Firstly, just to be sure we’re speaking the same language, we asked Ryan how he defined content marketing.
Q: “What is your definition of Content Marketing?”
A: “This is such an interesting question because the definition can be different for everyone. Using your own skills and experience to teach other people lessons. Primarily about teaching, solving problems of your users. There’s obviously tons of different mediums you can use to achieve that, different forms such as written content, podcasts, videos, infographics, but the objective is always to teach something and solve problems.”
Many content marketing managers are highly focused on outcomes, sales, and numbers, but remember not to overcomplicate the matter. Ryan does Albert Einstein proud by doing a grand job of keeping it as simple as possible, but not simpler. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the complexity of human economics, consumer behavior and psychological anthropology to figure out how best to engage your audience and convert them into revenue, but try to focus on the basic goal of what you’re doing so not to fry your brain grapes too much.
Moving on from this, we caught up with what Ryan was doing with himself and the new ventures he’s journeying into:
Q: “What about your company, you’re now taking care of some of your own projects, right?”
A: “Yeah, I’m a Content Marketing Consultant now. Close.io has been my very best client, they’re awesome, and that’s because they’re a company that really, really gets it.
But I’ve also got a side project called procontentmarketer.com – It’s basically a way to systematize my consulting services into monthly packages and it’s really geared towards larger start-ups, Fortune 500 companies… I’m bringing in a bigger group of customers and helping them creating long form blog content, and then the most important aspect of Content Marketing, helping them “pro” that content, involving influencers, quoting them, so that they’re willing to share the content after it goes live. There are a few other growth levers that we use as part of our service offerings.
But the fact is we notice that the actual writing component is starting to become a commodity with Content Marketing. It’s not that difficult for experienced writers to come up with 2k word articles. The most difficult part, though, is the promotion! How to get that post in front of your audience? How do you get more visitors to your site? More email subscribers, trial sign-ups, whatever metrics you’re after. Driving up the metrics is still the challenge.”
And from one simple ‘How’s the wife and kids?’ style question, Ryan has shown us why he is the man at the top. He understands the big picture and is constantly moving ahead of the times. In today’s highly saturated content-filled marketing gladiatorial amphitheater Content Marketing is now no longer about content. Yes, it’s backwards but have faith; Ryan takes us through the method in the madness later on when we ask him “What is the most frequent mistake marketing professionals make?”
Having a sound knowledge of Content Marketing isn’t the only thing that helps Ryan be successful… Ryan also works hard on personifying the brands he’s working with. Loads of bloggers and content creators are really good at writing, but can’t quite break the barrier to go from good to great. Have you ever heard the life advice ‘Just be yourself’? Do that (but also be the brand).
Q: “How do you capture your client’s brand voice and realize how they should be writing?”
A: “That’s a fun one! I think, with the voice component, a lot of that for me comes down to reading what they already have on their blog. I don’t work with companies that don’t already have a blog presence or some sort of content presence, so I’m able to come in, take a look. So with Close.io for instance, they have Steli the CEO, he’s very outspoken, extra-loud, extroverted dude, who’s not afraid of using curse words in his content… Also, he’s super invested in being the picture of the brand too. So, the content we create for them can be in that style too, we don’t have to be afraid of using curse words or sharing failures also. So we kind of just follow what the company has been doing unless we see a red flag. An example of that could be companies that are completely unwilling to share any “behind the scenes” numbers or facts, that might be a sign they’re not very trustworthy to their audience, so we try to get people to open up and be very transparent with their content.”
When you are being natural, open and honest and writing with vulnerability you can expect your readers to actually trust you. I know! They aren’t just mindless consumers, but real people you’re talking to. They will be re-engaging with the human aspect of what you’re trying to help them with. Show your true colors and speak out.
So how does Ryan do it for himself? You’re about to find out…
Q: “Do you tend to choose a certain tone to a particular piece of writing or is it a ‘brand’ tone and not related to a particular piece of content?”
A: “I kind of go back and forth with it, to be honest with you. It sort of depends on who the brand is. Like when I was doing a lot of work for LinkedIn for their blog that was much more along the lines of what they wanted, their style of writing. While my own style, in my own blog, is more similar to what I just spoke about Steli, I’ll share things like “this is my biggest fuck up” and I’ll say it like that too. So when I have clients that are more willing to experiment or sort of speak in that direction, then that’s when I find my real super-powers cause I can just talk like myself, it comes out natural and unrestricted.”
So you’ve reminded yourself of what you’re actually trying to achieve with content marketing, you’ve cleared your throat and practiced your brand voice in the mirror, but how do you know what to actually write about? Ryan, help us out again, please!
Q: “How do you decide which content topics to focus on and what format that content should take?”
A: “The decision process for me is always very, very keyword driven. Before I invest 10 hours in writing a blog-post, or an hour recording a podcast, I figure out what keyword opportunities make more sense – what am I selling? What is the #1 topic area? So for example for Close.io, they’re a sales CRM so their number 1 topic is… sales! Things that help salespeople being more effective or help founders get their initial traction, so on. From there, we can peel off a number of keyword opportunities, like “How to create a sales strategy”, or “Selling techniques”, or “Sales bugs”, “Sales motivation”… so basically what we’ll do is create a big list of long-tail keywords that we know we’d want to be the number 1 search result for.
From there I check keyword volume, using SEMrush, although I don’t think it’s really 100% accurate. So we couple that with what we think in order to prioritize and rank the keywords we’re going after. Then we go from there.”
Data, data, data. The future is numbers, not words. Don’t let your content be decided by a Ouija board. Rather, see what the data is saying and then you’ll be absolutely sure that you’re writing content about things people actually care about and want information on. But there’s a caveat…
Q: “At the beginning how was it to expose yourself and put your face, and name to your writing, opinions, and the experience you had acquired through your professional life?”
A: “To me, it comes down to “Only teaching what I know”, so first of all knowing what I’m good at, going out and start doing things first. So, I didn’t start talking about, writing about things I’d done before I actually did something. And that’s something that is frequently neglected. People who want to start a blog, a podcast, a business, don’t question themselves about “what have I done that legitimates me as a teacher on the subject?” So that’s why I always try to make every piece of advice or knowledge I share something very personal, somehow related to something that I have done, that I’ve learned from.”
Check the data then match it with what you know, or what you can find out about. People will learn quickly that your content is shallow and superficial if you’re just giving your opinion on a recently trending topic. Another blog post about what you think about the cryptocurrency movement or whether Trump is making America great again will leave readers searching for a more informative blog to get their fix of insight and inspiration. If you’re unsure of what that looks like, we shot Ryan a question on who he uses to benchmark his work:
Q: “Do you look up to anybody? Or when you started did you have someone you looked up to?”
A: “100% yeah! As far as writing, Jeff Haden. He has an episode on my podcast, he has contributed to Ink magazine for a decade, and he’s someone I remember reading his texts in high-school or college on Facebook. Then I tried to emulate his style when I started writing my very first blog. Also Malcolm Gladwell, I really try to draw some style from him, he has a very example driven style, he brings tons of studies, data, experiences he’s had, so he’s another inspiration, for sure.”
Q: “What content marketing blogs do you read?”
A: “I don’t read many content marketing blogs, to be honest with you, I do read Neil Patel stuff, but I’m more into podcasts, such as Marketing School, Neil’s podcast, Eric Siu’s podcast, called Growth Everywhere, and I really like https://www.linkedin.com/in/aaronorendorff/ too, he rarely writes about growth or content marketing, but every time he does he writes a good example of content marketing.”
If that’s not specific enough for you, then here’s a good place to start:
Q: “What is your favorite piece of recent content?”
A: “From my own production, it’s definitely my post on “10 Steps to Build a Content Marketing Strategy” – the combination of tons of work for other people, what has worked for my own blog over the years – very excited about.
Jeff Haden’s new book – I got an advance copy of this awesome book called The Motivation Myth – How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up To Win. This one is about the counterintuitive side of what makes people super motivated, and he uses a lot of true stories, that’s what I like. He interviewed people on how they went from their couch to running an ultra-marathon, so not only in a business sense.”
To finish off the Q&A we asked the big question and perhaps for some, got a surprising answer:
Q: “What is the most frequent mistake marketing professionals make?”
A: “I’d say thinking that the success of their content is primarily based on how good the content is. I see average content kick ass just because people invest more time promoting it.
I always spend 80% of my time promoting my content, after it goes live. So if I spend 6 hours writing an article, I’m going to invest at least a week promoting it.
That traditionally has been where I see my best results come from. Today, having a column at bigger channels, helps me reach a bigger audience every time a link makes sense and there’s no conflict of interests. There’s also guest posting, I usually offer topics that are related to or extensions of the articles I want to promote.”
A big thanks to Ry Rob, King of Marketing and all round good guy, for sharing his expert advice and insights on Content Marketing. Let us know how you’re getting on how these words of wisdom helped you.