It’s time for show number 32 of the Content Champion podcast, and in this episode I’m delighted to be chatting about content marketing strategy planning with Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.
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Matt has over 15 years’ experience in marketing, sales and business development – and his company excels at driving measurable results for clients who want more customers, higher revenue and lower costs.
To complement the last show on storylining, I thought it would be great to talk with Matt about creating and documenting a coherent content marketing strategy plan, which can act as the foundation for all your campaigns.
Matt shared some brilliant insights during this illuminating 25 minute podcast, and we covered subjects such as:
- His career history and why he started Heinz Marketing
- The lowdown on his local area in Seattle
- Why your business needs a content marketing strategy plan
- Examples of companies that have thrived with a documented plan of action
- Where the whole content strategy process begins
- Why actually documenting your strategy is crucial
- How your strategy document informs content auditing and creation
- Why the strategic process needn’t be hard but does require cultural change
- Why we need our strategy plan to be flexible if we’re not meeting our metrics
- What we should be wary of when putting our plan together
- Trends Matt sees developing in the content marketing space over the next year
- Where we can find Matt’s website online
Plus! The PS Question! Matt shares a really terrific strategy that I use myself for this podcast!
Resources mentioned in this show:
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Announcer: Welcome to the official Podcast at contentchampion.com. Join our heroic quest to discover truly epic content marketing. Introducing your host, the content champion himself, Loz James.
Loz James: Hi folks, welcome to episode 32 of the Content Champion Podcast. Thanks for listening. This time it’s my great pleasure to be speaking with marketing, sales and business development expert, Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.
For over 15 years, Matt has delivered measurable results for his clients. There’s no better authority with which to discuss the specifics of developing a documented and coherent content marketing strategy. Let’s dive in. Thanks very much for coming on Matt.
Matt: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
Loz James: As we’ve heard you’ve got a load of experience in this space and you’re currently president of Heinz Marketing. Let’s start by delving into your backstory a bit. Could you tell us about your career journey please?
Matt: Oh, boy. I think sometimes I’ll summarize this by saying it’s just this has all been a big mistake. I was a journalism political science major at a university and intended to be a reporter.
It didn’t really work out that way but I tell people all the time I think no matter what you’re going to do in your career, you find the combination between tenacity, stubbornness and serendipity.
I feel those three things have led me to where I am today. I spent some time at Microsoft after working at a PR firm for a little while. Ran marketing for a couple of startups then eventually decided to do my own thing and here we are six years after that.
Loz James: Now tell me a bit about Seattle. It’s a very famous city in the UK and half of Podcast listeners are from the UK. Tell us a bit about where you are.
Matt: I love it up here. I grew up in California but I was up here longer than I lived anywhere else. It’s overcast a lot.
Today’s a good example of a typical Fall Seattle day. It’s probably not going to rain, it’s going to be cold.
The sun may peek out every once in a while but tell you what, I live 20 minutes from the city but we’re out on a little half-acre lot and you can be in the middle of downtown and 40 minutes away from skiing and mountain’s on all four sides. It’s a beautiful country up here.
Loz James: Sounds amazing. Okay, with someone of your expertise on the Podcast, I wanted to talk about content marketing strategies. Many organizations just breeze through the planning stage really or they miss it out altogether. Why is planning your content marketing strategy is so important?
Matt: You can probably use good instincts to stumble upon things that your customers might care about but unless you spend a little bit of time about mapping who your customers are or what are the messages that they want to hear, what are the issues they care about or the stages of their buyer’s journey, you’re not likely going to be very consistent in creating good content.
A good content it’s not product centric. It’s not about what you do it’s really more about your customers. It’s about people and problems as opposed to products.
I think also a good content really speaks to what the customer cares about. If you think about the analogy of the fact that most of us should really be selling holes not drills, your content strategy really should be far more about the holes that your customers are seeking.
If you do that well and apply a little bit of science, meaning knowing what Google likes and what Google’s looking for and what particularly keywords or phrases might have reasonably high traffic but relatively low competition from a natural search standpoint.
Those are a variety of ingredients that we then do a good content strategy. I don’t think it needs to take a lot of time but you put those things together, you are going to be far more consistent at creating content that doesn’t just drive traffic.
It’s not just about getting more traffic from Google but creating content that really engages and mobilizes your customers and prospects towards a decision that works to your mutual benefit.
Loz James: Okay, we’ll dig down to some of this in a minute but before that, do you have any examples? You’ve worked with a ton of blue chip, brand name clients.
Do you have examples of success where clients have adopted a documented content marketing strategy plan and then gone on to great things where before they didn’t have one?
Matt: Without naming names I can think of a couple companies that you would clearly recognize that had just previously just been flying by the seat of their pants sort to speak and creating content wily nilly.
Once they created a strategy, they definitely saw differences in response rates. They saw differences in the engagement their customers had with their content.
When they looked at traffic, I said well traffic may not necessarily have changed but our clickthrough has changed. Our conversion of content into engagements and leads and registrations on various activities was definitely going up.
I think the other success and the other point of success I would say for those companies is not creating a plan and blindly following.
The best way plans rarely survive first contact with the battlefield. I think some famous general back in the day said that in the fogs of time but I think it’s true even in content strategy where you will execute something.
You will execute a handful of them something. Some of that will work, some of that won’t work.
Google will change their algorithm. A new opportunity will emerge online relative to what your customers care about. You would just base on that. You start with a plan. You execute faithfully but then create regular rhythms of review.
Review of what works, review of what’s new and make adjustments to that plan so that you can stay on target.
Loz James: Okay. Where do we start with this process then? Do we begin with understanding core audiences, messaging? What metrics, kinds you want to measure, what internal resources they have available for content marketing?
What’s ground zero in terms of adopting a coherent content marketing strategy?
Matt: I think there’s two things. I think first is what does success look like? Knowing what as a business you’re trying to achieve. Your content is not necessarily going to drive immediate sales.
We’re not looking for content to be a direct response channel but knowing what success is and how you’re going to measure that, it’s pretty important from a business standpoint.
Potentially more important than that from a content planning standpoint is a deep understanding of your customers. Who are they? What do they care about? What issues are they dealing with? What are the things that they come in to work every day and struggle with?
Much of the content you’re going to create, the majority of the volume of content you’re going to create is going to be top and middle of funnel, meaning they’re dealing with issues that don’t have to do with deciding whether or not they want to use your product or service.
They have to do with helping your prospects, understand their current situation. Helping them challenge their current status quo and commit to potentially doing something different. Those two early stages of the buying process have nothing to do with your product or service.
Understanding what that actually means for your customers, what that means for your prospects. Whoever your audience is, you can start to map that into the topics and the themes and the categories you need to be addressing.
I’m not worried yet about channeling, not worried yet about whether we’re blogging or videotaping or whatever, what I’m worried about is making sure that the message and the story is right on.
Loz James: I looked at story lining in the last podcast which fits in exactly with what you’re just saying.
I don’t want you on the spot too much, can we drill down into a sort of example of that where you’re sitting with a client and what you get them to map out exactly, what they want to achieve and how they want to relate to the different sections of their audience and then start to look at the type of ways they could tell that story.
Matt: Yeah. Let’s use examples of companies I think doing a really nice job of that especially in the B to B marketing. I think it’s no coincidence that some of the companies doing the best job at content marketing in B to B happen to be companies that are trying to sell us technology services.
I look at HubSpot, I look at Marketo, I look at LATUS, and there’s a handful of companies that just do a phenomenal job with content.
What they’re doing with that content is not selling that’s technology. Rarely do they write the article that says, “Here’s how to decide how to buy a marketing technology platform,” right?
They have that content but if you go their blog, the majority of their content right now, it’s about budgeting for 2015. It’s about how to plan, it’s about how to make a case to your CFO for that initiative you want to go forward with.
How has search changed in the last 12 months and how do you need to adjust to your search expectations going into next year? Those platforms may not sell anything relative to search but they know that their target audience, part of their job is to manage search, right?
Whether it’s paid search or organic search or somehow drive more qualified traffic off of search and social into their audience, right?
I think if you look at those guys as an example not only of quantity but also of quality and the nature of the content they’re creating, you start to get a sense for the fact that a lot of your content is going to speak to the customer’s issues as opposed to yours.
I think too often for instance in marketing, we expect our customers to take 4 steps at once. We want them to come to our site, see a piece of content, immediately understand about our product, immediately download a trial offer and get engaged, right?
We use the phrase internally sometimes it says, “Most of the time, you can’t get a prospect to sleep with you on the first date,” right?
You have to warm them up a little bit. When they come and see a piece of content, they may quickly discover who you are but they’re not really going to take the step.
Increasing the impression and the quality of impressions that you have with prospects through value added content overtime will increase the percent of those customers that get to know you, get to know who you are, get to know what you do. When the time is right, they will engage with you on the product side as well.
Loz James: This is a difficult question that comes out of that because it’s not a generic process, it’s not a cookie-cutter process. What gem really did those stages look like of going through that typical journey?
Does it start with exploration and then they might find the company they want and then they might find the specific product within that company? How does that work?
Matt: Everyone’s got a slight different view of this. I think the one that I typically Google quote is from serious decisions.
The first two stages they use like I said have nothing to do typically with your product of service. Stage 1 is loosening of the status quo, right?
It’s addressing someone where they are, where they’re not seeking a change. Your job as a marketer is to help them think a little differently about what they’re currently trying to achieve. Help them start to question their current state.
The current state is actually leading them to an outcome that they care about.
That’s stage 1, is loosening of the status quo. Stage 2 is committing the change. Getting to the point where the cost of change is lower than the cost of staying the same. Therefore I’m willing to do something about that.
Then you start to get to the point where you start to look at options. You’re starting to evaluate solutions and then before you buy, you get to this interesting stage called ‘validating the decision’.
Validating the decision is revalidating and reconfirming the commitments to change as well as validating the decision to go with your company.
Another way to think about that if you want to be really simple is to divide it into two stages.
The first stage is believe. The second stage is believe in me. Too often companies want to go straight to the believe in me.
You want to go straight to the, “I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m the best product you need. You need to go with me.”
Before you can start evaluating solutions, you need to believe in the change. You need to believe what that solution represents and the outcome it can generate for you or your business.
Loz James: I guess after the sale, it’s a case of content that helps the client to continue believing in you, isn’t it?
Matt: Sure. Yeah, I think we still think in terms of sales funnels a lot, right? There are all these people saying, well the sales funnel’s dead. Well, maybe.
It’s still a valuable construct to do planning and to execute but I would argue for a lot of businesses that the sales funnel at least is only half true.
The bottom of the sales fund is really what I would call the middle of the sail bowtie which means once you’ve got that close deal now your job is to realize the lifetime value inherent in that customer.
Now you have to continue not just to reinforce the belief in the outcome but now you have to help realize that outcome for that prospect. Now all of a sudden sales, marketing and product have to work very closely to achieve that.
Loz James: The strategy plan has to on through all those stages to be on the sale as well. Again, lots of people don’t even look at those stages.
We’re aiming for a written plan or document that everyone can buy into. This can really take any form that fits your exact setup and requirements, can’t it?
Matt: Pretty much. You can get really funnel about it. I think there’s some amazing tools out there that can help you plan and execute on a content strategy. A lot of the clients we work with just work with a pretty simple spreadsheet.
I would say if you want to do a content plan based on the buyer journey construct we’re talking about, take your target audiences, your different personas you’re reaching.
Put those down the left-hand side of this nice spreadsheet at one column and across the several columns going across rows, just enumerate those different stages.
Stage 1, challenging the status quo.
Stage 2, committing the change.
What’s the type of content? What are the messages? What are the stories for each of those personas that you would need to tell in each of those sales in that spreadsheet? That can be a very simple basis for then saying, “Okay. Now what does my editorial calendar look like?”
A content plan is very different than an editorial calendar. I think it’s difficult to go straight from nothing to what am I going to blog about next Tuesday.
I think that tool that enumerates who your personas and what buyer stages they go through becomes a reference point for creating and adjusting over time the editorial calendar that says what you’re actually going to produce.
Loz James: That’s the fascinating part of this from my point view, the content plan merging and informing the content calendar, the editorial calendar.
You’ve touched on this already, the type of content for each stage of the process. In general terms, what types of content fit with the different parts of the journey you’ve described?
Matt: You know, there isn’t a rhyme or reason and I don’t think we’re not necessarily looking at, “Well it’s blogposts first and then its videos next.”
I think a lot of that has to do with the nature of your buyer, right? If you’re selling to someone who is maybe more of a manager or director level, white paper still work and a blogpost work.
If you’re selling to more of a senior audience, more of a CMO audience, I don’t know a lot of CMOs that are reading white papers. They’re delegating that to their teams, right? To their directs. Short videos work well. Slideshare presentations worked well.
Take that content and put it into a 15-20 slide presentation with fewer words and a lot more words in maybe the transcript underneath so that the CMO can flip through it very quickly and get the gist and potentially forward it on to someone in their organization to make a decision.
Yeah, understand as to where that audience is. We have some clients that are very, very heavy on social. Social’s a great channel to reach them as well as to communicate different pieces of content with them. We have other audiences that aren’t anywhere near social.
We have one audience where basically our target persona is a 55 year old woman. Not to say that 55 year old women are non-social but they’re clearly not going to be on the social at the same volume as say the millennial targets we have for other products and services.
You’ve got to know your audience and know more than just to what their buyer journey is. What are their consumption habits? What tools are they using? What channels are they using? Who are they looking to, to get ideas?
Who are the influencers that already have their attention? Lots of different variables that you can play with there that can actually give you some leverage.
Announcer: You’re listening to the Content Champion Podcast. Showcasing the best content marketing strategies across the web.
Loz James: We’re back with Matt Heinz. That’s often where it starts to fall down if you don’t have a strategy in place when you start to promote content and you’re simply shouting into a cave. No one’s listening. There’s no strategy there for it to be founded on.
Loz James: The process of identifying where your target audience hangs online, tell us a bit about that how you go into that process.
Matt: Oftentimes if we’re doing persona development for clients, we’re not doing the months on end, tens of thousands dollar funnel process. I find for most businesses by talking to internal and external stakeholders, you can get a pretty good idea where they are, right?
If your organization has existed for any reasonable period of time, find your sales people, find your customer service people, find your product people.
Find the people that are engaged with your customers already and ask them these questions. Then go to a representative set of customers and prospects and ask them the same questions.
I would say in six to eight quick 20-30 interviews, you’d probably get a pretty good sense of what’s out there.
If you go to the trade press, the trade press is usually for whatever industry, usually a pretty good indicator of what’s working. They’ll enumerate many cases, the most influential people in particular categories.
You can use a tool like Little Bird. I have a little startup based out here in Portland, Oregon.
You can throw in any particular term or a keyword or phrase or category and it will tell you who are the most influential people on that category by studying their habits. Okay, how do they communicated right?
If they’re influential within a particular audience, not only are they people you’re going to want to communicate to and through but also are they mostly bloggers? Do they mostly do video? Are they mostly speaking?
I know some industries where the most influential people are blogging it all but they’re mostly doing teleconference calls. They’re mostly speaking. They’re mostly doing one to one coaching.
Okay, well if that’s the way it exists what do you got to do to make sure that you’re still communicate to and through that influencer to reach your audience.
That’s less about message, more about channel but you can have the best messages in the world. If you picked the wrong channel, it’s probably not going to get through.
Loz James: I know you do this for a living so you make it sound very simple but that’s what comes out of this, it needn’t be hard.
Matt: Right. Yeah, you can overcomplicate this and I know a lot of companies do and you can say, “Well I’m not going to start executing until I’ve got the perfect client.” Yeah, it would be perfect to the enemy. Good in many cases. We even encourage clients.
Listen, we’re going to do a certain level of flying the airplane while we build it because I want to make sure we get something out there that we think is the right approach. Sometimes, we’re going to be right. Sometimes we’re going to be wrong.
I don’t know that success rate it’s going to be any different if you spend three days planning versus three months planning. Make some good educated guesses. If you’re in business, if you’re successful already, you inherently already understand something about your customer.
You understand what they care about, you understand what their issues are. I think being able to translate that into content doesn’t have to take more than just a few minutes and sort of a rough translation. Get something going. Get in the habit of shipping on a regular basis.
Measure and understand what’s working and use that plus your primary research to adjust and hone the plan over time.
Loz James: There is a caveat to all this. You do on an organizational level require a cultural change to facilitate this and do it effectively. Indeed total buy-in, don’t you to make this work?
Matt: I think depending on the kind of resources you want against this, you clearly need to make sure that the marketing organization’s bought off so that there’s enough resources in this to create regular content.
I think understanding the metrics that you care about, understanding how your content marketing metrics tie to business metrics is key to getting the C-Suite and your management team bought off on what you’re doing so that you can increase the volume of resources.
It’s one thing to say, “Well I’ve got someone on our team. One person who is managing our content and sourcing, blogpost and whatnot.” Then you get to the point where it’s a company like HubSpot or a company like Zillow.
There’s a variety of companies that have entire internal newsrooms like whole groups of people that are creating content on a regular basis.
That’s a much a deeper level of engagement. Those are organizations that have very clearly have made a very strong case that is investment is not only going to drive engagement but is also there’s a significant media replacement cost in many cases of doing content write.
Using those messages, you start to get your CFO a lot more interested.
Loz James: You touched on this in the beginning. Your content strategy plan has to be flexible in case you’re not meeting those metrics. You have to be able to go back and tweak it, don’t you?
Matt: It’s just like any plan, right? Anything you’re going to execute you need to have regular intervals of review to understand if it’s working or not. You’ve got to be careful not to cut things off too quickly.
If you blindly follow a plan without evaluating it in real time, without looking whether it’s working or not, you’d have no idea whether or not you need to make some adjustments.
You have no idea whether what you’re doing is actually just a fool’s errand versus something different that you should be doing that your competitors are doing. It could move you in a more positive direction.
Loz James:How long do you give it? How long give each metric fulfillment measure before you say, okay I’m going to cut my losses on that.
Matt: Well it’s a good question. I think from a content marketing strategy overall you need to be patient. I know a lot of content marketing strategists won’t sign up with a new client unless they have at least a year of an on-ramp to see some real business results from it.
I would say in a month or two the early content you’re creating you just start to see a difference in organic traffic. You should start to see a difference in time on site. You should start to see a difference in engagement rate and click rates on your content.
Those are going to be leading indicators really of what you could see over time but knowing what those leading indicators are tells you you’re on track.
Then you can also look at things like types of content, formats of content, length of content, specific topics versus other topics and make those micro adjustment to say, “Okay maybe I should write more about sales and less about marketing because that content tends to get passive on more rapidly.
It tends to get more readership. It tends to get better conversions.” Those are the micro steps that you can start follow on a regular basis.
Loz James: Okay. What should we be weary of when putting together a content marketing plan? What sort of things should we watch out for?
Matt: Just overdoing it on a number of fronts. One, overdoing the planning is one thing but also most of the successful content you see today. This is not the Sunday New York Times, right? This is not long form, heavily edited content.
That still exists and it still does remarkably well but some of the best content I’ve seen is stuff that’s a couple of hundred words.
Sometimes you’ll plan a piece of content and edit it and edit it and thinks it’s going to be great and it gets out there, and it does okay but it doesn’t do great.
You may get a bug in your area and spend 10 minutes just flying through a piece of content that’s an emotional response to something and that could be the most viral, most impactful piece of content you have for the month.
There’s really no rhyme or reason behind that which is I think why as much as we talk about the quality of content, as much as we talk about how important it is to have good content, quantity is important as well.
Shipping on a regular basis, getting your ideas out there so that other people can see it and respond it is extremely important.
Loz James: Okay, that’s a fantastic overview of the content strategy process. While I’ve got you on this show, you got vast experience in this area. I’d like to broaden things a bit and just ask you what trends you see developing over the next year in the content marketing space.
Matt: Well I think we’re going to see more companies dedicating significant resources. I think the money that was going towards more media programs, I think it’s going to go towards content.
I think a combination of content and technology marketing automation platforms is going to replace media in many cases.
I think what that means is we’re going to see a lot more crappy content. I think as more people do content, we’re going to see a lot of bad content. If you create content that resonates. If you create good content, you will increasingly stand out in a world of more content, not less.
Loz James: That’s good news. Just before the PS question, can you remind us where we can find you online please?
Matt: Yeah. You can just go HeinzMarketing.com. That’s H-E-I-N-Z Marketing. Heinz like the ketchup or the beans or however you think about it. You can find us there.
I’m on Twitter as well, just @Heinzmarketing. If you have any questions on any of this stuff, I’m happy to answer them at Matt’s, M-A-T-T@heinzmarketing.com is my email.
You’ll find our blog up on our website as well. We blog every day and write about B to B sales in marketing.
Announcer: Wait for it listeners. Here comes the PS question.
Loz James: Could you please share one advanced content marketing strategy we could implement right after show?
Matt: I don’t know if this is advanced or not but any time you do a video, any time you do a webinar or any time you do a recorded message even like what we’re doing here with the podcast, get the transcript done.
Send your file overseas probably somewhere in Southeast Asia and for pennies in a dollar, have someone transcribe it into a script. If nothing else, put that into the note section of your podcast, of your video, of your webinar so that Google can read that.
You’ll get a lot more traffic, a lot more referrals than if you just post a video or a recording.
Loz James: That’s a great strategy. It’s exactly what I do. I use Rev.com and they’re fantastic. Matt, thank you very much for your time today. It’s a great overview of content marketing strategy and I just like to wish you all the best with everything in the future.
Matt: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to the Content Champion Podcast. Available at contentchampion.com, Stitcher, Zune, The Blackberry Network and on iTunes. Until next time, thanks for listening.