As a Content Marketer, are You Mulder or Scully?

As a content marketer, are you Mulder or Scully?

Photo courtesy of Fox (the company, not the agent).

OK, I’m about to reveal the true level of my geekdom.  And, if you’re interested in improving your content marketing chops, you’re coming with me.

I’m a huge fan of The X-Files.  It’s one of the few TV shows I fell in love with from the pilot episode and the rest of the world actually did too.  Thanks to the magic of Netflix Instant Watch, I’ve been binging on re-watching the series for the last several months, and it’s still great.

The show evolved over the years it was on the air, but for the seven years when it was most popular, there was one truly unbeatable aspect of it that kept viewers coming back.

It wasn’t the scary, disturbing plots, (although they were really cool); it wasn’t the slam-bang special effects, (although they were pretty impressive); and it wasn’t the occasional goofy humor intermixed with the spine-tingling horror, (although that’s always a match made in heaven.)

No, in my opinion, the most impressive aspect of The X-Files (and the aspect that directly relates to improving your content marketing skills,) is the complex, yet deeply satisfying, relationship between Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Before we continue, take the quiz…

So, which kind of content marketer are you?  Mulder or Scully?

Based on your answers to the above quiz questions, you’re either a Mulder or a Scully content marketer.  Read on to see what that means and how to maximize the impact of both!

Who is Fox Mulder?

Fox Mulder is the believer.  A man fully convinced in his beliefs (of alien life and the existence of a world outside of what science can explain) to the extent that he has dedicated his life to finding the truth about these things.

He is a man of action.  Quick to pull his gun and start running after anyone – man or monster – who may hold the key to uncovering the truth he seeks.

He’s rash, impetuous, willing to try anything.  And these qualities gain him some incredible success: he’s always the one who sees the monster, watches the UFO speed away, or in some other way catches a glimpse of “the little man behind the curtain.”

But, he gets himself in a lot of trouble along the way, too.  He gets beat up, shot at, abducted, not to mention constantly being on the verge of losing his job.

If you’re a content marketing Fox Mulder, you’re a fast-acting tour-de-force who’s willing to try anything because of your fervent desire to see the results that you know content marketing can bring you.  You’re focused and determined, ready, willing and able to give your content the time and energy it needs and deserves because you know it’s going to bring your business to the next level and beyond.

And you’re right.  But there’s a problem.

You can’t do it alone.

Who is Dana Scully?

Dana Scully is a medical doctor who joined the FBI after med school.  A scientist who therefore views the world through that lens.

She is analytical, critical, a skeptic who needs to look at the evidence and has difficulty looking beyond it in search of the truth.

She is strong, independent, determined to do what is right.  But, in her own way, she’s also constantly seeking answers, even if she needs to bend a few rules to get at them.

She’s the yin to Mulder’s yang.  A skeptic to his believer.  A voice of calm reason to his energetic paranoia.  And – this is important – she knows her way around the FBI rulebook and politics, and knows how to work the system.

So, while Mulder heads off alone to chase a lead, Scully stays at the morgue and examines the body.  While Mulder runs after the monster or chases the UFO, Scully pulls out her cellphone and calls for backup.  While Mulder gets punched in the face, Scully draws from a safe distance and yells “FREEZE!  FBI!”

And she’s gotten Mulder out of trouble more times than we can count because when Assistant Director Skinner (their boss) needs answers for the men upstairs, Scully always has the folder with the little bit of evidence they managed to scrape together so the case can be filed and the X-Files can live to search another day.

If you’re a content marketing Dana Scully, you’re all about strategy and analytics.  You’ve got a solid plan from the start and you’re working that plan slowly and methodically.  You’re aware of the studies that tell us the best time to tweet, the most effective headline formulas, the best post frequency.  You’ve identified your audience and you’re keeping a finger on that audience’s pulse through a hundred visits to Google Analytics every day.

The only trouble is, you’re not really getting anywhere.

Because you can’t do it alone.

Mulder and Scully Together

You see, the reason Mulder and Scully were able to accomplish so much is that their dichotomous personalities completed each other so well.  Mulder couldn’t have succeeded without Scully, and Scully couldn’t have without Mulder.

Without Scully, Mulder’s just a crackpot who believes in aliens and (unfortunately for all of us) has a badge and a gun.

Without Mulder, Scully is a potentially boring desk jockey who examines dead bodies for evidence and writes a neat report.

Together, they can save the world.

So what does this teach us about content marketing?

Simply this:

To succeed at content marketing, you need to embrace both sides of the Mulder/Scully equation:

  • You have to have a strategy in place.  A framework of content that works together and builds on itself.
  • But you also have to be impetuous sometimes.  Try something crazy.  Just throw it out there and see what happens!
  • Know your audience like the back of your hand, and spend some time on analytics or you’re flying blind.
  • But don’t get so caught up in analyzing everything that you forget to act!  The more the DO, the more there is to ANALYZE!
  • You’ve got to use your head.  Great content elicits thoughts and conversation, and it’s based on a solid understanding of how people think, learn and make decisions.
  • But you have to use your heart too!  Passion for your topic and your audience is key.  If you don’t appeal to your audience’s emotions, you’re dead in the water.

When the impetuous believer in you starts to lose heart, your analytical skeptic can pull together the necessary evidence to keep you going.  And when your analytical skeptic gets too bored, your impetuous believer can light the fire again!

Content marketing is a long-term commitment.  A difficult road, sometimes.  And it’s not for the feint of heart.

But the truth is out there.

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WTBWY Bites: LinkedIn Rocks for Content Marketers, and Here’s Why

You’ve probably heard already about the “leaked” internal memo from LinkedIn discussing their acquisition of Bizo and their subsequent plans to take over the world.

About the Bizo Acquisition, the Leaked Document, Corporate Espionage, the Monopolization of Social Media, and Where LinkedIn Will Be in Five Years…

I don’t care.  It’s not important.

Why LinkedIn Rocks for Content Marketers

Now this, on the other hand, is important.

You see, LinkedIn occupies a very special and unique position in the world of social media and content marketing.  It has always been the place for leaders and decision makers.  Even before it was the powerhouse it is today, it was the first, the biggest, and the best social network for business.

As such, it’s a natural for professionals like me – B2B-focused marketers, consultants, trainers, coaches, etc. – to focus our often meager time and financial resources on.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, or any number of other big and small options out there who try in their own way to appeal to everybody, LinkedIn does – and always has – appeal to business people.

In my own circumstance, I can tell you definitively: 

I have never once been able to trace back a single dollar earned in my freelance career as a writer and content marketer to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or Pinterest.  LinkedIn, on the other hand, has directly or indirectly been responsible for around 90% of my income over the last three years (since I went full-time.)

LinkedIn for content marketers

Photo courtesy of ideagirlmedia(CC No Derivatives)

In this helpful article by Lizetta Staplefoote on the blog, the matter of the leaked document and whatnot are actually analyzed from the perspective of content marketers. 

It does a great job of highlighting how shifting audiences, the rise of mobile, and the rise of social selling have all played a role in LinkedIn’s strategy, including their acquisition of Bizo and their plans for 2015 and beyond.  And it ends with three key take-aways for content marketers:

Key Take-aways:

  1. Less Guessing – The more powerful targeting capabilities LinkedIn will provide will make B2B content marketing far more effective than it even is right now.
  2. More Pressure to Produce – The enhancements will also open up many more opportunities for targeted, even personalized, engagement, which means more content is needed.
  3. Re-think Your Strategy – There are ways every content marketer can mirror the best parts of LinkedIn’s strategy to up their game on all fronts.

Stellar LinkedIn Tips

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WTBWY Bites – If You Still Need Another Reason to Love Google+, Here it Is.

I was never a Google Plus naysayer like some of my content marketing and social media snob colleagues. I actually liked the network from the start even before I fully understood it. 

I also remember very clearly reading some social media “guru” using terms like “flash in a pan” and “me too” to describe G+ in relation to other established networks like Facebook (which everyone assumed Google was trying to compete with) and thinking, “Dude, it’s Google. Even if it lasts six months it’s worth paying attention to.” 

I’m not positive, but I think I passed that guy the other day while I was on my way to Starbuck’s. 

He was sitting on the sidewalk handling that pan he thought G+ was going to flash in. 

This "guru" didn't love Google+

This "guru" didn’t love Google+. Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus(CC Attribution)

I Love Google+ and You Should Too

You'd better love Google+ too!

You’d better love Google+ too!. Photo courtesy of surrealpenguin(CC ShareALike)

With hundreds of millions of users and an increasingly engaged base of superusers keeping things lively, the network has certainly come into its own.  These days I really enjoy it, and it’s an integral part of my social media and content strategies. 

IfByPhone’s “Why Google+ is Even More Relevent to Content Marketers” 

The information in this fine article by Jane Intrieri didn’t surprise me, but it did impress upon me just how thoroughly integrated G+ is into Google’s algorithms, and how powerful a tool and resource it can therefore be for those of us who depend on content for our livelihood. 

Key Take-aways: 

  1. Author Photos are back… but only if you post your work on your personal G+ page. (No wonder I barely noticed when they went away…) 
  2. Google indexes G+ posts within seconds, as opposed to hours or even a day or more for other sites. 
  3. Google obviously favors content shared on (and popular on) G+ in search rankings. (I know some internet purists get all stuffy and grumbly when they hear this because “the internet is supposed to be a perfectly free democracy” and all that jazz, but the fact is, Google is a for-profit corporation and they’ve got the right to give the nudge to their own customers if they choose to. It’s not cheating, it’s the rules of the game right now, so just keep playing.) 
  4. G+ also offers some fantastic audience targeting tools, both for listening and engagement, between the Circles concept, Hangouts, and Communities. It’s a content marketing goldmine in that respect. 

So, do you love Google+? Do you use it yourself? Do you recommend it to others? Or are you still waiting for that pan to flash?

Oh, and btw, you can circle WTBWY on G+ if you’re so inclined.  

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WTBWY Bites – I’m Doing Content Marketing Measurement All Wrong. Are You?

content marketing measurement

Do you need one of these?. Photo courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images(CC No Copyright)

As much as it pains me to say this, I’ve been doing the whole metrics thing all wrong and I’ll bet you have too. 

Don’t get too down on yourself just yet, it’s not totally your fault. After all, if you’ve been at this content marketing gig for a while now, like I have, you’re probably just entrenched in habits that worked perfectly well way the heck back in 2012. But it’s been well over 500 days since then, and in Internet-time, that’s practically a geologic epoch. 

Fortunately for you and me, there are plenty of smart people out there willing and able to kick us in our collective butts and put us in the know:

The Freelance Strategist’s “7 Content Marketing Measurements You’re Probably Undervaluing” 

This excellent article by the experts at Contently is part of their highly informative Contently Labs series. In this case, they managed to pull together a ton of compelling research from sources like Upworthy, Medium, ChartBeat, Alchemy Worx, Eloqua, and Microsoft Research, to determine why most of the standard metrics you and I have been using for so long are no longer providing the insights we need to succeed.

Personally, I’m comfortable with monitoring my pageviews, visit duration, bounce rate, and other standard fare. But maybe I need to branch out: 

“Pageviews and visits are easy to understand and, until recently, it was hard to track the other behaviors of website visitors. But if your brand is like most, and your endgame is truly to increase awareness and build deeper relationships with your audience, shouldn’t you be using metrics that tell you whether you’re achieving your goal?”

Key Take-aways:

Those other metrics are a bit tougher to nail down, but the technology exists and a savvy content marketer needs to make an effort to so sooner rather than later: 

  1. Brand Lift – What’s the prevailing sentiment around your brand? Is it getting progressively better as your audience grows and matures? 
  2. Engaged Time – How much time are your audience members spending on each piece of content? Are they skimming and scramming? 
  3. Average Finish – Instead of just counting every warm body that arrives on your content page, why not count the ones who actually care enough to finish it? 
  4. Return Readers – It’s one thing to count return visitors compared to new, but you can dive a lot deeper into what generates returning readers and how to engage them even more effectively. 
  5. Visitor Loyalty – How soon and how often do people return? It leads to a “snowball effect” you’re going to want to experience. 
  6. Longevity - How long does your content stay productive? Can you tweak it or repurpose it to extend this figure? 
  7. eMail Engagement – Do you know if that “open” you celebrated lasted 2 seconds or 20 minutes? Wouldn’t it make a difference? 

 All great content marketing measurement suggestions I know I’ll be working into my weekly analytics review. How about you?

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WTBWY Bites – Getting Buy-in for Content Marketing From Above

Buy-in for content marketing

You need buy-in from this guy???. Photo courtesy of _sarchi(CC Attribution)

Whether you’re a freelancer or consultant looking to convince a company to start or expand a content marketing strategy, or you’re a marketing professional trying to convince your boss(es) to do the same, you’ve likely run into some common walls.

Here are a few I’ve been seeing recently:

  • “We’re on Facebook. That’s enough.”
  • “We’ve got that covered.  I wrote a blog post just last quarter.”
  • “My son’s interning in IT and he takes care of that.”
These are examples of stupid dressed up as smart.  Some others I’ve heard recently, which are a bit scarier:
  • “No one wants to hear about what we do.”
  • “This business is boring. There’s no story here.”
  • “Our target audience are seniors.  They’re not online.”
Of course, these are just broad examples, but the theme is pretty consistent.  Plenty of otherwise very intelligent businesspeople are lying to themselves about the need for a content strategy, the potential success they can expect to achieve because of it, and the qualifications of the people they entrust it to.
What’s more, this level of disconnection from reality makes it nearly impossible for those of us who know better to reason with them, especially when money enters the picture.
It’s a matter of buy-in.  Generally, the decision-makers are either 110% behind a business decision or it just doesn’t fly.  There’s not much chance of a success story in the in-between.

CMI’s “How to Pitch the Power of Content Marketing to Your Boss

I was thrilled to see this article on the Content Marketing Institute blog not long ago, because it does a nice job of providing simple but powerful methods for overcoming this deadly disconnect.
Some key takeaways:
  • Shoot for buy-in on an initial pilot program before pitching a bigger initiative.
  • Personalize your recommendations to the individual decision maker you need to convince.
  • Educate the boss about content marketing without insulting his/her intelligence.
  • Speak to the company’s goals (don’t make it personal!)
  • Prepare to diffuse common objections calmly and professionally.
  • Don’t forget to ask for the buy-in!

Buy-in for content marketing

When you’re done, your boss will be boss.. Photo courtesy of HeyItsWilliam(CC No Derivatives)

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How Do I Do Content Marketing?

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of alandot(CC No Derivatives)

It’s actually super simple.  

See, first you start out by being just a little bit out there.  Awkwardly so, perhaps.  Like this alpaca. (Or is it a llama?  I always get those two confused.)

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of upyernoz(CC Attribution)

Then, you take some quiet time to meditatively… meditate on the subject you plan to discuss.  This can be a long process for many content marketers because their lives are full of distractions.

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg(CC Attribution)

Many, including myself, find that setting up a comforting routine – such as a selection of relaxing music or a stimulating beverage – can ease them down the road of creativity and productivity.

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of Robert S. Donovan(CC Attribution)

Once you start down that pathway, your work is more than half done!

Creating content is as simple as 1-2-3!  Which is to say, it sounds really simple in English, but if you don’t speak the language, it’s complete gibberish.  And even if you understand the basics of counting in English, it’s seeming simplicity masks the fact that there are such things as negative numbers, and fractions, dividing by zero, and imaginary numbers too!

But, you can do it.  Trust me.

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of cleverchimp(CC ShareALike)

And once you do, the beauty and harmony of the words, images, call-to-action, persona-reaching copywriting wordsmithing and psychographic soul-rending prose you created will be an amazing thing to behold.  

Now just send it out there into the world and let it fly!  

I guarantee you’ll be rich beyond your wildest dreams!

How Do I Do Content Marketing – The Truth

How do I do content marketing?

Photo courtesy of Hamed Saber(CC Attribution)

Ok, so maybe all of the above is a bunch of B.S.

But the fact is, “doing” content marketing really is a simple process.  Not easy, mind you, but simple.

You find that one person – we’ll call them “Joe Target-Market” – and you find out who they are.  What they like, what they hate, what keeps them up at night, what makes them throw the remote down in frustration… and what makes them buy.

Then, you speak to them.  

And you explain, as one human being to another, why they should give you their money.

And you do it over and over again, forever.

How do I do content marketing?  Here’s how.

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Content Strategy – Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

Content Strategy Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

Photo courtesy of familymwr(CC Attribution)

There’s a fine line between keeping up with the Joneses and looking exactly like the Joneses.

One usually makes good business sense, the other just makes you look silly.

When it comes to your content strategy, there’s going to inevitably be some “keeping up with the Joneses” involved.  For instance, if your biggest competitor is currently snagging 60% of their leads off Twitter, you’d be a fool not to put some emphasis on creating Twitter-friendly content and working to attract the attention of some of those leads.

But if that’s all you’re doing: “me too” content with no soul or unique voice, then you’re missing the point, brother.

The Key to Effective Content Strategy: Delivering Stories People Want to Hear

To avoid this all-too-common trap, the first thing you need to do is determine what your target audience really wants to hear.

Remember, this is what they want to hear, not what you want them to hear or what you think they want to hear.  

So how do you figure this out?

It involves listening with an open mind to what’s being discussed elsewhere online, and giving your audience every opportunity to offer feedback to you directly.  Can you include a brief survey at various touchpoints in the buyer’s journey?  Encourage and respond to blog comments?  Inspire conversation on social media and dedicate the time and effort necessary to keep the conversation going?

By doing this consistently, you should be able to get a solid handle on what your audience truly wants to know about.  You’ll be able to tell what questions they have in mind that may be keeping them from purchasing from you, or what intimidates them about your product or service.  You’ll be able to determine if there’s something about your messaging that confuses them, or sends them down the wrong path.

Once you’ve identified these items, you simply need to create content that simply and powerfully provides exactly what the audience has identified for you.  Answer their questions, calm their fears, respond to their objections, solve their problems.

What They Want is Transparency

More often than not, as you compile the questions and concerns your audience has, you’ll find a running theme: what they’re really looking for is the inside scoop: the real story behind your company, your brand, your product, or your service.  They want to know what goes on behind the scenes and what’s going to happen after they give you their money.

More than anything else, they’re looking for some sort of human connection behind the facts and figures.  If you can put a human face on your business and turn your marketing messages into compelling conversation, you’ll be following the most effective content strategy delivering stories people want to hear. 

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The Content Marketing Package – Is It Right For You?

The Content Marketing Package

In an effort to infuse some normalcy and predictability into a notoriously unpredictable industry, content marketing professionals have recently been putting a lot of focus on the content marketing package.

I’ve done it myself, because I honestly feel it’s a worthwhile option in many cases.  

But it’s certainly not the only option – or the best one, in most cases.

If you’re not familiar with the term, the content marketing package is basically a pre-determined menu of content creation and distribution options at a set package price, which an agency or professional can offer to their clients on a retainer basis.

For example, I have three different package levels, all of which run on a set monthly retainer fee.  My packages are fairly flexible in that I still expect to fine-tune the package to each client’s unique circumstances and strategy, but I have a pretty solid time investment in mind when I’m agreeing to the flat retainer fee.

The Pros

There are pros for both the client and the content professional when using a package system on a retainer fee.

For the client, there’s the piece of mind of knowing ahead of time how much you’re going to spend each month without the worry of hidden fees caused by extra hours or unexpected edits.  This makes budgeting simpler, and makes it far easier to determine ROI on your marketing efforts.

Also, it gives the client the opportunity to learn about the content marketing process as they work with the professional with a standardized system each month, improving and fine-tuning the strategy as they go.

For the marketer, a steady monthly income is like a dream come true, as is the ability to budget and schedule time for the necessary work months in advance.  Besides that, having a pre-determined list of items to create, dispense, and track each month makes for efficient and easily structured work.  If something needs to be fixed, it’s readily apparent because everything remains uniform.

The Cons

The pros mentioned above are powerful, and unfortunately they may be pushing too many pros and their clients into a package/retainer arrangement when that’s not the best option for them.

In some cases, the best content strategy involves a lot of experimentation and adjustment.  If both sides of the equation feel locked into a particular list of content pieces because of a six-month contract, this could hinder necessary adjustments and experimentation.  Instead, they may continue churning out sub-par content on schedule, just because the agreement is already in place.

Likewise, a business with many different marketing initiatives going on at once may find themselves over spending in one area via the content marketing package, only to find that other aspects of their marketing objectives are being neglected and don’t have an adequate budget allocated.

These situations can – unfairly – turn into frustration with the content professional or agency, when in actuality it’s the agreement that’s causing the problem.

So, is the content marketing package right for you?  Or are you better off filling in your content needs on project by project basis?

The best way to find out is to speak to a content professional and allow them to help you decide what’s best in your unique circumstances.

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