Sales automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools are popular. How does a new company stand out and attract new customers? Let’s answer that question by looking at Close.io – a CRM founded by sales expert Steli Efti.
Ryan Robinson, Close’s content strategist, shared his approach to growing Close through content marketing. If you are in the sales automation or CRM space, this interview is for you.
1) What problems does Close.io solve for its customers?
Our tagline says it all: inside sales CRM for startups and SMBs.
What makes it different from other products? Our product is mostly geared toward to sales teams that do many calls. If you do not make many calls, it might not be a good fit for you. There are built-in features for calls. If you are interested in cold calling, we have a free B2B cold-calling crash course.
In the sales world, productivity is a significant question. If you are only contacting a handful of people per day, your sales will reflect that reality. Close.io helps sales reps make more calls. To find out more on that, take a look at our blog post: Sales productivity: How to make 300+ calls per day without a power dialer.
2) How do you become involved in Close.io’s content marketing?
I initially reached out to Stelli in 2016. I asked him for a quote for a blog post on the best business advice I could collect from top entrepreneurs that I was putting together on my website. He responded to give me a quote. About a month after the article went up, I got a few thousand shares. After that success, I reached out back to the people who had been quoted.
I was not using outreach tools or templates. I went to each quoted person to ask them if they wanted to see their content achieve thousands of shares and pageviews. We started the relationship with a few test pieces. Gradually, Close.io became my largest client. In late 2017, I decided to join the company full time.
3) How do you develop content topics for Close.io?
This has evolved over years of work. Everything starts with keyword opportunities: how much monthly search volume do we see for sales related keywords. As a bare minimum, I want to see 1,000 monthly searches. I prefer to target topics that have 5,000 to 20,000 monthly searches. For example, I identified an opportunity related to “sales strategies.” It was my first piece of content for the company, and I went all out to achieve excellent results.
Over the course of a week, I outlined the blog post and reached out 10-15 influencers I already knew. I made sure that the keyword phrase “sales strategy” or “sales strategies” was frequently used throughout the post. For example, Robert Herjavec (of Shark Tank fame) provided an excellent observation about the value of giving a strong elevator pitch.
For SEO research, my go-to tool is Ahrefs. Occasionally, I use Moz as well.
4) What tools and services do you use to promote and publicize Close.io content?
It always starts with an email to our audience. We send out Monday and Wednesday emails, and we have about 200,000 subscribers. The Monday email tends to feature Steli videos and posts like What to do when your customers ask for a discount (and why you shouldn’t give them one). The Wednesday email email tend to focus more SEO oriented posts such as Ultimate guide to business networking (to grow your sales pipeline).
We want to get a strong positive social signal right away.The business networking post mentioned above has 16,000 Facebook shares. Achieving that success involves tools like Quuu Promote and paid Facebook promotion. In addition, we spend a fair amount of time promoting the posts.
We typically schedule posts about one week in advance. To promote the posts, we usually will do a paid Facebook boost. I will then look for relevant online communities such as Inbound, Hacker News and other points. We also share the articles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
I like to pitch my publications on shorter form articles that draw inspiration from the main article I write first. I maintain relationships with other high authority (and somewhat sales-related) blogs like SalesHacker, Predictable Revenue, Mailshake, and others that are receptive to guest posts from us. By linking back to Close content, I can obtain high authority backlinks for our content. Linking back from authority websites is helpful, but it is difficult to do. Editors don’t want you to be overly promotional. I approach it by looking at an opportunity to write something original that still references back to the main site.
5) How do you demonstrate the ROI of content marketing for Close?
We have not done an in-depth analysis comparing PPC to content marketing for Close. My view is that we get an outsized return on our content marketing investment. Every content piece – a blog post, a podcast interview, a Steli YouTube video – does bring in results. Our entire business is supported by content marketing and the leads we get from that content.
6) What are the most important metrics you use in evaluating the success or failure of content marketing at Close?
Our number one metric is the number of product trial sign-ups. We look at what is driving the most signups. Other measures – like the number of website visitors – are helpful but that is not the focus. I have not seen that single clear focus in other organizations. Other organizations have had a variety of metrics in place, and that has been difficult to manage.
7) What is a content marketing practice you have stopped using at Close and why?
We went heavy on participating heavily on Quora. For a time, there was a good return. Then, the return slowed down and changed our focus to our blog. That said, we are looking at using Quora again and testing it out.
We are also looking at getting into podcasting again. Steli co-hosts The Startup Chat podcast with Hiten Shah, but the focus is not on sales per se. Past efforts to run a sales oriented podcast did not have a good result. However, we are looking at starting another sales podcast and seeing what we can achieve from that.
8) What other SaaS companies do you consider successful with content marketing?
Baremetrics stands out to me. They are doing good work. They offer a metrics dashboard for startups. Many companies are publishing their metrics everything. For example, they have profiles such as ConvertKit: How to go from freelance to founder of a $10M company.
9) What websites, books and other resources have you found most helpful in learning content marketing?
I’m a big reader of blogs when it comes to keeping myself educated on content marketing—but not necessarily of reading articles that are actually about “content marketing.” Rather, I follow people like Noah Kagan, Sujan Patel, and Joel Gascoigne (and their brands Sumo, Mailshake, and Buffer) who are excellent content marketers & have built kickass teams of people who are equally as great. I learn more through observation and pick up on little tweaks, new strategies and tactics these people are regularly trying out. Couple that with constantly shifting up my own content marketing strategies, I’m often trying new little ideas to see what sticks.
10) Where do you go online to connect with other B2B SaaS marketers?
Most of the communities I used to frequent, like Inbound and GrowthHackers have declined in popularity quite a bit over the past couple of years. I’m a member of a few Slack channels, Facebook and LinkedIn groups with other B2B SaaS marketers, and that’s become my best way for connecting & building relationships with others in my space.
11) If readers want to find out more about you and Close, where should they go?