Interview with Robert Rose by Adam Fraser
This is a transcript of this podcast interview with Robert Rose
Adam: I’m delighted to welcome Robert Rose to the “EchoJunction” podcast. Robert currently serves as the chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute and is also a senior contributing analyst for the Digital Clarity Group. Robert has worked directly with companies such as Dell, SAP, Staples, Petco, KPMG, 3M, Adobe, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, helping all of them with developing smart and creative communicating strategies.
Together with Joe Pulizzi, Robert wrote the book “Managing Content Marketing,” which spent two weeks as the number one marketing book on Amazon. His second book, “Experiences,” is out literally any day now, and we’ll be talking about that. Robert is also a featured writer and speaker at technology and marketing events around the world, and cohosts the excellent “This Old Marketing Podcast,” which I am an avid listener. Robert, a big welcome to the “EchoJunction” podcast.
Robert: Well, thank you. It’s great to be here. I’m so excited to be actually in person with you, which is a rarity for me. So this is totally fun.
Adam: Correct, and this is my first face-to-face podcast interview. Everything else on Skype.
Robert: I feel honored about that as well.
Adam: So you’re in town for the Content Marketing World Sydney event?
Robert: We are indeed, yes. I am in town to both…I taught a workshop here. I had a Keynote this morning actually, and then tomorrow I have my one-hour session. And then, right from here, we go tramping off to Singapore to do the exact same thing for Content Marketing World Singapore.
Adam: Sounds great. But Robert, I’m sure many of the listeners will know a fair bit about you, but for those that don’t and those that maybe only know you from more recent times, can you tell us a little bit about your backstory and your career today?
Robert: Sure! I have been a marketer for…oh, boy, longer than I want to admit, maybe. I’m going on 20-plus years now as a marketing guy. So to more recently, I spent the last nine years running. I was a CMO, had a product and strategy for a startup software company.
And really what I discovered during that time…this was the early 2000s, now. I discovered that truly I was building a content marketing organization without even realizing it, so I was hiring people who could really communicate, journalists, and designers, and those sorts of things. And truly the idea was I could hire people who could really communicate well and that I would teach them marketing. I would teach them how to do email. I would teach them how to do SEO, and weirdly it worked.
And so eight-and-a-half years later, I’m out on the speaking circuit talking about my story, and the growth of this startup software company, and how it was doing really well, and all of those things. And I meet this guy, Joe Pulizzi, who’s basically doing the same, exact presentation as I am. Only he’s coming at it from the publishing side. So he came from the publishing side. I’m coming from the marketing practitioner’s side. And he and I had dinner and really said, “Hey, we should do something together.”
And I was looking at leading the startup company anyway, and so I left and went back to my love, which is consulting and advising companies on strategy related to marketing, and digital, and content. And I could do that through the conceit of the Content Marketing Institute as their chief strategy officer. I joined with Joe in 2008, and quite literally for the last five years, we’ve really been focused on advising companies on the process of content marketing, in other words, how to operationalize it in their business. Two, on teaching workshops on the same, so we do private and public workshops, and then speaking at events all around the world. We’re actively out there evangelizing the process of content marketing and writing a few books along the way.
Adam: Sure. Sounds good. That’s a great story.
But Robert, let’s start with sort of the 30,000-foot basics, if you like, and then we’ll delve deep into a few sub-issues.
Adam: Look. I hear the term content marketing obviously banded around often, I confess, occasionally with slightly…,
Robert: It’s got a little bit of buzz around it, yeah?
Adam: It’s got a bit of a buzz I have noticed, coming from the social media angle, but look. Sometimes it’s used in different context, and I have seen different definitions. I guess you guys are really the global authority on this area. What’s your definition of content marketing?
Robert: Sure. And I wouldn’t say…we certainly have a strong opinion on it, and we have an evangelical look at it. But I wouldn’t say that we’re the authority or the only authority on it. The way we look at it is that content marketing is an approach. It is a methodology. It is not separate from your marketing and advertising. It is not a separate tactic. It is not a campaign. It is an approach where we use content curated, created, combined, reused, all of that, using content in the business to really drive a profitable customer action.
Now, that’s a dictionary definition and probably overly formal, but really what it is, is how can we as marketers, as marketing evolves more broadly, create value with content? In other words, we’re really good, as marketers, at describing value. We can create headlines, features, benefits, all that stuff, and we know how to describe the value of the product or service that we’re marketing.
But we’re not as good at, and where the evolution of marketing is going, is creating separate and discreet value with content so that really you get value out of the content itself, regardless of whether you buy the product or service. But it makes the experience of buying that product or service differentiated, more competitive, and actually a richer experience for the customer. That’s the heart of content marketing, is how do we create content-driven experiences that make our customer interactions richer?
Adam: Okay. So Robert, I’m sure that, yeah, there’s a long and a short answer to this, but talk me through some use cases for why an enterprise in 2015 should be pursuing content marketing.
Robert: Well, the short answer to that is that it truly may be the only differentiator that’s left. As we look at the globalization and the disruption of digital, and what’s going on with everything from 3D printing, to the internet of things, to the disruption that we’re certainly seeing in industries like publishing, and music, and consumer packaged goods, and of course, manufacturing, and healthcare, and all of these different industries, the creation of value through content and the creation of an experience that really surrounds that may be really the only differentiation we have left.
And if you think about all of the businesses that are sort of disrupting traditional models, everything from Uber and Lyft that are disrupting the taxi business, to Airbnb, which is disrupting the travel and hotel business, to Zappos, which is disrupting the way we buy shoes, they’re not disrupting the transaction of what we’re doing. It’s still taking a car from A to B. It’s still staying in a place while you’re on vacation in a remote location. And it’s still buying a pair of shoes. It is the experience that is surrounding all of that, that is being changed, and that is what is truly changing and what is evolving. Marketing has to be at the center of that. Marketing has to be at the center of creating that experience, and content is really at the heart of those experiences.
And so in 2015, as I say maybe a little too cutely, not every company’s going to have a content marketing strategy, but every successful company will. And it is how we use content in the exponential quantities that we’re creating today because we are, regardless of what business you’re in, we’re creating exponentially more content than we did yesterday, and the last year, and the year before that. So it can either be this strategic asset that we use to differentiate the business, or it can be just a byproduct of what we do spewing out of the back of the company like some giant, Dr. Seuss machine or something, where it’s weighing us down, quite frankly. And I think the former is a much more interesting way to go forward with a business, and so to me, content really is one of the most strategic assets that we have, and quite frankly one of the strategies that will really drive us through into the future.
Adam: So Robert, put a bit of meat on the bone, perhaps, and possibly from Australia, but if not, from the USA, can you just run me through a couple of companies that you see doing this particularly well, and how they’re using content in their marketing?
Robert: Sure. So a US-centric company to start with, which is Kraft and what Kraft is doing, and they make mayonnaise, and cheese, and that sort of thing. The reason I’m such a huge fanboy of what they’re doing there, and as Julie Fleischer and her team, is because it’s not around the traditional value that we would think. Very often when we think content marketing, we think SEO, or we think lead generation, intent to buy. And those are great. Those are great strategies.
But the reason I like Kraft so much is it’s about two things. One is having a richer experience with their customers, and two, enhancing what they’re doing in a traditional marketing sense, so enhancing what they’re doing in programmatic ad buys, enhancing what they’re doing in their digital advertising for retargeting, and that sort of thing. By creating the platforms they’ve created, which is a print magazine called “Food & Family Magazine” and an online basically version of that, which is called KraftRecipes.com, they’ve created three million opt-in subscribers. So they actually have a bigger audience than any food television network in the US.
But it actually makes weird sense for it that the food TV network should advertise with Kraft, rather than the other way around. But then on top of that, those are people paying money for the magazine. You actually subscribe to the magazine and pay for it. Then they pay with data, their own personal data, to get access to the recipes, and then they use that data to actually drive more efficient advertising and to avoid paying research companies.
So every brand manager now goes, “You know what? I can look at the market for market research about what moms in Georgia, or what women in New York think, or what the Midwest thinks about mayonnaise. Or I can go to my own team, which has better first-party data on my consumer than anybody, and I can internally buy that.” So they’re creating value with this audience, and it’s a great example.
The one I would mention in Australia is what the Australian tourism board is doing. They’re just doing amazing things with content, especially on social, through Facebook and that sort of thing. They’re doing some amazing things there, I think, that are really wonderful.
Adam: Now, that’s great. And so with Kraft, the data on the inside is as important as…I’m sure it’s also directing sales, but…
Robert: Sure. And it’s one of those things that…what I’ve been saying lately is, when you look to the great examples of content marketing, one of the things that stands out is they didn’t come at it from a place of, “How do we take this really small part of the buyer’s journey and create content that maps to it?” They didn’t start that way.
They started with, “First, let’s create something great, something of value to our consumers, and build an audience. An audience is an asset. And once we build that asset that is called an audience, we’ll figure out the best way to monetize it.” And what they did was they really focused on building something great at Kraft, this “Food & Family Magazine” and this online, and built that audience asset with rich data associated with it, and then went, “What can we do with this? We can send them coupons. We can send them to events. Or we could actually use that rich data to better effect our programmatic ad buy, or we can do all of that.”
And now, right now, they’re getting the most value out of those, making their advertising more effective, but that audience asset is growing and more valuable by it’s an invested asset. That’s what I love so much about it is it has nothing to do with lead generation. It has everything about building an asset.
Adam: Yeah. So you’re building an asset on the balance sheet instead of expensing something on the P&L.
Robert: Exactly. Exactly.
Adam: So Robert, you mentioned, and it inevitably would come up, just the sheer volume of content that’s out there. You know content marketing’s been around, well, per your podcast, decades, if not hundreds of years.
Robert: Sure. Yeah.
Adam: But certainly the last, call it, five years, there’s been an enormous buzz in the space. There was an article, last year, on content shock, but there’s been various things written about just the sheer volume of content and cutting through. Firstly, it’d be interesting if you…are we in a state of content shock? And even ignoring whether we use that term, how can you cut through if all your competitors are also doing this?
Robert: Sure. And I’d like to ignore that term, by the way, yes, because I don’t believe it. My feeling on…so the idea of content shock and the idea that there’s more content out there than we can humanly consume, well, that’s been true since Gutenberg. So when we invented the printing press, there was more content than we could actually, physically consume in one lifetime. The New York Public Library, which is a very, very small percentage of content these days, there’s more books in there than you could ever consume in multiple lifetimes.
So what has happened is that, yes, the amount of content that has been put out there, the amount of data, is exponentially increasing. We all see the zettabytes, and the terabytes, and all of this stuff, yes. But technology’s keeping up, and it’s producing better filters, and so we as consumers are employing these better filters. Whether we call them social media platforms, or Google search, or whatever, we’re using better filters to understand about how content can find us, how the content that’s important to our lives finds us.
That doesn’t mean that we should give up as a brand. It means we have to get good at it. It means that it’s super-important now that we actually really get good at cutting through that and delivering value. That’s the interesting thing. As a brand, as a company, the difference I have between me and a media company is I don’t have to be big. I have to be remarkable to a very small percentage.
Because people always ask me this. “Well, how can we compete with guys getting kicked in the you-know-what, or cat videos, or those sorts of things?” Yeah, those go viral, and that’s big. They’re hugely popular, but the thing is you don’t have to be popular with everybody. You only need to be delivering value to a very, very small set of your customers, for a very specific amount of time. That’s the advantage that you have over a mass-media entity, is the ability for you to deliver discreet, focused value very, very specifically.
Because you don’t have to sell advertising. You don’t to get eyeballs. So you don’t have to be big. You just have to be remarkable, and that’s the mindset, anyway, of cutting through the noise.
Now, how do you actually do that? You got to be good at it. You got to create powerful, wonderful content experiences that either deliver great value through usefulness, as Jay Baer would say, “Youtility,” or great emotional impact, a great story, where you’re making somebody cry, or you’re making somebody laugh, or a combination thereof it. You got to get good at it.
Adam: Yeah. So that’s interesting. Maybe in the early days, as with anything, you can be a first mover and you get a first crack at it. And as, over time, everyone does it, it becomes something just like product, or price, or branding, it’s a competitive differentiator.
Robert: It’s a really good point because there are certain industries now where it’s going to be harder than others. So if you’re in real estate or automobiles, it’s really, really difficult for you to cut through all the noise right now. It’s a highly, highly, highly saturated market with content. Financial services is another one, or looking at SEO. Do yourself a non-favor someday and do a Google search for “SEO e-book,” and see how many results you get. It’s crazy the amount, and none of it’s differentiated from each other.
But there are other industries where the opportunities are wide open and rich, and where there’s nobody there yet. Now, that means a broad swathe of businesses that are sort of on that spectrum, and most people are in this middle where, yes, people have been talking about it. Our competitors have been doing stuff. There are conversations going on, but it’s probably not to a point of saturation yet.
The key in all of that is that how do you cut through that? How do we actually deliver something that is different from our competitors, different what’s being offered? And that’s where it gets hard. That’s where the creativity comes in. That’s where our strategy comes in, and it’s really about what can we deliver that’s different from what’s already out there?
Even if we’re basically working to pivot our business to align with that. I think of Red Bull, and Red Bull’s often held up as one of the standard bearers of content marketing. The reason I love what they do so much is because they’re completely aligned with their product, but the content that they deliver has such value to their audience, if the soft drink business goes bad for them tomorrow, they could sell anything.
They could sell sporting goods. They could sell skateboards. They could sell a fashion line. They could sell anything because their bond with content to their audience is so strong.
And that’s the real difference is that they’ve figured out how to cut through with media and then match the company to make…Lego is a great example of this. When “Lego Movie” came out, what they told Hollywood was, they said, “Don’t worry about looking at our toys and figuring out how to make a movie. Make the movie you want to make, and we’ll make the toys to match.” And that’s the difference. It’s not changing content to suit marketing’s purpose. It’s changing marketing to suit a content purpose, and that’s the difference.
Adam: Yeah. And look, no one said it was superficial, easy, and quick.
Robert: Yeah, nobody told me it was going to be easy, right? Nobody told me there would be math on this test either, right?
Adam: And if it’s worthwhile, needs some strategic planning, and some hard yacker, and commitment to the process.
Robert: It absolutely does, yeah. This is the real key.
Adam: And look, Robert, just a final question before we segue to a slightly different topic. Coming from the social media side of things, obviously content marketing’s very much in my universe.
Adam: But I live in a world of, “What’s the ROI of social?” And yes, it is still talked about all the time.
Robert: Yeah. Have you found one yet?
Adam: That’s a subject for a whole, other podcast. I’m assuming Joe, and yourself, and other practitioners live in a similar “What’s the ROI of content marketing?”
Adam: What’s your thoughts on how you approach that? Does it change industry-by-industry, client-by-client? Or do you have some sort of overarching framework in there?
Robert: Well, the first thing I always want to ask about ROI is what are we really asking? What is it that we’re really asking? Because ROI is, itself, a buzzword that gets overused and misused. Because often, what we’re asking for when we ask for ROI is, “What is the business case?” Because anybody who asks for you to give them a return on investment number as a prerequisite to doing something innovative and new is asking an unfair question. Because if I knew, a priori, what my business was going to do from a return on investment, I certainly wouldn’t be here talking with you right now. I would be on a beach somewhere, a multi-multi-billionaire.
A business case is what is really getting asked for in that case. It’s what is the best bet we can make on this new and innovative thing that’s going to help us determine…? A return on investment, a ROI, is a result, not a prerequisite. It is what we measure after we’ve done the thing. So once we determine what the right question is, are we asking, “What is your expected return on this investment?” Or, “What is your business case for doing it in the first place?” And so those are very two different things.
If we’re asking the latter, in other words, “What is your expected return on the investment?” What I say is, “You can map that. And we can look at that if we look at content not as a campaign, not as a piece of advertising, not as something that we’re going to invest in only for the campaign purpose, but rather as a product.” Because if you’re asking me truly an ROI, “What is my return on my investment?” My investment is as content platform as a product.
What is this content platform going to do for the business over time? So using the Kraft example, I would look at the print platform, and I would look at the paid subscription. And I would look at the online platform, and I would assume numbers of subscribers over time. And I would say, “This is going to be monetized in these ways,” and this might produces this, and this might produces that. Here’s how much we’re expecting to spend,” and you can build a business plan.
The problem is that what we’re doing is we’re building traditional marketing campaign types of arguments to do something where should actually be making an entire business plan case. That’s the difference, and so when I get asked the question, it’s like, “Well, first, let’s figure out the right question, and then let’s make a case, a business case, for what we’re really trying to do here.”
Adam: And look, Robert, you mentioned for five, six years, you’ve been in the space, you’ve consulted with a lot of larger enterprises. Is it getting easier to get this concept over the line, versus, say, five years ago, and it was seen as a new, shiny thing? Or are you still finding difficulty getting funding allocated to content marketing?
Robert: It’s a little of both. It’s a little of both. What I’m finding now is that making the case for doing something is much easier because so many are doing it. The measurement piece is still elusive. There’s no doubt about it. It is one of those things where focusing on what it is we’re actually going to measure to understand if we’re successful is an elusive thing for most organizations.
Because quite frankly, measurement is broken much more broadly. Content marketing isn’t the only aspect of marketing that suffers from a measurement problem, right?
Adam: Yeah, that’s right.
Robert: Marketing, and advertising, and everything suffers from a measurement challenge, so there’s that. The challenge these days is really what has changed over the last, call it, five years is that the change has really been in, “How do we scale this thing?” In most cases, what has happened is a social team, a demand-generation team, has tried something. They went out and built a prototype, or a beta project, or they’re working on something.
And it worked to some extent, and they’re now going, “Okay, great. We have this thing, but we don’t quite know how to scale it across the rest of the company. Should we make it part of the international strategy? Should we make it part of the PR strategy? Should we make it part of the demand-…? We have this wonderful blog, and it’s starting to work. But what should we do with it? How do we scale this idea across?”
That, to me, is where I’m seeing, in the advisory work we’re doing, is the most prevalent challenge right now. “It’s working, but now, how do we scale it?”
Adam: Yeah. So the trite answer of, “What’s the ROI of billboards, or TV, or radio?” Doesn’t go down so well?
Robert: Well, one of the things I often ask somebody who starts asking me about the ROI thing is I’ll say, “It’s a really interesting question you ask.” And then I’ll say, “So when a sales guy has a bad phone call, and the phone call goes completely bad and didn’t close the sale, you don’t blame phone. You don’t ask what the ROI on phone is. It’s the guy on the phone, the message he’s delivering.”
So when was the last time you did an ROI study on phone? Or when was the last time you did an ROI study on email? When was the last time you did an ROI study on marketing, even, in general? You never do. Nobody does those things.
It’s only in the new, innovative thing that we start asking about this ROI question because what people want is safety. They want to feel like this thing they’re going to do is going to be successful. And guess what. It might not. It’s new. It’s inherently innovative, so it inherently has risk associated with it. What you’re trying to do is mitigate as much of that risk as you can.
Adam: Sure. Good stuff, Robert. Look, I want to just segue a little bit into some broader media stuff. Then I do want to get onto your pending book experiences.
So looking to the media landscape more generally…and the intro to this question could be 10 minutes on its own, but I’ll try and keep it down to a minute and just fire out a few things about, you know, traditional print is in severe decline. TV and radio are in decline. Native advertising’s growing. Streaming video is growing, with Netflix, and YouTube, podcasting.
Brands are becoming publishers on their own media platform. We’ve got disintermediation just across the board. Robert, we’re all looking at the media landscape going, “Help. What is going on?” It’s almost too fast-moving, too ever-changing. How do you observe or paint the picture of what’s going on in media today?
Robert: Well, I’m just as lost as everybody else is. Let’s be clear about that.
Adam: Okay, that’s good to hear!
Robert: So yeah, right. This is an exploration…in fact, in my Keynote this morning, I was saying, “This is exactly it. This is an exploration for all of us. We’re all going through this together.”
To me…there’s an ancient Chinese saying actually, which defines crisis, and crisis is change. And they define crisis as an opportunity riding the dangerous wind, which is how I look at it. So we are in dangerous times right now, where a mistake, a big mistake, can sink us, but it is a huge opportunity. The opportunities that are put in place for businesses right now, with this fundamental shift in the way that consumers consume content, the way that we buy, the way that we become loyal to brands, and what’s going on right now, is hugely opportunistic for both big and small businesses, those that are disrupting the space and those that are themselves being disrupted. There’s huge opportunity there.
So the answer to your question is that, as best I can, my advice, what I try and do is really stay as adaptive as possible. And so part of that, of course, is reorganizing our marketing teams to be much more organic and fluid than they have been. We have spent the last 15 years building hierarchical departments, evermore boxes in the org chart that really focus on platforms and technologies, and instead, we have to rethink that. We will never scale that way, and it’s too slow.
Instead we have to think of a very flat organization where marketing managers and marketing people are together as teams, and come and go. Because the platforms are going to come and go. The different ways that we use content are going to come and go. Tomorrow’s blog has to be like yesterday’s media buy. We have to be able to stand up a blog, see how it’s doing, invest in it, and if it doesn’t work, pull it down. And people will be upset, but that’s the way it is.
Nobody gets fired when we change out our media buy from NBC to ABC. We change our strategy of where we’re placing our bets in terms of how we get in front of our audiences and build our audiences. Instead now, we have this sort of proprietary nature of teams, social teams, and email teams, and web teams, and PR teams.
And when we pull money out of those things, feelings get hurt, people get fired, and it doesn’t work. Instead, let’s hire talented people and then adapt the marketing organization fluidly to all the different channels we’re all going to have to be on. And that’s that the real difference.
So it’s a hard thing. It’s easier for me to sit here and say that, and it’s a harder thing to do. But I think that’s the future of the marketing organization.
Adam: And look, that’s a nice segue to something else I wanted to cover with you, Robert, is about how enterprises are attacking this from an org-structure perspective, with obviously the internet or digital at the root cause of a lot of this fragmentation and disintermediation, marketing, IT, CMO, CIO. What are you observing in your…because obviously, even in the content niche, there’s a big technology layer to that.
Adam: People talk about, “Is this a happy marriage between CMO’s and CIO’s?”
Robert: Rarely. Yeah, rarely. Most of the time, they’re together for the kids. I rarely see it…I’m seeing it increasingly so, so I think there’s a great light at the end of the tunnel here.
The interesting thing is I’m starting to see a merging of those concepts. So we were talking earlier about the lovely Scott Brinker and the marketing technologist idea. That, I think, is a very, very good idea, and it’s one that I’m starting to see really pay dividends for companies that are employing it. We’re also seeing things like where marketing and IT, or marketing and technology where IT is more traditional IT and they’ve got a technology group focused on the differentiating technology if you will. In any event, technology and marketing coming together as one in a more innovation-driven organization.
So what comes leaping to mind is what Eduardo Conrado, who is now the head of innovation for Motorola solutions, now joined up his…he used to be CMO and CIO. And so he’s now joined those two things together. His title is now Chief Innovation Officer, but those two groups are coming together under him where he’s joining marketing, and technology, and sales together into one, integrated group. And that’s the kind of innovation that we’re seeing happen where the org structure itself, whether it’s a smaller company that is flattening their marketing organization and letting it adapt to all the things that it needs to adapt, like we just talked about, or a larger organization which is looking at aligning the CIOs remit and the CMOs remit into a technology-driven, experiential strategy to drive innovation, and add value and richer experiences to customers’ lives.
But those are all easy words to say, and cute, and tweet-able, and all of that, but what’s really happening is it’s very, very hard. Cultural differences are tough. Politics are tough. Old ways of doing businesses are tough. And bigger businesses are really struggling through this because it’s a new way to look at things. And it’s very difficult to move that large ship quickly, and this is why there’s such a disruption now with smaller organizations which quite frankly don’t have the baggage that the older, bigger, more well-established companies have.
Adam: And you mentioned Scott Brinker and the infographic with 2000 tools. It’s widely discussed at conferences like this.
Adam: In terms of content marketing as a niche within that, what are some of the key trends from the software-applicational platform level you’re seeing? Who are the key players? What functionality’s in play? Is there M&A? Is there convergence?
Robert: Yeah. Well, and Scott and I actually had a fun talk about this. He laughed when I said what I’m about to say, which is I don’t actually believe in content marketing technology. I don’t believe there’s a segment of it.
And why I say that is because, really if you think about it, any piece of technology that takes an input from a human and output comes content, could be content marketing technology. So Microsoft Word is a content marketing technology. So is Excel, and PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Flash, and Adobe. We think marketing technology as a very specific thing, but it’s not. It’s a very broad, broad, broad, broad brush. And most of that is because content marketing should be infused, as we always say, into the broader marketing strategy.
Now, having said that, there are a group of disruptive companies that are coming in, that help fill the gaps that traditional technology companies aren’t filling. So web content management companies, for a reason that escapes me completely, have not filled the gap of collaboration and editorial calendaring. So a whole group of companies have come in to fill that niche very well, in fact. Marketing.ai, and DivvyHQ, and Compost, and these companies are filling that gap very well.
And there are others too, so content distribution and syndication. We look at content promotion. The Outbrains and Taboolas of the world, discovery platforms, these are content marketing problems that are being solved, that could be solved with other traditional technologies, but are currently being solved by disruptive companies that are coming in and taking the place, in some cases, of those technologies that have already existed for some time. I suspect over time, we will see a flattening of those things and a merging of those things, where a few of those technologies may end up becoming more like traditional technologies, but more to the point, will be traditional technology marketing stack technologies taking in the smaller disruptive companies and adding them to their suite of solutions.
And you’re already starting to see it, Oracle buying Eloqua, and those kinds of things, and Adobe’s on an acquisition spree. So is Salesforce. These large enterprise companies are buying up these smaller, niche players to fill the gaps they don’t have.
Adam: Okay. Interesting. That’s good stuff, Robert. Look, we’ve talked about content marketing at a sort of macro-industry level. We’ve talked about some of the media trends, and CMO, CIO, the way enterprises are approaching the current challenge of this fast-changing space. I want to move to the final part of the interview, if I can, to your book experiences.
Adam: I guess fast-forward to all to of the above. I’m a CMO in 2015. Robert, what do I do? And is that the focus of what your book is?
Robert: It is. So read the book. That would be my first suggestion…
Adam: I will. I will.
Robert: …to the CMOs looking for what to do. And I say that too cutely, but the book is separated into two halves. The first hopefully is an argument, a contention, if you will, that Carl and I make about how marketing and why marketing needs to become a much more strategic process in the business. Our experience, and really the thrust of the book comes from the hundreds of engagements, advisories, workshops that I’ve done with enterprise-level companies and the challenges that they’re having.
And really, in many cases over the last 15 years, marketing has really lost its credibility in the space, from a strategic perspective, and I think it’s time that marketing has to claim that strategic seat at the table. So what Carl and I contend in the first half of the book is, “Here’s why marketing needs to become the differentiation, the strategic differentiation in the business.” We make a bit of an argument for that.
The second half of the book really starts with this methodology because content managing is a well-understood process. How we manage content…it’s not very well-executed, by the way, but it’s a well-understood process. What’s not as well-understood in most enterprises is how to create a scalable, repeatable process for the creation of content, why we should be creating it in the first place, how we should be creating it cohesively, holistically. And then how do we actually transform that creation of content into something that can be managed via technology and measured, ultimately?
We call that content creation management, and as we say, it’s a set of better practices, not best practices. Because they’re not best, not yet. And so hopefully that methodology, which includes the entire second half of the book, is something that a CMO can get their arms around and say, “This is the way I can reorganize my marketing team to focus on content as a function rather than as campaign-minded, and evolve into what we believe the new era of marketing really is.”
Adam: So we’ve got the why and the how in the same book.
Robert: Hopefully. Yeah, that’s they idea.
Adam: So the title of the book, Robert, is “Experiences.” There’s a chapter called “Story Mapping,” and you talk about content-driven experiences. Talk me through what that looks like.
Robert: You’re the first guy to actually ask that. I’m so happy about that.
Yeah, so story mapping is a concept that I’ve been working on for some time with clients. And when we think of content platforms as a product, as we were just discussing, the idea of developing those things looks very similar to a product-development process instead of a campaign-creation process. The campaign-creation process is well-understood by the marketing organization. We know how to create an advertising campaign and then spew it out over as many channels as we need to spew it out, and we know how to measure it. We know how to use tools to do it. We know what that looks like.
Developing a content product is a relatively new idea for most marketing organizations. And so the story mapping process is really this idea of both developing a plan for how we’re going to actually create this content platform, what it looks like, what the product of it looks like, the measurement of it, mapping it out, and then the how. How are we actually going to execute this thing over time, and what do the goals along those different intervals look like? And building out a product plan for looking at a content platform over time, and that’s what story mapping is at a high level.
And then it breaks down into understanding our narrative, what we’re trying to deliver, value and utility, or emotionality, or something like that, and then also with that, a measurement plan, and then also technology, execution plan, a project management. All those things encompass the story mapping process, and then what we do is we lay out how you actually do that, step-by-step.
Adam: Across the whole buyer journey from traditionally-called top-of-funnel awareness, right through to retaining existing…?
Robert: Yeah, so the way we look at it is that you’re creating a platform for one element of that buyer’s journey. So you’re creating that blog, or that print magazine, or that webinar series, or that white paper series, and what you’re creating now is you’re not creating one white paper as a campaign and then saying, “Forget about it.” You’re creating a white paper and a thought leadership series that itself will become a center of gravity, a platform by which you then promote and create traffic to, and subscribers to, and build that audience asset on.
Whether it takes the expression of a print magazine, or a blog, or a website, or a microsite, or an email newsletter, or whatever expression it takes, that’s the story that needs to be mapped and the execution that needs to get mapped. That story map might apply only at the awareness level, or it might apply only at the loyalty level. Or it might apply only at the lead generation level. Or to your point, it might be something that we create that encompasses the entirety of the journey.
I think of HubSpot, what HubSpot does with their content program is really, quite frankly, the entirety of the journey, from being found, to being nurtured, to their loyalty event. All of it is focused on the same kind of content, and they manage as one execution in a portfolio.
Adam: Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. And Robert, in the book, you elaborate again. You’ve got a section on the difference’s favorite topic, B to C versus B to B, to whole new universes. But in all seriousness, from a content marketing perspective and from the book’s perspective, how do you differentiate between those two, and what are some of the key differences between approach there?
Robert: And they are different, and that’s the thing is that you see a lot of pundits out there saying, “Well, B to B and B to C are all the same because we’re selling to humans.” And it’s like, “Well, yes, okay. We’re all selling to humans, thank you very much. We’re not selling to dogs, or parrots, or anything like that.”
So the difference, and there is a big difference, is in the structure, the team, the process, the strategy. All those things are very, very different in a B to B versus B to C organization. B to B, very typical, long sales cycle, multi-touch-points, decision by committee, all these things, low number of salespeople, very intimate in terms of the way that the touch has happened, especially lower in the funnel, all those things very commonly understood in B to B.
B to C, on the other hand, tends to be more transactional, faster, much less of a committee decision, and also happens to depend very much on other people that are not related to sales. Store associates, the experience that they have in a retail channel, the experience they have with a distributor, and online shopping cart experience, those are things that also have to be addressed in the story of a B to C process that don’t have to be addressed in B to B. And so those things are marked in the way that we approach content as a function in the business and are very, very different when we look at them as a strategy.
Adam: Yeah. Interesting. Robert, want to be respectful of your time, so just got a few more minutes. Final question on the book. What key take-outs would you want to leave marketers with after they read the book?
Robert: I think there are three, and I think the first one is that there’s no doubt that marketing as a process is evolving. And as we look to that evolution more broadly, regardless of whether you think content is going to be the change agent within that, or if you think that something else is change, we have to evolve the process of marketing, regardless of whether you believe we’re moving into a new era or not. The writing on the wall is clear, and hopefully the book provides a bit of a roadmap for how you can affect that change.
Two is that if you believe the change is real, what we’re doing is we’re building platforms that will just basically add value or create value that is separate and discreet from the product that we’re selling. That is a huge piece of what marketing’s remit is these days. And even if you don’t believe that marketing can go all the way to be a profit center for the business, which is a whole other book, by the way, and one I’m actually very passionate about, how marketing can actually be the profit center and not just a cost center in the business. But even if you don’t go that far, marketing’s remit, we know now, is developing much, much, much deeper into the customer experience, into customer service, and loyalty, and upselling across. So where marketing used to be, “Pour leads into the funnel and then stop,” our remit is much more expanded. And so the idea of marketing as a whole needs to change.
And then finally what I guess I would say is that if you can come away with the idea that marketing can and should have a much more strategic seat at the table, that is a huge takeaway. So regardless of whether you believe content is the center, whether you believe that there’s an evolution going on or whether your business is doing well, and all of that, marketing must become the strategic differentiation in what we do as a business. If it doesn’t, if you continue to rely on our ability to sell, persuade, and basically be persuasive through multi-touch phone calls, multi-touch emails, and the idea of a really convincing sales guy, you’re going to lose. And so I’m hoping that the big takeaway there is marketing must become the strategic differentiator and the strategic piece of what we do as a business. And if it doesn’t, we will fail.
Adam: Yeah. So the days 20 years ago, blasting out reach and frequency, 30-second slots…
Robert: Over. It’s over. And that’s the thing is that…and when I say it’s over, it doesn’t mean it’s like you still don’t see it. You turn on the television, you can’t avoid reach and frequency. And I don’t mean to suggest that television is dead, or radio is dead, or print is dead, or any of those things are dead. But the nature, to your point earlier about the mass confusion in the media, is the nature of all those things is fundamentally changing. And so the approach of how we do advertising, and printing, and all of those things are going to change along with it.
Adam: Right. Look, Robert, thanks so much for your time. We’d like to end the EchoJunction podcast on a bit of a lighter note.
Robert: Okay. Good. I like that.
Adam: Are you all set for the quick fire round?
Robert: Oh, yeah! Hit me with it.
Adam: I hope, on the plane over here, you were, thinking extensively about these questions.
Adam: So question one. “Robert Rose, if you could only use one social network for any purpose in the next 30 days, which would it be, and why?”
Robert: LinkedIn, and it’s because I get the most value out of that platform of all of them. I like Twitter very much as well, but from a professional standpoint, LinkedIn is my choice.
Adam: Okay. Makes sense. Question two, “What is the most influential and impactful business book you’ve ever read?”
Robert: There’s two. One is a book called “Different,” by Youngme Moon. She’s a Harvard business professor. It’s probably the best business book I’ve read in 10 years. The other one is one that I’ve just reread for the second time, which is “The End of Competitive Advantage,” by Rita Gunther McGrath.
Robert: Those are my two favorite business books for the last 10 years.
Adam: Interesting. I’ll make sure we link those up in the share notes. And finally, on a less-than-serious note, “Robert, you’re heading to a desert island. I will give you food and water.”
Robert: Thank you.
Adam: “But in addition to that, what three items would you take with? And would a book by Joe Pulizzi be one of them?”
Robert: It would not, actually. No, it would certainly not. I would take my music collection. I would take probably, if I was allowed, my collection of Shakespeare. I’m an English lit grad, by the way, so my collection of…if I was allowed more than one book, I would certainly take my collection of Shakespeare. And I would take my wife.
Adam: That sounds like a great package. Robert, it’s been an absolutely pleasure having you on. I really appreciate your time. Tell our listeners a little bit about “Experiences” and where they can find that, and also where they might find you online to learn a bit more about what you’re doing.
Robert: Sure, thank you for that. So to learn more about me, it’s very simple. It’s RobertRose.net. And the book is at 7thEraofMarketing.com, which can be spelled 7-T-H or seventh, spelled all the way out. We were smart enough about our URLs there, so 7thEraofMarketing.com. And of course, there are links there to buy the book and all that kind of stuff, and all of my contact information will be there as well.
Adam: And we’re recording this March 17. So this podcast will go out in, call it, two or three weeks. The book will be out by then.
Robert: It’ll be all out. It’ll be ready to rock and roll.
Adam: Robert, thanks so much for your time.
Robert: Thank you very much for yours.
Adam: There we go, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Robert Rose. I hope you enjoyed that. As I said at the outset, I certainly took a lot out of it. He ran a little bit longer than I normally do these interviews, which is rather forty-minute-mark, but it doesn’t have to be set in stone at that exact length. But I think you can hear with the quality of the insight from Robert why I ran it a little bit longer and frankly could have gone on longer again still. But very grateful to Robert for meeting face-to-face and being on the podcast, and hope you enjoyed it.
Here are the show notes for this interview with Robert Rose