Copy Weekly

#17 How Garrett Mehrguth Turned His Entire Company into a Content Marketing Machine

Brad Smith
February 16, 2020
80 minutes

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Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO of Directive, a search marketing agency for enterprise brands that is continually innovating in the industry.  

In this episode, Garrett breaks down his strategies for attracting top talent to Directive and explains the mutually beneficial relationship he has been able to create between the company and his employees.  

Brad and Garrett discuss methods of thinking outside of the box when creating content and get into the inner workings of the content creation machine that Garrett has cultivated. 

You’ll Learn

  • The driving philosophy that allows Garrett to differentiate Directive and gain executive buy-in.
  • How Directive empowers and incentivizes employees to produce content that benefits individuals and the company as a whole.
  • How Directive pivoted from a lead gen marketing model to a branding model to shift customer perception and propel growth.

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Site: Directive Consulting

Linkedin: Garrett Mehrguth

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Brad : (00:00)

Joining me today is Garrett Mehrguth, the CEO and co-founder of director consulting. Garrett, thanks so much for joining us.

Garrett: (00:08)

Course Brad. Glad to be here. I feel like we’ve known each other so long that this was inevitable. So I’m glad to be here and thanks for having me.

Brad : (00:18)

Yeah, definitely. So today we’re going to, the broad topic that we’re talking about is going to be how do you, how you guys turned your entire company into a content marketing machine. Really kind of broadly like high level. What does that mean to you? Like what was the, what was the impetus to like try to actually do this in the first place?

Garrett: (00:32)

Yeah, so like there were a couple of like a lot of different things. One of them is I genuinely believe like people are like at Directive and I think we’ve tried to identify like top performers and people who are exceptionally gifted and talented. They’re really self-motivated. A lot of times people are not self-directed. In other words, like they want to be influencers in a space they want to grow their careers. They want to do all these things. One of the things I found is like the best way to grow your career in search, especially digital as well. But in like specifically search marketing, SEO, PPC content is to create content to guest posts for Search Engine Journal, for Search Engine Land, for Moz, for WordStream, whoever that blog is and that space with PPC hero. Like if you can essentially consistently create content, you are going to stand out when you apply any company for your next job and you’re going to be able to grow here at Directive, you’re going to increase career opportunities, grow your own brand and you will never essentially go hungry. And I always envisioned Directive as a launching pad for people’s careers. And so one of the big things for me was like, Hey, how can I get my team bought into this idea that you know, creating content is truly the number one thing they can do for their career. And then obviously Directive has its own benefits of, you know, building links, growing its own brand awareness. But I wanted that to be symbiotic with like them getting value as well for their own careers. At the same time, if that makes sense.

Brad : (01:57)

Awesome. Yeah, definitely. I mean it really is true. Like the only true way to learn this stuff is well on the fly with so many different like opinions and voices, whatever, until you actually do it, you have no idea until you actually try to grow like a brand new site or, or start something from the ground up you, you don’t truly appreciate how difficult it is and how complex everything is.

Garrett: (02:16)

And I think mastery comes with education, right? If you can educate someone on something by communicating what you did, why you did it and what happened- to me, that’s really powerful. And that creates subject matter expertise that creates raises, that creates new opportunities for your life, for your family. Um, no. So I’m just a huge fan of sharing what you do and then the, you know, the impact and effect that has on the rest of your life.

Brad : (02:42)

Awesome. So how do you actually make it happen? Right. Cause that’s the tricky part. And we talked a little bit about this, but how, how do you go from, before we get into like really specific stuff, how do you go from like, there’s an awesome idea and we should all be doing it to putting the fundamentals in place. Like you know, we should be producing X amount of content, we should be publishing X amount of times off on other sites. Like what, what were some of the initial kind of guidelines that you were looking for?

Garrett: (03:05)

Um, I mean one of the cool things is like I always have done it. Like for me in growing Directive, creating content was a huge part of it. Uh, for my own brand but not like I never saw it that way cause I feel like what happened was I started to become Directive’s brand, but people don’t work with me. They work with my team like I’m not client-facing. And so because of that I thought, okay, how do we remake it so that like I want to be like, just so you know like I want to be the McKinsey of search. I want people to hire Directive because of its talent. But the only way you can show how talented you are is by literally sharing your successes, your approach or your way of thinking. And I want someone who comes to Directive trying to pick out which consultant they want to work with because they’ve heard of them before.

Garrett: (03:48)

Like wouldn’t that be the dream, right? If you ran a search agency and clients came to you and they wanted to work with you because they knew you had this consultant who they love following and they’d been reading from, I mean that to me is like hell yeah, how do I get there? Right? So that was kind of like the idea. And then the way you kind of go about in my opinion is you have to kind of figure out like why it’s worth it to them, not just in future value. In other words, future value is like here’s why it’s good for your career, right? So we create things where we, like, we paid people for creating content. Like we bonus them out, let’s say $250 per piece of content that goes on the blog. Okay? So here’s a way, if you have some people that are financially motivated, they can get on board because they’re like, look, I don’t want to drive Uber at night to try to make up from, cause I’m a junior level and I’m not making all the money I want to make or I don’t want to get a side job or I don’t want to take on random gigs.

Garrett: (04:40)

I’m just going to publish content. I’m going to make extra money today and position myself to be successful tomorrow. Right? So you’ve got that kind of mentality. Then you have to have readership. You have to actually, like, people don’t like to write things that no one reads. So like we had to build relationships. So now we have a relationship with almost every editor and publisher. Like you do Brad at every magazine in the industry. And I’ve always had that, like you knew, right when we’ve worked together in the past like we knew everybody. It’s like, okay, yeah, I’m friends with this person. I’m friends with that person. Oh, you’re friends with this oh, I know that person. That creates opportunity. And so essentially, you know, it’s actually easier to get people to want to write for the industry than it is to get to write for your own site because a lot of the industry sites have more notoriety if that makes sense.

Brad : (05:24)

For sure. Definitely. It would. It would seem like most people would be fairly positive about this, but like what’s the reception like? Usually, when you talk to new people, like new employees about this, are they always bought in?

Garrett: (05:32)

Well, heck no. I got ripped apart online plenty of times where like think people like, Oh, he’s trying to exploit me. I’m supposed to write all these things. I’m like, nobody hears me. This is for you man. Like I want you to be hyper-successful. Um, this is how I, I had 20 bucks and I never worked for anybody in my life. I built this thing by creating content. Like this is the best thing you can do. I promise you. You might not believe that, but it’s reality. Like this is the most successful people in our industry built it, their success by sharing what they were successful at. Like that’s literally the playbook to search marketing. Um, so no, not everybody’s bought in. Uh, there’s so much pushback. It’s a nightmare. And I think the hardest part of turning your team into a content machine is when you set standards. It’s really easy to get content that isn’t always as good as it should be.

Garrett: (06:26)

It’s really easy. I’m guilty of it. Like it’s so easy to sometimes like that’s why editors exist. It’s because we can get lazy as writers. I know for a fact, Brad, you have probably submitted a piece of content that got rejected by an editor that you rewrote in your career. Is that fair?

Brad: (06:41)

All the time.

Garrett: (06:42)

Happens to me too. Like that’s why they exist. And so once you start setting standards, that’s when your velocity goes down. That’s also where your impact goes up. And so you know, is that catch 22 kind of thing of how do you keep people motivated even though you just rejected them and it gets a lot harder? For sure. I think the deeper you get into trying to create rich, impactful content. Just in our space, like you have to go deep. You can’t like- Brian Dean’s, written something that’s better than yours.

Garrett: (07:10)

So why write it? If you look at it like that, simply there’s someone out there that wrote a better version. You have to decide if you’re going to write it for keyword purposes or audience purposes. I think that was a big revelation was like, let’s get away from writing it like through the lens of SEO first and put it through the lens of  audience first. Um, and customer first and SEO second, which I think is hard for people who are native like SEOs to think, who’s my audience? Let’s go back to old school marketing. Like, am I compelling them to work with us? Uh, and that creates different types of content, which is easier to get buy in to turn your team into a machine. That can make sense.

Brad: (07:47)

Yeah, for sure. So how do you, it’s a little different for offsite versus onsite content, but do you, do you have, like, is everyone responsible on their own to come up with topics and ideas or do you, do you have to start with like, here’s the initial topic list or keyword list that we’re like aiming for? Like, like circle something around this?

Garrett: (08:02)

Yeah, so we have a woman, Ashton, uh, internally who runs our PR, runs our content and that’s her full-time job. And she does supports, uh, client stuff, behind the scenes like, and educate and train the team. Like, so she kinda is elite PR strategist at directed. Uh, and she’s phenomenal, right? So she’s pitching like I do podcasts all the time, guest posts, speaking, and she runs all of that. She also runs our content calendar for the team, right? So we’ll have like our guy Liam also really, really talented. He does essentially the keyword research and things, okay, here’s where we wanted to buy into, here’s what we’re missing, here’s what we’re not missing. Um, and then how can we satisfy that? Right? So we launched a glossary . Glossary did really well for us and it’s starting to do better every month, but the glossary goes after what is, but we didn’t have anything on how to.

Garrett: (08:48)

So we were actually launching the Directive Institute. It is a world-class learning management training system, uh, brought in a full video production teams over 30 hours of video. But it’s not like the traditional, like a distilledU or it’s educational. It’s completely different, I think exist. It’s all practical. It’s all our templates, all our spreadsheets, all our systems, all our structures, uh, built out in a really, really transparent with SEO, PPC, CRO, like all the different parts, digital PR. And so that’s our how-to content. So I think one of the things that people sometimes forget is like, it’s not just blog posts when it comes to content, right? Right. So how do you get your team to start writing case studies of their work? How do you get your teams to start to answer the how-to questions? How do you get them to do the what is? And so altogether I think we probably did almost 500 pieces of content, you know, last year through our team by just taking people who wanted to educate other people who wanted to demonstrate other people who wanted to do this, do that. And you kind of create these different types of content for your different departments, your different goals. And if you get out of the idea that everything’s for SEO and everything’s for your blog, you can actually be a lot more successful with your content, if that makes sense.

Brad : (09:57)

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Cause I think it’s, I think the thing people lose sight of is like ultimately, especially in like our company, like a service company we’re working with, like trying to work with big companies, decision-makers. Like these people aren’t sitting on webinars or like they’re, they’re not. So it’s more like the, it’s like the sum is greater than the parts. Is that the, uh, you know

Garrett: (10:19)

Oh totally. One of the directors here Brady came up with, I thought, a brilliant idea, so we’re now doing the Directive Awards. So we want to win industry awards. But the hardest parts about winning industry awards is actually writing the applications-really difficult. There’s a lot that goes into it. You need to be detail-oriented and if you have someone writing an application, he didn’t do the work. It’s hard to capture that same essence of the strategy and win the award. So we came up with the idea of Directive Awards. So now everyone at our end of year party at our annual party, we’re actually doing an award show and then the winners of the award show get prizes, but then also get their work submitted on behalf of the company to US Search Awards and all these other award shows, which now becomes more content for the brand that’s purchase-oriented right now. That’s some more sales content. We can also use that as you know, case study type assets for our clients and sales. Right. And it starts to come with these ideas of how do you make your company into a content machine by thinking about all the different types of content it takes to be successful, not just for marketing but also sales, branding, and everything.

Brad : (11:19)

For sure. And it’s, and it’s like you said, it’s not, we’re not thinking like blog posts here. We’re thinking like the byproducts and stuff you’re already doing. It’s just, it’s just being smarter about how you’re leveraging like the time of stuff, the energy you’re already putting in other things.

Garrett: (11:31)

Exactly. It is, sounds like the total Gary V thing of like repurposing everything. It’s just recognizing content opportunities when they exist and saying okay that satisfies this. Okay that satisfies that and I’m gonna start to plug all these different pieces in and that’s going to create a machine that essentially can churn out content at a high velocity without having to dedicate all these resources and budgets to content creation and people burn out. You can’t even get that much volume out of one individual’s doing. We try to scale content through one person. I mean you know, it doesn’t work. You need to make it like a cultural thing. Like your, your organization turns what it does into content culturally and then you can be successful.

Brad : (12:10)

for sure. So let’s talk about like how do you actually start to do it, cause that is like the tricky part. And you, you alluded to it a little bit with like bonuses for example. So paying people a little bit, like do you set quotas for individuals? Like do you tie it based on their role? Like how do you go about like putting in place something like that?

Garrett: (12:27)

Yeah, so we’ve done a couple of different things and they all work differently and they all have side effects. Okay. So like I’ve done something where each person needs to create one piece of content a quarter. So let’s say  60, 70 full-time employees, 50 full-time employees, that’s 50 pieces a quarter. And then you have some people who like to write and maybe they do two or three and I got a hundred pieces a quarter. I mean that’s pretty sweet, right? So there’s that way of doing it. But then the people who don’t like to write get pissed. Yeah. So now you’re the bad company because everybody has to write and I don’t see the value. Right. So there’s that. It’s simultaneously people who want to write but won’t if they aren’t required to. They love it. Right? So you have this like once again you bet the end of the game and so there’s that way of going about it.

Garrett: (13:10)

Uh, and I experienced literally that exact situation. Um, the other way of going about it is making it more voluntary problem is, is nobody likes to write. I really don’t know anybody. Even writers who just volunteer to like consistently produce output, it’s not a lot of people’s gift like are very, very, very few people that are just like crank out content on a consistent basis while supporting other duties and job roles. So I kinda try to bear a lot of it, man. I try to say, okay, well I’m going to set the tone. I’m going to set the example. I think that part’s critical. Like you can’t be a CEO or the leader of this whole thing culturally you like we’re going to be a content machine and then you don’t put out content yourself. You have to kind of lead by example and say, look, this is how the business is successful. Here’s how I’ve been successful. I’m going to keep doing that. I want you to be successful, I’ll pay you, I value you. Well, I’m going to lead by example and it’s a lot easier to get people bought in. But if you don’t produce content for yourself and your lighting, everybody else, you’re gonna produce content. But I can’t, I’m the CEO, I’m really busy. You’re not gonna get a lot of buy-in, you know?

Brad : (14:18)

Definitely. So what’s I, I’m, I’m sure you’ve experimented with like, do you have a few different options? If this is like the route you’re going, you can either like trying to require from everyone, like we were talking. Um, there are problems with that though, like you said, so you’re getting people who may not like it. I may not enjoy it, may not think it’s going to benefit them, whatever. Um, you could like hire like a dedicated in house person to do it, but then you’re leaning heavily on like one individual. Um, you could pay outside people to do it. Like what and your experience, why, why is this the best approach for you guys anyway? Cause it, it was like a personal,

Garrett: (14:52)

I’ve done all of those by the way. I’ve done literally all of them. I’ve done them all more than once. I’ve tried multiple ways of having one person. I’ve tried multiple vendors, I’ve tried multiple ways of requiring it and not part. I think where I’m at today is first off making like content, a cultural priority, an ethos of what your organization is about. I think it’s that that has to be like central to success. Everything is like we are successful cause we share what we do here. That is a value of our business, our brand, our culture is we share number one, um, number two, uh, getting your team active on social. Uh, that’s really big. So like what I found too, and this is where I’ve been learning is like content that you keep native to platform is outperforming content you’re linking to your site.

Garrett: (15:41)

In other words, like if I have a blog post that I want to write in my head, I’m turning that into a Twitter thread instead of a blog post. I’m getting 10x engagement. So in other words, getting away from the idea that you have to own your content for it to see value. I think by going native to your platforms, you can outperform a lot of people in a lot of ways. Like if you’re like, look dude, I’m not going to rank, this post isn’t going to drive enough content to be worth posting it. I’m going to leverage the network I’ve built through social, especially like LinkedIn right now, like LinkedIn is crushing it. Like if you, if you get your tags right, you get a couple of shares and you’ve kinda hit the algorithm bonus on whatever given day. I mean you can get 20 30,000 views on LinkedIn posts while your blog posts gets 37.

Garrett: (16:22)

You tell me what’s better for your business, right? And so there’s that. But I think the way you go about it is you literally just try to find, you have to go one by one through each person in your company and be like, okay, this woman, she does bad-ass work. She doesn’t love to write. She’s going to be our case study gal. I’m going to go to her when we need a case study. We’re going to pull from her portfolio. We’re going to honor her. We’re going to, you know, validate her. We’re going to essentially affirm her, let her know how good she’s doing. We’re going to celebrate that internally and we’re going to publish that externally cause she’s kicking butt. Then you have another guy for whatever God-forsaken reason. He loves long-form content. This guy can write five, 7,000 words, all right? He’s our guide guy.

Garrett: (17:06)

I’ve got another person. He’s a machine. He can turn out 500 to 750 words like a glossary, like it’s nobody’s business. All right? That’s my glossary guy. Okay. This woman, she gets like how to turn products into content. All right? She’s going to take the lead on our LMS micro site that we’re building right now and she’s in charge of that micro-content. And she can do that 700 words that are kind of like lesson details that she’s taking from the already grade content, curating it, doing the research. That’s my how-to girl. Okay. And I have all these guys and gals and everybody’s working together in the areas where they’re best. And now that’s where the machine starts calling. And then you start just broadcasting that and you start to show, Hey, as a leader of this organization, I value team members especially highly who are part of our culture and our brand and want to share what they’re doing, not only with team members internally but externally with the industry. All right, cool. Let’s start broadcasting the value of that. Let’s start rewarding that type of behavior. And now you start to build a culture of content, uh, in your organization. Um, that allows people from engineering and development to creative to be sharing what they’re doing internally and externally.

Brad : (18:13)

Got it. Awesome. So with an agency, one of the old problems is always that, uh, you have to worry about utilization, right? Like you have people that are worth so much and they billable hours or even if you’re not, even if an agency doesn’t bill based on hours, like you’re still tracking it internally,

Garrett: (18:28)

You have capacity. Like we don’t bill hourly but we have capacity tracking and you have to, yeah.

Brad : (18:34)

So how do, how do you, cause it is like a, an imperfect solution. Like how do you, is this, are you building this in for some of them in terms of like this is part of their overall capacity or this is like some excess stuff or is it like on top of like the day to day kind of client work they’re already doing? Like

Garrett: (18:46)

yes, here’s how we treat it. Yeah, that’s a great question. So like I have a, you know, five or six-person marketing team. I think a Directive gets hard for me to stay on top and it can change a lot. But none of them are full time except for the director. In other words, they’re all shared resources. And then we pay here like operationally based on managed revenue, which is pretty innovative in our space. So in other words, like the more money you generate for the business based on what you can manage due to your talent, the more money we pay you. So there’s like literally comp packages that reward talent here. So in other words, if you’re managing our biggest accounts, you’re on a forty thousand thirty thousand type of dollar a month account here, you’re going to get paid more than somebody on a $6,000 account.

Garrett: (19:25)

It’s really not rocket science, right? Like you’re adding more value. We treat Directive as the biggest client. So we say if you, you get to be on the directive marketing team in your manage revenue that counts, let’s say as a 20K or a 15K or 10K whatever it is that you know for that person’s portfolio, right? That becomes your biggest account and we expect you to set up the same amount of time we spend on our enterprise accounts in our capacity planning. The same amount of hours goes into spending on Directive’s marketing. And so we kind of just put Directive as a client in their portfolio. And so we literally treat us as an enterprise account in our portfolio for our talent. And then cause at the end of the day, right, clients come and go whether we like that or not, regardless of how well we do the brains here today and tomorrow and it needs that talent. And so we treat it as such and we pay us such in a sense of manage revenue so that they can grow.

Brad : (20:15)

Got it. Makes sense. Do you still do treat it as formally above and beyond capacity and utilization for like do you have like KPIs, do you have like anything, any specific metrics above, above like production of what you’re trying to hit?

Garrett: (20:28)

Oh, like from a marketing, like how do we like our marketing campaigns internally?

Brad : (20:31)

Yeah. So you’re producing all this content, but how do you cause the age-old questions like there’s an indirect ROI, right? There’s no direct ROI. So how do you, how do you like justify it I guess?

Garrett: (20:40)

Yeah, we have a lot of KPIs. Like, we’ll be looking, let’s say I sound like direct traffic. Um, uh, because we try to do like I believe brand is more important than um, like website. Totally a hundred percent believe that as an SEO guy kind of PPC person or like my brand is more porn than anything. And so we measure like a people searching a directive or people searching directive consulting or direct traffic. Uh, we measure organic traffic, we measure a MQL by channel, we measure ROI influence, we measure opportunities and flow. I mean we measure literally everything. Uh, but the main KPIs we look at, we actually share them among sales development account executives and the marketing and PR team. All three business units meet every Monday. And we actually have collective goals of opportunities, proposals given, uh, deals closed, existing business. So how many customer deals we’ve closed versus new business. And then all those goals are actually shared in the growth department. Um, and then each, then we break off into breakout sessions afterward. And then marketing meets sales development meets, you know, account executives meet and they all have individual goals of their own. And so we kind of have like a group meeting and then we each have breakout meetings afterward. All kind of to our shared goals. So we’re all bought in, we’re all on the same page and we’re all testing together.

Brad : (21:56)

Yeah. Got it. Um, how, one of the things you mentioned at the very beginning was it’s difficult for individuals to see like progress if they’re not seeing it from their own point of view. So, so it’s great if we’re, if we’re looking at like macro KPIs or metrics where you’re looking at like performance over, you know, like an increase in percentage change of branded search traffic. But like again from taking now that, right.

Garrett: (22:21)

What does that mean to Susie? Yeah. What does that mean?

Brad : (22:23)

Taking it back to those individuals, what are, what, what do they want to see in term six? Keep them motivated to like keep doing it, you know, next month or the month after that. And

Garrett: (22:33)

yeah, I think like you have to get readership, you got to get comments, you got to get engagement, nobody dislikes publishing something on Moz and getting 50 comments, a hundred comments. Right. That makes you feel good cause you’re like, okay, I just shared something that a bunch of people felt it valuable. Now if they post something on Moz and he gets no readership, no shares, no engagement, they’re like, I spent 15 hours on this crap. Nothing. Right. And so I think making sure that you’re, you’re focusing on your own community. So if you’re writing for your own site that it doesn’t feel like it just drops into, you know, an empty bucket but it actually has a ripple effect and they get to engage with it and they see it. Um, but also like elevating your team and like, like for our case studies now, like we’re doing like full photoshoots and that shows the team working on the case study. So it’s not just their name, it’s their face, it’s their body, it’s their whole like things we’re trying to bring our work to life so that it takes on its own meaning to them that they can intimately relate with.

Brad : (23:29)

Got it. Yeah, it is. It made me think of too is like a side question. But one of the issues with the case studies, for example, is always like sharing transparent information or client information. So like taking, doing a photoshoot but doing it of like your own internal team seems like a hell of a lot easier than like to go out to a client and like

Garrett : (23:46)

We do both actually. So we do have a marketing maverick series where we send a photographer and they literally do a full photoshoot. Our clients actually love it. Like we do like a full 30-minute photoshoot of them. I’m talking like photos that they can all use for their own professional stuff other than working with their teams. It’s actually pretty fun. Uh, and we haven’t gotten any pushback there. And then we also do photoshoots of our own team for the case study. So you can see the client, you can see our team and them working together.

Brad : (24:10)

That’s cool. Do with clients, do you like you have to like set that expectation upfront. So do you talk to them about it upfront? Do you have like in contracts, like how do you broach that subject?

Garrett : (24:18)

Oh yeah, I mean usually like, you know, I, I believe that retention is more effected by rapport than reports. Um, and so, you know, we visited our clients, you know, every other month we’re in person with our clients. Uh, we’re doing a working session. I mean, certain clients that are really, really large. I mean, I have turn team members, I fly up to him every week and are in their office working alongside them that day. So I mean, there, there’s a lot of relationship there. So like sharing our wins just feels like a natural thing to do when you’re kicking butt with somebody on a daily basis, you know? Uh, so no, I mean we don’t get a lot of pushback there. I mean, we’ve had like, we publish case studies and someone’s like, Hey, we don’t want that and we have to make it blind. But even if you’ve got a blind case study with photos of people and stuff, it’s cool. You know? So I think you have to go for the best you can and then respect your clients. And if they don’t want it, you take it down, you’ll get their approval, uh, honor them. But most of them know that we’re an agency and when they hired us, they wanted to see case studies and referrals and we’re going to need their involvement too. We want to keep successfully serving them, you know, and it’s a team thing.

Brad : (25:24)

Yeah, for sure. Especially, especially like I’ll, I feel like a lot of the bigger, better clients, uh, they, the people that you’re working with directly want to show off the work they’re doing to their own.

Garrett : (25:34)

Well, yeah, they’re a huge in-house team. You know, 500 people in this marketing department. They want to be able to share their success, too, their accolades. Our case study is their case study. You know, it, it, we try to make it where like we’re directly tied to our point of contact success, um, and you know, do that symbiotically.

Brad : (25:56)

Got it. So going back to, um, kind of like the ongoing day to day, like production of all this stuff do, is it mostly, we taught a lot of stuff. We talked about have been, besides the case studies have been fairly like top of funnel. Um, do you guys, are you still doing a lot of like middle bottom of the funnel stuff? Cause I saw, I saw some reports and guides, I saw pulse case studies obviously are like middle of the funnel. Like how much of your team’s percentage of their time are they doing like more brand-focused stuff versus like, you know,

Garrett : (26:24)

Well, we’ve gone away from lead gen, which is kind of weird. So I built the whole business on lead gen. I’m like just being really darn good. Like ranking number one for SEO agency ranking top five for PPC agency, spending a ton of money on review sites being everywhere and uh, and is getting a ton of leads. We, we, we kind of moved away from that. Uh, I went more brain side and so everything we’re doing now is more audience-centric and brand-centric because we’ve raised our minimums and with those new minimums, the lead gen that like kind of transactional content, that middle bottom of the funnel content, it doesn’t even, doesn’t even create sense. So what we did right is we created the pulse product and the Institute product and uh, you know, in the future I’m launching it. I think, you know, probably the one of the first like full research division at Directive where we’re actually publishing like scientific research on SEO and PPC. Uh, that’s for the transactional bottom of funnel stuff where, you know, it’s $40 a month, $20 a month, whatever that is compared to, you know, a six, 10, 20K minimum thing for a retainer where transactional content, it’s not lead gen anymore. It’s brand. And so we have a brand for services and then we have transactional for products. And that creates where you can monetize the effort in a way that makes logical sense.

Brad : (27:45)

Perfect. Yeah, I mean it does. I think that’s, uh, one thing that people don’t understand. Like a lot of people who haven’t worked on, on both sides on like service side and products are like in a SAAS company, the, the type of content that drives results for one, uh, failed miserably for the other, like it’s very different in terms of the type of people type of like leads and, and eyeballs, right?

Garrett : (28:06)

Yeah. It’s like our whole marketing went from like lead gen to sales enablement and branding, you know, on the services side. So everything we’re doing is about lead scoring, educating, branding, and improving the perceived value of our brand and our services. Increasing desire, you know, trying to psychologically create desire to work with the Directive brand when your contract’s up because you know, there’s something different. It’s not like it, why should I work with you? Oh yeah. We have a lot of experience in your industry. You know, we’re, we’re great too, well, let’s say you have a 50% marketing team. We’ll educate every single one of ’em on how to do exactly what we do. Free of charge. Hey, we have proprietary technology that benchmarks your performance against every other player in your space with Pulse. Literally the largest search marketing database out there, period with companies and then, Oh yeah, only five accounts per person on average and we’re great at what we do, here’s all our case studies.

Garrett : (28:59)

Then lastly, check out our research. If you ever need to prove to a development team why you need to make this change, we have a statistically significant T stat, an actual real sample of data that can actually get buy-in at a corporate level to execute these recommendations. That’s why you choose Directive, right? So my whole thing is about building a moat around our services that has nothing to do with our services so that when someone asks, why should I work with Directive we can give a completely differentiated answer than any other agency in the industry.

Brad : (29:28)

Yeah, that’s cool. I like it a lot. What’s so once, once you start producing all this content, because even what you’re describing right now like it requires a lot of stuff to be able to like just get that education and like just let people know that all that stuff exists. It’s out there. One of the big like bottlenecks I know is like you, you produce all this stuff and you have all this stuff but it’s like going from producing it to actually like promoting it and using, yeah, exactly. Are two very different things. So do you, do you have to have at the beginning your process sounds like it’s fairly um, what would the word be like consolidated almost where you have like a like a point person kind of managing it all and then it becomes like this, this network. Do you have to get back to like one person kind of managing like a process again to be able to promote it in that way?

Garrett : (30:10)

it was easier at first, like when we first did it right, I did the proposals, I did the content, I did the operational meeting. So I could literally take customer feedback, client, new client, like sales feedback, content feedback, and I had the whole loop, right? So that’s the critical part about that growth meeting of getting sales. So like sales development account executives and marketing all in a room every week to say, Hey, these two slides aren’t in our deck even though marketing just did it. Hey, these new case studies are live, you’re selling into this vertical and you’re not leveraging these two case studies. Right? At the end of the day, I am the CEO and I do run growth. And so if you have a leader who’s bought into it all and is in it with them, right? Like I led the product launch of Pulse, I’m directly involved in all these different things and doing so much that it’s still easier and the more and more I give away, it definitely becomes harder and harder.

Garrett : (31:04)

It is to create what you’re talking about where information is still shared. So in my mind, you need to have a leader who still has a voice, who is intimately involved in the content process for things to get amplified, shared, funded, valued, and respected. Because if that leader isn’t in it is really hard for a director of content to get their content leveraged by sales development account executives and marketing and the C-suite and to keep it going. You know, it’s really tough. I do think the number one thing that keeps you know, content marketers from success is they don’t have executive buy-in. Number one thing, in my opinion,

Brad : (31:44)

definitely, especially without, like you said, the, the understanding of how everything else works too. So if you’ve, like, if you’ve only done content marketing, if you’ve never like actually sold something or like worked on a client account or like gone through all those other iterations, like you don’t really understand how this over here is important to like this over here.

Garrett : (32:01)

You can’t be the blogger and be like 15 Reasons Why LinkedIn Ads are the Future and be like, account executives are going to love this. Like, dude, what the hell? Wouldn’t you think I’m going to mention 15 ways. LinkedIn ads. Like how am I going to, you know what to do when you start to, when you’ve done it all. And I’m like, dude, I’m going to sales development. Nobody wants to read your 2,500 guide. Can you give me like enforced slides where it’s like some things that capture their eyes that they can click in an email? They’re like, right. It’s like where do you start to understand how the content is consumed and how it’s leveraged by each business unit. Now it becomes a fun game, but if not, yeah, it doesn’t work like you’re saying.

Brad : (32:37)

Yeah, it’s a bunch of silos and then you, you see like it’s unintended consequences. Like you see traffic spike, but then like nothing else like leads don’t spike conversions, those spikes, uh, the value of those leads. and conversions doesn’t

Garrett : (32:50)

The CFO comes along and says, Hey, we struggle this month with, we lost two clients. What do you think the first thing they’re going to cut is? Content- gone. Like if you’re in the agency space, you know, content can be a loss leader for all your services if you aren’t able to intimately tie their value into multiple parts of the business. Because content is simultaneously the number one thing I see all of our clients struggle with and Directive to consistently create. It’s also the first thing that they cut if it’s not intimately involved in sales development, account executives, and marketing.

Brad : (33:24)

Yup. For sure. I think, uh, one of the things we’ve been doing a lot of is trying to tie our, I’ve always wanted to stay away from other services. So I wanted to stay away from being like, cause you know, like search is so complex, you can’t just do like one segment of it. And that’s kind of what we do. We just play in like one narrow sandbox of search. But the more you can tie that into like everything else and then those other objectives than the, the less likely that you’re going to be the first one or the first thing cut.

Garrett : (33:52)

Yeah. Because content really is the meat and the potatoes. It’s just how do you convince someone of that? And that’s I think the art. Uh, and that just takes experience in customer success and like, cause like, I mean you have to talk about SAAS, right? I mean customer success has infinite content. Yup. We’re talking FAQ, chatbots, support questions and being able to surface articles through Intercom. Like when you start to really understand the game of content, then it becomes powerful. But when you think of it as a blog, that’s when it’s in its worst capacity. Yeah.

Brad : (34:26)

Why is that do you think? Is it something that like is it probably cause it just marketers ruin everything. We’ve, we’ve like taken something that’s valuable and then you’ve killed the golden goose kind of and it’s become, it’s become almost like an afterthought now.

Garrett : (34:41)

Yeah. I mean honest truth is like blogs have consolidated in every industry. People do not read a bunch of different blogs and they won’t read your blog. They read their blogs that they read when new content published on those blogs. In other words, like someone in SEO reads a Moz blog, but I can’t convince someone who already consistently reads the Moz blog to make the Directive blog a part of their life consistent reading. It just doesn’t work like that. It takes years to build a community where people trust that when you publish something new, they need to read it or they’re missing out. And by the way, people, the transition costs of someone switching from reading the blog, they always read, they’ll start reading yours really high to just tell someone to follow you on Twitter and to consume your content natively in the platform really low. So are you gonna keep creating blogs? Or are you going to start to make all your content native into Twitter threads. What makes more sense in 2020 right? So when you sort of think about how content is consumed, how you acquire an audience, that’s when content becomes effective for your brand.

Brad : (35:38)

Yeah, definitely. I think too like you’re mentioning, it’s, it’s the switching costs like we’re at a point where it’s all of these markets are too saturated. Where it’s like we don’t need more here. We need better. But if you’re going to like leapfrog someone else, you have to like replace them.

Garrett : (35:52)

Yeah. Brian Dean, like Brian came along and was like, I’m going to make my entire business. I’m going to put an insane amount of resources into doing one world-class piece of content, you know, in a set period of time. And he started to get his audience because if you didn’t read his stuff, it was getting shared so much by other people that you felt like you were missing out if you weren’t a part of that community and he grew, but you can’t come along like as a service provider where your sole business isn’t content and compete with that. Like how are you going to beat a guy whose entire business is education and content, right? When your entire business is services, you’re going and he’s writing the same thing, your writing, how the hell are you going to beat him? Right? So you have to start thinking about, okay, how can I create something different that actually does add value that aligns is my brand and can be different. And that’s when you have to start thinking like that and find the little gaps in the market. Like, Hey, who does world-class Twitter threads seven times a day? And that’s like what we’re doing. Like we’re doing all our content native in platforms these days because I think there is a capacity for that where you can build an audience, you can build a community where you can’t on blog subscribers in my mind in 2020 as a service company.

Brad : (36:59)

Definitely. Yeah, we, the last few years we’ve been dropping a lot of those traditional like things for our own company. So we don’t really blog, we don’t do an email newsletter. We don’t really do a lot of those things. And the reason is because people find us and they hire us because they read our stuff across seven different sites over three months. And it was that, it was going back to the brand discussion. It was, it was seeing that recognition over and over and over again that leads them to hire us ultimately or at least like, you know, inquire, not like following some newsletter.

Garrett : (37:30)

And that’s what I’ve been preaching right. Is discoverability. Share a SERP like your brand is more important than your website. And I think we’re starting to intimately understand what that means a little more every day and we’re seeing success.

Brad : (37:42)

Last but not least, do you add on any top of, when you’re already producing this much content, it’s kind of like a snowball to a certain degree where the momentum helps like the promotion and everything else. Um, anything else you do on top of it to help? Like, give stuff an extra push. Do you do like retargeting ads? Do you do anything else like on top of it? Just on a consistent basis to help increase stuff like visibility of brand?

Garrett : (38:05)

Yeah. Max is our like a paid search and CRM. So one of the things we did is, and I think it’s really innovative and I should have done it way before as we started. Um, I used to spend like 40, $50,000 a month on just like search ads for Directive. Like, so when I say like I, I, I mean I’ve lived, I don’t know anybody honestly in the agency space and in our database of Pulse. I don’t think anyone spends as much on new business acquisition as we do in this space. So like I’m not just like saying this like as like that, like we were spent 120,000 a month on third-party review sites and search ads. So I mean that’s not little money, you know what I mean? Like that’s in the, in the agency space, that’s a good chunk of change to try and get new business and lead gen.

Garrett : (38:46)

um, I think now we’re down to $2,000 a month and we grew more in Q4 than we’ve ever grown before. So we literally, it took six months, we doubled our rates and we transitioned all from a lead gen marketing model to brand. And the reason I say that is because it was that important to us to align with how we wanted to be perceived by our customers and what we wanted to produce. And it’s customer marketing and customer content and a whole new perspective became the priority. We took a lot of that page search emphasis and focus and kind of search marketing focus and put it into discoverability. So we’re still in those platforms just more efficiently. And then put it into CRM when it comes to scoring and sales enablement and then really starting to say, okay, how do we create scale and sales development and let marketing be the awareness.

Garrett : (39:34)

So we took a lot of that budget and started running on brand awareness ads. So we don’t push content, we push brand. So we get over 10 million impressions for our brand, I think every month to give you context and said instead of trying to get 10,000 visitors to our website, could I get for a 10th of the money, 10 million impressions for our brand? And when that person searched, when the timing was right, could I be discoverable for exponentially less cost through organic and third-party review sites and then essentially grow like crazy on awareness, have really targeted Spears in ABM and sales development and then have a really tight net at the bottom of the funnel with discoverability. And I thought if I can do all of that, I could grow more. And I think it’s true. You know, that’s kinda how we go about it.

Brad : (40:18)

Got it. What other, um, how it’s easy when you’re like the owner or founder of a company cause you’re just like, this is what we’re going to do and you don’t like you have to justify it. But like not really. So like what, cause the problem with this is that going pursuing brand that aggressively is like kind of a leap of faith to a degree.

Garrett : (40:38)

Yeah, it’s nuts. Nobody ever does it.

Brad : (40:40)

and you’re kind of hoping, you’re like saying, Oh, in like six months to a year from now, I think we’re going to like, I think it’s going to pay. Yeah, exactly like what, even if you were like talking to a client for example, like, and this is like the route that you’re recommending, what because I’m assuming you get a lot of pushback.

Garrett : (40:58)

Yeah. This is like insanity. We have to use like 5% to 10% of our budget instead of my case where I use almost a hundred percent for brands. Right. Um, I want to be the biggest search marketing agency in the world, period. That’s my goal. That’s why I’m going this route. Yeah, I think this helps me get there better than lead gen. Um, so there’s that and it aligns with my vision. Um, I also do a lot of customer acquisition cost modeling. Um, so on my YouTube channel I do have a template that I use and I share it with people I’m trying to hit like an LTV ratio, uh, on customer costs, LTV of just similar to like a SAAS model, like three to one. Um, I found that lead gen for us was actually horribly inefficient when you started to look at LTV and customer acquisition costs.

Garrett : (41:45)

And so that’s why I picked, I don’t just do these things guttural or vision wise, I do this all based on financials. So I’m also the CFO. So when you like I love numbers, I love our finances and so I still spend a ton of time building out models and managing those models. So if you’re the chief revenue officer or the chief executive officer and the CFO and you intimately love all three roles and are above maybe average at each, I don’t know about that, but at least I’m okay at some of them you can convince yourself of their logical reason. And like while we’ve moved from lead gen to brand, we’ve also increased our margins by over 15 points. So like when you put all that together, now you’re like, hell yeah, this works. And so that’s why I put it in my, my vlog, how to change from like a lead gen transactional ROI model to like an LTV, customer acquisition cost model.

Garrett : (42:37)

And when you do that brand marketing and longterm marketing starts to make a hell of a lot of sense and it gets you away from this like constantly needing leads tomorrow mentality, which just drives up CPA, uh, and eventually becomes unsustainable. And that’s actually what happened to us. Um, so yeah, I do justify all this stuff financially and our margins are getting better as we move to brand, which is kinda crazy.

Brad : (42:58)

Yeah, definitely. So last, last quick question, man. If, if like you’re talking to a client, you’re like, Hey, we’re going to do 5 or 10% of our budget on this, are you just looking for like quick wins? Basically like low hanging fruit.

Garrett : (43:08)

I just call it a frappuccino a day. I kinda, you know and I just say like, look, what’s the amount of money you’re willing to like that your controller, your CFO, is willing to just loose, honest question.

Garrett : (43:20)

Like what money are you willing to lose and to not stop losing it because that second part’s critical. And so like, look, we’re okay spending $2,000 a month down the toilet. So, okay, that’s our new brand budget. Cool. We’re not going to set any crazy goals or expectations. We’re just gonna assume that if we can put seven impressions using LinkedIn, text ads on your exact persona, leveraging demographics and psychographics and firmographics so that we are putting brand awareness every day, right at your target persona. And we know that due to our PPC and our SEO, that when they search for what you offer and the timing’s right, your discoverable, and you’re one of three people that they’re getting demos or proposals with, that we’re going to throw $2,000 around the toilet every day so that they want to work with you more than the other two because of the brand value you’ve imparted through your campaigns.

Garrett : (44:13)

Do you believe in that? And I don’t know a lot of executives that don’t believe in that. Yeah, and if you felt like that you can get by and you start to have some fun.

Brad : (44:20)

Yeah, that’s cool. And then grow it from there as it starts to,

Garrett : (44:24)

Exactly. Now they’re like, yeah, our account executives keep saying that people saw our ad somewhere. We’re, we’re on those top five podcasts that we know our persona listens to. All of a sudden people are mentioning they heard us on a podcast. Now I can’t justify that in my ROI spreadsheet or my dashboard, but those podcasts seem to be working. How do we do more podcasts? I have a couple of SAAS clients who are some of the biggest players in the space. They’re the number one channels, podcasts and they have no attribution on it and they just know through talking with account executives and sales development that people hear him on the podcast.

Garrett : (44:55)

I mean one of our best channels is podcasts like this as well as podcasts advertising. We do podcast ads of case studies and it crushes it and so yeah, I mean brand brand brand really does win, especially if you’re looking at LTV and customer acquisition costs because people who want to work with you are more likely to stay working with you and people that you try to convince to work with you at the bottom of the funnel in a lead gen manner.

Brad: (45:16)

For sure. It’s usually the worst margins too the worst terms. Yup, for sure.

Brad : (45:20)

Awesome. Well thanks, Garrett, man. I really appreciate it. I know we’re closing in on time here. Anything else we brought to talk about or anything else on the topic that you, that you think we left out?

Garrett : (45:29)

No, man. I feel like we were in the gamut. I’m just excited that you had me, Brad. Thanks that I got to be here and yeah, excited to chat more in the future, so thanks for having me.

Brad: (45:37)

Yeah, likewise. Thanks, dude.

Highlights 

The foundation of success in search marketing lies in content. 5:53 I built this thing by creating content. Like this is the best thing you can do. I promise you. You might not believe that, but it’s reality. Like the most successful people in our industry built it, their success by sharing what they were successful at. That’s literally the playbook to search marketing.

Expand your definition of content to drive growth. 9:20 So I think one of the things that people sometimes forget is like, it’s not just blog posts when it comes to content, right? Right. So how do you get your team to start writing case studies of their work? How do you get your teams to start to answer the how-to questions? How do you get them to do the what is? And if you get out of the idea that everything’s for SEO and everything’s for your blog, you can actually be a lot more successful with your content. 

What Garret does to get 10x engagement. 15:43 if I have a blog post that I want to write in my head, I’m turning that into a Twitter thread instead of a blog post. I’m getting 10x engagement. So in other words, getting away from the idea that you have to own your content for it to see value. I think by going native to your platforms, you can outperform a lot of people in a lot of ways.

Garret’s strategy to differentiate his company and gain executive buy-in. 29:02 If you ever need to prove to a development team why you need to make this change, we have a statistically significant T stat, an actual real sample of data that can actually get buy-in in a corporate level to execute these recommendations. That’s why you choose Directive, right? So my whole thing is about building a moat around our services that has nothing to do with our services so that when someone asks, why should I work with Directive we can give a completely differentiated answer than any other agency in the industry. 


Why it is crucial to intimately tie content into multiple parts of the business. 33:11 Because content is simultaneously the number one thing I see all of our clients struggle with and Directive to consistently create. It’s also the first thing that they cut if it’s not intimately involved in sales development, account executives, and marketing.

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