Transcript of Everything You Need to Know About Creating Strategic Content
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by SEMrush. It is our go-to SEO tool for doing audits, for tracking position and ranking, for really getting ideas on how to get more organic traffic for our clients, competitive intelligence, backlinks and things like that. All the important SEO tools that you need for pay traffic, social media, PR and of course, SEO. Check it out at semrush.com/partner/ducttapemarketing. We’ll have that in the show notes.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rachel Parker. She is the CEO of Resonance Content Marketing and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today called The Content Marketing Coach. Rachel, thanks for joining me.
Rachel Parker: Thank you John. Happy to be here.
John Jantsch: I wondered if we could start today’s call off with a few stances of Musetta’s Waltz from La Boheme. Surely you sung that aria before.
Rachel Parker: I have. I have. Yes.
John Jantsch: Obviously I did a little research, and on top of being an SEO and content expert, you are a trained soprano.
Rachel Parker: I am, yes.
John Jantsch: But unfortunately I read with sadness that you don’t get to do that very much anymore.
Rachel Parker: Not very much. Mostly in the shower and occasionally in the car, but that’s about it these days.
John Jantsch: So let’s talk about content marketing, shall we? Set the table maybe for … I still get this all time. People like you and I talk about content this, content that, and people are still saying, “What exactly is content? Is that a blog post?”
Rachel Parker: Yep, good question. And there’s a lot of confusion over what content is and is not. I define content as any communication with your audience that is not selling. So that could be anything, I mean, literally anything from a birthday card to an ebook to your own university program. It’s connecting with your audience without pushing your product or services. And it’s as simple as that.
John Jantsch: Well, that’s interesting because why wouldn’t you include, I mean, at some point you move people through the journey to the point where they want to buy and you’re still producing content that I think has to convince them. Why you? I mean, why would you exclude? I get that content is not exclusively about pushing. It’s mostly about education. But at some point you’ve got to convert them with content?
Rachel Parker: Absolutely, and that’s one thing I tell people. To borrow a term from the dating world, we don’t want to run up in the friend zone. We don’t want to be, “Oh, I really like you for your ebooks and stuff, but whoa, purchase, hang on, hang on.” So yeah, we do want to think about guiding them through a funnel and we think about the top of the funnel stuff, which is our search attracting assets like our blog and our social media, and then moving them further down maybe into downloadable assets and into webinars. And yeah, eventually you want to have a one-on-one conversation with them and say, “Okay, here’s what we have to offer. Can we talk a little further about this?”
John Jantsch: Well, and I for years have actually taken it beyond that. I think that once they become a customer, there’s certainly a role for content in continuing the loyalty, getting them to purchase more, getting them to refer. And I think that’s where I think so many people just think it’s get the order, but I think its role is far beyond that.
Rachel Parker: Absolutely. I think the biggest problem with the traditional sales fun is that it stops when they sign on the bottom line. There is a whole world of relationship beyond that. I mean they could be recommending you to their friends. They could be, like you said, buying more product, upselling. I mean there’s a tremendous, there are tremendous opportunities beyond the sale.
John Jantsch: It’s probably the, especially when we’re talking about small business owners that are quite often very time strapped. What’s the answer there? Because I mean to do everything that people like you and I talk about is really time consuming. To do it right and particularly for the typical owner who certainly is making the sausages or whatever it is back in the ag shop too. So how do you kind of balance the fact that it does take a lot of work with the fact that it is so necessary?
Rachel Parker: Sure. And it does take a lot of work to do and to do well. I mean there are some people who think, “Oh, as long as it gets something out there, as long as I check off on my to-do list, post on Facebook, or publish blog posts.” But it needs to be done well. Especially for a small business owners who are one man, woman shops, it can be challenging.
Rachel Parker: One thing to do is you can look into outsourcing. You can bring in a freelance writer who can write those blog posts for you, someone who can handle your social media. That’s one way to do it. I think the worst thing you can do is just say, “Well, I don’t have time for it so it’s just not going to happen,” because that’s where we’re coming to in the marketing world. It’s no longer nice to have.
John Jantsch: Well, so let me ask you then. So that person that says, “Well, I either don’t have the money or the time to do it well, at least I’m doing something,” is … I mean, is that better than nothing?
Rachel Parker: Yeah, something is definitely better than nothing. So if all you can manage is one good quality blog post a month, then go for it. It’s not going to set your traffic on fire. But when you encounter potential customer and you say, “Please feel free to go to my website,” and they are seeing that quality content, that’s going to up your stock. So yeah, I would be the first to say that anything is better than nothing.
John Jantsch: How do you think … You mentioned the blog word. I mean is that … I’ve been blogging, gosh, 13 years now, and it’s changed dramatically the position or the role or what blogging actually is. In fact, we build most of the websites for our clients just using WordPress. We don’t really talk about it being a blog. It’s just a content management system. So do you believe that everyone needs that, whether we call it a blog or whatever we decide to call it, do you think everyone needs that kind of publishing ability?
Rachel Parker: I think it’s one of those things that everybody really needs. When we think about blog, we think about words on a page. But really you could do videos. You could do audios. You could record. You don’t necessarily have to have a formal podcast, but you could record audios on a platform like SoundCloud and just embed those and have that be your audio blogs. There are many possibilities.
Rachel Parker: But I think the blog is essential because the first thing is you own your website, which is something that you cannot say about your Facebook page or your Twitter account. That is your real estate. When people go to your site, I think they need to see some kind of publication that comes from you and that you own.
John Jantsch: So one of the things that I hear … Let’s back up to the strategy a little bit because we’ve been talking about, “Oh, you need to be producing content, you need to be producing content.” Well, you can certainly waste a lot of time producing content that either nobody wants to read or isn’t really going to drive people to know, like, and trust you. What do you say to people when they’re trying to get started? How do you make … I often refer to the fact that content needs to be the voice of strategy. So how do you make it the voice of strategy as opposed to just another tactic?
Rachel Parker: Sure. Your content marketing strategy absolutely has to begin with your audience. If you don’t know exactly who that audience is, then find out before you do anything. This is a challenge for everyone, but I find especially John in the B2B world, because I’ll ask people, “Who’s your audience?” And they say, “Well, midsize companies in manufacturing located in the mid west.” And then I say, “Okay, who in that company?” And they say, “Oh, well, the CEO would be great I guess, or the COO, or maybe a VP.” And they don’t know literally whose eyeballs you want on the other side of that content. So knowing your audience has got to be step number one.
John Jantsch: And it’s interesting about that is, it may, the answer actually may be all three, but they have different objectives and goals, which makes it even worse. So what do you tell people? One of the things, another question I get asked all the time is, “I don’t know what to write about. Where should I get ideas?” I mean, where do you send people to look for ideas about what would make sense for them to write about?
Rachel Parker: Sure. The first thing, again, once you know your audience, see if you can find out where they get their content, what books or magazines do they read, what websites do they go to, what Facebook pages do they subscribe to, and do a little snooping around and see what other people are doing in your industry. Then another thing you can do is just ask your audience. Set up a SurveyMonkey or something very simple via email and say, “Hey, what are the topics that are going to make your life easier, or that are going to help you do your job better? And how can we help with that?” So I would start with that.
John Jantsch: Yeah. There’s also some great tools that are available today too. My listeners will recognize this one because I talk about it all the time. I love BuzzSumo. When I kind of have an idea of a topic or a theme, I can go there and find very specific content, and that that has been shared and theoretically proven that people are interested. And that can be a really great way to stimulate some ideas.
John Jantsch: I think for a number of years we had the … we started talking about content marketing as though it were a separate channel. And I think a lot of people certainly look at it that way. But I think that it’s actually, in fact, I talk about it just being the air for marketing today that we really have to integrate. I mean, you can’t really do effective SEO, you can’t do very effective advertising, in my opinion, without content. You certainly can’t do much PR without good content. So, how do you think in terms of the other channels that you … that clearly you need to feed but need content to do that?
Rachel Parker: Yeah. Yeah, it’s an interesting point, John. I relate it to, there’s a reason why we don’t talk about color TVs anymore because that’s what it is. There is nothing else. I think the term content marketing may be fading away the next few years as it just becomes part of your strategy. Even companies that, these die hard oil and gas guys who I never thought I would see creating content, they’re getting on board and realizing that it’s got to be rolled into your strategy. As we do look at our sales funnel, we need to think about, “Okay, how are we going to feed people with content from the very first encounter through the decision making process, all the way to the purchase and beyond?” So it all has to integrate.
John Jantsch: One of the things that even the greatest journalists that can write just the most compelling story knows is that if nobody reads it, it’s probably not that effective. Are there some tips for creating, that you like to use for creating content that people just really want to share? They’re drawn to it and they, it’s almost like, “Oh, I have to share this”?
Rachel Parker: Sure, sure. Absolutely. Well, there has to be a promotional element involved first of all. As I like to say, if you build it, they will come only worked for Kevin Costner. Because just putting a blog out there is not going to send thousands of people to your site tomorrow. So we do have to promote it. And some of that might involve some dollars, might be a promoted Facebook post or promoted tweets or things like that.
Rachel Parker: As far as putting it out there, or as far as creating content that people want to read, look at, again, if you have a resource like BuzzSumo that shows you the kind of topics that people are sharing or the kind of, even the way the titles are phrased on different blog posts can make a tremendous difference in the shareability and in their likelihood to generate traffic.
Rachel Parker: And then as you progress in your content marketing journey, you’re going to see that you’re going to have your own data. You’re going to be able to look at your own blog posts and say, “Oh wow, this one got a whole bunch of shares. This one, not so much. How can I … What can I learn from this? And how can I roll those best practices into what I do in the future?”
John Jantsch: One of the things that I hear all the time is, a lot of times a company that maybe produces something fairly technical goes out and hires a marketing person, and then tells that marketing person to write some great content of about something of which they know nothing about and maybe can’t even really learn about that easily I mean. I hear that really all the time from writers inside of marketing departments.
John Jantsch: I mean, is there a way to get that information in a way that you could then inside an organization have you found? I’m sure you’ve worked with organizations where they hire you to write something. You’ve got to have a process for figuring out what the heck that widget is that they sell and what it does. So are there some tips on doing that?
Rachel Parker: Yeah. First of all, you need to get with the people in your … in the organizations that do know, that do have the information. Sometimes you have to be a little bit of a pest because content is the lowest thing on their to-do list. So to be a very, very nice pest, but to make sure you get some face time with them.
Rachel Parker: One tactic that I like to use that has worked really, really well for me, is, I’ll ask them, “Okay, explain this concept to me as if I were a sixth grader. If I were your little 9, 10, 11 year old kid and saying, ‘Hey, what is this? What are you working on,’ how would you explain it?”
Rachel Parker: And that really forces them to simplify and to get past the jargon and really talk about what this is and why it’s important and why people need to know about it. And then from there you can build on that very simple platform and get into the more technical details, depending of course on how technical your audience is, which is another consideration.
John Jantsch: Sure, sure. Yeah. I think a lot of times too, you go to an engineer and tell them they need to write a blog post and they freeze up instantly. But you tell them, let me see your sent email, they’ve probably written some tremendous blog post answers to very technical questions. They just don’t think of that as content. But then, to our first point, I mean that’s content too.
John Jantsch: Where do you send people who … Okay, one of the things I think is that writing has changed dramatically, particularly writing in marketing has changed dramatically. What are some of your favorite resources for where people could learn how to be a better writer?
Rachel Parker: Oh, there are so many sources out there. One of my favorites is Pro Blogger, Darren Rowse’s site. I always read their stuff. They have some tremendous ideas about being, becoming a better blogger, becoming a better content creator. Of course, Content Marketing Institute is another wonderful resource. HubSpot creates some wonderful content. They do a lot of … Oh my gosh, they have a huge team. They are constantly doing webinars and publishing ebooks to help you become a better writer, a better strategist, whatever it is you need. So those would be the three that I would recommend to start with.
John Jantsch: So when it comes to somebody trying to make decisions about, gosh, what should my priorities be when it comes to content, are there a couple pieces or forms of content that you think every, for the most part, every business needs?
Rachel Parker: Absolutely. And I would preface that John, by saying the worst thing you could do is to try to do everything. And then you start off and you’re doing everything under the sun, and then four weeks later you’re totally burned out and you throw your hands in the air and say, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Rachel Parker: I think to start with the big three, which would be a blog, email content, and social media. I think those are … That’s a good package to start with. And if you can only start with one, I would say it’s between email and blogging would be a place to focus your efforts. Email, email doesn’t get a whole lot of attention these days, but it’s still an incredibly powerful communication method because if someone’s giving you their email address, they’re basically saying you can come into the equivalent of my online house and talk to me. And that’s incredibly powerful.
Rachel Parker: Of course, you need the blog to attract search traffic. And then, as I like to quote Jay Baer, he said, “Content is the fire and social media is the gasoline.” Social media is going to give you a bigger platform for talking about these pieces of content. I would start with those three. And then later on, if you want to add video, podcasting, if you want to get fancier, you have that opportunity.
John Jantsch: I’m talking with Rachel Parker. We’re talking about The Content Marketing Coach, the book called The Content Marketing Coach. You do have a few resources at contentmarketingcoachbook.com. Tell us a little bit about Resonance. What do you do over there at Resonance?
Rachel Parker: At Resonance, we are a full service content marketing agency. Companies come to us who believe in content marketing. They know they need it. They just don’t have the internal resources to be able to do it, to be able to do it consistently and at the level of quality that they need. This is something that we find a lot of teams struggle with because they may have an ace marketing team, but they couldn’t keep it up if a product launch were to come along, or if something were to come along and they just totally soaked the rest of the team.
Rachel Parker: And then some companies come to us and say, “Hey, we have a great team in place. We just need help with a strategy.” So with those folks, we would get into a coaching program where we would help them put together a strategy, coach their teams to make sure that they are ready to hit the ground running. So those are the two ways that we help our customers.
John Jantsch: Rachel, thanks so much for joining us. Look forward to The Content Marketing Coach book being out there in the world, and hope to bump into you someday out on the road.
Rachel Parker: My pleasure, John. Hope to see you soon.