On Episode 67 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with Ed Alexander of Fanfoundry.com, about how blog articles and video can help with content marketing.
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Search Engine Optimization: Getting on Page One
Moz: SEO Software, Tools & Resources for Smarter Marketing
Watch Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays on YouTube Here
Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays on Moz.com
What Does It Mean to “Write for SEO” in 2018? – Whiteboard Friday
19 Fascinating Statistics That Make the Case for Using Visual Content in Your Marketing
How to Improve Your Blog Posts With YouTube Videos
CRM 101: What is CRM?
Zoho – The CRM that Ed Alexander Uses
The MarTec Conference
How Content Marketing Sells Products
Finding Blog Articles Ideas To Help Your Customers
Videos: Are They Beneficial?
Are Videos Always a Good Idea?
Blog Article or Video? Which One?
What is CRM?
The Goal of CRM
Implementing CRM In Your Business
Content Marketing: Blog Articles Verses Video
How Content Marketing Sells Products
Ed: There are many audiences who might be part of the buying process. Even in a small purchase, there may be more than one person involved. Using snowshoes, for example, you may be a parent looking for snowshoes for a son or daughter or for a spouse for a Christmas present. They may have other sensibilities that feed into it. They might not like the look and feel. They might not like the color. It happens to be uncomfortable. Right?
Paul: And how does content marketing address that?
Ed: Well, I used snowshoes as an example, but I’m getting into a broader topic, and the topic is buyers. What’s the buyer’s journey like? How many people are involved in the buying decision? What’s the persona of the buyer? We’ve all heard the phrase by now, “buyer persona.” How many different buyer personas do you need to consider when putting together the total argument about why you’re the next right, best place to buy from?
Maybe the person who, in the case of the personal injury lawyer — right? — the lineman who suffered the electrocution could be married with kids. Their spouse may care about how much downtime and what kind of treatment they get. The’re part of the discussion jointly about how to hire a personal injury lawyer. How you treat every person who is part of the buying process matters now.
Paul: How do you discern which person is there? The person that’s coming up to the… If you’re in a store, you can assess them. You can look at them and know some things about them. But do we have the tools to assess them electronically? Or is it just they’ve arrive here. We do know why they’re here because we hope that they’re clicking on a link that they mentally thought was relevant to their search. You’d mentioned earlier about trees. So if I’m a botanist, and I type in “trees,” and I get a thing about binary tree sort order for programmers, and I click on that because I don’t filter it, and I get to that, and it’s wrong, how does content marketing deal with that, sort of that, people coming to the wrong site, or me assuming they’re a different person than they are — like, I’m buying it for my son as opposed to buying it for me?
Ed: Great question. I’m going to use the personal injury lawyer as an example. Since you led with that, let’s carry the metaphor forward a little bit. I’m the personal injury lawyer. And the personal injury client, ultimately, is the person who has been injured. But there are many other people involved. It’s satellite people — family members, neighbors, doctors, etc. That’s a whole bag of content marketing, for authoritative content waiting to happen.
Paul: Are you sort of saying, “If your spouse has been injured…”? Is that the new article?
Ed: Yes, sure.
Paul: Or, “Buying snowshoes for your kids?”
Ed: Exactly right. Whether it’s snowshoes for your kids or a personal injury lawyer for your spouse, think about the article opportunity there. If I’m the personal injury lawyer, and I detected there’s some maybe common or not-so-common-but-important things that are germane to the discussion in the legal case, I may have to prepare my client and all the significant ones around them for what’s to happen next so that they’re prepared, so they’re comfortable with the next steps of the process, and so everybody can know what to expect, and they’re not buying a black bag of results.
Carrying forward for a second, let’s just say I’m the electrocuted lineman, and I’m out of work. It’s probably stressful around the house if I’ve got a spouse and two kids. Okay, what are some others things that happened when a person who’s home and out of work for a while might, might affect things, might upset the apple cart, might be worth considering? Well that’s a whole of the side conversation that’s probably worth having. And I may not be the authority on that subject, but maybe I should link to it.
Paul: Yeah, good idea.
Ed: Maybe a social worker or a psychologist or a service individual who knows how to handle those family dynamics and helps people be prepared for them. It gives them things to think about.
Or, for example, if I’m the injured party, and I’m doing the search, that’s great. But what if I’m the spouse? And there’s a sidebar that says, article, “If your spouse is the injured one, what changes have you noticed?” And then the interrogatory about, okay, has this person had ringing in their ears? Have they had difficulty sleeping? Is there…? I’m just supposing. Right? But there may be things that are worth considering, saying, hey, this is normal. Expect it, and here’s how to handle it. Help deal with the total situation, not just the purchase.
Paul: So you’re really saying consider your primary audience, create content for them, but think about your secondary and tertiary audiences that are around those people. That’s a brilliant idea.
Ed: There’s a lot of content opportunity for a person injury lawyer who specializes in electrocutions.
Paul: Right. Yeah, I can see that now as I’m thinking about just different websites and being able to write a blog post about how does this effect this person or how does this, just the simple snowshoe analogy — buying snowshoes for your kids is very different than buying your own snowshoes. Here’s how you size them. Here’s how you do that.
Finding Blog Articles Ideas To Help Your Customers
Ed: Sure. Let’s talk about snowshoes, and let’s talk about other related content for the snowshoe-buying universe. Maybe it’s not worth your time as a retailer to be repairing those snowshoes. It costs too much. People get frustrated. “Gosh, it’s half the purchase of the snowshoes just to get the things running again.” There are do-it-yourself tips you can give people to either keep them maintained or to find replacements or to make a replacement. What if you were in the woods, and you needed to fix your snowshoe in the woods? Can you offer helpful tips on how to stay safe and be able to get back home again in a snowstorm when one shoe—
Paul: Drone delivery of snowshoe repair kits. I got it. That’s it.
Ed: Using zip GIS. Right? No, but maybe a shoelace or other piece of garment or a particular kind of branch from a tree can serve as a lace. What can you help people do to continue to enjoy life and enjoy their product and enjoy your service? What else is there out there knowledge-wise that will help people out? Why not be that — I hate to use the word “total” but — more comprehensive source of value to your buyer beyond the purchase?
Paul: Yeah, and then they would come away from that saying, “Well that was really beneficial, useful.”
Ed: Who am I (the customer) going to recommend next? Think, think, think. How about the ones who really take care of me?
Paul: Cool. Are there any more things like peripheral consumers or peripheral people around the primary target?
Ed: Well, there’s the person who approves the purchase. Right? Whatever her name is. Not the man. It’s usually the woman who’s writing the checks. Right? Sorry, guys. There is the other person who has to understand how the product works — the person who is going to wear it. Right? Or the person who is going to take care of the kids while they’re wearing it. And then there’s the person who actually, absolutely has to make it work. Right? There are all different parties to the decision about how that snowshoe is going to fit and which snowshoe they’re going to buy. They all need their questions answered. Those are all different buyer personas. Each person has a different content need. Serving them all with great quality and authoritative content helps improve that latent semantic indexing we talked about earlier.
Paul: Right exactly.
Ed: Kind of brings it all back. Hey, if you need to find a replacement buckle for your snowshoe in the woods, how many times has a person searched on that from their phone in the woods? Maybe only once, but if you’re the one…
Paul: Exactly, you need that answer.
Ed: You ranked to the top.
Videos: Are They Beneficial?
Paul: Wow. So what other aspects of content marketing are sort of unique or not obvious at the onset?
Ed: Well, geez. There’s the different stages of buying, I mean, if the person is just thinking about buying snowshoes, what kind awareness building can you do? Right? Some of it is just awareness building. Just be aware that we’re out there. We’re friendly neighborhood in your North Shore of Massachusetts sporting goods store.
Paul: Well I gotta think that video would be huge in this. Well, actually in both analogies both the attorney — let me meet you, hear how you talk and get a sense of who you are, see if I think we’re compatible. I like you, or do I not? I don’t know you. And, you know, do I hear you, and I hear you’re really tough? Well that’s good because you’re going to be working for me, and I want somebody that’s tough.
On the snowshoes, well, here it is. Here’s how you put it on. Here’s how you size it. Here’s all these different things. So video is, I think, a huge value in content marketing.
Ed: I can’t talk about snowshoes, but I can talk about refrigerators. I’ve learned how to fix parts of my refrigerator that I thought I’d have to have the appliance person and make a call and be without frozen goods for a few days. Learned to fix it myself.
Ed: Five dollar purchase. A replacement part.
Paul: So how did you learn that?
Paul: YouTube. Okay.
Ed: How to fix this commonly breaking part in your refrigerator.
Ed: Love it. And I have a toolbox. I can’t say I’m handy with it, but I know I can find a YouTube video that tells me how to use each tool.
Paul: There you go.
Ed: For things they weren’t intended for.
Paul: Right. Exactly, exactly. So that, that’s a good point. Would you say that if you’re the snowshoe guy, you own the snowshoe store, would you just link to an existing YouTube video or is it not even worth doing that? Just make your own video. What if you can’t make your own video?
Ed: If there’s a better example than you can make yourself, link to it and help the customer. At some measure, however, if you’re sending customers away because they’re buying from another linked vendor on that same YouTube video, then you’re driving customers away. You have to be aware of that.
If you find that that YouTube video is a, certainly, a come on to draw somebody into a competing retailer in the same town, again, location being the driver, then that’s a problem. You probably need to have your own. If the retail video is produced by a retailer who is across the world or across the country, it’s not going to drive people away from your store. It will just be helped by the video. So think of location. Think of the factors and whether it’s better to buy it based on the benefit the person gets and how likely you’ll see a sale.
Are Videos Always a Good Idea?
Paul: What about in the more professional, like the attorney? Do you think video is a good idea there?
Ed: It can be if the attorney is adept in front of a camera. Nothing worth doing well is going to happen without some practice. If I was that attorney, I’d recommend they do some rehearsal, do some practice, do a lot of outtakes, get really comfortable with it. Not to the point where you’re so professional that you sound like a televangelist. But you’ve got to at least get some level of facility with doing video so that you can be comfortable and focus on the topic and focus on the needs of your client.
Paul: Okay but now that sounds like somewhat tentative. On a scale of one to ten, how important would video be? Is it like an eight, nine, or is it like a three for the attorney? So in other words, you’re saying that yes, if they decide to do it, they’ve got to practice. They’ve got to do it well, and they’ve got to not sound like it’s before read from a script. We want people to get to know the attorneys so that, so that you’re closer to the sale journey. You know, you’re further in the journey. But would you say do that or not?
Ed: Oh, I see your question. Okay, the existential question. Should I do it or not? Might be a competitive practice question. Does every good attorney in the world do video and has that helped them win customers?
Paul: I don’t know that they do, but I’ve got to think if I’m looking for an attorney, it’s the star power. You see somebody on TV, and it’s like, “I want that person.” Well, so we get to meet people. Or you can say, “Gee, I really don’t like them, and I’m not going to waste their time.”
Ed: Perhaps and perhaps not. You gave the example, and it’s worthwhile that you did that, Paul, using the example of the attorney who advertises on TV. Simply because we see that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s helpful. What else runs through the mind of a buyer when they see someone selling their services on TV? Hmmm, worked into that fee is also the cost of video production because airtime on TV is not cheap. Do I need to pay to pad this person’s video expense? Where is my fee going? Who’s really injured here?
Paul: Right, right. Exactly.
Ed: Who’s got to suffer the damages? That’s part of the equation. It runs through my mind. People form an impression.
Paul: Absolutely, I think you’re right. If I were to advertise on TV, that’s a little bit crass. You know, it’s like “We’ll take care of you.” You know, the all offices of what and what.
Ed: That’s well-staged and rehearsed and professional. But just a YouTube video on your own website… Let’s just bring it back down and get real with it.
Paul: Yeah, here. I’m here. I work for people just like you. I’ve been in business for 18 years. I’ve got two kids, etc., etc. I’m not talking about the smarmy sort of…not even smarmy but an advertisement. I’m talking about a get to know who I am.
Blog Article or Video? Which One?
Or even if you’re an expert on some topic, is it better to do the video or is it better to do an article?
Ed: Think about the information need. If the video is the one and only or the absolute best way to convey the information, do video. If an article will suffice, then do the article. If there’s something you can’t do in an article that only a video will do, then you think about video. What’s the most practical way to convey the value.
Ed: I’ll give you an example and this has nothing to do with legal, it has to do with my business, our business that we’re both in together. And that is Search Engine Optimization, right? The overarching topic here today. There’s a company called Moz, you’re familiar with them, and one the most magnetic personalities in the organization is a guy by the name of Rand Fishkin. Rand Fishkin does Whiteboard Fridays and every Friday he uses a whiteboard and he stands in front of the camera and he really breaks down a complex concept in the search engine topics, in the world of search engine topics. He’s very effective at it and because he’s conversational, and because he brings it down to street level, and because he uses video to warm it up and convey it and he uses the whiteboard behind him to graphically describe and write quickly and show people real simple depictions of what he’s trying to describe, he conveys the information.
A human brain obviously responds well to visuals much better than it does to text. That’s inarguable. Anybody who’s looked at a picture versus reading a thousand words knows you get it a lot more quicker from the picture than you do from the article. That’s just the way the brain is wired. So whiteboard Fridays are really effective for breaking down a complex article or complex topic.
Maybe if you’re the personal injury lawyer and you have a complex topic you want to explain about, I don’t know cost of the documents, how the legal process works, maybe what the process looks like, then use a whiteboard and explain it because the visual will help people figure out what’s going to happen next and you’ve explained it to them better than a linear article could do. If you can make yourself more accessible in an informative way, then try it. I don’t think of video as an opportunity for advertising so much as an opportunity to serve.
Paul: Right. That’s what I’m getting at. Is it an effective way to serve? It sounds like it is.
Ed: Yes, so video yes, if it does the job better than words or audio for that matter. There are times when we’re sitting here now and I kind of wish we had a camera because we can go to the whiteboard and draw some lines and darts and charts. And yet, I think we’re carrying the day just fine with the audio.
What is CRM?
Paul: Okay so we had also talked briefly about CRM. What is CRM?
Ed: I joke with my classes and my clients in my workshop that whoever dreamed up CRM had to call it something to make it sound expensive so they could charge more. So they came up with the words “Customer Relationship Management.” But the joke that I’m telling really comes around to the word “CRM” came up repeatedly because most of the people that designed the product were saying “This is great ‘cause can’t remember much.” That’s what CRM really stood for. “Can’t Remember Much.” It’s there to help catalog and organize all the connections we’d like to remember if we could only get our brains to work that well. Of course I’m joking.
Paul: Do you use CRM?
Ed: Absolutely. I’ve been using the same database product for almost 10 years. I’ve installed and maintained most of the major ones we know and love on behalf of my employers and my clients for over 20 years but the one I use on my own business is the same one because I figured it makes more sense just to learn one really well and exploit it, versus jumping from place to place and never really getting good at any one.
Paul: Which one do you use?
Ed: I happen to use Zoho.
Paul: Zoho? Okay.
Ed: But I admin sales for various accounts for a number of clients, I and my merry band, as well as some Oracle and some of the largest sales force automation and marketing platforms.
The Goal of CRM
Paul: What’s the goal of CRM, do you think?
Ed: A record of truth. An accurate depiction of your business. A heads-up dashboard on where your next meal is coming from. An accurate forecasting. All the things that are almost impossible to attain can be attained. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. It works. Believe me. It’s a long road to get there but it can get you there.
Paul: Is CRM a product or a tool like a television set or is it something that’s more integrated with everything? So, a television set is a box that just sits there or a computer that just sits there. It can reach out and do different things, you know look at different things like view websites, excetra. But is CRM just in and of itself or does it have tentacles reaching out to other things?
Ed: Great question. It’s a combination of those and if I had to offer my value judgement about the importance and the role of CRM, I would say to you that I think of a CRM as being my record of truth. There has to be one authoritative source of everything, the book chapter and verse and gospel and index, directory and dictionary and database about everything going on with my business. My book, if I’m an author. My store if I’m a retailer. And on and on and on. What’s going to tell me what‘s really going on with how I run my business. I can link it to my accounting software and I do. I can link it to my website and I do. I can link it to all of the lead generation funnel building activities which I do. I link it to my email marketing. So it has tentacles that reach out into other things. Think of it as this. Think of it as a stack. Everybody has a stack. A stack of pancakes, a stack of products. Everybody uses, depending on how you count them, anywhere between 5 and 20 pieces of software we use every day. It’s absolutely true. I don’t care if you’re a retailer. I don’t care if you’re the US government, you use a dozen pieces of software every day. It’s in your phone. It’s on your desktop. It’s in your home. It’s on the car. It’s wherever you go. It’s all kinds of software and most of them don’t just knit together very well. They just don’t. Fortunately, it’s improving.
I’ll give you a situation that happened recently. I was invited to speak at the Martec conference, a roadshow that come to Boston. Both coasts, it’s bicoastal. Each city twice a year by Scott Brinker who founded it and he’s been in the marketing technology business for some time, we’ve known each other for some time. I declined but I attended, and I was really really relieved frankly, to learn that no one has a lock on this.
Paul: Well, yeah!
Ed: It may be disheartening but it’s also heartening for someone who’s in the business because there are so many moving parts. As recently as 2008 or 2009 or the earliest known graphical depiction, infographic showing all the different companies that are players in the marketplace of CRM selling silos or parts of the product, not the whole solution. There are about 150 to 250 companies, depending on how you count them. That was 2011. Here we are six years later, 2017, if we’re dating ourselves and there are over 5,000. If you put all those logos of those companies on a single sheet of paper, you would not be able to read any of them because they would be fly specks. There are just so many players. How can you not be confused if you’re a person trying to find a CRM solution?
Ed: So to me the CRM solution is one that works well with your situation. What do you already have in place?
Paul: But it doesn’t seem that buying a CRM solution is the same as getting a CRM solution to work.
Ed: Heavens no. It’s just the start.
Paul: Well it’s a vast distance between getting it to work and buying it.
Ed: You’re right and in a very coarse manner I break down my clients and my prospects for my business into two worlds. There is the world of people that already have a CRM solution in place and they’re not sure what to do with it now. I bought this car. I got the keys, but I’m not sure how to drive it. Or people who really don’t have a CRM solution in place, might think they do but they really don’t, or people who know they don’t and need to start somewhere and it points their way through that conversation.
Paul: Interesting. It sounds like we need to get together again for another podcast on CRM.
Ed: Oh, I’d be happy to!
Implementing CRM In Your Business
Paul: Any high-level recommendations if you find yourself in that situation where either you have a system that isn’t implemented, or you have one that doesn’t work, or you don’t have one?
Ed: Well, the things that come to mind when I hear…. First of all, make sure you even have the need. Pretty easy to identify the need. I’ll make the leap forward and say, if you’re not using some kind of a CRM platform today, you’re woefully unprepared because your competitors are probably working rings around you and you’re not sure why, but now you know why because their doing a better job of organizing their information. And some of the obvious signs are a lot of your records are in paper files somewhere and you have no idea where to find that note you wrote last week. It’s unstructured information but it’s important data because it’s about your product, your business, your customers. You have to make that accessible.
Ed: Or maybe your reason is that you have a whole bunch of people working for you all in, let’s say sales and service, but each person does it their own way. They really don’t communicate well.
Paul: And someone goes on vacation and then you have no idea what’s going on.
Ed: And they drop the ball and you’ve lost a sale. Or you’ve missed an opportunity to make your sale but you don’t even that happened until you see the person using your product, but they bought it someplace else and they were in your store.
So how can we plug those holes, those leaks, in the information flow, and intelligence scattering and to me your CRM software is at the heart of that. It helps you understand your workflow, figure out where the leaks are, determine what works well and then hone that into a way of doing business that works well for you and for everyone. And you need to have a framework around that. You cannot work by the seat of your pants anymore. And if it is, you’ll probably make a living but not what you could be making.
Paul: Interesting. Well, I have so many more questions about this. I think we need to schedule another follow-up here.
Ed: I would like to do that, Paul, and CRM is its’ own big tent.
Ed: We could do a whole series on it and I’d be happy to talk about it possibly with you some time.
Ed: Thanks for having me.
Paul: Well thank you for coming. We’ve been talking with Ed Alexander of fanfoundry.com and you’ll be able to find out more information about Ed and his company in our shownotes as well as links to some of the resources we’ve talked about.
Thank you very much and we look forward to next time on the Edge Of Innovation.