David Ly Khim on Economics, 10X Content, and Relationship Building

February 4, 2020
Jim Berg

Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!

David Khim is a product manager on HubSpot’s growth team. Additionally, he runs a content marketing agency that helps develop content strategy for fast-growing and enterprise businesses.

He also advises non-profits and mentors young entrepreneurs and professionals.

David regularls writes and speaks around the world about growth and product management.

You can find David on Twitter at @davidlykhim or on LinkedIn here.


What’s your origin story? How did you get into content marketing and how did you end up founding a content marketing agency?

I got into marketing because I was friends in university who were at the business school while I was studying chemistry.

We ended up working on some projects together and I found that I enjoyed the effort of finding a service that people are willing to pay for and finding a way to get the word out about it. I finished my degree and researched found that successful businesses often have great marketing behind them.

I used online resources like hubspot.com, neilpatel.com, and quicksprout.com to learn digital marketing and decided to focus on content marketing and SEO.

From there I got my official start through an SEO internship then ended up running marketing for a Los Angeles restaurant group, joined an agency, and ended up at HubSpot.

Through the years, I’ve shared my learnings about growth, marketing, and product management on my blog.

Is there anything specific to your background, skills, or personality that you think leads you to be an effective content marketer?

I believe there are two things that make an effective content marketer: curiosity and communication.

These things are tough to teach but can be cultivated if someone is motivated enough.

Curiosity keeps you digging and asking questions to understand concepts and put information together. It’s important to be able to do deep research, ask why, be resourceful, and get answers. That often requires reaching out to people for interviews, digging for data, and reading through research, then turning that all into a story that’s valuable and/or entertaining.

Clear verbal and written and communication are also very important.

When writing, it’s easy to get caught up with your ego and what you think is important and end up writing a 10,000-word article that goes all over the place. It comes down to thinking about what’s important to the reader and using that to frame how you communicate your story to make it easy to understand.

This might mean you have to relentlessly cut your article from 2000 words to 800 words to make it easier to understand or it might mean doing hours of additional research to find another angle that works.

The main goal is making sure the person reading it can understand your article and find value.

How do you think about driving business value with content? How do you take a reader from being interested in the topic to being interested in what you sell?

Let’s be clear that a reader is not likely to purchase your product after reading a single article.

Direct response purchase is not the goal.

The goal should be to become an educational resource on topics related to your products and develop trust with potential customers. That way, you’re top of mind when they’re ready to purchase.

What role do you see data and analytics playing in content marketing? Does Omniscient Digital use data to inform or improve content marketing efforts, and if so, how?

Data should be one input to help define what content is created to grow traffic, educate readers, and drive sales.

At our content marketing agency, Omniscient Digital, all our strategies are informed by data with room for creativity and strategic initiatives.

For example, when we work with clients, we start with a set of core keywords that will drive relevant traffic to their website and use that to seed our keyword research. However, our clients are the industry experts and they may notice trends in the market and want to become thought leaders in a topic that may not have a lot of search volume but they expect to generate more interest in the near future.

We integrate that high-level business strategy into the content strategy.

To illustrate, if we’re launching a content plan for a website that sells kava, we know based on data from Ahrefs and other SEO tools what kind of search volume there is for important keywords. We then build topic clusters around these terms, but we still keep 10-20% of our content portfolio open for strategic pieces, link bait, thought leadership, etc.

While our strategy is SEO-driven, our writers also have free reign to get creative with content knowing that reader experience is as important, if not more important, as including the right keywords.

Are there any lessons, habits, or knowledge that you’ve pulled from working in product management to your life as a content agency founder?

Product management and running a business are both all about trade-offs.

As every other business owner has said, there are dozens of things you could be doing at any time. Your to-do list will always exist and there are always side projects you want to work on. When you choose to focus and work on 1-3 things, you inherently decide that you will not work on an infinite number of other things. That’s scary. What if you’re focused on the wrong thing? It’s tempting to jump between multiple projects.

Risk is the name of the game when running a business and building product. The goal is to find ways to validate what you’re doing through tests before you invest too many resources. When you see that something works, double down and focus even more on it.

In short: it’s all about focus, testing, and knowing when to make a bet to double down. It won’t always be easy, but you get used to that discomfort.

What’s an underrated tactic or trend you think more content marketers should look into right now?

Building relationships.

I see a lot of short-term thinking in marketing nowadays when it comes to something as squishy as co-marketing partnerships and as transactional as getting backlinks.

Marketers will send an email asking for a link without even thinking about the other person or building a relationship. When really, partnerships (backlinking included) are all about the relationships you build which will determine how you work together.

Marketers need to put more time into relationships, meeting people in the industry, and building real connections. It sounds squishy, but the best marketers I know, like my co-founder, Alex Birkett, are the ones who have built natural relationships.

On the flip side, what’s a pet peeve of yours in terms of content marketing today? What’s most annoying/frustrating right now?

10X content. I hate the phrase.

People think that writing 10X content means writing a listicle of 100 items instead of 50. Or writing more wordy blog posts to make them 2,000 words instead of 800.

The quality of content is not about the length or the number of images or the design. It’s about the value that readers get out of it. Writers like Allie Decker will write huge guides that are comprehensive and dense because they answer any and all questions a reader might have about the topic.

If I’m a marketing leader who wants to start a content program from scratch or invest in content, where do I start? What advice would you give someone in this position?

Ask what your goal is with content.

Is it traffic? Is it generating more leads? Getting more free users? Growing revenue?

Based off those goals, what’s the ceiling for growth via content? What are your conversion rates? What keyword volume is available and how difficult will it be to rank for those keywords?

The worst thing to do is to start writing content without a goal or strategy in mind.

That’s how companies end up wasting time and money on content and concluding that content doesn’t work for them.

What inspires you? What people, blogs, books, podcasts, etc. do you consume to inspire new ideas?

I’m a big fan of economics as it influences us and everything around us.

Podcasts like The Indicator, The Daily by The New York Times, and Freakonomics are great for learning about the things we don’t think about on a daily basis and gives us new lenses to look at situations and challenges. It also helps us understand the complexity of human psychology and decision-making.

At the end of the day, that’s what a marketer should be striving to understand because that’s what we want to influence.

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Jim Berg
Jim is the editor-in-chief at Wordable.

About the Author

Jim Berg
Jim is the editor-in-chief at Wordable.