Below is an excerpt from an AMA (ask me anything) with Right Source Marketing CEO, Mike Sweeney. This event was held on our newly launched Slack community, the Content Strategy Collective. Upcoming AMAs include Jill Nicholson, Senior Director of Customer Education at Chartbeat, Lisa Deignan, Global SEO Analyst, Lionbridge, Mike Leonhard, Founder of Composely, and more.
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Do you have any advice or tips for handling sensitivity with marketing messaging (especially right now) and building trust in your community when there’s a lot of noise?
- Your first responsibility is to communicate with your employees first, then your customers/patients/members. They’re on the front lines of everything.
- Be thoughtful first, informative second, and nothing third. This is not the time for multiple CTAs or even one CTA in many cases. Just provide high-quality information.
- Everyone assumes they should NOT publish corona content because everyone is publishing corona content. That’s a crappy assumption. You have a unique audience for which you are responsible. Speak to THEM. If you don’t communicate now, you’re losing the long-term trust opportunity.
- And by all means, this is the time to humanize your content. If you run a medical practice get in front of your iPhone. Record a video for your patients instead of a boring/lame message on a website. Focus on people/stories. Show some emotion.
I could go on and on about this one… now is NOT the time to hide. NOW is the time you start building the trust bank.
About repurposing content, how do you manage the production so that it doesn’t splinter, and you aren’t creating content for the sake of it (historical reasons, one-off requests, etc.)?
Well, here’s where we start. We don’t repurpose ANYTHING. We start by repurposing top-performing assets because if they’re performing well from an engagement standpoint, that indicates people want more of it.
How do you choose/prioritize a specific medium (e.g., blog vs. video, etc.)?
There are many choices here. For one, who is my thought leader presenting the info? Very few of us are great writers, speakers, great in front of the camera…so it starts with where the “author” is comfortable. But it also relies on audience preference, which is why ICPs (ideal client profiles), which dig deep into demographics, preferences, reading/viewing likes, comes into play. Also, people forget that there are at least 3 Rs in that equation. Repurpose, refresh, and repromote — very different concepts. To clarify, we don’t repurpose JUST ANYTHING, but SPECIFIC THINGS. We choose the top-performing assets. It also depends on which topics are timely as well.
How do you work repurposing into your client engagements? Does that change depending on their capabilities? Expertise levels, etc., or is it just based on performance?
Well, I’d love to say everything is based on performance, but that’s not the case. In our world, often times a message simply needs to get out, numbers be damned. So that initial format may be designed for pure thought leadership…. THEN, however, the slicing and dicing IS focused on what will perform best and on which channels. Again, though, repurposing works both ways. Many to one, and one to many. Most folks don’t even think of the many to one part.
What’s the best way of positioning yourself against the competition?
Using your example of Zoom, “wow, Zoom is full of security issues, here’s a better video conferencing option,” I don’t think it involves being overtly critical of Zoom. There’s a way of presenting their problems by focusing on your strengths, without attacking. It’s delicate but can work. Here is a healthcare example of a services provider touting their strength (primary care docs as the center of the patient universe… in a good way) without necessarily going after their “competition.”
How do you manage inbound leads at Right Source? What are your main inbound channels?
For ourselves (and for our clients, but we’ll treat that separate), everything… everything is content-driven. Regardless of the channel, we think FIRST about our Ideal Client Profile (ICP) and NEXT about the type of information they need. From there, we simply apply that to different channels. Organic search, paid search, organic social, paid social, email, etc.
We have some exhaustive ICPs and a never-ending editorial calendar, which is strictly guided by our universally agreed-upon messages, themes, and topics. It’s really a machine.
When you audit a potential client’s site and content inventory, what are red flags that might lead to you disqualifying them?
If they’re clearly ok with sloppy, low-quality content and do not understand the essential match between content AND design, they’re out. AND…if their content is not reflective of some core messages, and they’re not willing to change that. Messages… guide… everything.
Where do you find the most overlap of parts of the process? How do you keep yourself organized, and what are the parts of the process you hate the most?
Well, 75% of our plans contain the same elements. While there are seemingly mundane (but necessary) things like primary and secondary research and how we’re going to use marketing technology to fuel the effort, our “money” section is always messages, themes, and topics. That provides the guardrails for everything we do and allows us to get fickle software execs in line. We do a lot of software work, and I know how difficult it can be to get everyone on the same page with features/benefits vs. educational content, sticking to messages/themes, selling vs. educating, etc.
We do have some “standard” parts of the plan, but that’s not to say that we just copy and paste from one client to another. For instance, when we recommend content types, there is a whole list of what the world has available, more or less, and we have content developed to address each but then will customize recommendations for each client also based on what we know about them.
How do you approach testing distribution channels to find what really works for a particular client?
I can tell you that for our clients, particularly in the healthcare space and those targeting consumers, we test exhaustively. We build a piece of content, test it on multiple social and search platforms, then cut it up into micro-pieces, build interactive content from it (a missing link for many), and test it again. I will say this – this testing works best with both organic and paid budgets. We’re seeing more and more enterprises realizing that a health paid budget will accelerate testing and, therefore, the optimization of content.
Any advice/insight regarding content for the healthcare space?
We only do two types of work: healthcare (really focused on healthtech) and B2B tech. Healthcare SaaS has the same issues as any other B2B SaaS industry. You’re dealing with long, highly considered sales cycles and sophisticated buyers. That said, I am not sure what the current state is, but last I checked it was something like 70% of a complex SaaS buying cycle happens before the buyer EVER talks to anyone in sales. So what are they looking at? Content, content, and more content. For some of our clients who use automation tools effectively, we see their prospects viewing 10-15 pieces of content before they ever become an opportunity. 10-15…crazy. So the assumption that a complex SaaS sales is still only about relationships….simply doesn’t hold.
What types of interactive content do you see more ROI from? What’s worth the time/effort?
The answer is ‘it kind of depends.’ We’ve done interactive eBooks for clients where their targets were looking for in-depth info on a subject (like in tech or construction) where we created content paths that readers could choose from, and that offered great information on the pain points the audience was interested in exploring. But for one of our healthcare clients, we have done a bunch of short quizzes (more B2C focused) that get great traction because they offer quick answers.
But the audience is very different there: people trying to figure out why they can’t sleep vs. people who are trying to figure out how to rein in their construction company’s expenses, for instance. You can knock those quizzes out where something more complex, like an eBook, takes a lot more time.
What’s on your must-have list for martech? Do you have regular recommendations for clients?
Must-haves. We’ll stick with B2B for the sake of this exercise.
- A reasonable CMS. That means no off-brand crazy, custom stuff… we need to publish easily.
- A marketing automation platform (which will serve as our ESP)
- Some type of SEO platform (like a MarketMuse) that allows us to truly, truly learn how to own a specific set of topics or topic clusters. Not just a rankings tool. That doesn’t really inform intelligent content building.
Our typical stack is more like 8-10 deep, but I see a lot of martech bloat, so I stick with the standards.
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Written by Stephen Jeske