic MQLs”
- “When I assign articles to writers, I want to have trusted freelancers, so I can create good content at scale and on-budget”
- “When I run financial analysis, I want to find a way to reduce churn, so I can increase my bottom line”
- “When I organize my marketing resources, I want to find reliable content writing partners, so I can get it out of my hands and focus on other things”
- “When I analyze content performance, I want to build a content attribution system, so I can report on our content marketing efforts and show they work”
- “When I build my marketing program, I want to find a way to raise awareness around the product, so I can hit my MQL target for the year”
I can then analyze these jobs and see whether my product/service can help.
For example, talking about how to hire freelancers isn’t really beneficial to my business, because I wouldn’t be attracting decision-makers.
I’m better-off focusing on content attribution, acquisition costs, user retention - that’s where I can help with my services.
Of course these jobs are high-level, and you can identify much smaller jobs you can write about. Some ideas in our case:
- Building a SaaS content calendar
- Structuring a content team
- Content attribution in Analytics
- Picking between an agency and a freelancer
Are these all good?
Are they worth investigating?
JTBD Allows Us To Uncover Problems
We are looking for problems.
Once we find these problems (content attribution, product awareness, reducing churn), it becomes easier to ideate content.
- Customer research: identify problems that the product solves
- JTBD: Identify problems that people encounter daily.
Use both in tandem, and they reinforce each other.
Auditing Existing Content To Maximize Performance
Your existing assets are your most valuable paths to growth.
We always thrive to work on optimizing, rewriting or refreshing existing content to provide results faster.
We do so by following our Content Forensics process:
- Identifying Technical Roadblocks (technical SEO)
- Content Forensics Analysis
- Prioritizing and planning
Step 1: Technical SEO
Technical SEO is an important part of any website, but most websites don’t need it that much.
Most of it is fixing roadblocks once, and then monitoring potential issues.
Think of technical SEO as a lottery ticket
You can’t win if you don’t buy one.
But buying one doesn’t guarantee you’ll win.
You need Tech SEO, but you don’t need to think too much about it, unless you have a giant eCommerce website.
Setting up the audit
The first step is to set up our audit.
We pull data from 6 different sources and aggregate it at the URL level:
- Screaming Frog (SEO Crawler) - Tech SEO data
- Ahrefs/Semrush - Keyword rankings data
- Google Search Console - Impressions & Clicks
- Google Analytics - Organic Sessions, Engagement & Conversion data
- XML Sitemaps
That allows us to see any technical issues that may arise, and flag them.
Analyzing the data
There’s no point in taking you through the lenghty, technical and boring part of a tech SEO analysis.
We basically look for anything that might be preventing organic traffic performance.
At its core, Technical SEO is simple
Our job isn’t to manipulate search engines - it’s to help them understand that we’re good at building quality content.
There are lots of details and intricacies - but nothing too complex for you to understand.
Step 2: The Content Forensics Process
Like any good criminal scientist, we need to reverse-engineer why certain pieces of content work, and why some others don’t.
This is our Content Forensics Process.
Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy process to follow. In fact, we have built a decision-making flowchart that you can use yourself. Use code “playbook” to get it for free.
Content Forensics Flowchart - The ultimate content audit decision-making tool - Gumroad
We analyse each URL individually to figure out:
- Whether it should be optimized for search engines (Google isn’t the only distribution channel)
- What it’s ranking for
- What we would ideally want it to be ranking for
- How good the content is (quality, freshness, conversion power, etc.)
- If there are cannibalization issues
- How the website is structured as a whole (website architecture/internal links)
- How performance can be improved
This allows us to assign an action to each URL:
- Leave As Is
- Refresh: a quick update of the content and SEO metadata
- Rewrite: content that needs to be completely re-written from the ground up
- Merge: content that needs to be merged onto another page
- Merge & Keep: content that needs we need to merge other page into
Our process is summarized in our Content Forensics Flowchart, available here.
Once this time-consuming, expert process is done, we go into planning mode.
Step 3: Prioritizing and planning
Data is useless by itself.
What we do with it is the interesting part.
After we’ve gathered what needs to be done with:
- Tech Actions
- Existing Content
We compile everything into a plan.
For each item, we give clients a quick description of the problem, why it’s important and how it should be fixed, with details if necessary.
Then we prioritize everything (Low, Medium, High).
This gives us (and you) a list of what to work on, and when.
Building a user-centric content strategy
90% of brands have no content strategy.
They just shoot in the dark.
Probably only 5% have a good content strategy.
Let’s look at how we build one.
Strategy shouldn’t be confused with tactics
Strategy is knowing how to go where you want to go.
Tactics is actually going there.
Our Content Strategies are comprised of 3 parts:
- Existing Content
- New Content
- Content Repurposing
Part 1: Existing Content
Your content is already there, trusted by search engines, and updating it to make it relevant will yield faster results.
To know what content to work on and what to do with it, we follow our Content Forensics process.
But everything still needs to be prioritized.
We use 3 prioritization factors:
- Business value (is this a very important topic for our audience)
- Results potential (how much traffic can this realistically bring over the next 6 to 12 months)
- Effort needed (how much resources do we need to spend, and is it worth it?
This allows us to prioritize and review together.
Part 2: New Content
Building a new content strategy is obviously much harder then working off of existing content
- User Research
- Jobs-To-Be-Done Research
We have identified key topics that the audience is interested in.
Here are our core topics:
- SaaS Content Marketing
- Content Marketing Attribution
- Jobs To Be Done
- SaaS Metrics (ARR, MRR, LTV, Churn)
- Content Operations (briefing, hiring writers, managing writers, processes, etc.)
- User Research/Interviews
- SaaS Revenue Growth/SaaS Growth
- SaaS Positioning
- SaaS Messaging
- Demand Generation/Demand Capture
- General B2B Marketing
It’s time to:
- Prioritize these topics
- Flush them out into actual content items.
We prioritize mostly based on business importance - i.e. how important the topic is to the target audience.
Here we also have to take the existing content into account to identify potential gaps.
From Topics to Items
This is where most content teams get it wrong.
They start with keywords to uncover topics:
- So they go into their SEO tool of choice and type in “saas content marketing” or “saas seo”, or even “saas positioning.”
- They sort out by highest volume and lowest difficulty
- They think they’ve prioritized
The issue is that this is very myopic. The selection of “seed keywords” is quite arbitrary.
Because we’ve got a high-level list of topics gathered from user/JTBD research, we can go one step further.
We can understand their fears, and address them.
We can appeal to their motivations.
Think about what you’re reading now. This is my effort to fix an issue that we know our buyers have: finding a trusted partner.
So we’re able to identify topics that keyword research alone couldn’t find, such as:
- Is Demand Generation the future of SaaS marketing? (we have strong views about this)
- Why it’s hard to buy and sell content marketing services (read this one, seriously)
- How to use Jobs-To-Be-Done in your content strategy
Had we started with our product category (SaaS SEO/SaaS Content Marketing), we couldn’t be writing about all these other topics our audience cares deeply about.
Part 3: Content Repurposing
You’ve got content, now what?
It needs to be distributed.
Sure, Google is one distribution channel.
But not all content should be made for search engines, and SEO-minded content can be reused elsewhere (social media, podcasts, newsletters, etc.)
Repurposing is baked into our strategy.
We love starting with long-form, written content because it’s what we know best.
But then we need to turn that content into LinkedIn posts, Infographics, Images - as much as possible.
Before every piece of content is produced, we need to know what we’re going to do with it - how it’s going to be distributed.
Content Marketing isn’t pressing publish once - it’s repurposing constantly, updating constantly.
This content, for example, is available on a subdomain, but also as a downloadable PDF.
I’ve written numerous LinkedIn posts about this playbook.
We’re talking about it on podcasts, and using it throughout our sales cycle.
It doesn’t sit on a shelf collecting dust.
Writing content like you would've written it yourself
“B2B content is boring.”
I think you’ve heard or read this before.
You may even have thought or said it.
I don’t think this is true.
I think most B2B content is regurgitated stuff that no one wants to read, written by people who barely know what they’re talking about.
This has 2 implications:
- It’s quite easy to stand out with expert content
- Replicating what others are doing isn’t necessarily a path to success.
That said, companies usually face 2 problems when trying to write meaningful, expert content:
- They don’t have anyone with writing skills in-house (their Subject Matter Experts don’t know how to write)
- External writers can’t convey expertise (writers aren’t Subject Matter Experts).
How we get expert content published, DFY
This is the #1 pushback I get from companies:
How can you guys write content that’s on-brand and expert when you don’t know our industry?
That’s a fair concern.
And we have 2 ways of solving this issue:
- We learn about your industry (more on that later)
- We interview your SMEs before briefing
The case for the “Content Specialist/Manager Position”
Most companies offering content services (mainly if they focus on SEO) operate by having one “Project Manager” outsource the content work to writers.
That’s the way it was (and probably still is) in all the agencies I’ve worked in/with.
The issue is that this “Project Manager” doesn’t have time to brief people (due to budget constraints) and writers aren’t incentivized to research the topic fully.
So writers go out, regurgitate whatever is on the front page of Google, and call it a day.
It simply doesn’t work.
Even if that content ranks, your prospective buyers are going to see through the bullsh$t.
The way I decided to solve that problem is to create a new position.
We call it “Content Manager”, for lack of a better word.
Our Process To Create Expert Done-For-You Content
Our process is fairly simple:
- Create content strategy & calendar
- Prioritize and choose next content to create
- Research content
- Analyze SERPs
- Research the topic
- Reverse-engineer successful content
- Cross-reference with your target’s JTBD
- Find a good angle
- Come up with an outline
- Interview an in-house SME
- Finalize the outline
- Write the content
- Edit, Proofread
It’s simple, but it requires a lot of coordination and robust processes to make work at scale.
This is why, unlike most agencies, we have an in-house position for someone who manages content without writing it.
Think of it as our in-house, multi-faceted journalist :)
The journalistic approach to content marketing
I’m mentioning journalism because that’s the exact approach we use:
- Research the topic
- Find an angle
- Conduct Interviews
- Write the piece
The interviews always occur after the initial research phase.
We’ve tried conducting them sooner - but that fails.
Mainly because our team doesn’t know enough - or hasn’t experienced the topic hands-on through research yet.
Read it for yourself
Here are some examples for you to digest:
The Guide to Customer Data Platforms for eCommerce | Flowium - Flowium
How to Build the Best User Manual - The TechSmith Blog
💲 How much does it cost?
If you've never done any kind of content marketing before, or you have never taken it seriously, we have a 90-day plan designed for that.
It starts at $15,000 for 3 months.
This is perfect for companies with some existing content (50-100 pages) and small websites.
If you are looking to scale your content marketing investments, consider an annual investment of around $50k to be a threshold to work with us.
The results we're looking for are 2 fold:
- Increased organic traffic
- Increased pipeline
Here are some examples of companies we've helped:
Here are some explicit pipeline increases as the result of content marketing efforts:
There is no point in swamping you in up-and-to-the-right graphs.
You can find more on our dedicated results page.