SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

How Do You Beat a VC’s Best Companies?

Posted by Bob Warfield on March 15, 2017

I read a great article by Tomasz Tunguz recently called, “The Best Content Marketers In The World.”

Content Marketing is literally the engine that powers my bootstrapped business: CNCCookbook.  It provides me with a very nice living (income on par with public company executives not counting their stock sales) and has grown quickly and consistently for years.  I credit all that to Content Marketing.

CNC-cookbook_logo2b_horiz

Content Marketing is the engine that powers CNCCookbook.com…

Basically, I write articles and people are attracted to the company’s website to read them. The vast majority of my visitors find me via Google Search.  I’ve been at it for a while, but so far, I am the only employee of this company.  I write our software, perform customer service, fill orders, and do all the marketing.  The whole thing is getting to be busy enough that I may have to break down and hire our first full-time employee later this year, we will see.

Tunguz’s article didn’t give me exactly what I wanted, which was to know who these World’s Greatest Content Marketers are.  It’s about a conversation he had with a marketing executive that went like this:

I once asked a VP of Marketing at a top SaaS company how she thought of content programming. What is the right type of content to create? I asked her. She replied with a brilliant little insight, “I look at way the best content marketers in the world do it. The TV networks.”

That’s the sort of remark that VC’s dearly love because not only does it sound smart, it makes them sound smart when they pass it along at the next Board Meeting.  It’s perfect grist for Mahogany Row.I use buttons

And the details are interesting.  They boil down to using an editorial calendar to make sure you’re properly and individually addressing the different marketing personas you need to reach.  I can’t quarrel with it and in fact, I use an editorial calendar to do exactly the same thing at CNCCookbook and have been for years.  I never really thought of it as something TV Networks do, it’s just something that occurred to me when I first learned what a persona is.

Think of a persona as what you get when you answer the question, “What kinds of people buy my products?”  Typically you can create these sort of stereotypes and there will be several of them.  For CNCCookbook I use roughly the following:

  • Professional Manufacturing CNC’ers
  • Hobby CNC’ers
  • CNC’ers who use CNC Routers to work in wood

I could break things down with much finer granularity, but this works pretty well.  I even arrange my product landing pages so folks self-select their own persona by answering a question up front:

PersonaPage

That particular set of buttons isn’t exactly my editorial personas because it works better to map this product’s features to the machines they’ll be used with.

What caught me about Tunguz’s article was the thought of we might measure content marketer’s in order to judge who the best ones might be.  Given that the intended function of content marketing is to create traffic to a site, it would seem that some sort of metric that has to do with ROI on traffic might be the way to go.

I admit I was also vaguely uneasy with the notion that TV Networks are the World’s Greatest Content Marketers. I suspect that on an ROI-based metric, that very well might not be the case. But we digress.

Being still curious about who a great content marketer might be that I could learn from, I wondered who the marketing executive Tunguz talked to might be. I went to his home page at Redpoint, to try to see if a “Top SaaS” company was listed. Alas, no.

But there was the obligatory list of some of his investments in a nice logo block:

TunguzCompanyLogos

Perhaps one of these companies was doing a bang-up job with Content Marketing. I am always trying to find new examples to emulate and learn from. And with the kind of budgets VC Startups have for marketing (insanely out of reach for my one-man company, LOL) and the talent of many of their execs, it seemed a good bet.

HP-10C

Yes, I’m an engineer and this marketing stuff doesn’t come naturally to me!

Now being an engineer (this marketing stuff does not come to me naturally!), I like to be analytical. And I often evaluate traffic metrics for various sites to try to understand who has a clue before I just blindly take their advice. I have over 200 growth hacking-related blogs on my RSS Reading list, and I actually researched the traffic data for each one before I added them.

So, I popped open my favorite tool for this sort of thing, which is called “Ahrefs“. It does a lot of things, but for this task, I wanted to get an idea of Google Search traffic each of those sites was getting.

Here’s what the Ahrefs report looks like for CNCCookbook:

AhrefsCookbook

There are other

There are a number of other services that will do the same thing, and they all share the delightful trait that traffic numbers are an approximation based on their sampling technique.  The takeaway is they won’t match your real numbers (mine for the last 30 days were about 6x that, for example), so use them for comparison only.

In this case, the comparison is against the stats for CNCCookbook and Thomasz’s startups for comparison:

VCStatsA

There’s a couple of ringers in there too as I included a Reality TV Series that as far as I know is the only CNC-related TV Program ever. It’s called Titans of CNC:

TitansTV

It’s your basic Orange-County-Choppers-Does-CNC reality show. Not a bad show, but his content is not doing nearly as well as mine. Wish I had all the money his sponsors give him, LOL!

The other ringer is Haas CNC.  They’re the world’s largest maker of CNC Machines and a publicly traded company.

Here’s the thing I am sure you’ve already noticed–with just one exception, CNCCookbook is beating all these outfits.  That’s with no ad budget, no venture capital war chest, and one guy who isn’t even a marketer doing all the work part-time.  I don’t spend nearly the majority of my CNCCookbook time on it.

If that’s not a ringing endorsement for Content Marketing, I don’t know what is!

Content Marketing works extremely well.  It’s the most efficient form of marketing I know, and the only one I recommend for bootstrapped companies who don’t have the luxury of big budgets.

For those of you who are wondering how I manage to do so well with CNCCookbook’s Content Marketing, I have a system.  It’s very analytically-oriented as you would expect from an engineer.  It is a system that others can duplicate-I have trained a few and they did well with it.  It’s also a system that I’ve proven works in a number of spaces besides CNC.

I have great news for Thomasz and his Startups too.    I am currently hard at work producing an eCourse that will show others how to use this system.  Heck, maybe even Titan will try it.

It will be some months yet before the coures is finished, but it will be comprehensive and complete.  If you want to be sure to hear when it’s available, the best thing is to get on a mailing list I’ve specifically created to keep people posted when the course is ready.

Join the Mailing List

 

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