Benji Hyam is the co-founder of Grow and Convert, a content marketing agency that does things a little differently to other agencies.
They identify pain points to drive content, conversation, and sales, which is something of a novelty in the world of marketing agencies.
In this episode, I wanted to understand why lead generation was not a priority for marketing agencies, where Benji gets his ideas from, and how he creates high-quality content that converts.
listen to this episode
- How most agencies are focussed on output of content not leads
- Why many agencies choose not to measure ROI
- Is content here to stay?
- Figuring out which channel is best to convey what you want to say
- How all content starts with the written word
- Why engagement begins with customer research
- The importance of doubling down on your strengths
- Tips for getting articles seen by the right people
- Short and long term tactics
- Grow and Convert
- Pain Point SEO: How to Produce SEO Content That Drives Conversions
- SaaS Content Strategy: How We Scaled Leadfeeder’s Signups to Over 200/month
- B2C Content Marketing: How We Grew a B2C Blog to 70,000 Pageviews in 14 Months
- Become a Top Content Marketer
- Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
- The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
- Contagious – Jonah Berger
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Louis: Let’s do this. Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com. The no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for people who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host, Louis Grenier. In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to identify the pain points of your best customers and turn those into content pieces that drives conversions, that drives leads, and that drives sales. My guest today is the co-founder of Grow and Convert, which is a fully done for you content marketing agency. They produce blog articles, they drive traffic to them and they even generate leads, which is a novel idea in content marketing. We’ll talk about that in the next few minutes. They have a huge track records, they work with Patreon, [inaudible 00:00:46] Pierre Street, Pilot Modern Web, to name a few. And I’m super happy to have you on board, Benji Hyam Welcome.
Benji: Thank you. Yeah, I’m excited to be here.
Louis: So I mentioned in the intro something interesting, right? You’ve changed the positioning of your agency recently to go… And you made a move that is, I would say, daring in the industry that is content marketing. You said that your content actually generate sales and leads. Why is it such a novel idea?
Benji: Because most agencies don’t track that. That was something that I learned when I was running marketing for a previous startup that I worked on. Basically the challenge that I had was I was internal running marketing, wanting to do content marketing as a channel and saw it as a big opportunity because the people in the space that I was in, which was software development, weren’t doing it well. And I tried to hire multiple agencies and I interviewed maybe eight to 10 different content marketing agencies and realized that most of them were just kind of glorified writing services. And so when it came down to the conversation of what results will it drive, none of them had to good answer to that, and most of the agencies were focused on output. So when we started the business, that was a problem that we wanted to solve for was, how do we actually drive measurable ROI? And then also how do we track that? So that was probably one of the first problems that we had to solve, was just measurement.
Louis: Yeah. And it’s amazing that so many freelancers and agencies get away with this, right? So why do you think before we go into kind of a step by step to uncover pain points and write about them in general. Why do you think we still don’t see that many content marketing experts talking about this openly saying that it actually generates sales and revenue?
Benji: Because I think people use the excuse that measurement is difficult as a reason to just not measure it all. And so having been in house before, the common, I guess the common excuses that look, traffic is increasing and some subset of the traffic will convert. I don’t know the exact percentage, but it’s working. And that’s kind of the common narrative that marketers use, and agencies use as well. And so they use the excuse that its content is difficult to track, you don’t know the full ROI, such as you can’t measure someone reading a blog post, telling their friend about it, having that person convert, there’s all these different things that you just can’t measure. So why measure it all is the common narrative. And we just think differently. It’s like one of the challenges as an agency is how do you keep your clients?
Benji: And so if you’re not measuring the results and all you’re showing is a traffic increase, eventually I think you’re going to have the conversation with either a CMO or a CEO of what is this actually driving, especially with a high price service like we have. So we want… yes, measurement isn’t perfect and there’s no perfect science to measure every single attributable lead, but we can definitely see a lower limit of what we’re able to drive. And that gives us a good benchmark in terms of our results. And it does give us an overview of the results we’re able to drive.
Louis: And the key term here is lower limits, and this is very interesting because if like marketers have imperfect data, first of all right, so you’ll never have full picture of the funnel, it’s never going to happen, even with the best technology possible around attribution and whatnot. But what you said is interesting because with just a basic Google like you set up, for example, you can using first touch attribution, or even less attribution, you can say at the bare minimum, those blog posts generated leads X number of leads each, right? And you hold yourself accountable to that. And then the rest is kind of a bonus.
Benji: It’s the same as any other channel. So like ads, same thing. So you’re able to see ROI, but you’re not able to see whether someone saw an ad, told their friend about it, all the word of mouth effect. It’s the same thing. However, for some reason, people think of content differently and they don’t measure things the same way. It really didn’t make sense to me.
Louis: All right. So we’ve talked about the problem a bit and the problem with content marketing, now let’s do the opposite and let’s solve it. Before that, before we go into the step by step, the last question I want to ask briefly is do you think content is here to stay or is it going to disappear in the next five years?
Benji: Yeah, I don’t think content is going anywhere. Written and video or whatever the channel is, podcasting, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. I think the last 10 years people keep saying, video’s the next big thing and written content’s going to die. And then I think the last few years people keep saying podcasting is the next big thing and written content’s going to die. I don’t view content by channel, really. I think what’s more important is what you have to say and then you figure out what channel is best to get this message across.
Benji: And so, yeah, I don’t think one medium is going to cannibalize another, I just think you kind of have to figure out what you want to say first, what you have unique that is different than everyone else in the industry, and then figure out an opportunity in the channel of how to do that. And I also think you play to your strengths. So my strengths are more on the written side, writing helps me clarify my thoughts. So I prefer writing over going into YouTube or podcasting, and so that’s just our competitive advantage. That doesn’t mean that there’s not an opportunity for someone to explain content marketing on YouTube or through podcasting. I think all of these channels are great and they all have their purpose, but I think what’s more important is the message behind the medium.
Louis: And one thing that is interesting here that people tend to forget with reason content is every content, whatever the channel or the format, starts with written content, or at least should. I mean, very much like this episode, I have an outline roughly of what I want to talk to you about, it’s in written form. When you do YouTube videos, the outline, you want to… It all starts with an outline with research and whether you write a fully fledged article or something else doesn’t matter, but I think the writing is still the basis of everything else. With that said, let’s move on to step by step, really trying to fulfill the promise of at the start of the episode that I mentioned, right? So you have a few case studies, a few mentioning this very particular point, which is you want to identify the pain points of your prospective customer, you want to write about it, even though sometimes you have no proof beyond knowing that this is a pain point.
Louis: You have no proof that there’s volume for eight people searched for it, and yet you write about it and yet you generate leads. So that’s kind of the promise. Let’s take an example, fictitious or not, whether you want to use a real example or not, doesn’t matter, but let’s say we start work together, I’m the CMO or the CEO of this company. You can pick whether it’s B2C, B2B, doesn’t really matter, although you might make a point that if it’s a small product that people don’t think about too much, it doesn’t really, content marketing won’t necessarily be a fit, but let’s take that as a starting point. They have a blog, it doesn’t perform that well, the typical scenario, what would be step number one to turn pain points into content that actually sells?
Benji: Yeah. So at the beginning of every engagement, it starts with customer research. The reason we start with customer research is we realized that the way most people were just choosing topics were kind of coming up with a keyword list that was generally on the topic that they were interested in going after, and typically sorting by volume and then trying to grow traffic. And again, hoping some subset of the traffic they generated generated leads. The problem with that is there’s a lot of nuances in terms of what questions customers have, what pain points they have that would lead your product or service to being the best solution for them. And so customer research and understanding in depth, who is the buyer and what are their specific pain points is essential to figuring out what keywords to go after that would generate conversions for a company. So-
Louis: How’d you do that?
Benji: Yeah. So our process is well, pre COVID, we used to fly out to the company and sit down with multiple people on the team. So anyone who interacts with the customers are face to face. So salespeople, really great people to chat with, customer success or customer support, those people interact with the customer on a daily basis. Typically the executive team, so the CMO, the CEO, potentially SEO, and we basically ask them a set of questions. So for the sales team, some example questions would be, tell me about the last three good sales calls you had, who were these people inside of the company? Why did you think that they were good sales? Were there specific features that they were looking for or specific pain points that they had that indicated that they would be a good customer? We do the same thing with the customer success team. Tell me about someone who recently closed. Are they finding value from the product or the service? What features are they using?
Benji: And there’s a combination of just a ton of these questions that we ask. And what we’re looking for is patterns in the responses across multiple teams. Oftentimes, part of the challenge that we found is that many of the teams inside of a company are siloed and they’re not sharing information about the customer. They’re not sharing their learnings. And so getting all these people talking and kind of hashing out a lot of these questions together, and then looking for patterns in their responses leads us to figure out who we should focus on, what the primary use case is, what are the top pain points these customers face? What are the top questions that they have? And that helps us back into what keywords and topics we should go after.
Louis: So as you mentioned earlier, you charge a decent amount for your services, right? I mean, it’s not like a 500 Euro a month Fiverr gig type of thing, right?
Louis: So the people who can afford you are usually companies that are semi established data, have massive funding behind them, or they make good money to be able to afford you. Right? And yet, from your process, it seems like you do their marketing job that they haven’t done properly, which is they don’t know their pain points, they don’t know the key questions and all of that. Is that a fair, accurate summary or am I reading something that shouldn’t?
Benji: No, I think that’s fair. I wouldn’t say that they don’t know anything, they just typically haven’t gone through this exercise. I realized this when I worked at the previous startups that I worked at that no one… Unless the marketer owns it, so unless the head of marketing owns this or some other marketer on the marketing team, just this customer research process, it never gets done. What happens is companies make assumptions about who their customer is, and they create these personas based on a few of their first customers and they don’t really get in depth and they kind of just come up with these hypotheticals of who they think their customer is. And then that’s kind of what’s shared throughout the company. So marketing shares this to the sales team, this is our buyer persona, the CEO. Everyone kind of just comes up with this assumption on who the customer is, and they never really go dig into the data or talk to their customers to really figure out if their assumptions hold true.
Benji: And I think that is one of the core problems that I saw just in marketing in general. And so when it came to doing content marketing for these different companies, we thought this is the best starting point because if the company hasn’t done this well, and we’re just trusting the company on their personas and then trying to use their hypotheticals that haven’t really been proven, then it’s going to steer us in the wrong direction. So yes, we wanted to run through our own customer research process so even if the company said this is who our customer is, we could validate that through data from their CRM. So actually quantitative and qualitative data. We-
Louis: Okay. So-
Benji: Go ahead.
Louis: … stop here because there’s a lot that you said that we need to impact, right? So as you said, the first thing you do is you talk to people internally. So customer success, sales, leadership, whoever has direct contact with customers, and you ask interesting questions and maybe we can dive into just a few more together. Talk to us about the last three good sales calls that you had. I found that interesting because you rely on their memory from a recent past and you don’t make them come up with shitty stuff they vaguely remember, right? So it’s like the last three calls, who were they? Why? What are the pain points? Then you look at patterns in the responses across the teams, because most of them, they are siloed. You look at primary use cases [crosstalk 00:15:16]
Benji: Yeah, I’ll give you more questions because I think that’ll help.
Louis: Go ahead.
Benji: So first thing that we really dig into, what is the founding story? This is actually really interesting because I find that companies that solved their own problem in some way, learning their founding story really gives you the motivation behind why the company exists and that unveils a lot about the pain points, the motivation of a founder. And then trying to understand how this compares to the rest of the competitive landscape. So we dig into… the next question we typically ask after the founding story is what do you feel like your competitive advantage is versus all the other companies that exist? And if they can’t answer that question, it’s going to be a very, very difficult time on marketing.
Benji: So we actually get into a lot of this stuff on our sales call, just digging into the founding story and learning their competitive advantages and who their competition is just to qualify them. Because if we don’t feel like they have a strong founding story or very strong competitive advantages, all the content marketing or marketing in the world isn’t going to solve those problems. And so that’s kind of the first things that we really dig into. Once we feel like we have a really good understanding of why they exist and what their strengths are, and for SaaS products, potentially what features people come in for. It’s interesting in SaaS products, there’s always a lot of, there’s a huge feature set typically, but there’s almost always one or two features within that entire feature set that accounts for the majority of the reason why people sign up.
Benji: And so from a content marketing or marketing perspective, understanding those features specifically and why they buy, that’s where we would focus on to do all the marketing is probably just driving awareness of those specific feature sets versus trying to market the entire product for features that they might not be as strong on compared to the competition, et cetera. So-
Benji: It’s because you don’t want to dilute the message, which is something that in marketing is kind of a plague, which is this willingness to try to share everything because they think everything is so interesting while in fact, exactly, as you said, there’s one or two features top that actually people come to and it’s strengthened the message to focus on one. And you said it on the start, you need to leverage your strength, which also means that you shouldn’t worry about your weaknesses, meaning you need to double down on your strengths and don’t worry about your weaknesses because you can’t be good at everything. And so I’m glad you mentioned that. So the founding story on those features like you would ask the founder, the CEO obviously, right?
Benji: Correct. Yeah.
Louis: Okay. So usually people make assumptions, as you said about their persona, and I’m glad you mentioned that because that’s one of my biggest pet peeves as well. People going into boardroom for three hours coming up with fucking persona that don’t mean anything. They’re just, the psyche just random stuff. And then exactly as you said, it starts to become this gospel internally where everyone shares that and thinks this is it while in fact, it’s usually not, and it’s not specific or it’s plain wrong. It just a plague in the marketing world. So I’m glad you mentioned interviewing customers, interviewing your sales team and people internally. Do you also then interview customers yourself?
Benji: Yes, if we have the ability to. So oftentimes the customer interviews come from after we engage with the company. A big part of our content strategy is case studying customers or sharing customer stories. And so during the engagement, we typically interview a lot of customers and that kind of just builds the wealth of knowledge as we’re going. And so there’s a couple of things we do. In the beginning, we send over a worksheet, which kind of gets all this data, so we would basically try to get access to their CRM so that we can basically look through all the data of customers, so see if people have signed up for specific plan types or see the specific titles and try to narrow it down that way. And so just looking at raw data and trying to make sense of it, and then we couple that with the qualitative stuff that we get on from the sales calls, customer success calls, talking to different people on the marketing side and try to pair the two to figure out where we should focus.
Louis: So let’s go a little bit deeper on the CRM side, and then we can move on to the next step, which is what information do you look into? How do you slice the data? Do you look at number of customers, average value per customer, average deal size, average time to convert? What do you think you look into?
Benji: It depends on the business model. So on the service side, that kind of customer information isn’t as valuable because the customer numbers are so much smaller. So if we’re talking about an agency, they typically probably only have 20, 30, 100 total clients. And so what we’re more interested is the qualitative feedback. For SaaS companies that have thousands of customers, yes, then we would try to dig into if they have multiple plans, which plan do most of the people sign up for? Which plan is most profitable for the company, which plan has the lowest customer support headaches, which plan is the most profitable for the company. And then same thing, are there specific features that people are using? What else? Yeah, that’s kind of typically what we’re getting into on the front end, just looking at that kind of stuff, and then who is the buyer?
Benji: So looking at titles of the people who’ve bought, and then trying to come to some consensus on where it makes sense to focus there. So, for example, if we come to the conclusion that everyone has, or 80% of the customers have signed up for the smaller plan, then when we talk to the sales team and other people, we want to figure out what are the pain points that those people on the smaller plan have and try to make sense of that. Because if 80% of the people are on that plan, we’re probably going to want to just try to grow that plan size, as opposed to trying to move up market or trying to go after a completely different customer, just because it’s already proven that they can sell to this specific segment of customers. And so from our perspective, it makes more sense to try to accelerate that growth than to try to go after a completely new customer base. That makes sense?
Louis: Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, it does. It does. So on the service side, typically don’t have that many customers, so you look at the quantitative side as we mentioned. For SaaS companies that tend to have way more customers, you look at the plans and most people sign up. Are those profitable? Which ones are the most profitable? Which ones have the lowest customer support headaches, as you mentioned, which features are they using? Who is the buyer? What title do they have? Like firmographics data as well. And so then you combine the two, right? And I wouldn’t say… I mean, maybe there is, but I wouldn’t say it’s a process that you follow every single time with the same number of steps or whatever, because it’s got ad hoc, right? You have so many different possibilities, but what is the-
Benji: In the end goal, there’s no right answer too. Basically what you’re getting to is then a hypothesis of where you should focus. And so you’re still not done, it’s no perfect science. And in terms of you run through this process and you have the complete right answer of this is who I should focus on, you basically have a set of hypothesis in terms of, oh, that’s interesting, these pain points keep coming up multiple times. This person inside the company seems to be the buyer more often than not. And then we basically take all this information and come up with a set of hypotheses, ideas of content pieces that we think will work. And then at the beginning of the engagement we spread our bets. And so we might have a few different content types or a few different keywords around these pain points that we’ll test, and then once we start driving traffic to those, and we get some data, we’ll start doubling down on things that are working.
Louis: I can see your interest in investing in general and all of that. I can see the psyche behind making bets and the hypothesis and having your healthy portfolio of risky bet versus not so risky. It’s interesting to hear you talk about this. So before we move on to… before we talk about actually having the content ready, there’s a step in between, which is those pain points. And you talk about it to be like pain points SEO. So pain points Search Engine Optimization, basically making people… when people search for the pain points that they suffer from making sure that they found you. So what is the end result once you do all of this qual and quantitative research? How does it look like when it comes to those hypothesis? Like the pain points, and maybe you can give me a few examples of what you mean by a pain point.
Benji: Yeah. So I’ll give you two different examples. One from B2C and one B2B from existing clients. We have a B2C client that is a concussion treatment center in Provo, Utah. Their goal, they basically help people who have had longterm concussion problems and they run them through a one week in person treatment where they take a FMRI of the brain, see where it’s damaged and then run them through a series of exercises and then they run them through an FMRI at the end of the week and they see how much the series of neuro-plasticity exercises helped the brain improve. So if a content marketer was just doing this without doing the customer research, they might think, oh, I’ll just go after concussions or concussion symptoms, it seems to be somewhat on the topic.
Benji: But what we realized is that the best customer for them is not someone who recently got a concussion, and it’s also not someone who’s just had one concussion. The best customers are typically someone who has had multiple concussions over the period of their life. They’ve been suffering from symptoms for 10 years. It can range from depression, anxiety, not being able to be in public places. Concussion headaches, like they have constant headaches over the period of their lives. Oftentimes these people think that these are just things, they’re just medical problems that they’ve just grown accustomed to having. They don’t think that they’re solvable. And again, like headaches or anxiety or depression, oftentimes people don’t relate this to I had a concussion when I was younger, they just think this is something that they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Benji: So from a pain point perspective, one, we came across this keyword that’s called post concussion syndrome and that syndrome is specific to people that have had concussions multiple times. And so, rather than just going after the keyword concussion or concussion syndrome, concussion symptoms or anything like that, we wanted to focus on post concussion syndrome because there’s very few treatments for this. And anyone who’s searching for this is actually pretty knowledgeable on the topic. They’ve probably done a bunch of research. They’ve been to a bunch of doctors before. And then we also wanted to focus on some of these symptoms for people that had concussions for a long period of time, as well as telling stories of people who had the symptoms that they thought were unsolvable, and then going to the treatment and show how they got better.
Benji: So that’s an example of just if we hadn’t gone into their clinics, so we actually flew to Provo, Utah. We talked to their doctors, we talked to some of the people that had been in treatment, and we learned that there were just common issues that these people face that were people that would have the highest impact from treatment. And so we went on those. And so even post concussion syndrome, we have a post that’s ranking, I think number three or four for that right now. Multiple concussions is another keyword that performs really well for them from a conversion perspective. And so it’s those keywords that are specific to having multiple concussions that lead to higher conversions compared to anything else that we focus on for them.
Louis: That’s a great example. Thanks for sharing. And as an aside, yeah, concussions, multiple concussions, I think there’s been research made recently in American football and in rugby as well for Europe in particular, showing that multiple concussions in a row can lead to devastating effects, including suicidal thoughts on crazy fucking stuff like this famous players who killed themselves because of it, and it’s not that well understood. So I’m glad you mentioned that as a way, because when I talk about what I do for a living to some people who don’t understand it, they see marketing to be advertising. And yet those are those types of stories that are what marketing truly is. You genuinely help people to get better because they have a problem, they find the solution and they get better after all. So thanks for mentioning this. These are great examples of specific pain points that are not just a generic leading keyword. And so share with me another one, like a B2B company, as you mentioned.
Benji: Yeah. So we had worked with Lead Feeder for a period of two years or over two years and same kind of thing. So when we first started working with them, their messaging on their website, I think they positioned themselves as a lead generation tool. Essentially what the product itself did is it just tells you, it uses reverse IP lookup to tell you what companies are on your website, so that you can use that as sales intelligence. So let’s say if you had sent cold emails to a number of companies or you had sent emails to prospects, you could also see what pages that they were viewing on the website after the email went out. So you have that kind of sales intelligence so you could follow up with targeted messages, try to convert some of the customers that are on your website.
Benji: So again, I think if you were just thinking of keywords, if you had just gone off their messaging and stuff like that, you might go after like lead generation. Even before we had started working with them, they went after terms like B2B marketing, B2B sales. A lot of those terms just didn’t result in conversions because again, if you have to think about B2B sales, if you own that keyword, what is the person trying to achieve? What is the intent of that keyword? It’s not really that clear. And so to get way more targeted, we went through this whole exercise with our team and then we tried to get very specific use cases around what people are searching for on their website.
Benji: And so some of the keywords and topics that ended up working… I’m trying to think of some examples. So like even long tail stuff’s like how to figure out what customers are on my website or customer or visitor identification software, like things like that. It’s more the very specific terms instead of just going broad at a lot of these lead gen or marketing tools terms. I find that often people think of like, let’s just go after marketing tools or something like that. But even within marketing tools, this is a very specific subset of a marketing tool and it has very specific use cases. And so the key was trying to uncover what those specific use cases are.
Benji: And even if they didn’t have search volume ranking for those specific terms, because we knew if someone was searching for something not specific, that this product was going to be the best solution for their problem and those long tail, no search volume keyword terms converted at a much higher percentage and drove way more customers than going after terms like B2B sales, B2B marketing, account like ABM, like account based marketing. Those are just kind of like the high level terms, but it really didn’t indicate how this product tied to them or what the intent of the searcher was when they were searching for those keywords.
Benji: And so their strategy prior was owning all of these broader keywords, and we have conversion graphs on our site that showed the difference between some of these blog posts that got 10,000, 12,000 visitors a month that were going after the term B2B sales and ranking in the top three spots. It converted way less than things that got a 10th of the traffic. And so it’s just the importance of really diving into the use cases, the problem that the customers have, and then targeting content towards those versus some of these higher volume keywords that are more sexy from a traffic perspective, but don’t really convert.
Louis: And that’s the key, right? I think marketers are usually faced with a choice in term of priority, what to focus on and they get really attracted to these, or this keyword has 50,000 sales volume a month, and what if we rank number one for this? It could generate so much traffic for us, but they really forget about the emotional labor required to understand your customer so well that you can write stuff for them when they are genuinely looking for something very close to you. Right? And so the long tail is exactly what it is. If you’re listening to this podcast right now, you visualize this curve that stops very high, exponential to the left and then very, very sharply decline.
Louis: And then the long tail is like the small, the rest of the graph, but the rest of the graph is very meaty when you add that up together. And that’s the same experience with content, multiple times where sometimes we didn’t even have any evidence of volume. Like when you look at [inaudible 00:34:42] for all of the search engine optimization software tells you that this keyword doesn’t exist. And for example, there’s a blog post I wrote three years ago, which is on how to analyze open ended questions. No fucking search volume, no evidence whatsoever.
Benji: I love that topic.
Louis: We were getting like 1500 to 2000 search visits a month to this number, and we’re number one. And there was no evidence. So I think this is what it comes to when you do the emotional level of truly understanding your customers, you unlock value that goes beyond just doing the lazy work of just going through your SEO software, ranking by volume, popularity, difficulty, and then go for it. I think this is kind of what you’re talking about.
Louis: I want to go into more specific-
Louis: … because I think there’s one layer down, which is you talk about use cases, you talk about problems, you talk about pain points. And the premise of this episode is really about the pain points specifically. So how do you structure that so that you turn raw data into a ready, a list of keywords that you’re going go after? Like the use cases, also the pain points. How do you juggle them together?
Benji: Yeah. I’ll give you an example just from our own company. So Growing Convert. So again, if you were an outside agency, you might think that the keyword content marketing is valuable. We always use this example because it would be ridiculous for us to go after the keyword, content marketing. One who is searching for something like that, no real marketer who’s inside of a company who could potentially use our service is searching for stuff like that, because why would you search content marketing? It’s like you’re trying to learn about the topic, you’re trying to write a research paper on it. There’s no point for us to rank for that. However, that’s typically what most people would think to go after content marketing, content marketing strategy, all that kind of stuff.
Benji: When you talk to different customers, and so we have multiple mechanisms to get feedback from customers to try to figure out what their main challenge is. So if anyone subscribes to our email list, the first thing that they get is an email just giving a little bit of background on the company and it just says, hey, we want to get to know you, can you tell us your number one challenge in content marketing? No one has ever just said content marketing or something like that, it’s always these very specific challenges such as how to attribute leads to content marketing, how to drive more traffic to blog posts. I have a lot of content, but none of it’s converting. Why is that? There’s all these very, very specific problems that we see come up multiple, multiple times. And so what we do is we collate all those responses and we look for patterns basically in what people are saying.
Benji: And then we go to Google suggested search and start typing out some of these questions or pain points and see what people are searching for around this topic and then we try to pair this question or this pain point that people have to a keyword that has some volume and that relates to the intent. And so that’s the process that we walk through to pair this customer research to real keywords. And for the B2B space, if you’re an agency or something like that, sometimes success is getting something that has a volume of 10 or 20, that has the right intent versus a SaaS product in the B2B space. Something like 70 or 100 is really good for us if it has the direct buying intent.
Benji: And so that’s just kind of the process that we use. So it all stems from long form responses to questions or people listing out the problems that they have, and then basically taking those and trying to think through if I was the same customer and I was searching for an answer to this problem, what are the various keywords or phrases or questions that I would type into Google to get an answer? And then we’re using tools like clear scope, Google suggested search to kind of back into this. And then basically the next indication of what the right keyword is, is just looking at the top 10 responses, or sorry, the top 10 search results in Google to see does the intent of the keyword match what people are writing about.
Benji: And if so, can we produce a better article than anything else in the search results? And that’s just the process that we go to, to take a lot of this customer research, turn it into content ideas, and then also prioritize them. When we prioritize them, we’re not really looking at things like competition or a lot of these things that marketers use, it’s truly does this intent match what the product solves for or the service solves for? And then can we just write something better than anything out there? I don’t pay attention to any of these competition scores or anything like that, even like domain authority, really, because oftentimes you’ll find that a lot of the articles that rank in the top results don’t exactly match the intent of the query.
Benji: And so if you write something that’s a lot more specific and you just go deeper and truly try to create a better piece of content, oftentimes you can outrank some of these top sites out there. And the example I’ll give on that is the same concussion treatment center. When we first started with them, we thought it was going to be nearly impossible to get their content to rank. Why? Because going after a keyword like multiple concussions, we were going after sites like Healthline, the CDC, Web MD, Mayo Clinic, all these content based medical sites that you’ve heard of forever that have domain authority of like 80 or 90 that you just think is going to be near impossible to rank.
Benji: But if you think about those sites, I highly doubt that they’re talking to a doctor who has been doing research specific to concussions their entire life, who has way more information to say on this topic than just some standard doctor. And by interviewing those subject matter experts and just being way more comprehensive, we found that we could outrank all of these sites. And now we have number one positions for a lot of these keywords and outrank Web MD and the Healthlines and everything. I think for two reasons, because we have better subject matter expertise, and we’re just way more specific in what we’re writing about.
Louis: And this is the key, right? And if you’re listening to this right now, you’ve been listening to this episode for 40 minutes, and I’m glad that you stayed on because this is probably one of the single most important lesson in marketing and content marketing in general, the two things you mentioned there, relying on subject matter expert, instead of just coming up with articles yourself if you have no fucking clue about the subject, do act like a journalist. That’s what good journalist do, they interview people who know the shit about something, that’s it. Some people have dedicated their life to, for your example, to concussions, right?
Louis: And the second one is specificity, and this is something I’ve done on the podcast for the last almost four years. Every episode is about one topic and we go in depth. It’s not about talking about, like Benji, talking about every single fucking topic on content marketing in a very shallow way. And that’s why people like it. So those two things are incredibly important for content marketing and marketing in general. I wish more people knew that, and thank you for mentioning that. To go back a bit to what you said, so you look at the pain points in the words of the customer, you search for those in Google, you look at the autosuggestion at the bottom, you do investigative work. What type of keywords relate to this pain point?
Louis: And then you look at the volume, is there actual people searching for it or not? And you kind of prioritize this way. Is it a severe pain point? Is it directly related to our product or is it far away from it, which is the intense thing? And then is the potential for it. And then you hedge your bets as you mentioned at the start. You kind of build a portfolio of bet to say, we are fairly certain that this keyword is popular and closely related to this product, and so therefore we should absolutely write it right now. I don’t want to cover too much the writing process, what I’m interested in is the step after, the promotion side, which is something that you also kind of have a process for.
Louis: Now we’ve don’t necessarily have crazy amount of time to talk about it, but I’m pretty sure you can highlight maybe the one or two things that you do that really genuinely have to get articles to be seen by people who need to see them.
Benji: Yeah. So again, when we started the agency, this was another problem that we wanted to solve because when I had talked to other agencies out there, most of them just said, oh, if you give us access to your social media accounts we’ll tweet it out or share it on Facebook for you. And I didn’t really think that did anything. And then the SEO agencies are just SEO agencies and that takes a long time to see results. So as an agency, it’s going to be hard to keep a client unless you make them sign your contracts right from the beginning, because you’re going to have to play the Google waiting game. And so we wanted to rethink content promotion, so we think about it in two ways, short term tactics and long term.
Benji: The short term, in the beginning, we experimented a lot with community content promotion, so the concept behind this is find existing communities that already have your target audience in them and just share the content in those places. Because someone has already done the work to build this audience, and it’s easier for you to insert yourself in the conversation there and tap into those existing community of people than it is for you to go build an entire community yourself. So that worked really well. So in the beginning we use Facebook groups, Reddit, inbound growth hackers, all these different types of communities to do that. Quickly, that just became unscalable as we grew the agency. And so then we started experimenting with stuff on the paid side. So right now we mainly use Facebook. There’s three different things that we do on Facebook.
Benji: One is just advertise to cold audiences. So based on all that information we get from the user research, we use behavior and interest targeting to try to get in front of the right people. The second thing that we do is Lookalike. So we’ll create a Lookalike off of a signup page or some high value page on the website and then advertise the articles in front of that audience. And then the last thing we do is straight retargeting. That gives us an initial surge of traffic in the very beginning of the engagement, and it also lets us test which articles convert. So even if we created something that was supposed to go after a keyword, oftentimes we’ll see conversions come from the paid side and that gives us good indication that if we were to get this article into a top spot for the same keyword that this article will convert. And so we prioritize our link building resources, which is a longer term tactic that I’ll get to in a second from indications on what’s working on the paid side.
Benji: Another thing that we’ve been experimenting with in the last two or three months is Twitter advertising. I don’t know really anyone that’s been talking about this recently. It’s something that I tried two or three years ago, the platform was horrible and they didn’t have really good targeting options. We recently decided to start testing this again in May, and it’s showing really promising results. Like click costs are comparable with Facebook and we’re seeing way higher quality leads come from it. And the thinking there was, where am I getting most of my content, or where am I connecting with most of the people in the industry, it’s all happening on Twitter. I really don’t go anywhere else to discover new information on marketing or just other topics now. And so basically we just had the hypothesis to start testing there. And then one thing that we did was we looked back through the conversion data and tried to figure out which articles were already showing likelihood to convert on Twitter, and we started with those articles to test there.
Benji: And in the last couple months, we’ve accelerated the amount of leads that we’re getting from our channel and it’s working really well. The last thing that’s in an experimental stage right now is testing Google ad words for content promotion, with not the goal of driving traffic. I think the traffic is going to come from Facebook and Twitter. However, I haven’t really seen anyone advertise articles in Google ads. Google ads is typically seen as a direct response channel and people only want landing pages. However, we’ve done some recent experiments where we advertise an article in Google ads and it converts at a pretty high percentage. And so we’re debating right now whether to add this as part of our service, just the thinking is always trying to get better and better results from our work.
Benji: And because I haven’t seen anyone else do this, and if you just think about the top search results, if you saw two landing pages and then one article for the same keyword that educated you about this topic and was able to go into depth explaining, basically making the argument in a written blog post about why you should use a product or how to solve this problem, I think it’s way more valuable to the searcher than just sending someone to a thin landing page. And so that’s something that really you can experiment with probably in the next couple of months here.
Louis: So that’s very interesting because social media in general, and to find where people hang out and to truly be in front of a lot of people, it’s pay-to-play, right? It’s just the reality of the game. And you’ve tried, as you said, a few years ago to do it very organic and one to one community outreach. And like you’re just posting in community, replying to comments, going very in depth. But as you said, it’s not scalable and pay-to-play is interesting. What I suspect is even more interesting here is because of the specificity of the pieces you talk about. It’s actually quite, could be quite cheap on Google ad words, for example, to target those. For Facebook ads, if you go to a very, very specific niche, because you’ve done the emotional labor of understanding your customers. Again, it’s likely to be cheaper.
Louis: Twitter ads is also a good example, but regardless of the platform, I think the learning here is if you’re listening to this episode in 2025, it’s the same thing. It’s trying to go and put those pieces in front of people very, very quickly so you can see whether it performs and unpaid ads in general, whether it’s social or not is kind of the best way to go about it. I don’t think there’ll be in five years time or 10 years time, a different way to go about it. So thanks for sharing that. And then you wanted to mention the longterm stuff before we stop this interview. So tell me more.
Benji: The longterm tactics is really just SEO. So we use Clearscope as a way to optimize all the content for on-page prior to publishing. And so again, if we’re going after a very specific keyword, that just helps us make sure that we have all the right entities in the blog post to give us the best chance to rank. And then on the link building side, we’re not a massive link building company. I think before this, I had maybe the preconceived notion that you needed a lot of links to get an article to rank for a specific topic, and I just kind of realized that’s not true testing this ourselves. And so we basically publish an article, let it sit for three weeks to a month just to see where it ranks on its own. If the site has a really strong domain authority, oftentimes we can get it to rank without really any link building at all.
Benji: However, if it is a little bit more competitive then we’ll just build one link at a time to the article. And oftentimes it doesn’t take more than a few links to get it to rank for the keyword that we’re going after. And I think part of that is because again, we’re going after more specific, long tail keywords that aren’t as competitive and two, just the content is better typically than most of the other search results, so it doesn’t really take that much. And the way that we do that is we work with a link building sub contracting agency, and they write guest posts on sites in the industry and basically build a targeted link just to that article. And yeah, and then it’s really not a high volume game at all, it’s very targeted.
Benji: So we don’t build that many links per month, but we find the combination of basically figuring out a more specific keyword to target that has high intent writing a way better blog posts than anyone else on the topic and then just giving it a couple links, gives us a way better advantage than most of the people in this space. And so that’s kind of the process and how we think about it.
Louis: Benji, thanks so much for sharing all of this knowledge and lesson learned and mistake made. And step by step, I think people listening to this episode get a lot of value from it because you went very specific into it. It’s a lesson in itself. Before I let you go, what are the top three resources you would recommend people listening?
Benji: Wow. Our own or outside of that?
Louis: So you can mention your own, and then you can add three on top of that.
Benji: Okay. Yeah. So if you want to just learn more about our content strategy and how we think, I would recommend reading the post on pain point SEO on our site. We also have two case studies that share both of the examples that I talked about. So lead feeder and cognitive. So I would recommend reading those for way more in depth on each of those companies and how we approached it. We also have a course that kind of just teaches our whole process, we just launched it a month ago. So if you really wanted videos that explain how to do keyword research and how to do this user research and promotion and all that kind of stuff, even how to write blog posts, that’s all in there. Three resources outside of that. Personally, I get all of my ideas and thinking from books and it’s kind of reading books and just trying to get one or two ideas that I can take back and test.
Benji: The books that I’ve made the biggest impact on my life and probably as a marketer, I think Think and Grow Rich has just to get one just to get in the right mindset and it’s just kind of talks through basically how, if you think something can happen, it can. And I think that’s a good mindset to get into when you’re first starting out as an entrepreneur or as a marketer. The next biggest book that shifted my thinking was probably The Lean Startup. So a lot of the stuff that we talked about today in content marketing or business is the idea of customer research testing, coming up with a hypothesis testing and then scaling what works.
Benji: That whole framework of growth marketing or anything like that comes from that book. And so I think it’s just a really good book to read so you don’t waste time building things that people don’t want. The last two books I will say is on psychology. One is Contagious by Jonah Berger and the other one is Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. I’d say the combination of the business and then the psychology really helps you just become a better marketer, I think.
Louis: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time and thanks for all of your knowledge, really appreciate it. If people want to talk to you directly or send you an email, how can they find you?
Benji: Yeah, just on Twitter, I’m super active there and I typically respond to everyone. So it’s just @Benjihyam. B-E-N-J-I-H-Y-A-M.
Louis: Well Benji, once again, thank you so much.