A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Laura: Welcome to FOUND Friday. I’m Laura Worthington, the Director of Marketing for GinzaMetrics. We started these Hangouts last year to chat with marketing and sales research professionals to share their insights with you. This platform is very interactive, so you’re invited anytime during the Hangout to submit your questions using the Q&A feature or by tweeting using the #FOUNDFriday.
We’re really excited today to have the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi. He is the author of three books on the topic of content marketing. We have a few other guests. We have Erin Robbins O’Brien who is our COO of GinzaMetrics and Ray Grieselhuber is the CEO. Welcome, everybody.
Ray: Glad to be here.
Erin: You know I love it.
Joe: Thanks for having me here, Laura, and gang. It’s great to be here.
Laura: Joe, if can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy on content marketing. Any pearls of wisdom that you can share with our audience before we start talking about our topic today which is about 2014?
Joe: There you go, Laura. You already set me up for failure with the “pearls of wisdom.”
The biggest thing that I’d like to share whenever I talk about content marketing with anybody is that this is a very old discipline. Brands have been telling stories for a long, long time. Of course, it started in print the late 1800s with John Deere who created a magazine called the Furrow magazine. You’ve seen all kinds of new technology and over the past five years.
Content marketing has exploded about one in every $4 a brand spends today on content creation and distribution in some way. That is rising about 60% of all marketers. They’re increasing that. Content marketing has been seeing a lot of “Content marketing is dead” post over the past few weeks, so I know that we finally made it as a discipline because it’s dying.
Erin: Don’t worry. We’ve been hearing that in SEO for years.
Joe: Isn’t it something? Specific to SEO, you of all have known this that the quality content is the best way to get found. When we talk about content marketing, we’re trying to create a long-term relationship with our customers. We have many different goals – search is one of them – customer loyalty and retention is another one, creating better qualified leads, more quantity leads. You have a lot of different goals out there.
When I talk to somebody they ask, “Joe, why should I use content marketing?” and I always ask them, “What hurts?” Let’s not go into the vague. I should use content marketing because I don’t know. I have to diagnose and see if you have any problems. Maybe telling consistent compelling stories would help that, but maybe not.
I don’t believe it’s the end-all, be-all. I think that a well-integrated marketing program is the best way to go. I think there’s still place for advertising. I think there’s still a place for traditional PR. Does it work as well as it used to? No. Is there an opportunity for you in content marketing? Probably.
That’s my take in it. I put the last book together at the content marketing because people kept asking me, “Joe, how do I put together content marketing strategy?” And finally, I just wrote a book on it. At least I don’t have to write another book until 2015.
Laura: In December, you published a list of 50 Content Marketing Predictions for 2014 from marketers across the country. A few things emerged from that and I’d like to touch on some of these today in our Hangout.
Something that we’ve talked about multiple times on FOUND Fridays in the past and I think we’re all in agreement that in 2014 it should be the year that paid, owned, and earned content marketing strategies will continue to merge and companies will change their organizational structures to make this happen. Joe, can you talk about how you think that content stands a benefit from a closer relationship with paid and earned marketing?
Joe: I would love to see that happen, Laura. We’ve been talking about that for a long time. I’ll make it general first then we’ll get specific. We’ve been seeing the natural progression of marketing departments start to look and feel more like publishing enterprises.
I started in publishing 15 or 16 years ago and our setup of a publishing operation is very similar to what you go into an enterprise brand and see how they’re producing content. There a lot of journalists on staff, there are a lot of writers copy writers, managing editors. There are a lot of creative designers that work with those writers. It’s amazing how much content that were pumping out.
What I like about the paid and content creation side coming together is what a lot of people forget is that they’re creating all this content and they’re putting all this energy behind this really hopefully good stuff, but they don’t have a marketing plan with it. In a lot of cases, paid is a really good option to get that out.
I always loved what IBM has done for years and years. It’s what I call a rent-to-own strategy. They are creating really good, compelling, C-level type reports, white papers, whatever the case is. They put a lot of paid advertising behind it. Whether that’s native search advertising, or whether it’s banners or buttons or whatever, they’re putting a lot of paid behind that. I love to see those two come together, that’s fantastic.
If you are looking at an earned strategy, and hopefully you have your PR department behind that and the PR group hopefully understands how to tell a really good story and they’re not working with the content group, that makes me cry a little bit.
I’ll give you an example. This is what SaaS does and I love the way that they do it. They were having this problem where all of a sudden we have e-mail, and search silo, PR and marketing, and mobile and all these silos doing their own thing. Every one of those silos has content that they’re creating. And in a lot of cases and at least the most of the companies that we go into, they’re not talking to each other. So you’re thinking, “This is horrible! How do you fix this?”
At SaaS what they did is they created a content ambassador in each one of those silos and they have somebody that oversees content marketing, whether you call it a content marketing director, chief content officer, it doesn’t matter. Somebody’s accountable for that. And then they meet on a weekly basis for each of those people, whether you want to meet in person or you want to meet electronically, it doesn’t matter. You’re just talking stories on the same page or building an editorial calendar with each other. That’s a big deal. And until you do that, it’s very hard to bring the paid, earned, and owned together.
So my take away would be, you’re not going to reorganize your company tomorrow with say an older manufacturing company. You’re better off for 100 years. It’s a task to even get through those silos in any way, shape, or form. Assign the content ambassadors within those groups and at least set up some open lines of communication.
Laura: Erin or Ray, do you want to add anything from the search perspective on this point?
Ray: From my perspective, it’s been really interesting to watch this continuing convergence. The comment around using paid distribution advertising to further promote content that’s been created, that’s a really interesting one. Search is uniquely positioned to be able to do that. People have been dreaming or envisioning or, in many cases, obviously succeeding with running paid and organic search together side by side, but it’s still very isolated in most cases that we’ve seen.
So now when we start talking about throwing in additional advertising sources, whether it’s display or advertising on social to the mix and figuring out a clean distribution strategy for something that takes everything from content creation, planning and creation, all the way through execution, distribution, and using both paid and organic together, those are really great milestones if you can achieve them. But I think that most companies today are still trying to figure out one or two of those channels and be successful. Those are probably going to have a hard time to put together a comprehensive strategy that works for everybody, put all the different ways together.
We’ve talked about some big companies. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what may be more mid-sized companies can do in that regard, Joe, if you have any thoughts on that.
Joe: Sure. Your take on that, Ray, is interesting. What we’re seeing is actually a lot of mid-sized and large companies are putting a lot of money behind native advertising. That’s what everybody’s calling. You can call it “native advertising,” you can call it “sponsored content,” you can call it “in-stream advertising,” whatever the case is. But the majority of mobile advertising seems to be going more to native than to display. I think that most of them, advertising plays on mobile will be in-stream advertising and that’s a native advertising play.
I don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t have a fight in the battle. It’s just interesting to see that. I would love to see somebody not stop using advertising, but to say that they don’t have to use advertising. And I think that’s where we’re all going.
I don’t have any problem with it. We still do advertising. But the majority of our dollars goes to organic content because we build up a subscriber base and that’s what I would like to see more than anything else. That’s where I think there’s an opportunity for paid with small and mid-sized companies.
Let’s just take Google Ads because it’s the easiest one to pick on. Most of the time when I see a Google Ad, I’ll see it directing specifically to an offer: a coupon offer, “We’re awesome” offer, “Sign up now” offer. And the majority of our customers, depending on what they typed in, probably aren’t there in the buying cycle.
Let’s get them to a really compelling piece of content that we can get them to subscribe to our content in an ongoing basis that we can then nurture those people that subscribe and then we can figure out: where are they? Who are they? Are they ready to buy? Sometimes the reason why most small or mid-sized companies don’t use that is because it takes longer and sometimes you don’t get as many leads. But sometimes it’s less expensive because you don’t get as many clicking on it but the ones you do have clicking really want the content offer, really want that info.
Erin: I think that there are two really important things that we’ve touched on so far. First is this idea of breaking down silos or getting somebody to own this idea of content. One of the things that we see in organizations of all sizes is, if you can’t actually get somebody necessarily to be a content director, chief content officer, whoever they are, a really good starting point would just be to share information from medium to medium or from place to place. Even in really small organizations where you have maybe a two or three-person marketing team, sometimes because you just get so busy, you are looking at the analytics for your Google AdWords and then the SEO analytics or other different things, and you’re still looking at them in silos even if it’s one person looking at all that stuff.
One of the first things that we all need to try to do is to get a more holistic picture of all the efforts and all the ways that we are being found and figure out a way to really cross compare those.
The second thing is this idea that we are not going to have a content sweep. Nobody needs to just focus on the content. There are a lot of things going into this mix and saying that this is going to be the killer App, this is going to be the silver bullet, this is going to be the thing that’s going to cure everyone, like what you said at the very beginning, that’s how you know you’ve made it. Social media knew that it was going to stick around for a while when people said that social media sucks, it’s dead, it’s for a certain generation, and declared it to be this fad and here we are with social media manager, social strategists, digital strategists – this as one of the fastest growing groups of jobs in different brands.
My first suggestion is always start to share data, start to share information. Can we please all start to look at things as a group and stop just saying, “Hey, I could do some A/B testing on ads,” and then do A/B testing on ads and not say, “Hey, you know what? Of these two ads, this one won. Let’s look at the language that we’re using in this ad and then apply it to the content that we’re using for search.” Let’s start to share a little.
Joe: I think that’s a good point, Erin. The one thing that I would recommend – I have two things to do, it’s a little bit related but I think still important – is when you’re creating content for different channels. Let’s just social: Facebook and Twitter. Let’s say that you have some search goals on there. I would want to put up there why. “Why are you in that channel?” “Why are you on Facebook?” “Why are you on Twitter?” You need to know that you need to share that with your team.
How many people I’ve talked to – chief marketing officers at small, mid-sized companies – they ask, “Why are you on Facebook?” and they don’t know. So how are you going to create content if you don’t really know why you’re there, what the objectives are, or whatever the case is.
The other thing is I love a shared KPI document. You have to figure out what your key performance indicators are for you. For us, it’s subscribers. Subscribers is the most important key performance indicator we have because we understand the majority of revenue that we get in the content marketing institute comes from subscribers that have been signed up to our content for at least six months.
That, as a business owner, as a chief marketing officer, that subscriber number is critical. Everyone that’s involved in that number needs to know how that’s growing, what’s changing it, why is it changing. And then with the other ones, are you tracking fans and followers? I don’t know if you are, is that even important? It might not be important.
What we do from a search standpoint – and I don’t know if this is the best practice, you are the experts on this, not me – we have a rolling list of 50 organic keyword phrases that we track. Some get bumped off, some get bumped out. We feel that we can manage effectively 50 phrases. We know exactly where we’re at all times with those phrases and we know which piece of content is the core content. We know which one is competing with another one. It’s not incredibly difficult to do that but you have to spend resources in time and you have to make sure the team understands why you’re doing that in the first place.
That’s been incredibly helpful to get all the content people looking at that key performance indicator, search engine spreadsheet for us because it’s changed their mentality because they understand “Okay, I create content. Some of it gets found. Some of it doesn’t. Some of it, you need to get found and searched. Some of it, you don’t.” What are the goals behind the things that we’re doing and most of it, as you pointed out, Erin, is a lot about communication.
Laura: One of the other things that was on the list of the 2014 Predictions is the idea that marketers will move away from quantity to focus on quality content and this shift may happen because of Google’s algorithm changes to reward unique and quality content, and also the need to stand out from competitors who are publishing their own content now as well.
Erin or Ray, can you talk a little bit about this change to Google’s algorithm to reward the unique and quality content?
Ray: What we saw the best practice is, even though they weren’t very good or succeeding in SEO two or three years ago, is essentially the permutation game where you thought of all the different keyword phrases that someone would potentially search for to the degree possible so it’s still not looking completely fake but obviously, in many cases, machine generated or crowd sourced to a lowest bidder, people would permutate on all of these different keyword combinations and basically try to suck up the most market share in terms of pages index by Google.
One of the biggest changes that Google has made to their algorithms over the last few years has been to significantly subtract from the importance of that and the potential about being a viable strategy for people. That’ been a really positive development, in my opinion, because the Internet was just getting completely crowded out by crap content and it was hurting everybody. A lot of businesses suffered as a result of that, but I think for the long term it was definitely the right move.
What we’re seeing now – I looked at your thoughts in this as well, Joe – is that people are getting back to the basics of what is the core story that we’re trying to achieve here. One of the things that’s interesting when you look at your own data, whether it’s through a master tool or some sort of analytics platform, is you can very quickly see if there’s a mismatch between the keywords that are actually driving traffic to you versus what you think the story is that you’re trying to tell. That can be one of the most valuable things that you can realize because a lot of times the biggest problem that companies have is just mismatch between the actual search volume and traffic volumes. They’re trying to achieve the conversion goals and then the traffic that they’re actually getting versus the story that they think you’re telling.
Basically plugging the gaps in that mismatch is probably the most powerful thing that you can do. And really most effective way of doing that is spending some time really learning about who your users and your visitors are, what stories they’re actually interested in, and in creating a more effective content to reach them. If you have content out there that’s driving traffic that is resulting in very low versions and that probably means that there’s a huge misalignment between what you think you’re doing versus what you’re actually doing. It comes down to that, that story that you’re telling.
Erin: Sometimes what happens too, one of the things that we talk about a lot, is that content is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There is content for different areas of the funnel for different areas of the buying cycle. So there’s content that you generate that creates awareness and lets people know that you’re out there and then there’s content that helps people in the decision-making process of you versus competitors. Then there’s content that’s further down the funnel that’s maybe more product specific that’s really addressing exactly the nitty-gritty details.
There’s content that creates retention. As we start looking at creating more quality content and not just quantity content, marketers really need to start creating content for the stages of the funnel as opposed to saying, “I created this e-book. I just hope that it works everywhere.”
Joe: Great comments, both of you. I guess I would say what I had heard from you and I can’t talk about it enough is, do you have a clear buyer persona for who you’re talking to, who you’re creating the content for? And in some cases, you need to say, “We’re not going to create content for a certain buyer. This is who we’re talking to.”
The second thing is – I love this. Kelly Services does this. Todd Wheatland is the VP of Thought Leadership at Kelly. What they do is they plan for repurposing before they do it, where a lot of people would take a white paper then they say, “Now we have to repurpose that into stuff for LinkedIn, stuff for Facebook, stuff for the blog, stuff for the podcast, and then for these three or four buyer personas.” That’s fine but it’s much harder to repurpose after the fact than to plan for it up front.
If you have three or four buyer personas and you have a story that you’re trying to tell, let’s plan for that with your writers, with your journalists, with your managing editors, whoever it is, up front. So say, “I’m going to write for the CEO, the CFO, and the director of human resources around this story of cal mobility and we’re going to tell the story in these seven channels and this is how we’re going to tell that story.”
Then you can build out the editorial calendar with that and to your point, Erin, then you can figure, “Okay. This is how we’re going to tell that story for those people to build awareness.” This is at the mid area of the buying process and this is toward people that are close to closing or converting or whatever the case is. That I absolutely love.
To get back to your question, Laura, you’re going to see a lot of both in 2014. You’re going to see some brands that are going to try to be everywhere with everything related to their industry in every channel. And you’re going to have some in which I think is the better strategy too. Find one or two channels and really focus on what is the key area your story that you can be the leading expert in the world at. Start there and really try to dominate and create an ownership area in that strategy.
If you look at the best media brands of all time – New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ESPN, even Huffington Post most recently – they started with one channel to one specific group of people and then they broke out from there. Look at ESPN, now you have ESPN the magazine, you have ESPN Radio, you have all these different channels, all these different affiliates, but they started with one core channel which is cable and one core focus.
If we can learn from publishing over the last 100 years, we know that works. So I would say focus on a channel and a topic that you can really be the leading expert on the world at and then really be an expert in that channel. That could be a podcast and then you’re going to leverage the blog outside of that. Or that could be an e-mail newsletter, or it could be just a blog or whatever the case is. But I would say sometimes less is more in really focusing than being everywhere at once, being a Jack of all trades, master of none.
Laura: You mentioned earlier about sponsored content and native ads. That was one of the items that was mentioned in the predictions list, as well. What type of brands and publishers do you think are going to be more likely to go this route will have success with it?
Joe: It’s going to be fun in 2014 to watch all the failures in native advertising that’ll happen. What you’re saying is, you’re seeing publishers that are out there. Every publisher I talk to is offering some kind of a native advertising product. Advertising is back, people feel it’s back and they say, “Oh, now we can offer this thing called native advertising. Our savior is here.” And you have ad salespeople that are really excited to sell advertising again. Now that means if that’s going to work, you also have to have brand that understands the audience they’re targeting and understands what makes really true quality content. [24:45 inaudible] brands aren’t there.
You also have publishers at the same time that don’t have their native advertising standards built so you got a little fuzzy, you got a lot of blurred lines going on, a lot of fuzzy areas. It’s going to be a year of learning. New York Times just came out with their “Here’s how we’re set up and here’s how we’re going to do it.” I think you’re going to see some real good success stories.
SAP has been used in Forbes BrandVoice for a couple of years now and it’s done very, very well for them. Look at site like BuzzFeed, almost all their revenue comes from native advertising revenue or sponsored content revenue. Some people have that model, some people are used to it. It’s easier to play on the consumer side. I’d say on the B2B side, you have to set up processes of your brand it’s going to do. I think there’s a great opportunity to get.
If a publishing brand is going to offer their credibility to you, like the traditional advertorial but a little bit better because you can get closer to that customer in stream feed. Then you can take that, you can test that out and see if it works. But don’t just throw any piece of content at it. I would really go in with a thoughtful, deliberate strategy and test it out first and test out different offerings first before you jump in and say, “Oh, great. We can just go native advertising. We don’t have to focus on a consistent stream of content.”
I think that sort of a fool’s gold, so I think you’re going to see a lot of both. I don’t know what, Erin or Ray, what you think. But I think it’s going to be an interesting time to watch people throw money into this area.
Erin: We see a lot of opinions. We see a lot of this happening and Forbes is a really interesting example of this, which is a lot of this paid advertorial content where somebody gets to come in and write but there is a fee associated with it. I’m wondering too at what point, if we’re not already starting to be there, both B2B or B2C people are going to start calling “foul” or saying, “Hey, is this really something that Forbes believes or is this really good content because it’s on Forbes? Or is it anybody that can pay to play? Or will a bidder be allowed to publish because we’re helping Forbes get to their bottom line?”
I think that this is starting to shake itself out, so there are moderation issues and there will be a lot of questions about how to really vet people who contribute to these things. I totally agree with you, Ray, Joe, that you can’t just throw any content out there just because you are allowed. You really need to put out something thoughtful, well-rounded, well-constructed, especially if you are dipping your toe in the water for the first time because you can have some long-term ramifications. When something’s out there, you can search for it and always find it. So try to leave a decent, thoughtful legacy.
Laura: Another prediction for 2014 is that content strategies are going to include technology recommendations to ensure that the proper outcomes are measurable. That assumes that there is a content strategy in place to begin with.
Joe, I know that you all have put out a report that shows that there’s a significant disparity between the number of marketers that used content marketing and a number of those say they have a documented strategy. What should marketers be doing right now in Q1 to really hit the ground running strategy-wise?
Joe: Laura, I’m glad you brought this up. The first thing is to have a strategy would be good. I joke about it. I just did a presentation to 100 very, very smart marketers and I asked the question: “How many of you are using content marketing in some way?” and everybody raised their hand. Then I asked, “In the organization that you know of, do you have a documented content marketing strategy of some kind?” and about 10-15 hands went up.
That’s generally what we thought. I’ve asked this question to about 150-200 different audiences out there and I’ve never gotten more than 20% of the audience raise their hand and say, “We have a documented content marketing strategy.” I’m not even talking about a six-page report. I’m talking about, “Do you have something on a napkin [?] that you know who you’re targeting, what your mission is, what the overall objectives are? How are you going to show return or what key performance indicator are you going to look at?”
Basically setting the hypothesis or the business case, so that you know if you’re successful or not. According to the research that you cite, Laura, only 42% of marketers out there say that they’re effective with content marketing. For the most part, the reason why that is, is that most of those people that say that they’re ineffective don’t have a strategy.
The number one thing that you can do to ensure – if there is a way to do it, except for 2014 – is to start with a strategy and stop creating all this content without knowing where we’re going, why are we doing it, who we’re targeting, what impact it’s going to make in the organization, what overall marketing goals, and how are we going to measure it? These are just basic questions you have to answer. I don’t understand why more people don’t do it but that’s where we’re at.
My whole goal is to just get out there and say, “Hey, look. I don’t care what it is, but get something out there so that when you put content out there in the field, we know if it’s working or if it’s not.” We know that there’s a purpose behind all this content creation that we’re doing.
Erin: Joe, can I ask a follow-up question on that? One of the things that I’ve seen working with especially really large organizations, but I feel like this happens at medium-size businesses as well, is what we see a lot of technology being used for is like a reporting function. People will go in there, they’ll throw in some KPIs, they’ll put in keywords they want to track, or they’ll put in metrics that they want to see from AdWords or e-mail marketing or anything that you’re doing. Then what’ll happen is these reports will get printed off weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever it is, and they will get sent to someone, land on someone’s desk, and whether they have a strategy in place or not, nothing changes.
There has to be this closed loop system which is, you need to create a strategy so you know what you’re doing. You have these KPIs. You have your ideas there. Then you need to put something out there that helps you measure your traction against that. And then you need to get the analytics, compare and measure them, and then you actually need to make updates and changes.
I would love to know, from the Content Marketing Institute, how many people actually see the changes or implement the changes once they provide a report to someone further up the stream.
Joe: Actually, that’s a great question. I think for the most part, what you doubt as what is happening, and what I would say and I would compel people not to print off reports and, for the most part, don’t print off an analytics report of any kind and give it to your chief marketing officer or VP of marketing because that’s the kiss of death in my opinion.
What you need to be showing them is how this data that you’re collecting – we have all kinds of data – get the data that’s going to show how are we increasing sales, how are we saving cost, or how are we keeping our customers longer or happier in some way? That’s all that a chief marketing officer cares about.
Your data that you’re collecting – marketing director, marketing manager, whoever you are – that’s the kind of story you need to tell and package your data into that report. If your data shows a chart going up into the right, what does that do? I can show that anybody can get that report. But what is that going to do?
I harp on it probably to my [32:53 inaudible] but I love the subscriber key performance indicator. If I have a subscriber to my content, however they come in, if they come in through organic search, if they come in through paid, it don’t matter, but you want to track that too because I want to know my subscribers that’ll come in organically versus paid. How are they different than those that are not engaging in my content? What’s different about somebody that subscribes to my content? I can tell you right away. Did they buy more? Did they buy less? Did they stay longer? Did they leave faster?
Those are the things that chief marketing officers want to know that would give you more budget behind your content. But, Erin, I think you’re dead-on. It’s like we’re infatuated with data but I want data that actually means something.
Use all those indicators to help you tell your story and the ones that aren’t telling your story, because maybe followers and fans and likes and those things, they may not be doing anything. It might not even need them. Maybe you do. Maybe it’s helpful for users that are creating the content to help them understand whether their content is being engaged in right or not. Maybe that’s just a user level, maybe that’s not a level that goes up to the director of the senior marketing officer.
Laura: Another point of prediction for 2014 is real-time content marketing. It’s becoming a goal and it’s something that we agree is becoming here at GinzaMetrics.
Joe, what do you think about real time content marketing? Do you think it’ll be attainable and what does that mean for 2014?
Joe: Laura, I have to be honest with you. Real-time marketing scares me.
Let’s just take the most famous example. Take the Oreo tweet, Super Bowl tweet. I think a lot of people think that that’s readily attainable and not so difficult to set up. You just have to be listening.
Do you know the kind of work and process that Oreo put behind that? How many people they had in the room and legal and the processes set up to make that happen and how they were practicing that with their 100th Anniversary images that they were sending out every day to get that going? And they were ready and prepared for that to happen. I don’t know if most brands are willing to put in the type of processes and effort to have real-time marketing pay off for them.
I think it’s a great opportunity, don’t get me wrong, because we can communicate directly with our customers today. We don’t have to go through the middleman. We can make the news but we can also destroy ourselves at the time because the story that we have to tell may not be the correct story. Once you put it out there, if it gets traction, you can look really bad.
I would just say really look at a strategy and test something out first and maybe do something in a market that real-time is not instantaneous. Maybe it’s a couple of days or whatever the case is. Try some stuff first. Experiment first before going in with both feet. That’s my concern. There are a lot of people that are going to do it. It’s like native. You’re going to see a lot of people fail in it and you’re going to see a few success stories and there’s going to be a lot of learning that goes on.
Laura: I think DiGiorno had a good example during the Sound of Music on NBC. They did a lot of funny tweets but who knows if that sold any more pizzas.
Ray: You have to be on top of that. One of the things that’s interesting as a vendor and from a technology perspective is that, I totally agree that probably most companies should not really try to be real time in all the marketing efforts, the amount of set up and coordination that has to happen. To your point, Joe, it’s pretty incredible.
One of the things that we’re seeing on the technology side is that, because there are just so many different signals and things to act on, it’s less about necessarily reacting in real time but having the data over the last few days, weeks, months that’s been collected in real time and in collecting at a level of granularity that can be responded to when you start to be able to identify those long-term trends. So one of the things that’s been an interesting hold over from some of the older technology that we pay attention to is, things are still are stuck in this cycle or state of the art that was probably great five years ago and is not so great now. It hasn’t really caught up.
What we’re seeing as a big opportunity is for people to start to collect things at a level of granularity, not only for their own campaigns but for their competitors and other influences in their market. And then basically be able to say, every few days, “Okay, let’s take a look at that and see where things are heading,” and monitor things at a much more granular level and then respond in such a way that makes sense for their organization.
I’d love to get your thoughts on that and see if you think that’s something that’s going to matter over the next couple of years or is there something else that we should be paying attention to.
Joe: I think you’re correct. It’s absolutely going to matter. It’s more of your area than mine when you really start talking about the data. Getting back to data in real time – and this goes for everyone – If you’re looking at creating a real-time strategy using content as your base, which is usually what we do and you don’t have a basic content marketing strategy, I would just say, “Please stop.”
Don’t get into something more challenging. Let’s get your basics down first and get everybody in the organization understand who those key people are, understanding what data you’re looking at. Then you can graduate. You can get your master’s degree, you can go on and you could say “Okay, now I’m going to try real time.” That’s my only thing. Just get the basics first. If the odds are, the majority people don’t have a basic content marketing strategy. Let’s start there and then we’ll go to the next step.
Laura: I got some more broad questions for you all. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest challenges for content and search marketers in 2014 and what are the biggest opportunities?
Joe: Erin or Ray, do you want to go first? Or do you want me to tackle this one?
Erin: I’ll jump in with stuff that I think might be some pretty big challenges. One of the things that is a challenge every time there is a new shift in stuff is – we run into this all the time – staffing and hiring and finding qualified people to do these things.
When we’re talking about content, all of the things we’ve talked about today are important. It’s knowing how to set KPIs and create a strategy and measure those things and make updates. It’s knowing how to pick the right tool. It’s knowing how to write for different mediums. It’s knowing how to choose which mediums are applicable to a brand and which aren’t. It’s knowing how to create and disseminate information across various groups within an organization. There are so many challenges that go along with each discipline.
We saw it especially when social media came out and people started hiring a social media manager, a community manager, a social media strategists that there was a lot of, for lack of a less cliché term, snake oil salesman stuff going on with that that caused some damage. And it takes a while for a lot of that to shake out.
One of the things that you do that’s really great at content marketing is give people information and it’s hard because there’s so many marketing discipline but one of the things that really scares me – and Ray and I were talking about this the other day – is just somebody looking at your LinkedIn profile where you have added to your LinkedIn profile that you have a skill like lead gen or content marketing or Twitter or whatever, does not actually mean that you have an applicable skill set for a brand. One of the things I think is going to be a challenge as this continues to grow is vetting the right people to do these jobs at a lot of different organizational levels because it is a really complex place.
Joe: Ray, you got a take?
Ray: The organizational issues are certainly one of the things that people are going to be struggling with this year. The strategy or lack thereof – to your point earlier – is still the biggest thing that we’re going to be dealing with. Even though we’re in the technology game, all of that is really secondary to being able to support whatever people are going to be trying to get into. Customers, people that we talk to, companies, pretty much everyone that’s talking about this stuff is still trying to figure out how to take what are still very siloed processes and turn them into something that actually is content marketing on the meaningful level.
For a lot of companies, just defining what content marketing even means, is it just SEO plus social plus e-mail or is it something bigger than that? What does it mean when you start talking about a story? For brands that we work with and talk to, they’re still trying to figure out in many different ways.
We’ve been doing television for the last 100 years and what’s different than adverts of something on digital and trying to figure out where the right amount of money should be spent on all these different channels and what the lines are between these traditional things that we use to call digital versus all the other channels that people are working on. It’s something that I think, organizationally, a lot of companies are still really trying to find struggle over the next year.
Joe: I absolutely agree. I’ll give you one prediction but the number one challenge is most brands aren’t going niche enough with their content. It’s still out too broad. We do content audits all the time and we look at the competitive set, and for the most part, every time we do it, you can’t tell the difference between the content of any one of them. Nobody has a differentiated story. So we have to figure out how do we tell a different story a lot of cases that’s getting a little bit more fine tuned, a little bit more niche than everyone else. That’s one issue.
The biggest issue that goes along with strategy – you were talking about, Ray – is the reason why most content marketing programs fail is because they stop. It’s the lack of consistency with content creation. There is such a thing as a content campaign. You can use content for your campaign, but if you’re talking about a true content marketing, true content marketing never stops.
Erin, to your point, you’re getting the data, you’re reiterating, you’re changing the program but you never stop. You don’t just say, “I’m going to deliver or e-mail a newsletter to you this morning at 10:00 but I’m going to skip a couple of weeks.” Sometimes it’s not going to get to your front door. Maybe people don’t get the newspaper anymore. I still get the Sunday newspaper. When that Sunday newspaper is not there, you get upset.
You got to set expectations for your customers. A lot of us aren’t doing that. We’re setting up over our expectations around our product cycles. It’s got to be around the buyer needs and we have to consistently feed that.
My prediction which I think is good for small, medium, and large companies – I’ve been talking about this for a while and someday somebody’s going to take me up on it – I think there’s a huge opportunity to target bloggers, small media companies, and small associations in your industry actually for purchase.
If there are sites that are truly credible, let’s say to make this specific search, in the eyes of Google. They’ve been building up a credible site. They’ve been building up a subscriber race for years and years but they haven’t figured out a way to monetize that. You could come in and actually purchase that. It’s like the build-it-or-buy-it scenario. I think there’s a huge opportunity.
We’ve seen it a couple of times. We’ve seen Google do it a couple times with the Zagat. They’ve done it with Frommer’s. We’ve seen Adorama photo supplies company. They bought JPG magazine. There are precedents to this.
I think you’re going to see more of this in 2014. I think there’s a huge opportunity for those companies that actually want to look at it because there are actually bloggers out there that have all the things that are of value to us as brands but they haven’t monetized that, we could come in and help with that. I just would like to say it’s an opportunity that hopefully some brands would look at.
Erin: I love that as an opportunity. One of the things that we talked about last year on the show that was little bit controversial that I mentioned is people are going to have to start learning how to write again and that’s not to be condescending to anyone. Traditional publishing has taken a little bit of a hit. What we’ve forgotten is that there are all this huge pockets of really passionate talented writers out there, like you mentioned Joe, writing for blogs and local sites and doing all these things. Instead, we’re listening to tweets and posts and “junk” from people who are a celebrity in another right.
I love the idea that we have an opportunity for a lot of content from people who are native content creators who are passionate about a subject. I do think it’s definitely an untapped resource and a huge opportunity for everybody to share.
Joe: That’s two of us. We need a few more. I’m with you.
Ray: I liked your conversation about content campaigns. I’d like to talk about a little more about what is your simplest definition of a content campaign. Is a campaign something that is just saying, “We’re going to create this three pieces of content and we’re good to go”? Is it something that has a specific start and date? How do you create, manage, and measure a campaign?
Joe: The easiest way to explain it – somebody said a content marketing campaign to me or a campaign based with storytelling or content whatever, it has a start and an end date. You’d probably measure those similar. I’m not big into those because anytime when somebody says “content campaign,” I usually shy away because what I like to look at is long-term content strategies like, we’re going to start a new newsletter. We’re going to start a series of blog posts, a podcast series. These are all series. They’re white paper series, webinar series. Everything’s ongoing. There’s a consistency to the delivery of that. There’s a consistency to the channel of that. Those are from my publishing background, those are the things that have worked long-term, built to build relationships with customers.
Content campaigns, if there is a place for them, it’s a place to try to move a certain amount of customers that are already subscribers of ours down to another portion of the buying cycle. If I’m going to say, “I have these people in my pipeline and we’re going to have a series of webinars to get them down to point where they want to raise their hand and say that they’re ready to buy.” That, I’m for because we can measure that, we can say, “They’re engaging in this. When do they go on to the next step or where do they get the e-book or where do they get the other webinar?” That I like, because we can definitely measure all the way down to a conclusion and then it would stop when they get to a certain portion. But that happens within the other content marketing process that’s ongoing. I hope that answers your question. I guess that’s how I look at it.
Ray: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.
Laura: Are there any other things that you all want to take some time to discuss? Otherwise, we’ll wrap up.
Joe: No. It’s been fun. It’s always fun talking about content marketing. What I would just say to anyone is: get your strategy I order, make a real quick plug that if you don’t know where to get started we have a whole e-book on how to start a content marketing strategy. There are 37 questions to get you started. Go on to Content Marketing Institute site and check it out.
If you really, really want to do a content marketing strategy, I did write a book recently. It’s the skill that’s for content marketing. Hopefully that’ll be helpful as well. I don’t care where you get it from, I would just say stop creating anymore content until you have an understanding of what it’s going to do for your business, because as much as I liked to create content to create warm and fuzzy for our customers, at the end of the day, we need to profit from our content. And that’s what I would look at.
Erin: Joe, I assume that somewhere in all your multiple resources that CMI are also notes on if you need to sell that strategy up the food chain, how to get people on board as well, just to be sure where’s the best place to help, make sure that if people are super passionate about creating the strategy and just need to figure out a way to get that strategy sold internally, which one of your resources can best help them do that? We get a lot of inquiries about that.
Joe: We’ve covered that many, many times in the content, Erin. Maybe the best thing would be to send you a couple of posts that we’ve covered it on. I think we have an e-book or two on it. Then you can put that in the show notes. Maybe that would be the most helpful way to do it.
Erin: That would be great because I know that that’s a question we get a lot as people are really passionate.
Laura: Thank you for joining us today, Joe, and of course Erin and Ray, as always. We’ll be back in another couple of weeks with FOUND Friday. I hope you all have a great day. Thank you.