Content Captain is a smartphone app for telling your authentic business story.
Recently relaunched with more of a focus on daily prompts, it helps founders to build an emotion connection with their target market through an untapped treasure trove of experiences, struggles and triumphs.
We spoke to co-founder Nico Jones about his biggest learnings with v1 of the product, what’s different this time and why he’s so bullish on video marketing.
Hi Nico. Please introduce yourself and yours and Sam's backgrounds?
Myself and Sam met at university at 2001, and after that have been in the video business for a good 17 years a piece. Both as videographers and both as animators, at different points.
We complement each other well and have good yin and yang emotional personalities going on, where I’m either massively up or down and he’s totally level. So, we’re the classic co-founder fit.
I have had lots of crazy projects on the side over the years. I’ve been a failed novelist, a street performer on the streets of York, been in loads of bands, and a host of non-starter businesses. I’ve always had some wacky side hustle going on! Content Captain is a bit of a mash-up of everything we’ve learned in the video business but also everything I’ve learned from believing in something super-hard, and trying to help people who are in a similar position. To help them to succeed against the odds.
How would you describe Content Captain to somebody who hasn’t heard of it before?
Content Captain is an app that helps business owners record social video content. In this case, that’s basically just you talking on video about yourself, your project or your service.
But they real trick we’re trying to pull off is helping people to tell their stories – their own personal stories – to spark an emotional connection with their audience. So, that’s key scenes from moments in their life that explain why they are the ones best-placed to help their customers. It’s how they got to the exact point to really run their business in an incredible way that’s going to deliver for people. Not just the story of where you took your kids last weekend.
"Content Captain is a bit of a mash-up of everything we’ve learned in the video business but also everything I’ve learned from believing in something super-hard, and trying to help people who are in a similar position. To help them to succeed against the odds."- Nico Jones, Content Captain
You’ve recently relaunched Content Captain. What’s different?
The first thing we built was really a totally different tool altogether. We basically built an app for ourselves that would let us direct and collect smartphone video content remotely. The idea was that you could get anyone in the world to go and film anything. Like 5 interviews, then some shots of something that was happening in a company or in a charity or up a mountain. Those shots would come back to us automatically and we’d edit these beautiful videos by hand that were very labour-intensive.
Halfway through the development we were like, “Hey, this could be something that other people could use and pay for, and it could be a SaaS.” So we went from an agency model to a SaaS model with no experience whatsoever in how to set that kind of thing up. We built the tool, then we were running around, going, “Hey. Do you want to use it? No? How about you??” Basically, picking a market after we built a tool. People still use it with great results, but we never quite cracked the approach that would let it scale.
Looking back, we could have avoided a ton of heartache just by reading Lean Startup, but then we wouldn’t have made the mistakes that have led us to this really exciting point!
Now we’ve simplified it right down to helping Solopreneurs (e.g. coaches, course creators, but also any business owners) make the most basic videos possible, but in a really consistent, compelling way that’s incredibly tricky to achieve without a tool like this.
Ultimately the big problem our audience faces is they’ve got to spark an emotional connection with the people they’re selling to. And their personal story, whether they realise it or not, is absolutely the best way to do that. Our different challenges help business owners chose key moments from their past that demonstrate how good they are at what they do, and then our questions and prompts help them articulate those moments, and bring them to life.
"Our different challenges help business owners chose key moments from their past that demonstrate how good they are at what they do, and then our questions and prompts help them articulate those moments, and bring them to life."- Nico Jones, Content Captain
You help users to share their authentic selves and develop a real connection with their customers. Why is video the perfect format for this?
Anyone can talk a good game on the internet, especially with all the marketing frameworks and AI tools out there. People are getting more and more savvy in how they set up their online presence, and anyone can promise anything. It just brings this key issue to the front: who can you really trust?
Podcasts are a great way of getting around that, but they take a huge commitment for a listener to get started. Video is much more immediate.
And yet, it’s not like video is a silver-bullet solution, because there’s so much super-slick, scripted, teleprompted stuff out there. But the bottom line is, if you believe in what you’re selling, and you talk about yourself or your service in an unscripted smartphone video, it’s really hard to fake authenticity in that moment. If you’re for real, it comes across in a heartbeat. That level of honesty is what audiences are desperate for these days, and video is the only medium that can cut through the bullshit and capture it at speed.
"The bottom line is, if you believe in what you’re selling, and you talk about yourself or your service in an unscripted smartphone video, it’s really hard to fake authenticity in that moment. If you’re for real, it comes across in a heartbeat."- Nico Jones, Content Captain
In terms of new features, is anything different to enable that?
Oh it’s basically a totally different app!
It’s all about our Story-starter challenges being delivered to you regularly, and getting you to think about your audience, your business and yourself in a new way. Then recording compelling stories into bitesize pieces that get edited together automatically. But the really exciting stuff is a little further down the line in terms of gamification. The app we’ve got in our heads a couple of years from now is unspeakably immense.
However easy you make it, some people will still find it pretty daunting going on camera. Have you got any tips or advice for them?
It’s tricky, isn’t it? But part of the reason we chose this audience is because they know they need to be doing this stuff. They might look at what’s being done out there in terms of video and think ‘Oh, I could never do that’, or look at the madness on TikTok and think ‘Why can’t I just talk about why I do what I do?’ We’re here to help those folks get going, and prove they’ve got everything they need.
So, if you’re in that bracket and worried about giving it a go, I’d just say that if you truly believe that you are capable of helping your audience, you kind of owe it to them to put yourself out there. If you’re for real, only good things can come of it. It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. What’s the smallest, easiest thing you could do regularly? Answer an FAQ in 20 seconds every other day and build from there. You’ll feel good, I promise.
In terms of making videos look and sound good…I think people place too much importance on that aspect, and it stops them even trying. Just crack on – when its short-lived social video, people honestly don’t care how slick it is!
How have you promoted the product and got users?
We’re still in the early stages of all this, but initially I used Content Captain to make videos myself relentlessly for a couple of months, posting multiple times a week on LinkedIn. That got a decent amount of signups from my immediate network.
We learned so much from that initial testing cohort; it was a crazy thrill to see people’s stories come to life using the challenges. We had a personal trainer who used the Proud Moment challenge to tell the story of how he started a free online course for his local clients during the pandemic, without asking for payment. Then one day he found an envelope pushed through his door, and his clients had taken up a collection that kept him going another month. The more stuff like that which was put out there, the more people signed up.
The other great one was a marketing agency-owner who told an Honesty Bomb story. That’s where you talk about something a potential client really needs to understand, even if it means they’re not ready to work with you yet. But in this case, it actually resulted in them losing a client! They got a message saying ‘Yeah what you said really hit home and made us realise we need to raise our game, so we’ll be back when we have!’ It’s all about that level of honest communication, in a sea of shameless grifters. Attracting your ideal clients, and repelling the ones who you would have struggled to help anyway.
What’s the big vision for Content Captain?
The big vision is not to have billions of people all over the world using this and kind-of liking it as a work tool. It’s to zero in on a particular kind of target market, and truly blow those people’s minds.
The gamification plans we’ve got are a huge part of that. What we’ve got planned is so far beyond anything that’s out there in this space. The aim is to make an app that people will check like clockwork every morning, that they’ll get massive value from, even if they aren’t making videos. There’ll be a sense of variety, progression and achievement, all built around their journey of being a business-owner. We want them to feel like they can take on the world.
So when other apps out there are like, “Oh you know, edit videos more easily, add subtitles,” we’re saying: “We’ll take you on an adventure powered by your own story. How does that sound?”
"The big vision is not to have billions of people all over the world using this and kind-of liking it as a work tool. It’s to zero in on a particular kind of target market, and truly blow those people’s minds."- Nico Jones, Content Captain
Do you have any advice for people wanting to build their own marketing tool?
Weirdly, it might be a good idea to see if there’s one for sale! There’s all sorts of startup marketplaces with great tools that people built but didn’t want to scale. Something cool that just needs to be packaged and sold.
But if you’re going to build your own tool, the biggest piece of advice I can give is find an audience first and think ‘what does this audience need?’. Not what they ask for. What’s something that would absolutely rock their world? In order for that to work you have to know that audience inside out, you can’t fake it.
It’s slightly different from just picking a random problem and slinging a solution together in a weekend in no-code. I think that deep connection and belief in what you’re doing will give it longevity when the inevitable challenges and forced pivots come round the corner.
Apart from Content Captain, can you name 3 marketing tools you love?