What to Do When Your Business Growth Hits a Wall

Ever heard the phrase, “What got you here won’t get you there?” Even if you haven’t, you probably know what it feels like.

Let’s say you’ve been experiencing a string of successes, growing nonstop, when you suddenly hit a wall. Then, no matter how hard you keep trying to repeat successful habits, you just can’t get past this bottleneck. It’s like everything you’ve learned so far no longer applies.

What gives?

Scaling Up Has Multiple Stages

Let me give you a more concrete example of why this happens.

When you’re first growing a business, you might hire a bunch of friends in the early days. You guys are working together and things are actually working out really well. Before you know it, you’re getting sales into the pipeline. You are growing 100% month over month.

When you’re really small, this kind of growth is very possible, and it seems like growth is effortless.

So you hire a couple people, first contractors and then full-timers, and they do a really good job for you. In the first year, things are going really well and you hit six figures in revenue. The very next year, you’re on track to do seven figures.

But to go from six to seven figures, there are significant changes you have to make. You have to start thinking about scalable processes and you may consider bringing in more senior and experienced help. But you haven’t done any of this before, so you don’t know this ahead of time.

Instead, you keep trying to do the same things you did in the past, but without any sign of success.

Related Content: How to Scale Your Business to 9 Figures Per Year

How Do You Get to the Next Level?

Whenever a company starts out, people wear a lot of different hats. Everyone’s open to doing a lot of different things. But when you start to get to the seven-figure level and beyond, you need to hire more specialists. And when you look at companies that do over $100 million per year, you have lots of investment in operations and layers of management, too.

But aren’t generalists better, you ask?

Not always. For example, let’s say one of your best friends helps you build up your company and he’s a generalist marketer who’s really good at getting a lot of different things up and running. In the early days, that might be enough because he’s basically like a Swiss army knife for marketing.

When you’re running on a shoestring, a self-funded budget, a Swiss army knife is a great investment.

But your friend might not be the person who will take you to next level of success with your marketing. For that journey, you need someone with a more specialized set of skills, someone who really understands the nuances of your niche. Specialists are more tuned into the cutting-edge stuff that will give you an edge over the competition.

Related Content: How We Doubled Our Traffic by Using this One Tactic

Hiring and Firing for Growth

The mistake that many companies make in this exact situation is they say, “Okay, let’s just stick with these guys. They’ve done a good job.” And then you stick with them for a couple years, but your growth kind of plateaus, because what got you here won’t get you there.

Granted, you have an emotional tie to the people who stuck things out with you when the company was growing. But at a certain point you have to ask yourself, “Is this person truly the person who will take us to the next level? If not, what do I need to do next?”

If you don’t feel 100% confident in your conviction that this person is the right person, then you’ve got to make a change. Maybe you need to help them adjust to another role. But if that person doesn’t want to move into another role, then you’ll have to make a difficult decision.

You don’t necessarily have to fire anyone. Many people can and will adapt to a new role if they like the company and if they’re compensated well. Those are the people who work really, really hard, and who love to learn. But some people may just want a standard 9-to-5 job, and they don’t want to learn new skills for new roles.

I’ve been in situations before where, as a manager, I had to make those kinds of decisions. Let’s say you hire someone who’s really good at content writing, for example, and they were able to handle all your content marketing. But now you need to produce way more content, maybe even multimedia content, and you need an editor-in-chief rather than a full-time writer.

Not all writers make good editors, and vice versa, so this is an example of something that could become a bottleneck.

Related Content: When Business Growth Stalls: Persevere or Give Up?

Get Advice from People Who Are Already There

You need to think about these things as you continue to grow because there are people who have had a lot of experience in your niche who know exactly what to do in your situation to get to the next level.

If you’ve hit a growth plateau and aren’t sure why, consider auditing your company. Ask yourself:

These are the questions I ask myself all the time. I’m constantly looking at where Single Grain is today and where we need to go next. We’ve made some huge transitions in our time, from a brick-and-mortar SEO agency to a completely remote PPC team back to an in-person team that’s really good at paid advertising. There have been a couple of major paradigm shifts, but everyone on the team understands that we make these changes to grow the company, and everyone has to learn as needed.

So, ask yourself this question every now and then: “Do we have everything we need to take us to the next level?” Because what got you here won’t necessarily get you there.

This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post:

How to Drive Effective Content Creation with Efficient Production Workflows

This post originally appeared on Single Grain, a growth marketing agency focused on scaling customer acquisition.

Nic Evans of GatherContent once said: “Great content isn’t stumbled upon, it’s carefully designed for a specific goal.” His words couldn’t be more true. Your brand has the ability to craft exceptional content, but you’ll need to adhere to a disciplined strategy in order to do so.

Good content doesn’t create itself. But do you know what separates the content of brand authorities from the rest of the pack?

Obviously, an in-depth knowledge of your industry is a prerequisite. However, even industry leaders often fail to create excellent content for one main reason: they don’t have a good production workflow in place. Neil Patel featured a detailed infographic on the importance of a well-thought-out content generation strategy.

Read More: How to Turn Your Editorial Calendar into a Well-Oiled Machine

Creating content requires a significant investment. According to Hubspot, it takes the average writer about 1-2 hours to write a single, 500-word article. Of course, you also have editors and other team members involved in the process, which can get overwhelming if you don’t have a good system in place.

You need to invest time, money, and precious human labor to create content. All of these resources are limited, so you need a strategy in place to deliver it efficiently and consistently.

Why Is it Necessary to Have an Organized Content Production Process?

The content generation process has become extremely regimented over the years and brands are scaling content production at a record pace. In October, the Content Marketing Institute conducted a survey that found that 76% of brands intend to produce even more content in 2016.

Meanwhile, as brands are continuing to increase the quantity of content, the quality standards are escalating even further, too. New versions of Google Panda are slowly wiping out businesses that rely on low-quality content and cutthroat competition for attention on social media channels has raised the bar for all content produced.

Free Bonus Download: Get a step-by-step guide to crafting content for conversions – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

But although the demand for quality content is on the rise, brands’ resources are not. Most have constrained budgets and a limited workforce, so they need to utilize them as effectively as possible. The only way a business can consistently deliver troves of quality content is by establishing a properly functioning content production system. It’s a huge task to set up a good system, but well worth the effort.

The Anatomy of a Great Production Workflow

workflowSetting up a strong production workflow can save endless headaches down the road, so make sure you set up a solid foundation right from the start and use it consistently going forward. Here are the core elements of an effective content production process.

Streamline Every Step Possible

There are multiple stages in the content generation process. Here’s an example of a content generation process for a company that has an in-house system:

Each of these steps takes a significant amount of time. You and your team may spend a couple of weeks creating a piece of content from start to finish.

If you don’t have a way to expedite this, you’ll quickly generate a huge backlog. If this is the case, your writers and editors may feel pressured and start cutting corners and sacrificing quality in order to meet deadlines.

How do you avoid this catastrophe? You should streamline the process by handling these tasks in bulk by following these tips:

You will significantly improve the efficiency of your content production process by handling each of these stages in bulk.

Read More: How To Build a Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine 

Use a Centralized Editorial System


Too many brands manage their entire production process via e-mail. But there are a number of problems with this approach:

Fortunately, there are many excellent project management systems available. Asana, Basecamp, and Podio are some of the leading systems on the market.

Make sure that your editors, writers, and clients all have access to the system. Encourage them to use it to track each and every project, and to communicate through the platform as much as possible.

Keep Your Legal Team in the Loop

Twenty years ago, Internet content was a novelty that attracted little scrutiny from regulators. Government agencies are far more involved today, and marketers are required to ensure that their content abides by all relevant laws. The FTC and industry regulators will provide guidance, but many brands need direction from lawyers.

Free Bonus Download: Get a step-by-step guide to crafting content for conversions – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Run your entire content strategy by your legal department. You should also check in with them periodically and ask for feedback on specific types of content. Make a habit of reaching out to your lawyers:

The Content Marketing Institute recommends consulting with your lawyers on a regular basis if you’re writing content for a tightly-regulated industry.

Conduct Regular Audits

No matter how carefully you plan your content delivery system, you’re going to run into problems over time. The success of your process doesn’t depend on the number of problems that you prevent—it depends on how well you address the problems as they arise.

Conduct regular content audits to identify any problems that are occurring. Some things to look out for include the following.

1) Missed Deadlines

deadlineTake your deadlines seriously, monitor due dates carefully, and stick to an editorial schedule. Frequently missed deadlines can be a symptom of a couple of problems:

Learn More: How To Do A Content Cleanup (And Grow Your Organic Traffic)

2) Failure to Follow Quality Guidelines

Quality guidelines provide the necessary structure to guarantee that your content lives up to professional standards. Make sure that every member of your team is abiding by them.

Everyone is going to have an off day once in awhile. However, you clearly have a problem if your team members are consistently failing to meet your requirements. In this case, here are some things to consider:

Keep your communication direct without dancing around the issue. The important thing is to identify the source of the problem and take the necessary steps to address it.

The Need for Additional Team Members

As you scale your content production, you may reach a point where your existing team can no longer handle the workload. As a business owner, you should regularly interview and recruit to keep a list of top talent on hand.

Always Optimize Your Model

Your content production system needs to constantly evolve. Even if you set it up well in the beginning, you’re going to identify areas for improvement over time. Here are some ways that your system can be fine-tuned:

Free Bonus Download: Get a step-by-step guide to crafting content for conversions – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Over time, you will develop a highly-effective content production workflow that you can easily scale.

What type of content production system do you have in place? Please share your comments below:

Images: PixabayWP EnginePixabay

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Tim Matthews Incapsula

Hey everyone, today our guest is Tim Matthews, the Head of Marketing at Incapsula, which is a cloud-based application delivery platform that accelerates and secures websites of any kind. He is also the author of The Professional Marketer and The SaaS Marketing Handbook.

Today we’ll be talking about how Incapsula doubles their business every year, why their number one customer acquisition method is SEO and quality content, how changing two words resulted in a 280% increase in conversions, and how to get good conversion rates from influencer reviews about your product.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: Tim Matthews on How Incapsula Protects over 5,000,000 Websites and Still Manages to Double Business Year Over Year TRANSCRIPT

Episode highlights:

Resources from this interview:

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Eric Siu:

how to build a self sustaining content marketing engineMore content than ever is being produced today as more businesses are understanding the need to operate as a media company.

And that’s fair. The results from content marketing cannot be denied:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine(1)

So the question is this: how do you create a self-sustaining content marketing engine? An engine that can operate efficiently with all the moving parts flowing as one?

I’ve gone through this exercise a few times (and failed in the process).

In this post, I’m going to give you a template to build your own content marketing engine. Every business is different, so take what makes the most sense and integrate it into your company.

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 insanely actionable first steps for maximizing your content – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

1. The Team

If you’re going to create a content marketing engine, you’re going to need help. One person can’t do it all alone.

Here’s an example of how a team might be set up for a small company:

Let’s talk about these roles for a little bit:


The editor is responsible for making sure your content is up to par, gets scheduled, and follows your content process. In a sense, they can be seen as the executor of your content machine. For larger companies, you might have a Content Marketing Manager, Director of Content Strategy, VP of Content or Chief Content Officer.

Where to find good editors:


The designer helps make the imagery of your content look nice. Keep in mind that how your images and graphics look reflects upon your brand and that content with great imagery gets more engagement

Where to find good designers:

Social Media Specialist/Individual Outreach

The social media specialist will listen to and engage with your audience. They’re also responsible for curating content that your audience might be interested in. If you’re wondering what your self promotion to outside content ratio should be, I suggest going with 1:4. This means that for every self promotional share, you should have four curated shares.

Individual outreach involves reaching out to:

It’s tedious work finding the right contact information and then e-mailing people, following up, and repeating this over and over. In an ideal world, this would be a role in itself. Probably somebody more junior.

If you are part of a smaller team, I suggest training this person in individual outreach and paid content promotion. Smaller team members need to wear lots of hats and these responsibilities fit this individual best.

Where to find great social media specialists:

Paid Advertising Specialist

The paid advertising specialist will help promote content on paid channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, LinkedIn and more. Promoting content through paid advertising is a growing trend and I think it’s the way of the future.

For example, right now we are paying for cold traffic to come to our blog posts and we’re collecting e-mails for $2.88 per e-mail. That’s a GREAT deal for us.

Where to find great paid advertising specialists:

For a more in-depth look at how a content marketing team should be organized, take a look at this post by Content Marketing Institute.

Here’s what their ideal workflow looks like:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine(

2. Ideation


Draw up a mind map of your workflow in MindMeister.

The next step is coming up with fresh ideas for your audience. 

Here are a few good ways to get started:

Swipe Files

Swiped.co contains many marketing swipe files that you can use for inspiration. You can pull landing page/image inspiration for your own purposes.

I also regularly use Evernote to clip evergreen blog posts so that I can refer back to them.

Feedly is also a great place to keep an inventory of your favorite blogs. With Feedly, I can scroll through my feed really quickly and look for inspiration. Here’s an example:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

One of my personal favorites is using Twitter lists to keep tabs on certain industries. For example, I made a list of venture capitalists that I like to follow and I always get value from checking up on it every day:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 insanely actionable first steps for maximizing your content – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

Team Brainstorming

Making good use of your team is one of the most powerful ways to come up with great ideas.

Moz has a great set of tips for running a great brainstorming session right here:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

Look For What’s Working

Utilize tools like Google Trends and Google Display Planner to see what’s trending. Keyword Tool is another great way to see keyword volume not only on Google, but on YouTube as well.

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

I personally love using SEMrush to take a look at what competitors are doing in terms of PPC and SEO. BuzzSumo is great for looking at how content is performing socially.

Here’s an example use case for BuzzSumo:

Let’s say I’m interested in looking at top performing content for ‘link building’. I’ll go to the ‘Content Research’ tab in BuzzSumo and enter “link building”:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

Because we’re in the ideation phase right now, I’d like to

a) Export all these results, and

b) Create an alert for this phrase so I can continually monitor it.

Just thinking off the top of my head, maybe I can create an alternate version of the first result. How about ‘How to Use Pinterest for SEO: Link Building’? Might be worth a shot.

Look For What’s Working in Terms of SEO

Although you can use BuzzSumo to see what type of content is being linked to, its specialty is not in SEO. Instead, I turn to Ahrefs when I do my SEO analysis. Ahrefs is a paid SEO tool (minimum $99/mo) but I think it’s well worth it for the insights that it provides.

Let’s continue to build off of our search for top ‘link building‘ content:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

Similar to BuzzSumo, I’d create an alert and export these results. The only difference here is that Ahrefs is focusing more on SEO metrics such as ‘Domain Rank’ rather than social shares.

What’s Working Well in Other Industries?

Check out this ad by Squatty Potty:

The ad is pure genius because it’s a product that isn’t necessarily easy to advertise. Who wants to talk about optimizing pooping?

But that’s exactly what they did. They even have me talking about their poop product right now.

The ad is funny and educational. And remember: ads are content marketing too.

Watch this ad and think about how you can create something funny and educational. And keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a unicorn pooping out rainbow ice cream! 😉

Free Bonus Download: Get a list of 10 insanely actionable first steps for maximizing your content – actionable advice to help you get started not found in this post! Click here to download it free.

3. Promotion

The third step is promotion. I’ve covered this extensively in my content promotion piece. If you’re pressed for time, here’s the high level:

4. Continue to Refine

Every quarter, take a look at your processes and make adjustments accordingly. Things change quickly in the online world.

The best technologies of today might be inferior in 90 days. A search algorithm change may put a wrench in what you’re doing.

Constantly tweak and refine your processes or your content engine will start falling apart. It’s the same thing as maintaining your car.

Here are some tools you can use to keep your processes in one spot:

How To Build A Self-Sustaining Content Marketing Engine

Put in the effort to track all the work that your team is putting in. Moz has a fantastic case study about simple KPI dashboards right here. Here’s a little more insight from their founder, Rand Fishkin:

When you have created your dashboards, get your team together and walk through each metric and its importance. After that, assign each dashboard to stakeholders and revisit the numbers each month. Everyone should take a look at the numbers and have input on what they’d do next.

5. Content Marketing Team Tools

We’ve selected a few tools that make our lives easier when it comes to content marketing:

  1. CoSchedule – CoSchedule allows us to manage our content like a true editorial team. It includes editorial calendars, allows us to schedule social posts directly, and assign tasks to our team.
  2. Buffer – Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that allows us to queue posts ahead of time. The analytics are also very helpful.
  3. MeetEdgar – Edgar allows us to create a ‘library’ of posts where we can continue to resurface older evergreen content on a set schedule. If you’ve spent a lot of time on creating great content, it just makes sense to continue to put your good work on display since social media is so fleeting.
  4. BuzzSumo – As discussed above, BuzzSumo helps us find content that is performing well and influencers who are sharing specific content.
  5. Slack – Our communication tool. Outside integrations allow us to push new blog posts into channels so our team is instantly notified. This gets us all on the same page to start promoting at the same time.
  6. Zapier – Integrates with most of the web applications we use. For example, we can have our blog RSS feed connect with Buffer automatically to push new content out automatically.
  7. Dropbox – File storage.
  8. Evernote – Popular note-taking tool.
  9. Google Drive – File storage.
  10. LeadPages – When we write content, we’ll often add a content upgrade to help increase e-mail subscribers. LeadPages has a feature called ‘LeadBoxes’ that makes this easy to do.
  11. Ahrefs/SEMrush – Mentioned above. These tools give us a deeper look into a site’s SEO: inbound links, overall score, keywords a domain is ranking for, etc. They also provide insight into SEM campaigns.
  12. Feedly – Mentioned above. This allows us to consolidate our favorite RSS feeds and Buffer posts for curation.
  13. LibSyn – LibSyn is a podcast hosting service that allows you to store all your podcast episodes. They also have features that will push your podcast automatically to SoundCloud for more distribution.
  14. Google Analytics – Google’s free Analytics tool.
  15. Screenflow – Screenflow allows us record tutorials both for internal and external purposes.
  16. GoToWebinar – This allows us to host live webinars each week. We use GoToWebinar specifically because it integrates with LeadPages. An alternative to GoToWebinar is Zoom (cheaper and more features).


Creating a content machine is an investment that will start to pay dividends down the road. As your content team continues to grow, it’s important to create a self-sustaining process so that everything flows smoothly.

What are some other important content marketing processes you’d add?

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