B2B Content Strategy
10 mins read
Grammarly’s Marketing Strategy: Growing to 30+ Million Users via Content Marketing
A deep dive into how content marketing powers Grammarly's marketing strategy execution on their way to acquiring 30+ million users.
Lead Strategist @ VEC
24th April 2017.
That’s when I first used Grammarly’s freemium app. Sixty-nine consecutive months later — around Jan. 2023, and I’d used the product to analyze about 24 million words:
Over those 5+ years, I went from a free user to the single paid tier, and even signed my SaaS content studio up for their business plan, contributing ~$1,500 to Grammarly’s ARR:
You’ll agree with me that…
Executing B2B marketing capable of converting free users into paying customers is no mean feat. Yet despite the average freemium conversion rate being a mere 2-5%, Grammarly’s marketing strategy successfully converted me (and its more than 30 million users). More interestingly, this strategy helped to retain me for 5+ years, getting me to expand our account as my company grew.
It begs some crucial questions:
- What’s the foundation of Grammarly’s successful marketing strategy?
- What’s powering it to attract, convert, retain tens of millions of users, and acquire 50k+ businesses?
This case study explores these questions, using what worked (and continues to work) on me. I’ll also zoom in on areas Grammarly’s marketing execution falls short, so even with a lean B2B content team, you can do better.
Before we dive in:
Grammarly Marketing Strategy Foundation
Unicorns like Grammarly are like purple cows.
They don’t come by easily.
When they come by, stay long enough, and grow to a valuation of $13 billion, as Grammarly has, it takes more than marketing execution genius.
Don’t get me wrong.
The customer-facing marketing the SaaS company executes is great. But if you get lost in their amazing social posts, the countless keywords they now rank for, their mammoth organic search traffic, etc., you’d miss the foundation supporting it to yield revenue.
So if you’re going to take a page from Grammarly’s marketing playbook, and hope to succeed like them, have these in place.
1. A Differentiating Strategic Narrative
Put Grammarly and all its direct and indirect competitors in one box, and their marketing would stand them out from the pack.
Even if the product is an AI writing assistant, the company’s cumulative marketing strategy execution doesn’t paint them as such. Instead, it projects the company beyond its AI assistant features, positioning them with the unique narrative…
“To improve lives by improving communication.”
This strategic narrative doubles as the company’s mission, and their About Us page emphasizes this company-wide emphasis on improving communication:
You may be wondering:
How is aligning on a narrative a marketing strategy moat?
Marketing Leader, Dan Di Federico, said it best:
Here’s the thing.
All of Grammarly’s marketing pieces (from social posts to blog content) tackle customer pain points. What isn’t immediately apparent is that simultaneously, each piece subtly sells ‘why’ the product (and company) exists.
But mind you, defining a strategic narrative isn’t the marketing team’s job, as further observed by Dan:
Grammarly knows this.
It’s why the company’s founding team stepped back to understand the underlying problem people were trying to solve beyond using the initial product features they offered:
They didn’t stop there.
According to Max, they kept a feedback loop to validate those ‘why’ hypotheses:
The lesson here is straightforward.
Most, if not all, SaaS niches are now crowded. So hinging your marketing on having the most features, being the cheapest, having the most innovative tech, etc., may not fly.
As Grammarly does, sync with your founding team to define a strategic narrative that clarifies your company’s bigger-picture ‘why.’ This will help you tell stories that project how your product is different (not necessarily better), so your marketing can resonate more with target customers on an emotional level.
We prioritize this in our studio.
The 1st step of our client engagement process is helping B2B SaaS clients align on a differentiating strategic narrative:
2. A Freemium Model & Free Products
You need baits to catch fishes.
Likewise, Grammarly’s marketing strategy execution successfully captures new users due to its bait-like freemium model.
Max also highlights this:
For context, shifting to a freemium model in 2015 grew Grammarly to one million daily active users in the same year.
Sure, marketing helped in getting the word out.
But Grammarly’s freemium model is a moat driving marketing strategy execution success. How? It minimizes the barrier to entry, giving prospects access to a limited version of Grammarly’s main product the moment they come across any marketing piece.
Take any page or blog post on Grammarly.
Once you visit, a CTA pops up a few seconds after the page loads, prompting you to get their free product:
No matter how you navigate a Grammarly marketing piece, you can’t unsee their CTAs, inviting you to start solving your grammar-related problem with their product — for free.
It’s at the top, a few paragraphs in, and bottom:
The logic here is simple:
- Strategic marketing execution brings in traffic,
- Freemium model acquires users from that traffic.
This freemium access barely gives you a glimpse of Grammarly’s main solution. But take it out; their marketing alone wouldn’t have converted me into a user in 2017. As proof that it works, I’m paying for 10 business plan seats today.
Because this works so well, Grammarly built more free products on top of its freemium model to make marketing efforts even more effective. Their free plagiarism checker and grammar checker, for instance, brings in ~500k organic site visitors per month:
Collectively, the landing pages for just these two free products rank for about 9,000 organic keywords, per SEMrush data. Grammarly’s marketing team further promotes them via paid ads for buyer-intent keywords.
These marketing efforts are great.
But the logic behind why they work remains:
- Strategic marketing execution to bring in traffic,
- Free products to ease acquiring users from that traffic.
This explains why they’ve invested so much into developing even more free products (all of which drive over 3 million organic traffic per month, per Ahref’s data):
Worth noting is the seamless UX Grammarly architects from free products to its freemium offer for user acquisition.
Say a marketing execution (blog post, SEO, ad, etc) brings you to their free plagiarism checker. Again, using this free tool prompts you to get Grammarly —for free:
Adopting a freemium model and developing relevant free products give prospects a peek into Grammarly’s core product. An official term for this is Engineering-As-Marketing.
According to LoginRadius Co-Founder, Deepak Gupta:
But what if you can’t adopt freemium or get your engineering team to build free technical products as Grammarly does?
As suggested by Deepak, consider using your time to create valuable resources like guides, ebooks, etc.
They don’t offer freemium or even a free trial. But through the free books they publish (and promote on Product Hunt), they teach and give prospects a peek into how to solve problems with Intercom.
This one on marketing got over a thousand upvotes:
As a premium B2B content studio, we do this for our clients who have or don’t have a freemium model (and for ourselves, too).
Here’s our own free ebook featured on Product Hunt with decent upvotes. In it, we taught readers how to acquire PQLs via our unique Product-Led Storytelling approach. The free ebook got us over $100k in qualified pipeline opportunities...
After some marketing leaders shared (and said things like):
Let’s summarize the lessons from the foundation Grammarly’s marketing strategy sits on.
Marketing works more with a defined strategic narrative and a way to bait prospects to peek into your core solution. So to succeed like Grammarly, before we explore the types of marketing content they produce, examine their paid marketing strategy, or SEO tactics…
Clarify your company’s overarching marketing message by aligning on a strategic narrative. Also, bait (freemium model, build free products) prospects with a peek into your core product!
Grammarly’s Marketing Strategy Execution
Beyond the foundational pillars Grammarly’s marketing strategy sits on, the bulk of its execution tactics is content marketing. Sure, SEO, paid ads, videos, social media, email, etc., are in the mix:
But as we zoom in, you’ll see that they mostly function to propel their content marketing efforts focused primarily on:
- Educating the market and target audiences on how to communicate better with written English grammar,
- Promoting Grammarly’s freemium offer and free tools that help with that on various channels.
The Content Marketing Strategy
Navigating Grammarly’s website and blog page revealed its content marketing strategy. From my perspective, it is straightforward.
For all things awareness-building, user acquisition, and accounts expansion, they produce a shit ton of articles and guides, targeting every keyword or search phrase relevant to Grammarly’s business.
This content is then categorized based on target audience groups or topics, building relevant content clusters on the same:
On the other hand…
Grammarly’s content strategy has dedicated categories for clustering thought leadership pieces that advance its strategic narrative, announce product updates, company news, etc.
This is typical of VEC’s TCCS Framework:
As shown above, clustering relevant content pieces under categories helps Grammarly ensure its entire content marketing efforts elevate its strategic narrative to the top while building authority on topics relevant to its business at the same time.
And the result of structuring their content strategy this way?
Over 10 million organic visits/month:
As I observed earlier, content marketing is the bedrock of Grammarly’s marketing strategy execution. Social media, paid media, SEO, etc., basically amplify this strategy for reaching potential customers on their preferred channels.
Grammarly’s SEO & Paid Search Play
The top organic pages report by SEMrush provides insight into Grammarly’s SEO and paid search tactics. And it further proves that both channels essentially extend their content marketing efforts.
Consider data points 1-3 annotated below:
- The content across Grammarly’s entire web property, free products’ landing pages, blog posts, etc., are all copy-edited with SEO best practices. i.e., keywords in the right places (title, meta description, headers, etc), good UX, formatting, etc.
- Because they do the first step well, Grammarly boosts the organic reach of those pages and posts when prospects type targeted keywords and search queries into Google. As seen above, that’s how some pages rank for thousands of keywords.
- For money pages and blog posts that perform well organically (aids user acquisition, account expansion, etc.), they promote them for further reach via paid ads. This explains why not all pages have paid keywords attached to them.
In summary, Grammarly invests heavily in creating and optimizing all content on its pages and articles for organic discovery (i.e, SEO). And this is responsible for over 74% of its entire traffic:
Because these optimized content marketing pieces perform well on their own organically, Grammarly only uses paid search to boost pages and articles with competitive, buyer-intent keywords.
For instance, “free grammar checker:”
Grammarly’s Social Media & Demand Gen Playbook
Elena Cucu, SocialInsider’s Content Manager, summarized Grammarly’s social media marketing game succinctly.
In her words:
Although they don’t sell or force their product down people’s throats on social media, Elena observed a crucial point.
This is in line with what I’ve already hammered on.
Grammarly uses social media platforms to amplify its strategic narrative and published articles. Again, proving that content marketing is the bedrock of the company’s entire marketing execution.
This pattern is obvious on YouTube:
As seen above, the content they post (and promote via paid campaigns) on social media are mostly short video versions of the written content marketing pieces on their blog.
And they are either using it to:
- Educate the market and target audiences on how to communicate better with written English grammar,
- Or, subtly promote Grammarly’s freemium offer and free tools that help with communicating better.
Using social platforms as windows for amplifying its overall content marketing strategy helps Grammarly ensure the millions of views and engagement it generates adds to bottomline metrics.
The ripple effect of this is two-fold.
It drives about 2.2% of Grammarly’s web traffic:
At 2.2% of Grammarly’s traffic, this amounts to millions of visitors from social media per month based on Similarweb’s data, pegging the company’s overall traffic at 72 million.
By using entertaining posts to educate the market on how to communicate better and subtly promote their product, Grammarly earns passive mindshare from people handing out on social media.
Now, people passively learning about Grammarly on social media may not be ready to buy now. But when they are, most would go to Google to research more about the company.
And the result of this?
It contributes to Grammarly’s 36.9% branded organic traffic:
That’s millions of monthly visits and an excellent way Grammarly fuels its demand gen funnel, as noted in this report by Sendoso:
How Grammarly Uses Email Marketing
Grammarly’s email marketing is shoulders above the rest.
Dayana Mayfield said it better:
Email is another content marketing amplification channel for Grammarly. But they don’t just blast new articles to subscribers (who are usually free users and paying customers).
First, they aggregate data on how each user or customer is using the product. They then leveraged this data to personalize each email, highlight top errors made that week, and promote articles, teaching how to overcome those errors (with Grammarly, of course):
That’s not all.
Grammarly also uses email marketing to promote stories that amplify its strategic narrative. This comes immediately after the section that highlights each recipient’s top spelling errors:
This thoughtful use of email to distribute its content marketing pieces is probably why it is Grammarly’s top marketing channel.
Precisely, it is 3rd after direct and search traffic:
It accounts for ~4.2% of their web traffic.
That’s millions of organic visits from email to Grammarly’s web property to educate and nurture leads, acquire customers, and expand accounts, all through content marketing.
Again, this highlights that the content Grammarly creates is the bedrock of its entire marketing strategy execution playbooks. So by improving the quality of content they create, Grammarly can unlock more bottomline metrics when those pieces are distributed across their marketing channels.
It begs the question:
Could Grammarly improve its content creation game?
Areas Grammarly’s Content Marketing Falls Short
Grammarly’s content marketing strategy is excellent.
Areas they fall short is how they create their content pieces. Specifically, there are two things they (and you) can do to make their content pieces more likely to boost B2B customer acquisition.
1. Showing, Not Just Telling
Grammarly’s content pieces addressing how to tackle various grammar errors do a great deal of teaching. They tell readers how to do this or why they should avoid that.
And this has its place.
They don’t show you how Grammarly tackles those issues within the content’s body. Or, at least, demonstrate how Grammarly tackled grammar errors in a piece a reader is reading.
Take this section from their piece on writing with clarity:
Instead of just talking about the highlighted grammar error, what if they made their content pieces product-led by showing readers how Grammarly solves grammar issues?
Weaving your product into content pieces, as I’ve done above, helps you show (not just tell) readers how it solves their problems. This drives your product’s value home, gives prospects a peek into your core solution, and increases the chances of converting them directly from content.
But to produce this kind of product-led content, Grammarly must teach its content marketers when and how to weave it into articles without forcing it down readers’ throats.
And that’s VEC’s bread and butter.
Weaving your product into content pieces helps you show (not just tell) readers how it solves their problems. This drives your product’s value home, gives prospects a peek into your core solution, and increases the chances of converting them directly from content.
But to produce this kind of product-led content, Grammarly must teach its content marketers when and how to weave it into articles without forcing it down readers’ throats.
And that’s VEC’s bread and butter:
2. Infusing Reviews/Testimonials
I could’ve stopped at telling you that weaving SaaS products into content marketing pieces (part of our Product-Led Storytelling approach) is VEC’s bread and butter.
But I didn’t.
I backed my claim with a customer testimonial.
As B2B decision-makers read your marketing content, they won’t trust most of what you say. So, in addition to making their content product-led, Grammarly can make their content more trustworthy by infusing testimonial user-generated content excerpts.
See how we did it for WriterZen, one of our clients:
Here’s why this is important.
On the one hand, beyond backing your claims, using testimonial excerpts at strategic points within articles shows B2B prospects the ROI others like them are getting from your product.
On the other hand, it is an excellent way to get more eyeballs on your customer success stories (instead of hoping site visitors would magically dig it out of your resources page).
Quick one: Have you ever visited a B2B company intending to read their success stories before you become a customer?
Most people do not.
Better Grammarly’s Content Strategy Execution
Grammarly’s marketing strategy is exceptional.
From the foundation it sits on to the solid content marketing strategy at it the core of its execution across channels, I have nothing but praise for the company’s marketing team.
The numbers speak for themselves:
- About 10.2 million monthly organic visits.
- Over 30 million daily active users.
- 50k business customers
- $208.4 million est. ARR
- 13+ billion valuation.
But there’s always room for improvement.
Grammarly can improve its marketing strategy execution (and make the most of its $100m annual paid media budget) by enhancing the content pieces they’re producing. They (and you) can do this by making their content product-led via product walkthroughs and infusing user-generated testimonial excerpts. This will help to earn readers’ trust and make them more likely to click on their CTAs.
In other words, completing the Product-Led Storytelling steps:
Give this unique approach a try?
Check out my self-paced online course: