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Why People Suck at Content Marketing
Nathan Zaru: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the newest episode of the Social Studies Podcast. I have with us today Graham Hunter, Head of Growth Marketing at Tradecraft here in San Fransisco.
Graham, welcome to the show.
Graham Hunter: Thanks for having me.
Nathan: Graham and I, we go back a little bit. He’s in the marketing at TechCrunch in San Fransisco. Not only is he a superstar marketer, but he teaches other people how to be superstar marketers over at Tradecraft.
Graham: I try.
Nathan: You want to tell us a little bit about Tradecraft and what you’re up to nowadays, Graham?
Graham: Sure, sure. Tradecraft is a technology guild that helps people at inflection points in their careers. The main thing we’re focusing on right now is this practitioner level, a person, someone who… maybe they just graduated school and they’re really accomplished, or maybe they’ve been sort of doing a lot of different things and don’t really have that tie into a solid story to get that next marketing gig. Or maybe they’ve been in display advertising for five years and they’re, like, “Where’s this going? I don’t want to be buying banner ads forever.” But we help those people learn the soft and hard skills to get great jobs at tech companies, and we could give, us, ourselves as a guild, because it’s sort of like a lifetime membership situation. All the things that big organizations used to do, we will start doing. People don’t want to train people anymore, so they’re like, “Okay, we’ll outsource that to third party organizations that train people,” like Tradecraft. Right? At a large company, you might expect your mentor network, your mentors, to come form within the organization. Now, we’re saying like, as people shorten up their stints at companies, like you stay a year, you stay two years maybe and that’s fine, your mentors will largely come from outside these organizations. We help provide people with these mentor networks, career development, professional development, personal development like life coaching kind of, things like that, as well as the hard skills that you need to get sort of your next marketing job.
Nathan: I can’t emphasize how important this is. I’ve seen the curriculum, I’ve been by the offices, and Tradecraft and Graham, they’re making better marketers. That’s a great start.
Now, Graham, you also have a bit of an entrepreneurial success story. Do you want to give us a quick overview as to what’s going on there?
Graham: Sure. I have a background in sort of doing all sorts of things. I’ve worked agency side. I’ve been the first employee at a couple of startups, including a Techstars company called GoodApril. We were a tax planning solution and we sold to TurboTax. Worked at TurboTax shortly and then left there, sort of helped start Tradecraft.
Nathan: GoodApril, that sold TurboTax?
Graham: Yeah, yeah. That was fun.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I understand you do a lot of different types of marketing over at Tradecraft. You help people learn about the full stack. But you gave me a hint as to what we were going to talk about today, and just so listeners know, I take it as it comes, just like you. I’m talking to a professor extraordinaire right now. Do you want to tell us about why people suck at content marketing?
Graham: Yeah. Sure. My really opinionated sort of two cents on the subject?
Graham: No matter what industry you look at, there is a type of content that works for them. Content is becoming really hot, you know, like SEO agencies are now expanding into content marketing agencies. Right? Social media agencies are expanding into content marketing agencies. It’s workign for people. It’s always one of these go-to things where it’s like, “Oh, we’ve got to do content.”
“Okay, cool. How do we do that?”
“Let’s decide what to write about.”
“We should obviously write about something that’s relevant to our business.”
“We should hire a writer.”
We’re like, “Writer, let’s think of a bunch of things that we could write about.”
“Ten tips that social media can change your life.”
“Five ways to blah, blah, blah,” and you know, listicals or maybe you’re going for more of the organic search route or something like that.
Nathan: This is the average path or [crosstalk 00:04:49]
Graham: Yeah. They’re sort of like default paths. Right off the bat, you’re sort of like thinking what should we write about, then you write about it. Then you have this thing, and then you’re kind of like, “Shit, what should we do this?”
“Well, I guess, put it on social.”
Nathan: Put in on social?
Graham: Yeah. We can have link builders, sort of like, “Build links to it, maybe we’ll rank for some search terms.”
“Why don’t we try and send it over there to those people? They just post it to their blog or email it to their readers,” or something like that. I guess the equivalent is sort of like, that’s such a generalist approach that’s kind of shortsighted. I’d say that the two big things that people aren’t doing is they’re not designing content for the distribution channel it’s intended for, and they’re not mapping content to the part of the funnel that drives content marketing performance inside the organization.
The first part is sort of like there is content that does well on search. There is content that does well on social. There is content that should be guest posted to another blogger, thought leader’s blog. There’s content that should be guest posted to TechCrunch or more of like a PR focused content marketing. Right? People are like, “Oh, PR and content marketing. Totally separate.” You’re like, “Well, no.” There are tons of journalists, where if you like build them an infographic, they’ll write 200 words about it and publish it on their blog within the hour.
Nathan: It makes it a lot easier, right?
Graham: Oh my God. Yeah. You’re doing their job for them. They’re trying to get a bunch of page views so they can sell advertising and you’re just like… some of these people, like the Huffington Post, a single writer will post ten posts a day.
Nathan: A day?
Graham: A day.
Graham: Yeah, totally. There’s just downward pressure and the death of the newspaper industry to sell advertising, and those advertisements aren’t worth as much anymore. A full page in the paper edition of the Wall Street Journal versus an RTD like programmatic, like ad for GEICO on… you know what I mean? Those page views are sort of like worth less. Right? Yeah. People aren’t designing the content for the channel that it’s intended for. You’re like, “Okay, stuff on social.” You’ve seen Upworthy, you’ve seen Buzzfeed. What they’ve done has been like, “Let’s do content marketing.” Really, they’re publishers, right? But we’ll just call it content marketing, right? “Let’s do content marketing that does really well in social, and that’s all we’ll do. We won’t do anything else.”
Boom! They’re super successful. Right? They’re like, “Let’s build a machine that makes content, that does well in social.” You can do that as a business. You can also choose things that do well on search. You can make things that do well in the PR channel or in the guest posting channel. You can have other people guest post to your blog, right, and use content in that way, that you don’t create, that other people create. Right? That’s the first think. Make content built for the distribution channel that you use. Right?
Then there’s the second part, which is more like in service of the business goal itself. What part of the funnel does the content map to? If you look at HubSpot, HubSpot is amazing at building, making top funnel content. Right? They’re like, Ten Ways A Social Media blah, blah, blah…
Nathan: They get like a million visits a month, something like that.
Graham: Totally, yeah. The people are like, “Oh, my god. I worry about social media,” or like that type of thing, and you’re showing up at their blog, you’re learning about social media, and then eventually, you get to this inflection point. I mean, HubSpot is an amazing product, where, like, I just want more. You know? I want to learn. If this is the associate’s degree, I want a bachelors, you know? That type of a thing.
I think that everyone goes through their educational journey and sort of settles on someone that’s sort of at their level, right for them. Maybe you’re like, “Oh, now we’ve got HubSpot whitepapers for the people who want to dig in.” But the whitepapers can’t be about dragging social success if they don’t integrate social in a product or something like that. Right? They do now. Back in the day, it was more of a CMS, like download a whitepaper infrastructure, kind of like WordPressy type of a thing. But the reason that they publish so much, Ten Ways to blah, blah, blah Social Media is because it works in the top of the funnel.
Nathan: On the top of the funnel?
Graham: Yeah. Then in the middle of the funnel, you’ve got content that’s sort of like digging in whitepapers, still core to their business, right, about marketing automation, about how to choose the right vendor for yada, yada, yada. Then at the bottom of the funnel, it’s sort of like, How to use HubSpot to get Successful, blah, blah, blah. [crosstalk 00:10:07] FAQs, right? FAQs are kind of a part of content marketing, right? Where you’re googling around on like, “can I get HubSpot to manage my social media?” They’re like, “it’s a Quora post,” or something like that, and it’s hopefully a Quora post from you. You know what I mean? People, they sort of like generate content regardless of what part of the funnel it comes from. What you want is to produce content in the ratio of how tight the funnel is.
Nathan: Distribute it.
Graham: Yeah. The conversion rate from the top of the funnel. The middle funnel is fifty percent, you’re making twice as much top-of-the-funnel content. The content is the thing if you want to think about pushing or pulling. That’s sort of like pulling people down the funnel. They come in on the social media post, they download the whitepaper, that pulls them to the midfunnel, then they’re reading about HubSpot and what it does and blah, blah, blah. They’ve even started using products as marketing type of a thing, where they’re like, build a really easy to use email app, like Sidekick. I don’t know if it’s called Sidekick anymore, but like Sidekick, and you’re using it and that’s your introduction. It’s pulling you down to HubSpot, and you’re like, “Hey, you know, Sidekick integrates really well to HubSpot.” In that way, you could think of it as product as marketing type of a thing. But that’s sort of like tying it all to the funnel, and that’s what people don’t do. [crosstalk 00:11:42]…
Nathan: [inaudible 00:11:42] making content built for the particular distribution channel, like mediums.
Graham: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nathan: How do you choose a medium? Is there a way to potentially choose a medium intelligently before you go out and make all this content?
Graham: I think yes. It depends on what kind of business you are.
Nathan: Right. Okay.
Nathan: Give me the rundown.
Graham: First of all, if you’re a B2B company you’re going to always start with sales enablement content. I’m saying like, if you’re coming in and there’s nothing, you know, and they’re like, “Nathan, build us a content marketing machine.” You know? You’re like, “All right. Cool.” Sales enablement content will always be the most effective because most likely, there are salespeople and if you can empower them to do their job better, you’re leveraging like a lot of time and skills in the organization. Right? You’re kind of starting from the bottom of the funnel building it up. Hopefully, they have SDRs that are doing top-of-the-funnel stuff. As you start to build top-of-the-funnel content, you can like leverage the SDRs’ time rather than the [inaudible 00:12:42].
But yeah, sales enablement content in a B2B situation…
Nathan: Meaning viral content in a B2C situation? Where you’d shoot at something so ambitious [inaudible 00:12:55].
Graham: Yeah, yeah. Like viral content, I’ll just say content that will do well in social. You know? Because if you look at the timelines of the various types of content, SEO, you’re looking at like six months to start link building, start ranking…
Nathan: Six months? [inaudible 00:13:18] six months until they’ll actually start working?
Nathan: Yeah. Six months?
Graham: I mean, on any term that matters, right? Minimum six months unless you already have a bunch of domain authority, right, and then you’re just funneling the domain authority that you have throughout your site to put that content on there, right? Like TINT, for example, has a decent domain authority, I forget what it is…
Nathan: Pretty good, yeah.
Graham: Yeah. It’s pretty great, yeah. When you publish a piece of content, you don’t need to link build and stuff like that. You put it on your homepage or on your blog’s homepage, and all of the people who have already linked to there, drive the authority that makes that thing rank for search. Right? But if you’re coming in and there’s nothing, you’re sort of like, “Okay, well, ROI for social might be there, but the amount of investment it takes, the minimum investment it takes to start seeing results is so high that it’s not low hanging fruit or, if you like, you know, like you can’t iterate because the cycle is so long.”
I usually start actually with partnership content and guest posted content to other people’s blogs.
Nathan: Guest posted on other people’s blogs, partnership content meaning what exactly?
Graham: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Partnership content being like… rather than thought leaders, like bloggers that you’re guest posting to, they’re company’s blogs.
Nathan: I see. They’re thirsty for content, right?
Graham: Totally. Yeah. Take GoodApril, for example. We came in right off the bat. I’m a former tax professional, H&R Block, as well as a bunch of boutique agencies and things like that. I’d like to think that I have a knack for sort of like explaining the complexities of taxes to a layperson, right? There are a lot of people in the space who are not good at that, whose customers need that, and we can kind of like be their tax expert on their blog. Right? There’s an organization in New York called Freelancers Union, and it’s just like healthcare and advice for freelancers, and you pay your monthly dues as part of the union and you get healthcare as a group. They give advice for freelancers and stuff like that. We’re like, “Oh, what a great fit. We can be the tax pros of the Freelancers Union.” Those people can then become GoodApril customers. Perfect sort of fit. They don’t do anything competitive, like we’re not going to go blog on the TurboTax blog, be like, “Oh, yeah, come to GoodApril,” because it was possible, potentially, that eventually we would like to help prepare your taxes or something like that. I’m not saying that we did what we were or were not going to do, but TurboTax would be afraid of something like that.
We also went to Wave Accounting, Freshbooks, things like that and sort of like reached out to them and not… we weren’t even pitching them a solid piece of content. We’re just reaching out to them and saying, like, “Hey, I know that people who are doing accounting need to do taxes.” You know? They’re running their small businesses and things like that. We would love to work with you and provide relevant, authoritative tax content for your customers. They go, “Oh my God, that’s great because I have no freaking idea how to produce that type of content.” After that, we were on Wave Accounting blog, Freelancers Union blog, and we got acquired while we were talking to Freshbooks about [inaudible 00:17:09] in their blog. That’s partnership content. It’s just like guest posting, but you don’t pitch the content first, you know? You develop the relationship first.
Eventually, you could imagine a world where, wink, where you’d say, “Oh, hey, import all your Freshbooks data into GoodApril,” or something like that. Like that type of thing, content partnerships lead to product partnerships. Right? It’s like business development through marketing, or something like that. Right?
Nathan: Content partnerships lead to [inaudible 00:17:43] partnership.
Nathan: Gotcha, gotcha.
Nathan: Most people suck at content marketing. We’ve learned it’s because you need to make content built for the medium and you need to make content built for the fun.
Graham: Yeah, for sure. Make content for the distribution channel it’s intended for and make content and map it to the part of the funnel that you want to see performance in. Right? You’re going to have your heavy hitters. At the bottom of the funnel, there’s going to be that one whitepaper that everyone downloads, that convinces them that HubSpot is a great product or something like that. It’s like, you could do this, this, this, this and this, and here’s how to do all that, or just get HubSpot. One click. You know? You’re just like, “Oh, my gosh.” It’s similar to Tradecraft. I don’t say that we teach you anything that you can’t learn on the Internet. You could probably spend two years of your life hunting down all the best resources, and I’m like, “Yeah, and here’s some great ones. Read these books. Watch these videos. Listen to these podcasts.” You know?
Nathan: But the side note is it will take you a couple of years.
Graham: Yeah, totally, to hunt all that down and grind through it yourself and tea up projects that you can work on. Or you can come to Tradecraft and do what you do in two years in three months.
Nathan: Make it that simple. Show your prospects what it will take to do, the thing that they want to do, and then boom. Give them your product which makes it ten times easier.
Graham: Yeah, totally.
Nathan: Excellent. Wise advice from Graham Hunter. As always, Graham, thanks so much for coming on Social Studies Podcast.
Graham: Thanks so much for having me.