If you’ve ever researched anything on marketing, you’re bound to run into Larry Kim. With more than a million followers, Larry isn’t just a marketing influencer — he’s a nerd, whose favorite thing is conducting marketing experiments and reverse-engineering successful strategies.
Recently, I interviewed Larry Kim on his content strategy and tactics, but wanted to get a glimpse into his beginnings. Read on to see how Larry became one of our industry’s favorite influencers.
Did you want to be a marketer when you grew up?
Hah. No, but I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I set up a recycling business where I would sell materials to wholesale vendors or newspaper businesses. My mother was a piano teacher, so, from a young age, I saw the allure of self-employment.
Sounds like you inherited that from her. I saw that you studied electrical engineering in college. Was that with an eye towards entrepreneurship?
Yes. An influential family friend talked about innovations and gadgets and I thought that would be interesting. At 17, I decided: “Okay, that’s what I’m gonna do.” It’s funny, in high school I was always more of a math than an English person. Now it’s switched. I’m a writer.
With all the possible subjects out there, how do you pick what to write about?
I’ll dare to compare myself with the “Game of Thrones” writers who don’t write the entire seven seasons and then start shooting. You figure it out as you go. But I do have a sort of system in place for themed content:
- It should be related to something we are currently selling or planning to sell at some point.
- It’s novel – we don’t rehash old stuff.
- There’s a market for this type of content – it’s the stuff everyone needs to know including the people who aren’t marketers.
Here’s an example to illustrate the point:
For the next year, my theme will be Facebook advertising. I think nobody in the industry has really scratched the surface on how the algorithms of the Facebook newsfeed and Facebook ads work. It fits all the criteria mentioned above:
- We do Facebook advertising.
- Nobody’s writing about that kind of stuff.
- There’s a tremendous interest in understanding how these things work.
How do you put out such a tremendous volume of content?
I don’t do just blog posts. What you actually see is a sequence of posts. I’ll bang the drum on a particular topic like AdWords or quality score and write about them for 12 months, exploring every possible facet and doing every possible experiment.
One post could get lost. But if you start to build up this kind of depth and breathe around, then they become more memorable and that’s what thought leadership is, right? You’re pioneering a new way of thinking within your niche.
…If you start to build up this kind of depth and breathe around, then they become more memorable and that’s what thought leadership is, right? You’re pioneering a new way of thinking within your niche.
I think of different subjects in terms of thematic campaigns, that could last anywhere from 6 or 12 months, up until it’s like fully, fully explored.
You have become a huge authority and popular personality on the web (and a top-10 author on Medium). Do you think all companies need to have a prominent human face to be part of their brand?
I’m not sure whether it’s true. Here’s what happened in our case. At a certain point, we’ve started asking what would be the barriers to growth? And the answer was lead flow.
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We started with generating 10,000 leads, then 20,000, 30,000 leads. People were signing up for white papers or webinars or trials or graters etc. If you’re generating 30,000 leads a month and you want to grow the company by 50% next year, then you need to go from 30,000 to 45,000 leads.
I was wondering where can I make the greatest impact in terms of the business metrics. And that’s how I turned to blogging. It was also a really interesting challenge for me because I didn’t have the first mover advantage.
I was wondering if it’s possible to catch up given that I was starting so late. I kind of just fell into this industry by accident and grew to who I am today through experimenting and reverse engineering what has worked for others. That’s where my actual background in engineering came in handy.