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Vinay Patankar

Episode 7: The Internal Content Marketing System, with Vinay Patankar

Vinay Patankar is the CEO of Process Street, the simplest way to manage your team’s recurring processes and workflows. Easily set up new clients, onboard employees and manage content publishing with Process Street. Vinay also hosts a podcast “Business Systems Explored” which does deep dives into different business systems of successful founders and industry experts.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Who Process Street are and what their product does
  • How Vinay took his idea and built it into a company
  • Vinay’s background in marketing, sales, and technology
  • Vinay’s content marketing system
  • Content marketing system best practices
  • The development journey of the system
  • How the system has been documented
  • How new employees are introduced into the system
  • How they ensure everyone is using the system correctly
  • Breaking the role of content marketing up into the different skill sets needed
  • What’s next for Process Street

Ways to contact Vinay:

Transcript:

Introduction: Welcome to System Execution, the strategy and system behind today’s successful companies. Systems can make or break your company, but here, we’ll solve your physical, technological and psychological systems issues by connecting you with experts that have succeeded in overcoming those challenges in their own business, and providing you the guidelines and tools you need to implement those same strategies for immediate results. Now, here’s your host, Vera Fischer.

Vera Fischer: Welcome to System Execution, a podcast devoted to using processes and systems to drive to a better outcome for your business. I’m Vera Fischer, your host.

All businesses, no matter the size, rely on systems. Some of these are physical systems, such as a factory. Some are technological, like project management software, and others are psychological systems, like checklists and organizational charts. Many of these systems will overlap in your business.

Today’s guest, Vinay Patankar will be discussing the content marketing system best practices that have contributed to his success. Vinay is the CEO of Process Street, the simplest way to manage your teams, recurring processes, and workflows. You can easily set up new clients, on-board employees, and manage content publishing with Process Street. Vinay also hosts a podcast called, “Business Systems Explored,” which does deep dives into different business systems of successful founders and industry experts.

Welcome to System Execution, Vinay.

Vinay Patankar: Wow, great intro. I’m very honored to be here, thanks Vera.

Vera Fischer: Well, we’re excited to have you simply because we’re about processes, you’re about processes, so I think we’re going to get some good information to our listeners today. I started to tell our listeners a little bit about you and Process Street, so I’d love to hear some more information. Especially how you got started with Process Street, and a little bit more about you.

Vinay Patankar: Sure, yeah. Process Street is a … We’re a SAS platform. We’re a start up. We’re a few years old now. We went through AngelPad in December 2014 and then raised our seed round last year and so now we’re at 18 people and it’s been a very exciting journey so far.

Pretty much what the product does is, as I said, it helps people manage their processes, but it’s kind of a big term, right? The way that our platform goes about it is by A: giving you a centralized place to store your process documents, control permissions on them, etc., similar to how you might structure, say, your Dropbox if you’re going to use it for that, but then we basically have a work file layer on top of your documents, so you can actually execute processes in order to make tasks.

A simple example would be client onboarding. It’s one of our most popular examples, or if you’re a SAS product, you could be implementation as well. But basically, when a new client comes in, and they make a purchase, so there’s a trigger somewhere, say on your CRM when you close the opportunity, or a STRAT purchase comes in or a PayPal purchase comes in or something. From there, you can basically trigger what we have in the app, which we call, “workflow checklists,” for a client onboarding and that could be tasks like: we send out the contracts, collect the payment, send the invoice, book initial meetings, gather requirements on the client, send specs to the implementation team, follow up after one month to see how their implementation went, things like that.

Basically, that will automatically trigger that checklist off for that client, sign it out to the customer’s success team, or the implementation team, notify them that they have things to do, and basically control the workflow from the point that the customer’s closing the CRM, to the point that the customer’s fully implemented and deployed. That’s one example, but you can king of use it for any kind of checklist or process in your business. Daily task lists are common, music lover content marketing for blogger’s publishing, but then also, it’s a random use cases. We have tens of thousands of use cases that I don’t even know on the platform. It’s pretty crazy.

That’s Process Street. You can try it out for free. We have a free version that let’s you create up to five active templates or checklists, so you can check that out.

The reason that I actually created the product initially, to go back to your original question, was I was running a marketing agency. We were doing Lead Gen for Consumer Finance, lots of leads for Geico and Citigroup and stuff like that online and it was a remote team. I had 20 employees and we, basically, were having issues managing workflows. We were doing a lot of Facebook ads and things like that, and were constantly on a daily basis deploying new ads, deploying tests, building reports. This very kind of repetitive, recurring work that needs to get managed and assigned out across a team around the world and where we’re using a lot of relatively low-skilled employees to do a lot of the grunt work, such as the reporting and research and stuff like that.

Basically, I looked for a platform. I looked at the project management tools and basically, they were designed for projects, versus recurring processes. I couldn’t really find anything that worked for me and that was where the initial idea came from. I ended up just patching together a ton of Google sheets for that business, but I always just felt that I had that need and I was always looking for a product and just didn’t find something that solved that need and so that was kind of the spark for Process Street.

Vera Fischer: Just as a little bit of background, how did you then take that idea and say, “Okay, now I’ve gotta find a way to implement it,” and then once you give us a little insight there, let’s talk about the system you want to focus on today.

Vinay Patankar: Sure. Yeah, I’d actually already gone through a start up at that point, so I was kind of on my third company. I ran an e-commerce store, which I sold, and then I was running this marketing agency, and I was quite close to systematized, but not completely. I was able to kind of travel the world for five years while I was running that. I had an idea for a start up initially. It was a consumer iPhone app or video app that we raised a bit of money for and then crashed in about six months quite quickly. Learned a lot through that process, but basically one of the things that I learned was A: I was very interested in building a product-based business, versus a services-based business, which is what I was running before. Product-based businesses are much more scalable and I thought I’d enjoy it a lot more. Actually building something versus just kind of pushing clicks and numbers between places.

I knew I wanted to do that, especially after my first experience, but then I also knew that the most important thing for a successful startup was the team and that I wasn’t going to attempt another startup until I basically had found the right co-founder. For me, that needed to be a technical co-founder because of my skillset, so I basically had the idea and it just sat there for nine months as I basically just pitched it as an idea to people that I met and got introduced to and basically, luckily ran into my co-founder Cameron and then it just moved forward from there when I met the right person.

Vera Fischer: Vinay, when we were talking earlier, you had mentioned that marketing and sales are really your wheelhouse. They’re the areas that you have that expertise. Can you build a little bit on that expertise and tell our listeners about that?

Vinay Patankar: Sure. I have a pretty mixed background. When I was really young, kind of 16 to 19, I worked as an assistant administrator in technology. After university, I worked as a recruiter, recruiting software developers for the investment banks in Australia, so Citigroup, JP Morgan, stuff like that. Enterprise Sales and Full Cycle were recruiting, and then I basically ran a few internet marketing companies, essentially, after that, so the e-commerce store and the marketing agency that I was running. I kind of have a combination of sales and then a lot of digital marketing experience, internet marketing experience, that came from running those companies, and that’s pretty much my background, but it’s always been tied to technology in some way or another, so those are kind of my three legs of the stool, I guess. Sales, marketing, and technology.

Vera Fischer: Awesome, so what system would you like to focus on today and discuss with us?

Vinay Patankar: I think our content marketing system, or our marketing team, which is all content marketing is the most interesting, and that’s probably because it’s the most mature. Our engineering team would be interesting too, but that’s not my specialty, so I don’t have too much inside there, but our marketing team is 10 people now. It started off with me writing blog posts and has now scaled into a fully systematized marketing team that produces a lot of content.

We’re doing at least two blog posts on our blog a week. We’re doing at least one podcast episode a week. We’re doing anywhere from two to five guest posts a week off site, and then we also have a ton of content that kind of gets scattered through our site and product as well, such as the help site and public templates that we build, and then we also promote all that content. We promote our content, our blog posts, our templates, our guest posts, plus any content that is mentioning or linking back to our product, so we have a whole kind of system going on there.

Vera Fischer: How long did it take you to develop the system?

Vinay Patankar: I pretty much started working on it on day one, and it’s never finished, but it’s difficult, because basically it’s just continually grown. We’ve just continued to add people to the system and scale the output, so the system has never been finished, but once we systematize one area of work, we move onto the next thing. Once we systematize … Okay, we’ve got the blog running consistently, we’re doing three posts a week, now let’s start adding in another two guest posts a week to that system, so once one system is locked down and then we’ll start to scale out.

Sometimes that would mean adding people, and I don’t think it’s ever going to stop because we’re in a point where we’ll want to continue to scale, right? We don’t want to just keep going at the pace that we’re going. We want to continue to increase our output, and so, you can do that to a certain point with processes and automation, but at some point you need to add people. When you add more people, then your systems need to evolve to incorporate those people, right?

Recently we hired a full-time video editor. He does video, and graphic editing and animation and stuff, so he’s kind of like a new piece into that puzzle, so we had to adjust a lot of the systems to fit him in and start producing video content, which is something that we weren’t doing before. The system never stops, but I can kind of talk to you about the evolution of it.

First, it was me writing content. The first hires that I did were … I can actually break down the team where it is now first. We have three writers, we have two operations people that manage the assistants, that manage the scheduling, and that do some editing and things like that, and then we have four assistants that are marketing assistants that do promotion, that do research, promotional research, and then we have the video editor/graphics editor/designer who does stuff like podcast editing, video editing, blog graphics, stuff like that.

Vera Fischer: So Vinay, is it documented? The process?

Vinay Patankar: Yeah. Everything’s documented in Process Street. It’s not a single process, right? There’s different processes for everything that happens in the team.

Vera Fischer: Correct.

Vinay Patankar: All those different pieces of content that we’re doing, we have different processes for while using our content marketing system best practices. We have a process for creating blog posts and our blog. We have a process creating public templates. We have a process for creating help articles. We have a process for writing guest posts. We have a process for producing the podcasts, and then we have a process that we’re still working on right now. It’s not finished for video production, so those are kind of all the different ones right?

Vera Fischer: Right, and you know, that brings up a really good point because a system is not a process.

Vinay Patankar: Right.

Vera Fischer: Right, and I think that vernacular-wise gets switched around quite a bit, so the system is the overall, “Hey, we have an incredible content marketing system that allows us to x,” but we may have 15 processes underneath that system that make the whole engine run.

Vinay Patankar: Right. Yeah, I mean there’s going to be lots of different processes, right?

Vera Fischer: Exactly. Whenever you’re onboarding a new employee, how far do you take that education? Do they have to understand the process that everyone follows within and underneath the system, or do you just sit and say, “Okay, we’re going to create a process just for you,” or, “You’re plugging into this one piece”?

Vinay Patankar: Again, it depends on, for example, if I’m hiring an extra writer from two to three writers, or if I’m introducing a video person that has never been anything like that before, right? If it’s a brand-new process then, for example, for this guy, we need to make a new process for video production, because it just didn’t exist before, right? But when we’re adding in a new writer, if we already have two and we’re adding a third one, then he just slots into the existing processes on template creation, blog post creation, guest post creation.

Basically, then we’re just looking to scale that production. The output of those things, versus introducing a new type of process.

Yeah, so we have a pretty … this is something we’re working on, but we have the different teams, right? Engineering, sales, and marketing and they basically have different onboarding processes for themselves, but then we also have a generic onboarding process. We have a Process Street checklist that is before you start. A “before you start” checklist, so when somebody starts or when somebody accepts their offer, we’ll send them this checklist and we’ll send the checklist as a guest, right? They’ll come into that checklist and it’ll have a list of things. One would be a list of form fields for them to complete, like all their information, their name, their email, emergency contact information, banking information, tax information, all that kind of stuff, right? They’ll go through and they’ll complete all that.

From that form, we’ll automatically generate contracts for them, and push that information into a database for the employees. Then, there’ll also be kind of a set of things for them to work on, or to do before they start. Things like, subscribe to the blog, get set up in Slack, and then there’ll be reading lists of things to check out, the knowledge-base for them to check out. There’ll be a task for them to do in Process Street, which is we tell them to create an automatic invoice generator. In Process Street, it’s like a quick task to learn more about the product and how it works before they get on, so we kind of have that before you get started.

It’s a combination of us getting all the information that we need from them to create their documentation and set them up in the systems, and them kind of getting some pre-starting training tasks and material to work with before they actually start so they can be more familiar. Once they start from their start date, there’s an onboarding checklist, depending on their role, so if they’re sales, or engineering, or marketing, there’ll be an onboarding checklist.

That’ll involve, basically, I’m setting up a few initial meetings with different people on the team to kind of get a rundown of everything that’s happening, and just how things work, and obviously just build some relationships there. It’ll be a list of things to get set up on various systems. Since we’re a distributive team, everything runs through technology, so it’s getting set up on your communication systems, Slack and Trello and Process Street, your email, your calendar, getting all your apps installed on your phone and making sure your notifications are set up properly so you’re receiving alerts correctly, and making sure that you’re able to communicate with everyone on the team effectively, that kind of stuff.

Then, there’ll be a series of role-related things to do. In engineering, it could be, “Go through this and learn about Jira”; in sales, it’s, “learn about the CRM”; in marketing it’s, “learn about the blog and our CAT table,” which is something we could talk about, but we have a big content asset tracking database, basically. It’s like a giant database that’s one of our main marketing systems. It’s built in Airtable, and it just tracks everything, so it tracks all the content we write, all the content other people write, any person that wrote that contact, any time a piece of content is shared, it gets fed in there automatically, and then we can do things like sort by the amount of times that people link to us, or the amount of times that people have shared. It maps all of our keywords and we’re talking it’s just like this giant, crazy database, basically that tracks all of our content and all the people associated with our content. It automatically generates outreach lists in the CRM, and does a bunch of stuff like that.

We’ll kind of give them an intro into how all that works.

Vera Fischer: Do you, Vinay, do you use your internal resources for creating and implementing all of these processes, or do you have an external team that you only bring on when you’ve got no processes to figure out and implement?

Vinay Patankar: No, we do everything internally. We don’t bring on any … yeah.

Vera Fischer: Internally. And then, how do you ensure that everyone is working it the way they’re supposed …

Vinay Patankar: Lots of places!

Vera Fischer: Reporting? Or, I would imagine reporting, or let’s say you’re …

Vinay Patankar: We generally don’t do report generation that’s manual in any way. A lot of the tools that we use have automatic reporting. Process Street will track when people are going through and completing their tasks so they have daily or weekly tasks or their onboarding tasks or they’re doing checklists, like pre-published checklists for newsletters or for blog posts. A lot of the other systems have that built in. Jira and GitHub with their engineers have all their tracking built in. Our CRM tracks emails and calls and notes for sales people, so most of the activity is tracked automatically.

Basically what we do is we have meetings. We have weekly meetings for all the teams, depending. Engineering has a daily meeting, marketing has two meetings a week, sales has three meetings a week, and basically in those meetings they’re kind of stand-ups, where we essentially go over whatever was done in the last period. We ask these questions, “What did you do yesterday, what are you doing today, what do you need help with, or what did you do last period, what are you doing this period, what do you need help with?” To every person. We’ll go anything that needs approval, and basically make sure that everybody’s doing their work.

We also work in a work-out-loud manner. Everything’s on share Trello boards, everything’s fed into shared Slack feeds, and so basically everybody knows what everybody else is doing and everybody knows how much work somebody else has done in x period, so when you get into every meeting, and obviously things are getting submitted on Trello and stuff, you can see, “Oh, this person did three posts, this person did zero,” and that gets kind of…there’s a check on that multiple times a week, basically.

Vera Fischer: So, what’s really interesting, Vinay, is that you base these processes off of your content marketing system best practices, but it’s really an internal marketing content system in the sense that the processes are there to ensure that the work actually gets done so they can be pushed out to the public.

Vinay Patankar: Right. Exactly. It’s like a mini media company, right?

Vera Fischer: Yes. Yes. It’s fascinating. I think that’s really cool.

Vinay Patankar: I think one of the big advantages, I think, that we have, or advantages of the team is we break down the work, right? If you’ve heard of a book called, “Predictable Revenue,” by Aaron Ross, he talks about how to improve sales teams efficiencies. You want to break down the roles so that you have an SDR, an account executive, and a customer success person, and they kind of get their own tasks, right?

I’ve kind of done the same thing. I’m thinking about doing more of a write up on this whole system, but something like predictable leads, where you’re actually taking the content team and then you’re breaking it down into the roles of writers, editors, promoters, right? Then you’re kind of distributing it up in terms of the writers are generally the most senior people on the team and then the roles get less complex as you go down. Instead of needing somebody who’s like a superstar and needing five of them who can write, and edit, and promote and network and research, and do all this crazy stuff and it’ll probably be really expensive and very high-in-demand kind of individuals, right?

In the marketplace, you can actually break it down so that those roles- you’re actually able to tap into more junior, or, for example, all our marketing assistants are in the Philippines and so we can kind of tap into a different workforce that has better cost benefits for us in terms of exchange rates and they don’t need to have a background in marketing because we can just break off a part of the process for them, give it to them in the checklist, and get them to do just kind of the most basic tasks.

Breaking down the team that way, instead of having a team of three or four very highly-educated “content marketers,” I’ve kind of broken that role concept marketing up into a writer, an editor, and then assistants, so we don’t need anybody who has all those three skills, because it’s broken up. I think it makes the output becomes a lot higher. You can find people who are specialized, right? Who just want to write and don’t want to promote, for example, and then it becomes cheaper, because it’s easier to find those people because it’s easy for somebody to be good at one thing, versus good at three things, right?

Vera Fischer: Right, and I think that just where content marketing is evolving and promotion and all of the different types of tactics, video podcasting, etc., it is complicated and step-by-step processes really help you focus on what’s next and get it done correctly and moving on to the next step, instead of it feeling really jumbled.

Vinay Patankar: Yeah, absolutely.

Vera Fischer: All right, well Vinay, I love everything that you’ve talked to us about, love this internal content marketing system and the best practices that you have. It’s really informative. It’s actually given me some ideas as well. Just to wrap up our discussion, what’s next for Process Street?

Vinay Patankar: We’re just building away, trying to build the best process possible. Just working on scaling revenue and growing the business, so it’s pretty exciting times for us. We still feel that the product’s quite immature, but we’re getting to the stage now where we have a real team and the next year is gonna really take the product into the major leagues, I think, and so we’re excited about that.

Vera Fischer: Oh, that’s cool. That’s really awesome. Okay Vinay, why don’t you let our listeners know how they can get in touch with you and reach out to you.

Vinay Patankar: Sure. Well, if you want to check out Process Street, you can sign up for a free account at www.process.st, or just type Process Street into Google, or you can connect with me on Twitter, my handle is vinayp10.

Vera Fischer: Great! Well, System Execution fans, no matter how many notes you took, or how often you re-listen to this episode, the key is you must know that every successful business uses systems to drive a better outcome. Vinay, I want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise and insight to our listeners today.

Vinay Patankar: Pleasure to be here, Vera. Thanks so much.

Outro: We hope you found this System Execution on content marketing system best practices enlightening. For free examples, case studies, e-books, and more, be sure to visit systemexecution.com/resources. Contribute to the conversation by reaching out to Vera directly on email at vera@systemexecution.com. Until our next episode, thank you for the privilege of your time.

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