Chris Butler: Welcome to the Agency Marketing Matters Podcast. I’m Chris Butler.
Lauren Siler: I’m Lauren Siler.
Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.
Chris Butler: And we’re gathering together for the eighth episode of season two to talk about Data Marketing topics and we’d like to start out by sharing something we’re excited about, so, Lauren, do you want to kick that off?
Lauren Siler: Yeah. Absolutely. This is actually related to what our topic is going to be today, which is making time for your marketing and figuring out different creative approaches to execute on your marketing strategy within the context of just a really busy day, as we all do. We’ve got a client out of Cambridge, PJA, who did something really interesting recently with a piece of content marketing. A couple of them got together and developed an article via Slack during one of their business days.
Mark O’Brien: Oh, that’s cool.
Lauren Siler: It was really cool. They selected a topic ahead of time and somebody kicked off a question and as they got back to their desk, they went about their day, but as they came back to their computer they just responded in kind. By the end of the day, they essentially had a first draft of an article, which is really cool.
Chris Butler: So, it reads like a conversation?
Lauren Siler: Yeah, it’s like a transcript.
Chris Butler: How many of them did that?
Lauren Siler: It was just two.
Chris Butler: That’s really cool. I like that.
Mark O’Brien: I wonder how much time they spent editing after that.
Lauren Siler: That’s a good question. I’m not sure for sure, but they were pretty pleased with themselves about it. You know what I mean?
Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. Yeah.
Lauren Siler: It’s a pretty efficient way to get it done. In terms of thinking of creative ways to create content, that was something unique. I had not seen that before.
Mark O’Brien: It doesn’t have to be Slack. It could be any kind of chat or forum?
Lauren Siler: Yeah. They were really transparent about the medium so you ask, ‘Does it read this way?’ and it does.
Chris Butler: I like that. Of course I’m thinking about the details now, so can you export that text easily or does someone have to go in and rewrite it? Or copy and paste?
Lauren Siler: I think that they finessed it when they actually put it on the site, so I don’t think they exported it directly from Slack, but they got the content created in that medium and then they were transparent about the fact that that’s how they did it.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it it’s like Google Chat I wonder if they just copy and paste it. Pretty easy. That’s great.
Chris Butler: How about you Mark?
Mark O’Brien: Mine is an agency we’d just started working with or just got a contract to work with. I won’t mention them since we haven’t actually started work with them yet. What was really exciting was how they found us. It’s just so interesting to me about how the Long Tailed Marketing can work. They’re a very specialized, sharp firm out of Portland, Oregon, so we’re going from Cambridge to Portland here. They actually specialize in conversion optimization online. It’s actually similar to what we do except they don’t do it for agencies and, once again, the difference between doing it and doing it for yourselves is an important one and one that’s hard to get through for a lot of firms no matter how specialized they are in certain areas. They bought my book in 2011, about a month after it came out, and then they attended an event, the New Business Summit. It might have been the one we both spoke at about two years later in Nashville. In and out of those times they attended webinars, they signed up for the newsletter, they got various emails.
We’re going back to 2011, so six years ago … never had a conversation with them, nothing, no direct interaction with them at all and then two weeks ago they got in touch for the first time and the contract was signed yesterday. So six years of them lurking in dormancy and the time just happened to be right. That gets back to something we talk about all the time with our marketing, which is nourishing these people long-term. Long-term can be long.
But, when they are ready, which we can never know … we could never guess that two weeks ago was the time over the past six years that that was the moment they’d be ready, but we kept that going through our marketing. It was really exciting.
Lauren Siler: What I’ll say, too, is when we finally got into conversations with them, the time to close was so fast. They had already –
Mark O’Brien: Two weeks.
Lauren Siler: Yeah, two weeks. They had already decided these are the people we know we want to work with. There were conversations back and forth, but being so familiar with our brand and our perspective on things really sped that process up.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it’s just nice seeing that work. I never get sick of that. It’s fun each time.
Chris Butler: Speaking of long-term leads, what I had thought about sharing is also an agency that we’re starting to work with who I think I can mention, Retail Voodoo. What’s cool about that is it’s an agency in Seattle run by David Lemley and his partner. What’s interesting about that is that we worked with David, what 10 years ago?
Mark O’Brien: About 10, yeah.
Chris Butler: With his old firm, Lemley Design, and we back then did his website and worked closely with him to get that done and enjoyed that process. Then he went away and used that website for a bunch of years and started a new firm, and low and behold, comes back and wants to work with us, but not just have us build the website like we did 10 years ago. He wants what we do now which is very cool. I just think that that’s a long-term investment if you think about it.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, thematically what’s so good about that is that he needed what we did then then and he needs what we do now now which is great and very much needed it both times.
That’s encouraging for our evolution as well. He’s changed quite a bit. He requesting something completely different than what it was with Lemley Design. It was really fun, when we were out there for the kickoff, to see what it actually looked like.
To see the evolution of his firm and ours and us coming together once again, even though it had been a long gap and we weren’t in communication at all. There too, the first thing he said when we got on the phone with him when he resurfaced was that he’s been paying attention to marketing. He’s been keeping up and he was referencing our products by name because he had just been studying.
Chris Butler: I think what’s important is … we call the segment what we are excited about and it is exciting to get new business, for sure, but the point here, at least for me, and for those of you listening, it’s not just about, hey we got some new business, let’s pat ourselves on the back. It’s that there’s an evolution to all of this. It’s not just the evolution of, hey when did this person know about us, or when did we work with them last, but also the evolution of the industry.
As Mark, you just said, what David needed 10 years ago, we were there to help him with. There are other people that could have helped him, but we just happened to. What he needs now is so different and that’s across the industry. It was enough to build a website 10 years ago, but it’s not enough to build a website today. Everything that needs to be a part of that kind of project, it’s just so much more expensive now, from content strategy, to marketing animation, to CRM. That’s what’s exciting about this. The industry is evolving and becoming much more complex and from our perspective, also, there’s agencies everywhere and they all need this. We are all sort of moving in this school together. I think that’s what’s exciting and for those of you listening, also, it’s exciting. It’s not just that Newfangled signed a contract.
Mark O’Brien: What I like about it is that it just mirrors what our clients need and what agencies need and what agencies want to be true for them. One thing we talk about all the time with our clients and prospects is that these systems, the need for marketing, the fruit of marketing isn’t just net new prospects, but reigniting previous relationships, reigniting current relationships. As they evolve as a business and just to see that come true for us and for our clients is just a lot of fun.
Chris Butler: Yeah. Marketing works if you put the time in. Whether that’s 10 years, or six years in the case of the one you mentioned, Mark, it’s a long-term thing, but obviously in the moment is really challenging. Lauren, when you were planning out these episodes you said let’s do the one about making time for marketing, which is always resonant. It’s resonant for us. We struggle with it, even though I feel like every quarter we pull off something really exciting that we can really be proud of in terms of content, but it’s not easy.
Lauren Siler: No, it’s not.
Chris Butler: From your perspective, with your clients, what are the common struggles? What are people struggling with? Time, obviously, is the category, but what does that really mean?
Lauren Siler: Yeah, when we talk to agencies, I don’t think that anybody doubts that marketing works and that they need to invest in it, but –
Mark O’Brien: It’d be really weird if an agency doubted marketing.
Lauren Siler: Yeah, that’s true. That’d be strange.
Mark O’Brien: That’d be a problem.
Lauren Siler: That’s pretty much a different kind of conversation. This is the common theme. How do we actually make time to do this successfully and consistently every single month, every single quarter? I think there are certain themes that do emerge from these conversations, things like how do we actually create content? Content marketing is such a huge part of digital marketing today. It’s just, how do we know what types of content to invest in and how do we reliably create the time to invest in those types of content?
What are the tools out there that can help us do this? Are we missing something? Is our technology suite the right technology suite given what we are trying to accomplish? How do we know if it’s even working because that can help keep a team motivated? There are all of these different sort of questions floating around and I think it’s really easy just to throw your hands up in the air and say who knows, let’s just write this thing and get it up and we’ll revisit how it works at some point.
Chris Butler: Yeah. A few years ago, well actually it was probably more like seven years ago, six or seven years ago, I saw this piece by Steve Portigal when he had a larger firm called Portigal Design and they had done a conversation. It was just a transcript of conversation, but I remember seeing that for the first time and thinking, wow, that’s really interesting. At the time we were thinking a lot about engagement styles and we did this series of blog posts about engagement styles, like finding a way to make sure that multiple people can contribute in a way that suites them until we’d tried this out. I think it was Mark and Katie Jamison, a former project manager, and I sat down and had a conversation. We transcribed it and basically ripped off that idea, but it was the first time we did anything that wasn’t just writing an article. Since then we’ve come a long way. Thinking about the PJA example and the Slack example. We’ve done things like that we’ve never done that, but maybe you could talk a little bit about what we embrace lately in terms of collaboration and collaborative methods.
Lauren Siler: One of the things to consider when you’re thinking about making time for marketing and thinking about the people inside of your firm whose voice you want to be heard is to think about the best ways that you can cultivate that thinking out of their heads. One thing that we’ve started to do for our more key pieces of content each quarter is take a more collaborative approach just to ease the burden.
For our white papers, for instance, we take a broader theme that we know applies to the areas of expertise of multiple people inside Newfangled. Then we each take a chunk of it and write to our specific area of expertise. Then one or more members of the team will come together and make sure it flows as one piece, but it’s a lot easier to write one fifth of a white paper than it is to write the entire thing.
Chris Butler: Back in the day, we had a monthly newsletter and that always felt like a burden because it was coming up with something every month that felt relevant. I treated it like a column and I would come up with something and then I would run it by Mark, hey what do you think about this? And we would talk about it, but not every time.
There’s no structure for it and it occurs to me that what you’re describing, my mind immediately went back to the meeting where we decided that and that didn’t exist until we decided that we should do quarterly themes. It seems to me like that’s the inception point, for us anyway of being able to figure out how do all these things fit into place. If we’re going to come up with a theme who’s going to write what, what piece is going to inherit that idea, et cetera. I don’t know if we talked a little bit about that on the podcast. Have we talked about that?
Mark O’Brien: I’m not sure. It’s been gold for us and now you recommend it to all your clients as well, right?
Lauren Siler: Yeah, that’s where we start with the quarterly plans. We start with, what’s out there? It’s like I said, what are people talking about and then break that out to understand based on this theme and our areas of expertise, what should our big gated pieces of content be that relate directly back to that theme?
Chris Butler: Yeah, it’s fun. Actually I was thinking about that meeting … The first time we did this, the first time we came up with a theme. We were up in what we call the sky lounge, so in our building we got this fifth floor. There’s a lounge up there and a big patio that looks out over the city around us. It’s a pretty cool place to be. That was the first time we’d done that and we had this meeting and I remember it was like we don’t know how to talk about this yet, but then it clicked and everyone got really excited. We were banging ideas around and it just started to flow and since then I’ve found that it’s really worked and it’s been much more exciting. I think it’s drawing better work out of all of us.
Mark O’Brien: I agree. In terms of discovery, that moment is really fun because we show up with no prep really. We just show up and start talking and every single meeting has been so clear what the theme is because as soon as we get to one topic it’s like this thing, and this thing, and this thing, and this thing, and that feels really good. That’s a lot of magic happens each time.
It’s also really interesting to see that if we hadn’t gotten together for that meeting, we wouldn’t even be aware of the importance of that thing. We wouldn’t be aware that we are all talking about it and thinking about it in different ways and that we’re hearing about it from different clients. It actually ups our game professionally as well, not from a marketing perspective, just in terms of the delivery we do, the actual product we create.
Lauren Siler: Yeah, and it is really motivating. There’s nothing worse than when you get into an editorial team meeting and you’re supposed to be ideating on topics and it’s just crickets around the table. That’s no fun and it’s deflating.
Chris Butler: Right, and I think the cricket situation is because no one is really sure is my perspective relevant to this? What is someone else going to think about that? Am I even thinking about what … you know?
Lauren Siler: Or are we all just writing in different directions and who cares at that point. What I found with us, and with our clients, is the more strategic parameters you put around a quarters marketing, the easier it is to come up with the right topics inside of it, which is kind of funny because you’d think that it would be limiting. You’re like it’s got to be at this theme and we’ve got to come up with this many types of content and it’s got to talk in this persona or that buy cycle stage. You throw in all of these parameters and, suddenly, you think you would feel boxed in, but you don’t.
Mark O’Brien: And there are quite a few because the personas, they’re the buying stages, they’re the message areas of focus, and then there are the themes, right?
Lauren Siler: The theme. Yeah. For us that’s how we –
Mark O’Brien: That’s four filters. That’s a lot of filters before you even talk about any topic at all there are four filters.
Chris Butler: And before you think about types.
Mark O’Brien: Well, that’s a fifth filter then. Type. Yeah, that is a fifth filter.bThat’s a lot of filters.
Lauren Siler: But, our ideation sessions have come alive given those limitations and that’s true for our clients too.
Chris Butler: But you said that it’s somewhat counterintuitive that limitations breed creativity, but I was chuckling to myself because I was remembering my first year in art school. It was a common experience that you showed up to art school and you thought you were the best because you were the best in your high school. You get there and you thought you were just going to be given a corner, or a space somewhere, and you were just going to make art for four years.
That is not the way it was at all. There were more limitations there than any of us had ever experienced. More rules, more requirements to every assignment, but that was because of this principle that limitations breed creativity. I experienced that for four years. I think we’ve experienced that time and again here, so I guess it’s counterintuitive, but it’s like a law of the universe I think.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that runs into positioning too, that limitations breed creativity. They create depth, right? The more you push the walls into the side, the more it expands vertically. Kind of like in Star Wars when they’re in the trash compactor.
Chris Butler: And it takes way too long to compact, but you slow down.I think you’re right that it’s fun, it’s better, and we’re sitting around the room and everyone’s perspective is unique, but it’s focused on that thing. I think what’s interesting about that, especially relative to the themes that we’re battling around internally here with our content, is that I enjoy hearing everyone’s perspective in that room because all of us are looking at the problem from a different angle. You guys are interesting because you guys spend a ton of your time doing sales, right? So you really know what it is that the person who will hire us is asking for, the way they understand it, like what words are they using? What is their understanding of the landscape? What do they think is important and what’s not?
Then you specifically, Lauren, you’ve got your foot in two camps. You’ve got a foot in the sales camp and a foot in the marketing camp and often we experience with our clients that those magisteria are very far apart and not really understanding of one another, not valuing the others contribution.
I think that it works with us so well because we’ve always tried to integrate it and you occupy that integration as your role. I think that’s totally critical because without that, I don’t think we’d come up with the right perspective. Integrating those two perspectives is critical to marketing, just as it is critical to sales.
Mark O’Brien: That’s a nice lead into our next podcast.
Lauren Siler: That was a little teaser. Stay tuned.
Chris Butler: Yeah, stay tuned for that. Can we talk briefly about types for a second?
Lauren Siler: Yeah, I did want to get around to that because one way, in terms of making time for marketing, I think a big road block that a lot of agencies face is when they think about content marketing, specifically, they’re thinking about a blank word document staring at them with a cursor blinking at them. That doesn’t need to be the approach. There are so many wonderfully smart, intelligent, creative people who are just not going to sit down and regularly write an article for the site.
That doesn’t mean their perspective can’t be heard, or shouldn’t be heard and so thinking about who you’re thought leaders are and what their communication styles are can lead to a really creative approach to content development. You don’t necessarily have to have pen to paper. You can think about, we’ve cited the PJA example, and I think that’s a really interesting one where you’re just chatting back and forth as you have time during the day.
Interview styles work really well. Having somebody just discuss their area of expertise about a specific topic, once you’ve got the right topic in your head, having that individual talk about it and then figuring out how to take that conversation and transpose it into something that can be posted on the site and indexed by Google. There are a million ways to do that.
Chris Butler: This being a good example as well.
Mark O’Brien: Podcast and webinars, too.
Chris Butler: Yeah, podcast and webinars. For me, it seems to me like the direction that all this is heading towards technology enabled people do not have to write if they don’t want to, or to not think about writing as typing.
Actually, I think it was four years ago I did a webinar with Blair, called After Content Marketing and he wanted it to be about what happens when content marketing isn’t vital. We talked about all kinds of technological themes that were impacting content marketing, but what my argument was is that content marketing is not going to go away, it’s just going to change how you do it.
One of the biggest factors I talked about was speech-to-text. This is like a midpoint to speech-to-text in that we’re speaking naturally to one another into a microphone. We’re going to get that transcribed, but a human does that transcription.
One thing that I did with Blair when I did that webinar was I was using Dragon Dictation for part of the webinar, so I was splicing it. It transcribed basically the entire thing. I barely had to do any edits, which was incredible. That’s the next step and I’ve even written newsletters where I’ve used Google Keep and I dictated them in my car on my way home. But I think that’s the direction and why I think that’s important is not just because it’s easier and it’s cool technology, but especially in our space. Our people, in the people in the agency world, they’re great talkers. It’s not that they’re bad writers. They don’t have time, but they are amazing talkers. That’s what they do and they feed off of one another. You guys think about any of your conversations that you’d call … I’m doing air quotes … a sales call. It’s not really that. It’s a conversation and you’re in the flow. So this technology I think is really powerful, especially from what we’re talking about because it’s not just about creating these. It’s about really hitting people where they’re great.
Lauren Siler: Yeah, it’s about communication styles and allowing that to be a freeing factor, rather than a limiting one when it comes to your content marketing. And another thing, I was talking to an agency this week about this, you don’t have to recreate the wheel just because it’s a different channel that you’re introducing the content on.
We’ve done this and I’ve had plenty of agencies do this successfully, where they have a blog post on a particular topic and then they do a video, or they do a podcast, on basically the same topic. Those are two entirely viable pieces of content for that agency. The way that you talk about something and the way you write about, it’s going to come across differently. You’re going to come up with new things and new ways to present that information and it’s still relevant and interesting.
Chris Butler: Yeah, I could talk about this forever, especially the way the technological angle is meeting this engagement style thing. Another example I came up with, or thought of, is that Wired is now doing a spoken edition. It kind of sucks on the out … I mean, it’s interesting, but what they’re doing is they actually hired somebody to read the articles and create a podcast out of it. Unfortunately, they hired someone who I think is really dry and boring and it’s not good, but the concept is interesting.
At some point, there’s going to be a Siri version of that, where it actually sounds like a human being. At that point, any agency we work with could literally go the opposite direction. They could take something they wrote and make it something … It’s like it would be the audiobook version of it. But that could potentially be automated.
Mark O’Brien: So, in summary, on the theme of making time for marketing, it sounds like the five filters of the content, types, the message areas of focus, the personas, the staging the buying cycle, and a theme. Those filters are really helpful. Collaboration is another helpful tool and then exploring different media.
Lauren Siler: Yeah, diversifying your content types based on the communication strengths of your content writers.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, those three things done together and done properly individually goes a long way.
Chris Butler: Without those things I don’t think our content marketing would have survived.
Mark O’Brien: No. You wrote that newsletter by yourself for many years. At least six years, right?
Chris Butler: And our blog was active, but it wasn’t focused.
Mark O’Brien: Not at all.
Chris Butler: This was a necessary point of growth for us and I think without getting into anything that we struggle with, which I think is natural and normal, I think it’s catapulted us into a different place.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it’s easier. It’s more fun. It represents more of the expertise of the firm. It’s more accessible –
Lauren Siler: It’s just better marketing.
Mark O’Brien: … because of all the different platforms. It’s a win across the board. Everyone has a voice.
Chris Butler: On that note, I’m sure we have a ton of content to recommend, things that people could dig in deeper on this very subject.
Lauren Siler: What I want to recommend is a post from 2015 that I wrote that’s called What’s Really Holding Back Your Content Strategy and this gets to one specific recommendation that we’re talking about here, which is really how to structure your editorial team meeting.
Mark’s reiterating the idea of putting in all these different strategic filters in order to make a more productive and interesting ideation session for your content. This article, What’s Really Holding Back Your Content Strategy, walks you through step by step how to run an effective editorial team meeting, so check that out.
Chris Butler: That’s awesome. What do you got Mark?
Mark O’Brien: The webinar that we have recently completed that Chris Creech and I did and we put an example of all these things really. It’s based on the area of focus we had for the quarter, it’s collaborative, it’s a webinar, which suites my communication style. It’ll be about ten thousand words on the site and it’s all about making the most of your conversions on your website with a focus on progressive profiling and smart calls to action.
It’s actually I think the most specific webinar we’ve ever done. We usually talk about broader topics, but it was so interesting to see how much there was to talk about even though we confined ourselves to just progressive profiling as something with plenty to talk about.
Chris Butler: Actually, one other thing about webinars that’s interesting, is that you did the Q and A session. That’s a ton of content that comes from your audience. It wouldn’t exist without them and that’s free content in a way, but it also stimulates things in you that you wouldn’t have thought about and that contributes to the word count. I bet three to four thousand words of that is Q and A.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that could very well be.
Chris Butler: And mine, right around the same time, Lauren, you wrote your post, I think we were thematically in lockstep. I wrote one called It’s Time to Diversify Your Content Portfolio, so that’s in 2015. It’s basically about diversifying the types, talking about video, talking about audio, talking about engagement styles getting beyond just that empty text editor, so check that out if you want more.
Thanks for joining us. Please do find us on iTunes and give us a rating if you have the time. Share this with your friend. NPR is doing something right now called ‘#trypod’, where they’re getting people to recommend other podcasts, so I’m definitely wanting to hop on that bandwagon. It’s T-R-Y pod. Recommend us if you would. All right, we’ll see you next time.
Mark O’Brien: I was just going to say, this is what we do for a living, so if you need help with content marketing specifically, I know we do a lot of things, but this is a core aspect of what we do, let’s talk. This is complicated stuff and we have lots of solutions.
Lauren Siler: Great, thanks for listening.
Chris Butler: Bye.
Mark O’Brien: Bye.