Marketers who create content and then think about promoting it are going about the process backwards, says James Tennant on Marketing Smarts Episode 569.
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"You are not just creating a piece, as we've discussed; you are spending a lot of time coming up and figuring out who your ideal audience is, what it is they want you to create in the first place," he says. "And when you have done that, where they want you to serve them that piece of content."
That is to say, no one should feel obliged to promote on every platform available. Instead, audience research will inform your promotional channels.
"It's not just a case of, 'we like that channel, we're active on that channel, let's just promote on there; we're getting it out, we know our content is getting out,'" he says. "Is that actually reaching the right people? Are they actually engaging with your content?"
Forget off-the-cuff promotion, too. Work promotion into your content strategy, partner with collaborators, communicate your content goals ahead of time so it won't feel overwhelming.
"If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of doing content promotion, I think the problem there is a lack of planning and research in an early stage of your content strategy," explains James.
"Go back and fix that first, and you'll feel a lot less overwhelmed when it comes to doing the content because you're going to know exactly what you're creating and exactly how to promote it."
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 have key concerns when promoting and amplifying your content? Dare I even ask, are you taking time to promote and amplify, or are you majorly focused on just creating and publishing and that's where it ends?
Today I'm super excited because we're talking about maximizing the reach, maximizing your reach, we're talking about promoting and amplifying content. We are here with James Tennant and we're going to talk about what keeps James up at night around this topic of promoting and amplifying content, we're going to talk about some tips, tricks, and hacks along the way, we're going to talk about success, potholes or hurdles. There are some places that if I could put heart emojis in an audio podcast, I would.
James Tennant has 12+ years of experience helping B2B companies and organizations of all sizes across many industries create and share content that educates, inspires, and brings value to their audiences. James freelanced for the likes of eBay, Gumtree, Universal Studios, and the UK government, as well as hundreds of other businesses based all over the globe. James is the founder of Converge, a content promotion platform that helps B2B businesses reach significantly more of their target market. It's not in his bio, but you know that's going to drive more revenue.
It's time to maximize, it's time to promote, it's time to amplify, it's time to plug in something potentially new to your content process. Let's get into the good stuff.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and wonder about maximizing reach? Do you think about amplifying and promoting? Do you think about your content? If you're anything like me, these are painstaking things that hit your brain all the time. I'm excited because we're going to be talking with James Tennant about all of these things, maximizing the reach, key concerns in promoting and amplifying your hard-working, tear-jerking, blood and sweat content that you create.
James, how are you doing today?
James Tennant: I'm really good, George. How are you?
George: I'm doing great. Better now that you're here, otherwise this would be a really weird episode if I was trying to do this by myself. In the Marketing Smarts Podcast, one of the things that I like to do is ask what might be silly questions but that get us to some really interesting answers. When we're talking about marketers amplifying and promoting content, it might be a dream, it might be a nightmare, but what keeps you up at night?
James: In regard to promoting and amplifying content? We do a report every year on content promotion and content amplification, and we get some great responses from content marketers based in all sorts of different B2B industries based all over the world in all different types of organizations. The one theme that keeps running through everything is that content marketers tell us they don't promote their content enough, and the reason for that is they don't have enough time to do that. That's probably the biggest thing that is frustrating to me, that organizations are not seeing promotion as equally as important as creation.
There's way too much focus on, Let's just create loads of content, we have to hit 10 articles per week, or 20 articles per month, and once they're done, they get published on the blog, they might be shared on LinkedIn, or they might get a tweet, but then it's on to the next piece of content, and then the cycle starts again. It's a shame that people aren't spending at least as much time promoting their content as they are creating it.
George: It definitely sounds like a nightmare. What I will say is as I was listening to you, in my brain I was like yes, B2B marketers, please know the publish button is not the finish line. That actually might be the starting line. I do understand exactly what you're talking about, this hamster wheel, this stress of time, and this level of prioritization that we need to put back on amplifying and promoting all the great content that we've created historically.
Let's dive a little bit deeper. When we talk about spreading and sharing content, the amplification and the promotion, what do you actually mean by this? Amplifying and promoting could be 27,000 different things to a billion different people. Let's level-set. For the rest of this podcast, when we're talking about amplifying and promoting, what exactly do you mean?
James: I mean getting your content in front of more of the right people in the places that they hang out and in the formats they want your content to be in. You are not just creating a piece, as we've discussed, you are spending a lot of time coming up and figuring out who your ideal audience is, what it is they want you to create in the first place, and when you have done that, where they want you to serve them that piece of content.
That's what I'm talking about when it comes to promotion, it's the act of getting your content from wherever it exists, either on your blog, or on your YouTube channel, or wherever you host your podcast, into more places where your audience hangs out online or in the real world. It depends, there's lots of different ways to promote and amplify your content.
George: I love that. I do want to go off the beaten path for a second. One of the things we try to pay attention to is we realize we might be talking to marketers who have been doing this for years and years or marketers who are just getting started that are tuning into this. You said, and I love this, more of the right people. In your mind, how do we know who our audience is, and how the heck do we find them when we figure out who they are? What should marketers be paying attention to around these two areas?
James: I would say that the first thing anyone should be doing before they create content, certainly before they promote content, is they really need to figure out more about their audience. They need to understand that on the deepest and most detailed level they possibly can. It's only by fully understanding who our audience is that we can actually create something that they want that's going to have an impact on our businesses. It also tells us how we can effectively promote that content to those people as well.
So, the very first thing as part of any content strategy should be spending as much time as you possibly can getting to grips with who it is your audience is. There are loads of tools you can use to do audience research. A couple of them that I've used and know are very good are Audiense and SparkToro. Both very good tools for quickly being able to find the sort of data and information that you need to better understand your audience.
That's really the starting point. If you don't do that bit, then I don't think you can create the best content and I don't think you can effectively promote that content. Start with audience research. Who your audience is and what they want will differ depending on the industry you operate in, so there's no template there that you can say do this and this will be your audience. There's going to be some level of working that out involved, depending on the industry that you're in.
George: I love in that section that you talked about you're going to have to work it out. I love, too, that you mentioned that you should probably know this before you have created content. I also love that you shared some tools that people can dive into if they haven't used those. You also mentioned create the best content. We'll get to that later, though, because I think the word best is very important in this conversation as we move forward.
Let's keep diving deeper into this conversation. This is maybe mindset, maybe best practices, maybe principles, I'm not sure where you're going to go with this. The question is what are some of the essential things for B2B marketers to be paying attention to when they want to get their content noticed?
James: That goes a little bit to what we just said when it comes to knowing your audience, because it's them that you want to pay attention to if you want your content to be engaged with and noticed. It's really all around that. Outside of doing really thorough audience research and understanding, it's keeping on top of and being aware of how your content performs when you do promote it.
It's not just a case of we like that channel, we're active on that channel, let's just promote on there, we're getting it out, we know our content is getting out. Is that actually reaching the right people? Are they actually engaging with your content?
It's one thing to understand the audience and then to create great content, it's another thing to analyze how that promotion is going and how that content is doing to make sure that as you move forward you're creating better content that performs better and is perhaps more effectively promoted than going down a rabbit hole of just creating what you think is working.
George: Things to think about. Do you lean into areas of education, areas of entertainment, levels of being human? Especially in this world where when we talk about content creation, you probably can't get in a circle and somebody is not mentioning AI or generative text and all this kind of stuff. Are there some other essential elements of the piece of content that you're going to produce and what you should be thinking of past what you shared there?
James: That depends very much on the industry that you're operating in. I would say there's really no one-size-fits-all answer for that. It really depends on the types of people that you're looking to target with your content and the industries they operate in, as well as the industry you operate in, as to what channels work best for you to promote your content on, and the types of formats and types of content you're producing that actually will resonate with those people as well.
Again, I sound like a broken record here, but it all really does come back to fully understanding your audience. What is it they want? Are they active on TikTok? Do they want more in depth content on a channel like LinkedIn? Do they like to tweet, are they active on Twitter, do they have communities there?
It's really about finding out what content resonates with your audience, and the only way you can find that out is by doing the research, making some educated assumptions, creating the content, and then seeing how it does. If you see one type of content performing better than another, it's probably better to go down that route and keep going until it doesn't perform very well, and then start looking for other types of content that work.
The one thing I would caution here is not to go chasing everything. Don't feel like you have to have a presence on every single social media channel and produce every type of content. There was a phase a couple of years back that every business felt they had to start a podcast. I don't necessarily think that's correct for every single business. Don't be distracted by the new shiny thing. Figure out what it is your audience wants and give it to them in the places that they want.
George: Finding the right watering holes to meet them with the right content. You mentioned the word measuring and making sure it's doing the right thing or going in the right direction. I do want to go off the beaten path one more time here. The word measuring this content, what should marketers be paying attention to from a content measuring perspective? How do we know if it's freezing cold, lukewarm, or hot and let's keep going? This might depend on platform, of there's just general metrics when you're doing this that you're paying attention to, to diagnose that success or failure rate.
James: The first thing I would say is success for content promotion depends almost entirely on what your goals are for the content promotion and for your content in general. They're going to differ depending on a few different things, the industry, the type of content you're creating, where it sits in the funnel, sales funnel or content funnel, whichever funnel you want to call it. Even things like your attitude toward the content as well. Are you creating it because you are passionate about that thing and it's not necessarily a business play, it's maybe a brand awareness play to raise your personal brand? Is it something that is purely lead-generation-focused?
A deep understanding of your content goals and audience is required here. Again, once you know those things, you know you can deliver better on the results end of things. The important thing here is if you're running your own business, then you can figure out what it is you want your content and your promotion to be doing. If you are a content marketer in a larger organization, you really should be sitting down with the stakeholders, anyone that you report to, to figure out what the goals are. It's only by knowing what those goals are that you know what analytics and KPIs and metrics you need to track to understand if the content and the promotion of that content is actually doing what you want it to do.
It's important to have that conversation. We get a lot of anecdotal evidence from content marketers that we work with and people that read our reports, and from some of the answers from our report, that show there's a bit of a disconnect sometimes between the content marketer and what they think the goals are and what the stakeholders think the goals are. Communication there is key. Once everyone is on the same page, you can pull in the same direction a lot more easily than if you're not.
I will say, though, I think it's important to point out that 100% accurate attribution in almost any marketing activity isn't really possible. There's always an element of you following your gut as well as tracking the KPIs. If you don't mind, I'll give a little bit of an example.
Your content has a roundabout way of working on your audience. It's very rarely an easily trackable linear route that someone goes on to potentially become a customer. It's not person read article, clicked link, downloaded report, requested call, and then became customer. That would be a very easy-to-track journey that customer went on, but it's rarely like that. I believe there's something like 7 to 11 touchpoints on average that are needed for someone to become not knowing who you are to potentially becoming a customer.
I think what's more likely than the previous example of the journey that I gave is something like someone sees an article, it's the first time they've engaged with your brand, and they find that valuable. Then they get on with their job, and maybe a month later they notice some of your content on LinkedIn because of stuff like recency bias and the data mine phenomenon. They suddenly are paying more attention. They notice you in the crowd, where maybe if they hadn't read that article a month before they wouldn't have noticed you, so they pay more attention than they may have before. Then they go away again, it's time to go back to work, they do their job.
Maybe another month later, they see that you're creating a report on something, and to get access to that report, they need to give you their email. Now they're more willing to do that because they're far more trusting of you and your brand because they found value in your content before. Maybe they've downloaded that report and they've given you their email. Then the process goes on if you have a process that takes someone who has downloaded gated content and you have a way of potentially turning them into a customer.
If they ever did become a customer, would it be possible to track that person all the way back to when they read that first article? The answer is probably not. But without that first article, the rest of it doesn't really happen. So, yes, find out what your goals are, yes, work out what the KPIs are that you want to track to see if your content and promotion is doing the thing you want it to do, but also trust your gut a little bit here.
If you are putting content out there and you're promoting it, and you know you're promoting it in the right place, and you see an uptick in things like newsletter subscribers, or more people downloading your report, or more requested calls from your website, but you can't necessarily track all of that all the way back to the content you're producing and promoting, it doesn't mean that it isn't having the effect that you want it to have, essentially.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, it might be the rewind section where you make sure you have your notepad, your pen, your tablet, whatever you use for notes. Hit that rewind because there's a lot of good little nuggets in that section. I am a big believer in go with your gut and understand that building trust and reciprocity are true things that happen in the marketing and sales space without a doubt.
I love the show Mythbusters, I could watch that show forever. One of the things that I love to do on the Marketing Smarts Podcast is talk about myths of misunderstandings. What's a common misunderstanding about content promotion or amplification that you'd like to address, dare I say debunk, right here today on the Marketing Smarts Podcast?
James: There's probably a couple. One of them is a myth. The other one, I'm not quite sure it would necessarily be a misunderstanding, but I want to get into it.
The first one is that purely promoting your content is going to make your content successful. That's not how it works. In the same way that creating content isn't just going to generate loads of traffic, interest, or awareness in your brand. The two work hand in hand. You do need to promote content to have a better chance at any content being successful. You definitely need that. The organic reach these days is almost nothing, it's constantly diminishing. We have to be more active in promoting our content, for sure, but you still need to be promoting something that's actually of value to your audience. That's where that research comes in.
If you're going to spend all the time and effort it requires to effectively and consistently promote your content, make sure that you're actually promoting something that is going to resonate with your audience. Promoting a dud is not going to make that dud successful. Having said that, a good article or a good piece of content well-promoted is going to outperform a great article or a great piece of content that gets no promotion whatsoever. It doesn't have to be the absolute best thing ever, but it has to at least provide genuine value to your audience, otherwise no one is going to engage with it, regardless of how much you shove it in their face.
The second thing is we do find from our amplification report that the vast majority, I think it was over 80%, it might have been over 85% in year one and over 80% in year two, say that they're not promoting their content enough, which to me would imply that they know they should be doing it. The reason that they give for that is a lack of time due to other tasks. As we discussed earlier, maybe they have loads of content to write, or maybe they're handling their social media, maybe they have to put out a newsletter every week, all those things that marketers are unreasonably asked to do as part of one role when it really it should be two or three.
I would argue if that's the case, and you're spending time creating content, and because of all of that it means that you have no time left to promote it, even though you know that you should, then surely the fix there is to create less and promote more. Again, we touched on this very early on in this podcast. What content marketers need to do is if they feel overwhelmed by all of the tasks they have to do, and they know they should be promoting their content more, they have to sit down with stakeholders and tell them that.
They need to show them that the promotion of content is equally as important as the creation of content, and therefore maybe bring the quota down or drop a task that's not quite as important, and make sure that you're baking content promotion into your strategy from the very beginning because it's only by doing that and by actually putting time aside in your schedule to do it that you're going to have any chance of doing it effectively. It's not the sort of thing that works if you just do it when find 5 or 10 minutes every so often.
George: I hope the Marketing Smarts listeners heard that; you might want to think about creating less and promoting more if you are in this vortex of lack of promotion due to lack of time. Such a good piece.
James, I want to circle back on something that you said earlier. You said create the best content. I'm about to throw all the words at you, by the way. Do you have any tips, tricks, hacks, or templates, frameworks that B2B marketers can use? I'm going to ask this as a two-part question. I'm looking for tips, tricks, hacks, templates, frameworks on how they create that best content, that's A, and B, get their best content out there? What can we give them that helps their day, helps their process, helps them do better in this conversation that we're having today?
James: I want to start this off by saying best is subjective, and best is what your audience thinks is best, not what you think is best. Those are the first two things I'd start this with.
I don't think there's a template for this that would work for every business. There's a template that I use for my business, but it wouldn't work for a financial company or for a law firm. But there is one type of content I can give which I think would answer both of these questions in that it's a very good type of content that you can create, that every company can create today that would maybe tick a best box, and it helps you promote your content as well. It's something that, hopefully, ticks both of the boxes here.
That is collaborative content. Every company should be doing this. This is a no-brainer for everybody. There's not an industry this wouldn't work for. There's not a company that this wouldn't be easy for a content marketer to implement from today.
Collaborative content does two things. One, it opens the door to building relationships with people that you want to build relationships with within your industry, whether they be potential customers or people that you want to build your personal network with. It adds more value to the content because you're bringing industry experts in to share their advice and their opinions on topics, so it's not just you all the time, it's a wide range of opinions and advice that makes a piece of content, I think, in most cases, more valuable than if just a single person was doing it. Finally, it means that when you come to promoting that content, you have a handful of people who have been active, who've contributed to that content, who want that content to be seen by lots of people as well, because they're in it.
Hopefully, you'll build up relationships that you want to build relationships with, you've created what I would consider to be potentially a better or best piece of content, and when it comes to promotion, you now have as many people who have contributed to help you get that content out in front of their networks and beyond. I hope that ticks the box on everything. It's a really easy one. It's something I tell companies all the time, one of the first things you should look to do, if you're not already doing it, is create more collaborative content.
George: I have to double click on that. Honestly, Marketing Smarts listeners, if I didn't double down on that and say we had an amazing interview with the man, the myth, the legend, Andy Crestodina, and the title is literally The Power of Collaborative Content Strategy. Definitely go back and listen to that episode if you want to double click into what James is talking about, collaborative content. Let's dive in a little bit deeper. We're on this road to success, we're trying to create the best content for our audiences, have the best goals, understand the right metrics, and show up at the right places. What are some of the challenges, the hurdles, the potholes if you will, that you've seen B2B marketers face when it comes to this sharing, promoting, and amplifying of their content, what's going to get in their way?
James: From the report that we do, there's quite a few challenges. Again, the biggest one, as we've already mentioned, is the lack of time, which I would say isn't necessarily a lack of time, it's more a question of priority. If you're prioritizing content promotion, as you should be, you wouldn't have no time to do it within your schedule. That's the big one. Every year we keep hearing it, time, time, time. As I said, it's not really, it's priority.
The others that we hear about, we often get comments from people that they feel a bit overwhelmed about all of the stuff that needs to be done to promote content. It depends really on the type of content that you're producing and where you feel it needs to go that I think leads to that feeling of overwhelm. If you've done your research and you know what type of content to produce and where to put it and the formats you need to put it in, I don't think you would feel overwhelmed.
I think this is when someone has possibly got a library of content and they're producing content regularly, and then now they've thought, "I need to promote that. Where do I start? I need to distribute this content across all these different channels. That means I need to start a Threads account. How active are we on Twitter? Have we been doing anything on Twitter? I need to get on LinkedIn. We need to start a YouTube channel." Repurposing would probably make someone feel quite overwhelmed as well. Like we've done a video, how do we turn that into a podcast and a blog, and then how do we put all of this video series together in a downloadable report?
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of doing content promotion, I think the problem there is a lack of planning and research in an early stage of your content strategy. Go back and fix that first, and you'll feel a lot less overwhelmed when it comes to doing the content because you're going to know exactly what you're creating and exactly how to promote it.
Those are the two big challenges that we see that businesses face. The other one, which I sort of touched on before, is communication between departments. If you have a sales department or stakeholders above you that don't necessarily understand why it is you're doing what you're doing, what you're doing affects them and the bottom line of the business, then you need to have those conversations. Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to creating content and promoting content.
So, communication with stakeholders, communication with other departments that are relevant to yours, working out that content promotion should be a priority and not just something you need to find time to do, avoid feeling overwhelmed by planning your promotion before it gets to the point where you need to do the promotion.
George: Time / priority, overwhelm, planning, research, so many good pieces in here. As you were talking, one of the things that I think B2B marketers can do, or at least think of, and I think it's one of the things that has helped me along the way, is the content strategy, the content production, the actual ins and outs of it, it is something that you can fall in love with. When you fall in love with it, you treat it a little bit differently than just something you do when you go to work. When you fall in love with something, it changes the way that you apply time and priority, and the feelings that you have toward it. Maybe, ladies and gentlemen, fall in love with the process.
As they're getting past their hurdles, as they're trying to get better at amplifying and promoting the content, and getting some type of planned system in place, how do they know what the bullseye is, how can we determine what success in content promotion and amplification is? I fully understand that it might look different for each business, but is there something you'll feel or something you'll see that you're like we're getting a successful outcome from the efforts that we're applying?
James: Yes. More often than not, you'll probably see things like an increase in engagement on your content, wherever that's living, whether it's on your blog or it's on a social media channel or a YouTube channel. More often than not, you'll see more people viewing it, more people engaging with it. That's the start, really, that's how you'll start to see that your promotion is having an effect.
That's top-of-funnel activity, but that has a habit of trickling its way down. You start off with generating more awareness and more engagement with the content or marketing activity that you're doing, hopefully that leads people down a funnel toward becoming a customer. From what I've seen when I talk to businesses and the feedback that I get from them when they actually actively start promoting their content is they start to see that it's more than just their colleagues or the people in their current network that are actually viewing and reading their content.
Those are the metrics that you're going to notice initially. It will take a while before you start to see some of the other stuff, like sharing their email for a gated download, becoming a newsletter subscriber, or a subscriber to a podcast or YouTube channel. Those things will happen, usually after several touchpoints. People rarely dive in after seeing one thing. It's usually a few things when they realize this is providing me with a lot of value, this is worth my time now.
I would say keep an eye on top-of-funnel metrics first. If you're doing it right and you've done your research, everyone is on board and it's all going well, you'll see probably a significant increase in those metrics first. That should tell you that you're on the right path. You still have to monitor it and make sure, because traffic and views for views' sake is not always valuable. You want the right people reading and engaging with your content, but it's a good start. That will help you know we are starting to reach more people, now let's make sure these are the right people.
George: Love it. James, I'm on a journey, you're on a journey, we're all on a journey. Along the way, we pick up these nuggets of wisdom. In today's journey, we're talking about maximizing the reach of our content, we're talking about amplifying, and we're talking about promoting. What are some words of wisdom that you'd like to share with the Marketing Smarts listeners regarding the conversation we've had today?
James: Honestly, I think the best advice I can give, I don't know if these are words of wisdom necessarily, is to bake your content promotion into your content strategy from the beginning. It can no longer be a when-I-find-the-time tactic. There's too much noise. Organic reach on search and social media is diminishing all the time. You have to get active and relentless with your content promotion. The only way to do that effectively and to know that you're going to be able to do it consistently is to put it into your strategy and schedule and treat it as something that is as important as creating content in the first place.
I kind of just reiterated a lot of what we talked about today, but if there is one takeaway that people get from listening to this, it's that. Make sure that you and your organization treat content promotion as importantly as they treat content creation, and you'll probably find that the content you're producing and have produced in the past will start to have a lot more of the impact on your business that you want it to have.
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 Matt Heinz about mastering sales and marketing alignment, 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 October 26, 2023
James Tennant, founder of Converge, a content promotion platform that helps B2B businesses reach significantly more of their target market. He has 12+ years of experience helping B2B companies and organizations of all sizes across many industries create and share content that educates, inspires, and brings value to their audiences. James has freelanced for eBay, Gumtree, Universal Studios, and the UK Government, as well as hundreds of other businesses.
LinkedIn: James Tennant
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