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B2B Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Agency with Benji Hyam

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You’ve taken the first step. You know that content marketing is a viable way to grow your consulting business. Building trust with your customers on the front end puts you at a huge competitive advantage over companies who rely heavily on outbound sales and do not have a content marketing strategy.

Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

Draw customers to you by letting them do the initial legwork of familiarizing themselves with your company through your content. You’d do it in the sales process anyway, so your content can go a long way to establishing you as an authority.

In this episode you will learn how to:

  1. Build trust with your customer before getting them on the phone

  2. Get better leads and move beyond the referral

  3. Prevent audience burn out so they keep coming back for more

  4. Promote your content so it’s seen by thousands in your target market

  5. Scale up your content output to scale up success

Building trust starts from the moment someone finds you through your content. Imagine: they’re reading about how to solve a problem they have, and they’re turning to you for advice, long before you talk to them.

Eventually, that helps you increase leads to your business. Not just get more leads, though, get much better leads.

You have to keep your content program fresh, because audience burnout is a very real thing. Benji gives a few strategies to help you sense when burnout may be happening (not your fault, btw), and what to do about it.

And the hardest part of content marketing, perhaps, is having a content promotion strategy. It’s not enough to just make content. You also have to get in front of people so they know it exists.

Once you figure all this out – and you will – it’s time to think about scaling up to get the output that you want. Sure, you can write a great article, but can you do it every week? Or even every day?

Mentioned in this episode:

Benji Hyam’s Website
Benji’s business, Grow and Convert

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


B2B Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Agency with Benji Hyam:

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners and sales people looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
Today I’m really excited to bring a conversation to you. I don’t even know how it’s going to go get because I’m recording this before we have our conversation. But I have Benji Hyam here with me, of Growandcovert.com. Full disclosure, I bought his course recently. He was nice enough to make an exception and let me in after the deadline. Thank you, Benji. I’m sure you won’t make that exception for anyone else. And Benji is one of the voices that I turn to on a regular basis in order to learn about what’s working in content marketing.

Liston Witherill:
I do a lot of it, I do this podcast, I have an email newsletter, I’m writing content on LinkedIn, sharing it on my website, lots of places. And I am absolutely sure I’m not doing it as well as I could be. So selfishly, I wanted you here so I could pick your brain a little bit. But also I know Benji, a lot of people want to know how can they make their content better? Or if they want to approach content for the first time so they can move beyond the referral, how should they do that? So Benji, very excited to have you here, welcome.

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, thank you. I’m excited to be here. And hopefully I can share something interesting.

Liston Witherill:
Well, pressure’s on, buddy.

Benji Hyam:
It is.

Liston Witherill:
We’ll see how it goes. We’ll let the audience be the judge of that.

Benji Hyam:
Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
So tell us a little bit about your background. Why content marketing? How’d you get into this? And what are you doing now?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, so content marketing’s actually, I kind of just fell into it in my career. In high school I took a marketing class and that’s kind of where I fell in love with marketing. Went to San Diego State of integrated marketing communications. But coming out of that, I think as most people, you kind of fall into marketing, don’t know exactly what specialty you want to go in. And the first job I got out of college was a social media coordinator. Didn’t really know if I wanted to be in social media, but one of the first jobs I was given in the role was kind of, “Hey, we have this blog, it’s getting about 1,000 visitors a month. Do something with it.” So that’s kind of when I started learning about content marketing, didn’t really know what it was before that. Started reading a ton and just kind of testing different things. In a year I grew the company blog to 20,000 unique monthly visitors, grew a writing team from nine people to 90 people at that company.

Benji Hyam:
And then from there kind of branched out in a bunch of different areas of marketing. Started doing paid ads. Basically my goal at that point was to run marketing for a company someday. So I ended up building skillsets in different areas thinking that I wanted to go away from social media and content marketing. And then went down that path. So moved to San Francisco, joined as the first marketer at a startup, I was the fourth person there, grew that company with content marketing. Joined as the first marketing hire and had growth at another startup that I just raised their series A and kind of did the same thing there. And kind of realized even though I was trying to branch out into different aspects of marketing and do paid and partnerships and all sorts of different other areas, my passion was really in content marketing. And that’s where I was having most of my success.

Benji Hyam:
So this company got started just from a conversation that I had with my co-founder, Devesh. We were at a marketing dinner and he was trying to grow his CRO agency from content marketing. And we got in this argument about whether content marketing works to drive leads from high value businesses. And he was like, “I’ve been doing this for the last six months, I haven’t gotten any leads, I’m not getting traffic. I just don’t think content marketing works to attract …” His audience was like a VP of eCommerce. And I was like, “That’s just because you’re doing it wrong.” Because I had just come from Think Apps, one of the companies that I joined in San Francisco, where we were attracting CEOs and CTOs of fast growing companies and pretty much doing that all through content marketing. So used that example, we had this kind of argument over dinner and we just decided to write what we knew about content marketing.

Benji Hyam:
So his background’s more on the conversion side. He had done some work for Brian Dean and Brian Harris on their blog and doing conversion rate optimization on their site. And he’s really good with the analytics side. That’s what we determined he would write about. And I would write about the content strategy and how to drive traffic. So skillsets came together, we started the blog Grow and Convert, and yeah, that’s pretty much how we’re here.

Liston Witherill:
So I’d like to talk quickly about Think Apps. Because my understanding is that was a, or that is, if they’re still around, a development shop. They sell done-for-you kind of consulting services. “We’ll go build your app.” Right?

Benji Hyam:
Yep.

Liston Witherill:
The people listening to this are primarily in consulting or in agency business, so I think it’s really relevant to them. How was that different than marketing a technology or a product-driven business?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, well for one, I came into the company not knowing anything about software development. So I think that was actually a blessing for a marketer. And I think this is probably a mistake that most people make joining a new company, especially if they’re already familiar with the vertical or the space, is that they don’t talk to the customers and ton and really learn from them what’s important. So even when I was analyzing what worked from a content perspective or just gaps in the market at Think Apps, I was looking at a bunch of other technology blogs and blogs on software development. And I realized most of the content was being written from a developer, so from a technical person to another technical person. But in terms of what the audience actually cared about, the first two or three months I spent not doing marketing per se, but really just talking to customers.

Benji Hyam:
So talking to people who’ve gone through the app development service that we had offered, talked to people who had built apps with other companies, talked to people who were interested in building an app that hadn’t gotten started. And just asked questions. “What was the process of building an app like with our company?” “Have you ever done this before?” “What were some of the challenges that you’ve had building an app with other companies?” And through a number of these conversations, I probably had maybe 50 different conversations with people. In person, on the phone, over email, through friends, networking groups, I started to realize a lot of the trends in terms of the challenges that people had building apps, where other companies were falling short. And through that learning is really how I figured out not only just how to market, but how we really needed to position our service against other businesses based on what our competitive advantages were and where some of the weaknesses were in these other companies.

Benji Hyam:
So that was step one and I think that’s really important for any company, is to do that customer research and talk to people. I think oftentimes the mistake people make is making the assumption that they know exactly what the customer wants and then basing all their business or marketing off of that. Instead of really spending the time and talking to people and really learning from them what their challenges are and what they need from a product or service. I would say doing that in the very beginning of the business is what lent itself to having such quick growth. Because we knew exactly how to position the business against what people wanted and where the gaps were in the market. And same thing on the content side. That’s how we knew what content to write and what to educate on. Because we knew where there were gaps in knowledge or where they weren’t able to find the information that they need. And that’s what we focused on first.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, and I hear all the time from owners of businesses who are selling services, that they think content really has no place. Like this is all well and good if you’re trying to sell technology or you’re trying to sell whatever business [inaudible 00:08:15] there is that you’re looking for. It’ll never work for services. And yet, I can tell you in the last month I’ve had two of the biggest really solid leads I’ve ever had, one closed into a client, come from the podcast. They were listening to the podcast. One of them ended up chatting with me on my website and is now kind of in a later stage of sales. But the other is a client now.

Liston Witherill:
And what I’ve found is, it’s such a great way to develop a relationship. So the thing that I say about selling services is the trust and credibility factors are enormous because of the risk going in. I don’t know, Benji, if you’re really going to be any good. And there’s an opportunity cost, not just in money, but in lost time. If I hire you, I could’ve hired someone else. So do you find that when you approach content, you’re really trying to bridge that gap to build trust, to build credibility through content as a starting place?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, 100%. So, our business has 100% grown from content marketing. We don’t do any paid ads, we don’t do any other marketing other than just writing content on our website. All the leads generated from our business come from our website and the content that we’ve created. We don’t have a sales team. There’s no outbound anything. Everything comes from our content. Why does it work? Because exactly what you said. I think especially with service providers, I think from a customer or client’s perspective the only thing they’re really looking for at the end of the day is results for whatever channel. So if you’re an ads agency, if you’re a software development company. If you’re a software development company, essentially all they care about is finding a company that can build the app in the way that they want. If you’re an ads agency, all they care about is running ads and getting return on ad spend. If you’re a content marketing company, all they’re really caring about is can you write great content that drives traffic and creates leads?

Benji Hyam:
And at the end of the day, that’s their decision making process, is who can do this for me? So I think when you’re writing content, especially for us, one of the biggest strategies for us has been writing case studies. It does two things. It shows that we can drive the results that the companies are looking for. And two, it shows the in-depth process of how we think about content. I think doing that up front and having people read our blog and get to know us and how we approach content marketing and some of the results we’ve achieved, it’s why our sales calls are so easy. I mean, we typically have a lead come in, and it’s a one call close. Because they’ve already done all the initial legwork on the front end of reading our content, getting to know us, following us for a period of time. So they’re educating themselves about our process and how we do content marketing. So when they get on the phone with us, we’re not really telling them anything new. We’re just kind of confirming their suspicions that we can execute on what we say we can.

Benji Hyam:
I think that’s the benefit, is for service businesses it really helps you build that trust with a customer on the front end. It helps them get to know you on the front end. So when they come in and there’s no surprises, they already feel like you can do what you say you can, they already know who you are. And I think that’s a huge competitive advantage against any agency who’s doing outbound sales, who you’re making a pitch and then you have to build that trust over the sales process. This, instead builds that trust through content and helping people on the front end. And then it’s just confirming whatever they think about your business over the phone call and making sure you can build rapport in the relationship with them.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. You mentioned initially that one of the things you want everybody to do and every marketer, or in this case a lot of business owners should be doing, is talking to their clients. And really understanding, not taking anything for granted, not making any assumptions. Understanding what’s going on with them? Why did they buy from you? What did they really love? How did they look for this? Who did they compare you to? All these kinds of questions. So, not knowing your client well enough is one of the big fatal flaws of content.

Liston Witherill:
Now, when I think about people who have content marketing now, there’s probably three camps. And the first two have the most population. One is not doing content marketing because whatever reason. The second is, “I’m doing content marketing, but no one’s showing up.” And the third is, “I’m doing it, getting great traffic, how can I get better at it?” When I look at each of those groups, other than not knowing your client well enough, what are some other causes of maybe the content not really performing to the point that it should or it could?

Benji Hyam:
I would say the overarching problem for most companies, even though they don’t think it’s the problem, is the not enough customer research. Because what the customer research does, is it helps you write topics that you maybe would’ve never thought would’ve been interesting to the audience just from having these conversations on what the challenges are. It helps you determine promotion channels, so where these people hang out. And where they go to find information on these topics. It helps you develop the service offering. All that kind of stuff. So I think a majority of the problem is, even though people don’t think on the surface, it is the customer understanding. They’ll always say, “Yeah, I know my customer well enough.”

Benji Hyam:
A lot of the topics … So, you described three camps. People who aren’t investing in content marketing right now. People who are, but they’re just not getting the results that they need. And then people who just want to keep improving from the results they’re already getting. I would say actually a majority of the people fall in camp two. And that’s kind of where we focus. We don’t focus on educating people why they need to do content marketing. But when people come to us and they’re saying, “Hey, we’ve been investing in content marketing for a long time and we’re just not getting the results that we need.” Oftentimes it’s from not writing about the right topics, which is a symptom of not knowing the customer well enough. It’s not promoting in the right places, again, a symptom of not knowing the customer well enough.

Benji Hyam:
And then I will say that another big challenge that you have to overcome is writing at the level of the audience. This is especially true in the B2B space. Here’s how most people would create content, even if they do come up with a great idea for an article, then they typically go hire a freelance writer. And then they’ll say, “Hey writer, we want to go write about this topic.” And that’s pretty much all the direction that they give this person. So how is this person going to write in-depth about a topic they don’t really know about? What they’re going to go do is do some Google research, read a bunch of articles, and then basically relate back what they’re learning in these other articles back to the reader in their article, which is supposed to position this company as a subject matter expert.

Benji Hyam:
So, you can realize where I’m going with this. The challenge is, let’s say I’m trying to educate a CEO or a VP of sales how to hire better people or how to do something. And then we’re having a writer go do some research on how to do this themselves and then educate or teach someone else how to do this. There’s a massive miss-match there. So as a reader, you can immediately tell that the person doesn’t have the experience that they need to write about the subject. The language that they use in the article, the positioning of the article is all completely off. So you’re immediately going to bounce from this article. And I would say that’s a huge problem that a lot of companies face, is they just don’t have the subject matter expertise to write about the topics needed. And they just don’t get enough understanding of the customer.

Benji Hyam:
So the way that we get around that and the difference in our service, is we have writers, but the way that we kind of position them is they’re almost like journalists who write marketing content. So their goal is not to go do a bunch of research online. Our goal is to go find a source, whether it’s someone inside of the company who has a ton of knowledge on a product or service. Whether it’s a customer or a client that we interview for a story. Or whether it’s someone in the industry who has a ton of knowledge about the topic that we need, and we do an interview with that person. It’s typically a 45 minute to an hour interview where we just do Q and A with them. We come in with an angle already determined of what we want to achieve with the article and we just ask questions to get all their expertise out.

Benji Hyam:
And then the writer’s job is to just relay their expertise back to the audience so that it really does feel like the person writing this has the subject matter expertise to write on whatever topic it is. Whether it’s technology, whether it’s life sciences, or whatever industry. Approaching content through this method, instead of just having a writer go write about a topic that they don’t know and try to do the research on their own. That’s the difference in the content quality. And that’s the difference in being able to build that trust through the content by truly being able to educate someone on the topic.

Liston Witherill:
So if you go find a subject matter expert who doesn’t work at your client’s company, they’re a third party, totally unrelated, what’s in it for them? Do you have to offer them something? Why do they do that? Also, do you credit them in the article?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, for sure. It depends. So the way that I would always position this is just in the way you pitched me. It’s like you have subject matter expertise on a specific topic and I want to do an interview with you to get the subject matter expertise from this person. So if I was going to pitch some SEO person it’s like, “Hey, I know you’re well-regarded in the field. I might’ve read these articles or I’ve seen you come up in these places. I’m looking to write an article about this topic and I thought you’re the best person that I could reach out to.” So I would say immediately there kind of feeding into the ego of the person. I think that’s one thing that I’ve always found works well.

Benji Hyam:
Two, it is kind of dependent on the person. So you kind of have to figure out what the person cares about. If the person cares about driving more traffic to their website, then you could position it as, “Hey, we have an audience of X amount of people that are also in the same space as you are and we’re going to be driving traffic to your website through this article.” There’s a ton of different ways that you can approach this. But I think the key thing is to try to think what’s important to the person on the other end that I’m reaching out to? And what can I offer them, to get them to help me out? So it’s never monetary for us. We never pay anyone. It usually has to do with just a lot of people are just willing to do this.

Benji Hyam:
If you take the time and make a pitch and you’ve been following the person for a while and you can cite specific articles that you’ve read or things that you’ve learned from them. For me and for a lot of people who are writers or who create a lot of content, just hearing that someone takes the time to read the stuff that they’re putting out and try to implement stuff, I’m more willing to do stuff for that person than the person who just pitches me and their email is completely random. It’s almost like the person optimizes for the number of people they’re reaching out to, and it’s not that personal connection. If I can tell someone has spent the time to do some research on me, read some of the articles and still has questions, I’m a lot more likely to respond to that person than I am some person just saying, “Hey, I want your time.” And there’s not rapport building or relationship building there.

Benji Hyam:
I think you can always tell whether someone has put in the time and effort into the outreach. So I think that’s probably the biggest determiner of it working or not, it just kind of showing that you care about the person on the other end. As simple as it seems, 90% of the people don’t approach outreach that way.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, and if you’re open to it Benji, I think it might be interesting for me to include a link to the email I sent you to get you on here.

Benji Hyam:
For sure. And I can, even without you even saying it, I already know. It’s like, “Hey, I met you in person at this event.” And it was a long time ago and I had to remember back. But it’s like, “Oh okay, I do remember that session.” And then it’s like, “Hey, I’ve been following this.” So it’s that sequence of events. It’s acknowledging that you know the person, that you’ve met in person and that you’re looking for more information. And immediately there, I’m like, “Okay, I know who this person is. It’s not completely random.”

Liston Witherill:
Not only that, but I signed up for your newsletter and replied to your welcome email.

Benji Hyam:
Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
It was extra tricky.

Benji Hyam:
Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
Let’s wave a magic wand here, because we love to do that in podcasts for the sake of time. We’ve done our research, we’re writing about the right topics, we’re interviewing subject matter experts if we need to do that. We have the perfect article, we hit publish, and no one gives a shit. How do we get it out into the world?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah. So, the process that we’ve been using for the last four or so years, is community content promotion. And the idea behind it is figure out where your audience already exists online. So I would say this is in contrast to how most companies think about this, which is let’s go build up our own channels and then just use those to push information out. The challenge with doing that, let’s say you wanted to build a LinkedIn following of 50,000 people that are in your target audience. That just takes time and it’s not easy. So the idea behind community content promotion is your target audience is already having conversations somewhere online. They’re already a part of different groups. They’re already interacting with different people. So do the research to find out where those places are, and then share the content in those places.

Benji Hyam:
So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last four years and it works pretty well. It is changing somewhat now, in terms of which channels are yielding the highest results. When I’m talking about communities, I’m talking about things like Facebook Groups. Are there Facebook Groups for SASS founders? Facebook Groups for agency owners? LinkedIn Groups for those same things? Reddit Sub-Reddits for those? Newsletters, are there newsletters that have a ton of people of the target audience? Are there websites that people frequent? If you back into promotion in that way and you start researching some of these different channels, you can probably come up with a list of 25 or 50 different places that you can start sharing this article.

Benji Hyam:
From there, it’s testing out all of them and figuring out which one gets you the best results. And then focusing on those ones consistently over time. And I think what happens, and some of the things that we’re starting to see now and why that’s changing, is that you can start hitting fatigue if you use certain channels exclusively over time. Obviously you’ll get diminishing returns, just like you would in advertising if you keep advertising to the same audience over and over again, eventually they’re going to get burned out. So you need to figure out new ways of doing things. And I think it’s the same here. So if you’re using the same Facebook Groups to promote all your articles, same LinkedIn Groups, same newsletters, eventually the audience is going to get burnt out. So you need to consistently find new channels and test new things as a way to keep the results coming.

Liston Witherill:
So essentially, if I could translate here, it sounds like the idea is you have the article, you go where the people are already organized.

Benji Hyam:
Yes.

Liston Witherill:
And you get it in front of them. And they have a chance to now know that this helpful things exists. And they can decide do they want to see more or not? At which point they would click. So you mentioned you’re having to think about other channels, other ways of doing this. What’s waning, what’s not working as well anymore? And where are you looking to go, to test? Because I know you wrote an email about this recently, which I think would be great to talk about here. Because I know all kinds of other businesses are having these same challenges. It’s harder and harder to be heard. Not only because three million blog posts are being published every day, or whatever the number is now. But also, the owners of these channels, people may have heard that Facebook has come into some issues lately, very public issues. The owners of these channels have bad business models and they’re restricting promotion. So, what’s next for you guys? What are you thinking about?

Benji Hyam:
Well, I think there’s a couple things in that question. One, I want to say when we’re doing the community content promotion, I think it’s important to think about the entire process and not just sharing it in these places. Because I would say, again, going back to knowing your customers, the only reason this works is because if we know what issues or topics our audience cares about or challenges that they’re having around a specific topic. And then we’re writing content to help educate them how to solve those issues or we just know what topics are interesting to them, then when we go and promote in these channels, that’s why it’s resonating.

Benji Hyam:
And I feel like part of the problem with community content promotion and just why it might be getting diminishing returns is because a lot of people saw this strategy and wanted to take the shortcut of just sharing whatever less quality content or content that’s not that great in these channels and hoping that they’re going to get a ton of traffic back. And then I think part of the issue there is they’re saturating these channels with a ton of just stuff that no one’s interested in. And it kind of ruins things for everything else.

Liston Witherill:
This goes back to my theory, which is that marketers ruin everything.

Benji Hyam:
100%. I’m fully on board with that.

Liston Witherill:
Okay.

Benji Hyam:
It forces us to kind of stay ahead of the curve and test new things. But I will say that that is part of the problem for sure, is just these channels have been saturated with so much content. There’s so much stuff being produced. And tons of bad stuff is being shared along with some good stuff. So I think it kind of ruins the tactic for everyone. It’s not to say that it doesn’t work. But compared to a year ago, for example, we were sharing in some Facebook Groups and we could get somewhere between 500 to 1,000 visitors just from Facebook Groups alone.

Benji Hyam:
Whereas now, I think there’s a couple things that are making this more challenging. One, Facebook created more things for moderators to kind of see the content being shared in the groups. So it’s making it harder for people to share content in these places. Then I would say the organic reach is declining from these groups. Even if you do share an article and it gets approved in a group, the amount of people that see it are way less, the engagement is going down. There used to be a bunch of different groups on different topics, and I think because the business model standpoint, I think a lot of people stopped moderating them. Because it takes a lot of time. And stopped trying to participate in the conversation. So the groups just naturally declined over time and are not really existent anymore. So I think there’s a bunch of factors leading to some of these things.

Benji Hyam:
And I’d say it’s the same thing on LinkedIn, seeing similar stuff there. Reddit has been a lot more pushing conversations and text threads over links being shared. So it’s kind of just getting harder across the board. It’s not to say that it doesn’t work anymore. But I think we kind of have to rethink the process and how we’re going to approach some of these different channels. And then what are the other things that we can go do? We’ve been experimenting a lot with paid advertising on Facebook recently. That’s shown some promise, for sure. But I’m not sure that we can just rely completely on paid. I think there’s other organic things we’ll have to try.

Benji Hyam:
Quora’s been something that we’re looking into a lot. We’ve been testing posting, answering different questions and linking to articles there. Quora Ads is something I’m looking into right now. I’m looking into stuff like Flipboard and Pocket and some of these platforms that have a bunch of content discovery already happening in them and seeing if there’s ways that we can crack those platforms organically. Or if there’s ways that we can pay for some of the ad products there and get similar results. Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m thinking right now. I don’t really have the solution to everything figured out yet. I think we’re kind of just back at square one, where we know the basic strategy and what we’re trying to accomplish. Now it’s kind of rethinking the approach and trying to come up with a set list of things that work.

Liston Witherill:
Well, of course once you have the perfect answer it will be partially obsolete in 12 months.

Benji Hyam:
Yes, we’ll share it on our blog and then a bunch of people will ruin the channel again. No, but I mean that’s the hard thing for marketers. I think a marketer is really trying to hit a moving target. I think it’s one of the hardest professions because it’s changing so rapidly. I think the foundations are always there. The approach that I would take doing any sort of marketing is kind of set. But the way that you approach it changes, like the specific tactics and things that you do for every customer and client and channel, changes every three to six months. So you kind of have to be on the forefront testing the stuff and just kind of constantly figuring out what works and trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else.

Liston Witherill:
I’d like to talk about the conversion side of it. So we’ll wave a magic wand, let’s say people are seeing my content and they go to, in your case your blog. For me I think it’s a lot of times they’re subscribing to this or they see me on LinkedIn and then they opt into something on my website and then my email takes over. But what is a conversion for you? And sort of how do you think about transitioning someone from an article to becoming a viable lead for you?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah. The only thing that really matters and the only thing we really measure is how many leads, like service leads that we get. So that means that they saw the price on our website and they filled out the form to potentially use our service. We don’t really measure any other metrics. I mean, email list growth definitely helps. But I view the email list as more of a relationship with the readers and a distribution channel for us. So it’s just another asset that we own that we can share our content out through. But we don’t do nurture campaigns or trying to bring people through a sequence to try to get them to hop on the phone with us. I think if we do all those things right, so if we know the customer well enough to write about the topics that they care about.

Benji Hyam:
So for example, content promotion. So I know this weighs on everyone, I’ve had a ton of people ask me over the last year, “What’s working?” “What doesn’t work anymore?” So writing a post about content promotion and where it’s heading, we’re already writing about the topics people are already thinking in their mind. So when we write something like that and show them what we’re thinking about what’s working and what’s not working, it already builds that trust there. To the point where if they were trying to figure this out on their own and they’ve just kind of tried everything else, they might reach out to us for the service. Or if we’re talking about, if we keep saying, “You know what? The problem is you don’t know your audience well enough.” And then we’re writing a case study about how we do the customer research for our clients and then the results that it achieve, again, it’s a pain point that companies know that they have, that they don’t know how to solve.

Benji Hyam:
I think in that case they would rather just pay someone to do the work for them, that they trust can do this. So, I would say what we say about conversions is, it’s kind of a formality. It kind of just happens if you do all the other pieces well. There’s no tricks or gimmicks or ways that we’re trying to get people on the phone or anything like that. If we’ve done a good job of writing content about the topics people care about, we’re getting in front of them, then they’re going to happen to reach out for our service if we’ve done all the things correctly.

Benji Hyam:
There’s no email popups or popups that are coming up on the article or tricks that we’re doing on landing pages or anything like that. It’s really just knowing what our customers care about, helping them as much as we can, and not holding anything back. So sharing in detail all the strategy, all the numbers and stuff like that. In turn, that helps build the trust with our audience. It helps them basically know of us as a resource that they can use if they ever want to go hire someone. And I think that’s kind of why we’re getting the leads on the opposite end, is just because we’ve kind of done all those things well. So the leads just come to us without us having to reach out to people or anything like that.

Liston Witherill:
On your articles, I notice you guys are pretty big on so-called content upgrades. Or basically lead magnets that are tied to whatever you’re reading.

Benji Hyam:
Historically, yes. I would say it’s changed a little bit now.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. Tell me about that.

Benji Hyam:
Well, in the beginning of the business we didn’t have a service business. We had a training business. So the first product that we sold was a phone course. And then we did a workshop. And then an online course. In the online course world and some of those training products, your sales are all a function of the list size. There’s typically like 1% to 3% conversion rate from list to sale. So the initial strategy was let’s build up an email list. Because the larger we build the email list, the more customers we’re going to get for the course. But being that we pivoted into an agency, I would say it’s less important for the list growth. It’s more important just that we’re educating people how to solve some of their biggest challenges of their business so that we build trust.

Benji Hyam:
That’s why if you look at any of our recent articles, we don’t have any content upgrades. It’s just kind of putting the content out there and letting people find our service page if they’re interested in having someone do their content marketing for us. But even the article itself, we’re rarely putting, “Hey, we have this agency and we can do it for you.” We’re kind of letting the person come to us and explore. They read an article, they’re like, “Wow, this was good. What else could I learn from them?” And they see we have a course, they see we have an agency. And that’s how they’re finding those services.

Liston Witherill:
Why create the course? If you started as a training business and then you pivoted to an agency, now you have a course again, which is excellent, by the way. I haven’t completely finished it, but I’m going through it now. Why create the course? Why was that something that you guys wanted to start to include in your business?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, a couple things. One, I think it helps training our own team just about our process and the way that we approach things. In our course it’s not as much about the tactics and, “Here’s a step-by-step process of what you do.” It’s more, “Here’s how we think about content and here’s all the things we would recommend doing to flip someone’s mindset about how to approach the problem.” I think for our own agency right now, it helps educate our own team about how to do this and how we think about content and how to go through our entire process.

Benji Hyam:
We created the course before we had the agency, so it was really a way for us to distill our process into a cohesive step-by-step thing. The foundation of content marketing is user research, hence why that’s module one in the course. Then you take all the learnings from the user research and then you need to translate that into a content strategy, which is module two. And kind of explaining how we do that. Then from there, you promote the content. So everything kind of builds on each other. The course is the way that we approach doing content marketing for the agency and for ourselves. It is that step one, step two, step three, step four. And if you do all those things in sequence and correct, you’ll end up with the output that you want. So that’s kind of the reason for the course. It helped us get all of the thoughts and the things that we were doing for our clients and for ourselves first on paper. And then in video, teaching how to do this.

Liston Witherill:
Do you find that that course can also create leads for you in your agency business?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah. I’m sure we’ve had a couple people reach out. I don’t remember where all the leads have come from. There’s definitely been some conversations that we’ve had recently of people who’ve taken our course and they’re like, “I’d rather just pay you guys to do this for us.”

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. Like, “Holy crap, this is a lot of work. Never mind.”

Benji Hyam:
I think that is the challenge with content marketing, it is a lot of work and it’s not easy. So I think once people do try to attempt it on their own, oftentimes they would just rather pay someone else to do it because that’s off their plate. It’s like taking a course and then actually having to execute on all the learnings in the course is not easy. So yeah, I would say that it probably is a lead gen tool for us in some ways. But I would say it’s the same content marketing we’re doing. Again, on our site we’re just writing as in-depth as possible. In the course, we’re sharing everything that we’re doing.

Benji Hyam:
I’d say from a strategy standpoint, I think it’s just two different ways of doing the same thing. I think the fundamentals are there, the thought process is there. We’re not trying to create some course to trick people into making money. It’s really, we’re doing this to really share all of the learnings and our thought process around content marketing knowing that if we do that well, it’ll build deeper relationships with the people that are taking our course and they’ll potentially want to purchase other stuff from us down the road.

Liston Witherill:
Fantastic. So you’re not sure what’s next with promotion. It makes me wonder, do you start to look more towards owned channels now? Email being an obvious one. But there’s things like you create your own community in other ways where you can distribute your content. And of course you don’t want to show up every week and be like, “Hey, I got a new thing, I got a new thing, I got a new thing.” But, it does, I think, start to make an argument for the idea that the Internet’s becoming more closed, which we know it is. Recent legislation points to that. So does everything that’s happening in the European Union right now.

Benji Hyam:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Seth Godin even went so far as to say one of the new rules they’re considering will break the internet. Because you, according to the legislation you would need permission to link anyone on your site, which seems beyond insane.

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of the GDPR legislation.

Liston Witherill:
Well yeah, I think it’s a joke for small businesses. We could probably have a long discussion about that. But I’m wondering, do you start to look more towards owning your own media channels so that you can own your own distribution and not rely on these organic places?

Benji Hyam:
Yes, but. And the reason I would say that is because I think you have a chicken and egg problem. Of course you would want to own your own channels, but then how do you build your own channels? You still need to be able to get in front of the right audience.

Liston Witherill:
Of course.

Benji Hyam:
So you still have the same challenges, you know? So yes, I think longterm, I think building something like an email list or another newsletter or some other website that drives traffic for the audience, and I don’t know, maybe you advertise on your own website or something like that, makes sense. But I think in the short term, that’s not going to work. Because you still need the eyeballs on whatever those things that you’re building are. So let’s say yeah, I do think that email lists are the next way to go. But then if you don’t have an email list, you don’t have an audience anyways. So I still think the community approach is the way that you go. It might be leaning more on paid, it might be testing out some newer channels that maybe haven’t been recognized yet as a place that people hang out. But I still think that that’s the place that you start.

Benji Hyam:
Because again, you need to build the audience for whatever these own channels are. And you do have that chicken and egg problem. You can’t just say, “I want to have these own channels,” and magically there’s 10,000 people that are great for you to start sharing your content in those places. I think there is going to be a lot of hard work that you have to just kind of test a bunch of things out and see what works. And whatever starts working, you just kind of double down on that.

Liston Witherill:
Absolutely. Well I think that’s a good place to end it. Benji, coming into this you said you had nothing to promote, which would put you in a category of one of my guests on this podcast. But if people wanted to follow up with you, learn more about you, contact you, what should they do?

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, I’m very active on Twitter. So I would say that’s probably the easiest way to communicate with me. It’s just @BenjiHyam. If you subscribe to our email list, I do look at all the responses that I get there, which is how we got connected.

Liston Witherill:
Indeed.

Benji Hyam:
And yeah, just our website. I mean, it’s great to hear this stuff, I think, over a podcast. But if you want really detailed step-by-step explanation about how we think about different aspects of content marketing, our website has maybe 50 or 60 articles talking through everything from how to position your company, to how to do this customer research, to content strategy that we’ve done for various clients and how we thought about formulating that. Promotion, conversions, all that kind of stuff. Again, we kind of share everything without holding back on our website. So I’d recommend if people want to learn more, that’s where they head.

Liston Witherill:
And that URL is GrowAndConvert.com. And it’s linked in the show notes here. Benji, thank you so much for being here. You’ve been very generous with your time and your advice, really appreciate it.

Benji Hyam:
Yeah, of course.

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