Many of you may not know this, but we started Grow and Convert with a public challenge:
Can we grow our site to 40,000 users/month in six months? (You can read that piece here.)
There were two main reasons behind launching this challenge and setting this goal:
- We were unknown entities in the content marketing world. We thought that instead of sharing content marketing strategies, the best way to build trust and show people that we knew what we were doing would be to publicly pursue the challenge of growing a site from scratch.
- In addition, this would force us to work hard from day one to grow the site. Mind you, we both had other jobs then, and it’s easy to let new side projects fall by the wayside. This forced us not to.
While we didn’t hit the 40,000 number, we hit 16,000 users (24k sessions) in 4.5 months (mostly without SEO traffic, too). We felt like we did achieve Part 1 of our goal: building an audience and building trust. We had tons of people following along our journey, rooting us on and sharing their thoughts and best wishes with us. People kept saying they loved the transparency of the challenge and were hooked on our journey. They wanted us to keep going, and they wanted to keep following our journey.
However, candidly, I needed money. A few months into the challenge, I quit my job and moved abroad. But by the end, I was running out of the little savings I had, so with an audience built, we felt like we now needed to figure out how to turn the site into a business.
We went through multiple iterations of our business publicly. We tried a phone course, an in-person training program, and an online course. None of them worked, meaning none of them got enough interest or customers to turn into a business. But after extremely poor course sales, a glimmer of hope emerged. Several newsletter subscribers emailed us and asked if, instead of buying our course, they could just hire us to do their content marketing for them.
(Note: All posts chronicling this early journey can be found here.)
After some initial resistance (Devesh had an agency already and I had no desire to start one), we realized we sort of had no choice but to say yes. What other business model did we have? So, we began taking on content marketing clients.
Fast forward seven years, and now we run a seven-figure content marketing agency that employs over 15 people and has built some brand recognition in our space.
Why Share Our Journey Publicly Again?
Towards the end of 2023, for the reasons we outline below, we felt like this business was ready to be scaled, and we were ready, as founders, to do it. So naturally, the next question is how? As Devesh and I thought about how to double our business, we felt like we needed to add a marketing channel on top of what we’ve been doing so far to help accelerate our growth.
Let’s look at why.
To date, our main driver of leads has, of course, been our content. This content can be bucketed into two categories:
- SEO content
- Non-SEO content (or content that is not targeting a keyword, but rather that makes an interesting point and that we distribute through Twitter ads and organic social media, such as LinkedIn and Twitter).
To be clear, we’re going to continue doing both of these things. They worked, and they’ll continue to work. But since we have a team helping with a lot of this now, we asked ourselves what else we personally could do to help accelerate growth.
Our minds definitely gravitated to how we could utilize our content brand framework, in other words, content that could really get our brand more notoriety and get the G&C name out there, beyond just showing up when someone Googles “SaaS content strategy” or “best content agency.” This is because a lot of buying decisions for hiring an agency don’t happen via Google search.
Hiring an agency isn’t the same as buying sneakers (eCommerce SEO) or searching for a new CRM or accounting software (SaaS SEO). Most people hire agencies based on word of mouth. They ask their colleagues, friends, and followers on Twitter. So even if you theoretically dominated all possible SEO keywords as an agency, you still can never get this word-of-mouth business unless you’ve built the brand recognition that leads to word-of-mouth referrals.
We talked about doing YouTube SEO, a podcast, a marketing meme account, and a few other options, but none of those seemed on-brand or interesting to us.
What about ads? We do do some Twitter and Google ads now, but even then, we just use those to get extra traffic to our high converting articles. We never seriously talked about scaling with lots of ads or “media buying.” That sounds costly, the lead quality is poorer than those that read your content because they know nothing about you, and frankly, it just isn’t us. Our whole goal is to be remembered as the premier content agency to hire. Content helps do that; ads don’t really do that.
So we asked ourselves: How can we do something like this again?
Then, we thought: What if this time, instead of focusing on how to start a business from scratch, we shared how to scale a business that is already at seven-figures and already has a team of employees? We liked that idea. We feel like there’s already been a ton of content produced about how someone is starting a business or a site (including many self-case studies about growing “from 0 to X”). But we haven’t seen a lot of these transparent growth journeys chronicled about businesses that are already established and trying to scale.
And the problems aren’t the same between starting and scaling. In the early stages, it’s all about getting product market fit and hustling to just get your first few customers. But when you’re scaling a business that already has product market fit, already has inbound channels, and already has a team and processes to execute, what do you do then? What are the challenges then?
For us, they include things like:
- How do we continue to scale hiring and training? This is one of our biggest challenges, and many times we’ve had to turn away clients because we didn’t have the people to execute on it. We’ve made progress and plan to create videos.
- What do we delegate versus what do we do ourselves? When is it okay to step in and fight a fire versus letting the team handle it and possibly fail or upset a client?
- How do we scale lead generation?
- How do we evolve our organizational structure? Do we need managers? When?
- How do we handle various tricky client situations?
- How do we deal with burnout and the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship?
You can watch our first episode here:
Where Our Business Is Right Now — And Why We Feel It’s Time to Scale
We’ve always been hesitant to grow our agency too quickly. We’ve seen the mistakes that other agencies make: They sacrificed quality of work for revenue, hired a bunch of junior people that aren’t trained well, and then their quality of service declined. It’s our belief that as an agency, all you have is the quality of your service and reputation, so we’ve purposely taken the slow growth route, making sure that we could execute well and get results across all of our clients. This may be to our detriment; who knows?
Now, we feel like we have a solid foundation from which to scale. Specifically, we feel really good about a few key aspects of the business:
- Our product: We can reliably grow leads from content for our clients using our Pain Point SEO process. This is our product, we’ve proven to ourselves it can work over and over again across a number of different clients, and we’re proud of it. We didn’t start G&C with this process in hand. It took years of iteration and tweaking to get this to where it is now.
- Our target client: We know who this works for. We’ve gotten really good at sniffing out what kinds of companies are a good fit for our process and which are not. We learned it the hard way by taking on all kinds of clients that weren’t a good fit, something we’ll likely outline in future content, as per what we’ll explain below.
- Our operations: We’ve made a lot of mistakes in hiring, managing, assigning roles, and general team architecture. And when I say a lot of mistakes, I mean a lot, including some really boneheaded moves. But we’ve learned from them and ironed out operations:
- We know the team structure that works for servicing clients.
- We have supporting roles hired.
- Our recruiting: This was a tough challenge for a long time. In many ways, it still is our biggest challenge. We have frustratingly high writing standards, and finding writers that meet them has been really hard. But thanks to an amazing employee on our team who took on recruiting, we have a process for testing, filtering, and training new writers now. There were many times in the past where we lost clients because we didn’t have the people to take them on. Now that’s a lot less likely.
- Our marketing: After some hiccups in trying to position ourselves as an SEO agency, we know our positioning as a content agency, and our content continues to bring in qualified leads, so we have a way of reliably getting new customers in the door.
Those are all the components of a good business: a good product, the right customer, a team and a process to reliably reproduce the product, and a channel for getting customers. So why not scale at that point?
That’s what we want to do.
Our Public Goal and What We Plan on Sharing
Currently, we’re at 17 clients. We want to get to 40 clients by January 2026 (two years from writing this).
On a monthly basis, we’ll share an update covering:
- Our monthly client count
- How many leads we got in a given month
- What percentage closed
- Patterns in what they told us they wanted
- How many clients we lost that month and why
Every week, we’ll share new videos on our YouTube channel on a unique challenge or issue we’re having and/or a new strategy we’re trying to help solve some current problem. We’d love to have you join us on this journey. We’ll be sending updates whenever a new video drops to our email list, which you can join here.
Any comments or requests? Let us know in the comments.