In this latest edition of our Content Champion interview series, I talk with Mahnoor Sheikh at Visme about their business, their blog – and growing their customer base with content marketing.
Introduce Yourself & Your Business
Hello 🙂 I’m Mahnoor, content marketing manager at Visme.
My role is pretty diverse but serves a single purpose: to share Visme’s story in a way that’s engaging and shows customers why they should choose us over the alternatives.
Visme was founded by my colleague Payman Taei back in 2013 as a result of his first-hand frustration as a designer when creating graphics for clients.
Seeing the continual friction he faced when creating graphics by having to use 3-4 different software each with their own learning curve and user experience (such as Photoshop, Fireworks, Illustrator, Powerpoint, etc..), he wanted to create an all-in-one communication tool that would integrate multiple user experiences into one interface and one learning curve to create all forms of visual content, such as presentations, infographics, social media images, and even short animations.
Soon after launch of Visme in early Beta, he modified the tool towards being a fit for non-designers so it could empower everyone to create beautiful graphics, not just professionals.
Today, Visme is a robust design platform that helps marketers and non-designers create stunning graphics and presentations and tell powerful visual stories without having to hire an expensive designer or learn technical design skills.
Visme offers a lot of unique features: a drag-and-drop editor, thousands of beautiful templates, content blocks, icons, stock photos, fonts, graphics, advanced data visualization tools, color palettes, branding kit, animation and interactivity—we have it all.
Our customers range from small businesses, educators and students to leading nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. We aim to empower anyone and everyone with the ability to speak visually.
We are proud to have around 3 million Visme users all over the world and 500,000+ unique visits to our blog each month. We are continually investing heavily into improving the Visme product experience and creating free educational material to empower people to communicate visually.
What's Your Backstory & How Did You Become A Content Marketer?
I have always been fascinated with digital marketing and how content plays such a huge role in it. Regardless of what your goal is, it all comes down to the kind of content you create around your brand and how you communicate your messaging to your customers.
I grew up reading and writing a lot, and I knew I was going to follow this passion for the rest of my life. I taught myself graphic design and went on to get a degree in Communication and then an MBA focused in Marketing.
Alongside my academic studies, I worked as a freelance content writer and graphic designer and created content for various brands around the world, including some well-reputed names like Benchmark Email, Sendlane, Handmade Seller Magazine and Bestazy.
Working with so many different businesses and industries for several years taught me how to deal with all kinds of people, manage time and budget, and so much more. In terms of creating content, I learned how to take on different brand voices, sell and provide value to different kinds of customers and discover my own unique writing style in the midst of it all.
I eventually ended up as the content marketing manager for Visme and I now manage a team of extremely talented writers and designers all working towards the same goal: creating quality content for Visme that people love to read and share.
Why Did You Decide To Use Content & Digital Marketing As Your Main Marketing Method?
Since we are an online platform, it makes sense for us to focus most (if not all) of our efforts on digital and content marketing. SaaS is super competitive. If you’re not creating great content, your competitors are. And all your customers are reading it and getting influenced by it.
The reason why content marketing is so important is that it lets you skip the overtly sales-y approach and focus instead on driving organic engagement, traffic and conversions. It can be as simple as driving sign-ups by creating quality content around the use of a specific feature!
In the long term, publishing rich, insightful content helps you become part of your customers’ research and decision-making process. It builds trust and rapport and helps you stay at the top of their minds. So when the time comes to make a purchase, they come to you.
Describe Your Content Marketing Resources & Team?
We have a small but amazing team here at Visme. I think what makes us different from other businesses is that we encourage diversity and hire creatives from all over the world who have the same burning passion for what we are working towards.
Our writers and designers all come from different backgrounds, which brings so much creativity and innovation to the table. This reflects in not just our written and visual content, but also in our overall brand and product.
Since we are a visual platform, we focus a lot on meaningful design, especially when it comes to our content. Our awesome design team makes this possible.
For example, we don’t like to use stock photos in our content; we prefer to create original illustrations and even full infographics often using our very own platform. This does two things; makes the content engaging and easy to understand, and shows readers the various possibilities of what they can create in Visme.
How Do You Use Content & Digital Marketing To Attract & Retain Customers?
The majority of our content marketing efforts are spent on our blog, named “Visual Learning Center.” We receive over 500k unique visits a month (just to the blog).
It took a while to find our footing. We initially focused on creating “viral” content to create some traction for the site. However, we realized that it wasn't just about creating one-off viral posts (as traffic spikes and then dies off after some time), but finding a content strategy that is sustainable over time.
This is when we started focusing heavily on SEO. I would say that there are still 3 types of content we strive to create:
- Link-building content: Could be original content with viral potential, such as original data visualizations, infographics; or practical, comprehensive guides, like eBooks and long-form resources.
- SEO-driven content: Content that answers common user questions in a way that is not completely new, but fulfills a basic need within our audience. We use a tool called Ahrefs to do some keyword research before developing an outline.
- Bottom-of-funnel content: Content that is more user-focused and targets those looking for a product that can solve their visual communication needs, such as case studies, etc.
Over the years we’ve tried many different strategies to accelerate the growth rate of our blog (and referral visits to our main website) and some have been more successful than others. But what’s even more important than trying out different tactics is the process we use to generate the content.
We always put the quality of the content at a much higher priority than quantity, but this was not always the case. Back in 2015-2016, we used to publish 3-4 posts a week, but after some internal debates and analysis, we decided to try the “less is more” approach by publishing less-frequent, high-quality content which attributed to significantly better results in terms of both traffic and engagement.
Fast forward to today, we spend tons of hours researching, writing and creating high-quality visuals (often using our own product Visme) to support our articles – and we have turned our content team into a machine that produces useful content for our community and then promotes the posts to gain traction.
We have also started to use Visme to demonstrate examples in our design-related articles, so that we’re educating our audience on how to use our tool, and indirectly promoting our product.
Our entire content strategy is explained, step-by-step, in a new eBook we’re releasing soon, called “Marketing strategies we used to grow Visme to 3 million users.”
How Is Visme Doing Today & What Does The Future Look Like?
Visme is profitable and completely bootstrapped. We were able to reach profitability after the first year of launching our paid plans in 2015. To date, we have had the luxury of not having to raise any funds. We generate margins that we use to heavily invest back into our business to create new features and marketing initiatives to further fuel our future growth.
Our team is partially remote and spread across 11 different countries, but our core technical and management is headquartered in the Washington D.C. metro area.
We generate over 1 million unique visits to our website each month; the majority of these are a direct result of our digital marketing (especially content marketing) initiatives, where we generate a large and wide funnel of incoming traffic, and then based on specific niche audiences, we create targeted campaigns to generate sticky users and work on non-sales based conversions down the funnel.
At Visme, we do very little advertising. We do utilize some ads on Facebook and Youtube, but primarily to raise awareness about our brand and educate them on design and visual communication. We focus heavily on organic custom acquisition vs. paid. As a result, only a small percentage of our revenue is generated from paid ads.
What Have You Learned In Your Role?
One big learning lesson is that consistency is key to success, as long as you find the right path and the strategy that works best for you.
Every day is a new lesson. Every project brings with it new challenges and new obstacles, but is also a new endeavor and an adventure. We don’t believe we necessarily make mistakes, just various decisions. Some of them bear great results and a lot of them don’t.
And with each decision, we learn new lessons; we tweak and modify the process until we reach an outcome.
Another lesson that we’ve learned is that our progress is a combination of many small improvements. Most start-ups at early stages think if they just build that next feature, or get featured on a notable blog or mentioned by a big influencer, it will catapult their growth and success. That’s not been the case for us, and we don’t think it is for nearly all other companies.
What Content & Digital Marketing Tools Do You Use For Your Business?
We use various tools to help us with our digital marketing/content marketing efforts, including a couple of our own tools. Respona is an AI-powered tool that we recently developed, and it has helped us a lot with outreach and PR. You can sign up and request early access on the website.
We also use our own design tool Visme to create a lot of original infographics, presentations and other visual design for our blog content.
Other than that, we use Ahrefs for some of our SEO and keyword research. We also use Google Analytics for keeping track of website performance and Buffer for social media scheduling. We have a remote team and find it easy to collaborate and communicate on Slack. For project management purposes, we also use Asana, Trello and Notion; all excellent tools!
What Are Your Most Influential Content & Digital Marketing Books, Podcasts Or Other Resources?
I read a lot of different blogs on digital and content marketing on a daily basis, and I think the more you read from different sources the more you realize how much there is to learn out there.
The thing is, you can learn a lot from the experiences and expertise of others, but nothing teaches you more about content marketing than doing it yourself. Finding out what works for your business and your customers is the real challenge.
In the end, you have to find a way to use all of that information to fuel your own unique way of doing things, instead of merely copying or trying to be someone you’re not.
Do You Have Any Content & Digital Marketing Advice For Other Startup Entrepreneurs?
- Plan for the long-term: Create a content strategy according to your users' needs, not assumptions and the bottom line (although of course, this will eventually play a part).
- Find your Northstar: In most cases, it will be the answer to, “How can we best serve potential users with unique, valuable and actionable content?” and “What unfulfilled needs or unanswered questions might they have?”.
Where Can We Go To Learn More About Your Business?
These links will help you:
If you have any questions or comments about Visme and our content marketing strategy, please leave us a comment below…