As the host of the Bright Ideas podcast, I have the privilege of interviewing a large number of SaaS founders and without a doubt, they share the same #1 strategy. What is this essential SaaS marketing strategy? SEO.
My guest on today’s show is Vincent van Scherpenseel, co-founder of ContentKing. Over the last few years, Vincent’s company has been growing by 3X per year, all thanks to their focus on publishing epic content that is optimized for SEO.
ContentKing’s tool actually helps their customers to conduct real-time SEO audits. In today’s interview, not only are you going to learn about the very clever ways that they are using their online academy to drive an ever increasing volume of organic traffic, but you are also going to learn about a unique tool that will help your organization to further it’s own SEO efforts.
How well are their content marketing and SEO efforts working, you ask? To find out, just take a look at the screenshot below and notice two things:
- The steady increase in their Ahrefs Rank (Ahrefs Rank shows the target website’s position among all other websites in our database rated by the “strength” of their backlink profiles — the website with the strongest backlink profile is ranked #1)
- The steady increase in Referring domains (backlinks to their content)
Click here to read transcript
Trent: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Bright Ideas Podcast. As always, I’m your host Trent Dyrsmid and I’m here to share the stories of today’s most successful entrepreneurs and more importantly to extract all the best golden nuggets that you can implement in your company starting today. Oh, with me today is Vincent van Scherpenseel. Vincent is the entrepreneur and product designer, sorry. Rather is an entrepreneur product designer combining his background in design, business and software development to build products that deliver great experiences. Vincent co-founded and currently serves a seat CEO at ContentKing, a cloud based SAS platform, providing real time SEO auditing, monitoring and content change tracking for businesses all around the globe. Thank you so much for making some time to come and be on the show,
Vincent: Glad to be here.
Trent: Okay, so let’s start off with just some overview on your company here in part one of our interview today. So in your own words, what does your company do?
Vincent: Right. So what we do is we essentially mimic Google and I’ll just share attention. Okay by continuously 24 seven monitoring websites and doing that primarily from an SEO search engine optimization point of view. So what that means is that we have a stateful index. We keep track of all the pages that exist on the website and we continuously audit dose for problems, problem steps, limit the visibility, the search engines, and we also monitor those for changes. So whenever you add pages or remove pages, we make changes within pages, we flag that and we make it very easy for you see dose. And on top of that, we also send proactive alerts. So whenever something breaks or unexpectedly changes in your website, we proactively alert that to you. So you got a Slack notification, get an email, they can jump right on it.
Vincent: And the goal there is that you can resolve the problems before Google actually noticed those oops, actually are in a position to fix them before they actually hurt you.
Trent: Yeah. So the major value proposition is obviously making sure that you’re not penalized in SEO or that you don’t lose the traction that you’ve worked. So hard to gain.
Vincent: Yeah. It’s essentially two things. Growing your rankings by solving issues that we flag and make sure that you keep those rankings. By resolving problems as soon as they happen.
Trent: How’d you come up with this idea? Seems like a rather obscure idea.
Vincent: Well that’s the thing. This is a problem for, for businesses all around the globe. If you care about SEO, you need to keep track on what’s happening to your website. And we actually had a background in digital marketing. So me and my co founder and our team, we ran into the agency before where we were doing a lot of website development, a lot of consultancy SEO specifically.
Vincent: And as our company grew and we got bigger and more serious customers, e-commerce, it, it happened over and over again that something went wrong in the website. Something’s broke or changed, I guess. A client decided to improve, page titles across the entire website or developers push to change. It wasn’t well tested everywhere. And a client would, would, would notice it and would give us a call, which was the worst that happened. Or we would catch it if we were lucky in a monthly, if we were fair luck into a weekly an audit run. But overall we were always late. It was the change happened, something broke and it took us days at best to find out about that the problem and that’s why we built [inaudible] initially it was an internal tool to just keep track of our client’s websites and because there was nothing on the market back then. All right, we’re still, we’re the only ones doing this skill. And we realized immediately what the potential was there. Right. This is a problem that every company that cares about Google cares about search engine findability it’s dealing with and we solved it. So we close to the agency, we sold it to some other agencies or we sold our client portfolio and jumped fully on, on that internal concept, which became complicated.
Trent: Okay. So you built it really to scratch your own edge, not thinking it all that it would ever be a commercial product. At some point in time you realize, Hey, this is probably a commercial product, but did you go through a process to validate your idea at all? Before going jumping in with both feet?
Vincent: Well, yes and no. Of course the idea is also reshaped over time. I’m a good example of that is the a to change trekking featured we have, so in consulting you can one click, you can see, okay, what happened on my website in the past week, what content was added, what content was, was removed, what was Patriots were deleted. And that’s a feature that came pretty late in the development of [inaudible]. It was initially just an alerting system. Whenever something changed, you could see that or you could get the alert. So yeah, the initial idea was followed by ourselves by seeing, okay, this is a real problem and if we have the problem as an agency to must be at least other agencies and potentially other businesses that have the same problem.
Trent: Yeah. But sure how did you know they were going to buy? How’d you know they were asked to spend money to solve that problem though?
Vincent: Right. So we build them the MTP basically consisting only of designs. So we were working on the engine, the monitoring engine, and at the same time we were designing the app. So did they use rate user interface and we build a prototype of that using inefficient where we just click the create a clickable prototype and we would go and meet customers or customers of the existing agency that we had at the time. And we would also meet with other agencies and we would show them what we were working on and ask them if this is something they would, it would use. Did we buy. And we’ve got a lot of positive feedback there and that’s when we look at, we’re onto something. Yeah or just the map.
Trent: So at that phase, because I’ve done research and surveys and things like that before, and what I’ve is that people are, they’ll quickly say, Oh yeah, yeah, that’s something I’ll buy. But then when you say, okay, great, pull your credit card out. It’s totally, they changed their tune. Yes. Did you do anything? Did you get people to vote with a credit card before you dove in or did you just do those surveys and think, you know, this is given our own experience combined with these opinions, this is a sufficient amount that’s validation for us to move forward.
Vincent: Yeah. The letter actually we didn’t ask for the credit cards at that time and doing it all over. I think I would, I will do that a bit more because to be honest, You’re absolutely right. That’s It happens a lot that people, yeah, I would buy it and then when push comes to shove, they don’t, got lucky in a sense because those people that said they would buy, they actually did buy.
Vincent: But yeah, I can imagine that there are definitely cases in which it doesn’t happen. And so if I would have to do it over, that’s one change I would would implement.
Trent: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Your target customer in the, first of all, did you have a target customer in mind and now that you’re a ways into it, has that target customer changed?
Vincent: Yeah, absolutely. initially we focused a lot on agencies, which still is, is, I would say the primary customer, for us, especially when it comes to revenue and retention. Okay. Later on we also started focusing on end-user businesses, mostly in the SUV space. And they’re actually, we figured out, okay, there is another market which at the enterprise, which we’re not going after. And we discussed internally, why is that? And it basically, it was a very stupid reason, but it’s because our agency, it’s focused on the SMB space.
Vincent: So that’s where we, where we knew how the game was played. How do you sell products, how do you talk with these companies? And we didn’t know how to do it with enterprise. So from a functionality perspective, we moved from agency to end-user businesses. It was mostly okay, frog changes. And then once we were in targeting dose two segments, we moved into the enterprise segment as well. But to be honest, that’s something that it happened like 10 months ago or something. Pretty recent. Another segment is publishers. So, large publishers would, websites, hundreds of thousands or millions of pages of content. That’s another segment that we didn’t take into account at the start and are now also, well, we’re getting more and more traction in that space as well. So yeah, really been a learning experience for us. Like to figure out who is our customer.
Trent: Was the pricing model look like?
Vincent: Yeah. We’re actually in the middle of changing it a bit. Simplifying a bit. Right now we have three different pricing plans or pricing models. We have standard pricing, which is for end users, dare you pay for the number of websites, per website and the number of ages. And we have agency pricing and agency pricing is based on page bundle. You just purchase a certain number of pages. You want to have monitor it, let’s say 500,000 pages and then you can pick different plans based on features and based on that. Okay. Yeah. You defied the page bundle the 500,000 pages across as many websites as you want. And then we have the enterprise model, which is completely custom. We’re simplifying this right now into a single pricing model where you have four different plans and the approach, we will take us to page bundle. So you picked the total number of pages you want to monitor. It could be as little as 1000 and it goes up to two 10, 10 million plus you can define that across the website.
Trent: So your average payer customer is paying about how much per month?
Vincent: It differs enormously. A fair per segment. So if you look at the end user segment, it’s about $60 per month. If you look at the agency that’s about 150, a dollar less per month. An enterprise that’s, yeah. Anywhere. Like the range is very big. That’s second.
Trent: And you launched this commercially when?
Vincent: So we started five years ago when commercially, well the first customer we got 2016, but really commercially, I would say the second half of 2017, that’s when we first started getting our bill customers stuff, people that we didn’t know. The first costumers were all in our network friends. And I don’t know.
Trent: So how many customers do you have now?
Vincent: so we now have between 500 and 1500 customers. I’ll be more specific than that be no, I kind of do. Yeah. There. I also don’t want to, I can’t go into that right now. Yeah. So I mentioned before, we’re currently in, we’ll work on the second round talking to various potential investors. So I don’t want to refill that information.
Trent: Year over year gross rate?
Vincent: Yeah, that’s been a for the past two years. It’s been a free times. So, 2000,
Trent: Three times per year or three times over that period of time?
Vincent: No, no, per year. Yeah.
Vincent: Yeah, it’s going going pretty well. Yeah.
Trent: And we’re going to talk in part 2 of our interview, we’re going to talk a lot more about the marketing that’s driving that growth. As you’re curious about that, know that we’re definitely tune in for part 2 cause we’re going to talk more about it. How many employees do you have right now?
Vincent: Right now we’re 15 people altogether. I split across two locations. So we’re based in the Netherlands and we have an office in Czech Republic. Most of the team is in Czech Republic right now. And we’re actually working on off opening an office in the U S because we have a lot of traction in that markets. And the time zone difference makes it very difficult to properly support those customers.
Trent: What city you’re looking at?
Vincent: Raleigh, North Carolina.
Trent: Okay. So you raised money. So how much have you raised so far?
Vincent: Yeah, we raised 350,000 euros, so that’s close to $400,000. That was in October, 2016.
Trent: Okay. Did it take long to do that?
Vincent: No, not at all. what we did is we approached the, clients we had, from our agency days and cause we were focused on SMBs. We, it was all sea level, people that we were talking to and yes, small, medium business owners. So they liked the idea and they liked the idea of becoming an angel. Investors, most of them never invested before. So it was pretty easy, relatively easy for us to get the money together.
Trent: How many people did it take to graze 300?
Vincent: 10 I believe. So there’s some, some put in quite a lot. And then there were some friends and family who put in less. We can try it together.
Trent: So what advice would you give to other SAS founders who are in the seed stage about raising capital?
Vincent: What would help us a lot is that we actually had a product already and we had some customers. We had 20 customers or something at the time. That helped a lot. That fella dated the idea, at least. Of course, there’s still the question. Okay. How big can you make it?But it’s a lot easier I think to invest in something that it actually works. The whole model is there a payment handling, etc. Okay. That’s value. So if possible, see if you can get some, some products up and running. See if you can get some early customers, even if they will pay fifth of what the regular pricing should be. I think it helps a lot too to get something up and running.
Trent: Yeah. All right. So now we’re going to finish off part one with five quick facts. So short answers. Vincent, what is your favorite business book?
Vincent: Yeah, that must be right now obviously Awesome from April Dunford on product positioning must read.
Trent: Okay. And what’s your favorite online tool for growing your company?
Vincent: Yeah, probably is boring but I would go with Trello. I just, I use it every day. It makes everything much easier.
Trent: How many hours a week do you work?
Vincent: 60 to 70.
Trent: So family situation married? Kids or no?
Vincent: Yeah, as soon to be married and a son. 14 months.
Trent: Wow. Congratulations.
Vincent: Thank you.
Trent: And what do you wish your younger self knew?
Vincent: I was thinking about this question. Cause it I initially wanted to say you will get there, don’t worry. But then I was thinking if I knew that at the time would I have within the same amount of work, same ambition to actually get where I am today. So I would say nothing. I would say exactly what I knew already because it brought me up to it at this point at least.
Trent: Alright, so that concludes the first part of our interview. Make sure you tune back in tomorrow for part two where Vincent and I are going to be going into a lot more detail about growth strategies.
Trent: All right, welcome back to part two of my incident, my interview with Vincent van Scherpenseel, founder of ContentKing. If you missed part one, make sure you tune in and check it out because we talked a lot about the company, the overview, what type of customers, how they raised money with the pricing looks like year over year growth rate and a whole bunch of other very interesting facts. Today we’re going to talk about growth. So Vincent, tell me about your customer acquisition system.
Vincent: Okay. Right? So basically the one single channel that really worked well for us is content marketing. We put a lot of effort in ContentKing and we have I think approximately 50, very well extensive guides and articles on our website. And that’s driving the majority of our traffic and a majority of our trials and customers actually. So what we do is we have is called the Marketing Sprints.
Vincent: We tried to adopt some scrum like features, where every two weeks we start a new custom content marketing sprint and we plan, okay, we’re going to great this, article we’re going write the article about, for example, Magento, how to do SEO for Magento. And then we in the next sprints off of that, we’ve promote that article. So we do like social sharing, of course. We include industry experts, ask them to contribute to the article and to share it within their network. and of course, being in the SEO space, we put a lot of effort into making sure the content well rank well, that we target the right queries and such.
Trent: So I gonna dive a little deeper into that. First of all, what you said, if I heard correctly, is she’ll spend two weeks creating any piece of content and then you’ll spend two weeks promoting at that piece of content. Is that Correct?
Vincent: Yeah. Well, it’s not like that’s the only thing we do in the two weeks. So every sprints we work on two to three articles and the sprint after or just sprint after that one, we promote those articles. Okay. And these reference guides, they’re there. It’s like a full week of work, really research it and to, to write a good article and doing illustrations, etc. And we also do interviews with course expert interviews. That’s what are a love less work put together. Blog articles also on external sides. So usually per sprint we do free articles, creation of free articles, promotion. Yeah.
Trent: And so these articles, are they like a typical blog post or are they more far more in depth? How many words are they?
Vincent: Yeah, they’re super in depth. to be honest, I don’t know the word count, but if you check it out looking app.com/academy you will find the articles there. It’s not really a blog. It’s more, I, I called an answer club idea completely, offering multi [inaudible] topics. Yeah. So to give you an example, we have an article about robots TXT. What is it, why is it important? How do you make sure that search engines don’t have a problem with crawling your website? And it’s, it’s I think six pages of all the best practices pitfall. It falls to a void. lots of examples. lot of these articles also have downloads, cheat sheets for example. These are really in depth articles and it makes a lot of sense for us. First of all, it drives a lot of traffic but it also helps us enormously with supports. We got a lot of questions about the topics that we cover. Like, okay, how should I decide what page titles I should use? Or what should my XML sitemap fickle time. Now these are the same questions coming up time and time again. And before it just took a lot of time to answer those. And I would just find those people today good. The Academy, which is really available. So not only does it help us get traffic, it also helps a lot in offloading support questions.
Trent: So do you publish a blog in addition to the Academy or is the Academy the sole part of,
Vincent: Yeah, so we have a blog as well. There we go post our future announcements. So for example, we added Google data studio connector last week and that’s something that we didn’t announce on the blog. We also publish our interviews there with industry experts. So it’s contentkingapp.com/blog you will you find that content. The Academy is more evergreen content. That’s the content that we palso keep up to date at all times. So whenever their industry changes, we reflect that in the articles.
Trent: Okay. So the meat of your content that customers would be searching for is in the Academy. The content that’s on the blog is more about your company and your product and announcements to keep your customers informed as to what’s going on with the app. Would that be a pretty reasonable assessment?
Vincent: Yes, it is the only odd one out are there the interviews, they’re currently in the blog. Maybe we should make a section for those in the Academy. I’m not sure about that yet.
Trent: And are your interviews a text-based interview or are they a podcast like this?
Vincent: No, they’re text-based.
Trent: Text-based. Okay. Right. Interesting. I’ve not, I’ve, I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years about content marketing and, I like your strategy. I might have to actually consider using it ourselves.
Vincent: It works very well for us. I can definitely recommend them.
Trent: So that is the primary growth strategy. Are you running paid ads or a partner program or outreach or anything like that?
Vincent: A little bit. so we’re running some ads with Capterra. Some Google ads mostly agree marketing actually. So the lion’s share of our traffic is because of the content marketing.One thing I want to add to that, we do translate our all our content to five languages. So we work from primarily in English and then we’d get a translated to Dutch, French, Spanish, Czech and that helps a lot as well because in the English market there is a lot of competition, but in the other markets there’s far less competition. So that works well for us to get these articles translated and the French Google for example.
Trent: What do you use to… What service do you use to translate them?
Vincent: We do it ourselves. We have some, some part time people on the team that help with translating and I also do support for these markets.
Trent: I like it. Also another very clever strategy. So was this… Two things then. So how much traffic is the site getting per month? How has that grown and how has that grown over the last year, for example?
Vincent: Yeah. So that’s now between 50,000, 100,000 visitors per month. How it grew this year, growth was a bit slower. It think 50% and the year before we doubled it.
Trent: So your customer count is actually growing faster than the traffic on your blog. So that means your conversion rates must be going up.
Vincent: Yes. Although we also getting more word of mouth traction. So a lot of people are recommending us right now also because we’re the only solution on the market that can handle monitoring in this amount of scale. So we’re seeing a lot of that and you just ask about, channel sales or like a referral system. So we have a certified partner program.
Vincent: Paying customers, they can get certified and when they bring on additional customers, they get a commission revenue commission and they get a little badge that they can use to marketing material. And also, from time to time, we’re getting leads. People who ask for consultancy services, which we don’t offer. We just offer a software and we’ve passed those on to the, to the certified partners as well.
Trent: And do you put a lot of effort into partner recruitment or do they come and find you?
Vincent: It’s something that we need to do more actually. We have the whole system ready for it and we got let’s say 10% of our customers through this channel. I think it could be a lot more because these agencies day to day easily can, can have 50 clients. And because ContentKing is so easy to use, they, actually actively advise, [inaudible] to their customers but I think we could do more, a better job in helping them, marketing materials, send to them that they can then give to their customers, et cetera. So yeah, it’s definitely something I want to focus on in 2020.
Trent: How about your cost of customer acquisition?
Vincent: Differs. but overall it’s about 300 Euros so also $350
Trent: and how many months to get your money back?
Vincent: Yeah, that depends on the segment. So it’s anywhere between, two months, two to six months.
Trent: So the LTV is?
Vincent: Also that differs. Let me pull up the data. So LTV, again differs per segments. It’s between in dollars $1300 and $7,000. I’m excluding enterprises here because it’s all over the place.
Trent: Okay. And is the LTV at that amount because eventually customers drop off or you’ve just only been in business long enough to get data for that amount of time. When you’ve got customers that..
Vincent: We do have chrun, of course, like every SaaS company has. We see more churn in end user segment. It makes sense because a lot of these customers, they come in to optimize the website and then when it’s fully optimized and have solved all the issues, they’re done. They churn. They don’t see so much value of ongoing monitoring. So that’s something where we need to do a better job. Agencies, they churn much, much less. We lost a couple of them usually weird reasons, like going out of business, not focusing on SEO anymore, or they’re smaller agencies and they lose a big client. What we do for every customer that churns, of course is we reach out to them. Why do you want to cancel? We have a whole survey that we run with them, which is insanely useful in figuring out how we should improve the product.
Trent: So overall churn is how much?
Vincent: Like I said, it differs per segments. Businesses about 6%, per month and agencies 2%. Approximately.
Trent: Two is good.Let’s talk about customer success. You’re onboarding new customers, you need to make sure that they get up to speed on the platform. You mentioned it’s easy to use, but what type of customer success systems do you have?
Vincent: Right. So again, it differs per segment. because if you have an enterprise customer [inaudible] $30,000 per year, you can put a bit more effort into it than somebody who pays a couple of hundred dollars per year. So first of all, we have excellent customer support. We, aim to enter any question chat or email within 15 minutes during business days regardless of the plan you’re on. And also the support. It’s not just limited to the app. We really try to help our customers if they have SEO questions, digital marketing questions in general.
Trent: Let me interrupt you right there. You said aimed for 15 minutes. How do you actually enforce that? How do you… Because as as volume grows, of course these things get more difficult. So how are you going to stay on top of it?
Vincent: Yeah. So that means hiring a new sales agent and support reps in time. And what we do is we optimize our workflow as much as possible. So we use a lot of templates for answering where possible. We use template to quickly create a draft and then modify where needed. We also make the workflow for working with accounts. If a customer has a question like, “Hey, I can’t edit, this website” for example. Then we kind of do it for them and we make it very easy to jump into the system and to continue where they left off. So a lot of effort is put into being productive. And being efficient. So if you’re a support rep, you don’t spend a lot of time looking up information finding, “Okay, what was exactly the workflow here?”
Vincent: We try to put that all in one place. We’re using Intercom right now. Not really so happy with it. It works. There were some issues with it, but what we do there, which is nicely, we’ve put a lot of we can create a lot of segments. This segments users into, okay, this is an agency type customer and there, you can expect these kinds of questions. We have a lot of data from our database synchronized to intercom so that you see what plan are they on, what user role do they have, et cetera. So we try to put all that information in one place.
Trent: Have you investigated any alternatives to Intercom yet? Cause I know that’s something actually we’re looking at in our software company right now. And my CTO who is, we’ll say cheap is look, because Intercom can get very expensive as traffic grows. So are you looking at any alternatives?
Vincent: Yeah. Then there are definitely a few good ones out there. The cost for us switching away because we have this tight integration, it could easily take, I don’t know, five developer days to switch over and have it all tested and that means five days not working on features. It’s the real cost that keeps us locked.
Trent: What are one or two of the names of the alternatives that you’ve had to look at?
Vincent: Yeah, so, I like the a what’s called Crisp Chat. So French, a French company. They do a pretty good, good job I think. Then there’s HelpScout which is also nice and Kayako.
Trent: Spell it.
Vincent: K. A. Y. A. K. O. So those are the free that I’m looking. Are worth looking at. They al, I think do a good job, it’s just a matter of switching. There’s another, another tip I want to give. Like really think about, okay, what is the software you’re going to use? What’s the stack you’re going to use? Because when we started, I thought, okay, we don’t like it, we just switch. But the real cost isn’t actually, once you have that implementation done, once you depend on the system, switching over to another, it’s painful. It just takes development resources away from your actual product.
Trent: Aside from what you’ve described already, are there any systems that you have in place to help you reduce churn?
Vincent: Well of course the usual stuff. Like we have these notifications, I could just use our inactive. We also send out emails when we did this. When someone hasn’t logged in for 30 days, we ask them “We haven’t seen you for a while. Could you share with us the reason why”? They can answer “I’ve just been busy, but I’ll be back soon” or “I don’t see the value of ContentKing anymore” Whatever there’s these four answers. Once they click, depending on which one they click, they get a follow up survey. We offered them Amazon gift cards to give them an incentive to answer to these questions. So basically detect the people who are at the risk of churning and reach out and if they are larger clients, of course we gift them a call instead of email and see what’s what’s up. And for larger accounts, of course we have regular account management calls every three months we tried to get in touch with those pcustomers, ask them how they’re doing, I showed them new features we’ve released, show them what we’re working on, et cetera.
Trent: Okay. Okay. So in terms of growth and marketing, before we close out this section of our time together, is there one actionable piece of advice that you would like to give to the listeners?
Vincent: Oh, it’s content marketing. It’s the only marketing effort that really compounds.If you write a good article, a good reference guide or whatever it is, and you actually started ranking, and it means getting traffic every single month . And then doing another article and your build on top of it, I think that’s what more companies should focus on and not cheap, simple content like chief expert roundups, whatever. But really invest in high quality, useful content. And one thing I want to say there is if you check our Academy content, the articles that are there are, it doesn’t matter if you use ContentKing or a competitor or no tool doesn’t matter. It’s applicable advice regardless of what tooling you’re on. It’s not trying to push ContentKing down your throat. It’s really useful information if you want to succeed in digital marketing.
Trent: When you are constructing a piece of content. When you’re actually writing it. Are there any tools that you’re using that are helping you to make sure that you’ve got all the right relevant keywords and the frequency and all of the things necessary so that your on page SEO is as effective as it could be?
Vincent: I can’t really answer that question because most of the, content marketing is actually done not by me, but one of my colleagues or actually my co founder Steven. He shares a lot about his workflow actually in our Academy. Also how to do keyword research. How to pick the right keywords and how to put them, how to use them throughout the article and he also writers for various external websites like Content Marketing Institute where he shares how he we actually creates the articles. So definitely something to check out.
Trent: All right. I will definitely be checking that out because SEO is going to be the pillar of our growth as well. So that wraps up section number two. We have one more part to go, so make sure you tune in tomorrow for section number three or part three of my interview with Vincent.
Trent: All right, everybody. Welcome back to part three of my interview with Vincent van Scherpenseel, the co-founder of ContentKing. Founder or co founder? I’m sorry.
Vincent: Co founder.
Trent: Co founder of a content monitoring app called ContentKing. In the first two parts of our interview we’ve talked about the company and statistics and raising capital and all of the things to do with that phase of his growth. And then we talked to part two about growth strategies and dove deeply into the details on how the company has tripled their growth per year over the last several years. So if you missed out on that, you’ll definitely want to tune in and check it.
Trent: Today we’re going to be talking about leadership, people, and process. So you talked a lot, not a lot. You’ve mentioned the word workflow a number of times in part two of our interview together. And for those of you who know what my company is, it’s an SOP platform. So workflow is a word that is near and dear to my heart. Tell me about how SOPs have helped you to grow and, and scale the business?
Vincent: Yeah, so we try to put everything down in, into processes and process descriptions. That’s been working very well for us. So whether it’s support, of course support is a very great example. There’s a lot of processes involved there, but also in sales and account management. We define, “Okay, what are the tasks, what does the information we need for that? Once you complete that task, what’s the output? Where do you lift that output?” We use that extensively.
Trent: Where do you put your content for SOPs? Does it live in a Google doc or do you use an application for it?
Vincent: Yeah, and it’s Google Docs right now, which is not ideal. It’s also where we’re looking into knowledge management platforms. To see if we can do something better than Google docs because it’s easy to edit, but it’s a bit hard to keep a good hierarchy of the documents and to make it easy for audit people to find it, especially in with new people on the team.
Trent: Not to mention the more people you have, the more workflows that you’ll have going on. The bigger the challenge it will be to manage those workflows because every single workflow has various people that it’s been delegated to and they have differing due dates. And unless you have a software or a system in place, the wheels will eventually fall off the bus and things start falling through the cracks.
Vincent: Yup. Absolutely.
Trent: So, I think you said it earlier in maybe part one that you have around 15 employees. Did I remember that correctly?
Vincent: Yup, that’s correct.
Trent: Okay. How quickly are you adding head count? Talk about per quarter.
Vincent: It’s been hard to hire for some positions. So we need developers desperately and that’s a very tough role to fulfill. We’ve been adding I think one team member for six months but we definitely want to ramp this up. And like I said, we’re wanting to open our office in the US and then we want to hire sales reps and the customer support reps three to four we’re looking for initially. So that will be a big, the big bang. Basically hiring three, four people at once. usually we keep the vacancies open. We look what candidates come in. And anyone is good, we try to hire them as soon as possible. But yeah, on efforts, I would say one, one per six months.
Trent: Okay. Okay. How many are in sales and marketing versus engineering?
Vincent: Yeah. That’s the thing right now we have. Most of the teammates that actually an engineering or product. So not just engineering, but also product management or design. Sales and marketing is just me and my co founder.
Trent: So he’s writing all the content?
Vincent: Yup. He’s doing all the content. He’s doing, all the relations with the community, social media, everything. He’s talking on events.
Trent: Okay. Who promotes the content? Does that him as well?
Vincent: That’s same as well. Yeah.
Trent: Okay. So what’s your role in the marketing side?
Vincent: Yeah, so that’s more on a strategic level. okay. What channels are we, are we focusing on? I’m doing the a little bit of, okay. Well I spent that, we do that PPC, I do that right now, although I’m looking to hire a PPC manager for them. Things like pricing, that’s also my responsibility. But marketing is, he’s mostly doing that part and I’m mostly doing the sales part.
Trent: Okay. Do you have systems in place for attracting talent or do you just leave the posts up and run ads for the posts? What does that look like?
Vincent: Yeah, we don’t have systems for that yet. I figure something we should be doing because it’s too, yes. Chaotic right now to be honest. Yeah. So we have to fake and seize up and yeah, we got decent amount of candidates for that. But yeah. Not something that scales so well.
Trent: And how about your interview process? Do you think you have a good systematic approach to job interviews or is it just kind of, do we like ’em? Does it feel good? What does that look like?
Vincent: Yeah, there was a bit per position of course, like for engineering it’s, I would say for engineering it’s much easier to assess whether somebody is a good fit. Oh, at least I’m on the knowledge. So I know what they bring to the in terms of skills. so basically what it typically looks like is every candidate gets interviewed. I have three people, so that would be me, my co founder, and then domain expert. So, for example, we recently hired a new designer and then he got interviewed by sometime developer and the product manager that will be working closely together. Engineers, they get interviewed by our league developer. So yeah, free rounds with interviews with different people.
Trent: So you don’t, do you use any behavioral assessment tests like Caliper personality tests, that kind of thing?
Vincent: No we don’t. To be honest, I’ve never really fall out using that either. We primarily, we look okay, do they have the skills that we need and do they fit in the culture that we have? Yep. we’re, we’re a small team with a lot of customers are complex product, so it should kind of mention stress is pretty high to patients, really pretty high. Wow. Healthy. But still you need to be able to take that. It’s not an issue. Easy company to work for. I would say a lot of things happening.
Trent: So how does compensation in working for your company compare to industry averages?
Vincent: Our salaries, our industry efforts I would say. what we offer on top of that of course, is equity. So we have in the team equity pool and also, I mean, working for a small company that does what we do means you have a lot of responsibility and the people that we’re looking to hire love to have those responsibility. So we hired quite some people who would be able to get actually a bit better salary in other companies, but they went for us. For the responsibility that we’ve got here.
Trent: Have you had any issues with retention?
Vincent: Well, yeah, of course. Although the really good people, we, we never had somebody leave. Yeah. We had one, we had one engineer leave, but he moved abroad. So yeah. What can you do about that? but we never had anyone leave very sorry about the day that they left, so wow. Oh, I would answer this with it, but no. I wouldn’t call it an issue with retention.
Trent: In the area of leadership, people in process. Before we wrap up, is there anything that I haven’t asked you, yet Vincent that if you were interviewing yourself, do you think, Oh, well you should definitely ask me this.
Vincent: Mmm. Well what I want to share on this, what I think what I learned during this whole, endeavor, where we build out ContentKing is in the end it’s, it’s the recruitment is done by the CEO I think, or at least by sea level people at this stage of a company, you can’t delegate that you can maybe delegate, okay, find me a candidates, but to sell the fishing, especially in the early days when it doesn’t look like much, he needs somebody who has what has that fishing internalized. And that’s usually, it doesn’t have to be CEO, but at least one of the co founders or somebody very, very close to it, somebody who really gotcha. This park really gets, okay, why we’re doing this, what are we solving here and for who and what’s the kind what can it lead to? In the end of everything goes well. I think that’s really important. Get people who, or went into fueling people. You sell the company and you can’t outsource that. Don’t, don’t outsource that anyone,
Trent: So to that end, let me offer you a book title if I may. It’s called Vivid Vision, it was written. So in North America, there’s a company that, yeah. Is from where I’m originally from, Vancouver, BC called 1-800-GOT-JUNK and their COO, Cameron, and I forgotten his last name now. But if you go to Amazon and Google Vivid Vision, maybe they’ve been a monstrously successful organization. I’ve read the book and we actually have a vivid vision posted on our website for our software company because it is, I think what you’re mentioning is a really important issue is that new employees,they need to know where you’re going and what the, what it’s gonna look like in the future. And, and a vision statement, you know, where you have two or three sentences, that’s not, we’re going to cut it at all in any way, shape or form. A Vivid Vision is like one of your guides. It’s a very, very detailed document. Okay. That talks about the product and the customer and the growth and the marketing and the culture and all of these things that people who are looking at joining your team would care about. Hopefully that’ll be a some help.
Vincent: Okay, thanks. I’ll check it out.
Trent: Any other actionable items, tips that you want to give before we close out?
Vincent: Don’t neglect the cultural fits. Maybe a bit of a cliche. We had some people leave within the first two free months because it just didn’t, it’s on a cultural level, especially when we just started out thought, okay, as long as we, as you bring the skills that we need, it will work well. That’s not true. All right. Especially in the startup. I’m under. Pressure is high and you just, that’s very important. Get people who fit, in the culture that you have, whatever that culture is. The other, the last thing I want to share is, what’s very difficult is when you have a group of what I’d like to call A players. employees who really, really are performing at an, at a super high level were extremely skilled, have vision. You can’t add people to it, at least not at the start, who don’t have at the same level of competence or the same drive that will not only will they fail, they’ll actually drag down the rest of the team.
Vincent: That’s some work we’ve had a couple of people come in who, okay, there were there good enough. We can maybe train them or get them to the highest level. It never works. Yeah. And that’s one thing that I’m curious about. Okay. How does your company go from 15 people to 50 to a hundred to 500 people and still maintain a culture? I think, yeah, there’s always going to be some pain here and there. Ah. But If you have a players hire a players because anything else will not work enough to make any startup successful. You need those same A players.
Trent: Yeah. A players don’t want to work with B players.
Vincent: Yes sir. Absolutely.
Trent: All right, Vincent, thank you so much for coming on the show. For anyone who might like to get in touch with you to talk about a business partnership or joint venture of some kind, are you on LinkedIn?
Vincent: Yeah, I am. Read my name.
Trent: It’s, I will include a I’ll include, you’ll get an email after this asking you for, for links to send me that I’m going to include in the show notes. Okay. And your LinkedIn, profile. We’ll do one of those some make sure you send that back over to me.
Vincent: Perfect. Will do.
Questions Asked During the Interview
Part 1: Product overview + stats
[00:50] What does your company do?
[02:18] How did you get started and what made you pick this idea to start a company?
[06:57] Who is your ideal customer?
[08:29] What does the pricing model look like?
[09:28] What is the average customer paying per month?
[09:52] What year did you launch?
[10:16] How many customers do you have? How many paid?
[10:29] What is your MRR range?
[10:52] What is your YOY growth rate?
[11:09] How many employees do you have?
[11:50] How much have you raised?
[12:52] What advice would you give to others that are raising capital?
5 Quick Facts
[13:46] What is your favorite business book?
[13:56] What is your favorite online tool for growing your business?
[14:09] Hours of work per week?
[14:15] Family situation?
[14:25] What do you wish your younger self knew?
Part 2: Growth Strategies
[15:26] Tell me about your customer acquisition systems?
[18:49] What is your best marketing activity?
[23:24] What is your CAC?
[23:36] How many months to get your money back?
[23:45] What is the average LTV?
[25:14] What is your churn per month?
[25:25] What systems are you using for customer success?
[29:33] What systems are you using to reduce churn?
[30:45] What is one actionable item that a listener could put into action tomorrow?
Part 3: Leadership & People
[33:35] How have SOPs played a role in scaling your company?
[35:30] How many employees do you have?
[36:41] How many are in sales & marketing vs engineering?
[37:14] Tell me about the systems you use to attract talent
[38:12] Tell me about the interview process
[40:27] Tell me about the systems you use for employee retention
[40:57] What haven’t I asked you that I should have?
[43:16] What is one actionable item that a listener could put into action tomorrow?
Vincent is an Entrepreneur and Product Designer, who has combined his background in design, business and software development to build products that deliver great experiences.
Vincent is the co-founder and current CEO at ContentKing, a cloud-based SaaS platform providing real-time SEO auditing, monitoring, and content change tracking for businesses all around the globe.