Are you running an agency but you don’t know how to scale things up?
In this episode, Karl Kangur talks about starting his journey when he was only 12 to running a successful content marketing agency, and how he does it.
You’ll learn about scaling a business, hiring people and how to keep them on your team, how to sell your services, and much more.
- 4:47 – How Karl got started with selling content marketing services to SaaS businesses
- 13:23 – Difference between running a business and making money online
- 15:01 – Hiring people and keeping them around
- 23:14 – Karl’s day-to-day work and how he runs his agency
- 28:00 – The sales process
Daryl Rosser: Karl, thank you for joining me on the show today. It’s awesome to finally have you on here.
Karl Kangur: Hey Daryl. Thanks a lot for having me.
Daryl Rosser: For anyone that doesn’t know you already, I’ve got this little mini-bio in front of me which explains you’ve been in business since you were 12-years-old. Is that right?
Karl Kangur: That’s right. I’ve been doing it about 10 years. My name is Karl. I’ve done pretty much everything over the last 10 years. I started out of necessity. So as we all know, 10 years ago now would have been the financial crisis and global meltdown. I didn’t come from the wealthiest family out there. My mom got laid off her job, parents were fighting, and eventually got divorced.
I just felt lost and like I needed to make my financial contributions. I couldn’t really get a job at the age of 12, so being slightly geeky and having good English in Estonia, my first thought was, “Okay, why don’t I just Google it? How do I make money online?” That’s how it all started. To date, I’ve sold three businesses fairly successfully. Each has gotten better as I’ve done better and progressed.
Karl Kangur: Now for the last two years, I’ve been running a SaaS marketing agency called MRR Media. We do content marketing, SEO, email marketing, and advertising for B2B SaaS companies following the HubSpot method and helping some of the biggest SaaS companies out there.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome man. All right, let’s start with today’s stuff. You’re doing content marketing for SaaS companies. What does that actually mean? What do you actually do?
Karl Kangur: So we put that in context for your audience. Basically what we do is SEO. It’s the same exact thing all of you guys are doing, except we kind of niche down into the SaaS market and position ourselves a little bit differently. When we talk about content marketing, what we’re actually doing is basically ranking for keywords, but we’re doing it instead of creating landing pages, we’re usually writing articles and then funneling that traffic into email funnels because B2B SaaS companies usually have a fairly long sales funnel.
So it’s not just oh, you click a link, you buy a product from Amazon. But you actually have to give them a lot more information. So content is usually the most effective way to do it. If you’ve ever seen like how HubSpot converts its orders, we help a small SaaS companies do the same thing. Ideally someone would Google something like email newsletter design, they will read one of our articles, they would get a content upgrade in the form of PDF, so we get their email contacts, then we funnel them into, for example, a seven day email course, which is focused on the education side of how do you do email marketing better.
We position it as if you’re is the way to go about it. So if you’re selling sales software, day one might be, hey, your sales are only as good as your potential prospects. Oh by the way, we have this amazing prospecting tool in like the Lion Zeal sales tool and here’s how you use it. And day two will be another feature and another lesson and so on and so forth. Then we basically usually try not to get them on until a free trial sign up and then it’s off to the SaaS company and they’re kind of sales team to actually convert that.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome man. Cool. How did it get started with this specifically for SaaS companies?
Karl Kangur: So this one was kind of a strategic venture for me. So as I mentioned, I’ve sold three of my previous businesses/sites. After selling the last one, I ended up partnering up with my previous business brokers and they are the market leader in the software as a service space. So we had all of this data about what actually works for marketing SaaS companies and that largely aligned with what I was doing and because we saw the market going towards that direction, I was like, “Okay, that’s where I want to niche down.” That’s where I felt like the market was lacking. There was no real like SaaS marketing agency.
So I just saw the opportunity. I had partners in the space who had the credibility, had the contacts and so on and so forth to give us a nice a quick start and they actually ended up being investors in the business and so on and so forth. So I could also help them promote their business. They could help me with mine and it just aligned really well.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome. So you’re up to three offices today, right?
Karl Kangur: Yeah. So we have a small office in Boston where we have some of our US team. Then we have our headquarters in London now, moved here about six months ago now. So this is where I am based. We’re the core team, we’ll be based on long term. And originally we started the business where you are in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, because that’s where I was living when I sold my last business.
As you know, they have a huge scene of expats. They’re talented people like yourself, 100,000 people, who are expats and have actual skills. But the hiring scene there was a little bit slow and the time zones for client work. We’re a little bit messy, so we decided to move over to London to exclude scale things up a little bit faster.
Daryl Rosser: Cool, man. What are these offices do? How big is your team now, firstly?
Karl Kangur: Right now, our teams is about 12 people and it’s kind of all over the place. Boston is for sales. We don’t have a system like that. We just kind of ended up having the teams in different places and then settling down in those places. But rigid from our team, we have pretty much everything you’d see in a traditional SEO content agency. We have a bunch of content writers, we have editors, social media marketers, we have outreach people, we have designer advertising expert, account manager to pass all that information onto the clients and so on and so forth. And then myself who oversees everything and the higher level strategy in the hiring and so on and so forth.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Cool. Fair enough. I’m curious, you mentioned that you’re a content marketing agency, but then you said, “All right. It’s basically just SEO.” When you’re talking to clients though, do you actually mention SEO at all or is it purely just content marketing focus?
Karl Kangur: In that space, most people understand it as content marketing. If I say SEO, they immediately think of something shady. It has a slightly negative connotation versus if I presented as content marketing, people immediately think, “Oh, HubSpot, that’s how they got big.” It’s about providing value to your users and so on, so forth.
The way they think about it changes entirely and it also helps us charge a premium for it versus saying, “Hey, you’re going to rank number one for this, what’s that worth to you? We’re going to charge you $3,000 a month” versus saying, “Hey, you’re going to get this many articles, this many content upgrades when you do outreach marketing to influencers for each of these articles with hundreds of influencers in every list.” So on so forth. It just seems like a much bigger and more complex project than it is.
Although a big part of it for me personally, because I come from an SEO background is, “Okay, you’re going to rank,” does the customer acquisition thing, but for a lot of these SaaS companies, all the content we’re creating is helping other sides of their business as well. So for example, if we do a seven-day email course for the sake of converting people into trial users or we do it as lead magnet, for example, oftentimes these companies can use it as a funnel for onboarding new customers.
If you sign up for a SaaS company, you’ll often have this email sequence teaching you how to use the tool. The way we do it is usually a little bit better. So by that, they can improve their trial to conversion rate on that side with all the blog content that we have about how to … Let’s say if we have an abandoned cart software as a service company, we’ll talk about email marketing and e-commerce marketing in general, that means their customers are more successful overall, not just with the product, which means they’re less likely to churn, cancel their subscription, they make more money and they have more money to spend on the client products as well.There’s a lot of other benefits beyond the just acquisition side of it.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. No, 100% understand. I have a different question before I get into that. What sort of price ranges are you aiming at and then when you’re selling the service?
Karl Kangur: So because I had investors in this venture, it wasn’t the immediate priority for us to charge a premium, but that’s the market that we’re aiming to work within the next couple of years. So currently, I’d say our lowest clients pay us about $3,000 a month and the highest goes up to let’s say $12,000 or so. This is a monthly recurring fee. We don’t have any minimum contracts because most people just don’t cancel with us. Usually, you can see our quality fairly quickly.
In the long term, our goal is to work with companies, be an outside marketing team for these giant companies such as Salesforce, such as HubSpot, such as Wistia, such as AA Traps and so on and so forth where they already have the strong foundation and they probably have some marketing team internally that’s taking care of their basic social media, promoting their company events doing the copywriting for their site, optimizing the funnels and so on and so forth. We bring in that additional SEO knowledge of like, “Look, here are the keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you’re not.
Here’s how we build a proper skyscraper. Here are the influencers that we can reach out to thousands times more efficiently than your team can” and we kind of be an extension of their team and jump in, create a lot of value, and then price it accordingly. Right now, for example, even if HubSpot approach us, we’d still be like, “Okay, that’s $7,500, a month.” Versus we want to be at the stage where we only work with very select high-end companies that we know are going to benefit a lot from it. And then we basically price it according to the value created.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. Yeah. So how did you get into this then? You said, you have a background in SEO.
Karl Kangur: Yeah, so I got into SEO when I started my first online business, which was actually started off with an AdSense site in 2008. I think I purchased it off on one of the SEO forums, probably Black Hat World or Warrior Forum or something, I paid 70 bucks, had this pre-made site about a topic I knew nothing about. And then I was like, “Okay, how do I get clicks now?” And then I was like, “Maybe I should click my own ads. No way. That’s against terrible service. How else do I get traffic?”
So I went to chat rooms and started spamming the site everywhere, posting it on forums, and then it got banned from every one, I was like, “Okay, what’s next? How does Google decide who’s number one?” That’s kind of how I ventured into SEO because that was the only way to actually get visitors for free beyond spamming the whole Internet.
Back then it was obviously a different landscape. It was all about just pure, raw number of back links. So we had tools like Scrapebox, SEnuke so on and so forth and later on GSA as well, and it was just a matter of creating hundreds of thousands of links in some instances with the exact match anchor text. And then I started ranking for them and I was like, “Okay, cool. That’s how SEO works. All right, next site.” Then I just kind of kept scaling it up and then started moving into different monetization methods, methods such as affiliate marketing and so on and so forth.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. Okay. I like that. It’s very similar sort of. I like where you started with the spam. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but it reminds me of how I started out as well. So it’s cool.
Karl Kangur: Yeah, I think we’ve all been there. I think most good SEOs nowadays have been through that Black Hat phase and seen both sides of it, which I think is really good because it gives us the creativity to figure things out when Google comes up with a new update or something’s not ranking, you know all of the different aspects of how to analyze an approach.
I remember back in the day, for example, with GSA, so nowadays we sometimes spend a week getting the super high quality, I don’t know, 80 domain authority, 60 page authority link for one article, but back in the day with GSA it was about optimizing how many links you can build per minute. And I remember at the peak we had several virtual private servers, running at 100,000 links built every minute. So it’s been nice to see the game evolve a little bit.
Daryl Rosser: How does it compare? Obviously in terms of link building, it’s about velocity back then versus high quality now, but how does running a business compares with, I don’t know, mindset or how you think about these things?
Karl Kangur: Yeah, I think that’s probably been the biggest difference. So when I started, I’d say probably for the first six years or so, that’s when I say I’ve sold three businesses, but really sold two websites and one business is because back then it was just me and it was just about making money however possible. I wasn’t doing anything like super shady, but it was just, “Okay, I’m going to start this website up.
I’m going to rank it number one, I’m going to do everything myself, maximize the profits, and then just kind of keep rolling through it.” Google penalized one of them. Cool. We’ll start up the next one. Well, we probably already had started the next one by then and you just move forward versus now for the past four years, it’s been a lot more about understanding that you cannot do everything yourself and SEO isn’t this magical thing only you have the ability to understand.
I think that’s one thing that held me back for a long time was like, “Okay, I’m actually really, really good at this. That means no one else can do this,” letting the ego get in the way and over the years, learning how to, first of all, teach other people how to do it and not being afraid of the fact that hey, they’re going to steal my niche or they’re going to steal the methods and start their own agency or start their own affiliate side, whatever.
Some people are just not built like that and you don’t really have to worry about it. It’s a big mindset shift from just kind of making money online and actually running an online business. I think I personally still have a long way to go on that side as well, even though I have a team of 12 people and several offices and so on and so forth.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. Did you have a tough time initially hiring and managing people?
Karl Kangur: Oh yeah. It was horrible. That was probably the hardest things because I had virtual assistants when I was 16. I had this English teacher who’s Serbian and she was teaching a bunch of kids and writing articles and managing WordPress sites. The first in person hires in Vietnam and Chiang Mai as well, which was really strange for me because I was back then I would say 19 or 20 and I had a lot less confidence before my third exit.
I was hiring people, interviewing people who were the same age as my dad and it was really awkward from that perspective in the beginning and I just didn’t feel confident enough when doing it and that was a slight mental block. But by now I’m very used to it, my team ranges from being … I think the youngest person beyond me we have is 29 and then the oldest would be about 46.
Daryl Rosser: And is that just experience? How did you get over that?
Karl Kangur: Yeah, I think, after the first one or two older hires, you just get to use it and realize no one really cares. These people respect me just as much as I respect them because they know what I’ve accomplished, they can see that I know what I’m talking about, we’re not just messing around here, this is a real company. When they see their paychecks coming in every month, they know you’re good.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Yeah. Fair enough. Yeah. You mentioned before that, and I liked that you mentioned it about people having to fear that they’re going to hire someone and then they’re going to steal all their tricks and going to leave and start their own agency or something like that. Do you have anything though that incentivizes people to kind of stick around and not leave or is it just the type of person you’re hiring?
Karl Kangur: I think it’s more about the type of person you’re hiring. It’s something after a few hires you’ll get a feel for and you’ll learn to interview people better to be a cultural fit. Our team, it’s very clear for me now with the people who have hired that I feel are right for the company. They would never have their own business, literally never. You can just sense it right off the bat and they care so deeply about the company where let’s say they’re supposed to work 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, they’ll work on the weekends voluntarily without me telling them. I have to tell them hey, take the night off, don’t worry about this, we’ll figure it out tomorrow.
I think a big part of it is just selling people on the vision of the company and what you’re actually trying to accomplish. I know sometimes that can be hard to do, especially for people who are an affiliate, but I guess the vision aspect is something you have to first sell to yourself as well. With this company, for me it was very clear like I want to be the best SaaS marketer in the world and that’s what we’re all working towards. Making this company that, not me personally.
With affiliate sites you can do it the same way. You don’t have to present it as, hey, we’re trying to be number one for the best office chair and that’s our only goal. No, we’re building this media empire. If we get to the point of these little sites are maybe making $100,000 a month, then we have this opportunity to actually start ordering these products, reviewing them ourselves and whatever your vision is, right? But they have feel and believe that they’re part of something bigger.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.
Karl Kangur: Then obviously, you have the conventional stuff. So we have bonuses based on hitting the targets for some roles. We’re doing profit share annually to let them have a piece of the pie and things like that as well. Even though we have three, next month outside of London, we have a new feed, we’re flying everyone in together, whether they’re a remote freelancer or from the Boston office, from the Saigon office, everyone’s going to be in one place hanging out together. So they really feel like they’re part of the company, not just doing their own thing, writing away at content or something.
Daryl Rosser: That’s really, really cool. You mentioned before that you had timezone issues with clients. How do you avoid times an issues with your team when you’re in three different countries?
Karl Kangur: So we tried to structure it in a way and planned for it. It was definitely a learning curve, but like one of the things I did after moving from Vietnam where were most of the team was when I moved, was we do a daily call every day at the same time. Every morning, 11:00 AM London time, y’all get on Zoom, do a video call just like this and go through what we need to basically get done and it’s time kind of strategically as well. 11:00 AM UK time would be let’s say 5:00 PM Vietnam time, I believe.
And that means they’ve done most of their work for the day, which means we can go through that, we can set goals for the next day. It also leaves this nice one, two hour gap for if anything comes up on the call that might need fixing right away, they still have that extra time to work on it, fix on it before I move on with the day.
If we have this big project, big deadline, we’ll plan it in a way where the content writers in Vietnam for example, right the bulk of the post, and it comes to London, we continue writing, and then it might go to Boston for editing. By the time the Vietnam team wakes up, it’ll be back in work. So it’s a double-edged sword. It makes things more difficult to plan, but at the same time you can keep working 24/7 and making progress, and not hindered by someone’s sleep.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. Is it the entire team then on the video call?
Karl Kangur: Most of it, yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome.
Karl Kangur: I’d say 90% are there every day.
Daryl Rosser: Is it a quick call or a couple minutes per person or how does it work?
Karl Kangur: It depends on how much stuff we have going on. Obviously, it’s anywhere between 10 minutes, in worst cases thirty five minutes. If there’s problems to discuss at all, we’d obviously be longer. If it’s just checking that everything’s on track, it goes pretty quickly. And then we try to again, as I mentioned, we want to make everyone build this like one family, right? We have this kind of sleazy slogan of “One dream, one team.” We added some personal touches as well.
On Mondays, I asked them how their weekend was, every that’s returned will talk about their weekend. On Fridays, we talk about one win we had in our personal life and one win we had at work. So this kind of keeps everyone connected and even though you’re you get to know people better over time.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. Man. I see a lot of people also talking about, especially in Saigon, I think people are more interested in scaling and stuff here. People talking about systems and SOPs and stuff like that. Do you have very detailed procedures for how to do different parts of your business?
Karl Kangur: It’s something I was very good at in my previous business. In this one, the agency model is still, no matter how much you systematize it, it’s always hectic. It’s always last minute, but it’s definitely a big focus for us. I’d say we have probably 40% of our stuff documented, but it’s one of our priorities for this year. We’re actually looking for an operations person that would basically do that full-time, keep improving processes, documenting everything, ensuring all the entire machine runs properly.
One of the main life hacks I’ve had on that side is oftentimes I’m probably the worst person at documenting things. I always feel it’s impossible, it’s never going to happen. So everything that is documented has been made by my team. Everything that’s missing is probably behind me, but I’ve gotten over that using a chrome extension called Loom. It’s basically a really easy way to record videos within Chrome and stuff.
So instead of writing up an SOP in Google Docs or Word or whatever that I know I’m bad at, I might just record some kind of video tutorial, kind of like we’re doing now, just very casual chatting about it, walking through as I do things and then I pass it on from someone on my team and they will basically write up a proper, let’s say professional SOP about it. Then I’ll review it, I’ll make some improvements, and then we keep iterating on it as time goes on.
Daryl Rosser: That’s much, much better as well, it’s much faster. I created an SFA screenshots step-by-step. It takes forever. It’s the most boring thing in the wild.
Karl Kangur: Yeah. It’s one of those things you don’t want to do yourself.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, absolutely. On that topic then, what do you do yourself? What is your day-to-day sort of work?
Karl Kangur: I’d say a big part of it me is just the higher level strategy and actually analyzing the client’s results, figuring out if something went well, why went well or how we can do more of it. Also, people escalate their higher end SEO problems, advertising problems, if a client has a question and someone on the team can’t answer them, I’ll jump in, teach them, we’ll answer it together and stuff like that.
Just making sure everything actually gets delivered. Sometimes doing the final quality checks and stuff like that. I’d say the bulk of my time is obviously marketing our own business. I do all the sales. We don’t have a salesperson, partly because I just enjoy doing it so much and I feel I’m the best person to actually sell that vision because I can turn it into … Well, I can tell them the actual story of why we did this and how we did this. Then obviously stuff like hiring is a big part of it as well.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. Yeah, it’s interesting. So you’re an agency owner, right? So what I hear about most people that don’t run agencies, people that had five clients before, they think that once you built up an agency, you’re going to be constantly stressed, everything’s going to suck, I don’t know. Everyone just hates the idea of having clients. Is that what life’s like for you on the day-to-day basis now? Or is it actually a little bit better than that?
Karl Kangur: Actually, I’ve had a marketing agency before. I think it was about five, six years ago in Estonia before I moved to Vietnam and that’s exactly how it went for me. The typical agency owner story, I made it to about six clients. I was like, “I can’t do this.” I was pulling my hair out as you can see. And it was just like, “No, this model doesn’t work. Agencies suck. This is bad. Never doing this again.” But this time a big part of it was what we were talking about before is actually being able to let things go. Having those processes in place and having people you actually trust in our trade.
Even though I had a project manager in my previous agency who would ensure everything gets done, I never had the confidence in anyone to pass on the actual relationship so I wouldn’t tell … for example, if you sign up as a client with us, I would always want to have this relationship and be like you’re working with me, I’m the expert, so you need to talk to me. Versus now, I would immediately be like, “Hey, this is Yvonne, she’s going to be your account manager. She’s going to be your one point of contact to the entire team and myself, please always keep me CC’d because I want to know what’s going on. And you would basically talk to her.”
If you hire a good account manager, you almost never have to talk to clients again. A good account manager is usually really, really good with people and they actually care. So she’s one of those people that I mentioned that will stay up until whatever time, go above and beyond to make sure that the client is happy, which is something I as an agency owner cannot always say.
Where for me if a client is being stubborn, it’s much easier for me to be like, “Hey, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, you’re not going to listen. That’s it.” Right? There’s an account manager is usually a lot more diplomatic, doesn’t let their ego or experience get in the way, which I think is a huge improvement on maintaining the relationships better and keeping the stress levels down for everyone.
Daryl Rosser: So the tip is to hire an account manager whenever possible?
Karl Kangur: Exactly. And I think this applies to all businesses. I think most of the drama you’ve seen on the Internet, if some business says something nasty or someone responds to negative review in an inappropriate matter, it’s always the business owner who lets their ego get involved, then it gets out of hand. So it’s nice to have that filter where I might say, “Okay, let’s handle it this way” and then the account manager is like, “No, no, no. I don’t think we should do that.” Right?
Daryl Rosser: It’s hard, man. Isn’t it? As a business owner when someone’s giving you shit or something like that, it’s very, very easy to get your ego to come out and just respond badly.
Karl Kangur: Yeah, you would completely take it personally. If someone says our content is not good enough, and they have to edit it for a long time, I take it so personally. I know what our team can do and what they’ve done, especially if I can compare it to some of their previous work and I feel it’s not a reasonable comment, I would lose it. Versus an account manager who will be like, “Okay, well I’m sorry you feel that way. Can you point out the problems with this piece so we can improve it for the next time?” And then they would also keep track of that, so next time if they had different comments that contradict the first one, they would bring that up and figure out the way to actually get things done properly and ensure everything’s always kind of smooth.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. Yeah. That’s really cool. Let’s talk about sales. You said you were doing the sales today. What is the sales process like? You said you had a previous agency also. Right? So what’s the sales process like for getting SaaS clients versus getting, I don’t know what type of clients you would get in your old agency, but different types?
Karl Kangur: The only was just generic business orders. It could be service businesses, e-commerce, it could be other affiliates, it could’ve been anything. And honestly sales will always be sales. I don’t think it really matters what you’re selling. Just being able to put yourself in the clients’ shoes is probably the most important thing and think of it from their perspective, okay, if I’m going to be paying a $5,000 a month for marketing service, what kind of ROI am I expecting from this?
That’s the first question. When can I expect it? Also, what is this relationship actually going to look like? How often I’m going to hear from you guys? How much do I have to do? What does my team have to do? What’s included? What’s not included? I think a big part of sales is just understanding what the customer actually cares about and answering those questions before they’re able to ask them.
So if one of your first objections will be oh, this is going to take up so much on my time. A part of my pitch is this doesn’t any of your time, unless you want to manually approve everything that we do and so on and so forth. But in terms of the process itself, pretty much all of our current leads come either organically from people searching for SaaS marketing agency, SaaS content marketing, stuff like that.
Not a ton of recommendations on platforms like Cora, we have a bunch of referrals coming in from previous clients and partners and kind of our network. And then just recommendations on Facebook groups for example. If you go into any of the SaaS marketing groups, ask for SaaS content marketing, you’ll probably have about 10 people jump in and say, “Hey Karl, you should talk to him, blah, blah blah.” So that’s kind of our main source of lead.
So we have really good reputation. I’d usually jump on a call with them and then basically the first call is just about their business. How many clients do you have? Where’d you get them? What are they looking for? What are the objections for your product? What are your main competitors? Where do you see the product being in a year? Analytics access, doing research on the competitor, so on and so forth.
Then after that I would actually do the research, see if we can help them. Do I think we’re actually going to get good results for them? So I kind of pre-qualify them as well. We don’t actually take on everyone. If they have two referring domains and they want to compete in the email marketing space, I’m going to be like, “Look, if you want to do this, you want to compete with MailChimp and AWeber, you’re looking at four years of building links and then maybe you’re going to have something rank,” right?
So I’d probably tell them out front, say I basically qualify their business, then figure out what services I think are going to get them the best results possible. Send over a proposal, usually present that over a call as well to explain, okay, content creation, $2,000 a month, here’s what you can expect. Here’s how the process is gonna look like, here’s how that ties into the other services that we offer and hopefully sign them right there on the spot and then move on with the actual services and our onboarding the client.
Daryl Rosser: Perfect, man. I’m curious, you mentioned it as well when you’re talking there. One thing I think a lot of SEOs specifically screw up when they bring on clients is the whole expectations thing. Then not telling the client how long it’s actually going to take and the client’s email them after two weeks like, “Hey, I’m not rank number one yet, where’s all my leads and my sales” and everything like that. What expectations are important for you to set to make sure the client knows what’s going on?
Karl Kangur: So two things that relate to that. So first of all, pre-qualifying them. If I’m not confiding we’re going to get results for them, we’re not going to touch it at all. I don’t like taking that gamble and the reputation. And then the second side is a cliche, but it’s so true, under promise, over deliver.
So if we talked about content marketing, generally you’re looking at minimum three months to see solid results. So what I tell people is, “Look, this is a longterm game. You’re looking at six to 12 months before you’re going to see a return.” So I kind of try to prepare them for the fact that look, this is going to take a long time, it might not even work at all. If they’re still interested, that’s a good fit for us. And usually filters out the people who are not going to be messaging you every two weeks and being like, “Hey, you wrote this article why is this not ranking.”
During sales calls and on-boarding I try to explain to them how the entire thing works. The first, I don’t know, three months of content, we’re not even trying to get visitors, we’re not even trying to get any rankings with this, we’re just writing pieces that we know are going to attract links because the competing articles have a lot of links to them. That means we already have a list of 800 people we can reach out to off the bat. Just want the links. That’s it.
And if they understand that everything you do, every service you provide has some kind of reasoning, they build up that trust for you pretty quickly. The second thing is a never let clients have to ask you about anything, like, “Where is that, what is the status on this?” I think this ties back to having a good account manager who is proactive, not reactive, saying, “Hey, first week, here’s the big wins we got for you,” so on and so forth. They kind of just staying ahead of what they might ask about or might care about.
Daryl Rosser: I like that. So the client comes to you and says, “What’s happening with this?” then you’ve left it too late to tell them if you just told them already.
Karl Kangur: Exactly. One more tip for any agency owners, there’s always these things that you can line up in the first month that to them might be a big deal. So we charge an onboarding fee to bring on a new client. So that’s to get to know their business, to do an SEO audit, fix up their site, do a content audit, submit them to SaaS directories for example. But if you don’t do that, you might line up additional things in the first month that you know you can deliver every time. So for example, every plan we take on in the first month, I get them featured on entrepreneur.com. I don’t tell them about it, but in the first few weeks I’m going to be able to email them like, “Hey, link building is great. You just got featured on entrepreneur.com.”
If you deliver big value in the first one, that usually kind of keeps them satisfied and quiet in the future and they just build up that trust up for you very, very quickly. So if you have that for a traditional SEO agency, you might have, maybe even a private blog network that looks really elegant, looks big, that can use and put in some extra effort in the first month.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I think that’s smart. I think one of the problem is with the expectations is that even if they’re telling them it’s gonna take six months. If they literally, like you were saying before, not showing them anything until that second month is up, anyone’s gonna freak out even if they know it’s going to take six months.
Karl Kangur: Yeah, and I think the other big part of it is presentation. One thing I’ve noticed is the better looking all of your reports and emails and the more eloquent you get with the entire thing, the less questions people ask. It’s just this, I guess this subconscious trust thing. So if I send you to keyword research reports for example, and one is just me being basic me and three columns, searches per month, competition and keywords and it’s just black and white standard Excel, you’re going to be like, “Oh yeah, cool.” But if I have a designer who spent 20 extra minutes on it, that puts your logo, removes the empty cells and makes it like alternating colors and God knows what our design Hoodoo, you’ll feel like it took 30 times as long, it’s suddenly such an important thing and so on, so forth.
I think that’s one thing I want to improve upon in the future. I think there’s still a long way to go and most agency owners can probably do the same. So for example, if you’re going to be sending clients a weekly report or something, what I want to do in the future is have our account manager record a personalized video for them presenting it. They don’t jump on a call, but just adding that extra touch. The same for the first month in the future, if we get bigger clients, I want to maybe fly over to visit them in the first month or send them some gift in the first one. Just make that extra connection that may make it more personal, add that likability factor and so on.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, like you said as well, over delivering. For guys that are one man businesses, so they’re trying to build an agency, but it’s still very early stages. So just them. Do you think kind of relevant to what you’re talking about? Do you think they should try and design it until they’re pretty good and look bigger than they actually are?
Karl Kangur: Yeah, definitely. I think it makes a big difference. It just builds this immediate trust. So if you’re originally from the UK, but you’re based in Ho Chi Minh City for example, just list both addresses. Put your mom’s address on your site and when you talk to a prospect instead of saying, “I, I, I,” it’s “we.”
You probably still have some kind of freelancers helping you, but if it’s simple things like formatting a document or uploading things to WordPress. So in theory a we, and it also gives you that foundation and mindset to build this thing bigger than it is now, I guess.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. Here’s another question completely off topic to that. So you run an agency today and you said in the past you’ve done affiliate sites and a bit of everything. How does it compare running an agency and building up a team and trying to really build something big to little affiliate sites and the older sort of days?
Karl Kangur: I think it’s still a struggle on some levels where it’s always when you see a client getting really good results, you think, “Oh my God, that might’ve been me. I could’ve done this for my own site and made so much more money.” Or hen a client brings up an issue and it’s unreasonable. You’re like, “Why do I have to deal with this guy?” Right? But at the same time, when you get when you get another entrepreneur, amazing results and you know they have 150 employees who are now because of your getting bonuses and maybe getting better Christmas presents for their kids and stuff like that. It’s this empowering thing, especially if you work with companies who have good product. The impact is so much greater than kind of rewriting Amazon reviews, for example, on an affiliate side.
I think the other side of having an agency is also, it builds you as an entrepreneur and a marketer because you do need to be a lot more professional than just chatting which your VA and be like, “Hey, we need this keyword reviewed… It’s always a learning process and you get to learn new businesses, different ways of companies operating. For example, if you move into the bigger companies, you’re no longer talking with just the business owner.
You might be talking to the C-Level and you need to figure out okay, how do I get him to present this to his boss so he can get approval to work for us? And it’s just another skill to learn. Or if you have, let’s say we’re an extension of someone else’s marketing team and they have their own editor of editing the content we’re making for them. Well, they’ve really got no incentive to say good things about our content because if we do a good job, we might have to replace their job. Right? So how do you tackle that?
I like the continuous learning aspect of it. I think if I ever switched back to affiliate or anything of that nature, I would be a lot better at it now because it’s the skills you learn in the agency or it’s called more serious business, a more formal business. They all transferred back to affiliate. But I think both of them kind of compliment each other, where I wouldn’t be as good at the agency stuff if I hadn’t done affiliate because that gave me the creativity of figuring things out, being able to experiment with more, let’s say more black hat SEO strategies for example. But now I can use that experience and data to help big businesses.
Daryl Rosser: For someone that’s starting out then would you recommend them into the affiliate direction, the agency direction? For beginners, what should they go into? Because a lot of people ask.
Karl Kangur: That’s a good question. It’s a tough one to answer. If I had to talk to myself, let’s say eight years ago, I would literally tell myself start an agency, you’ll figure it out. You’ll learn how to rank these sites, you’ll make money a lot quicker. You can reinvest that into learning and scaling up the business and so on and so forth. But at the same time, you shouldn’t really offer a service unless you know what you’re doing. Right?
Daryl Rosser: Of course.
Karl Kangur: So there’s the ethical part of that. Do you feel like you can actually add value? Start an agency, it’s gonna light a fire under you and make you learn a lot quicker. But at the same time with the affiliate, you can go at your own pace. You can maybe do it while you’re in school, maybe while you have a full time job or something, and it’s more of a side hustle thing. If we’re going to go all into something, I’d say go the agency or, alternatively, start some kind of product of your own and learn through promoting that. Affiliated agencies are not the only ways to go.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. Yeah, I like that. All right, a few off-topic questions as to … maybe not off-topic, but different what we’re talking about. Just to kind of wrap up the interview. Let me think of one. All right.
What drives you today? What makes you motivated to work and build the team, and become like the biggest SaaS marketing company?
Karl Kangur: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been super competitive. For me, it’s just being better than the competition, getting the most ethic results, having the best case studies, the most kind of crazy stories of growth or marketing and just being better than everyone else.
Daryl Rosser: I relate to that. Yep. That’s cool. So just that drive to win makes you just keep going and pushing?
Karl Kangur: Yeah, I’ve thought a lot about this. I really cannot put it on anything else, it’s just sort of organic, I always have it, I’m always competitive. I’m a really sore loser. It could be playing monopoly, I don’t take losing really well. So I guess it’s just a part of my personality.
Daryl Rosser: I’m with you man. When I was a kid, my dad would never let me win at anything in my life. He would deliberately play mind games with me to make me lose. So I’m extremely competitive.
Karl Kangur: Exactly. Yeah, I’ve never thought of it that way, but I’m fairly sure my dad was very similar and that might explain where it comes from. So thank you for that.
Daryl Rosser: There you go. What else? How do you learn? Do you go for courses? Do you have coaches? Is it just networking?
Karl Kangur: As any good SEO, I think I just learned by trial and error. I just try it out, figure it out, if it doesn’t work, try something different. If it goes well, okay, why did it go well? Just basically testing and just being super fast and on the execution side. Then analyzing the results of that, I guess. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a single online course, the only mentors or coaches I have are my current business partners and obviously people within my networks in Asia that was a group of 40 entrepreneurs who live in the city and have various different business result. But in London, it’s mostly just doing and little bit learning from my mentors, following some industry blogs and podcasts and books. That’s about it.
Daryl Rosser: Can you name some favorite books or podcasts or anything like that?
Karl Kangur: My favorite books. I have a lot. I got obsessed with audio books after listening to Entrepreneur on Fire when it first started out and they had this little audible ad because I have ADHD, I can’t finish a single page in a paperback book. I got into audio books, I listened to about 54 books in the first year and now I’ve been sticking to that every single day. I’d say my top books are The Dip by Seth Godin, A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick. That’s about analyzing what you’re doing, are you going to persist with it, what are you actually aspiring to be the best in the world of that, if not maybe you should quit.
Also, Cashvertising. Cashvertising is one of the best advertising and sales books that I’ve read. Then obviously the bible, The Four Hour work Week just to put things into perspective.
Daryl Rosser: It had to come up.
Karl Kangur: Of course.
Daryl Rosser: Cool man. Final question then. Yeah, right on. Okay. What tools are centering your business? Is there any highly used tools that your business would not live without?
Karl Kangur: Ahrefs. No question about it. Ahrefs does everything nowadays and Tim is a really cool guy as well and a lot of respect for him. Ahrefs is the foundation of everything we do. That’s how we analyze the competitors and figure out what the opportunities in the market are. That’s how we assess leads when they come in. That’s how we assess whether they’re worth working with. That’s how we find most of the kind of back end of opportunities we have for outreach. That’s how we do all of our content planning. That’s how we do the site audits. It is probably the most versatile tool out there and just the best bang for buck you can get, especially for SEO people. I think the next step is teaching non-SEOs of how to use Ahrefs is the next step.
Daryl Rosser: For sure. Awesome, man, I appreciate you joining me today. It’s been really, really epic. Where can people find you if they want to connect with you or check out your services or anything like that?
Karl Kangur: You can either add me on Facebook, Karl Kangur, or you can send me an email at [email protected], or calendly.com/kangurkarl, I believe. K-A-N-G-U-R-K-A-R-L and you can schedule a quick chat with me if you want to talk more.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome man. I’ll go ahead and stick a link up as well so they can find that. Awesome.
Karl Kangur: All right. Thanks a lot for having me on there.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, man, I appreciate you joining me today. It’s been epic. I hope you guys got some value out of it and I’ll see you guys next week.