Meghan Law: Hello everyone and welcome to the Access CEO podcast. I’m Meghan Law. I’m the talent manager here at WriterAccess and I’m sitting down today with Byron White, CEO of WriterAccess, to talk about some new things going on here. Welcome Byron.
Byron White: First of all, Meghan, you’re doing an awesome job in the talent department. Hats off to you.
Meghan Law: Well, thank you.
Byron White: You have actually developed some fans that have reached out to me and said, “Hey, Meghan’s doing a great job with the— “
Meghan Law: Oh, that’s so nice.
Byron White: Yes indeed. Thanks, everyone for the positive feedback with Meghan. We’re very happy with her role here and it’s wonderfully ironic that her last name is Law, because she’s setting the law down on the dos and don’ts for our success and advancement at WriterAccess. Hats off Meghan. Good job.
Meghan Law: Thank you. Let’s jump in and start to talk about what’s new and what’s going on with WriterAccess these days.
Byron White: Indeed. Let’s see. We’ve got a new app that is out to clients currently, that is designed to help them manage the workflow and communicate with writers more directly. We’re very excited about that and this just in, we should have the Talent App out next week as well, that will allow writers to manage the workflow, and keep the orders going and the content flowing. That will be very exciting while you’re orbiting at high speeds, I guess, is the best way to describe that. We’ve very excited about the app development. It’s taken about three or four months, believe it or not, to develop this app. It’s very complicated work. That’s work for our API.
We started with UX design, which took about a month. Then it went right to development and it’s been a major investment for our company. We hope everyone’s very excited about it. Next up, the translation service continues to remain an asset now that we have in our portfolio yet another service that we’re offering. We’re looking at a couple more services as well, for 2017. We’ll keep people in tune with that as we make more progress. We loaded something up just today, officially. We have the talent bonuses and tips, if you will, so customers can offer a year-end tip or bonus to any writer. We are taking no fees for the month of December on those tips. We’re very excited to hopefully generate some additional revenue directly from clients and customers to talents. We’re excited about that. Let’s see. Next on my list, there’s a lot new Meghan, to answer to your question. Sorry about the long answer here.
Meghan Law: Oh. That’s all right.
Byron White: Content marketing conferences in full force. We will start our advertising next week and promotions. We’re moving the conference from Vegas to Boston, which we’re very excited about. You can go visit contentmarketingconference.com. This is our own conference and we are in our third year of it right now, for anybody that might be new. We hope our writers and our talent pool is excited about it as well. There’s great learning and great opportunity to connect with us on a different level, namely in person and to learn what’s new and what’s next with content marketing, and also content strategy. There’re some really great speakers this year and some great workshops. We’ve expanded everything.
We expect to continue our growth. We had an unbelievably successful conference in 2016, but we think 2017 is going to be bigger, and better and more fun so take a look at the website. Finally, and perhaps more importantly, because it’s really the focus of today’s entire presentation and that is the launch of content strategy services that we’re launching. We’ll dive more deeply into that with some specific questions you have Meghan, but content strategy, yahoo. That’s a really exciting new addition to our talent pool and I’m happy to talk about it more with everyone today.
Meghan Law: Yeah, I think we’re all really excited about the new service and would love to know more. That said, let’s jump right in and talk about that content strategy.
Byron White: Sounds good.
Meghan Law: I’d love to hear from you. Why did we decide to launch and offer content strategy services?
Byron White: Great first question. We pulled our customers and we asked them; what are the biggest challenges you have with regards to content creation, and what solutions might we consider. We learned that content strategy is a pain point for most companies, I could successfully say. We really wanted to dig deeply into how we could help customers. We began plotting, planning and looking closely at the options that we had and it is challenging. That’s for sure. We also took a look at our core values and we really believe that both with our employees, and our customers and our talent, we have a genuine commitment to help people advance themselves in their careers.
We think content strategy is really the next level for our writers, as well as our editors, and anybody that’s trying to advance in the content marketing revolution that’s happening. We wanted to tap into those core values of our company and do something that was really exciting and aligned with our brand. Finally, we felt like we have a pretty unique value proposition that we’re going to be bringing to the table. We used to be a full-service content marketing agency for about five years before we started WriterAccess almost seven years ago. We had a lot of insight into content strategy, because that’s really what we sold as a service. The development of content plans and all kinds of fun stuff. That was our goal and that was our objective.
We combined all of those things, the ability to develop a unique value proposition that would help us stand out from other companies maybe offering content strategy, and we wanted to really do something unique and different that we knew our customers needed, as well as to help advance the careers of some of our writers; and to bring in some new content strategist, their experience into the platform.
Meghan Law: What kind of service and solutions will content strategists offer customers?
Byron White: Sure. Excellent question, and let me footnote that by saying, you could really screw this up, and when we first started talking with customers about content strategy, they all said, “Yeah, I need that, I need that, “ but they really couldn’t pinpoint what they actually needed. We did a lot of work and a lot of investigation with what do you want some of them to do. Or, you have challenge with SEO? Are you challenged with developing topic ideas? Do you have a thorough understanding? What should our role be? What should our purpose be?
When we sat back and took a look at it, we said our core business is content creation. Okay, so we need to make that part of content strategy the focus of what we do. We want to help our writers create better content and therefore help our customers create better content at the same time. To us, that is really what content strategy is. Better content that performs better, delivers more results. That’s the goal of content strategy. What we did is we said, let’s really break this down. Let’s go back and take a look at what we used to do when we were a full-service content marketing agency and look at what services were we offering. What did we really produce that helped this whole process?
What we did is we said, let’s take these big monster content plans that we used to create, some of which, by the way, took 400 hours to produce, if you can imagine, and let’s look at us performing those services 10 years ago. Let’s see what’s changed about that. Let’s see how we would do that differently now. What we decided to do was to actually come up with four products, four specific products that we think will help our writers create better content and our strategists, content strategists, deliver assets that will help customers create better content; help writers create better content, and aim content in a better direction. Those four products are… drum roll please, a keyword map, a customer journey map, a creative brief and a buyer persona or personas. Plural. What we’re asking content strategists to do and what we’re rolling out is the development of fixed rate, flat rate fee, to have any of these products created, which we believe customers want and need to make content marketing work. Let’s go over them a little bit.
Everybody understands what a creative brief is, but content strategists are in very good positions to take a big-picture view of talking with the customer, trying to assemble the right samples that help align the brand’s goal with the actual content that’s going to be created by our writer. We’re asking a professional content strategist to come in and actually create a creative brief for a particular asset type. Let’s come up with a blog strategy. What are the guiding rules that we’re looking for? Let’s learn a little bit about the company. We think a content strategist can do a better job of summarizing what a company is doing and what their value proposition is, quickly and efficiently, than maybe even the customer, because this takes work. This takes skill. This takes strategy.
We’re going to pay a flat rate fee for a strategist to come in and help a customer put together a creative brief that we believe will help a writer generate better content. Particularly with references to samples and dissecting those samples to actually have some call outs, for example, with what is great about this sample; what do we want the writer to do? That’s an example where we take the concept of a creative brief and we really pump it up to the next level and make it all work. Next up is a keyword map. A keyword map is, for many writers that maybe listening to this podcast, a tumultuous experience of diving into some technology. In this case, we are recommending SpyFu.
Looking over the competitive universe of which competitors from this particular client are driving organic traffic from the search engines and what keywords are driving that traffic. Let’s look at them all, and analyze them and put them into various silos to help form a strategy for the customer to go after, with regards to search engine optimization. This product will be available and we’ll ask content strategists that are ready, willing and able to produce this product and any others I’m describing now, to make themselves available so they appear in the search results that says, “Yes, I can do a keyword map.”
On to the next is a customer journey map. Another great asset. Customer journey maps can vary with the stages that you’re going to be analyzing. We’ve got a wonderful example of a customer journey map that we think is going to serve as a template. We’ve actually got examples and templates for all of these products that I’m listing, that both a content strategist and a customer can look at to say, “Oh, now I understand what I’m buying here and I understand how I’m going to use it, how writers are going to use it.” That’s really what we’ve created here. The customer journey map is a wonderful description where we’re trying to get under the skin with what customers are thinking and feeling about their experience with a company. They can start out in the discovery stage and progress all the way through the sharing stage. We think that by analyzing all of this and by documenting it, it’s going to greatly help a writer get on a full understanding of not only what customers are thinking and feeling, but what topics might appeal to that, to customers at various stages throughout the journey, and therefore help them progress through the journey with the information that they want and need throughout each stage of the journey.
That’s what the customer journey map is all about. Another really innovative and fantastic tool that we think we can turn into a product and have content strategists greatly help both customers, and the team members within a customer’s department, all really understand deeply what the journey is all about and what content we should be creating to appeal and engage customers at various stages. The final product is buyer personas. Everybody really understands what those are, typically, but you can also have a negative persona which we’re suggesting. Which is, who do we not want to create content for?
Which is terribly exciting, at least in my mind, and a little bit innovative. We’ll be asking content strategists to work with customers to make this all come together. We had these four products, but we also are going to be selling the opportunity for strategists to earn income by simply being hired to help manage the workflow and the platform. Here is where clients simply buy some of your time to help them, and to take over the process of placing orders, coming up with ideas for topics, working with the writers, even picking the writers or editing the work, that the writers come back and make sure that everything is set up and aligned, so you’d be paid more on an hourly basis to simply take over, if you will, control of the assets that are being created every month.
With an agreement on, “Okay. Yeah, I can do that in five…” Maybe 10 hours the first month or five hours the next month or 50 hours the first month and 10 hours every month after that. Whatever you’re agreeing to with the customer, that becomes something that the content strategist says, “Yes, I want to do this. I want to help you manage the content. Maybe after you’ve created some assets, you have a thorough understanding.” Or maybe a content strategist wants to be available to actually manage the workflow. They don’t want to create any of the products. That might be probable as well. We’ll see who wants to do what, after everybody gets a deeper understanding of these products and the services we’re launching.
Meghan Law: That’s great. Yeah, I do you think we have a great need amongst our customers for kind of both those turnkey products, as well that kind of managed service that that hourly time would be?
Byron White: We know we’re on to something big when there’s actually like a line out the door, of customers that want to buy these products and services. That’s literally what we have right now. They’ve been explained to the customers. Customers have seen what these products look like, and they’re excited about them, and they want to buy them. We think it’s going to be really hot and we think it’s a great way to educate and acclimate content strategists on some simple products that can be done in a fixed amount of time.
Maybe you can turn this around on a weekend or you can turn this around in a couple of nights if you have a fulltime job already as a content strategist, but you want to freelance on the side. Or maybe this is a nice daylong project you dive into deeply and just crank it out. So the products are going to be priced with some feedback actually, from some content strategists and customers, to try to find the right price point for these assets once people can take a look at them.
Meghan Law: Yeah, and that kind of hones in on what my next question was going to be. Which is sort of, what do you feel like… the rates that our customers are going to be paid for that, what can a content strategist make on our platform?
Byron White: Right on. The good news is, for the hourly content management workflow in the platform, we’re going to perform our service as we do… the same service we perform with writers and that is to basically have three, four, five and six-star strategists that have hourly rates that equate to $35 an hour, $50 an hour, $75 an hour or a hundred plus an hour, depending on what that six-star writer would want to earn and/or what that six-star writer is willing to agree to, that a customer can submit to them.
That’s easy and our job of screening those talent will make it easy. I’ll talk about that in a second. We’re going to help customers be guided to talent that we’ve certified and approved for the rates. The products are interesting. The creative brief right now, we think, should be priced out at $300, which would equate to whatever, how many hours you want to look at it. All of the products, by the way, require a kick off call with the content strategist and the customer, to have the strategist ask lots of questions that will provide answers that will be used in the products that are being developed. There’s an opportunity for that and there’s also even some further back and forth that might want to be clarified while the products are being produced.
The creative brief, right now, I feel pretty good about a $300 price per customers and obviously, the talent is also making 70 percent of these numbers I’m giving you so $35, $50, $75, a hundred plus. Strategists make 70 percent of that same with our products. $300 times 0.70. You get the answer. The keyword map, I feel like these products, really all of them are about the same price point. There may be some variation, but I think… Let’s start with the keyword map. There’s a lot of grinding of data in there, and mapping out keywords into silos and looking for patterns, and doing some analysis of things like paper quick price, search volume, difficulty to rank for.
Comparing that with some little out rhythms we built in. We’ll actually probably do the keyword research and provide a spreadsheet to both the client and the content strategist as part of our solution for this, because we have got a license to SpyFu and can quickly get the data for people. Then it would be given to the strategist to kind of map it all in and do some various spreadsheets to remove duplicate keywords and all kinds of fun stuff. I’ll be hosting another webinar or a podcast with the content strategists, to walk them through how these products are actually created.
I won’t go into details yet, but I think the right price point is somewhere between 1,000 and $2,000 for these three products that I mentioned; the keyword map, the customer journey and the buyer persona. We’re going to try and talk with some strategists, get some feedback on that after people see these products. That was your answer to the pricing. A long--
Meghan Law: Great.
Byron White: Winded answer, like all of my answers apparently today. Sorry about that everyone.
Meghan Law: That’s all right. Now, just to get it a little bit. As founder and CEO of WriterAccess, you’ve had a lot of experience working with writers and getting writing services up for our customers. Now, what makes content strategy a little bit trickier in comparison?
Byron White: Another great question. Content is a product that can be priced by the word. Content strategy is a service that is not only tricky to price, but even tricky to define. We’re solving this problem by trying to sell products, content strategy products that offer solutions at a fixed rate price. We believe these products are the right products that…the marketplace that solve some really powerful problems and they do it in, I think, a logical way. The jury is out to see if we price them right and to see how hard they are for a certain strategist to complete them.
Somebody with a higher level of service or how higher level of proficiency is going to be able to complete them faster. We’re just going to have to see if this one price range really works, but I’m convinced it is. It’s a tricky challenge we have. We are certainly not an agency. We don’t want to be viewed as a content agency. We don’t offer anything other than some nice, simple, content strategy products that a customer can use with a writer. That’s really what we’re developing. It’s some content products here. This is not to… We’re not going to be held accountable for performance, and then tripling traffic rates, or signing contracts with customers saying, “If you buy these products, your traffic is going to skyrocket.” That’s really not what these are all about.
These are products that are meant to be solutions that really could even be purchased by agencies that want to get a quick product developed. A quicker product developed and maybe they’re short on in-house resources, and they just want somebody to do some grinding, to do some thinking and to get a better snapshot. It is tricky in here. It’s tricky waters we’re going down, but our customers are just asking for it and frankly, the marketplace needs it and we need to be cranking out content that has a mission, and a purpose and a strategy behind it. We need to aim content in the right direction and it’s a shame not to be in a position to do that. I think we can.
Meghan Law: That’s great. Okay, so now, to kind of get down into the meat of it here, I’m kind of… ask a little bit of a broad question, but how is it going to work with content strategists? Who can apply? How does the application work? Those kind of details, I think we’d all like to know.
Byron White: Yes, me too. Just kidding. All right. Now that we have some clarity on where we’re going, namely a product-driven focus, with an option for some project management workflow, hourly solution, we really need a plan and the plan is actually pretty simple. Number one, it’s to download a free book, which I’m having… it’s literally being designed as we speak. It’s written, it’s up, it’s taken about four months to produce, but it’s a book that is called Content Strategy Course Book.
It’s a wonderful well documented book on everything you need to know about content strategy, including how to create these products that we’re developing, which have to happen to fit with content strategy and the elements of content strategy, which I believe are planning, creation, optimization, distribution, performance measurement, and then content management on top of that, as a sixth component to content strategy. The book walks people through things and it’s going to be free for anybody to download.
It’s going to be a great service that we launch at WriterAccess for anybody to take free of charge. Download the book. You’re then going to be able to read the book and review the fundamentals of content strategy. Then you’re going to be able to take a test online; and also produce some homework as part of your course where… and that homework will be used to help certify you as a content strategist within the WriterAccess community and you’ll be certified much like you’re certified as a writer or an editor. We have tests for both of those areas of expertise.
We have some other tests as well, for translators, and some other stuff we’re working on. We want to certify people and educate them at the same time, which I really think is what needs to be done. The same is true with even writing. We’re going to hope to take our writing up to the next level. I wrote a book that everyone may or may not know about, called The Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide. In that book, I sort of go into a much more granular aspect of what to expect when you pay more for content. What are the elements of content that you get when you charge customer more money, or when a customer is buying more money? That’s a very technical book that I think has been really helpful for both writers and customers to get on the same page, and I’m hoping this content strategy does the same thing. It helps guide people to what is strategy, why do we need it. What is optimization? What does it mean and how do we do it?
We’ve gotten really granular. So that’s how it’s going to be set up. Everyone will also then acknowledge A, that they’ve taken… they’ve read the book, they understand it, they’re on the same page. Customers can even read the book, and take a look at it, and look at the chapters of maybe some of the products that they’re interested in buying and how they all play into this whole stage cyclical approach to content creation. Everybody be on the same page and then we hope this whole program will really work. We’re not charging for it. We’re offering it as yet our commitment to our core values to help people educate, and advance their careers, and perform great work, and deliver great work. That’s what we’re trying to do at WriterAccess and that’s how this will all work, if that makes sense Meghan.
Meghan Law: That’s great. Yeah, I think that’s amazing and congratulations on your book.
Byron White: Thanks.
Meghan Law: Once on the platform, once the strategist has been certified, and they’ve applied, and been accepted onto the platform, how will customers then hire that content strategist?
Byron White: Right. Customers will be able to perform a search and find content strategist quickly that can deliver on the products they want or on the hourly service that they’re looking for, for content management. They’ll see a portfolio of writers. They’ll be able to look at their profiles, just like they can right now. The difference is the products will be attached to the search results, so you can better find writers that are ready, willing, and able, and capable, and have gone through the certification program so we can actually see their samples they’ve produced.
Those samples, by the way, will also be available on their profile as an option for the content strategist to actually showcase some examples of work that they’ve created. So the customers can go in and kind of take a look at the work they’ve done and all get on the same page with what they’ll likely be delivering based upon these templates that we’re creating for both customers and then writer. The customer just selects the product they want. They find a strategist.
They submit an order form. They say, “Ta da. Here, look. I’ve got a thousand bucks for you, or 2000 bucks or fifteen hundred dollars. “I’m placing this order. Do you want to accept this job? Here are some specifications I’m looking for. In my customer journey, I want to have five stages. Not eight stages.” Blah, blah, blah. “The keywords. I’m looking for the top 100 keywords, not 2000 keywords.” They’ll customize what they want, what their product want and they’ll be ready, and willing and able to pay the suggested price for it. Or maybe more if their order forms are more complicated and there’s more work or maybe less work.
They’ll be able to submit an order to a content strategist, and that strategist either reproves, or accepts the price, and the terms, and delivers accordingly. These products, right now, we’re setting for delivery on a couple of weeks sort of turnaround. It’s not like this is a three-day turnaround where we’re trying to fix the… Excuse me. The whole system, so it’s manageable and doable on both ends and it’s a defined course of action.
Meghan Law: Okay.
Byron White: A kickoff call will then happen between both parties. Answering any questions necessary for the work. The content of the products will be delivered using the templates we’re providing for guidance and reference. Any revisions will be managed between the strategist and the customer, and if a customer is happy, they pay and release the funds from our pre-pay system; sort of an Escrow based system off you go and on to the next.
Meghan Law: Sounds easy enough. Now, once the strategist is up and they’re working with clients on the platform, how should they be using the WriterAccess team, as us kind of here at headquarters, as a support system?
Byron White: Sure. What we’re trying to do is to create a scalable solution that has very few snags. By defining the products and showcasing them, we really believe that our role and responsibility here is facilitating the connection inside of our platform between a strategist and a customer. Once those two are connected, it’s really up to the strategist to deliver the project without hiccups and with working directly and using our wonderful communication tools, especially our new communication threaded tools you can actually see what’s going on much better now with more of a direct communication between the customer and you, the talent.
What we don’t want to do is to have to be a middle person. Get involved in sitting here ourselves and debriefing a customer on what their goals are for one of their products. That’s not going to help the product be created. The strategist needs to hear that. We are looking for a direct communication and we’re looking for customers to find strategists they might like. We can certainly offer some recommendations like we do now for our bigger customers that want more of a VIP please help me choose the right strategist that can deliver on this. We certainly are willing to offer recommendations based upon our knowledge of performance in the past. For the most part, it’s a direct connect. That’s the answer.
Meghan Law: Okay, great. I think that’s pretty clear-cut. Now, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong and maybe the client isn’t happy with the end-result, what happens then?
Byron White: It’s really the same situation as happens right now. That is that we one hundred percent guarantee these products. Much like we do every content asset that we create at WriterAccess. If a customer is unhappy with it, they simply have to tell the strategist in, this case, what’s wrong with it and how they can make it better and meet the expectations. All of the calls are recorded so we can listen back to them and make sure that the writer was not misdirected, which we view as a problem on the customer’s end, which would justify the talent or the strategist being paid for the project if it doesn’t get accepted in its final tenure. With that feedback of what’s wrong with it, we then give the strategist a chance to fix it and if they still can’t fix it, the customer is never going to pay period, the end.
The only debate we’re going to have is whether the strategist has the skill and the proficiency to deliver a product of this nature. If they do, we’ll look over their work and make that decision by looking at their work and listening to the recordings, just to make sure that we’re representing the right strategist that can deliver on the goals that customers have. This work is nebulous. That’s why we really wanted to define these products and make them very strategically defined. No pun intended, I guess I should say. We’ve defined the products and are showcasing the products. We really feel like everyone onboard has a really good guide. It’s just a matter of how much time is it going to take to produce it and is it going to be worth it for this strategist to do this work. Is it going to be helpful for the writers to read this work and see this work?
We think it is and we’re convinced that this is the right move, and we’re doing it the right way, but the jury will be out and we appreciate everybody having the desire to help us beta test this and really get this right. I think if we can get it right, we’re on to something really big and WriterAccess becomes a much different place that you can go to, that moves us out of this mill concept, which I just… my… hair on the back of my neck stands up whenever I hear that or say that. That’s about the furthest thing in the world that WriterAccess has worked hard to build its reputation around.
We’re all about quality content, making sure our talent are paid fairly. I’ve written a book on that very topic to help protect the fair pay issue for quality work. So we want to continue the same and be a strong arm here in the marketplace to compensate writers, strategists, journalists, storytellers, fairly for the great work they’re performing as long as that work is in fact great. That’s my quick take on that one, Meghan.
Meghan Law: That’s great. Thank you. I know you’ve been talking to customers, to colleagues, to fellow marketers. How do you think this new service is going to be received?
Byron White: Well, we know that customers need the service. That’s for sure. The jury is out on content strategists and their ability to align with these decisions we’ve made to sell products to customers. We hope that they follow suit and get as excited as we are about it, but we’re only as good as the talent we represent. We’re looking for strategists that share this vision, that we can make the world a better place with content strategy, rather than just aimlessly producing content. We’re convinced that if we can roll this out and make it a win-win for customers, and WriterAccess, and most importantly, the talent producing this work, we can have a real winner here. I’m hoping it’s received well.
Meghan Law: I’m sure it will be. I just want to thank you again for taking the time to answer some of these question for us. One last quick question. Is the door opened for feedback? Is there a way that people can reach you or reach us to provide that feedback if they have it?
Byron White: Please, please, pleased. I’d love to hear form anybody that has graciously spent the time to listen to this and I thank you for this. I’d love to hear from anyone and everybody with what you think about this direction that we’re going in. You can’t be in a position quite yet to judge the products or price the products until you get a hold of them, but that should be coming next week, hopefully. So you can actually see some examples of these products.
We’re going to roll this out in the backend of WriterAccess. You’re going to be able to look at all of this. and download the book and everything will be rolling out in the next few weeks. As you see this stuff or as you listen to this, I’d love to hear from anybody. You can send me feedback to my email address; byronwhite@writeraccess is probably the best place to catch. That’s the email address that you all get in any of the promotions that I send out anyway. Just hit a reply in any one and let me know where your thoughts are. We’ll get right back to you and be very appreciative to get your help in building something fresh, and new and innovative for the marketplace.
Meghan Law: All right. Well, thank you so much for your time.
Byron White: Right on, Meghan. Thanks, as well. Appreciate everyone listening in. Wow, this is really long. Sorry about that. Hopefully it helped everyone too. You’re doing a great job Meghan. Thanks, everyone. Talk soon.
Meghan Law: Bye-bye.