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How to Use High-Quality Content To Fill Your Funnel, with Eric Siu [Episode 426]

Eric Siu, CEO of Single Grain, and host of Growth Everywhere. In this episode, we discuss how the buyers process starts, and where the connection with sales belongs.

Key Takeaways

  • Eric has a marketing agency, Single Grain, and two podcasts: Marketing School, and Growth Everywhere. Eric’s mission is to build great online businesses with a foundation of education first. Eric explains the name, Single Grain.
  • Single Grain works with technology and education companies to help them with advertising and SEO. They also implement their own strategies to grow their business.
  • Eric sees conversion from one stage of the buying process to the next as the biggest challenge facing B2B clients. The process is a sales funnel with a logical sequence of steps.
  • Eric recommends a mix of inbound, outbound, SEO and paid advertising. Eric explains his company’s inbound and outbound activities.
  • Eric suggests looking at Buzz Sumo to find relevant topics for content marketing. Evaluate content for value and depth, and differentiate yourself by putting a unique spin on it. Be patient. Eric tells how his podcast downloads have grown.
  • Eric explains Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique to get higher SEO results by getting more links.
  • Link building is an important element of SEO, and will likely continue to be, for the next five years.
  • Eric tells why content still works to push through the buying decision. Start building your brand, including content. It takes years to establish. People don’t make a final decision before talking to, or connecting with the seller; content counts.
  • Eric covers stages of the funnel — top, middle, bottom, and purchase. Contacts at the top are invited to read a blog post. Contacts that have already engaged with your brand are at the middle of the funnel.
  • Eric explains retargeting people who have visited your site, with ads on Google and Facebook. After retargeting, people move to the bottom of the funnel. Content for each level of the funnel should meet the needs at that level.
  • It is important to be able to target people with content based on their behaviors on your site. It will increase your conversion rate.
  • Eric talks about sales pages. They work. If you’re at the bottom of the funnel, it’s time to make a decision.

The Sales Enablement Podcast with Andy Paul was formerly Accelerate! with Andy Paul.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:35  

Hello and welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast. I’m excited to be talking on the show today with Eric Siu. Eric is the CEO of Single Grain and Founder of Growth Everywhere. Eric, welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast. So maybe take a quick minute, introduce yourself, give people a little bit of information about your background.


Eric Siu  1:15  

Yeah, absolutely. It’s what you said, I have a marketing agency called Single Grain. I also have two podcasts, one called Marketing School, one called Growth Everywhere. And that’s where I interviewed a lot of entrepreneurs who taught business personal growth. And I have a couple other businesses as well. You know, our entire thesis is building great online businesses, you know, based on the foundation of education first, which is a lot of the inbound stuff. I imagine. We’re going to talk about a little bit, but at the same time, you know, we do have, some of our own outbound methods, too. So, yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of who I am and what I do.


Andy Paul  1:47  

So where does the name Single Grain come from and what was the impetus to start the company?


Eric Siu  1:52  

Yeah, great question. So I’m not the original founder of the company. I took the company over about three years ago, but, you know, the original founder, he had to come up with the name and we had a deadline and he saw a box of cereal called single grain. And that’s how the name came about.


Andy Paul  2:06  

It smacks of the myth of how Apple came up with their name. Yep. at the last minute in the trademark office. Okay, perfect. So. So tell us a little bit more about what single grain does.


Eric Siu  2:20  

So we work with technology companies, education companies, we help them with paid advertising. So anything like Facebook ads, Google AdWords, YouTube ads, and then also SEO as well. So typical digital marketing agencies. And then the good thing about us is we eat our own dog food. So you know that the projects that we have, we implement our own strategies and actually work. I think most traditional agencies don’t really have their own projects to practice things on. We do. So that’s the little unique spin we have. 


Andy Paul  2:50  

So your mix of the business comes from business to business versus b2c?


Eric Siu  2:56  

You know, most of it is b2b, I’d say almost, 70/80 percent of it, I’d say is b2b.


Andy Paul  3:01  

So what you are seeing in this environment that you work with your clients is sort of the single biggest challenge these b2b sellers are facing today.


Eric Siu  3:09  

I think t’s generating conversions, whether it’s generating leads, whether it’s generating demos, they just have trouble doing it. Some people they don’t have, there’s a host of things, right. A lot of people that come to us that we cannot help, they don’t have a sales funnel built out. So I think for a lot of people that are listening to the thought about, you know, having some kind of marketing slash sales funnel built out where you know, people are, when you’re selling something, you’re not just trying to push them to a product page. I think people just kind of expect that. But you know, you’re you’re nurturing them through a sequence. So you might push them to a piece of content first. And then they might go to like a video or a case study they might download or a checklist. And then afterwards, they might go and watch a webinar or some kind of demo, but it needs to make sense, right? You can’t just I’m sure you’ve talked about on the show. You can’t just ask people To marry you on the first date, there has to be a sequence. So that’s what it basically is.


Andy Paul  4:05  

Yeah. Well, later on, I want to get into some more details about what those sequences are and help people and make sure I understand the sort of the pieces that they need to have in place at what time, sort of in their, in their sales funnel. But one of the topics that can create a lot of heated debate, if you will, is this idea of inbound versus outbound lead generation. And, you know, there are some people whose opinions I really respect. I’ve been in the business for a long time, but they would tell you the b2b space that the only way you can predictably generate leads is through proactive outbound and other people, just the opposite 180 degrees zone. You’re crazy to do any sort of outbound only way can really generate leads these days cost effectively is through an effective inbound program. So what do you see in terms of what is really sort of the realistic mix that most of the companies you work with experience in that regard.


Eric Siu  5:02  

Yeah, I mean, I’ll just speak from experience from our end. I think it’s ridiculous that people think, you know, it’s one or the other. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Same thing with when I look at marketing people, some people are just, you know, specialize in SEO and that’s everything right? Or we’re going to do paid advertising and that’s all we know. And they kind of all cloud on each other. It just doesn’t make sense because if you have everything work together, holistically, then you get even better results. So for us, we do a lot of inbound you can we generate our leads through inbound and and we do have an outbound process as well, and it works well. And I’ll tell you, like our inbound process, we’re working with the leads that we have coming in, we have a large airline company that reach out publicly traded, you know, there’s also a large ride sharing company that most of you probably know, and a lot of this is through inbound or it’s through people that see our content first. It’s like, Oh, we saw your podcasts or Oh, we came to you through the content, and even the content that we produce, we push it on Facebook too. So you can consider that almost an element of outbound to people into the funnel. And I would say the people that listen to the podcast, for example, we are content, they’re a lot more qualified and the sales cycle is a lot shorter. So I would argue that you know, inbound does in fact work. A lot of people are like, Oh for large deal sizes you have to go outbound. I do agree with that, but it doesn’t mean you have to necessarily eliminate inbound.


Andy Paul  6:31  

Yeah, I think that, especially now when you see the whole trend toward account based marketing is that using inbound to a certain degree on an account and account basis. So yeah, it certainly sees people integrating both in there, but you also in one thing I’ve read that you’d written sound sort of a cautionary note about content marketing is that problem being is that Yeah, most of it out there is crap. So how do you write and create effective content that captures people’s attention?


Eric Siu  7:06  

Yeah, so what you can do is you can use a tool called Buzzsumo. And then look for the top content in your space. So let’s say I’m writing content about content marketing, for example, I can just type that into Buzzsumo. And I can look at the top content that’s ranked out there. And you know, there’s a technique, if you Google, it’s called skyscraper technique. And basically, you’re trying to tenex content, whatever’s ranking in the top three results for Google, and you’re just ultimately trying to build out something that’s much better. So for example, in the marketing space, there’s so many people writing out there, it’s very competitive, and it’s hard to rank for stuff. But when you produce something with a unique spin on it, let’s say you have unique data, if you look at it like okay, they have all these unique data points, statistics, and, you know, very simple graphs for people to understand. And they got to generate a lot of links, they generated a lot of traffic because they had unique data and they had a unique spin on stuff. So especially Marketing, it can’t just be an echo chamber, people aren’t talking about the same thing over and over. Or they could be, you know, the content that they’re writing is frankly, not too much. It doesn’t really add a lot of value. It’s not in depth, right? So those are the things to consider, you know, if you’re going to write something, is it something that stands out? Are you putting a unique spin on it? And then if so, then you can easily reach out to other people and say, Hey, like, I have this piece out here. Yes, it’s a lot of manual work initially, but once you get the flywheel working, you’re consistent for like, two, three years or so, things are gonna start to take off. And just to give you an example, from a content marketing perspective, let’s look at podcasts, right? Sure. My first podcast was, after one year, I was getting nine downloads a day, okay, which is nothing the next year I was getting like $54 a day, still nothing. Okay. Then the next year after that, you know, a couple hundred, but then, you go into this year, it’s like, okay, you know, my high point I’ll reach about 10,000 downloads a day or so. And that’s led by other podcasts which gets about, you know, let’s say 431,000 downloads a month. But like it’s all consistency, it’s, maintaining the quality and being consistent. Most people just aren’t patient. Like a lot of salespeople, they just want to close things fast, fast, fast. That’s why they say this stuff doesn’t work. But the people that have the patience to actually sit through it and have the discipline, that those are the people that I see success.


Andy Paul  9:16  

So getting back quickly, though, to the skyscraper technique, what was that specifically?


Eric Siu  9:21  

So there’s this guy named Brian Dean, he is in the SEO space. So if you just Google skyscraper technique, you’re going to see his post talk about how you can basically outdo the results in Google and rank really high. Because if you have something that’s genuinely good, you can just reach out to a ton of people that I’ve linked to, you know, maybe the top 10 results or so and say, Hey, like I noticed you linked to this. I have a I’ve improved a piece and if it actually genuinely is better, you know, perhaps you know 2030 40% of people are going to link back to the new resource because people want to add more value to their audience. They want to show something they want to show. They want to show them the most relevant or the best result. So you know, that’s something that’s going to help you ultimately get more links. And what does that do that’s going to get you more organic traffic from Google, and then you’re going to be able to generate more inbound leads. Interesting.


Andy Paul  10:11  

You’re off to Google that. 


Eric Siu  10:14  

I’m sorry, go ahead. It does work. Because here’s the thing. Like, if you literally Google the word marketing funnel right now in Google, like we didn’t build, we didn’t try really hard to promote that post. But if you Google it, I think we’re, like I said, we’re top three, usually for that result. And it’s because, we have a really high domain authority or a decently high authority, I should say, it’s around 60. It’s not really high. But that’s what does that mean? That just means you know, we have a lot we’ve, you know, taken SEO into account, and we’ve had a lot of links coming to the site, and it just takes time to do it.


Andy Paul  10:45  

Got it. And there’s been sort of a basketball digress words, and again, this is certainly something I’ve read over the last couple of years and listened to people as it seemed like people are rolling their eyes when you talk about links. What you’re saying it’s still really important.


Eric Siu  11:02  

It is. And the thing with Google is they’ve done a really good job, but their Google Penguin update, I think they scared everyone into not really thinking about links as much anymore. So people kind of shied away from it. And they’re focusing on just producing great content and then using, you know, perhaps like Facebook ads to promote it, which certainly works. We do that all the time. But link building is still a really important element. And I don’t see it going away for a while, at least what we’re talking about, you know, perhaps another five years or so, we don’t know what’s gonna happen, what search, maybe it’s all voice search in the future, I don’t know. But as of now, links still have their word.


Andy Paul  11:37  

Okay. Well, the last question, is content becoming less relevant to buyers, I mean, given the fact that they have so many sources they can go to other than the seller themselves, to find out about the seller and the products that are out there and so on. I mean, user forums and places like the G2 crowd, you know, peer to peer community patients among their own networks.


Eric Siu  12:02  

We just signed a new client, and then they actually G2 crowd. And these review sites are very important to them, but they want people to touch their blog first and then perhaps get on a call. And then you know, check out these review sites too, and then maybe send them like a white paper. So content still is very important, because you’re taking people through a buying decision here. You know, hopefully you’re retargeting people based on behaviors they’ve taken on your site. And then you’re sending them to, you know, these pieces of content. So I think, you know, more increasingly, I think that the biggest thing anybody can do in this that’s listening to this is to start building a brand, you know, and content is a big portion of it, right? You build a brand, nobody can take that away from you. Yes, it’s gonna take a while to do. But again, it’s very defensible.


Andy Paul  12:50  

Yeah, the reason I asked that last question is to read a book called absolute value, which really influences customers in the age of nearly perfect information. And these researchers Two guys out of Stanford, basically making the case that the buyers by and large can circumvent the sellers almost entirely and still form a pretty, what they call is a nearly perfect view of the product and the experience of using the product without ever touching them. So I was just wondering whether content is still valuable in that sense.


Eric Siu  13:22  

I mean, if I look at a G2 crowd or something like that, I’ve certainly used sites like these to devalue products, I can’t make a final decision there. I do need to actually like to go to the site and look through things and send emails to these teams. And, you know, this is a lot of content involved, right, that this is the stuff that the support team sent me is they’re sending me links to content. So I’m not sure I agree with that assessment from that book, right. I don’t think the contents are ever going to disappear. Because,it’s basically information to help you make an informed decision and these G2 crowd sites, they’re certainly good. They’re certainly adding an element to making the decision but I don’t think it’s everybody.


Andy Paul  14:01  

Yeah, no, I agree. I don’t think it’s everything either. I just thought there. And I don’t think the authors were arguing that you would never, never talk to the seller, but that it becomes less important in the scheme of things. And to your point about brands, one of the arguments is that, brands in this environment become less important because you have all these others we’re used to trust used to be a huge part of the brand, the value of the brand. Now, the trust within the brand is less because people are trusting other authorities to help them make their decision.


Eric Siu  14:31  

Could be I mean, if you build like an indestructible brand, or a very strong relative, let’s look at Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, is putting content out there all the time. He’s got you know, he’s speaking at all these conferences. He’s everywhere, right? That’s, that’s very strong. I don’t think it’s still that’s something that’s formidable to, you know, any of these sites out there so you can build your brand to the point of that level where you just keep focusing on it all the time. I think a lot of people just really aren’t considering Brad right now. I think they’re just, you know, it’s an echo chamber. People are like let’s do this content marketing thing. Let’s write, you know, 300 to 400 word blog posts. Let’s do one per week for three months or so. And well, we tried content marketing, it didn’t work. I’m just gonna give up. I think that’s, it’s a level of I think it’s a level of laziness. And then, you know, it’s, that’s what’s going on right now people, you know, get a little they do a little work, and then, you know, they think they’ve truly tried it when they really haven’t. I think that’s just being lazy.


Andy Paul  15:25  

Well, I think, yeah, you see that across everything, as you said, I mean, this is before the example. It’s about people in podcasts, you know, the average number of podcasts that someone publishes, according to Lipson Lazar was a big industry expert hosting site podcast is seven number seven of episodes that they produce before they quit. 


Eric Siu  16:01  



Andy Paul  16:02  

Yeah, you’re never gonna get anywhere. That’s if that’s the case. So you wrote an interesting piece about the four stages of a sales funnel. I just want to run through that quickly. So people start conceptualizing this, because you know, it’s different things you have to take into account, excuse me, and four stages, you talk about problem recognition. Second is information search. Third is evaluation alternatives. And the fourth is the purchase decision. Is, is like the one we just started digging a little bit into the information search because you talk about, you know, how people can enter your funnel at that point. It’s like, how do they find you? And I think a lot of companies just aren’t mindful about how customers and prospective customers, so let’s define them.


Eric Siu  16:46  

Right, so I’m not sure I’m understanding your question here.


Andy Paul  16:48  

Well, no, I just wanted to go through some of the techniques that people should be thinking about because, you know, people are still just at the beginning stages and sort of trying to think through how they do this.


Eric Siu  16:58  

Okay, so when you think about funnels, I’m going to keep it even simpler. So you have the top of the funnel, that’s the first one, then you have the middle of the funnel, that’s the second one. And then third, you have the bottom of the funnel, okay? Now, when you are thinking about people that are top of the funnel, these are people that have never engaged with your brand before, they don’t know who you are, okay? So top of the funnel might be because you’re trying to indoctrinate them into your brand. Maybe it’s something that’s more you know, you’re sending them to a blog post or a podcast or something where they can learn something, right? This can so for example, this is how to create a marketing funnel posts that is more, you know, top of the funnel because people it’s more informational, right people are,they don’t really they’re not looking for specific brands. They just want to know how to do this. So that’s the top of the funnel, you do how to create a marketing funnel. And they read that post. So that’s what happens. And then what happens afterwards is, let’s say you visit that post and then I’m going to retarget you on Google and Facebook. Okay, so, middle of the funnel content. These are people that have watched


Andy Paul  18:00  

Explain it for people that are listening that don’t understand retargeting, explain what that means.


Eric Siu  18:04  

So retargeting means you know those banners that are following you around after somebody has visited your site. And so I’m saying you’re not necessary, you have a pixel on your site, you’re, you’re able to collect that data on these people that have visited that post. Okay, so that’s still work on top of the funnel right now. Okay, top of the funnel, they visit the how to create a marketing funnel post. Okay, that’s the first one. Number two people that have engaged with your brand already, they’re on your email list already. These are people that would be considered more, you know, warmer traffic, you can introduce people that are middle of the funnel in for you, okay? So these are people that you might retarget from the initial blog post that was top of the funnel. These are people that you mark, you’re going to retarget to perhaps something that is maybe like a checklist, maybe like a marketing funnel checklist, or maybe even a marketing funnel webinar because they’re a little more warmer to you, right? They know who you are. And they’re going deeper and deeper into your funnel.


Andy Paul  18:58  

So just make sure people listening understand these You’re retargeting to a webinar or something that’s gonna be the call to action in the banner ad that’s following them around.


Eric Siu  19:04  

Correct. And I’m just talking in the context of Facebook right now, okay, or even Google? Yeah, so you’re retargeting them to, you know, your webinar, or even if they’re on your email list, you can just, you know, send them to, you know, send them to that specific post. So that’s the middle of the funnel, okay? So, bottom of the funnel, these are people that are ready to make a decision, right? This is where you want to throw up your offer or your product or your service. And this is where you can perhaps send them to, your product page, or you can send them to, you know, set up a setup of a demo, whatever it is exactly. But these are people that they’re ready to make a decision. They’ve got a lot of information already. They’re armed with the facts. They’ve looked at reviews already, they looked at the G2 crowds out there, they’ve done the high level research at the top of the funnel. These are people that are ready to make the decision, and then I’m going to create content around that. So the idea around these three is that you have people. They are at different stages of the buying cycle, top, middle, and bottom. Powering to create content for these people, you should sit with your content team, perhaps for an hour or two and figure out what kind of content you want to create. It doesn’t necessarily have to be webinars. You don’t necessarily have to use ads. I’m just giving you examples there. But just figure out what makes sense, you know, based on how your audience is behaving with your content, maybe blog posts do the best for you. Maybe it’s pure webinars, I don’t know, right? Your business is different, but you have to think about it that way. Otherwise, your funnel is going to be all over the place. And it doesn’t logically make sense. If you asked somebody, oh, how to create a marketing funnel, by the way come sign up for a $10,000 service, right? It takes time.


Andy Paul  20:42  

So the question about retargeting is, again, this is another one of these topics where you read those some sort of degree of controversy about how effective it is, or has been overused. I mean, what’s what’s your thought on that?


Eric Siu  20:55  

I mean, you know, for retargeting, I mean it’s bread and butter when it comes to Google and Facebook ads, you know, Twitter has the ability for retargeting to LinkedIn, it has added that ability as well. But it’s important for stuff like this, like what we just talked about being able to retarget people send them content based on their behaviors on your site, let’s say they visited something on sales, for example, you’re going to send them sales content, right? And then if they visited marketing copy, you’re gonna send them marketing content. So you’re not just throwing everyone into one bucket, it’s better to treat people as individuals, they like messaging that is more tailored towards them, they’re going to appreciate that and your conversion rates are going to be higher because of that.


Andy Paul  21:46  

You know, some big sales letter content copied on it. What’s your thought about how effective those are?


Eric Siu  21:52  

Yeah, super effective. Still, I mean, if you go to, there’s a site called Swiped. You can see a lot of great sales pages from great direct response marketers on there. They still work. There’s a reason that you know, people are still doing this stuff. You know, I think, to not have a sales page would be a mistake. I mean, it truly blew my mind if people are saying sales pages don’t work nowadays. 


Andy Paul  22:24  

Hmm, interesting. And I think people part of the concern that they were saying is it was just too salesy.


Eric Siu  22:34  

Ironically. I don’t know. I mean,if you’re at the bottom of the funnel, you’re ready to if you’re not ready to ask for a sale, I don’t know what you’re doing in sales. 


Andy Paul  22:44  

Well, you’d be surprised. So okay. And Eric, we’re in the last segment, the show here. We’ve got some standard questions asked by all my guests and the first one is a hypothetical scenario where Eric has just been hired as VP of sales at a company whose sales have sort of stalled out. And they want to do a sales turnaround. So sort of testing your sales gene a little bit here as So what two things? Could you do your first week on the job that has the biggest impact?


Eric Siu  23:12  

Yeah, so what I would do is I would take their email as they have an email list, right? Yeah. Okay, so I’ll take an email list, and then I will go to Facebook. So I’ll go to Facebook, and I’ll make a custom audience there. Now, what kind of business is this, whatever you want to do? Okay, so I’m gonna just, I’m gonna go to Facebook, depending on the business, it could be, you know, LinkedIn, or whatever it is exactly. But I’m gonna go to Facebook. And then I’m going to make a custom audience, which is basically being able to target people on your email list. So I’m gonna have a custom audience for the people that have already purchased. So my customers and we’re also also going to have a custom audience for people that are on my email list but have not purchased and then you can make lists for different areas to and from there. What I’m going to do is I’m going to make a lookalike audience for these lists. So basically, Facebook can go out there and say, okay, based on you know, your list of you know, a couple thousand People, we’re going to go find people that have very similar traits on Facebook. And so you know, up to 2,000,002 million starting at 2 million people, and it can range up to, I don’t know, 25 million or so. Then from there you have your audiences set up, I would first start retargeting people that are on your website, and I’d also start retargeting your custom audiences with content. Okay, hopefully you have content in place. I’m gonna assume that you do. And then you can create basically a content retargeting funnel is what we call it. So again, top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, what kind of content you want to send these people. And you’d be amazed. I mean, we basically do the same thing with our agency right now. Incredible cost per acquisition for generating leads. And this is something that you can take to your CEO and say, hey, look, this is the cost per acquisition, cost per acquisition, or CPAs that we’re getting, I think we should invest more money into this. And then you can also work with your sales team to see if these leads are in fact qualified or not. But that would be a good starting point. For Somebody that is trying to, you know, jumpstart things. 


Andy Paul  25:03  

Great answer. So some rapid fire questions on just a few of them. His first one is when you Eric are out selling single green services. What’s your most powerful sales attribute you personally have when you’re selling?


Eric Siu  25:17  

Wow, okay for me, I mean it’s all the work that I’ve done up front because I spend so much I mean literally our podcast is a daily podcast the marketing one and then my other one grows everywhere that’s that’s a weekly one. So there’s a lot of content there. And then we have you know, the speaking engagements that I do and then we have podcasts like this one and then you know, the ads that we’re running so it’s almost as if people are coming pre-sold when they’re coming to us directly. And it’s, you know, like I mentioned like I said, earlier this week, we closed the deal. It took me one week to do it. And these guys spend you know, three to $400,000 a month and it’s because it’s relationships, they know who I am already. We need to close that way. And I just have a conversation with my advantages. I know marketing, we just know, we were taught from a concentrative standpoint, I don’t need to, you know, push any hard, hard deadlines or anything like that. Usually, you know, the deal is gonna get done and my conversion rates hover between anywhere from 60 to 80% or so. I love that it works. 


Andy Paul  26:16  

So what’s one book, you’d recommend that every business owner should read?


Eric Siu  26:21  

Yeah, it should be the sales acceleration formula from HubSpot.


Andy Paul  26:27  

Excellent. Okay, so last, last question for you: what music is on your playlist?


Eric Siu  26:36  

So on my playlist, typically I listen to podcasts. So I have a lot of podcasts on my playlist.


Andy Paul  27:30  

Great. We’re gonna thank you for being on the show. So thanks again for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com For more information about today’s guests, visit my website at AndyPaul.com