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AMAs

Hey there, I’m Benji Hyam and am a co-founder of the boutique content marketing agency Grow and Convert. We’re a done-for-you content marketing agency that fully operates companies blogs via our unique process that includes customer research, content strategy, promotion and conversion optimization. We work with companies such as Patreon, Leadfeeder, Inflow and Fieldboom. We specialize in driving quality traffic and producing leads/signups from content.

We built our business in reverse. We started as a blog that shared content marketing strategies and case studies, and we’ve since grown our site to over 200k readers over the past 2.5 years. When we started Grow and Convert, we had no clue what the “business” would be. We had 4 failed attempts at building products for content marketers and through those failures ended up with the agency we have today. Since launching our agency a year ago in June 2016, we’ve grown it to over $500k ARR and our business has grown solely from our content marketing efforts. In addition, to also serve our readers for whom the agency doesn’t make sense, we’ve created an in depth content marketing training course.

Grow and Convert also spun off the SaaS app Wordable, which we also grew off the back of our content. We ended up selling it in November of 2016.

Previously, I ran marketing for two VC-backed companies in SF.

Happy to answer all questions related to content strategy, promotion, blog conversions, list building, small SaaS, bootstrapping, etc.

Connect with me on Twitter: @benjihyam.

I will be live on May 22 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which I'll answer as many questions as possible.

  • CS

    Claire Suellentrop

    5 months ago #

    Hey, Benji! Looking forward to your AMA.

    So as marketers, we already understand the inherent value of content marketing when it's done correctly (immense long-term ROI, especially in comparison to most paid ad channels that stop working when you stop paying).

    In many cases, though, the in-house marketer who *knows* content marketing is valuable...needs to sell the concept to a boss or CEO, who's under pressure to hit ambitious growth targets FAST. Like, yesterday.

    Can you share any advice/resources for marketers in that position, who WANT to focus their energy/budget on building a content marketing machine...but who are struggling to get buy-in for it over quick-win channels (or..."growth hacks"? haha :)

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Great question!

      First off, my advice to people thinking of joining companies in a content marketing role would be to make sure that you're aligned on expectations. For example, if you're joining a high-growth VC backed company, sometimes the expectations can be a bit unrealistic. Ie. hit X number of leads per month in 5 months.

      While content marketing is longer term play, that doesn't mean you can't show traction quickly. I'd focus on showing traction by setting traffic goals first and then lead goals secondarily.

      To do this, you'll need a mix of top, middle and bottom of the funnel. Top and middle of the funnel articles should be fairly easy to drive traffic to if you use our community content promotion process: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/community-content-promotion/

      The bottom of funnel articles will be harder to generate traffic to because the target audience who'd be interested in them is much smaller. However, the bottom of the funnel articles and middle of the funnel articles are the articles that will drive a lions share of leads.

      If you just focus on bottom of funnel articles, then you are playing an extremely long game and it'll be tough to sell content marketing to your boss unless they have a ton of patience. You need the top and middle of the funnel articles to drive traffic and start generating links quickly, so that your bottom of the funnel content will rank longer term and start driving leads/signups and customers.

      Hope that helps - let me know if you need me to clarify or go deeper in any area. Also, this post should help you see how this concept is applied to our clients: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/content-strategy/

      5 Share
  • ES

    Emil Shour

    5 months ago #

    Hey Benji! Excited to see what interesting questions you get here, and the insights you can share.

    Couple questions for you:

    1) You're the first marketing hire at a small, bootstrapped B2B SaaS startup. You have a ~$10-15k/month budget. How do you spend it?

    2) What are the top 3-5 questions you like to ask when doing customer research?

    3) What is the biggest challenge you've faced as you've grown a distributed team, and how have you overcome it?

    4) What's your favorite burrito/taco place in San Diego? ;)

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. Good one. This sounds like a good interview question :). First off, I wouldn't spend the budget immediately. I'd do a bunch of customer research before I started spending money otherwise I'd be spending money blindly. As the first marketer, you need to figure out:
      1. What the competitive advantage is that your product has in the market compared to all of the other tools
      2. Who is most likely the buyer
      3. What are the pain points that the buyer has (both product related and non-product related)
      4. Where they hang out online

      After you have the answers to these questions, you'll be able to craft messaging that's compelling and start testing various channels.

      I'd start by testing paid channels first and then once you start finding something that's working from a messaging and target audience standpoint, I'd double down on that, then also start experimenting with other channels.

      2. Here's a list of all of my favorite user research questions (these are questions we use during our user research sessions): https://www.fieldboom.com/survey-questions/

      This article is also really important to read about how we think about user/customer research. This is pretty much our exact process: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/customer-content-fit/

      This one is good for companies that are just starting out and don't have that many customer (the difference is that you need to come up with a hypothesis about who the customer is and then test that hypothesis against real people who fit the persona): https://growandconvert.com/user-research/conduct-customer-interviews-even-dont-customers/

      3. The biggest challenge we've faced is knowing what everyone is working on being that you don't see them on a daily basis and staying aligned on priorities. We've just recently overcome this by implementing a weekly status updates for all of the key positions so that everyone is aligned and we can weigh in on where things are at or if we need to change directions. This idea was inspired from this post: http://www.vanschneider.com/remote-working

      4. Rudy's in Solana Beach or Lucha Libre in Mission Hills

      • ES

        Emil Shour

        5 months ago #

        Good stuff, super helpful. Thanks Benji!

        And the surf and turf from Lucha Libre is unreal :)

  • RG

    Robin Geuens

    5 months ago #

    Hey Benji. I know you like to use communities to promote your content. How has this strategy changed now that you've taken on clients? Specifically:

    1. In your content promotion article you talk about taking a few weeks to study the culture of the group and engage with people in the comments. How do you do this when you have multiple clients who want to see results quickly?

    2. How do you avoid burning out communities (over promoting) when you have multiple clients in the same space (e.g. marketing)?

    3. You know a lot about marketing, so you can easily provide value to a community by giving people marketing advice. But if you have a client that's in an industry you know nothing about, it becomes a lot harder to provide value. How do you engage with people in communities where you have zero subject matter expertise?

    Thanks for doing an AMA and good luck with your agency. :)

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. Good question. We're still trying to figure this out as we scale. I'm not sure yet if we'll be able to continue doing things the same way as we continue to grow. For now, we use multiple people to promote content instead of just having one person (me). We do have someone on our team that owns promotion, but it's really a team effort. Everyone has to be committed to helping out. That's been able to solve the problem for now. But we're constantly testing and trying new things including potentially building our own channels for driving traffic.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. Also, a great question. Because we source stories from subject matter experts, we spend a lot of time talking with them and learning about their field/craft. Overtime, you learn a lot about the industry and the target audience from conducting these interviews.

      For example, when we worked with the company ModernWeb, they were trying to attract people that were interested in redoing their web architecture in Node.JS. Being that I'm not a developer, I knew nothing about it. I spent hours watching videos of people speaking at the node.js conferences and then reached out to some of the speakers for interviews.

      Through doing these things, we were able to craft articles that were good enough to get picked up by the Node.js foundation newsletter and trend on Reddit and HackerNews -- which isn't easy.

      More on that here: https://growandconvert.com/content-strategy-case-study/

      4 Share
    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. At the beginning of an engagement with a new client, there's a lot of research that goes into this. It doesn't really change, you still need to study the culture around different promotion channels and test them to figure out what works. However, after we've worked with the client for a while, we start to learn what works and narrow down the promotion channels to probably between 10-20 that are high return with low effort.

      We've also started testing paid FB ads to supplement traffic if we need it, but we've really only used a $300/month budget per client. Almost all of the traffic is coming from our community content promotion process.

    • AZ

      Andra Zaharia

      5 months ago #

      Fantastic questions, Robin!

      Can't wait to read the answers to them!

    • SV

      Steven van Vessum

      5 months ago #

      Great questions - looking forward to Benji's answers :)

  • CH

    Corey Haines

    5 months ago #

    Hey Benji! What’s your favorite content format besides written blog posts, and who is a company that does it really well?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Books.

      @randfish's book Lost and Founder was really good and was a good brand booster for Moz and a great way to launch his new company SparkToro.

      @sean's book Hacking Growth was also really good and helped build the GrowthHacker brand.

      Rework was good insight into 37signals, how they launched, and makes you trust the company and Basecamp a lot more.

      I think I like this format because it's harder for a company to pull off and most wouldn't think of going in that direction, but when done properly, I think it builds more credibility and trust than some of the other channels.

      With all content, you want to find channels that other companies would have a hard time executing in and then do it better than anyone else.

      It's why we've focused on case studies, narratives, building microsites, etc. because most companies have a hard time pulling those content formats off in a way that's compelling to the reader. Usually a company is just trying to produce content that takes the least amount of effort that can get results. If you actually spend time producing content you're proud of, it has a much bigger impact.

      Podcasts to me are overdone and I haven't found any that are that good.

      Video definitely has potential, but I can't think of too many companies using it effectively. Maybe @davegerhardt w/ Drift and what they've been doing on LinkedIn. For example, the unboxing thing they've been doing is creative.

      In video, I like the stuff that's more raw. Patreon's recent video trying to get the attention of Casey Neistat was probably the best campaign I've seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYBOPPoiRRY&feature=youtu.be

      5 Share
  • BH

    ben hoffman

    5 months ago #

    On average, how much does each piece of content cost you and what is the breakdown of those costs? (I'm guessing this info is private so won't be hurt if you pass).

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      We typically pay writers on average $350 per article. For more heavy research based stuff around $500 and we've produced articles that have cost us around $1000 too with design and coding.

      However, we also pay an editor to help with the strategy, copy editing and make sure it hits our quality standards so the cost per article is probably a lot higher than the costs above.

      What many people don't understand about content production is it's never as simple as giving an article to a writer and then it coming back with an amazing piece.

      Our process:
      1. Come up with an idea
      2. Conduct an interview with a source
      3. Writer produces first draft
      4. Editor works with the writer through sometimes as many as 5+ drafts
      5. Then the article comes back and it's ready to publish

      I'd recommend most companies hire an editor to manage the blog and then a marketer to promote content, run the strategy and the conversion side of things.

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    5 months ago #

    You've captured someone's email via a CTA on one of your pieces of content. Now what? Of course I anticipate, "drip email / warm the lead". But anything else? Do you enrich the lead with other social info? Do you email them directly yourself or use drip software?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Nope, we're big on getting people directly to the call to action we want them to take. So for example, if the main CTA is to sign up for a free trial, we'd include that CTA in the blog post instead of trying to capture an email and nurture them.

      I'm really not a huge fan of the traditional nurture strategy for reasons outlined in this article: https://growandconvert.com/conversion-rate-optimization/lead-nurturing/

      Essentially, you need to convert people twice and we've found that the math usually works in our favor.

      It's not that we won't collect emails, but it's secondary instead of primary. Most companies ask for the email first and I don't believe in that.

      Most of the nurture strategy came from marketing automation companies that are incentivized to sell their product. Not because they've tested the nurture strategy against other ways and found that it works best. Nurtures can work well for enterprise sales, but we've found that for a majority of businesses, pointing them directly to talk to sales or signup works best.

  • BH

    Benji Hyam

    5 months ago #

    Wow. So many questions and not enough time! I have to run to meetings but I promise to answer the rest when I get a chance later :)

  • GR

    Gigi Rodgers

    5 months ago #

    What was the biggest surprise you learned about starting your boutique agency, that you had to adjust to?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Building a team is the hardest part of growing a business. Specifically, learning how to hire for roles that you've never hired for before.

      • GR

        Gigi Rodgers

        5 months ago #

        Oh you answered it now. LOL!
        I thought you were looking for questions to answer for your AMA.
        I thought you were going to answer it then. LOL!
        Thanks for not making me wait, Benji!

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    5 months ago #

    What type of conversion rates do you usually see for the following CTAs:
    - call out boxes (ie, CTA boxes within the content piece
    - CTAs in headers / top of page
    - pop up boxes
    - exit modals (ie, when the reader moves their mouse out of the screen)

    How do these numbers change for b2b-targeted content?

  • BH

    ben hoffman

    5 months ago #

    What's your growth stack? (specifically favorite email program -- one off & drip, onsite chat, pop up modal software, exit modal, etc) . Thanks Benji!

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      I think the strategy matters more than the tool does. People like to obsess over tools but the tool doesn't work unless the strategy is in place.

      Most of the tools out there have similar features so it's more about personal preference than it is about a specific toolset.

      That being said, we use Convertkit for our email and lead capture.
      Wordpress.org for our blog
      Drift on our course sales page
      Trello for our project management

      We used to use Optinmonster for popups, etc. and would still recommend but we moved to convertkit bc it was a more all encompassing tool for what we needed.

  • NM

    Niel Malhotra

    5 months ago #

    What's working for content promotion today in 2018?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      The strategies that we've written about haven't changed too much since we wrote about them.

      We still rely almost exclusively on community content promotion for all of our promotion: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/community-content-promotion/

      However, the subtleties in how we use each of the channels have changed slightly. For example, Facebook groups are getting harder to promote content in because of algorithm changes and more admin tools. LinkedIn groups have died down a lot. Niche communities are on the rise - Indiehackers, GrowthHackers, designer news, certain subreddits, etc.

      We've also been experimenting with paid over the last few months and have seen some decent results.

      On that front, we're testing creating lookalike audiences on FB off of high-converting blog posts and blog posts that we've driven a good amount of traffic to via community content promotion. We usually run that test against interest based targeting but the lookalikes usually win out. This is mostly just a supplement to drive additional targeted traffic to what we're already doing.

      Influencer outreach also works well to get into newsletters, etc. but the key is to craft a good pitch (which most people don't do). More on that here: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/influencer-outreach/

  • DS

    Danavir Sarria

    5 months ago #

    Yo Benji!

    Here are my super cool Q's:

    1) Have you guys figured out how to go past just community promotion to promote your client's blog posts? What's been working?

    2) Any cool strategies that have helped you get more out of community promotion? Or is it the same as always?

    3) Have you guys worked on helping ecommerce companies with your methods? Any successes and advice in this area? Particularly when it comes to distribution of content.

    4) Any specific advice you feel really strongly about, but no one is asking you about?

    Thanks man!

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. We've been focusing more on SEO. Specifically identifying high-intent and low hanging fruit keywords to go after, then looking at the top results and ideating around how we can create a better resources than anything that shows up in the top results. That's been working well and takes some of the pressure off of community content promotion.

      We've also been testing paid ads. I've responded on another thread about the strategy there.

      Community content promotion has been the main source of traffic for all of our clients though.

      We're also looking at new channels we can test as we need to scale our promotion efforts.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. It's pretty much the same as always. If anything, the only difference is adding more people that do it instead of just me.

      Also, sometimes you'll get channel fatigue, so you always need to be testing new channels and finding other channels that work.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. We haven't really had too much experience in the e-commerce. We have a good amount of experience doing content marketing for companies trying to attract e-commerce companies, but not for e-commerce companies themselves.

      I'd say the big challenge with doing content marketing for e-commerce is that the AOV has to be pretty high for it to make sense to invest in heavily. I'd probably lean on high intent SEO keywords more than I would lean on stories or any of the other content frameworks, bc you'll need a lot of traffic for the economics to work. Also, promotion for B2C is going to be harder because there's a wider target market.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      4. Normally I'd say yes, but there's so many great questions that I think almost everything on my mind has been covered.

  • RJ

    Roshan Joshi

    5 months ago #

    what's a day in life for someone heading a content agency?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Haha great question. It's stressful :)

      It's actually changed a lot as we've built the team.

      In the beginning, Devesh and I did everything (minus the writing portion) --
      Devesh was the editor for all of the content, was responsible for conversions and analytics
      I ran the strategy and promotion for our clients

      Now we have a team in place - an editor, a project manager, a promoter, SEO contractors, and a team of writers.

      So Devesh and I are now focused on more the business end of things--

      Our responsibilities now are mainly around (not in any order):
      1. Hiring
      2. Sales (talking to all of the leads that come from our website)
      3. Operations (figuring out how to keep the quality of work high as we grow)
      4. Writing content for G&C (although admittedly we've published less than we'd like since starting the agency)
      5. The overall strategy for all of our clients

      3 Share
      • BH

        Benji Hyam

        5 months ago #

        @steven_van-vessum I like both. But I'm enjoying working on the business right now because it's a new challenge to figure out.

        I've done content marketing for a long time, and while I enjoy being in the weeds and think it's important so that you can stay ahead of the curve, building a team and teaching our process to our team has been fun.

      • SV

        Steven van Vessum

        5 months ago #

        Interesting answer :)

        What do you like most, mostly working in the business (as you previously did) or on the business (status quo)?

  • SD

    Sander de Lange

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji! Thanks for doing this AMA and great to have a content specialist like you on here. I read a lot of stuff on the internet about being successful with content marketing. The main tip I keep seeing is that you have to create “great content”. I’m trying to produce high quality content, but I figured it won’t hurt to ask you for some insights on this! :)

    Can you maybe share your most important insights/advice on how you go about producing great content?

    For example:
    1) what are the steps you take?
    2) what are the biggest mistakes you see companies make when trying to produce great content?
    3) how do you produce content that attracts the right kind of audience?
    4) what’s the most important step to get actual results from your content?

    I realize this might be a bit too broad of a question, but any insights will definitely help!

    Thanks in advance and good luck with your agency

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1) Yes, quality is very subjective. That's why it's hard for people to really explain what the advice "create good content" actually means.

      That being said, we believe there are a few points that it must hit on:
      1. The target audience needs to find value from it - it needs to either be interesting to them or solve a pain point. Hence the importance of doing that user/customer research upfront before you start creating it. All of our articles on user research: https://growandconvert.com/top-content-marketing-articles/#userresearch
      2. The intro/hook needs to resonate with the target audience - otherwise the reader will bounce before getting into the article. We elaborate on that here: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/blog-introduction/
      3. The article needs to be specific: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/specificity-strategy/

      Our specific internal process is that we spend the first month of our engagement with our client doing customer research- we fly out to their office and do a customer research session where we learn as much as we can about their customers w/ key stakeholders in the room - marketing, sales, customer support/success, product, execs, etc.

      Only after we feel like we have a good understanding of the customer do we start producing content. If we're missing any information we think is key, we'll do customer interviews, surveys, etc. to fill in gaps.

      Then we come up with content ideas based on the pain points (product related and non product related).

      Then we find a source either internally or externally to interview on that subject matter.

      Then the interview is transcribed and we turn that article into a story.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2)
      a. Not following the process outlined in my answer to your first question. Essentially just coming up with content ideas that they think will attract customers without actually doing the research necessary. This results in what we like to call "Mirage Content": https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/mirage-content/

      b. Trying to give topics to writers and have them write the whole thing when they're not subject matter experts on the topics they're writing about. This results in high/level fluff. How is someone supposed to write a good article on a topic they know nothing about?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      4. It's not any one thing - it's following our entire process.

      User/Customer research --> Content Strategy --> Promotion --> Conversions

      There are no shortcuts :D

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. This article outlines our whole process in detail: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/customer-content-fit/

      • SD

        Sander de Lange

        5 months ago #

        Wow benji, Thanks a ton for your great replies & for sharing your process! Going to work on that user research part Some more :) Good luck with everything!

  • TK

    Tony Kim

    5 months ago #

    When you're doing outreach and preoutreach for clients in emails, Facebook groups, Twitter, etc. are you sending/posting as yourself (a marketing person representing the client) or as the client themselves? For example, do you send emails from benji@growconvert or from the clients email like john@myclientsdomain or does your client setup an email for you like benji@myclientsdomain? Do you login to their Facebook page, Twitter account, etc and post as the client? Can you talk a little about the logistics of doing outreach on behalf of clients?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      We always post as ourselves because it's more authentic. So it would be either my personal FB account, Twitter account, LinkedIn, or my work email. Or whomever on our team is promoting.

      When we do outreach, the process is to find the best channel to engage with them on to get a response. For example, if someone is really active on Twitter, I'd try there first because it's less intrusive than an email. If someone isn't active on social, then I'll go to email.

      The biggest advice I could give on successful outreach is to make it personal. Don't do mass-emails or try to fake personalization. I read your blog post X and thought you would like my blog post Y.

      Show the person that you read their article. Quote the article, tell a story about how you implemented their advice. Show results that you've achieved from implementing their strategy. Show them that you care and that you actually do follow them. Most people don't do this and it stands out when you get a message from someone that actually takes the time to write something personal.

      More on this here: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/influencer-outreach/

  • AZ

    Andra Zaharia

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji,

    Can't wait to read your replies to all these great questions!

    Training the team and aligning it to the same quality standard is one of the most challenging things I've come across.

    1. How do you train your team and how do you set KPIs for them?
    2. How do you use both their individual talents and support them to expand their know-how and skills to cover a broad range of content marketing activities?
    3. Do you have team members specialized in content marketing and conversion copywriting or do you focus on the first exclusively?
    4. What is your feedback-giving process for the people in your team? How often do you do it? At which stages? What have you found the most effective method is?

    Thanks!

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. The first thing we did was give everyone access to our course so they could learn the overall strategy that we use for our clients. Then for each role, we had to figure out the process ourselves before hiring for it. We initially tried to hire people without figuring out the exact process we wanted them to use and it didn't go over too well.

      Once we figured out the process, then we would hire and then have them take care of small chunks of the role and then slowly get them to take over more and more responsibility. For example, when we brought our editor on, he would edit and then send to Devesh for final approval-- Devesh would explain in a video about what he thought needed to be improved and we kept doing this process until we felt like he finally was on the same page as us.

      On the promotion side, I created a strategy document by channel and shared what channels I thought would work best, then gave him/her traffic goals to hit and challenged him/her to hit those. If they had questions, they could ask me at any time.

      KPIs -- we don't really have a set process around this right now. We just have overall revenue goals that Devesh and I want to hit and then we have traffic/lead goals that vary by client on a monthly basis after looking at what the analytics data tells us, and we adjust from there.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. We find people that have shown that they have the skills in the area we need previously. Ie. Promotion people would've had to grown traffic somewhere else. Writers need to have written content similar to what we're looking for. Editor needs to have managed a blog or newspaper.

      Then we train them to the specific process we need (answer 1) and are always available to answer questions as they work towards their goals.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. Most of our employees didn't come from the content marketing world. They showed success in some specific area in another industry and then we trained them on the content marketing part.

      The reason we don't hire many people from the traditional content marketing world is because most have bad habits and/or don't do content marketing the way that we do. We don't want someone to have to unlearn their bad habits - we'd rather just hire people who are successful in other areas and train them in our process.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      4. Feedback is given when our team does both things positively and negatively.

      On the positive side if a piece has done really well, or they exceed a client goal, or do something really well outside of their specific goals.

      On the negative side, we usually try to get ahead of big problems by using weekly updates and commenting if we're not on track to hit a goal or see a priority needs to be changed. We usually try to assess what's going wrong and then come up with a solution together about how to resolve the issue.

      Lots of communication happens in slack :)

  • LR

    Lance Rohde

    5 months ago #

    Hey Benji,

    What content types you feel content marketers can do better? I saw you mentioned microsites. Can you ellaborate?

    Thank you!

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Our frameworks that we use are: Narratives, case studies, data posts, how-tos, mega projects and opinion pieces.

      I'd say that most content marketers can do better on almost all of them.

      Too many marketers try to take shortcuts when creating content because of the time and resources necessary to do it well.

      Here are some examples of some of the mega projects/microsites that we've built:
      https://www.fieldboom.com/survey-questions/ (instead of just a list post, we designed this and tried to think of a way to present the information that was more accessible).

      https://www.codementor.io/blog/how-much-do-freelance-developers-cost-around-the-world-2626eu0rzy (instead of just doing "research" we got a database of developers salaries, etc. and got an excel person to translate that data into interesting insights, then we got a designer to create data visualizations and then a developer to code this)

      Most content marketers wouldn't put that much effort into single pieces.

  • JK

    Jan Kužel

    5 months ago #

    Hey Benji ...

    1. You're no stranger to remote work right? Do you currently run Grow and Convert remotely as well?

    2. What is your personal process to stay productive and organized? (habits, tools, where you track what, etc.)

    3. With Grow and Convert, what do you see as a single biggest factor in winning your clients?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. We use trello that keeps our entire team organized. We use slack to communicate frequently. I subscribe to the deep work belief - so everyone can work when they want as long as their work gets done. No point making people sit in an office for 8 hours a day if they're not going to be productive. I've found that people do their best work in spurts and I'm the same way.

      Sometimes I'll wake up really early to work and sometimes I do my best work at night.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. Yes, our team is fully remote. We are all in different locations within the U.S. and have some contractors outside of the U.S. too.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. I don't know if there's any single biggest factor.

      I think that having knowledge of the pain points that a content marketer faces inside of a company from personal experience helps educate our customers about what they should/shouldn't be doing in both our marketing (blog posts) and sales process (on our sales calls with them).

      Then I'd say the fact that we're super transparent about everything helps build trust.

      Lastly, I'd say that most agencies sell deliverables instead of results. Ie. 5 blog posts instead of traffic and leads. The fact that we're willing to promise/own results differentiates us from a lot of the other agencies out there.

  • RB

    Ryan Bozeman

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji. Fan of your work and just had a few questions—

    1 - What was the most surprising thing you learned from working with your co-founder after founding Grow and Convert?

    2 - For awhile you guys had a link on your site to a subsidiary service that was focused on getting your stories told and placed on publications. I noticed it is now replaced with links to your course on Grow and Convert. What was that project and is it a main focus or just a side project for you guys?

    3 - What is the most common misconception about content marketing that you find yourself dispelling in chats with clients?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      1. Tough question. I guess what's been surprising is how well we work together for not knowing each other previously. In my first business, I had a friend as a co-founder and I think working with someone that I didn't know previously has helped. Also, the most important thing is that we're complete opposites. Having different thinking/strengths helps us challenge each other and focus on different aspects of the business.

      I wouldn't trade Devesh for any other co-founder :)

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. It was mainly just a way to try to improve our process of sourcing stories for our clients. It was a lot of manual work on my end so we built a microsite to help us flip the sourcing stories from outbound to inbound.

      It largely worked, and have used a ton of the stories sourced from their on our client blogs, but for most of our clients, we're focused on different types of stories for them now.

      Also, the course generates revenue whereas Get Featured doesn't so we prioritized it's placement on our site.

      Essentially, we just use our site/switch placements when we have different goals we're trying to achieve or different ideas we want to test.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. Probably the quantity over quality debate.

      Most people say they believe in quality over quantity but then when we say we only produce 3 blog posts for them monthly, they usually want "more." Because publishing more sounds better and feels like you're accomplishing more.

      The problem with the quantity approach is that it's hard to keep quality high and then if you spend all of your time publishing blog posts, then you're not spending the time you need on other aspects of content marketing that are just as important - user research, promotion and the conversions.

      We've been able to grow blogs faster with 3 posts / month than most companies do with a lot more published per month.

  • CH

    Cara Hogan

    5 months ago #

    How much time do you spend creating a new post vs. promoting it once it's complete? What do you think is the right balance of the two to really get the most out of it?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      It takes us on average 21 days to produce a blog post. That's from idea to being publishable on a site. Process: Idea, interview, draft, multiple revisions, and then published.

      On the promotion side, it depends. Sometimes we can publish a post in a few places and drive thousands of visitors, and sometimes it takes a lot more effort.

      We usually stop promoting once we feel like we've exhausted all of our channels.

      We also look at conversions to determine if we should continue promoting a post. If you're measuring all the way through paying customer on your blog, you'll usually see that there's a few posts that drive a majority of conversions.

      In those cases, we'll repromote those pieces of content as much as we can because there's more return on investment to do so.

      So in short, I don't think there's a set answer to what the balance needs to be. I think for some companies they need to spend more time on content creation because their content itself is bad, and no matter how much they promote it, it won't do well. For others, they produce really great content and they don't have the promotion skillset so they should spend more time there.

  • DH

    David Hoos

    5 months ago #

    What are some examples of the questions you like to ask when interviewing for a case study post?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Good question. I think @nathan_collier (our editor) would be better at answering this question.

      I will say that it changes depending on the interview. We don't have a set list of questions that we ask everyone. We do as much research as we can on the person we're interviewing prior to the story and/or have a very specific angle that we're going after. Then we craft the questions in a way that will extract the story from the person we're interviewing (all open-ended).

      Usually start the interview by getting a quick backstory, then dig into specific places we know are interesting to the target audience. We ask a lot of how did you do that? What was the thought process behind that? Etc.

      • NC

        Nathan Collier

        5 months ago #

        @davidhoos Great question! We obviously do a lot of these for G&C clients. Here's what I would say works best....

        #1. The single best question is "Can you tell me more about that?" The gold is always in the follow-up questions. This is why interviews are so much better than email questions - they let you drill down to get more details

        #2. "Where were you before all this started?" This lets you establish a baseline of results. Your job is to work the story from this baseline through to the present day - or whenever the project was over. You want to show the important steps they too to get a result.

        #3. "What common misconceptions do people have about this topic?" I heard @benjihyam ask this one during an interview we were on once and the answer became the entire post. I ask it often at the end of interviews to get good quotes out of the person.

        #4 "How much revenue does that represent for your business?" Basically, always go for numbers. Ask this or some variation of it depending on the result the person achieved. The numbers make the story real. This can feel awkward, but ask this question and then shut up until the person responds. They may say, "we'd rather not share," But usually they'll share some kind of numerical result with you if you just ask for it.

        #5. "Do you have a hard stop at the end?" Shows respect for the person's time and sets the right tone at the start of an interview.

        #6. "Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have asked you?" This is my No. 1 all-time favorite question. I ask it as the last question of every single interview I do. 70% of the time the person will say, "No, I think you covered it." But 30% of the time the person will think for a moment and then give me some other piece of gold on a subject I would never have thought to ask.

        There are probably more. But hopefully those are enough to get you started. :)

      • DH

        David Hoos

        5 months ago #

        Thank you both!

  • UB

    Utkarsh Bhardwaj

    5 months ago #

    I'm thinking of starting up but I don't know how to get ready/prepare for it. I am a bit scared of what might happen.
    What advice would you give me?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Whatever your idea is, make sure people want to pay for it before investing a lot of time and energy on it.

      Also, make sure you have a runway financially. The reason most businesses fail is because they didn't validate their idea first and/or they run out of money.

      If you do both of those things before getting started, it'll be a lot less stressful and you'll probably be better off than most.

      Don't get distracted by naming, brand, your domain, your logo and all of the other things people say are important when just getting started. Just figure out a product/service that people are willing to pay for.

  • SH

    Sarah hynes

    5 months ago #

    What's the best solution for attribution if you want to move away from last-click. Should you go with a provider like Visual IQ? which providers are the best? Are there any "quick and dirty" methods to use heuristics for weighting conversions from different channels?

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji - I know you're busy and appreciate you taking the time to do this.

    1. What advice do you have for someone that's considering starting their own company?
    2. I know you limit your clients to ensure top quality and sustainable growth with the team. What's the process for choosing which clients you work with?
    3. Can you elaborate on your experience going abroad before you started Grow & Convert? Any recommendations for others considering a break in work to travel?

    Looking forward to reading your answers. Also, I still owe you a coffee... let's make it happen!

    Cheers,
    Dani

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      2. Great question. We're still learning as we go, but I can tell you what we've learned so far:

      1. We have to feel like there's a culture fit - usually the people that are the best clients for us have been reading our blog for a while and are already bought into our process and strategy.
      2. We also filter by how realistic their goals our on our lead form. If they're expecting 1000 signups or something within the first few months or a year, it's probably not a good fit.
      3. They need to have product/market fit. Because while we can grow their traffic + brand quickly, content can't solve their product market fit problem, and eventually there will be a conversation about whether there's ROI. If they already have a successful marketing+sales channel, then content can add a lot to the mix.
      4. The longer they've been around, the better, bc they have more customer data that we can look into and make decisions off of .
      5. We tend to focus more on B2B over B2C just because there's usually a more specific buyer to target and so it lends itself to our process a lot more.
      6. We have to feel like we can promote their content - sometimes in really small niche's we'd feel uncomfortable promising results. Therefore we either communicate that to them upfront (sometimes they don't have many other options and want to proceed anyways) or sometimes we just don't want to take them on.
      7. Lastly, it's a gut feeling that you get when you talk to people. We've talked to enough people now (between 60-100 companies) to know from a conversation if they're going to be a pain to work with or not.

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      3. Mainly the decision to go abroad stemmed from 2 things:

      a) The first being that when I started my first business, the reason it failed was because I ran out of money to live - so I wanted to lower my burn rate and traveling was the best way to do that. Cost being around $1500/month vs. $5000+ in the U.S.

      b) I had been wanting to travel for a long time and was burned out after being in SF for 2 years.

      I really enjoyed the experience and don't think that the business would've made it if I hadn't made the decision to go abroad (for financial reasons). It took us 18 months to figure out a sustainable revenue stream and if I didn't have a cheap cost of living, I would've gone back and worked for someone else to make enough money to live.

      Biggest advice I'd give is don't move around too much. Stay in each location for at least a month because it's mentally draining researching and getting use to new cities and countries all the time.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    5 months ago #

    Very cool to finally have you on, Benji!

    A couple of years ago it was rare to see the nuts and bolts of the content part of content marketing ie how content is actually generated and its results, learnings etc
    I think you'll do a stellar job with that - to the point that you'll are the first people that come to mind when it comes to that results-oriented/data-driven style of content marketing.

    Was that approach intentional based on research/gaps you saw or did you just fall into it somehow?

    If it was intentional, what can you share about your process for spotting gaps like these that clearly can lead to a lot of good things happening if you stick with it?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Ohh this is a good question.

      It was intentional. The backstory is that when I ran marketing at ThinkApps, I had to figure out all of the aspects of content marketing the hard way - through trial and error.

      I did a ton of research to try to find blogs and resources that talked about how to do and scale content marketing for B2B companies, but I couldn't find any. So that's how I figured out the gap.

      As I started to get results from the blog at ThinkApps, I kept having people asking me the same questions - how I hired writers, how I promoted content, what my content strategy was, etc. So when we launched G&C, I knew that we had to be the resource that was missing in the market.

      I started by blogging about the common questions that I was asked, and wanted to speak about how I solved these issues from personal experience vs. theory (bc that's what most of the content I read about was).

      That's how it started.

      With both G&C and Wordable, we came up with the idea by solving our own problem.

      • BH

        Benji Hyam

        5 months ago #

        Forgot to say, this also applies to our agency. At ThinkApps, I also had to make the decision between do I hire an agency or do I build a content operation in-house.

        Initially, I wanted to hire an agency, but when I did the research and started talking to agencies, I realized none of them did what I needed them to do. Almost all of the agencies out there were glorified writing services - you paid for a certain number of articles per month and that was pretty much the extent of their service. They said they "did promotion" but it was mostly just sharing your articles on social media channels and they didn't want to be held accountable to any results. Also, most prided themselves on their content and said they had writers that could write in every area of business, however after receiving samples back, their content was horrible and didn't relate to the target audience.

        So when we decided to do the agency, I wanted to fill the gap as an agency that I wanted to hire.

        I wanted an agency that would create content that companies would be proud of, actually promise results and be held accountable them, and be aligned on outcomes (traffic and leads) vs. deliverables.

        From what I've seen, most agencies don't practice what they preach, and I wanted our agency to be different.

  • FL

    Federico Lara Mendez

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji, I have finished my MVP, I need to increase my early adopters in order to improve my app. How do I increase early adopters without go viral, I mean I want my first 100-300 downloads, but I dont want more. If you have any strategy different from email marketing.

    Thanks for your time.

    Federico

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Hey Frederico,

      Heres a list of things that we did when we launched Wordable.

      1. We had already done the work building our blog and the target audience was the same as people who would be users of Wordable, so we sent the product to our list and that got the word out.
      2. We cold emailed content marketers and offered to give them an account for free in exchange for testing it out.
      3. We emailed influencers that had a large target audience of the same audience we were going after and offered to give them an account for free. The goal was hoping that they'd share the product with their audience if they found value from it.
      4. We launched on Appsumo with a discounted rate and this got us our first 500 customers almost overnight.
      5. We guest posted on other blogs that had the same target audience that we were going after
      6. We also went after PR opportunities

  • JF

    Jane Fonda

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji,

    What would be your advice to scale marketing efforts for a B2B company in HR space?

    • BH

      Benji Hyam

      5 months ago #

      Hi Jane,

      A few things:
      - Conduct customer research with other stakeholders - customer support, sales, CEO, product, etc. Your goal is to figure out what customers think your competitive advantage is, what their pain points are, what they read and what sites they interact with online, what influencers they follow in your space, etc. A ton of articles on how to do this here: https://growandconvert.com/top-content-marketing-articles/#userresearch

      - Get ideas for new channels to test based on the findings in the user research. Test them and double down on what's working.

      - Do an audit of what you're doing already in marketing, and double down on what's working.

  • AK

    Anwar Khalil

    5 months ago #

    Hi Benji,

    We are a B2B Freemium Recruitment Software and we're trying to expand into a few countries.

    So we're expanding into a new country and therefore you still don't have a contact list yet... what's the best channel to distribute your content?

    Thank you Benji

  • AS

    Atif Shahab

    5 months ago #

    Whats the future of marketing platforms as we see many popular platforms are closing now like Klout, Inbound, Storify, etc.

  • JR

    Jason Randell

    5 months ago #

    How would you rank the following factors as they relate to the future of coupons and the role they will play in content marketing?

    Automatic Location
    Mobile User Selected
    Time Limited
    Number Limited
    Reserve and Redeem
    Discounts on Products or Services
    Automatic Security
    Feedback Features

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