Headless CMS - The Perfect CMS to Help Grow Your Digital Agency
Digital agencies should explore the fast growing category of Headless CMSs to assess if it could meet the needs of their client base.
Co-Founder / CEO
March 9, 2023
This blog explores the fast growing category of Headless CMSs and argues that your digital agency should consider offering that website capability for the right fit clients.
When it comes to utilizing a Headless CMS for your B2B SaaS website you will generally need some external support; be that in the guise of a freelancer, or specialist Headless CMS Digital Agency. This blog outlines some of the key elements you need to be aware of to ensure a successful website relaunch.
B2B SaaS Focus
Before we commence, it is worth flagging that this blog is written from the perspective of growing B2B SaaS companies. There are hundreds of Content Management Systems (CMSs) on the market. Selecting the correct option for your use case is highly context-dependent. Hence the focus of this piece is on marketing and tech leaders in high-growth companies in sectors like B2B SaaS, and the broader technology space.
Issues with WordPress
We take the position that the well-documented issues with WordPress mean that WordPress is simply not fit-for-purpose for growing and scaling B2B SaaS companies.
We make several assumptions about the requirements for those working in B2B SaaS which we feel are incompatible with WordPress (without throwing a lot of money at the problem).
These WordPress issues include:
Security vulnerabilities (due in part to typical reliance on plugins)
Usability issues (struggles on the part of junior marketers to manage websites)
Performance issues (problems with website bloat and sluggish performance)
Ongoing maintenance costs (just to keep the site from going down)
When it comes to the assumptions we are making about B2B SaaS marketing team requirements we are assuming that:
Content and inbound marketing are important elements of the marketing strategy
A strong SEO capability is important
A genuinely intuitive UI/UX content platform (or CMS) is ‘non-negotiable’
A blazingly fast beautifully designed website is ‘table stakes’
There is a decently sized marketing team (more than 3) and some budget to deliver on the above requirements.
Given the issues with WordPress and the requirements we are seeing amongst B2B SaaS companies, the curiously named category of Headless CMS is emerging as an increasingly popular choice.
So what is a Headless CMS and why the sudden appeal?
An Introduction to Headless CMS
A traditional Content Management System (CMS), commonly referred to as a legacy or monolithic CMS e.g. WordPress, is a system in which the front-end presentation and back-end data storage components are closely interconnected.
In recent years, Headless CMS has emerged as a contrasting approach.
A Headless CMS is a content management system that provides the backend content repository and APIs to facilitate the retrieval and modification of content. Unlike a traditional CMS, it does not include a pre-built front-end for displaying content, allowing developers to use any front-end technology or framework of their choice to deliver the content to end users. This decoupling of the content management functionality from the presentation layer offers greater flexibility, scalability, and agility in creating and delivering digital experiences across multiple channels and devices.
What Does a Headless CMS Do?
A Headless CMS is best considered as the content platform or repository where the website content is stored, edited, and published. This structured content is then delivered via an API to various ‘heads’ be they a website or IoT device or screen. The missing piece is of course the display layer or front-end. This is where your front-end developer comes in.
You will need a front-end developer/designer to create the front-end design. Of course, there are Pros and Cons to this approach. The template-based approach of legacy CMSs is more cost-effective, however, as mentioned above the requirements of growing B2B SaaS companies are such that a beautifully designed site optimized for conversions will typically trump the requirement for a hastily built site based on an existing template.
What are the Advantages of a Headless CMS?
So what are some of the advantages of choosing a Headless CMS?
1- Unrivaled Speed
Blazingly fast page loading times can be achieved without requiring any additional optimization of the frontend code. A Headless CMS is part of the Jamstack Headless CMS approach to web development and marrying Static Site Generators (SSGs) and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can deliver an unparalleled site performance.
2- High-Level Security
A Headless CMS tends to offer a very high-level of security due to several factors.
A decoupled architecture can provide better protection against various attacks. Access controls and single-sign-on features are often available in many Headless CMS platforms, which can reduce the number of login credentials required and enable easier monitoring of CMS access.
Compared to traditional CMS setups, headless CMSs can minimize the impact of DDoS attacks because content rendering is performed on the client side. In traditional setups, login forms and other entry points may directly point to the server, necessitating constant attention to security measures to prevent unauthorized access. In contrast, with a Headless CMS, the provider assumes the responsibility for security, ensuring that the statically generated front-end remains safe from attack.
3- Scalable and Cost Effective
Headless CMSs are designed to be highly scalable, allowing organizations to handle increased traffic and content without incurring additional maintenance costs. By reducing the amount of maintenance required and utilizing cost-effective hosting and licensing options, Headless CMSs can offer lower maintenance costs than traditional CMSs.
4- Beautiful UI/UX - Enjoyable Content Management
With a Headless CMS like Contento, the UI/UX is designed with the marketing team in mind (which is not a typical case). Far too many Headless CMSs are designed solely with the needs of the technology leader in mind. Contento is different. We have doubled down on ensuring that the use of our Headless CMS solution is enjoyable for the marketing team, who post deployment will after-all be spending a lot more time in the application than the tech team.
5- Deliver a Seamless Omnichannel Experience
By offering more purchasing channels, including mobile, web, and in-store, an omnichannel strategy enhances the customer experience. Businesses are thus increasingly prioritizing seamless and consistent customer experiences across various touch points due to the emergence of new technologies and the widespread use of smart devices. However, brands that rely on traditional content management systems are struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for responsive content that can adapt to different digital platforms. With a Headless CMS it is a case of produce once, and publish everywhere in an instance.
What are the Disadvantages of a Headless CMS?
There are several disadvantages of Headless CMSs, so it is important to be aware of these before making the switch.
1- It is not an all-in-one Solution
With WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and other traditional CMSs there is no decoupling of the front and back ends. With Headless there is a need to plug in other components of the Jamstack (all via API’s) to put a website live. (All very straightforward for relatively junior developers).
2- Developer Dependency
You will need access to a front-end developer/ designer to set everything up (as well as to craft the design). In most cases ongoing maintenance is negligible but as the site evolves you will need access to a developer. The good news is that you won’t need a specialist developer as most front-end developers will be familiar with ‘the Jamstack’, so as a SaaS company there is a strong likelihood that the skill-set exists in-house and can be tapped into on an ad-hoc basis.
3- Fewer Shortcuts
With a Traditional CMS, buying a website template helps expedite the build process, and in some instances enables users to build and manage sites themselves. Instead, most Headless CMSs empower developers and designers to build a site without constraints allowing them to choose the components as they see fit. Again context is everything, marketing leading brands and growing B2B SaaS companies are usually happy to ensure a strong visual identity. Building a site using a template is generally not the route this cohort wants to take.
How Much Does a Headless CMS Cost?
The cost of a Headless CMS can vary depending on a whole host of factors. Most providers offer a free version for developers to test initially and to assess fit for purpose. In reality, the bulk of the cost for a new website is likely to go on the front-end design and hence the annual subscription for the Headless CMS will represent a small portion of the overall spend. Given the range of options and factors influencing price, assuming a €10,000 annual subscription represents a good ballpark figure. Finally, the ongoing maintenance costs should be relatively modest especially if there are in-house developers that can be called upon, on an ad-hoc basis.
Companies Using Headless CMSs
The adoption of Headless has been particularly noticeable amongst a cohort of early adopters from the SaaS world (Intercom, Stripe, and Teamwork spring to mind). However, there has also been significant adoption amongst “big brands”, where website traffic is high and features offering benefits related to security, performance, and omnichannel capability are important. Brands like the following have all moved part (if not all) of their websites to one of the leading Headless CMS providers:
Notion, Costa Coffee, Specsavers, Nike, mailchimp, Vodafone, Spotify, Twilio, Atlassian, Bang & Olufsen, McDonalds, Google, deliveroo, dribbble, GoCardless, Sonos, adidas, & Pizza Hut.
Headless CMS Website for B2B SaaS
When it comes to different categories of users, it is evident from the names listed above that Headless CMSs span a vast range of consumer brands from different sectors. These are not small businesses. The brands largely represent sites with strong traffic volumes that place a premium on design without compromising on performance. B2B SaaS companies share many of the same requirements as the leading B2C brands listed above (although omnichannel related benefits are not usually a primary motivator). Most growth-oriented B2B SaaS companies are focused on conversion optimization and thus value benefits like unbeatable site speeds, beautiful design, enhanced security and highly performant websites.
Introduction to Contento - the Headless CMS for B2B SaaS
Contento is a Headless CMS designed specifically with the needs of B2B SaaS companies in mind. Most of the other Headless CMSs are open boxes and are not designed with any specific use case in mind. Contento includes all the features you’d expect from a Headless CMS, with a particular slant - a core assumption we make is that you are using Contento to manage a B2B SaaS site. This simple assumption enables us to meet the unique needs of this category - after all, it is the world the founding team all come from.
Why Do You Need a Headless CMS Freelancer or Agency?
One of the nuances of a Headless CMS compared to a Traditional CMS like WordPress is that developer input is required. The focus shifts to creating a beautifully designed site that is optimized to drive conversions. Specialist skills make a difference, and the quality of websites done in-house compared to using specialists is markedly different in our experience. When a beautiful design is married to compelling copy, strong imagery, and a blazingly quick site the difference is all too apparent.
The Stripe website is a great example - beautifully designed, with powerful imagery, and exceptional site speed. Of course, there are lots of beautifully designed sites that are not on Headless also, but depending on the CMS there can be significant issues in the background that tend not to exist with a Jamstack-based approach.
Where to Find a Headless CMS Agency?
An increasing number of digital agencies are now offering Headless CMSs as an option for the right client and context. Others like Mawla in Dublin have gone full-in focusing on content and marketing websites utilizing a Headless CMS & NextJS Jamstack-backed architecture exclusively, eschewing WordPress based web development work.
We will shortly be adding a dedicated Headless CMS digital agency page to the Contento website that shortlists some of the main providers you need to know about.
Benefits for Your Agency Embracing Headless
So what are some of the benefits you can enjoy from exploring Headless as a category to offer clients?
Significant Venture Capital (VC) cash has gone into the space and a large number of providers are promoting it as a future-proof way to manage modern sites.
The benefit set for moving to Headless is compelling for certain cohorts of users.
The need for a front-end design and Jamstack architecture means that many agencies can easily pivot to offering it profitably.
Some providers offer recurring commissions as long as the client is still a customer, bringing income streams without associated overheads.
It is a growing market predicted to explode.
The Global Headless CMS Platform Software Market Size Was Valued at USD 502 Million in 2021 and is Expected to Expand at a CAGR of 19.99% During the Forecast Period, Reaching USD 1498 Million By 2027 (Source - Research Reports World)
Contento Digital Agency Program
Our agency program includes -priority access to our development team, ongoing commission, and access to our suite of training resources.
Unlike leading vendors who typically offer a basic 10% commission on plans, Contento offers a much more attractive commission.
Please get in touch to learn more.
In summary, the category of Headless CMS has been taking off. An early tranche of digital agencies has already made the jump across focusing on the Jamstack and Headless. As this article has outlined, it is worth all digital agencies exploring the category to assess if it fits with the client base in situ and their requirements. One thing is clear - this new category is very much here to stay.