In this episode, I talk to Sean Campbell; the co-founder of Cascade Insights in the B2B market that specialises in technology market research.
Sean has many years of experience within the technology business, but you don’t have to be in the same industry to learn from Sean in this fantastic episode of The IgniteRock podcast.
From choosing to specialise in a niche industry, to using content to help attract clients, to how WordPress has helped his team, there are plenty of advice and insights to learn from Sean.
Some of the things we talked about:
- the benefits of not being a generalist in your industry
- the power of his content and how it has helped his business to attract clients
- using personas to help be more specific with their target market
- the impact of getting rid of his most popular content to help his business in the long-term
- how WordPress has played a crucial role in his team’s content creation and for the business
“If you don’t have a really clear sense of where you want your business to stand, and how that’s going to represent itself in your marketing, you’re really just a generalist that is easy to beat…you can’t charge a premium and also don’t retain clients for as long.” – Sean Campbell
Ahmed Khalifa: And here we go. This is the IgniteRock Podcast where one week I interview those who are doing awesome stuff with WordPress, and the other week I share some tips and advice on making the most out of your online business and career. Thank you for tuning in, and now let’s get started and onto the show.
Here you go, everyone, it’s going to be an existing one today. And I have Sean Campbell calling all the way from Oregon. It’s a bit of a time difference, but I’m glad that we made it work. I think it’s going to be a really, really good interview, a really good chat with Sean about his business and, of course, about WordPress, everyone.
Sean, thank you for your time and for your effort for being here. I really, really appreciate it, and I guess we’re just going to start with a little bit about yourself, who are you, where you’re from, and how did you get where you are today.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, and first off thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate that. My background for the last 17 years or so is I’ve owned two business. The first business we grew and sold, and that business worked with some fairly large companies like Microsoft and Intel were our largest accounts, and that company was, broadly speaking, a technical consultancy. I was kind of alphabet soup of technical credentials; did a lot of work with databases and programming and networking, and things like that. And after we sold that company we went on to found Cascade Insights, my business partner and I, who is the same guy I’ve worked with for the last 17 years. His name is Scott Swigart.
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And the firm we have now is that second firm, it’s Cascade Insights, and we do market research and some competitive intelligence work, but all of it’s for technology companies and technology companies that have a B-to-B focus. So we don’t anything with like Samsung dishwashers, but we do a lot of thing with companies like Microsoft Azure Cloud Service, or AWS, or working with SalesForce, or guys like that. And, you know, I’ve had a lot of experience with WordPress over the years.
We’re a very typical small company where WordPress is a really good fit for us in terms of underlying a lot of our content marketing and website efforts. And, you know, in terms of current company size, we’re about 13 employees. The first company got up to about 25 employees before we sold it.
And I guess some other side notes. I also have a podcast myself, it’s called B2BRevealed, and I’ve had the opportunity to co-author a few books over the years, too, that were either with Microsoft Press or Intel Press, or a few others.
Ahmed Khalifa: You’re a busy guy, essentially.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, yeah. I, you know, it’s all done with a fairly rational sense of what’s possible, I think. That’s 17 plus years of time there, so there was definitely still time for family and friends in the midst of all that. But I do try to keep myself pretty busy.
Ahmed Khalifa: That’s good. That’s fair enough, everyone, and I think it’s quite clear that you’re quite passionate about technology, and that’s where you kind of focus on, whether its in your business or you’re at home, I’m sure, your kind of a gadget-technology freak as well. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, I think the future’s all about technology anyway. And that is something that I’ve noticed about your business, is that it kind of focuses on the technology industry and, you know, you focus on the B2B industry, but mainly technology. And that’s what I find interesting.
You’ve said it on your site, that you’re not a generalist, you’re more of an expert in the area, and it made me realise there’s a benefit of being a niche. But would you say there’s a benefit of being a niche? What do you get out of that yourself?
Sean Campbell: Well, we get a lot out of it. I think great marketing starts from picking a position. So often people will tell you great marketing is great writing, or its great ideas, or it’s good creative, and I don’t disagree with any of those things in the broader sense that you need those things. You need a good SEO strategy, you need great content marketing, you need all that stuff.
But if you don’t have a really clear sense of where you want your business to stand, and how that’s going to represent itself in your marketing, you really just become this generalist that becomes easily commoditized. Then it becomes really challenging to have anybody if they want to work with you over somebody else, and you can’t necessarily charge a price premium, and you also don’t retain clients for as long. So if you pick that one spot where you say, “This is where I want to stand, this is what we’re going to be defined by,” I think it accrues a lot of benefits.
Now, what’s the one bigger detriment? You can’t be all things to all people, so if you have plans for world domination, that’s probably not gonna pan out because you’re actually gonna be just kind of, you know, this particular type of business. But that’s not the end of the world. Some of those businesses end up getting acquired, and maybe that’s a good exit strategy because they get folded into someone else’s business. Sometimes people just have a really great life running that boutique firm, and that’s perfectly fine.
So, for us, being really focused leads to a lot of good client engagement for us, but it also leads to us just getting a lot better at what we do because we’re somewhat craftsmen when it comes to doing the research we do, because we’re working with a very similar client base year after year.
Ahmed Khalifa: And it makes sense what you said because, you know, with the market for every kind of industry, it’s getting more and more competitive to kind of cover everything. And if you’re not niche-ing down to a specific area, your kind of really lost in that market because there’s so many of you. So the fact that you focus on the B-to-B kind of market research, technology industry, you’ve really, really niched down yourself. And I like the idea that you kind of become an expert in that one area. And even if you have captured a small percentage of that market, that small percentage could be massive anyway in terms of you anyway. So, I like that. I sometimes get confused about why people are afraid to kind of niche down further, ad focus on a specific area, but I guess that happens in any industry, really.
Sean Campbell: That’s true. And I think your point about why people are scared to do it, I think has to do with … They’re afraid to trust the sales and marketing process they’ve created, or they don’t really have one and that’s part of where the fear comes from. You know, if you pick niche, you’re going to have to wait it out a little bit, especially at the start, to have that grow. And I think that’s what people are unwilling to do, so they end up starting a business, they take piece of work A that comes in, in the first month, and then take piece of work B that comes in a month or two later, and then piece of work C. And eventually, yeah, they have clients, but they don’t really have any centre mass. Nobody really knows what they’re good for. And then it becomes very challenging when they try to scale beyond the work of a single principle or two, where now you’re selling the firm, and whatever it stands for and it’s identified with, as opposed to what the principles do.
And right at that point, I think a lot of companies get sideways because, they say, “Well, why can’t we sell like we used to?” And part of the answer may be, you were selling you the individual, or you the leadership team, and at that level people felt they were buying a smart person, or a smart team, but they weren’t really buying what a company could do. And so when you transition over to a broader company, now you really have to be clear about what that company does, what it’s good at, and specifically what it’s not good at it. I’ve told people for years I think I’ve gotten more sales from telling people what we don’t do than what we do, do, because it’s so rare to hear, especially a services firm, say, “No, I don’t do that. You should go to talk to this company.” Or, “That’s not something we’re comfortable we’re doing now, maybe in ten years we will be, but we’re not ready to do that just yet.” And that degree of authenticity …
Ahmed Khalifa: I think it …
Sean Campbell:… or legitimacy, as it is in our case, really helps drive a lot of good business.
Ahmed Khalifa: Yeah. Well, I agree with you completely as well. And obviously, it’s important for you to get that message across, and convey that message to everyone that you’re focusing on this area, and, you know, a big part of that is using content to show that. And I think that for your own business you kind of work on the start-ups, or big tech giants, to help with their product launches, and sales strategies, and, you know, reaching out to customers. And a lot of that is around gathering the right information and insights so that you want to help them to make the right business decisions. So I imagine there’s lot of information gathering for your business to help these businesses…to help your other clients, your other businesses, to grow as well.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, we get hired for either pain or opportunity, I typically tell people, and that’s the truth. Either our clients are experiencing pain because there’s some competitor that they don’t understand well. That competitor’s probably stealing sales from them, or they fear they will in the future, and so we need to research, you know, that competitor customer base; we need to understand why that product or service is doing well, or will do well.
And the other time we get hired is an opportunity. You know, our client is moving into a new space, or the whole market is changing, and there’s a shift to a certain class of solution. You know, the internet of thing, or cybersecurity a year or two ago, and ongoing, when these shifts happen when people put a lot more emphasis on certain type of technology, or a platform shift, then all of our clients kind of move in that direction.
But in all those cases, to your point, the research we have to do, and that may be quantitative research or qualitative, because, you know, a small business may make a decision on a gut-check or intuition, and I have no problem with that, but if you have a very large company, a Fortune 1000, or even a fairly sizeable mid-market, the decisions you’re making might impact hundreds of employees and millions of dollars of revenue, so you need to have some research in front of that before you just leap to a decision.
Ahmed Khalifa: Good point on that because, you know, sometimes in cases where [inaudible 00:10:58] and they have a gut feeling about a decision that they want to make, and sometimes you have to maybe go with it because they know with the market better, they know the audience better, and sometimes it might make sense to go for it. There are other times where I want to use data to kind of confirm that belief, confirm that hypothesis, if you will.
And when you have, in my case, use data from, I don’t know, Google Analytics, for example, and other places, and if you have data to prove, you know, whether your suggestion is right, whether your belief about your audience in engaging with your website is right, then you use that data. But I guess there are other times, you know, you have to go with your gut feeling, especially if you’re a smaller company. You can afford to do that. But I imagine if you’re a, as you said, a multi-million, multi-billion pound company, and you go with a gut decision, it’s kind of a very, very risky thing to do. So, you have to be very brave to do that. I can’t imagine making that kind of decisions at the very time level using your gut-feeling. So, it’s kind of a brave thing to do.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, exactly, and I mean part of the challenge is unwinding a bad decision if you’re a large company is just much more costly, right? If you’re a smaller business and you put out a certain blog post and it doesn’t generate traffic, well, you just put out a different blog post next week and you live and you learn, right? You’re not hiring a whole marketing agency for a 2 million dollar contract, lets say, or you’re launching a marketing initiative that crosses 20 companies in Europe. So that’s the kind of the challenge, I think, that large companies need a lot more intelligence on it. And sometimes its new product development work, too. You know, they’re unclear as to whether the product should have X-set of features, or Y-set of features, and why not do research? Why just make that on a gut-check?
Ahmed Khalifa: Okay, no, that makes sense. And it kind of brings me to my next point, ’cause you’re talking about, for example, a blog post from a small company, whether it works or not. You know, one thing that’s kind of obvious in your case is that you’re a bit of a content creator. You know, you have blogs, you’re a podcaster, you have co-authored books, you have a newsletter that goes out all the time. So there’s a lot of content that goes on around you and your business as well, so I’m wondering whether you have a system. What do you do to make it, or, you know, tick along nicely? What do you do to make sure it’s consistent? And how do you make sure you get that message out there and reaching the right people? And just making sure that the content works for your audience?
Sean Campbell: Yeah, well, the first things is there’s a lot of people who build marketing that can’t ever point to any revenue they’ve affected. So we’re pretty focused on making sure that whatever content we produce, either short or long term, has some tie-in to revenue. Now that may be something as straightforward as someone who fills out a ‘Contact Us’ form and is asking us for a project. It may be something like more brand-awareness type metrics, more organisations know of us. And it also semiotics, especially for services firms that live a lot of referrals, you also have to listen for when your marketing is impacting your referral-based business. For example, we recently got a product for a Fortune, roughly about a 300, I guess, and they gave us the project. But what I realised was we got it in large part because one of the stakeholders, who we had never met before, actually had made a lot of comments about your website, and the content we had, and kind of our positioning. And actually in one of the phone calls we had was even reading off some of the copy of our website, “I see you’re not a generalist, you’re a specialist firm, etc.”
And, you know, so have to listen for when your marketing is having that kind of impact because it’s not always just going to be form-fills on your website for a services firm. You know, your marketing spreads pretty far and wide across your client base, and so [inaudible 00:15:13] collect all those times where people essentially suggest that your content had some impact in their decision-making process, or their bosses decision-making process. So we listen a lot for those kinds of things, you know, in terms of outcomes.
When it comes to the system for what we do, you know, we’ve got a couple different marketing tools we use to track our content. You know, most well-performing marketing teams start with some form of a content calendar, and you want to have your content built out, you know, it depends on how much time you want to put into it, but in our case we try to build the content out three to four months in advance, because that gives us time to pivot and change a piece, or maybe shift the calendar to adjust to our client needs. Or maybe we want to emphasise a given persona or another. So, you know, part of it’s having that really robust calendar, working ahead so you’re not always [inaudible 00:16:07] something on a Friday, and ship it on Monday.
Another thing is having really clear personas. In our business we have basic [inaudible 00:16:16] … you know, four major personas that we target for the company, and, you know, those personas have a fairly big impact on how we offer the content. And, you know, we want to make sure that we’re hitting those personas on a regular basis, and crossing over them for- In our businesses cases, its market research teams and large companies is one persona, B2B marketers is another, product managers or product leaders in B2B technology companies, and then the fourth is competitive intelligence teams and their leadership. And if you know that, and then you go through our blog, you’ll be able to see how we’ve kind of shifted content to hit all those personas at different points in time.
And on top of that, we even try to track our revenue by which persona is giving us the most revenue. In our case, B2B marketers have probably given us the most research projects, which may seem odd to some of the listeners that a market research team wouldn’t give a market research firm the bulk of the work, but the reality is a lot of the funding in a technology company for research comes out of, in a fair amount of the cases, the marketing team. So the VP of Marketing in one case maybe be your primary persona, and a market research team might be secondary. But that all goes [inaudible 00:17:35] … that’s why you have four instead of one, because you want to be able to hit all of those with different content that resonates.
And then in terms of other tools, we’ve got tools that we use to track search rankings, so, you know, every post we put up we tie to a particular search phrase that we hope it ranks for, and we track our successful we are at that. We use Libsyn for our podcast statistics, because the B2BRevealed podcast is on Stitcher, and iTunes, and SoundCloud, and Google Play, and with Libsyn I can kind of collect all that statistical data and see what is doing better than other, or which ones took off the fastest, and things like that.
So, I think we’re fairly analytically driven, especially for our size. Again we’re only about a 13 person company. But that’s one of the great things about today, is that you don’t have to pay a lot to get a lot of tools that you can use to analyse your content marketing and your marketing effectiveness. And so if you married that, those kind of aggregate tools, like social shares, podcast plays, and Google Analytics and search ranking, and you marry that bucket of data with data from, lets say, your CRM that says, “These are the clients that were affected by our marketing. This is the revenue we got.” You can get a pretty complete picture about what you should build.
Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of companies go to that level. They tend to either write from what they know, which may or may not work for them, or the just simply guess. And I don’t really think you need to, ’cause even as a small company there’s just a tonne of tools you can use to put some real data behind your decision making.
Ahmed Khalifa: It’s so true what you said about using data to kind of help you to make all the decisions right, and analyse the data to make sure that you’re going in the right direction as well. And I have seen maybe companies myself where they don’t take advantage of like Google Analytics and, you know, if you’re using Libsyn or whatever for podcast, and view the stats. And I guess in the case of Google Analytics it’s maybe a bit more complex for some people, there’s a lot of data behind it, and a lot of people I guess they only look at the top level kind of metric, which I guess is traffic, or sessions. But they don’t really look at the engagement or conversion rate, and all this kind of stuff as well.
You’re right, you don’t have to pay a lot of money for that because, in this case, you can get GA for free. And you can get a lot out of that to help you with your decision making, help you with your content success, and so on and so forth. You know, it’s such a good point. And there’s a couple of things that I want to highlight about what you said about how a few pieces of your content has helped you to get a project because one of the staff there has read your content, or engaged with your content.
And that kind of, the generally [inaudible 00:20:31] behind of content market, I suppose, because it’s not just about getting lots of traffic, and, you know, getting loads of social shares. It’s kind of also about building that kind of trustworthy, making yourself more honest, authentic, and making yourself a bit more genuine about what you’re doing, and building up credibility and so on and so forth. And I guess if you didn’t create this content there’s chance you might not have got that project, in this case.
So, it’s really, really interesting that you said that it helped you to get that project in the long run, and that’s something that you can’t really track if you’re just relying on tools. You just have to kind of get that information from the person who had been reading your content. And, same thing what you said about your personas. A lot of people don’t do that because, I hear myself when they create content, and I ask the who that content is for, and they say, “Oh, it’s for everyone.” But, you know, they generally say, if you’re targeting everyone, you’re targeting no one, really.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, yeah.
Ahmed Khalifa: Personas helps a lot.
Sean Campbell: I’ll give you a quick example. Sometimes you have to be willing to retire something that’s actually popular for everyone, because it’s not actually doing anything for you from a revenue-generating standpoint. And those kind of decisions can be the most difficult ones. We had an asset that we built called the Ultimate Tech Conference List. And so what we did was we went out and gathered pretty much every conference, every technology conference, that we could find, hosting by major vendors, small vendors, conferences [inaudible 00:22:07] cyber security or other things, and we put it in this huge list and we kept it updated. Very quickly we rose to like the first position in Google for what sounds like great terms, you know, ‘Tech conference list’, and ‘Ultimate tech conference list’, and, you know, our clients loved it.
But, here’s the problem. The problem was it was a massive investment, and while our clients loved it, it didn’t actually tell them anything about how we were. It didn’t tell them anything about what we delivered, it didn’t tell them anything about why they should hire us over someone else. It didn’t share any of our expertise, per se. I mean, it obviously lined up at a really hire brand level. Like, we focus on technology companies, and here we have a technology conference list. And on top of that it was generating a massive amount of traffic.
And so you’d say, “Well, why would you kill it?” It took a lot of time. It took a lot of time. It took a massive amount of time. My marketing manager, it was a huge amount of her week to just keep this thing updated. And we made what was, I don’t think was a difficult decision, but it’s one of those decisions that I think people don’t make because they just don’t think through the data, and kind of the process of what their content’s supposed to do, which is to help generate revenue for the firm in some way, at least in a long tail since.
And so we looked at it said, you know, “This is a very popular asset. We rank really high. But the reality is it doesn’t tell anybody why we should get hired. It’s a great vanity tool, and even our clients like it, but their like of it doesn’t directly correlate to any likelihood of them hiring us from reading this piece of content.” In essence, we’ve created a valuable resource that doesn’t have a lot of connection to what the firm does. And you see that a lot out there, where people build these assets, and they don’t necessarily connect to what the firm’s story is.
And you see it particularly in larger marketing teams and larger companies, too. So we made the decision to kill it. I haven’t looked back. It was really smart. We lost some traffic from it actually [inaudible 00:24:22] … that was driving a fair amount of traffic. But, in the end, we actually made more revenue because we focused on content that actually drove revenue over content that just drove clicks.
Ahmed Khalifa: Wow. That’s a very brave move. I guess people would be kind of worrying about that. They’re probably scared of losing a lot of traffic, and they would think about, how can we replace that traffic? But I guess, you know, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality, in this case, for you. So, you know, if in the end you reduce the traffic to get higher value leads in your site, then ultimately, in the long term, that’s the best thing to do. It’s a very brave decision to make, but it looks like it has paid off in the long term, so that’s pretty impressive. That’s really, really cool actually. I never really see that a lot really, in my area. Very, very cool.
So, then, if we move toward the idea of WordPress and stuff. I’m kind of curious, I mean, you know, for you, what was your first experience of WordPress and how was it? How did you come across it, and why did you choose WordPress in the first place?
Sean Campbell: I can’t honestly tell you how we came across it. I, you know, like most of the planet, we were probably Googling things we could use to host our website. And I was probably, honestly, given how much of a technical background we have, I was probably aware of it for a while before we decided to actually use it for our site.
But basically we chose to use it because it was pretty easy for two technical co-founders to get a site up and running. You know, lots of plug-ins to leverage. You know, the pre-built templates were nice. I mean, we’ve obviously moved from there, but, you know, when you’re starting up and you’re just two guys, the ability to pick a relatively clean template and run with it is pretty nice. So those are all the main reasons we ended up going with it.
Ahmed Khalifa: And did you, for Cascade Insight, did you kind of build it yourself? Or did you have someone do it for you? Did you outsource it? What was the process like to get your website off the ground?
Sean Campbell: Well, yeah, we might have had a slightly different track than some of your listeners in the sense that we were pretty technical, right? So we did launch it ourselves. You know, we got our domain name and found a host, and set up WordPress and, you know, set everything up. But we aren’t graphically inclined, Scott or I, so we, like most companies, I think, or a decision they should make, is once you start to generate meaningful revenue, you really should hire a web development firm because they’re gonna know how to optimise your site in ways that you can’t hope to figure out, even if you’re technical.
I mean, the reality is Scott and I both have programming backgrounds, and he has a number deeper one than mine, but Cascade Insights was gonna be a research firm. We were gonna leverage our technical expertise in a different way. And so while we could learn everything we wanted to learn about WordPress, and make the site render perfectly on mobile, and so anything you might want to have a hyper-optimized site, it really wasn’t a good use of time, right? In the beginning we just [inaudible 00:27:42] WordPress contractors, ’cause the work we needed was somewhat ad hoc.
As times evolved, we’ve established relationships with web firms that are more longer lasting. The one we use now we’ve been working with them for about two to three years, and they’re a really great fit of helping us do, you know, kind of ad hoc work as well at the same time doing work that, you know, is longer term and a little more evolved. You know, like lets say we want to make a big push to make our site more responsive on mobile, they can do a deep dive for us there, and things like that.
But, that said, WordPress is still a great platform for the platform team to get in and out of quickly, you know. It’s a very good platform to develop content. When I brought on my marketing manager, she did not have a technical background necessarily, she actually came from a journalism background. And it was pretty minor training to get her up to speed on WordPress, and to get her uses it, and she uses it like a pro now from a content authoring perspective.
Ahmed Khalifa: Yep.
Sean Campbell: So I think WordPress gives you a really nice blend of a really great content offering tool that you can use pretty regularly as the marketing team without having to interact with an outside web development firm, except for when you really want to add a lot of more chrome [inaudible 00:29:02] … to the website, or you’ve got a bigger initiative you want to launch with it that might force you to optimise for mobile. Or even more technical things like you want to switch the CDN you’re using, or something like that.
Ahmed Khalifa: Yep. Yeah, that makes sense. It kind of … one thing you mentioned, it kind of helps that you have a technical background just to get it off the ground, just to get it going, and, you know, have it live and for the world. It kind of helped a little bit to have a technical background and know-how to get the host and everything, and after a certain period of time, you know, there comes a point where, as you said, you should have your own development team or outsource it to a team who can kind of, obviously, better do things better than you.
And obviously anyone who can do things better than you, it’s probably better to invest in that instead of spending two hours of your time, it’s better to, you know, give it to someone else who can do it in ten minutes to half an hour, and so on and so forth. So it kind of, what I’m getting at, it kind of helps that you have some technical background, but at the same time, you have the marketing manager coming in and front a content perspective, it’s very, very easy for someone to just come in and start creating content, and publish it on WordPress.
You know, it makes sense to me. Everything that you said kind of resonates quite well. It does make sense. So, then, it terms of those who don’t have that kind of technical background, or even those who are struggling to get into it, are having trouble using WordPress, or starting it, what advice would you have for anyone in that particular are who’s having trouble with it to get it started, to get it going? What advice would have for those people?
Sean Campbell: Well, I think the biggest one is just spend time googling. I mean, I know that sounds really simple, but I don’t … Even in our first company, right? Where we had a team of developers and we were, you know, we were a technology consultancy, so we built apps, and we helped clients who had like new products, get those evangelised, and things like that. It was so common that even amongst the team of developers we had who were really savvy, savvy, folks, is they would get stuck with some programming problem, and you’d go out there and google it, and you’d be like, “Oh, okay, well somebodies written some code or taken a look at it or solved the problem kind of this way. Maybe this can give us some insight into how we can fix our problem.”
So, the WordPress community is just so massive, right? The plug-in communities massive, the number of people who’ve commented on some thread about some problem with WordPress is immense. So, I think for most folks, the answers out there. I mean, it really is, from the things you’re gonna do, especially if you’re talking about the audience you are, which is a fairly non-technical group maybe getting started with WordPress.
The idea that the challenges they’re facing are truly unique to them, and has never been answered on the internet, that just doesn’t make sense. So I would tell them to get familiar with certain communities out there that are focused on WordPress, and just look for the answers there. And if they can’t find it, you know, there’s lots of places that you can hire a WordPress developer just hourly, whether it’s a place like UpWork, or you can go to like a local WordPress user group meeting, or some equivalent like that.
You know, you don’t necessarily have to hire a web development firm from the start. You can just kind of rent expertise hourly to fill in your knowledge gaps. And between that and the internet, you should be able to get an answer to almost anything.
Ahmed Khalifa: I think that’s quite comforting in the beginning you don’t have to have a team of developers. You know, you can just kind of learn by yourself, and then gradually build up to it, and if you need someone to help here and there, have someone to help you for half an hour, an hour, get information. I think that’s comforting for a lot of people who are probably intimated and think that, “I need to have a technical expert, a developer, just to have a WordPress website.” And obviously, that’s not the case.
And, on top of that, what you said about the amount of resources out there, and I’ve mentioned so many times in the past, online and offline, the amount of resources online, guides and tips and advice and all these things on the web, is massive. And, as you said, the WordPress is incredibly supportive. They share information, they help each other, and you just have to look and find it. You just have to search for it and you’ll most likely find the answer because, at the end of the day, it’s quite unlikely that you’d have something, which is so unique that nobody has the answer to. I’m sure there’s a solution to it, I’m sure that someone has even got an alternative answer to it.
Whatever it is, you have to go out there and find it, so I think it’s kind of really good that what you said is that in the beginning, [inaudible 00:34:07], you start, learn as you go along, then you get someones help. You don’t have to start with an expert in the beginning. Just learn as you go along, and that makes sense. So I think that’s really good advice as well. I appreciate that.
So, then, in term of, if we’re gonna go back to yourself then, what is your biggest strength?
Sean Campbell: You know, on my side I think over the year it’s probably a mix of education, coupled with creativity, and an ability to motivate. I mean, throughout my career I’ve probably leveraged those three in combination or in isolation over and over again. I genuinely love to educate folks. I do it as a hobby, just as much as a career. You know, it’s one of the reasons I’ve got the B2BRevealed podcast, it’s one of the reasons I even spent some time teaching in an MBA programme. All the way down to things I might do with my kids, like coach their baseball team, or something like that.
Creativity wise, you know, I think I’m generally more creative than most. I try not to have a big ego about anything, so I think if you as my peers, they’d probably say I’m a lot more creative than I’m describing, but at the end of the day I think that’s something I’ve leveraged. I’ve usually been able to figure out ways to solve a problem that are unique, or hasn’t been through of before, pretty readily.
And the third thing is, I think, like I’ve said, I think I have a pretty innate ability to motivate others toward a goal. You know, and I don’t mean in a sales-y kind of way, I just mean in terms of figuring out how to inspire them to get to a particular point in space and time. And that may be motivating clients to consider alternatives to some business decision they’re making, or that may be kind of motivating staff to move in a certain direction. But if you take a little bit if education, a little bit of creativity, and some motivation, and mix them all together, that’s what I tend to leverage day in and day out.
Ahmed Khalifa: That sounds like a magic potion, really, if you have all the things together then you can’t really go wrong. And you can kind of do a lot with these three things together, so that’s really very cool. Even though I asked for one, it’s actually quite interesting that you said three strengths that kind of helped you where you are today, and especially what you said about your ability to teach that differently. And I guess it kind of shows when it comes to your website and creating the content, and you’re helping others, and you’re teaching others, and just kind of helping you with you, not only with just your credibility but just to help other people as well. And it kind of shows online and offline, as well.
And, of course, that creativity comes into it, as well, and then of course, you’re motivated enough to help others and yourself to do that. So, I can see what you’re going for, it’s very, very good that you have these kinds of magic potion all mixed together.
So, on the other hand then, what is your biggest weakness and how do you overcome it?
Sean Campbell: I would say it’s writing. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years, you know. Public speaking, training, educating, you know, from more of like verbal standpoint, running the podcast, that’s a more natural thing for me than writing is. So, what I do to fix that is I tend to surround myself with folks who love the craft of writing. My marketing manager comes from a journalism background, she’s a fantastic writer, so way we work together is I’ll record the podcast, you know, essentially kind of come up with the initial idea for the piece of the content we want to do, [inaudible 00:38:00] … into a transcript, she’ll work with me, you know, with me to turn that into a blog post. And, obviously, it morphs a little bit as it turns into a blog post ’cause the way it might represent as a blog post is a little different than it’ll represent as the audio and the podcast.
And, frankly, my business partner’s not much different either. He’s a much stronger writer than necessarily a public speaker, so we make a good combination that way. And I think that’s the biggest thing, right? If you know you’re deficient in something as an owner, it’s great to learn so that you can fix your deficiencies, but the reality is you’re never gonna be great at everything. You’re just not. And the sooner you recognise that, and some to grips with it, and say, “I’m just gonna hire for that,” or, “I’m gonna find a business partner that’s a good compliment to me that way,” that’s when you’re really gonna start to be successful.
So, I would say for me it’s writing, which is probably a funny thing to say for a guy who’s got blog posts out all the time and we’re doing a bunch of content marketing. But, you know, it is a team effort that puts that in. And my marketing manager regularly says that I write better than I think I do, but I do not it’s not as strong as some other skills that I’ve got. So, I’d say that’s my bigger weakness.
Ahmed Khalifa: Well, it’s a good thing you don’t let that stop you. You still keep trying, and you practise, and you keep writing and writing and writing. And, you said yourself, it’s better than it was many years go, so, you know, if you hadn’t done that then you’d just gonna admit defeat and say, like, “You know what? I’m not good at writing, I should never even bother trying, I’ll leave it to someone else to do it. I’m not gonna learn how to do it myself.” So, at least you actually made an effort to do that.And,
And, we’ve talked about it a few times, you know, you said about how there are certain things we kind of outsource and let someone else do. You know, sometimes its better to have an expert to do certain things. But, at the same time, you can’t be an expert in everything, but if you know how to do, if you understand the process, if you can speak the language, then that kind of helps as well. That kind of helps you to work with your marketing manager and people in the journalist background, and writing background, all these things, because you understand the process. You understand how it works. So if you hadn’t done that, that kind of would have been a different story really.
Sean Campbell: Yeah, exactly, and sometimes it’s just coming up with a creative way to get it started, right?
Ahmed Khalifa: Yep.
Sean Campbell: My writing has gotten a lot stronger over the years, but in the very beginning (silence) … like, well, maybe what do is have a podcast that generates pieces, and then that podcast that turns into articles that’ll go on our blog. But that keeps us from having to necessarily write the article as the first thing, right? Start with a more of an audio format, a public speaking format. And I think that’s probably a less to entrepreneurs, or small business, too, right?
There’s all kinds of content you can make, you know. Yes, blog content with X-number of words, Google loves. I don’t deny that at all, and that’s gonna help your search rank. But, you know, maybe you’re great on camera, so start with a series of YouTube videos, and host those on your WordPress site, you know. Or maybe you’re great at delivering webinars, or presentations, or things like that. Or maybe you’re better at longer format articles, like when you’ve got more time to write, and you’re better at writing books and things like that. So, I think you’ve just gotta kind of your niche. You know, writing pithy, catchy, 1000 word blog posts isn’t the only way to be successful when it comes to content marketing, you know, kind of thing.
Ahmed Khalifa: No, you’re right. At the end of the day, there’s a different kind of format, as you said, audio, video, and writing, you know, there are so many different ways of doing it. IT doesn’t have to be, as you said, 1000, 1500, 2000 plus words. No, you can experiment with doing different things, and kind of diversify your choice of contents, really. It all makes sense, and I agree with you on that as well.
So, then in terms of, if we’re getting all sentimental about it, what are you most proud about with your business?
Sean Campbell: That we know who we are and we haven’t deviated from that over the years. That’s one thing for sure. We’ve obviously been creative in our approach to problem-solving. I mean, as I mentioned, that’s one of the things that I feel that I bring to the business, but, so we’re really far from being static. So if you worked with us, or hung out in our office for a few days, you’d be like, “These guys are really creative.”
But that’s different from staying in a spot in terms of who you serve and why you’re doing what you’re doing, and so knowing who you are as a firm is a really big deal. Not just chasing revenue for the sake of chasing revenue. You know, and so often small business chase profit over keeping an identity. And then they’re not around, ’cause eventually their identity isn’t really anything. So the economy turns, and work’s hard to get, and all of the sudden people don’t know what they stand for, or what they do the best at. And I think if you keep that identity firm, and focus on steady growth while you’re doing that, I think that’s a route to long-lasting success. So, that’s probably the biggest thing I’m proud about.
Ahmed Khalifa: I like that a lot. It makes sense, and I think it’s something that everyone can kind of take on board and learn from. It’s not just about, you know, a fast sprint to the top. Even a steady growth in the long term is probably better. In fact, in most cases, it’s actually much more sustainable in the long term than a sprint to the top. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, at the end of the day, so I agree with you. And it makes sense.
And everything you’ve said today, and everything you’ve shared, all makes sense and a lot of insights that we could learn from that I appreciate you sharing. And it’s really, really cool that you shared your success stories, and your process, and your ideology about your content, your website, and your business, and all these things. So, I appreciate that. And I definitely appreciate your time, again, and your effort for being here. I just want to round it up by just asking you, if people want to find and connect with you, where can they do that?
Sean Campbell: First off, just check us out at cascadeinsights.com, and people can reach out and even email if they like. My email’s just [email protected] And, of course, you know, feel free to check out the B2BRevealed show. We do some interviews, and we cover a lot things of interest to folks have B-to-B companies, whether you’re a marketer or a seller or a product developer.
Ahmed Khalifa: Awesome. And, Sean, thank you again for coming on the show. And I hope we will talk again soon.
Sean Campbell: Same here. Thanks for having me.
Ahmed Khalifa: Thank you for listening to the IgniteRock Podcast. I hope you have enjoyed the show. And if you want show notes, all you have to do is visit igniterock.com/podcast. And don’t forget also to leave a review on iTunes if you have enjoyed the show. It would make a very happy guy, and I would really, really appreciate it.In the mean time, lets rock with WordPress.
In the mean time, lets rock with WordPress.
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