Will Blesch is the founder of Vertical Content, a company that’s all about helping companies take their customers and clients down the buyer’s journey in the most effective manner possible.
The company’s primary goal is increasing lead acquisition, improving conversion rates, and generating more qualified leads for those with whom we work.
Will has worked as a copywriter and media professional for decades, with most of his career spent helping high tech, biotech, and software companies with one marketing problem or another.
The idea of Vertical Content came along when he realized he could help a lot more people, a lot more entrepreneurs, and business owners through a content marketing agency than he ever could as a solo copywriter. (He also realized he could go from being his clients’ “White knight, Jedi, and wizard of words” to going full “Yoda Jedi Master” by scaling his ability to help others!)
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Will Blesch: Time for the origin story, eh? Well, I started off my career doing film and media in Austin, Texas. It was a huge learning experience and over time I found myself working more and more with clients in a content-producing capacity. That graduated into copywriting and so I hung out my shingle and freelanced for many years.
As I noted in my bio, most of my career has been spent helping high-tech, biotech, and software companies with one marketing problem or another.
The idea of Vertical Content came along when I realized I could help a lot more people, a lot more entrepreneurs, and business owners through a content marketing agency than I ever could as a solo copywriter.
And, here I am today.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Will Blesch: Of course there were hard times. I don’t believe there’s an entrepreneur alive that hasn’t had their own, very personal, “dark night.” Mine was during almost the whole of 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, almost all of my clients dried up practically overnight.
There was a lot of fear and businesses were cutting back and hunkering down. It’s like they all withdrew into a protective shell in an attempt to preserve cash reserves, etc. Turtle Syndrome was in full effect.
My freelance business was impacted badly. And, like everyone else, I still had responsibilities that needed to be met, bills that had to be paid, and I began to get real nervous because my income tanked to a degree I had never experienced before.
I was essentially faced with the prospect of either going out and getting government assistance or reinventing myself. Now, I’m a Star Trek geek with a love for the original series. My mom pretty much force-fed me Star Trek since I was five years old and could sit and binge watch episodes with her. Captain Kirk was one of my heroes and he said that he didn’t believe in “no-win scenarios.”
That’s been kind of a mantra for me ever since I heard him say that. So, instead of becoming incredibly depressed and giving up during the pandemic, I chose to start Vertical Content. I threw myself into marketing like there was no tomorrow (and for me, there basically wasn’t).
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Will Blesch: The worst advice ever is to just “Follow your heart! Follow your passion!” without a care as to how you’re going to make money doing that. I was always good at writing in school and I had a teacher who gave me that advice when I asked about what kind of career I could have as a writer.
I ended up learning the hard way that, for example, there are people out there who want to be poets. They’re passionate about writing poetry. They get to express some of the deepest concepts ever and if they’re really good, they evoke intense feelings in those who read their poetry.
But can they pay their rent by writing poetry? The answer is an unequivocal “no” for the vast majority of them. No, if you want to be financially successful, you need to go where there’s a need in the market and you must find a way to fill it.
In the case of the poet, that person obviously loves to write. They can take that love of writing and their skill with the English language and use it to provide businesses with valuable writing services for which those companies will happily pay.
The point is that I think it’s terrible advice to tell a would-be entrepreneur or even someone who just wants to work for a good company to simply follow their heart or passion and then leave it at that.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Will Blesch: Well, I think I partially answered this question a bit when I talked about how my company came about. I think resilience is a refusal to allow life to knock you down for the count. The pandemic and the lockdown policies in many areas completely upended the businesses of countless small business owners all over the world. I saw reports in the papers where some literally lost everything they had.
I also think a big part of resilience is keeping your mind open. It’s being willing to consider possibilities and paths that others won’t. For instance, you’ve been doing such and such for 20 years and now suddenly you can’t do that because of circumstances brought on by the pandemic.
Well, can you pivot? Are you willing to fundamentally change the direction of your business if what you’ve got isn’t working now? Have you considered every possible way you can go under, over, around, or through whatever challenge it is you’re facing?
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision, or values?
Will Blesch: I think values matter most. I think while having a statement about your company’s core values is great (and you can communicate that in your marketing), I feel it’s more about embodying those values. It’s living them in such a way that your customers can tangibly experience those values when they engage with your brand.
An article in Harvard Business Review actually backs up my view on this subject too. It suggests that customers buy more when they feel they share the same values with a company.
(You can see that HBR article here)
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Will Blesch: I think there’s a laundry list of character traits, a whole cocktail if you will, that go into making someone a successful leader. For me, the things that have helped get me to where I now boil down to:
- A willingness to learn from everyone; and
- A HUGE amount of risk tolerance
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Will Blesch: Absolutely. I think a leader’s personal brand needs to be congruent with that of the business that individual’s running. If they’re not, the public can sense something’s off. Something’s not quite right. In the case of entrepreneurs and new companies, your investors can tell, and it can spook them.
Just look at what happened with WeWork and the whole disconnect between the personal image of the company’s leader and the brand itself. When revelations in SEC paperwork brought that disconnect to light, the company lost something like $45 Billion in value practically overnight.
How do you monitor if the people in your department are performing at their best?
Will Blesch: I cannot stand micromanagement. I’m largely a hands-off kind of guy. I make sure people know what their jobs are, what’s expected of them, and then I let them do it. I prefer for people to take ownership of their jobs. I don’t care how they do it. At the end of the day, I care about results.
There’s a story of a copywriter that was hired to be part of a marketing team at a big company. For weeks, other employees saw the guy sitting in his office, leaning back with his feet up on his desk, bouncing a ball off of the wall.
At other times, people would catch him playing computer games on his laptop. It didn’t look like he was doing anything and so people started to complain to the marketing director about it.
The marketing director replied that this copywriter was working. Before he was ever hired he’d let it be known that his best ideas came to him while “playing.” He had a proven track record so the company let him do whatever he wanted as long as he delivered results.
I’m a firm believer in exactly that sort of thing.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Will Blesch: This goes back to something I said in response to one of the other questions.
Find a need in the market and fill it. If you can find a need that’s at the center of something you care about, even better.
Once you discover that need and know that you can fill it, you need to have a clear vision. You need to firmly understand in your own mind how you’re going to get from where you are now to where you want to be. You need to plan things out and create a roadmap for yourself.
Get a mentor! Find someone who has been there, done that, and has succeeded. Being able to ask for advice and pick the brain of someone who is already successful is incredibly important in my view.
Finally, you have to act. If you truly plan to start a business you have to think in concrete terms and then you must “do.”
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Will Blesch: My favorite business quote comes from the famous copywriter, Dan Kennedy.
He once said that “Time is democratic and everyone has the same amount. When I choose to read with my mid-morning coffee break and you choose to blather about trivia with friends when I choose to study for an hour sitting on my backyard deck at day’s end but you choose to watch a TIVO’d American Idol episode, we reveal much. When someone says he does not have the time to apply himself to acquiring the know-how required to create sufficient value for his stated desires, he is a farmer surrounded by ripe fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and a herd of cattle on his own property who dies of starvation, unable to organize his time and discipline himself to eat.”
I believe wholeheartedly in continual self-education. Anyone who thinks they’ve made it and no longer has need of further information is fooling themselves.
Dan Kennedy isn’t the only uber-successful businessman that reads all the time. People like Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger are well-known for their reading habits too.
As for me, there are many situations I’ve found myself facing where my decisions were based on research I’d done. I didn’t know the answer to some business questions and I didn’t have any peers to go and ask, so I found a book on the subject and educated myself.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Will Blesch for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Will Blesch or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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