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Podcast: What is Content Marketing? (Every Company is a Media Company)

NetWise Jul 28, 2021 7:18:11 PM

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Show Notes:

This week we're talking about "content marketing." What it is, why it matters more now than it did 20 years ago, and why this shift means that it's time for us to realize that every company is a media company.

We start off the first half of the show running down the evolution of content marketing and how the modern definition has been driven by the emergence of the web and tools like Google. Of course we also get into a bit of the philosophy and the cultural or cognitive shifts that the technology has caused in marketing and why this is all so interesting.

In the second chunk we talk specifically about the content marketing strategy we use at NetWise which gets us to our core philosophy that in the modern media landscape "every company is a media company." This gets us to what this means about messaging, authentic branding, and how to build a content machine that won't burn out.

Enjoy!

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_marketing

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_search_results

https://www.fastcompany.com/90633859/every-company-must-be-a-tech-company-first-and-a-media-company-second

Transcript:

Adam Kerpelman:

What do you think I mean by that comment, global saving on commercial flights?

Brian Jones:

I think you mean that you're just nervous about what is being transported in the belly of the plane below your seat.

Adam Kerpelman:

No, not at all. I was reading a thing about the supply chain problems that exist in the world right now. And I had no idea that there was a whole racket of essentially renting or paying for the unused cargo space on commercial flights to find the cheapest route to get your stuff to where it needs to go in the commodity market.

Adam Kerpelman:

Like electronic parts and stuff, right? Like oh, we can get it on this flight. It's cheap because it's extra space. So the commercial airlines are actually making a bunch of money as extra cargo for these things. And then when the pandemic shut down, part of the supply chain problem is all of that surplus went away when the pandemic hit and they canceled commercial flights.

Brian Jones:

That's interesting.

Adam Kerpelman:

I'd never thought of that before. It makes sense. It's an optimized way to do that, if you're going to have to-

Brian Jones:

Yeah, always make money on the scraps in your business.

Adam Kerpelman:

Hey, this is The Data-Driven Marketer, sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian.

Adam Kerpelman:

Welcome back for another hang in the database-ment where we are continuing our early episode quest to teach you things about marketing and data-driven marketing while we try furiously to book guests so the podcast will be more interesting. How are you doing, man?

Brian Jones:

I'm doing good.

Adam Kerpelman:

So what are we talking about today?

Brian Jones:

The video says first party data versus third party data

Adam Kerpelman:

The link to the video chat? Yeah.

Brian Jones:

[inaudible 00:01:52] decided a few minutes ago, we were going to do something else.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, we picked another topic.

Brian Jones:

Content marketing.

Adam Kerpelman:

Content marketing, yeah.

Brian Jones:

Always the end of the day.

Adam Kerpelman:

So I think what we're going to do is start with sort of a broader conversation about what it is, where it's come from, why it's a thing that's a bigger deal than it was 20 years ago. That kind of stuff.

Brian Jones:

Yeah, what is it? Is an interesting conversation, right? There's a lot to chase there.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right, I mean, in a sense everything is content. I'm making stuff to show you but an ad is different from a catalog is different for a book, blog posts, whatever. And then we're going to jump off into some of our content strategy and kind of how I think about this stuff.

Adam Kerpelman:

Because we've recently stood up the content marketing machine that produces this very podcast, and specifically where the data-driven part hits it. Because I think it's a necessary part of any marketer's toolkit, the content marketing. It's an increasingly large part. In fact, from when I started it all produces data the same as ads.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's not quite the same as what we've talked about before in terms of getting... How the signal works exactly. But there's still a data-driven approach to content. This is weirder because it's still in the space of making content for people to consume that they have a completely different relationship with than an ad because an ad is just, oh yeah, I want that thing, click.

Brian Jones:

Totally wait. Content marketing is a great concept for a data-driven conversation because it forces you, and here's our infographic, by the way, it forces you to recognize that time frames are different for different types of marketing.

Brian Jones:

What you can produce, how long it takes to produce it, how it goes out and reaches people, how they respond to it, how they enter your conversion funnels, how long it takes to actually get data and signal about something that's going on. And as humans, especially in the side of the business that's selling things, our mindset is like now. Now man, I need to close deals. I need to make more money.

Brian Jones:

I need top line revenue up. The sales person doesn't have anything to do. And as you move through the gradient of marketing from these immediate reactionary things, if you're a consumer product and you sell t-shirts, right? Run ads and you sell t-shirts like almost in real time, right? Your signal is really fast.

Adam Kerpelman:

That's clever. I'm going to buy one. Our relationship is over

Brian Jones:

B2B expensive long-term six figure contracts where you're trying to be a thought leader, those thought leader pieces might take years to pay off, right? And they're important. But how you think strategically is totally different and how you balance time spent doing that versus time spent trying to build faster conversions on different aspects of your marketing funnel, it's complicated, right?

Brian Jones:

And everybody knows they want to do all this different stuff, but you've got to really think of it strategically to understand how to balance it well.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then you do get data and that data figures back into your content strategy and stuff like that, right? So there's interplay. But yeah, I mean, the thing that I find myself saying often to executives in my position to explain why we can't do it the way that they want to do it is to say, look, sales is like hunting, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

You're going, and you're trying to find things and you're trying to close those deals. I'm trying to grow trees so the birds come to us. You can just sit in a lawn chair and shoot them. That's going to take a while, right? They're like, well, yeah, but does it sound like a better way to hunt? And they're like, yeah. I'm like, then give me time to grow a tree.

Brian Jones:

It's different hunt. Well, it's important because it's hard to make that argument for that process sometimes, especially if you're coming into something with a purely data-driven mindset. Because you just won't have signal on whether growing a tree for 50 years is going to bring birds in that don't make nest in that tree until the tree is 15 years old, right?

Brian Jones:

There's no signal there. So it's like, did I grow the right trees? Shit. And we've taken the analogy way too far, but same concept with a PR campaign where you get written up in a big newspaper, right? That can correlate with a sophisticated marketing stack. That absolutely can correlate with immediate numbers.

Brian Jones:

But there's also other breadth there that matters for a business. And especially as you're getting started, right? If you're a smaller company or you're a smaller team, or you don't have a brand presence, right? You don't know what a lot of this stuff's going to do for you.

Brian Jones:

And honestly, often most stuff doesn't do much, which is also something you need to kind of keep in mind. Part of marketing is exploratory and iterative.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. So let's back it up a step. Just what is content marketing to your estimation?

Brian Jones:

So I want to hear your definition too, but I won't steal what I think some of your definition will be.

Adam Kerpelman:

No, please do. I don't care.

Brian Jones:

I think content marketing kind of is what all marketing should kind of be now. When I think content now, if I think intelligent content, I'm thinking educational content, and I'm thinking in our space too, right, where it's a complex business to business product line that's got a lot of intricacy to it and drives a lot of strategy inside businesses.

Brian Jones:

Again, t-shirts, different story. But content should be enriching and engaging and it should lead to more questions that then drive people to seek out more information. And if you're the thought leader in a space which especially in tech, but I think in business in general, if your business is going to be one of the more successful ones, you're probably going to be a thought leader, right? You're doing something innovative. The more you share that, the better. So it's stories.

Adam Kerpelman:

That actually doesn't overlap. After you saying that, my definition of it sounds like way more cynical. My short definition is anything we're not paying for.

Brian Jones:

That's funny.

Adam Kerpelman:

Out of pocket, right? I file everything that's not our paid advertising strategy into this space of content, because it's stuff you're making to try to get return without paying for anything other than the stuff.

Brian Jones:

Totally. No, that's a very functional definition. I was known for like a literary definition [inaudible 00:09:06]

Adam Kerpelman:

No, that's why I appreciate it because it gets to the part of it that is way more like, in a sense, it's a more manipulative strategy and I'm picking a cynical word again on purpose. But I asked you before, is Sears sending everyone a catalog and the immediate neighborhood around store or whatever? Is that content marketing?

Brian Jones:

Yeah, probably. It's like media engagement.

Adam Kerpelman:

They're creating content that makes you more aware of what they have whether you buy a thing or not. You read it in the bathroom. I don't know, it's kind of...

Brian Jones:

Your definition, anything you're not paying. I mean, you're paying for-

Adam Kerpelman:

That kind of breaks the definition because they're paying to send me the... I mean, it's not content.

Brian Jones:

We pay for anything, right? You've got to pay to host your website.

Adam Kerpelman:

No, but I think your answer is right because all of the tactics are not as clean cut as the things you can do with keyword research and feedback on ads and stuff like that, because ultimately the tactics are more about, can we answer the questions that people have that... Actually this feels like the place to jump to why content marketing is even interesting now?

Adam Kerpelman:

If you look at that idea of the... Because pre digital and data-driven and all this stuff, you were either running ads in magazines or the yellow pages, or maybe you could get a journalist to write you up and that would get you some exposure.

Adam Kerpelman:

But there wasn't really an avenue for me to publish scholarship and what I was up to, unless I could get a newsletter together, which I guess is no different. But then a newsletter would literally be a list of addresses to which I mail a letter once a week.

Adam Kerpelman:

With digital what you instead have, and I guess maybe what I'm really doing here is stepping up from where I started with everything that's not paid. It's another way to say that would be everything that you, as a marketer would file under organic traffic and specifically stuff that you hope will generate organic traffic.

Adam Kerpelman:

And that's only even a phenomenon because search engines were invented, right? So what we've really are meaning when we say content marketing in our context is making stuff to float out into the pool of playing the game of trying to be the person who's listed on Google without paying for it when somebody searches for a particular topic that you think means that they might be interested in your thing.

Brian Jones:

Hilarious.

Adam Kerpelman:

But it's super valuable because that's completely self-directed. So that person who comes to you and is now a possible customer, is like, I wonder what this, oh and now I'm doing some research. Oh, these guys know what they're talking about.

Adam Kerpelman:

I wonder what they sell. And then now it's a completely different path to being here asking me for my product. Then you seeing an ad and being aware like, okay, they pay to be here. But maybe it's an okay solution [inaudible 00:12:28]

Brian Jones:

Everything that gets the job done is your content, right? Everything else is just... The content is like a nice steak and everything else is just the server and the restaurant staff, right? Google ads doesn't do anything if your website says 404 not found, right? And you need content there.

Brian Jones:

So everything else is a tactic to get to content. And I think it's so easy to overlook that part because the content's so important, we just like... I feel myself do this all the time too and I certainly see other people do it. We just want the waiter delivering steaks, but there's no steak on the tray.

Brian Jones:

There's no stake in the kitchen to deliver yet. And so they're really inseparable, right? You can't have a website without a search engine and you're not going to just get organic traffic anymore just from making something. You've got to have all these other tactics behind you. You're going to want to run ads.

Brian Jones:

You're going to want to optimize for keywords, and do all this strategic research to long tail search. And it's painful that you have to do some of that stuff, but it's just a product of there being so much information in the world now, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

When you said it's painful that you have to do that stuff, it reminded me of a recurring thought that I have when I'm going through the process of like... Because I always start with, okay, what's the question we're trying to answer?

Adam Kerpelman:

Let's take a swing at that landing page without... So again, maybe to double back to the content marketing thing, what we're talking about is landing pages, blog posts, this podcast. In some cases it's like PR appearances and stuff like that, trying to get mentioned places that aren't your-

Brian Jones:

Video, media [inaudible 00:14:26].

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, anything that it's kind of like I'm making it. It'll be on the website, it'll get out there. Yeah, so the first thing is to try to get off of your customers or off of whatever data you can, if you're spinning up a content marketing machine, what the questions are.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then my philosophy at least is you take a swing at making a landing page that you think answers all those questions, but then you can literally have Google look at it and say, here's how it would rank for search terms that you hope are related to that thing. Because that's how Google's whole system works.

Adam Kerpelman:

It looks at websites and goes, yeah, we're going to give it an authority score based on what we think you're searching for so we can give you the best answer, right? So there's a part in that process where you've made the thing and you're like, okay, I'm ready to hand in my essay. And then you run your essay through a thing that goes, yeah, this isn't good.

Adam Kerpelman:

And here are all the reasons. And then you kind of have to fix it because the game you're playing is trying to show up for Google. The thing that I think repetitively as that's happening is what if Google's right? By which I mean, what if the copy I wrote for this landing page is too clever or too stupid for its own good?

Adam Kerpelman:

And yeah, maybe Google's right. I'll fix it and it'll answer the right questions and then it does what it's supposed to do.

Brian Jones:

You're totally right.

Adam Kerpelman:

The fact that I didn't get to use the word lit. It doesn't offend me too much.

Brian Jones:

Google built an algorithm that analyzes your content and literally tells you what your customers are looking for. And if it's not what they're looking for, your ads are going to be more expensive. Your conversion rates are going to be down. They may not even let you bid on keywords over a period of time, right?

Brian Jones:

So they're like your editor in a way, which is frustrating because it's not presented that way. And it's not really managed that way. They put all the editor work on you. They just draw a big red X over and they're like, go research why your article is bad. Go pay for all of these third parties tools and stuff.

Adam Kerpelman:

Use this link to an antiquated tool we haven't fixed in 10 years.

Brian Jones:

They're like a really bad teacher.

Adam Kerpelman:

Part of that is frustrating, but part of it is also because you are trying to solve for a question and you might think that Google is wrong, but you also got to keep in mind, Google is... Some of that is about security.

Adam Kerpelman:

Some of that is about trying to give you the best result because you can tell from looking at the website if this is a fake Viagra site that is advertising a data product and then whatever, which I don't know if everybody remembers, that used to be a legit problem. Would follow a link that you thought was to your grandmother's photos and instead it's a bunch of Viagra ad pop-ups that you have to force quit the app that you're in-

Brian Jones:

That's right, I remember.

Adam Kerpelman:

... Because the pop-up onslaught won't stop.

Brian Jones:

We were force quitting browsers many years ago.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then some of it is because people don't always know what they're looking for. And so a lot of times you can be screwing up your content because you just have failed to think of a weird way of saying the query that does actually represent the question that you're trying to answer. So again, you said it the right way.

Adam Kerpelman:

I try to look at that piece of it. It's just an editor as much as it sucks, but that's just part of it. So anyway, that feels meandering, but the definition of content ultimately is it's all the stuff you're trying to pump into that machine to get all of that stuff to work.

Adam Kerpelman:

And I think we kind of hit the second piece that you and I are talking about just in the course of doing that where it ended up all mixed up, but it's interesting because this is a completely different interplay than anything that existed for us as marketers before this stuff happened.

Adam Kerpelman:

Like I said, it used to just be, maybe you can get an article written in a magazine which would be better press than the ads you can buy in that same magazine. They would run next to the article.

Brian Jones:

There's an important piece to this too where I think as a society, we tend to think the technology comes first, right? We have super fancy TVs and smartphones and complex web applications and all this business software and stuff.

Brian Jones:

You couldn't have that stuff 30, 40 years ago because no one could learn about it to care, right? You couldn't have all these features on a smart TV because there was no medium to go deep dive into all this stuff. The ability to go to a website and read about the hundred features that a smart TV has now, just there was no capacity to exchange that kind of information before. So the content-

Adam Kerpelman:

And [inaudible 00:19:11] versions of smart TVs that have similar offerings from different brands at the click of a button.

Brian Jones:

And then if you want to talk about business to business SAS software, how the hell would you ever do stuff like Salesforce before the internet? It was a nightmare, right? You had a training course, you'd be flying employees across the country to go sit in seminars to learn how to use a piece of locally installed software that you needed an IT team to manage and operate.

Brian Jones:

The ability to sell complexity has been enabled, has been emboldened by the ability to share information about that complexity, right? So the technology has allowed the information to be shared, but the information has allowed the technology to be shared. It's a really interesting collision.

Adam Kerpelman:

And so I think that the thing that we so often say, end up saying on here, but whatever, it's the thesis of our podcast. When you change the relationship from one of we're either advertising at you or somebody that time magazine said you should pay attention to this person, or we offer an educational video series, which is a way to onboard to whatever we're doing.

Adam Kerpelman:

Well, there was another thing going on that whole time with companies which was sales. And the sales people were the ones going door to door and having the relationships where it's like, oh yeah, that's Mack. He likes this beer and whatever and all the stuff that makes you feel like you're friends with the person, but also, you're not really my friend.

Adam Kerpelman:

You're trying to sell me steak knives, right? I am happy for whatever rapport, but you're trying to sell me steak knife. As that stuff moves online, the marketing piece that used to be this game of sort of like, what's the messaging?

Adam Kerpelman:

Let's run some ads, is now increasingly about, can you create good content to pull together a community of people who ultimately look to you for answers to their questions or understand your position in the market and how you can help and how you're willing to help?

Adam Kerpelman:

And you're literally just trying to add people that may stick around forever thinking of you as a resource on this front. And if you have an expensive product or a technical product, they might not end up paying for years. So it's almost more like starting a newsletter in that analog context. And it's funny because we literally use newsletters.

Adam Kerpelman:

I think we'll talk about that in a minute when we get to the sort of specific breakdown on how we do some content marketing. Yeah, so as digital eats that space as well, you have more and more burdened on something like content marketing, because what you're trying to do is just have a legitimate answer for the question, what is content marketing?

Adam Kerpelman:

So that people will stick around. And it's an interesting shift because I've always been very community oriented like this because I've been in the digital game since I was having to sell people on, they should run ads on Facebook. The key is authenticity past a point.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then authentically just trying to pull together a community of people that legitimately resonate with whatever you're kind of working on. And then there's a strange shift because marketing used to be about the Madman episodes were Don Draper's going, here's what we need to sell the people.

Adam Kerpelman:

And we're going to tell them the story of the luxury of flying Pan-Am or whatever, right? And it's manipulative in a weird way because it's like, we're going to tell you this story about these cigarettes so that you think they're sexy.

Adam Kerpelman:

And now the same department is having to transition into, like, actually, I'd rather be the person who tells you not to smoke the cigarettes because then you'll associate me with being the person that helped you with that thing. And you carry your journey forward, right?

Brian Jones:

That's funny man. And that's a result of there being too much signal, right? When the idea of branding was invented with early marketing, it was brand new. All of a sudden there was this theatrical experience around products, which hadn't really been a thing before.

Brian Jones:

And so coming up with this interesting story and having pretty flight attendants in your airline, or the rugged cowboy selling you cigarettes, that was new. That was an experience, there were radio shows and storylines around it, literal theater. That doesn't work as well anymore, right? We're bombarded with stories.

Brian Jones:

So I can't just connect to a brand. I'm almost sad for the teams now when I see pure brand experience around products and you see the response to it in market too when it's off. There was like a Pepsi ad or something with Kylie Jenner and protests and something-

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, tone deaf.

Brian Jones:

Really hit wrong.

Adam Kerpelman:

Aggressive tone-deaf.

Brian Jones:

They knew what they were doing. They did that for exposure. And anyway, there's too much signal now. So we're to a point now where you have to keep doing something new that's kind of like a pivotal future marketing, right? We've got to be different.

Adam Kerpelman:

Your marketing strategy actually has to be a value add. I don't feel like that's a worst place in the world that, oh, we're giving it away for free. Yeah, but are we though? It doesn't really cost anything, but our marketing budget to actually provide you with a community space to talk about data-driven marketing.

Brian Jones:

The attitude around content marketing that I think is kind of the right one is just try to do all the things that your business has to do now manually to sell stuff. And again, this is specifically extra relevant to big complex B2B products, right?

Brian Jones:

We have all day, we have like 10 maybe 15 people, more than half our business is spending almost all day talking to customers, right? They're sharing content. And a lot of that, not all of it, right? Because some of it is like real time humans problem-solving together.

Brian Jones:

But an awful lot of that is stuff that as the marketers branding the business and getting our message out there and producing content, we need to turn that into content. And then it scales and it explodes. And your customer comes and says, wow, this company, not only do they have what I'm looking for, but they're like, they really have their act together. They know what they're talking about without even me talking to them. I can feel their presence

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. And so it's back to the sales, marketing eating sales, which is the way we say it for the marketers. The reality is still has a function in there. Somebody needs to direct people to things sometimes, a lot of the time, particularly B2B where everybody's busy.

Adam Kerpelman:

But the argument for the content marketing is people feel a different connection to the answer to that question if they feel like they found it themselves, which they have if they Googled and then found your article. And they are way more likely to close than if they were talking to sales call for the first time.

Adam Kerpelman:

And sales said, you really should look at this brochure. It's like, you've given me a sales brochure. It's not the same as me feeling like I am doing research and I found a great resource. And now I want to go tell my about it because it'll make us better at our jobs. It's just a different vibe.

Brian Jones:

And we want to sound valuable.

Adam Kerpelman:

And it has value for teeing up sales as well, which is the thing that sometimes I don't know that sales sees.

Brian Jones:

We should get a psychologist on the show who studies marketing and branding. It would be a fun conversation because you're hitting right on a bunch of that. There's tons of that in this. And you can take the cynical approach of well, it's manipulative because this is the behavior we're trying to drive. We're trying to make you think you found the thing and make you think you made the decision, but you can also argue-

Adam Kerpelman:

Freewill doesn't exist.

Brian Jones:

You did find it, and you did make the decision. We put it there so that you would do that. So it's kind of both, which is really how everything is in the world.

Adam Kerpelman:

So that's content marketing in and out, in and out content marketing.

Brian Jones:

It's a wrap. It's more content about content marketing done.

Adam Kerpelman:

So as promised from here, we're going to talk specifically about some of the stuff that like... So I was brought on board in part to stand up a content marketing machine for our company. So I can talk really specifically with fresh experience.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, so maybe an interesting way to chase down what we have done is to kind of look at the short versus long-term dilemma. I think that's been kind of the interesting space because a company brings in a marketer because they need leads, right? In our context, we need leads and ads can get you leads right away.

Adam Kerpelman:

But I also have long-term strategies that pay off in a different way, but they're going to take longer. And so I certainly don't expect the sales department to sit around for three years while I execute a long-term strategy.

Adam Kerpelman:

That means you have to come in with a balance of these two things, which of course means that you end up having internal pressures against your content marketing machine, always. So you can start showing results because everybody's going, yeah, man, I've seen a blog post a week, but what's it doing for us?

Adam Kerpelman:

A lot of times I've just got to say, we're getting there. You'll see it eventually. And so I don't know, there's some tips, I guess I have in the space that are probably helpful. There are ways to get signal off of the stream that becomes the long-term stuff that I'm trying to do. So we can kind of talk about that stuff.

Adam Kerpelman:

But first, the short-term stuff isn't really content marketing. I mean, it is, and that you want to stand up landing pages and you want to do certain ad strategies in the right way. Make a landing page, point an add toward it. But that's mostly going to be keyword research and running ads and having people land on that landing page.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then it's sort of a different cycle. The long-term part of that cycle is optimizing the short-term strategy so that it's more cost effective. But if you just need leads, pop up a landing page to start running ads. They might be really expensive, but you can do it.

Adam Kerpelman:

If your landing page has an email sign up on it, you've got yourself an email scope, go put money into it. I hope you make money off off of whatever data you get.

Brian Jones:

There are so many different philosophies I think, for how to tackle starting up marketing for a business. And it's so complicated because there's so many ways to do it, right? Some people might come into a business, let's disregard even what the business does right now. They might come in and want to start with newsletters.

Brian Jones:

That's been their experience. That's where they've had the most success, that's where they've seen it work really well. And that's because it does. If you do it well, it works great. Some people might come in and say, no, I always start with Google ads. And it's because that does work great.

Brian Jones:

If you do it well, it works great. Other people might say, I'm just going to make white papers and turn them into PDFs and feed them to the sales team and the sales team's going to use them as collateral. That works great if you do it right.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, and any freelance marketer understands the difficult part of any relationship where they want you to make promises about performance and they want you to tell them some strategies that sound like, yeah, that's the right thing to do. But always in the back of my mind during that part of the process I know but also I need to get in there.

Adam Kerpelman:

I need to start asking questions. I need to start understanding what your customer's questions are. All kinds of understand this, the speed of your sales cycles and whether you need demos or not. There's all kinds of questions that you can't even... Like a newsletter might be better for you.

Adam Kerpelman:

And that's going to be based on... You know what I mean? Like when you get to the level of doing it as long as I have, I can execute all those things that you've just said. The question is, what's the right one to get you what you want in the short or long-term, right?

Brian Jones:

Yeah, and they all take time, right? Because to do them well, I was just joking about this one might work and that one might work because they all work well. They all work well if you do them well. Which you can always get signal very quickly in the modern digital age of marketing, right?

Brian Jones:

But for that signal to really get strong to be able to poke at it from a bunch of different directions and see what's really going on, it just takes time and effort and volume, right? You can't just send one email and then be like, did my email marketing work? It did something, right? It for sure did something and we've got signal there.

Adam Kerpelman:

This is the place where it's hard to be data-driven until you hit a certain scale. And so even things like running ads, the reason I say you can do it, but it's going to cost you a lot is because you can scale up an ad campaign real fast. Just pay more money, it'll hit more people.

Adam Kerpelman:

You can get to statistical significance on an incoming data stream by pumping money into that situation. But again, and this is why I mentioned the consulting, I'm in an in-house position now. So my job is understand this stuff possibly forever on an evolving basis. So I have three and five year sort of strategies for this kind of stuff in my head.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then you end up balancing them, but the difference... And to be clear, there's in-between, right? There's something like doing blog posts that are going to help the SEO. They're going to help the organic, they're going to help the ads, but not as immediately as putting budget into ads.

Brian Jones:

Well, that's where-

Adam Kerpelman:

Because partially, I mean, shit, Google only indexes the web every two weeks. So Google's not even going to know that blog post exists for two weeks.

Brian Jones:

That's where this starts to get much more complicated, but also more interesting. And this is kind of the state of affairs here in our marketing department. We have a bunch of different strategies organized, right? Which was kind of the first step, right? What are we even going to do? Because there's a lot of analysis paralysis around marketing.

Brian Jones:

There's so many things I could be doing. I can't get to any of them. So none of them are getting done or none of them are getting done well. So we've got it organized now. And what's really fun to see in the processes you've set up is how your organizational process drives what to do next in different channels and in different mediums, right?

Brian Jones:

Even for this podcast episode, we didn't think up a podcast episode topic. It was automatically generated from other content we've been producing. There's a whole list of stuff that aligns with, I'm doing air quotes, "for a campaign", right? But it's content.

Brian Jones:

It's supporting a concept that we know is valuable and important to our customers. And now when they engage with our content marketing, it's rich and deep. There are videos, there are podcasts, there's blog posts. And then that drives everything else. Right now, when you go to buy an ad for a landing page that talks about that stuff, your whole website has reputation for that, right?

Brian Jones:

It's more likely someone's going to land there and then stay, which drives engagement and affects your ad effectiveness and prices. The landing page's richer because you've spent time to create this content. It constantly iterates on itself like that. So it's a deeply exploratory process, but you got to just do something to get started, which is a real challenge.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. So, that's where I guess maybe talking through sort of my specific philosophy that we're executing on that whatever you're free to use it, there's plenty of fish in the sea for marketing work these days, is really I've heard some people in marketing calls call it raw, authentic, which of course we've branded it because we're all marketers.

Adam Kerpelman:

But I already talked about community and authenticity and all that kind of stuff. My philosophy is to not worry about production quality necessarily, but to just start making stuff and then you get signal off of that stuff and then you can refine it to a higher level of production quality, of media value, of whatever over time, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

So it doesn't mean we start with crap, but it means almost every the idea that somebody throws at us, whether it's a customer question or an internal idea or whatever, literally it goes on a list to become a blog post. And then in the process of becoming a blog post, it gets vetted by some other people looking at it trying to flesh it out a little.

Adam Kerpelman:

I mean, literally it's just a half hour meeting once a week where we go, okay, what about this one? I mean, it could be this, it could be that, I don't know. And some stuff gets scrapped because it was a brainstorm, bad idea. Some stuff gets escalated where it gets say 800 words, and then literally we publish that.

Adam Kerpelman:

And in six months to a year, that stuff is going to start generating signal for me about how often that's the answer to somebody's question. And if that's the answer to somebody's question often enough, we'll go and we'll make that media more rich.

Adam Kerpelman:

We'll do a podcast about it because we want to give you an even more in depth look in a way that doesn't mean I've got it write, or somebody has to write 2000 words because that takes way longer than you and I just talking about it as experts for an hour on this podcast, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

If there's still interest at that podcast level, now it's time to escalate to putting some production budget into making an animated video that only answer the question for people because you want to be on the video platforms. It's a good place to be.

Adam Kerpelman:

One of the tricks about podcasts is you can be on the video platforms earlier if you use YouTube as a podcast publishing medium. So a plug for our YouTube channel. So anyway, it escalates from there, right?

Adam Kerpelman:

And also in that chain are the white papers, which are more in depth and they're higher value because you can put them behind an email sign up and people are willing to give you their email in exchange for a 20 page research paper, even if it's half pictures. Be aware of those research papers, people.

Adam Kerpelman:

I say that with a chip on my shoulder, because I've written a legit research paper where I was like, oh, have you seen my white paper? It's 60 pages. And they expect a bunch of pictures and it's like, no, it's a straight up doctoral thesis about the thing I want to build. Anyway, there's white papers. There's newsletters.

Adam Kerpelman:

There are all kinds of different stuff along that continuum, right? But the real thing is if you want this sustained flow of topics, it's silly to not absorb every single possible idea that comes across anywhere within the company. It's doable now. You just get it on a list, right? And then you run it through this process.

Adam Kerpelman:

And then as long as you keep that machine running every week, we'll just have content. And then that content will get better and better, and then blah, blah, blah. And then within a few years, it's like, how do they have 25 videos for this stuff? Why are they all the answer to my question?

Brian Jones:

Right, and in the process of doing that, like you said, you not only uncover the signal, right? The data-driven that we're always talking about, but something that was important in this episode. In the beginning when we were outlining it that we haven't really touched on yet is that there are human components to this that aren't quantifiable right away, or sometimes even long-term, right?

Brian Jones:

You can't always quantify what's going on with it. And part of me wants to say, well, that means you shouldn't be doing it, which I think is a fair philosophy. But you also in the act of doing the things sometimes that you can't quantify, you'll uncover how to quantify something that's relevant from that experience, right?

Brian Jones:

And I think there's a lot of that in marketing because there's a ton of creativity in modern data-driven marketing. It's different than what people think, right? It's not just quippy one-liners and neat infographics. That ship sailed, right?

Brian Jones:

Computers generate those now better than we do. So the creativity though is in the process, in the work flows and how you manage the content and the teams and the idea flow. And then how you execute on that to build a production schedule that's quick and efficient and fun, right?

Brian Jones:

Because at the end of the day, you're producing content is challenging, right? You've got people writing, you've got people interviewing and talking and scheduling meetings. And so it can be a draining process, so you've got to make it fun too.

Adam Kerpelman:

Yeah, and it's interesting that you say it that way because there's a lot of contexts in the digital world where you say, okay, we need this thing. We can either solve it by building it every time or by building an algorithm that will solve for it.

Adam Kerpelman:

In essence, Google is that, right? Let's pre-index everything and give it a ranking relative to these scores so that we don't have to talk to the librarian every time who goes, ah, this is probably what you're looking for. Let me find your car to the Dewey decimal and system and all that shit.

Adam Kerpelman:

I sort of look at it that way, which I think aligns with the data-driven piece and the engineer part of my brain, which is yeah, the content I've been doing that long enough, that it's easy, right? I can make you a blog post.

Adam Kerpelman:

But in an in-house position, or even just a consulting position where it's like, help us figure this out, the point is to build the machine. And so the machine being tolerable to operate is part of that process to be sure, but also the process of getting it done.

Adam Kerpelman:

Part of having it be fun is making sure that your operatives inside of that system aren't overloaded on a constant basis. And then again, that comes back to the authenticity piece. It's like, can you build a machine that will just consistently produce authentic content to your brand or knowledge offering or whatever?

Adam Kerpelman:

And then once you have that machine, if you calibrate it right, it's just an ROI machine. I mean, that's the dream, right?

Brian Jones:

That's the dream.

Adam Kerpelman:

Ultimately parts of that machine take time to set up, right? But it's a funny place to get to because, is content marketing, just anything that comes out of that machine versus ads? Or is content marketing a thing that people do or process? Did that makes sense? You know what I mean? Or is content... I don't know.

Brian Jones:

I think the content is what you make, the processes, the machine. I like to think it's all content, right? Every ad title, right? It's the thing that people engage with as opposed to how you make it so they can engage with it.

Brian Jones:

Like my website is not the content. My web server is not the content, but the web server enables people to view the content that's on there, right? I think we'd be missing out if I didn't share one of my favorite marketing quotes of yours, the idea that every business has to become a media company now.

Brian Jones:

And not only every business, I see the rapid expansion of that to be everyone needs to become a content producer especially now post COVID. And because of experiences during COVID, everyone's on video chat all the time, lots and lots of people who were not comfortable with video before, right?

Brian Jones:

Because younger generations were pushing the video platforms. Everyone's getting more comfortable with video now. How many people have bought lights for their video setup at home? Five years ago, how many people do you think had ever considered buying theater lighting for their office?

Adam Kerpelman:

Right, proper lighting. What I would think of is proper lighting as a production for their webcam.

Brian Jones:

It's everybody, everyone. Think even like an email, right? People, not everyone edits their emails and I despise those people, but a lot of people edit their emails. Email's content, man. When you're writing an email out to a customer, especially if you're writing an email to like a bunch of people at a company, that's content marketing, man. You're representing a brand, you're sharing a story, you're explaining information.

Brian Jones:

And I often think about how much value is sitting in email, right? Someday AI is going to go back and consume business email and be like, oh man, we could have been running the economy so much more efficiently if we had exposed all this info beforehand.

Brian Jones:

It's just sitting locked up in people's emails right now. Human discussions around every single product ever sold and all the detailed Q&A that's needed for markets to understand products. So get out there and [inaudible 00:44:43]

Adam Kerpelman:

Right. So the key, I guess, in an interesting thread to pull for a minute is it relates to what we were saying before about the algorithms and finding the content. But my philosophy that I just sort of ran through is... And I say philosophy because I apply it... It's applied differently like you said, because of different contexts, but I mean, it's straight up the strategy I deploy almost always.

Adam Kerpelman:

It's the escalation through the media types, is only doable because like video is dirt cheap compared to 10 years ago to make because everybody has a phone in their pocket. So all of the algorithms are evolving at the same time. The search to find the content is better. The ability to create the content is better.

Adam Kerpelman:

And the raw authentic thing comes into it because increasingly you're needing to talk about not having such high production value. If you're at a big company that's used to having polished commercials that go on broadcast television saying, well, actually we're going to do this thing and it's all going to be people talking to their webcams.

Adam Kerpelman:

They kind of go, that doesn't feel shiny enough. And it's like, no, it's a new paradigm where everyone used to crappy production quality because we all live on video now. And so there's just gradients. There's the policy stuff. But there's also just me talking to somebody on FaceTime while I walk my dog and they're used to it now.

Adam Kerpelman:

So you can use it for content marketing, right? So now content marketing is scooping up everything because, well, we could record that and cut it and do a podcast.

Brian Jones:

Totally.

Adam Kerpelman:

Right? That's really what's at the core of how I think about all this stuff, which is we live in media now all the time and we should be trying to peel every piece of value out of that. So, this podcast may become a live show at some point because some people might want to just hang out and have the conversation with us.

Adam Kerpelman:

So we'll do it. We'll cut it into the podcast. And now I just turn the same production process into a thing that creates a live video show and the podcast you're listening to now. I don't know, that part of it gets deep, but it's what excites me because it's fun. Because you just go, oh well, try a new thing.

Adam Kerpelman:

And all we need to do is add a half hour of production effort into the machine every week. Totally doable, but right, it comes down to the reason that every company is a media company now is because they can afford to be. So why not take control of that thing instead of shopping it out or just not affording it?

Adam Kerpelman:

And even the smallest companies can become media companies. Because if you get Twitter famous, you don't even have to pay for it. So there's a lot of startups. I mean Clubhouse more or less, no media budget at all. The right powerful VCs were like, this is cool on Twitter. And now everybody's listening, right?

Brian Jones:

Yeah, and the fun part-

Adam Kerpelman:

And even that kind of thing is a media flow.

Brian Jones:

The fun part about this like most things in life, if you do it well, which generally means do it purposefully, make decisions about things, choose to do certain things and not to do other things and then put time and effort into it, you will still rise above most other people and companies out there, right?

Brian Jones:

So just because there's so much signal doesn't mean that your business and your marketing team can't be wildly successful and a well-known brand and a well-respected thought leader. Because just doing it, taking the time to do it and do it well will still end up making you successful.

Adam Kerpelman:

And hopefully everyone listening to this podcast, thinks we're doing it well because it's certainly part of our content strategy, content marketing strategy.

Brian Jones:

Content marketing.

Adam Kerpelman:

But yeah, thanks for listening to another one. We hope you enjoyed it. If so or if not and you just want to help us out with some stats because what do you care? Like and subscribe it wherever you are. It's a big help to us trying to find more people for the Data-Driven Marketer community we're trying to pull together here. People that want to talk about the same stuff. That has been the Data-Driven Marketer, sponsored by NetWise. I'm Adam.

Brian Jones:

I'm Brian. Take it easy out there.