MarketMuse Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Coyle sat down to talk with DivvyHQ Co-founders Brock Stechman and Brody Dorland to talk about scaling content in 2021. After the webinar, Brock and Brody took the time to participate in an ask-me-anything session in our Slack Community, The Content Strategy Collective (join here). Here are highlights followed by a transcript of the AMA.
Jeff Coyle: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to another MarketMuse content strategy webinar. Today’s discussion is going to be about scaling content in 2021. How to do more with less, and I’m joined by two amazing co-founders today Brody Dorland the co-founder of Divvy HQ and Brock Stechman the co-founder of Divvy HQ. And please talk to us about the founding story. Also, what’s the mission for the team and what are you thinking about for 2021?
Brock Stechman: [00:00:22] Yeah. There’s a lot going on, Jeff.
Thank you so much for having us. I like to point out that I’m wearing a collared shirt today. Brody is too. I don’t think I’ve worn a collared shirt in nine months.
I even ironed it just for you, Jeff. A little background we had a full-service digital agency for 10 years, so we definitely come out of the content marketing agency world. And we actually built Divvy out of our agency and the need that we had to plan, manage, and keep track of all of our content projects across all of our clients.
We ended up selling our agency in 2015 to focus primarily on Divvy. And you asked about our mission. So, our mission really is to simplify the lives of marketers. So, when we think about content marketing, it’s very complex. It’s very complicated. Content marketers are working long days. These teams are working very long days.
Divvy is really built to help eliminate that content chaos, the team’s experience. So really, when we describe Divvy, Divvy is a specialized solution that helps content communications teams, marketing teams to automate and simplify their content strategy, planning, workflow, and collaborations.
So really in a nutshell, we make it much easier to plan, create, approve, and then publish content to their downstream tool. That could be the content management system, their marketing automation platform, their email solution, or even social media management platform. So, we’re that upfront tool that content marketing start with to help build out the strategy plan, the content, approve it, and then publish it to the downstream tool.
Jeff Coyle: [00:01:50] That’s great.
Brody Dorland: [00:01:52] Yeah, Brock skipped a whole bunch of fun details. With that starter editorial calendar, we recognized quickly that Excel, which is what we use typically to build it, was not the answer.
And we just fail after fail in terms of being able to use that kind of document to collaborate between our internal agency team and all of our clients. And, we had basically spreadsheets going back and forth all day, all night. And then we made the switch to try, project management systems. Basecamp was certainly big at the time, we tried that. We tried 5pm. We tried pretty much any that we could find, and they were okay. At least from a collaboration standpoint, they were better than the spreadsheet, certainly, but they also failed at least from the standpoint of being able to really capture all of the strategic data that we needed as part of the content planning and production workflow process.
So really, when Brock mentioned that we built it within the agency, we basically recognized the failings of the Excel or spreadsheet world and the general project management system world. And then recognized, okay, we’ve got some internal dev talent. We can go ahead and build a prototype within the agency.
And then we actually happened to roll it out at the first ever Content Marketing World, obviously as put on by the Content Marketing Institute, Joe and Robert. At the time Joe Pulizzi, Robert Rose, they gave us opportunity to actually pitch the new platform at the very first Content Marketing World back in 2011 and the rest is history.
Jeff Coyle: [00:03:25] What are the things that you’re doing now strategically that are having huge impacts and is this kind of a core or the foundation of that?
Brody Dorland: [00:03:32] Yeah. When you think about it’ll be a little bit different across different content channels based on the strategy of a particular property.
This topic cluster is very much the external digital content center of our universe. And it probably makes most sense based on everybody’s understanding of what we do. We’re a content marketing platform and there’s functional offerings of our platform and our services and those kinds of things.
So, this probably makes sense. But just providing a graphic like this, as an example for, how this can be organized and how a strategy or how the overall structure of a cluster can be developed. And a lot of times it’s going to come from individual products, different departments of business units that are, they have either a content property that’s dedicated for them or a website or whatever it is.
They need to flush this out in some fashion. And obviously it’s going to look different for every company out there. For us again, I mentioned it, this comes a lot out of the functional offerings of our platform. And just providing this example as a discussion topic for our clients.
Let’s say that they have some sort of offer or are offering that they are pushing, okay, what are the main functional offerings, included in that product or service and start breaking that down. And this really then kicks off a lot of the research that can be done from a keyword standpoint.
And just, understanding what’s trending out there based on these high-level topics and start drilling into the weeds of each one. And, before you know it, you’ve got a year’s worth of content ideas, just sitting in your lap. And now just go get to work.
Jeff Coyle: [00:05:17] What is the first thing I should address as far as starting something new, starting in, let’s say you branched out and created a new content, a new topic here for, I don’t know, content intelligence. I’m just making that up and let’s say you were making it, would you have to start, is it a regimented, A, B, C, D, or how are you prioritizing that within the subset?
Brody Dorland: [00:05:42] That’s a great question. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong answer. I think, your resources are probably going to dictate what you do. In, in large part. Certainly, we probably started with content planning actually. Can you go back real quick and just for the visual we probably started with content planning and content calendar.
And again, we’ve been doing this since 2011. So those two were really the primary focus for many years. And then since then we’ve branched out into other things. And some of that is based on trying to get more keyword coverage across the overall cluster. And then, part of it is understanding that our audiences need more help than just in content planning and content calendaring.
They do all of these things. They need guidance in all of these things. So, let’s make sure that we’re covering them all. And as our product grows, we add more functional offerings in these areas it makes more sense to add a new pillar. Maybe one of these days when we get around to doing an integration with MarketMuse is where we do go ahead and add on that content intelligence pillar.
And I think there’s no right or wrong way to think about when you might add a new pillar. But in terms of executing on the pillar, some of the things I think you really need right out of the gate is at least a pillar page so that you now have a place for internal linking. And, a main place that you’re going to target for the beefy page that has all of the good stuff. That then is all of your other pieces of content, eBooks, blog posts, whatever, is always going to be pointing back to that pillar. I think that’d probably be the first thing.
And then you start chipping away as Brock was saying. Chipping away at that new that new category. But also understand how it works into the ratio of all of your others.
Jeff Coyle: [00:07:33] How are you accelerating quality as well as quantity? Or are you thinking about one versus another?
Brody Dorland: [00:07:38] Absolutely. And so those are decisions that we’ll make with our content agency making sure that they understand that.
And a great example of that probably the newest pillar that was on that slide would be content automation. Yeah. And so making sure that we know that, even though we don’t want to necessarily diminish the volume of some of the other key categories , we know we need to beef up on that automation and develop that authority over time.
And it’s just going to take some time. Yeah, that’s just the nature of the beast.
Jeff Coyle: [00:08:08] Great sentiment. It gets to the point of, is this net new ideation? Is it planned?
How are you accelerating a frequency with the same resources? And then, is the decision to accelerate, in this case, this is a pretty striking number, right? This is a pretty striking chart. You got it up, this number’s up, you’re doing it through meaningful planning. And thus, that output goes outside, says all boats are rising existing contents doing better current contents doing better, but what goes into kind of that content process and that causes you to be able to get more done with less people or the same number of people.
And what, how would you describe it as somebody thinking? Wow, I would love to double my posts. Per month next year, have them all be better quality and have the same resources.
Brock Stechman: [00:08:59] I wish that could happen. I wish we could say you can, but. You know what we always say? Let’s work smarter, not harder, right? There might be some areas where we’re a tad bit lazy, please don’t tell anybody. But we like to look at ways to utilize technology, to streamline and automate a lot of our process.
There’s a lot of great tools that we use to automate the way we publish and promote our content. But really it comes down to a discipline. A workflow and a discipline process in the right team. It starts with the right team.
So when we think about the recipe to scale a content marketing it’s the right team, it’s the right process, and it’s the right technology. It in that order, right? Because you have to start with that right team. And that’s hard to find and there are a few different ways we have done that. We have amazing internal resources. Now we’ll contribute content to help with content creation and design content, not just write content.
Jeff Coyle: [00:09:53] But you wait, you waited to the last bullet for that one? Come on. That was like the most important thing! But it’s right. It’s if your organization is not comfortable with your current effectiveness or efficiency rates on what you do. If you’re creating content or you’re updating content as a motion to expand it and make it up to date. If your organization or you aren’t comfortable with that efficiency don’t scale.
I know that’s a little controversial, but don’t scale the process that’s failing. What we’re seeing commonly is teams will say, okay we got a hundred articles last year and we got this much output while we’re going to try to get 200 next year. Not at that rate, why wouldn’t you increase your hit rate?
It’s not learning how to hit the ball better. It’s just being able to just go out there and swinging you radically. So, get a sense on what strategic things, proactive things you can do to have a higher hit rate, to write higher quality content every time, maybe than every one of your competitors.
And you’re going to have, you’re going to get more budget. You’re going to be able to secure those more resources and you’ve nailed it.
I’ll ask probably a little bit of a harder question is how much of your content is reactive versus proactive?
Brock Stechman: [00:10:59] I would say that. We talked about this earlier, yeah, approximately 5% of our content is reactive. We’re very disciplined, we’ve planted our content. We have our strategy, all of our resources to understand, Hey, this is the calendar.
This is what we’re working on for the next week, for the month, the next quarter. But things happen, right? Current events pop up. We may have a new feature released that we need to draw from things and promote some content for that. Or to promote that future. We may get a request from a sales team.
Hey, I really need this piece of content that could help. Like it’s competitive analysis or whatever that may be. It’s okay, we understand that could be really important. We didn’t necessarily have it on the calendar, but yeah, let’s move some things around. We had to adapt a little bit. But we really try hard to not get distracted and stay very disciplined to our to what we put on the calendar.
We spent a lot of time to, to build out that calendar. We want it, we want to stick to it.
Jeff Coyle: [00:11:49] Which parts of that process are still roadblocks for you. You wish you could unlock.
Brody Dorland: [00:11:57] If I had to put like one at the top of the list; waiting on approvals from key stakeholders. You’ve got subject matter experts out there that, that need to put their stamp of approval on a piece, but they’re busy, they’ve got other things to do. So, the more that you can adjust your process so that you have clear expectations on what the workflow is going to be.
In terms of the steps, but then also understanding how much lead time you need for different steps, specifically approvals from subject matter experts or stakeholders so that you can work backwards. So, if you have a target publish date for a piece the workflow will then basically move back and say, okay if we’re going to actually do that, published by that time.
Jeff Coyle: [00:12:44] So I, but I did want to have one last question before we jump. What do you predict or what do you expect to see in 2021, in the content space, in the content marketing space that either isn’t there now or is really going to change next year?
Brock Stechman: [00:13:00] I think a lot is going to change. But I think, content marketing, we see growing every single year. I think it’s going to grow even more. So next year it may be a primary emphasis and tactics, tactics for companies. And I think there are a lot of reasons behind that, right? Budgets are getting cut. Content marketing is pretty affordable compared to other traditional marketing tactics. There are less events and business travel. Content marketing is it’s the easiest, most efficient way to reach your target audience and to drive leads.
I do think virtual events naturally are going to continue to skyrocket. I think there’s cool new platforms out there that are handling this. And I think there’ll be some really interesting kind of marketing and content related tactics that come out of this. But we, we posted this on our Twitter chat last week, I think generally speaking I think content will be created with more empathy and kindness.
It’s just been a challenging time for everybody. There’s so much going on. You got pandemic concerns. You got what’s going on socially, you know. What’s going on with the economy? You got, kids’ educational concerns. How are kids doing from an educational standpoint with this pandemic?
I just think marketers will have to have a softer approach in a little more understanding approach. And Brody and I, we talk about this quite a bit internally. I think the old ways of full core pressuring, sales, and marketing tactics. They just don’t work that well anymore.
We should be more helpful. We should be more advising or counseling. We should be more informative and sensitive to other’s experiences. And I think you’ll see a lot more of that, right? Like more education and less kind of the old school marketing and sales tactics.
Jeff Coyle: [00:14:32] Nice Brody, anything you want to add?
Brody Dorland: [00:14:34] I think because so many physical marketing budgets, think of events, think of physical expenditures that, that many companies have had over the years, since those budgets are still there in theory. But where how can we leverage that budget in a more virtual, digital scenario.
And so, I think with that, I think you’re going to see certainly within big companies that have actual resources, both people and budget that are typically dedicated towards physical customer experiences. Shifting those to create some of the coolest digital customer experiences that we will ever see, or that we have seen to date. Who knows what those will be?
I think that there could be some really crazy things that happen. And, would say that we probably won’t hear about near as many of them as I would hope. Because they’ll probably be kept up under wraps because people don’t, marketers don’t necessarily talk about their secret sauce and some of the cool, innovative things that they’re doing.
But obviously some of the, award shows will probably have some really amazing digital experiences that will probably knock our socks off this next year.
Jeff Coyle: [00:15:48] Thank you so much for joining us today Brody and Brock. It’s been great. I think that, there’s so many kinds of takeaways that somebody can use in their last-minute budgeting the last-minute planning for 2021. So, thanks again for joining.
What are the most impactful ways I can add repurposing to my plan in 2021?
Brody: Well, it all starts with data… Specifically understanding which pieces had the biggest impact from the previous year and understanding why.
So, need to define impact to start… Was it most pageviews, engagement, conversions, etc.?
So, then you pull your list of top performing pieces based on whatever that metric is… ex: top performing posts by conversions.
Then you need to dig deeper and analyze why those pieces got the most conversions. Was it the topic? Format? Angle? You might not even be able to definitively answer the why, but you can at least note some of the key characteristics and use that to guide the repurposing effort.
Your comments seem to guide teams to keep a rigid content calendar. If I am looking to execute a % of content by looking at this week’s results next week, how can I do that?
Brody: We advise being rigid on frequency and strategy… Everything else can be fluid.
What are some of your favorite content marketing newsletters out there?
Brock: I’m absolutely loving Joe Pulizzi’s newsletter. He provides stories and info about marketing, life, and success. It’s really good.
Brody: Anne Handley and Chris Penn are weekly reads for me.
Is there a framework for determining an ideal cadence based on resources, goals, etc.?
Brock: I really think it depends on your available resources and the channel you’re publishing content to. For example, if we just talk about social content. You can publish multiple times a day on Twitter, but I wouldn’t recommend more than 1 post per day on LinkedIn.
If we talk about publishing a blog, it comes down to how much high-quality content are you able to create and sustain with your team. Emails is a whole different story.
Brody: As Brock said, it depends on several things… Even your industry/market may play a role in dictating cadence.
Any new platforms for B2B businesses that you’d recommend exploring to reach your target audience that’s moving away (or just not engaging anymore) from traditional platforms like Twitter, Facebook Groups and LinkedIn?
Brody: You’re on one! Honestly, if existing channels aren’t cutting the mustard, and you have the resources, I’d seriously consider starting one of your own in your niche. It will likely take a while and it will need proper care and feeding until it reaches critical mass, but I’d bet @Jeff Coyle would say that this group is one of the best channels for MarketMuse.
Regarding virtual events, what have you seen work well and what to avoid?
Brody: I’ve attended a few in the last few months. In all cases, the programming seemed much more condensed and hard hitting, like they knew they might not have the audience’s undivided attention, so we’d better “bring it”. So I guess that would be a recommendation.
How do you tie content to your revenue goals?
Let me start by saying we’re a SaaS company and pretty much everything we do is digital, which means we are able to track pretty much everything. Secondly, our marketing is focused almost exclusively on inbound, meaning we don’t do any outbound/cold outreach. So, in a nutshell, content is the fuel that drives our marketing/sales engine. If you’ve ever heard of the concept of a “flywheel” in business, content drives traffic, which gets our flywheel moving. Here’s a visual.
Now on a more micro level, we look at a few other things:
- We connect the dots from demand-gen assets to new account activations (ex: eBook XYZ generated $X in new accounts)
- We monitor “assisted conversions” – this is when a site visitor lands on a page or blog post and they convert within that same session. So, the page/post gets the “assist”.
And conversions have a monetary value.
How do you predict the ‘value’ of content?
Conversions are really the key indicator for us. And all of our conversions have a specific purpose and value.
Do you have a standard against which you expect a certain amount of activity and do you add additional promotion with PPC or cross linking to ensure that said content meets appropriate levels?
We typically set goals based on beating benchmarks set by past campaigns/assets. And we certainly put some paid promotion behind many of our pieces as that has a dramatic effect on reach. But we try to keep that budget consistent.