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How Content Marketing Is Changing w/ Sonia Simone [Episode 445]

Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer at CopyBlogger Media, LLC, joins me on this episode to discuss how content marketing continues to evolve, and how that evolution affects the sales profession.

Key Takeaways

  • Copyblogger is part of Rainmaker Digital. Sonia helps determine editorial content direction on Copyblogger, some of which she creates. She is the lead ‘word-put-togetherer.’
  • Content marketing is a reality of the web, as people keep finding more bright and shiny objects to see. You have to continually add content to make yourself the most interesting thing in their field of vision, and worth their time.
  • SMBs are still hesitating to create content. Sonia has an idea why. But some smaller organizations are realizing that by grabbing the opportunity, they give themselves a real competitive advantage.
  • Companies are finding that a content marketing role is mission-critical to succeed and compete today. Dollars can be shifted from phone directory and other advertising. SEO professionals can help get them up to speed.
  • Business owners need to start thinking like CMOs. Cash flow and customer acquisition need to be top priorities. Content marketing help with both. A blog is a good start, but consider video, and even podcasting.
  • It’s not enough to be useful. Content needs a personal voice that engages attention. Content should have ‘art.’
  • Make your advertising, or content, too valuable to throw away.
  • Selling, marketing, and content all require art, “an expression that can’t be made with an algorithm.” An organization can see which sales professionals are performing, and which are not. The human element connects.
  • We think that data drives us to make objective decisions, but that’s only true if we understand the data fully.
  • Entrepreneurs and small companies boldly embrace the art of content marketing. Larger companies become less courageous as they grow, and tend to be less responsive. Think of yourself as small, lean, and fast.
  • Constant learning keeps any job exciting. The objective of making 100 contacts per day eliminates the opportunity to research any of them to make an effective contact.
  • Sonia recommends studying literature, plays, screenplays, and poetry, and to take improv, acting, music, and painting classes. Start with what excites you.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul  0:31  

Joining me on the show is Sonia Simone. Sonia is the Chief Content Officer at Copyblogger Media. In this episode, we explore content marketing, how it’s changing, how even though it’s not really a new thing. topic, it’s still in the list of the most important marketing trends in 2017. So we explore how content marketing is changing in response to changes in the market and technology. And we compare the art of marketing to the art of selling. So Sonia, let’s talk about you first. How’d you get started? And where are you now?


Sonia Simone  2:16  

Yeah, I am the Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger. The parent company is called Rainmaker Digital, it’s really the same company, just a different name. And basically, the Copyblogger blog I think a lot of people are fairly familiar with in the content marketing space. And so I kind of helped determine the editorial direction there with my business partner Brian Clark, who was the one who founded Copyblogger and created a fair amount of content myself. I write quite a bit. I have a podcast, I also run a private community of content marketers, and so I really lead that community. 


Andy Paul  3:17  

There’s a lot of talk still about content marketing. And yeah, it’s not like it’s new. But I mean,I was researching recently, but top marketing trends for 2017 and looked at various lists, you know, top 10, top 15 you know, things marketers need to think about for 2015 or 2017. Excuse me, and content marketing is right at the top of the list still. So it’s not new. So why is that still such a huge point of focus?


Sonia Simone  3:57  

I think it’s a huge point of focus. It’s just a reality of the web. And it’s a reality of markets that are on the internet. Every year, they’re presented with more distractions,bright and shiny objects to look at more time spent on social web. And the more that becomes available, the less you can count on something like a traditional ad to interrupt that person’s day and get a message to them. And then when you interrupt that person’s day to write on Facebook advertising, very effective, Google AdWords is still very effective. When you do kind of get into that person’s attention stream. You have to do something interesting. And you have to do it with something that’s worth their time because otherwise they’ll just pull it off to something else. There’s no way you can hold attention in this marketplace of distractions and, and entertainment and diversions without really putting together material that you know that people are going to want to spend their time on. It’s gonna be around for quite a while.


Andy Paul  5:18  

So how’s it changing? How’s it evolving? I mean, one is interesting, it still seems like, outside of major enterprise, that penetration is still inconsistent and relatively low. You know, we look at a lot of small and mid sized enterprise sale stores without any sort of cool consistent content marketing program may find it not to be the case as well.


Sonia Simone  5:45  

They don’t feel confident, you know, about their ability to create that interesting content. And so I think they know that they would benefit from this thing. called content marketing, whatever that is, but I don’t think they have the confidence in their ability to produce the creative work that you need to produce. But I think that slowly, the smaller companies, the midsize companies are starting to realize that if they will grab that opportunity, they have real potential for a competitive advantage because their competitors are not there yet. So I’m seeing smaller organizations get started with it, and doing some really, really interesting work.


Andy Paul  6:49  

Right, but I think it seems to me it’s and I’ve certainly talked about this with the clients that I have that it’s time to start re envisioning where your structure looks because as an organization Because this is not suddenly a nice to have this is mission critical. And so if you didn’t have this role in your organization before, as you maybe need to think about, you know, within the budget, you are making some trade offs and saying yes, this becomes really a sort of mission critical role that we need to have as a small organization to go forward.


Sonia Simone  7:24  

Yeah, I mean, I think I think the companies are really finding that because you need to differentiate and frankly, you need to compete with those, you know, monster businesses and their monster budgets.


Andy Paul  8:43  

Well, I think that’s also one of the issues with a lot of small enterprises is that they tend to think about content marketing as just writing a blog.


Sonia Simone  8:57  

Business owners have to think like, every business owner has to think like a CMO. Even if maybe you already have a CMO, every business owner really needs to put it’s one of their top priorities is cash flow and customer acquisition. 


Andy Paul  10:24  

Look at my own platform since I started podcasting has grown exponentially, right? But yeah, there we say broadcasting to wait till the end of year two before you make any assessments about whether it’s working for you or not. 


Sonia Simone  10:46  

Yeah. And I mean, anytime we talk about these kinds of strategies, content is a big word. I’m not actually a fan of that term at all in content marketing. Well, that’s the trick. That’s the problem, I mean, in a way, everything on the web content, you know, that’s not like banking data.


Andy Paul  12:15  

Yeah. Well, how would you define it? If somebody has a lot of entrepreneurs on the show, I mean, if you had to succinctly define it, because not just doing a blog.


Sonia Simone  12:26  

Yeah, it’s not just doing a blog alone, although you could just do all your content marketing should just consist of your blog, and that could work. For me the phrase that I have always found that resonates and I didn’t come up with. I’m trying to remember who did it might have been, might have been a copywriter named Gary Benson Van Gogh’s great traditional copywriter, but the idea is to make your advertising too valuable to throw away. So you’re creating a blog post that somebody has bookmarked or even better, maybe they actually like printed it out. And they kind of stuck it up on the cork board above where they work to kind of look at it and refer to it. Or it’s the podcast that they refer to. It’s the infographic that they print out and share with the team. So they can make decisions. You know, if you think about that, what are you producing, that has so much intrinsic value, that people don’t just kind of glance at it, and then maybe they’re interested in the product. And if they’re not, then they just glance on what could really hold, hold that person. You know, the ad also thinks that or it’s not enough to be useful, and I see a lot of blogs, they’re very useful, and they have good information, high quality information. And there’s not much personal voice there’s not much personality. 


Andy Paul  14:30  

I thought that was really interesting. But before we get to that, I was sorry, wander toward that point, what you’re just talking about, I think was a great quote as to make your advertising because content marketing you create basically as advertising even though it’s not overt, necessarily in all cases, but make your advertising too valuable to throw away. That’s a great perspective, we will think about, even if they’re doing something that was just blogging or whatever they’re creating is having a point of view. I mean, I thought we have just when you thought we were getting away from numbered posts, we’re, we’re coming back to them again.


Sonia Simone  15:31  

I will never get away from numbered posts. We’ll never get away from numbered posts. And because there is something about numbers, it’s the weirdest thing, but when you put a number in a headline, it’s just watching. You’re like, yeah, there it goes. But you can write a boring numbered post. It’s the same thing everyone else in your industry is writing and they’re just so dull. And if you covered up the header, I wouldn’t know who wrote it, you know, I would have no idea That it was your site versus dozens and dozens of your competitors. Or you can put a number in the headline and then really write something different and and really write something that speaks with a voice that can’t be, just kind of written by some algorithms somewhere. It’s just astonishing to me when you look at your numbers and you say, those dangle numbers man, people click on those numbers but make that post worth the click.


Andy Paul  16:40  

You know, there are two points in there. I think we should discuss, but I don’t say what the points are. So then they have to go in because it piques their curiosity to go in. And I started to do that sometimes if I’m gonna use a number, a headline of a blog I’m writing,, I won’t clearly mark out the points in the blog post all the time, because I want people to read through it and engage with it.


Sonia Simone  17:17  

Right, right.


Andy Paul  17:29  

Which I think is really relevant to sales as well as the art of marketing, then we talk about the art of selling and the thing is, this sort of controversy these days isn’t selling because in the same way that marketing has become really all about the metrics. Now technology is enabling sales, sort of the same transparency and touchpoints and being able to have metrics driven as well. And there’s some parts of the sales community where the art of selling is dead. I like your quote, he said you define art as an expression that can’t be made by an algorithm, which really defines an interaction with another human being, which is at the heart of sales.


Sonia Simone  18:21  

Exactly. I mean, I think the art of sales is as crucial as it ever was. And I think any organization that’s smart, is going to be able to just see that just look at your sales teams, it was performing, I was not performing. I mean, there’s an art to it, because it is about connection. And it’s about people. I always say that about things like search engine optimization, and people go nuts trying to figure out the algorithm and they’re playing to the algorithm. A lot of bad content is bad because it’s written, trying to make the Google algorithm happy.


Andy Paul  19:40  

But what’s wrong? We have a lot of the data we find in both marketing and sales. We see a data point and then you very carefully say the right thing, which is you have to really sort of look at it and understand what it’s really telling you. Why one resonates, why one didn’t work. We tend to have a tendency to sort of rush and say, okay, that’s a data point. This one that didn’t work as well, we’re just never gonna do that again, because that must have been horrible. Now suppose these are the variables that were at play there, you always would rush to see causality where it doesn’t really exist as close as, as you said, there’s a correlation, but just not sure what it is.


Sonia Simone  20:17  

No, exactly. And we think that when we look at data, we’re being objective and making an objective decision. Oh, that didn’t work. And what we don’t see is just what you just said, which is we know it didn’t work, but we don’t know why we know, and so we imply the causality.


Andy Paul  20:40  

Correlation bias at work, right?


Sonia Simone  20:43  

Yeah, you know, that one didn’t work because it did that thing I hate.


Andy Paul  21:40  

And this whole issue of confirmation bias. Now, obviously, it’s a big one. If we say, yeah, this data fits what I always thought the answer was, which is sort of the central way we use it. So you also in that same article, get back to this question about art in the algorithm, which I loved was also describing ROI, sort of the  whole moment of interaction with the prospect you’re talking about, it’s the creative spark the unusual choice, the flair of personality, the moment of real human empathy and connection. And when I was reading those, I say, well, first of all, I’m gonna steal these and use these in my new book with attributes.


Sonia Simone  22:18  

But it sounds great.


Andy Paul  22:19  

Yeah, you’ve used your technology to and your mark tech and your sales tech to get to the point where you actually are in position now, to have that human to human interaction. I think those things you described, that’s really it, that’s where that whole art of selling still exists. That’s where the science of selling still exists. Those things are really important.


Sonia Simone  23:00  

That’s where I think the small to medium sized business and the entrepreneur, entrepreneur led business. That’s where we seize the advantage in content. Because a lot of big organizations have a very, very tough time, having the boldness to speak up that kind of voice. But entrepreneurs are nothing bold. And really all about empowering small companies or small organizations, or even skunk work, organizations in bigger companies, I’m really about empowering them to do human stuff and create bold kinds of statements. And usually when you see a big company that’s really responsive, that’s their ad agency talking. The big company is not that responsive.


Andy Paul  25:37  

Yeah, yeah. Well, that should be true throughout your career in general. Right. From if you’re mastering your craft, as you talk about, then new vistas unveil themselves.


Sonia Simone  26:14  

Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. That’s what makes it worth coming to work every day, and that’s what makes it worth doing the things that we do.


Andy Paul  26:25  

But I think a lot of people just don’t stop learning. 


Sonia Simone  26:58  

You know, they try to sell me a product type. It’s like yeah, my company’s a competitor so I’m not gonna buy products. We’ll share them and grow but I mean, they’re coming into these sales organizations where junior people are just being told, just do it.


Andy Paul  27:55  

What’s are though, some of the data serve isn’t always helping them because As you see some companies that that are trying to grow quickly, whatever and they said, okay, off, we send out, you know, make 500 contacts a day and we get, you know, one particular email campaign with certain subject line. Now it gets a certain response right then rather than saying, well, how do we use that to double the response rate on the 500 that send 1000 emails?


Sonia Simone  28:23  

Yeah, double the number you send 1000 1000 emails to the wrong people.


Andy Paul  28:27  

And yeah, I encourage people to read sales books, but I encourage them to read lots of other types of books too. And, and you had some interesting ideas you said, if you’re trying to develop your muscles for communication, so I studied poetry. I thought that was a very interesting amount of a huge poetry reader myself. 


Sonia Simone  29:22  

I think a tremendous number of sales professionals in particular, would love to go take an acting class, because it just those personality types tend to be very aligned. You know if you feel like you’re really super effective in terms of your written communication with your clients, take a poetry class and learn how to say something very compressed in one little metaphor or well chosen word. 


Andy Paul  34:42  

Great. Well, Sonia, thank you very much for taking the time.It’s really been a pleasure. And friends, thank you, as always for taking this time to spend with us today. Remember to make it part of your day, every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success and an easy way to do that. Make sure you join all my conversations. Top business experts like my guest today, Sonia Simone who shared her expertise on how to accelerate the growth of your business. So thanks again for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling everyone.