Yalantis Case Study: How We Invented Content Marketing in IT
In 2014, Ian Chernov and Kateryna Abrosymova, co-founders of Kaiiax, joined Yalantis as the company’s in-house employees. We built a marketing system from scratch and developed a powerful software development brand. It took us several years.
Our marketing results were excellent most of the time. We had some small failures with the launch of the second version of the website and spent a pretty long time fine-tuning content marketing operations.
From the very start, the main mission of our marketing communications was to make the company useful, not only to our current clients but to everybody else who happened to land on the Yalantis website. We tried to provide value to people long before they became our clients.
Content marketing as a working mechanism started bringing tangible results at the end of 2014. Two years later, it became an important asset for the entire company – such that without it, the number of monthly deals that the company could’ve closed would’ve been three times lower.
Yalantis’s CEO, Alexander Kholodov, had a vision about content as a way of interacting with potential clients. He believed that content could influence how people felt about the brand. This energy was enough for everything to get off the ground.
In 2014-2016, Uber, Tinder, and Airbnb were big names in their categories. Many entrepreneurs wanted to repeat their success. We made a decision to respond to this demand with our solution.
Just before that, Ian was told that Yalantis had already invested in building a website and had published around 40 blog articles, but the company hadn’t seen any results. He was given another month to justify the investment in content marketing.
Firm and stubborn, Ian decided to finish what he’d started. A few days later, he came up with an idea to write an article about Uber’s underlying technologies.
It’s important to note that Semrush (SEO tool) at that time showed zero volume for this key phrase, and Yalantis’ SEO experts tried to convince us that it made no sense to write an article about how to build an app like Uber. They were pretty sure that wouldn’t bring any results.
We did it our way and were right. A series of articles about Uber brought Yalantis around 40 MQL every month.
Inspired by our success, we continued with this pattern. There is a leader in every market segment, and everybody wants to be like them. People are always interested in learning how successful companies operate and what technologies they use. So we started writing about top startups in every segment (travel, dating, finance), hoping to attract the attention of entrepreneurs who wanted to build something similar.
During the following few years, we were consolidating our success, working on conversions, and building a team. After we redesigned the Yalantis website, the number of pages per session more than doubled, and the traffic increased by about 30%.
The latest version of the website was the result of Ian’s countless attempts to attract clients at local events in Berlin. After several sales rejections, Ian realized what information was missing from the Yalantis website, and how we needed to change the perception of the company.
Why did Yalantis succeed?
- We were an in-house team with domain expertise in technology and marketing, and we realized that a lot depended on our activities. In other words, we were competent and motivated. Ian came to marketing from software development. Before that, he worked at a large enterprise. This experience helped him a lot to understand what’s going on in the software development market, how to develop the company’s competencies, and how to communicate these competencies to our target audience.
- Kate developed her writing talent with incredible speed. Yalantis’s blog got filled with high-quality content faster than anyone could count on. Later, when Kate became a Content Director, she taught her team how to create content that brings results. Very often, we would receive new leads from our articles within two months from the date of publication.
- Alexander Kholodov, Yalantis CEO, played an important role in our marketing success. For example, he paid a lot of attention to Yalantis branding and website design, case study presentations, and initiated the creation of open source libraries for Github, as well as shots for Dribbble. These activities brought Yalantis branded and referral traffic, increased brand awareness in the local market, and helped us acquire backlinks organically. Alexander viewed marketing as a function that served a sales department – a vision we totally support.
- We studied the company and researched the market to create value propositions. We didn’t copy anyone. We didn’t use “proven templates” or “best practices.” We had a weak operating system, but it was compensated by the curiosity with which we did everything.
- There are different types of marketing and different marketers. Our team had a great combination. Alexander set team goals, Ian thought out the details and looked for new opportunities, Kate turned ideas into solid, strong words that moved people to action. This mix played a crucial role in our success.
- Before we left Yalantis to co-found Kaiiax, we had built a strong team in Yalantis and abandoned our contractors who were responsible for SEO. We concentrated all content marketing operations in-house.
Alexandr Kholodov, CEO of Yalantis
“We’ve worked with Ian and Kate for several years when they were in charge of business development and marketing at Yalantis. We’ve scaled our marketing department from scratch into a sustainable and thriving part of our organization. Today content is a strategic business asset for Yalantis.”
What has changed in content marketing since 2014?
- When Yalantis started content marketing, Upwork was our major sales channel. Leads from Upwork (at that time Elance) turned into deals and brought new business to the company. Content marketing has never been a magic pill for us. We expected that this new channel would take a long time to yield results, so we weren’t in a hurry. We had time to experiment, think, calculate, and study.
- Such outstanding companies as Uber and Airbnb don’t appear every day, and articles about “How to build X” don’t work that well in IT marketing anymore. These topics have simply lost their informational relevance.
- Company directories like Clutch and GoodFirms attracted no more than 20% of the leads for Yalantis in 2017. Today, directories can easily bring 40-50% of leads. At the same time, it’s getting difficult and expensive to generate leads using content marketing.
- When we worked at Yalantis, we could use content to target a large audience and count on success. But now content should be more targeted and personalized. It’s advisable to combine content marketing with outbound lead generation using the account-based marketing (ABM) strategy.
- Software development is a highly competitive market. And the client has become more demanding and competent when choosing a contractor. This forces companies not only to rethink their approaches to lead generation, but to rebuild their value propositions by increasing the proportion of team augmentation, outstaffing, Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects, and decreasing the proportion of classic project-based work. This hypothesis contradicts the popular belief that IT companies should give up outsourcing and focus on building products.