Ashwin Balakrishnan Interview – Writer, Marketer, Strategist

Today, I’m excited to interview Ashwin who is a full life cycle content marketer, currently working as the head of marketing at Optmyzr. We’ll dive into topics like diversification of your content strategy, branded search, how to break into the industry, AI content and it’s future with marketers, and a bonus question that Ashwin has never been asked in an interview before.

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Ashwin Balakrishnan:
Writer, marketer, strategist. Head of marketing @Optmyzr and contributor @sejournal. Proud husband to a breast cancer survivor.

Twitter: @TheCopyTrail –
Optmyzr: PPC Management Software


Phil: 0:00
Today, I’m excited to interview Ashwin who is a full life cycle content marketer, currently working as the head of marketing at Optmyzr. We’ll dive into topics like diversification of your content strategy, branded search, how to break into the industry, AI content and it’s future with marketers, and a bonus question that Ashwin has never been asked in an interview before I always like to start with some random questions. It’s always fun to kind of get to know you, maybe a little less marketing talk, but, um, maybe it does apply.

Ashwin: 0:36
Yeah, let’s go for it.

Phil: 0:37
All right. So this one’s interesting. I just, I pulled like five of them out of this thing. It’s called poddecks and anyone who does a podcast or just if you interview people or talk to people, it’s a fun, just kind of random way of connecting with people. So here’s the first one. What is the most important thing you carry with you? All the time..

Ashwin: 1:01
Dog treats? So I live in India where there are a lot of stray dogs and I’m a huge animal lover. So if you go into my car, you’ll see a pack of dog treats in my trunk. You’ll see another pack on my front door. You’ll see another one in the passenger side door, and one more in the glove box. So I always have dog treats on hand.

Phil: 1:21
And now do you have a dog?

Ashwin: 1:23
I have three

Phil: 1:24
You have three dogs. Okay. What kind of dogs do you have?

Ashwin: 1:27
So they’re all muts they were all adopted. they’re all foster fails, actually. They came home to recover from illness, injury, that kind of thing. And my wife and I just said, yeah, we’re not, we’re not giving them back.

Phil: 1:40
That’s awesome. Yeah, muts are the best dogs.

Ashwin: 1:43
They really are.

Phil: 1:44
All right, next one. What website would you want to be on the front page of?

Ashwin: 1:49
Oh yeah. That’s a good one. I wouldn’t mind being on the front page of HubSpot. Just because I’ve admired their work for so long. If we’re looking outside of marketing, anything to do with technology. So IGN, especially gaming, tech insider, any of those, big name tech publications. I would love to be featured on, on those.

Phil: 2:16
And what would you be featured for? What would be like the ultimate?

Ashwin: 2:19
I would talk about why console gaming is superior to PC gaming, and I would be lambasted around the world for it.

Phil: 2:27
We may need to have a whole another podcast just about that. I was more into the VR gaming and, we had the Nintendo, we have a switch, but, yeah, never really had like the Xbox or PlayStation,

Ashwin: 2:39
My dad is the reason I’m a console gamer. So I was born in India and I moved to the us when I was a little kid, like a year and a half. So before I started school, I needed something to do at home, while my parents worked. So my dad bought me the original NES and that was it. Like I’d be in front of that thing. Three, four hours a day, little, three year old kid playing super Mario brother.

Phil: 3:03
That’s my wife’s story too. When she was growing up, that’s all they had, they had a TV, a VHS player with three tapes and Mario brothers. I’ve watched her play. She could just beat the thing in like a half hour, she knows where every single thing is on every single level.

Ashwin: 3:19
If you played super Mario on the original NES, you know where everything is exactly, like you said, the hidden secrets, the warps, all of it.

Phil: 3:27
That’s awesome. maybe just like one more here. So if you could be a personal assistant to anyone who would it be?

Ashwin: 3:34
football coach, José Mourinho. So he’s, he’s currently the coach of Roma., but I support Chelsea and he’s the first coach that, turned us into a winning club after Roman Abramovich bought us back in 2003. , I have tremendous admiration for everything Mourinho has achieved in his career. I know a lot of people don’t like him because of his controversy. And, and I understand some of that, but I think as a man manager and as, not necessarily a tactician, but somebody who can get the best out of a group of players, I don’t know that there’s been a coach in football in the last 20 years that can rival him.

Phil: 4:15
And what would you ask him? What would be like the first thing when you got like a, just a face to face sitdown.

Ashwin: 4:20
I would honestly wanna ask him what he sees in a player that makes him say I wanna sign that person, , and bring them into my team because I know it’s not just the ability, there’s something about a Mourinho player , that just screams, dedication and drive and energy. And I want to know how he identifies that in a person, somebody who’s willing to run through a brick wall for the team.

Phil: 4:41
Well, I mean, you’ve done some pretty amazing stuff over at Optmyzr. You’ve what tripled traffic, with a lot of the content marketing that you’ve been heading up, do you wanna just let people know some of your accomplishments you’ve done over there so far?

Ashwin: 4:52
Yeah. So I can’t take credit for all of it. , I am the head of marketing for Optmyzr. , it’s a role that I’ve had for the last two years. I actually joined them just before. COVID became a thing. we were at a really strange place as a business. There was no organized marketing, so to speak of. So all the things that we know fall under the remit of a marketing team were being looked after by sales, by customer success, by the founders themselves, it was really haphazard. There was really no strategy to it. So when I came in, the first thing I did was step back, look at things, audit, look at what was working well, what wasn’t working well, what strengths did we have as a business? What could we leverage? And then go back and make recommendations. So over the last two years, we’ve largely been working as an organic marketing team. it’s kind of ironic because we make software for PPC professionals, but most of our marketing is organic and community driven. So in that way, it’s a bit strange, it’s working for us. It’s worked for the last two years and it’s continuing to work. One of the most interesting things that I see because we don’t rely on ads to go out and create demand. When we actually run a paid marketing campaign, the results are pretty good. People already know about us. They’ve been engaging with our content. It’s not like our ads are hitting them for the first time where they’re even hearing about Optmyzr. So we have a pretty clear segmentation between organic efforts for demand generation and paid efforts for demand capture. Which is ideally how everybody would like it to be, but somehow we’ve managed to achieve that. Now we don’t have any funding. We’re fully bootstrapped. We are being pretty reasonable with the pace of our growth. So we don’t have an enormous marketing team. It’s just about the five or six of us, my CEO, who I report to, he writes articles. He gives presentations, he’s actively involved in marketing. He’s a marketer himself. we’re pretty scrappy with what we choose to do pretty judicious with the efforts that we focus on. And that’s, what’s really helped us, , get to this point, organic strategy, largely built on three components. The first is education. So everything about the content that we put out on social, through our blog, the videos that we create, the idea is for it to be free and accessible for it to be helpful. And for it to be relevant. And when we tick these three boxes, we see that the content tends to perform well because it’s something that people actually wanna see or read or watch. And the second part of it is community. Community is very important for us. And we look at community a little differently. It’s not a slack group necessarily, and it’s not, you know, a Facebook group for us community means taking ourselves out of the equation and putting other people up on a pedestal. Right? So we’re not the hero. We’re not the main characters. Sometimes you won’t even see us. You won’t even know that we’re responsible for something, but we like to work behind the scenes. put other people in front and. We’ve seen that. Impact in terms of traffic to the website, in some cases directly attributable to revenue. and then the third component would be the product. We have an excellent product. And as any marketer knows, , your marketing is only as good as your product. So our product team is brilliant. They’re innovative. They stay up to date with everything that Google is doing. So people get tools that are actually relevant. it’s not like some other, capabilities where, the things that the tool enables are things that Google used to do a year ago, but it hasn’t changed. So our product and development team, they work really, really hard keep things relevant. And the biggest thing is the promises that we make in marketing are promises that you’ll continue to see and hear. When you talk to somebody on our sales team, once you start using the product, we have a free trial. and then if you convert to a paying customer, our customer success and onboarding team, , all the things that you’ve been hearing about the product will actually come to life as you use it.

Phil: 8:51
So something you touched on there that was kind of interesting. And you talked about one of the first pillars was educational content. I was actually just talking to someone that has a Facebook group with just shy of 500,000 users. We’re looking some of the analytics, they’ve got 8 million views to their posts every month. And she was saying, you know what, it’s time to monetize. And. She was talking about the fact that the reason why she’s been able to grow it when there’s so many different types of similar groups, is that all of her content is only educational. Anytime someone goes in and they do a sell instead of educational, it gets removed. And so people feel really good about going onto this group, not feeling like they’re getting sold to. And yet she was saying that the people that are doing the educational content are getting a ton of leads from it, but nobody wants to go there to get sold to they wanna learn. So how have you been able to take that same mentality with your content without shoehorning in the sales side? I think people have a really hard time just creating pure educational content because it’s a lot harder to prove ROI on something like that.

Ashwin: 10:00
Yeah, I agree. Completely. The. Biggest asset that I have as the head of marketing to achieve. This is a CEO who understands that you’re not gonna be able to put a fixed ROI to this approach or this type of effort. When I started working for Optmyzr, one of the first things that Fred said to me was your job is not to sell subscriptions. Your job is not to, get more free trials. That’s a byproduct of your task. Your task is to help people, help PPC, marketers, understand what’s happening, make sense of what’s going on and find the solutions that they need. Whether that solution comes from our product, or it occurs without us is irrelevant. If we help enough people, then when a portion of them need something that our tool can help them with, they will think of us. it’s been proven true over the last two and a half years that I’ve been here every single quarter. We see more revenue. We see more people talking about us. There’s a bunch of things that we can’t track, but we know are happening because people talk to our onboarding team and they’re like, oh, so we watched PPC town hall, which is our YouTube webcast. Like we heard about you on PPC town hall. So, and so used to use your, , product at a previous agency. And now they work for us. And the first thing they did was recommend you guys. , that’s a big way that we’ve grown. Now, the, the coming back to what you asked specifically, the way that we approach content is to make sure that the problem or the solution that we’re talking about takes center stage. So in a blog post, if we’re addressing a problem, we’ll talk about that problem. And we’ll talk about potential solution step problem. And if there’s something that Optmyzr can help with, we’ll mention it at the end. So you don’t have to be slapped in the face with a pitch, every two paragraphs, we don’t have CTA banners on our, blog posts for, , subscriptions or starting a free trial. It might be mentioned in a few of them at the end that, Hey, if you want to test this out, it’s available to you, but we do keep the focus largely on what people have come to our site for. , we also do this through our educational event. It’s called unlevel. it’s a virtual event. We did it last year. We’ll be doing it again this year in September. And the idea there is that it’s a completely educational approach. So even with our lead gen, for that, we’re not asking people for anything other than their email IDs. You won’t get any emails from us about buying the software. You’re only gonna get emails related to the event and possibly some content in the future. All we expect from this is. People to engage and we want people to engage because it’s gonna be beneficial to them. We’re not looking to bump up engagement numbers to appease VCs and get more funding. We’re not looking for engagement numbers to sell sponsorships. We’ve actually, a couple of people have reached out to me, this year and asked, is there an opportunity for us to sponsor on level? And I said, there is an opportunity, but we’re not looking to monetize this because the moment I monetize it, I start working for you instead of, for the people who could actually benefit from this.

Phil: 13:03
that makes a lot of sense. Now you said, you’ve got a live virtual event. You’ve got YouTube video, you’ve got blog posts, so lots of different types of content. Do you wanna talk a little bit about the diversification of content, how you guys have done that and maybe just overall, how that’s a strategy for you.

Ashwin: 13:19
So when we think about diversification, when you look at typical advice from, Investment professionals. You hear a lot of diversify diversify , your portfolio. But when, when they say diversify, they’re not saying pay and spray, it’s not like invest in stocks and bonds and real estate and five other channels. You, you want to place calculated bets in concentrated areas. So you might pick one or two areas where you’re gonna invest and your diversification is not in the different channels of investment, but in the number of bets that you make. So if you have, for example, a million dollars to invest, you don’t buy a million dollars of one stock. You’d buy like a hundred thousand in 10 different stocks and you hedge your bets. And that’s the same approach that we take. So the biggest advantage when you do that with content, but you pick one or two channels that you really want to dive deep into and become, an expert in is you learn them inside out. You learn those little tricks that everybody else who’s doing it at a baseline level, they don’t understand, you know, how do I. It might be the wrong word, but how do I manipulate this in my favor? How do I twist the algorithm? Or how do I twist the way that people perceive , this content on this channel in a way that’s more favorable to me. So when you do that, what ends up happening is you start getting critical mass on one particular channel, and then using the traffic on that channel, you can then push people to other places like your blog, your YouTube channel. , if you have a private community, whatever the case might be, and what ends up happening is you get more traffic across all your channels that way then you would, if you were to put, say like 50% into five different approaches,

Phil: 14:56
I think one of the things that people often forget is from a content side, it’s not just the written word and scripts. Even your social media post, , the content that’s in the graphic, the text that’s behind it. , that same group , that I was talking with yesterday, we were looking at some of their most popular posts and a lot of them were two sentences. And a really engaging graphic that had information in it. And they were shared and posted. Some of them had over a million views. They had tens of thousands of shares and it was straight to the point. And I think a really great copywriter can take what would normally take on maybe a paragraph and put it in a sentence or two and it makes it much more powerful.

Ashwin: 15:44
I agree, 100%. One of the things that we do with our blog especially is we don’t have word counts. So somebody’s writing an article, for Optmyzr, we don’t say, alright it has to be 2000 words. You have to have 10 images in there. You have to use the key word 50 times. We don’t have any of that. There’s a question. Do you answer the question? If you can answer that question in 500 words and one graphic, that’s all you need. You don’t need to add more just to increase time on page. We love time on page as marketers, but I don’t necessarily see somebody spending 12 minutes on my website or on a particular page. , as more beneficial than if they spent a minute and a half, the idea is that they get the answer that they came, to that page for. If you answer the question and you answer it better than everybody else, your job is done. That’s how we approach it with the blog. And then I love what you said. Like it, it is much more than the written word content is. I mean, it’s your, your employees, Social media accounts talking about what it’s like to work for the company it’s video it’s events, it’s conferences, it’s presentations, it’s education. Like anything that you put your company’s name to in some way, or your product is associated with is content notifications in your product, content, , emails to your customers, content, , the emails that you send to somebody, if you have a free trial, we think of that as content, the emails that we send somebody, when they start a free trial of Optmyzr, the emails that we send to somebody, when we think that they might be at risk of canceling their subscription, anything where we communicate with the outside world is content. And I think one of the things that people really don’t get right, is they try to go into the channels that everybody’s on. So Brendan Hufford at SEO for the rest of us, he always says that. When he works with a client, he will sometimes tell them that SEO is not, the best channel for you. So before he actually, starts working with them, if he feels it’s not the right channel for them, he’ll tell them that. And he, he advocates that for everybody else. And I agree with him 100%, sometimes your segment, your category is so saturated on search that you’re not gonna break through. So what I like to do, when I try to determine if a channel is gonna be beneficial, is I like to draw a Venn diagram on one side is where my customers are. And on the other side is where my competitors are not. And everything that overlaps is an opportunity.

Phil: 18:17
Yeah. I used to say let’s, let’s look at where your marketing now, and let’s look at where your opportunity is to market. Just because you have this segment that you say, that’s our client, That doesn’t mean that the other segment shouldn’t be, and it’s just your marketing just doesn’t speak to them. And a lot of times there’s this divide with what’s been done and what could be done. And I think that’s a great thing. Look at what your competitors, why is your competitor hitting the older demographic when you’re only hitting the younger demographic, there’s a huge opportunity. And I think there’s always this mindset of, well, this is who our audience is, and there’s always room to move into a different area.

Ashwin: 18:58
I agree a hundred percent. And I think one other thing that this ties back to is a lot of times marketing metrics and KPIs and targets. Aren’t exactly rigged to be beneficial to the marketing team, or sometimes they’re set up. So that they make the marketing team look good, but they’re not actually creating value for the business. And I’ve been told it’s an old school opinion. I don’t think that there’s really any difference between marketing goals and sales goals and customer success goals and product goals. Ultimately, all we’re trying to do is make more money for the company and, create more value for our customers. That’s basically it. So if there’s something the sales is doing really well, I wanna build on that. I wanna see how I can take that messaging and apply it to marketing, or, if they’re trying new stuff in a channel that’s working, I want to get into that channel. And I wanna do marketing work in that channel. It’s paying off for them. It should pay off for us too.

Phil: 19:49
Sales is always the biggest untapped resource, I think in any marketer’s arsenal. And so many people are afraid to talk to sales, but , they’re talking to the customers every single day. They know every single objection and their sales manager is putting things together to help them that frankly, the marketing team could probably jump in and help a lot with, or to create content for them. They’ve got battle cards saying, why are we better than this competitor? If that’s not somewhere out there, then , you’re making them have to bring that up. It’s one less objection you could remove.

Ashwin: 20:24
Exactly. , one of the cool things that I like to share about Optmyzr is we don’t really have a sales team until about a year ago. So when I started working at Optmyzr, we had one sales. and he does not have a background in sales. He used to be a PPC account manager. , I think that’s probably like the best sales rep you could get is somebody who used to use the product. He used to be an Optmyzr customer. , and then he came over and he started helping people who started free trials, get the most out of the product. And that was our approach to sales is creating value for the person using the product. And that was really great for our conversion rate, but it wasn’t, wasn’t bringing us to where we exactly wanted to be. It’s about a year ago, maybe more, maybe less. I don’t remember the exact timeline. We actually brought in a couple of people with the sales background, just to create, , structure and process to the whole approach. What we also did, , around the same time was change to a proper CRM in HubSpot. And what ended up happening is we didn’t have somebody who could leverage the sales part of that. So once we created the structure and the process. It was very easy for marketing and sales to work together. But one thing that happens even today is we’re largely led by the customer success team. Customer success comes to the rest of the company and says, this is what customers love. This is what customers don’t love. This is what they’re asking for. This is what they don’t use. And that’s what informs our product roadmap. That’s what informs our marketing messaging. And therefore it’s what inspires, , sales talking points on discovery calls and demos. Everything comes from our customers. And one of the things I love about Optmyzr is, we have dozens if not hundreds of customers, who’ve been with us for more than a year, two years, we have some of our customers who have been with us for about seven years since the company almost began. And I absolutely love that we have customers like that. And I love that we use them as a resource to inform good content, great engaging sales conversations. And it’s just one beautiful experience from start to finish.

Phil: 22:34
Now, if you were in a marketing company that didn’t have that integration, like you’ve got a CEO that’s willing to be on camera and, and is knowledgeable, marketing teams and customer success , all of that. That’s able to work with you. What would be your advice for someone who doesn’t have that integration? How do you get that started?

Ashwin: 22:54
It’s really tough. I’ve been in that position before. I haven’t been the department lead, but I have been a team lead. So I used to work for a company that made HR tech software for interview scheduling and candidate experience. And it was really difficult because sales was siloed. Marketing was siloed. customer success barely existed, and everybody was running their own messaging. Everybody had different talking points. What really worked for us to start unifying things was we had a, a VP of marketing came in, who is still one of my mentors to this day. And he, he said, we just have to accept that this is a sales led organization. We can’t say that marketing dictates the positioning. We can’t say marketing runs things. I honestly think the biggest obstacle to integration between these three teams in many companies is pride and ego. Sometimes you just have to step back and say, this is not a marketing led organization. And if that’s not for you, then you should find a marketing led organization. But if you’re gonna make it work over there, you have to step back and say, all right. So if sales is the leader in this, in this organization, then we need to take. Pages out of their book, what’s working for them. What’s going really well. And then sales is gonna come to you and say, these are the priorities. And then you’re gonna use that to build your marketing strategy. If it’s customer success, you’re gonna do the same thing. If you actually have an opportunity to integrate where everybody really wants it to work, the easiest thing, start out with breakout sessions. Get people from all three teams in the same room. Talk, just, just put it all on the table. What are you seeing and hearing from people as individual teams and then what ends up happening is those differences and discrepancies start to show themselves. So I might think based on marketing responses, based on, , campaign performance, I might think this is actually the case, but sales might be talking to customers. CS might be talking to customers who are telling them something completely different. You won’t know what it is until you actually talk. And I think communication and a lack of pride can solve a lot of things.

Phil: 25:05
I’ve been in my fair share of, uh, sales led organizations. And it’s tough because it’s so easy to measure that and when you have a selling CEO, that’s what I like to call them. When the CEO likes to be part of the selling process, or they were sales at a previous company and they came in, , that sales team always gets the priority. And that’s okay. As long as, like you said, , you know that and you capitalize on it and you make sure that what they need gets taken care of. Every company’s different, not every company’s marketing plan will work for a different one. And, and like you said, with Brendan, , going and saying, SEO’s not gonna work for you. And I’ve seen that plenty of times, need ads, you need this, you need video. You need to go after in social. That’s where everyone is, whatever your strategy is to start with at least. It’s gonna be different for everyone , and looking at the company structure and understanding where the buy-ins are gonna be. I think removes so many headaches of what you’re gonna try to create and just get shut down.

Ashwin: 26:07
I agree.

Phil: 26:08
I know you had mentioned talking about lifting traffic and revenue with branded search terms. Is that something you might be able to expand a little bit more on, what kind of strategies you’ve done?

Ashwin: 26:19
I know a lot of marketers don’t really put a lot of store into branded search traffic, , or even bid on branded terms when it comes to PPC. I actually think if you use it the right way, it could be really beneficial and I’ve, I’ve been able to get some mileage out of that. the first thing that worked for us is, I mean, if you just want people to Google your company name, you’re probably not gonna get a lot of progress out of just that what you actually want them to do is Google your company name and then something else associated with that. Some of the search terms that we see in search console that are really popular for us is Optmyzr blog, Optmyzr town hall, , which ends up taking them to our YouTube channel Optmyzr pricing, which shows really good search intent that they’re interested in the product. we also see, search terms like Optmyzr employees or optimyzer careers, which shows us that there are people who are interested in not just buying from us, but helping us build the company into something even better. So what ends up happening is if you look at revenue, you can consider it two ways. There’s indirect revenue, and then there’s direct revenue. When it comes to direct revenue. One piece of advice I have is invest in activities that are gonna get your company name in front of new audiences. A lot of times you end up running campaigns to the same group of people, or , you have a community of, a few hundred, a few thousand and you market to them, but they already know you. And many of them are probably customers of yours. They already pay you money. And that’s great. I, I love revenue retention, but I also love revenue acquisition. So if I can get Optmyzr name in front of a bunch of people, who’ve never heard of us before. I love that because what I’ve done is I’ve started a relationship where I can continue to get them, back to my website, back to the blog. Eventually they’ll end up giving me their email. I start sending them emails about content that we produce our newsletter. I might mention, Hey, if you’re interested, we’ve released this new feature that a lot of our customers really love. You might want to try it too. , if you want to, give it a shot, here’s the link, otherwise, all good. We typically invest in sponsorships and what we’ll do is we’ll sponsor, not just the drink section at an award ceremony or something like that, we’ll even sponsor a couple of things that are actually in the works where we’re looking to take a page out of podium’s book and do a PPC fellowship where we’re actually gonna pay for somebody who’s just getting started in, in paid search or paid media to do courses with some of the big guns who’ve been doing this for like 10 or 15 years. So what we want to do is kind of like bridge that gap between branding and sponsorships and community, right? So if we build marketers to the point where they’re smarter, more intelligent, more creative, they’re eventually gonna need us at some point, some of them, at least, right? So that’s, that’s creating revenue for the future. another thing we like to do is be present at conferences, , our CEO, Fred, he gives incredible talks and presentations. that’s another way for people who’ve never heard of us, to know that there’s a solution like Optmyzr. And again, the key approach is you’re not selling the product, you’re selling the solution, , an answer to a problem. And then that’s the approach that we take. So all of this branding effort, , creates indirect revenue. And then with direct revenue, what we do is we bid on branded terms. And when you bid on branded terms, a lot of PPC, marketers say, it’s, it’s not the best investment, but number one is cheap. Number two, you get to claim space that your competitors now can’t when somebody searches for your company. And the third thing it does is based on that, that little phrase that appears after your company name, you can even tailor the offer accordingly. So if somebody’s looking for Optmyzr pricing, maybe you have a special discount, or an incentive, you can actually advertise that if somebody’s looking for the blog, maybe you have a really high value piece that you wanna drive traffic to that landing page. You could do that. There’s opportunities with almost every search term that includes your company. , if somebody’s looking for careers, it can advertise jobs. Like there’s so many things that you can do and, and who knows you end up hiring the next super genius and they end up developing something that, makes you another couple million dollars the next year. That’s another form of indirect revenue. I don’t think we should close ourselves off to any potential, you know, hiring somebody good is, is great for the company. And it’s also great for the, financial prospects of the company.

Phil: 30:56
I think the branded gets such a bad rap and it’s unfortunate because when you really look at things and someone’s searching your brand, it’s just, I use the restaurant example all the time. A friend can recommend a restaurant to me, and what’s the first thing I’m gonna do. I’m gonna Google the name of the restaurant. If a competitor is bidding against that term, I may not know. Is there a similar one? , there’s always a reason to be able to say, Hey, I know they know my name, but if they’re just searching my name, I don’t know their intent yet. I’d rather be in front of them than let it just be open and not only that, but if they’re on mobile, I’ve now taken up the entire real estate with my ad because I’m number one, I’m branded. It’s probably too expensive for someone else to bid against my name. If I’m bidding and it’s relatively cheap,

Ashwin: 31:42
I love what you said about a competitor potentially taking that attention away from you. If they have a name that’s similar to yours, that’s an even bigger risk. One thing that we see is, the number of people who misspell Optmyzr and I totally get it. but the number of people who misspelled the company’s name it’s it’s staggering. And if we had a competitor in the same space with a very similar name, it would be lost opportunity.

Phil: 32:08
especially if it’s word of mouth and what are you gonna type in? You don’t maybe know the spelling of it. And so it’s not necessarily an intentional thing. It’s just, they don’t know if there’s a Y and a Z. Is it an S is it called Google Optmyzr? Was it a Google tool? I think there’s a lot of, open area there why not capture it.

Ashwin: 32:28
exactly. Um, I’m a hog for traffic.

Phil: 32:32
What’s great, because it’s so easy to track, you can really start segmenting it and saying, okay, well, a third of the people who are typing in our name and searching are just logging in. Maybe what we can do is segment those people because we have them listed out or there’s, there’s a way to ensure that it’s easier for them to log in and not click our ad. But then if we’ve got two thirds of people that are actually actively engaging with our content, it’s definitely worth it.

Ashwin: 32:58
Yeah, a hundred percent. Oh, and, and while we’re on the topic of engaging with content, another great way to bump up branded search is to get the people who work for you to talk about your product and your company and all the stuff that you’re doing, the educational piece of it. You get that personal branding integrated into the, the company branding and you’ll grow faster than, than most people who are just using the same channels over and over.

Phil: 33:28
Yeah. I’ve seen examples of that, especially in social media where a blog post or an article has been created and someone maybe was working on that team and they share it and it gets just a ton of traffic. It gets a ton of engagement because it’s with the right people, it’s with the right group. And it’s maybe an area that the marketing team had never really pushed that content to before. But an employee happened to beyond that network and those kinds of areas are great, leverage the, the employees in your company to see where things work.

Ashwin: 33:59
we’ve actually had multiple customers, convert from a free trial to paid subscription because I happened to find them through a conversation on LinkedIn. And I said. Oh, Hey, so you’re having this problem. This is how you fix it. And if you want to do it even faster, you could actually go sign up for an Optmyzr free trial. And they’re like, well, we already did. I didn’t know that you had this capability in there. I’m gonna go check it out. And I get a message a week later. Hey, I tried that thing you said, and it worked exactly the same way you said it would. So you know, who do I talk to about signing a check?

Phil: 34:30
that’s great. And, and those are those natural conversations and that makes all the difference that’s as marketers. Our goal is to be able to have that and then be able to show that this works just telling people about the product and showing them how it’ll save them time or money. I mean, that’s the key.

Ashwin: 34:47
Yep. And caveat to anybody listening. If you do wanna try this, make sure you let your CEO or whoever , is not clued in to how this stuff works. Let them know that this is not scalable. you’re not gonna be able to easily track this in the dashboard. You’re not gonna be able to replicate this a thousand times over, but it is the kind of stuff where you put in the effort it will pay off at some point.

Phil: 35:10
I always think this is that like N of one where you go, this content worked because I shared it with someone in a conversation. They gave me feedback on it. They signed up. That means that this content works. I’m not just looking at, oh, we sent 10,000 people there. We don’t know what keywords they came in from. They may have been current customers. What this is , I can say this worked. And if this worked with that person in this kind of role, then I want to continue doing this.

Ashwin: 35:39

Phil: 35:40
I have a Podcast episode from about four or five months ago. it’s actually one of my most popular ones and it was talking about AI content. I would love to get some of your thoughts on some of these new AI content generators in the industry and how that’s affecting some of the content that marketers are creating now.

Ashwin: 36:01
So I love that you brought this up. one of the things that we’re dealing with as a company right now is Google’s automating so much of their platform and PPC marketers are really frustrated with that, but our position on it is number one, you can’t stop it from happening. And number two, a lot of the stuff that they’re doing while the way that they’re doing it is less than optimal. It’s ultimately beneficial. And a lot of the things are better. Then the old way of running ads. it’s really cool to see that happening in a lot of different domains where AI and automation are starting to become part of everyday conversation. I think when it comes to AI and content, there’s absolutely value in it. Like no question about it. And anyone who says otherwise is either scared for their job or in denial. there’s no way around it. AI is gonna be writing content way faster than any person could with fewer errors with, little downtime between projects and if what you need is consistency and you have a lot of thinkers on your team, but not enough doers. AI is a, is a blessing. It really is. But , what it’s not gonna do is it’s not gonna fix everything on its own. So one thing that we. Advocate. When we talk to PPC marketers about PPC automation is the philosophy of garbage and garbage out. If you feed bad inputs to the system, to the AI, you’re gonna get bad outputs. You’re not gonna get progress if you don’t have the right starting point. So a couple of things to keep in mind with AI and content while it’s definitely gonna become a more mainstream part of marketing teams is. It’s gonna make it even tougher for teams to rank for high volume search terms or popular content, because everyone’s gonna have an AI writer publishing, two or three pieces a week on the subject. It’s it’s gonna become even more competitive and saturated. So that’s the knock on effect of that is maybe a few more niches or a few more categories are not gonna find themselves benefiting from organic search unless they have a legacy site or unless they have something that that’s gonna make it easy for them to win lanes and traffic and, and rank high for content. The second thing is, and I think this is probably the biggest change that it’s gonna impact is the job of the content marketer today in many, , B2B SaaS companies at least is largely strategic, right? So you’re, you’re coming up with content calendars. You’re talking to customers, you’re planning ideas and videos and all of this other stuff, but there’s a skill that, AI content writing is gonna force you to adopt and that’s editing. If you’re not a good editor today, you’re gonna have to become a good editor. And if you’re a good editor today, you’re gonna have to become even better at it in the future. Cause one thing that an AI content writer is not gonna be able to do is add all those little things that make an article or a video script, uniquely yours, those little, quirks and characteristics, the, speaking your customer’s language, contextualizing things, adopting, colloquialisms for your local market. If that’s the case, all of those things are something that only a human can do. And you have to decide is the output from the AI good as it is, or do I need to change something? The third thing that is gonna happen, and this is at a much higher marketing level and almost at a business level is gonna really highlight companies that have really weak positioning that have really bad customer research that have a poor understanding of what their customers need or what their industry needs, or who don’t have product market fit.

Phil: 39:46
Yeah. One of the things that I found when I was doing a lot of content is we were most successful when we used our own stats, our own data that nobody else had access to. And you can feed that into an AI and have it generate content but it still doesn’t add that extra level. What does that actually mean? I found that AI does a great job of taking data, translating it into human terms and maybe taking a table of data and breaking it down into something that’s readable. But then there’s this added little level that an editor’s gonna go in and add a few sentences, change, a few words, shorten things, lengthen things, dive a little bit deeper into certain areas. And I think that’s one thing I like about AI is I can have it generate something from a set of data. And then I can go in and ask it elaborate on this, or talk more about this specific area. And in a sense, it’s almost like I’m talking to another copywriter, but I’m sort of editing it and asking it to generate a lot of the content and then making some tweaks to it.

Ashwin: 40:55
Yeah. Yeah. It’s gonna give you, I mean, as long as your input is good, it’s gonna give you the who, what, when, where, why, but like you said, it’s the, so what, that only a human editor is gonna be able to impart.

Phil: 41:08
Yeah, it’s gonna be a long time until you can just say here’s the title of the article and make something that is truly unique and interesting because in the end, if it’s just one of the general, , based off GPT3 or something like that, these AI, they’re all using the same data set. They’ve all scoured the same internet sites, unless you’re feeding it something unique or giving it something unique, which is like what a copywriter would do and do their own original research. They’re not interviewing a subject matter expert on this. And so you can’t get that in depth detailed information that only comes from that person. Who’s never been asked that question before.

Ashwin: 41:48
Yeah. And what it is actually gonna do is, is essentially it’s gonna shorten the window that a human copywriter or a content marketer needs to turn something around. So you’re gonna be able to start from a much higher position instead of looking at a blank, Google. You’ll be able to start with the thing completely full and what’s gonna end up happening is if you’re good at editing, instead of taking a week and a half to scrub the internet and go through pages and pages of SERPS and find that one link, that’s actually gonna add value, all of that’s gonna be done for you. And what you can then do is go in and add, like you said, the contextualization, the unique data that only your product has, all of those little things. And instead of taking a week or more, you’ll be able to do it in a day or two.

Phil: 42:38
Okay, we’re gonna try a quick experiment here. I just asked an AI tool, and this was Jasper, which is formerly Jarvis, which is formerly It’s based on GPT3. So I asked it what interview questions should I ask Ashwin a content marketer and here’s the five that it came up with. The first one is what do you, think’s the most important aspect of content marketing? The second? What do you think are the best ways to create and promote content? Third? What do you think makes a successful content marketing campaign? Four? What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when planning a content marketing strategy? Fifth here. What do you think are the best ways to measure the success of a content marketing campaign? Pretty good questions. They’re not personal. , but if I were interviewing you for a job, those might be some good questions to start us off.

Ashwin: 43:27
Yeah, exactly. So now you have that jumping off point

Phil: 43:30
I could even say, give me five examples of, content marketing campaigns, and it’s gonna spit out five examples. And from there I could say elaborate on them. , and now all of a sudden I went from a single question that I was trying to answer in my content. Now I’ve got five starting points. I can elaborate further. It’s gonna lead me down a path. It’s almost like I’m researching with an AI. And it’s just giving me instant answers. Instead of me having to search it really removes Google from the equation, which I found is very interesting.

Ashwin: 44:03
Exactly. You don’t have to go scour the internet for the stuff I’ve written before. , try to get an idea of like allright, what are the industries that he’s worked in? You have this list of questions, you jump over to my LinkedIn and you’re like, all right, let me look at what he’s actually done in his career. And how can I take this question and level it up based on something he’s done or, you know, is currently doing,

Phil: 44:24
I used this AI a couple weeks ago and I was like, well, let’s see what happens. I, I wanted to see how personal it could get how from a personal recommendation standpoint. So I told, Hey, here are three or four books that I’ve read recently. Recommend me another one. And it gave me a name and I’d never heard of it before. And I said, okay, what’s the plot? And it gave me the plot for it. I said, okay, gave it a shot. And it’s actually, it was a great book. It’s really weird because how else would I have found that if not for talking to someone in maybe a, I don’t know, a, a Facebook group or a, a Reddit subreddit, like, Hey guys, I’ve read these books. What do you recommend? Literally , it did cross referencing found other ones. What’s a popular one. I mean, it was amazing that it was able to pull that and it was a, a two minutes it took.

Ashwin: 45:12
Yeah, exactly. I mean, when it comes to using AI for, for blogs, particularly, which is one place I’m seeing it applied a lot that and landing pages, , most people aren’t gonna read , your blog start to finish. Doesn’t matter if it’s 500 words or 5,000 words, very few people are gonna read the whole thing there gonna skim. And when they see something interesting, they’ll read a few sentences or if you have it formatted well in bullets, they’ll go through that. So what I see. AI really helping out with is if you have a couple of codes with subject matter experts, you can highlight those and you can use AI to kind of build the rest of the article

Phil: 45:49
I think from a time saving standpoint, you cut down, one to two week down to two or three days That’s all we want. We want time back. Right. So that we could do things that are more effective.

Ashwin: 46:01
That’s pretty much all it boils down to every piece of software out there, whether it’s enterprise or, B2C, it doesn’t make a difference. All the benefits, all the value propositions come down to, are you gonna be able to spend less time doing this right? And every single pain point, hassle confusion, , too many databases, it all comes down to needing more time to get, things done.

Phil: 46:25
Exactly. Exactly. I had a couple other questions, I was kind of curious what is actually your favorite type of content to work on?

Ashwin: 46:33
That’s a really good question. I got my start, not as a content marketer, but as a copywriter in an ad agency, an integrated agency ad agency specifically. So a lot of the stuff I worked on early in my career were things like TVCs, digital spots, that kind of thing. So I’ve really gravitate towards video and I love narrative story driven video, but I think. I’ve at this point, I’ve niche down that B2B SaaS is, where I contribute the most. And I have the most experience in B2B SaaS there there’s a time and a place for it. But what really works are those interviews with subject matter experts where you talk about the human side. I don’t like videos where if I’m, if I’m interviewing you right, for my YouTube channel, I don’t want to talk to Philip about, you know, what are the ins and outs of SEO that everybody else has explained. What I wanna do is I want to learn about you, the person, what has SEO been for you in your career? What are the things that you’ve achieved? What are your stories? And that’s what people gravitate to. I really love human interest marketing, in video format, that’s one and landing pages are my other, Favorite type of content to write because it’s good old fashioned old school copywriting. Good headline. Good. promise. Good offer. Strong CTA. And I think, I think the landing page is arguably more important than the, the ad itself. Cuz you get the click on the ad and the click is nice, but the landing page is where you make the money.

Phil: 48:16
And the landing page is more fun to experiment with. You can experiment with everything, colors, photos, types of photos, layout, headings. You name it and then you can track so much more. I love watching heat maps on landing pages and just seeing, wow. we did not anticipate that and making changes to it and seeing improvements.

Ashwin: 48:39
yep. We actually ran an AB test a while back where my CEO and I wrote two versions of the same landing page. And he went in a very technical direction and mine was built solely on the premise of, what would you do with all the time you’d save, if you weren’t doing A B, C and D. And his was like this beautiful in depth piece of pros that would’ve taken me weeks of research to come up with. And mine was just really simple and straightforward, but my landing page outperformed his by almost 25 to one. And it’s just because people didn’t have the time. , I’m sure , they would’ve found value in what he was reading, but they just didn’t have the time, , to sit and digest it. So it’s like you present things super directly and people gravitate towards that. I think a lot of times copywriters and marketers. we forget that we’re writing for somebody who’s looking at an ad or a landing page in between meetings or, while working on 10 different things, your one tab of many, right? It’s not like you have their undivided attention, you gotta be quick with it. I think I’ve been guilty of this in the past is sometimes as writers, we end up writing for ourselves or , our peers on our teams instead of the customer. So with a landing page, I really love that I can go back when I’m editing my work, I can go back and look at it from the lens of somebody who might be clicking on the ad. Am I fulfilling the promise that I made in the ad? Number one, am I being as direct and as straightforward as I can be, and is this something that anybody could understand. Right? The fact of the matter is that there are people who are gonna click on your ad, who haven’t been to college, who might not have an advanced reading level, but they still have a problem that several other people have. You can’t assume that everybody has, half a dozen doctorates and, can understand these complicated words you put together. So as simple as you can make it as direct as you can make it, , it’s gotta be universally accessible.

Phil: 50:36
I like to, whenever I have the opportunity to say here, hand it over to my wife and say, what does this mean to you? Like what feeling does it evoke to you? And a lot of times she’ll be like, I don’t get what you’re saying here. I skipped over that and I’m like, you’re supposed to read that first. She’s like, well I didn’t okay. Let me, put myself into someone else’s shoes And especially someone who’s not a marketer, someone who’s maybe more into the sales side or someone who’s maybe more like you said, technical maybe, but they’re not necessarily looking for the technical answers. They’re looking for a solution to their problem.

Ashwin: 51:12
exactly. I do the same thing with my mom and dad.

Phil: 51:15

Ashwin: 51:16
And sometimes you just hear feedback that , it wouldn’t have occurred to you in a thousand years. And , we take for granted that everybody who clicks on the ad is technically savvy and knows what we’re talking about. Sometimes you just gotta get out of your own head. I consider it a blessing to be in a job where I have market to marketers, because I know that there’s a certain threshold that I can get away with. and when I do work with my freelance clients who aren’t always, in the same space, I have to force myself to remember. you’re not talking to other people who, speak your language, it’s time for you to learn their language.

Phil: 51:54
The audience here I think is a pretty big mix between people who are just getting started, , just starting in their first marketing job, maybe even interning, maybe still in college. And then we’ve got people that, you know, 10, 20 years in the business, but I always like anytime I have someone on to talk about what do you, think’s the best way to break into the industry? How can you get started in marketing?

Ashwin: 52:14
Yeah, it’s really different these days when I started working in, 2010? the way that I cracked in was I actually didn’t start in marketing. I started in publishing. , I used to work for a magazine, a lifestyle magazine, and I would interview, athletes. I would interview, captains of industry diplomats, politicians. I’d write features about interiors or, human interest stories. what that gave me was this really good ability to number one extract information from people. As an interviewer, you kind of pick up that skill and then spin that into a story that readers will actually wanna sit down with. When I wanted to make the jump into advertising at the time specifically, I found it really difficult because I didn’t have a body of work that people could judge me on. So I actually built out a spec portfolio for myself, and it was a very strong time and financial investment because I wanted it to be high quality. So I was paying a designer out of pocket. I was working on, briefs that I found online, trying to work with those. So there was a lot of hours spent searching for stuff, compiling things together, finding people that could work with me. It took me, I think about seven, eight weeks just to get everything in place and then another month and a half to build the portfolio out, including design, , but it was totally worth it. So those two and a half, three months that I spent putting this together, before that I had about seven interviews and I never got a, a second call back. After I built out the spec portfolio, I applied to one job, two interviews, and I had an offer. so I think if you want to break into marketing, if there’s something that you can create to show that you’re starting to understand the way the, the business works, the way, , that particular domain of marketing works, that’s the best thing you can do, right? Make something that proves that you’re capable of at least getting there. When I look to hire somebody who has no experience in marketing whatsoever, I don’t look for. Marketing knowledge. I don’t look for terminology. I look for, are you willing to step up and learn? Are you willing to adapt? Are you, going to come to me and say, I don’t wanna do this. I don’t wanna do that. Are you gonna try as many things as possible? Are you gonna be willing to, , I don’t wanna say jump through hoops, but are you willing to take on challenges that, , other people might flinch at or, or shy away from? And so that courage, that willingness to take on new stuff. If you take the time to build out a spec portfolio, the first thing that says to me is you’re not afraid to break out of your comfort zone and you’re not afraid to put yourself out there. And that’s enough to get you an interview. I promise you build yourself a spec portfolio, you’ll get interviews for sure. And once you have those interviews, what you do with it is up to you.

Phil: 55:12
I’ve always said attitude and aptitude. Those are the most important things for any new hire. And if you’ve got those, you’re gonna do well and you just have to learn the ropes. That’s really what it comes down to because I think anyone can learn almost any job. You don’t need a four year degree. They don’t make four year degrees in SEO. I feel like you’ve gotta jump in there and either have tried something, whether you succeeded or failed or been working with a group that is doing something, so you have that experience.

Ashwin: 55:43
yeah. And the other piece of advice I would have is because marketing is in the state of flux all the time. The stuff that you learn as part of a four year degree on marketing will be irrelevant by the time you actually graduate and try to enter the workforce. I would say brush up on the skills that are universal and perpetual. So psychology, I think marketing at its core is basically behavioral, psychology and biases. So if you can learn that, you’ll be able to apply that whether you work in partnerships or content or product marketing or SEO, wherever you are. Pick up psychology. And the other thing I would pick up is, is business acumen, right? Understand how businesses work top line bottom line EBIDTA if you, if you learn all of these, business terms, you’ll get an idea of how marketing fits into the bigger picture, what the priorities for a VP of marketing would be. And you have that context and understanding it’s very easy at any level to, to fit in and do your role to further the, the ultimate goal of making more money for a business.

Phil: 56:44
When doing my bachelors, I think the most influential classes I ever took on my entire career were a business management, a business communication, and a critical thinking and a public speaking class. I think those for, , being able to articulate what I wanted to say was huge. Being able to be comfortable in front of a board of directors. Was something that helped me in my career a lot, because I was given accounts where I had very high level, points of contact where some other account executives or other marketers, were not prepared for. And they weren’t able to get up there and be confident in their presentation.

Ashwin: 57:30
Yeah. Now that is beautiful advice. And to add on to that, I would say, be ready to fail. It’s gonna happen, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the sooner you can learn from it. I had a really tough challenge early in my advertising career. It was my first opportunity to work on a pitch and I bombed it completely. I had a great brief, I had a great design partner and I just screwed it up from a copy perspective. And my creative director pulled me into a room and she’s like, I’m not gonna, you know, sit here and paint a nice picture. You completely messed this up. And you cost this company a lot of money. , we had that in the box. All we had to do was go in and present something, not groundbreaking, , but creative. And you just let down your entire team. And I think for a day I let myself wallow, but then I look back at it. I’m like she’s 100%, right. I didn’t put in the effort. I got distracted by too many things. I went out partying and I just didn’t put in the time and effort that it required. Next pitch. I got, I remembered the pain of that conversation and I put everything I had into that pitch. We won it and it was just water under the bridge. Nobody even talked about it after that.

Phil: 58:40
You prove yourself and that’s, that’s the key and you learn from your failures and you learn from other people’s failures on your team. You ask them what was the feedback? What could we have done differently and go from there.

Ashwin: 58:53

Phil: 58:53
All So last question I’ve got for you. I’ve watched a few interviews you’ve been in, . what’s one question that you haven’t been asked that you would love to answer.

Ashwin: 59:05
nobody’s really asked me what I think the ultimate goal of marketing really is. It’s, I know a lot of people are gonna gravitate right towards revenue. That’s the easy answer, but the truth is the goal of marketing is to sell. That’s it you’re sales at the end of the day. The only difference between a sales team and a marketing team is how many people they’re speaking to at a given time. Sales is a one-on-one conversation. Marketing is one to many, but when you do have that one to many conversation, good marketing is making that one to many, feel like one-to-one for every single person who’s reading or watching. If you can make somebody feel like they see themselves in your message in your landing page, in your video, whatever it is they’re consuming at that point, you create affinity. And when you create that affinity, it’s much stronger than any value proposition that you could put on paper. If you make your prospects, your potential customers feel understood. If you make them feel like you have their back, if you feel, make them feel like they can count on you, you don’t have to put in as much work with your other efforts. In revenue generation. A lot of that, that hard work gets done when you build that affinity. So I think ultimately the goal of marketing is to create that affinity it’s to sell. but the trick in marketing is to be able to sell the one to many and make it feel like one to one.

Phil: 1:00:32
That’s great. and I think for anyone listening, this entire conversation, I think the big takeaways , there’s more to it than meets the eye, rely on the people around you. Talk to them, get feedback from them, learn from your mistakes. And in the end you gotta just go for it.

Ashwin: 1:00:51
The only way you learn is by doing in marketing and sales and anything else in life in general, theory will only get you so far.

Phil: 1:00:59
Exactly. Well, Ashwin I really appreciate you coming on the podcast and I look forward to talking to you again at some time in the future.

Ashwin: 1:01:06
I would love that. Thank you so much for having me.