1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
My name is Daniel, and I’m a Singaporean who’s currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I started With Content, a content marketing agency, because after leading content marketing efforts at a number of tech companies, I realised that there was a gap in the market. Content marketing has been around for a while – the term was first coined in 2001 – but most don’t really understand how it works. There are a boatload of misconceptions in this space, and I wanted to help companies in Asia to overcome them. And I got the opportunity to do so when my previous employer asked me if I’d like to work with them as a consultant rather than a full-time employee (they were having cashflow issues).
I started out offering end-to-end content marketing services – from strategy to distribution. But after many sales pitches, I found out that companies were struggling with one part of this process more than others: creating high-quality content that their potential customers would actually love.
So after a few months, we pivoted our business model to double down and focus on content strategy and production. I reorganised our operations to reflect this, bringing on a hit team of the best freelance writers I knew, and hiring a full-time content strategist to make sure that the content delivered at the end of the day met our clients’ expectations. I also worked closely with a sales manager to make sure we tapped on every contact I had in Singapore’s tech startup scene (I was a journalist, and then editor, at a renowned tech publication previously).
Fast forward to today, and we’ve worked with over 90 clients – including notable brands such as HP, Xero, PropertyGuru, Tech in Asia, and Piktochart. I’m very grateful to say that we’re well on our way to hitting our goal of S$300,000 in annual revenue in 2019 (we did S$200,000 in 2018)! Our team has also expanded to 4 full-time content strategists and 5-10 regular freelance writers.
The service that makes us the most money? Blog posts. In fact, 87% of content that we’ve produced over the last 1.5 years have been blog posts. We sell them on an ala carte basis (per-article), recurring monthly package (2-8 blog posts per month), and bulk order (more than 10 pieces). Every order includes topic ideation, SEO optimisation, interviews, and so on – everything necessary to deliver publish-ready articles into the hands of our clients.
We also do custom visual content work such as infographics, reports, and ebooks.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
Our first clients came exclusively from referrals. We also combed a database of tech companies in Singapore to find potential leads. However, what really worked out for us was – surprise, surprise – doing our own content marketing. We published a series of blog posts looking into the state of content marketing in the region, which were extremely well-received – we got a good number of very qualified leads from that. Naturally, we’re looking to double down on that this year.
We’re also extremely grateful that retention has not been a problem for us (so far) – just 3 of our retainer clients have dropped off to date, for reasons that we could not control i.e. not relevant to the quality of the content we delivered.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
Biggest mistake I’ve made is to take on more work than my team and I could manage at that point in time. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s extremely tough to find good content strategists and writers – which is why we treat our team like the precious gems they are! – and even tougher to find them when pressed for time. We came dangerously close to disappointing our biggest client back then (thankfully, we managed to pull it off), and now we’re extremely mindful of our capacity when taking on new clients.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
Airtable is the core of our business operations. If they went under tomorrow, With Content would be in serious trouble! Combined with Zapier, we manage everything there – from our production schedule to sales pipeline – and have been very happy with it so far.
Continually insisting on producing high-quality content – with zero compromises – has been pivotal in earning the trust of clients (and potential clients) alike. We’ve built up a strong brand locally because of this.
5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?
Price fairly, but don’t undercharge, or you will end up feeling very miserable – even if you get a ton of work. I see many productized content services offering ridiculously low prices, and wonder what flavour of sacrifice they decided to go with: either quality gets compromised, or the writers are getting paid peanuts. Either way, someone is going to end up unhappy.
6. What are your plans for the future?
Ultimately, our mission is to help tech companies and brands become recognized by their target audience and potential customers as the experts in their domain. Articles and blog posts are our bread and butter, and we also produce some pretty awesome content upgrades – think infographics, ebooks, and reports – to go along with them. Most recently, we’ve also started offering content distribution services to help our clients place articles in selected publications, and hence widen their reach – we’ll be offering this service to more clients in 2020.