Sometimes I feel like there is a big misconception, a misunderstanding if you will, between product creators and content marketers.
You will often see product creators so proud of their creations that they refuse to believe anything other than a quality product will increase their sales.
Even worse, you have content marketers who believe that marketing is everything, and that they will get away with a sub-par product or affiliate sale as long as they get enough eyeballs.
Clearly there are guys smart enough out there to understand the need for both.
In order to prove that point, today I’d like to present a case study on two successful entrepreneur’s (and product creators) who get the value of content marketing, and who use it to sell their already amazing products.
(Features an interview with Brian Gardner of Copyblogger Media, maybe you’ve heard of them ;)).
Who Is Brian Gardner?
Brian is the very smart guy with a great eye for function and design who heads up shop over at StudioPress, the makers of the famed Genesis Theme Framework.
*Note: The above links are not affiliate links, and neither are the rest of the links in this post. I fully support the work of anyone I’d consider interviewing on my own site, and if reading any of this convinces you to make a purchase of one of these products, I want the creator to get the full sale 🙂).
Over at StudioPress, you will find not only Genesis, but a wide variety of amazing child themes for use with the framework, as well as a growing Marketplace for Genesis theme creators to showcase and sell their designs.
Obviously StudioPress and the Genesis Theme have been hugely successful products, and with over 60,000 happy customers, Brian and his team have obviously offered something great to the WordPress community.
Many people first encountered Genesis, however, through it’s prominent featuring on Copyblogger, a copywriting blog that has over 150,000 subscribers.
I was able to discuss a few questions with Brian Gardner on how his successful team-up with Brian Clark (of Copyblogger) was able to send the sales of his already amazing product to another level.
1.) How greatly has partnering with Copyblogger affected your business? Do you believe that content marketing is necessary, even for an amazing product like the Genesis Framework?
It’s very simple for me to answer this question.
Since the merge with Copyblogger (and the formation of Copyblogger Media) back in September 2010, the sales we’ve had at StudioPress have doubled.
It’s been an amazing experience so far, and there’s not one part of me that regrets the decision. It’s clear that content marketing and the things that Brian Clark has done to promote Genesis has worked.
For people who are new to WordPress, the idea of a “theme framework” is foreign – with the use of content marketing, we’ve been able to explain what it is – and how it can be used.
Takeaway: You will hopefully notice a recurring trend in Brian’s answers to my questions: they are quite reassuring, and generally mention information that you’ve heard to be true about content marketing all along.
I don’t think Brian’s point about sales needs to be clarified anymore: having seen double over at StudioPress after the merger with Copyblogger seems to make quite the case for the effectiveness of content marketing.
Brian also makes a great point that many people miss out on when it comes to selling…
You have to show people how something is going to benefit them, not just tell them about it.
Content marketing does both, and while Brian also maintains a very useful blog over at StudioPress, he must have known that Copyblogger’s reach to marketers who were using WordPress would have been the perfect fit for the product he was trying to sell.
Genesis and the additional themes are obviously a quality product, Brian was making sales long before Copyblogger and if you’ve ever talked to a Genesis owner (yours truly is one!), you’ll know that practically all of them are raving fans of the product.
As stated, however, showing is much better than telling.
And so after the joining with Copyblogger, you saw “The Brian’s” team up to show exactly how Genesis could benefit the average WordPress user: they built the Copyblogger site on the framework!
What better case could you make?
Rather than a clever video intro for Genesis, or a hyped up sales page, they simply let the Copyblogger blog do the talking.
Putting their money where their mouth is, Copyblogger now runs with ALL of its related products, and it’s the amazing content found on the blog that gets readers interested in what the team has to say about these products in the first place.
Now can you honestly tell me content marketing has no place in online sales?
2.) For product creators, how do you recommend they reach out to content marketers or brands with large followings in order to promote their product? How did you first come into contact with Brian Clark?
It’s very difficult to reach out to a content marketer or someone with a large following without having some degree of relationship or interaction with them.
Most content marketers (guys like Chris Brogan, etc) need to either use or find exceptional value in something they promote. Chris uses Genesis on many of his sites and understands the benefits. Therefore, it’s easy for him to sell it.
As for my interactions with Brian Clark, he reached out to me after he made the decision to leave DIY Themes.
He painted the picture of a software company which included a number of essential tools that content marketers and folks who wanted to succeed online should use.
He was obviously missing the element of design optimization, or themes, which StudioPress was a perfect fit for.
Takeaway: Again, I think Brian brings up some very reassuring evidence when it comes to using content marketing to your own advantages.
As you see above, interaction and building relationships to influencers in your field is pretty much the number one way to get the ball rolling with your product.
You shouldn’t be, connections are what it’s all about in the business world, and online businesses, even blogs, are certainly no different.
But as Brian stated: you can’t come to the party without bringing something.
Showing up empty handed, expecting handouts, will get you nowhere.
Having a quality product was what got Brian into contact with people who could market his product to a large audience.
Harshly enough, if what StudioPress was putting out had been garbage, nobody would have shown interest in connecting with Brian.
Whether it’s your words or your wares, everything you tie your name to needs to be as excellent as you can make it.
Take it from Brian himself, connections may get in you the race, but you can’t go anywhere with a lemon.
3.) What advice would you give to product creators and people with followings on partnering up? Any lessons that you’ve learned from your successful partnering & joining with Copyblogger Media?
Many people think that 1 + 1 + 1 will equal 5 – that’s not the case.
You need to find synergy with any products or people that plan to come together.
For us, it was clearly obvious that our team all brought unique talent to the table and that we’d all benefit from partnering up.
Anytime someone takes a company that they individual manage and put it into collaboration of share owners they are bound to lose some degree of their own freedom.
In other words, they can’t make their own decisions, without running it past the others. It took a little bit of time for me to adjust to that.
But the benefits of having other people, who are in many case more qualified, to bounce ideas off of are amazing.
Takeaway: I’m going to go over this in more detail in the following section, but the main point I’d like you to draw from this section of the interview is this…
You don’t always have to go it alone!
Brian obviously highlights some of the downsides of teaming up: you don’t get to call all of your own shots anymore.
On the flip-side, we’ve seen how this partnership has greatly effected StudioPress’s bottom line.
The negatives of a partnership can also largely be negated as long as you take Brian’s advice on who you team up with: both parties need to offer something unique and very valuable to the other, and everyone needs to benefit from the deal.
In addition, choose who you team up with wisely; not only should there be syngergy among the team (be it a two-person or multi-person endeavor), your talents and work ethic should all be in line with one another.
Having one member carry all of the weight will break a team up easily as this person realizes they are bringing much more to the table.
Similarly, having a team with different levels of work ethic will be disastrous for the “get stuff done” people in your group: make sure you are teaming up with someone you know you can work with.
Obviously the Copyblogger team has a variety of talent that plays nicely with one another (*Citation Needed ;)), and the partnership has been a rewarding experience all around, good signals of a successful partnering of people and ideas.
4.) (For fun) Be honest… how many Starbucks coffees do you drink in a day?
Even though I portray someone who drinks 10 lattes a day, on average I drink one.
On some days I have two, on others I have none.
For me, it’s fun playing the persona of someone who can’t make it an hour without an IV drip of Starbucks. 😉
Takeaway: Always look like you’re hard at work ;).
Why Brian Gardner Is A Smart Guy
In each of these two case studies, I wanted to present two ways that you can go beyond the basics of content marketing (although the basics alone are enough for many great products, or at least better than nothing!) with two creative ways to break through with marketing your product.
Obviously, Brian Gardner is our first example, and the way he did things differently was with teaming up with a brand perfectly suited for his product.
As aforementioned, the StudioPress blog already does some great content marketing: I know I get updates for the freebies, giveaways, and demonstrations of new themes and showcases.
Taking things to the next level, however, required thinking outside of the box.
The partnering with Copyblogger gave Brian Gardner a brand in which to explain the benefits of his product, and at the same time show it off on a site with over a hundred thousand loyal readers, almost all of which used WordPress.
This move was obviously a smart one: why should Gardner bother building an entirely separate following when he already had an awesome product?
Alternatively, why should Brian Clark have an entirely new product built when Gardner already had the perfect offering?
The choice was obvious, and the results were amazing.
And that’s why Brian Gardner is a smart guy.
Who Is Orman Clark?
While the first half of this post definitely qualified as a separate post in itself, I knew what the #1 objection to it would be before I even hit the publish button…
“But I don’t have any opportunities to team up, how can I do this whole thing myself?”
While part of me still thinks that the above is untrue, I don’t want people to feel like content marketing only has success stories like Brian Gardner’s due to teaming up with another large brand: it is very much possible to market awesome content yourself, in order to sell your own products.
As an example, I wanted to go with another WordPress product, only because I know most people reading my blog are WordPress users, or at least very familiar with the platform.
That’s what led me to using Orman Clark, the owner of Premium Pixels, a blog for design freebies, and a recent record-breaker over at ThemeForest, where he recently made over $47,000 in sales in one month, the biggest in the site’s history.
I was originally going to do another interview with Orman as well, but due to time contraints (had to post this before I got his responses back) and due to the fact that my analysis of Brian’s interview was already getting legnthy, I decided to do another more “abridged” case study of Orman’s content marketing efforts.
The main medium in which Orman Clark promoted his products, which are premium WordPress themes, is through his design freebie blog, Premium Pixels.
Filled with PSDs (Photoshop files) for all sorts of web content, it has become a hugely popular resource for designers and website owners, having over 20,000 subscribers who religiously follow the blog and Orman’s new creations.
While Orman’s content is not in the form of words, it is content marketing all the same: he gives away great free content that appeals to a certain niche, and then sells more complete packages, in the form of WordPress themes, to the his fans and followers.
This process really works perfect for Orman: give away quality stuff for free, and through this following sell a premium product.
While Orman makes quality themes (I’ve bought a few, they are excellently designed and documented), he would never have reached his current sales record in such short time if it wasn’t for his content marketing.
And that is not a slight to Orman or his products.
What I mean is that Orman is one of the newest sellers in the ThemeForest “elite”, as reported by WPCandy:
“Clark’s official Theme Forest profile shows him in a range of $250,000 – $1,000,000 of sales overall. That ranks him 8th of Theme Forest’s most popular authors all time, despite being a member for 5 months less than anyone else in the top 25 at the time of this writing. Clark joined Theme Forest under his current profile in October of 2010.”
I don’t think it’s that much of a mystery of how Orman was able to make these record breaking number in such short time.
His following on Premium Pixels is obviously what pushed him over the edge, not to mention his other collaborations with partners like WooThemes which helped him get his name out there.
Why Orman Clark Is A Smart Guy
Again, as with Brian Gardner, you’ll find that Orman sets himself apart when it comes to content marketing, and his strategy goes beyond the basics of “make an awesome product and market it.”
First is his uncanny commitment to support and community building, for instance, when asked why he has such a support system set up when ThemeForest does not require it, he replied:
You’re right, support is not a requirement over at ThemeForest but in all honesty, it is a requirement if you want to be even half successful in this game.
Success or failure aside, I’m not sure I could even think about offering products without it.
Doesn’t feel right.
I would expect support if I were the customer and so I’m more than happy to provide it to mine. It’s strangely satisfying too!
Having an excellent support community also goes along with Orman’s brand: he doesn’t just want you to be a purchaser of his themes, he knows if you feel like a Premium Pixels community member (which is where the support forums are hosted) you will be much more likely to come back and get updates from him.
This in turn will create a much more valuable long term customer rather than a quick sale.
Beyond that, the biggest thing that makes Orman Clark stand out is how he successfully leveraged an already huge platform.
I’m of course talking about ThemeForest.
Not only did Orman build his own brand and following with Premium Pixels, but he offered his themes for sale on ThemeForest, which already has over 1 million members in which to offer his themes.
This is akin to putting up e-Books on Amazon, even if you already have a large following to sell to.
Why seclude yourself from additional sales when you can leverage an already powerful and massive marketplace to sell your wares?
Often times, as with Orman’s themes, his followers started the avalanche for this new themes.
They would be the first to buy them and rate them 5 stars, which means a whole lot on ThemeForest, as it greatly effects how people browse themes.
Thus, Orman’s followers opened him up to a whole new set of customers by giving him exposure on ThemeForest as well.
Orman didn’t need to build his own popular platform, he just needed to find one.
Although Orman has stated he is looking to sell his themes in a more direct fashion in the future, his presence of ThemeForest and his content marketing efforts were obviously the catalysts to his now successful WordPress theme business.
And that’s why Orman Clark is a smart guy.