How Close built a killer content marketing machine
There’s a reason why we've created so much content over the last four years, and it’s not just because we like hearing ourselves talk.
Want the truth?
Content is Close’s only marketing channel. And we basically have a two-person marketing team.
“But you guys produce so much stuff, Steli. I see you everywhere.”
Like I said: Two people. One channel.
How are we able to generate so much high-quality material? We have a system that works. It’s a system that allows us to create great content quickly.
It’s a system that I’m going to share with you right now.
After four years.
Sorry. We’ve been busy.
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Why focus on content marketing?
Out-teaching your competition is one of the best ways to build your brand, especially in the SaaS world. If you teach people how to run their businesses more effectively, they’ll look to you first as they search for software solutions.
Every week, I receive emails from people thanking me for a specific tactic or piece of advice. Some of them even set growth milestones around becoming a Close customer.
Think about that for a second.
Founders, sales directors, and sales reps love our content so much that they’re counting down the days to purchase our product. That’s some powerful stuff. Because we’ve helped them every step of the way—whether they’re launching startups, building sales teams, or chasing down sales goals—they know exactly who to trust when they’re ready for an inside sales CRM.
Why’d we originally focus on content marketing?
When we launched Close in January 2013, we knew we couldn’t out-advertise the competition. If we tried playing that game, we’d lose.
But as we checked out our competitors’ blogs, we realized that a lot of their content sucked. We’d never want to read most of the blogs out there. Where was the substance? Where was the tactical advice? It was all recycled corporate sales rep jargon.
We were confident that we knew more about sales, and we were better storytellers. So we decided to use content marketing to crush the competition.
So how did we set up our content marketing machine?
The machine is built around three main functions:
- Generate tons of raw material
- Send that raw material down an assembly line
- Remix and repurpose content for multiple uses
I’ll discuss each of these steps below, but let’s start with a little Close marketing history.
We started by publishing one highly tactical post per week. We wanted readers to immediately put our strategies and tactics into practice, so we included as little fluff and bullshit as possible.
In the beginning, I was writing the posts myself. Each post took a week or two to publish. Usually two. We had some early success, which was a great motivator to keep moving forward, but I couldn’t create posts quickly enough. I stressed about content all the time.
Eventually, we hired Ramin. The idea was that I’d write a rough draft, send it to Ramin, and he’d clean up the post and publish it. If we could streamline this process, we’d cut our production time in half.
That worked for a while, but we eventually hit a wall. The problem was that Ramin still relied on a first draft from me. I was the bottleneck. With all of my other responsibilities as co-founder and CEO, I struggled to knock out drafts.
There were times when we’d publish one post every week, and times when it’d take two or three weeks to deliver a post.
One day, Ramin got so frustrated by the delays that he texted me: “Just hit the record button on your phone, man. Talk me through the blog post. Tell me the strategies and I’ll write the fucking thing.”
So on my way home, I hit record and started talking him through the idea. It took me a grand total of seven minutes. Seven. Minutes. I sent him the voice recording and by the next day he’d written a draft that was as good as anything I would’ve written, if not better.
Our minds were blown
The process was so much easier for both of us. I didn’t have to struggle through a first draft, and he didn’t have to lose his mind waiting for a first draft.
So we did that for a while, and it worked really well, but at some point I realized, “If I just stop saying ‘the blog post’ in the recording, and I stop referring specifically to Ramin, we could also use this raw material for a podcast or something.”
And then I realized, “Shit, if I just use a webcam, I could have video, audio, and a blog post.”
So that’s exactly what we did. We created three forms of content simply by recording one video.
In the first year, I recorded one or two videos every day, Monday through Friday. Obviously, I couldn’t keep up this pace forever, but early on, I had ten years of entrepreneurial stories to tell. After four years, I probably only record one or two videos per week.
How to create your own content marketing machine
Let’s return to those three main functions:
Generate tons of raw material
To produce so much content, we needed to find the right way to develop ideas quickly. For us, that’s video.
For you, it might be tweets, sketches, outlines, slide decks, or phone calls. Find the format that simplifies communication and inspires creativity on your team. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t hurt if that format can also be used to create multiple forms of content.
Send that raw material down the assembly line
Look no further than the process we developed over four years. Ramin trusts that I’ll deliver videos that help our customers (and future customers) grow their startups and sales teams. And I trust that Ramin (and his small team) will find creative ways to deliver those strategies and tactics to thousands of people each week.
If you’ve got ideas, but you struggle to write or record the content yourself, find some help. Just don’t use Ramin. He’s ours.
Remix and repurpose your content
Once we have a bunch of posts around a specific topic, we create another format for the material, whether it’s an ebook, email course, online course, slideshare, podcast, or Quora answer.
We’re always looking for content amplifiers—ways to create the appearance that we’re everywhere. We love searching for new ways to deliver real, tactical sales advice to people.
So far we’ve published books on sales hiring, follow-up strategies, and cold calling (to name a few); guides on cold emails and enterprise sales; and an online course on negotiation. We’ve also created email courses, checklists, scripts, and templates.
We know it’s not always easy to hunt down our best posts on a specific topic, so we collect that material for you. That way, we’re able to reward long-time Close fans and create opportunities to reach new audiences.
You might find that recording podcasts, designing slideshares, or creating infographics are a great way to repurpose your material. Much of that will depend on your audience and your own strengths.
Here are some of the ways we’ve repurposed content in the past. Spoiler alert: most of them were failures. But we moved on and doubled down on what worked for us:
- Instagram images
- Animated explainer videos
- Quora answers
- Medium posts
- Live webinars
- LinkedIn articles
- Facebook articles
- Periscope sessions
- Reddit posts
- Fast-action guides
- Twitter lead gen cards
- Hackernews discussions
- Email courses
- Translating our English posts into another language and publishing them on popular startup blogs
- And much more. Some of it better to never be mentioned again ;)
Try out a few different formats early on, or just ask your current customers what kinds of resources they’d like you to create.
One last note about content
Because we remix and repurpose our blogs, we try to create as much evergreen material as possible. Which means we avoid gimmicky shit like, “Don’t be a sales zombie this Halloween!” or “17 reasons why inside sales is just like Stranger Things.”
Some of our highest performing blog posts were published years ago—they still generate tons of leads for us. Don’t chase traffic by focusing on trends that six months from now won’t be top-of-mind for anyone. Focus on writing content that'll help people five years from now, too.
Whenever we create content, we write—first and foremost—with our audience in mind. The first test every post must pass is: Will this be valuable to our readers?
Only after that criteria is met do we worry about how to get eyeballs on a post, which usually involves a fair amount of SEO research.
Build your own content marketing machine today
You don’t need a ten-person marketing team or a huge startup marketing budget to generate mountains of great content. All you need is the right system.
Nearly 60% of our trials come to us through the content we create. The other 40% is word of mouth. That’s it.
At the time of writing this, we’ve got 162,481 people who subscribed to our email newsletter.
Again: Two people. One marketing channel.
If this feels like a framework that could work for you, take the first step today. Record a video or sketch an outline. If you’re on the bus, hit record and talk into your phone like a crazy person.
It’s okay if your content sucks in the very beginning. Our first posts were terribly formatted and filled with grammar mistakes and spelling errors. We’re both non-native English speakers and high school dropouts—if we can do this, so can you.
Many people in the startup world trust the Close brand today, but when we started, that wasn’t the case. You just have to get started, and be dedicated enough to get better over time. Want some advice on getting started? Check out this guide on starting a successful blog.
So go out and create your own killer marketing machine right now. Even if it’s just you and Ramin.
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