Creating a Content Marketing Strategy into a Steady Stream of Revenue

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy and turning it into a Steady Stream of Revenue

Learn how you can create a content marketing strategy to attract new visitors to your website and convert them into buyers to grow your business.

Have you ever struggled with creating engaging content that interests your target audiences’ and results in added revenue?

Watch how Max Cohen from Hubspot and Andy Steuer, Chief Marketing Officer from WriteForMe discuss the world of content marketing strategy and inbound marketing and how you can convert it into a steady stream of revenue.

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy Machine

Below is the complete transcription of the video:

Andy:

Max, how you doing, bud? How are you?

Max:

Andy, how are you?

Andy:

Good. How are you?

Max:

I’m doing good.

Andy:

All right.

Max:

How’s your week been so far?

Andy:

It’s good.

Max:

Awesome. I got to tell you, man, I’ve been looking forward to this conversation ever since the last one.

Andy:

I love it.

Max:

Yeah. So, I’m super pumped that we could put together some time today and do this.

Andy:

Likewise. I feel very much the same way.

Max:

Yeah. I think it will be fun. I think it will be good. I mean, you and me both love talking about this stuff. So, I think we’re going to have a good time and, hopefully, anyone watching this will get some value out of the conversation or at least we are.

Andy:

That’s right. Yeah. I love it.

Max:

So, I got the recording going right now. Figure we could just freestyle this thing. I mean, I feel like-

Andy:

Sounds good.

Max:

… we should have recorded the first one, which is when we decided to circle back and do this again, but, Andy, for anyone who’s watching this, do you want to take a minute just introduce yourself, talk about your agency a little bit and-

Andy:

Sure.

Max:

… your history with HubSpot, if you will, and what you’re working on right now?

Andy:

Absolutely, yeah. So, I’m Andy Steuer. I’m the CMO for WriteForMe. What we do is we help our clients execute on a content marketing strategy. We build teams for our clients. So, we build a team of a content marketing manager, two to three writers, and an editor for our clients, and we build a content marketing roadmap in terms of what we do as we do a lot of research looking at with our content gaps, what competitors are doing, what our clients’ goals are, and then we align with our clients.

Andy:

Initially, even before we start doing any writing, we put together a free content marketing playbook that takes all that information, leads with buyer personas, then identifies topics that those buyers are searching for, and keywords that they’re searching for.

Andy:

We look at where there are opportunities for our clients to build this content roadmap. We actually build the roadmap as part of the playbook. So, all of that is this free upfront offering that we give to clients whether they do the writing or whether we do the writing for them. It’s a great way to start the relationship.

Andy:

It’s huge value. Normally, a company is charged thousands of dollars for this stuff, I think. Yeah. We like to offer for free upfront because it gets us all aligned. It’s a great way for us to build a relationship with our clients. Then we simply put a content calendar together after we align around that strategy, what the topics are, topic clusters, and then articles that we will write for our clients. So, we put that all together in that playbook. That’s all free. Then from there, we get writing with our clients. We put together a scope of work, and then get cranking away.

Max:

There you go. Yeah. So, tell me a story about how you got mixed in to HubSpot, where you first started using it, how that relationship with HubSpot has evolved since then, and where you’re at today.

Andy:

Yeah. Great question. So, I’ve been a HubSpot user for a long time, even since the very early days of HubSpot, was always intrigued with the orientation that the company started out with the whole inbound marketing strategy, which when HubSpot was starting was very much like SEOs repackaging it under this framework.

Andy:

So, rather than playing whack-a-mole with SEO-

Max:

Yeah, very much a game of whack-a-mole sometimes.

Andy:

… which a lot of companies are doing, this is more of a framework, an approach, and when you follow these steps and this guideline, then you get results. I always appreciated that kind of framework.

Andy:

In fact, I think my first encounter with HubSpot was there’s a book written about … What is it? It’s called something like Marketing Secrets of the Grateful Dead. I think Brian was co-writer of that book. I was so intrigued by that being a fan of their music myself, and how they just went their own path. I thought, “What an interesting book.” I read the book, and then learned more about HubSpot. That all just checked a lot of boxes for me. I really like this company. Yeah.

Max:

Totally. Very cool. So, what I was thinking maybe we could do today, and we talked about this a little bit on our first call where we were getting to know each other, but the idea of content is like the 800,000-pound elephant in the room that not a lot of people want to talk about because it’s one, the most important thing when it comes to not only inbound marketing, but I think, really, inbound as a whole when you think of the flywheel holistically. So, it’s the most important thing, but two, it is also the hardest thing to wrap your head around, right? I’m sure you see a lot of that with your clients because that’s why they’re coming to you, right?

Max:

They can’t get a hold on the content thing whether it’s just not understanding or it’s not having the people power or the wherewithal, the resources to pull it off or they just don’t know where to get started. So, what I’m hoping we can do today maybe, and we can talk about a number of things. We can talk about content. We can talk about search engine optimization, blogging, downloadable stuff, however we want to do this, but maybe what we can try to do our best to do today is try to demystify the whole idea of content and maybe anyone watching this conversation can, hopefully, just get a little bit more comfortable with the idea of creating your own content, right?

Max:

Because as much as your business thrives on doing the content for other people, us as members of the inbound community, we want to do our best to empower folks to do it on their own as well, right? I think there’s a lot that we can probably pull out of this conversation that’s going to be useful for those folks out there that maybe don’t have the budget to hire a partner, but still need to do content just because, obviously, you need to create content no matter what.

Andy:

Sure. Yeah.

Max:

At least get people thinking about it and understanding the value of it and going from there. So, I’d love to ask you this because you probably pull a lot of insight from this with a lot of the conversations you have with your customers, but what do you think are the biggest roadblocks that smaller companies, even bigger companies, but really any company that’s going from “I’m just generally talking about myself, my product, and my company, and news about my company online” versus making a transition into being a content producer? What do you think are some of the biggest roadblocks that stop people from getting there? Maybe some folks watching this will find themselves in a familiar place, and we can help dig them out of there, and maybe we can start here. So, what do you think are the biggest roadblocks and the things that stop people?

Andy:

I think a lot of that is “What do I write about next?” It’s a writer’s block, right? What we do to avoid that is putting together this roadmap and doing this initial brainstorm around this. So, what we like to do is say, “First, let’s start around your buyer personas.” I mean, that’s the starting point because-

Max:

Table stakes, yeah.

Andy:

… it’s one reason why you’re writing the content in the first place. It’s to educate and engage prospects who are coming to your website. So, you want to think about who these buyers are, name them, define them, put a profile around them. What websites do they go to? Where do they find their sources of information? What kind of questions are they asking in search? Everybody lose sight of this fact, but we all go to Google to ask a question and we’re looking for an answer. So, whenever you’re orienting your content around these buyer personas, think about what questions they’re asking, and list them out, and start building this list around the problems that they’re looking to solve.

Andy:

It always starts with what’s the challenge and what your company does to solve that challenge. So, list out several questions that come up. This can come up in sales calls. So, if I were to not think of an agency or somebody to help guide me through this process, how do I do this myself?

Andy:

First step I’m going to do is work with my sales team and say, “Who are our buyer profiles? Let’s talk about them.” Then what are some questions that come up in the sales process, so that we can ask the question and then answer it? What starts to emerge is this concept of building topic clusters. HubSpot is the leader in writing about this.

Andy:

The idea is essentially in the higher ground in the conversation with a writer, I mean, with an article. So, how do I build my roadmap? I start with the buyer personas, then I look at what are the topics or what are the questions that they’re asking underneath each one of those buyer profiles. What starts to emerge are the topics that they’re asking about. Then you take that topic and then you break it out into subtopics, so that you can fill in density around that particular topic.

Andy:

Now, that starts to give some shape to a structure. What does my plan start to look like? Then much like these topics and subtopics, and then articles have a structure, it’s like the trunk of the tree, the branches of the tree, and the leaves on the tree, if you think about it in that analogy.

Andy:

What we’re trying to do is build out expertise and authority around each one of these topics. So, when you think about it in that kind of context, then you start to unpack several ideas around each one of these topics and subtopics, and the questions around them.

Andy:

That starts to inform this list that you end up building, which each one of those topic or article headlines, essentially, are questions that people are asking, those become content. That becomes your roadmap. Also, now you can start to prioritize around what’s most important to your business, so that you can start writing those first, but that helps to break this whole concept of what do I write about, writer’s block, I don’t really know where to take my content, right?

Andy:

So, that builds now this list that you can attack and you can start chipping away at. Yeah. So, I guess I’ll pause there and get your … so I can go on more and more about that, but that’s-

Max:

Yeah. You and me can talk about this for literally hours, but, yeah. No. Yeah. I love how you brought in the idea of topic clusters, right? Even if we’re talking to someone who is, yeah, they’re a marketer, but they’re no search engine optimization expert, right? While topic cluster is definitely, you would consider that a search engine optimization strategy, right? Even if you break it down into its simplest parts, I think it helps you figure out a lot of this stuff that leads you there and work your way backwards.

Max:

So, when I talk about topic clusters with people, generally, what I say is I don’t even say topic clusters, right? I just generally say, “What do you want to be seen as an expert in on the internet?” Right?

Andy:

Yeah.

Max:

Because the whole idea of content is building trust with people, right? Especially if you think of something like a consulting company, who you’re going to go pay them to speak words to you, and that’s their product. There’s nothing physical. There’s nothing tangible. It’s like, “Pay me a bunch of money, and I promise the words I say to you will improve your company or improve your life someway.”

Max:

You need to know that that person is an expert in whatever it is you’re trying to get better at or the problems that you’re trying to solve, but that goes for literally anyone. People don’t buy from people they like. They buy from people they trust. Oftentimes, people, especially in sales, confuse the idea of liking someone and trusting someone, right?

Andy:

Yes.

Max:

So, I love how you brought up the idea of the topic clusters because that helps you work your way backwards and understand all this stuff at the beginning that you really need to think about. So, a couple of things you said there, right? Establishing a prior persona, first and foremost. That is table stakes. For anyone watching this, you cannot get started writing content without thinking about who your buyer persona is, right? The easiest way to come up with the buyer persona is just like Andy said. Think about what their goals and their challenges are because just like you said, when someone Google something, they have a challenge, they have a question. Every single thing you search in a search engine, whether it’s through Google or Ask Jeeves or whatever, every single thing is driven by some goal you’re trying to achieve or challenge that’s getting in the way, right?

Max:

That’s true on the micro and the macro level. So, for instance, I want to see two pictures of puppy dogs, right? That’s a goal. That’s something you want to do. You’re trying to feel good that day. Still a goal. Why is my sales team not hitting their quota in a certain SaaS industry? That’s a challenge, right?

Max:

So, no matter how macro or micro it gets, there’s always some goal and challenge. So, when you’re thinking of building those buyer personas, what I would tell people, Andy, usually, and it’s aligned with what you said, but for the folks who are confused about it, is I’d say, “You don’t need to go out and pay some giant research firm thousands of dollars to go do a bunch of demographic research on your ideal customer. You have your sales people like you just said. Guess what? They’re getting the same questions all the time. They have some really good insight at who these people are and what their bigger goals and challenges are.

Max:

On top of that, you know what your product does. You know what your service does. You know the problem it solves for. You know who you’re selling it to in terms of what their job title is, what role they play in life. From that, you can piece together using some educated speculation when you’re first getting started what their goals and challenges generally are going to be, right?

Max:

I don’t know if this is the same for you, Andy. I’d love to hear your take on this. I generally always recommend that 90% of your buyer persona document, right? So, whether it’s a Google slide deck or a Word document or whatever that has a fictitious picture of your buyer persona, and the name you give it with some alliteration so everyone can remember it.

Max:

I generally say 90% of that document should be goals and challenges, no matter how general or specific you get. The more specific, the better because that gives us some better information versus demographic information because demographic information, while it’s good to have, that’s going to help you buy ad space in the right place, and it’s going to help you target ads maybe, and maybe if you are doing some more traditional media, it helps you there. Knowing someone is 18 to 35 doesn’t help you write content that they’re actually searching for.

Andy:

Such a good point.

Max:

Yeah. It’s all about the goals and challenges they have because that’s directly motivating, what it is they search for and what they’re going to find value in. So, I don’t know. How do you coach people through that? When they’re starting to think about their buyer personas and maybe they’re getting too in the weeds or they’re overthinking it, how do you generally guide them, whether it’s your own folks that you work with or your clients that you have?

Andy:

Yeah. It’s a great question, and I love the orientation of that because what your buyers are doing is that they’re looking for a solution. They’re looking, hopefully, for your solution. Their aspiration is to make this a relatively easy process. We all go through the questions in our head when we go to a website, “If I do business with these guys, is it going to make me look good or look bad to my team? What’s different and unique about them? How are they going to help me solve this challenge or problem that I have?”

Andy:

These are all natural questions that come up, and Google’s written a lot about this EAT framework, expertise, authority, and trust. So, your goal from a content marketing perspective is to build that expertise and authority in the way that you organize your content, and making the content useful, so that you’re answering these challenges that these customers have.

Andy:

Then through that, you earn the trust of those visitors because they look at that content and they start digging in, and they say, “Okay. You guys, you’re the experts in the field, and I will now be more open to having a meeting with you.”

Andy:

That’s really how the flywheel begins to start in that way is through that engagement. So, think about what these buyer personas, who they are, and then what their aspirations are, like you said, what their goals are.

Max:

Yeah. Totally. Yeah. I think, too-

Andy:

That’s how we advise people.

Max:

Yeah. I think, too, this has always been … It’s not tough for me because I understand it, but it’s been tough for a lot of marketers that I’ve worked with to either get into this head space or maybe it’s like an aha moment that they finally came to, but I feel like a lot of marketers out there pigeonhole themselves into what kind of content they can write about or the subject matter by saying, “Okay. I’m only limited into writing about what my product or service does or things directly related to it,” right?

Max:

So, even if they’re writing an awareness piece of content, okay, they would still … While it’s not talking about their product or service, it’s talking about a thing that their product or service solves for, right? While you definitely want to do that, you don’t want to let it be like a limiting factor.

Max:

So, I use this example all the time where for the longest time, HubSpot, up until a couple of years ago, we didn’t have an integration with Instagram, for example. The software didn’t integrate with Instagram in any way, right? A whole bunch of reasons for that, their API, but that’s not so important, but that never stopped our marketers from writing content about how to market yourself on Instagram, right?

Max:

Our software didn’t do anything with Instagram, but that fine. We knew we were trying to get marketers’ eyeballs on the site by any means necessary and to build trust with them, but we didn’t let the fact that HubSpot didn’t have an integration with Instagram or didn’t do anything with Instagram stop us from making content about Instagram, right?

Andy:

Yeah. It’s so interesting that you mentioned that because what oftentimes people will do is they’ll do something that feels counterintuitive, which is write a blog post, for example, about the top 20 competitors in the space, the top 10 competitors in the space of which you may be one, and why would I ever list my competitors on my website in a blog post? How can I possibly do that?

Andy:

Well, one of the interesting things is that this can be a great conversion point because people are looking for competitors to so and so software, and you may show up at the top of that list because you’ve written an in-depth piece about this and, sure, you can promote your software throughout that blog post, but by taking that somewhat objective perspective on it, and you can highlight strengths and weaknesses of other software or other solutions in the market by doing this, but it gets your voice into the mind share that’s going actually in your competitor’s direction.

Andy:

So, you’re inserting yourself into that conversation by virtue of putting those other competitors on the page in which case you start to get some of that traffic, which is great, and you also get an opportunity with your own voice to be able to differentiate yourself against the competitors in the way that you want to be differentiated. So, it gives you an opportunity to grandstand a little bit in that conversation.

Max:

I think there’s also some bigger picture marketing thinking in terms of downstream, in terms of what customers you are or not getting because here’s the thing. You don’t, especially today, let’s say you sell a software, right? We’ll use software as an example. You don’t just want to sell to anybody that will buy it. You want to sell to the right people for a couple of reasons. One, of course, it’s the right thing to do. You don’t want to sell snake oil. You don’t want to sell someone on the dream and then serve them a turd sandwich.

Max:

You want to make sure you’re getting the right customers, and you’re setting good expectations about what your product is and more importantly, what your product isn’t, right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

So, people are informed coming in to the buying process. So, that, one, takes a lot of the stress off your salespeople to have to do all the leg work for that, right? Two, if you’re pointing people in different directions and saying, “Hey, if you’re looking for this, this other similar solution may be a better option. That’s going to reduce the amount of customers that get to you that shouldn’t have bought from you in the first place, right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

So, now, we’re even thinking past the salespeople and we’re thinking about the service and support people who might be getting a customer with very poorly mis-set expectations because they were sold the dream on something versus sent to the right direction in the first place.

Andy:

Yeah. It’s about retention, especially in the SaaS model. I mean, that is what monthly recurring revenue on that model. So, you want to set the expectations properly upfront and get a good customer that’s going to stick with you long term.

Max:

Yeah, and you’re adding tons of friction in your flywheel when you inject customers that shouldn’t be in it in the first place. You know what I mean? It’s almost better to stir them, I mean, it’s not almost, it’s absolutely better to stir them away from your product if it’s not going to be a good fit for them than it is to get that short term revenue and create a ton of bad experiences for your colleagues and your services team down the stream when that person becomes a customer when they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Max:

Now, the other thing that I thought was always super interesting because the idea of talking about your competitors, I guess, in a positive light and being honest when they might be a better solution than you are and doing honest comparisons there to me falls into the same realm of this other gut reaction I’ve gotten from marketers in the past about, we call it giving away your secrets, right?

Max:

So, I don’t know if you’re a Gary Vaynerchuk fan, but I’m a huge-

Andy:

I am, yeah.

Max:

Yeah. Okay. This is why we get along. So, I’m a huge Gary Vaynerchuk fan in my end. He said this one thing in one of his videos that really, really stuck with me. I’m not quoting it verbatim, but it was something like he was talking to someone and they were trying to say, “How will I get started with content? What should I be doing?”

Max:

He’s like, “If I were you, I’d be creating any content that I could possibly create that would reduce the need from someone to actually buy from me,” right? Tell them how to do all this stuff on their own, so they don’t have to hire me. They’d only hire me as a last resort.

Max:

When I would try to tell that to marketers, for some it would make sense, especially if they’ve heard of Gary Vaynerchuk because they’re familiar with it, but other people would just be like, “What are you talking about? Why would I give away my secrets or why would I tell my customers how to accomplish something on their own without buying from me?”

Max:

Now, I’ve got a lot of thoughts on why I truly believe in this, but I’d love to hear your take on that because I’m sure the content you create for your customers falls in the realm of doing some stuff like, and maybe they push back, maybe they don’t see it, but I love to hear your thoughts on it.

Andy:

Yeah. It’s such an interesting point because what you end up doing is you end up educating your prospect along the way, so that when they become a customer, they become an informed and educated customer, which there is no better customer than that.

Max:

Exactly.

Andy:

They know what they want. They know how your solution is going to help them, makes their lives easier. Can they do it themselves? In some cases, they can. If it’s a service-based thing, sometimes they can do it themselves versus just a software that would really help create efficient, but even still, if you’re a services-based organization, I feel like the more you’re transparent with people in that process, and you demystify a lot of this complexity, you end up building this expertise level with a prospect that you end up winning good customers through that process.

Andy:

You also end up … What will likely happen is that people will go and try doing it themselves and some will be great at that and thanks for the tip, and that’s awesome. For those people, you’ve done a good job of helping them get further down the path themselves. Others, if you’re like most businesses, you’re busy. You’re doing things. You don’t necessarily have the ability to do it, and you’re inspired to execute on those goals, and when you are going to take action, you’re going to do it with somebody that is informing you, and that’s opening up this … You said it, demystifying, right?

Andy:

They open up the curtain, they say, “Here’s how this very complex thing becomes a straight line, and here’s how you approach that.”

Andy:

We all like to learn from people who are both strategic and tactical, and takes something that’s pretty complex and make it attainable and I now understand that and I now can act on that. There’s a lot of value in that.

Andy:

So, I’m very much a supporter of what you’re saying, and that actually goes back to why we offer this free content marketing playbook is because it’s exactly doing that. Can you do it on your own? Sure. Likely that you’re busy and likely that you really would rather have somebody who’s an expert and that drive that part of the business.

Andy:

We all like to surround ourselves with people who are better than we are at other things, and that’s part of team building is surround yourself with experts in the area. So, I think for all those reasons, it’s well worth the risk of putting it out there, and showing people the value of what you can offer them.

Max:

Totally. I love how on the same page we are with this idea because a lot of people just have this gut visceral negative reaction to that strategy, right? The way that I would always try to explain it to people is you need to break down the physics of what’s happening here, right?

Max:

I always talk about this idea of marketing physics. Inbound to me is very psychological physics-based puzzle that you put together, right?

Andy:

There’s a velocity that’s part of that, and getting traction.

Max:

Yes. What’s logic is going to happen when you do XYZ? Right?

Andy:

Yes.

Max:

So, if we think of this idea, in this scenario, there’s two things you’re doing. You’re not giving away your secrets, but you’re creating content, I guess, about your product or service, which is the gut reaction of most not super experienced marketers. Even some experienced marketers, too, because that’s the only way they know it.

Max:

Then there’s the other side of, yeah, you’re creating content, but you’re truly making it educational and you’re giving away as many secrets as you can and adding as much value as possible, so people don’t have to hire you, right?

Max:

So, if we think about that for a scenario where it’s like, yeah, you’re just creating content about your product or service, right? In both scenarios, there are going to be plenty of people that read the content, do nothing, and forget about. So, let’s all just level set that the mass majority of folks that see your content are going to do jack shit with it. They’re not going to take any action. They’re going to walk away. They’re going to go on YouTube. They’re going to forget they ever read it, and that’s okay. That’s marketing. It’s a game of numbers.

Max:

That’s why a good email click rate is 2%. You know what I mean? You just have to be, one, okay with that, right? So, the question is like, okay. The other end of the spectrum is that there’s going to be people that actually read and think about the content, right? For the folks who are just writing about their product or service, if there’s no value in there, they’re going to see it, they’re going to go, “Oh, yeah. Okay. Whatever,” or there’s going to be some people that will say, “Okay. Sure. I’ll buy it,” albeit that will be a very minuscule small amount of people.

Max:

When you’re doing the opposite end, when you’re giving away your secrets and you’re adding a lot of value through your content, one of two things are going to happen, and it’s exactly what you said, right? Someone’s going to go do that thing, and take your advice, and go accomplish that goal or challenge on their own.

Max:

What happens there when you do that, we don’t talk about creating promoters of our product and of our business from people who are customers, and actually paying us money, but there’s also people who can be promoters of your content, right?

Max:

They could say, “Hey, go look at XYZ company. They wrote this killer blog post about how to accomplish blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I went out and did it, and I did it, and it was great. They’re smart. I trust them. They’re experts.” That is way better than someone just ringing a piece of your content and going, “Huh,” and just not actioning with it, right?

Andy:

For sure.

Max:

Then like you said, the other half of those people or whatever ratio it’s going to be, the other people are going to say, “All right. Let me try it.” They’ll go try to do whatever you told them to do and say, “Wow! This is really hard. I probably need to hire someone to pull it off for me. Who better to do it than the people who’ve proven that they’re experts and I trust already?” and they’ll come back and hire you.

Andy:

Exactly. Exactly. From a narrative perspective, what’s really interesting about that is when you start with a pain, here’s the problem, and here’s the challenge, you can do a good job of storytelling through this process, so that it feels less so that it’s … You’re not creating promotional content here. What you’re doing is you’re helping people problem solve and work through the details, and then you present a solution within that.

Andy:

When you do that and you structure your article, so if you take your blog post, for example, and then you think about this writer’s block scenario and how do I break that, what I recommend is first start out with an outline and unpack the concept of what you’re writing about.

Andy:

So, in that outline, you’re going to write about what is the problem and the challenge that a prospect is having, and then you’re going to talk about the solution to that problem and that’s solution can come in three or four, maybe five different subtopics that you might want to address in that particular blog post. Then you start filling in what are those three, four, five solutions that help to address that challenge. Now, it’s starting to take shape, and you have this outline.

Andy:

Then you start under each one of those subsections, you start putting in a few bullet points of key ideas that are there, and now you’re starting to meat on the bone, and it starts to expand itself out. Then you start to see your article in this topographical like a map, right?

Andy:

Now, it’s just the framework kind of thing. Now, there’s the structure, there’s your scaffolding, it’s ready to be built, and then you just starting meat on the bone from there to add to it. You might want to add some content about metrics in the market or pain points in these factual-based information as you’re weaving in your narrative.

Andy:

All of that helps to be a very tactical way to be able to address what you’re talking about, which is this very broad “How do I do this without sounding sale-sy or without promoting my own stuff, which just sounds thin to storytelling and actually providing something of value?”

Max:

Yeah, and I feel like people are so good at sniffing that out when you’re clearly trying to sell that to someone, sell something.

Andy:

We all are, right? We all have a short amount of time that we have to spend on these things. So, everybody goes to a website and scans it. If you’re flicking at any of these hot jar where your eyes go on the page heat map views of things, we all scan the page, and we all look very quickly at “Is this addressing what I’m looking for?”

Andy:

In fact, we find that articles that have a little key at the top of the articles, “Here’s what we’re going to solve. You start with the problem, and then here are the solutions, few bullet points to show here’s what’s going on down below.”

Max:

Love that.

Andy:

That actually really drives engagement, and your dwell time will go up because people will go, “Oh, this is actually going to offer me some value here.”

Max:

They see it quick, and they talk some, right?

Andy:

Yeah.

Max:

So, we, in training, at HubSpot, we talk about this method called the ARC method, so A-R-C. It stands for Align, Reveal, and Convince, right? I love talking about this because it really supports the whole idea of the marketing physics and the physics of a blog post, and what you’re literally trying to get a blog post to do.

Max:

So, what align basically means is you need to do whatever you need to do in the first sentence, paragraph, section, whatever it is to hook that person into wanting to read and digest the rest of that content, right? To read and digest the rest of that blog article because we all got to remember getting someone to read a blog article is the game of inches. That back button or that left to right swipe is super easy.

Andy:

I love that.

Max:

So, if the first couple of sentences don’t hook them in and make them go, “Oh, this is me. This is my situation. This is exactly what I’m going through.” They’re not going to read the rest of it. They’re going to go, “Ah, it’s not what I’m looking for. Goodbye,” right? So, if you don’t align with them right at the beginning, they’re not going to read the thing, right?

Max:

So, step two, reveal, that’s where you reveal the solution, and this is so, so important because if a blog article doesn’t provide any value, congrats. You’ve made a piece of click bait, right? When you say, “Read this and you’re going to find out how to solve your problem,” and then you go and read the article, and it’s just trying to sell you something and they don’t learn what they actually intended to learn by clicking on it, they’re going to go, “Oh, cool. Don’t trust these guys anymore,” and just like that, you’ve plummeted your trust, and that’s the worst thing you can do by saying, You’re going to learn something,” and then you don’t, right?

Max:

So, the blog content itself has to have the thing that gets them closer to achieving the goal or overcoming that challenge, right? That’s the physics of the value add there. Then what we got to remember is that the end, and if anyone is HubSpot here or you already know about inbound marketing, you know about these things called calls to action, which are basically just big, bright, beautiful, easy to see buttons, easy to click buttons that tell you, “Hey, go get this other thing. Go download this ebook, this whitepaper, this course,” or whatever, some additional piece of downloadable content where eventually they’re going to get hit with a form.

Max:

You got to remember they’re reading this article and learning about one thing, and then you’re hitting them with a button that says, “Hey, go do this other thing.” That C at the end, so the C in ARC stands for convince, and convince basically means, all right, you’re asking this person to go do something else, you need to convince them that this next step down here is related to what they just learned and convince them that they’re going to continue to get more value out of it because if they go read an educational blog post about a certain topic and then all of a sudden down at the bottom it says, “Get a quote for our software,” they’re going to be like, “What does that have to do with what I’m trying to learn?”

Max:

If it’s like, “Cool. I’m learning about accounting best practices,” because we sell accounting software for … I think that’s the example we used when we talked last time, right? Maybe you would have some piece of content that says, “Click to download our ebook on productivity for accounting reps,” or something like that.

Andy:

Yeah, or “Get a free audit of your workflow” or whatever it might be, something tangible that’s like, “Actually, that’s my problem. Don’t even know where to start. I have this problem and I need to talk to somebody who’s very well-versed in solving these problems. That’s why I’m on the website.”

Andy:

So, if you offer something like that, like free consult upfront, some really amazing offer, and think amazing offer. Don’t think just a little bitty offer. Think of something that’s going to really create some value and also align your business with their problem, and solve that.

Andy:

If you think about that intersection point, what’s their problem, and what can you offer that’s going to help them immediately solve that problem and will also simultaneously build a roadmap for you to continue in your engagement with them, that’s a great offer. That’s one of those when you make an offer you can’t refuse.

Max:

Value.

Andy:

It’s value. Exactly.

Max:

The equation for value, but again, whatever that is, if your blog post doesn’t say, “Because of what you just learned in the words above, this next thing below, this is why it’s going to help you go and go further with that learning,” they’re not going to understand the connection, and they’re not going to do it.

Max:

I’m glad you brought up the conversational, the valuable offer, right? So, my favorite thing to do. I’m going to tell the story to lead us into this discussion. So, when I was an implementation specialist back in the day, I’d say back in the day, it was two years ago. When I was an implementation specialist, the very first thing that I would do with all of my customers is I would just sniff out what the bottom of their funnel was, right?

Max:

So, the bottom of the funnel would generally be like, “Get a demo,” or “Get a consultation,” or whatever. Most people, though, and it’s crazy that this is pretty much everybody except for software companies, but they’re also just as guilty of it. Their bottom of the funnel, their conversion, their form or whatever it was that you filled out to raise your hand and say, “I’d like to talk to sales,” 90% of the time is just a blank page that says, “Contact us,” right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

It’s this super lame, choose your own adventure, I don’t know what I’m getting out of it, and I would always try to sniff this thing out and destroy it as fast as possible because not only is that, one, not compelling in any sort of sense in the world, two, the person has no idea what they’re getting and, three, whoever has to deal with those form submissions is probably getting every single type of request under the sun, most of which are other companies trying to sell them stuff, right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

If that’s the way that your leads get to your salespeople, that’s insane. So, what I would do is I’d talk to people. I’d say, “Hey, get one of your sales reps to join us on a call and let’s have a discussion here,” right? So, the salesperson would join the call and it’s like, “Hey, what is the first conversation that you have with a new customer? What do you do?”

Max:

They go, generally, they go, “Oh, yeah. Well, we spend some time getting to know them. We really dig in to what the biggest challenges they have are. We try to give them some tips and tricks on how they can solve it. We start to think if they’re going to be a good fit or not. We set up some next steps, and we go from there.”

Max:

I’m like, “Okay. So, why don’t you tell people that’s the conversation you’re going to have?” Because to me, that even sounds valuable where we’re listening to your goals and challenges, give you some tips and tricks on what you can do, and then at the end if it makes sense, we talk about if you’re going to be a good fit or not, right?

Max:

Most salespeople these days aren’t just getting on the phone saying, “Okay. This is how much it costs, and do you want to buy it?” They’re building rapport and they’re having valuable conversation-

Andy:

That’s an order taker. That’s not a salesperson, right?

Max:

Exactly.

Andy:

Going back to what you said, people buy from people they trust. So, your primary objective at this point is to establish that trust, and trust is earned. So, how do you earn that trust? You do it through education and give to get. That’s the opportunity here that I think a lot of people lose sight of is this is an opportunity for you to give value and create that value, and why do you do that? You do that so that you can get these meetings, and you can get these one-on-one discussions.

Andy:

In that one-on-one discussion, you can then start to add more value and help them solve their problem, and that becomes a consultative sales process, but it gets you sitting on the same side of the table as your client solving a common problem for them and how you’re going to do that.

Andy:

That becomes very strategic, and it’s a great way to build relationships. If you orient your content around that modality and that structure, you’re going to be adding a lot of value along the way to prospects that come to your website and people who are curious about what you have to offer.

Max:

Yeah. The thing is is you got to make it … When people see that landing page or whatever it is where there’s a form on it, and you fill it out, and that hand raises to sales, you need to structure that in a way where people know, “I don’t have to make the commitment to buy by having this conversation,” but they also need to know, “I’m going to get value out of the conversation even if I don’t buy,” right?

Max:

Otherwise, there’s no real reason to fill it out unless you have your credit card in your hand and you want to buy, which, hey, marketers, of all the people that you’re talking to, that is 0.1% of the folks that you’re messaging. They’re just immediately ready to buy.

Max:

There’s way more people that are in that category of like, “I’m interested, but I’m not sure if it’s right for me. You know what? I don’t really want to talk to a sales rep because I know that they’re just going to jump on my throat and try to hard sell me something,” because that’s the perception that we’ve had of salespeople.

Andy:

So, those are the middle of the funnel challenges, right? So, if you unpack that, it’s a great way to express that. If you look at what the questions are and the challenges that your buyers have in their journey, and you’re addressing that through content and through this whole, so that could be several topics that you’re writing about that address what those challenges are, and then you’re starting to fill in the meat on the bone with what the solutions are to those challenges. That becomes really good leading or training content.

Andy:

One of the things that I noticed from a lot of the communication with the team at HubSpot is there’s a best practice that happens in terms of lead nurturing, where something will come up in the conversation, and then 100% of the time, there’s a relatively brief email with two, three, four, five links in that followup that are, “Here’s for more content and more information about what we just talked about. Are you having a problem with reports? Here. Here’s some good information about how to generate those reports,” or “Here’s some information about how to structure the stages in your deal process,” or whatever the challenge might be.

Andy:

There are articles that support that. So, if you think about your customers, not only their past purchase, that’s one track, but also tactically, “How do I do these things?” or questions that come up in the sales process asking the question and then answering it gives your sales team a really good followup with those sales call.

Max:

Oh, for sure.

Andy:

So that you can anticipate these are questions that are going to come up, so let me have my email and let me have my template ready together in HubSpot because it’s a well-worn path. You know that these questions are going to come up. So, craft the emails of followup and have links to the articles already set up, so that you’re ready to go to deliver what you know the questions are that’s going to come up on this call.

Max:

Yeah. It’s so much more than just what do you do to get them on the phone with a sales rep. It’s like what happens after. You know what I mean? Regardless of if they buy.

Andy:

Leader training is especially huge part of the sales process.

Max:

Yeah. I’m going to leave everybody with … I hit my microphone. I want to leave everybody with this one thing, and then I want to talk to you about SEO a little bit because I’m not an SEO expert. I have some very strong feelings around search engine optimization. Maybe they’re unpopular opinions, maybe they’re wrong. I don’t know, but I definitely want to run by you.

Max:

I want to give everyone an example of what we’re talking about, right? So, if you want to buy from HubSpot, the conversation you have, it’s, yeah, sure, do we have forms on our site that are for the people who are quick and to point where it’s like, “Request a quote. Talk to sales.” “Yeah. Sure. We have that,” right?

Andy:

Yes.

Max:

That’s not where we focus our time and energy. The very first call you have with a sales rep is called an inbound marketing assessment, right? Not a “Do you want to buy it?” Right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

So, those conversations, we ask you tons of questions about your business, get to understand you as a person, try to figure out what your biggest challenges are, and then give you a whole bunch of feedback and ideas and things you can do about how inbound works for you because that’s the whole point. It’s inbound. It’s not the software. We’re more concerned that you do inbound, right?

Max:

Look, the thing is whether you buy or not, you’re still walking away from that conversation with a ton of value, but the thing is is if you don’t advertise or build your, I hate saying the word advertise, even though that’s what a landing page does, if your landing page doesn’t say, “Hey, you’re going to get a three to 60-minute phone call with a XYZ consultant, not a salesperson, even though they are a salesperson. You’re going to learn about bullet point, bullet point, bullet point.”

Max:

What’s the value you’re going to walk away from? Not just “Are you going to buy it or?” People are going to be way more compelled to request that type of conversation in the first place versus a quote or contact us or any of that other boring crap that people should stop doing, right?

Andy:

That’s right. Then their discovery process. So, recognize that. What I recommend is start on a whiteboard by drawing a long straight line. That’s your customer’s path to purchase, and then break it up into discovery, engagement, close. So, these are all different stages. In those stages of the funnel, you want to be able to have content that supports questions that come up and challenges that your customer is having, so that you can answer those questions and help them solve those problems.

Max:

Yeah. So, I want to talk to you about SEO because we got about 10 minutes left here.

Andy:

Yeah. Cool.

Max:

So, one of the bigger challenges I definitely had with customers is there was a lot of folks who just went all in on the technical SEO mindset versus the content creation mindset. I almost feel it happens to be because of one or two reasons. One, maybe they’re trying to avoid content as much as they can and just say, “What are some places I could put some keywords and increase my page load speed and do all this stuff, so I can avoid the content conversation?” or it be consultants who were just SEO consultants leeching off their client a little bit just by saying they needed all these things that they truly didn’t understand, so the client would just take it at face value and pay a bunch of money for them to optimize a content-less site, right?

Max:

So, I often had lots of customers who just went into this analysis paralysis mode about, “All right. I get that I have to start blogging, but I need to find the keyword with the most views, and I need to make sure I optimize it, and I need to get my schema markup the right way.” They hyper-focus on all these SEO bullshit, right? I’m not saying it’s bullshit, but they hyper-focus on the SEO details, and they lose sight of just the idea of getting good at becoming a content generator, right?

Max:

So, what are your thoughts on which one do you do first? Should it be get good at SEO first or should it be get comfortable creating content first, and then have the SEO stuff come after? Because for me, I think you need to get good at creating content first because if you don’t have the content, you have nothing to optimize. So, what’s the point of freaking out about SEO if you aren’t already used to creating content? To me, that’s the hardest part.

Max:

So, I’m in the school of thought of just like, “Hey, get to blogging once a week before you really start thinking about SEO, and start to layer the SEO stuff and afterwards,” but I mean, you’ve been doing this stuff for a while. So, I’d love your thoughts on that.

Andy:

Yeah. Now, this is the great, great frame up. I think there are a few ideas that as you’re saying that came to mind. One is inbound as a strategy overall is really seeing the forest through the trees. When you’re trying to think about a lot of this technical SEO stuff, really, what you’re saying is “I’m going to try to reverse engineer Google’s algorithm, and I’m going to try to game the system.”

Andy:

Anytime we try to game Google, you’re just going to … There’s so many versions of their algorithm that they really use on a regular basis. You’re just going to get caught in this trap and it’s just not … So, what you want to do is you want to … This forest through the trees concept, how do you then map your course through that forest so that you can build up topic density and you can take this broader macro view in it.

Andy:

So, yes, there are technical SEO tactics that you can and should be doing, for example. On blog posts, you want to do a lot of interlinking through your website, and HubSpot talks about this a lot in the pillar post, and how those pillar articles are the trunk of the tree, so to speak, and then the branches on that are the subtopics around that.

Andy:

So, interlinking through these articles is critical. At the end of blog post, having relevant blog posts so that you can recycle on a traffic and keep them digging in deeper for more information that’s contextually relevant. That all is really good on page SEO best practice kind of stuff.

Andy:

So, I would definitely do some … Focus on the content. You’re absolutely right. It’s build your content roadmap and your messaging, so that it becomes useful. Useful is the key of this. You want it to be useful content for your readers.

Andy:

Then as you publish the content to your website, think about there are some technical best practices and things that are going to give you better results than others, table stakes kind of stuff that you have to do.

Andy:

So, yes, your meta description in your title tags, in your H1 tags all need to align with what the content is, and all of that needs to line up and HubSpot has great tool set to be able to do that. So, I recommend doing that from a technical perspective, but don’t get caught up in trying to reverse engineer Google or trying to get into this technical battle because that’s just a losing proposition that will happen ultimately at some point when they change their algorithm.

Andy:

Whereas if you build this structural content marketing approach that aligns around creating useful content for your buyers, and organizing your content through this topic, clustering methodology, what you end up doing is you end up building density within the topic of useful information that then becomes reasons for why people are going to link to you, so that you’re going to earn back links from that because it’s useful.

Andy:

You’re also going to be able to do best practices on page that address the tactical SEO reverse engineering aspect of it, but not go in the deep end of that. Should you use proper schema markup and do that kind of stuff? Sure. If you have the knowledge of how to do that, then definitely do that, but at least lead with your content and your messaging because that’s what people really want to engage with.

Andy:

Google’s continually optimizing their algorithm around what’s useful for people and they’re looking at all kinds of metrics to be able to optimize their algorithm around that.

Max:

Yeah. You got to be smart where you spend your mental calories, right? Writing content alone is tough enough. Never mind if you layer on the stress of trying to perfect the SEO, right?

Andy:

Right.

Max:

One more thing before I let you go, and I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts on this. So, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a marketer that’s working at a traditionally outbound company, right? So, a company that’s been … They’re all in on mailing people stuff, and buying radio ads, and doing TV spots.

Andy:

Buying lists.

Max:

Yeah, purchasing lists, which is a whole another thing we can talk about. Oh, my God! That makes my blood boil. I’m sure you feel the same way. Let’s say we’re that marketer who’s seen the light of inbound, right? We did some research, tried to figure out the whole blogging thing and we’re like, “Oh, inbound is [inaudible 00:56:40]” Right?

Andy:

Yeah.

Max:

They want to get the rest of the company onboard with making that fundamental shift of an outbound marketing company to an inbound marketing model, right? I’ve had plenty of customers who have had a super difficult time getting buy in from leadership on doing this because they’ve been doing things one way for a long time, and the way that they think marketing should work because they’ve watched plenty of episodes of the Madman or whatever it is, they’re doing things the traditional way.

Max:

All of a sudden, their marketer comes up and says, “Hey, I’m going to spend a bunch of time writing blog posts and giving away our secrets, and creating content, and doing stuff on social media. Maybe I might mess around with video a little bit,” right?

Max:

Leadership goes, “Oh, so we’re not sending out mailers, we’re not doing all this stuff that’s been working for us in the past?” What advice do you have for that marketer who’s truly being the pioneer of switching things to an inbound model when there’s someone who’s getting a lot of push back from leadership on taking this path of creating content? What advice would you give in general for those folks?

Andy:

Well, extensively, this business has customers already, so they know who their buyer persona is. We also probably have paid search campaigns and other campaigns where they know what keywords are converting and what those ad group are, i.e., clusters, and what messaging is working already, right? That’s already probably somewhere in the mix.

Andy:

So, their salespeople are having conversations with prospects. So, while they’re having these conversations, one of the questions that are coming up in the sales calls, and maybe what I would do is lead with “How can we create content that supports our current sales process already?” We don’t need to breaking what already works. That’s not the objective here. The objective is how do we help reduce friction in the sales process, right?

Andy:

So, maybe start out with that because that’s content. You need to develop content around that. So, talk with the sales team. Figure out what kind of questions keep coming up and what kind of content that you can produce that will help inform and be a great followup with the prospect either after a call or maybe if you haven’t heard from that prospect in a while, you’re checking in and you’re thinking about them, and here’s a useful piece of content that we wrote, that is relevant to what we talked about on our call a few weeks ago, and try to lead them back in with something educational that can help inform them. I would start there as a beachhead because that’s going to be something that aligns with the current go-to market strategy that that company already has, right?

Max:

Yeah.

Andy:

Start with that. Then from there, you can start to show metrics on before and after. Before, we had this content. This is our close rate. These are our metrics in our funnel. Then after we start adding content, you can see that we removed friction in the process, and content is useful. So, when we start to get that little bit of buy in that’s a foot in the door into this whole path, so now you want to feature and showcase the success that you got from that as an initial step.

Andy:

Then from there, you can start to build out other parts of your content roadmap that aligns around what inbound is without necessarily having to say, “We’re going to out with the old, in with the new. I have all the answers.” It’s not necessarily about that kind of a paradigm. What it is more about is what we’re going to do is we’re going to educate our prospects more so they can become better customers, and look at metrics like retention as part of this whole content marketing initiative.

Andy:

By the way, content marketing doesn’t stop with a sale. You want to drive loyalty and you want to drive awareness and education. You want to be able to provide content to your existing prospects that become customers, so that they can then evangelize and educate their team more about stuff that they’re now doing with this new solution that helps to expand that sale, for example, or educate more people in your customer’s company so that you retain those customers longer, and you get more mind share and buy in within that company.

Max:

Yeah. I love that because here’s the thing. You have an executive that … Here’s the thing. If they understood inbound, they’d probably be like, “Yeah. Great. I’ve been waiting for someone to do this the whole time,” because they know the benefits of it. The common thing that leadership who doesn’t understand inbound is going to know this is money talks, right?

Max:

So, when you’re trying to pitch this or justify it, just like you said, going after and making an artful case on how it will improve inefficiencies in your sales process, and really have an impact on the bottom line, which is new sales and retention of current customers, that’s what’s going to pique their interest. If you can make the case and talk about the physics of how that’s actually going to support those things, you should have a pretty easy time getting buy in, but you’re right. You need to be showing these initial quick wins that you’re getting. There are a lot of-

Andy:

Yeah. This is substantial part of … This is evergreen content. Once you write the content, it becomes, you write it once-

Max:

It keeps working for you.

Andy:

… and it lists forever, and it keeps working for you. Whereas advertising is like a sugar-based diet a little bit, and you got to keep-

Max:

Yeah. You got to keep feeding it. Yeah.

Andy:

You do, and you have to keep paying up for it. Whereas this becomes a longer term strategy. The two can work very closely together in this particular scenario if it’s out on company. If they know what keywords are converting already, for example, on their paid search campaign, then build content around those keywords so that you can try to increase your ability to rank organically for those keywords and acquire customers for less overall as a result. That’s also a great place to start.

Max:

Yeah. I think also there’s … I don’t know if you have to be delicate about it or maybe you’d be blunt about it and like, “Hey, this isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight, but it’s something that looking a year or two or three down the line it’s going to put us in a much better position to be a thought leader, and have this grow exponentially overtime because it takes a while to build that authority, but if we can get the leg work out of the way now, we’re going to be much better set up for success in the years to come, right?

Andy:

Exactly.

Max:

Cool. Well, hey, we’re at about an hour right now. Andy, that was super fun.

Andy:

That’s what I was going to say. I love it.

Max:

Looking at whatever we talk about next I’m sure we’ll come up with something, but, yeah, thanks for joining us. Before we end this, can you tell the people where they can find you, where they can learn more about WriteForMe, all that kind of stuff, just in case there’s anyone out there that could use your services?

Andy:

Absolutely. I love it. Yeah. So, go to writeforme.io and you’ll find lots of content about what we do and how you can help increase your ability to execute on your content marketing strategy.

Max:

Yeah. Absolutely. So, for anyone watching at home, hopefully, this is going to give you some good tips on where you can get started creating content, but, again, if you get to that point where it’s too hard and you got to bring in the big guns, Andy here and his team can definitely help you out. Hey, we’ll leave it at that, and thanks everybody for watching. Have a good one.

Andy:

Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Max.

Max:

Thank you.

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Andy Steuer

Andy Steuer is the Chief Marketing Officer at WriteForMe. Andy has been CEO, CMO, VP of Product for 8 fast-growing companies in his career. 3 of those companies became Top 10 Internet companies. Content Marketing has always been at the core to differentiate these companies from their competition. You can always schedule a 1 on 1 meeting with Andy by grabbing some time on his calendar here. List articles below that have Andy on the byline on the rest of the page. Here’s my calendar link:https://meetings.hubspot.com/andysteuer » More blog posts by Andy Steuer

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