TCC Podcast #402: The Key to Better Content with Ross Simmonds - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #402: The Key to Better Content with Ross Simmonds

What is good content? How is A.I. impacting the creation of content? And what are the opportunities for content writers in the near future? All good questions that we didn’t have answers to. Until we invited Ross Simmons to join us for the 402nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. This is a good one. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.


Stuff to check out:

Create Once, Distribute Forever by Ross Simmonds
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground


Full Transcript:

Rob Marsh: Before we jump into this episode, I just want to give you a quick heads up that The Copywriter Accelerator will be opening up for the one and only time this year… at the end of August. I won’t share any details at the moment, you can find out more when you visit

Over the past decade, written content has become a critical marketing component for tens of thousands of organizations looking to get attention online. That content takes a lot of different forms from articles and blog posts to case studies, lead magnets, white papers and other written assets used to attract and keep the attention of readers. But what makes good content? How is AI impacting content writers today? And how do you ensure that you clients see content as an investment that pays off, rather than a cost that they need to cut?

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And for today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, I talked with content writer and founder of the content agency Foundation Marketing, Ross Simmonds. Ross got his start writing about fantasy football in high school and has been recognized as a top marketer by publications like BuzzSumo and SEMrush. His work has been featured in dozens of publications including Forbes, HuffingtonPost and CBC. Ross answered those questions I just posed and a lot more. This interview opened my eyes to several new opportunities and I think you’re going to like it.

But before we jump in with Ross…

We have a new gift for you as a listener to The Copywriter Club Podcast. We went through the past 400 episodes of this podcast looking for the ideas that our guests have shared over the past couple of years related to finding clients. We pulled out a bunch of our favorites and compiled them into a new pocket sized guide that will inspire you as you look for ways to attract the right clients to your business. It’s a bit like having a couple dozen of the best copywriters in your pocket advising you on how to find your next client. To get your copy, visit and download this new guide.

And with that, let’s go to our interview with Ross Simmonds.

Rob Marsh: Ross, welcome to the podcast. You are one of the people that I have had on my list for a long time, and have been wanting to talk to you. We’ve had a little trouble connecting the last couple of months. You’ve had some travel and lots of stuff going on. But let’s start out the way that we like to here on the podcast. And that is, tell us about your story. How did you become a content marketer and now ultimately founder of Foundation Content Marketing Agency?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, Rob, thanks for having me on. I’m excited for this conversation. I’ll take people back into time a little bit. So I’ve always had a passion for writing and for creating things from the time I was a young kid. When I was a young kid, I fell into that whole meme and being obsessed with the Roman Empire. And I was writing books about what the Roman Empire must have been like. And I was doing that probably when I was like 10 years old. So early on, I was creating and writing chapter books and stuff like that. As time went on, I continued to be passionate about writing and creating. 

And in university, I ran a fantasy football blog. And I was writing every single day about fantasy sports and how I thought people should adjust their strategies in the wonderful world of fantasy football. In parallel to that, me and my sister, we created a community dedicated to a video game called The Sims. Some of your listeners might be familiar with it. We played back in the The early days of The Sims when things were very pixelated and all of that stuff, graphics weren’t close to where they are today, but we ran a community on that and I was writing constantly. 

So at this moment, when I was writing about fantasy football in The Sims, the light bulbs went off that I could live in, arguably, the middle of nowhere. I live in a place called Nova Scotia, Canada, up on the East Coast, above Maine, small population, and I was reaching people all over the globe. And at that moment, I knew that this internet thing was going to be special. So I started to continue to work on my writing and my skills. But as the fantasy football blog took off, as the Sims community took off, my traffic went up, but my marks went down. And my mom was like, Ross, listen, you have to start writing about what you’re learning in school. So I shifted my blog to start writing about marketing. And as I wrote about marketing, I started to get interesting conversations from people who were marketers and already had graduated. And I wrote a blog post about how these are the books that you need to read before you break into advertising, before I even broke into advertising. But people were loving it. And I was like, okay, this is fascinating. This thing is gonna stick. 

So I continued and continued to write about marketing. And you fast forward a few years and more and more opportunities started to show up at my desk because of the work that I was doing online and writing and sharing my ideas. And ultimately, that led to me being very busy as a marketer, helping people who would reach out, wanting support, whether it was content creation, copywriting, et cetera. That was kind of the craft that I had learned was creating content. And I started to support these brands. started to work very late nights, realized that’s not scalable, started to hire a team and build out a team. And here we are today. So long story, a little bit longer. I fell into, in many ways, a passion for writing and was able to turn that into my career today.

Rob Marsh: Obviously, blogging has changed a bit since you started it. I wonder if there’s still anything, though, that’s applicable from those early days of blogging to what we do today. So for anybody who maybe wasn’t familiar with blogging, you know, way back when, when The Sims was actually a pixelated, you know, video game, whatever. So we’re talking 2003, 2004, maybe 2008, whatever. There was a lot of conversation that used to happen on blogs, and that doesn’t really happen anymore. but there’s still stuff from those early lessons I’m sure that apply to what you do today. Tell us, you know.

Ross Simmonds: I would agree. Yeah, so I think one of the best parts about back then is you could press publish on a blog and conversations, debates, arguments, discussions would happen directly on there. And that’s kind of lost. But still at its core, I believe that when it comes to content creation, content marketing, developing new stories, whether it’s a video, whether it’s a podcast, Whether it’s a blog post, a status update on LinkedIn, or one of the other channels, I think you do want to foster and try to stir up a bit of a conversation. And that ultimately leads to connection and community. So the essence of what I believe we should strive for is to create things that are worth talking about.

Seth Godin had this idea way back in the day where he said, you should strive to create content that’s remarkable. And content that’s remarkable is essentially content that’s worth making a remark about. And if you can create content that inspires people to make a remark, then you have created a piece of content that can facilitate a dialogue, and that is, even back then, the magic of the internet. The magic today is that it gives all of us the ability to have conversations, to interact, to challenge ideas, to support ideas, and to have a discussion with one another. And ideally, be able to become better because of it. So to me, I try to always encourage my teams and other writers that I talk to, to embrace content creation with a simple framework that I call the four Es: educate, engage, entertain, and empower. 

When you are creating stories online, you should try to educate people and give them information that they’ve never had before. You should entertain them, put a smile on their face. There’s no easier way to somebody’s heart than to make them laugh, to make them feel good. And then empower because that’s celebrating other people’s success. And that always feels good. And then the last one is engage. And engage is when I believe you’re able to really stir up that dialogue that leads to community, that leads to connection. And that’s when a lot of magic happens. So if you can embrace those methodologies, I think you can win. And those are some of the lessons that I learned back then that I still carry with me today, even though blogging is a lot different.

Rob Marsh: Okay, I want to come back to this idea just a little bit when we talk maybe a little bit about distribution and where that conversation happens today. But before we get to that, let’s talk about content because content world has changed drastically even just in the last couple of years and who knows what it’ll be in two years from now. Um, but in addition to that, there is so much bad content and some, I mean, even, even, you know, yesterday, like you’re right.

Ross Simmonds: Like the amount of volume of bad content now is at a level that I don’t think. anyone could have ever predicted. It’s fascinating.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, it’s awful. And I think that creates both a unique problem, but a huge opportunity. So let’s talk a little bit about content. What makes content good? And I suppose there’s even like a spectrum where there’s content that’s really bad for me, that’s actually good for you. And so how do we suss out good content from bad content?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, it’s a great question when you think about the spectrum. I think that comment is great because the definition of good is oftentimes defined by the reader, right? It’s the same thing as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, similar with some content. Now, there is a level of content that is just bad and should never have been created to begin with. And that goes into a whole different category. 

I think At a fundamental level, every audience is going to have different levels of expertise. They’re going to have different levels of specialization, of interests, of capacity, of their own understanding of a topic. And because of that, it opens up a lot of room for people to create and tell stories. If you are a junior copywriter, you can actually still create a lot of valuable content for copywriters who are fresh, like they’re one day into it, right? You can still create value. You can talk to them about what one year at a copywriting shop looks like, or what your first year as a copywriter looks like. You can educate them on things. Now that might not be relevant to somebody who’s been in the industry for 15 years. But if you can create content that is resonating with people in your niche, that are learning from you, who are going up through a journey and a path that you’ve already gone on, that can be valuable. 

I think one of the biggest mistakes that oftentimes happens in the internet is that a lot of people who are early on in their careers, they actually make the mistake of thinking they can’t create something because somebody else has already done it. The truth is that you oftentimes will have a lived experience, a experience with a certain industry, a niche that combines things that nobody else has. but somebody else might need to hear the same thing from your voice in your tone with a different perspective that just unlocks a whole new world for them. And that to me is good content. 

Good content is content that’s lived is based off of experience that’s lived off of kind of deep research that’s built off of insightful, practical understanding of a topic, deep expertise on a topic, or a shared journey and telling a story around how they were able to accomplish something, leveraging the old-fashioned hero’s journey, that type of thing. 

Now, here’s what’s wreaking havoc on the industry. It’s the fact that a lot of marketers, a lot of creators, a lot of copywriters even, have made the mistake of assuming that ChatGPT, that AI tools, should be completely 100% embraced to replace this entire industry and craft. I get it. I’m a big believer in AI. I talk about it often. I preach the gospel of AI and how important it is for us to embrace it because it can give us efficiencies and opportunities like no other thing that I’ve ever experienced. 100%. But when we make the mistake of thinking that an AI tool today can create copy built off of cultural understanding, built off of nuance, built off of just human understanding of psychology, we’re making a huge mistake. It can’t do it to the level that a great writer could do. 

And because of this, we have teams that are publishing tons of pieces that are mediocre and expecting extraordinary results. And that is where the gap exists. I think the rise of AI has resulted in a significant amount of what I would say is just like garbage content, trash content, flooding the internet, when what that content actually needs is a human to take it and take it the rest of the way. You might get a very, very, very bad draft from ChatGPT. But if you put a great copywriter or even a good copywriter on it, it’s going to go from bad to decent. And that’s better than nothing. So I encourage people to accept the fact that AI is here, but also reject the notion that AI can replace great copywriters, great content marketers, great writers in general.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I agree 100% with what you’re saying. So while we’re talking about AI, how are you using AI in your work and in your business in order to use the good side of it and avoid some of the resulting bad stuff that’s jammed up content?

Ross Simmonds: I’m a big believer in using it for things that are kind of not necessarily directly related to the craft. So what I mean by that is, let’s say I’m doing deep research on something that I’m trying to understand. I might go out and grab some reports, grab some spreadsheets, might grab some PDFs that have insight that an actual journal has published, things like that. and I’ll upload it to ChatGPT and ask it to give me some of the key points, give me the key notes, give me a quick rundown on it. Or I’ll ask it to support me in developing research where I’ll get it to write a script that I can use in Google Sheets to do a detailed analysis of data that I never would have been humanly able to do in the past. That type of thing is what I use it for often. 

On the writing front, I like to use it to challenge my own ideas. Like I love using ChatGPT as a debating partner. So when I go to ChatGPT and I’m trying to figure out what my position should be, sometimes I’ll share an article that I’ve written and I’ll be like, poke some holes in this. What are areas where I did not go in depth enough to really showcase my positioning, my perspective? And then it will tell me and it will poke holes into it. Another great use case, which goes a little bit more to the business side, is taking transcripts from calls and asking ChatGPT to analyze how you did on a call. asking it to give you feedback on how you did on a podcast interview and say like, were there certain things I could have done better? And then it gives you feedback now. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that somebody who’s a podcast coach is listening to this in the same way that I said you shouldn’t use ChatGPT to write. They’re saying you shouldn’t use ChatGPT for a podcast coach, but I find it valuable to be able to get a decent, it’s probably not great advice, but it’s decent advice on, hey Ross, you talk too fast. I get it, it’s something that I do often, but those are little things that I find it to be valuable for. Transcriptions, I find it to be valuable for. valuable for writing scopes of work, not scopes of work, but like standard operating procedures. 

One of the things that I love doing because our team is fully remote is making sure that they have in-depth breakdowns on how to do certain things. So if I’ve done something for the first time, I record it on Loom, I talk through the process, and then I’ll upload that to ChatGPT, and I’ll say, ChatGPT, create an SOP based off of what I talk about in this video, and then it will write that for me. So those are some of the use cases. I could geek out on AI for a long time about some of the ways that I use it, but I hope that gives somebody that’s listening an insight and idea that they can use this tool to just be more efficient and effective in their work.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about AI on the podcast, and I think you’re tracking with some of the stuff we said. I love it for brainstorming. I don’t like to ask it to write things. In many cases, it’s worse than having a junior copywriter. And I’m already terrible with junior copywriters giving advice back and forth. I just take it and I’m like, I just got to rewrite this anyway. So that’s one of my weaknesses. And yeah, hiring ChatGPT to you know, just that pushes all the wrong buttons.

Ross Simmonds: And they always start with the same line. It’s like in the ever evolving world of the constantly changing world of like, give me a break. Clearly it learned it from something. So humans have written that way a lot of times, but it feels to me like it’s a dead giveaway when you’re reading a piece now and you can tell that it’s AI created.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, it’s pretty bleak. Okay. So noting what AI is, you know, good for and maybe what it’s done to content. We already talked a little bit about the four E’s, but you know, let’s go a little bit deeper into writing great content. You know, what else should we be considering? Uh, you know, as, as, as we get an assignment from a client, you know, obviously we need to understand some things about the product or the customer, that kind of stuff, but what else really drives great content?

Ross Simmonds: I think one of the things that I always strive for is trying to find something, an idea, a story, a piece of research, a piece of data. that no one else has really covered before. I really find that the most powerful pieces that constantly drive shares, that constantly get sent to an entire company, are those pieces of content that provide people with that light bulb moment, with an idea, an insight, a tactic, a strategy, that no one has shared in front of them before. And it’s oftentimes difficult to come up with these, but there’s a few ways you can do it. One is proprietary research. I believe in surveys, I believe in research, believe in using that to inform data pieces that you create. In the past, for example, our target audience is software companies. 

So if you’re an explorer by nature and you get excited by experiments and like doing this stuff, this whole thing becomes very easy. but I love just learning new things. So I said to myself, I’m going to look at a hundred different landing pages in software, and I’m going to analyze where they put their buttons, the color of their buttons, what goes in their nav, whether or not they have chatbots or not on them, whether or not they use real pictures or vector photos. And I’m going to create a spreadsheet that breaks down all of the things that I see. And then I’m going to start to create a report based off of trends that I’m seeing in the way that people design their software websites. That gave me a powerful differentiation in the market to bring to life ideas and stories and content that no one else had before. And anyone who wanted to talk about the subject would ultimately have to reference things that I created. 

So that gave me more reach and more distribution. And we’ve applied that type of methodology to the work that we do with clients. We’ve applied it to our own growth at Foundation. And we do it over and over again. And I think the best copywriters in general are very curious people. I mean, I look behind you and I see all these books, you’re a very curious person. Like you clearly have a deep interest in learning. And when you are passionate about learning and you let your passion around learning new things guide you, it makes it easy to create content that resonates with people so much more deeply. For those who are thinking, okay, but I’m writing for clients who are in very boring niches, et cetera, I hear you too. 

But you can go into the places where your audience is spending time and put on that same exploration kind of hat and mindset. and go explore the things that they care about. One of my favorite places to do this is inside of subreddits. So we have audiences that speak to a wide range of different types of groups and demographics. We’ll go into subreddits and we’ll sort the content within those communities by top posts. And what we’ll typically find is that maybe four, five, six, seven, eight, sometimes 10 years ago, there was a post that went live from somebody who’s passionate about that niche, that industry, about some random topic, who created something that was ridiculously valuable and everyone in that community loved. And when we see that, we now have a cultural insight into that demographic and that psychographic in that community. 

We know that they care about this topic. So we go deeper and we say, how can we give this community that same level of value six years, seven years later, but elevate it to the modern standard? And then we give it to them. We bring them valuable assets, we distribute it back into their community, but we write something that we know they’re going to love because they loved it eight years ago. And humans are still the same as we were eight years ago, except some people are retired. Some people are new in their career, that type of thing. So it’s still at the fundamental level of what those people will care about.

Rob Marsh: I love that idea. Not just for content, but also for finding hooks for copy, you know, product-specific or industry-specific sales pages, that kind of thing. That’s brilliant. I hadn’t thought, I mean, obviously people talk about using Reddit. Go watch the conversations, but I hadn’t thought about the sort for top posts and then looking. That’s just brilliant. I appreciate it. Yeah, there’s a light bulb that is going to change the way that I research.

Ross Simmonds: To your point around like headlines and leads as well, I don’t know if you can still do it. It gave me a lot of inspiration around slide shares that I would create and my decks back in the day would generate like 100,000 views because I would reverse engineer the types of hooks that would connect with people. I’d study like the Gary Halbert letters, like those things, and then reapply that methodology to it. And when you do that stuff, you just I love that approach of just like, let’s understand what works and then replicate it, adjust it slightly, create your own swipe file based off of where industry, what niche you’re in, and then just start to deliver that value back to people.

Rob Marsh: Yeah. What a great idea. And an illustration of what you were just saying, here’s something that everybody does find a new way to look at it. Right. And, and we’ve just, now I’ve got a blog post to put up on LinkedIn later. I love it. I love it. Okay. So we were talking earlier about engagement because we want our content. I mean, here’s another problem with contents. We write it, we post it, and then it just goes onto the blog to die.

And as we were talking about old time blogs, that didn’t used to happen, but it does today because I think conversations have moved to other spaces. So let’s talk about this. How do we distribute the content in a way that fosters that ever-going communication and community?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, it’s so fascinating when you think that we will put 10, 15, sometimes 20 hours into developing a piece of content, but put 10 to 15 seconds into actually promoting it, right? Like that ratio is so broken amongst writers, creators, entrepreneurs across the board. We spend a lot of time to create things, but we spend no time promoting them. And once we get that ratio fix, where it’s more like, all right, I’m gonna spend 20% of the time to create it, and then 80% of the time to promote it, you start to realize, oh, I should be promoting this thing two quarters from now, three quarters from now, three years from now, five years from now, because I’ve created something so valuable. 

So when you recognize first that the conversation isn’t going to happen on your site, you then have to think, how can I make a conversation start happening in places where my audience is spending time? For some brands that are going after like B2C, Facebook groups is where you might wanna be. You might wanna press publish on a great piece of content and share it in a Facebook group where you know your audience is, or on a Facebook page, or inside of a newsletter, or maybe you’re going to share it in a subreddit. it’s all going to depend where your audience spends time. In B2B, you might wanna distribute it on LinkedIn. You might wanna share it inside of a Slack channel where your community is spending time. You might wanna spread it through newsletters. 

Again, you might wanna go on a podcast and talk about a piece that you created so people will go to that piece and then start to share it and then have conversations on X or LinkedIn or threads, you name it, right? Like you want to understand where your audience is. And then you distribute those stories in these communities that already exist. And when you do that, you’re able to facilitate value in those communities that stirs up dialogue around your brand. And when that dialogue is happening around your brand, or at least around the topics that are parallel to your brand, and your conversation is amplified because your story exists, it’s a magical thing. I’ve done this literally my entire career. I find communities that are passionate about a certain topic in a niche. I’ll seed the content within it that I know is going to resonate. And then I watch people talk about it. I watch people have debates. I chime in, I share, I discuss it. Or if it’s a niche that has nothing to do with me, it will just be like, let’s have this content shared in this community and then let the community take control of it. And that is a very powerful way, I believe, for brands to replicate, businesses, copywriters, et cetera, to replicate what used to happen directly on the blog.

Rob Marsh: So this is a little bit of a challenge for a lot of content marketers because we emphasize the content side and not the marketer side, you know, where we want, we want to do the writing, you know, and when a client brings us an assignment, I want to write it. I want to send them the Google doc and not even think about it again. Like you said, you’ve been doing this your entire career. So help me reframe. this idea of content marketing around that idea of marketing. Not just how do I add those skills because I’m not sure that that’s that difficult, but in being able to offer that to our clients, clearly we become so much more valuable. So how have you done that and how do you talk about that with your clients?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, so there’s two ways to think about it. One, I think When it comes to content marketers who struggle to do it for themselves, they have to recognize two things are happening. One, there’s something holding them back from promoting their work. And then two, they have to ask themselves, what could that be? So are you afraid that you’re going to come off too spammy? Are you afraid that people are going to comment negative things about your work? Are you afraid that you are going to kind of be seen as that person who’s always too promotional, et cetera? You have to do a little bit of soul searching to figure out like, what is holding me back? Am I afraid to be judged by my peers or by this industry, this community? What is holding you back from promoting it? Because at the end of the day, your content is only as good as the people that it reaches and those people who actually act on the stories that you’re telling, unless you’re writing a journal or a diary. 

And in those cases, you don’t really care who’s reading it because there’s no business intent around it. But the other thing to keep in mind, if you can say with confidence that none of those things are what’s holding you back, then the question becomes, OK, why aren’t you helping more people? If you are so confident that your content is good, there is probably someone right now struggling with a problem that you have already talked about and you could have helped them solve. But because you won’t share it, they’re going to struggle for the next six months. And that to me is the number one reason why you should be shameless of promoting your work. Because right now there’s another human struggling with the problem that you could help them solve, but because you won’t help them solve it, because you won’t get out of your own way to promote it, they’re going to keep struggling and they might not even be able to put food on the table for their kids because you won’t share that piece that you created. That sucks, right? 

So that’s the first piece. Now, let’s say you are bought into all of that and you’re promoting your work now and you’re distributing it. But now you have to convince your clients that they need to distribute their work too. The biggest opportunity that exists when articulating the value of distribution to clients is the idea that your content should be able to generate ROI long-term. So it’s easy for brands to think, okay, we’re just in this production game where we just need to produce, produce, produce. But if the things that you’re producing don’t generate ROI, then you’re probably just looking at like a cost center. And you want to start thinking like an investment center. Now, everyone is familiar with stocks, and every stock is kind of different. But one of the fundamental strategies for stocks is that you should constantly be always going into the market, even when things start to go down, you should be going in, dollar cost averaging. So with your content that you’re producing, you should be thinking the exact same way. Because on January 4th, 2024, when we happened to share our article, everyone on the internet Everyone in our ICP didn’t happen to be on X, didn’t happen to be on LinkedIn at that exact same moment to see our piece. So why aren’t we sharing it on the 14th? Why aren’t we sharing it on the 24th? Why aren’t we sharing it every 10 days? Because we know that we didn’t reach everybody on day one. 

So if you want to get the best bang for your buck, you should be constantly resharing your content because everyone that you want to connect with is not online at the same time. In addition to that, Ideally, you’re creating content that’s valuable. And when you fast forward six months from now, there’s gonna be new people who have joined that platform, new people who have followed you for the first time, who will have no idea that you created this thing back in Q1 that was absolutely amazing. So reshare it and replay your greatest hits. That’s my biggest piece of advice. If you’ve been in the content game for four years, two years, three years, even a year, You probably have a couple assets that when they went live was a massive or a decent spike in engagement and traction. Those are the pieces you should start with, right? Bring back your greatest hits and reshare them with your community the same way that all of the musicians do. There’s a reason why when a musician is at the end of their career, they release the greatest hits album is because people want them. Right. I still listen to Bon Jovi. I don’t know when Bon Jovi just came out with another recent album, but I’ll still listen to it because there’s greatest hits and we need to think about our content the same way. If it’s good, it’s going to be good for a very long time. So milk it as long as you can.

Rob Marsh: And how do you have that conversation with clients? Do you actually provide the promotion services as part of what you offer them? Or do you help them set up? Yeah. Like, how does that happen?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, we do. So we ever since the beginning have believed in content creation and distribution as one thing. So when we deliver a blog post, it’s coming with some tweets, it’s coming with the LinkedIn post, it’s coming with the subreddit that you should submit it to, even the question in Quora that somebody asked that you should be answering. a response that includes a link back to the article. So we provide a full package that includes both what we call a distribution playbook and the actual asset that we’ve created. And I did this even when I was just a one-person shop as a freelancer. 

So before I had a team and systems and things like that, at the end of a piece, I would take a few extra minutes and just write up a couple of tweets for the client. I would write up a LinkedIn update. I would say, this is one that you can send. This is one that somebody on your team can send. Send this as a template. Here’s an email that you can send to your existing clients. I would craft all of that up in a package for my clients. And it was at the time and now I’m giving away all my secrets so people can do it too. But I’ve been talking about this for a long time and nobody’s still doing it. But that package as a entity itself is a amazing value add that differentiated me from a lot of other people. 

Again, if we go back to the early days of like who I am and what I was, I was just a copywriter. Like everyone thinks, oh, Ross is an SEO. I learned SEO through writing and having a blog and stuff like that. But at the core, I was just a writer who happened to get a marketing degree. And then I was like, OK, I’m going to start learning about SEO because there’s a value associated to this thing. I’m going to throw that on my writing hat. Cool. Now I get SEO. Cool. I understand CRO. Cool. I can throw these things in my head. Distribution. I’m excited. Let’s go all in. And then I was able to kind of create an entire agency on the back of it. But at the core, I just started to differentiate myself by saying, you’re not just going to get blog posts from me, you’re also going to get tweets, LinkedIn posts, emails, etc. Is anybody else doing that for you? No? Cool. I win the business. And that was like my in for a lot of businesses early on.

Rob Marsh: It seems like there’s an opportunity for stickiness here, too. Yeah. So obviously, you know, as early on, you were providing, you know, the social assets to people. But you don’t even have to do that necessarily. It’s like, OK, I’m going to set up the distribution for you. I’m going to run your Twitter account or I’m going to post this stuff on LinkedIn for you. Yeah, that the stickiness there is in that if they stop working with me as a content provider, that stuff goes away. Like, you know, I turn off the buffer. you know, promotions or whatever. And so as far as retainers go and long-term clients, there’s something here that I think could benefit a ton of content creators.

Ross Simmonds: Yeah. And the reporting is easier today than ever before. Like I can remember going into Buffer and pulling up the analytics for how many clicks we were getting on different posts and then sending that over to clients over email and then going into Google Analytics, etc. Now you can set it up so they just get automatic reports directly out of analytics. And if you’re using things like HubSpot, it all automatically will go to them. And with AI today, it becomes even easier. AI can be your assistant in writing an email that summarizes the results of the last few months. And it just makes it so much more streamlined. 

But yes, I think there’s a big sticky factor in that. And I would advise copywriters to think about, okay, great, you have a retainer associated with content creation. But to your point, like how else can you get connected into the business beyond the production side that allows for that tighter grip on the company so they feel like, oh yeah, we can’t lose them. We need them, we need to retain them. They’re deeper into this business with us than just writing copy.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, and I mean, even saying that, with the tools that you’re using and what you bring to the table, it just feels like, Moving just a little bit away from all content creation and spending 10, 20% of your time setting up these systems that are automated to already do it just makes you so much more valuable.

Ross Simmonds: Right. And the other one that is easy, I don’t want to say it’s easy, but the other one that is a nice value add is when you can bring new insight to the table, but frame it. Instead of just saying, I saw this, like say, I did some research and frame it the right way. It could be as simple as going to review sites. Like if you are in local SEO or if you’re in local marketing, et cetera, go look at your brands, your clients, Google reviews, and look for insights around the things that they are doing, that everyone is talking about. 

Pro tip, again, AI is great at this. If they’ve got hundreds of reviews, export all of that, copy and paste all of this into a Google doc, upload it to ChatGPT, ask ChatGPT to look at it and try to identify a trend. It’s going to see whether or not something is mentioned over and over again. And if it is, you bring that to your client and say, I’ve noticed that on our website, on your content, on your ads, nowhere do you talk about the fact that you folks have the fastest Wi-Fi in the city. But that’s what everyone is talking about on Google Reviews. We should probably talk about that a little bit more, right? Like those are the little ideas of research where you can start to even say to them, as a part of our retainer, every month I’m going to spend time doing some research and I’m going to bring you new ideas. they will pay for that. They will pay for that if it is value and you can show them by just doing a quick analysis like that.

Rob Marsh: Yeah. Okay. You mentioned reporting. So I’m really curious what kinds of things you’re sharing and reporting to clients. What does that look like?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah. Our reporting function today is a lot more robust and we are deep into leveraging things like HubSpot and data to bring to life like deep reports on Serpent Analytics. So we’re tracking Keywords, we’re tracking competitive keywords and how we’re ranking for the value of the keywords. So cost per click multiplied by the actual search volume estimates. We’re looking at MQLs. So we’re looking at the content and how we are actually assisting with marketing qualified lead generation. We’re assigning deals with pipeline to them and then monitoring and seeing how much pipeline we’ve influenced and impacted. We’re looking at follower accounts. We’re looking at referral traffic from social. We’re doing a lot of those types of things now to get a little bit more closer to the businesses and their objectives and goals. 

And even early on, I would say we were trying to understand that. But now, because of data as well as like our own reputation, it’s easier to get access to a lot of that info. But I would advise folks to try very hard to get as close to ROI as possible. Try to see exactly what dollars you’re influencing within the client’s business, because that’s when you’re able to show that they are seeing 2X, 3X, 5X, 10X returns off of your work. And you want to be able to communicate that. You want to be able to say to a client, look, we’ve been at this for three months. You’ve closed 10 deals because of our work. I cost X, you’ve made Y. That difference is the ROI between this relationship. Do you want to keep that going? Probably if the gap is significant. If you’re breaking even, not a great story, but you should still continue to get an at-bat a few more months, which is good, but you need to see that increase. You really want to be able to show that you’re not just paying for yourself with this work, but you’re also generating profit for the company.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, even at breakeven, if you can take the timeline out, you know, a year to year because that content asset actually lives, like that should be able to ultimately. demonstrate some profitability there. But yeah, obviously it’s better if you’re selling a lot. So for the copy or the content creator who is new to this whole idea of reporting basics, you know, the basic setup, you know, maybe I don’t have HubSpot reporting or anything like that. But I probably want to set up a couple goals using Google Analytics. So I can track back to my content. Is there anything else that I would add to that in order to get to that investment number?

Ross Simmonds: I would always ask my clients, what do you use for reporting? What do you use for tracking your revenue, your sales associated with online? And then try to get insight into their systems. If they’re using Stripe, then you might be able to connect Stripe directly to Google Analytics. If they’re using Shopify and it’s an e-commerce play, then you 125% wanna just get access to that and always try to get the most access as you can because that gives you the details. And then from there, you wanna connect those types of tools to goals, into analytics and things like that.

Rob Marsh: Okay, good. Okay, that’s probably enough about reporting for now. So one thing that I saw you talking about recently, which really resonated with me, because this is exactly how I talk about copywriting, is the idea that content is an asset. And, you know, we’ve talked about this in our Accelerator program, that oftentimes when we start out as writers, we’re thinking, well, I’m just providing copy, or I’m just giving them, you know, articles, content, whatever. But when I realized this in my own business that I’m basically creating the machinery on the factory floor or the product that’s going out the door and started seeing the work as an asset, it really changed my mind frame. So talk a little bit about that and how you view the content as asset.

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, so the same way in the stock market where there’s different types of assets. So you can buy stocks, you can buy bonds, you can buy crypto, you can buy real estate, you can buy all of these different things that are assets. There’s one expectation that we all have when we make those types of investments. We’re looking for return. And when it comes to content, your clients, when they make that investment, they’re looking for return. 

So when you are working with them, you need to be thinking about, okay, if I’m going to support the development of this thing, what is it? It’s an asset. you want to create an asset that’s going to drive return. And not all assets are created equally. Some assets are landing pages. Some assets are blog posts. Some assets might just be a tweet. Some assets might be a slide deck. Some might be a white paper. Some might be an ebook. All assets are not created equally, but neither is crypto. Neither is like bonds and stocks. Like it’s all different and the right portfolio mix of your assets. with content depends on the scenario of the business, right? The same way that the investment approach that you take will be different depending on the stage of the human. 

Somebody who’s 85 is gonna have a very different investment strategy, I hope, than somebody 18. They should have completely different spectrums on how much risk they’re willing to take, what they’re willing to bet in, whether or not they wanna go into high growth options and stocks, or whether or not they’re going after something that’s slow and steady. you should be thinking the same way with content. 

A brand that invests in blog posts and is expecting a significant amount of return might be very different than a brand that’s investing in podcasting as the content asset. And that’s okay. But you have to understand where the business is and then develop content based off of that. Now, once we are aligned on that idea, as a copywriter, as a creator, it should do two things. One is to make you a little bit less emotional around the content that you’re creating and it should give you the perspective that I’m adding so much value to this organization that I’m going to give them an asset and that asset that I’m going to develop is something that they’re going to get ROI out of and then from there you hopefully Start to think much more from a business sense and start thinking about, OK, if they have feedback, it’s just adjustments in the asset strategy. We’re optimizing this asset a little bit differently. That’s OK. Right. It’s OK. Stand on your own authority, of course, and expertise to be able to push back. the same way that a financial advisor should. But when you do that, you need to recognize that you might want to come with data. You might want to come with supporting facts, things of that nature. 

Now, here’s something that you have to keep in mind. An asset should not just live and die the day that it goes live. It should be nurtured. You should be investing and constantly leveraging that asset to get more rewards. That’s why I created the book Create Once Distribute Forever because I see so many people create amazing assets. I can say right now Rob with 100% confidence that there’s probably people who are listening to us talk and they have created content assets for themselves or even for their clients that would have fundamentally changed either their own lives or their clients lives and trajectory and career, but because they didn’t distribute that asset after it went live, Things are all the same. Things are completely the same. Their life is the same as it was two years ago, but they wrote a piece that would have fundamentally changed their trajectory, but they didn’t promote it. They didn’t amplify it. They were too shy. They were too nervous. And this is coming from somebody who in high school’s nickname was Shy Ross. Like, I get it. The fear is real. 

But folks, if you have created an asset that is valuable, spread that asset with the masses and the people who you can influence, and it can fundamentally change the trajectory and career that you have. I am a deep believer and example that one single piece of content can fundamentally change your life. I’ve had so many of them over the years where I’ve just pressed publish on one piece of content, I’ve promoted it two months, three months later, and I’ve gotten a DM from somebody who wanted to pay 60 grand for a project in the scope. That has happened time and time again because I am recognizing and I operate with a first principle that these assets that I create are valuable and I need to promote them and amplify them to get more people on them because every single eyeball on them is an opportunity.

Rob Marsh: So you mentioned your book. How has having a book changed your business and the way you market yourself?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, so the book has changed me in a few ways. One, I have never ever expected it to be so difficult to write a book. I started the book with the intention and the expectation that this would be something I could do on the side while running my company and raising three kids and all of that stuff. Holy smokes, what a drain on time. It takes a lot of work. And now everybody wants an audio book. So I have to drain more energy to do that. Folks, if you ever decide to write a book, just recognize this is not light work. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and it’s a lot of self-talk, the same way that I give self-talk about distribution. It’s a lot of that. It’s hard. That was the first thing. So I realized I could do really, really hard things.

Now, the second thing about writing a book that has been fascinating for me is it helps solidify my position in the market as the person who is an authority on this topic. And I think for me, That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to write it. I’ve dedicated essentially 10, 12 years of my life to studying and understanding distribution. I’ve written about it, I’ve talked about it, and now I’ve wrote a book on it. And that kind of cemented me in the position that I wanted to be in. And I think honestly, like for me, that authority in the market on distribution has opened up new opportunities for us as a company to be able to do some pretty cool work with some pretty cool clients. And I encourage people to check it out because the most rewarding part of writing the book is the feedback that I get from the community. Every day I get a DM from somebody who’s able to share their content a little bit more effectively, who’s experimenting with a channel that they’ve never experimented with before. They’re promoting their Etsy shop in a way that they’ve never done before. And that to me shows, one, the value of distribution, but it makes me feel good to know that I’m potentially having an impact on the way that somebody else shows up on the internet, and as a result of that, their life.

Rob Marsh: Next time we talk, you’re going to see Create Once, Distribute Forever on the shelf behind me. I’m adding it to my list and we’re definitely going to link to it in the show notes so that people can get it. Appreciate that. Yeah, I think the way you’re talking about this is critical and it’s really one of the huge missing pieces for content creators’ success. Again, we’re in this creation loop and we have a really hard time getting off of it. So I appreciate that. We’ll get it in people’s hands. Okay. So let me change the discussion just a little bit. Tell me a little bit about your team. You, I mean, you started out as a solo player and did that for a long time, but you’ve built a couple of different companies today. What does your team look like?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, so within Foundation, which is the main company, we’ve got about 30 people. We’re a content marketing firm. We work with B2B SaaS companies. We have everything from copywriters all the way through to account managers, strategists, specialists who have niche expertise in various ranges. We have editors on our team. And we’re always looking for great talent. We do bring in freelancers often to kind of give us the ability to flex up on different accounts and projects. We also believe in expertise. 

So if we’re creating a piece of content for a client that might be a little bit more technical, We love having and being able to go to a database of freelancers and copywriters who have expertise in that niche, so our clients can benefit from their experience. So again, I’m going to go a little geeky on you for a second on the SEO front, but one of the things that is fascinating is the rise of DoubleEat. And DoubleEat is this part of Google’s algorithm where they look at experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. And if you have those four factors and you’re an author and you are pressing publish on a certain domain, then that domain is now getting more credibility because your name is associated with that piece. So one thing that I love to see and love to do is identify experts within certain niches, have them contribute to a blog, to a website that our clients host so they can get more reach, get more visibility, but the client benefits because they now have that authority and that voice on their domain. We love identifying and finding writers who have very special niche and experience in certain industries. 

We had one client that targets like video game CIOs and video game technologists and developers. And we were able to find someone who like specialized and geeked out every single day about lag within video games. And that’s all they write about. They had journals about it. And I was like, perfect. This is the exact person that we want to create this type of content. Could I ever write that content? Not a chance. Like, I would never be able to geek out about the things that they geek out about. And my Canadians flaring up about a boot, you name it, whatever it is. But like, you got to find those people and then get them to contribute your content as well.

Rob Marsh: Well, and an AI couldn’t write it either.

Ross Simmonds: No.

Rob Marsh: Here’s another argument for niching and really understanding, you know, going deep on maybe not just one thing, but on the things that you’re really interested in working with.

Ross Simmonds: I love that call out. That’s a great point. That’s a differentiator from AI that everyone should be thinking about. The more niche you can go, the better, more specialized you can go, the more difficult it’s going to be for AI to replace you because you have so much clear insight and knowledge into a subject that AI can’t compete with you. Now, that’s difficult for somebody who’s junior in their career. That’s why I say for junior copywriters, it’s a tough time. But find a mentor, find somebody you can work with, intern, work on your craft, and then maybe find somewhere that you can double down and niche down a bit.

Rob Marsh: Yeah. So what does a typical project look like with Foundation? I, you know, as you talk about the team, I mean, agency level stuff, it’s probably not, hey, I’m hiring Ross to do three blog posts at $300 a pop.

Ross Simmonds: You know, I miss those times, but no, you’re right. Not anymore. So now it typically starts with a strategy effort and discovery process where clients come with us with a problem. We want to increase organic traffic. Our organic traffic is tanked. We need to recover our traffic. We’ve published hundreds of pieces and those pieces are no longer getting seen. How do we fix all of this? They come to us with a problem. Then we do an audit. We do an in-depth review of the problem, kind of like a doctor would or a good doctor should. And we try to understand the symptoms, the problems, the issues, the gaps. We review the market in general, we understand them, their objectives, their story, and then from that, we develop a plan. And in that plan, there’s likely going to be content creation, there’s gonna be content optimization, there’s going to be volume levels based off of their needs and their demand in the market in general, and we start to craft stories around that. 

Now, one of the things that is different, again, to my point earlier, is that we also would include in that engagement distribution services. So how can we distribute these stories through different communities and channels, but also optimization opportunities? How can we fix these things? How can we update them for CRO, for SEO purposes, all of that? One of the things that has been fascinating is as we have leveraged AI more and more frequently, our partners are starting to ask us more about AI solutions. So not necessarily for content creation, but AI solutions for better understanding who’s visiting their website and how to automatically run remarketing campaigns against those people, or how to automatically send emails to people when they download a lead magnet and have it enriched with AI. So the system within HubSpot is showing their first name, last name, university, the company size, all of that type of stuff. So now we’re getting into a lot more full service digital marketing services with video content creation, ads that are going out on social media, social media stories, carousels for Instagram, LinkedIn, all of that. So we’re doing essentially the full suite, which in many ways I always tried to do as an individual, but could never do really well. But as we’ve scaled and we’ve grown, It has given us the talent and the ability to do more of those things.

Rob Marsh: And, you know, obviously you’ve got this big agency behind you doing this stuff. Do you think that it’s possible for the solo content creator to compete now with, you know, promoting content, not just, you know, on a website or a blog? A hundred percent. I’m going to give like, my advice would be,

Ross Simmonds: Like if I was solo, take the agency away. Ross is going into this new, I’m finding an up and coming market. I’m finding a niche that not a lot of people think is interesting. And I’m going to become laser focused in it. So let’s say, for example, I am very intrigued by mobile games. And I think that mobile games with a certain geography based mobile games is like something that I’m passionate about. I am going to write a ton of content on those companies, about those companies. I’m going to geek out about those companies. I’m going to read reports about those companies. I’m going to create those stories. And if you ever had that freelancer versus an agency that does a little bit of everything, that freelancer wins every single time. I believe that I would niche down and become obsessed with a certain niche. I would make sure that the addressable markets there, like you don’t want to go into a market that there’s no money. but I would go all in on that and focus on it. I just saw a piece the other day, I don’t know who it was, but this lady had spent two years writing up with the business model of Disney. And she just recently got a job at Disney as like a director level role, probably pulling six figures because she dedicated two years of her life just breaking down things within their business that she could observe as an outsider. And that’s the playbook that I’ve done with SaaS for the last few years and have been able to build a business off of. And I think marketers, copywriters today can do the exact same thing. Double down, niche down. Like if I ever retired and I was like, okay, what am I going to do? I’m probably going to go back into my fantasy football roots and be like, how can I get a job with the Philadelphia Eagles? I’m probably going to just write a bunch of content about their marketing efforts and then earn my way in because I’ve been relentless writing about their stuff for two years.

Rob Marsh: That’s a great idea. If you’ve got two years to kill, it’s a good way. That’s true. Okay. So what’s next for you, Ross, and what is the future of content marketing?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, so for me, what’s next is a little bit more of the same. I’m still super passionate and excited about content. I’m still super excited about where the industry is going. I love talking about this stuff. So I’m going to continue down that path of trying to add as much value to the industry as I can. And when the industry stops listening, then I’ll say, all right, folks, I get it. I’m no longer adding value. I’ll step out and do something new. But for now, I’m just going to keep trying to do that. The future of the industry, I think, is more fragmented than ever before. I think we’re going to see more and more. We’re going to see more and more brands and businesses recognizing the importance of being in multiple channels. And I think for copywriters, you’re going to see an increased demand of flexibility across different channels. And I think that’s where things are going. And I would say in many ways, AI has a big part of that. AI is making things a little bit more difficult, but also with difficulty presents a ton of opportunity.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I love that. I think that’s probably a great place to stop. So, Ross, if people want to follow you, connect with you, get your book, where’s Homebase?

Ross Simmonds: Yeah, You can do a quick Google search for me. You can find information about the book on there, but also connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s one of my favorite platforms right now. I’ve been spending a lot of time there. And if you’re not following me there, you should definitely follow Rob there. Rob, thank you so much for having me on. This has been a great chat and I want to give you a shout out for what you do for the copywriter community. I think we need more conversations like this in the industry at large. It helps probably that like 19 year old Ross who’s listening to this figure out where they want to go. And it’s much needed in our space. So I appreciate all you do for the community in the industry at large.

Rob Marsh: Thanks again to Ross Simmons for joining us to chat about content, the four E’s, AI, building authority, and so much more. There were a couple of things from this interview that stood out to me as we talked. 

I just want to mention again, Ross mentioned the four E’s, educate, entertain, empower, engage. Usually content writers are good at educating and often we do a decent job of engaging, at least at the beginning of the asset that we’re writing. In fact, we often treat this as the job. We’re here to teach readers something that they know, but we don’t always entertain. We don’t always empower people to accomplish the thing that they want or need. That’s because entertaining is hard.

In my opinion, the best way to do this is to tell stories. Well-told stories hold attention. They surprise and intrigue. They open up a loop. To use that well-used phrase from the copywriting world, open a loop. And readers stay tuned in order to close the loop or to find out what happens next. They communicate important information in ways that get under our resistance to sales or marketing. A lot of times when we’re writing content, we’re focused on communicating information and details or features, pricing, reasons to buy, and all of that, and we forget to entertain and to empower our readers to take action and make a change. So storytelling is one way to do that and something that we should all be doing more of. 

I also want to mention, again, Ross’s approach to creating unique content. taking old content related to what you’re writing and looking for those ideas that were popular before, you know, a few years ago, or maybe even more than a few years ago, and reworking those ideas into something new. This is a great research hack that almost nobody is using today. In fact, I’ve never heard anybody else share that on the podcast as we’ve talked with literally hundreds of content and copywriters. It’s so much easier just to ask the AI to do their work. But if you go in search of this kind of stuff, it’s so much better because you’re bringing more to the table as a human being with your experience and understanding. 

And let’s briefly mention promoting content. Because as writers, we spend so much time brainstorming and creating content only to promote it for an hour or two and then to move on to creating the next thing. There is a real opportunity here for copywriters to help with promotion. And if you don’t want to do that yourself, You can partner with somebody who can set up automations for promotion on social media so that your content doesn’t get lost. It starts to move the needle for your clients. I can think of so much content that we’ve created for the Copywriter Club that could be helping copywriters right now, but because it’s not showing up in social media or in our daily emails or being mentioned here on the podcast, it may as well not even exist at all. No one knows about it except for me. And this is a problem for almost every business that uses content in their marketing mix. If you can solve this problem for your clients, you will be that much more valuable for them. And again, this has the potential to be a serious differentiator for you. 

Okay, that’s probably enough. If you’re like me, you’re going to want to go back and listen to this episode again, because there are just so many great insights. It’s almost impossible to get them all with just one listen, maybe even just two listens. Listen to it a couple of times. 

And I want to thank Ross for sharing so much about his process for creating content. You can connect with Ross on LinkedIn or subscribe to his newsletter on his website at That’s the end of this episode of the Copywriter Club podcast.


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