In today’s episode, I’m thrilled to be interviewing Sujan Patel. This guy is super cool, because, well a) he’s writing the foreword to my upcoming book and b) he’s an entrepreneur who has started multiple companies and has been an Internet marketer for over 12 years now. He’s known for being the co-founder of co-founder of Content Marketer & Narrow.io, and he’s appeared on Forbes, Inc, and many other high-caliber content sites. I can’t wait to launch my book, featuring his foreword – stay alerted when it’s out here!
Sujan shares his down-to-earth, super-useful advice in this insightful episode on lots of things: entrepreneurship, how to be a star guest blogger like himself (it’s not overnight), and content marketing practices in general. Enjoy!
In Episode 6 of The Write Podcast, Sujan Patel covers a lot of things, including:
- How he went from college dropout who loved to surf to a multi-company founder and startup entrepreneur
- How he only creates tools that he feels personally invested in…and how the hardest part is simply doing the work
- Tips on guest blogging from the guru: why getting on Forbes and Inc isn’t an overnight job
- How Sujan Patel is actually related to Neil Patel, a leader in content marketing
- Why Sujan feels live-streaming and recording videos of yourself is essential in content marketing
- How to easily figure out if you have a viable business idea with a napkin marketing plan
- What are some of the craziest risks Sujan has taken, to uphold his “risk-taker reputation”
- If you’re new to content marketing, don’t expect immediate results
- How that one payment might not matter as much as relationships, if you’re subscription-based
- ….& more
As always, the full transcription is provided below. Enjoy!
If you like what you hear, I’d love it if you would leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking here. It will help the show and it’s ranking in iTunes. I appreciate it—enjoy the show!
Transcript: Episode 6 Talking Life, Entrepreneurship, Guest Blogging, & Content Marketing With Sujan Patel
Julia: Hello and welcome to The Write Podcast. This is your host Julia McCoy, and I’m here today with Sujan Patel, the co-founder of Content Marketer and Narrow.io. He’s an entrepreneur and startup guy that has led content strategy for companies like Salesforce and Intuit.
Sujan is also writing the foreword for my upcoming book, So You Think You Can Write. It’s great to have you here today Sujan.
Sujan: Yes thanks for having me excited to be on your podcast and I’m excited to write your foreword too.
Julia: It’s great to have you do both, I’m excited too. So I saw we have something in common, you are a college dropout and I am too. So I started nursing school and I actually failed it in the second semester, and then I decided to try to pick up what I really liked doing which was not nursing school, and it was writing.
So tell me a little about your story when you went from college dropout to what you are today.
Sujan: Yeah, so I went to college because that is what I thought I was supposed to do, and that was just the next logical step. But I really had no clue what I wanted to do I mean I was studying in the business and computer science, but I didn’t really know why I was doing that just figured out that I’ll get developer a job or IT job or something like that.
And then I realized in kind of like my freshman year, sophomore year I started doing some consulting work, I stumbled on to SEO, during college I had a e-commerce website that I was building, actually a car park business I was trying to build into an e-commerce website.
And so I was in the wonderful world of Internet in general and then I spent tons of money on my site, and then I had a rude awakening when holy crap no one is coming to my website. So I stumbled on SEO and it kind of started this series of events that led to me dropping out of school. One was, I was able to optimize the website and actually gain a bunch of traffic but I stopped that business because I had to go and do drop shipping, customer support, like I was just an 18 year old kid. I didn’t have any clue what I was doing, let alone I was going to school which really meant waking up and going surfing in the mornings.
I grew up in Cali so I would go surfing in the mornings and then snowboarding in the winters and I would adjust my class schedule around that, but anyway that is another story. So I stumble on SEO I ended up getting a lot of traffic, but it didn’t actually grow the business it just got a lot of traffic, and realized that holy crap I can actually do this as a consultant or maybe even a career at this time.
This was early 2000s, right when I was getting at this, the dot com bust happened and I was a little too naive to even know it happened. So I kept going and I ended up doing consulting gigs on like Elance and Odesk and actually Odesk didn’t even exist at the time. So it was Elance. And I was like one of the only Indians in America doing [LAUGH] consulting work on Elance.
Sujan: And I think that helped me get some clients and what not, but when I did that I was actually making more money than what I wanted to make as a career out of college, why am I doing this and so I ended up going into work for an agency when I decided to call the quits, and that really what kickstarted my career as marketer.
Julia: That’s really awesome and the same thing happened to me in the case that I’m making more now than I would have as a nurse.
So in our industry I’m sure you’ve heard of the name Neil Patel, and when I first heard of you I actually thought you were related. So tell me do you get that question a lot?
Sujan: Yeah I get, that’s the question I get a lot we obviously have very similar names.
So we are related. So Neil is my cousin actually.
Julia: Oh really?
Sujan: So we grew up together there, we spent our childhood together then we went very different paths. He went entrepreneur initially and then I went kind of employee route and started working kinda raising within the kind of corporate world.
And then I ended up going down that entrepreneur route anyways. And so Neil and I have always stayed in touch and things like that, but it was funny because I’m always saying like man I wanna meet people that don’t know you.
Sujan: And I want to get out of your shadow and what not or whatever that might be and so it’s a question I get asked a lot but it is what it is.
Julia: I didn’t know you’re actually related. So that’s kind of cool.
Sujan: Yeah we do a lot. Our family is a lot of business guys are kind of entrepreneurs, whether they’re very small business owners to guys like Neil who are super successful.
Julia: So it just seems you need to have a story online about the Patel family.
Julia: Tell me a little bit about the tools you’ve created, Content Marketer and Narrow.io. Tell me a little bit about what they do and how you created them.
Sujan: With content marketer.io, that was the first one I got into, that was the idea came about early last year or the idea came to life. Earlier last year I’ve had this idea in my pocket for a long time. So the short version was that I started this prior to what I’m doing now, I ran a marketing agency, a digital marketing agency and we did a lot of SEO, content marketing and before it was even called content marketing and link building, we did sales, and we did outbound sales for ourselves. We’d be sending a lot of emails, we’d be doing pitching people, saying, hey we looked at your site, here’s a few improvements. That was kinda of one of our go to, sorry, our acquisition channels for our customers acquiring clients, and so we did a lot of outbound emails. And I found a lot of tools and went through a lot of tools, and they all kinda suck but they don’t really work for me.
Then we ended up building a lot of these small tools. At the time they’re really built for link building, outreach for content promoting, and then for sales. We had all these real tools and those are really the essence of what ContentMarketer.io is today except those tools were very, very bad UX. A lot of them were just, literally you’re running in terminal and so I had to have a person who actually knew how to write code to actually run these tools. They had no like user interface and ContentMarketer is really the web vector family version of that using a lot of what we’ve learned over the past.
So I’ve sent over a million outbound emails for again various reasons, and learned a lot like I just learned the right things to do, built a lot of relations, made a lot of mistakes and so that is what the initial ContentMarketer.io Chrome plug-in was built off of, and then from there we get a lot of customers, we get a lot of people using it.
To date we’ve seen at least about six thousand, seven thousand people through the door and in early days we had a beta launch so a lot of it was free. And what we’ve learned is how to make our tool even better and so we created two free tools, one that launched just yesterday called Connector which is just for email outreach.
Julia: Oh wow.
Sujan: It’s kind of like a middle ground between the Yesware, what’s in your box and Outreach.io or Close.io where you need a full grown CRM, you’re doing that much outreach. So ours is right in the middle, we have a lot of templates. And then the other tool is Notifier, and Notifier is Twitter outreach. So you scan a URL and scan an article you’ve written. If you’ve mentioned anybody in there we’ll find the twitter handles and then bam, you can send a tweet with those twitter handles included and if you’ve mentioned four, five people you can split it up into multiple tweets and both tools from the basic features are free and my goal was essentially to take what we’ve learned and users get the most value out of, and try to make it as free or as cheap as possible. And give people a quick win because our end game with ContentMarketer.io, like our big goal, is to create a suite of content marketing tools or tools to help content marketers specifically.
Julia: That’s a great aim and that sounds like fantastic tools that you are creating.
Sujan: Yeah, it’s been fun. I’ve been in the SAAS kind of space for some time now and I’m taking everything I’ve learned, I’ve known and again, I’m an avid marketer so I’m really making these tools for myself first. And then that’s how I value, is that I actually build some basic functionality for myself, I explore to or I expand to my marketing network which I have a few Slack groups and, I’m very active in the marketing space so I just let people kinda explore it and it’s kinda, I ask these guys, hey I’m I missing something? Am I in the right direction? They all get it then I know there’s something there that could be good.
Julia: That sounds like what I do with content marketing, whenever I publish or create something. I always ask myself, would I actually read this, would I actually share this and learn from it. And you’re doing that with your tools, and I think that’s just great. If all marketers thought like that, we’d probably see a lot of great tools on the web.
So I also noticed that you are a really fantastic guest blogger. You’re on Forbes, Inc and Entrepreneur. So how did you get on those guest blogs? How did you approach them?
Sujan: Yeah so I actually have a whole lengthy kind of like 30, 40 minute talk on how I went through the process. But I’ll kinda give the short version. It’s if you want to work your way to the top. These guys, these publications are really the cream of the crop, these are where everybody wants to go after, I’m sure you as a content marketer, writer you totally understand that. You’re not gonna go from I’ve never blogged before to I’m gonna blog on Forbes or write on Forbes.
Sujan: You have to work your way up and what I did is it took me about five years, but then because I didn’t really have that [INAUDIBLE AUDIO]. I was trying and failing and succeeding at certain points, but then after I did it I was like holy crap, here’s the thing that I did that actually works.
So the short version is first you got a blog on your site. So that you can get into any credible company blogs or kind of blogs that have some reputation, but they aren’t like the biggest blogs in the space. Get your name out there somewhere and from there you have now your blog, and another site to validate your reason for going after the next site, and just kind of go after a slightly bigger site.
Make sure you knock it out of the park and then when you do it with those three sites, go after industry publications. So in my space, sites like Search Engine Journal, Content Marketing Institute, who else? Search Engine Lab. There’s so many industry sites that are talking about SEO, marketing or something like Social Media Examiner would be another one. And you work your way and fish that side. You have that site you can pitch maybe in sites like Small Business Trends, Entrepreneur and you pretty much going broader and broader and then you have a couple wins there, and your pitching Forbes what not. Now when I say pitching, you can find the contact information of the editor and reach out to them and you do a cold email, that’s how I did it. I’ve also, some of them I’ve got intros, so I’ve made friends with other writers that are writing there, and you got to keep in mind don’t do this is that don’t ask for an introduction to an editor. That is the number one question every writer that writes for Inc, Forbes or whatever gets asked all the time.
So make friends, pay your dues, I mean don’t use that person but make friends with them and I guarantee you, if you’re doing a good job and you’re truly providing value to, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Doors are gonna open and this whole process is a year, 18 months, two years not overnight.
You know it’s kind of just knowing your place and making sure you are always inching forward, but not reaching beyond kind of like your brand, and so having a personal brand and building that up really, really helps.
And Julia I’ll give you a quick shortcut: video. Video is amazing way to show that you are a great writer. What I actually write.
Sujan: Take your content and show like your personality because that’s something that people can see. And like when you see someone smile or charisma like you’re hand movements. That’s something that you don’t get when you’re reading or listening it’s like this emotional trigger that happens and I’ve tested this out like that last October, November. I did like a 60 day spread of where I was creating a ton of video and I was doing a lot on Periscope, and oh man engagement rates and the amount of people that like connected with me was crazy. It was with less than a 100 people were viewing each video, but the engagement I got was equivalent to like 10, 20,000 people visiting a blog post.
Julia: So you do live stream and then you just do the YouTube videos?
Sujan: Yeah so I’ve been doing that. So I tested it now as my MVP to getting in there. I bought a few thousand dollars of equipment, proper lighting is essentially the biggest key, and then what is it called? Just a stand for your phone. I record all my videos iPhone 6 nothing too fancy, but it’s a pretty powerful camera. Sure. It’s pretty cheap. I’m looking at the blog and Lead Pages blogs, they do a lot of videos. I’m just kind of looked up their resources, and then repeated it and saw some traction and now this year.
I’m going heavy into video. I started the year with like a 2015 recap for me and I did like a 30-minute video. And the content was good, it was kind of very personal and I was very transparent. But really that video it triggered a lot of emotional things and connections. So I’ve gotten like 50 emails already from just that video.
Julia: That’s amazing, that’s a big engagement thing.
Sujan: I feel like people just connect with me with me as a person, more than I’m just another person blogging.
As you know, you’re known for taking risks and I wanted to ask what are some of the craziest risks you’ve taken, either an entrepreneur or just in general.
Sujan: Yeah so for those of you that don’t know me I am an avid sky-diver.
I race cars and motorcycles by the racetrack all the time. I don’t think you know this I have actually broken 17 bones.
Julia: Oh ouch.
Sujan: I see how many bones I’ve broken just to remind myself, I haven’t broken any bone, since that I’ve gotten the tattoo of the broken bones.
Julia: [LAUGH] Nice.
Sujan: But the biggest risk I’ve taken as an entrepreneur, is really talking.
So there’s two, one is talking a lot about what I wanna do, and not taking the action. It’s so easy it’s so fun to talk about what you gonna do this amazing idea of whatever like you’re super passionate about. But then when you sit down you have this piece of paper in your hand or like you have this piece of paper you need to write down what you actually need to do or like you are in front of a computer.
Like you have an idea within your head of what do you do and biggest risks. These were talking about and not doing it, like with ContentMarketer.io, I had this idea in my back pocket for two years maybe even longer and…
Sujan: I just didn’t take action and it’s okay I don’t blame myself.
Sujan: Taking action and even failure is better than continuing to talk about something.
For those of you who don’t know in addition to ContentMarketer now I’m acquired by other company QUU.com, I always spell it out. I work full time for wheniwork.com, so I’m quite busy. I’m leaving the company to go pursue fulltime but to do this exit which is a slow kind of thing I’m looking for my replacement.
I’ve come up with four, five, six business ideas and I validated them I took action and guess what four of them sucked, they were horrible but financially there would be bad things to get into. All I did instead of talking further about it was just to think, okay let’s go do the financial modeling. And that sounds complicated? No, its like how much does it take to get off the ground and then fit every basic financial modeling.
Sujan: And I look at what’s called a napkin marketing plan so it’s, take a napkin like this, wherever napkin you having in front of you, around you get a pen and if you can’t come up with like five or ten ways then draw that napkin up with what you are gonna do to market this company, you probably shouldn’t do it. You work on that.
Julia: I haven’t heard of that before, it’s so simple, I love it.
Sujan: Yeah I mean because a lot of people always focus on like I gotta do this right, I gotta have a business plan, like the traditional way. Like Microsoft is if you think about all of these companies, they were launched in the garage, they were one of this have an idea and then have the idea execute it and unlock the other halves, pieces of it.
So I always think what’s the minimal thing you need to do to start to get action.
Julia: That’s a great tip.
So just to wrap this up, I know you shared some really good things already but what would be some tips you give, let’s say a startup just delving into content marketing?
Sujan: Yes, first and foremost don’t expect return in short term.
Talking six month, a year when you started to really see the value, don’t expect anything until first six months. It’s constantly working in the compound and gates, one thing you do today helps you do something better two weeks ago, and then those two things helps you do the next third thing and those three things are what maybe give you that value, so that’s the act.
And then the second thing is guest posts, think about not guest blogs or link building or SEO but really think about how to build your network the best way to go through your network you can. We talk to nobody and go through networks from scratch or you can talk and follow at other people’s audience, and what I mean is you’re blogging on Content Marketing Institute or any other industry site there are audiences listening to you, and so some of that can go back to you.
And if you do that enough you’re gonna build the audience back to your site and so you need to do both sides but really heavily emphasis the guest posts and building out your network and reaching at other people’s audience before you really worry about yours.
And then the last thing is don’t regurgitate. What’s been done like I always see these articles that are like little articles they give us something unique like the biggest part where people fail, there’s two parts: one is they fail at creating the right content and the content strategies so they are either they are not putting enough time and thinking what to write about and how that’s gonna help them whether it’s for long time SEO or to bring traffic, promotion, wherever, and the second thing is not doing content promotions.
So if you are creating content, and not actually doing anything to get the word up then you are not doing content marking. You are just creating content. So are the two kind of biggest mistakes I see people do, and so I recommend really doing research, and you don’t have to start from scratch you could follow the leader, follow what like Neil Patel or what successful content marketers are doing today.
And follow them and then try to repeat and mimic what they’re doing and then you’re gonna eventually, after doing that a few times, you’re gonna find a voice of your own.
Julia: That’s a great tip. Just don’t copy them right? [LAUGH]
Sujan: Yeah, don’t copy. Take what they’re doing and try to apply it for what you’re doing, right? That’s a big difference. Just copy what they are doing and be aware that what guys like Neil or I can pull off, Gary B can pull off, that’s not what a new blogger can pull off. You can’t go and email 50 people and they’re gonna automatically promote your content. You have to give something of value, if I email 50 people I likely gonna email 50 people out of which 30 I’ve talked to before or have helped me.
So there’s a different perception there and unlike my last tip in the content marketing world is to always focus on giving. People are always like can you do this for me. Can I get this from you. Like can you share this? If you just focus on giving so much value away, the value I guarantee you is just gonna come back to you.
And I can tell you that today. I gave somebody early access to ContentMarketer.io. A year and a half ago, have to go back and actually a year ago in March of 2015, and I didn’t ask for anything. Case was closed, he didn’t even have a blog. He said, I really want this, and then he’s been using it for a year and he said holy crap I want to write an article about you, and he just sent me a link of an article he wrote about how he’s using ContentMarketer.io. and Narrow.io, and he became a customer of Narrow.io, so like I didn’t ask for anything, I didn’t, I just gave him value and I got a lot in return.
Julia: That is so smart. That is the way to do it. There are actually companies we partner with and we don’t pay them for like they’re biggest subscription, we just tell we’re gonna write about you and the companies are starting to see the value of that, more so than years ago.
Sujan: Exactly and its that relationship that’s more, the relationship is more important than asking for that one thing you are looking for. I guarantee it.
Julia: Thank you very much for being here Sujan and sharing your thoughts.
Sujan: My pleasure.
[MUSIC] For more online content, tips, and strategies visit expresswriters.com/blog. [MUSIC]
Julia: You can follow Sujan on Twitter @sujanpatel. He and I are actually collaborating on a few things coming up. Sujan will be a guest on one of our upcoming Twitter chats, join it at #contentwritingchat. You can keep an eye out for the date that Sujan will be joining us as a guest host, by following our Twitter chat account @writingchat on Twitter.
Also as I mentioned, Sujan is writing the foreword to my upcoming book, So You Think You Can Write, The Definitive Guide To Successful Online Writing. My book is for anyone who wants to take their writing skills online and make a career out of it, or for the business, or marketer who wants to create great content for their own website. Keep an eye out for my book with Sujan’s foreword coming out the end of this March on Amazon.
Thanks for joining today’s episode of the Write Podcast. For more episodes go to expresswriters.com/write-podcast.