Founder Stories by TeamWave, are a series of interviews of founders of small businesses and other thought leaders who share their practical insights from their journey of entrepreneurship. Here they talk about how they scaled up their company, what challenges they faced during their initial years, marketing strategies that worked to scale up their small business and much more.
These success stories are dedicated to all the entrepreneurs, small business owners and startups, to show them a glimpse of what it takes to survive in this competitive business ecosystem.
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In this episode of FOUNDER SERIES by TeamWave, our guest is Marc Bromhall who is the Co-Founder of Contentellect.
Contentellect provides a complete Blog Management service so that the company can focus on their most important work.
Transcript of the Interview with Marc Bromhall (Co-Founder, Contentellect)
Reshmi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the founder stories by TeamWave and our today’s guest is Marc Bromhall. He’s the co-founder of Contentellect. Contentellect provides blog management services for SMEs and SaaS companies and helps companies create amazing blog content to get more, get more visitors to their blog. Shall we get started, Mark? My first question would be, would love to hear from the founder himself, what is Contentellect all about?
Marc: Sure. So you summed it up pretty eloquently in your intro. Yeah, so there’s not much I can add to that, except that, you know, we are quite specialized in writing really good quality blog content for SaaS companies and startups.
Reshmi: Okay, great. And how did you, I would love to hear about the initial time, what was your experience before this and how did you come up with this idea?
Marc: Sure. So my co-founder and I both have backgrounds in the digital space, albeit slightly different ones. So my background is in ad tech and MarTech. And so through my experience, working for different advertising and marketing technology startups, I became quite free with, you know, what great content looked like from a paid distribution perspective. My co-founder Mark, his background is in building content websites using SEO. And so his understanding and experience were very much centred around what made great content from a search engine optimization standpoint. And so when we kind of put our heads together, it made sense with our combined experiences to find a content agency, which became Contentellect.
Reshmi: Okay. and it started around two and a half years back, right.
Marc: Two years ago to April, 2018.
Reshmi: Okay. And how did you find your initial customers like the first few customers?
Marc: Yeah, it was a, yeah, it was a real graft. You know, I think a lot of startup founders would probably say the same. So it was quite gritty and, and we actually got our first few customers from a Facebook group. We were servicing a slightly different target market when we started. Predominantly servicing affiliate marketers. We had a good understanding of some of the Facebook groups, which they lived in. So once we had sort of got together, cobbled together, an MVP, if you like a very basic value proposition, we took that to these Facebook groups. Within a few hours we had our first customer.
Reshmi: Okay, great. And what, what was the value proposition? How did you stand out unique? Because there are so many digital marketing firms, so many bloggers out there. So how did you pitch yourself out there to them?
Marc: I mean, we focused very much on quality. I guess everyone can say that. But when we were targeting affiliate marketers they were very, they’re very price-sensitive customer cohort. So we were very confined by price. But we also knew that in that price bracket, the quality of content being sort of produced wasn’t great. So if we could just produce content that was even just 15, 20% better than what was on the market. We were going to be able to land customers, which would become very sticky and also then evangelize our services to, to others in their affiliate marketing space. Which is exactly what happened.
Reshmi: Okay. So did you have full-time employees? Are you hiring freelancers for creating these content blog content?
Marc: Yeah, so we, we started off by hiring and we still do have a team of freelance writers. So the first freelance writer that we hired has slowly moved up the organizational ladder. She now heads up our operations team, but she started, as a freelancer. She was our first.
Reshmi: What, what are the marketing channels that you use? How do you reach out to the prospects?
Marc: Our most fruitful channel is cold email outreach. We use you know, software to do this in an automated fashion. And then second to that would be LinkedIn outreach for which we also use an automation tool. Then beyond that, we have a Facebook campaign. Which we run month on month. Here we target a lot of the prospects who we reached out to on email and on LinkedIn. And then peripheral channels include you know, podcasts like this. Also just posting across different social platforms like Quora and Reddit.
Reshmi: Okay, great. As a founder, what was one of the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome it?
Marc: Yeah. I think you know, initially, it was very much about, you know, getting customers. But what we found, in the beginning, was that because we were playing, as I say, in that affiliate marketing space, in order to, to land customers, we had to be competitive on price. And after about six months, my co-founder and I sat down and realized that we won’t be able to scale the business at that price point. The margins were just too thin and, and so our revenue and our profit wouldn’t be able to scale properly, at that price point.
So what we then had to do was change and pivot, if you like, and go after, you know, different or different customer cohorts that sat at a higher price point. And that’s where we are today, where we predominantly serve the SaaS market and also technology startups who, you know, have slightly deeper pockets and therefore made our sort of operating margin more feasible when it came to scalability.
And so once we, as I said, pivoted and restructured our pricing, and then went after these new customer codes, then we were able to start to scale the business and turn it into something that, you know, had a meaningful month on month growth. So I would say that was one of the early challenges that we faced for sure. And then the other one which relates to that was as we went upstream on price what we were finding is our kind of order and sorry, our UI and our UX on the site was sort of quite basic, but it was an MVP, but like, you know, a really basic one.
And so that what we were struggling to do with that is actually foster and build trust with these prospective customers because of how basic the UI the UX was. So what then changed the game for us at that time was to, you know, do a complete revamp of the site and build a much sleeker customer ordering experience. And so now we’re, you know, we have a product which we’re very happy with and very proud of, and believe that it definitely builds that trust that we weren’t able to do before. And therefore it’s able to drive a much higher conversion rate with our prospects.
Reshmi: Okay. I saw your website, and it mentioned the turnaround time for each blog content is three to five days. So how does the whole process happen? Like the collaboration process and you have to review many times, so how does it happen with the clients?
Marc: Yeah. So they place an order on our website and you’re correct. If they order a 1000 word article, which it tends to be the most sort of common article length, it takes us about three to five days to turn that around. And then when we deliver the article, it doesn’t end there. We offer an unlimited number of revisions. So if a customer is not happy with the first draft, or if they feel that maybe there are a few changes that they’d like made, then their free to request those changes. We run our business in Google suite.
So they would make the comments in a Google doc, which we’ve shared with them. And then we would update and edit the article based on their revision requests. And I’ll pledge is that you know, because we offer an unlimited number of revisions, we will always get an article to meet your expectations. Of course, our primary goal is to deliver the article the first time around that meet your expectations. But if not, we will get it there.
Reshmi: Great. So you deliver 100% Customer satisfaction.
Marc: We aim for that. Yeah, yeah.
Reshmi: How do you try to retain the customers?
Marc: So what we usually try and do, because we have broadly speaking, two different plans, we have a pay as you go plan, which is for customers who want to purchase content sort of in an ad hoc fashion when they need it. And then we have our monthly plans for customers who are a little bit more serious about content marketing and understand the importance of a regular output of content every single week or every single month. One of the methods we use is any, as you go customer who we’ve had come on board, we will obviously try and encourage them to move over to one of our monthly plans.
This is just done through messaging. When we deliver the articles to them, you know, at the end of the email, we might just have a short mention just explaining the benefits of our monthly blog packages. Other than that when it comes to attention, you know, we just take the sort of simple approach of always trying to be there for our customers and responding to their requests in a timely fashion. And, for the ones in the monthly plans,, we’ll often hop on a call every so often just to check in with them and, and make sure that they are happy with what we are delivering.
Reshmi: Great. So during the pandemic time, many industries had to close down or change their style of working. Right. So did it affect Contentellect in any way?
Marc: Yeah, I mean, that’s a fair question. We did see an intimate drop off in business growth from the start of the pandemic, which was the end of March pretty much globally all the way through to about, I’d say June. And this was just because in this early phase, you know, no one really knew what lay ahead. There was a lot of uncertainty and we took the decision not to do a cold email or any kind of outreach at that stage, just because we felt it was in sort of bad taste. And that seemed to be the kind of prevailing sentiment at the time, you know when we looked around and looked at other businesses.
So because of seizing all outreach, you know, as you can imagine, we, we weren’t landing any new customers. There was no kind of increase in our customer counts. So what we then had to then rely on was a hundred per cent retention to keep us buoyant during that time. And thankfully all of our customers stayed with us. We didn’t lose anyone. And that was a huge help in getting us through those sort of three or four months. Then at that point, we were thankfully able to sort of slowly starting to pick up outreach again and around June or July. And since then it’s been, you know, it’s been fine. It’s been business as usual. Yeah.
Reshmi: So yeah, so actually we are almost wrapping up right now. So I had a few questions, like general questions. I want to know which is a business book that you would love to recommend to other entrepreneurs.
Marc: Favorite book of late is it’s not really a business book per se, but it’s a book about a great businessman and that’s the Steve Jobs biography written by Walter Isaacson. I think I’ve read that book about three times already, and I’ve just learned a hell of a lot from, you know, the way, he sort of tells Steve job’s story.
Reshmi: Yeah. And that’s very inspiring. And what is a productivity app that you use personally?
Marc: I use kind of most frequently actually is Trello. Okay. Yeah, just to manage my sort of day to day tasks. It’s nice and simple. It’s not too fancy.
Reshmi: Okay. So anything that you would like to say Marc, like anything, any point which I missed out on?
Marc: No. I think, you know, your questions covered covered it all pretty well. Not much I can add
Reshmi: Any advice for entrepreneurs?
Marc: I would say in those first few months things may, it’s not all, you know, milk and honey and, and you, you definitely gonna have the down days and the days where things may not look too optimistic, but stick with it. You know, if you are confident or, or you, you know, you really believe you’ve come up with a product or service that, that has some kind of fits in the market, don’t give up too early stick with it. And, and through grit and determination.
Reshmi: Yeah. Okay. So that’s all from my end. Thanks a lot for your time.
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