[Transcript] Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Suck

Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio Logo

Below is a transcript of the Internet Marketing for Smart People Radio show titled Why Content Marketing Doesn’t Suck, which aired on Friday, October 7, 2011.

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.


Robert Bruce: Welcome to another episode of Internet Marketing for Smart People radio. My name is Robert Bruce and I am on the line with Sonia Simone and Brian Clark. Sonia, you are the Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Editor of Copyblogger Media. Did you have any thoughts on title changes this week that you wanted to make?

Sonia Simone: Yes, this week I am Chief Firefly Officer even
though I don’t actually get to be the captain.

Brian Clark: I looked at it and thought “What is this?” All of a sudden all these fanatical Firefly fans come swarming around.

Robert Bruce: Our pal, Joe Hall, wrote a post last week over at www.marketingpilgrim.com titled “Content Marketing is Bullshit”. In short, he makes this case that your products and services should be so amazing in of themselves that they sell themselves independent of any need for content marketing.

Then our pal, Lisa Barone, over at outspokenmedia.com wrote a response to her pal, Joe Hall, excoriating his opinion. She states,

Your great product, much like your great unique content dies without your ability to promote and market it.

Sonia, which one of our pals is in the wrong here?

Sonia Simone: Well, I realize that everybody would love to see us take Joe out back and give him a good kicking but I’m sorry, I just can’t resist a great headline. I think it’s awesome. Do we think content marketing is bullshit?

We actually do not think content marketing is bullshit but kudos to him for pulling together a lot of conversation, interesting points, and making some sneaky points of his own under the radar. Go Joe! Well done; well played sir. I have to give this one to Lisa in terms of actual, factual correctness.

What good content marketing can and cannot do

Robert Bruce: Let’s talk about that for a minute. What does content marketing actually do, in the best sense when it’s used correctly, when it’s done well?

Sonia Simone: I want to talk about what it does and then I want Brian to talk a little bit about what it does not necessarily do. The first thing content marketing does, a lot of content marketing only does this, is get attention. If you can’t get somebody’s attention, if you can’t pull somebody’s attention from this crazy, hyper-media saturated, everybody sees 14,000 ads everyday reality, then you can’t do any of the rest of it.

If nothing else, content is really awesome for attracting attention, for finding new people, for getting people to know who you are. One of the great examples being Will It Blend? It’s a series of videos where they
have the blender blending an iPhone.

Nobody needs to know if the blender can blend an iPhone. It’s not a normal household
requirement, but it’s awesome. When you see an iPhone in a blender, you have to share that. There’s no way you cannot share that. So the first thing it does is attract attention.

Successful marketing is all about “know, like and trust”

Good content marketing goes on to show people that you’re not a sleaze, you’re not a moron. So the old salesmen’s hack phrasing still works. You have to get people to know, like and trust you. Content marketing is awesome for that. If people know, like and trust you enough, then the selling part gets a lot easier.

Brian, do you want to talk about what you don’t think content marketing is particularly good for?

Robert Bruce: Let me break in here, Sonia. I like the first point you made on attention. One of Joe’s points was if the product is amazing, it should be good enough to garner that attention.

Sonia Simone: It should be.

Brian Clark: Joe gave the example of his Kitchen Aid appliance this grandma bought during the no-brainer years of television advertising where you could literally buy market share and get a huge return on investment. We talked about this last week.

Seth Godin in his new book makes a great case for the people that understood that if they buy as many commercials as they could possibly get their hands on, they could build an empire.

Not everyone got that, but Kitchen Aid did, right? So Joe’s grandma was brought to this product by a different form, a different media, a different approach that used to work like crazy and really doesn’t so much anymore.

Sonia Simone: Kitchen Aid also benefits from a huge amount of product placement so every time you watch a cooking show; almost every celebrity cook uses a

Brian Clark: Which is a subtle form of content marketing.

Sonia Simone: It absolutely is because you’re showing the product in use and it doesn’t look like an ad but it absolutely is an ad. I want to talk about that before we talk about what content marketing is not good for.

A comment that was made on Lisa’s post that I half agree with is somebody said, “Content marketing is not new. It’s been part of traditional advertising forever. Therefore content marketing doesn’t exist. It’s just marketing.” I agree with the first half and I don’t agree with the second half. There are other kinds of marketing besides content marketing. There are even other kinds of marketing at work. I hate to admit it but it’s true.

Not every kind of marketing is content marketing. I think if you say content marketing is just marketing, it’s going to be very hard for you to execute on it because you are going to look at this gigantic, amorphous ball of marketing reality and you’re going to have no clue where to start with it.

I don’t think that’s helpful. I think producing an interesting, valuable piece of content that says something about who you are and what you do is not the same thing as running most Super Bowl ads. It’s not the same thing as running most magazine ads. It’s not the same thing as running a classic direct response ad. Actually it’s not the same thing as a traditional landing page. It’s different.

Brian Clark: Sonia, you asked earlier what is content not good at? It’s interesting because Lisa, in her post, used our definition of content marketing from our Content Marketing 101 page in her post.

In the comments, Joe responded, obviously; by the way let me reiterate Joe is a great guy. He’s a friend of the company. He’s a customer of the company and he was nice enough to point that out. He repeated back that definition to the extent providing informative content that leads eventually to a customer-client relationship, I believe is how it reads.

He asks, when’s the last time you read some content and just said, “Well that was really informative. I think I’ll buy something from these people.” It just doesn’t work that way and I think that was being a bit disingenuous in that sense.

Sonia’s right. It’s about know, like and trust. As she said, it’s about attracting attention in the first place. Just place old awareness that you exist which is a huge impediment. If you’re just getting started online and Joe’s been online since they invented it, maybe he’s forgotten what it feels like to just be invisible. There are a lot of people out there like that.

Content is the way.

You always remember that first big link you get, that big traffic spike where you’re trying to keep your server up because you foolhardily invested in GoDaddy hosting until you made it big not realizing that you don’t make it big if your server crashes every time someone tweets your link.

The 85/15 rule of marketing and selling

It’s not about selling directly. In the traditional sense, copy is intended to sell. Content is designed to attract and to get people to know, like and trust you. But Sonia pointed out that’s 85% of the battle. Intention, know, like, trust, offer. Then the offer is the 15%. That’s the selling. That’s the copy. That’s the conversion.

If you told me that if you do this, you’re 85% of the way there to selling a bunch of stuff to a bunch of people, you got my attention.

Robert Bruce: I like what Sonia said. This is a very different thing from advertising. This is a very different thing from direct response advertising and marketing. I want to ask just for those who may be new to this whole thing, let me read our definition of what content marketing is and what it means. Then I want to ask you guys, what are some examples of different types of content marketing.

Content marketing is creating and freely sharing informative content as a means of converting prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers. Repeated and regular exposure builds a relevant relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion rather than a one-shot, all or nothing sales approach.

So with that in mind, what are some examples and types of content marketing that we see, we do ourselves, but we also see done really well?

Brian Clark: I think I know one or two blogs that are good at it.

Sonia Simone: Not many but a few.

Brian Clark: What about a podcast that you call a radio show?

What Proctor & Gamble and soap operas have to do with content marketing

Sonia Simone: I really did appreciate a woman’s comment on Lisa’s blog that it’s not new. Soap operas from the 1950’s are content marketing.

Robert Bruce: How so?

Sonia Simone: That early television product placement where they’re weaving a story. A soap opera is very particular kind of story. Serial fiction has very old, deep, amazing roots in our psyche and I believe stories are what make us people. If you get a story that’s got a hook every day at the end of it and you have to tune in the next day to find out, it’s awesome.

But soap operas are called soap operas because they’re designed to get, at that time, stay-at-home housewives, which were most married women with kids, to turn on the television to watch soap ads. That’s what soap operas are. That’s what they were created for.

Brian Clark: It’s really an interesting story. I actually know this in fairly good detail because it was fascinating to me when I made the connection. In the Depression era in the United States, Proctor & Gamble, little soap company out of Cincinnati, along with everyone else, they’re feeling the heat of the economy. Obviously, they reach a broad, mass consumer audience. They had no effective way to reach their primary customer which is the housewife. So they’re in the home, they’re just not reachable by a lot of conventional methods. That’s what they came up

There was this new technology called radio and their idea was to deliver serialized fiction based around families, drama, suspense, cliffhanger endings every week and when television showed up in the 1950’s, Proctor and Gamble Productions literally had a media arm of the company.

They still do but it’s evolved. So they took Guiding Light and One Life to Live to debut on television in the 1950’s and there it went. By the 1970s, soap operas were the most lucrative form of television that existed. It was designed to sell Proctor and Gamble’s products.

In 2010, Proctor & Gamble stopped doing soap operas. It was the end of a very long and prosperous era. Now what they do are websites like “Man of the House” because they’re trying to sell him Head and Shoulders, Gillette, etc.

They’re a much more diversified consumer product company now. They’re basically doing what we’re doing as a global, multi-national corporation. So no matter what you think of the company itself, it has some issues with reputation, but they have always been cutting edge at using content as a form of marketing.

In 1994, at the dawn of the commercial web, the then CEO basically chastised the advertising agency and said pay attention to the web. This is the future. Again, they’re kind of leading the charge among the Fortune 100, aren’t they?

Sonia Simone: They’ve got to be Fortune 2.

Brian Clark: I think that Apple and Exxon are Fortune 2.

Content marketing allows little companies to compete with big brands

Sonia Simone: A lot of the greatest classic advertising tells a story. The companies that just understand advertising better than anybody like VW, Levi’s used to be pretty fabulous, Coke has often been pretty fabulous.

If you think about the ads that you watched as a kid because they were awesome, those are perfect for the web. What is the ad with the little Darth Vader? I think it’s the Passat wagon. It’s the most beautiful story. It stands on its own. You show up for the story.

Does it make you run out and buy a car? Maybe. Maybe not. But it gives you a good feeling. Certain brands have always been very smart about that; Apple, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, VW. They’ve always created advertising that tells these great stories and creates a great feeling.

Brian Clark: I agree that’s great advertising that may or may not sell cars. It does make and emotional connection but I think over time content marketing as we generally discuss it is more powerful because it’s more relevant.

Is that as directly tied compared to your current pain or problem and to a potential solution? As valuable information delivered by a real human being again that you come to know, like, and trust, you give their products a look with a more favorable frame then you would have ever looked at that product or service otherwise. That’s powerful stuff.

Sonia Simone: It is. It’s kind of cool because this is so much the era of the little guy. VW is limited in how well it can use content and it’s rolling the dice in how much love transfers to the product. I do think VW advertising has sold a lot of VW’s over the years; particularly the original Beetle but you’re always rolling the dice.

When you’re a giant, multi-national corporation spending hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on ad campaigns whereas if you were a little one or five person business and you were creating this content that makes an incredibly, personal, individual connection with customers, with buyers.

Brian Clark: Or Firefly fans, right?

Sonia Simone: Firefly fans. I’m Facebook fans of a couple of companies. It’s fantastic. There’s a dress company and their new fall collection comes up. I can get on Facebook and say I like the skirt, can you tell me about the waist band? You should do this. I want this in this color.

I can’t do that to J Crew. That’s not going to work. J Crew doesn’t have that kind of bandwidth. They cannot make that work. Whereas this little cute dress company in Brooklyn; some lady got a wild hair to make a dress and it took off, can do it. That’s what’s cool.

I think that’s where content marketing allows a little company to compete with a Kitchen Aid or a Coca-Cola or a Passat.

We have a lot more flexibility and we can use the tool much more effectively. The big brands are really struggling to use the new tools and some of them are doing it well. But a lot of them are now.

Robert Bruce: Speaking of love, this show is sponsored by Internet Marketing for Smart People, the premier online marketing course delivered straight to your email inbox with love. The IMFSP course covers all the major aspects of marketing your business online, including email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, copywriting, networking and much more.

Brian, what in your opinion is the single most valuable take-away someone is going to get from going through the Internet Marketing for Smart People course?

The cornerstone of content marketing that works

Brian Clark: First of all I’d mention that it’s free. We’re not trying to sell you on buying this course. All you have to do is sign up and it is yours in all 20 installments. The single most important thing you will take away from it is a process: reading blogs, surfing, Googling various strategies and tactics, you get pieces, right? You get bits, pieces, little chunks of gold and yet you don’t know how to put it together.

As we’ve discussed before, the one downside to a blog is that unless you’ve been paying attention since day one, which never happens, you’re not really getting the whole picture. The great thing about the course is it pulls it all together in a sequential process and we’ve heard from so many people that the light bulb went off. To me, I would say that’s the deal and that’s the way Sonia designed it.

Robert Bruce: To sign up, just head over to www.imfsp.com. Drop your email address into the little box that you see there and we’re going to take care of the rest. Seriously, this one is a no-brainer.

That’s www.imfsp.com.

Let’s get into the tip of the week. Would you agree that once you’ve used a power drill, you can never go back?

The indispensable power tool of email marketing

Brian Clark: Why do you do this every week?

Sonia Simone: Since I perform most of my household chores with a rock and a deodorant bottle, I would say no.

Robert Bruce: Thank you for taking my question seriously, Sonia. What we’re going to talk about in the tip of the week is, I love this analogy, is the power tool of email marketing. Sonia, what is this and why should people have this in their tool box so to speak?

Sonia Simone: Well, the power tool, the awesomeness, the ninja secret is what’s called an email auto-responder. Sometimes people get confused because I’m not talking about the thing you put on Outlook that says “I’m on vacation and I don’t care if you email me or not”.

This is an auto-responder that’s delivered by a service like MailChimp. There are a number of email services that do a very good job. It delivers a sequence of messages so the Internet Marketing for Smart People course is a sequence.

The 200,000th person that signs up for the sequence has the same experience as the first person who signed up. That’s what makes it awesome because blogging is great. I think blogs are a very good tool. They are an excellent attention tool. They are great for SEO, but writing at the top of your game, week in and week out, is difficult. It’s very difficult. Some weeks you’re just not as fantastic and some weeks you really crush it. Some weeks you’re really on it, have your absolute best stuff and you’re on your game. Other weeks you miss the mark.

The auto-responder gives you how many you want in your sequence. It could be seven or 700. There are people out there with auto-responders that are hundreds of messages long. It gives your best stuff to everybody which is what’s really cool about it.

Email auto-responders build relationships and make your best content shine

Brian touched on that with the Smart People course. A blog is something that lives in time. It’s a little bit like a newspaper. Content that appeared last month, no matter how great it was is very hard to find. It’s very hard to pick out and share. The email auto-responder puts your best stuff in the right order in front of everybody, every time. It’s an awesome tool.

If you’re just playing with it, Mail Chimp still has a free option. I like AWeber. Some people like Mail Chimp. Other people have their own providers that they love but it’s a great tool. It’s a great relationship builder. It many ways it’s a better content marketing know, like and trust tool than the blog is because you give people a consistent high quality experience every time.

Brian Clark: Sonia that is an excellent point. Your blog content, you mentioned SEO, social media sharing, all of this stuff is like a really valuable attraction strategy. We were talking earlier about content marketing. First of all, people give you some attention. They know you exist. That’s part of knowing but there’s other ways to do it of course. You could deliver a report or whatever but the sequential, broken-up nature over time of the auto-responder is analogous to what Proctor and Gamble did with those soap operas except the relevance and the value is greater. So it really does move you farther along the know, like and trust thing. It’s a next time to whatever the ultimate goal is.

Robert Bruce: We talk a lot about editorial calendars for the blog, for websites, for open sites in general. But I love the point that with an email auto-responder, you’re able to sit down, think through systematically and take the time.

It could take you a week. It could take you a couple of weeks or more but you can take whatever time you need to put this series of emails together telling your story in whatever way you do. Once you put it up there, as Sonia has said in the past, it keeps working like a mule for you day in and day out forever.

Sonia Simone: When you’re as lazy as I am, this is a really nice quality.

Brian Clark: New title, Chief Laziness Officer.

Sonia Simone: Yes, I’m keeping that.

Robert Bruce: Thanks for tuning in today. If you like this little show of ours, please do spread the word by heading over to iTunes and giving us a rating or a comment right now. We’re still in the 5-star only rating mode over there. So if you’re in a 4-star or below kind of mood, go ahead and apply that to someone else for the time being. We’ll be there waiting for you when the 5-star feeling comes back.

Brian Clark: I really have a vision of this backfiring horribly.

Sonia Simone: Yeah, me too.

Brian Clark: See you next week, people.

Robert Bruce: Sonia, Brian, you are a woman and a man among women and men. Thank you.

Brian Clark: That’s awesome.