In this episode we speak with Damian Thompson from Linchpin. We discuss how to get predictable results by spending time to plan out your content marketing strategy. Damian reveals the exact process he uses with his clients who pay him thousands of dollars.
Grab a coffee, plug in the earphones and listen in!
Damian Thompson is the founder of Linchpin. He helps startups gain new users faster, retain existing subscribers longer, and maximize revenue per customer by telling better stories.
- Damian’s history – A quick look at where Damian has been
- Service Productization – How to offer your service as a product.
- ROI from Content Marketing – How can this be achieved?
- The Playbook – The five key areas to focus on to achieve predictable results.
READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT
Jake: Welcome back listeners. As discussed to the top of the episode, we have got Damian Thompson from Linchpin on the call today. Damian, how are you?
Damian: I’m great. How are you Jake?
Jake: I’m fantastic. I’m so glad to get you on here today. You specialize in something which I think is very important for content marketers and multimedia marketers. That is, I guess creating that content and actually you could almost say you put the marketer in content.
Damian: Okay, I like that. I’ll steal that and claim that as my own from now on.
Jake: Fantastic. Why don’t you explain to our listeners a little bit about what you’re currently doing? In that, maybe give us a little bit of background as to how you got to where you are right now.
Damian: I’d love to say this was some grand plan that I’ve figured it all out and I sat down on a whiteboard and had this Machiavellian scheme to get something right. I talk a lot with a lot of my mentors, the people I really respect. It seems that a lot of them had this one big idea that ends up defining them a little bit but also what people really say “Hey, I really latch onto that.”
I was always looking for one and every time I tried to define one or purposely tried to create one, it just didn’t really work out. I stumbled into mine. I have this background of sales in marketing for the last 15 odd years in high-end technology companies, I say high-end I mean enterprise. McAfee, Symantec, the big end of town.
But also then it’s startups. Every four or five years I would get bored and jump into the startup thin but again, it always ends software or software as a service. A couple of years ago, when I decided I wanted to get back to my own thing and your listeners can’t tell from this thick American accent but I’m actually half Australian, the good half.
When I decided I wanted to leave America again and go back, I was heading back to Australia originally and said “I’m going to take a little detour in South East Asia and while I’m doing that, I’ll just hang on my consulting shingle and use my wealth of knowledge in sales and marketing and figure out what to do.” As you do, when you first start your consulting business, you take all-comers.
You do everything you can to basically anybody. Very quickly you realize how hard that is to do and how difficult it is to deliver real value. I really want to start niching down. The thing that I really loved was content creation. I like the idea of educational based marketing.
Content marketing is nothing new. The terminology is new. It’s big, bright, shiny thing right now but educational based marketing’s been around forever. A hundred years, they were doing advertorial type of things. That’s not new. It’s just because of the internet it’s really easy to distribute the stuff now. I started focusing just on content marketing.
At the time, I was a per hour consultant. One of the things that’s really difficult when you do consulting for companies is really, essentially I end up being ghost rider for these companies. I create content for them, in their voice that goes out under their name but it means I have to understand their business and they understand their business. They live it, they breathe it, they’re there every day.
The very beginning of an engagement for me with a client was always a lot of research. I had customers bristle, like “You’re charging me 10 hours of research. I know what that means. It means you’re playing Angry Birds.” “Well no, I really need to understand who your company is.” I got tired of having this fight with customers at the very beginning of how much time went into actually creating the knowledge base I needed to be successful for them.
I decided, instead of doing hourly, I would create this deliverable product that I was calling “The Content Marketing Playbook” People loved it. It was exactly what I was doing for the hourly, what’s actually grown and got bigger and more expensive but the idea was having this deliverable product that, that way whether the customer wanted to continue to work with me or not, they’d have this deliverable thing.
This playbook was, what it sounds like. It’s a playbook. It’s a blueprint for your content marketing strategy.
Jake: That’s fantastic. This playbook, this productization of a service, it sounds relatively familiar. Did you come up … Where did you decide to actually productize the service?
Damian: I’ve been thinning much for a long time. My first startup in Sydney, back in 2000, I was a cofounder of a company called Zento, they’re in Milsons Point. We did, at the time we called it MSP, a managed service provision which was really software as a service before it was called software as a service.
What we did was we went out some of the bigger law firms in Australia and some of the bigger companies in Australia and said “Instead of you trying to manage your security, technology security, firewalls and any virus and intrusions to the tech systems. Instead of you having one of your guys try to learn how to do this, we have this team of experts and we’ll do it for you.”
It was literally that. It was a managed service. Instead of paying 20 grand for a firewall, you give us $3,000 a month for 24 months. Just bundling services, which I’ve always loved the idea of delivering services as a product. That was 10, 12 years ago.
As my career has progressed in pure marketing, pure consulting terms it’s always better to productize your consulting. Philosophically, you’re always trading time for money when you’re doing something but you want to make sure there’s … I think the thing about having a productized service is there’s a clear deliverable and expectations are the most important thing to manage, when you’re managing client relationships is having a clear understanding of what’s going to be delivered.
Saying “You give me X dollars and I’ll deliver Y product” is always better than “You give me X dollars per Y hour and I don’t know how long that’s going to take” or “I’ll guess how long it’s going to take” I think a lot of the big thinkers these days, in our circle that, Jake like you and I, know quite a few of the same people. They would agree that productization is the way to go.
Really, instead of being software as a service, I joke and say I can do service as a service, put a product on it.
Jake: Listeners, a really fantastic book to learn a little bit more about this productization of service is a book called Build to Sell by John Warrillow. I think that’s a fantastic book. It’s very consumable. I guess you could say it pretty much tells a story about a company who goes off and turns a service that they’re delivering, a graphic design service into a productized service. It’s very easy to consume and very interesting.
Damian: It’s brilliant. I generally hate those parabola type books where they pretend there’s a story when really it’s trying to teach you eight things but that is a great but and yes, I’m essentially building a business similar to him.
Jake: We’re just getting a little bit off track there.
Jake: Let’s bring it back in. That’s my fault. call that guy but generally there’s only one of them. They’re very heavy in their product side. They’ve created the prototype, they’ve got an engineering team, they’re on version 2 of the product and they’ve got a marketing strategist but he’s been pulled a million different directions doing a bunch of things.
What my company does and say “We’ll come in. We’ll help you devise your content marketing strategy and actually do it for you so you can worry on product marketing and positioning”
Jake: Listeners, we’ve got a little bit of background now. We sort of know what Damian does. Of course, like with all of our episodes at the multimedia marketing show, we’d like to go in and give you some actionable tips and advice. Before the call I was able to twist Damian’s arm and I’ve convinced him that we should go deep into the playbook and look at the 5 important key areas inside his playbook.
This is something where you should go out and grab your pen and your paper and get ready because this is something that Damian charges multiples thousands of dollars for his clients to actually do. You’re in for a treat in this episode. Damian, why don’t you just quickly detail the 5 key areas of the playbook?
Damian: The first area is your content marketing goals. A lot of plans, a lot of strategy … It’s that great 37signals thing. Planning is vital and plans are meaningless. This is not about having this … I’d like to think that when you’re done, this thing in your hand is a good strategy book, it’s a good guideline, it’s a playbook, a blueprint but really there’s so much value in actually doing the planning process.
One of those things is setting your content marketing goals. You have a number of goals obviously. To me, the biggest question I always have to ask is why. Why are you doing this? Why are you doing content marketing? I run a content marketing agency. Content marketing is not the end all, be all. It is not the only thing you should be doing. It is not the panacea for all of your ills.
I like it, it’s something I love to do but it’s not right for everybody. If the answer is “Why are you doing this? Well, because everyone else is” That’s probably not the right answer. You need to take a really hard look at why you want to do content marketing because there’s so much out there, there’s so much garbage on the internet. The last thing you want to be doing is creating more garbage.
If you’re going to do this, it’s going to take a commitment, it’s going to take investment of time, money or both in most cases. You want to set aside your goals for content marketing. There’s a couple of fuzzy goals, generally. Your brand awareness, reinforcement, those good things. With the technology the way it is today, you should set some pretty hard goals as well. It’s lead generation, it’s lead conversion.
You should be creating content, to say “I want to increase the number of visitors I have. I want to increase how long they stay on my site. I want to increase the percentage of them that opt-in to my marketing funnel”, whatever that happens to be, an e-mail auto responder or call me or whatever you call that action but really define some real number generated KPI’s or key performance indicators for what the content’s going to do and have that specific to your business.
This is one of those things that, in a lot of cases, you’re going to have to guess and you can do some research and Google some stuff and get some generalities of the marketplace. Make those your beginning and reassess every 60 days but you want to start thinking about real numbers and real metrics. That’s the first part is have some goals for why you’re doing this.
The second section is marked as messaging strategy. When I talk strategy, I talk this a little bit about … This is old school marketing her but it’s old school because it’s works. You look at the very successful, big consumer good companies like Procter & Gamble. What they do very well is realize that marketing’s about building trust. The way you build trust with someone is you understand them, you get them.
People buy from people who are like them, who understand them, who they know they can trust. This is really about having a clear understanding of who you are, who your customer is and how the two of you should meet. We’ll starting this by talking a little bit about first, your unique selling proposition and your USP, your unique selling proposition, this is something that gets beat up a lot these days but it’s very important. It’s also called a value proposition sometimes.
Essentially what it is, it’s your “We are a X company for this type of customer who buy this way, that benefits them in this and there unlike someone else.” For me, my unique selling proposition is, Linchpin is a content marketing and you’re going to see that it helps software as a service companies gain new users faster, retain existing subscribers longer and maximize profit per customer by using content marketing.
That’s a very clear … if you hear that, you know who my customers are, you know who I am, you know what we do. You need to understand that. The second this is, what I call an ideal client profile or persona or some people might call it an avatar, this is where you create an ideal version of who you should be selling to. You can really deep dive on this and get really specific about …
Some of the big consumer companies get to the point where they do demographic stuff, the average purchaser of Thai dishwasher detergent is a 36 year old housewife from the rural, wherever … They give them names. It’s Tammy and Barbara. For most businesses, you don’t have to go that deep but what you want to know, give them a name, if you’re doing B to B, give them a name and a title, have some basics, which is …
If you want of have some demographics understanding of age and gender and location, more from language. People talk differently. If you’re selling to technical audiences, what technical jargon do they use? What level of school had they attended? Things where you can really narrow in on what language to use. What’s their background, what are some favorite websites they might have.
You want to create this persona of who your ideal client is and generally, there’s multiple of them. Again, I’ll use myself as an example here. My 2 primary personas are … My first persona is a technical founder who hasn’t hired a marketing person yet and wants to do some marketing but he’s afraid … They start up where one of their big fears is … One of the big hires that is hard to do is your first Chief Marketing Officer.
A lot of these technical founders, they want to start marketing but they don’t want to hire this marketing strategist yet. When I’m talking to that person, the way I speak to them is different than when I’m talking to that Chief Marketing Officer who’s there. The value that I can deliver is different. The Chief Marketing Officer understands some of the marketing jargon I’m going to use and my value to him is, I can take a huge amount of work he has of his plate.
When I’m talking to the technical founder of the business, my responsibility to him is that I can do some of your marketing for you, I can make this simple to understand, I can make this very analytic and I can make it very measurable because your engineering background.
Really, understanding who the buyers are and how I do it. That leads into the buying stages. When you look at a buying stage of your audience, there’s going to be … Everyone’s at a different stage in the audience. You get the first stage, which is the unaware, like they don’t know they have a problem. They either don’t know they have a problem or have a problem and are unaware there’s actually a solution to it.
At the second stage it might be research where they’re “Okay, now I know there’s a problem. Let me see who’s out there.” Then they go into evaluation where they’re trying to look to see, what solutions are there. Then there’s purchase, obviously and then there’s the post purchase. Each one of these stages of the buying cycle, you’re going to map different types of content to.
When someone’s in the unaware or the awareness stage, your content’s going to be very much about pain, it’s going to be about agitating pain or making them aware “Hey, we understand you have problem XYZ. Now, there is a fix for that.” When they’re information search, then your content mean much more information heavy, maybe out to some white papers.
In evaluation, you want to start differentiating yourself. If you have to understand your buying cycle and the buying stages each your customer’s at so you can map your content to that. In the last part of the messaging strategy is the keyword or key message. I don’t mean keywords in a gaming, Google SEO way. I mean understanding …
There’s some value in long tail, keyword search and there’s some value understanding how your customers talk but that’s what really we’re talking about here is, is more about what language do your customers use because what you use and what they use are not always the same thing. You might call it search engine optimization or SEO and they call it rank better at Google. You want to understand what terminology they’re using, again not to game the search engines but more so you could talk to them in their language.
The third stage is about really revealing and putting a plan in action for your funnel. Essentially, there’s multiple different kinds of funnels but essentially, there are 3 primary funnels. One would be your inbound marketing/lead nurturing funnel. This is someone comes to your site, they’re not ready to buy now or to even use a trial or to talk to you or anything else but they are information gathering. You then create a funnel to put them in. That might be …
Funnel doesn’t have to be very hard, doesn’t have to be an e-mail auto responder, it can be just, you’re blogging so it’s your RSS feed. You’re feeding them information in that buying stage for. Generally, then you look at your onboarding or trial funnel, which is important in trial based business that offer, software as a service companies. Then your sales funnel’s different too. Your sales funnel’s how do I get someone from marketing to sales and how do I actually close the deal.
There’s a bunch of great people out there for auto responder stuff but it’s really having a clear understanding of people’s intend when they’re on your site or whether they engage into your marketing and talking to them, not just in their language, not just at what buying stage they’re at but what they goals, hopes and dreams are.
The biggest mistake people make in marketing, the second biggest mistake. The biggest mistake thinking everybody’s the same and not realizing it depends. The second biggest mistake people make in marketing is thinking and being way too me focused. My software’s awesome, my website design business is amazing, my XYZ company is awesome, we’re better than everybody else. No one cares you’re better than everybody else. No one cares what you think about your company.
What your customer cares about it do you understand me? Do you understand my pain? Do I have belief that you can help fix that pain? Those messages have to very you focused and not me.
The fourth stage, which is the easiest stage is content creation. I just saw a friend of ours Dan Norris post about content marketing and blogging but I’m going to guess what it is before I listen to it and he’s right, bloggers can be content marketers, for sure but blogging isn’t content marketing.
Content marketing is having a clear strategy, like objective goal in mind. This is not… You’re not food blogging, you’re not travel blogging, you’re not sharing your thoughts with the world. If you’re doing content marketing, I think the blog is a vital part of the content marketing strategy but it you’re content marketing, you have a purpose in mind, you have a customer in mind, you have a question in mind, you’re delivering value, you’re answering question.
Content creation is talking about the different types of content which most them, I guess are pretty familiar with video, audio podcast, white papers, Slideshow, I’m a big fan of Slideshow these days if you’re into B to B marketplace. It’s content creation and putting together but that’s easy if you haven’t got the first 3 sections right and all you’re doing is throwing more words out into the void.
The fifth and final part of the playbook is creating your content distribution strategy. You put all this time and effort into understanding who you are, who you customers are, how they want to be spoken to, what kind of concept they respond to and writing great content or video editing or putting together great content. Now, how to get it out into the world?
Another big mistake I see, especially bloggers do this, is they think that putting out on their website’s enough. The problem with that is that I already have to have you on my website then. You’re already caught audience. If you’re at my website, I’ve already won the attraction game. Yeah, it should be good to keep you there and to keep you interested but that’s not going to actually help enter you into the beginning of the funnel, the big, wide area of the funnel.
I need to have a plan for how I’m going to get that out into the world other than just me. I’m a huge fan of social media, I love social media. I think it’s great. I think people don’t use it correctly most of the time but the thing I say about social media is you have to have a very clear plan about social media. Don’t be everywhere. I’ll say it again, don’t be everywhere.
I do not have a Facebook page. I have a personal Facebook account but I don’t have a Linchpin Facebook page because that’s not how my customers’ going to buy my service. I sell multi-thousand dollar B to B consulting packages on monthly basis. I’m not going to do that through Facebook. However, Twitter’s a great way to give a message out there. Twitter’s a great way to engage with customer base.
You need to figure out where your customers are and what social media platforms they’re on and that’s where you should focus. Pick 1 or 2, 2 at the most and do those really, really well. That leads into the really big part about distribution which is what I call outreach, which is a blogging term and I co-opted it and I love it. It’s very powerful.
When people ask me “Who does blogging right?” Last year I would’ve told you KISSmetrics and they still do. They do an amazing job. KISSmetrics were the gold standard I measure everyone by but it makes sense to me. They have a bunch of money, they have a big platform, they got a content manager, they’re a machine, a content machine.
I’ll tell you who I like in the last couple of months have been. It’s been the Buffer App guys. Buffer App’s a great social media tool but there’s basically 2 guys there, and really there’s 1 guy doing most of the content but what he’s doing, Leo’s doing is really clever having this plan of every 3 pieces of content he writes, 2 of them go on his site and 1 of them goes somewhere else.
That outreach is what draws new people to you but you can’t just pace the world. This isn’t some Syndicate Frank Kern-esque trick to go out there and do guest posting or even Copy Blogger or pro blogger like those guys who I love but this is not guest posting as a traffic hack.
This is a legitimately figuring out where your ideal audience already congregate, building relationships with those people and then engaging with them and saying “Hey, I have something of real value to your audience.” and yet, at the end I expect about me box with a link to my site but it’s not about link building, it’s not about link building, it’s not about anything else. It’s about literally delivering value.
Finding those influencers, finding them, your peers, your partners and your customers. Your peers, your partners and your prospects, sorry. Figure out which one of those are important and put time and effort in it. It’s the cardinal rule of … You don’t just send blanket e-mails out to them “Hey, I want to write something on your site.” I also say actually don’t follow their rules.
Most of the biggest blogs will have guest posting criteria like fill this out and do this. I say that’s not the way to do it either. You want to build a relationship with them. It’s not that hard. It just takes time. You need to identify who they are and then you do things.
You Twitter stalk them for a while. You don’t become a sick fan, when the say something clever, you re-tweet it, you @ reply them on Twitter, you engage with them in their comments section. Again, if you’re doing this just for the sake of doing it, it becomes very clear. I would say that is my overall suggestion to people in content marketing.
Writing is a difficult thing or video or audio and to do that, to be fake and do it is very hard. Your authentic self is going to come through whether you want it or not. Really, look at your motivations for why you’re doing it and look at your motivations for what you’re gaining out there. It really does become …
I don’t want to be Kumbaya, I’m too old to be a new kid on the block but there really is some value to this creating true value for your audience to really try to solve people’s problem and business does come about. You have to ask for the order, you can’t just wait for them to give it to you but if your motivation is wanting to solve a specific problem for a specific niche in a specific part of the world, it’s amazing how quickly your business can grow and doing that.
I went back originally to how I stumbled upon this playbook idea. It’s also how I stumbled upon the market I serve where I made this idea, I was only going to content marketing only. I started doing that but then still a voice lost in the wilderness and said “I really need to pick a niche to go after.” I did every intellectual exercise in the world.
I’m going to pick plumbers or for me, it was really, I’m going to pick real estate agents or insurance agents because there’s a lot of them. They spend money on sales training but I didn’t know those industries, I had no credibility there, I couldn’t really solve any of their real issues. I know more about content marketing than they did but it wasn’t anything real.
I looked at my customer base that I was working at the time, and said who do I really like working with. At the time, it was 2 technology companies. Then you literally hit your head against the wall and say “I’m a dummy. I’ve spent 20 years in software. Of course I like them. That’s the business I understand. I know their lingo. I have credibility there. I like the startup space. This makes sense for me” As soon as I started saying “You know what? I’m not just a content marketing company anymore. I’m a content marketing company just for software companies.”
As soon as you do that, it’s that antithetical thing where you think it’s going to limit your marketplace but the more you niche down, actually the more opportunities you get because now people can clearly understand who you are, you become more referable, becomes easier to figure out where you need to be and you’re going to be pulled in million directions. My business literally doubled in 90 days once I started saying no to business that didn’t fit my perfect model.
Jake: That’s fantastic, that entire strategy. I want to go back and I guess pick part a little bits and pieces but certainly, I guess what this playbook gives you, it gives you focus and niching down, as you say it I think if it does nothing else, it gets you on message and it makes your message very clear, digging so deep into to it.
There’s nothing to stop you from … Once you’ve niched down so far, you can expand your reach, once you’ve got that under control but I think having a clear understanding of who your prospect is and who you’re serving is very important. That certainly comes about from this level of planning.
Damian: It’s the thing I fought the hardest against. Dan Andrews from the Tropical MBA and Lifestyle Business Podcast, he’s been telling me for 2 years “Niche down” and philosophically I understood and I got it but I just fought it, personally I fought it. I was like, I come from this enterprise software background where you want to do everything to all people but it is truly, you’re right.
You focus on market, you deliver to that market and you can always expand. I’m serving the same market but I’m doing more to them. Either I expand my services to that market or you expand your markets but it’s easy to get there once you’re … It’s like that old rugby analogy. It’s easier to change direction when you’re moving.
Don’t stand still and figure out “I don’t want to go left or right” Start moving forward and then figure out how to move.
Jake: I think one of the biggest issues out there, this is something that I’ve personally struggled with a little bit and I know my listeners do because I’ve surveyed them and they actually told me is, as you say content marketing’s real the buzzword right now.
Producing content can become quite addictive. What I’d like to really dig into is certainly looking at the content goals. You mentioned about reassessing your goals every 60 days. How formalized is this in your business and how formalized do you do this for your clients?
Damian: Do as I say now. It’s not as much as I’d loved to be, to be honest with you. The playbook is very much a growing and live product. My big focus right now is getting … You’re right, it’s very noisy right now. I make the joke that content marketing is like social media consultants were 3 years ago, when all of the sudden became social media consultant.
You were bombarded with social media and everyone wanted to tell you how to do it correctly and most of those guys didn’t know anything but that didn’t mean that social media wasn’t valuable, it’s absolutely valuable. It’s the same with content marketing. I agree that it’s starting to get so much buzz, they start to rankle me a little bit but to me, the way you stand out then is very much just metric driven marketing approach.
How do we measure the success? The answer is difficult. Right now, one of my primary objectives in the next 30, 60 days is to make this a much better thing. I’m talking to experts, analytics experts and different tools and can we trick Google analytics in doing this, do we need to go deeper, do I need to go abide mixed panel. To me, it’s not about the investment, it’s about “Can I get what I want?”
It’s two-fold. One, I want to make sure that what I’m doing, I’m spending time on this stuff that actually produces results but I also want to prove to my customers they’re getting value out of what I’m doing for them. Now, the hard part is it becomes very difficult. Perfect example.
Let’s just say, Jake you hired me to write some content for you. I put together a couple of articles, I spend a lot of time, you and I go back and forth, it’s very iterative and at the end of the day, we put together 4 articles that both of us were very happy with and we put them on the site.
How do we measure success? There’s a bunch of ways to measure it. You can measure it by engagement through your comment section, you can gauge it by how many times you get social media share, you can gauge it by page views or how many people see it, how long are they on there, how long is it shared, is there a call to action on that page if the call to action is into the funnel, what’s it like? Maybe you have to test it against your existing one but none of those are perfect.
Really, what happens is … Content marketing is very much a magnet but it’s also a filter. You might come the first time … Someone might come to your site because they saw an article that I wrote and say “I like that” and then leave but then add you to their RSS feed and then it’s 3 week later, they enter into your marketing funnel.
How do I know that their first engagement on the site was that? It is difficult. There is no perfect, easy answer right now but what I would suggest is the place to start would be to look at some of the things that where you currently are and use them as baselines. I go down to give some specifics that I currently use that again, aren’t great but they’re something.
One is unique visits. Let’s look at your 10 most recent blogs posts and what are their unique visits, how many unique visitors are each one getting and we’ll use that as the base of our analysis. Let’s see the new content you create actually after you put all this work into planning, does that increase, yes or no? Geography, to our reach now. How many countries are your reaching? Are those countries you want to be reaching? Then you look at engagement. Engagement, you measure it couple of different ways.
One, you can measure through comments. I’m not a huge fan of comment measurement but some people love it. A better engagement metric might be bounce rate or time spent on site. Is the bounce rate lowering? Was it 50% on the old content and now it’s 40%? That’s good. Did they use to spend 45 seconds on site and now they spend 2.5 minutes so we actually think they’re actually reading the articles Again, these are all these combined together can start to paint a picture of are you writing compelling, engaging content.
You can use heat map software. Things like Crazy Egg or Visual Website Optimizer has it built-in where people will track people’s mouse movements on the page. You can, by that tell whether they’re reading. It’s not as strong as content, as it would be like for an e-commerce site but again, you can see it.
Total page views, is that going up? Are we going to, we talk about social sharing and comments in regards to sentiment but those are metrics you can take with what you’re currently doing, then look at after you’ve put all this time and effort in putting a plan together and moving forward and going for it.
One of the things I love to say about marketing is we don’t market to be marketers. We market to sell things. The ultimate goal is revenue increasing but again, that’s hard because you never know is revenue increasing because you’re pouting time, effort and energy into content or it is because you went out to a conference last week and handed out your business card to a 100 people. Ideally, we would be tracking everything.
Here’s how I look at analytics. There’s no perfect answer right now. I think there are strong indicators through some of the examples I’ve given you but for me, it’s about collecting it all. Collect it all now, and then when you finally figure out how to measure it, you can measure it because one of the things that I do talk about what content goals is …
I look at some of the companies that are in fields that I don’t even care about. Good friends of mine just shows up and sell Ad Sense site. I literally could not care less about Ad Sense. I couldn’t care less about the actual product they create at the end but that’s not what they really create. What they really create is a community.
They built this community through spending so much time and energy on this amazing content and really showing people how to do this and really helping people build this business as these little micro businesses. That sentiment is why they get customers and why their business keeps on growing end over end. Do they know exactly which post helps them? No, and they want to. They’re one of the people in this exploratory group I’ve got together trying to figure this stuff out but there does come a little bit of …
You can’t measure everything. You can’t measure the brand of it but you should have strong indicators. If you put a lot of time and energy into this and you set yourself a goal. “For 90 days, I’m going to deliver this” If at the end of 90 days you haven’t moved a needle on any of these KPI’s, then something’s wrong. The quality of the content’s not right or content marketing might just not be the thing for your audience. There are markets this is not perfect for it. If you’re a local plumber, maybe that’s not the right market for you. I don’t know.
Jake: I think, as you say it’s actionable analytics is probably the term that just about everybody is missing. As you say, there really isn’t … You’ve got to really have a clear idea of what you need to measure, in order to measure it. There’s nothing out in the marketplace right this second which tells you what you should be measuring as a baseline.
Damian: The most reliable is after the fact, but the most reliable source is actually surveying, I believe. It’s actually talking to your customers, once they become customers and asking them why did they become customers or how did they first hear about you or why did they give you enough trust to give you their money.
I think, a lot of times, the company’s doing right, they’re going to say “I found you through your blog.” or “I saw you guest posted you on XYZ company” I think that that’s generally the most, but again it’s after the fact. We’d like to be a little more real-time.
Nothing’s perfect yet but keep searching, track the minimum things I talked about. Troll track everything so later on if you figure it out, you can go back and look at it but from a 1,000 of views take a look at 6 or 7 things I pointed out and ask, survey your customers. Ask them what they like to use.
Jake: Let’s keep moving through. Let’s have a look at message strategy. Something which I hear often is that when you’re building a customer persona or a customer profile, you should actually put a picture and a name to your customer profile. Is this something that you do?
Damian: I go back and forth. Yes, you’re right, the old school persona, like Procter & Gamble and those companies, that’s exactly what they did. They had a picture of Pam, and they named Pam. I do the naming thing, like I might call them something. I might call it SEO Sam or something like that. I don’t really do the picture anymore because I hate clip art.
The demographics to me is not as important. Whether it’s a 27 year old white guy, a 27 year old black guy or a 29 year old white female, it isn’t as important as are they technical in nature, what other sites are they on, what is their buying behavior like. I think sometimes pictures can paint a subconscious idea of who the person is when really, for most companies it’s not that important.
What race they are, what sex they are isn’t as important as how do they make buying decisions, are they technical decision makers, are they emotional decision makers, are they making a buying decision for their company, are they making a buying decision for themselves. I think those psychographics are much more important than demographics.
Jake: I think that’s a fantastic tip. I guess that’s probably something that’s become a lot more relevant as the web has opened up access to different markets because I guess, back in the day when they didn’t have the World Wide Web you were actually targeting geographical areas and as a result of that your market was so much smaller that you really had to use these more common traits across the total demographic whereas now it really isn’t.
Damian: It just makes sense. If you look at 10, 15, 20 years ago, people were still pretty tribal. It’s just now our tribe is about our wants and needs and our personality needs not about where we physically are located or our race or anything else but 20 years ago, it was.
If you had a corner shop, the reality was that the people within 20 square blocks of that corner shop were probably all similar in socio-economic background, race, religion, all those things because it’s a neighborhood. By the very nature of neighborhoods, they gentrify, they become very similar to each other. That’s how people do.
We do the same thing now, like you’re a Redditer or you’re not or you’re 4chan versus Reddit. Those are different people and it’s not about those old school demographics, it’s more about how their personalities are.
Jake: I’m going to skip through the funnel and content creation. These are of course very important. I think what a lot of certainly content marketers forget all about content marketers which is I guess a demographic of our listener base here is the fact that if you build it, they will come.
That’s certainly not the case. You sort of touched on it briefly in some of the strategy recommend is Buffer guys, Leo putting 2 pieces of content on his own site and putting a piece out into the wild for people to finding.
Let’s go into this a little bit in more detail. What sort of outreach outside of just contact inbox do you do?
Damian: It starts with the list, right? It starts with who you want to contact. I use a number of tools there. The 2 biggest ones I use are WeFollow and Followerwonk. Both are Twitter based but again, for all of my customers and for me, for most people that do any kind of business online Twitter’s a pretty decent indicator.
There’s very few people that are engaged in the marketplace or are thought leaders that don’t have Twitter. Of course, there are some. I start there, I use keywords. If I was doing work for SEO company, I would say “SEO X long tail” and put it in there and I’d find 20-30 people with the most Twitter followers, the 20-30 people that are most active on Twitter and I would create … I would actually follow them and create on TweetDeck or Hootsuite I would create a list in Twitter for those people and I would target those people.
From that, I would then reach out to, do they have a blog, if I do subscribe to their blog through RSS. To me, it just takes effort, there’s work here but every new market I’ve walked into I’ve found that nothing will help you short-circuit the time it takes to understand that marketplace like actually engaging on people’s blogs and through social media.
You want to get into X business. You want to get into sales training for insurance agents. You got out and find the top 20 sales trainers for insurance agents and the top 20 insurance agents and the top 20 website designers for insurance agents and you subscribe to those 100 blogs and you read those 100 blogs, you’re going to very quickly learn terminology, you’re going to very quickly figure out how they talk, you’re going to very quickly learn what acronyms mean and you’ll build up credibility pretty fast.
By doing that, you’re going to find who you like. You’re going to find people that just tickle you. Maybe you’ll like someone with a sense of humor or you’ll like the guy because he’s a really detailed posts. You’re going to remain engaged with them and you’re going to leave them comments. Not comments like “+1” or “Great article” but more, I call it the insult sandwich.
The best way to engage with someone is to give them insult sandwich which is “Jake, I love your podcast. It’s great. One think I don’t like is the fact that you only do it once a week but I really like the quality of what comes out.” The reality is that I’m trying to … That’s not a great one because you want to insult them with a piece of information they could use. It better w “I don’t like your auto responder series” or whatever you do, you want to scope it that way.
For me, it would be, generally what is it for me is I say “Hey, I was on your site. I love your site, love your podcast, I signed up for your trial. It’s great.” But actually, I think don’t you’re doing a very good job with your content work. I see you only blog once a month. I see you started 3 podcasts and then quit. I really like this much time and effort, energy put into your products. I wonder how success you could be if you put that time, energy and effort in your content marketing. Boom.
I’ve told you’re wonderful, I’ve told you there’s a problem you’ve got and I’ve told you you’re wonderful again. People want to fix the problem. Their natural is … You got to be careful here. You can’t be too sales, you can’t make it very clear like if you sell vinyl you can’t be “Hey, I love your house but your vinyl signing sucks.”
You have to again, attention means a lot. Your attention has to be you really do want to solve problems but then this goes back to really understanding your ideal client profile. My ideal clients, it’s not every single software company in the world. In fact, it’s not even every funded software company. It’s very early stage founded companies and even then, it’s not all of them.
Then it’s ones that aren’t blogging correctly, like ones that either aren’t blogging at all or are blogging and putting out less than 1 post a week or the ones that put are very technical and they’re not really doing social building. I know who really needs me. The one people that really need me, the other ones I reach out to. That’s why I think that you can’t just skip to outreach. You got to have a clear understanding of who you are and who your customers are.
Once you do, you build this list. Again, the cardinal rule is you can’t just ask for something. You’ve got to build some level of relationship. Relationships aren’t what people think they are. I would say of my 5 closest friends on the planet right now, 3 of them I’ve never met face to face. That’s just the way the world is now. I have people that have absolutely blown me away, had made huge impact in my life personally, in my business, who I consider a closer, personal friend who my relationship with them had been Skype, e-mails, shared form exchanges and alike.
Building relationships … You don’t have to be in the certain to do that. You don’t have to be in a certain industry to do that. You just have to go out and look for light minded people and really try to help them out. Again, I’ll go back, I don’t want to sound all Red Cross kumbaya here but if your intention starting off you want to help people, like you’re trying to make a difference and help people, and not make a difference like change the world but your thing, if you’re a website designer and you really like this company and they did a great quilting but boy, they’re just not putting their best foot forward when it comes to their website.
That comes across as real and valid when you engage with people. It the case with most people. I find most people that are successful, most people that have a business they’re building, entrepreneurial at least, it comes from some love of the craft, whether that craft is drywall or web design or whatever it is, there is some inherent love of what they do and satisfaction of doing it correctly.
Jake: A strategy which has worked very well for me is engaging in this manner as you’ve just detailed. I guess the counter to their next comment is “I’ve got a bad website. What now?” It’s like hey, as services businesses to all intents and purposes, are not necessarily selling IPS, yes, that’s a part of it what they’re selling they’re usually selling implementation.
The perception from a client perspective is that the value of your service is your knowledge, when it really isn’t because knowledge with no implementation is really useless.
Damian: That’s a great point. They want to talk about everything free, give out everything for free because they’ll come back, they pay for you to do it. They’ll realize how much work it is, they don’t have the skill set. I’m having professionals rebuild my site because I built the first one and it’s crap. I know exactly what I want but I can’t build websites, I’m horrible at it.
I’m willing to pay an expert to do it because it’s not their expertise, you’re right, it’s not their knowledge I want it’s their expertise that I want, which is actually the doing. You’re correct. I think the best way, if you’re in a service business to win business is actually to give away free advice.
My first sales call with someone, my first … I’m very dissuasive too. I’m not very pitch, pitch, sell, sell. I give you my insult sandwich. Your site says something, okay great. I’m obviously on your site I see you do this “How can you help me?” Then I’m actually very dissuasive on my next responsive. I’m not sure I can. I’m not for everybody. Best first step it, let’s get on a quick 15 phone call and see if we’re a good fit for each other. Maybe we’re not.
This just really deflates any barrier they’re creating, “Oh I’m going to get sold.” Now I’m literally a consultant. I’m just coming and I’m just going to consult. It can’t be fake. Sometimes, you’ve got to be the one to walk away from business. It’s easy, when you start talking someone and you just know they don’t get what you do and know that they they’re not going to implement it the correct way.
You just have to have fortitude to say no to that business but the reality is that generally doesn’t happen. When you go on the phone with that person, first thing I like to do is, I like to give them 1 or 2 really good solid pieces of advice for what they’re problem is and I won’t charge them for that, I give it to them because you’re right. 9 times out of 10 is ”Great, can you do it for me?” or “If I hired you, would you do that, what else would you do?”
Now, they’re asking you how much did I give to you.
Jake: Once you’ve given that information, they have to make a choice, as to whether they use your IP, an expert in it to implement for them or if they utilize their own time and investor earned money into learning and implementing themselves.
Damian: You’re going to need some of those? 1 out of 10 is going to say “Great. Thanks for the information” and spend about 40 hours learning HTML. Okay, cool, good because that guy is not someone you want as a customer anyway.
I think that there comes a point … If you’re a services business, you’ve only got so much bandwidth. I’ve found that if you can figure out a way to productize what you do, build longer term relationships with people, keeping that funnel filled is not hard because you’re not trying to replace 40 hours’ work every week, there’s only 10 hours of that that turns over every month.
That’s the way to do it, it’s just to be very helpful and engaging. Literally, almost every really successful service business I know, they have a literal, not a trick, they have a literal waiting list for customers, customers that want to give them their money.
Jake: Let’s wrap it up. I’ve got one more question on this topic here.
Damian: No, no more freebies.
Jake: Damian, personally, do you prefer to cast your net wide or get leverage by focusing on a one particular or a small number of people, influences in your marketplace?
Damian: This is going to be like everything else, it depends. For me, I’m a focus guy. I’m all about … I fought so hard against this niching down this focus but now that I bought it, I’m a true believer. I’m more of a spend longer, build relationships with five really important people but again, if you’ve done your job right in the planning, those 5 important people are really important.
We’re not talking about getting on Tech Crunches to say “I was on Tech Crunch.” We’re talking about being on somewhere that makes sense. A lot of times, it’s not your peer group, in fact it probably isn’t your peer group. It’s probably someone in a related field, sorry, serving a related industry. One of my big roles with my customers is putting them together where they make sense.
Not from them because they don’t make sense to each other but they both serve the same market in different ways. Those are people you should be targeting. Look for what your customers are, look for other people to servicing them in different ways than you service them and those are people you want to go engage with.
This is the biggest mistake people make in networking, whether it’s live networking or online outreach networking is they spend all their time with their peer group. Who cares about your peer group? Your peer group already knows everything you know. They probably know more than you know and they’re all fighting for the same customers you’re fighting for.
Go where your customers are. It sounds cliché, it sounds simple but it’s so few people actually do it because it’s comfortable and easy to go hang out with your peer group. There’s no rejection there but you want to figure where your customers are and go there.
Jake: That’s fantastic advice. Damian, this episode has been incredible. We’ve shared so much. I think implementing something like this in planning is more about producing predictable results than out there with a shotgun and just really nearly producing content and hoping for the best.
With this level of planning and detail, you are going to produce very predictable results. I think that if nothing else listeners, that’s a biggest takeaway for me and I hope it is for you as well in this episode.
Damian: I’ve come full circle on this a little bit is the content you create needs to be good, serve a purpose and be delivered well. Don’t listen to all stats out there about 15 pieces of content a month, it doubles your leads. Well, yeah it does but that’s a bad test because most of these companies that do it have huge teams.
You’re better off with 1 really good piece of content a week than you are with 2 eh pieces of content. Beside just Google and SEO, the reality is that real trick or the real goal in creating content is share ability, that people want to share this with other people. That’s how content goes viral is people saying “Wow, this is awesome. Someone else has to see this.”
You don’t do that by saying “I must create 4 pieces of content this week. Here’s a list post of 7 ways to do this” and that kind of thing. It does better by really putting some time into answering the problems and questions your customer base has.
Jake: Damian, let’s wrap it up. Where can A, our listeners find out more about you and where can B, listeners find C where you’re delivering content to, in terms of some of your clients?
Damian: Me … The best thing is just I’m a Twitter whore so @DamianThompson, @ reply me, I’ll definitely get back to you. The website’s linchipin.net. My customers currently a couple of customers, a handful of customers have actually got an approve list to say yes that they’re actually customers are a help shift.
They’re at in app Support Company out of Silicon Valley doing pretty sexy stuff, doing some work with Rob Walling from Startups for the Rest of Us with his HitTail product and Quote Roller, a proposal software company out of the Valley as well.
I have a number of customers as well but those are the ones that I’ve actually gotten permission to say their names. We can talk about them.
Jake: Damian, thank you very much for coming on. Thank you very much for sharing such high value information with our audience. It’s very much appreciated.
Damian: No worries at all. Again, any questions someone has, just Twitter’s the best. @ reply me at Twitter and I’ll try to answer in 140 characters or less.
Jake: Thank you very much, Damian.
Damian: No worries, mate.