WriterAccess Webinar Archive
Content Marketing is a Team Sport
Thursday, May 8, 2014 – 1:00 PM ET
When it comes to content marketing, you need a dream team to win the war of words on the web. But what does that team look like? You might be surprised.
Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at Content Marketing Institute, joins host Byron White to map out and discuss the players, coaches and roles you need for content marketing success. They'll walk you through the team mechanics involving authors, creators, curators, polishers, spreaders and zeniths. You'll discover the "Center of Excellence" that's required to bring everyone together to win the WORD championship.
In this session you'll learn the...
- Key content marketing players
- Important subs off the bench
- Budget and hiring priority
- Roles and goals for each player
- Performance metrics for all
The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.
Byron White: Byron here for our 52nd webinar. Welcome Robert Rose, thanks for coming on.
Robert Rose: Thank you very much for having me, I’m glad we could get it going. I asked you during the first break if 52 means this is your one-year anniversary.
Byron White: It’s actually been a monthly webinar.
Robert Rose: Okay. Holy smokes then; this is five years or something.
Byron White: Exactly. It’s been a long time, let’s put it that way. Many incredible guests including you; you were a guest on the webinar some time ago that we did together.
Robert Rose: Indeed.
Byron White: We’ve enjoyed covering this incredible content marketing topic for the last five years, so it's been quite a journey for sure. How are things at CMI? Give the audience a brief update on your world travels and how some of the incredible conferences are running.
Robert Rose: I’m absolutely happy to. CMI, as you might expect, is thriving in this wonderful world with the explosive growth of content marketing as a practice. We're expecting more than 2,500 votes this year in beautiful downtown Cleveland for Content Marketing World, our seminal event every year. I just got back, as you kindly mention from Sydney and Singapore, where we had Content Marketing World Sydney with almost 500 folks down in Oz who came out. We had a wonderful event down there and then we did our first ever event in Singapore, Content Marketing Asia, which was down in partnership with a couple of other organizations there, and things are going great. I mean, we are just growing by leaps and bounds. The conferences are going fantastically well. We’re looking forward to your executive form, which is going to happen here in the next month. We’re just tickled that content marketing has taken off like it has.
Byron White: Well, you’re leading us through the revolution; we really appreciate all the work that you, Joe and the whole team do over there. It got bloody out there for a little while, but the casualties are down. No one’s being fired anymore for putting content marketing on their business card, so I think we’re okay for the foreseeable future. Thanks for all you guys do and the incredible education that you bring to the table.
Robert Rose: Well, we’re happy to do it. It’s a lot of fun and we’re actually seeing the needle move, not the least of which is what we’re going to talk about, of course. Teams are really starting to form, and businesses are actually starting to recognize it as a formal piece of the organization; that’s a big piece of why it’s growing so fast.
Byron White: Terrific. Let’s dive into the presentation and really talk about the team sport of content marketing. I'm going to just give everybody a quick flavor, so feel free to ask questions throughout the presentation. Both Robert and I are going to walk through this this deck together. I'm going to ask him some questions about some of the content that I put together here, but the important thing is that there probably isn't one formula for success within any particular company. The question is, what does a content team look like, how many members are on that team, and is it possible that you don't need a huge department and a huge staff to run content marketing effectively?
We’re going to talk about all that today. In addition to some insights, I want a footnote in a big way by Robert, who will give us some inspiration. He’s been reading about some of the some of the topics you would cover down in Sydney. Maybe content marketing is something more than just a team sport. Maybe the team is in fact the entire company. Do you want to talk about that a little bit, Robert? What sort of revelation that you seem to come to at some point in your journey? Are you still there? Did we lose Robert?
Robert Rose: No, I’m here now.
Byron White: Okay, got it.
Robert Rose: I think it’s really a piece of what I’ve seen really over the last six months or so, where the business is actually starting to recognize content marketing as a process. There's a couple of different ways that we see that happening in both large organizations and small organizations. What we’ll touch on a lot today is this idea of the roles that are being assumed by the more traditional marketing folk who are actually starting to look at content marketing as a formal process in the organization; then, that second piece, the actual process.
What has really come out about of late is okay; now content marketing is kind of everybody's job and nobody's job. We know the way we go about a corporate blog is it's just something that we do when we kind of have time. Bob down in product development, our CEO or the VP sends us a blog, and when we can't find the time to actually blog, we’ll outsource it to a freelancer or whatever we’re going to do. That's the part we really see changing, which is a new process in the organization that really focuses on creating and curating at the end of the day. It’s really part of what I’ve been spending my time working with businesses to figure out, and we kind of know how to manage content.
Now, whether it’s through blogging systems, CMS, publishing it out to social media or whatever the tools are we use to manage and govern content, we’re not really good as businesses at creating a scalable process to create content to make it a formal part of somebody's job. So, Bob is now responsible for a blog post, not just that it would be nice if he did one, but now he’s actually responsible for that. Editorial calendaring and all of the things that become part of that process become an actual, scalable, real, measurable process in the organization, because the only way content marketing truly succeeds is when the business actually recognizes that this something that is someone's responsibility.
Byron White: We’re going to get into some interesting things today; let's dive in. Everyone knows who I am; let's skip over that. Everyone has now heard from our specialist Robert Rose; let's take a look at two angles to this team sport. First of all, I’d like to go through what I call the dream team for content marketing, and then I want to pause for a second and talk about the all-stars that really drive content marketing. I think that everyone will learn a lot in a creative and interesting way.
First, the dream team; this is my sketch on the typical players you would find. I’m going to go through each of these individually to understand some of the diversity of their roles and how important their role might be in the overall process. Robert, I know you deal with a lot of enterprises and a lot of companies. Is there anyone who you think I left out on this first overview, this topographical overview of the typical content marketing department running the machine?
Robert Rose: No, I think the roles you’ve got here are on the money. As you might expect, as enterprises get larger, they become teams of themselves, not just individual people or individual roles. I might replace thought leader with storyteller or chief content officer, only to straddle the idea that it's not always about becoming a thought leader, but sometimes it's about telling emotional stories or telling brand stories and those sorts of things. The one that’s making me giggle a little bit is the icon for the editor, who looks like he's about to give me the sign that most editors give me when I submit something.
Byron White: Yeah, that’s a good point there on the editor. Sorry about the middle fingers there that might be thrown at you. Just remember, there's sunshine behind that middle finger over there.
Robert Rose: There is always sunshine.
Byron White: Let's walk through it. I think this screen alone just sort of summarizes the complexity for what a content planner really has to accomplish using some of these incredibly diverse tools. Robert, I think maybe you’d agree content planning is becoming its own career path, its own journey. What are your thoughts on that? I know that everybody out there continues to struggle with the content plan, which includes some of the other elements that we’ll get into, developing that content plan and answering these four difficult questions. How much content do we need, how good does it need to be, how frequently do we publish, where do we publish?
What exactly pinpoints the ROI that I’m going to be getting from this content? Those are difficult questions to answer; it takes a lot of time and a lot of research to do that, but what are you seeing as this content planner debut and the enterprise-level solution here, the enterprise companies? What are you seeing happen there?
Robert Rose: I think the biggest headline there comes out of the research study we do every year in concert with marketing costs. We’re actually actively working on that right now for the 2014 version, which we’ll be debuting just after Content Marketing World this year. We look at those that are happy successful, content marketing efforts versus those that are really struggling with it, and what we find is that the biggest disparity between those two endpoints are a codified, documented, well-thought-out and real content marketing plan. The planner is the most important piece of all of those questions you had on the previous slide there; what's the ROI going to be, how much content do we need, what channels, what personas? Basically, you could sum these up with one question: why are we creating content to begin with? Getting a good plan to answer that question and all of the subsequent questions that come afterwards is the biggest reason that a content marketing program will succeed from our research and from our experience.
Byron White: I totally agree. I think that part of this business is at the infantile stage of development. We are constantly trying to recommend to customers and vendors that seem to not exist, by the way, to develop content plans or even spy on their competitors to see how much content they’re publishing and how frequently they’re publishing it. You’d think we’d see some interesting technical advancements in the planning stage to tune you quickly into what's being done in the marketplace, but it’s hard to find good data; you need all the data. Back when we were a full-service content marketing agency under the ideaLaunch brand, we would spend between 200 and 400 hours putting together a content plan for a single company. We would need to research all the competitors and learn what keywords they should be targeting; we’re going to talk about that a little bit on the optimization front.
We would look at competitive publishing frequency. We would look at their own site, score it and grade it; all kinds of interesting things like this. How is your site performing overall? How are your competitors performing? What’s your overall grade? What are the weaknesses we need to work on? Where should we put money? Where should we put time? This is what a planner needs to think through, in addition to how much money do I need to spend to fix this problem and what will be the estimated ROI? So, a lot of interesting chemical mixes have to come together in the planning stage for you to reap the ROI you demand. Agree?
Robert Rose: Absolutely; couldn't agree more.
Byron White: Yep, the interesting thing is when you translate this conversation to planning to a small business, which we do on a regular basis over at WriterAccess. I think it's time to say, “Timeout.” While all this data could be really interesting to learn where I stand versus my competitors, one thing we know for sure is if you're not publishing any content, you suck; your customers think you suck, and you will have no performance. You don’t suck because it’s your choice; you suck because you're not listening to what your customers want and need.
We like making it simple at WriterAccess and just looking at publishing frequency on a topographic level to say, “Hey, what ideas am I generating, what’s in production, what’s approved, what's been exported and therefore likely making its way to the production front?” I think you can make planning simple; that’s my only point because not every company has a planner as a resource to really work this through. Thoughts on that? Agree with that?
Robert Rose: Yeah, I think what you really getting at here is something that we talk to a lot of our clients in advisory workshop settings and we basically say, “Look, this is a muscle that will build over time and it is not expected nor is it required of you to come in and be Arnold Schwarzenegger when you walk in the gym for the first time. You've got to put the time and effort into building this and that goes back to what we were just talking about at the beginning of the webinar, which is making it somebody's real responsibility to actually do this.
What happens a lot of times is just like when we go to the gym after New Year's Eve and we spend January exercising and exercising. By the time we get to June, we’ve sort of forgotten where the gym is, much less even going. That's what happens with content marketing in many cases when we don't put real resources behind it. We get this really interesting spike of interest, and somebody goes out and does something really interesting and then by February, March, April, it's completely faded away because other priorities have come into it. It's a skill, and it is a muscle that needs to be developed over time, so you don't have to be an expert when you start, but you become one as quickly as you can.
Byron White: Totally spot on. Let's go to the next candidate here, our writer. You've seen the challenges of building in-house writing teams. You’ve seen the tenacity of writers trying to battle content marketing, evangelism within companies and be faced with a stone wall. Are writers finally getting their spot on the podium? Are they getting their due respect in the marketplace, Robert?
Robert Rose: They’re starting to for sure, and I think a lot of that has to do with the quality over quantity. Mark Schaeffer wrote a blog post that got a little bit of heat called Content Shock. Whether you buy into that or not, the argument behind it is pretty sound, which is that we've got to focus on creating good content that stands out rather than a lot of content that is just thrown against the wall. I think you might put in here video producers, Infographic producers, all kinds of people who are creating content that will live in whatever format. Writers are obviously a big one for blogging, creating online magazines and print and all the different article type formats that there are.
There's a great movement toward quality there, so I think they are starting to. I think it’s a mix; ultimately, some of it is going to be absolutely pulling in as the number of writers that you need to fill a particular calendar. Some of it is going to be your own people who can offer up the core story of your brand, and then maybe supplement it with writers that you pull in from outside. What I don't like to see in a lot of cases is where the brand basically outsources the entirety of writing and production outside, and doesn't start to build the muscle internally; at least knowing how to do it, much less if they actually do it.
Byron White: Characteristics of interesting writers is always an interesting point to talk about when I speak at conferences, or wherever that is. Do you feel like there's a way to match writers with companies in your mind, even on a full-time or freelance basis? Do you believe in that matchmaking process?
Robert Rose: I do. I think it's a great way to supplement a team, and obviously there are exceptions to this where you're where you got really deep niche expertise needed. If you've got to have PhD level thinking and writing on some sort of oncology or in a very specific topic where it's going to be very difficult to find freelance talent, that's one thing. Most companies don't have that specific of a need, but for those that do, that'll be the real indicator. This list that you’ve got here is definitely right on the money.
Byron White: I feel like we've sort of transcended from a marketplace where specialists were demanded, particularly for in-house writing, and moving more towards a generalist writer who could handle diverse writing assignments and almost be forced into publishing on multiple platforms and therefore have to have a voice that would sort of translate into multiple channels. Socialist is another part of it; not only do you need to write well, but your content needs to be received well and shared and passed around, almost moving you back more into the specialists. They’re not so much specialists in the topic area, but specialists in knowing what resonates well with your target audience. In other words, all this means it's really tough to be a good writer in today's marketplace. Agree?
Robert Rose: Yes. I think great writers understand the difference of the formats and channels by which they create content for. I think within that, you have another subset which is the subject matter expertise versus just great writing. I think that comes down to, for example, the talk I gave at Content Marketing World Sydney, which was around what I call the four archetypes of content creation. Going back to my example of the view of the very specific PhD level of thought leadership type content that you might want to create on a sporadic basis, you're only going to do a white paper on this once a quarter or twice a year because you’re going to put real money and investment into this piece of content.
Then, there’s going to be content that surrounds that; blog posts, Tweets, Facebook posts and all that kind of stuff where you may not need the deep level. You need somebody who understands the words and can translate that into great writing, but what they're doing then is reporting on that content; not necessarily creating the thinking themselves. In that case, what you need is a great writer or a great resource who can produce content for you across the myriad channels that you’re going to create it for, but you don't necessarily need the deep level subject matter expertise that you need for that deep-thinking piece that you’re going to create.
Byron White: Spot on. Design is always an important element to the equation. Where do you think design and designers are falling on the spectrum of a company? Are they gaining momentum, respect and authority with key decision-making regarding content marketing, or do you think that writers are maybe overpowering them because of this demand for proving ROI results with increased traffic and improved listing positions in the search engines? What's happening with designers; where they stand in this equation?
Robert Rose: Well, what we see is that they're becoming more and more important because of the visual nature of content. In our efforts to make things stand out more, they're becoming much more important. The rise in Infographics is certainly an indicator of this trend. The rise of video, making white papers beautiful, the mobile and optimizing design for mobile experiences; whether it be a tablet or a phone in making things more engaging, visually more appealing in whatever channels and becoming such an incredibly important piece of the engagement story. Honestly, this where we see most of the outsourcing happen. Most companies now are utilizing either because they've got previous relationships, or because they just frankly don't want to try and hire for this in house. They’re outsourcing this in a large degree to either existing or new agencies.
Byron White: Are you seeing the excitement for branding and the extension of the brand throughout various content assets? Is that still in or is it more eclectic, more “Hey, your Infographic doesn’t need to look like your brochure, which doesn’t need to look like your business cards, and your logo doesn't need to be executed throughout.” In other words, is the big brand still cool and still hip and still some of the goals with major companies and corporations, or is it more eclectic?
Robert Rose: It comes back to what kind of content you're creating, so I think it's a bit of both. The big brand is still relevant and still has all of the needs like you’ve got here on the screen. You’ve got that sort of cohesiveness and consistency across different content products that you're creating. However, we are also seeing the rise of the creation of content brands themselves, perhaps in an effort to diminish the amount of “sales units” that we’re having in our content. Maybe it’s an online magazine, a print magazine or a blog where the actual content asset itself can have a brand with maybe some degree of consistency with the more global brand.
For example, look at EMO.com, which is an Adobe product. It doesn't really look like Adobe; it doesn't really reflect Adobe's design sensibilities. You can find an Adobe logo there if you look, but it’s got its own look, feel and brand so we’re seeing a little bit of both, dependent on where the strategy is for that particular content platform. Again, it depends on whether it's really tightly aligned with the brand, or whether they're trying to disassociate with the brand and create its own experience with the customer.
Byron White: The optimizer. A lot of people are contending that search engine optimization is dead, that there is no reason anymore because the spider bots are simply too smart and you can't fool the search engines anymore. What’s your take on that, Robert? Do we need to optimize our content?
Robert Rose: We do, but not in the same way that we used to. I think the key is that SEO isn’t dead, but it's different and it’s not about the things that it used to be about. I guess the four biggies are the ones you have here, and I might put social engagement on there as well. Not to put too fine a point on it, but where you have it, in the upper right as maybe the most important piece of this, which is how often organically is my content getting shared out there? I might add another one, which is in it from a pay perspective, so go back and look at that white paper that we created, that one that we put money into and invested in.
We actually may want to buy advertising for that piece of content, so optimizing the ad spend for that piece of content is also a role of this optimizer in here. Look at things like you would a product, your traffic, where that piece of content is in the listing positions and then others are internal. How are your writers doing? Which ones are the great writers? Which ones are monetized the most and have those types of metrics too? It’s a huge role that’s very different from the classic role of the SEO optimizer.
Byron White: Right. I love saying, “Optimization is the new SEO” and that extends into old-school keyword research and all these wonderful keyword tools you're using and more importantly, conversion. Look at A/B testing and multivariate testing to try to find the right path for conversion and try to learn what’s discovering. This is a fun formula that I’ve used over the years and picked up somewhere along my journeys, then modified, created or did something with it; a lot of thought went into this little equation here. Where are we with that in your mind, particularly your A/B testing and multivariate testing? Do you feel that will continue to hold value to learn what images and what headlines resonate well with the customer? Do you feel that's a science that’s going be around forever, Robert?
Robert Rose: Look, I'll say it like this: A/B and multivariate testing is the sexiest thing that nobody does. It gets a lot buzz, but not a lot of people actually do it. I think those that do it in a concerted, consistent effort get a lot of value out of it, but it’s really in that optimization wheelhouse. Looking at everything from the top of the funnel all the way to the bottom and testing is a big piece of that, so I absolutely see it continuing. However, it’s one of those things that’s quite frankly rarely, rarely done.
Byron White: I think that's probably because it's the most exciting way to decrease your user acquisition cost and make your marketing better. However, it's also the most frustrating because the science just doesn't always line up the way that you think it would, including looking at an A test and a B test, which we’ve done many, many times. The B test just kills it now, so “boom,” we pop up the B test and get rid of A, and on to C. Wait a second, the B test is all of a sudden not performing the way that it was last month when we did that test. What happened? Why couldn't we maintain our 3.5 percent conversion rate? That's what happened the previous month; it is really frustrating.
Robert Rose: Indeed; so is finding statistical relevance for most government organizations. Statistical relevance is a key piece of this, because we’re not Coca-Cola; we’re not generating millions of page views in a given month, so how long do you keep a test up for statistical relevance. Quite frankly, on the day the statistics were given, marketers skipped that day because of beer bongs and what not. It’s one of those things where we need to partner really well for this because understanding how to do A/B testing and multivariate testing, even more complex, is the key piece there.
Byron White: Spot on. So, the editor; the editor has an important role. This is a fun topic. Do you feel that editors are fitting into the picture as nicely as they should, with as much respect as they should? They all tend to deliver bad news to your point, like your content doesn't meet my specifications. How important is editing to the whole workflow?
Robert Rose: Extraordinarily important; I mean it is so completely important to me. They are the ones ultimately that will be responsible for the consistency of the story that you're telling; making sure that the brand voice is represented, making sure that there's no mistakes. On my book, on my blog posts that I put up on CMI, and when I have the pleasure of working with them on third-party places where I’m writing; if indeed I sound smart, it is because of great editing not because of the vomit of words that I usually give them as my first draft.
Byron White: Well, I'm sure that it might be vomit in your eyes, but I'm sure it’s preciously, craftily created with ideas spinning in your head that just haven't found the perfect place on the page yet.
Robert Rose: That's one way of putting it, yes.
Byron White: I’m serious; I love your work and I’m a big fan. I did an interesting webinar a few months ago on what I called Snap, Crackle and Pop, Robert; you’d love it. It tried to dig deeply into engaging content, what makes it engaging and here's an example from that webinar: there's so much content out there that's just mediocre at best. If you look at the sample and quickly read it, you'll see that it’s lazy writing. It doesn't have a pop, it doesn't tickle your fancy, it doesn't make you smile. I cringe when I see copy that isn't well written and doesn't engage. I know that for many amazing writers, it's easy to take that foreign content and make it snap, crackle and pop.
This is an example by one of the writers, Ren, who did a great job in helping me put together my book on professional writing skill and price guide. We have a whole bunch of examples, like probably, 50 examples of before and after to just show how that content can snap, crackle and pop. How important do you think that is, and do you think this example and others might really make editing and that role sexy, much sexier than it is now in the content marketing workflow?
Robert Rose: Well, I think you’ve got a couple of different approaches here. You’ve got the journalistic style of editor who's going to be really making sure that the writing is crisp and gets to the point; it actually is formatted well and it actually tells the story you want it to tell. Then, you’ve got what you might argue is here, which is great editing and copywriting, and I think both are equally important skills to have. Your snap, crackle and pop is what I call the difference between plot and story, so when you write plot, and marketers get complacent about this, where we write basically to the space to fit. It’s one of those things where we list out the features, and then it’s like, “Okay, we have two bullets for this one feature, we’ve got two benefits for this one feature, what do we do; do we need a third one, now there’s our third bullet because it fits.”
That's the way a lot of writing gets done, especially on the web. How do we make it look right in the experience; don't think about what the words mean necessarily or how they're presented. I think that’s where you need a great editor in both cases; on the journalism side on a longer form piece of content like a blog or a white paper versus copywriting, where you're taking boring copy and making it really crisp and pop and snap and crackle, all of those things. In my mind, editors have always been sexy, but I think to your point, yes, this does nothing other than buffer their already shiny gleam.
Byron White: In your mind perhaps, but we do have this stereotypical view that is not in my mind. We have to get them up there high up on the podium with content work focus. There is nothing worse than publishing content with mistakes in it, whether it’s punctuation problems. It just seems to tarnish the brand so radically, don't you agree?
Robert Rose: Absolutely. It's not only just making sure everything is spelled correctly, but it's increasingly things like consistency and brand voice, and that's an incredibly important piece. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, in very large companies this is becoming a real challenge. Think of a company like Microsoft and the overwhelming amount of content that they have to create across every one of their product groups. Imagine you're the guy in charge of making sure you speak consistently across an Xbox versus opening up Windows for the first time and going to a help file.
They're actually attempting to do that; they’re actually attempting to try and put together a more consistent brand voice so that when you interact with Microsoft, there’s a tone and a brand and a brand voice that’s consistent across every single touch point. Even in a small company that's a big job, much less in a very large organization, but it's no less important in either.
Byron White: How do you control that brand, Robert? That voice, that message, the language that’s being used? That’s an intense undertaking isn’t it, especially for a company like Microsoft?
Robert Rose: Well, some might even call it tilting at windmills in the case of Microsoft, because it’s just too overwhelming even to think about. Not even to add the complexity of all the different products; now add in the complexity of 140 different languages that you’re going to try to do this in. Yes, I think it is an overwhelming job in most cases, but I think this is one of the jobs of the CMO.
This is marketing leadership in the organization; finding ways to create consistency in brand voice is one of the biggest jobs of the CMO these days, because it is increasingly dependent upon the amount of content production that we have at all parts of the organization. It’s not just marketing now; it’s sales, CRM, the executives, the sales guys out in the street, affiliates in the store and associates in the store. So many people are actually out there providing content to our consumers in all these different channels, that we‘ve got to have a really strong way to tell that consistent story; it’s vitally important that marketing leadership take that responsibility.
Byron White: Isn't that tone, voice, language and style transmitting not only through the collateral, blog and content, but through the actual way customer service representatives speak on the phone? Am I correct in that assumption?
Robert Rose: Absolutely, and the way the store associates greet you when you come in. There's nothing worse than trying, if you’re a marketing group for a retail company for example, to have your website and your blog be all about how we’re awesome, and we’re a thought leader, and you can depend on us to be the expert in our particular vertical, and you can always depend on getting the answer from our website and our blog, and we're great, we’re awesome, and your customers visit your store, but your store associates are dumb as rocks and don't care.
It just immediately breaks that brand promise with your customer, and they're not going to come back to your online property then, and trust you to give them the right answer. It can screw up a content marketing program simply by having a failure to be able to teach our employees on how to tell the story that we’re trying to tell. Great content market programs start inside and then go outside.
Byron White: Yes, or start in the outhouse and then move into the house.
Robert Rose: Okay.
Byron White: The performer; always a favorite at the C level, but what are your thoughts on performance and its role with content marketing?
Robert Rose: I think the biggest mistake on measurement and what we do with measurement is because we can track everything now. We feel like we have to report on everything and this especially true when we get into showing our boss. In fact, I had this conversation yesterday with a company, where they were reporting their Google analytics, SEO optimization and lead generation. They were reporting the whole thing to their bosses in a big book, and the bosses were getting in and micromanaging everything. They hated that because it gave them this feeling that they were constantly in this hamster wheel, having to make every single graph go up on the right. I love, by the way, that all of the graphs we have here are going up on the right except the one that’s supposed to be going down to the left, which is user acquisition cost, of course.
What we lose sight of is the goal, so what we often talk about is that the performer in this case is really about working with the planner to understand that goal. What is the goal? Are you trying to reach a certain number of leads, sales, loyalty or upsell? What are the goals that we’re setting and what are the indicators that let us know we’re on that road? That's what we report and nothing else, because then it gives us the rest of the team, the writers, the marketers, the demanding people and the room to experiment. We should know all the metrics, the visits, the likes and the follows; all those very low-level indicators to improve our process over time. We don’t need to be reporting on those; that's not relevant to the goal, and the reason it’s not relevant to the goal is because that gives us the freedom to bust something up.
Just a very quick anecdote here; I was working with one large organization that had 175,000 e-mails in their database. They would send this weekly e-mail and every time they sent that e-mail, 75,000 would bounce; a hard bounce. I said, “Why don't you just delete the 75,000 and improve all of your metrics overnight.” They said, “Well, we can't because if our bosses see that our e-mail database decreased by 50 percent in one week, we’ll lose funding for email.” That’s the craziness that a lot of these metrics and measurements are in now; where if we show some sort of decrease, we lose funding for the idea and the effort. That’s where the performer here has to be really smart about; the way that they're looking at measurement over time.
Byron White: I spoke about this before, and I wanted to get your take on it. Do you feel that we might be closer to understanding the correlation between smart marketing activity and revenue increases? Let me explain and give you an example of that. Let's say you're head of a department and you’ve got a nice hefty million-dollar marketing budget. Let's say over a couple months you decrease your pay-per-clicks spend, which means less leads come in. Your conversion rates actually decrease because fewer lead came in, and let's say you go crazy and you decide not to send weekly e-mails out. You decide to send out once a month, so your e-mail frequency decreases, but hang on a second, your revenue increased because logic tells you that you are pissing off your customer base and your prospect customers by pounding them with e-mail.
You should have been smarter with your pay-per-click and turned the volume down so you didn’t get a bunch of crappy leads coming in, let's say, at 11 o'clock at night; they just wanted to kick the tires because they’re bored. Are we going to get closer to attribution with smart marketing decisions and smart content being created to revenue increases? Do you see any help on the way there?
Robert Rose: I think we can get smarter, and certainly your point about measuring from the top all the way to the bottom is an important one. The reason for that is because in many ways, content marketing can be more expensive and take longer to actually move a customer through that engagement journey. The benefit in many cases, and I've actually really seen this, is that we create a more valuable customer. By creating a more engaged customer, we create one that spends more in their shopping cart, or in general, stays longer, is more willing to share their story and is more likely to move into that “evangelist” role over time than the one that we just go send a coupon to and ultimately transact only once.
That’s a really important thing to understand, and I think we are moving there. The “cute” way I’ve been saying this is, “Look, marketers have always sucked at measurement.” Throughout time, there's never been a time in history when marketers have been great at measuring results, and I don't think there’s this magic panacea that we’re ever going to reach where marketing is an algorithmic science where you can say, “Plug this number in and we’ll get X amount of leads.” There's always an art to it, so I think methodologies of looking at trends get us there. If we stop focusing on individual numbers as the goal and ask better questions of the trends that we’re seeing, we’ll be so much better off.
Byron White: We know that the definition of content marketing is listening to the wants and needs of your customers and trying to deliver to them in a compelling way, if you take that one definition. What’s your take on customer feedback from the performer perspective? Do you feel that we’re doing a good job in asking our customers what they want? Honestly, this an interesting question; does a customer really know what they want until they see something they like and then share it or like it? Can we learn truly what they want?
Robert Rose: Well, it’s the classic forward quote. If you had asked people what they wanted before the car, they would have said, “A faster horse.” It’s one data point, it’s one point of view, it’s the customer’s point of view. I would argue in many cases that you can't delight a customer based on feedback, because they're basically going to give you what would have met their expectations about your brand. They will rarely tell you what you should be doing to delight them and that only comes from being innovative and doing things that surprise them and, quite frankly, they're not expecting you to do over time.
I think it is important to get as much information as you can directly from consumers to understand how you're doing; net promoter score, all that stuff notwithstanding. I also think it's important to look outside the box to surprise them, and do things they're not expecting that delights them over time; that feedback is sort of an iterative loop as well.
Byron White: Speaking of surprise, I wanted to share with you a quick story and ask your feedback on it. I’ve actually got a blog post coming out on ideaLaunch on this, but we've been enamored with the classic question of asking every customer, “What’s the probability on a scale of one to 10 that you would refer us to a friend or colleague?” We’ve been outstanding in trying to learn that all-important referral trust question; just an incredible response, and about 88 percent of our customers rated us a nine or a 10, blah, blah.
We got this interesting customer over the weekend that voted us a one and I'm like, “Wow, I want to go read his comment; we've never gotten a one before.” We’ve gotten a few twos, a couple of threes out of thousands of customers. It read, “I want to keep you my little secret.” I wonder if customer data is really accurate. Is there a way to ask customers questions? Surveys, are they just antiquated? Is it giving you reliable data? Can you still take action on survey data? What’s your take on that?
Robert Rose: Right, I think you can. I think you would agree that your friend there who wants to keep you a secret, and weirdly gave you a one rating to do that is an anomaly. Given that, it's a nice anecdote but it's not necessarily going to look statistically relevant towards altering your business because of that. That said, I think in taking surveys, there's both quantifiable data we can look at and there's also the qualitative data we should look at through interviews, because that little story would have come up only through qualitative interviews, not necessarily through a quantitative survey.
It’s one piece, and I think it’s an increasingly important to understand our audience and our customers’ experience, because there is what they say they do and what they actually do. You see this all the time, and retail is actually pretty good at doing this. They’ll survey customers about what their shopping experiences are, but they actually have cameras and stuff set up in stores to watch what customers really do.
Byron White: We’re going to skip over a few pieces here. We’ll skip over the thought leader, which is pretty easy to do just by clicking a button, that's fun. I want to get to a couple of quick slides that I’m going to burn through in about two or three minutes here, and then get Robert’s take on this final selection. Let me first ask you Robert, if you could choose one person on the dream team to manage the whole content process, what would your vote be?
Robert Rose: If I didn't have an existing program, I would choose the thought leader or the chief content officer. That’s the person who’s actually going to make it happen in the organization, because that person can then drive either the outsourcing or the building of that team.
Byron White: It’s probably a very wise decision, but I’m going to tell you what mine was; I’m going to spin you through it. Thought leader? I say nah, they're too busy dreaming up books or running businesses. Designer? Forget them, they're a chocolate mess; they’re all over the place, but that's what they're paid to do, that's their brilliance. The writer? Good choice, possibly, if you’re going to try to win the war of words on the web, but they're probably not going to lead the charge. I don’t think they have the charisma to unite the whole company, which is really necessary to win the war. The optimizer? Yikes, run for the hills if you have your optimizer. Your website is going to end up looking like Amazon, and the only thing that will matter is performance, and that would be a shame. The performer? Certainly; always a good choice, especially if the CEO is making a decision. We could talk about that forever. Editor? Also an interesting choice; they’re down there in the trenches.
Certainly we could talk about that, and I want to hear your thoughts on that because they’re certainly going to get it done. That's important, but maybe one more candidate whom I call social power. They’re plugged in to LinkedIn; they’re plugged in to industry trends. They understand the conversations happening in the industry and why those conversations get passed around. She follows all the channels, connects with customers and reads all of the content published in each channel. She knows the right assets to get to the right people at the right time to really enhance the buying experience. She gets brainstorming and that's actually really cool, particularly when you’re trying to unite teams and companies to be united with the same goal; namely, let's pump out stuff that people are interested in, that help build our brand. They certainly understand the power of A/B testing; they would need to in order to be successful. They understand editing, and they can really spot check the work of freelancers or even possibly editors’ work to make sure it aligns with the brand tone, not so much the AP style or Chicago style.
Without a doubt, this one person would need to understand the power of how to put the cloud to work to find those freelancers in the marketplace who could contribute, even if you are a one-person company doing this. She, of course, has a cute boyfriend who lets her work all the time serving up great ideas for breakfast. Of course, she motivates employees to join in the marketing revolution. She knows how to curate all the great ideas and bring them into the best stories. She knows ideation and how to bring content solutions to the table. She knows how to power up with the right technology and methodology. She can snap original photographs or images and quickly load them up to the social feeds. She's curious as a cat, and I think this is actually close to the last slide, but this is probably the most important asset that this all-star would have, on my team at least. The question is, is this you? Here's a question for you, Robert. Does this person exist, and if they did, would they be your choice?
Robert Rose: I’m surprised you didn’t have a unicorn up there. You just described in a nutshell someone who basically has all of the roles, so it’s a tough one. It’s a very, very difficult role to fill these days. Those people are very, very difficult to find but if you can find them, they’re gold, they’re absolute gold.
Byron White: Let's just talk about that for a second. Clearly, SMBs and even midsize organizations cannot afford a full staff of seven or eight people. My contention in going through that last series with everyone was, I think one person in a company can do it all. I really do, and I think the technology is on our side; the knowledge, thanks to places like Content Marketing Institute, is on our side. This is not hard; it's not hard to publish good content. You need good writers, you need good technology, you need a name, you need a vision. I think these are really exciting jobs and exciting skill sets that people can learn. Thoughts on that? Are we getting closer to that?
Robert Rose: No, I think we’re actually moving further away from that because I think some skills are fragmenting even as we speak, due to the exponential growth of the number of channels that have to be managed and the exponential way that we have to deal with formats of content, the fragmentation of content production across the entire organization, whether they’re large or small businesses. I think we’re probably moving further away from someone capably doing that. I think more to the point, would someone want to do all of that over time. It would be very difficult to find someone who is a great photographer, a great organizer and a great project manager. Assuming you could find that person, the chances that they would love doing all of those things is pretty low.
Their product would be the love social media; I love photography, I love editing, I love writing, and that's what I want to do with my career. I want to specialize and not be a Jill of all trades and master of none. To your point, at a smaller organization, that’s going to be the reality for a lot of smaller organizations, especially when they’re starting out. It goes back to my metaphor of the personal trainer and getting a muscle developed. Start small, have one person do it all, find out where that person wants to grow and find out what you want to add on as you get better at it.
Byron White: Right. I don't disagree with needing to specialize at some point, but you do need a ringleader, and what's interesting is your chief content officer probably has the skill set and at least understands most of those skills we described that are certainly the summary of all of them. I guess my point is that you can be successful at content marketing without eight people on your staff. You can be successful at engaging your customers without a designer or a full-time in-house writer. You can be successful at putting out great content and becoming a student and an evangelist in learning about content marketing, so you can offer a great value to your company. That's was my thought on all that. Does that make sense?
Robert Rose: Yep, it does.
Byron White: With all of the advancements of tools and amazing writers at your fingertips through platforms like ours, it’s possible; it is possible to have a small army of talent that are experts in these areas, that you’re really ring leading from the inside of your company. Agree with that as well?
Robert Rose: I do; the word I like is orchestrate, because it calls to mind that you've got 25 independent musicians, some of them freelancers and some of them part of your organization, and what you're really doing is orchestrating a great tune.
Byron White: Right. If I were to have one skill that they were freakishly amazing at, it would probably be editing, strangely enough. What’s your take on that? Because you've got to have the command centralized when it comes to publishing a steady stream of content, and that content has to be good. Would that be your choice as well?
Robert Rose: It would not; mine would be storyteller. You can argue that there is some overlap there, but I would argue that if I’m going to have them be freakishly good at something, it’s going to be finding what the real story is and being able to tell it.
Byron White: Interesting. What are the characteristics of a storyteller in your mind? By the way, have you read Sisimo by Kevin Roberts the former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi?
Robert Rose: I have not read that.
Byron White: You have to get that; I'll send you a link to that book, Robert. It is one of my all-time favorites; it’s a book about storytelling from his perspective, it’s brilliant.
Robert Rose: I think it’s the ability to pull the real story out of the facts that are presented, and find out what the core is. It’s what we talked about earlier, where it's not just about describing value, which is what marketers have historically been really good at. We know how to write copy and describe the value of the product or service we’re selling. It's actually looking at all of those things and saying, “What new value can we create for our customers? What story can we tell our customers?” It’s someone who has the capability to say, “You know what? We actually need to be really good at helping small business owners manage their lives better, and here’s the story that’s going to help that.” So, American Express offers up the Amex open network, and has that idea, and helps structure it, and create some of the content. The rest of it can, quite frankly, be outsourced for at least the initial piece until it becomes a core competency of the business.
Byron White: Can you ever imagine content marketing being called storytelling?
Robert Rose: I don't think it will be called storytelling, only because it will be one of those things that’s too wooie, wow, wow for most businesses. I do, however, think that storytelling with media production and a content marketing group may end up being called something else within the business, even other than marketing. It may become a core competency of businesses that are outside the realm of what we now think of as marketing. That’s a little too futuristic looking, maybe, but I do believe it can become separate; I don't necessarily think it will be called storytelling.
Byron White: Well, it’s not too futuristic for you Robert, thanks so much. Before we do that Robert, we have a couple of links to a few books I wrote; the latest is Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide. Save yourself 20 bucks or whatever it’s selling for these days, and my original Content Marketing Roadmap will be super helpful for people who tuned in to listen today. Robert, thank you so much for being with us today.
Robert Rose: Thanks for having me, this was fun.
Byron White: It was fun. We smiled a lot and laughed a lot, particularly at the beginning part where we really screwed up with me yelling at my team members here; I thought that was really cool.
Robert Rose: Yes. Well, it'll get edited out, so that’s where you need a good editor.
Byron White: Fair enough, well said. Thanks again for listening, everyone. Until next month, I hope your life is a little smarter, faster, wiser when it comes to content marketing. Thanks for tuning in to our webinar series. Thanks everyone.