“But I also wondered if he wasn’t right, that we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change.” – Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
This year, I took a break from With Content to work on an emerging problem that I’ve felt strongly about for a while: mental health in the workplace.
I had grand plans to use the power of words to change the way mental health was perceived and handled in companies all over Asia.
But while I accomplished a great deal in my time at the startup, the biggest change actually happened within myself instead.
I realized that the deepest impact that I could actually have was at my own company. I was in a position where I could call the shots in the right way: prioritizing people over profits, calmness over hustle, love over hate.
I now think of content marketing and mental health in the same way as I approach investing money, which is to commit to small, consistent efforts rather than trying to go big by timing the “market”.
Here’s how Morgan Housel puts it in The Psychology of Money:
“The idea that something can gain over the long run while being a basketcase in the short run is not intuitive, but it’s how a lot of things work in life. 99.9% of Warren Buffett’s financial success can be tied to the financial base he built in his pubescent years and the longevity he maintained in his geriatric years. His skill is investing, but his secret is time […] Progress happens too slowly to notice, but setbacks happen too quickly to ignore. Growth is driven by compounding, which always takes time.”
So with renewed perspective and hope, I’m returning to With Content in 2023.
And just in time to celebrate our fifth anniversary, too! We’ve come such a long way since starting in 2017, and it is only as we look back do we see the compounded effect of all the small decisions we’ve made over the years.
My character arc, together with the arc of With Content’s story, continues to change for the better.
Speaking of With Content’s story – I’m happy to share that the company is growing nicely.
In 2022, we added five new team members to our ranks, effectively doubling in size. We’ve also added some household names to our clientele, with big plans to continue to grow their share of the pie in their respective industries in 2023.
We’re heartened to see that, as content marketing evolves as a practice, clients are ready to adapt with it.
Content marketing is no longer a long-term game
The past year spent leading content marketing in an early-stage startup has also given me time to test and solidify my ideas, which we will be implementing at With Content going forward.
Here’s what I’ve realized: content marketing is no longer a “long-term investment” that only more established companies can participate in.
Regardless of maturity, all B2B companies need to get in the game and produce crucial pieces of pillar content from the get-go, or risk becoming irrelevant.
Particularly in the aftermath of COVID, our world has truly gone digital, and businesses need to follow suit or get left behind.
In this digital world, the number of customer touchpoints (points of contact with your brand) before purchase has increased exponentially. According to Google, the typical customer journey involves between 20 to 500+ touchpoints. Multichannel marketing is more important than ever, and you need relevant and engaging content on every channel.
Without deep pockets, it is very difficult to create fresh content for every channel brands need to be present on. This is why we encourage clients to take a hard look at existing resources and consider repurposing them instead.
Indeed, in 2022 we worked closely with several clients to identify and repurpose existing content assets, or develop pillar content with the intention of repurposing them into several other formats. We expect to do this a lot more in the year to come.
This is not limited to marketing channels alone. A sales team will have a much easier time engaging potential leads if armed with the right resources, for instance. It helped accelerate our branding efforts too, as these pieces of content were shared through “dark social channels” such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Sales enablement was a huge part of my content strategy in 2022, and I don’t foresee this trend changing anytime soon.
All this to say: rest assured that we’re learning and adapting even as the world around us changes.
With Content cannot remain as a production-focused content agency. In 2023, we endeavor to work even more closely with our clients to enhance and optimize their content marketing journey.
Here’s what we’ll be focusing on.
1. Doubling down on Service Standards
In our early days, we did whatever we could to survive as a company. That sometimes meant pulling weekend or overnight shifts, or giving into client demands even when we were certain they would not be the best choice in the long run.
However, every compromise inevitably results in a negative consequence. A rushed deadline might result in slipshod work. Unexpected periods of non-communication waste capacity that could have been dedicated to other clients.
Through trial and error, we’ve sharpened and solidified our processes according to best practices over the years. Our confidence that we can meet the mark and deliver our best work to clients today is in large part because of these processes.
Which is why we’ve put together our Service Standards, the culmination of our hard work and (sometimes literal) tears over the past five years. We will be sharing this with our clients in the year to come.
Our Service Standards represent our commitment to doing our best work for our clients. As long as we keep to the processes outlined in this document, our clients can be assured that they’ll get our best and nothing less.
2. Sustainability over profitability
Every year, we aim to achieve a certain percentage of profit for two reasons.
Firstly, to put cash back into the bank and ensure a level of security that our team can rely on in tough times.
Secondly, to increase the amount that our team can draw out during our profit-sharing exercise at the end of each year.
After five years, we feel that we have enough cash in the bank to take a more serious look at sustainability going forward.
In other words, how we can put more resources into ensuring the team is able to do their best work at a comfortable pace for as long as they want to stay with us.
Think: more regular get-togethers, company retreats, upskilling opportunities, mental health and creative breaks, and so on.
Ultimately, a motivated team is a team that will give their best for clients, so we want to invest more in this area in the years ahead.
3. New year, new leadership
At the start of 2022, our account director Pearl committed to spending a year with us to try her hand at a leadership role in a small company.
Now, she will be moving on to take a break before embarking on a new journey.
We’re extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication she put into With Content this year.
From now on, our management team will comprise myself and Samantha, our head of production (pictured on the right).
We will also have other team members take on new leadership roles in the company, such as overseeing editorial standards and production timelines.
Exciting times for all, and I have to say that I’m truly glad to be back for a time such as this!