How To 10x Your Content Ideas With Sujan Patel From Web Profits [ACM 019]
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Have you struggled to come up with content ideas about your niche that are significantly better than what’s already out there? Also called 10x content, this type of content is important for appealing to both search engines and the readers who are going to end up buying from you.
Today’s guest, Sujan Patel, is the co-founder and GM of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency. He’s been quoted in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur, among other publications, and today Sujan is going to talk to us about generating 10x content ideas that will help you succeed as a marketer.
Some of the topics that you’ll hear about today include:
- What Web Profits is all about, what Sujan does, and other projects that he’s working on.
- How Sujan stays focused on 10x growth as evaluates content ideas, from brainstorming to the narrowing-down process, and how publishing fits into the 10x growth plan.
- Why it’s so important to publish lots of quality content, consistently.
- Sujan’s process for generating great ideas for content: How he comes up with ideas and how he makes sure it will be effective in terms of SEO.
- Some of Sujan’s favorite brainstorming methods and tips.
- Sujan’s best advice for a marketer struggling to come up with 10x ideas.
Nathan: Hey, this is Nathan from CoSchedule and this is the Actionable Content Marketing Podcast. You know that little adjective I just dropped, that word Actionable? I seriously mean it. It’s my goal to share stories from amazingly talented marketers with you every single week. Every episode you listen to on this podcast shares processes, frameworks and answers to real marketing problems.
What does that mean for you? It means you leave every episode with proven ideas that will help you execute your marketing even more effectively than you already are today, and all of that with zero fluff.
Today’s episode is all about generating 10x content ideas with a special guest, Sujan Patel. Sujan is the co-founder of web profits. You might have heard of Sujan from reading his content on Growth Marketing and publications like Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, sujanpatel.com and a ton of others. Sujan publishes tons of content including blog posts, articles, videos and podcasts. And to make sure all of them are high quality, he has a few frameworks he’s sharing with you to help you come up with 10x content ideas. Let’s check it out.
Hey Sujan, thanks a lot for taking the time to be on the podcast today.
Sujan: Thanks for having me. Super pumped to talk to you after all these years.
Nathan: I know. We talked back and forth just through emails and content but this is actually the first time face to face so to say, or voice to voice.
Sujan: That’s right. That’s the closest that you can get these days on the internet.
Nathan: Right. just to kick this off, I was wondering if you could give me the lowdown on Web Profits and a bit of what you do there and well beyond, I suppose.
Sujan: I actually run Web Profits US. Web Profits is the international agency. We have offices in Australia and Singapore but I run the US division. We are a growth marketing agency, I’d like to say one of the few out there. I also have a handful of SAAS businesses which is a newly formed venture called Ramp Ventures. Between Ramp and Web Profits, that’s where I spend most of my day.
What it really looks like is I am doing a lot of Frankenstein tests on our own stuff and then when things work, we apply it to the agency side. When I say one of the few growth agencies, what I mean is we have our team actually focuses not just in the top of the funnel like traffic sources like Facebook, LinkedIn or Content Marketing, what have you, but we also do a lot of work on the bottom of the funnel, not just CRO but bottom of the funnel like nurturing in-app messages and asker post acquisition marketing like advocacy, referral programs, affiliate programs and things like that. I’ve been a VP of marketing at many organization and so I want to try to closely resemble an outsourced marketing team as much as possible.
Nathan: You just have lots of things that you could do and something that you’ve talked about, I read from you, is this idea behind 10x. I just want to pick your brain on that. How do you stay focused on 10x growth?
Sujan: Honestly, it’s saying no to a lot of things. It’s making sure you focus your time and you only do things that can have high impact. There might be an opportunity to, let’s say, get 10 customers doing this tactic or you might as a brainstorming with your team or what have you, you might come with a few ideas or two dozen ideas. You have to put those on the ringer as how long is this going to take to complete? What’s the problem this is solving? What’s the impact?
I have a very simple framework that just follows that. There are other frameworks out there, I forgot the acronym, there are so many acronyms these days but what I try to do is I do the brainstorming of everything in the sky, what do you want to do? What’s the problem? What can we improve? As simple as adding testimonials to a home page, making a site mobile, responsive; I’m literally looking through my like Nero.io backlog of stuff that we’ve completed.
All types of things like setting up NPS, in-app surveys, and things like that. Those are the ideation phase. We go to the weekly sprints that we do for all growth that can include product but product is a little different. We then put them through, okay, how much time is this going to take? What’s the estimated impact and what’s the metric we’re trying to go for? Is the metric increased LTV, is it getting new customers? We just want to make sure our customers are happy. Let’s fix the UX. There are those things that are growth related that just don’t have a combined metric. When we do that, we really find the things that can rise to the top, or more importantly the things that just won’t move a needle. What we do is we only work on a handful of things that can actually move the needle and we organize it by the highest impact, the least amount of work, pretty simple.
Nathan: You definitely seem to value publishing content as a 10x growth opportunity. I’d just like to pick your brain on how does publishing content fit into your 10x growth plan?
Sujan: It’s the actual middle anchor of growth and it would put everything else around content. The reason why content is the anchor is one, I run bootstrapped companies, in our agency we have a finite budget. Two, the diversity of how many places you can use content, not just places like you can use Facebook, you can use this website, you can do a video, not just like mediums but also parts of the funnel itself. Content can help you raise awareness and get exposure. Actually looking at my funnel, it starts a little earlier in awareness, it starts exposure which is traffic that’s not on my site. I do a lot of guest posts and go out there to again, increase exposure, but going back to the point, it can go as a nurture consideration stage, even the post funnel or the thing that you use to convert the customer.
One piece of content can be used multiple different ways. You can apply different formats or you have different use cases. For me, content is the anchor of everything else that I do. I try to make content the best possible thing I can do. I put all of my eggs in that basket and then everything else is ancillary.
But also, I didn’t mentioned this but it’s important to know that it also helps you build an audience and build a loyal following. That’s getting increase your word of mouth and referrals that you get from your customers. Meaning you continue to make your customers, which by the way CoSchedule, my favorite example, doing the best content marketing out there. Very polished, I try to reverse engineer what everyone else does. You can use the content in different places and for different parts. When you have a loyal following and an audience that loves your content, they’re going to share a heck out of it and that’s going to bring in customers.
Nathan: Something that’s interesting about that is before we ever wrote a line of code for CoSchedule, we were writing blog posts. We were trying to find that audience who would like what we would have to say so that we could build a tool that would help them solve that problem. It’s fun to hear you talk about that, the idea of exposure with content or content as an anchor. That’s really fun to hear.
Sujan, I just want to ask you. Today we want to talk about ideas and obviously 10x has a lot to do with that, the 10x ideas that you should execute. But you publish tons of different contents, you have your own blog, you’ve got other blogs, you’ve got YouTube Channel, you write for major publications and I just saw you launch your own podcast. Congrats on that, by the way.
Sujan: Thank you.
Nathan: My question there is why is it important to publish lots of quality content consistently?
Sujan: Consistency is the most important thing second to quality.
In terms of quality, here’s the reality, there is a ton of content being published every single day. The more popular your space, the more competitive it is. You have an advantage if it’s competitive because you can get more people to it but the quality needs to be higher. And then on the other side if you’re in kind of a niche space, quality is still a factor because probably you might have less competition but that means a lot less people probably care and that means you need to get quality to break through that ceiling to get people to care. We’ll talk about this probably later but ideas and what to write about is important.
Ultimately, if you’re writing things that is on par with what anyone else is writing, go back and double that quality and go deeper, talk about something different because you won’t be remembered, you won’t stand out unless you produce something of high value. There’s a lot of people that probably don’t produce something of that high value every single day so their quality is a little lower and that’s because they’ve been consistent for years.
Nathan: Something that wanted to talk to you about was publishing as much as you do, you obviously need a lot of those quality ideas because you have so much content coming out. I’m sure you have this personal process that helps you generate those ideas and I was wondering if you could share that with us.
Sujan: First and foremost, I look at what people have asked me or I look on Quora to see what people are asking, what are the questions people ask and try to have conversations. It is my first step to do brainstorming because I want to hear from the horse’s mouth what people are thinking about. Even if I might not write about it, I’ll always try to understand who I’m writing for. It helps me come up with some ideas and then I cross reference that with good old-fashioned SEO keyword research. I’ll write about the questions that are the most popular or based on the most popular high volume keywords.
What I try to do from there or actually in the middle of this, I try to free brainstorm or free storming, it’s technically called free storming. Really, it’s just sitting down, it’s almost like writing with the person I’m trying to talk to in mind. And then I just start writing down whatever starts to make sense.
What I do here that’s a little different is that I only write ideas in outlines and I pretty much write in Gmail for the most part. The subject of the email would be blogpost idea and then now it’s like web publication or what site. It’s like Blogpost Idea: MailShake Blog, how to do bla bla bla. Then in the email’s body, I’ll write four or five points I want to hit and then I’ll just send it off to myself. I do all the brainstorming separate from what I do in writing because then I can compare what I want to write about at what time.
Once it’s off my plate, it’s an idea, it’s worth looking at again and I almost do it at a completely different day or like a different time even if it’s like I go get a sandwich and I come back. I always write in Gmail, that’s like a horrible place to do that but I’ll take that and put it into Google Doc or whatnot. I’m looking for questions.
I also try to do what I call content circles. Let’s just say my theme is blogging, I’m targeting bloggers and they like to read about blogging and all the different fun stuff. The process, the promotion, how to build an audience, who they look up to, the tools, all that crap. That’s the theme I’m going to go after.I’ll do content circles. What I mean by this is content that circles around that audience, around blogging.
For example, if you’re a blogger, you probably want to figure out a way to make money. Most bloggers are doing this to make passive income. Passive income is a topic that circles blogging. A live example I did for a client a few months ago is, six months ago now, the client was a hosting company and we came up with content circle ideas. One of them was, and the one we pursued was personal branding, like how to build your personal brand. How the tie in happens is that the best way to build a personal brand is to leverage blogging. Blogging and consecration and making a website. What do you need to make a website or a blog? You need a hosting provider, that’s the connection. It really is one step further.
Another one, we have another company I’ve worked with that’s in the investing space. It’s really like a niche investment type. Instead of writing about that, because that does have a big audience, we started writing about passive income, we started writing about different ways to earn a big wealth and to earn money. We interview people who have made money in weird quirky ways and the whole theme of what they do is just all about money making but like how people make money doing Etsy and how people make money doing gardening and just random stuff. Like the guy who has a tent in his backyard in some place in the bay area and he just Airbnbs the tent and it’s like glamping style. He makes half his mortgage, little things like that.
Anyways, the whole point is I try to think of content circles around that and I try to absorb things that happen in real life and then come back to it. Almost like a walk or a meditation or whatever, I just try to get out of the thing but I try to validate that with a research of who else has created something like that? How can mine be better?
Nathan: I think those fringe topics are really what people are interested in. If CoSchedule only talked about content calendars all the time, people get a little sick of it. People want to get organized but they also want traffic and they want more email subscribers. Those are things that we talk about and it’s things that you get by publishing content consistently which is an interesting take on that content circles idea. I’d love that, by the way.
Sujan: Thanks. Exactly. You guys do a great job at what you do with your product but you have your customers and they have problems and I find that if you can solve their problems, you become the de facto, you become an authority in their space.
We had people at Content Marketer IO and I can talk about this now, I’ve been dying to tell people this because it’s so powerful. We had people talking about Content Marketer and I’m fairly certain 90% of people talking about us had no clue what the hell we did. I’m not going to correct you, I’m not going to tell you what we do because it doesn’t matter. You’re talking about us, you’re talking about our concept, you are helping me even if you don’t know what we do. I’m excited that you don’t know what we do because that just means we did a good job getting you on our content marketing, we did a bad job nurturing and all the other stuff, but that part worked so well. There’s probably 9 out of 10 people and 9 out of 10 times that we got mentioned in articles and whatnot, then I could tell that no one used it.
Nathan: But that seems like a really good example though of when you’re starting out with something like that, you just need to publish content so good that it attracts an audience and I think that you guys did nail that at Content Marketer.
Nathan: I think there’s a few more ideas that you might have for brainstorming exercises that you found helpful for generating content ideas. I was wondering if you could share a few more examples for us.
Sujan: Sure. I like to do a lot of white boarding and just drawing on paper, just really get my mind to be free and think through. I put whatever it is I’m doing in the middle and then I start to think of, this is almost like a content circle but it’s not, this is kind of free form associative brainstorming. I’m just going to start putting something in the middle and then start writing down all around it what comes to mind with whatever is in the middle. The closer it is, I put things closer based off of how closely it is related, the things that are furthest are the least.
From there, all I’ve done is put words, I’m saying like okay, let’s say it was ecommerce in the middle and then I’m going to put Shopify, I’m going to put big commerce and I’ll put the company, I’m going to put in customer service. For me, I think customer service is probably the biggest thing at e-commerce. I put Zappos around, I put eBay, eBay is technically e-commerce, Amazon, you can sell on Amazon.
I’m putting all these things all around it, single words, single ideas, and then I go back in front of my computer and I go think through what can I talk about Amazon? Should it be a tip or a tactic, whatever. It’s an easy way without having to stress yourself out with getting that perfect idea. What I like to do is when my right brain starts to think, I like to let it free and let it do whatever the hell it wants to at the time, and then I come back where I left, where I need to start saying like is this going to make me any money, is this going to do anything for me? But not at the same time, come back later.
Another easy way, this is the dead simplest thing. Email your customer if you have an email list, even if it’s 100 people. If you have a social media profile, literally post on there saying hey, what’s your biggest frustration in life? What’s your biggest frustration with your job? What’s the thing that’s on the top of your mind? What’s one word that’s on the top of your mind? Literally, an open ended email. If you want to get a little bit organized, maybe you can send a Google form, say hey, respond in here, but you’re going to probably get a lot of people who will respond through email and bam, now you have everything your customers or people in your list are thinking about and go think through that, use them as the catalyst and take one of those words and then repeat that first exercise.
Nathan: Alright, Sujan. I have one last question for you to just bring it back to our 10x part of the conversation from earlier. For someone new at this or someone struggling right now, what’s your best advice that you would give to a marketer struggling to come up with really good 10x content ideas?
Sujan: The first thing and this is a bottleneck that most people have is to step outside your industry. Go to that content circle, that free storming exercise, and make sure you step outside of what you actually do because that might be the very hurdle, that might be the thing that’s actually pinching you. If you’re in crowd source or crowd funding anything. Usually, whatever the crowdfunded whatever is, go off the whatever topic. For example, I think there’s a lot of these companies out there now like crowdfunded real estate. Just talk about real estate, talk about something broader. If you’re a guy from real estate, you’re in to make money. Money making income is the topic, again, broader is very important.
The second thing and again, most people get this wrong too, which is make sure your content is actually 10x. What I mean is go do your research and make sure you can create something that is actually significantly better than what else is out there. It doesn’t have to be 10 times better. What I found is the bigger the difference, the better it is from what else is out there, the more successful it is.
The third tip I have is design. Design is very, very important. If you look at some of my content playbook.mailshake.com or our Customer Delight Playbook, you will see that the design is the first thing you notice. Mediocre content, let’s just say non-10x content, can look like 3x content, 4x content or can look really great if you just put bells and whistle on it. If you made it polished and shiny, people think it’s more credible and it’s a great way to distinguish yourself from the competition. It will add more cost to it but a designer and a front end developer, for example someone who’s doing the HTML, can be a part of your content marketing team. In fact, they should be. If you’re thinking I don’t have the budget, produce less content. In content marketing, no one ever says you need to produce a lot of content, you need to produce quality and consistency but not every day.
Nathan: Alright, Sujan. That’s it for today. Thanks a lot, it was fun to finally connect.
Sujan: Likewise. And thanks for having me. It was great chatting.
January 31, 2017