The Virtual CMO

Advertising, Content, and SEO for Growing Inbound Marketing with Hamlet Azarian

March 25, 2021 Eric Dickmann, Hamlet Azarian Season 4 Episode 10
The Virtual CMO
Advertising, Content, and SEO for Growing Inbound Marketing with Hamlet Azarian
Show Notes Transcript

In part 10 of our Masterclass Series on How to Build a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Business, host Eric Dickmann interviews Hamlet Azarian. Hamlet is the Founder of The Retail Merchant Group and is a numerical and results-driven executive that blends marketing, technical and operational skill sets. He has delivered long-term scalable growth for both traditional, direct mail, and digital companies from start-up to established organizations.

For the past 5 years, he has predominantly focused on working with Pre-Seed, Seed, and Series A venture-backed startups as a Senior Growth Adviser. In this role, he has developed playbooks, hired and trained the marketing and growth teams, and rolled-up his sleeves, and helped with execution.

For additional resources on this episode and from our other episodes in this Masterclass Series, visit https://fiveechelon.com/masterclass

For more information about Eric Dickmann and The Five Echelon Group, visit https://fiveechelon.com/

For more information on Hamlet Azarian, visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/hamletazarian/ or http://www.retailmerchantgroup.com

Episode #061


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Eric Dickmann:

Hello, welcome to the virtual CMO podcast in our masterclass series. I'm so glad you could join us here today.

Hamlet Azarian:

Thanks, Eric. Thanks for having me.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah, this is exciting. We were talking a little bit before the show. Uh, this is part 10 now in our master class series, and we sort of started out talking about the importance of building a strategic marketing plan. Target marketing and your ideal customer profile. Then we went on and talked a little bit about product market fit and competitive differentiation. Building out your brand story and then the marketing messages, uh, underneath that. Uh, talking about then how to bring in outsiders from your team, whether they're freelancers or independent content creators. Then we got into a conversation about marketing automation, which is one of my favorite topics and CRM and analytics. And then, uh, last week we sort of talked about social media and the importance of using those channels to build your brand. So today it's kind of exciting because we're going to get a chance to talk about advertising content, SEO, and really growing your inbound marketing strategy. So I'd love for you to give us a little bit of introduction. So the audience knows who you are. And tell us a little bit about your background.

Hamlet Azarian:

No, of course, we'll a little bit about me. I've been working more or less in digital marketing for a little over 11, 12 years now. Our firm has been predominantly focused on working with venture back startups. Particularly in the early stage. So where we come in is a very, in the beginning, beginning, beginning, So it's usually, you know, a founder or a very small team there, there isn't that many resources. So there's maybe just us and a few other people. So the marketing plan hasn't been done, they go to market strategy. Hasn't been done. So we're going through a lot of the things that you've already talked about in this series and trying to plan all of this out. So we'll come in and help identify all of those, plan it out, and then begin, they go to market strategy, trying to identify exactly what the pain point of the customer is. And educate and inform and so on and so forth, and eventually be able to grow the business from the small core team. There's several hundred people ever successful. Fortunately, in the past, you know, five or six years, we've had two or three successes that have got into the series a stages. So it's kind of our passion. It's like what we like to do. And that's kind of what we're focused on.

Eric Dickmann:

It's interesting because I think one of the beauties of working with a startup is in many ways, you've got a bit of a blank slate, right? You don't have a lot of history to go on. You can, if done right. You can build things correctly from scratch. And, you know, you mentioned a number of things there, and hopefully we've covered some of that in the preceding episode. So we understand what some of the pain points are. We understand what some of the competitive differentiation is. We've sort of built that story around our brand. So now we've got to get that message out there. And I was hoping you could start out by telling us a little bit about what your view of inbound marketing is. You know, I know it's a term that was really, um, made popular by HubSpot, uh, in, in. their whole marketing approach, but what is sort of inbound marketing mean to you?

Hamlet Azarian:

Jimmy inbound is about relationships, right? So, so in outbound marketing where you're kind of trying to go and destruct the consumer, and you're trying to, trying to get their attention. Inbound is the complete opposite of it were inbound is really about, you're trying to go and build a relationship with the consumer. You're truly trying to understand what their pain point is. What are they struggling with? Where are they in this, in this awareness kind of cycle that they're going through or in this journey, this consumer journey. Are they looking for a solution right now or in the early, early phases of it? Are they considering a solution? So are they, have they gone a little bit deeper into the funnel or are they. The point where they're trying to now make a decision. So this consumer, Jeremy, that the cycle that they're going through, what inbound does is it becomes a guide. And you as the marketer or you're not really trying to aggressively sell you're more or less China inform and educate.

Eric Dickmann:

So we've talked a lot about, uh, the buyer's journey on this podcast. And I think it's so important because really what the buyer's journey helps you understand is what kinds of information somebody needs. A long they're sort of buying process. And we've had a number of guests that have also said, you know, it's not just something that ends at the sale, right? It's something that continues on beyond that, because hopefully you're got customers for life and they'll buy from you again. So when you talk about inbound marketing and you talk about sort of content creation and you work with the kinds of companies that you work with, What do you really advise them in terms of what do they need at different stages of the buyer's journey to successfully create an inbound strategy?

Hamlet Azarian:

Uh, into the type of content. So in the type of the content. So for example, what we try to do is we try to build white papers is one classic example of it. It was where were, you know, Building here. Here's the pain point. Here's the problem. And how do we go about solving this and how do we go about giving solutions for it? Other things that we do that might be a little bit different is we kind of do a lot of webinars. So we'll even host different webinars. We'll have different events that were kind of coordinating and bringing people in to kind of talk about it. We do the classic that everyone does is we have blog posts, right? So we'll have blog articles. We'll have blog posts created where we're kind of doing very long form. Blog posts are not necessarily bite sizable. They're really in-depth. Here's how we kind of saw all of this. Very similar to like ultimate guides is kind of the way I would kind of refine it. Um, we do what the world is without our product. So when you go a little bit different, we're like, Hey, this is a way of you solving this problem today. Right? If our product that didn't exist. So you can we show them how to do it? You're like, you can hack your way through it. You can use Google sheets per se at years, all the data. So we showed the hard way of all of it all the way, and we open source it more or less. Right. So you can go ahead and do this this way. So we have it fully built out for them. Or we're like, then we S. You know, show him here's the world at the tail end of this conversation of what the world looks like now with our product into the mix. So we try to provide as much education as we can throughout, throughout all of this, not necessarily aggressively selling. So that's kind of the focus of all the different types of content we produced.

Eric Dickmann:

I love the way you frame that, because I think so often content gets created with a focus on water, product or service does not necessarily how it impacts the end user. Once they purchase it or implement it or whatnot, you're really buying something to, to make something better, right. To change it. Whether it's a want or desire you want that fancy car, you want that nice new sofa or it's. A need, you know, you need a new furnace or, you know, you need to find a plumber. There there's something that you're trying to accomplish by making a purchase. And it's not the features.

Hamlet Azarian:

Exactly. It's truly at the heart of it. If we. I mean as marketers, what we really do is we're solving problems, right? So at the tail end of all of this, I think we're something that some of us sometimes get lost. We're genuinely just coaches. I mean, that's, that's our role, right? We're like, Hey, what's wrong? What is the problem you're going through? And we w we want to guide you to the best solution. Sometimes it might not even be our product. And in a lot of the content in a lot of the marketing, I highly encourage that. And like what our team produces is like show alternatives, you know, show, show. We this customer might not even be a fit. So if they're not a fit, they're going to appreciate the fact that you were able to guide them to another solution. That's going to help them in the long run anyways. Right. So as more open you are, is more understanding and you know, you have empathy towards the customer's problem. I think that's when you're actually able to find the right customers that are a good fit, because you don't wanna, you don't want to the customer, that's not a fit because there's just been a churn. They're going to end up leaving in a month. No, one's going to be happy and so on. And self-aware right. So the more clear you are on exactly the pain point that they're going through and you can guide them to the right solution. It's just going to be an overall fit for both organizations.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah, I agree completely. And I love sort of the word guide there because that's what you're doing. You're guiding somebody, uh, you're you're helping them. You're providing them with information, but it's their journey, right? They have to sort of get there at their own pace. And you just want to provide the tools, the information, the value along that chain. And you mentioned a few minutes ago, this idea of creating content for blogs and. Obviously, I want to talk about SEO. We talk a lot about that. A lot on this podcast. But the two go hand in hand, right? The importance of a blog and the importance of SEO. So let's, let's take the sort of negative side of it first. What do you see many companies doing wrong in terms of their blogging strategy? Especially as it relates to SEO.

Hamlet Azarian:

On on what they're doing wrong is they're not thinking through it. So, so what I've seen is they'll kind of just put a content calendar together and they're like, Hey, let's just start writing about this. And eventually it's kind of going to work this kind of the mentality sometimes where I've seen. That does never, ever work. So just to be, to be quite honest, there's a lot of planning that has to occur. And then a lot of thought into kind of what are we going to write about how are we going to write about it? How are we going to be unique? Like, how are we going to be different than the content that currently exists out there? I don't know. Why would they care? Like why would someone who actually lands on that block here? What we're kind of offering to the world? And want to read through our mega articles that we're going to be producing or our take on what their current solution of this particular problem is. Right. So a lot of what we do in the early stages is we break out SEO into three pillars. So what we look at is on-site SEO. And then what that really is, is the content creation. So, what I mean by that is it's the keyword research. What's the search intent, you know, what would a user be really looking for? Going back to what we discussed earlier? What's the true pain point. And how are we going to be able to solve it? So from onsite, then we would kind of move into technical SEO. And this is kind of very critical as well. Um, what we're looking at here is just overarching site speed is one element of it. How easy can Google really crawl your site and kind of be able to find all of your content. Do you have schema in place, which is kind of a markup language that allows you ought to be able to identify where your content and have about isn't provided. You know, provide rich snippets on top of different search results. And are your images optimized? Are they loading really fast? Are they friendly for mobile? You know, even if you were on 3g and you had an older form. Would your site be able to load really, really fast. And lastly, do you have accelerated mobile pages, which has, you know, Uh, technology, Google and Judith several years ago, that causes super fast load times. So that's on the technical side. You can do the first one really well, which is on-site SEO. And you can do the second one really well, which is technical SEO. But if you're a brand new site, what typically happens is you don't win. You're not in those coveted sort of like one, two and three spots. So the last pillar that we kind of focus on is sort of like offsite SEO. So this is your overall authority. Do you have the core of this? What we look at is do you have the right relationships? So are you partnered with the, you know, sort of the hundred or 200. Influencers, because in any given industry, that's all that really matters. It's about a hundred or 200 different sites or authorities. And are they talk to me about you? You have a relationships with them, are you either being featured on their sites and so on and so forth? So given all those three pillars are the core of our, most of our SEO strategies that we focus on.

Eric Dickmann:

That's so important because really what we're talking about here is generating organic traffic, right? Getting people to come to your website and the higher that you can build that domain authority, the higher you'll rank for the terms that you're going after. And I think it's so important to have. A plan a you're. So right. There are many organizations that I've worked with that they have a content calendar and they think that that's a plan, but what is the strategy behind that content calendar? What words are they going after? How are they building on that? Where are they linking to? How are they. Uh, you know, working to build that authority. I think that's, that's so important and a lot of this content. Really, if it's done right. Can, can be fairly evergreen. Don't you agree?

Hamlet Azarian:

100%. Yeah. I mean, at the core of what's happened now and it kind of became more reflective and the recent, um, December core update that came out on Google, which was the first week of December. It's really become about search intent. So similar to the buyer's journey or the customer journey, right. Where we have awareness, consideration decision. You have a similar thing happening on the circuit? SEO side of things as well. You have this notion of searching. So what is at the end of the day when someone is typing a keyword, what are they really genuinely care about? What is their intent? Where are they in their buyer's journey? And then how does your content kind of overlay and over-matched at, and how does this kind of solve that? So this paradigm that we kind of talk that you've been talking about in your classes as translated in the last two years, very aggressively into Google search results pages as well too.

Eric Dickmann:

It's an interesting too, because when you talk about things that you're doing on your own site, You know, many blogs have the ability to have related posts or, uh, uh, topical areas that you can feature other articles. And once you get somebody to your website, you don't want to let them go, right. You want to sort of provide them with additional information. Uh, that's relevant. I I've worked with a company before called Uberflip and they sort of designed resource centers that were all focused on that buyer intent. And to just to narrow down the scope of information that was there to be able to show just what they believe the intent of that person visiting would be. So they can consume multiple pieces of content. And I see a lot of sites that maybe they'll just show their, their last six posts or something. Well, they may be completely unrelated to the topic area. that somebody came in on and they're missing an opportunity there.

Hamlet Azarian:

Agreed 100%. Yeah. A lot of what we do is this notion of con. Sort of called pillar and spoke strategy. And what I mean by that is, do you have sort of like a wheel, right? So the center of the wheel is, um, more or less, um, your pillar and then you have spokes, which are kind of the elements of the wheel kind of going out. Right? So that top, this is your topical relevance that you want to kind of talk about. It might be an overarching topic. So then you you'll bring in people from the different spokes. Uh, from the different spokes. And once you bring them in your goal is to get them as close to the pillar. So then they're educated about all the different ed. Pieces of content that you have. So it's really about topical authority, right? You're speaking to your personas. You're bringing them in once they're in there, how do you guide them to the next pieces of content you have? You might be able to have your good, you might be able to do it in the middle of that content. Right? You'll educate them. You'll tease them. You'll have an inner link or some element of that. That doesn't happen all the time. What happens is then you have to try to use a catch, catch their email, if you can write. So you have some sort of lead magnet. Some educational piece, that's going to give them more curiosity or like, Oh, this is interesting. Yeah. I want to know what this is all about. And something simple, something digestible. If they read a long form article or something, practical, something that they can take away with them right now and go try or give it to someone in their marketing department or giving someone into their engineering department or whatever solution B. And so in exchange, they'll give you their email and that doesn't work. Which sometimes, you know, There's a lot of people who won't do that, will you then have done at this stage? If you're, if you're really good on the advertising side of things is you'll now start, you know, covering them on social media. Maybe it's on LinkedIn. Maybe it's on Facebook. Cause you've pixeled them. So you've been able to pixel them and now in their stream, you can start showing other content that isn't very related to what they already read to you. So instead of evolution, right? So you, Hey, you read this article. This might be something of interest to you and so on and so forth. So you start building this sort of digital relationship with them. And through your content. So that's how sort of content advertising come together, hand in hand.

Eric Dickmann:

No, I think that's great then. And I wanted to segue into that. So that's perfect. I really wanted to talk a little bit about more on the paid side of things. So, you know, we've always heard, we've heard about, you know, search engine marketing, you talking about retargeting here with Facebook pixels. So let's break these down. Let's talk a little bit above more. Uh, because you started down this path of retargeting and really what that means, you know, this is this whole idea of I go and look at a pair of shoes on a website, and then I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram. And all of a sudden I see that same pair of shoes or that same company being advertised. Right? This is, this is retargeting. We started to go down this path of retargeting and the, uh, the importance of that and, and what that can really mean for your business. So just explain a little bit more about how these pixels work, how you can do retargeting, whether it's, uh, through Facebook or through other services.

Hamlet Azarian:

No, of course. So, yeah. So on retargeting side of things. So what. So obviously you have SEO, which is kind of working and kind of getting going, but the core of what you're trying to do with your SEO strategy is you're trying to bring people into your content. So you can begin this top of the level of awareness type of it, where if you, if you're at that stage of the buyer journey, right. So now once they've landed on your site and we talked about earlier, they get pixeled. So all the platforms from Google to Twitter, from Facebook, do you kind of just name it? They all have this JavaScript code or pixel that you can put on your site. And once you've pixel bees users, where you can then do is you can start building sort of boosted posts or, you know, other posts that you've done and start if you're really, really good at it, start creating sequential posts. So will you start doing similar to what you're doing in the marketing automation side of things? You can do it on the paid media. You can say, all right, I'm going to run this particular post for a brief period. Once they've seen my article. Right? So this is how we normally do. We'll organize it. And we'll say for the first seven days, That they'd been on our site. If they'd been on these category of articles, this is a natural next article for them to read whatever that article might be. Then we'll move on. And we'll say the following seven days for some seven to 14 days. Now, if they've read that article and they've read this article, Why don't we give them a resource or a guide or something along the lines of that to kind of build, bring the relationship a little bit deeper. In exchange for the email. Right. So then we'll kind of showcase that. You know, if they don't react to that from that we kind of start showing customer testimonials. So we'll now start talking about, here are other customers that I've worked with us and, you know, th these are the stories that they're sharing and so on and so forth. And that doesn't work. Then we start moving onto press. So we start showcasing different press and stories and so on and so forth. Yeah.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah, I think that's really interesting, you know, uh, yesterday. I was going through and looking at some meal delivery services, I thought, well, that might be kind of nice to do in the new year. Uh, work with somebody. I think I was looking at, uh, at daily harvest. And today when I logged into my Instagram, You know, all the advertising posts that were showing in my Instagram feed we're around these meal delivery services. So not just the daily harvest, which is what I started with, but a bunch of different companies, some of which I had never heard of before. And that's a real benefit as well is not only can you take your brand and keep popping it around the internet in different places where your potential buyer would be, but you can use the interest, the buying intent that the Fire has demonstrated and then insert your brand. Into their feeds and whatnot, where they might not have even known that you offered the, the service. So you can kind of piggyback on that original interest and get your information out there. It's incredibly powerful. The targeting that you can do now.

Hamlet Azarian:

Oh, and social. Yeah. So what's happened in obviously is all of their machine learning algorithms protect. So we are now where we're talking about nurturing. Now we're going to talk about discovery is kind of what you're highlighting. So a lot of the machine learning algorithms, particularly for Facebook, even Google discovery, which is a really cool platform that a lot of people aren't using, which is kind of your stream on your phone, Twitter and so on and so forth. I've gotten really, really smart. So you can set up not these nurturing retargeting campaigns, but there's these true out awareness, you know, recruiting campaigns or discovery campaigns, and use the data and start building off of your pixels. Very much. Look alike audiences. So you can even take your own core customers and you can start building these different lookalike audiences. And what that you're able to go out and target and bring new customers into your journey as well. So you can say, all right, I know that I have a sequence that always works. Right. I know that if they read this particular article, then they read this article and they read this article, whatever the steps are, right. Some BDD it's a lot longer. It's not. It's not like B2C. We would all love to happen on the first interaction that, Hey, it becomes a customer, but we all know that that's not the case. So once you've kind of organized and figured out what this path or this funnel is, you start kind of moving people throughout that path and have different elements of the strategy.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah. It's the tools that are available are, are pretty amazing. And you know, one of the things that we always talk about when we talk about organic content and SEO, Is it takes time, right? You have to, you have to give it time to sort of work its way up the rankings. You have to be consistent. You have to see what content is working and what isn't and maybe refine the content. Uh, that isn't, but what do you tell customers on the sort of the advertising front? I know it's great to do some quick promotions, but for companies that want to get into paid advertising, do you suggest that they're very consistent with it, that they make a steady investment month after month in advertising programs?

Hamlet Azarian:

I do. Yeah. So what we know. So, what we normally say on advertising is you kind of need a minimum budget span, right? You need enough to learn without. Having that budget, you're not going to be able to iterate and learn and kind of quickly move through the iteration cycle to kind of understand what's going on and how you can kind of. Uh, improve your overall targeting. So it might be your customer targeting and might be your creative. It might be your journey and so on and so forth. So in advertising, consistency's very critical.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah. No, it's, uh, I, I agree with that. I think you've got to experiment. You've got to try different things there are some great tools out there, like an addict espresso, which, you know, allow you to do multiple variations of an advertisement. See which one is getting the most, uh, um, interaction and then saying, you know, this is the winning advertisement and I'm sure there are others as well, but it's all about experimentation, right? Sometimes

Hamlet Azarian:

far. Yeah. I variant multi-band and testing. Added ad espresso, a great tool. It's one of the tools we use in the early days. Um, candidly, a lot of what they do has already evolved into the Facebook platform itself. So Facebook now has like dynamic creatives where it does that for you automatically, or you can run multiple headlines, right? So a lot of like what we do, and that's why there's a minimum budgets friend that's kind of necessary is you're testing the headlines in your test. You're testing the descriptions, you're testing the imagery and so on and so forth. And you're not just testing little small variations of it. While you're really testing as concepts and themes and topics. What you're really trying to figure out is, Hey, at the core, I know this is my customer persona, but what is the trigger? That's gonna move them. That's going to actually cause them to act and do something. What's going to be the emotional. Emotional movement that you're going to be able to connect with them. So th that w you. Everyone's busy. Everyone's streaming very packed and you're at the core of it. What you want to do is you want to connect with them and you want to be able to through your messaging. Cause them to collect or interact or watch your video or whatever it might be. So you can begin bringing them into your world into what content you've produced. So you can start beginning the whole process of moving them down the funnel.

Eric Dickmann:

Yeah. And you know, I'm sure that there are some, uh, startups out there, some younger businesses who aren't really doing a whole lot around paid advertising, maybe have just done a few things around SEO and, you know, listening to us talk today. They might come away with it. Oh man, this sounds pretty complicated. There's a lot of things to do. And there are some things that are complicated about it, right. And you can end up spending money. In ways that aren't as effective. So, you know, I just sort of want to close today by talking about the real benefit of working with experts, whether it's an SEO expert, whether it's an advertising expert, people who really understand content creation, because you want to get the most for your advertising or your investment dollars. Right.