Content Marketing Case Study
40% Revenue Growth
for Luxury Web Agency
Client: Vintage Web Agency
Vintage is a web design company that serves luxury brands. It is represented in New York, London and Dubai, with production offices in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Founded in 2008, the company has grown from 4 to 55 employees and won over 40 international design awards.

Up until 2016 most of its clients were local but over the last two years Vintage doubled its production powers and was ready to invest in marketing to load them up. That's when we shook hands.

Link: vintage.agency
Goals
1
Lead generation: double the amount of international leads
2
Undertake work to identify target keywords
3
Generate relevant and consistent website traffic
4
Increase coverage in industry media
5
Cultivate connections to decision makers in top companies
Challenges
  • We had to start with a newly registered domain with no reputation in search engines

  • The client had no previous experience in international marketing, so we needed to test everything ourselves, whilst also liaising with Sales and Production departments on how to do deal with international clients

  • We reasoned that we shouldn't need to pay for our work to be featured. If we were requested to pay, that meant only one thing: the content is "not there yet", so we refined the materials until they were gladly accepted free of charge

  • Vintage's prices are close to six figures for a website, but the head office is located in Ukraine. The country is well-known as a hub for cheap outsourcing - a perception we had to overcome with our communication strategy - working twice as hard to ensure everything that comes out of Vintage is high end and flawless
Solution
A solid solution requires solid foundations, so before composing a strategy to move from "A" to "B",
we made sure we fully understood what the "A" we were working with was.
BUSINESS ANALYSIS


Firstly, we defined products and services that the company owners wanted to focus on. Then, we worked with the sales department to understand how they sell, what arguments they use, and how they handling objections, so we were able to produce coherent content and share the same stories.


We also made sure we had good access to the company's existing clients to see things through their eyes: why exactly they work with Vintage, what was their customer journey (the whole path from the first idea to an accomplished project), and we even handled a few sales calls.


As a result, we had gleaned a clear picture of the company's products and services, what was needed to sell them, who their clients were, why their clients chose them and how exactly they purchased Vintage services. Armed with this knowledge, we were ready to develop a unified content strategy.

COMPETITIVE CONTENT RESEARCH


The market conditions are just as important as the product that one promotes. While doing a competitive content audit, we studied who is currently taking the traffic that we believed belongs to us, and how useful is their content. It turned out that 60% - 70% of the target traffic goes to industry magazines like SmashingMagazine, UX Mag, WebDesignerDepot, and the rest goes to competing web agencies. We went through all the steps that a website buyer goes through, and marked which content he is the most likely to consume.


We discovered an opportunity: almost all content, except what was published in a few top-quality magazines, was mediocre or worse. Most content appeared rather lacklustre and generic, as if all authors were inspired by a single source or more realistically, just re-combined and shuffled each other's ideas.


Crucially the existing content lacked both exclusivity and trustworthiness. Most of the content in the top of search results was made with a primary goal: to get traffic. Not to educate the reader or solve his problems. But business readers are smart; they recognise unsophisticated marketing strategies and can easily spot biased content or material written sloppily, often solely for the purpose of submitting SEO data. Authors of these materials were usually writers or journalists lacking any special expertise in the field they covered.


For example, the network is flooded with articles like "10 steps to create a website", but very few authors can unveil the peculiarities of creating and promoting a website for high-level real estate, including real-life experience, insights from the client-side, possible risks, tricks of the trade, or adequate performance expectations. Even fewer authors actually had an experience of ordering, creating or launching such websites.


The opportunity we saw lies in producing trustworthy, unbiased content, authored by industry practitioners instead of generalist freelance writers who have no genuine experience or insights into the complicated industry terrain that exists in every sector.
What is the fastest way to move from "A" to "B", with the biggest expected ROI and lowest risk? This is a question we ask ourselves every time.
DEVELOPING A CONTENT STRATEGY

Content strategy: we developed a three-pronged approach to capture and nurture market demand with dynamic content


We divided potential website buyers into three groups:

Awareness: Business owners and managers who were not currently considering website redesign but who have a reasonable budget and are receptive to discussions

Consideration: Decision-makers who are actively pondering a re-design

Decision: Decision-makers who assigned a budget and are looking at potential vendors
Our plan was the following:


1. Pitch to business owners from Group 2 with website showcases.

Like top 10 websites in real estate, crash-tests of existing websites, like top 10 mistakes on Fortune 500 websites, and other types of content.


2. Attract Group 3 with materials that grab their attention.

For example, with detailed guidelines like "How to estimate the website cost" (which required solid research efforts to make material at least twice as good as any other material in the market, and significant SEO efforts to promote it). We also used more specific guidelines like "How to compose a Request for a Proposal" or "How to hire a website developer in Eastern Europe".


3. Educate the market: inspire the need for a website redesign by demonstrating the potential benefits such an opportunity would bring to the business.

Vintage's primary audience are luxury business owners and entrepreneurs whose primary focus and source of margin is the brand, and in general, people with great visual taste and budget for the website. This was the trickiest but the most interesting part. We captured the attention of business owners producing high-quality, exclusive materials. They include interviews with opinion leaders (like Talbot Logan, VP of Global Partnerships from Ralph Lauren), in-depth industry studies (like the study on top-100 legal firm's websites) and just covering innovations in marketing.


The primary channels we developed are Vintage's newly launched blog (80% of materials went there), industry media, and content seeding in Linkedin communities.

CONTENT PLAN

Although we cannot share the whole process behind the content plan formation, we can reveal a few essential aspects.
There were three major "pools" that we used to generate topics from.


Pool 1 - "what we do" - a list of industries, types of expertise that the company has got, it's services and cases that we gathered at the Business Analysis stage.


Pool 2 - "direct market demand" - specific gains, problems and jobs that the clients were looking to cover with Vintage's services as well as "knowledge gaps" that we could cover (knowledge gap marketing).


Pool 3 - "SEO demand" - a list of key phrases that Vintage's potential clients were seemingly using on their Customer Journey, that we composed based on customer surveys (it went as far as even looking at their browsing history), SEO research, brainstorms, competitive analysis and our previous expertise.
The best topics came from the intersection of these three pools: we mapped the company's expertise and explored where and how it matches with SEO and direct market demand.
The collated results were then presented in stylish and easily readable materials. This approach ensured perfect SEO and content marketing integration.
As the domain was very new and was practically invisible to search engines, we couldn't even compete for keywords that had only a medium competitiveness level. So while generating topics for articles, we were choosing subjects with enough search demand that would make proper commercial sense. Subject matter which had little or no competition or areas where our work would easily stand-out in quality from competitors, thereby giving us a significant advantage in Google. Of course, "quality" is hard to measure, it's only the reader who can judge it, but we developed a set of semi-objective numerical parameters to measure it.


Every month we were choosing a few directions (industries / services / key customer needs / etc) that we wanted to cover, and composed a package of articles, so that all the stages of a customer journey (awareness, consideration, decision-making) would be covered.


One of the highlights of our cooperation is that no material we issued was a result of pure so-called "online research" combined with a content writer's imagination. There is no need to publish material based on an "online research", as with the same "research" the reader can do so himself. So we set a benchmark for producing only exclusive materials that would educate the reader and give him insights that he wouldn't get anywhere else. All the materials, insights, and especially the conclusions, were given by the company's in-house experts. Often we would work on materials directly with the CEO or top managers during pre-scheduled hours. Final materials were always examined by practicing experts. This way we ensured that the readers received advice that they could rely on, and could get nowhere else except on Vintage's blog.

IMPLEMENTATION


The implementation included launching a simple blog platform, hiring and teaching two writers, establishing proper processes and leading the project until the KPIs were achieved.


QUICK BLOG ROLL-OUT

As the timespan was limited, we started with a very simple blog set up using Ghost CMS. It had all the necessary SEO features, wasn't overloaded with bells and whistles, and didn't require any trimming - it was ready to work out of the box. What is important, it supported Accelerated Mobile Pages by default.


HIRING AND TRAINING A WRITER

One of the most fruitful decisions was to hire content producers to work directly from Vintage's office. This way, they can become a part of Vintage's culture, participate in projects, be included in the context and build relationships inside the company.

Expppand took the responsibility for hiring copywriters. We interviewed over 15 candidates, tested their writing and logical thinking skills, and recommended the two best writers for the client to consider. Vintage decided between the candidates and employed one.At first, working with the writer, we explained the strategy and created content guidelines to keep everything on track. Then, we established a content production workflow - a set of processes that includes topics selection, content seeding, content performance review, A/B testing, and provided the oversight on newly formed department's work for over 12 months.


PACKAGING THE KNOWLEDGE

As we were keen to produce only exclusive materials filled with exclusive knowledge, we instilled the content generation process into the company's daily processes. Company employees, including top managers and the CEO took pride in cooperating with copywriters to produce and publish materials under their name on the company's blog and in industry journals. We covered Vintage's unique way of thinking, best practices, unique discoveries and approaches, expert opinion, cases and lifehacks.


FIRST TRAFFIC

After we produced 30-40 articles, we started to receive the first traffic - a few thousand business visitors a month. Three months after starting we signed our first deal with a client that came from the content marketing: a 35K USD project from Dubai worth


CONTENT MARKETING OPTIMIZATION

We optimized articles based on how people read them. We tracked how exactly people read articles. Using browsing session recording software (HotJar), we were able to track which paragraphs and images readers like, what they pay attention to and what they skip. Armed with this data, we optimized materials - shuffled paragraphs, updated imagery, or even completely rewrote them to increase the user engagement.

Results
By 2018, the company got 6-8x times more international leads, which added up to 40% to the company's revenue.

The content marketing activities thus paid off within the first 3 months, following the signing of the 35K deal with the client from Dubai.

Content marketing became the most effective lead generation channel when it comes to international marketing.

Vintage was featured in leading industry journals
like Awwwards, an online magazine and worldwide design competition, and Skift - a leading journal on luxury resorts, which ensured increased credibility and opened many new doors.


We spent 0 dollars on buying links. We agreed internally that if industry magazines don't want to feature our content for free, that means we are
"not there yet". So we refined the content until we "got there", and everything that was published (over 30 mentions and guest materials) was accepted for no charge.
Vintage's blog featured top managers from such luxury companies as Ralph Lauren, Aston Martin, or Diamond Producers Association. They shared exclusive industry insights on marketing, trends, and tricks of the trade, what attracted luxury business owners. While contacting top managers, we have built strong connections in the industry to cooperate with these people in future.
Leads reached out in the most surprising ways, like finding and adding company's CEO on Facebook, as he authored a few articles. One client called the CEO directly, and said that he "was impressed by the depth of though and the approach to marketing real estate, which happened to be very close to his own philosophy", and that he believes that "only Vintage really understands how to work with real estate in digital, among hundreds of other agencies whom he has been in touch with".


The traffic soared. At the time of writing, they were making around 20K/month. Since the start of the cooperation, it has been rising week-by-week, except pre new year's breaks.

Eventually, we took over 90% - 95% of keyword groups we planned to take on.

At the moment, we are strategizing to move up another level, using advanced tracking techniques, behavior-based funnels and producing content of an even higher level.

Want to use the same approach to fuel your growth?
Let's talk - hello@expppand.com
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