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Building an $18.7M/year SEO, Content, and Marketing Agency

Learn how Clayton grew his $18.7M/year productized marketing service.

1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?

I’m Clayton Johnson, CMO of The HOTH

The HOTH started in 2010 as a productized service for link building. We had 1 product and launched an offer on an internet marketing forum in a buy-sell section. The offer hit and the company started. 

Over the course of the last 10 years, we expanded from that 1 product service to now over 17 products, mostly around SEO services, content, and marketing. Price points vary from $50 to $50k+ per month. 

You can see our product lineup here https://www.thehoth.com/products/

Now we have an office of ~50 core staff in St. Petersburg FL and work with thousands of freelancers around the world that work on producing the products.

2. How do you attract and retain your customers?

We were lucky because we started with a strong product market fit – our first product was in high demand so it didn’t take a lot to have people try it out. We went through a few phases of growth just trying the normal stuff – small partnerships, some conferences, some blog posts, etc, but finally stalled out and couldn’t grow.

I was at the time the COO – I was in charge of ops. I’m obsessive about operational procedures but it turns out, that’s not what drives growth, so I started shifting into marketing.

We focused on creating marketing & sales systems that produce leads and sales consistently. All of our marketing pretty much stems from this idea of identifying customer questions, creating that content, and promoting that content. This is mostly what we focus on now and it works really well.

3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?

There were so many obstacles, but I forget most of them because I’m mostly focused on solving them and moving on.

One obstacle that I do remember was that we stalled out in growth in 2013. These types of plateaus happen all the time in businesses, and you usually need to change something internally to get over that hump. 

In 2013, I focused on myself and tried to make a personal transformation – my outlook, my personal goal setting, eliminating complaining etc. Then I focused on moving from operations to learning marketing and implementing marketing like a mad man. That was a big growth change for us, we 20x’d over the next 5 years.

4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?

I read a couple books early on that made it clear that we should focus on productizing – the E-Myth and Built to Sell. We went hardcore into ops mode there and made our business scalable. 

In the beginning, we really focused on running a tight ship but keeping it lean. We use a lot of Google docs, spreadsheets, and then graduated to tools like Asana, Groove, Slack. We hired a developer to build our platform as well and that was huge.

My favorite book that is required for our marketing team is Dot Com Secrets by Russel Brunson. It’s the best book if you don’t want to have to jump between 1 thousand courses. 

In terms of learning, I try to balance 1 skills book with 1 mindset/self-help book. 

For instance, read dot com secrets (marketing book) and then read the power of now (self help book).

If you keep just reading marketing books, you’ll find yourself stalled out because you don’t have the emotional foundation to do what you need. If you only read motivational type books, you’ll have all the motivation in the world but you won’t be able to actually execute anything.What really helped grow our business though above everything was the people we hired & the culture we created. I wrote a whole article about that here.

5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?

Focus on your customers and finding product market fit. This will make everything way easier. If you skip this it will make everything WAY harder. 

Once you have product market fit, make sure you do marketing, and don’t stop. Learn real marketing and apply it to your business. When you stall out, realize you gotta do something different.

6. What are your plans for the future?

We’re continuing to develop more products for The HOTH that expand outside of SEO, for example we just launched HOTH PPC which is a productized Google Ads management service.  We applied all the principles we learned with our other SEO / content products to this. We also recently acquired FreeUp, a platform that connects you with top freelance talent. I’m excited to grow this company as well and implement a lot of the things we learned growing the HOTH.

7. Where can we learn more about you?

You can find The HOTH Blog here: https://www.thehoth.com/blog/

You can contact me via email clayton@thehoth.com

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