My Very First Thoughts from Content Marketing World 2015


I’m certain that you’ll be able to read a much more thought-out and comprehensive rundown of my entire CMH2015 experience on the SPROUT Content blog in a bit, but I’m actually sitting here in an empty meeting room during the lunch break on my first day and really felt the need to get this information out there.
First of all, the conference is just incredible. If you’ve ever wanted to go and weren’t sure if it was worth the ticket price, I can tell you firsthand, it’s worth it. The level of detail the CMI folks have brought to the preparations and the level of quality I’ve experienced in just the first few hours of the conference have already made up my mind on that account.
But, here’s the big shocker from today’s presentations so far: the leaders in my industry are nervous.
Joe Piluzzi spoke about the Trough of Disillusionment, which content marketing is now heading into. I can see this in my own experience, and it’s both scary and, strangely, exhilarating. Basically what it means is that the industry has matured to the point that all the initial rosey-eyed optimism and fun experimentation that has been a driving force in the widespread adoption and growth of content marketing has rightfully cooled off. At this point, as they should, customers are becoming more cynical and demanding in looking for true business outcomes.


To me, this is similar to what we saw happen with the infamous dot-com bubble in the mid 90’s: first, everyone was racing to get behind anything with a website attached to it. Then, after a few fun years and a few ridiculously rich 20-somethings came and went, the hype cooled and business-as-usual began to resume, with a completely new digital element that hadn’t existed before.
Now, as the business world has finished learning about and falling in love with content marketing, it’s swinging around to demanding honest to goodness results including trackable and predictable ROI.
As a result, Joe said, “there will be a lot of agencies who fail in the next few years.” But, there will be others that rise to the top and succeed like never before.
Later, Jay Baer built on this idea by describing how “competition commoditizes competency.” In other words, there are more than enough content marketers out there at this point, and they’re all learning the same tips, tricks, and best practices. So there is no way to differentiate on being competent. Instead, true differentiation in our industry comes down to who cares enough about the content itself and the customer that content connects with. Those who care the most and have the most passion will come out on top.
I like to think I’m in that group. I’ve been doing this job for a long time in various forms and, of course, there are days when trying to find a new and exciting take on industrial machinery or paper products is tough to do. But I have yet to wake up and wish I were doing something else.
I’m also thrilled to be working with a team at SPROUT Content who also brings passion to the work on a daily basis and keeps finding ways to stay excited about what we’re doing for our clients.
So, here’s to the future of content marketing as we enter the Trough of Disillusionment: we’re ready.
Are you?

Is the Trading Post in Conover, North Carolina, Stealing from its Customers?

trading post used cars stealingI purchased my vehicle in September of 2014 from The Trading Post used car dealership in Conover, North Carolina.  Since then, I’ve discovered that a warranty my wife and I thought we were purchasing at the time was never processed and now does not exist.  The result is that the $2,000 we verbally agreed to pay for the warranty – which was included in the amount we financed for the vehicle – was paid for nothing.

I’m not publishing this to “get back at” Don McGee, our salesperson at The Trading Post, or to create some sort of internet smear campaign.  I simply want to do my part to make sure my fellow consumers in the Conover area are aware and can go into any business dealings with this car dealership with open eyes.

Timeline of Events

  • September 29, 2014:
    • We decide on the vehicle and, in discussing the price with Don McGee, are verbally given a price of just over $11,000.
    • We request a warranty since the vehicle is ten years old and we’re getting out a six year loan.  Don states that the Trading Post used car dealership will not warranty the vehicle, but that they work with a 3rd party warranty company that can.
    • He verbally quotes us a price of approximately $2000 for a 3-year, 50,000 mile warranty through this 3rd party, which we verbally agree to.
    • Don then arranges the financing and we are approved for a six year loan for just over $13,000 (exactly what we expected: $11,000 for the car and $2,000 for the warranty.)
    • In signing the contract paperwork, we questioned a form that indicated the car was being sold “As Is”, without a warranty, and Don verbally stated this was a technicality because The Trading Post was not warrantying the vehicle, but that we would receive our official warranty paperwork in the mail.
    • Over the next 3-4 months, my wife called repeatedly and spoke to Don to let him know our warranty information never arrived.  Each time his response was, “it must be an oversight, I’ll get right on that, you should get it soon.”
    • For several months, we forgot about it and the vehicle ran fine.
    • Last week, we noticed a slight coolant leak and called Don back again to demand the warranty information so we could go have it taken care of.  Suddenly, he stopped returning our calls for a few days.  Then, he called back and said, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, there’s no warranty on this vehicle.”
    • Since then, both Don McGee and Nathan Rhodes (General Manager of the Conover branch of The Trading Post used car dealership) have spoken to us on the phone and stated, “there’s nothing I can do after nine months.  You should have let us know there was a problem sooner.”

In the pile of copies I was given when I signed all the paperwork, I do have a copy of the “as is, no warranty” page Don told us only applied to the dealership warranty, which I signed.  However, yesterday, Don emailed me a “warranty waiver” that very clearly and succinctly states, “I choose not to purchase a warranty on this vehicle” that has my name and information on it, but, somehow, my wife’s signature.

Did Don Photoshop my wife’s signature, lifted off her driver’s license (which is the only thing they had access to with her signature on it since the vehicle and the loan were in my name) onto a warranty waiver just to lend credence to a lie?  I can’t say for sure.

I can tell you I don’t have a copy of that form.

I can tell you my wife did not sign anything that day because, legally, she couldn’t.  Everything was in my name.

And I can tell you this conveniently perfect piece of evidence was never mentioned or trotted out the other four times we called requesting information on our warranty during the first three months after our purchase.

But no, I can’t specifically say that Don fabricated this document to support a lie.

If you’re looking for a used car in the Conover, North Carolina area, and you find one you like at The Trading Post, 1002 Conover Blvd W, just proceed with caution.

If you have any questions at all, please ask.  Thanks.

Justin P Lambert

Male Enhancement and Content Marketing

I originally published this article on LinkedIn Pulse, but felt it was good enough to reprint here as well.  Let me know what you think!


There are dozens of different metrics you can track to put some science behind the art of modern marketing, and there are hundreds of different apps and web tools designed to provide the what, the who, the where and when for every type of digital marketing there is, and for every industry.

There are also millions of professionals (like me) who are willing and able to tell youhow to use all that information and all those tools to accomplish your marketing goals as efficiently and effectively as possible.

But there’s a part of the equation that’s all too often lacking in modern marketing, and that’s the why.

You see, sometimes we all get so caught up in doing what has to get done, we forget why we’re doing it. And that can lead to a lot of wasted effort, failed projects, and squandered resources.

The Why of Content

As a perfect case in point, take the creation of brand content.

Everyone’s doing it now, and for good reason. It works. It’s important for branding, for visibility, for educating the buyer and helping guide their decision making process.

So, over the last few years pretty much every company, large and small, has started investing time and money into creating content.

But why?

Sure, all those reasons I just listed are valid. But are those really the reasons behind this huge surge in content creation?

Unfortunately, no. At least not all the time.

In many cases, companies are jumping head first into content creation just to keep up with the competition. They look at their rival’s website, then they look at their own, and they realize, “his is bigger than mine.” And any male reading this knowsthat doesn’t feel good.

So they start sinking money into creating content in order to fill that apparent void. To feel better about themselves, and to ease this vaguely-defined ache inside that’s confirming a closely held opinion about themselves that they’ve never been able to shake:

The fear that they’re inadequate.

The Limp Truth About Male Enhancement

If you dare, take a break from reading and open up your email’s spam folder. I can almost guarantee you’ll find at least one if not dozens of emails advertising penis enlargement.

What an incredibly odd and relatively disturbing thing to be bombarded with on a daily basis. And yet, my marketing mind is telling me – accurately, I’m sure – that they wouldn’t keep sending those emails out if they weren’t making money doing it.

Do the pills or machines or exercises or whatever they’re selling actually work?

Who knows. I’ve never tried. But I have to imagine any positive effect is minimal and temporary or it would be a much more mainstream product.

You see, these sleazy little ads are successful because they appeal to the vain and insecure part of every man. The part that worries that we’re not good enough, not big enough, not strong enough to satisfy.

And it’s that same vain and insecure feeling that is driving so much ill-conceived content creation these days. Just like those pills advertised in those spam emails, though, the actual results of this content are often minimal and temporary.

But just putting it out there can give a business owner – male or female – a false sense of security and pride because they feel like they’re doing the right thing to carve out their place in the industry. They feel like they’re getting bigger so next time they compare themselves to “the other guy”, they don’t have to be embarrassed.

There’s a better way.

Finding Your Why of Content Marketing

There are very clear and valuable reasons why your company should be producing content. There are logical and supportable reasons why a given type of content, tone of delivery, distribution method, and any other component of your content strategy is the right choice for your company at this time.

But you’re not going to figure that out by coming at content marketing as a “me too” necessity.

To understand the “why” of content marketing for your unique brand, you need to start with the most important person in your entire organization: your customer.

You need to learn what she wants and needs to know before she can make a comfortable buying decision. You need to discover where she’s most likely to go for that information, and how she prefers to take it in.

Put simply, you need to understand your customer inside and out, and then you need to develop your entire content strategy around providing that individual with the most valuable, helpful, and interesting content you can come up with to satisfy her wants and needs.

That’s your why.

With that as the basis of your strategy, you’ll have the length of vision, the girth of reputation, and the longevity of experience to satisfy the most demanding of customers.

And you’ll find other, less secure, members of the competition doing their best to catch up with you.

WTBWY Bites – The Hidden Key to Powerful Buyer Personas is Why?

WTBWY Bites are short and sweet shout-outs inspired by stellar content from around the web.  My take on their take on something related to what I do.  Enjoy:

The Hidden Key to Powerful Buyer Personas is Why?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at practicing what I preach when it comes to buyer personas.

They’re vitally important to an effective content marketing strategy, and I include them as a requirement in every strategy concept I work on for my clients. But for my own business, my personas are murky and out of date.

I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  Stupid, I know.

An article I recently ran into on the excellent Top Rank Blog brought this failure home to me (again), but it included a powerful element to the persona creation process that I don’t think I’ve ever fully explored before: the big “why”?

Customer Insights Are Key for More Persuasive Marketing Content

This is powerful support for deep and detailed customer personas.  But an important part of these personas that some may fail to think about is the question of  why is this person going to Facebook (or G+, or Twitter, etc.) Why are they visiting my blog?  Why are they searching on Google?

The keywords they use or the fact that they create a given profile doesn’t necessarily align perfectly with their actual reasons for being there.  And if your messaging also doesn’t align with their actual reason for being there, it’s not going to resonate – even if you find the right person at the right time.

WTBWY Bites – Don’t Go For the Lowest Common Denominator When Outsourcing Your Content Marketing

WTBWY Bites are short and sweet shout-outs inspired by stellar content from around the web.  My take on their take on something related to what I do.  Enjoy:

Don’t Go For the Lowest Common Denominator When Outsourcing Your Content Marketing

I’ve been fighting this battle for a long time now, and as an industry I think we’re starting to come around… sort of.

But there are still way too many writers out there willing to give away their talent for ridiculously low prices, so there are still plenty of customers willing to hire them.  I’m not saying that every writer who writes a 500-word article for $5.00 is a bad writer (although many of them are,) but I am saying that anyone who’s NOT a bad writer should surely be valuing their expertise at a higher level than that.

Not only does it cheapen the entire content creation industry by making a powerfully profitable skill set into a commodity, but it also makes it more difficult than it should be for legitimate content professionals (like me) to make a fair living because our prices seem incredibly high in comparison, leaving us at an unfair disadvantage.

I came across this great article on the Writer’s Beware blog, and it provides some interesting food for thought for all those paying customers who are lurking on eLance and oDesk hoping to snag a great writer on the cheap.  You may not even be communicating with the person whose profile picture and resume you’re looking at:

Scam Warning for Freelancers

Basically, scammers are out there posing as legitimate writers in order to snag your initial deposit, then disappearing with your money and moving on to the next victim.  And they’re able to create profiles on these sites using pictures and information cut and pasted from the writer’s own website and apparently eLance and oDesk can’t do anything to stop them.

My recommendation: back away from the lowest common denominator (oDesk and eLance) and instead entrust your content marketing work to established professionals who you reach directly. After all, if you’re looking for someone who knows how to create compelling marketing content, why are you going to trust someone who has to rely on oDesk or eLance to make them visible?

The State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Takeaway #3 – Data Facilitates Alignment

This is the third in a series of blog posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, please visit HubSpot.  The rest of this series will be presented on the SPROUT Content blog.

Inbound Marketing Data Facilitates Alignment

The days of the Mad Men are officially over.

Marketers are no longer simply clever creatives with laissez-faire to do whatever they please.  Instead, they’re being held accountable for generating real results and being able to prove ROI.In this respect, they’re very much onboard with executive leadership, as proven by this chart:

Inbound Marketing Requires Data

As you can see, practitioners and leaders are thinking the same way almost across the board when it comes to where their priorities lie.  And, a closer look reveals that those priorities are heavily data-dependent.

Gaining leads, converting leads to customers, increasing revenue, reducing cost… all of these can be easily tracked, analyzed, and optimized by the use of data.  Hence, the use of available data helps to facilitate alignment between two departments that have historically fought to see eye-to-eye: marketing and leadership.

How well is your team aligned?

Creating this level of alignment can have a huge impact on how smoothly your operation runs, how effectively your inbound marketing strategy connects with and benefits from your other ongoing marketing efforts, and, to a large extent, your satisfaction on the job.

So, how well aligned are you?

A simple test to consider is this:

If the boss calls me into his office to discuss X campaign, do I already know what to bring with me, or am I flying blind?

You see, if your marketing department is properly aligned with leadership, you should already know what sort of data your boss is liable to be looking for.  You’ll know what types of tangible results he’s expecting and how to go about explaining any variations from that expectation.

Being aligned in this way, not only will you be in a better position to impress your boss, but your boss will be in a better position to trust and back up your decisions to his own boss or the board of directors, as needed.

State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Key Takeaway #2 – Getting Found is a Top Priority

This is the second in a series of blog posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, please visit HubSpot.  The rest of this series will be presented on the SPROUT Content blog.

Getting Found is a Top Inbound Marketing Priority

Blogging is Key to Inbound Marketing

According to HubSpot’s report, marketers who put emphasis on their blogging strategy were a whopping 13 times more likely to see positive ROI, which is the number one reason they see bigger budgets the following year.

So blogging is understandably high on the priority list of top inbound marketing performers.

What about you?

Is blogging an important part of your overall inbound marketing strategy?

How to Prioritize Blogging

Putting the proper priority on blogging is as simple as consistency. (He says with a completely hypocritical grin.)

It’s simple. Not easy.

We’ve all heard the guidelines:

  1. Create an editorial calendar
  2. Set aside research and writing time each day
  3. Plan ahead to coordinate your editorial calendar with  real world events
  4. Promote your content consistently after each post
And the list goes on.
It’s all great advice, and it works, believe me!  Did you know that Words That Begin With You used to be a daily blog?  Absolutely! Seven days a week for almost seven months.
It was awesome!
And horrifyingly difficult.
But I’m glad I did it.  It gave me a deep reservoir of solid content to refer to as I adjusted my strategy over the years.  It also implanted a healthy writing habit that I can still rely on to this day.
I really wish I still posted with that same level of consistency, but alas, along with increasing client demands came slacking personal marketing.  It’s an age-old dilemma and one I’m not qualified to advise on.
But the fact remains that it’s possible to give blogging the attention it deserves in your inbound marketing strategy.  And the best way to do that is to be consistent.

The State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Key Takeaway #1 – Inbound ROI Unlocks Budget

This is the first in a series of blog posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, please visit HubSpot.  The rest of this series will be presented on the SPROUT Content blog.

Inbound Marketing ROI Unlocks Budget

This is huge.

So huge, in fact, it leads off the key takeaways from a report chock full of huge items.

Why is this such a big deal?  Because content marketing has historically had an issue being taken seriously by old-school executives and those who hold the purse strings.  It’s understandable, but it’s not fun – especially for those of us sitting on the inbound side trying to justify our existence.

The report makes a clear correlation between those inbound marketing professionals who are putting a priority on tracking ROI and their level of success as revealed by the continuation of – and even expansion of – their programs. Which, understandably, leads to increasing ROI as time goes on.

Inbound Marketers Should Track ROI

For obvious reasons, those marketers who are able to display a positive ROI are much more likely to see their budget renewed in the following year, or even increased to allow them to expand, experiment, and create even more return.

Inbound Marketing That Shows ROI Get More Money

So, are YOU tracking inbound ROI?

ROI is going to be tracked differently for each organization, so hard and fast rules don’t apply.

However, most of the basics are universal.  They’re covered nicely in this EventBrite post that applies the question specifically to online events (of course.)

The basic areas that make up legitimate inbound marketing ROI are:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Generation
  • Sales
In the case of the first four areas, actual dollar amounts will be difficult if not impossible to pin down.  Don’t let that dissuade you, however.  Marketing and sales departments have always had to place a monetary figure on people in order to justify expenditures to locate and convert those people.
Call it lead scoring, brand value… call it whatever you want, but use your analytics data to determine what your average conversion rate is throughout each of the first four categories, then compare it to the tangible fifth category: sales.
As you go through this process, working backward in some cases, you’ll eventually come down to a dollar expenditure that applies to each bucket into which you can split up your inbound marketing efforts.
From that point forward demonstrating ROI is as simple as comparing those numbers to the amount of sales those efforts eventually generated.  If the number is positive, you win!