Navigating the World of Content Marketing for Small Businesses With Jonathan Aufray
Content marketing for small businesses is a different ballgame altogether. Their expectations are different, they usually don’t have much, to begin with and they are usually a blank slate. So marketing content for them usually means creating content from scratch and then slowly and steadily growing it over time.
Jonathan Aufray, Co-founder and CEO of Growth Hackers, talks to Anirudh Singla, Co-founder and CEO of Pepper Content about his journey in content marketing and Growth Hackers and how to navigate the world of small businesses and startups.
1. What got you into content marketing and how's your journey been? Also do tell us about Growth Hackers and what you and your team do.
So, I'm originally from France, but I'm based in Taiwan for the past 10 years. In the last 15 years, I’ve traveled the world working with small to medium companies in digital marketing. I’ve worked in the US, the UK, Australia, Spain, and Ireland among other places. When I moved to Taiwan around 10 years ago, I started with digital marketing, and then around 7 years ago, I joined a startup where I did growth hacking. The goal was to generate leads, get users, build revenue, and so on.
Over time, I started working with several other similar startups clocking almost 100 hours a week and soon it became unsustainable for me. So I created Growth Hackers with an American co-founder around six years ago. At first, the idea was to help Taiwanese startups go global. But we soon realized that the Taiwanese ecosystem is small and there was no room for growth. So we pivoted and started to grow Western businesses including advanced startups and small and medium businesses. These include businesses from North America, Western Europe, and Dubai.
So, content marketing is part of what we do. We have developed various techniques to find the right kind of content that will resonate with our audience.
2. What are your thoughts on content marketing and building levers for your customers? How critical is it especially for startups?
I think the most important thing about this aspect of content marketing is to give your client the real picture or set certain expectations right at the start. Whether it is a start-up or an established business, they need to know that SEO is a long-term strategy. It takes between 6-12 months to get real results. We go a step further and share external resources showing them that SEO is long-term.
When it comes to startups I don’t always recommend that they work on SEO, especially because it is a long-term strategy. Of course, if it's a startup that is quite advanced, has products that make sales, and gets funding, SEO is a must. But in the early stages, content marketing is not the right channel because you can’t validate your product or service. Instead, what you want to prioritize is ensuring there is a demand for your solutions, that your product is user-centric, and so on. Get users’ feedback, and improve your product and service depending on it.
3. What is the most exciting and most exhausting part of building content marketing strategies?
What I really like is working on the strategy at the beginning. So really, auditing, for example, the customer’s website, but also looking at what's happening in the market concerning the industry or competitors.
Then it gets even more exciting when you start seeing the results because you build a strategy, create a whole lot of content, share it, and then as you evaluate it and measure the ROI, it validates your work. You can actually value the work you’ve done six months prior.
4. According to you, what are the actual KRAs of a content marketer? What should content marketers really invest their time in?
Marketing is a lot about psychology. It's a lot about understanding how your audience is going to react to a piece of content or also what kind of questions they ask and what problems they have. You can use this information to find a solution. So it's always about putting yourself in people's shoes.
When it comes to what not to do, I’d say that involves having unrealistic goals. For example, when I work with say an entrepreneur or a small business, I always ask them about their market and their competitors. Essentially their competitors should be as big as them or a little bigger. But some start-ups are over-ambitious and tell us that Amazon or Google are their competitors. It’s just not possible. These giants will eat you alive - they are just too big. It’s very important to b realistic and talk about your direct competitors and look at where you want to be in six months. You cannot achieve what these giants have in just that time.
As a result, I usually don't work with such entrepreneurs because no matter how well I work, I will never match their expectations or get those results.
5. What's your perspective on the quality versus quantity debate?
It's always about a mix of both. But I would focus on quality because it's better to create five pieces of content that bring you the desired results than 50 pieces of content that nobody's going to even look at or find. But the thing is you still need quantity because if you write two of the best content pieces in your life but you don't write anything for six months, no one is going to find it. You need consistency in creating more and more content, with more and more quality.
6. What’s your thought process when it comes to content creation? Have you seen customers investing a lot in building expert on-demand teams or freelance teams?
When we created Growth Hackers six years ago, outsourcing and remote work were already starting to become a trend. But I think COVID sped things up across the world with the work-from-home concept catching on. Today, businesses have realized that having people come to the office is no more necessary, especially in the content marketing and digital marketing space. Here, the business needs to ensure that it trusts team members, employees, agencies or freelancers, or whoever you work with, to deliver.
Today, content marketing is no more about the number of hours you work, but rather about the results you get, and the content you create in a day, week, or month.
7. How do you guys go about scaling content marketing?
We only work with in-house teams, but remotely. We have processes in place when it comes to hiring the right people. We usually test five different writers and give them exactly what we want. Of course, we pay them. And then we choose the best out of those five new writers. Then we onboard them and train them in our processes.
8. What's particularly worked for you as a secret sauce in terms of content marketing and what would you recommend to new content marketers?
Reverse engineer and keep an eye on your competitors. Look, you can't reinvent the wheel all the time. Look at what your direct competitors are doing and reverse engineer what they do and try to create better content than them. Just don't just steal their content. Get inspired and aspire to do better.
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