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Say It Again

Chris Butler: Hello and welcome to the Newfangled Agency Marketing Matter Podcast. I’m Chris Butler.

Lauren Siler: I’m Lauren Siler.

Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien

Chris: What we do is we want to get together every couple of weeks and talk about digital marketing. Hopefully our conversation is going to be relevant to what you guys are thinking about and what’s going on in your worlds. We sort of created a format that we think will expose you to some new things, but also delve deep into a topic. We’re going to start with, just talk about something interesting that came up this week in our respective worlds, get into a topic we’ve prepared in advance that we want to share with you, then we’ll close out by sharing something that we think you should do next. Something you should read, take a look at on our site, just a general recommendation.

With that, we started to record this and we stopped for a couple of reasons. One thing I didn’t mention is we’re sitting in the greatest podcasting studio of all time. We went from having a crappy mic in the middle of the room and it sounding pretty bad, to a really plush situation.

Mark Yeah, we’re surrounded by all sorts of fancy charcoal colored foam and we even have pop filters on our microphones.

Lauren There’s a toxic smell from the foam, it’s almost dissipated.

Chris: I never noticed that.

Lauren: Really?

Chris: Yeah, it was never a problem for me.

Lauren: It’s pretty terrible. Chris, I think you’re just immune to it at this point.

Chris: I’m full of chemicals.

Lauren But you’re still with us.

Mark: Our podcast studio is also Chris’ office. It looks awesome, it looks like a legitimate studio.

Chris: It looks very technological. We have a nice table that we’re sitting at, we each have our own mic, the pop filters, cool, I’m looking at wave forms.

Lauren We could use a nicer on-air light.

Chris It’s true. Our on-air light was very budget.

Mark It’s actually not a light, it’s a painting.

Chris: Yeah, it’s an impression. Anyway, we’re pretty excited about this. Obviously it’s going to make all of these podcasts so much better, basically sonically better. I think it will also improve over time. With that, Lauren let’s start with you. What’s interesting this week?

Lauren: I’ve been thinking a lot about our process, sort of how we’ve evolved doing our own webinars lately. This has been on my mind because in the Content Marketing department, we advise clients a lot on how they should be approaching their webinars. It’s sort of seen as this mountain that they have to climb, you know, this king of content. We’ve been doing webinar for a really long time. It’s interesting to me that the process continues to evolve for us. Something I’ve been thinking about this week is, one thing I really like now is how collaborative our webinars have become.

Mark, you sort of held down the fort on the webinar front for a really long time, it’s usually you solo. What we’ve done, really across our content strategy this year, is take in a more collaborative approach. We’ve had a few of us come in and talk about how a, sort of, deeper topic can touch different areas of our business and how it’s relevant to agencies businesses in different ways. To be able to move from a single voice on that type of platform and bring in multiple people from our firm, who have different perspectives because of their various areas of expertise, I think makes the webinars more compelling, more interesting.

Mark: What are you trying to say? No, I do agree. It’s a win, win, win. It distributes the workload to the point where it’s not really terribly difficult for any of us. Yeah, definitely makes a much more interesting and diverse webinar and reflects better on the firm, because it’s not just one person talking, it’s a group of people who are all offering equal level of diverse insight. It is nice to have that set up that way.

Lauren: You’re so graciously sharing your stage.

Mark: Exactly, yeah, for now.

Chris: How about you, Mark? What’s been interesting?

Mark: For me, yesterday I had the opportunity to record a session with Blair Enns, of Win Without Pitching. That’s used as part of his curriculum. We did this a year, no, I’m sorry, two years ago. It was so interesting to me to see how different the information I put together was this time, than it was just two years ago. Also to look up what hasn’t changed. The idea of the fundamental elements of effective agency marketing still being in place, but even the way that we understand how to communicate about them now is a lot different. It was really quite a thrill to record that session Blair and go through the Q&A and everything. Like I said, it’s an honor to have us included in his curriculum. I believe we’re the only outside firm that is included in the curriculum.

I was struck by what I felt like talking about, and how I wasn’t talking about a number of these things two years ago. The chief one being, the idea of what marketing is actually about. This has shown up a lot on our blog and our site lately, the idea of marketing being about changing your future. How it is the most effective vehicle to intentionally change your future, based on the idea of considering who your rightful prospects are a year from now, who you actually want to be working with, forgetting about the current constraints of the business that have grown up around you, and being proactive about having an active role in your future and effecting that positively.

We weren’t talking about any of that two years ago. It was true, but we just didn’t really understand it and that gets back to everything else. Really, I think it speaks to the topic of this podcast today, the idea of how content itself helps to refine your understanding of who you are and what your firm is supposed to do in the creation of that content.

Chris: Yeah, it’s all future-leaning. I think it’s such an obvious point, but I think if you don’t drill into it and really hammer that home, it doesn’t effect it in the way it should, yeah that’s absolutely. Something that I was thinking about to share with you all is along the same lines. I was thinking back to a few weeks ago, Lauren and I were on the phone with a client talking about their overall positioning and helping them, not deal with the positioning, but helping them deal with the copywriting around it. Specifically, how do they express what it is they do? They know what they do, but struggling with the expression of it.

We’ve had a few more calls than typical because I think we were having a hard time getting the concept through. Sometimes it just takes exploration and practice. At one point in the conversation we just said, “Hey, let’s just stop with the protocol and let’s explore this right now. Let’s do an exercise.” We had them actually take five minutes on a stopwatch to write down some ideas. All of those ideas were way better than anything they had brought to the call, anything they had prepared in their homework.

The other thing we stumbled on was a little bit of a rubric for how to get people there faster. We’ve always said that when expressing the position, it’s good to dial is back to the basic information, we do blank for blank. Not that that’s not a copywriting device, that’s just getting to the point, then getting invocative, they of course because they are brand people. They were going invocative first and they weren’t getting the basic information down. Doing that exercise and then landing on, okay, information first, then invocative. Be informative first then be invocative, really helped them nail it, they were really happy with what they produced and it was exciting to be a part of that. That one little statement is going to do worlds for them in the future. That’s really their path to the future so it was an exciting thing to be a part of for sure.

On that note, you, Lauren decided that something we should talk about this week is the idea of review of content, of repetition. I think that’s sort of a theme in everything we just talked about, learning things over and over again and talking about them. When you brought that up, what did you have in mind?

Lauren: You know we work with many agencies on how to develop compelling thought leadership content for their prospects. There are a lot of anxieties that agencies have around the idea of content marketing, but one of the ones that we encountered a lot has to do with creativity of the message, and coming up with something fresh, new and interesting to talk about that’s still relevant to the personas. This is where I see a lot of agencies actually get in trouble because they’re so concerned with finding something new and interesting to talk about by their standards, that they veer off course strategically. Suddenly they’re writing about something that really isn’t of that much relevance to the personas themselves.

One of the really big concepts that I find myself coaching these agencies on quite frequently, is the idea of not being afraid to take a particular message and find different ways to write about it, and to, honestly, to review it and to repeat it to that market, either through different channels, different channels meaning different mediums even. Maybe you’re writing about a particular topic in a white paper. You can take a piece of it, that becomes a really interesting blog post or a really interesting webinar. The idea of review is really important because the people reading your content don’t always get it the first time. They don’t always see it the first time, it doesn’t always sink in the first time. I think it’s important to get really good and comfortable with repeating yourself and refining the way you articulate a message.

Chris: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Mark.

Mark: Yeah, and we see it all the time. Agencies, the reality of how their content is viewed and perceived, and their view. There are two different lenses, they’re completely different lenses and they’re diluted by that. They believe that as soon as they say something once, that everyone heard it, understood it and observed it. They feel like they’re kind of taking the easy way out, or they’d be in a little bit of a sham or something, if they were to reiterate it. They feel like they’re sort of being irresponsible for reiterating some points.

Lauren: Also, I hear a lot that you’re under the illusion that every single person on your list reads every single word you write every single time and that’s just not true.

Chris: Something that I think about a lot has to do with a little bit of background I have with education, which is 90% of education is review, 90%. That’s when you have a captive audience of students in front of you everyday, if not sometimes for longer periods of the day, looking to you to be taught. That’s the principal when you have somebody every single day in a classroom setting, then it’s got to be even more the principal when you’re talking about people who have busy lives, who maybe dipping into your content stream on a weekly basis if you’re lucky. The idea that, just practically speaking your message will get missed, or buried in the river of content that all of us are inundated with every day is basically 99.9%. It’s impossible that it wouldn’t.

Mark: That gets the idea of competing with yourself also. Most agency websites are structured in such a way that as soon as they publish new content, the old content gets buried. They’re not properly using tools to relate content and everything else. It’s dangerous to think that once it’s up there it’s going to be absorbed, like you said Lauren, by the reader once and forever. That’s why it’s all the more important to re-surface your own content. Most of the agencies we work with, they do have about, probably about 80% of the content is evergreen where they can use that year after year after year. We have a few who do, that take the same white paper and publish it like it’s new. They don’t say it’s new, they’re not lying, they’re just re-publishing something from years ago and it oftentimes gets more traction now than it did then.

Lauren: Even if you don’t want to take that tact, I think there’s a lot of value to looking at something that you’ve written, that you feel pretty good about, then finding a way to re-articulate it, either for a different medium, or just in a different way. You kind of owe it to yourself. You get better at delivering that message every time you do it. What we found is you actually deepen your understanding of that particular concept. It’s not really redundant and repetitive. What you’re doing is finding new avenues to follow, to talk about that particular concept and make it more understandable for your audiences.

Chris: I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with repeating myself, just in the nature of what it is we do. I can relate to the idea that it feels unauthentic sometimes. I think there’s something about our particular area of the industry that has elevated novelty to the top of what is important. When you do that, and there’s good reasons for that in some context, but when you do that, that meant that, “Okay, well if I said that thing once, all of a sudden I say it again. It’s totally played out.” I’ve noticed, even outside of the content strategy and what we do as consultants, 90% of that is repeating the same thing over and over and over again, until someone gets it.

You have to be smart about it, you don’t want to be a drone. You have to find ways of massaging that message, ways of trying it again. Actually, if we hadn’t done that, that story that I showed earlier about the agency for whom the positioning, copywriting approach clicked, that came from us repeating a process over and over again, and realizing how to improve it. I think that principal makes for good content strategy, but also makes for good consulting, makes for good client service, it makes for good work in general.

Lauren In some ways that is the creative outlet, is finding a way. You’ve got your core principals, you understand what you’re trying to get to your audiences, but people are going to receive that information in different ways. The creative solution is how do you make sure that concept really lands with them, they really understand it.

Chris: I had a professor in college, a drawing professor who has made a big impression on me. One thing that was a big thing he did every year, and he always had an opportunity to do it, he didn’t have to create it, is we would have these eight hour long drawing studios and people would be working in the course of it, and you would go around and get critiques from the teacher. This one girl was working and she had this stack of art books around her. He just walked over and took all of these books and removed them from this classroom, in kind of a showy way. She was like, “Well, what are you doing?” He’s like, “I’m trying to help you not be distracted by this so that you can focus on what you’re doing.” After that, the next lesson was, “I want you to make the same drawing over and over again until you can make the same drawing.”

The point was, that labor, that practice of making, and making, and making until it improves, that repetition is the key to it. The way to make good art is not to make a new piece every time, it’s to make the same thing over and over again until you learn how to make it different, make it better, until you learn from it. That’s a principal, that’s an art school principal, but it works for just about anything else you’re going to do.

Mark: It’s funny, this was unintentional, but this gets right back to what I started with, the thing working with Blair, same material, but completely different. It’s funny to measure your growth against things like that, it’s fun.

Chris: Well, we can wrap it up. Let’s wrap it up with sharing something from the site you think someone should take a look at.

Lauren: Sure, I’m really excited about our most recent white paper, as of today anyway, our most recent white paper. It’s a white paper about the common obstacles to your digital marketing. We’ve outlined different areas that we’ve observed agencies struggling with their digital marketing and common misperceptions that fall within each of those categories, and solution to those misperceptions so you can understand how to be more successful with these areas of your digital marketing. This is an example of another piece of content that we’ve created, that takes on this more collaborative focus. We’ve got a number of individuals from our agencies that contributed to this white paper. I think it’s a pretty strong, helpful asset. I’m excited about it.

Chris: What’s it called?

Mark: It’s called White Paper.

Chris: Just Google white paper, you’re guaranteed to find it. This is our most recent white paper you’re talking about?

Lauren: It’s called ‘The Top 10 Issues Holding Back Your Digital Marketing.’

Chris: Awesome. I’m going to dip way back into the archive. As they do every year at the end of the year, Nieman Journalism Lab publishes all this stuff about like, what is this year about, what is next year about, what’s the future? One guy published a piece called ‘API or Die.’ I thought, “Okay, it was short,” but his point of view was, everything that’s happening right now is based on API, it’s made possible. I thought, “Well, gee, that’s interesting because Newfangled was saying that years and years ago.” I think you should dip back into the archive and take a look at a piece I wrote a couple of years ago called ‘The Permanent Transition’. It’s based on a talk I gave.

The reason it’s important is because everything we do on the marketing integration side of things, so making sure that data gets to the right place is based on APIs. We never talk about that anymore because sometimes it gets too complicated and it’s sort of not what people are interested in, it’s like the mechanism, but it is the lifeblood of what we do. What we are hoping for is that closed, but very very robust ecosystem of information that our marketing clients can use to do better marketing. Without API integrations with Salesforce or with Act-On, or other marketing automation tools, none of that exists. If you want to get technical, dip back into that.

Mark Was it only a couple of years ago?

Chris: Yeah.

Mark: It was 2014, huh?

Chris Yeah.

Mark: Wow.

Chris Butler: Yeah, 2014.

Mark: Time flies. The thing I’m most excited about, in fact for much of the past three weeks, I’ve just had it on my browser tab and keep refreshing it, is our What We Do page. When we think about this content, we always think about new content, part of the strategy, but this is actually one of our positioning pages on the What We Do page. That’s something that Chris put together, I think it was three weeks ago, maybe it was two weeks ago, it was quite recently.

Chris Well we put it together, you and I.

Mark: What We Do Page, but it’s based on, surprise, what we do. What I love about it is that, what we now do is so succinct and can really be captured on a page, not a very long page really. The vigils and everything, the entire story of it is so beautifully concise. Typically on that page, there’s like a paragraph that hints to lots of other things that can be interpreted a million ways, but now it really can’t be, it’s ‘A’ thing that is beautifully represented visually and verbally too. I’m really excited about that page.

Chris It’s the first time, probably in forever, that I feel, and I think you would agree Mark, that our site is in sync with what is being said in conversations with people who are about to hire us, which was not always the case. This is Shop Talk, but we’re assuming that you listening are an agency or someone working in the space, or at least affiliated with it. That is a common problem where you have one piece of marketing material, or something that represents you when you’re not on the phone with someone, then you’re on the phone with someone and they’re not in sync. Everyone sort of makes accommodations for that, but they know that it shouldn’t be. Finally, I feel like someone who speaks to either one of you guys on the phone and looks at that page is going to say, “Nothing is missing here, nothing is wrong,” which is very gratifying, so I’m with you on that.

That’s a wrap. By the way, this is going to be our first episode in 2017, so welcome to the new year. One thing we would love to ask you all to do is to find us on Itunes if you haven’t already and give us some stars. That’s the way that we’re going to get exposed to new people. We are on a bunch of different platforms, but the best mechanism to expand our community of listeners is on Itunes, so give us a little love and we’ll really appreciate it. This has been Agency Marketing Matters and I’m Chris Butler.

Lauren: I’m Lauren Siler.

Mark: And I’m Mark O’Brien.

Chris: We’ll see you next time.