How Convince and Convert Levels Up Their Content

Anna Hrach, Content Strategist at Convince and Convert, joins the Content Pros Podcast to share her three tips for carving a place for yourself in the still-growing field of content marketing.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Take Your Content From Zero to Hero With Three Steps

Content marketing is a fairly young focus area when it comes to the marketing field. What started out as asking an intern to write a blog or hiring an English major right out of college has blossomed into a role that drives strategy and has a definite impact on a company’s bottom line.

Working in a brand new field can be exhilarating and maddening. While you get to forge your own path, there is not a lot of guidance in how to up your content marketing game.

Anna understands the struggle of making your way in a field that is still establishing itself. Through her success at Convince and Convert, she has landed on three ways you can quickly and easily improve your content marketing professional profile:

  1. Lead with strategy.
  2. Take time for yourself and your education.
  3. Try, try, and try again.

Implementing these three ideas will help you guide your career to the top.

In This Episode

  • How the evolution of content marketing leads to a focus of strategy above all else
  • Why increasing appreciation for content marketing means changing leadership’s perception of the work involved
  • How strategizing, treating yo’ self, and trying leads to a better career as a content marketer

Quotes From This Episode

“A lot of times content marketing was just sort of assigned to someone. It wasn’t their primary responsibility.” —@annabananahrach

“We really need strategy first and then hire someone who can understand that strategy and translate it.” —@annabananahrach

“To a person who’s looking at everything from the outside, they’re seeing just one blog post, but to the person on the inside, that’s five-ish hours of work.” —@annabananahrach

“What we need to start realize is it’s not just the function of doing, it’s the function of all the strategy that lives behind there.” —@randyfrisch

“It’s not about seeing what sticks to the wall anymore. It’s about actually taking a look at what we’re trying to achieve and then building that roadmap to those goals.” —@annabananahrach

“Just take some time and read for yourself and invest in yourself.” —@annabananahrach

“The entire product of content marketing is just because somebody wanted to try something new.” —@annabananahrach

“There is so much out there that we almost have the luxury of having too much content, but that can create a lot of decision paralysis.” —@annabananahrach

Done is better than perfect. Click To Tweet

Resources

Content Pros Lightning Round

What is one of your all-time favorite books? Rework and The Great Gatsby

If someone’s in Phoenix where it’s so hot already, where do you go for vacation? We actually do look for cooler places. So, most of the time what you’re going to find is people head over to San Diego, which is only about a five-hour drive away, or they actually head north.

Episode Transcript

Randy: Welcome to the Content Pros podcast. I usually start off by saying that I'm joined by good friend Tyler Lessard from Vidyard, but he's off today. We've got an amazing guest joining me, Randy Frisch, on the Content Pros podcast. Now, the other thing you always hear me also start with is talking about Convince & Convert. Convince & Convert is where Jay Baer spends most of his day helping companies figure out how to raise their game be it in social, content marketing, their overall marketing guru status. The great news is we have one of the strategists, Anna Hrach, who's going to join us today to talk about how she ended up joining Convince & Convert and some of the things that she's doing to help a lot of us as content marketers level up. What I mean by that is a lot of us all of a sudden had to become content marketers. Either we apply to an opening and never done it before, or they said to us in our company, "You know what? You got to kind of help us with this content marketing thing, because we're trying to figure it out, and we hear it's all the fad right now." So, Anna's going to join us. We're going to dig in. Anna, great to have you here. Maybe you can just give a little context to us in terms of what you do at Convince & Convert, and maybe even for our benefit, start before you even got there.
Anna: Sounds great. Thanks for having me today, Randy. Really happy to be here.
Randy: We're excited.
Anna: Awesome. My background. So, I have been in the content industry working with content in some way, shape, or form for the last 11 years. Taking it way back to the beginning of my career, I actually started off as a traditional copywriter so doing traditional billboards, radio scripts, the whole shebang. I started to see that one of my agencies was actually picking up a ton of web work, and I said, "Hey, you know what? That sounds pretty awesome. I think I want to try that out." Lo and behold, it was awesome. I loved it, and I made my transition into digital content from there. I've spent my entire career pretty much at advertising agencies. About a year ago I met up with Jay, and he said, "Hey, we have an opening on our team. Would you like come be a strategist?" Of course, I jumped on board at that opportunity, and I've been with Convince & Convert for the last year.
Randy: Just so we know, what does a strategist mean? Because I think some of us wonder what that means versus when we're a practitioner, or to your point, living in an agency. How does that strategist role kind of sit in between?
Anna: A strategist at Convince & Convert really sort of helps everybody do the planning. They set the strategy, they set the vision, and they really work with brands. We work with our clients to help them achieve their goals. We really are their counsel. We are their day-to-day go-to and gut checks, so we help them go from getting out of the weeds, pull them out, and we help them see that vision, and we help them create that roadmap to success.
Randy: That's great. We're just personally curious. We talk a lot, in our company here at Uberflip of culture and that we want everyone to have individual ideas. When you're part of a group like Convince & Convert that has so many great strategists, not to mention Jay, how do you kind of balance those own personal experiences you have, and kind of the best-in-breed network that you've created there to determine how you go to market with your ideas?
Anna: Good question. So, I think you kind of the hit the nail on the head there with Jay. So, Jay really is the central part of everything we do at Convince & Convert. Nobody comes onto the team unless Jay has personally picked them or Jay knows them. That's really kind of what makes it great is everybody on the team is already trusted. We've already been vetted. We already kind of know each other in many instances. We've worked with Jay in the past. We've in many instances worked with each other as well. So, we really are just sort of a very close-knit group of consultants who have a ton of experience. We like to say that there is no B team. You literally get the A team at Convince & Convert. So, it's kind of easy to go to market with that, because when people sign up with Convince & Convert, they know that they're getting the best of the best, and they know that they're getting people with experience, with knowledge, with knowhow. In every single instance, we've been there too. Many of us had been on client side before. So many of us had been on the agency side. We have that history and that experience to then help translate it to our clients.
Randy: That's really interesting. So, we promised everyone tuning in this is not going to be a Convince & Convert infomercial. We're going to get to the real good stuff. I kind of led off the podcast by talking about where I want to go today, which is this challenge that I hear a lot of people come to me with. It's funny. We have our own conference that's happening later this summer. It's actually in the next couple of weeks all about how to leverage content marketing. Some of the people who end up coming to that will reach out to me and say, "I'm really trying to figure out how to make this a legit career," which I kind of find funny because it's funny that people don't think of it as a legit career. For a lot of us, we have a title like content marketing manager, but maybe you can speak about what you've seen out there about people needing to meet this transition into content marketing and what they're struggling with.
Anna: Absolutely. So, I think the biggest thing that I've seen over the course of content marketing's rise is that a lot of times content marketing was just sort of assigned to someone. It wasn't their primary responsibility. It was tacked on to their extra responsibility. People actually started investing in this and seeing some results and wanting to get better at it, but the thing of it is it's so new. I mean, even though content marketing has been around in some way, shape, or form for hundreds of years. I mean, we could go all the way back to the John Deere that everybody loves to cite with their magazine. But really, as a very solid practice and a very ... something with a label on it like content marketing, there wasn't a degree program in school. There wasn't really any formal training up until recently, so a lot of people have just sort of had to wing it. They've had to just learn as they go and they've had to pull these new responsibilities into their existing responsibilities and kind of grow themselves. So, there's a lot of homegrown content marketers and that's fantastic because we're all learning every day and we're trying new things and we're learning from our mistakes and we're getting better every day. So, the progression has been kind of crazy and very fun and organic.
Randy: That's interesting. I often try and compare the past to the present. I always think it's interesting to see like what is this most like that we went through maybe five years ago or 50 years ago? How do we see these cycles almost through maturity models? One of the things I often try and compare content to these days is like what we saw with social. Social went through that rise almost five, 10 years early than I think what we're seeing with content. When I talk to some marketing leaders, sometimes they say they're viewing content a little different. Anyone who does social is going to hate me for this comment, but on day one with social, we all went in, we hired very junior people, like right out of school. Let me put a 20-year-old on a computer and let them tweet, like whatever the verb was, let them do that.
Anna: Or an intern.
Randy: Right, or an intern. It's not that they weren't taking it seriously. I think we just thought that that younger workforce would relate to this new media. Content marketing's a little different. I don't know if you see that with a lot of your companies. Are they looking for that young right-out-of-school person to jump into these roles, or are they actually looking for more seasoned experience quite often? I'm hearing more season more personally.
Anna: I think it really depends. From what I've seen, it depends on the content marketing maturity model at each company and where they're at. A lot of companies who are just starting to adopt content marketing still have a little bit of that. Well, we'll just go ahead and get a writer and they're going to write some blog posts and we're going to be fine, but a lot of the people who have been doing this for a couple years now or even 10, 15 years are saying, "No. That's actually not the approach anymore. We really need strategy first. We then need to hire someone who can understand that strategy and translate it so we need a more experienced writer or we need a more experienced content marketing strategists." So, I'm still seeing both. There's still kind of that preconceived notion like we talked about with social, where people kind of see content as a free lunch. That's not the case anymore. It's definitely far more nuanced and far more involved than it used to be seen before.
Randy: So, when you're working with companies from a strategy perspective, as it ties to the term content marketing, what level in the organizations do you deal with? Are you starting to sit around this table to talk strategy? Are we at the CMO table very often or are we at the director VP ... I'm talking large organizations, which I know like C&C, you guys get involved with. What are you seeing in terms of representation for these strategic conversations?
Anna: For representation for strategic conversations, it really still feels to me like sort of middle ... the marketing managers, the copywriters, the content creators, they're the ones who really still feel like they're saying, "We're doing content marketing. We're seeing some results, but really could get better. We really could see more. It feels like we're not tapping into something." A lot of CMOs are getting it and they're getting onboard, but they're not as involved with the day-to-day. So, a lot of times it's up to sort of that middle management or even sort of the actual day-to-day tacticians to raise that flag and translate up exactly how content marketing could be better for them at their organization.
Randy: So, I wonder why that is. I mean, it's funny. I mean, if you sit at that table, I think that there's definitely conversations when you get into, say martech, like marketing technology where people are trying to figure out demand gen budgets, and marketing automation. Leveling us up to that next point, where do you think maybe the gap is in terms of maybe the ROI we need to show from content or something like that that's going to make this top of the list?
Anna: So, I think that gap kind of exists in doing the actual work. I think there's ... again, it's just sort of that preconceived notion about well, it's just a blog post so how long does that actually take? That person is actually writing that blog post saying, "Well, let me break it down for you. In order to create a simple blog post, there has to be an hour's worth of research." There is 30 minutes of brainstorming. There's an hour to an hour and a half of writing and maybe there is a half an hour of editing. So, to a person who's sort of looking at everything from the outside, they're seeing just one blog post, but to the person on the inside, that's five-ish hours of work. I think it's more perception. Unfortunately, perception is reality for most so it's just a matter of communicating what those gaps are.
Randy: It's really interesting. I was talking to a colleague of mine in another company. They're growing at a pretty aggressive rate. He had told me that they had recently hired a new ... I don't know if it was a VP or a director of content. The guy had actually come from being the editor of like, maybe in GQ magazine, or something of the sort. When he said that, I realize, "This guy ... " This guy was the CEO. He obviously gets it because he can understand that you come from an organization like that, that's their business. Creating content is a business with so many stakeholders. And maybe to your point, Anna, that's what we need to start realize is it's not just the function of doing, it's the function of all the strategy that lives behind there.
Anna: Totally. I mean, without a strategy ... I think CMOs, to their credit, and not to say that they don't get it at all. That's totally wrong. We've seen so many CMOs and C-level and executives totally jump onboard and be all for it and be so supportive and that has grown tremendously in the last few years. So, definitely don't want to discredit any of them at all, but especially to your point where maybe outside of peer content creation organizations or somebody who actually is a publisher, that's just that adoption is slightly slower or maybe it's just a little bit more murky.
Randy: I think one of the things that we have to also focus on to raise the bar in terms of the importance of the content marketer is to raise the bar of the content marketer itself. So, what we'll do, we'll take a short break on Content Pros. We'll be right back after hearing some sponsors. We'll talk about how to level up as a content marketer inside of your organization. Welcome back to the Content Pros podcast. I'm Randy Frisch, and we have Anna Hrach here from Convince & Convert, and we're going to dig in as I said on how do we level up as content marketers. We started off the show by talking about being thrown into it. Either we come from a company where they're trying to look internally for who can take on this responsibility, or we came from another industry and we need to adapt to be content marketers in an organization. So, Anna, let's suppose we were writing a blog post right now because we talked all about blog post and we were looking for that cheesy top three headline, top three things that I can do as a content marketer to level up my skill set and level up the way the company perceives my value. How would you address the body of this blog post?
Anna: So, the top three things that content marketers can do to level up, really, first and foremost is check your strategy. Make sure that you understand the vision of what you're actually working towards. Any effort that you do without a strategy is never going to be as effective. Make sure you have at least some sort of loose goal set. Make sure your company at least has some sort of KPIs they're driving to because that's going to ultimately make you be a success.
Randy: I love that. That's something I think we always hear from the Content Marketing Institute is an example, the scary statistics of the number of people who are approaching content as a company let alone an individual without starting with strategies. You said earlier, everyone's just like, "Let's just create a blog post."
Anna: It's not about seeing what sticks to the wall anymore. It's about actually taking a look at what we're trying to achieve and then building that roadmap to those goals.
Randy: We got number one. Give me number two.
Anna: The second would definitely be to go out and take some time to dedicate to yourself and learn as much as you can. Take an hour a week. If you can, take 30 minutes a day. Bookmark some of your favorite blogs. Go read experiences, case studies, whatever you are looking for, I guarantee you it is out there and somebody has written about it already. So, you actually have the benefit of having almost too much information to look through. Just take some time and read for yourself and invest in yourself.
Randy: I love that. I always talk about this internally when we do our culture session here at Uberflip when someone starts off and we say about the irony of the fact that to learn about content marketing, just turn to content marketing. It's just right there standing there for you, waiting for you. Embrace it. So, I couldn't agree more. I want to come back to this one, but I want to hear your third one first.
Anna: So, my third one would be to just go out and try. So, just make sure you jump out there and try something new. Try something you never done before. You won't know if it works or not until you try it and see the results. The entire product of content marketing is just because somebody wanted to try something new. They wanted to try a different approach and they just jumped out there and they just did it. So, we're so scared of failure and having something not work. Obviously, we need to be cognizant of ROI and KPIs. If you go out there and you try a little bit at a time, it's not like you're blowing the whole budget on something. If you try and test and it doesn't work, now you know. That's better than just wondering if it's ever going to work.
Randy: I love that. Can you give us an example of maybe of a company that you've been working with or something you guys even at C&C have done internally where you tried something new and it either worked amazing, or even that it failed but you learn from it?
Anna: Sure. I mean, I feel like my entire career has been built on sort of learning from my missteps, not necessarily even in a bad way. You just kind of understand that this work and this didn't work, so we're going to do more of what does work. I think I say this a lot in terms of blogs, especially company blogs where this is a lot of times the product of, "We need to do content marketing. We have to do content marketing," so let's start a blog. It seems like the natural first step. It seems like an easy entry point. What you start to see is that they're maybe getting a lot of traffic, but then they're not actually getting any conversion. So, we, for the longest time, just had this notion that because we're creating content and people are seeing it that that means it's a success. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, when we started tying KPIs to it and we started tying conversions to it and looking at sort of the entire funnel and how that works, we're seeing that maybe that's just not the case. Maybe that blog isn't actually a success. Maybe it's just sort of a failure and that's okay and now they know. It's okay to take those learnings and pivot and go with what works.
Randy: I couldn't agree with you more. I think it's funny. A lot of what we're talking about comes back to this idea of culture. It's really important that we ensure that our cultures align to everything we're talking about. So, you gave us three really good key takeaways. I hope there is a blog post that comes out of this. The first one is check our strategy. The second one is make sure that we're always learning. The third one is to try something new. As you said, I want to actually come back to learning, because it's exciting that there's so much content out there, but it's also a little overwhelming at times. Between my inbox, my Twitter, and my LinkedIn, which is my go-to these days, and even Instagram in some weird ways where I find content these days. It's like I have so much content to read. Especially when it comes to becoming a great content marketer, I can't read every asset, but you guys have actually I think realized that and done something really cool that I've been talking about on this podcast for quite a few months right now, which is called the content marketing class. So, maybe you can talk to us about where this idea came from and how you got about executing it as a team.
Anna: Absolutely. So, the Content Marketing Master Class was actually Jay's idea. It really came out of just this understanding of exactly what you just said. There is so much out there that we almost have the luxury of having too much content, but that can kind of create a lot of decision paralysis. There's so many different opinions and there's so many different "right" ways to do things that we really wanted to give just a very structured, guided course on how to do content marketing. The whole goal is to just make sure you have the foundation you need to get going with content marketing. The people who attended our class are across the entire range. Everybody we talked at the beginning where a lot of them are general marketers and they just sort of adopted content marketing as part of their responsibilities. Others are actually seasoned content marketers who are just trying to say, "What else can I learn? I'm doing something one way, but maybe there's another way to do it. Maybe I can actually learn some new skill set." So, it really runs the entire range, and it was really fun. We actually got on weekly calls with them and everybody would throw out their questions and their conversations and we get into some really great philosophical questions. Sometimes we just chitchat about our weekends even, but it was really great to see everybody come together and have sort of just that trust with each other and be able to ask those questions that sometimes we don't feel we can ask because we're supposed to know them.
Randy: It's a tricky place to be, especially with an industry or a role in an organization that's still so new. We expect experts, but as you said in the beginning, no one's really an expert yet. We're all kind of learning on the go here. So, I'm wondering maybe you can just tell us a little bit more about the format, the investment, not from a dollar perspective, but the amount of time that someone is investing to go through this content marketing class because that's another thing I think so many of us are struggling with these days is time and investment. There's so many things we want to do, but it's putting the time towards them.
Anna: Totally. We actually had that in mind when it was structured. The fantastic thing is that it was a 10-week course. So, every week, new content would be posted to the class. It would be a presentation given from Jay. He would break down different topics along the way. They'd be anywhere from about 45 minutes to about 30 minutes. Most of them range about 30 minutes. So, you get to see Jay sort of walk you through all of the concepts and explain things and there were great examples. Then, afterwards, you would actually get downloadable worksheets and you'd get to take what Jay just talked about it and put it into practice for yourself and that I think is the most beautiful thing, is it's not just a webinar that you can attend in your spare time. It's actually learn then do. So, you're learning these concepts. You're learning how Convince & Convert actually does a lot of the work that we do and then able to apply to yourself immediately. Everything is broken into very bite-size digestible pieces and it's very guided and structured along the way. As I mentioned before, at the end of every week, so typically content would be posted on a Monday, and then every Friday, we would actually have a live Q&A call with Jay, myself, another one of the Convince & Convert strategists who's also brilliant, Anthony Helmstetter. We would jump on and we would actually just take live questions from the attendees of the course. It was just a really great, well-rounded course. So, you got a mixture of webinar plus live assistance and downloadable content.
Randy: I'm curious. We talked about this idea that we should never stop learning and in fact, it's a big part of our culture here again. What's one big thing that you've learned just by assembling the content marketing course? I mean, you've been doing this as you said for 11 years. I'm sure you've walked away with numerous of your own ways to level up. What's the top way you've personally leveled up through putting together this course?
Anna: So, I think the way that I've leveled up from putting together this course and just being a part of it and getting on a phone with everybody every week is that done is better than perfect. I know that that's almost becoming a bit cliched at this point because it is kind of a mantra that's out there right now. It's really true. Again, going back to one of the things that we talked about earlier, which is just try. Just get out there and try it. It doesn't have to be perfect. What you put out into the world doesn't have to be perfect the first time. Just put it out there and see what it does. Put it out there, see how people react to it, and then refine it. You can always refine it. That's the great thing that I love about working with web content is that it's always updateable. It's always changeable. We have this beautiful ability to learn from what's working and then keep doing more of that. And almost near real time with analytics and feedback and comments on social platforms, it's really kind of amazing.
Randy: I love that approach. One of my favorite books is The Lean Startup, which is a great book by Eric Ries. It talks about this idea of the minimum viable product that we have to get out there and that idea of, as you said, don't worry about perfecting it. Get it out, get feedback, and iterate on that process as you go. So, couldn't agree more. We've got like a couple minutes left and what we always like to do at the end is we like to get to know our guest outside of work. So, just threw the concept of one of my favorite books, without using a Jay Baer because we don't have to suck up to Jay on this podcast. What is one of your all-time favorite books? It doesn't even have to be a workbook. It could be just a book that gets you through a weekend.
Anna: That is a great question. I have so many books. How about if I give one personal and one work?
Randy: I love it.
Anna: So, one of the books that actually really changed how I look at things, especially when I was working at an agency ... And of course, working in an agency is amazing. I loved it. Everything was priority number one all the time. One book that really helped me sort of restructure and prioritize was the infamous book, Rework, which is just about cutting through a lot of the unnecessary work and getting to the heart of what really matters and how you're going to be most effective. Obviously, it was from the creators of ... It was 37signals and Basecamp. On the surface, it's a bit of a harsh book, but it's very sort of like that tough love kind of approach. I think it really helped me. One of my all-time personal favorite books that I will love and read anytime is actually the Great Gatsby. I had to read it, of course, back in high school English quite a while ago, but it's just a book that has always stayed with me and I love it. It's one that I will constantly treasure.
Randy: Those are two great options between personal and work, which it's so important to have that balance. So, we also like to get to know you outside of work, because I said one of the things ... I'm just going to throw, because I'm randomly curious. We were talking about this when you were getting on the podcast today. You're in Phoenix, correct?
Anna: Correct.
Randy: So, if someone's in Phoenix where it's so effing hot, where do you go for vacation? Do you want cold? What is the mindset that you're going away, you're going somewhere with what type of climate?
Anna: So, it's funny. I mean, obviously, we've been on the news quite a bit this year with our 120 degree days, which I would like to clarify for anybody visiting Arizona that that is actually extremely unusual. We even-
Randy: I thought what you were going to say is it's a dry heat, right?
Anna: No, no. It gets really humid, but even that, we were like, "Come on. Are you kidding me?" So, yes, the answer is we actually do look for cooler places. So, most of the time what you're going to find is people head over to San Diego, which is only about a five-hour drive away, or they actually head north. What a lot of people don't know about Arizona is that actually the sort of top half to one-third of the state is actually high mountain and actually cold. So, we actually get snow in Arizona and a lot of it once you get up to the Flagstaff area.
Randy: Interesting, interesting. I always wondered that. I mean, it's funny. I actually went to a cold destination recently in the summer just to get away. No one could believe it, but I was like, "It's summer. I got to go somewhere cool even though I'm Canadian." Anyway, this has been great, Anna. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to join us on Content Pros podcast. As I always tell people, there's so much more great content coming from Convince & Convert. I think you've proven that today. Not to mention this amazing opportunity for us to all level up as content marketers through content marketing class. I believe it's contentmarketingclass.com. Is that correct?
Anna: I believe so.
Randy: That's how you know it's genuine. We're not even pushing the real URL. Anyways, thank you so much. For those who have tuned in and enjoyed this podcast, there's so much else to find at convinceandconvert.com. As well, come to contentprospodcast.com and check all the other back issues we have. You can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play. Whenever there's an opportunity to leave feedback, let us know how this podcast can be better. Until next time, we thank you so much for making time for the Content Pros podcast.
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