One of the things that really strikes me as interesting about content marketing is how it’s made advertising less intrusive, more relevant, immersive for consumers. I think all of us listening can say wholeheartedly how thankful we are for the birth of content marketing because of this. See, the birth of native advertising and online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, Twitter, have made it possible to target audiences and track your marketing with absolute precision.
This divergence empowers business owners and consumers alike. Whether we’re talking about high technology startups like blockchain, all the way to ancient industries like real estate, content marketing allows you to build your business, not by shouting and shoving your company down people’s throats, but by offering relevant, useful advice that can enrich the consumer’s life and create a powerful customer journey with your brand. Yet, it would also seem that for many companies, breaking through the noise, trying to create compelling, engaging, relevant content has been a challenge as more content is published and is competing for valuable human attention.
In 2019, does creating conventional pieces of content, like articles, guides, and white papers, webinars, PDFs, even work anymore? As more content creators enter the space, is it going to become even harder to create engagement, conversion, sales? Can all of us freely participate and succeed as more players enter the global content marketing game?
I’ve decided to invite one of the world’s greatest minds when it comes to content marketing to help us investigate this topic. So pay careful attention as you hear me introduce entrepreneur, Jay Baer, as he chronicles his journey into the dynamic world of content marketing.
Well, thank you very much for having me on the show, Philip. I appreciate it. It was a little bit of an accident. I’m a seventh generation entrepreneur. So my family has been self-employed going back to the 1800s or something. So there wasn’t really a question of whether I was going to be an entrepreneur. It was just, sort of, when and in what context. My son is 17 and he’s got his own business already while he’s still in high school, so it’s just kind of the way we roll. But I didn’t do it till I was relatively late…much older than he was.
I was 30 when I started my own thing with, you know, my own money where it was really my deal. And I could have done it much earlier. In fact, I wanted to do it much earlier, but I was scared. You know, I was making pretty good money as a marketing manager, marketing executive for different companies. And I was like, “Well, why would I get out of that to start my own thing when I don’t have any certainty whether or not that’s going to work?” and I was just afraid.
And my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, and he called me and said, “Hey, here’s what’s going on,” and I walked in the next day, and I quit. And I’ve never worked for anybody since that day because I realized, “What am I worried about? Like, what’s the worst possible scenario? I start a company, it doesn’t work. I gotta get a job working for somebody else. You know, I’ve got employable skills. Like, what’s really my downside risk here? It’s not like…we’re not talking about cancer here, we’re talking about a job.” So, that unfortunately, under tough circumstances, kind of, gave me the push I needed to take the leap and never looked back.
It was clear to me as I began to speak with Jay, that this was an individual who had an intuitive sense of what works when it comes to capturing human attention. Excited by this revelation, I was curious to see if he had some insight on what it takes to become a influencer, and why few people and companies succeed at this daunting goal.
Well, first, I would say that, you know, you just have to do the work. I’ve been now in the marketing consulting world, the digital world for, as you mentioned, 25 years, every day, for 25 years. So ultimately, if you just kind of keep at it, you’re going to accrue some wisdom and accrue some contacts and fans and what have you. The challenge is that most people don’t have enough of a time horizon. They’re just not patient enough. You know, they come up to [inaudible 00:05:04] say, “Been working on this for six months and nothing’s happened yet.” It’s like, “Bro, six months. Like, what are you talking about?” You’ve got to take a much longer look at your own success path
I mean, I’ve written a weekly blog post now every week for 10 years in a row. And I’ve never missed a week. A guy I worked for a once in a company said that success is based on perspiration, not inspiration. think that’s really true, right? This idea that lightning is going to strike or you have this great idea and you’re going to double down on it, doesn’t really work that way, at least not for me, maybe for other people. My thing is, look, if you’re 1% better today than you were a month ago, over time, you’re gonna get somewhere.
But when it comes to kind of “influence”…and I’m throwing up my air quotes here on the podcast…when it comes to influence, I really feel like influence is given, not taken. This idea that you’re gonna go make yourself an influencer doesn’t really work like that. The people decide who they’re influenced by. And yeah, you can create content and do some things to, sort of, help that along, but the way I look at it is go help people. And if you help enough people, eventually, you’ll be an influencer. This idea they’re going to set out to become an influencer, man, your motives are twisted at that point. That’s not what it’s about.
Patience, hard work. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I was hoping for more of a magic-bullet type answer, something that would give me instant gratification and a renewed belief that I can make content marketing work for my business now, not in the future. And yet, I also knew very deeply that Jay was right. Creating successful content is as much about perspiration, as it is about inspiration. It became clear to me that for Jay, the idea of being an influencer wasn’t at the heart of what drove his success. For him, it was about intimately understanding his target market, deeply knowing their journeys, and creating awareness inside the minds of his audience that was relevant and yet different than anything else you could find on the internet.
Was I beginning to really understand how to succeed at content marketing? At this point, I wanted to ask Jay about his blog, Convince & Convert, and how he seemed to always know the right topics to focus on.
I mean, I don’t know how many hours we have in that project at this point, but it’s probably…well, it’s probably 50 hours a week on average for 10 years, you know, and that’s, you know, that’s a pretty significant investment in staff time and resources and intention. And I’m not sure that if I was starting today, my recommendation would be go build a blog that people pay attention to because, you know, written content sometimes doesn’t succeed as well as it used to because of people’s changes in content modalities and preferences. I might try and start on YouTube if I was starting today. But, you know, we reach millions of people a year through the blog.
And the reality is we’re a consulting firm, right? We’re a 15-person consulting firm. Now, we do great work for great clients, much more so than most people and all that’s true. But we’re just a consulting firm, right? But we’re a consulting firm that has a blog that’s read by millions of people. So it can be done, you just have to have a really clear idea on who are you writing for, and then you have to produce really good content that’s genuinely valuable every time. And you just do that over and over and over and eventually, good things will happen.
But there’s no shortcut for it, right? You can succeed, but you have to say, “What’s in the market now and how can we do that better?” One of the things I tell people when they’re starting a blog or a podcast or a video show, or any kind of content exercise, is, “Look, this is not actually going to work, unless your podcast is somebody’s favorite podcast in the whole world.” Like, if you can’t be…you don’t have to be everybody’s favorite, you won’t be everybody’s favorite. But if you can’t be somebody’s favorite podcast on the planet, you shouldn’t have a podcast. But you have to have that level of specificity, that level of focus, that level of quality. Otherwise, it’s never really going to succeed.
Listening to Jay, I also started to ask myself an important question. What format of content marketing really allows you to shine? You see, we all have latent gifts, powers, talents, oceans of insights, ideas, creativity, that remains untapped. So whether it’s writing, speaking, creating videos, webinars, the more I listened to Jay, the more it became apparent to me that one of the reasons why his YouTube and podcast shows were so successful is because he’s really talented at his formats. And this allowed his inner light to shine through. Let’s listen to Jay as he reveals why relevancy is the killer app, and what he tells the largest brands in the world when they seek his help on content marketing.
The thing that we tell our clients, and we work with lots of large brands on content strategy, is we have to stop random acts of content. This idea that, “Let’s just fire bullets off into the air and hope that a bird flies by simultaneously,” like, it’s just not going to work, right? And as you noted, the data showed that the vast majority of content doesn’t succeed. So one of the things you can do to give your content a better chance of succeeding is to produce content shows. Things like podcasts, video series, documentary series, webinar series. Like, turn it into a show with a consistent style, a consistent format, a consistent timeline, a consistent host, a consistent topic. That is one direction that we’re working on a lot.
And then the other piece is to understand that relevancy is the killer app. Relevancy is the only thing that matters. If your content isn’t succeeding, it’s not because your audience is too busy…that’s what they tell you right? “No, we’re too busy. We’re too busy to listen to the podcast. We’re too busy to read the white paper. We’re too busy to attend the webinar.” That’s bullshit. If somebody tells you they’re too busy, what they really mean, but just won’t say, is that what you have given them is not relevant enough. They don’t think it’s worth the time.
So the way to succeed in that environment where everybody’s got plenty of content, nobody’s saying, “You know what I wish we could get is more blogs.” Nobody ever says that. What you have to do is start to create content for smaller audiences, right? As I talked about making your podcast somebody’s favorite. If you were going to start a podcast today about entrepreneurship, I would say there’s no way you’re going to succeed, unless you have some kind of crazy secret sauce, where you can get guests that are so much better than anybody else’s or you’re so much better on the microphone.
I would say, “Okay, entrepreneurship is too big of a topic. What do you really know?” “Well, I’ve run a restaurant.” “Okay. Now let’s do a podcast about startup restaurants. Will you come at it from front of the house or back of the house?” “Well, I used to be a chef.” Okay. Your podcast, then, is “Chefs of Brand New Restaurants.” That’s the show, because that’s relevant enough to be somebody’s favorite show.
I decided I wanted to ask Jay about his book, “Talk Triggers,” and his thoughts on maintaining a excellent customer experience. Why do so many brands think that they have a fantastic experience, only to find negative and frustrated reviews by their customers that prove the opposite? And in classic Jay fashion, he talks about the importance of building trust and authentic communication at every level of the customers’ experience.
You have to understand that we trust each other, more than we trust companies and organizations. We trust each other more than we ever have, and we trust companies and organizations less. And you’re not really going to be able to fight against that trend. That is a larger trend that individual companies cannot fix. So that being the case, the best way to build trust is to turn your existing customers into advocates, into volunteer marketers, right? So, the whole idea of ratings and reviews of user generated content, of vocal advocates, that whole piece is incredibly important. Because if I tell somebody about this podcast, that carries far more persuasive weight than you telling somebody about this podcast because you’re not trusted, because it’s your show, right? Like, you’re supposed to like it, but if I say I like it, different story entirely. So you have to turn the customers into the advocates. That’s one key piece.
And then the other key piece of it is if you want to be trusted, you have to actually interact with customers good, bad, or indifferent. So, this idea that a lot of businesses will get feedback or criticism or comments or what have you, on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Reddit, discussion boards, and forums, even now, years after I wrote the book, “Hug Your Haters,” a lot of companies, reflexively, just don’t reply. They’re like, “Yeah, our policy is we don’t reply to customer reviews.” What are you talking about? If you don’t reply, it becomes true, whether it’s true or not.
[inaudible 00:14:27], and I talk about it in the book, is that you should respond as much as you can to every mention of your brand in every channel, every time, whether it’s good, bad, 3-star, 5-star, 1-star. Here’s what we said in the book. No response is a response, isn’t it? No response is a response that says, “We care so little about your opinion of our company, that we refuse to even acknowledge it.” And that’s not a way to build trust or gain customers.
The problem is we spend almost nothing on customer service and we spend billions of dollars on marketing. And we probably should take some money out of the marketing budget and put it in the customer service budget. And I say that as a professional marketing consultant.
As the interview geared towards the end, a picture started to emerge in my mind about what it takes to succeed at content marketing. As Jay talked about, it would seem that, well, less was actually more. Focusing on a smaller, more well-defined market where you could create truly relevant, helpful information was as important as knowing what content channels to focus on, and putting in that hard work, of course. And yeah, patience, too.
I had to ask Jay one last question before the segment was over. So I decided to ask Jay, to tell me his bold prediction of what technology in the future would have the biggest impact on the future of digital marketing and consumer experience.
My first answer is AI-powered chat bots and conversational interfaces, because it’s the easiest to implement for most people. However, today, not everybody wants to use chat. It’s really good for some things, less good for other things, and there’s still some awkward handoffs between chat bots and live agents. There’s some companies that are really good at that or better at that. We’ve got a partnership with ICUC, a company that’s really good at that. So maybe that, but I think ultimately, if we stretch it out a little further, I think ultimately, it’s AR.
We do some work with Oracle, and they’ve got some really interesting apps for field service that use AR where you send somebody out to, you know, repair your refrigerator and the person who comes out to do the repair doesn’t have to be like super, duper refrigerator expert because they can use the app, point it at the refrigerator, and then all the manual show up. And they can click a button and be connected to somebody at the home office who is really, really good at refrigerators, and then do a guided repair and things like that. So, I feel like, ultimately, AR will be the answer.
Over the shorter term, it’s probably AI-powered interfaces, but in addition to chat, which I think is what the question I was referencing, I would also add voice interfaces to that. I think we’re going to see a huge bump in voice-powered customer service, very quickly. Right now everybody’s thinking about Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc., for marketing purposes, but we’re going to see a lot more around that water cooler for customer service purposes in the near future.
And for me, what a satisfying answer. A future of compassionate, empathetic voice and text conversational interfaces that help enhance the customer experience and providing us, as consumers, a more only optimized, personalized, relevant experience.
Thanks for joining me for another interview segment of Innovators, where your future is now. Jay Bear’s book, “Talk Triggers” can be found on his website at convinceandconvert.com. If you want to learn more about Jay, you can also visit his website at jaybaer.com. You can also listen to the full unedited transcript on our website at c9digital.com. Thanks for joining me again, your host as always, Philip Lew, as we take you, the listener, from a place of panic to power.