Transcript of How to Produce Content with a Limited Budget
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John: We all need content but what does it take to produce content when you have no budget and no resources and no time. We’re going to talk to Chris Moody about producing content with little budget.
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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, this is John Jantsch and my guest today is Chris Moody. Among other things, he is the content marketing leader at GE Digital. So Chris, thanks for joining me.
Chris: Thanks for having me John.
John: So you know most of my listeners, many of my listeners are small business owners or marketers, working with small business owners and so let’s set the table straight, I mean we’re thinking you know, GE Digital, you got essentially leader GE Digital with content, you’ve got unlimited resources to execute on content but tell me what the reality is for what it is — you know what does that look like for your role.
Chris: Sure and this role specifically I — the title is concept marketing but right now I’m an individual contributor. So that would be the first caveat to say okay there’s some limits of resources and one guy trying to organize a lot of stuff around content marketing right now there are ways we work cross-functionally and tie into other resources but when I first started I actually didn’t have a budget. And this budget season we will have some budget to put towards content marketing but the challenges are extremely different. I came from an acquisition at Oracle which was an Oracle marketing cloud where I running marketing for a content marketing start-up. And we had quite a bit of budget to put towards content because that’s what we were doing, we were marketing to marketers. And now at GE Digital you know we’re trying to close million dollar deals. So you don’t really tweet your way to a million dollar deal or blog your way to a million dollar deal necessarily which puts a different set of constraints on how we try and align marketing to actually driving revenue here.
John: Well let’s start of by — and I know this is an impossible question but at least from your point of view you know, what is — how do you define content? You know when somebody says — when you tell people you’re a content marketing leader I’m sure they’ll like, what does that mean? So how do you define content or can you?
Chris: Sure. I think — Just broadly, it’s essentially everything that we do as marketers. And content marketing is used as a term to categories a certain set of activities but everything we do is a form of content. Every email that we send, every webinar that we do, every presentation that we create, all of this is content marketing and that’s one thing that… it’s not necessarily e-books and whitepapers and blogs, it could be emails and turning your emails into a source of content. So I look at it in the broad sense of the word and say it’s everything that we do, everything is a source of content whether we define it that way or not.
John: Yeah I have been for the last couple of years referring to content as the voice of strategy. And I think that’s sufficiently broad enough but that to me is what it really is. It’s just the various ways you communicate your overall marketing or business strategy.
Chris: Right. I love that.
John: So everybody needs content. I mean as we started talking you know it was fashionable five/six years ago to talk about content as king and I talk about it as content is air now. It pretty much powers every channel. So — but it’s also hard and expensive. So what is a personal on a limited budget to do?
Chris: I think the first step and this is something that Marcus Sheridan has been saying all along; answer questions. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, FAQ pages have gradually disappeared from websites and it became less fashionable to have frequently asked questions on your site. And I know that people turn each question into blog posts which is definitely a best practice. But if you’re not answering every single question that your customers and prospects have and making that content available, someone else will. And the best educator wins and that’s something Marcus has preached, so that’s the first thing I mean interview everyone you work with, talk to sales, what are their most common objection, that’s where I would start just asking the questions. But a lot of it is philosophical and the mindset. I think as marketers, we’ve become entranced by the next big thing. And watching companies that do amazing content regardless of budget and resources right, we woke up to LinkedIn and Hubspot and some of the pioneers of inbound marketing and the great e-books that they create. And sometimes that just doesn’t work for your business. And the approach of trying to hit a home run with everything that you create is one that gives me a lot of angst and drives me crazy because we are not all LinkedIn or Hubspot and sometimes that won’t even work as well as other things in your business so keep a voice and an ear to the ground and understand the voice of your customer, what do they want? What questions are they trying to answer and then you can figure out the best form-factor for that piece of content. But that’s really where everything starts, it’s answering the questions of the people who can drive revenue for you.
John: Yeah and I think another thing that gets really lost in the conversation about you know, more content is more content, is that I think we have to get very good at figuring out what content we need for where the buyer is in a lot of content like blog posts you know maybe are great for awareness, maybe for a little education but you know, don’t we have to actually think about all the intent for our content and create different forms of content for trust building and conversion and nurturing and I think that conversation seems to get lost often in the idea of content just being blog posts.
Chris: That’s exactly right. And that’s where my head is now at GE Digital. I mean we have TV spots, everybody knows General Electric. Pretty much everyone in the world has heard of Thomas Edison. So it’s a completely different set of problems and challenges and opportunities for me as a content marketer to say, “Okay. I’m not trying to tell everyone who GE is or even necessarily who GE Digital is. I’m trying to solve the problems of our customers. And what are those? How do we get content in front of them? ” And how do we interact with sales to make sure that that’s actually getting in front of the customers. And how do we create a strategy for sales where they’re looking for our content, not necessarily us sending that out to them and this is the big thing at Oracle too. You’re marketing your marketing is something no one really talks about, it’s always what’s your most popular blog post, which for me, it’s the blog post about getting sued over a blog post, which is a whole other rabbit we could go down. But I don’t… I don’t necessarily understand why so often we forget what is most important and that’s driving revenue. And it may have nothing to do with blog posts depending on your business and for me right now, my head is not around blog posts, my head is around how do we teach industrial manufacturing companies how they can optimize their productivity because a 1% improvement can be hundreds of millions of dollars. So how am I going to do that as a marketer?
John: One of the other challenges I see a lot of companies struggle with is you know, content production is a pretty good sized job yet they give it to you know one maybe part-time person in some cases. How do you get — you know and a lot of times that part-time person doesn’t you know they don’t have sales conversations or engineering conversations and so it’s very difficult for them to even produce the content. So how do you make content everyone’s job?
Chris: I think your analogy, your metaphor earlier you know content is air. I think that’s a perfect approach because I’ve always viewed it as kind of this glue or some type of material that transfers across everyone because the job of anyone in content is to figure out what challenges are there for their potential customers and how do we best meet those challenges and no matter your industry, you’re working with subject matter experts. And you know, I’m surrounded by PHDs and people who’ve invented terms you know, acronyms used in manufacturing, some of the people who invented those are peers. And sure, I’m maybe one person but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk to them and try to understand hey, what are you hearing from the customers? And it’s not this formal process, it can just be an email or a phone call, a message on slack. It could be any way of communication. But just checking in and saying what are you hearing? And you can start to put that in Excel or whatever and aggregate the most popular responses. It doesn’t have to be a formal process and I think too often we stay in the marketing bubble and we don’t venture out of that bubble to talk to other people. But almost every time I’ve ever approach anyone in sales or customer support or services and said hey, I’m trying to create content that will help us close deals, I’d love to understand some of the pain points and where you see opportunities, they perk up, they want to have that conversation and that’s how you turn everyone else into content practitioners. You help them understand you know, we can talk on the phone for 30 minutes and record that and then I can go back and create in written form or maybe we do a podcast, like we’re talking on the phone right now and this is a form of content, you’ll turn that into a blog post and then you’ll share it on social media. It’s the exact same approach but there’s this fear of the blinking cursor and I think that’s the laziness of many of us in our profession is to say, hey Joe, I need you to write a blog post. Hey Joe, I need you to write a white paper. And when you stare at a blank word document or blank Google doc, it’s completely different to saying I’d love to ask you some questions and really understand what you’re encountering. So that you know, journalistic approach I think it turns everyone into content practitioners because they don’t necessarily have to write it.
John: I think to some degree it’s a culture shift in an organization too because so many people have you know, marketing known’s marketing people are over there producing all the content and I think you hit on a very good point, I think there’s a lot of people that would love to be asked because they actually do have better insight into the customer or better insight into the challenges of the customer and so you’re almost doing a disservice to the organization but not including them.
Chris: I completely agree and the sad reality of marketing right now — I mean the a group did a study a couple of years ago and 80% of CEOs aren’t satisfied with their marketing teams. 80%. And when you think about that what are the reasons? And when you dive into that it’s usually tied back to revenue or profitability or understanding the numbers. And for us to assume that we have the answers and we can you know figure it out with Google search or Google trends, which sometimes those are indicators. But in many industries, they may not be as digital savvy as marketing to marketers. So that may not be an accurate trend line. It may be people inside the walls and talking to them. So I completely agree with you. It’s a disservice not to talk to those folks and it’s not something that’s hard to do in practice, it just requires picking up the phone or walking somewhere else in the office.
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So you mentioned answering questions is a great way to generate or get ideas for content. I will tell you another way that I’ve used for years with organizations is you know those engineering folks or sales folks or service folks probably are sitting on a treasure trove of content in their sent email.
John: So you know again another great place to go and find you know highly technical answers and consultative you know approaches that you probably can turn into things — and in many cases probably repeat themselves.
Chris: That’s exactly right. I mean how many times have we sent emails and then you know you’ve sent it, but you can’t find it. And you search and you search and you search and you can’t find the exact one. One thing — we had a customer that was a large seller of tires online, which that narrows it down to two really. So you can figure out which one. They set up a system where they BCC’ed every email and it was specific to each sales rep. But it put it into the marketing platform but it put it into a content marketing system for a marketing manager could strip out the personally identifying information and say, alright instead of this thing, dear John, here are the three best tires for your Honda Odyssey in the Winter – they turn it into a blog post; three best tires for Honda Odyssey in Winter season. Or something like that. And then they go through and they add pictures and links to the store and every link has a trackable code that attributes to the sales rep. So what actually happened there is those emails they were sending that died in their inbox, they turned into blog posts and then the blog posts can get pulled into emails and marketing automation and anytime someone clicks to buy, the rep got paid. And that’s a very simply cycle to create. So I’m with you, I think that’s one of the single biggest opportunities because someone will say oh I can’t right, I’m not a content person. And then you ask them how many emails do you send a day and I guarantee you they’re sending tons of emails so I complete agree with you there I think that’s a great thing to recommend to anyone.
John: Another thing that I again, I work with so many business owners that getting them to do this is really tough so I try and come up with as many shortcuts as possible or ways for them to leverage what they’ve already done. And so I’ve been preaching this idea of planned repurposing, so in other words, if you’re going to write — you know you write one big blog post about seven ways to do X, Y and Z and then with the idea that all seven of those will eventually become a blog post as well. Any thoughts on ways to get more efficient like that?
Chris: I think that’s a great way to do it. Plan out the pillar piece and then the smaller pieces. You know another thing, most people don’t go back and look at the content that’s being created. And there’s always this assumption that everyone has seen it. I hear this at every company I’ve ever been, oh we’ve used that, we’ve used that in that campaign. Right, but what’s your open rate? What’s your click rate? There are so many people that have never seen anything.
John: Yeah there’s no question. In fact, another really great tactic for someone who’s been producing content for years is to go back and re-optimize and all of that, update it, freshen it up, get rid of the bad links, change the images is a great way to take a piece that maybe has been serving you for years and bring it back to new life.
Chris: I completely agree and we ran into this at Oracle, we combined social and content into one group. And it was a net new team and the first year we create tons and tons of content and then the next year we came back and said we’re creating 25% of the content we created last year and there was an initial freak-out, but we had a baseline, we had analytics, we could track what was working and the waterfall approach to leads, and we went back and updated lots of things and everything you said we did and then you know, updating statistics and the introduction, the look and feel and the design or turning it into a different form factor, take the blog post and make it an e-book or a slideshow presentation. And that’s something that — it’s just sitting there and I don’t — I’m not necessarily sure why we do it, it feels like it’s when we default back to activities based marketing, so not thinking about what are ways we could save time and energy but there’s so much content that we could continue to use. If you’ve ever created content, you can go back and search for that and something from 2014 is probably 80% accurate for 2017 with just a little bit of polish.
John: So this idea of you know everyone’s finally come around to I need to produce content. A lot of the folks out there you know leading the charge years ago are producing tons and tons of content I mean Hubspot’s probably producing five new e-books every week it seems like. You know are we at a point where people are just — it almost becomes worthless because there’s so much of it? We can’t consume it, we can’t even filter it? Or where do you think we are with the state of content?
Chris: I go back and forth on this. I know you’ve had Mark on the podcast, Mark Schafer and he coined the term content shock and there are many elements of that that I agree with because there is an abundance of content. But there’s not always an abundance of relevant content. Especially tied to the buying’s journey which you were talking about before. I mean if someone’s comparing products and they’re at that last stage in comparing your marketing automation to another person’s marketing automation or your jet engine to another jet engine regardless of what it is, to throw your hands up and say well yeah, people have already created that content, I think that’s another fallacy. It’s something where if they want to know it, you will continue to research it. If you’re buying a car you don’t get fed up and close your laptop and say you know I just can’t read any more about Camri versus Accord, you want to read everything until you feel comfortable with that decision because everyone knows the stats too. So much of the buyer’s process is done before you ever talk to anyone. So no matter how much content gets created there’s always a need for relevant content.
John: Let’s end up today with — I always like to talk to people about tools. What are some of your favorite tools for consuming, creating, tracking content?
Chris: You know I’ve kind of turned into a curmudgeon a little bit with this. I guess Mark was right with the content shock. I’ve started to parse down and surprisingly enough, I’m using LinkedIn and Facebook a lot more than I ever thought I would. And the reason for that is everyone’s already curating the content. If you build a decent network — I don’t necessarily have to go outside and use tools and set up RSS readers and try to parse through content. If I’m surrounding myself with smart people I can pull on what they’re creating. Because many of them are much better than I am at that, you know one example — well obviously Duct Tape Marketing I’ve been following that for years but look at what Scott Montey has done you know his weekly digest… it’s gold. I don’t think I could do that if I spent an hour, two hours a week trying to find the best content. So it’s the whole you know, the five people you spend the most time with, the profound impact it has the Jim Rohn quote — that may be a copout answer but Facebook has been a great tool for me because I surround myself with people who are much smarter than I am and I defer what they’re curating.
John: I think you’re actually identifying a pretty significant trend. I think a lot of people are. I think they’re even some statistics that suggest people are doing fewer and fewer searches because of you know, instead of turning to a search engine they’re going to Facebook or as you said, LinkedIn and just looking at the groups they belong to or the folks that they follow. And I think that’s probably something we’re going to see more and more of that Facebook groups have actually made Facebook more useful again.
Chris: Yeah I completely agree with that and you know I watch TED talks, I’m a sucker for those and I know some of them are old and outdated but that’s something that I like to do, TED talks and podcasts. That probably is the original source where I go through and watch those and I even watched an old Tony Robbins one and there was quote which was exactly what we’re talking about, he said casually, almost a throwaway line, “The defining factor is never resources, it’s resourcefulness.” And I thought that was one of those Ah ha! Moments where I paused the video and switched to that tab or whatever I was doing and wrote that down because I think no matter the size of the company, how much money we have or how many people we have, even with $100 million budget it’s the execution that makes the difference. So that resourcefulness and taking some of the tips we talked about today, that’s what can really differentiate you, regardless of what your company sells or does.
John: So true. So Chris, where umm — would you suggest people who would like to engage you or find out more about what you’re doing, where would you have them check you out?
Chris: Sure. I’d probably say LinkedIn. Connect on LinkedIn or Facebook, either one it’s just Chris Moody so Linkedin.com/Chris Moody. I have a blog where I don’t really blog frequently that’s Chris-Moody so if you want to go to Chris-Moody.com and read about me being sued over a blog post which is still the number one blog post that’s a pretty entertaining sort.
John: Well great we’ll actually put those links in the show notes as well. So Chris thanks for taking a moment to share about content and content marketing and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road soon.
Chris: Thanks for having me John.
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