Lord of the Rings: B2B Marketing Lessons from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Masterpiece with Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs, Ryan Law

In this episode, we’re talking about The Lord of the Rings with the Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs, Ryan Law. With Ryan’s help, we’re chatting about the power of iteration, world-building around your product, and much more.

Episode Summary

There’s no shame in taking one good idea and reusing it. In continuing to improve and tweak it to get more juice for the squeeze. Especially when you’re struggling to come up with something new.

That’s what J.R.R. Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings. When asked for “more hobbits” by his publishers, Tolkien had to get crafty. Because he never meant for The Hobbit to have a sequel.

That’s one of the things we’re talking about today with the Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs, Ryan Law. With Ryan’s help, we’re chatting about the power of iteration, world-building around your product, and much more.

About our guest, Ryan Law

Ryan Law is Director of Content Marketing at Ahrefs. He is a content marketer that’s worked with both startups and enterprise companies, including Google, GoDaddy, Clearbit, ProfitWell and Hotjar.

Before Ahrefs, Ryan was CMO at the remote content marketing agency Animalz where he generated over 2 million pageviews for the Animalz blog, and ran workshops with companies like Andreessen Horowitz, Writer, Drift, Clearscope, Wynter, and BrightonSEO. He has co-founded a marketing agency, freelanced as a marketing consultant and copywriter, reviewed beers, designed t-shirts and tended bar. He is also the author of two novels, the host of the Ash Tales podcast, an amateur landscape photographer, and the guitarist for The Schrödinger Effect.

Key Takeaways

What B2B Companies Can Learn From Lord of the Rings:

  • Iterate, iterate, iterate. When you have one good idea, continue to work on it, improve it and iterate on it. Ryan says, “Much like Tolkien, all the best ideas are kind of iterative evolutions of previous and frankly worse ideas as well. And you see that in Lord of the Rings, I think. I love The Hobbit to bits, but in some ways it does feel like the MVP of The Lord of the Rings. You know, there are decisions that he made in that narrative that weren't quite fleshed out and didn't quite make sense that he then changed a little bit in the full series of books.”
  • Build a world bigger than your product. You’re not just trying to make a sale. You’re trying to immerse your audience in your brand and culture. Ryan says, “Some portion of every company's marketing effort should go into the world building that surrounds their brand. You know, creating things that further their beliefs and their ethos and creating opinions and ideas that are not sales assets, but are just plain interesting and share how they think about the world as well.”

*“Tolkien does it without being really ham fisted with exposition. He doesn't laboriously explain the history of everything and how it all interacts. He teases at it and he hints at it and he reveals it through the dialogue of characters. I think that's deeply rewarding for the reader. You're not spoon fed this stuff, you make the connections yourself, you're brought along the journey and he gives you credit for discovering this huge mythos and history beneath it. And that's a wonderful thing to do, not assume the reader is an idiot, but just write the things you find interesting, let them find the secrets that they're going to find for themselves. It's so deeply rewarding.”

*“Search demands that you basically write to the consensus. Like there is a set body of information it expects you to share, and it rewards companies that show consensus with other articles. And I think good thought leadership is in some ways the opposite of that. You are challenging truisms, you're talking about the things that no one else is talking about. So the thing I'm trying to do at the moment is, I think a more fruitful framework for thinking about that is talking about information gain. So if you're writing SEO content, you still have to cover the core topic, but you can think, ‘What new stuff can I add to that?’ It's like an additive process. What new subject matter quotes or what new subtopics can we cover? What new research can we do? Cause it's very hard to reconcile those two from my experience.”

*”Opinions are one of the most important things we're finding in content at the moment. A lot of people are very used to content marketing basically hedging bets. Nobody wants to say something very definitive. Mainly because content marketers, myself included, we're not experts in the things we're writing about. And we are, I think, wary of saying something that's wrong. And that generally leads to not saying anything at all. Being brave and willing to share a defensible opinion, that's something we're trying to do in all of our content, because it's a real differentiator and it's a good way of standing out when every other company is letting people make their own decision. Never make people think. Tell them what you're thinking yourself.”

Episode Highlights


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About Remarkable!

Remarkable! is created by the team at Caspian Studios, the premier B2B Podcast-as-a-Service company. Caspian creates both nonfiction and fiction series for B2B companies. If you want a fiction series check out our new offering - The Business Thriller - Hollywood style storytelling for B2B. Learn more at

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