PODCAST EP 104
Using content marketing to grow a business with David Khim.
Simon Dell discussed with David Khim about how to use content marketing to sustainably and economically grow a business (no matter the scale).Listen Now
Simon Dell: Welcome to the Cemoh Marketing Podcast. Jaclyn Curtis, how are you today?
Jaclyn Curtis: I’m doing very well, Simon. How are you?
Simon Dell: Good, very good. You are in the – I don’t know whether it’s sunny. It might actually be very cold and snowy, but you’re in Detroit, aren’t you?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yes, and it is cold and still snowy, unfortunately.
Simon Dell: Beautiful sunshine here, and I’m sorry about that.
Jaclyn Curtis: [laughs] It’s okay.
Simon Dell: I’ll just maybe just see the sunlight streaming in the window there, but [laughs]. So, okay, let’s first of all find out who you are. You’re the COO of bant.io, that’s B-A-N-T-dot-I-O. You’re also involved in Zopto. So, give me a quick overview. Give me the elevator pitch of those two products.
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So, Zopto is a LinkedIn automation platform that helps people basically reach out to their prospects on LinkedIn at scale. And that is a DIY platform, although we do also offer a managed service with appointment setting for those that need it.
And then bant is an all-in-one, end-to-end B2B sales and marketing acceleration and platform. And on bant, that is fully-managed service, so we do everything from the setup, implementation, analysis, strategy, and all of that is included.
And on the bant side of things, we’re doing email outreach, social outreach, retargeting, PPC, campaigns, and we also offer a sales chatbot.
Simon Dell: Give me an example of… Give me some numbers around that. Obviously, you guys have been going for a while, but how many customers are you guys dealing with? You’ve obviously achieved a fair bit of growth in the past few years.
Where are you at at the moment? Numbers of staff or numbers of customers, whatever you can give us in terms of metrics.
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So today, we just actually recently put together an infographic. And then consolidating that data, we ran altogether about 15,000 campaigns at bant.
Our team has now grown to somewhere around 35 people, and growing. We actually have about five people that we’re probably to be starting in the month of March full time. More in the pipeline, we just had two new hires start. So, really accelerating things on the bant side.
On the Zopto side, very similarly. I don’t have the number of customers off the top of my head because we do white label the solution for agencies, like marketing agencies and we have a lot of sub accounts. And we also offer a white label so it gets a little convoluted on that end. But on that team, we also have somewhere around 25 team members as well.
Simon Dell: So, they’re all in the same office, the two teams? Or do you keep them apart, away from each other?
Jaclyn Curtis: So, yeah. So, it is two separate companies, but not in the same office. We are a fully distributed company. And we have – I want to say that we’re in 15 different time zones between all of our team members between North America and Europe.
Simon Dell: Okay. And your role as COO, talk to us about how you got to where you are. Did you come in the bottom of the company, worked your way up? Or did you come from another company you have? What’s the story behind your rise to COO?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So, I started at bant back in 2018 as an account manager, and I was one of three that were hired. The other two didn’t really last, and I just stuck around. The team was still very small at the time, but we had real significant growth when I first started, so I managed all of the accounts at that time.
And then I got pregnant with my third child, and we needed to start bringing on some other team members to help support while I was going to be out of the office. And so then, when that happened, the team just started growing. We started growing more customers. And the company just started growing overall on both sides.
So once that happened, I started taking on more responsibilities because now, we had other team members that needed training. We had more operational needs, that type of thing.
So, from there, it just kind of spiralled from an account manager position to chief operating officer.
Simon Dell: Well done. That’s awesome. They obviously saw your talents and thought it would be better utilized leading the company. So, any more plans for any more children, or are you done and dusted with three?
Jaclyn Curtis: Three and done.
Simon Dell: I got two and I can’t even imagine doing a third. I’d be like, “brave people.” So, let’s just talk – we’ll talk about bant in a second. I just want to talk about LinkedIn.
Obviously, part of what you guys do – and obviously, there’s other social channels and stuff like that, but it’s certainly – part of what Zopto do is focus around LinkedIn.
LinkedIn has seen growth and evolution in perhaps, I would say that maybe the past three to five years. And this is going to be a really broad question, but why is LinkedIn, or why do you perceive LinkedIn to be so important from a business perspective?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. I mean, there’s no doubt that LinkedIn is the largest platform and network of professionals that exist. You know, people are on LinkedIn regularly, they’re constantly looking to network with individuals that can serve them.
And because of that, it’s just a really great channel for people to connect, try to understand what everyone’s business needs are. And genuinely, I think overall in terms of our experience in engaging with our prospects, engaging with partners… You know, just across the board, it generally feels like a very supportive network too. Like, everyone’s looking to help out everybody else make those connections.
From a sales perspective, there’s just so much data there that you can go after. And with all of the various tools between LinkedIn and a platform like ours, with Zopto, with bant, there’s just so much you can do in terms of reaching out to as many prospects, basically.
Having all of that data on-hand and then doing that at scale where you really don’t need people, like the manpower to have to go in and do all of that research for you.
Simon Dell: Some people do LinkedIn very well, and some people do LinkedIn very badly. If someone was sort of starting off or you were coaching them, what would you be saying to somebody in terms of how to present themselves on a platform like that?
What should they be doing? Should they be producing content every day? Should they be commenting on things? What are some of the golden rules that you see work well in that platform?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So, definitely having a robust profile to start. Making sure you have a profile picture, having your entire profile filled out with all of the relevant information.
You know, people want to see credibility in your profile. If you’re reaching out to them with something that they might be interested in… You know, they want to go to your profile, they want to go to your company profile and they want to see that they’re dealing with a credible person.
So first and foremost, having that credibility on your profile is really important. I think the biggest pitfall where people kind of go wrong is trying to sell on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not a platform where you should be having a sales conversation. LinkedIn is a platform where you should look to network with people, connect with them, find that common ground between them, and really open up a genuine conversation and try to foster a genuine relationship with them.
So, I think – you know, just as early as today, I’m on a bunch of SaaS growth and LinkedIn growth Facebook groups, and somebody sent over a template. They’re like, “I’m not getting any connections on LinkedIn. No one’s responding to my messages. What’s going on?” And someone asked her to share the template.
You know, she’s trying to go in for the kill with her LinkedIn message, and you just can’t do that. No one wants to be sold in that fashion. It really has to come across more genuine than that.
Simon Dell: So, if you can’t sell or if you shouldn’t sell, what are the opening conversations that you should be having? What are the things that you should be saying to people?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So, again, finding that common ground between the two businesses in terms of what that company does, what your company does, looking to genuinely connect with the person, understand what their company is going through, what their pain points are.
And generally, in a message, I would say not to just go in, saying like, “We’re selling X, Y, Z. Let’s hop on a call.” You need to immediately convey the value that you’re bringing to the person, like the, “What’s in it for me?”
So, the more research that you can do, the better filters that you use with a platform like ours, the more customized you can make those templates using various variables.
We always suggest to our customers, don’t cast this really super wide net. Really take a look at these more targeted filters. Put together some messaging. It does take a little more time, but not anywhere near as much time as you would going out and doing all of that manual research. There’s quite a bit that you can do using Sales Navigator.
Or for recruiters even, I use Zopto and Recruiter Lite, just recently, to look for candidates for our hiring. You know, there’s so much that you can do with just running the proper filter and having the proper messaging. And again, just coming across as wanting to open up a conversation, and not so much trying to sell in the message directly.
Simon Dell: I follow this copywriter on TikTok. Obviously, there’s been an explosion of TikTok use across the world in the last 12 months. And I follow this copywriter, and he always sort of talked about having conversations where you’re not trying to sell something, but talking to people in a manner to demonstrate or to make them understand how their life would be better if they were using your product, or something like that.
Now, I know that’s not really a LinkedIn conversation, but I guess it’s that sort of understanding – if you’re going to connect with someone, you’ve still got to give them a reason. There’s got to be a benefit for people of why you should connect, otherwise people are just going to go, “Yes, that’s a nice message. And yeah, you seem like a lovely person, but…” Yeah, I guess somehow, there’s got to be a benefit in there.
Jaclyn Curtis: And we encourage people to sit and think like, “What are the types of messages that you respond to? What are the connection requests that you accept? What are the messages that pique your interest?”
You know, the longer a message gets, the more likely you’re not going to read it at all. So, what are the things in these various solicitations that you get from people that you don’t know that really catch your eye and prompts you to engage in a conversation, and to think of it in that manner?
And I think a lot of people don’t do that. They think that a good story, or they think that really being overly descriptive about what they do as a business, and laying out all the various features is going to be interesting to a prospect, and it’s just not. You need to be short, to the point, and immediately convey the benefit to the individual.
Simon Dell: It’s funny. I mean, we’ll talk about the volume of stuff that comes through LinkedIn in a second, but I just had an email, an outreach email, sorry. Probably came to me about two days ago, three days ago from a web development company.
And we were running a job on SEEK, looking for web developers. And they’ve reached out, they’ve worked out who I am, found me on LinkedIn. They sent an email out, also had sent a LinkedIn message to me.
And it was pretty – it took the third message for me to respond. And basically, because they kept offering to build a website for me for free. And I guess, probably the first time, I was like, when someone offers you something free like that, I would imagine you would feel the same as well.
When your first reaction is, “There’s a catch here. What am I going to get here? Am I just going to get a Wix website, or just a template where someone’s changed the logo or stuff like that?”
But I guess I don’t know why I suddenly changed tune and decided to start talking to them after the third one. But I guess there’s an element of consistency or persistence that’s important with using your platforms. You can’t necessarily give up after the first attempt at engagement.
Jaclyn Curtis: Yep. No, that’s exactly true. You know, you don’t want to harass people, so we do generally suggest that you cease contacting them after your third or fourth message.
We pull the data. I don’t have the number off top of mind, but after this third message, we do start to see a major drop off in responses to fourth, fifth, six. But that third really seems to be a sweet spot.
So, we’re still seeing significant responses between the first message, second message and third message. Same goes for email too. So generally, we say, make sure that you’re sending those three messages.
You know, and you also don’t – also – you happen to see all of the emails or messages that that person sent you. But a lot of instances, people aren’t even seeing that first email or message. They might be out of the office, they might be really busy. Maybe they clicked on it then it moved into Read and they never got back to it because it’s not something they were looking for.
So, even from that standpoint, you really need to go in and reinforce your messages with a second and a third step. That reinforces the brand, you’re putting yourself in front of them time and time again.
Like you said, there’s that persistence level. But again, you don’t want to harass people. So, you do want to cut it off at some point.
Simon Dell: Yeah. Should there be an offer? I mean, I know you said you’re not supposed to be selling straight away, but should there be some sort of carrot?
And I guess this is the difference between email and LinkedIn. Whereas LinkedIn, you can make a connection, and you don’t necessarily need to follow up straight away. You could wait a week or two weeks, or something like that.
Whereas email, once they’ve opened it, I guess you’ve got to kind of strike while the iron’s hot with an email versus LinkedIn. And I sort of feel that perhaps in one or the other, or maybe both, there ought to be some sort of carrot that makes it worth talking to.
Or do you find, simply a, “Do you want to catch up with coffee?” Or “Do you want to have a chat about your business?” What sort of works best, do you reckon?
Jaclyn Curtis: I think that it just depends on the business. Some businesses don’t really have a carrot that they can offer. So, just saying, “Let’s catch up for coffee. I’d love to learn more about your business or get your advice on something.” You know, might be a good start.
Some businesses, let’s say an SEO agency, they might be able to run free audits on your website or something like that. And so, that might be something that you do want to offer.
You know, you can put that in the first message, or you can send out the first two messages more generic, like “Let’s hop on a call.” And then on that last one is generally where we suggest as a last-ditch effort. If nothing else kind of worked in the first two, they’re not interested, go in with whatever freebie you have to see if that sparks their interest.
Simon Dell: Do you still get cold call messages, and do you react to them?
Jaclyn Curtis: I do, a lot. And I do because I want the good karma. But some of them are good. I actually had one just today from ganda.io. And hers was really interesting.
It didn’t seem to be an automated message because it did really relate to a lot of my profile. But it was short, sweet, to the point, and it was actually something that we were looking into at the time. So, I had replied to her.
I had one a few weeks ago that they were offering to send me pizza for a call together. And I actually didn’t have a need for what they were doing at the time, but I’ll tell you what, it caught my eye and I did respond, and I will not forget that company should I ever have a need for their business.
Simon Dell: Funny you should say that. I did a strategy session… Not last week, week before that. It was a company based on the Gold Coast here, datmedia.
Datmedia do big display screens like shopping centre big. You know, the sort of thing you see with like the other massive screens over there. You know, panels.
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah, like the digital signage.
Simon Dell: Digital signage. That’s where I was going, thank you. Their tactic was to offer a $20 Uber Eats voucher. And if somebody would redeem that Uber Eats voucher, have the meal whilst they’re on the Zoom call with them.
It was like, “Let’s do lunch together on Zoom. I’ll send you a $20 Uber Eats voucher.” I mean, this was me doing a strategy for someone else, and they were teaching me things.
Honestly, I was like, “That’s a great idea.” And I’d be just like – so many people are just going to take it up just for the free $20 Uber Eats voucher. I’ll spend an hour on a Zoom chat for a free lunch, absolutely. Especially we don’t have to leave the office.
But your pizza one and Uber Eats, it’s kind of appealing to the base requirements of us as humans. I need something to eat, so, these people are going to give me something.
Jaclyn Curtis: Right. And it’s like – I feel like in that instance, also, what it conveyed to me – you know, because they said that they would coordinate the pizza and everything. Like, have it delivered at the time that we were going to meet.
And I’m just like, the amount of effort that you put into that, it’s not just money, it’s time, and really investment in me as a prospect. So, it was really eye-catching and interesting for me.
And we actually stole the idea and then coordinated pizza for all of our white label agencies on National Pizza Day. So, it was a good idea all the way around.
Simon Dell: There’s no such thing as an original idea. You’re just stealing everyone else’s ideas, that doesn’t matter. But you know what, Jaclyn, they could probably have screwed that completely up by putting pineapple on the pizza as well. They’d immediately just go, “Right, I’m not working with these people.” You’re an anti-pineapple person are you, or you’re a pro-pineapple on pizza?
Jaclyn Curtis: Definitely anti-pineapple, yeah. We’re in Detroit, you got to have Detroit-style pizza in Detroit.
Simon Dell: Oh, what’s Detroit-style pizza?
Jaclyn Curtis: So, Detroit-style pizza is more of like a deep dish style. But typically, the sauce kind of goes on top, not so much like Chicago style. But yeah, Buddy’s Pizza is one of the main ones in the area, if you’re ever here.
Simon Dell: That’s our tip for today, Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit. If anyone’s listening to this and traveling to Detroit, that’s where to go.
Okay, so, my other question I wanted to tackle today was just volume of this stuff that’s kind of happening out there. And you must see it, and I obviously see it, is that I get emails from people offering to do cold calls and cold emails and LinkedIn campaigns at least every day, every other day, maybe two or three times a day sometimes.
It’s just – you know, the volume of stuff, clearly it works. Clearly, there’s a business to be made out of this, doing it for other people. Do you feel that – this probably is quite a loaded question, but do you feel that there’s potential saturation here?
Do you think we’re not going to get to a point where anyone just goes, “Fuck it. I’m just going to delete everyone that comes in”? We’re not overplaying this marketing tactic?
Jaclyn Curtis: I don’t think so. So, this is something that we’ve pondered before. We do have some of our customers question it once in a while, coming in – I should say prospects coming in, wondering about this as a marketing tactic.
But at the end of the day, how else are you going to connect with your prospects? You know, people have needs and people have products and services to sell. And you have to be able to connect in some form or fashion.
So, the channel might change. There might be channels that are more effective than other channels that will continue to evolve. But in terms of cold outreach in general…
Or even like for instance, at bant, we do retargeting, we do PPC, those are both inbound. That’s not going to change. People, even me, in the space, and really being able to pick up on the various messages that come through, knowing what’s likely automation, what’s not automation.
Still, when I have a need for something, I reply to it. And I jump on a call with someone because they do have that need and I am interested, and they’re hitting me at the right time.
And ultimately, you can’t just rely on inbound techniques for your marketing. You have to still do outbound because there is that market out there that you’re never going to reach just relying on inbound strategies.
Simon Dell: And I said that in that video last week, two weeks ago where I was talking about the difference between inbound and outbound. And I said, “Look, you can build a business on inbound marketing, but you can turbocharge it using outbound marketing.
That’s the difference. If you want to scale it, you want it to scale quicker and faster, and reach more people, you have to do something outbound. If you are totally relying on inbound, yeah, you can grow, but you might not grow quick enough.”
So, yeah. So, I think, absolutely, I’m 100% with you there. Probably the other thing I was going to say to you, and this is maybe giving you a tip here…
Jaclyn Curtis: Oh, got to get my pen ready.
Simon Dell: You’ll probably go, “Yeah, we’ve done that.” And you’re going to roll your eyes at me. One of the really successful tools that we found – I mean, we do cold outreach as well, and we –
And again, for the record, we’ve tried emails. I haven’t tried LinkedIn yet. I was going to use bant and I just haven’t gotten around to doing it because – anyway, long story. I’m going to use it, I promise you. Promise, don’t be angry with me. I will do it.
We’ve done cold emails, we’ve done cold… We’ve already did cold LinkedIn. We have actually someone, a business development manager who does cold calls, phone calls because we find that to be extremely effective. And then he follows up with cold emails, things like that.
One of the funniest, best, quirkiest ways of actually getting through to the right people, is fortunately, this podcast. I’ve actually gone out to people in the last couple of weeks, and potential prospects of ours, and sent them emails and said, “We’d like you to be on the podcast.”
And almost instantly, they replied, “Yeah, I’m keen.” Because number one, they see it as a promotional opportunity for their business. And number two, it’s an ego-driven thing. They go, “Wow, somebody wants to hear my story.”
And from our perspective, whilst it’s a long burn, it’s like, I’m on the podcast, doing the podcast interview, publish the podcast, share it out. And then, follow up with a, “Do you want to catch up? Let’s go and grab a coffee, find out a little bit more about what we do.” At no point do they ever say no at that point.
They built the relationship, they know you, they trust you. They’re like, “Yeah, alright. I’m going to give this.” If I could do that at scale, and that’s probably the challenge, is I can’t do it at massive scale, but I can do it for real select businesses that I want to talk to.
And feasibly, I guess I could do it at scale. I could do one podcast every day or two podcasts every day, but it’s only me. I’d have to employ somebody else. But that’s something we found effective, is that if we’re actually giving someone the opportunity to promote their self, it’s amazing how much more willing they are to open or reply to a LinkedIn message, or reply to an email message.
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. I agree that anything that is more ego-driven, whether it’s going on a podcast or you’re saying something that’s complimentary, recognizing something that they did on their website…
But what I think is really important that you said, is it’s almost – I mean, at the end of the day, it’s lead nurturing, and that’s kind of what we advise our customers. When they come on, is our objective at bant is to open a conversation for you.
But it really requires nurturing, and nurturing’s going to look different for an inbound lead than it is going to look for an outbound lead. And we do help our customers with ideas on how to go about nurturing their leads, but that lead nurturing is so important.
If you don’t have that sales process built out internally. You probably aren’t going to see much success, any type of inbound or outbound.
Simon Dell: It’s been a fascinating conversation. And I think I’ve certainly learned a few tips and things, and I hope other people have as well. From your perspective, what’s next for bant?
I mean, obviously growth, growth, growth. You know, is there new features, new things coming on top of it? What’s the plan for 2021 for you guys?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. So, one of the things that we’re really looking to do is right now, it’s a multi-channel platform. But we’re really looking to turn that into an omnichannel platform so that all of the different modules between email, LinkedIn, PPC, retargeting, the chatbot all speak to each other.
So, that’s something that we’re really targeting to do this year. And then we’re also currently soliciting our customers, web visitors, et cetera because we are exploring the idea of also integrating a CRM so that you can manage. Not just generate the leads on our platform, but also manage and nurture all of your leads on the platform as well.
Simon Dell: And honestly, you have just read my mind because that was the thing I was just writing about there, is CRM. Do you guys use a CRM? I’m just interested from a technology stack. From your perspective, what do you guys use to manage your business?
Jaclyn Curtis: So, we use HubSpot, currently. And it’s worked really well for us. One of the things, though, is that it’s not self-feeding. And you know, it is more expensive. It’s a pretty expensive platform. We use it for both of our companies. It’s not cheap.
And for our market, which is small to medium sized businesses, solo entrepreneurs, it’s really – it can be priced out of their market. So, being able to provide something within our platform that not only serves as their CRM at either included in the cost, or not much more, and then also self feeds that with the leads that they need, we think is a real end-to-end win.
Simon Dell: Anyone I’ve seen using HubSpot loves HubSpot, but you’re right. It’s not a cheap platform. I think there is a free version, but I don’t know how far that free version actually goes.
Again, from our perspective, we use ActiveCampaign because we found that pretty much has most of the features that HubSpot has, but is at a fraction of the price.
Interestingly, again, from our cold lead generation system, we actually built a web scraper. So, it actually pulls data out of – not LinkedIn, another other platform, a job platform. It then dumps all that data into a Google Doc every day, one every day, into a – sorry, Google Sheet.
And then from that Google Sheet, it dumps into Clickup. I don’t know if you’ve seen Clickup at all, which is task management, project management, CRM-ish.
Jaclyn Curtis: We evaluated that for our needs.
Simon Dell: Yes, yeah. And we find that quite good for us. And then all of those leads come in every day and are assigned to the BDM. And that’s all done completely automatically.
And we obviously paid to have that software built and those kind of things. I guess my last question to you today would be – and this is one of those kind of obvious answers, but where you can streamline this kind of stuff and automate this stuff, it kind of makes the whole thing so much easier, doesn’t it?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yeah. We love automation. Automation is our friend. We have so much automation. Our head of growth, Steven, he’s like a Zapier guru. And he sets up all of our automations, our platforms, our –
Obviously, automation platforms in and of themselves, but we also integrate with other platforms through Zapier. So, I really think that it’s the wave of the future. We’re always looking to find ways to cut corners as individuals cut costs to save time.
And that’s kind of what our focus is on as an organization, is how can we help businesses solve real problems, and automation is one of the main ways that you can do that.
Simon Dell: Awesome. Jaclyn, thank you very much for your time today in snowy, cold Detroit. I guess my last question is, if anyone’s interested in either talking to you directly – I mean, you’re on LinkedIn. You’re not hard to find on LinkedIn.
But if they wanted to reach out to you, is that the best place to do that?
Jaclyn Curtis: Yep. I am fully hands-on with all the emails that come in from prospects and everyone. So definitely, if anyone’s interested in bant, please feel free to reach to me on LinkedIn or email.
Simon Dell: Awesome. Thank you very much for your time. It’s been fantastic having you on the show. And good luck for the rest of 2021.
Jaclyn Curtis: Thank you too, Simon. It was a pleasure.
PODCAST EP 104
Simon Dell discussed with David Khim about how to use content marketing to sustainably and economically grow a business (no matter the scale).Listen Now