Today's expert is Cory Ames, Co-Founder & CEO of a Grow Ensemble, a media and marketing company that amplifies the work of social entrepreneurs and purpose-driven business leaders to accelerate the change they wish to make in the world. At the age of 20, Cory dropped out from Gonzaga University to aggressively pursue a professional career in digital marketing. In 18 months Cory went from part-time Project Manager Assistant to CEO of a then multi-million dollar marketing agency with over 20 full-time employees.
In the lesson Corey reveals his Grow Ensemble Framework. For purpose-driven businesses, this strategy is immensely valuable to build a community around your brand and mission.
Phase 1: The Foundation
Phase 2: Build & Run the Content Machine
First and foremost look at where you're getting your traffic from. And then maybe next is to actually have some conversations with the potential audience you're trying to attract.
This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast, a top social entrepreneur startup podcast. Listen or subscribe below.
Scroll below for important resource links & transcripts mentioned in this episode.
Want hear about a founder who uses marketing to grow a community? - Listen to Episode 050 with Ryan Mckenzie, Co-founder of Tru Earth, which bootstrapped from 0 to 2.5 million in monthly revenue in only 17 months while waging a war against plastic. His growth came from marketing a great story in order to build a community of raving fans around his product
Cory Ames Interview
Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Welcome to evolve a podcast about social entrepreneurs, changing the world. I'm your host, Brandon Stover. And today I'm here with social enterprise marketing expert. Corey Ames. Who's going to share with us his grow ensemble framework for how to market a mission-driven social enterprise online.
Now I'm going to let Cory introduce himself in just a moment. But Corey is someone who really knows how to advocate for social and environmental action through media and marketing. After going from project manager to C E O of a multimillion dollar marketing agency, he jumped ship and decided to start growing sambal a media and marketing company that amplifies the work of social entrepreneurs and purpose-driven business leaders to accelerate the change they wish to make in the world.
The framework. Cory reveals today has two phases, phase one, creating a foundation and phase two building and running the content machine.
During phase one, we focus on strategy and optimization. During phase two, we expand our marketing content through the four steps of production, publication, promotion, and review. For purpose-driven businesses. This strategy is immensely valuable to build a community around your brand and mission. So, Corey, go ahead and introduce yourself and how you became an expert at marketing for social enterprises.
Cory Ames: [00:01:13] Sure. So I'm, I'm Cory Ames and I am the co-founder and CEO of grow ensemble. And we are a, something of a content hub in the realm of, of social and environmental action. We write quite a bit. About sustainable business and as well sustainable living. And so previously before this, I was the CEO of a digital marketing agency kind of odd served dental practices all over the U S in Canada.
And that was my, my first real kind of professional experience in digital marketing. I guess, you know, not just directly into the CEO position, but I kind of worked my way up within that agency. And as a product to that very fast growing, I got an opportunity to learn digital marketing tactics inside and out.
Most heavily SEO and content marketing. And then ultimately I, you know, came to a bit of an existential crisis or, you know, quarter-life crisis. Oh, which is a bit of a new term that had me wonder, you know, how I could use my, my skillsets that, you know, I've been learning for the last five, six, seven years at that point to do something of, of what I felt was a much greater impact or something that aligned better with my own values and belts, so that ultimately after some big sorting that, that came to, to grow ensemble, the work specifically in this realm of social and environmental action.
Brandon Stover: [00:02:35] Awesome. I love it. Well, tell us why social enterprise marketing is so important for our listeners and how they're going to immediately start applying these steps
Cory Ames: [00:02:45] Sure. Well, you know, I think that there is a challenge with, with being a business or, you know, nonprofit for one. Because you're, you're balancing the constraints of, running an organization, you know, a business as any business traditionally would with as well, you know, attempting to, to make some sort of greater impact.
I like to think that the, the stakes are a little bit higher and, you know, as a product of that, the margins are a little bit slimmer. Because these types of businesses and organizations use their resources differently. So as a product of that, it can be challenging of, you know, who you're going up against more traditional businesses who are, you know, full-fledged on investing all their resources, marketing, messaging, communicating these types of businesses really have to be just as competitive as them, you know, to differentiate themselves in whatever marketplace that they're a part of.
And I think more so than ever, it's important that, that these businesses that are aligned with some sort of greater purpose you know, make a very conscious effort to, to build a community around, you know, both their business and what it is that they can offer and products and services and their mission.
So I think that you absolutely have to take these things serious. If you're wanting to, to compete with more conventional traditional businesses,
Brandon Stover: [00:03:59] I always think about social enterprises. It's like playing entrepreneurship on hard mode because you have to add on the added layer of doing good for the world, but you can't ignore things like marketing sales those sorts of things that you have to do for any type of business. So I'm really glad to have you on today and start sharing diving into that. So let's go ahead and start you broken it into two phases, phase one, the foundation and phase two, build and run the content machine. So let's go ahead and start with phase one. And the first part of building a strategy.
Cory Ames: [00:04:31] Sure. this is all, you know, really extracted from what is our grow ensemble framework. So this is our, you know, our step-by-step social enterprise marketing framework. That we've refined, you know, in our own content production in publication methods. But everything from the get-go really starts with that foundation, as you mentioned that that first base which breaks into those two components first being the strategy and for us, you know, we really want to reverse engineer what, what you're attempting to do.
And first and foremost, who you're trying to connect with. And what sort of topics and interests and product and service related fields. Are you trying to be an authority on. And so from that, you know, we want to reverse engineer what sort of content topics articles and things that we want to produce and create as a product to, to get ourselves, exposure as it relates to really industry specific terms and, overlaps and the community and audience that we're trying to connect with.
So we have, you know folks that we work with break that down, you know, think about what, what are the questions, interests and I guess curiosities that their potential existing audience or desirable, you know, desired audiences is thinking through as it relates to what they do. And, you know, start there first and foremost,
Brandon Stover: [00:05:39] Kind of decided what things that you're going to start tackling. You said to start with the low-hanging fruit and optimize there first. So can you kind of explain how that has gone about.
Cory Ames: [00:05:50] you know, if we're taking a look at anybody's website or any kind of content they've been creating for a long time, I'm sure that there's a lot of opportunity for them to get more out of what they've already created. No, there's a reality that, that content creation if done well, takes a lot of resources in time, you know, most definitely.
So we want to look at things that, you know, existing blog posts, existing pages to see where we can potentially, you know, expand upon those, refine those, add more to them. Make a more comprehensive in depth, you know, make sure that we're answering every potential question and interest and curiosity that a potential user might have before we even consider creating anything.
Yeah. So a lot of folks who've been blogging for years and haven't feel like. You know, felt like they they've gotten much out of it. We'll usually take a look at those some 30, 40, 50 blog posts that they've created and see like, okay, you know, is there anything that we can work with here first, before we start to create something new or there's little kind of technical, you know, snafoos and Hangouts load speed is a big thing.
You know, as an example, if a site's slow, if it's hard to use, then you know, you better bet that. Doesn't matter how quality your blog post is. The content you create is people will, will hop off, you know, before they get a chance for the page to load. So we want to look at all those little kind of existing things to see that we have a really solid foundation before we start creating new things.
Brandon Stover: [00:07:07] So before we jump into the part two of this. Can you give an example of maybe one of the companies you've worked with or something you've done in grow a sambal of building this foundation, building that strategy and then optimizing it.
Cory Ames: [00:07:21] Sure. we're a relatively young company right now. We're, we're just a little over two years old. And so we first launched our social good blog in October of 2019. And then from there, you know, that was us kind of. You know, going through our own process where we really looked to, to refine and establish this framework for, the first part of setting up our own content engine and in the span of you know, 14 months there from, at the end of 2020, you know, we saw 80,000 page views site going from complete zero.
We were just about, you know, under 1000. And so over 14 months, time producing all this kind of content around social and environmental action. No, it took us about 14, 14 months to get to that point and things are continuing to grow from there.
Brandon Stover: [00:08:04] Nice. Well, let's go ahead and dive into running that content machine. You've outlined it's production, publication, promotion, and distribution, and review and analysis. So go ahead and start us off with production.
Cory Ames: [00:08:16] production is, is really about finding the, the team around you. You know, just because again, content is kind of an all hands on deck initiative, if you really want to do it well especially now finding the team to help you produce content at a level that's quality and consistent.
Right. And so we often get times asked, you know, how often should we be blogging, producing podcasts, whatever it might be, you know? And I always say that it's at the greatest frequency that you can without sacrificing on quality. So given that that's the constraint, this is really, you know, the first point in which you're taking a serious analysis, that you have all the different components of it, writers, editors, you know, depending on the medium that you're going to use, if it's podcasting is podcasting.
But all those different working parts. To make sure, especially as a business owner or founder or CEO, that content creation, isn't ultimately dependent upon you because that's going to be difficult. Even if you want to play a part in it, you know, you don't want to have the system sustain a solely on your shoulders.
Otherwise it's not going to work.
Brandon Stover: [00:09:16] Right. Okay. So let's move on to the next step, which is publication.
Cory Ames: [00:09:21] here, you know, this is, well, maybe something of a brief and quick step. We want to make sure that our content is as search friendly in the context of, being prepared to be discovered and used by search engines like Google and as user-friendly as possible. And they both kind of serve the other because Google is ultimately trying to, you know, while they may not be perfect at it their long-term trajectories to provide the absolute best result to the searcher, you know, no matter what they're, they're looking for.
And so reverse engineering that. You know, we need to create a piece of content. If we're publishing a blog, post a new page video, whatever it might be that is as you know, focused on the user experience as it possibly can be. So, you know, touching back to the technical component, are there good visuals that help represent the subject matter that we're talking about?
You know, does the page still load fast? Does it look good on different devices? You know, is the text really scannable, easy to digest and that kind of stuff. You know, those things, all help kind of feed how Google friendly our pages and you know, ultimately user friendly. It's kind of a, you know, fulfilling cycle that those two go through.
Brandon Stover: [00:10:23] And this is where some of the stuff that you've uncovered in that foundation process would really help out as well, because you're going to know what key words and things that you need to use and headlines and whatnot so that it does show up in Google a lot more.
Cory Ames: [00:10:34] Definitely. That's right.
Brandon Stover: [00:10:36] So once we've done the publication it's on to promotion and distribution.
Cory Ames: [00:10:40] this is all kind of dependent upon, you know, what external or what additional resources and time you may have available. You know, we really like focusing on creating content. That's evergreen has longevity to it and working with search engines like Google it's ultimately you'll get folks stumbling upon it because, you know, we know that once we create a piece of content, it's something of a traffic asset.
Something that people will continue to find month after month, year, over year, as long as we're kind of maintaining and monitoring it, it's still a satisfactory result. And so, you know, the extent at which we want to promote and distribute our content is really so that we can start to get some early engagement on it so that we can send ideally positive engagement signals, people read it, and they like it.
They click through to other pages and resources. We want to send all that Intel back to Google, you know, cause they're extracting and all from our analytics. So promotion methods, you know, for us are really simple and systemic. You know, we always work within our own email is first and foremost, you know, share your content to your own community.
Yeah, and we have very kind of systemic and easy ties, our different social media platforms to distribute. And then maybe if we're really making a good hustle on it, we'll work with strategic partners. Folks who have, you know, overlapping interests with ours to, to share with their own audiences and communities.
Obviously that takes the most labor work out of those. But we really want to focus on, you know, what can we do first and foremost, that's quick, easy and systemic. You know and obviously that's working with your own existing community, but folks may not have those yet. And so while you're waiting for some more kind of organic traffic to develop a time maybe cultivating some strategic partnerships to find out where are there places that you can either republish the content you created for your own site, direct people back to your own site or, you know, share within other communities, other email lists, newsletters that kind of stuff.
Brandon Stover: [00:12:25] Have to stress the value of this content and basically having it for the longterm. Can you share an example of maybe how much traffic or people reaching out that you've. From content you made a long time ago.
Cory Ames: [00:12:38] Sure. So, I mean, for us, a lot of our posts from the point of publication don't really see the full maturation of what kind of monthly traffic they could see until maybe six months down the road, you know? And then at that point they can see depending on, you know, what kind of terms and keywords we were looking to target from the very beginning.
This can see hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of views on a month to month basis, you know, and for us, those are great. You know, I mentioned that term of traffic assets. So we know that if we create a piece of content, now six months down the line, it's going to continue to drive traffic and exposure to our site.
And then next from that, we're always doing our best to be, to make sure that we're taking folks to the next stage to build a more engaged, extensive relationship with them. And for us, that's, you know, converting them to email us subscribers. That's a much more personal connection for us then than just kind of, you know, passively consuming our blog content.
So we'll invite them to the email list and that helps grow that email list, you know? And so our traffic over the last year versus 2019, grew by some 3000% something kind of wild like that in our email list grew by maybe 300 or 350% year over year, you know? And so those are all really good kind of indicators for us that we know.
Those same blog posts are going to continue to compound and add on to that, you know, and we created, I think maybe 55, 60 articles last year. You know, we want to double that. We know every single one of those is kind of a compounding return to us on the amount of reach exposure we can get and ultimately the community we can create around growth ensemble.
Brandon Stover: [00:14:09] Yeah. Okay. So let's talk about review and analysis, kind of rolling into, you know, what's working, what's not.
Cory Ames: [00:14:14] So, I mean, really this is something of a, you know, just to kind of simple 80 20 analysis in the sense of, you know, what, what has gone well what didn't go so well and what can we improve upon? You know, so there's very tactical ways in which we go about this to look into our analytics. There's also ultimately trying to take us back a little bit to the foundational component of seeing, you know, where is our new, low hanging fruit at.
And every time that we publish all this content through any particular period, three months, six months, 12 months, and we're putting more information out into the world and we're getting the opportunity to get more information and feedback back to us. What do people like, what do they engage with?
What pages are really popular, whatever it might be. If we created some downloads or anything for people to opt into to sign up for our email list, you know, which one of those are most popular? So this can help us just by looking at that purely at what's getting the most traffic, most engagement, you know, maybe what topics we should dive deeper into, or maybe, you know, find different ways to deliver that information.
So we'll create a blog post for instance, and see that it's gotten a lot of traffic. Then we will think like, okay, maybe we turn that blog post into something of a podcast or a video for YouTube. You know, so this is kind of a way for us to, to make the most of that existing topic and dive deeper into it.
We've done the harder work already by researching and producing the written content. You know, then maybe we find other ways to repurpose it and you know, kind of build out the ecosystem of the different ways in which people digest, you know, one particular issue caused or whatever it might be.
Brandon Stover: [00:15:39] And now you don't have to reinvent the wheel so many times try and come up with new content all the time. You see what's working and you can repurpose it to, you know, different avenues. Like you said, going from the blog to the podcast per se.
Cory Ames: [00:15:50] Definitely yeah. Making the most of your time, because again, the, the upfront production of that is, is probably the most time and resource intensive component.
Brandon Stover: [00:15:59] So our listeners have been listening and to hear how much time it's going to take to do all of these steps, where should they start first? Like even if they could start the very first step today.
Cory Ames: [00:16:08] The very first step is, is that I would, I would look at first and foremost where you're getting your traffic from a lot of people, you know, don't have the sense of what pages are actually driving the traffic for them to their website. And a lot of times this is mostly just the homepage and they might be disappointed that the blog posts they've been creating have been, you know, been driving in long-term sustainable traffic.
Let's start there, see where you're getting traffic. And then maybe next is to actually have some conversations with the, either the potential audience you're trying to attract, you know? So get that person that persona in your head and see who may be out in the world. You can actually have a conversation with, to see what questions, you know, interest in, in.
You know, curiosities, they might have as it relates to your business or organization, because if you start there with what real people are actually asking about, you know, you're kind of doing the hard work of, you know, SEO search engine optimization anyways, because it's based off of, you know, demand, what kind of questions, topics and interests people have a demand for in the digital space.
So have real conversations. You reverse engineer your content plan from there.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:11] Corey, where can people reach out if they need some more guidance on this, or, I mean, want to follow you?
Cory Ames: [00:17:17] Well, I mean, first and foremost, girl ensemble.com is a great place to go to, to keep up with what we're doing. But I also put together a dedicated resource for listeners that they show here, Brandon. So folks can go to grow ensemble.com, backslash evolve, and there they can find a 10 point checklist for, for social enterprises and nonprofits to, to build a community around their, their brands and missions.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:40] Awesome more than I love it. doing what you preach by having something that you can actually track. From the people coming here.
Cory Ames: [00:17:46] Definitely.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:46] All right. Well, thank you so much, Corey, for coming on today and sharing your expertise.
Cory Ames: [00:17:50] Thank you, Brandon. I appreciate you having me.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:52] That was Cory Ames co-founder and CEO of grown sambal showing us on a market, a mission-driven social enterprise online, the six steps of the framework are one creating a foundational strategy to optimize the low-hanging fruit three content production for Google and user-friendly publication, five promotion and distribution, and six review and analysis.
Now Corey recommends a step that we should take today right now is to begin understanding who our audience is and where they are coming from online. You suggest actually interviewing or talking with the people who would be your ideal customer or client and seeing what interests that they have, what questions they always have come up.
And the pain points that they've been having. This helps you to create content that actually addresses their concerns. Then he says, we should jump into something like Google analytics and see where our traffic is coming from on our site. This is allows us to see which pages are visited the most and where on the web these people are coming from.
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