Sujan Patel Talks Growth Hacking & Content Marketing in 12 Questions [Interview]

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Sujan Patel

If you are the slightest bit interested in digital marketing, you are certainly familiar with jargon terms such as Growth Hacking, SEO, PPC, Inbound Marketing, among others.

If you’re not, don’t feel bad. A lot of newcomers have a little bit of trouble keeping up with all the terminology at first.

In order to explain a few of these concepts, Cloudswave has invited one of the most successful digital marketers, Sujan Patel, to answer a few questions that are quite relevant to today’s online marketing craze.

Sujan Patel Q&A:

Growth hacking

1. Talk to us a bit about your journey, from 2003 as an SEO specialist to creating Single Grain, a successful SEO agency, to becoming the VP of Marketing at ThisCLICKS, the makers of When I Work, an awesome and innovative scheduling app.

I started in the world of SEO by accident. In college I built an ecommerce website selling aftermarket car parts for sports cars (something I was extremely passionate about), but when I finally launched the site, I realized that I need to figure out a way to get people to visit.

During that time I stumbled upon SEO & PPC. I started learning SEO because I had no more money to invest in my business. Since I had no clue about business at the time, the business failed but with that failure came a passion for SEO.

For the first few years of my career I worked as an SEO specialist and expanded my knowledge to be a T-shaped marketer as SEO evolved. I eventually left my job and started Single Grain because I felt that I hit the peak of my career making 200K/year as an employee at 23.

I wanted to make more money and continue growth in my career. I also really like helping people and seeing their results so I figured I’d start an agency where I could do exactly that.

Fast forward 5 years, I was able to turn Single Grain (with the help of my co-founder AJ Kumar, mentors and an awesome team) into a $3 million dollar a year business that was helping 100s of clients like Mint, Sales Force, and Zaarly increase their traffic and revenue.

Sounds awesome, right? Nope—I got bored and eventually burned out so in 2014 I sold the business and decided to join a company to get my hands dirty again.

Up until that point, I had spent my whole life making decisions based on money rather than my passion. So this time around I went on a soul search to find a company who’s mission is pure and grand enough where I can keep my mind occupied for years to come.

That’s when my old client Chad Halvorson (CEO of When I Work) reached out and offered me a job. At first I laughed because the company is based in Minnesota and I was living the dream in the tech capital of the world (San Francisco).

But I went to visit anyways and ended up falling in love with the company, their mission, and most importantly the team.

In the last year at “When I Work” we’ve been able to do some amazing things:

  • Grew the company by 323%
  • I’ve run 100s of A/B test and tested everything from button color to on boarding flows. We improved conversion rates 700%
  • Grew the blog from 20k monthly visitors to over 200k monthly visitors.

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2. How do you think digital marketing has evolved since you first started?

Digital marketing has matured into a serious form of marketing. The easiest way to put it is that digital marketing went from a way for people to get traffic and make money to the “go-to” channel for companies of all sizes to talk to their potential customers and build their businesses.

When I first started in digital marketing, we wrote content for bots and did other sneaky things like used white text on white background…but over the years creating simple, mindless content has evolved into creating valuable, rich 2000-3000 word posts  just to barely get people’s attention.

It’s a lot more about authenticity and sharing real value that can help real people now.

3. Do you think that online marketing today relies heavily on Content Marketing? If yes, how so? If no, how important do you think it is?

Yes, especially for B2B. The buyers are doing their research before they purchase and there are so many competitors that it’s hard to stand out.

Content Marketing can help you stand out! Not only that but it also helps you tell a story, build your brand, earn your visitors trust, generate leads, and it helps with SEO.

A recent study by Altimeter stated that 67% of businesses invest in some type of content marketing.

4. You just created a new tool called Content Marketer, how do you think it could be used by marketers to promote their content and improve the outcome of their efforts?

Content Marketer helps you automate and simplify your outreach and promotion. Creating content is only half of content marketing, promotion and getting the word out about the content is the other half (and the more important part).

Reaching out to people is the most effective way to do it. You can reach out many different ways but I’ve had the most success with outreach via email, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Content Marketer helps you find the contact info of people you want reach out and helps you contact them (via email & Twitter). We even have proven outreach templates. I originally created the tool for myself ;) to help me save time (finding contact info) and reaching out.

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5. You’re obviously an expert on Growth Hacking. What is the simplest way to explain this concept to newbies?

A growth hacker is a person who is focused solely on growth. Weather it’s growing users, customers, or revenue, a growth hacker’s focus is on making sure things in those areas increase and do so as rapidly as possible.

You’re probably thinking what does that mean, right? Simply put a Growth Hacker is 50% Marketer, 30% Developer, 20% Data Analyst.

It’s also a buzzword so it’s misused and misunderstood all the time.

6. Is Growth Hacking right for everyone?

Probably not. Growth hacking requires a more sophisticated marketer that very data driven and can rapidly test, measure, and repeat/scale things. That’s really hard to do and not everyone can do it.

7. How do you think one should go about implementing a Growth Hacking strategy?

Organize the different ways you can grow your business, prioritize based on cost (time and resources) & impact. Start with the cheapest ones with the largest impact and move down the list.

It’s not always that easy though—sometimes it requires testing ideas. I think growth hacking is more of a mindset of lean startup and effective marketing.  

8. SEO vs Growth Hacking: Which strategy do you think is more valuable to a small company?

Growth hacking, because it’s broader and ROI driven and in it’s nature is focusing on growing a business. By going the growth hacking route you may even do SEO but it won’t be the sole focus.

9. Which approach has been more valuable to you personally? Why?

I’m very metrics and ROI driven so I always side with the approach that provides a better ROI. With SEO becoming more time consuming, difficult, and taking much longer to rank, the ROI has decreased. It’s still something all businesses should do…just not the only thing.

10. If you could name the top 5 Saas apps that have contributed to your success, what would they be?

Lately I can’t l live without these apps: Trello (organization), Moz (SEO/PPC research), Hellobar (collecting emails), Socedo (twitter automation) and Buzzsumo (content marketing research).

11. As a successful entrepreneur, do you have any recommendations for startups or for anyone considering taking the plunge?

Stop thinking, reading, or talking and start doing. Most people over think or over research things. Just do it. You’re going to make mistakes and even fail but you’ll learn fast and won’t make the same mistakes more than once.

The faster you repeat the process: Try, mistake/failure, adjust and continue, the better you’ll get.

12. On a more fun note, what do you like to do on your free time?

I’ve got lots of hobbies and try to keep myself occupied 17 hours a day. I’m a bit of a thrill seeker and love to go skydiving and race cars & motorcycles.  

Special thanks to Sujan Patel for taking the time to provide thorough answers on the widely discussed subjects of Growth Hacking and Content Marketing.

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About Sujan Patel:

Sujan Patel

Sujan has 12 years of experience in digital marketing and is the VP of Marketing at When I Work. In his spare time he created Content Marketer, a tool to help automate and scale content marketing. Sujan is also the author of 100 Days of Growth, an actionable Growth Hacking eBook.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.


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About Yasmina Yousfi

Yasmina is Cloudswave's CBDO. She works closely with the rest of the team to find new marketing strategies and business development models.

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