Content Strategy

Content Bottlenecks: How to Keep the Engine Running

Jimmy Daly
March 6, 2023

As content marketing has been absorbed and integrated with broader marketing efforts—and, in some cases, put at the forefront of GTM plans—it's gotten stickier. It used to be easy to spin up blog post ideas, write a piece in a day or two, and publish. Rinse and repeat a few times each week. This isn’t good or bad. It’s just the natural evolution of a nascent channel into a developed one.

I promise this isn't the, "Remember how simple the old days were?" post it sounds like. Content and SaaS fit perfectly together, and content has grown up as the SaaS industry has matured. It's great to see how seriously many startups treat content. It's not just pageviews—it's brand, sales, product and more.

This post is an attempt to hone in on a few small sticking points that I notice a lot of teams struggling with. Content has evolved and, as a result, has drawn more people into its orbit. It's a little harder to let the ideas flow freely. And to be very specific, I notice that it's difficult for some teams to keep up a regular publishing schedule. There's never a shortage of things to write about, but it's difficult to agree and commit. 

Here are a few ways it plays out:

  • "We really want to publish a hub for [important keyword], but we're supporting a new feature release. Heads down for the next two weeks."
  • "We're waiting for our SEO agency to create content briefs so we can assign the articles to freelancers."
  • "We want to publish more, but we don't have a boss right now and are reporting directly to the CEO." (surprisingly common 😆)

It's all very understandable, but it's also a drag on productivity and growth. To reach more people, you have to publish more. (There's an upper limit on this, but you're probably not hitting it yet.)

Work Smarter to Keep the Content Engine Running

Keeping production up is the primary role of every content org. It may not always seem like it, but this is what you’ve been hired to do. This is what pays the bills, so you can chip in elsewhere. No matter what else you’re asked to do, the engine must keep running.

Content has matured, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work smart and fast.

1. Keep a large queue of approved ideas.

This means that no matter what else happens, you can keep your writers—whether they're in-house or external—working at all times. 

Never let the well dry up. If it does, it's hard to fill again because you'll still be juggling other work. Content teams have "spread out," meaning their tentacles reach across teams. Again, this is part of a positive trend, but it means that you, the content team, must keep your growth engine running while supporting other teams and initiatives.

Don't overthink this. If you struggle to keep larger projects moving, chip away at low-hanging fruit. Every blog should have a "best books for [industry/role]" and "Which podcasts are [role] listening to?" There are hundreds of articles like that you can write. They don't have to be featured in your newsletter or at the forefront of your branding efforts. Just keep them coming.

We made a list of “easy” content ideas to help fill your queue. You can grab it here.

2. Keep content briefs brief.

It's my personal feeling that content briefs have run amok. No decent writer needs a 1,000-word brief to write a 1,500-word article. Content brief tools are slick, but be honest with yourself about their utility. You might send a robust brief to a new writer, but by the time you've assigned the fifth article, a placeholder title and three bullet points should be sufficient. (For some of our marketplace customers, we give the writer a keyword. That's it!)

To take this a step further, it's often better to let writers create their own outlines than to have someone else create a brief for the writer to work from. The process of researching a topic and creating the article structure is really useful prep for the writing process. Separating the two robs the writer of context. 

Empower writers to own their own ideas and take them from A to Z.

3. Utilize specialist vendors to unblock the flow of content.

You can oversee content production without writing every word. Be efficient by using an SEO contractor to do keyword research and a small group of freelancers who can each write a few articles per month. You can even outsource editing to a company like EditorNinja or Chatty to ensure everything adheres to brand guidelines.

You can hand-off the writing process to a writer in the Superpath Marketplace to save time looking for a freelancer in your niche.

Once in place, do what you can to make your vendors’ lives easier. For writers, make sure they have lots of material to work with. Blake Thorne, content lead at LaunchNotes, uses Dovetail (no affiliation) to maintain a database of subject matter expertise. He adds podcasts, webinars, AMA, transcripts, etc. so that writers have an easy way to look for expert comments on relevant topics.

4. Refresh content really often.

Tracey Wallace, Director of Content Strategy at Klaviyo, told us in episode #2 of Content, Briefly, that her team dedicates only 40% of content creation efforts to net new. The other 60% of that energy goes towards refreshes or overhauls of old content.

Content Briefly episode quote with Tracey Wallace

The Klaviyo blog is large and well-established, but any blog with about 500 content pieces should mirror that ratio. Growth is easier to come by when you already have a head start.

It feels great to publish new content. In fact, I think it’s the main thing that keeps a content team happy and productive. Creativity, trapped in private, dies slowly. Publishing forces you to keep things fresh, put your ideas in front of people, hone your processes and celebrate your good work. 

Keep it simple and keep it moving.

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