Discover more from Kyle Poyar’s Growth Unhinged
My playbook to write better B2B content
Growing to 30k+ subs in 2 years & getting better at my day job
👋 Hi, it’s Kyle from OpenView. Welcome to another free edition of Growth Unhinged, my newsletter that explores the unexpected behind the fastest-growing startups. Today I’m sharing a more personal post about why and how I write — and why you should copy my B2B content playbook.
This week Growth Unhinged celebrates a big milestone: 30,000 subscribers 🎉
I’ve now written 81 (!) newsletter editions since March 2021. On top of the newsletter, I write three LinkedIn posts each and every week. I don’t even want to guess how many words those add up to… y’all know I’m long-winded 😬! People regularly ask: why do I write so much and how do I do it without distracting from my actual job as a VC operating partner?
Framed differently, you might wonder – is writing worth your time and, if so, how do you ramp up your own content creation? My answers are simple: it is worth it and integrate writing into what you do.
Today, I’m sharing my B2B content creation playbook. Go ahead, steal it.
Is writing worth your time?
My story is that I graduated from a liberal arts-focused college with an Environmental Studies degree. Then I spent six years at a boutique management consulting firm specializing in pricing.
Without my writing, I might have been pigeon-holed. But I wrote myself into important rooms beyond what was on my resume.
I felt that most SaaS content was both too fluffy and too boring. Inspired by Nate Silver (the statistician and creator of FiveThirtyEight) and(the political blogger who ran a subscription newsletter dating back to the early 00’s), I wanted to combine data-driven research with a personal flair applied to the world of SaaS. Committing to writing has had an unbelievably positive impact both personally and professionally.
Look, writing isn’t for everyone. Getting started with writing feels intimidating and there’s rarely an immediate payoff. But I’d argue that if you’re a founder, investor, or executive, you have a lot to gain and will deeply regret not writing.
Five reasons why I think writing is well worth your time 👇
1. Clarity of thought.
The practice of writing forces you to step back from the near-constant activity, distractions, and interruptions of startup life. It’s your opportunity to take disparate ideas or half-baked concepts and bring them together into a coherent thesis.
By clarifying your thoughts, you bring others along and make a more persuasive case for what you believe. The idea becomes something larger that you can put to work. Even if you never publish, the simple act of writing is powerful.
2. Personal branding.
Your personal brand is the outward impression of you in the mind of peers, candidates, customers, investors, and others. People will form opinions based on your title, where you’ve worked, what you look like, where you live, and where you went to school.
Writing offers you a chance to craft your own narrative, creating a personal brand that’s connected to what’s in your mind rather than what other people assume about you. It puts you on a level playing field against the so-called gatekeepers of your field; if people think you have a smart perspective, they’ll amplify your message.
Writing sparks a conversation. Some people will agree with your perspective and want to talk to you about it. Others prefer to go deeper and spar one-on-one. Yes, a few may disagree – but the critics will push you to hone your perspective and counter any objections.
4. Career optionality.
When people read your writing, they start to feel like they know you and what you can contribute. It’s a chance for others to try-before-they-buy (#PLG). Writing keeps you top of mind for full-time jobs, advising opportunities, speaking engagements, and much more.
5. Company growth.
People trust other people more than they trust faceless corporations. A personal brand attracts a larger and more engaged following than a corporate one, and that can be used to fuel powerful company growth.
My content creation playbook
Companies ask questions as they encounter roadblocks to growing faster.
My team will seek advice from outside experts, analyze data, run surveys, collect research – all to provide the best possible insights.
This applies to software operators, too, as customers will look to you as an expert in the space. What questions are they asking you time and again? What’s your unique perspective or counterintuitive view on what folks should do differently?
I'll share the TL;DR on LinkedIn and start a conversation.
LinkedIn helps me discover what resonates with a broader audience. If the post pops, I'll turn it into a full newsletter for Growth Unhinged.
Many posts bomb. But I’d rather know that before I invest hours in writing and research! Plus, I always learn from folks who drop a comment or a DM.
As the newsletter grows, folks are excited to contribute.
I used to worry about running out of ideas. The opposite is true. As the newsletter grows in popularity, I end up with more things to write about. The content helps create itself.
I'll share every newsletter back on LinkedIn (spoiler alert!).
This maximizes the impact of the time spent and helps the content reach a larger audience. It’s also a growth hack; I can slice a post into different pieces and substantially extend its reach. Some posts even go semi-viral (like this one).
Portfolio companies see the insights and want to go deeper.
I'm able to connect contributors to portfolio operators. These folks might become advisors, consultants, mentors, full-time hires, or Board members. Or they just get to meet great people in SaaS. It's a win-win.
It all works because it's a flywheel that sustains itself. It’s a virtuous cycle.
Writing doesn't feel like a chore because it's integrated into my job and helps me get better at what I do.
How to put this into practice
This playbook can easily apply to B2B software businesses, too.
The old content creation playbook centered around writing a blog post → then promoting that blog post. 80% of time was spent on content creation and distribution was an afterthought. (Something similar can be said about the average startup, which spends far more time on building a great product and not enough on distribution.)
The new model is to treat content creation as a flywheel that’s made with a community and where creation and distribution are on equal footing. I especially love the approaches of Keyplay.io (PeerSignal) and Pocus.
Keyplay.io is a B2B data provider for account research. But the business started out as PeerSignal.org, a free community and media property known for its insights on SaaS market trends. Keyplay’s data powers PeerSignal’s research. That research sparks community discussion, mostly on LinkedIn, and drives awareness to Keyplay. (Check out my interview with Adam Schoenfeld, Keyplay’s founder.)
Pocus sells a revenue data platform for go-to-market teams. Before they even had a product, they built a community (an invite-only Slack group for leaders working on product-led sales) and then turned to the community to power an exceptional content engine. Pocus runs community AMA sessions with experts, then repurposes the sessions into blog posts, playbooks, and a newsletter. The content extends the life of the conversations and attracts more people to the community.
Productivity hacks to accelerate content creation
Don’t start with a blank page.
If I’m staring at a blank Google Doc, I’ll stress over creating a perfect introduction and spend far too much time writing the piece. I find that I’m way more efficient if I start with a LinkedIn post, list of questions to answer, transcript, or even an old email.
Don’t try to sound smart.
Anyone else sit down to write and immediately act like they’re working on a college thesis? Just me?! Once I began writing like how I talk, I’ve accelerated my writing pace and - frankly - made my writing more interesting to read.
Don’t use Zoom transcripts.
The starting point for many of my pieces is a recorded Zoom call whether it’s from an expert interview, AMA, webinar, podcast, or something else. I find that the default transcripts are highly inaccurate and borderline unusable for a written piece. Rev.com works better for me and sometimes I just write notes live during the interviews.
Don’t surround yourself with distractions.
I carve out dedicated writing time – usually around 90 minutes – and always try to finish a first draft within that window. There’s nothing that concentrates the mind like a looming deadline. Even if the first draft is pretty bad, this process drives massive efficiency gains by cutting out context switching.
Don’t aim for perfection.
Readers will forgive small typos or formatting mistakes; nobody cares if they think you have something insightful to say. I stick to a lean process with minimal outside reviewers (besides anyone I’ve interviewed). After my first draft, I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and spend ~30 minutes on a copy-edit. Then I’ll schedule it for publication via Substack. With any extra time, I work on creative graphics or screenshots that can enhance the piece (these rarely come together until the last minute).
Don’t overthink it.
I can’t predict how you’ll respond to stories. There are posts that I will go to my grave believing are criminally underrated (like this one about how to pair community and PLG). There are others that I thought could bomb and turned out to be reader favorites (such as my rant about why time savings isn’t your value prop). I’ve learned to stop worrying and hit publish.
Can’t find the time to write while doing your day job? Make time for it by selecting a topic or niche that helps your day-to-day and that you haven’t seen published already. If you’re unsure, test the waters on social media before diving all of the way in. What’s stopping you?
Thanks for reading Growth Unhinged! If you <3 this post, please subscribe or share it with a friend.
What comes next
What’s in store for the next 30k? I’m investigating a job board in order to connect great readers with great product-led startups. And I’m looking for more ways to foster community around Growth Unhinged so that y’all can meet and learn from peers.
Content-wise, I’ll get even more tactical when telling others’ stories and spend more time on things that didn’t work (you’re in for a treat next week 👀). My dream guests would be Max Lytvyn (Grammarly), Melanie Perkins (Canva), Andrey Khusid (Miro), Sam Altman (OpenAI) or Kara Swisher. I’m open to any and all introductions 😉
Here’s to more and better B2B content 🥂