Brand Tales speaks with the digital marketer behind Louder.Online.
Former firefighter Aaron Agius still looks to be in a hurry. The content marketing and digital agency he co-founded, Louder.Online, has offices in Australia, Asia and the US, and he co-hosts a podcast with Sujan Patel called Growth Mapping. These days he’s focused on getting clients to commit to content that will get them results.
Brand Tales: What prompted you to set up Louder.Online back in 2008?
Aaron Agius: I got my start online much earlier than 2008, when my wife and I were doing some extended travel around Asia. We got into web marketing together because we were both keen to find a way to make full-time digital nomad living a reality. We started everything from web design to promotion and monetisation, which led to my discovery of scalable tactics I used to take a site from making 40 cents one day to more than $400 the next. We kept exploring these strategies, but eventually we wanted to share what we’d learned and grow through more diverse projects. That desire to help others see the same success we’d experienced was the driving force behind launching Louder.Online.
BT: What have you learned about the content game since then?
Agius: The content game has changed pretty significantly since 2008. It used to be that you could slap 500 words on a page, pack it full of keywords and call it a day. Now people demand real value – that is, if you can get them on your site. The way we approach content now is very different, and it involves genuinely thinking through what can we do to support readers on the different platforms where we publish content. If you aren’t speaking to your followers’ needs, you’re never going to get their attention in today’s noisy environment.
BT: Do you have a story that best explains your business philosophy?
Agius: One thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I used to work as a firefighter. And one of the best skills that taught me was focus. When you’re on the fireground, you can’t get distracted from the job you were sent there to do or the role you play on your team. Your life actually depends on your ability to focus. That’s carried through for me to my business philosophy. I see so many people trying to be everything at once – trying to serve all possible customers or trying to be present on every possible channel. I focus by recognising Louder.Online’s strengths and by marketing both my personal and professional brands on a more limited number of channels where I know I’ll get good results.
BT: How did the Growth Mapping podcast come about?
Agius: It’s funny – my co-host, Sujan Patel, is actually one of my competitors. But we connected a while back, and he’s a great guy. We were both sick of seeing so many marketing and business podcasts out there that were either a) full of fluff, or b) produced by people with no real-world experience. We knew we wanted to create something that was no-BS; something you’d be able to sit down, listen to for 15-25 minutes, and walk away with something actionable you could put to work right away.
BT: You’ve spoken about the need for business leaders to use content to increase their level of “authority”. What’s the biggest mistake would-be thought leaders make?
Agius: Mistaking average content for thought-leadership content. Everyone says you have to go out and create great content, yet most people publish the same re-hashed content over and over. Genuine thought leadership comes from contributing something new to your field, and that’s something few people get right with content.
BT: Why do you think having a storytelling mindset is important for brands?
Agius: People connect with stories. Our brains are just wired that way. If you think about it, how would you rather consume information: as a series of dry facts or an engaging story? There’s a reason copywriting has built story into its messaging from pretty much day one.
BT: In your opinion, which international company is doing content really well, and why?
Agius: There’s a lot to choose from. Coca-Cola probably wins, in my mind, thanks to their “Share a Coke” campaign. The real genius of that wasn’t the bottles themselves or the web assets Coca-Cola built – it was the way they got everyone in the world to create their content for them.
BT: Which Australian brand is doing a great job with its content? Why do you think this is so effective?
Agius: Telstra is a great example of content marketing at scale. Its free Smarter Business Ideas magazine incorporates the best of both online and offline marketing, and the way it’s scaled everything from case studies to podcasts to white papers and more is really impressive.
“The best time to start creating content was 10 years ago; the second-best time is today.”Aaron Agius
BT: Can you nominate one specific example of a content execution that you think works really well? Why?
Agius: This is another obvious one, but the ALS ice-bucket challenge that went viral a few years ago really highlighted to me what content at its best can be. You have a killer viral premise, the ability to leverage user-generated content, celebrity involvement and – ultimately – a huge payoff for a great organisation. Of course, not every campaign is going to be that successful, but I think marketers at every level can look at the factors that made that one work and apply them to any other type of content marketing.
BT: What advice do you have for brands and agencies that want to use content as part of their marketing mix?
Agius: First of all, do it. I’m paraphrasing here, but the best time to start creating content was 10 years ago; the second-best time is today. But if you’re going to do it, do it right. Figure out what your customers need to hear from you, and in what formats they want to hear it – whether that’s written blogs, podcasts or infographics. Find people with the skills you need to do this, if you don’t already have them on your team. At the end of the day, you’re going to be better off putting all of your budget into a few great content pieces and promoting them well than churning out a tonne of low-quality ones.
BT: What’s your biggest challenge when creating and executing content for your clients?
Agius: Learning new industries quickly enough is a big one. Our customers rely on us to create authoritative content, and that can be tough. They have years of experience in their industries – we’re learning as we go. Working with multiple clients in the same space can help cut down the learning curve, but otherwise, we’re fortunate to have a great team of content creators with expertise in various niches to draw on.
BT: What are the immediate prospects for brand journalism and content marketing in Australia?
Agius: I think they’re huge. Australia too often lags behind what other parts of the world are doing when it comes to web marketing. But to me, that just creates a huge opportunity for brands that are willing to invest now to distinguish themselves as thought leaders before everyone else catches on.