1. How Did You Become Passionate About Business Growth?
I took actually a marketing class in high school and that is kind of rare, I think, for most people.
Yeah, before I’d taken that class, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be in my career and I took that class and something kind of clicked with me. And so, after that, I became really motivated to go to a university for marketing and I ended up going to San Diego State and got my degree in Integrated Marketing Communications and got a job – six months before I graduated university – working at a company called Vistage International and started off doing more on the social media and content side, but that’s kind of where my passion for content marketing really came from.
And then, from there, I just kept on wanting to move up in my career and try to get more to a leadership role. And so, I left the San Diego market and joined a startup as the first marketing hire and then kind of worked my way up from there.
2. Can You Tell Us a Bit More About Your Business?
I guess, further building on that, I went to run marketing at a startup called ThinkApps. There, I grew their blog from zero to 35,000 monthly unique visitors in six months and that ended up being a big acquisition channel for the company.
At that time, I didn’t really think that that was something that was challenging for a lot of marketers and I guess I didn’t really know what I had done. And then, I left to go to another company as a director of growth and I kept getting people asking me – like, a lot of fellow marketers in San Francisco – how I’d grown a B2B blog that actually got revenue for a company and grown it so quickly. I kept getting that question over and over again.
It was at a dinner that I met – actually, a dinner with one of your past guests, Sujan Patel – I had met my current co-founder, Devesh. It was this group discussion about whether content marketing can be used to drive real leads for B2B companies. A lot of people were saying that it’s not directly measurable.
I had just come off of ThinkApps and then just doing this for a company. And so, it started this group discussion. Devesh and I ended up continuing to talk about this. He owned a CRO agency and he was trying to attract high-level clients with his agency.
At first, it started that I was going to, my initial thinking was that I was going to write a book on content marketing. He’s like, “Don’t do that. That’s a stupid idea. You’re going to spend all this time and potentially sell a book for $5.00. Why don’t you just do a blog?” And so, that’s kind of what our business started out as.
It started out as a blog teaching people content marketing. And then, the evolution of that is we do one-day workshops with B2B companies in person where we train them on every aspect of building a content marketing operation. We’re actually now going to launch an online course on this as well in three weeks from now. So, the business itself is content marketing training for B2B companies and that’s kind of how it all evolved.
3. How Do You Attract Leads for Your Business and Clients?
Again, most of our business is B2B content marketing and so we practice what we preach.
When we started our blog, we gave ourselves a challenge to go to 40,000 unique monthly visitors in six months, thinking that, if we were to build our audience naturally, business would come from it. That has been true, actually.
We launched our phone version of our course and sold out all ten seats in the first week. Then, we’ve been doing these workshops and now we’ll how the online course does when we launch it but we built an email list of 5,000 people. Last year, we had over 100,000 people on our site.
Our process to actually attract leads and customers for our clients really starts with user research. And so, we think that is where most people kind of have challenges with content marketing – they don’t spend enough time understanding who their best customers are and then building their entire strategy around attracting those people. A lot of businesses just jump right into creating content without a clear understanding of who they’re writing for and how it adds value to that audience.
So, a process essentially that we teach is user research – identifying who your best customer is. And then, based on all the findings from user research, building content that strategically attracts your customers back to your site. And then, we help people figure out promotion channels to identify where their customer already hangs out online.
And then, Devesh’s skill set again is more on the conversion rate optimization side and measuring success. So, the next piece of the process would actually be analyzing different conversion paths on a website to determine what’s the best way to convert someone.
Then, we teach analytics and measuring the ROI and we’ve created a customer acquisition cost model for companies to use to help goal set as well as measure the success of their efforts. And then, we teach companies how to scale all of this as well.
So, yeah, that’s kind of the process for what we would teach to someone and how we would actually help them accomplish content marketing for their business.
4. What Are Your Top 3 Pieces of Advice for Growth Marketing?
I think growth sometimes can be somewhat misunderstood, and what I mean by that is I think, oftentimes, a lot of people have taken the term “growth” or “growth hacking” and think it means something different than it actually means.
And so, I think what people think it means is come up with one idea that’ll drastically grow your business and I think what it actually means is there’s a process to identify what are some of the best growth channels to a company and it’s somewhat similar to like a lean startup approach where it’s build, measure, and learn. You essentially test things out, see what works, and then double down on the things that work. It involves a lot of this user research as well.
I think the first piece of advice is to think of growth as a process and not just trying to come up with one short hack because, even all these examples that we look at in the growth space, it wasn’t like someone just randomly came up with one idea and then that drastically changed their company. there was a whole process before identifying what that idea was and that’s how they were able to identify some of these things.
I think that you always have to be curious. While some things are deemed to be true by a lot of people, always questioning truths to try to get to better solutions.
An example of that is, when I was at ThinkApps, trying to monetize the blog, almost every best practice says that you need to collect an email to nurture someone, to move someone through the funnel. Through testing, I figured out that you could actually get a direct conversion off the blog through the right call to action. And so, we were able to close five and six-figure deals directly off of our blog whereas most people would have thought just to collect an email to nurture those people.
The last thing I think is just always invest in learning and education. I think it’s something that I’m very passionate about – reading, always looking at some of the influencers and what they’re doing, reading case studies – because, I think, through learning about what other people did, you can get good ideas that you can go test and apply to your own company.
5. What Are Some Resources You Encourage People to Explore?
There’s tons! Books have been a huge piece of my career. I think I’ve read maybe somewhere like 65 books in the last two years. Some of the ones that really stuck out to me:
Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday – I think that’s a great book for anyone kind of getting into the content space especially.
Growth Hackers – the website; again, I look at content on there all the time and just try to look for really unique case studies.
Some of the other books that come to my mind:
I’m really big on business stories so another book that really stood out to me this year was Shoe Dog – the founding story of Nike. I think that was a really great book.
A lot on psychology – what are some of the ones?
Influence is a really good one.
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products – a great book by Nir Eyal and just kind of understanding even beyond acquisition but what makes products sticky, especially when you think about growing them. So, that was a really good book.
Growth Hacker Marketing – again, by Ryan Holiday.
And I’m reading the new Sean Ellis book right now and it’s pretty interesting.
So, yeah, I think those are definitely some of the resources.
And then, I think some of the better blogs around growth marketing – god, I’m blanking on the guy’s name but he’s a venture capitalist, I think, at Redpoint Ventures. He’s really good. Casey Winters.
I think, obviously, my blog is a resource for people looking to figure out a unique approach to content marketing. Again, I think, where our site sticks out is that we’re specifically focused on B2B content marketing and doing really in-depth, lengthy case studies on things that we’ve actually done around all aspects – from user research, content strategy, and actually growing these blogs.