There are a lot of variables that go into feeling comfortable in your marketing career: your boss, your role, your company, your ability to create change or control upcoming changes. And sometimes, when just one of those variables shifts, you suddenly know you're in the right place.
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On Episode 542 of Marketing Smarts, content marketing expert Christoph Trappe and podcast host George B. Thomas cover a good number of those variables.
For example, maybe you have the right career, but you're in the wrong seat.
Christoph says, "Do you move people around? Maybe they're in the wrong seat....I went into a company one time and it was a restructure. That was the mission, to an extent. Not a single person was laid off, because there was a need for specific roles of similar types, and people in other roles had a lot of the skills that those roles needed."
Another consideration could be the people you work with. You're a standout marketer, but you don't get along with your team. "I've never seen a content team that works well together if they don't like each other," Christoph says. "You have to be able to bat around ideas. You have to be able to give each other feedback. You have to be able to understand each other."
On the other hand, the most important factor could just be your own mindset, Christoph explains.
"You can always control your attitude, even when everybody else is a jerk. How do you make it enjoyable for yourself? How do you find the right spot for yourself?"
After all... many of us have!
Listen to the entire show from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
George B. Thomas: Do you love being a marketer? Do you like marketing day in and day out? Have you chosen the right career? Is marketing even a good career? I know many of us are saying yes, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it, but then I wonder if there's some of us actually wondering or pondering the questions that I just asked. In today's episode, we're talking about how B2B marketers can know if they've chosen the right career and is marketing a good career with Christoph Trappe.
We're going to talk about if it's a good career or not, talent shortage, keeping the people that you have in their seats, the mentality of going to play versus going to work, some potholes, some hurdles, what success looks like, and some words of wisdom along the way. I'm super excited for this one. Christoph Trappe is a globally recognized content marketing expert and the author of Is Marketing a Good Career. He leads content strategy at Voxpopme, a market research software company, and has helped companies create better content for their target audiences throughout his career. He blogs at ChristophTrappe.com, so if you want to learn more after this episode, you know where to head.
You know I'm always excited, but I'm excited today for a different reason. I'm excited because I think that when you saw the title of this podcast episode, you said, "What is this? I'm already a B2B marketer." It is a conversation that you will definitely want to go on the journey with us for. I am super excited because I'm never alone, I always bring smart people into the conversation. We're talking about how B2B marketers can know if they've chosen the right career, is marketing a good career. As a marketer, I sure hope so, but let's find out.
Christoph, how are you doing today?
Christoph Trappe: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.
George: Let's start with the question right here. Pertaining to marketing careers and knowing if we've made the right choices or not, what keeps you up at night?
Christoph: There are so many talented people that could make their living in marketing, that could enter marketing, that could help us produce better content for our brands. How do we get them to come into marketing, number one? Then second, how do we have them stay in marketing?
You hear about talent shortage all over the place. People have choices. Partially, that's our culture. You move around and you do whatever you want, and people do that nowadays. How do we get the right people in the right seats on our teams and then keep them there? That's really what it's all about from my perspective.
George: That's interesting. I want to dive into that a little bit deeper. I love that we're talking to B2B marketers and we're talking about how to get more people in the seats. That leads me to the question for the Marketing Smarts listeners, when is the last time you tried to actually get somebody to go from a different department into your team? Who was the last person you talked to about how awesome your job is? Can you actually say that?
Christoph, when you think about getting more people into marketing seats, what can we as marketers do, are there some tips, tricks, hacks? Where does your brain go on that?
Christoph: I think there's a lot of overarching cultural things that you can think about. How do you have the right culture? How are you collaborative? How do you make it fun? What's interesting about the whole making-it-fun thing is I'm not talking about just going out and having drinks and having a party, doing potlucks, or whatever. How do you have fun performing together as a team? That takes the right people in the right seats.
What I mean by that is not everybody is good at everything. I get it. In a startup, you might have to wear different hats, and that's fine. I wear different hats, too, all the time. At the end of the day, not everybody is a good designer, not everybody is a good blog writer, not everybody is a good podcaster. How do you make sure that you get the right people in the right seats, and they actually want to do those things? Not just do they want to do them, but they're good at them, or at least they have a foundation and they want to learn, especially with newer employees or people moving onto the marketing team.
You have to create an environment that people want to stay in and people want to be in.
George: Where do you think companies are actually falling short? In the thing that keeps you up at night, you mentioned why is there a talent shortage, how do we keep people in their seats, and you just referenced that. If I'm a B2B marketer and I want to slide this over to my CEO, CFO, whoever, what are the things that companies could be doing better to enable marketers to actually be able to live in this place that you're starting to paint a picture around?
Christoph: I think especially if you go outside of the marketing team, there are so many different opinions of what marketing actually is. This is a section of my book where I talk about you have to find the right company. I know people say that people leave jobs because of bosses. That's true, but people also leave jobs because the company doesn't understand how marketing is supposed to work. There are different facets to marketing.
I'll give you an example. Can you run an ad? Yes. Can you just bombard people's email with offers nonstop? Sure you can. But is that a long term strategy to actually help you be successful over the long term? There are many other things. Do you build a brand through content? Do you build a brand by being out there, being helpful, by building a community? Mark Schaefer just wrote his latest book on how brands have to build community. I think that's a fantastic thing to think about. Some brands certainly do that.
There's too many executives out there that the only thing they ever talk about is, "I need 7,000 leads." I think Christina Delvalar is the person who said first, "How do you even come up with that number?" I'm not opposed to leads; I want leads too, I want to make money too, but there's all these different aspects to marketing and they all go together. If you have a crappy brand, good luck getting two leads.
George: That is so true. It leads me to a question that I want to get to because I want to talk about how marketers can maybe be the agent of change in their organization. Before that, you said something that I always have found interesting, that they can have fun working together. The way that I tell this sometimes is I like to tell people I don't ever really go to work, I go to play. There's a different mindset when you go to play versus I have to go get work done. Talk me through your thoughts on when I talk about this mentality of being able to play together as teams and be successful instead of trudging through the work, what that equals or what you think about.
Christoph: At the end of the day, marketing campaigns of any kind, it doesn't make any difference what it is, they are about creativity. How do you stand out? I'm not going to oversimplify that there is no pressure. There certainly is pressure. But to be creative, it can be so much fun.
Somebody asked me one time, "Do you think this content team is on the right track," it was more on the content side than marketing, and I said I've never seen a content team that works well together if they don't like each other, maybe even love each other, at least for the working together part. You have to be able to bat around ideas. You have to be able to give each other feedback. You have to be able to understand each other.
I'll give you an example. There are times when people want to give feedback on something and it's irrelevant, it's already done, we'll never do this one thing again. The feedback doesn't matter, other than you want to tell them that you didn't like something. Be very specific. What goal do you have in mind? What are you trying to accomplish? How can it actually help?
I think that comes with trust. The team has to build trust. That doesn't mean everybody has to be friends outside of work necessarily. I think especially when people are remote, it's harder and harder to do things outside of work. If I've been on Zoom meetings with you all day, I'm not going to have an after-hours Zoom meeting with you, let's be honest.
At the end of the day, marketing is about being creative with a purpose and a goal, and that enables teams when they work well together to really have fun, to make it enjoyable, and to create stuff that matters.
George: I think there are so many good words in there. Being creative, having purpose, there being a goal and that being a lane or vein that you're going down instead of it being just this very dry metricized world that some companies and their marketing teams live in.
I have to ask some hard questions on this, because it's a hard conversation. We literally in the title said how do you know if you've chosen the right career, and I might even say chosen the right career and/or the right company if I were to rewrite it. By the way, we feel you and we are thinking of you if you connect with what I'm about to say. If you're a company and you're not doing marketing in a way that you can sleep at night, if it just doesn't feel right, how can those marketers be agents of change in their organization?
Christoph: It's an interesting question, especially in North American culture where people are very fluid where they work, when they leave, and whatever. One option is always to find a better company. The problem is you have to figure out, is it really different. The grass is not always greener on the other side, as people say.
Certainly, you can slowly move things forward. You can make suggestions. Maybe you have autonomy on certain things. Try those things. What can you do without anybody approving anything and just see if it works? I think many marketers, depending on the company, have certain pieces where they can just try things and nobody will challenge it, or it doesn't go up the chain too far. Try to see what you can control.
I'll give you an example. We have this joke at home where I say to my wife, I eat something and as soon as I'm done eating it, you make dinner, and I didn't know you were going to make dinner. While that story is not incorrect, at the end of the day, I control whether or not I will have dinner again. Just because she made dinner five minutes after I ate, doesn't mean I have to eat again.
Control what you can control and see what you can push forward and see where you can drive results. No matter what you do in marketing, honestly, everything is coming back to performance. Is it working? Whether that's SEO, whether it's lead generation, whether it's website traffic, email open rates, it makes no difference, people will look at are we making a difference, are we connecting with the right people, is it working.
George: I love that you tied it back to is it working. I think about when you talked about the 7,000 leads that we have to generate and it being just about leads. If we want to be in an organization that's not just all about leads all the time, where do we try to get the eyeballs to focus to then enable us to go on a different type of journey inside of our company, inside of our career?
Christoph: The strategies are varied on how you do that, but I'm a big fan of building a content machine where you can really rank in SEO for everything that your target audience searches for. That's everything from 70 searches a month to maybe 1,000, or more depending on how big you're growing it. I like that strategy. I'll go into social and email in a minute, but I like that strategy because you're building your home on your own land, not rented land.
Once you have a website that ranks high, the payback is just there. It really is, but it does take a while. You look at the impressions, you look at the clickthroughs, you look at what people are doing, and you look at how you can convert them to different things. I think any company that doesn't focus on SEO, that's not a good strategy. Maybe you don't need that strategy for the current quarter, but you probably will need that strategy for quarter 10, 12, 13, 14, down the road.
Social media, certainly there are ways that you should participate there. Things change all the time. I'll give you an example. My own podcast, The Business Storytelling Show, I livestream it and we do YouTube Shorts. Do you know how I grow my subscribers on my podcast? Believe it or not, through YouTube Shorts, because they get thousands of views all of a sudden because they are currently hot and people subscribe. Not all of them are my target audience, but many of them are. They're seeing my content and I can grow it.
Don't forget about email. Be careful with email. People are getting more and more tired of getting emails nonstop.
The final thing I'll say is I do think text messaging is on the up-and-up. I see some companies who do that pretty well and some companies who are more annoying than others. Certainly, I would pay attention to a text right now, but I would not pay attention to an email.
George: That's interesting. I want to dive into that in a little bit. I'm glad that you mentioned content marketing. Marketing Smarts listeners, if you haven't checked out the episode with Joe Pulizzi, the mechanics of starting and running a content-first B2B marketing department plus epic content, you'll definitely want to check that out. Christoph mentioned our friend Mark Schaefer and his new book. We have an episode that the listeners could tune in on the why, what, and how of community and brand building for B2B marketing victory, which we all are looking for.
I want to tie this back a little bit, because you've mentioned numerous times the right people in the right seats. Do they like to podcast? Do they like to write articles? I want to tie together the talent shortage and the right seat conversation. How can companies, CMOs, and leaders adopt a mindset of test and move humans versus just the ejection seat?
Christoph: My goodness, that is a big topic. I think it starts with how you hire. What are the basic foundational needs that a person needs to have to be in a specific seat or specific group of seats? I'll give you an example.
I always needed writers, but I never hired writers. I hired content strategists. They all had to write, but they also had to have other skills. Once I had a group of people on the team, they all had different skills. Some people were better at one thing, and some people were better at other things.
What I tried to do is set them up to be successful as part of the team. Nobody would have been successful if they didn't know how to write to a certain extent. That doesn't mean everybody has to be a fantastic copywriter, that doesn't mean everybody has to be a fantastic blog writer, or all the different specialties when it comes to writing, but they certainly have to have a foundation.
Then you have to see where they fit on the team. Do you move people around? Maybe they're in the wrong seat. Do you have a different need? I'll give you an example. I went into a company one time and it was a restructure, that was the mission to an extent. Not a single person was laid off because there was a need for specific roles of similar types, and people in other roles had a lot of the skills that those roles needed. Here's what else they had. They also had the "I want to do this" attitude, let's do it. "Here's the things I have to learn. Can you help me?" Yes, I can. Sounds good. "I'm not very good at this part. Can you help me?" Yes. "I'm good at this part, so I can try that."
You have to have those conversations. I think that's hard for people, because let's be honest, if you were in an untrusting relationship with your boss or you think you're going to get laid off or whatever, and you say, "I'm not good at this, but I'm happy to learn," and they say, "We don't have time to learn." So, you do need the right leadership, too. They probably wouldn't say it like that, but that's what they mean. You want to have the right relationship, you want to have a trusting relationship. Maybe you didn't put out the right chairs, to be honest, and people just need to move around a little bit.
George: Love that so much. I want to take a side step in the conversation, because this is less about careers and about something you said that tickled my marketing ears, and therefore I assume tickled the listener's. I understand and everybody listening understands the importance of attention and having the ability to get the attention of the audience. You said something a little bit ago about I wouldn't pay attention to an email during this podcast, but I would pay attention to a text message.
I started laughing internally because sitting right in front of me on its charger in front of the screens that I'm looking at is my phone. I would be able to see if there was a text. I know as hard as I would try, I would probably start to read at least the beginning of that text to see how important it was or if it could wait until later. Which is interesting if we all stop for a minute to think about that.
The question that I want to ask is, how can you get started with SMS and/or what does great use of SMS look like? I want to hit this off at the pass, that doesn't mean you grab SMS and just start spraying and praying, like you historically may have done with email. How do you get started and what does great use of it look like in your mind?
Christoph: First of all, you have to find a way to get people to sign up. Angela Proffitt, on her website, has a pop-up, and she doesn't even try to convert people to email anymore, she just tries to convert people to text messages. That's really interesting, in my opinion. Then they send out short sound bytes every once in a while with little sayings or encouraging people. That's her business model, something like that, I don't have the exact wording, of course.
Depending on your business, send people offers, send people we have a webinar today, join us today. Not in two weeks, that's not how SMS works, that's not how text works, but we have one today, join us. But first you need people to sign up. People pay attention to it. It's really like any content, honestly. You have to make it relevant to people. You have to have it snackable, relatively short. Don't make them click on anything. They can reply. There are different vendors out there that you can use for that kind of set up.
It's a conversation, so it's a conversational strategy to stay connected with people. The first step is you have to come up with a plan of what you're going to do and how you're going to get people to sign up. Maybe you already have people's numbers and you can just email them and say, "We have this way to connect now," or something like that. You can just have a checkbox, you see that sometimes, "Is it okay if we text you?"
George: I love this idea of this is a perfect place to slow down to speed up, meaning there needs to be some type of strategy around it. I love the idea of it's a layer of where you could, if used right, really humanize your brand quite quickly and with massive impact. I also like that it's kind of journeying into this realm of communication. That's what I want to circle back to.
As we've been going through this, I feel like we've been bumping around the conversation of the importance for internal communication. You even referenced in one of your segments why are you trying to give advice when we're never going to do that again, it's not going to be of value, are you just communicating so you can verbally vomit in the space that we all have to live in.
Just take a couple of minutes to share with the Marketing Smarts listeners when you think of great communication, communication that enables fun, impacts the fact that you like working where you're at, makes you feel proud to be a marketer, where does your mind go around the word communication?
Christoph: First, I want to respond to the slowing down to speed up. I hear that all the time. I know Ann Handley may have brought that up first in the community. Slowing down to speed up works, but don't stop because you're not going to speed up. I just want to point that out because sometimes people think slowing down means we will just stop and not do anything until we have it totally figured out. You will never have it totally figured out. I don't know anybody that ever has.
Internal communication comes back to that relationship. Some teams can communicate really well on Slack, they can read each other's tone, they can get it, they see how you're talking. Some people cannot save their life to communicate on Slack because nobody understands their tone, they don't know if they're kidding or joking, even if they put LOL behind it, they don't know any of that. You have to figure out what is the best way and how do you do it. Sometimes it's best to hop on a call. Sometimes it's okay to talk just text-based communication.
The communication is so important to follow up with people, to ask questions, to try to move things forward.
George: I love this so much. I have some people I know that I can text in my life, and I have other people that I know I can't text or Slack, so I'll literally send them a one-to-one video because it's so important for them to see the micro expressions of my face when I'm making a sarcastic joke and not being for real on some things that we talk about. So, understanding that other person, I love that so much.
I have a couple more questions as we close this out. We have to ask and answer the questions that were brought up in the title of this podcast episode. In your thoughts, is marketing a good career?
Christoph: The answer in my book is yes, no, if you're good at it. That is totally an oversimplification, of course. What it comes down to do you have the skills, do you enjoy it, can you drive the right results, can you move forward with changes? When I first came into marketing, it was nothing like it is like today. When I first went into journalism, it was nothing like it is today. You have to move along with those changes.
If you like all of those things, marketing is a great career. If you go to work every day and say, "I have to write another headline for another ad," maybe it's not the best career for you. You have to have that right mix of enjoyment, skills, and then drive performance as well. If you're totally dreading it, and some people are not even good at it, and I guess today with AI tools maybe you don't have to be as good at certain things as you used to be because you can just ChatGPT to write a headline for an ad.
At the end of the day, if you're good at it, it's a fantastic career. More importantly, you have to find the right company, you have to find the right fit, the right team, and the right boss. I know that is harder to do than said. I'll give you an example. Companies interview people and it's a 30-minute interview, the people are 10 minutes late, and then end 3 minutes early because they have to go to the bathroom before their next meeting. Good luck trying to figure all that out in whatever 20 minutes that is. So, it is harder than it sounds, but I think you can get hints in interviews. I think you can get hints in your daily life.
As you said earlier, I don't go to work, I go to play. If you go to work and you're just dreading it, maybe it's not the right career, or maybe you're just in the wrong seat, or maybe you're at the wrong company.
George: So much good in there. It's almost like a litmus test to answer the question of have I chosen the right career or have I chosen the right company. All of that is found in what you answered for is marketing a good career.
I love the fact that you referenced in the book the answer is, which means you've thought a lot about this, you've been on a journey, you're trying to help people answer these questions. Because we've been on a journey, there's one thing that happens when we travel the world and these thoughts come to mind and we chase after them. We start to learn nuggets of wisdom along the way.
What are some words of wisdom that you would want to leave the Marketing Smarts audience with as we let them get back to their regularly scheduled day?
Christoph: At the end of the day, how do you drive performance, how do you have fun, how do you enjoy it? There are so many different things you can't control, but there are things we can control. Your attitude, you can always control your attitude, even when everybody else is a jerk. How do you make it enjoyable for yourself? How do you find the right spot for yourself? Let's thrive, let's make it a success, let's create stuff that actually makes a difference.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with David Aker about B2B branding, social media, and disruptive innovation for your company, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on April 20, 2023
Christophe Trappe, a globally recognized content marketing expert and author of Is marketing a good career? He leads content strategy at Voxpopme, a market research software company, and he has helped companies create better content for their target audiences throughout his career. He blogs at christophtrappe.com.
LinkedIn: Christoph Trappe
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