Ripening Your Content
There is a lot to handle when it comes to content. The bar is always going up-up-up, and the subject matter and dissemination platforms never stop diversifying. This can easily bump making progress towards strategic goals to the bottom of the priority list.
Coming from a background as an analyst, Sam has found a way to balance productivity and progress by building a strong content marketing foundation using the maturity model. This thorough step-by-step process of constructing a cross-organizational support structure helps marketers to achieve buy-in horizontally and vertically which optimizes the production and dissemination of content.
The model also allows for strategic growth that is unhindered by workloads because it is incorporated in the very fabric of your content process.
The maturity model is a powerful tool which, when thoughtfully incorporated, will make your content more powerful and compelling for both your readers and your colleagues.
In This Episode
- How adhering to the maturity model leads to consistent progress towards accomplishing all your goals, both big and small
- Why getting the maturity model into your process means starting at the C-suite
- How building a foundation with the maturity model leads to a successful house of content
- Why successful implementation means dividing to conquer
Quotes From This Episode
“The analyst perspective gives you the ability to see markets in a different way and think about problems and frameworks in a different way.” —@SamMelnick
“You are never going to go from A to Z. There are always steps in between, and often it’s not linear, and it’s not just a single track.” —@SamMelnick (highlight to tweet)
“The maturity model compartmentalizes what you are trying to accomplish, this big goal, and it gives you specific steps and specific areas to focus on, to move forward and ultimately get to that goal.” —@SamMelnick
“You need to move people along a path, and there are going to be different areas to focus on.” —@SamMelnick (highlight to tweet)
“You don’t know what goes into optimizing marketing performance management until you talk with people who are doing it every day and industry experts.” —@SamMelnick
“We are bringing it back on how we can help our customers get to this end goal of optimizing marketing performance and bringing it outside of just what does the technology do.” —@SamMelnick
“We want to accomplish X, Y, or Z. What technologies will actually help us bring this to market or visualize it or fill in the blank?” —@SamMelnick (highlight to tweet)
“When working with customers directly, the more knowledge and information that you are able to bring them, essentially value beyond just whatever your product or technology is, is going to make you that much more successful with your customers.” —@SamMelnick
“Building at the marketing content, whether it’s a maturity model or whatever it is, is step one, but it’s more the enablement and making sure what you’ve built is valuable for the customers.” —@SamMelnick
“Creating content is not about bringing in customers. Obviously, it is the end goal but even above that is how do we provide value to everybody that we touch in some way?” —@SamMelnick
Content Pros Lightning Round
Where are you these days from a social perspective? What channels have you bought into as an individual? Mainly Twitter and LinkedIn with some Facebook and Instagram.
How did you get from being a manager of a minor league baseball team to marketing? I got a degree in sports management which led to sports marketing and then made the leap to tech marketing.
Favorite TV show? Top Chef
|Randy:||Welcome to another episode of Content Pros. I am very excited today. We have a guest who knows all about, not just content but how to run an entire marketing team, how to scale that team, how the industries are changing. Without further ado, I’m going to tell you a little bit about Sam Melnick. Sam is the VP of Marketing at a company called Allocadia. Allocadia is a great company. I’ve actually recorded a podcast out of their office because they were so generous once while I was on the road in Vancouver, that they let me use their office to record one of these podcasts.
They are good people too, which is what you’ve got to know, and they are all about this concept of MPM. We’ll get into that but maybe Sam bringing you in here, you can tell us a little bit about you, what Allocadia does, and what you do there on a day to day basis.
|Sam:||Sure. First of all, thanks a lot for having me, Randy. I’m really excited to be here and chat with you about content and all things marketing. Just quickly, what Allocadia does is we are a marketing performance management software company. Really what we do is we help marketing organizations gain control of their investments. We help them tie those investments back to what results they are getting back, ultimately with a goal of helping them make better, more impactful decisions.
As you mentioned, I’m the vice president of marketing over at Allocadia. I run everything from product marketing, to content marketing, to demand generation. I’m relatively new in the role, previous to that I was actually in a role at Allocadia called Director of Customer and Marketing Insights, where I really developed a lot of primary research and content for our customers, our prospects, and everyone else in market. Even before that, I’ve been at Lattice Engines, a predictive marketing software company. Then where I get a lot of my, I guess, content background is, I was an analyst at IDC in a group called CMO Advisory Service where I learned about creating a lot of this great content.
|Randy:||I was going to hit on that because you got pressure moving from that analyst role into the company where you actually have to roll your sleeves up and do all the things that analysts told us to do. How was that transition just out of curiosity, moving from the teacher to, I guess, the student/implementer?|
|Sam:||I think that’s a great question. Even when I was at IDC, I was always thinking about what do I want to do long term? I knew I didn’t want necessarily to be an analyst for 15-20 years. I knew I wanted to move into a practitioner role at some point. Really I’d say two things; one, the analyst perspective gives you the ability to see markets in a different way and think about problems and frameworks in a different way. Making that jump over to execution, I think the hardest part was just kind of making sure that you are not just learning but driving impact, and showing that you are driving impact, and making sure what you are talking about and thinking about helps the business rather than just learn and share.|
|Randy:||That’s fair. Having now moved into that practitioner role, and before we dig into some other fun contents of what analysts do you still kind of like crave their insights on as things have progressed? Who’s your go to?|
|Sam:||I have to call out my old boss who is probably the best marketer that I’ve ever worked with. That’s Kathleen Schaub; she’s over at IDC, she’s an ex-CMO, so she’s kind of gone … She’s been a practitioner before she was an analyst, and she just got a great perspective both as an analyst, but then she can call back on her practitioner and marketing background. I love the folks over at SiriusDecisions. Craig Moore is group and marketing operations, but Jeff Clark is relatively new there. He’s been putting out some really good research, and I also enjoy the conversations with him.
Then finally Allison Snow at Forrester. Again she’s one of those practitioners-turned-analyst, same with a lot of the folks at Sirius, Jeff Clark included. I’d say all analysts are great that I speak with, but the ones who have been practitioners and jumped over to analyst, they are able to kind of give you dual-views.
|Randy:||Sam, it feels like you are running for office. That was a very political, you got everyone out. Either running for office or you just won an Oscar, you’ve got to give props to everyone. Definitely some great names and great thought leaders there. I’ll actually be at The SiriusDecisions Summit, which I think is only like a month or two away right now in Las Vegas later this year, which is a great coming together of CMO leaders, thought leaders, and especially some of the vendors like my company, UberFlip, who are interacting. It’s a great opportunity.
Let’s go more into your day to day world now. I’m going to throw this big term that people are going to be like, “What the hell is this?” In a minute. You are going to do a lot of explaining because you brought in from all this analyst stuff that we talked about. You brought in the idea of a maturity model into the content process at Allocadia. A lot of us are probably sitting here wondering, what is a maturity model? Before we go through the details, what’s the concept, what’s this big term that you’ve come up with?
|Sam:||When I think about maturity models, particularly a larger organization, whether it’s marketing or not, but even smaller organizations, the size of a company like Allocadia or whomever. You typically have big goals. You want to get better at X, Y, or Z or you want to take on a big project or big initiative, but it’s not … You are never going to go from A to Z so to speak, there is always steps in between, and often it’s not linear, and it’s not just a single track. When you look at a maturity model, you are trying to accomplish goals. Let’s say optimizing marketing performance management because that’s what the maturity model we built on Allocadia was.
There is going to be specific stages you go through. From least mature to most mature. Then there is also going to be dimensions such as, I’m going to look at our maturity model. Something like an executive vision or marketing technology or talent. Each of those have different stages that move across in maturity. The goal is to provide a framework, or structure so that an organization can say, and then people can say, “I want to get to Z, this end goal, but I need to focus on executive vision and move from stage two to stage three.” It compartmentalizes what you are trying to accomplish, this big goal, and it gives you specific steps and specific areas to focus on, to move forward and ultimately get to that goal.
|Randy:||I like that idea of dimensions that there is a couple of different dimensions. It would be fair, tell me if I’m off, but to kind of say the two axis here almost are the buyer journey and the personas within it, and the idea that we have to keep both in mind.|
|Sam:||Yes. I haven’t thought of it that way, but yeah, it is. It’s you need to move people along a path, and there is going to be different areas to focus on.|
|Randy:||Got you. Tell us a little bit about how that started and how you pitched this concept to the Allocadia team, because anyone, before anyone even starts thinking about building this out, how did this come to be to say, “Okay, this is where we should focus. This is how I’m going to structure my team at Allocadia?” Who did you have to get in on side during that process from your executive team?|
|Sam:||Let’s say I learned how to kind of build these in this framework and the way to think about a maturity model and actually go through the process of building it at IDC. Then I kind of moonlighted, I was at Lattice Engines, and I was actually more of a customer success type role there. I kind of moonlighted, and I built one out on my own at Lattice Engines. I’ve done like two or three of these in the past. I realized that one, I really enjoyed doing these. Two, I thought there was a lot of value that you could bring to market, whether it’s a customer prospect or even somebody that’ll never buy from you in doing these.
Three, I wanted to move back from customer success into marketing. I actually met with co-founders and the CMO of Allocadia, and kind of walked them through this idea of, the value of a maturity model, through what it could do for the organization, and they bought in. Really, where I looked at it was in terms of what had to be done was, it’s a core piece of content, that means content marketing needs to be involved. It is access to the right people and external people because you don’t have all the ideas of, you don’t know what goes into optimizing marketing performance management until you talk with people who are doing it every day and industry experts.
That means working with customer success to get in front of the right customers in the right level of customers. Then ultimately when it comes time to bringing it to market. It’s working with the demand gen team, to make sure you have a program together. It’s working with customer success and sales to almost enable them to use the content. We’ve even done some stuff where we’ve taken the maturity model and mapped it a little bit to our product, and kind of been able to map product features to areas within the maturity model. That’s working with product as well. It really was cross-functional, and then it was getting in front of the right people outside of the organization to get the knowledge so you could build something that’s substantial.
|Randy:||I love how complicated but how well suited your background is to leading something like this. The ability to play with all those different stakeholders as you said, coming from a customer success background, understanding how to interact with customers directly. It sounds like you had that understanding and that ability to come in and execute. Why don’t you give some specifics so people can better visualize this concept, and how it unfolds at Allocadia for you, this maturity model? Can you give us two different instances where the maturity model has been used that are maybe very different than each other?|
|Sam:||Absolutely. I’d say, the first instance is we’ve used it to build our very specific top of the funnel, demand generation. We’ve done webinars with key influences, with both Debbie Qaqish at Pedowitz Group, and then Matt Heinz over at Heinz Marketing. That was clearly you build awareness, but it’s also to get people into the funnel and educate them on marketing performance management and identify those folks who we might be able to help. That’s standard marketing. It’s you build out a great piece of content where finding different ways to take the content and bring it to market. Then a totally different one is we actually built out a customer assessment.
We would go in, and we would interview marketers of our customers. We would ask them, have them fill out 30 questions or so and then we would analyze the results and map the actual answers they gave us to the maturity model so that we could score them across the maturity model. We would have multiple interviews with the customers, and we would go on site and actually give them a 25-30 page PowerPoint readout of where they sit in terms of maturity model, what dimensions and highlights that we think they can improve on, and ultimately give them actions to take from that and improve.
We’ve gotten to the point where we actually can give them these specific actions and then say, “Allocadia can help you with,” we give them five actions. Action, one, three and four, and this is how we can help. We are bringing it back on how we can help our customers get to this end goal of optimizing marketing performance and bringing it outside of just what does the technology do.
|Randy:||I like that a lot. To help people understand, you’ve talked a little bit about all the people involved in pulling something like this off. You definitely have a process here in terms of how you approach it. A lot of people often say that approach anything and think about people, process, and technology. How does this actually come together though physically? Is this something that you have a template for that’s built in a spreadsheet or is this something where you’ve used some sort of third party tool out there or a combination of tools. How are you actually making this thing actually come together so that people can leverage it across a large organization?|
|Sam:||It’s kind of like you are building a house so to speak. I don’t know if that’s the right analogy. The foundation of it is the maturity model. I have a project plan that I can go to, and I know how many people I need to interview, I know how long it’ll take, I know how long, what parts of the maturity model I need to build first, and then how do I write it. That’s kind of your foundation. Not everyone is going to read a 20-page report and that fine, and that’s why you do more content off of it. Really it all bases around this maturity model as the foundation.
It’s what are the stages, what are the dimensions and how do you move people forward from there? Once you have that final tool or that initial tool, it’s more around what do you want to do next with it? What are your goals as an organization? I knew that I wanted to get to the point where I was doing multiple pieces of content, whether it was blog posts or webinars or what not, but I also wanted to build out a survey with benchmarks. Not only could we tell folks to, “This is where you are in the maturity model, but here is how you compare to the rest of the industry.”
To me it was mapping out, what were my end goals, where did I want to get to further down the line and then how do I kind of fill in the rest in terms of technologies, or people. It was finding the right people internally to partner with, whether it was editing help, whether it was design work, whether it was getting the programs running, marketing, all those. Customer success, leaders to partner with. Then the technology really came last. It was more like, “We want to accomplish X, Y, or Z. What technologies will actually help us bring this to market or visualize it or fill in the blank?”
|Randy:||Just taking a quick pause here. I want to hear from one of our sponsor, and then I want to go a lot deeper on what this allows you to do around bringing together the company. Let’s have a quick hear from one of our sponsors, and we’ll dig right back in.
Welcome back to content pros, and we are going deep on this concept of a maturity model with Sam Melnick here. Sam, I know one of the things that’s exciting to you as we were talking earlier about content these days is that it’s no longer just being used by marketing but it’s being used by the entire organization. It sounds like this idea of the maturity model is actually going to help fuel that. Can you speak to how you’ve seen that evolve in the last couple of years in your role as a VP of marketing?
|Sam:||Yeah, and I think some of this … We talked earlier how I’ve had a customer success background. I think some of it comes from my experience there as well, in the fact that I found that when working with customers directly, the more knowledge that you are able to bring and information that you are able to bring them, essentially value beyond just whatever your product or technology is, is going to make you that much more successful with your customers. When I think about, in that mindset, it’s how can we produce content or provide information or knowledge for all customer facings? Whether it’s sales, whether it’s our solution and engineers, or solution consultants, sales engineers, or whether it’s customer success, and give them the information to gain that trust, and that value beyond just the subject matter experts of the technology but rather the subject matter experts of our domain?
I think providing people, building at the marketing content, whether it’s a maturity model or whatever it is, is step one, but it’s more the enablement and making sure what you’ve built is valuable for the customers. Two, trainable, so to speak, for those customers facing folks who may not be in marketing.
|Randy:||That makes sense. I’m curious here. It’s one thing for us to say, as you said that we should create content for these different stages of the funnel. Too often, I don’t know about you, I talk to marketers all the time, partly my day job, but partly I go to these conferences, and we are talking to each other. It sounds like as much as we talk about people using content, we are often creating content for one stage. We are these days very focused on being inbound as a company, thinking top of the funnel, or very focused on being ABM based, camp based marketing mindset all of a sudden, where we are creating content almost exclusively for the bottom end of the funnel.
I’m wondering how you are balancing the need to create for those two sides, and whether that’s being done with one team that just has to understand different mandates, or do you actually have different teams approaching it?
|Sam:||I think how we approach it is trying to take on either, I don’t think themes, themes I guess is the right word. It’s what kind of conversations do we want to be part of that’s happening in the marketing. Where do we want to help educate or help drive value? Once you have those themes, you can build out a program across that. I would say we definitely split it up so that it’s not just one person building all of the content we have. We try and align … We have a topic, we have maybe a main asset, an ebook, a report. Something that’s a little more chunky, hefty I guess for lack of a better term or terms. Then from there, you are able to …|
|Randy:||Some of the gold, right?|
|Sam:||Yeah. Then you can break that up. You can have your … I have my comms person trying to place bylines, so that’s really breaking up in very succinct like shots. Then we’ll have awareness. At the top of the funnel even a little bit lower than the PR, we’ll try and have the blog posts that build off of those, maybe similar bylines or bring in customer interviews but much more broadly. Then you start looking at the demand gen team, which is going to build out a webinar or maybe a two to four page eBook rather than the 20 page. Then finally someone in your product marketing will be building out the sales tools that our sales team can take around that same theme.
It might not have as much outwardly facing content but for something … But it’ll be much more of a, here is how we broach this topic with our customers once they are engaged, and why it matters to us and the product. That’s kind of how I would say we break it down.
|Randy:||You finish there on sales. I know, having spent that day I alluded to in your office a couple of months ago, I got to chat with some of your BDRs, it sounds like you guys have done a good job leveraging the idea of getting content into the hands of your sales people. Maybe you can talk about how you create that mindset with them. I know we are lucky to be part of that equation and how you would flip out that way, but how do you get them to buy into that value of content as they are sending out emails?|
|Sam:||I think this even goes back to the whole premise behind, I guess the maturity model, but in general how I think about creating content. It’s not about bringing in customers. Obviously, it is the end goal but even above that is like how do we provide value to everybody that we touch in some way? Not everyone is going to buy from us. Not everyone is going to buy from you. If you can provide value in some way, then it’s going to be a positive experience, and I believe that it’ll pay you back. In the same sense I understand that sales and the SDR, BDR team is going to be probably talking to more marketers in a week than I get to talk to in a month or maybe even a quarter.
If I can provide them with ammunition, so to speak, for writing value to all those people that they are talking to, it’s just going to be better for the company. It’s going to be better for them. They are going to be more successful, we are all going to be more successful. I think that’s an easy to say. I think a lot of the block and tackle is with the demand gen team and building alignment and building trust with the folks who read the sales and the SDR team and just making sure that they know that we have the same goals and we’ve got their best interest in mind as well.
|Randy:||I think that’s a great way to look at it. An interesting story and getting to know you a little bit more Sam. That’s usually when we are starting to run out of time here, but people love to understand the marketer behind the great ideas and the fun campaigns that get put out there. I did a little bit digging on you. In digging, I actually was able to pull up your first tweet ever. It’s a fun little thing I do here from time to time.
Back in June 2009, you said that, “Although no one is listening, I still feel pressured to post something profound for my first tweet.” Then went on to say, “Maybe number two will do the trick.” I’m not going to get you to comment on that. I’m more curious where are you these days from a social perspective? What channels have you bought into as an individual? Not as Sam the VP of Marketing?
|Sam:||I still use Twitter a decent amount. It’s almost like I use it for a couple of things. One, I love networking on it. That’s I guess professional. Two, I get my, I love getting my sports news. I’ve got specific local Boston sports writers and maybe some national ones. If I know The Patriots are going to make a big trade or something, then I’m up to date there. Then I’d say other local and some political news on Twitter. I use it as a nice aggregator.
I’d say I use Linkedin definitely for business and to get another sense of what’s being talked about what maybe I should be learning about or figure out where I should improve or think about … I think about my marketing team or my marketing career. Then I guess I’m on Facebook some, and that’s totally personal friends, family. I’m not much of, I’ve tried Snapchat. I’m an older, I don’t think I’ve put in the time to really get into it, and then Instagram is great for food pictures. I’m a foodie, so I love to see food and bear.
|Randy:||You may have some followers looking for you after this podcast. You mentioned in there, using Twitter for sports. It was interesting getting to know a little bit about your way back history. We went back to the IDC days. I found out that you used to be the general manager of a minor league baseball team. How did you get there and somehow, how did you jump to marketing from there?|
|Sam:||I actually went to school for sport management or sport business. I went to University of Massachusetts. Their school of business has one of the top sport management programs in the country. For the first couple of jobs, I was actually in the sports’ industry. There was a very small minor league or collegian baseball league team out in Holyoke Massachusetts, which is by Amherst Massachusetts where UMass is located. I was able to, I was kind of a one man show on their business side. I wasn’t making trades or anything. I was a business general manager. I did everything from selling sponsorships to managing the day to day, to once in a while even cleaning the bathroom. It was a great experience.
I think what ended up happening was I was in sports, I was in a sport marketing agency. I got a great opportunity to kind of jump over to tech marketing at a startup. That was a little different, but it was something that I wanted to try. The rest to say is history.
|Randy:||Startups are always looking for people who understand that teamwork mentality. That’s probably how you were picked to get into that first way that led to this career. We’ll end on this one, a fun one always, just to get to know people and their type of taste. I’ll give you a choice. You can either choose your most favorite movie of recent or your favorite book. I don’t know if you a book guy or a movie guy. We won’t judge you if it’s a movie, which is something that you’ve enjoyed on the side, outside of work.|
|Sam:||I’ll go with movie ask. I’ll go to the … As I said, I’m a big foodie. Every Top Chef season, my wife and I really get into that TV show. It’s kind of a routine for us. We record it on TiVo or whatever, DVR. Then we have kind of a routine where we get some takeout, and then we’ll watch through the season. This particular season that we just finished was excellently thought. The competition was quality, and it made us very hungry.|
|Randy:||Fair enough. On that note, I’ll let everyone know it’s technically lunch time for me. We are going to wrap up here. It’s been great having Sam join us, from Allocadia. I encourage everyone to check out what Allocadia does. We didn’t even get to talk about this Sam, but I think you guys actually have executed one of the best campaigns around your brand, around this whole run marketing. We can do a whole other podcast I’m sure on how that came to be, and how you’ve worked it into something that people, it seems like internally and externally are bought into. Great company and great to have you here Sam with us today.
For those who have enjoyed this podcast, as you may know, content pros is part of the Convince & Convert family of podcasts. There is a whole bunch of great content available to you if you go to Convince & Convert. Check out some of the other great podcasts like Business of Story, social pros with Jay Baer, and so many more.
If you are enjoying specifically, we are contentprospodcast.com. Of course, you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play. Anywhere you find us, and you can leave some feedback, please let us know. We want to continue to make this podcast better, and I hope everyone has a great day. Thanks again Sam.
|Sam:||Thanks a lot, Randy. I appreciate it.|