BSMS 36 - When and how to use an agency (or agencies), or outsource your full marketing function
Why, how, and when to outsource some or all of your marketing function.
Hey, welcome to episode 37. This is Mike. Today we're doing something a little bit different. We are stealing the first episode of our new podcast, which is called Office Hours, that's being launched over on T2D3's website for members. And basically the way that podcast works is community members can go and submit their own questions and up vote other community members' questions. And at the end of each week, we're going to take the top three questions that can float to the top of the list. And we'll pick one and do a deep dive episode on it. So it's similar to what we do here, but it gives the community a voice. And we have tried something new where we actually record the episodes so we can share our screens and show examples and things like dashboards and our experiences and slides that we sometimes use in our engagements. So it's a little bit different and I hope that it's cool.
And if you're interested in getting access to it, you can see it over at t2d3.pro. And if you go to the header nav, there's a learn column and you can go to podcast. And there you can also submit a topic and vote on other people's topics, if that is intriguing to you. So let's get into it. Thanks again for choosing to spend your time with us, really appreciate you being here.
Okay, cool. First episode of T2D3 Office Hours. The premise of this whole new podcast is essentially to give community members a chance to ask very specific questions of us, primarily you Stijn, I think. But to give people the opportunity to get answers to things that might not be clear or specific scenarios that they're coming across when they're building their go to markets or they have specific marketing questions.
So the way that we do it is we have a voting app on the website, on the Office Hours podcast landing page, where you can actually go and submit a topic and then you can vote on other topics. And so every week we're going to take the top three voted topics and pick one of them and do a podcast episode on it. And we'll go deep on it and share our thoughts and resources and ideas and hopefully it is beneficial to the community.
Very excited about doing this, Mike. I think we have so many topics where we can go deep on and we end up sometimes picking a few and sometimes even talking twice about the same thing. But having the people on the listening side actually tell us what to talk about is really helpful. Thank you for doing that.
Yeah, I think so. It's like having a fractional CMO in your pocket. Okay.
The first topic that we have for I guess this first episode is around demand gen channels. So the question is which demand gen channels should you prioritize first? And the description that goes with it is this. I could use some more specifics on what channels work best. I've got a massive list of things I want to do before I start to use inbound marketing, but the different ways to approach it and the experience with different types of channels could help me prioritize.
And what are your thoughts on that, Mike?
I'm going to do this a little more because I tend to talk very long when I answer a question. I'd love to get your thoughts.
I read this and I start to think about… in order to answer this question, you really have to understand some of the foundational elements of how mature your market is. That's where my head goes first because different channels are effective at different stages. And here's what I mean by that. Paid search works really well when there's demand. There's a lot of people looking for a specific product that does something particular that has a name. That requires that a market has gone through a few phases of growth and people know what to call the product. They probably know what they're looking for and so there's existing demand that you can go capture. That doesn't work well in an immature market where you're solving a problem that most people don't know what to call or they're... If it's a new market and people are uneducated on the issue, there might be a few people who are really passionate about it, who are maybe just making chatter in some obscure Reddit thread.
And so the way that you find those different people is going to be really different depending on those components. Are people actively searching for it? Are they aware that the problem exists? How many other competitors are there in the space? There's a lot of different components that play into it. So that's where my head goes first is I think you have to understand, or at least consider the maturity of your market, and then use that to inform what decisions you make. And also play that against how many resources you have. Most startups don't have a lot of runway or money or human capital essentially to go deploy for different things. You have to get really particular about which of these things do we think is going to have the biggest impact for sales. That's where my head starts, but it's tough to answer without more specific information, but I'm curious to hear what your thoughts are too.
Mike, when I look at this question, what channels to prioritize first, what demand generation channels. I can't help myself saying, yeah, it's a very obvious answer, you start with inbound. I think the question here includes, I have a massive list of things I could do before doing inbound marketing. And I don't understand what would be on that list. And that depends probably a little bit on how you define inbound. For me inbound is when you start a business, you start a software company, you build a solution. The first thing you do is testing with your audience whether this is valuable, whether it works, whether it is answering a need. If you don't have a chance to talk with people one to one and meet your customers, then go right about it and see what people think. Write up what is the problem that you're solving? Write up what is the answer and the solution that you found works.
Find maybe a way to do that in multiple formats, and that's a great place to start your demand generation. Because if people think what you're doing is important, that you're solving a problem they care about, then that is a great demand generation channel. And of course, you now have to get over the hurdle of Google finding your content interesting. And you write it in a way that Google understands it, et cetera, before that will turn into actual search results and leads. But there's no reason why you should be doing anything else if you have decided that you want to spend time on doing marketing, on driving demand. The first thing you do is write it up, write up the things that you're really confident are the challenges that you're solving for. And then of course how you solve those.
Great answer. I think there's also maybe a little bit of nuance to when you get to the... I almost wonder if this person's also asking about specific, what tactics can I use too.
No, that's fair. So many people get stuck early on and it's easy, the answer's actually so easy. It's not easy to do, but it's easy to answer the question. You need to know what are the three or four things that your customers are asking for. What is it that they actually need? And if you know, you need to be able to write down what is it that you do that answers those questions. And then you write it down in a couple of articles. Maybe it's an important thing to make a couple of videos about. Maybe you want to create a podcast or a podcast episode. You try to be a guest on certain podcasts to talk about this problem. That's where you start. And I also believe that if you do that well, if you genuinely put yourself out there and talk about the things that work, that don't, that your solution does well, things maybe that you don't do well yet, or you want to solve for in the future, then Google will reward you with high search rankings.
Even for relatively competitive keyword phrases, if you actually do your job and write multiple pieces of content and ideally in multiple formats, because there are many ways people like to consume content. So it's good to have a video and a podcast, to have a long blog and a short blog. To have multiple ways to reach multiple people where they are and how they consume content. Then you will start getting search results to reward that effort. But it's not going to help if you just do one blog, it might not work. But if you really put yourself in that sort of content marketing, see it for a couple of weeks and you write a couple of valuable things, it will absolutely help. And that should be the first thing you do, I think.
Sure. I think beyond inbound marketing too though. So beyond the… I think what you're talking about, which is building organic authority, so search authority. Doing that and having your content rank also requires people to be searching for it too. And I think there are some scenarios where... I think this question specifically comes from probably somebody who has a minimum viable product and they have not figured out who their best fit customers are yet. And they're maybe looking to figure out who or how to find those watering holes where those people might be. In which case... Sorry, go ahead.
So go pour some drinks at many different watering holes, right? Get on some podcasts. Maybe put some Quora questions out there or answer questions that are already out there. Go find the right Reddit to talk about these things. Have a couple of videos that you create. But you have to do that to find out both what are people responding to, which of these things are really worth answering or worth talking about. And then you'll find out if those channels give you a hint of where people have the most meaningful conversations about these topics. But yeah, you find out, you Google basically what you're caring about. You find out who else is talking about this, who writes about this and engage with them. In the end, your main job is to add value. And so you look at where the conversation about the solution that you're offering or the problem you're solving for is happening and you become part of that conversation.
And there's no way you can get meaningful authority unless you put yourself really into production mode. You have to contribute, you have to produce, you have to answer questions. You have to create content. You have to do the hard work. But if you do that, and the lift is actually not that high. If you do that for maybe a couple of days focused, you will get meaningful results, I guarantee it. The problem with doing content marketing or SEO, is that it's not sexy. Many founders or marketing leaders, they want to do it a little bit. They know it's important, but before you know it, they start outsourcing it. They start hiring SEO specialists or external freelance writers and things like that. Don't do it, do it yourself, especially in the early days, because you are the only one who can really, really create the best content. And I'm not talking about the best written sentence or the best graphic design or the best grammar, but the best content as in the value.
The right answer, asking the right questions because you are the expert and you need to put the work in. There's no shortcut. It's like almost whether you think of it as a sports analogy, a football game. If you get ahead in the first quarter, it makes the rest of game so much easier. If you get a couple of touchdowns early on, now you can go run the ball. You don't have to take as many shots that are risky anymore and you can play defense. It's probably the same in many other sports, when you have to catch up from behind, it is asking for problems. Let's just use the example of a marketing leader. If you wait too long with committing to content marketing and doing it really well, what now happens is that once the pressure is being raised, "Hey, we need leads," and now you're going to buy clicks. You're going to do sponsorships. You're going to do all these things that don't really scale. They get you some quick wins, but they're definitely not easy to grow.
And so you're really behind the curve. And when you do content early, it may not start ranking right away, it takes typically a couple weeks, maybe a couple months sometimes to get the Google recognition. But once you have that, it becomes so much easier to now go bet on some other areas or some other channels without the urgency or the, how do you call it? The tension that you don't have enough content marketing that starts driving some organic search results.
You have to really do it in that sequence. If you do the things that take longer to go early, then you have time for the things that you can do quick later. And I think a lot of marketers make the mistake, they do it other way around. They quickly jump on the low hanging fruit like, "Hey, let me go sponsor a couple of events, buy a couple of clicks. Do a sponsorship in a marketplace." And they don't spend time on content marketing.
They start doing that two, three, four months into the job. And now those paid demand gen sources are maybe drying up. And you don't have time to really wait for Google to recognize your content marketing and how you're going to just produce a lot of noise and maybe the wrong things and cut bait when things don't work right away. And now you're in trouble.
It's a good point. I think there's a lot of ammo that you create for yourself if you start building a library of content in general, because you can take any of those things, whether they're testimonials or whether they're how to, blog articles that are really at the top of the funnel. Or whether it's product feature documentation or whatever it is. Each of those components can then be used in other channels to attract a different prospective customer at a different level of awareness. And it gives you the actual ability to say, "Hey, I think we've identified an opportunity here. What content do we have in our existing library that actually applies to that? And then let's just go..." All you have to do then is connect the two. Write the ad, find the keywords and connect them as opposed to doing the whole thing, which is here's the opportunity, here's the keyword. And now let's go build everything else, write all the content, which is I think the biggest lift really.
And if you have it early on, to your point, which is something that we've seen with Kalungi's content and T2D3 as well, that has exponential… this compounding effect over time the longer it sits there. It's like the time in the market as opposed to timing the market. So I think that it's a really good point. It's interesting because when I read this, I just didn't think of content marketing as a channel. I think of it almost as like a discipline. And not saying that it's not a channel, I think you're right in that content marketing should be the first thing that you do, and it should be the thing that you're always doing and adding to. But typically when I see demand gen, I'm not often thinking about... For some reason in my head, it conjures up the quick burn efforts. The paid search, the paid social, the sponsored events, things like that. And I think that probably whoever was asking this may have been thinking something similar as well.
Yeah. It’s nice because we now have this video feed here that we could share an example here. Let me see if we can add something here in the screen share, Mike. This is the T2D3 effort that we started I think in the summer of last year. I'm just trying to get the right data here on the screen. This is what we did with T2D3, Mike. It started with doing a couple of articles in June. And now you can see the progression of traffic going up on the site. Let me take out some of these things that maybe are not organic so this is purely the organic view. This is not a lot of work. There were 20, 30 articles that we wrote over the course of the first couple of weeks. You slowly see the traffic go up and it doesn't happen overnight, but it's sustainable, you don't have to do this multiple times. You invest in this once. Let me take this away as well. So this is really the organic growth.
And you'll find that there are things that go up and down that you don't know, maybe you can't explain. That's just Google doing its thing. But the trend is clear. This was a completely new website. There was no search traffic. To go from 50 weekly sessions to 100, to now 200, sometimes 250, that's meaningful progress. It's easy to do, it wasn't a lot of work. Let me show you Kalungi, it's not very different. A little longer of course. Let's see. Yeah, Mike, so this is another example where we started to publish content somewhere in 2000… I think late 2018, early 2019. Let me, again, take out the paid traffic here. This is the organic growth, and it is a very predictable trend that starts with actually producing some content. You see the holiday month here, and I expect January to get back up where it was in November, October, et cetera.
Now, we also have a graph too that I think is interesting that shows the... We put this in the newsletter, one of the T2D3 newsletters. It actually shows the comparison of the search traffic that you just showed there with the blog posting.
You correlate the two.
Yeah. That's not it. Well, this is the search console for T2D3, so this is the actual results from Google's own database. That's not what I'm trying to show. I'm still trying to learn how to use the computer, I guess.
For listeners it's really important. We didn't do anything else than just create some organic content. There was not a lot of other marketing that we are betting on.
But this was the newsletter insight that we had. So the black line is blog posts published. And then these bars were what Stijn was just showing in HubSpot. You can see there was just a huge investment up front, but then over time it's maintenance and sustaining the effort.
It's the first quarter in the game where you got to score a couple of touchdowns. You got to take some risk maybe even by putting some blogs out if you don't know if they will work. But you just got to publish a bunch of things. And then if you get ahead, you can then start focusing on other things.
I'm glad you mentioned publishing the things that might not work, because we also talked about how almost 19% of our traffic now comes from five of the blog posts that you made early on in 2019. And so there's I think in total we have maybe 175 blog posts on our website. And the fact that 19% of them come from five is really indicative of if you just publish things, Google and your audience will naturally filter out the stuff that is more meaningful and give more weight to it, more authority.
That's a great point. Google is better than anybody else in deciding what's valuable or not. So don't spend time trying to guess, just write and publish whatever you think is valuable for your audience and Google will do the rest. They will filter out things that are not, and it's fine. Not a lot of people will see it because Google will not rank it high, so they'll do that work for you.
So I think that's pretty clear. The consensus is create content first and then use that content when you see other opportunities. If you see an ability to answer somebody's question on Reddit with a link to a blog post, or if you have the ability to... You see a trend up in a specific keyword, accounts payable automation software. Maybe you should hook up some of your existing content to an ad for that specific keyword, because there are people who are raising their hands and looking for that solution, right?
Yeah. If there's really a lot of things that you feel you have to do before investing in content and organic marketing, then I'd love to hear a few of those examples because there might be something that really makes sense, but I just don't understand what those would be.
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