Why we started our content marketing and SEO agency

In 2015, I joined the company ThinkApps as the first marketing hire and fourth employee, and was tasked with growing the business. After doing some research on the industry, I realized that there was a huge opportunity to grow the business with content marketing being that no other software development company was doing a great job at it.

I had two options for how to approach content marketing – I could either build out a content operation in-house or I could hire a content marketing agency. My first instinct was to hire an agency because, as the only marketer in the company, I wanted to hire someone to take over this channel so I could focus on other areas of marketing.

I started doing research on different content marketing agencies, and to my surprise, I couldn’t find a service that did what I needed. I wanted an agency that would produce content and own results – ie. create content, drive traffic to it, and report on conversions. However, after talking to over 10 agencies, I realized that they were mostly all glorified writing services.

Most agencies out there said they were “full-service” or “done-for-you,” but they wouldn’t own results or measure them. Most of the content marketing agencies produced X number of articles per month and came up with some pre-written social updates for promotion, but none of the ones I spoke to could promise any traffic metrics or results.

After spending over a month researching different solutions, I opted to build my content operation in-house because no agencies offered the service I needed. In 6 months, I built out a team and grew the blog from 0-35,000 monthly users, and our blog became the biggest source of leads for the company.

When we started our agency, we created the service that I always wanted – a content marketing and SEO agency that held itself accountable to ROI. We’d not only produce content, but we’d drive traffic to the content we produce with the goal of creating conversions (leads, signups, and ultimately customers) for the business. We’re held accountable to not only a set amount of deliverables that we produce each month, but more importantly the results we deliver.

In our view, that’s how an agency should be. We should strive to outperform what any other agency or in-house hire could do, and deliver better results month over month.

Here’s a case study that shows how we approach content marketing for some of our clients and the results we’ve been able to produce:

How We Built a Unique Content Strategy for 4 of our Clients

How Grow and Convert got started

Grow and Convert got started when Devesh Khanal and myself, Benji Hyam, randomly met at one of Sujan Patel’s GrowthChat dinners in San Francisco. We were both mutual friends of Sujan and happened to be the first ones to show up at the dinner.

Devesh was talking about how he didn’t think that content marketing would work to get leads for his conversion optimization agency and I told him that he was wrong (standard). Devesh didn’t think that CMOs or high-level marketing executives would take the time to read content and find him through blogging.

I told him that I had just grown the ThinkApps blog from 0-35,000 unique visitors a month and that it was highest source of leads for our company. We were attracting CEOs, CTOs, Developers, Designers, Product Managers and more… so I knew content marketing worked to get leads for this type of audience.

Everyone at the dinner debated whether content marketing worked for businesses the rest of the night.

A couple of days later I called Devesh to follow up from the dinner and told him that I was thinking of writing a book on content marketing.

He said something to the effect of:

“that’s a really stupid idea…”

“what… you’re going to spend months writing a book that you’ll sell for $10 and hope that you make some money doing that?”

“If you can build a blog and you know content marketing so well, then why don’t you just grow a blog and show people what you’re talking about.”

I thought ‘that’s a great idea.’

So I said, how about this:

“If I create the blog, will you run this with me? I can talk about content strategy and promotion. You can talk about list building, conversion optimization and analytics – it would be the perfect combination.”

And that’s pretty much how we got started. On top of that, the first name I threw out was Grow and Convert. We looked it up on the spot and somehow the domain and all the social media channels were available…. It was meant to be.

Our business started out as a blog. We knew that if we built an audience of content marketers, eventually we could turn the blog into a business. Since starting, over 200k people have turned to our blog for help with content marketing. It took us 1.5 years to monetize our blog, but once we found the right business model, we grew the business from 0-$28k in just 4 months (that’s how we knew we achieved product market fit). Want to see all of the failed business models prior? Check out this post on GrowthLab.

A little bit more about our blog and our goals

We started Grow and Convert because we wanted to help companies get ROI from content marketing. We were tired of seeing so many companies invest in content marketing with little to show for their efforts.

When brainstorming what was going to make us different than the rest of the blogs out there, we decided that:

  1. We wanted to focus on helping B2B marketers inside of companies because having listened to everyone at that dinner, we knew that this was a huge pain point that wasn’t really being addressed by other blogs. There are a lot of blogs doing a great job at helping solopreneurs grow their businesses, but not a lot of blogs helping B2B businesses grow through content marketing.
  2. We wanted to focus on really high quality content. We wanted to write from experience and share case studies of things that we, and others, had actually achieved. We also wanted to test things on our site and share the results with others so that people could get ideas from things that we’re doing that they could then go test at their company.

About Benji and Devesh

We’re pretty much complete opposites.

I am right-brained and Devesh is left-brained.

This means that I typically just take action, and Devesh gets frustrated because he needs to be able to plan, analyze and measure everything. I think this is why our dynamic works well together. We fill each other’s gaps.

You’ll probably find a healthy dose of us making fun of each other on our site, giving each other a hard time, and sometimes getting mad at each other because our brains work differently. But it’s all in good fun.

You can hear more about the interesting dynamic between us on this podcast: Listen to our podcast interview.

About Benji Hyam:

LinkedIn | Twitter | Benjihyam.com 
benji-hyamI’m the “grow” side of Grow and Convert.

Before Grow and Convert I ran marketing for two venture-backed startups in San Francisco – Everwise and ThinkApps.

When I was at ThinkApps, in less than 12 months I helped them become one of the top 30,000 websites in the US according to Alexa. Our blog grew from 0 – 35,000+ unique monthly visitors in 6 months, I took the website from 0 – 12,000+ monthly organic visitors, and boosted their domain rank from 1 to 49 according to aHrefs. Our website and blog contributed the highest volume of leads to the company. Through that experience I gained a lot of knowledge about growing a company (and website) from the ground up.

Before that, I was a Co-Founder at Social Proof Interactive, an inbound marketing consultancy. The company was profitable from day one of operations until my exit without any outside funding.

While at Vistage International, I ran our blog Executive Street which I scaled from 10 to 90 authors and from 1k to 20k monthly unique visitors in under a year.

Our site isn’t just about growing traffic, but it’s also about how to turn into revenue for businesses. I frequently write about content strategy, building content marketing teams, content promotion and inbound marketing tactics.

Interested in learning more?

Interview: From 0-35,000 unique visitors in 6 months (GrowthHacking Podcast)

90% of startups fail because they don’t do this (NextShark)

How a Simple E-mail PopUp Can Score 6-Figure Deals (SumoMe)

About Devesh Khanal:

LinkedIn | Twitter | Growth Rock

devesh-portrait-480x480I am the “convert” side of Grow and Convert. Aside from being a co-founder here, I run a conversion optimization agency called, Growth Rock, where I work with e-commerce companies to increase their online conversions. We do this through extensive user research, usability testing, analytics evaluations, and A/B testing.

We’ve published case studies on improving SaaS signups, landing page conversions, exit popup conversion rates, and optimizing email opt-in rates from content marketing.

Before Devesh Design, I ran financial strategy and cost modeling for a biofuels startup. I got my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at U.C. Berkeley.

Publications where I’ve been mentioned:

How to do A/B Testing Right (Forbes)

Conversion Rate Optimization Techniques: The Complete List (Backlinko)

100 Conversion Optimization Case Studies (Kissmetrics)