Six Content Marketing Pros Share What’s Wrong With Content Marketing Today

Jess Ostroff, Managing Editor at Convince & Convert, takes listeners on the road to überflip’s Content Experience to hear from content pros such as Ann Handley, Andy Crestodina, and Jay Baer on what’s broken with content marketing today and how to fix it.

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Full Episode Details

Why Is Content Marketing So Broken?

This week we have a special episode for Content Pros listeners. Jess Ostroff, Managing Editor at Convince and Convert, takes us to überflip’s Content Experience in Toronto, Canada. She’s on the ground with a whole cast of content marketing power players from Ann Handley to Jay Baer, asking them for the hard truth on what’s wrong with content marketing today and how to fix it.

She unearths some true content marketing gems of advice on how your audience isn’t really too busy for your content. The problem is your content isn’t relevant. Making it relevant involves listening to your audience and speaking to them on a peer level, as opposed to maintaining a hard brand line between you.

Our content pros also weigh in on the crucial importance of collaboration and networking to building your content and your career in content.

Listen in as we get the skinny from those in the know on launching your content and your career to the next level.

In This Episode

  • How collaborating and networking leads to more successful content and a flourishing career
  • Why getting your audience to read your content means speaking to them as a peer instead of a brand
  • How relevant content leads to a busy audience finding the time to listen and read it
  • Why execution of good ideas is more important than generation of great ideas

Quotes From This Episode

Democratizing content creates a wealth of opportunity to bring in the kind of language, concerns, and solutions that customers actually want to hear about.” —@leeodden

If you have a content marketing problem, what you really have is a relevancy problem. Click To Tweet

“Marketers tend to think that we are speaking brand-to-customer when instead we should be thinking peer-to-peer.” —@annhandley

“It’s not that they have a shortage of ideas, it’s that they have a shortage of execution.” —@djwaldow

The success of your content is largely a function of the strength of your network. Click To Tweet

“Learn by reading your own blog.” —@crestodina

“Attribution is important but attribution in context is even more important.” —@HeinzMarketing

Resources

Episode Transcript

Jess: Welcome back to another fabulous episode of The Content Pros Podcast. Real people doing real work in content marketing, and you may not recognize my voice. I am not Randy Frisch, nor am I Tyler Lessard. I am Jess Ostroff, I am the managing editor at Convince and Convert, and I'm also the executive producer for the Content Pros Podcast, and I'm jumping in this week because our dear hosts were both at the content marketing experience in Toronto, which is put on by Uberflip and Randy Frisch. They were a little too busy this week to actually record a podcast for you, but I figured that I would show up in Toronto and do some fun interviews with some of our favorite past Content Pros guests, who are also speakers this year, at the content experience. You're gonna hear a fun, little, rapid fire special episode of Content Pros, featuring guys like Jay Baer and gals like Ann Handley, and we had a lot of fun. So I hope you will tune in, enjoy, let me know what you think, and thank you so much for listening to the Content Pros Podcast.
Jess: Lee Odden, thank you so much for being here today. Can you please introduce yourself in three words?
Lee: Bearded. Bacon loving. Marketer.
Jess: I love that. We have one question that we are asking everyone here today, and that is this. There's a lot of things that are wrong with content marketing today, and I wanna explore what you think is the most broken element of content marketing for companies and brands today and how can they fix it?
Lee: There are so many things that are broken, which is why my consulting agency is so busy. One of the biggest things that's broken is so many brands continue to be ego-centric about their content. Chest beating, pontificating, about features and benefits, and all that crap, that no one really cares about anymore. What they need to is start to think about bringing the voice of the customer into their content, through collaboration, with internal subject matter experts, with their own customers, even with their prospects and industry influencers. Democratizing content creates a wealth of opportunity to bring in the kind of the language, the kind of concerns, and solutions that customers actually wanna hear about, and in the end, it works even better.
Jess: What an amazing answer, and that reminds of something that we saw earlier today, which was a head cheerleader that came out from the back of the Uberflip theater, and said basically, that we need to cheer for each other and lift each other up, and collaborate, and do things to make someone else feel good. So thank you so much, Lee, for being here and enjoy Family Feud!
Lee: Thanks, Jess.
Jess: Next up, we have Ann Handley, who is the chief content officer at marketing props and she is here with us today live. She spoke this morning and we will talk a little bit about what she spoke about. Please describe yourself in three words.
Ann: My three words are, I'm an author, speaker, tiny house inhabitant part-time, right now, slightly uncomfortable.
Jess: I think I'm making her uncomfortable because I have a camera pointed right at her face. She's used to the camera being a little further away from her. Ann, tell us about some of the take aways that came from your-
Ann: Intimacy issues. Intimacy issues right here.
Jess: She has intimacy issues. Tell us about what were some of the biggest take aways from your speech this morning at the Uberflip content experience.
Ann: A couple of takeaways from my talk this morning at Uberflip's second content marketing experience. Number one, I want companies to think of their audiences more as having, what I call, squad goals. And what do I mean by that? I mean don't just think of it as personas, don't just think of it as "Oh yeah, we have a sense of who our customers are because we have these robust personas. Look, we keep them on a shelf in a binder." It's not that, it's instead thinking about how do you connect with customers in a meaningful way. Aspirationally, just like my teenage daughter does with her squad. She has a posse of people around her who she is a part of. I think very often, marketers tend to think that we are more speaking from brand to customer, when instead, we should be thinking peer to peer. That's what I mean by squad goals.
Jess: Of course, Taylor Swift.
Ann: Yeah, yeah, I thought about putting T.Swift in there. I did.
Jess: She's having a little drama right now so maybe best to leave her alone.
Ann: Oh really, what's going on?
Jess: She's in a lawsuit.
Ann: Oh! Yeah, that whole thing. That's the price of fame.
Jess: Right, exactly. Tell us what do you think is most broken with content marketing today, and how can brands and marketers go about fixing that?
Ann: I think marketers are moving too fast. I want people to slow down. Think about what you can't do, instead of what you can do. Erase the word 'should' from your content marketing program. Think before you actually jump into tactics. And I don't mean that in a patronizing way. It's like, listen, I'm a marketer, I suffer from that, too. But I think if we all sort of stepped back, slow down, less is definitely more in this world of content abundance, so do less that has greater impact.
Jess: Love it. Thank you so much, Ann, for being here, and safe travels. Thank you!
Ann: Thank you! Bye!
Jess: Next up, we have the fantastic and interesting DJ Waldow, who I have worked with in different capacities over the years, but haven't seen him in person for a while so this is very exciting. DJ, I am very curious to know how you will describe yourself in three words, because this could go one of many ways.
DJ: Alright, so take one is coffee, beer, people. Take two is content creator guy, but yeah, that's basically what I do is I help companies execute on content creation and I will answer the question before you ask it, of what I think is broken, is I think there's ... One of the, can't remember which presenter it was today, but it was this idea of just being overwhelmed as a marketer. I think too often as content marketers, there's a lot of pressure, similar to what Ann said, it's just to get more and more content out there. And I find, in fact where I help companies, is that, it's not that they have a shortage of ideas, it's more that they have a shortage of execution. There's all these unfinished projects, and they're not unfinished because they're bad ideas. They're unfinished because they don't have people to actually execute on the ideas. Sort of a combination of what Lee said, and what Ann said, I really believe that less is more, and instead of trying to get this mantra, if you've got to blog every day, or you've gotta do this number of social media posts. I'm a bigger believer in just getting out the stuff that is the most important. Finish those projects that are just sitting there, the drafts that you haven't finished yet, and getting stuff done. And if you need to hire outside help to do that, do that. I think too often we try to focus on getting everything and getting all the right channels, and there's 100 different things to do, and I think marketers are just overwhelmed. What ends up happening, as humans, we wanna get stuff done and so you close your laptop, you go home, and if you have kids, you put your kids to bed and then you open your laptop again, and do more work. I think we have to finish the projects that we've started and ship, as Seth Godin would say, and it doesn't have to be perfect, and move on.
Jess: That's right. My new mantra for 2017 has been done is better than perfect. Because I'm so good at starting things and not always as good at finishing things, so thank you so much, DJ. Thanks for being here.
DJ: Hey Jess, so great to be here today, thank you so much for having me.
Jess: Next up, I am so excited to be here with Andy Crestodina. Andy, I'm gonna put you on the spot, and you're going to have to explain who you are in three words.
Andy: Marketer. Environmentalist. Chicagoan.
Jess: That was the most precise answer that we've gotten yet, so I appreciate that. What did you speak about this morning at the content experience, and what are some takeaways that you can share with us today?
Andy: Three words, or can I use more than that?
Jess: You can use more than three words, thank you.
Andy: Well, advanced content marketing, three words, was the name of the session. It was 100% stuff that I learned much later. This is my 10 year anniversary creating and publishing, and promoting content. One of the things I've started to learn more recently, such as, how to turn your sent email into high ranking articles, how to use content as a networking tool to meet and become, and collaborate with influencers, or anyone that you wanna connect with, how to use content to write specifically for your sales prospects, and make sure that you get 100% value from that thing, even if it gets no traction in search or social or email, you wrote it together with your prospects, your sales team can use it to send to people in your pipeline. That's also really powerful. And finally, there was a bunch of stuff. We went into how to update old content and how to make a lot more value in going back and improving something that already existed a while ago, that maybe already ranked, that maybe was declining in rank, and how to get more value, more traction, from something that you wrote before and now you're updating it now. That may those same hours spent in marketing might be worth ten times or 100 times as much as making something new that didn't exist before, that has no authority yet. It was a lot of advanced stuff and really practical, tactical, hands on, you can go do these things right away. Hopefully people liked it.
Jess: The biggest thing that I took away from it, from all of your ideas, was that you found a way to get more creative. It's things that you're already doing, it's things that you're already thinking about. First of all though, nobody sends emails like you send emails, and that's probably why your inbox is out of control because seeing Andy Crestodina's email responses to some of these people that were asking for a quote, or some more information for an article, and he was basically writing 1000 word article just in an email. If you think about it that way, though, if you think about having every email interaction potentially be a piece of content, not only will your content strategy be better, but you'll also be the most generous guy around. And people will wanna ask you more questions and work with you. Thank you for that. My next question, and I think I might know your answer to this already, is what do you think is the most broken element in content marketing right now, and how can companies, and brands, and individuals address that?
Andy: Boy, there's a lot ... I could easily say that one of the problems is that people aren't making decisions based on data. I could easily say that people aren't listening enough to their audience. But my favorite is gonna be the collaboration piece, because it's by far the best, like what we're doing right now. I think what's broken is that people are too insulated on their team within their company, or too insulated within their company in their industry. And that what more people should be doing is getting out there and finding other people to pull into their content. It's to get contributor quotes, it's to do roundups, it's to write guest posts for other people, it's to get guest posts submitted to your site. It's to use content as a networking tool, because, really, I'm gonna say it more simply than you'll hear in a lot of places, but the success of your content is largely a function of the strength of your network. Using content as a networking tool, collaborating with others, making stuff together ... First of all, the quality goes up. Secondly, the traffic will go up, because you've got, as we just said, an ally in creating content is an ally in promoting it. You've got people in your content that are gonna help share, they're gonna contribute to the promotion and driving traffic and sharing their audience with that. But also, the fun factor, we can make stuff together, we can do things ... Just working together with people is the best part of work. Don't go it alone, don't do it by yourself, don't be that solo lonely blogger just pounding out one 500 word article after another. That's boring, and it doesn't work. And it's not fun, and it doesn't grow your network. Get people in your stuff. Content optimized for social media includes people. You should see faces, names, links to companies, people's job titles, contributor quotes, expert advice. You should be learning by reading your own blog, because there are so many people giving great advice within it.
Jess: I love that. Learn by reading your own blog, and if you're not learning by reading your own content, then you're doing it wrong. Thank you, Andy, one last question. What has been your favorite part about being in Toronto so far?
Andy: Toronto, I think, is some weird sort of sister city with Chicago. I just sort of feel this affinity, except you walk down the street ... Poutine everywhere. It's all over the place! For anyone in the American audience who isn't on board with this yet, what is not to love about french fries, cheese curds, and gravy? Oh my god.
Jess: Is that kind of what it's like with hot dogs and pizza shops in Chicago?
Andy: Yeah, we've got hot dogs, Italian beefs, Italian combo. If you order a combo in Chicago, that's not like a burger with fries. A combo is beef and sausage. That's the Italian combo, that's the Chicago Italian combo. Yeah, but out here, it's poutine and I think that's something we should be really importing a lot more and one of the big influences that I'd like to see the US take on from our friends up here north of the border.
Jess: I totally agree with you. I also think we should bring in the Caesar, the Clamato juice instead of the tomato juice for the bloody Mary. But thank you so much, Andy. It's been awesome chatting with you, and safe travels.
Jess: Next up, we have Matt Heinz from Heinz marketing, and Matt is also speaking at the content experience ... You're speaking, right? Okay. Matt is also here as a speaker at the content experience, and Matt, can you please describe for us yourself in three words?
Matt: Revenue, responsible, metal head.
Jess: Holy crap, that one may have topped Andy Crestodina's, which I thought was the most interesting and concise, and now it's a competition. Anyway, everyone's upset because they wanna redo their three words. Matt, what would you say is the thing that's most broken in content marketing today, and how can brands, companies, and individuals address that and potentially fix it?
Matt: There's a lot of places you go on this. I mean, for me, sometimes because I'm a hammer and everything looks like a nail, attribution is a challenge. I think there's a lot of people doing some really great marketing, a lot of really great content. We're not doing a very good job of measuring how well we're converting that into pipeline. No matter what your business is, even if you're a B to C brand, knowing the impact that has, that content has, even on preference and familiarity, and trust, the things that you're viewing with traditional advertising, they could be done more efficiently in many cases with great content. How much more efficiently? If I spend a dollar on content, that equals $16 on traditional advertising, in building that kind of a model, and then making that something that you can see practically in real life, I think is important. And that equation's gonna look different for different businesses and different brands, but finding that attribution story that allows you to scale the work you're doing, to see the impact of the work you're doing, I think is extremely important. There's companies that are getting there, for sure, and some of the technology is getting better, but I think we all need to have that attribution story locked in.
Jess: So, I agree. I think it's been really scary for companies to start doing that, 'cause they feel like "Oh, now I have to attribute everything to something." Do you have any advice for where to start?
Matt: I think perfect's not gonna be good from an attribution standpoint. Let's not pretend the blog post is gonna generate some closed deal. The white paper's not gonna generate the seven figure deal that took nine months to close. I think attribution is important but attribution in context is important. Are we trying to get a deal closed, or are we trying to earn someone's attention? Are we trying to keep someone's attention? Content plays a role, not only in the precision you use around a specific person based on their membership and point [inaudible 00:17:25] stage and the buying committee, based on their stage of the buying journey, but also the specific objective you have for that content. I think sometimes we over measure, sometimes we over expect what content can do, but also perfect's only good from an execution standpoint. I think a lot of times we will keep from executing because we don't have the right reporting and the last I checked, I haven't seen a single report that generates a lead or an opportunity, or a closed deal on its own. The work generates the activity, the report simply shows you what's working. I think Ann Handley said it well earlier today, when you combine the data you have with learning and instincts, with all the data we have and all of our spreadsheets, the instinct is still vitally important. Trust your instincts, trust the data you're seeing, read between the cells of the spreadsheet, and make the decisions and execute.
Jess: I love that. One last question, what's your favorite part about being in Toronto so far?
Matt: Favorite part about Toronto, this is such a clean city. It's fun to walk around, nice people, I like that more words have 'U's in them, I'm a big fan of the Canadian accent. I think a good southern drawl, and a good crisp Eastern Canadian accent, they're just fantastic, I can't get enough.
Jess: Not what I was expecting, but that was awesome. Thank you so much, Matt. Have a great rest of your conference.
Matt: You too.
Jay: Good, perfect.
Jess: Hello?
Jay: Hello?
Jess: Is anybody there?
Jay: Hello, is this an interview?
Jess: Okay, so Jay Baer, we are here in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Toronto, and I would like to know, in three words, describe yourself.
Jay: Describe myself in three words. Business, disruption, translator.
Jess: Oh, very nice, very nice. Today, on Content Pros, we're talking about things that are broken with content marketing and how can companies, and brands, and individuals fix that.
Jay: Well, I've said this before that every marketer in the world, especially content marketers, tell themselves the same lie. And the lie they tell themselves is that their audience is just too busy, they're too busy to watch the video, they're too busy to read the blog post, they're too busy to download the white paper, they're too busy to listen to the podcast, they're just too busy, and that is incredibly not true. It's not about being too busy. If your audience tells you that they're too busy, what they really mean, but will not tell you because they're trying to be nice, is that what you are giving them is not relevant enough. I know this to be true, because when you give somebody that content they want in the format they prefer, when they need it, they will find the time to consume whatever content it is that you're creating. The biggest mistake in content marketing right now is that everybody's making more content than ever, but the average relevancy of every piece of content is going down, not up. If you have a content marketing problem, what you really have is a relevancy problem.
Jess: How can brands get more relevant with their content?
Jay: You have to understand what your audience really needs, and who your audience is moreso than ever before. We've talked about personas and segmentation, and knowing your audience "as marketers" for decades, but now it's really, really, really important, because the next best piece of content is just a keystroke away. The reality is most marketers don't understand their audience very well. Why? Because they're busy doing marketing. How many marketers really talk to customers, and talk to audiences that often? Not much. Instead what we do, is run reports, and we take those reports to indicate what we think our audience really is. If you're gonna be a better marketer, if you're gonna be more relevant, what you need to do is actually spend time with your audience. Talk to your customers in ways that will require you to get out from behind your desk and laptop, and interact with people in the real world.
Jess: What if you don't want to?
Jay: Then, maybe, you should consider a different path. Maybe you should think about other ways that you can use your skills that don't require you to do content marketing. Although, I should say, there are some ways to shortcut and cheat that process. So maybe it's not practical for you to talk to audience members yourself, but there's other people in most organizations who do understand customers better than marketing. And those people are in sales, and customer service. Why? Because, by definition, sales and customer service are doing what? Talking to actual customers. If you're not totally certain who your audience is, and what they want, the people who can unlock that for you are just the next department over, or the next cubicle over, or one phone call away. That's probably the best way to go at this operationally. Talk to sales, talk to customer service, and then go do some customer relationship mapping on your own.
Jess: You have been in Toronto for the last couple of days. What's your favorite thing about Toronto?
Jay: There is a real craft cocktail renaissance going on here in Toronto, lots of fancy, strong drinks. That is very interesting, so I've enjoyed that. Obviously, a great conference here as well, ConnEx 17, run by my pals at Uberflip. The one thing I don't like about Toronto, however, is that all the beers here that I've been able to discover are kind of not hoppy, I'm sort of a hoppy IPA beer guy, and that's not really how Canada rolls, at least not Ontario, so we gotta work on that, but other than that, I love Toronto. Nice to be back in the six, as the kids say.
Jess: Awesome, thank you Jay. Thanks again, so much, for tuning in this very special episode of The Content Pros Podcast. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did, please leave us a review on iTunes. It really, really helps other content marketers find us, listen to us, and that's the goal. We wanna make you a better content marketer, and a better marketer in general. The more people out there that can do that, the better. I wanna leave you with a couple of special offers. They will be in the description of this episode as well as in the show notes on Convinceandconvert.com. The first one is that the content experience 2018 dates have actually been announced. That's how far ahead of the game Randy and the team are. The event is truly amazing, and if you've never been to Toronto, it's just such an amazing city, as you've heard from some of our guests here today. Of course, there are the ups and downs, maybe they need to add a little more IPA to the list, but other than that, it's a great time of year. It's gonna be August again next year, August 21st and 22nd, 2018. Content Pros listeners can get on the super early bird rate for the content experience, which I believe is $399, and given the speakers, the fun and crazy, and wild events that took place at the content experience this year, that is really a steal. So get on there now, buy your tickets for 2018. I hope to be there, and so I will see you there. The link to buy those tickets is bit.ly/conex2018. That's C-O-N-E-X for content experience 2018, bit.ly/conex2018. We also have a brand new ebook that we're launching at Convince and Convert, and you will notice that it ties in directly with the theme of this episode, which is broken content marketing issues, and how to fix them. It's actually called four ways to fix your broken content marketing, really actionable tips, super easy to read. We would love for you to check that out. You can go over to bit.ly/brokencontent to get that today. That's bit.ly/brokencontent and we are not releasing this to the public until next week, so you are getting a sneak peek. Of course, you can feel free to share it, but we're not doing our big push until next week, so you're getting it first. Thank you so much for listening. We will catch you next week. Keep being great at content marketing.
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