Episodes

Sunil Rajaraman

Sunil Rajaraman

Sunil is the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scripted.com. He handles Scripted’s inbound marketing efforts, and business development. Sunil has written for Techcrunch, Forbes, Gigaom, Fast Company and others.

TOPIC SUNIL COVERS

  • His background in Scripted.com
  • What is Scripted do
  • What is particularly useful for a subject matter expert areas, where finding good writers can be difficult
  • How companies have used Scripted’s services to build their content strategy
  • How do companies use the blog post service
  • What are some trademarks of companies that get a lot from Scripted
  • What are the primary customer acquisition strategies
  • How they retain their customer
  • And a whole lot more

LINKS & RESOURCES

WATCH THE INTERVIEW

READ THE TRANSCRIPTION

Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Sunil Rajaram with us. Now, I’m sure I butchered your last name. Is that right? You know, close enough. It’s a long.

Sunil: Way. And Roger, Robin, very, very.

Bronson: Cool. And there we go. Thank you. So, Sunil, you’re the co-founder and the CEO of Scripted Dot.com. So tell us what is scripted.

Sunil: Yeah. You know, we’re a marketplace for businesses to create content. And so the content marketing becoming such a huge area, it’s difficult for businesses to find one single staff to create high quality content at scale. And we solve that problem for now, about a thousand customers.

Bronson: Well, that’s great. Yeah. I want to dig into how you’re actually solving that problem specifically. You know, I looked at your website and you you produce a number of different kinds of content for companies. So you’re kind of content for hire, is that right? They come to you, they have a need of a specific kind of content and they can contract that from you.

Sunil: That’s right. So, you know, traditional Europe. And they said, let’s just say, you know, you need to run a social media campaign or blogging campaign. You know, one of those maybe you’ll reach back to, you know, Craigslist or some such place and receive a bunch of money. Then you have to do that through those resumes. You have to find a writer. You going to pay and you know, you have to work remotely and you’re not sure now as the writer’s working and you’re not sure what the output is going to be like, we effectively streamline that so that all you’re buying is the content so you can blog, post or tweet, etc.. And when we accomplish that and we prevent that, writers before their ability to buy expertize, the acceptance rate into strictly very low is less than 20% on the writers side. And then we had to actually do other things like this where you generate a third party out of the work so that all you get is a business is the best part of it.

Bronson: So one of the things you guys actually offer is blog post. So how do companies use that service? Are they are you running entire blogs for companies? Are they coming to you for the really in-depth pieces? How does that work for a lot of companies?

Sunil: Good question. And there is I mean, we had companies coming in from us from for, you know, topics as broad as management techniques to do, you know, granular topics like how to scale Ruby on Rails. So, you know what we’ve effectively accomplished because we have such a large user base, high quality writer, this not only can we work on a broadcast, but we can work on niche topics with you as well.

Bronson: Okay. Now that makes a lot.

Sunil: Of sense that we should add a little bit more for subject matter expert areas because you know, the layer of it in those types of areas is pretty scarce, as you can imagine.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Where you guys have so many writers that you can pull from. You can find the people that have an interest and an expertize in one specific niche, even if it’s truly a niche.

Sunil: Yeah, that’s right. I had a kind of a funny and long story to how we got there. We were one of the finest screenwriters for company, and I hope I, if I can at least build up a profit. It was the equivalent of Google documents for screenwriters, and our original plan was to give away that screenwriting software platform for free and convince producers that they should buy screenplays from us. Okay. What ended up happening was the software program became immensely popular, was having a user base of 80,000 writers and it sold for by 25 million users, like didn’t want to buy a network producer or any place from us. And there was no revenue model there. But businesses started reading to us in 2011 saying, Hey, you’re a very large writer, I own the screenplay, blog posts, etc. And and we were able to effectively our businesses to writers. But yeah, the funny thing about this was what we discovered as a product was one of the typical writers using our screenwriting software platform was not a waiter or a waiter in L.A., but a professional who was of between what thought they were doing at work and, you know, screenwriting software to write their dream screenplay. It doesn’t work out. So that’s why offices work as well as work community of professionals who write, not necessarily professional writers.

Bronson: Now that makes a lot of sense. Now also notice that you guys will actually write entire white papers for companies. Is that a popular service that you guys have or is that a fringe one?

Sunil: Hey, you know, it’s becoming more and more popular increasingly. It wasn’t as popular a year ago, and it’s becoming popular. We have, you know, dozens of clients, usually lesser allergy people here. Yeah, but yeah, we have dozens of working with us on white papers and that’s a very specific type of writer with their specific set of skills. And truthfully, you know, it’s not like everybody can write or is it very specific writers?

Bronson: Yeah. How are the companies that are buying white papers from you? How are they using it? Because I know how I use white papers in my business. I you know, I’ll give you one for an email address or I’ll use it to kind of solidify myself as a thought leader. Is that how companies are using it with you guys or are they doing something different?

Sunil: Yeah, exactly. More the lab are it’ll be, you know, to establish thought leadership outside of what it actually our products is. Businesses want to establish themselves as thought leaders and they want to do that and rightfully so. And I thought that marketing is becoming so.

Bronson: Yeah. And you guys also do tweets. Do you do like individual tweets or do you have to manage the whole account? Tell me how that works a little bit.

Sunil: Yeah. Yeah. We have integrations with Hootsuite and other. Basically you go, we just write the contest for the tweets and usually the customer provides very, very specific guidelines on what they want their tweets to look like. You know, example accounts of, you know, Twitter accounts handle the market. Mm hmm. And based on their guidelines and that, we can submit, you know, fruit of their own. Please.

Bronson: Gotcha. So it really becomes a seamless process. The whole thing is not a difficult thing for you to manage parts of the Twitter.

Sunil: That’s exactly right. And that’s where, you know, really for all these different types of products and a solution for distribution is where we’re headed to navigate that game of saying, you know, having our writers for their own or on account of Twitter account, but as a promotional tool, people try that. It hasn’t worked. So we will just focus on writing great content and, you know, creating accounts in certain cases, providing for that problem.

Bronson: Yeah. Give us some ideas of some case studies where companies have come to scripted. They’ve used some of your products to really build their content strategy. What are some of the great examples of the of the high our allies that some companies have found with you guys.

Sunil: Yeah. Yeah. So we’ve worked with, for example, a customer called Line, which produces a lot of Yahoo! Help, and they need a way to scale up their content initiatives for very much areas in health care. We were effectively able to put together a team of 20 writers at previous experiences and or doctors to write this stuff for them in very short order. There was always a higher acceptance rate on that. Therefore, you know the other resources they were using in the past. So early we put together for some people are solutions. Being a first person writing team that all had experience publishing before for the free press, the fact that they started out to help change the whole process around there with the specific cases of our blog, etc., Obviously many of our clients don’t want us to use them, even knowing that the access to the outside world that their content was written by scripted. So yeah, you know, it was now easier still writing fortunately how to keep to myself.

Bronson: I’m sure. I’m sure. As well as unique challenges that you guys have. What kinds of companies that maybe they’re hearing about this kind of product for the first time? What kinds of companies should really consider using scripted? What are some trademarks of companies that get a lot from you guys?

Sunil: Yeah. I think any business that’s considering I’ve been marketing okay should run for that and realize that every business needs to start with a little bit more specific. Mm hmm. You know, any company with a web presence that has a product with strong, either a transactional sales cycle or slightly more playful these days, you have to tell a good story to your customers. We’re going to look at things like review sites, but they’ll work really hard to give more information about that content, about about that product. And so, say, for example, if you’re selling a buy on supplements, you know, back in the day, in the old days, you know, look at what it was five years ago. What a medium, you know, really sell those products. But really, it was what we’re doing now is, well, you know, it’s not just a simple paper that I should, you know, look at a few review sites and I should refer to it faster, say, you know, what is that? I should do more and more research. Yeah. Customers are smarter, iterating faster and you have to tell a story. And obviously the original novel, we cut it at a lower type of customer for one, trying to establish thought leadership. But, you know, you just does not try to write. You can help in those cases.

Bronson: Yeah, I don’t think people realize how hard it is to become a thought leader in terms of time. The time requirements are immense. I mean, that’s why PhD candidates don’t do anything else because it’s really hard to write white papers and detailed blog posts and things of substance. So that’s why, you know, scripted really comes, you know, to the rescue for a lot of businesses that need that. They don’t really have the time to do it necessarily.

Sunil: Yeah, that’s right. But no. Yes, nothing to write these days. But yeah, that’s the problem we’re effectively solving.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now scripted has quite a growth story of its own. So let’s talk about kind of the growth of scripted itself as a product. First, tell us why marketplaces are so hard to build, because I know you’ve written about these online a little bit. What is unique about a marketplace that makes it immensely difficult?

Sunil: Yeah, I mean, there’s you know, the biggest challenge is you’re fighting to battle them once, you know, you’ve got a supply side on the demand side for whatever marketplace you’re building. And there’s so many questions you have to ask yourself. And, you know, a first of all, you got to build both sides of the marketplace. So sometimes I recommend one at a time. Plus, you know, the writers I first came out of a lot of the screenwriting software platform, but it took two years to build out that one side of the marketplace. And I think you see a lot of very successful places like Coda in L.A. and others. Similarly, they have taken many, many years with one side of the supply issue. A liquidity issue. So then, you know, let’s just say you have a bunch of writers or a bunch of developers, etc., you know, you can’t necessarily let them all into the system. No one wants to say, for example, you know, be able to for a few jobs, you know, the developers or whatever a contractor will lose loyal your system fast if you don’t provide them with enough work. Mm hmm. The same principle I have with, you know, a lot of labor marketplaces, other types of marketplaces. If you don’t have a supply, you know, the demand sizes, you get frustrated and vice versa. And so it’s not only acquiring customers outside of the marketplace, but nailing the liquidity question, figuring out, you know, the optimal level of supply and demand. And so it’s all in all areas.

Bronson: So you have to scale both sides. But if a skill them in the right way is not just enough to skill them, you have to skill them at the right time, in the right way. So there’s just a million ways to die doing this.

Sunil: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And that’s why it takes a lot of time, energy and resources to build. It is why you see some some market places like RBD and others that are demonstrating early traction. That’s why I raised a massive amount of funding because, you know, venture capital, please. Well, something is starting to work here. The flywheel started to start. The good news is that once you get it spinning and if you can get it going faster and faster and faster, you can win very, very fast and just kind of hit the racist.

Bronson: Yeah. Now, you wrote an article recently on TechCrunch talking about the marketplace, Zali, and you thought that they pivoted too early. So let me ask you, when do you know that you should pivot because of stagnant growth? And when do you know that stagnant growth is just a precursor to breaking through the ceiling because they look the same. They feel the same to the unacquainted. So how do you know to push through it? How do you know to give up?

Sunil: Yeah, well, as a guy who’s, you know, beaten up and before, you know, I think I think for us, it was just following the customers. You know, we if we if we didn’t, we would probably still be working on a screenwriting thing and be a while. But we just kind of we followed customer demand, which is where it’s sort of headed, becomes a little bit better. I do that because they have your whole product. And, you know, I think if they were so well-resourced and, you know, I think if they had just bought a little bit longer, they could have done it because their product was just that dutiful. And then what they effectively did was pivot into a very competitive area where some of other places already have, you know, kind of the other dynamics working for them. So that was why I kind of think I’m a little bit. But yeah, I think they’ll be fine there. They’ve got very talented talent in etc. but knowing when to pivot is difficult. But you know, my answer would be just follow customer demand. And if there’s enough people yelling at you to go in one direction on the customer side to pay for your product and do that.

Bronson: Absolutely. And ask the question because almost of the marketplace, you should pivot before you start because they’re so hard.

Sunil: And you.

Bronson: Pick something else.

Sunil: By your belt because you’re going to have to. Yeah.

Bronson: That’s right. So you said you have 80,000 freelance writers that I get that number, right?

Sunil: You got that right. So, you know, the you know, now I I’m telling you for the record, that obviously we have not admitted all 80,000 into the system and we have a vetting process. Yeah. So what we’re what our approach is, is, yes, we have this a database of writers, but like 80,000 are being paid for work or something like that. We would be $1,000,000,000 company. We’re happy.

Bronson: Oh, totally. Well, still, though, the question I’m interested in is you were able to get 80,000 writers interested enough to put their name on file with you as a candidate, whether they get work or not. You have a database of 80,000. How did you recruit that? How did you recruit that many people to even know about you, care about you, hear about you, anything?

Sunil: Yeah. Of the 80,000 from our legacy screenwriting software days so these are actually not players are applying for scripts that are scripted writers came from that database that 8000 and we can talk them over at any time that if they fail perhaps more aggressively we got a couple of hundred new applications to script that a week. Wow.

Bronson: Okay. How are you on that? That’s the question then.

Sunil: Yeah. You know, right now I think there’s a lot of organic search demand from writers for things like a writer hire blogger or law writer for hire, etc.. And you’ll see if you look at those terms, we’re either in one result or one of the top five organic results. And the way we do that was by eating sort of our own dog food. And I hate that term, but I’ll use it anyway. We’re running our own content marketing campaigns and you’ll see if I you know, you mention I wrote for Tech. French have also done similar posts for Fast Company, Forbes, Huffington Post and others. And, you know, I you know, it’s not like I’m some hotshot journalist or anything, but you’ll find if you write quality content, some of these outlets, outlets will pick it up. And so that helps, you know, sort of rank higher, get a better page, rank, things like that. And just to show you just can’t shortcut the fact that you have to produce high quality, original content. And I’ve been fortunate in getting distribution for a lot of these articles, which is help us intern with organic search.

Bronson: All right. So talk me through that a little bit, because people watching this are thinking, yeah, I’ll write for TechCrunch, I’ll write for Huffington Post, I’ll write anything they want, but it’s not that easy. Do you come to them with it written saying, Look, it’s ready to go, it’s awesome. You’re the only one running it. Do you want it? Or do you pitch them an idea? What does that process look like for you?

Sunil: Good question. Yeah, good question. I mean, so to be clear by this all, by the time I started writing articles for these places, I had already built a screenwriting software site and it had just made the pivot over scripted. So we had a somewhat credible story. You know, we weren’t just telling, you know, a random kind of doing this. Yeah, it wasn’t like I pitched TechCrunch, you know, they took it. It was it was like it was a year before, you know, I even pitched at TechCrunch and felt confident enough to do so. Before that was I would pitch other publications and the piece would already be written and submit to, you know, directly to the editor’s email address or something like that. And, and, you know, pitch them directly and you know, once a couple of things head then all of a sudden you can go to more credible outlets and say, Well, I’ve been published here and here and a couple more things that you can kind of, you know, the goodwill builds. Yeah. And that’s it’s a process and don’t expect it to happen overnight. It will still take years, not not days. And if you’re on long term thinking, that’s a very, very viable strategy for you.

Bronson: Now, that’s great. You mentioned earlier how many people have actually used scripted roles. That number of women, of people that have bought pieces of writing from you guys.

Sunil: Well over a thousand.

Bronson: Over a thousand. What’s your primary customer acquisition strategies? Is it the content or are they finding you through content, CEO, search engine and stuff? Or is there some other channels of pay per click or social or something else happening as well?

Sunil: Yeah. Yeah. So organic searches is a big one for us. Referrals of customers referring other customers is a big, big one for us.

Bronson: Offline after a week or like some referral mechanism in the software.

Sunil: Well, yeah, it’s offline referrals. We’re trying to find a way to get that going on a more private, you know, we’ll take it. So, for example, we had a customer work as a marketing manager for one company, and we’ve that company that was very, very happy with us joined a top company like a really big enterprise and said, wow, we need to outsource our content to script. And and lo and behold, you know, and that’s happened for us several times now. And then, you know, the other thing that we’ve worked really effectively on us, email marketing, that’s something that my co-founder has really done some pioneering stuff there. But you know, what you’ll find is the gist of it is like a lot of email addresses of people that you care about that you would want to reach out to are publicly available. Right. So these are these are not like illegally taking lists and things like that. Instead looking at what’s publicly available, finding a way to productize, you know, the way like basically getting all of those publicly available email addresses into one place. And that’s totally the work that, you know, my co-founder has done. And, you know, basically put it in such a way that, you know, you comply with anti-spam laws, all that stuff, and you run email marketing campaigns at scale and using what’s free and publicly available.

Bronson: Yeah, makes a lot of sense and I’ve actually used similar tactics to great success in my own life, so I totally hear you there. Other have there been any like one time tactics that you’ve tried? Not stuff as repeatable like SEO and content or anything like that. But any like one time just try it and it actually worked, but you can’t really repeat it because of the nature of it. And it’s not like that work out for you guys.

Sunil: You know, not so much with this company, but with a screenwriting software company. A couple of things worked really, really well. We wrote a piece of content, a screenplay at basics or something like that, and it just got stumbled and it just caught fire. And if I could duplicate that, I would shoot this today. It’s our largest single source source, referral source, and it just brings in thousands and thousands of uniques per month. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Bronson: On the primary source there.

Sunil: If I could duplicate that for scripted, I would. But yeah, that. And then again, on the screenwriting side, probably not as helpful. One was that there’s a very, very popular writer competition called National Novel Writing Month, and we partnered with them and they would send us a bunch of referrals and referrals. When that competition heated up with scripts that, you know, we’ve tried out Sumo and we were able to bring in some customers that way. But it wasn’t the one type of pop we had hoped for. And, you know, I just think the nature of enterprise is that there’s not a silver bullet. Maybe with Jesse or so. But enterprise is really difficult.

Bronson: No, absolutely. You know, let me ask you this. How do you retain your customers? You have them in we’ve kind of talked about the flow of getting them into your product. How do you retain them to make them repeat customers? Do they just automatically want to buy again after experiencing it or the things you do to kind of grease the wheels there?

Sunil: Yeah. So this is a challenge for us, like it is with many other companies, but we use a product called customer IO. It’s yeah, it tells automatic retention programs effectively. Now other companies are coming out with similar products that basically if you haven’t hosted a job in a couple of weeks, you’ll send one type of email or you know, but it makes panels coming out with one eye here as well. But we really like the customer IO guys and they seem to be doing good work. And then, you know, sometimes just old fashioned emailing or calling folks who register, I look at every registration that comes into this system. It’s a business that looks like, you know, it could, you know, if they could work with us and have a good ongoing relationship, of course, I’ll call them or reach out to them.

Bronson: Yeah.

Sunil: I think I think these old fashioned personal interaction.

Bronson: That’s I was going to ask you, you know, a lot of times as CEO, our our goal is to get away from the day to day minutia. We have to build systems and processes and methodologies, and rightly so. But sometimes being really close to the ground floor is important for actually growing the business. Do you feel like CEOs need to be closer to their customers at that early stage?

Sunil: Yeah, I mean, a little bit of a hypocrite because lately I’ve been drawn off into other things as detailed or as involved in the business for a variety of reasons. But but basically, you know, I think it is important, at least early, to have your, you know, like you should do everything right. So in the early days of scripted, in some cases where we don’t have writers with expertize, I would write the post myself. Really? Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t do that anymore. But, you know, early on, if we had a customer and, you know, someone spending a couple hundred bucks was a big deal for us, right? I would sometimes write that post or edit that post myself. Yeah, I would sometimes manually ask that writer to someone via Excel or something like that. Those were the early days, early days at least, and they were not doing that as much. At least I know how. You know, I have a very great appreciation for what our product team is built. We had an amazing product director, Jake. Mm hmm. Amazing product team sold on mirrored. These guys are just awesome, and I have a really great appreciation of how they automated a lot of these things that were manual for me. Yeah.

Bronson: And you’ve mentioned partnerships a few times, too. You mentioned the the competition, I believe it was. And you also said when the emails come in, you look to see if there might be a partnership opportunity with some new registrations. Are you actively looking for partnerships and is that been kind of a part of your strategy all along?

Sunil: Yeah, you know, we there’s obviously a couple things where it’s very obvious to us that they could be partners in those cases. We’ve already been in contact with them throughout bounce that sometimes we get inbound and scaling for partnerships. You know, some companies are able to do it. Some companies are. And for us, the verdict is still out. I think we are we have a good working relationship with Hootsuite. They’ve been a very good partner for us, but in other cases, they’re other partners. We’ve worked with who we thought it would just blow us out of the water and be great for both parties. But as it worked out, these are companies. You would think it would just be a cinch.

Bronson: Yeah, I see this a lot where things seem like they should work and they don’t, or vice versa because it’s so hard to tell what someone’s real reach is. You look at their Twitter followers and be like, Oh, they’re going to blow this thing up and then nothing happens. Have you learned anything about, like, why that is? Like, can you look at a partner now and say, you know what? Even though it doesn’t look like it’s going to work, it will. And here’s why. Tell me what you’ve learned. Because I’m still trying to figure that out personally.

Sunil: Yeah, you and me both. Yeah. To me, it has. It has nothing to do with the size of the company. It has nothing to do with the reach of the company. And so, you know, this is this is something I’m actively trying to figure out. I just don’t know.

Bronson: Yeah, I have a feeling whoever figures this out is going to rule the world soon, because, you know, leveraging other people’s audiences is so powerful if you can do it, you know, consistently and efficiently.

Sunil: Yeah, that’s right. And I, I just don’t know the answer. But if you come out with something or you interview someone on the show, you don’t know. I mean, I’ll watch a watch. I watch that show for sure.

Bronson: Absolutely. Well, this is very great interview. Sunil, let me ask you one last question before you go. You know, you’ve built a marketplace. You know, you’ve done the hard work of making that happen. Was the best advice do you have for any startup that’s trying to build a marketplace like scripted?

Sunil: Yeah, I would say don’t give up too early. And usually what’ll happen is you’ll get early traction on one side of the marketplace and you’ll view that as encouraging. But then the other side of the marketplace is going to be very, very difficult and an uphill battle. And and the key is not to give up because you just have to pursue them. It’s going to take time. There is no silver bullet, so be ready for a battle. And if you if you can take a couple of years, which is what you should. You mean if you’re going to build a company like two year time horizon to get to a major set of milestones before maybe you go out sort of raising VC funding, whatever two years of your life is going to go toward for doing it.

Bronson: Yeah, great advice. Sunil, again, thank you so much for coming on the show and just sharing all your insights with us.

Sunil: And thanks for hosting.

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