A friend recently sent me the blog post 13 reasons your content marketing strategy is failing by Mike Morgan, Founder and Director of High Profile Enterprises and Content Director for TrinityP3. It’s a good post. Here’s a gem for you:

5. Too much sell, sell, sell

This is boring to everyone. No one wants to share your content if there is a big plug for your product at the end. Or in some cases every piece of content produced is simply a sales message about a product or service. Picture a thousand eyes glazing over. You have to earn advocacy or social endorsement. You will only get a couple of chances and then people will tune out permanently.

I agree completely. That’s why whenever I mention what I do, if I mention it at all, I try to be as subtle as possible. And generally I only mention that I run an SEO firm if I feel like it contributes something to the content I’m creating, or if by not mentioning it I would be detracting from the content.

But the first thing I thought when I started reading the post was “What if my content marketing strategy isn’t failing? What if it’s going too well?”

You’re probably thinking “Yeah Josh, that sounds like a real bad problem for you, boo-hoo.” But it is a real problem. At least it can be, and it is for me right now with our MWI Hong Kong office. Behold the sales bottleneck.

marketing-bottleneck

 

As it stands, our content marketing is working very well. I write for Forbes, Entrepreneur, and a host of other publications. I do this because I love doing it. But it also leads to business opportunities. I also blog here, and on MWI’s US and Hong Kong websites. Our MWI US site already ranks well, but our MWI Hong Kong site is brand new. Despite being new, the little bit of content I’ve created there has already caused the site to start ranking well for searches like “Hong Kong SEO” and “Hong Kong content marketing.” I’m also active in the startup community, and have been taking advantage of speaking opportunities. All this content production is paying off, and so there is no bottleneck when it comes to marketing.

On the fulfillment side we’re doing well, too. When it comes to getting work done, I have people on my team in Hong Kong as well as in the US, and we can get it all done. Sometimes we need to pull in extra talent, but that’s not hard to do. So there is no bottleneck when it comes to fulfillment. Not in the US, and not in Hong Kong.

But there is definitely a bottleneck when it comes to sales in Hong Kong. I have too many leads to follow up on, and too many proposals to get out and take care of until the work can be passed off to fulfillment. As problems go, this is a pretty good one to have. I’d rather be dealing with this issue than asking where I’m going to find my first client. But it’s still a problem if I have clients who want MWI’s services, and I’m too busy to give them an agreement they can sign to get going.

In the US we’ve largely solved this problem. Last year I brought on a partner to focus on sales and marketing. I thought he would be doing largely outbound sales, going to networking events, making phone calls, and stirring up business. But because our content marketing efforts have worked so well, he’s had more than enough to do just following up on leads and shepherding deals through the process until they get passed off to fulfillment. As a result of how busy he is, we’re in the process of bringing on a young padawan for him to train as a sales Jedi. I suspect our new guy won’t have much time to do outbound sales either, the way things have been growing. This arrangement of me focusing on content marketing, and my partner focusing on closing deals, has worked out very well, such that we’ve tripled revenues within the past 6 months.

I need the same type of help in Hong Kong. But it’s not so easy as just going out and hiring a sales guy. For one, there aren’t that many sales people around, or they’ve all been snatched up. Also, I’m not just looking for any random sales guy. I’m looking for someone who is an entrepreneur, who can take over from me and run MWI Hong Kong. This makes the search all the harder. And yet it’s the only long term solution. I knew this was someone I would be looking for before I moved here almost a year ago, but even with that much runway the search is still ongoing.

Once I find the right guy or gal, what then? If I remove the sales bottleneck, then that frees up my time to focus more on content marketing. Or building my fulfillment team here in Hong Kong. The bottleneck moves somewhere else. It’s unlikely I’ll ever have things in complete balance. Either there will be the need for more marketing, more sales, or more fulfillment. But that’s how a business grows, is by fixing the bottlenecks wherever they appear and then moving on to the next one.

One of the challenges I’ve faced and you may face as well when it comes to getting rid of bottlenecks is to misjudge your response. It would be tempting for me to look at my current situation and run out and hire a really expensive sales guy whom I don’t know very well. And if I had a fulfillment bottleneck I could go hire a whole team to make sure we can get all the work done. But I’ve made both of these mistakes before. There is a saying “Slow to hire, quick to fire,” that contains much wisdom. I have typically got it backwards, and when I have, nobody wins. Not me, nor the team members, nor the clients. Despite feeling overloaded and as though I need a sales guy right now I’m being slow, methodical, and careful about the process. I would rather turn business away than hire on too many people and then not be able to pay them. Learn from me and grow at the right pace that makes real sense for your business.

What are the bottlenecks in your business and what are you doing to overcome them? How can I help?