How an Independent Video Production House Makes Seven Figures with the Help of Two Insanely Useful Blog Posts

Content Marketing Case Studies |

Simplifilm has one clear vision — they help businesses and individuals create professional videos when they need book trailers and application demos.

They’re great at what they do. They’re so good, in fact, that many of their clients report an instant uptick in trial sign-ups and sales when the Simplifilm videos are implemented on their sites.

In an online world full of bad videos (including a host of problems with fuzzy screenshots, poorly thought-out scripts, and bad voiceovers) Simplifilm is a welcome change. The company is also benefiting from content marketing in some very interesting (and unique) ways.

We talked to Simplifilm’s co-founder, Chris Johnson, to discover the secret of their success. Read on to find out how they do it.

What’s your business name, and what do you do?

We are Simplifilm, and currently we do book trailers and app demos.

Who are your blog readers and how do you serve them? Was there a pressing problem you were trying to solve with your blog?

On our blog, we write content and we talk about our process, but the blog is really created to explain things to our customers. It’s more credible to overcome resistance when we have already written a blog post on the subject, and made recommendations on that post.

We have strong, well-optimized posts on scriptwriting and picking a voiceover artist for your project, and they both bring in leads. It helps us establish credibility with people when we can reference our own content.

What kinds of content are most important to your business? Blog? Email list? Podcast?

For inbound — our blog does what it should. It brings in leads. The video work we do is considered exceptional, and we’ve gotten to work with Seth Godin, Brad Feld, Robert Greene, and some Fortune 500 companies.

We have a list that is neglected (see also: regrets).

What resources or tools did you find most helpful when you were getting started with content marketing?

I sort of write for an audience of one, and I love Yesware for split testing email. I also use Clicky for tracking people, and we use Gravity Forms.

How do you use social networking in your business?

Social networking is a listening tool for us. Anyone can do well with it, but you have to think it through. Most people say “Look how shiny I am — look at ME,” but that’s trying to do the charisma-driven thing. I’m not Oprah. So I listen to people.

On Twitter, I’ll look for people who are having problems with software or conversions, and I look at the conversation. If they have an obvious need for us, I’ll contact them and the call will be warmly received.

Now, notice this: I say obvious need because you don’t want to condescend to people and lecture and do those stupid sales calls where the salesperson calls and says “I couldn’t find you in Google — do you know you’re missing out on this business?” You want to ping people at the right time, where the easiest path is you. Timing is everything.

What were some of the main tipping points or “a-ha!” moments (if any)? How did they come about?

The first is this: you have to be great. We’re a combination product/service business, and the service business still runs the show. That needs to be a coherent and awesome experience for customers. Doubling our units sold wasn’t the first thing we wanted to do, but we made it so every customer would be treated well, and everyone that paid us could win. Dan Kennedy says that if your business stinks, the last thing you want to do is get the word out.

The second happened when I learned that even elite people couldn’t get reliable help. We made the choice to be rock solid and reliable — to take less business, and to prioritize being reliable above fast growth. So even if there’s friction, people know they’ll get what they pay for (or more) with us, and it’ll happen on time. We’ve had one or two misses, but we’re in and reliable.

The other marketing lesson is that a service business doesn’t require a ton of traffic to win. Simplifilm gets about 6,000 visitors a month and about 10,000 video views on our main channel. That’s not much traffic, but it performs well enough to run a seven-figure business that has had eight straight quarters of double-digit growth. We get at least 25 really well qualified leads a month — so it’s all we can do to keep up with that and our referrals.

Finally — 60% of Simplifilm’s leads come from just 2 [blog] posts. This was an accident but we’re going to continue it. These posts bring in tens of thousands of dollars, and when people Google the phrases that we own, we win. Our total search traffic is fallen some, because of neglect, but these posts are more than enough to keep us busy.

What has been the most valuable thing about your content marketing experience?

You have so many different levers. We focus on the “very high quality lead,” so we don’t have to feed the never-ending content monster’s insatiable appetite. Ranking for a few things with intense purchase intent is our path.

What were your biggest mistakes, or biggest wastes of time/money?

We haven’t wasted much money because we’ve never spent anything on PPC or advertising.

The biggest regret is ignoring our [email] list. We have a decent list of 2500 or 3500 people. We had this big campaign planned about writing scripts, but we were too busy to address it. So there are hundreds of people that signed up for something that may never exist. We’ll probably reengage everyone in the next few months, but we have to make sure what we offer is truly and profoundly valuable and makes up for the mistake we made.

What’s next for you? What are your next goals? 

We have recently mapped out a set of tools for the future. Our focus is improving the results and experience of Simplifilm customers, to develop a true VIP/concierge for everyone, and to insist a little harder on testing both for ourselves and for our clients.

Our product, Flowtility, has 5k users and it’s going to grow and mature. Right now, it’s a great library with a crummy user experience. Soon it’ll be a better library and a better experience. We are resisting the going into the app store because we want to control the relationship.

Video may not perform best in every context, so want to isolate as many of those variables as possible, so we can honestly serve our customers.

What advice would you give to bloggers and content creators who are trying to build an online audience?

Create something of real value. Some service that people have to have, that takes effort and is customized. Be of value in word and deed, and test your premises constantly to be sure that you are living in reality.

Work hard to figure out what need someone will have a month before they buy from you. That’s what I consider preventative care. For us, it’s stuff related to scripting and launching. People often attempt to do a video in house, but they see my partner Jason Moore’s work and it blows their mind, so they want it. It’s smart to help them get started, and to tell them what it takes, because often people will choose us.

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Reader Comments (42)

  1. says

    Thanks, Beth: The TL;DR is this: you don’t need to have a ton of content, just 2-3 blog posts that people read & can get helped by. That’s less daunting than trying to win a posting war with Gawker.

    • says

      I was curious when I read this, Chris — how many blog posts did you publish to “find” those two that were home runs for you? Or did you know from keyword research exactly what you needed to write about?

        • says

          Shane: we have one on writing a script, and another on picking a VO. They pull and the traffic converts. We’ll be doing more now that we’re big enough to treat people correctly and deliver a reasonable experience most of the time.

      • says

        We weren’t that sophisticated.

        Initially the posts we made were to defend our process and send a client a “hey, we do it this way” with more authority than a petulant email.

        Then the posts started getting traffic, so we tweaked and optimized.

        Then they got more traffic. But by “more traffic” realize that that only means 20-30 views a day.

        Our post “tout-vs-yesware” is our #1 post but it doesn’t convert especially well.

  2. says

    You didn’t include the punch line! What are these two magic blog posts? What lessons can we learn from them? How can we reproduce a similar result? Inquiring minds want to know…

  3. says

    “60% of Simplifilm’s leads come from just 2 [blog] posts.”

    This is interesting. One of the blogging practices I haven’t quite figured out is posting frequency.

    1. We have the Jon Morrow, Derek Halpern, Glen Allsopp methodology of creating a pillar post then promoting the beans out of it. This would be 2-3 posts a month.

    2. Then we have others who are all about posting often, 2-3 times a week minimum, maybe more.

    I’ve played with both, but still haven’t quite figured out what is best for me and my audience. My current site is focused on B2B services, so I’m once again leaning to the long, rich, less frequent posts. A new site I’m working on is more about lifestyle, change, etc. and I’m thinking more frequent posts would help build audience.

    Curious what you have to say about that … Chris? Sonia? Beth?


    • says

      What we did was post to control our clients. Really: the video industry is full of failed companies that are sycophantic milquetoast mediocrities. We wanted to take control of our clients for their own benefit.

      So we wrote our philosophy out, and it turns out nobody had established criteria for selecting a VO.

      We did, and a couple of the posts did well…not for everyone…but for people in buying mode.

    • says

      As you can see from those examples, both ways can work. There are SEO advantages to posting more often, but that’s only one part of the picture.

      I’d post as often as you can produce something really valuable. Consistency is useful to your audience, though — it’s a good thing if you can work out a schedule that you can hit consistently.

      Also realize that, to some extent, the more you write, the more ideas you’ll get. There are diminishing returns on that at some point, of course.

        • says

          My advice is this: completely document the (non proprietary) parts of your process. Make each twist a blog post. It’s good for you and it’s good for the kind of people you attract.

          “Why I do X when most people do Y” is also good content as long as it stays away from onanistic navel gazing.

  4. says

    I’m a fan of writing posts when you have something useful and important to say, instead of trying to stick with a (possibly unworkable) posting schedule. I’m much more interested in seeing great quality posts LESS often, rather than throwaway posts with no value MORE often. Hope that helps.

  5. says

    No one mentioned that Simplifilm made the awesome video for My Copyblogger that’s on the home page and beneath each post? These guys do great work, even if Chris is a pain in the ass. 😉

  6. says

    Thanks for the compliments on the work Brian! It was great working with you both of the videos we’ve done for you.

    What’s interesting about one of the two heavy traffic posts is that they started out as internal memos for our team. In teaching each other our ever evolving process, we realized that the info could be equally helpful for our readers.

    Some companies might want to hold those cards close to the vest, but we felt like everyone would benefit from the lessons we were learning in real time.

    Jason Moore

  7. says

    Really great post! Coming from someone who is currently part of a video marketing outfit, the idea that there are successful video pros killing it with a less is more approach is a great validation. I walk away inspired. Thanks!

  8. says

    I love simplifilm. Their services are basically on my bucket list. Sometimes I watch their demo videos en masse because the stories are so interesting. And Chris has a lot to teach pretty much everyone if you get him to speak up like this. :)

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