Hi, everyone. My name is April Williams, founder and president of SalesAmp, and the host of the From Hello to Yes Podcast. I created this podcast because I was seeing more than ever, the speed of change in the world of marketing and sales was unrelenting. And I wanted to create a place for B2B marketers and salespeople, to learn from those on the cutting edge, innovating, pivoting, and thinking about the entire B2B marketing funnel, everything from Hello to Yes.
Our sponsor today, Tim Pollard and his team at Oratium are examples of always being on the cutting edge. Tim is the author of The Compelling Communicator and …creator of several learning modules for those of us in marketing and sales. I’ve taken several of Oratium’s workshops and every time I am blown away by the simplicity and the impact of their work. And then, seemingly overnight, the sales meeting changed from the lively and personable face-to-face meeting, to that sterile and impersonal virtual meeting. And we all have learned that virtual selling is not easy.
Oratium has developed virtual selling methodologies that improve companies sales outcomes. You are going to want to check it out, and they’re offering our listeners a 30% discount. Just visit Oratium.com and use the promo code HELLOTOYES30.
So, I am so excited for our first episode. Let’s get on to today’s guest. On the show today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Joe Lazauskas, head of marketing at Contently, and author of The Storytelling Edge. We had so much fun. Joe is literally a content master. He consistently puts out valuable resources that level up sales and marketing pros all over the world.
I took this opportunity to ask Joe how he gets company buy-in towards content marketing, and how marketers can prove that ever elusive ROI to their leadership. You have to check out Contently’s content measurement maturity model, it is game-changing. This and so much more on today’s episode. Take a listen to my conversation with Joe.
Joe, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s great to have you.
Oh, thanks for having me, excited to be here.
One of the things that we really pride ourselves on the Hello to Yes Podcast is that, we are a community that wants to learn together in this ever-changing world of marketing and sales. We know that none of us is as smart as all of us, and to that end, we really want to be a place too where the next generation of marketers and sales will turn to, to hear from the experts. And so, we know that our guests are sitting in a place of reaching, being a true leader in their space, you in the content marketing space. So, we love to open with, what would you today, Joe, say to the 20 something version of yourself, who’s thinking about getting into the world of marketing? What piece of advice would you give?
That’s a great question. I think, to be curious and to have your mind open. I came into content marketing very much from the journalism end of it, and I think like a lot of people who came from journalism into content marketing, I had some walls up about fully diving in and learning everything I could necessarily about the marketing side of the shop off the bat.
You know, I still had a tendency to want to make my job especially when I was early on in my career, more purely content and editorial. I was like, “Okay, you know what? The marketing op stuff, the figuring out Pardot, Salesforce, I’m going to let someone else do that. And I’m going to focus mostly on the content brand side of the house, how we tell our brand story,” which is great, but these things don’t exist in a silo, right.
We need to understand the full holistic picture to actually do our job really well. So, having a little bit more of the curiosity, which I think that I didn’t dive fully into until a couple of years into my career, once I had crossed that Abyss between journalism into marketing at Contently, I think I would encourage myself to be a little bit more open. To dive in and be a little more curious about that side of the house earlier on.
I love that and relate and think curious is such a good word. I think that is for any of us in marketing and sales to be thinking about that, but even as you’re starting out, the curiosity and I love the phrase that you said, “It doesn’t operate in a silo”. That is so critical for us to be really understanding that whole journey.
One of the things that I want to chat with you about is in your state of the content marketing 2021. You talk about this year’s biggest opportunities and you mention the importance of getting your head of marketing bought in. You go on to say that 66% of CMOs today buy-in and why you then with great humor, tell us we might be celebrating 66%. But I think you say, “For the love of New Jersey,” which I just think that’s a phrase we all should be using more often, “For the love of New Jersey, it is your marketing person.” So, yes, I agree and we see that at SalesAmp, that we have definite struggles with head of marketing, but we work all the way through to sales.
So, talk to me even about what you would say to a head of sales as to why content is a critically important part of the process to driving business for them.
Yeah. I think marketing and sales to begin with need to be really aligned on the story that you’re telling, because way too often, you have these sort of schizophrenic, Dr. Jekyll and Miss Hyde experiences when you’re interacting with a brand. Or maybe you download this really helpful research report, this great piece of content, you take this great course from a brand and then you immediately get passed over to sales. And uou have this much different interaction with the brand or so only you’re getting the stream of day after day after day, passive aggressive cold emails. “Oh, why aren’t you responding to me today, April? I guess you’re just too busy for me.” Right, and that isn’t a good experience with the brand and it doesn’t create this unified story of this helpful brand that’s going to help you get to that next stage in your career, whatever it might be, that narrative that we’re trying to tell.
So, one, getting on the same page with your sales leader and then content is the way that we tell that unified story, right? There shouldn’t be a different story that you’re telling on your blog or in your product videos or on your webinars or on your podcast than you are in your pitch deck. Then, when you have your sales team going out and doing outreach into the market, just going out with a hard sales message often doesn’t get you the best response rate.
So, the same you think about using content to create unique, personalized journeys for folks on your website, to put them into very personalized nurture streams, to split them out into different segments of your email list, you also have to think about how you arm your sales team with those different streams of content. So that, when they’re reaching out to you, prospects on your target accounts list, they are not just going in with a very generic sales message. Which so many of us in marketing get day after day after day, and in every role we get day after day after day. But rather something that’s actually helpful in going to piqued their interest and make them think, “Okay, this is someone that I might want to talk to more or I might want to work with.”
So, really, having that alignment across marketing and sales with content being used across all stages of the journey, it’s just really table stakes at this point, but so often something that marketing and sales just isn’t aligned on.
It’s really good and I think truth, I mean it’s really, we see it over and over, but I also think one of the key things you speak about in that same article is you say, “Up your content measurement game.” And I loved, and I followed that path. You have 10 steps to measuring ROI of your content and that was just brilliant. So, talk to us a little bit about that 10 steps and the importance of really measuring the effectiveness of content.
Yeah, that was our 10 step content measurement maturity model. That’s based on a ton of research and interviews that we did in the latter half of 2020. And then, we actually put out a second edition of it, an updated version this year as well through constantly modifying based on feedback applications we see from our customer base.
But the basic idea is that, so often when we talk about the ROI of our content in our marketing programs, we just want to jump to tying into revenue or to lead generation off the bat. We expect that instant success, like it’s just direct response advertising. But what I’ve seen over the last decade working in this field is that, the most successful programs instead start at the audience building stage because you’re not going to build trust with folks and get them to actually take those conversion actions that are important to your brand if you haven’t first built up that engaged audience first.
So what it walks you through very much in the first three steps in the walk stage is, how you’re measuring your effectiveness of building up that audience. And how in this process from each of these stages you’re telling a story. So, think of the walk stage like act one or say, “Okay, the first thing we’re going to do to your leadership team, the first thing we’re going to do is, we’re going to build up this audience. We’re going to build trust with them. We’re going to look at these engagement metrics, these reach metrics that tell us how well we’re building that audience, we’re going to look at our SEO effectiveness.” Then, the walk stage, the second act of the story, we’ve built that trust and now we’re going to get them to take an action that’s important to our brand.
I mean, they’re signing up for a newsletter, they’re going and clicking on a product page, they’re taking educational course, they’re attending a webinar, whatever it might be, they’re downloading an analyst report. That’s where measuring in the walk stage, the number of leads we’re starting to generate through those actions and how engaged those leads are. As well as starting to look at the share of voice that we’re generating in the market relative to our competitors.
Then, finally in the run stage, it’s once you’ve done those first two things, and this might be a year, two years after you’ve really started your content marketing program, then you could start tying those leads and that content directly to revenue. So, say that, okay, this is how much those leads are worth based on what we know from our historical cost per lead that we’ve paid. So, maybe we got 10,000 leads from content, we know those would normally cost us $100 to acquire. So we have those 1,000 leads ties to 100, it’s $100,000 worth of pipeline that we’ve brought in.
Or looking at things like SEO value, which is a metric that we’ve pioneered at Contently. Looking at how much a competitor would have to pay for the organic traffic that our content is bringing in across the keywords that really matter to our brand and are bringing in high intent buyers. Or even starting to get into first or last touch attribution within Salesforce, to start to attribute to specific opportunities and specific revenue that comes in to the content that you’re creating.
Then, finally, in the fly stage, we go more into multi-touch attribution, as well as algorithmic attribution with some of the tools that Salesforce has now. It’s all ultimately all about telling that story, that you’re not going to be tying content to revenue off the bat, but rather we’re going through this process of building an audience, converting them into leads, and starting to map those leads to actual revenue and deals that we’re bringing in. Then, finally, doing that in the fly stage in a more sophisticated way.
Yeah, it was brilliant. I mean, it’s a conversation you have all the time about trying to get more and more budget to generate more and more content and push back. It almost reminds me of the old days when we were talking about ROI, where people would say, “I’m not interested in just clicks, tell me what drove to revenue.” And I love that you address that, that you really need to start somewhere.
Do you know, Joe, in any sense in your research when someone starts at the crawl stage and moves through to the run and the fly stage, what are we talking about for timing with someone?
It depends on the velocity of the organization. I would say that I rarely see someone get to the run stage before the second year of really investing seriously in a program. I think that the second year is when we’ve seen the brands that we work with really start to be able to get there. And that’s why that expectation setting upfront is so important, because if you go off the bat saying A, we’re going to get to that stage really quickly, you’re probably going to spend more time, invest more time in measurement than in actually getting out there and testing and iterating and creating content your audience really likes.
You’re also probably going to get ahead of yourself and start measuring something that you haven’t really given enough time to start to come through in those stages. From building an audience to converting, to leads to those leads starting to actually convert into revenue. So, that’s why you need to give all of this time and you need to set all of that up from the beginning with letting your leadership know this is going to take time. This is not flipping the switch like with a LinkedIn ad campaign. This is a longer term investment for our brand, but the beautiful thing about content is that, that value you’re getting will keep being delivered over time.
If I put $500 into LinkedIn ads today, I got to put in that $500 tomorrow to see any value. But if I spend $500 on a really well SEO optimized blog post that my audience resonates with, that piece is going to keep getting traffic today, tomorrow, next week, next month, in a year. So, I’ve created this self-sustaining organism in my marketing that I don’t have to keep pumping money into. But telling that story in the right way to your leadership is just so important or else you’re going to see the plug pulled on your program a year into it.
I think that’s probably what many of our listeners are thinking about that uphill battle of that. In the 2021 article that you wrote about, what was the biggest opportunities, I think you even put together a pitch deck about how to actually speak about this to your leadership, which I thought was another really smart, smart tool for all of us.
Let me ask you to go rogue with me a little bit and think about, as an agency, we’re going in to pitch to the head of sales that it is going to take a couple of years. Are there any low hanging content focused fruit that we should be focusing on that could get some wins as the program is going up and getting up and running?
I think especially if you’re going at it with more of an ABM strategy, which is another lens to think about it, you can look at basically mapping out your target accounts between marketing and sales. Saying, “What we’re going to track is the amount of engagements that we get from these folks,” and that usually means having those targeted accounts in your database already so that you can actually track whether they’re engaging with your content. Or have a tool like Clearbit that’s giving you some greater depth of understanding about your audience. Although with the cookie changes coming, I think it remains to be seen how accurate that’s really going to be.
But say, “We are going to aim to get engagement with our content from 100 of the accounts on our target list this year,” and that’s a metric that you’re starting to track. So that, one, your sales team knows that you’re engaging the right types of folks, and that makes their outreach to them easier. They’re warmed up, they know your brand, they’ve read something helpful for you.
The other way to look at it is, the way that that content will increase the effectiveness of your sales team. It’s why not only your content should be top of the funnel. You need to be investing in really good case stories, really good case story videos, really good animated explainers or sizzle reels for your new product launches. You need stuff that exists more down funnel, as well as top funnel stuff that your sales team can send out there.
Then, start to track, okay, what’s the response rate with content or without content? How much more effective are we making the sales team? Because if they’re tripling or quadrupling their response rate as a result of the content you’re creating, well, that’s something your sales leader is going to be super happy about.
I think those are two of the easiest ways to position the impact of content without having to go out and say, “These leads that we’re bringing in from a webinar or a research paper today are going to convert in three months or even in six months,” because most of the time, that’s not how it happens. It takes a little bit more time.
That’s really, really good. I mean, because I think those are all the objections that are going through our heads as we think about, not only if you’re in your own organization, but especially even if you’re in an agency having these and I love those.
You also speak in your book, which was fabulous, The Storytelling Edge, you can see my tabs that I’ve marked pages, but you talk about the importance of even having content be a company-wide play. There shouldn’t be a few of you that are writing content. You even use the example of Beth Comstock at GE and how she really went across the organization and changed that model.
Talk to us a little bit about, again, how that works and I can hear some of the objections, so I want to hear you speak into it. When people start thinking about, “Well, what about the brand voice and what about our brand position? How rogue do we go and let people start just writing things?” So, talk about how you would put that together and lessen the load of a smaller team writing content across an organization.
Sure. Yeah. So, I think one of the best things that you can do for getting buy-in to your program, these two things tied together is to ghostwrite something for your executive team.
So, I’m not saying that you should go out and just have your head of engineering write something unedited and post on your website. It’s probably not going to quite be up to the editorial standards you have for the brand, but it’s also probably not the best use of your head of engineering’s time, your head of product’s time. But using ghostwriters to interview key executives inside your company, get their perspectives. What they’re really passionate about or thinking about in terms of the future of your industry.
Then, translating that to an outline that that person then reviews. Then, a ghostwritten piece that you then have that executive post on LinkedIn and get tons of comments and love and reach, that’s one of the best ways to get buy-in from your program, but it’s also one of the best ways to kind of show off the smarts within your company and the things that your company actually cares about.
That also happens to be the thing that we really respond to as consumers and as buyers, whether you’re in B2C or B2B. We want to feel that a brand is authentic and that we’re hearing the ideas and the voice of the people inside the company and what they really care about. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that those people actually have to write it themselves. A really good ghostwriter can capture that essence of that person, they can capture their voice, they can translate it.
It’s a thing that we’ve seen be really successful with a lot of our customers at Contently, who use freelancers through the Contently network to go straight through all content and to go through this workflow I just talked about. One, it gets you a lot of support, but two, it just really, really resonates with people super well.
Love that, because I think that’s a big one is exactly we tend to pick on the engineers, but would you really want your engineer out there writing the piece? But the interview process is such a great solution for that and buy-in, I love that connection.
The other part of even watching you walk this out is even watching some of your younger team members, a shout-out to Jolie Giacona. I loved her piece on LinkedIn called, The Five Ways B2B Brands Can Use TikTok Without Ruining It For Everyone Else. You even gave her a shout-out as a Zoomer and that you were all learning. So, I’d love to kind of follow on her article and talk about new mediums. TikTok in the B2B space is probably something that most people are saying, “What? Really?” Talk about that article and what you thought about that.
That’s funny. That article is one thing that helped Jolie graduate from intern to getting hired. Yesterday actually she gave a presentation on how we should revamp our Instagram and reel strategy, as well as some dabbling in TikTok.
But basically what I think is really interesting right now is that, the way that we’re consuming content is changing. We’re entering a new era of social media that we’re in. I would argue that from about 2008, when Facebook launched the newsfeed until 2016, when Snapchat really started taking off, we were sort of in this feed era, where most of our engagement on social was in a feed.
Scrolling through posts from your friends, a lot of link posts that went out to brand blogs and media sites, et cetera. Then, we were in the stories era when Snapchat took over. Instagram copied Snapchat quite successfully. Then, we saw LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, all copy stories and we were in the stories era.
I would say, now, we’re shifting into the reels slash TikTok. We’re entering into an era of streaming vertical video that’s algorithmically served to us as opposed to being things that we encounter from our friends and that follow this sort of very quick cut storytelling format. And so, when we look at consumers at large, I think it’s a no-brainer that, whether we’re B2B or B2C or any sort of brand that we might be, this is how people are going to be spending more and more time with content. It’s how our brands are going to be getting used to consuming content, so we need to be getting in on it too. There’s a lot of ways that that brands can do this.
So much of the video on reels and TikTok is actually educational video about science topics, about news stories about what might be going on. A lot of it frankly, is kind of misinformation that’s on TikTok right now and it’s one of the issues with it, but it is in a format that makes it actually really easy to explain a concept like say content strategy or sales enablement or whatever it might be to your audience.
The second thing we see is, it’s just a great video tool and format for creating really quick, funny videos. They can distribute across all channels and there’s brands that are already doing this really well. Like HubSpot, if you look at the engagement with their reels, it’s really, really strong and they get like 35,000 plus views on each one and they use the format in a super smart way.
So, just like with everything in social, we say at first like, “I don’t know if that’s right for B2B brands,” we said that with the feed, we said that with stories and now we all do some sort of stories based advertising on Instagram or Facebook. Right now we’re saying that with reels and with TikTok, but in a year we’re going to be in a place where it’s a no-brainer that that’s a part of your content and social media marketing strategy.
Marketers who can detect any sort of patterns or just see that it’s time to start figuring it out right now because it feels fairly inevitable.
Yeah, and then she gave some great examples of that so I love… A couple of times you’ve used the language, even when you talk about educational opportunities, to do educational videos and you showed the percentages of how few people do them. You were sort of like, “Hello, this is an opportunity to be out there,” so similar in the TikTok world as well.
Yeah. That was an interesting one because in our buyer research we saw that most people said they were somewhat or very likely, I think as over three quarters of people said they were somewhat or very likely take an educational course from a brand. Because as brands, we tend to have expertise that people crave, whether it’s in finance or it’s in tech or whatever. It might be a master of Patagonia, the outdoors, but most brands aren’t really focusing their marketing and content strategy on that. Only 2% in our surveys said that that was a primary focus for them this year.
That’s something that’s been super successful for us and a lot of our clients, so let’s say educational course is definitely something you want to be looking at as well. Especially now that I think after the past year, people are so much more used to educating themselves online than before.
Certainly. Shifting gears to another piece of yours that I love is, ditch the persona and find your muse. Ditch the persona as a marketer got my attention, and loved the piece. Speak a little bit about your thought process of almost personas days might be done and what you mean by find your muse.
Yeah. So, the ditch the persona maybe is a little bit inflammatory in the headline because I don’t think personas are inherently a bad thing. They are a useful thing for us to have this concept of who our target buyer is that we’re creating content for, that we’re selling for. The reason that personas exist is because the idea is that, this unlocks our ability to be creative and to craft something specific for that person.
It’s why almost every great writer at some point has talked about writing for one person for this singular audience in mind. I think the issue that we run into in marketing is that, we outsource persona creation to an agency often, or we do it once every 10 years. Most marketers don’t actually get in the weeds and talk to their audience and do that work of understanding who that audience is. That’s important because when we look at what actually unlocks creativity and our ability to tell stories that resonate with people, it’s developing empathy for that person.
And when you just have a few slides in a PowerPoint deck that’s a stock photo with a Q code name, like the Milleniata and a few bullet points about what their goals and challenges are, reading those slides isn’t what makes us develop empathy for that person. Spending a lot of time with that target audience, interviewing them, getting to know them is what helps us develop that empathy. And when we do that and we develop that empathy for that person, that’s what the muse is.
The muse is that person that you are creating for, that you hold inside of yourself as you are in flow, as you’re going through that creative process. So many marketers nowadays just don’t go through that process of spending that time with their audience. There’s a CMI study that showed that only 42% of marketers even incorporate talking to their audience into their overall audience research. While things like social media listening has 80 plus percent of people doing it.
So, that was kind of my big message with that piece is, not necessarily ditching the personas wholesale, but ditching the way that we use personas right now in favor of actually getting out there, talking to our customers, talking to our prospects and really getting to know them. Because once you do that, your creativity will be unleashed in ways that you can’t even understand right now.
I also felt for you, had empathy for you and loved reading this article as someone who had to find out a new way of doing this in the year of COVID plus that we’ve had, and the conferences you no longer attended, where you got to really meet people and talk to people. So, give us one or two ways that you figured out how to do this in a remote world.
Yeah. I think interviewing your audience is one of the best ways you can do it like either pure, just empathy interviews. I link to a field guide in the piece if we put that in the show notes that I’ve used in the past for that. But then, also, just using it from a content opportunity perspective to be like, okay, I’m just going to go out there and I’m going to interview really smart people from great brands that are doing great content. That is my target audience, but also people that would put potentially give me interesting stories that I could tell in my newsletter, in my next book.
Just that act of going out there and putting on my journalist hat, my reporter hat in talking to all those folks, really helped me reinvigorate that sense of the muse that I had personally lost when I didn’t get all of the quick hits I was used to of going speaking at a conference or working at a booth at a conference and talking to 200, 300 people over the course of three days.
You tend to really get the sense of it there, going to the happy hours and I had to very much replace that with more of a structured way of going out there and getting to know my audience. Really tapping back into my journalistic roots in that way.
That’s good. Want to close today with a Hello to Yes final podcast question. What is stumping you right now and who, what, or where do you go to find the answers?
Okay. So, I think for me personally, one of my big missions this year has been to get better on the marketing op side of the house. To really round out my game by getting more in the weeds with that, of understanding the mechanics of Pardot in Salesforce, so that I can be a stronger leader on that side of the house with my team.
And just the insane complexity of the way those technologies has developed is mind boggling to me. Like honestly, I don’t know how at this point of marketing technology, we don’t have a better and more seamless solution between marketing automation or CRMs. That’s not to talk bad about Pardot and Salesforce. It’s every marketer complains about this across the house. We’ve just built this layer technology that’s over each other.
Pardot actually does have a really good support program with their premier success program so I’ve turned to them for that. But then, also, honestly, the single grain blog has helped a lot with the way that I think about different attribution questions. Pardot itself actually has done a good job of building out a really robust content library and a lot of on-demand educational courses, which I think is something that we should all really be thinking about. Which is, how can we also develop content that’s going to reduce friction for our customers and help them figure out problems on their own? Because that reduces our cost of service on the CS side. It’s more the way that people want to engage with stuff now.
Most people in my generation don’t want to hop on the phone and actually talk to someone about anything, we want to figure it out ourselves. So, even when we think about educational courses, it doesn’t just have to be top of the funnel high level topics. It can literally be courses about how to use your own product.
That’s good. That’s really good. I think some of our team would say when they get stumped, they follow you, which is nice. So, a little shout-out to you in the content space.
Thank you so much, Joe. I hope you’ll come back and visit us again and join us. Where can our listeners follow you? Tell us where they can find you and follow you.
Yeah. So, one of the best places to go is actually on LinkedIn. I have a newsletter called The Storytelling Edge, where you can get a lot of great content there. Then, also, if you go to contently.com, we have two great resources for you.
One is our blog, The Content Strategist and the other is ContentlyU, which is our educational hub with tons of free research, courses on demand, webinars that you can just dive into across different topics, things that you want to master. There’s tons of great stuff there for you.
So, I encourage you to check that out, to follow me on LinkedIn and on the newsletter. Also, if you head to snow.academy, it’s an educational site that was launched by our co-founder at Contently, Shane Snow and co-author of my book. We have developed some marketing courses on there as well that we’re super excited about. So, check out snow.academy for some really awesome in depth content strategy courses.
That’s awesome and on behalf of Hello to Yes, thank you again.
Thank you. It’s been so much fun being here.
Wow. There were so many great takeaways from Joe today, but my favorite as someone who loves breaking down ROI, was our conversation about the 10 steps to measuring the ROI of your content. So often we think you can’t really measure that, but we can and we should! Joe’s tips about measuring the effectiveness of our content across three key stages he identified as crawl, walk, and run was brilliant.
I loved how he broke down what needed to happen at each stage that, with time, we’ll get you to a place where you can start seeing the leads that are coming in due to your content and then what your typical cost per lead is, and then do the math. So, if you’re responsible for generating content at your company and have some people wondering, “Is all this work really worth it?” You’re welcome and don’t forget, all of the resources mentioned today can be found in our show notes on the salesamp.com podcast page, including Oratium’s promo code, HELLOTOYES30, to instantly receive 30% off the same training curriculum used by companies like IBM, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Disney. Virtual selling doesn’t have to be hard. Visit Oratium.com to learn more.
So that’s a wrap. Thank you for joining our first episode of From Hello to Yes, where we know that in this fast-paced world of marketing and sales, we are better together and thank you to Joe. Hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Let’s do it again soon.