You know we love a good teardown here at StoryChief. Especially when it comes to content marketing strategy!
Today we're taking a close look at how Freshbooks (a cloud accounting software) uses content marketing to attract small business owners. Since 2004, Freshbooks has served more than 20 million users, so they're doing something right.
Curious what that is? So are we.
What we're covering in this teardown:
- The blog's mission statement
- Blog content categories and subcategories
- Blog page design
- Case studies and ebooks
- Reposting updated content to the top of their blog feed
- Content that sparks discussion
- Annual survey report
- A big focus on SEO
- Turning email subscribers into sales
- Sharing content on social media and connecting with their audience
- Bringing it all together: Freshbook's content marketing strategy
The blog's mission statement
Having a clear mission statement for a blog is smart because it helps readers understand how your content connects. It can also tell them that your blog is a resource they can turn to time and time again.
Unfortunately, the blog title and description for most company blogs are just wasted space. Not so with Freshbooks.
They use the small space of their blog's title and description to do the following:
- Qualify their target audience (small business owners)
- Show a positive outcome (thrive)
- Give the glory to their customers (learn to)
- Describe what they do (accounting)
- Give social proof (millions)
- Promise quality content (actionable insights)
- Showcase breadth of content (all aspects of running a small business)
Wow! They achieved a lot in a super small space. Learn from these pros and go edit your blog's title and description after you finish reading this teardown.
Blog content categories and subcategories
Freshbooks has amassed a ton of content over the past decade on many different topics. To make everything easier to navigate for their readers, they've created the following main categories, which are shown in their blog's menu:
- Invoicing & Expenses
- Time Tracking & Projects
- Accounting & Taxes
- Case Studies
- Small Business Resources
- Freshbooks News & Events
Within these categories are subcategories. For example, the Time Tracking & Projects category features these subcategories: Client Relationships, Project Management, and Time Tracking.
When you hover over a category, you see the subcategories as well as the latest stories.
Meanwhile, the Invoicing & Expenses category offers these subcategories: Estimates & Proposals, Expenses, Invoicing & Payments.
And again, you can see the latest stories within the category.
When covering such a gigantic subject (small business ownership), it's absolutely necessary to have helpful blog navigation. Otherwise, the blog becomes a jumbled mess and engagement suffers.
If your content covers a large topic or many different topics, then make sure to use categories, subcategories, and/or labels.
Blog page design
Let's take a look at their main blog page. They use it as a place to not only feature the most recent stories, but also other forms of content.
Other than blog posts, case studies are one of the top content formats that Freshbooks produces. They include them on their blog's main page to gain more reads and showcase their customers' results, which humanizes their brand.
Freshbooks also has a section on their main blog page for product news. This way existing users can see any updates they might have missed, and prospective users can see that the company is actively working to improve their product.
When you first start out with a content marketing strategy, you might only have a basic blog feed, but as your content grows to incorporate multiple formats and types of content, it's smart to use your blog page to promote more than just blog posts.
Case studies and ebooks
In addition to blog posts, Freshbooks regularly publishes case studies and ebooks. While the case studies can be read without opting in, the ebooks are used to capture leads.
Of course, any B2B marketer knows that case studies are essential, but too many marketers use them to showcase the company as the hero.
In fact, their case studies don't even mention the Freshbooks name in the title. They're all about the customer's own story.
Freshbooks makes smart moves with their ebooks as well. Their ebooks help readers solve real problems in their businesses, such as lack of cash flow.
Their ebooks also utilize emotional titles. They don't focus on the boring nitty-gritty details of accounting, but rather the big changes that small business owners can make in their own lives.
If your content doesn't solve real problems for your readers, you might be committing fluff.
Reposting updated content to the top of their blog feed
Evergreen content is the bomb dot com. You create it, update it annually, and it lives on and on.
Freshbooks published this post on the law of attraction over six years ago (you can tell by the age of the comments).
And yet here it is at the top of their feed.
Whenever they update a post, they push it to the top of the feed and re-share it on social media too. It's a smart way to maximize your content marketing strategy efforts. If you're interested, we put together a guide on how to promote evergreen content.
Content that sparks discussion
Let's explore that post on the law of attraction from another angle. Other than being six years old, it's also controversial.
Not only are there 27 comments (not at all bad for a blog post on a B2B SaaS site), but some of them are very, very long.
This is just one example of Freshbooks not keeping their content solely to accounting, but also including a variety of topics that small business owners genuinely care about.
(And if you're wondering, this writer's opinion is: the law of attraction is a real law of the universe, but it's not the only law of the universe. There's also physics.)
Annual survey report
Freshbooks makes good use of their presumably large marketing budget. One thing they do every year is an annual survey report called "Self-Employment in America."
They produce all sorts of valuable proprietary statistics and their findings get a lot of traction in the press. Here's the press release with the 2019 results from surveying 3,700 Americans who work full time.
Promoting the report in the press and on social media gets them in front of hundreds of thousands of new potential customers.
A big focus on SEO
Freshbooks puts a big focus on SEO with their blog content. They position organically for hundreds of keyphrases.
Using Ubersuggest, we can see some of their top articles (these all have thousands of organic visits per month):
It's not just their blog that is pulling in organic search traffic. Freshbooks also has what they call the Small Business Resource Hub.
This resource library has tutorials, definitions, and answers to basic questions across a variety of topics, not just accounting but also insurance, marketing, and productivity.
Putting out very basic content on your main blog can potentially harm your brand's perception as a thought leader. Using a resource hub to separate out very SEO-focused content that answers "What is X?" type questions can help your main blog from getting too cluttered and simplistic.
Turning email subscribers into sales
Freshbooks does some smart things to help turn more email subscribers into new customers.
First up, they use the subscription thank you page as a place to announce their fall sale. The sale announcement wasn't on the opt-in form or the main blog. It's a next offer, given after subscribing.
Also, the newsletter welcomes email requests that new subscribers give additional information about themselves in order to get more personalized content recommendations.
The form also serves as a way to capture more information on leads so that the sales team is prepared to reach out personally.
Sharing content on social media and connecting with their audience
On Twitter, Freshbooks shares their blog posts with one-liners that showcase the big value of the content and entice click-throughs.
Employee advocacy is when employees use their personal accounts to share company content. Here's an example of an account executive sharing a recent case study on his LinkedIn profile:
And because Freshbooks content always clearly serves small business owners, many other non-competing companies and service providers who also serve small business owners can share their content in order to keep their social media profiles active.
Creating content that's worthy of being curated means that you're not having to do all of the work to promote it.
Freshbooks also gets a lot of traction on social media for their upcoming events. They have lots of live events across North America that feature other small business owners.
#Imakealiving is used to promote a special series of events all about being your own boss.
Their events get more shares than any other type of content on their social media profiles, which grows their brand awareness beyond the people who attend the event.
Bringing it all together: Freshbooks' content marketing strategy
Now that we've torn down Freshbooks' content marketing strategy, let's review the common threads.
These are a few of the things we can learn from Freshbooks:
- Prioritize SEO without harming thought leadership content
- Make content easy to navigate
- Clearly target your audience and use the title or phrase you give your audience in your content often
- Create content for your buyer, not just your user (many of the people purchasing Freshbooks won't use it often if they have bookkeepers, accountants, and personal assistants)
- Dominate multiple content formats
- Use content to solve your audience's problems
- Don't shy away from controversy
- Have a clear mission not just for your product, but for your content
Are you struggling to implement your content marketing strategy? Learn more about streamlining your content operations with StoryChief.