FT 117: Rapidly Build a Client Base with Creative Content Marketing with Johnathan Dane
If you are looking to build up a client base at serious scale, and have leads consistently coming in from your efforts, then content marketing is one of the most effective approaches out there.
Johnathan Dane, of Klient Boost, is an expert content marketer. He built up a $3 million dollar a year pay per click management agency with $350,000 in monthly recurring revenue by relentlessly building a brand through their unique content marketing. Such as animated infographics, or gifographics. Jonathan shares how he used content marketing from the get go to rapidly build up a client base, and how he’s continuing to build the agency. Oh and he’s got a pretty crazy story of how he first got into business.
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Johnathan shares with us:
Klient Boost is “a pay-per-click and conversion optimization agency that deals with a lot of marketing and advertising fun stuff on Google and Facebook and these other platforms.” Johnathan founded the agency two years ago, and now has a team of 30 people on board, has $325,000 in monthly recurring revenue and is moving into his 5th office.
His success can be attributed to his persistence and his philosophy:
“If there is a way to do it, we want to be the best at doing that.”
But he didn't start there. When he finished high school in Denmark, he came to college in California, but didn't really know what he wanted to do. He started out reselling bootlegged goods (P90X, fake MBA jerseys, etc.) on Craig's List and delivering them on his Vespa scooter. Yes, looking back, Johnathan knows it was sketchy, and wouldn't do it now. At the time, though, he thought it was legit, until the port authority seized his next shipment and he thought he was going to jail (he didn't). So he switched to detailing cars.
He learned that he was very good at making appealing listings that would sell. So much so that competitors would ask for his help with their listings. Turns out, Johnathan was good at marketing and enjoyed it.
With his new gig, detailing cars, making $300-$400 a day, but started burning out, that and customers wouldn't come back to him to detail their cars again, so he thought it was time to move on.
Next, he worked as a customer service rep where he learned how to handle google ad words. He didn't like working for someone else when he couldn't be the decision maker.
“I have so many better ideas on how to be more efficient, more effective, that if I can't be the person in charge, I'm going to lose my crap.”
So, he went freelancing with PPC (pay-per-click) services on Craig's List and got his first clients. To keep improving, Johnathan would scope out his competition and see what they were good at and bad at. Basically, he surveys competition to figure out:
“Is there any wiggle room for me to do better than them on a first impression basis?”
But at this point, he was still in class, working on client optimization work rather than paying attention to the lecture. He saved up money by making $10-15,000 a month until he decided to try building an agency with a connection of one of his clients. He moved to Utah with his girlfriend at the time (now wife), and worked for a year and a half on the agency. But, realizing that he preferred Southern California over Utah, for the weather, lifestyle, and to be close to family, he cashed out of the agency and moved back.
On moving back, he intended to create a PPC SAS business. That's when he hired his first employee, a designer, for his new business with the inspiring words: “We don't have to make any money for the first 6 months because I have this money from my previous experience. So let's just see what we can do, where we can get to.”
So, they took up shop in various Starbucks cafes. For the first 6 months, he was writing content nonstop both for his own domain and as a guest blogger. The initial traction that he got came from the posts he wrote on other blogs, where he got high rankings.
“Content marketing is super tough to pull off! It's very intensive as far as time and even money is concerned. Also, you got to think about the whole promotion. But it is the ultimate way to create value for people.”
To figure out who to approach as a guest blogger, Johnathan looked at the vanity metrics, such as social shares, size, and engagement, of the respected, well-established blogs in his industry (PPC, landing page optimization, etc.). He found and targetted blogs like WordSteam, Kissmetrics, and Crazy Egg.
But then there is the problem of getting these blogs to say “yes” to Johnathan being a a guest writer. They weren't going to let him write a post if he doesn't already have content that they can look at. That's where building up his own blog was so important, even though there were very few visitors to his own blog at the time.
When he first approached the big blogs, he was treated with suspicion. They expected him to write an article with the purpose of back linking to his own site and sell his own services. So when you are starting out, be patient. You won't convince them overnight if you don't have any content out yet. If you do get an article through, you also have to be patient with the long back and forth editing process. Also, when you make the pitch, give them the completed article, not just an idea, because they are less likely to say no if what you give them is already polished, matches their post guidelines, and better quality than most of the posts they already have. Make it easy for them to say yes.
He managed to convince WordStream to pay him $300 per article because he made PPC interesting and fun, rather than stale and dry which it can easily become if all you talk about are excel sheets and pivot tables. Once he got a yes from WordStream, he could approach the next big domain, refer back to his WordStream article as social proof, and get the next yes. And so on.
Ultimately, the purpose is to provide value to as many people as he can, while also meeting his personal goals:
“1. I want to be rich. 2. I want to be famous.”
Johnathan wants to be the best at what he does as PPC or whatever he chooses to do and he wants people to know that he is the best so they will come to him for help.
So he produces as much content as he can and admits that he is giving out all his secrets. But that's what gets people coming to him, seeking his advice on their businesses.
“I'm making no money right now, and have nothing but time. So content marketing was a perfect avenue because it takes time and you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money on it.”
Content can also scale. The content he has already created keeps snowballing as it reaches more people and he is still creating more content to keep growing his base.
The guest posts got Johnathan clients pretty quickly. In particular, the posts that challenged the status quo got the most traction, with titles like “Your doing adwords wrong”, “You're doing facebook wrong.”
“If you do content well, if you truly give people value, the sale is pretty much half-way done.”
Traction on his own blog didn't take off until 8-9 months after starting the blog and working ferociously on it.
Then around the 8 month mark, Johnathan changed how he looked at content marketing.
He discovered the Skyscraper Technique through his friend Sujan Patel.
Basically, if there are 10 lemonade stands on a street, selling the same product and all look almost identical, how would someone choose which stand to go to? But, if you really start to steady each of these lemonade stands and understand that this one has a slightly better tasting lemonade, this one has a better checkout process, etc. and then pull all the reconnaissance in to your own lemonade stand as well as add more levels to make your stand that much better, now you have the very best, coolest, prettiest, and biggest lemonade stand on the block. That's what gets results and what should drive you as a business person. It's the same with blogging.
“Is your blog post on this topic truly the deepest, most educational, most valuable, funniest piece of content out there on this topic? If not, then don't publish it. Don't set up your lemonade stand.”
There should be no question that your blog post is the best.
“In simple terms, you're just trying to survey who you are going against and make sure yours is better.”
Also, Sujan suggested that he should post less, have more in depth, awesome posts, and promote much more. Figure out how to cross promote with other people, promoting their work as they promote yours, to get your content read. Doesn't matter how much or how good your content is if no one reads it.
This new strategy helped his agency take off.
Another form of Johnathan's content is gifographic.
The skyscraper version of an infographic is a “gifographic” so there is a subtle animation to a static image.
He made a great campaign for Christmas to make a 25 day advent calendar for marketers. They wrote 25 blog posts for their own site and for the sponsoring company about a specific valuable topic along with a gifographic.
It was a lot of work to make. Way more then they thought it would be. Short-term, it was overwhelming in terms of time and money.
But it did pay off and got them a lot of big sales for months after.
Why have your own blog:
This is the story of “I Heart Radio,” an app that allowed you to listen to radio content from anywhere, before radio content became online podcasts. People subscribed to “I Heart Radio” so they could still listen to their hometown's radio from across the country. Some used the app to even listen to the content in the same geographic area. “I Heart Radio” started buying FM and AM stations around the US and no longer needs to search for content because it owns the content.
That's what Johnathan wants from his blog, to be the thought leader in his industry. But just blogging on his own blog would take a long time to get recognition. Guest blogging grew his exposure and brought people back to his blog. Now, he mostly puts the content on his own platform.
The content on his blog is also so in depth and detailed that most people can't read it in a single sitting. Johnathan says that he writes for google first, then the human eye. People start to read it, realize that Johnathan's team know what they are doing and are experts, and call them up to do the work for them. The inbound sales are often super successful to the point that they close these clients the same day or, max, within a week. Once you've put in the work to build up your content, scaling is quick and easy.
One of the downsides of writing super epic content is that the competition also reads it, doesn't share it, and sneakily “leech” the ideas for their own use.
Johnathan plans to keep expanding and building offices to service clients anywhere. Once he hits $500,000 in monthly recurring revenue, he plans on building an office on the east coast to service clients in New York and the UK. His agency has become a profit-driver machine that allows him to keep growing.
“That wouldn't be fun, that wouldn't be exciting.”
He doesn't want to reach the top of the mountain, he wants to climb. That's the fun part. He wants to grow as far as he can as quickly as he can.
Find Johnathan online:
- On LinkedIn
- On Twitter @JohnathanDane
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