Episode 155 – How a Consulting Firm Got to $5 Million in 6 Years Without Making a Single Sales Call Using Content Marketing – Member Case by Andrea Fryrear

Attend this session to learn how to make growing revenues easier by implementing content-driven inbound marketing. In this session you will learn what real content marketing is- why it works, how it is different than fake content marketing, how to engage an audience, create compelling content, use tech to scale, how content marketing scales a founder’s impact exponentially, ways to convert time wasted creating thought leadership into time well spent generating revenue, and ways to get started.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Hey, everybody, this is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first mastermind community dedicated exclusively to the needs of the boutique professional services space. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about content-driven inbound marketing. Now, why are we going to do this? Well, many of our boutique pro serv firms are trying to increase their business development efforts. I should say increase the efficiency of those. And when you’re an expert, content marketing is an effective strategy because it allows you to demonstrate your expertise. So with us today we have a fantastic Collective 54 member. Her name is Andrea Fryrear. And, I’ve had a chance to consume some of her content. And in my humble opinion, she does this better than most. So she was kind enough to join us today and share her wisdom. So, Andrea, would you please introduce yourself and your friend to the audience?

Andra Fryrear [00:01:15] Yeah, absolutely. Hi, everyone. My name is Andrea Fryrear. I’m CEO and co-founder of Agile Sherpas. We teach enterprise marketing teams how to apply agile principles and practices so that they can become more effective and efficient and ultimately, the strategic partners that marketing should be, and not just a bunch of burned out order takers.

Greg Alexander [00:01:36] Okay. Fantastic. All right. So let’s let’s start with would you please just provide, an explanation as to what this kind of jargony, term content driven inbound marketing like, what is it and how does it differ from the traditional marketing strategies?

Andra Fryrear [00:01:52] Yeah, it’s really more much more about an audience and about solving people’s problems than it is about talking about yourself at all. So whereas typical marketing might lead with kind of features and benefits, what do you do? And all of that kind of marketing stuff, inbound and content is there to deliver value to people who might never become your customers. And then when they actually are ready to consume whatever it is that you provide, they will reach out to you. That’s the inbound piece. They’re going to raise their hand and say, love everything you do. I’ve been a fan for years now. I’m ready to buy. And so it’s really focused on them and what they need. There’s a lot of overlap, especially when you get into distribution channels and how you get your content out in front of people. That can overlap with what you might be doing with more traditional marketing activities. But really, it’s all centered on the audience, all centered on providing value and way less about what it is that you do as a firm.

Greg Alexander [00:02:56] Okay, that’s an excellent grounding definition. Why don’t you share with the audience a few examples where you’ve implemented this for your own business and what the results were.

Andra Fryrear [00:03:07] This has been our bread and butter from day one. So we have up until kind of latter half of last year, never made a sales call like never done an outbound sales call for the six years that we were in business. Our main channels have been our blog, where we publish once or twice a week and have done so for six years, and I do a lot of speaking as well. So those are our main channels we’ve gotten into, like YouTube and some of that in the last year as we’ve tried to diversify. But the blog has really been our, our core, launching pad. And we got to 5 million in revenue this way. Just deliver value, deliver value. And people fill out a contact form on our website and some of them follow us for years. And, you know, they get our weekly emails and they learn and learn and learn. And then they finally are able to build momentum internally to bring us in, or they get promoted to a place where they have budget to hire us. And and then it’s the shortest sales cycle in the world at that point. They already I already love everything we do.

Greg Alexander [00:04:14] Yeah. You just described Nirvana for our audience getting to 5 million in revenue with never making a sales call in six years. I mean, that’s an incredible statement. So congratulations on that. And and it’s really a proof point that if you give value, if you educate customers, they’re going to come to you because they’re going to say, hey, you really know what you’re talking about. And you haven’t been selling me. You’ve been we sometimes we forget we’re services firms, we’re in service of the client. And that needs to be reinforced with our marketing efforts as well. All right. Well, firms that haven’t done this yet, they’re new to this. Where do you recommend they start? What are the first steps to take?

Andra Fryrear [00:04:52] You really have to know your audience, because you’ve got to be resonant with them in the content that you create. And this isn’t just their job role or the kinds of firms they work at, or any basic demographic stuff. This is what is keeping them up at night. What hurts them enough that they will go to the internet and try to solve it right? They’re going to be hunting for a solution and you want them to find your content. So you have to know what are they looking for? And then in that same vein, you need to know where they are going to try to solve that problem. Some people, some kinds of searchers are still, you know, Google search, just general search engine stuff. Other people are really heavy into LinkedIn or YouTube or other search engines. And so you have to know where they’re at already so you can be there too, especially early on. You can’t be on every channel. It’s just too much to distribute everywhere. So you got to pick a lane and get really good at it and then diversify over time. But if you pick the wrong lane, you’re not going to see a lot of impact. So you really got to take time to understand people, and you can interview existing customers and prospects to find this out. People are usually pretty open and transparent about where they go for their information. And the other thing that I would say is don’t build on rented land. This is a kind of phrase you hear in content a lot. You don’t want to spend tons of time building up an audience somewhere that you can’t control. So, you know, Twitter, YouTube, even LinkedIn. They control those algorithms. They control how your content is showing up so you can get eyeballs there and you absolutely should. But your goal should be to convert them into an addressable audience of your own, right? Get them into your database somehow, give them a downloadable resource that they’re going to give contact information for. Get them to subscribe to a weekly, daily, whatever cadence needs to be an email, communication that you give. And so they become you control the access to those people at that point. So you can start them out on another channel, but you want to get them into your universe as quickly as you possibly can. And then also, this isn’t going to happen at court in a quarter. This is a long haul multi over the this should be a lifetime endeavor for our firms that you’re just committed to doing forever. And so you can’t think of it as something that will start and stop, in a quarter or even one single year. You should see results and, you know, a pretty reasonable amount of time, a couple quarters, but you’re not going to stop at that point.

Greg Alexander [00:07:34] You know, I would just add to that excellent answer is that for founders, this is a high leverage activity. Meaning let’s say you spend an hour writing a blog and it goes to your subscriber list, which could be a few thousand people. So one hour to a few thousand people. It’s a one to many approach. It’s a high leverage activity. You know, we’re all time starved. So this is, a really good use of the founder’s time. All right. Let’s get into kind of content creation itself. So what are the key elements of creating compelling and effective content specifically for inbound marketing?

Andra Fryrear [00:08:08] Well, building a little bit off of what you just said, that idea of build something one time, and then you can also reuse and atomized the content. Right? So you and I are having a great conversation here. I know that you’ll you’ll cut it up and reuse it in a lot of different ways. And so like we do interviews with coaches, we cut those up and put them on YouTube. You transcribe it, it becomes a blog. And so thinking about all of the different ways to use and reuse what you do. I’m also a big fan of thinking about your own buyers journey and mapping content to where it falls there, so you want to be across the whole journey. Like we talk about our content as someone who is aware of their problem, but they don’t know what the solution might be, or they’re someone who is aware of the solution and is seeking for, guidance on applying it. And so we want to give value no matter where people are. And so, you know, thinking through what are the steps that someone might go on during their whole buyer’s journey to get to you at the end, and then make sure you’ve got content that’s going to guide them across all of that. I’m a big fan of also finding one pillar piece of content. Right. What’s and it’s it’s big. You put a lot of emphasis on it. And that’s where you drive a lot of your traffic and your, content too. And it proves that you know what you’re doing. It adds a lot of value. And then it can be the thing that converts them to a subscriber of your own. And so it’s pretty close to the end of that buyer’s journey. So those are, yeah, places that you can get get started.

Greg Alexander [00:09:53] Yeah. You know, to add to that, the pillar piece of content that, that we use at collective 54 is my book, The Boutique How to start scale and sell a professional services firm. And everything kind of pivots off of that. So we’ll have, a strategy around top of the funnel, which is to make people aware of their problems and, and make them aware of needs and needs that they have that maybe they’re not aware of. Then you go to the middle of the funnel. So I’m thinking about buyer’s journey here. That’s more solutions based. So they’re now aware that they have a problem. What are the possible ways to solve that solution. Now when you get to the bottom of the funnel, it’s more things like case studies and testimonials and references and things because they’re looking for, you know, how do I know this is going to work? Like what are the proof statements? So for those that are listening to this, particularly members, maybe an easy way to get started is think of top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of the funnel. That’s kind of a simple buyer’s journey. And then map your pillar piece of content and all of its derivatives along the way. All right. My next question is around metrics and measurement. You know, our audience are founders, and if they don’t get an ROI on their time investment, they bolt. So how do you measure this?

Andra Fryrear [00:10:58] It can be difficult, honestly, to get sort of end to end attribution and understand where your content is showing up. We hear from our prospects all the time. We love your content. We’ve read and we’ve seen. Right. And that’s anecdotal. It’s nice validation. But it doesn’t prove that all of the time. And sweat. But you put in is actually doing it. But I think again, mapping it to that sort of funnel view. Right. So what’s a top of funnel metric that you can get hold of that shows you your content is working there. And that can be really basic like kind of reach sorts of, of numbers. So that’s, you know, social following across your, your channels that you’ve chosen your search engine presence. Right. How many terms are you ranking for and how much is your organic traffic growing month over month. But then you need to track conversion rate there, too. So how many of those people become part of your addressable audience? And that’s easy to keep track of because you should have an email management tool of some kind, and you can see the growth of that month over month. And if it’s not growing, then you’re not converting, you know, people from the top to the to the middle. And then that last one, the sort of bottom of the funnel you should be able to understand when you’ve got content influenced leads, right? If they downloaded your pillar piece of content and you know, they did that before they were a lead of some kind, you can tell that it’s influencing their decision to come to you as a prospect. So it doesn’t have to be this massive, you know, multi attribution model. But you do need to be able to tell if it’s working, especially if you’re asking people on your services team to contribute. They need to know that the time they’re devoting, the time you’re devoting is turning into prospects and eventually money.

Greg Alexander [00:12:55] Yeah. You know, you talked about, the email list. Let’s talk about technology for a moment. An email management system is one tool. I would I would imagine amongst many. I know some of our listeners right now probably saying this sounds great, common sense. I should be doing this. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a lot of work. What type of tech tools can help, you know, make this easier?

Andra Fryrear [00:13:18] Yeah, I will say there is a lot of craft involved here, like the creation of really top notch content is hard. And so things like ChatGPT, for instance, I think we have to talk about AI here who can help you, right? It can help give you ideas. It can help you brainstorm titles, subject lines, keywords, things like that can give you an outline. Please do not make ChatGPT your content team like you will. You will not break through, right? It’s it’s going to be generic kind of icky noise content that will not it’s not going to get you what you want. Use it to make you more efficient. But it’s not your content team. So I will say that. But then also there are lots of ways that you can get this stuff out of your head. You know, talk to just a recording device of some kind and then get it transcribed. If you’re not a writer, it’s not everybody’s core skill set or just, you know, turn on your camera and and talk to your audience, right. Be authentic. Talk about a problem. People love that. It doesn’t have to be high production. But then there’s other kind of foundational tools. You do need some kind of email or CRM. Going there. I’m a huge fan of a tool called Spark Toro, which helps with audience research. So like people who Google this term, what podcasts do they listen to and what YouTube channels do they subscribe to? What other websites do they tend to visit that I might want to have a guest post on? It’s a great way to get really granular information so that you’re where your audience is and you’re answering the questions, that they want.

Greg Alexander [00:15:03] Let’s talk about challenges. You know, you mentioned some of them just in the course of our conversation, but, are there any obstacles that, you know, you want to put emphasis on and make people aware of? I think it’s talked about.

Andra Fryrear [00:15:20] Yeah. It’s very tempting to talk about yourself. Right. To always lead and land on your solution. And certainly that should come, right? The point of this all is to get you customers, but you also have to present alternatives, right? Which could include just not doing anything right. Keep consuming our content. Do it yourself. Always a valid choice, or give them other ways to solve their problems. You’re earning trust then. And so when you do say, hey, we’re the best people to solve this problem for you, they’re more likely to trust what you say. I would also say consistency, like a lack of consistency, can be a challenge. It’s better to commit to a lower cadence of publication and stick to it, than to be like, we’re going to publish every day for a whole month, right? And you’re going to burn out and you’re not going to stick with it. So twice a month consistently for a year is better than it’s like a New Year’s resolution, right? If I work out every day for a month and I don’t do it for the rest of the year, I didn’t probably help myself. But if I did it twice a month for the whole year, that consistency is better for me, over the long term. And then you also have to think about your distribution, creating great content. It’s not a they build it and they you build that they will come kind of situation. People are busy. They have a lot of demands on their attention. So you need to think about how you’re going to get your great content out in front of them. Don’t try to be everywhere. Pick a couple of key channels and get really good at those before you diversify. But you you gotta get your content out in front of people. Or it’s just kind of alone and sad on your blog.

Greg Alexander [00:17:00] All right. And my last question is, does this cost a lot of money or is this something a bootstrapped founder can can do in a bootstrapped way?

Andra Fryrear [00:17:09] Absolutely can be bootstrapped. Very, very cost effective. For instance, we don’t have any other full time content people on my team. I do a lot, but we have a part time person over in Bulgaria. He’s been with us for years. He’s super fast and efficient. He’s gotten to know our business and our audience. So he’s really great and and an effective part time resource for us. And so whether it’s like leveraging a VA to transcribe your like brain dump on to, you know, a recording device or just somebody to copy edit you right to if you’re not a great writer, just go brain dump right and get somebody who that is their craft to to nuance it for you. But it can be done with just a little bit of investment. There’s not a lot of tools, right? Like you said before, a lot of this is common sense, especially for those of us that talk about this all the time. We’re in sales calls all the time. That’s another great thing. Every question you get in a sales call, if you answer it more than once, it should be a piece of content somewhere. Your service delivery people, if they’re getting that question while they’re talking to clients, that should be a piece of content. And it’s an easy then they know how to answer it, right. That’s their job is to answer that question so you can get them to create content really, really easily and cost effectively. It just has to be a priority. You have to set aside time. That’s the big resource. Here is just the time, to get it done.

Greg Alexander [00:18:44] You know, maybe a little advanced tip for those, overachievers out there listening. You know, everything we do now is is recorded, whether it’s through zoom or Gong or what have you, because we’re living in a digital world and these recording tools have AI, capability. And you can set up settings that says, in Andrew’s case, you know, highlight for me the questions that the prospects ask. And then at the end of every single call, the literally send them to you. So now you’re just having a conversation with the prospect. You don’t have to worry about jotting down notes, and that builds an archive over time. And then maybe you look at it once a week, once a month, once a quarter, whatever it is. And you can clearly see what the information needs are of your target audience based on the questions they’re asking you during sales calls. So just an advanced tip. All right, Andrew, we’re out of time. But, I want to on behalf of the members and even those that are members that are listening to this, I really wanted to to thank you for coming on to your story of leveraging this technique of getting to 5 million with never making a sales call in six years is incredible. I mean, it really is. So thanks for coming on the call, and we really look forward to your, upcoming Q&A session that we’ll have with the members.

Andra Fryrear [00:19:54] Me too. Thanks for having me.

Greg Alexander [00:19:55] Okay. All right. A couple calls to action for those that, that are listening. So if you’re a member, please attend Andrea’s, Q&A session where you’ll get a meeting invite for that. If you’re not a member, you might want to be go to collective 54.com and apply, and we’ll have somebody follow up with you. And ironically, if you just want to learn more and consume some information, consider my book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start, scale and sell a professional services firm. And you can find that on Amazon. But until then, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale, and exert your firm.