Verbatim Origins: How and Why We Built the Studio

Adrian Alfieri
Founder & CEO

Right out of college, I jumped into VC. Moved to Silicon Valley and dove right in.

Three years later, my focus had narrowed to early-stage commerce infrastructure and fintech.

During the last 6 months of my time in venture, a recurring trend caught my attention. Almost every B2B SaaS founder operating in commerce and commerce-adjacent verticals that I was either investing directly in or had become friends with asked me the same question:

“We want to turn on a content engine to drive organic growth, but where the hell do we start?”

At first, it was just an email from a friend. Then it was two. Pretty soon, within a few months, nearly a dozen founders had asked the same exact question. Why? They wanted to turn on content to drive organic revenue – moving away from paid marketing – as part of their GTM.

My first reaction as an investor was to make the right introductions. So I began trawling my network for freelance writers, established content agencies, and head of content candidates.

Unfortunately, and to my surprise, none of those three options actually solved the pain point. 

Freelancers, while brilliant writers, often lack experience building a content function from zero to one. Larger agencies with the requisite functional experience frequently outsource writing and have become too big – sacrificing content quality or charging too much for too little. 

Finally, head of content candidates were probably the best fit to solve the pain point at hand, but the large majority of potential candidates were doing their own thing, starting one-person media companies and writing newsletters, building their own blogs, and hosting podcasts.

To be honest, I was stumped. I hit a dead end. I genuinely didn’t know how to answer the question of who was the best fit to turn on a content engine. 

Fast forward to today – a year and a half later – and Verbatim has come into maturity.

Let’s dive into how that came about.

Phase One: Leading with Social Proof and Credibility

A year and a half ago, almost to the day, I made a big decision.

I would leave venture to tackle the ‘How do I turn on content?’ pain point. I loved investing, and continue angel investing to this day, but I wanted to see how far I could go solving the pain point that I’d been stumped by for the past 6 months: How do I ramp up a content engine from zero?

A handful of founders I was close to agreed to bring me on in an interim head of content capacity. Not full-time, not an agency, but more embedded than a freelancer.

The idea was that I’d pilot what the perfect content studio could look like. One that would solve that cold start problem on the content front, get the strategy and infrastructure in place to scale, and critically, drive recurring revenue from the get-go for that founder’s company.

The key differentiator here was that we’d leverage social proof and lead with credibility, not just education and SEO or Google synthesis articles. Every piece would map directly to the startup’s customer persona, and address the ICP’s pain points, frustrations, desires, and objections.

Then, we’d map those pain points and desires to high-profile, credible experts in the founder’s network – whether they were operators, angels, customers, investors, partners, or influencers.

Our hypothesis was that this pillar content wouldn’t just be shipped for the purpose of direct conversion on social channels. It could also be chopped up, distilled, and repurposed across every major GTM function: traditional marketing, partnerships, BD, inbound sales, and more.

The kicker? Every piece of content we built would stem directly from a live Zoom interview that I’d record, transcribe, and distill into a written article. It’s always been our belief that the best content comes from real conversation with an expert, not from synthesizing Google feeds.

In turn, the MVP for Verbatim’s studio was born. Some of our early “design partners” included Tydo, Streamlined, Skio, and Goody. Without them taking a chance, we wouldn’t be here today.

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Phase Two: Building Content Engines that Drive Revenue

Once we refined our MVP, we started to take on new clients at a pretty fast clip.

We began to expand into new verticals like the future of work, health tech, and consumer social.

The large majority of this new wave were venture-backed and scaling insanely fast, including hyper-growth companies like Polywork, OpenStore, Nue Life, Disco, Novel, and Starday Foods.

With each client we took on, our embedded studio model evolves and improves (it forever will).

A critical evolution across each of these engagements was doubling down on the idea of a repeatable, scalable, and systemized engine that shipped content at a consistent cadence.

The core of any high-performing engine is three parts: strategy, execution, and optimization.

In the strategy phase of a kickoff, we focus on building a company’s content strategy and editorial calendar from scratch to align with its market niche, product positioning, and ICP.

Regarding execution, we own the content process from start to finish, spanning expert interviews, drafting, editing, final cut logistics, and CMS deployment. 

We don’t just identify high social proof nodes in your network, but we run each live interview and write all written content from end to end.

Without optimization and analysis, valuable quantitative feedback is lost. We track performance across channels and leverage portfolio data to proactively optimize formats, styles, and CTAs. 

Critically, this engine needed to be able to flex up and down based on GTM motions, and could eventually be handed off to an internal content lead, head of content, or marketing manager.

Phase Three: Hiring In-House and Handing Off the Playbook

Coming from a venture background, I was always wary of any vendor that overstayed their welcome. I’ve heard crazy stories of agencies that try to lock in 12-month contracts.

We believe companies should leverage vendors, whether that’s a freelancer, studio, agency, or designer, that have specific domain expertise in getting a business vertical off the ground.

Then, once the function is built and optimized, those learnings should be brought in internally.

With that in mind, we specifically built Verbatim’s engagement model with the end in mind. We work with clients on a 4 to 6-month retainer, then we’re gone. During that stretch of time, our job is to build, test, and scale a company’s core content engine with revenue as the central KPI.

Once our job is done, we help source, hire, write JDs, and run interviews to find the right content hire to bring the content function in-house. After that candidate is placed, we train them on the operational Verbatim workflows and logistics and finally off-board ourselves. 

Every company, and every content engine, has a unique playbook. Our responsibility at Verbatim is not only to build that playbook from zero but to cleanly hand it off.

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