Marketers are in the business of creating content. They’re modern-day publishers. However, up to 70% of content that they create goes unused.
Today, my guest is Randy Frisch, author of the new book, F#ck Content Marketing: Focus on Content Experience to Drive Demand, Revenue, & Relationships. Also, he’s the co-founder, president, and CMO of Uberflip. He identifies how to break bad content marketing habits and adapt personalization to marketing.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Content is at the core of marketing strategies; Uberflip empowers marketers to take control of created content assets and mesh them into their marketing efforts
- Randy’s book is not meant to throw shade at content marketers, but capture his passion and take on the “broken” status of the content marketing industry
- What is unused content? Content that’s created and posted, but never leveraged on a day-to-day basis in marketing
- Definition of content marketing to create content to attract a clearly defined audience and drive profitable customer action is too narrowly focused
- Content marketers need to start putting the right content in front of the right people for that encounter to be a great experience
- Real-life examples of what content marketers are doing right and wrong; tell a story that connects with customers
- Content marketers feel pressured to produce content, but they’re not the only ones responsible for customer experience
- Tactics and tools for the personalization of content and marketing at scale
- Content Experience Framework: Centralize, organize, personalize, distribute, and generate resultsEvolution of Content: People who want to go beyond content creation and think more strategically by teaming up with colleagues
Eric: Marketers, whether we like it or not, we are in the business of creating content. Now, I’ve got as far as bringing on the VP of Strategy and Development at the LA Times on a previous episode and we actually talked about marketers seeing themselves as modern-day publishers. What do you think happens inside of our brains when we find out that up to 70% of the content that we create goes unused.
Well if that doesn’t just piss you off, I don’t know what does. That is what my next guest, Randy Frisch, he is the Co-founder, President, and CMO of Uberflip, he had enough. You know what he said? He said, “F#ck Content Marketing.” That is the name of his new book that has just dropped a couple of weeks ago. I bring on Randy to talk about, “Okay, what do you exactly mean?” because that’s a pretty shock and ah statement, right?
What are some bad content marketing habits that we’ve gotten ourselves into? How do we break them? How marketing needs to adapt to personalization? How do we create a personalized experience for our customers and prospects and how do we do it at scale? How do we create these remarkable experiences that really change the way in which an individual interacts with the brand and with our content? It is just a really fun episode and yes, there is a bit of swearing so I apologize in advance. Put your earmuffs on. It’s going to be a great episode though. My name is Eric Piela. I am the host of the Actionable Marketing Podcast and the Brand and Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. I can’t wait to introduce you to Randy. Buckle up, it’s time to get AMPed.
All right. I’m excited for our next guest. He is the Cofounder, President, and CMO of Uberflip. Randy, welcome to the show.
Randy: Thanks, Eric. It’s okay. There’s too many titles in there. You can just go with Randy. I respond to that one.
Eric: That sounds good. I appreciate that. Another cup of coffee is obviously needed here this morning. Well, Randy, thank you so much. We’ve had the pleasure of meeting each other at Content Marketing World just last year. Our organizations are in similar spheres. I wouldn’t call them the exact same obviously, but I’m very familiar with your company, familiar with you, and super excited to discuss your new book that dropped just last week. It’s an exciting time I’m catching you right on. I’m sure your whirlwind promotional tours, I appreciate taking just a couple of minutes and coming on the show today.
Randy: Absolutely. It’s really been a fun week. I feel as close as I’m going to ever feel to being like a Marvel character who’s in one of those movies who gets to go around and talk about some of the UX we’re working on a long time ago before it actually dropped. The book has been very well-received which has been a nice humbling feeling.
Eric: Yeah, that’s great. Congratulations on all of the success. I know it’s been a leader best seller in a number of categories on Amazon. I’m very excited for your success. Before we get ahead of ourselves, Randy, perhaps our listeners may not know who you are. They may want to know a little bit more about Uberflip. Share if you could what you found yourself, you started the company a couple of years ago, maybe explain a little about Uberflip, and then we’ll jump into this fascinating book.
Randy: Sounds great, Eric. First off, it’s funny. Whenever people ask you to tell you about yourself, you always go right to the workshop. I will identify myself a little broader than that. I am a Toronto-based guy, so Canadian. You can poke fun and have fun with me as we go. I’ve got three amazing kids, an amazing wife who’s made all that possible, and I live up here in Toronto. I fit all those stereotype. I love hockey. I like maple syrup, but we don’t live for maple syrup or anything like that.
Being up here, we’re in the center of a lot of great tech. that drove me into the tech industry back in 2010. In 2012, I cofounded Uberflip. It was very much something that was somewhat selfish in terms of why I created it with my cofounder. It was this idea that as a marketer, I saw the weave of content marketing. I saw companies like CoSchedule who were solving for creating content. I kind of predicted—not to set ourselves as visionaries in any obnoxious way—this day would come when we would figure out how to create all this content and we’d end up with a different problem, which was what would we do with all that content? How would we mesh it into our marketing?
That’s really what Uberflip’s there for, is how do you take all those great content marketing assets that are in place and weave them into your inbound strategy, your dimension strategy, your ABM strategy. There’s so many different ways that we go to market including how we leverage sales teams. Content is really at the core of every one of those strategies. Too often I would say that it doesn’t get the credit it deserves, but that’s because it sits there unused, if you will. We try to solve that by empowering marketers to take control of that.
Eric: I love it. Thanks for the background. Randy, I’m coming to you from Fargo, North Dakota. I am up in the north. We just got nine inches of fresh snow in the middle of March. I’ve got my Fargo accent. I like maple syrup. I like hockey. We’re not that different.
Randy: Amazing. I’m sure someone’s laughing at both of us right now. It’s alright though, we can handle it we can handle it.
Eric: We can handle it, yeah. I’m so excited to have you on. Thank you for the background of the company as well. Definitely kept my eye in you guys as well. You guys have great content. I loved your booth as well at Content Marketing. Always doing something eye-catching and disruptive. Let’s transition into this. Listeners, maybe put your earmuffs on if you’re a little faint of heart. You got a new book out and it’s called F#ck Content Marketing: Focus on Content Experience to Drive Demand, Revenue & Relationships.
You’ve got our attention. You’ve got the shock and awe for sure Randy, but I know behind that expletive title is a lot of passion around your take on what happened to the content marketing industry. I’m going to steal maybe a little bit of your thunder, but one of the first things you read is was 60%-70% of content marketing is unused. I think that just made you snap, right? It was a precipice of the rest of this book. If you could maybe just talk about what inspired you to write this book, what did you pour into it and what kind of message are you trying to get across to everyone who’s in this marketing juggernaut which is content marketing right now.
Randy: Absolutely Eric. First off, I fully get it when people see the title of the book, dropping the F bomb to begin with but also cursing at a topic that I think is really important, being content marketing. People maybe like, “Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? How is he trying to be disrespectful to me and my job if I’m a content marketer, or to great people like Joe Pulizzi or Robert Rose at Content Marketing Institute?” That’s not my intention. But to be honest, my own team had the same concerns when I wrote a blog post a few years ago.
I wrote this blog post because I saw that stat that you pointed to. The 60%-70% of content that goes unused in our organization. That data comes from serious decisions. You can dig into it and say, “What did they really mean by that? Do they mean that no one ever reads it?” I would argue that they frame it as, it maybe gets created, it’s posted to a site, maybe a blog or a resource center, but then after that it’s never actually leveraged in our marketing on a day-to-day basis for our go- to market.
Our sales teams don’t know where to find it. At our marketing team loses track of it two weeks later. That result in this outcome where content marketing has become so focused on content creation and not what do we do with that content. I referenced Joe and Robert at Content Marketing Institute. When they defined content marketing in their early days, it was the idea of creating content to attract a clearly defined audience, but if you get through the whole definition at the end it says, “To drive profitable customer action.”
Somewhere along the way, whether we don’t get to it or we’re expecting too much, I would argue from content marketers, we end up in this position where we are letting content sit unused. When you think about it, a lot of the people who are in content marketing roles, probably a lot of them listening to this podcast now, the skill that a lot of those individuals have is often the breaking component. That’s a really tough piece. It’s not to say they shouldn’t be counted on for more, but I think sometimes we expect them to do every aspect there.
We expect them to even distribute that content and figure out the ROI on that content. Debatable if they should or shouldn’t. When they were writers per se, as an example at a newspaper, maybe a previous career, they weren’t responsible for figuring out who’s going to buy the newspaper, how to get it into the hands of readers. They were responsible of making sure when they did, it was content that appealed to them. I think that’s where somewhere along the way, this definition of content marketing ended up more narrowly focused than it’s intended to be.
When I say F#ck Content Marketing, I’m not saying stop content marketing. In fact, my team wanted me to change originally the blog post and kidded about the book as well for that, but it’s not about stopping to create content, it’s about moving on to that next step, which is how do we put the right content in front of the right people so that the encounter they have with our content is a great experience.
Eric: Yeah. I love that explanation and I think it’s important to have. I love that you went out of your way to have that disclaimer. We’re not throwing shade at content marketers. I think what’s happened is we put so much emphasis around content creation. We’re asking content marketers to do above and beyond than just create, but then really where we’re dropping the ball is doing a good job of again, gaining traffic and the purpose of content which is to grow your business.
To amplify the rest of that, I think that’s really where there’s become a disconnect. They’re not thinking about the experience of content. You do a good job after setting that up. You’re break down content marketing in the atmosphere and world that we’re in right now. You talk about introducing, sort of we need to think about a different way or a different kind of strategic approach towards creating content. And you do a good job of understanding and explaining what the environment is.
If you look at some of the big content creators out there, what are some of the things that people are doing right? Like our experience with Spotify, our experience with some other popular brands, it’s really shifted. Marketers are used to like, “We create this content, we put it to the blog. We create some content, we put it to the blog.” I think there’s more to understand to create a good experience. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?
Randy: Absolutely. First off, I like that you are saying some of the examples from the book. It makes me happy to know that they made sense. I’m a storyteller. I’m a content creator like a lot of the people listening to this podcast. But those stories need to connect with real life. Let’s give a story but then let’s connect that to what does that mean for us as marketers. One of the ones that you hit on is Spotify. I’m a big Spotify fan. Not that I’m a music guru by any chance, but I love listening to music and honestly, I have no musical taste.
Spotify does a great job at queuing up music once I start to engage in the same stuff over and over. When I open up Spotify or when anyone listens to Spotify—I think you guys have thousands and thousands of people who listen to this podcast every month—when every individual of those thousands opens up Spotify, there’s this playlist section called Made for You. It doesn’t even say You, it actually says your name. Mine says Made for Randy, yours would say Made for Eric. The beauty of it is, it’s content that’s been picked for us to engage with.
That to me is a little different than environment. I would say that Spotify does a great job at environment. That’s one of the reasons it’s a winner. The layout, the structure, it’s a very well-designed app overall. But there’s two other elements that are within there, and those are the ideas about structure and engagement. […] to deliver those playlists, partly due to the algorithms they have. But Spotify actually has real people who sit there and tag all of their content. Not necessarily every song, but a lot of the content that we end up discovering either in our Discover Weekly or in this Made for You playlist comes because they’re figuring out how to match the content that we’re looking for by putting it in front of us.
I think that’s where we need to get to as marketers. We need to think like the Spotifies of the world. If you don’t connect with Spotify, think Netflix. Very same type of principles where we get there and you were telling me this is the stuff that’s going to interest you versus what a lot of us do is, we take all the content that we’ve created, all those great content marketing assets, whether it’s an ebook, or a blog post, or a great video, we’ll often organize that on our website by format. You go to people’s websites and it’s like, “Alright, let us show you all the ebooks we have, and then let us show you another page for the videos, and so on.”
I don’t go to your website and say, “Let me figure out what you guys do by reading ebooks,” right? I say, “No, I’m here because I have a problem.” Same way I say, “I’m in the mood for jazz music,” or, “I’m in the mood for something to work out to.” We have to start to organize our content to deliver that better content experience by thinking about the structure to lead to that ultimate engagement.
Eric: Even at CoSchedule, we have a very large inbound engine to be candid. We know that the right content will help us in many ways in an organization. So, there’s this pressure to get the content engine revved up and running, and making sure we’ve got a consistent number of content pieces, whether it’s video, whether it’s blog. I love that. It’s like, “Hey, hold up. This is great,” and not to stop doing those things, but think more about the experience the individual has to consume them, to digest them, to learn what they want to learn.
Sometimes it goes beyond. It absolutely goes beyond especially a content creator’s frame of thought. They’re not necessarily thinking about those things. Who is responsible then ultimately, Randy? Obviously content marketers are just on the hook here. Who is responsible for helping build this entire ecosystem ,if you will?
Randy: I want to get to that answer, but I’m going to just jump into a comment you said there, because it’ll line up very well to who’s responsible. You hit on inbound. I’m not going to sit here and not to keep dropping […]. I’m not going to sit here and […] on inbound. I think inbound is super important and still very relevant. Even my own team, we haven’t taken our foot off inbound to say, “Go all ABM.” But we are getting to a point, as we figured out our go-to market strategies, where it’s not just about inbound anymore. There’s different things that we look at.
Marketing is responsible not just for top of the funnel, not just for bringing in leads, gain, and MQL. We’re responsible for helping nurture those leads past MQL to the point they’re an opportunity, or we even within those opportunity stages through to become a customer. That’s when you start to see the responsibility for content and the marketing team to go beyond just an in-depth strategy, to get into our demand generation campaigns. What content are we going to put into that nurture trip? What content are we going to link to from the ad that we placed out on a retargeting campaign? What content do we want our sales team to drop into their follow-up email after a demo call that they made you, or after a site visit that they’ve had with a customer or a prospect? These are all ways that we need to think about content.
The reason I said it’s important to make sure people see it that way, it is when we start to see content is something that’s used throughout the entire buyer journey, we start to understand that who owns this can’t necessarily be one person. It’s definitely not all on the content marketer who created those assets. Does that make sense in your role there?
Eric: Yeah. Absolutely.
Randy: So, what we need to do is really take a moment to the first look at how do we go to market. For some of us, we may still be very inbound-focused, some as maybe all ABM-focused. We may be having a blend. I’ll give you an example because I know this is about being actionable on this podcast. One of the things that I often tell people to do when you created all this content, is we really need to take the time to make sure, as I said earlier, that it’s well-structured. Part of that structure is things like tagging and everything that goes around that.
I think a lot of us when we think of tagging our content, we think about the metadata that’s going to help bring up that content in some sort of a search. What are people searching for and how do we tag that content accordingly? Let’s not just define search as someone looking at it, a Google search and what SEO results come through. Let’s also think about the search output of our own organization.
One of the things that we do on my own team at Uberflip—I’m not talking with our customers, I’m talking about our own content strategy—is we tag content also by stage of the buyer journey. These aren’t things that our buyers are looking for per se, but allows our teams internally to know what content to use when. If our demand gen manager is going to look for the right content asset, they understand what our content team has tagged that content to be suitable for. Same thing if our sales rep needs to follow-up as we said earlier, they can go and they can find content actually tied to an opportunity stage in Salesforce, to say, “Okay, someone’s at 60%, this is counting great when someone’s at 60%, or they’re in this industry? Great, let me make sure that I find the content that works well for a telecom.”
That’s where we start to see that the responsibility to manage content experience goes well beyond just the content marketer, it loops in people like your digital marketer, demand generation marketer, sometimes other individuals like designers on your team when we get into other aspects around environment. It becomes a full team mentality. Now, we have seen some organizations adopt the idea of a content experience manager or even a director level of content experience.
Eric: That’s good. Thank you for making it actionable. I know our listeners will love that. I think that’s a great thing, to think about the roles of your team, the experience and how do you orchestrate that experience. This is a big part of your book, Randy, is talking about the personalization of marketing, the personalization of content, and the challenge of doing so at scale. What are some of your tips for implementing something at that large of a scale?
Randy: I think the first thing when we think about personalization is, a lot of us can point to this one great campaign we did, but how do we do that time and time again. We gave these examples earlier of Spotify and Netflix. I want to take it to a real life examples. What’s amazing about it is like we said, thousands of us can open the app and we get this personalized experience. The question is, how do we do that ourselves?
I won’t take you through this in detail but in the book, at the second part of the book walks through a framework called the Content Experience Framework and it’s five steps. It starts with centralizing, moving on to organizing, personalizing, distributing, and generating results for how to think of content experience and skill. A big part of that is personalization. One of the examples in the book that we talked about is a company called Snowflake.
Snowflake is first of all, an amazing example of a company that scaled in the last number of years to unicorn status. They’re killing it. They’re best in breed out there. They’ve used a combination of great people, great process such as the content experience framework as well as technology. It’s not all about Uberflip. Uberflip is definitely a big part of their stock, but there’s a bunch of other cool tools. Tools like Sigstr, tools like Terminus. Different ways that allow them to deliver personalized experience.
I’ll give you one example of what they’ll do. They’ll say, “Okay great. We’re going to go retarget these customers on an ad play.” They’ll use Terminus and they’ll put personalized ads at every one of the individuals that they’re going after. Where content comes into play is if someone clicks on that personalized ad which means something like along the lines of how Acme could use Snowflake or how Coca-Cola could use Snowflake. When they click on that link, it drops them onto a page of hand-picked content specifically for that account.
There’s a nice little story at the top as to how Snowflake can work with that brand. They’ve picked those pieces based on the industry that account is in and everything around that. The cool thing is on day one, they struggle to do 10 of these, but they were really impactful. Last I spoke to Daniel who’s a marketer there, they’ve created over 1200 of these dedicated pages of content for different accounts. That’s no different than that experience of 1200 or more of us opening up our Spotify app and having that personalized hand-picked pieces of content that’s going to connect with us. Those are the types of experience they’re able to replicate, because they have a framework to think about scale.
Eric: That’s really interesting. I love that example. When I think about that while I’m listening to it, it almost seems as though it’s a bit of shift in thinking for some marketers, and it also lands on multiple marketing contributors in order to execute this. I know in the book there’s a challenge that you extend to CMOs and business leaders to empower the ownership of experience in marketing. Say we’ve got a marketing manager or a leader who’s listening to this, or even maybe it’s a contributor or a practitioner who loves the concept of this but wants to make that shift in organization. What do they do? Where do they start? Who do they talked to? Who do they get onboard? If you have any tips, that would be great as well.
Randy: Sure. Again, I don’t think that we’re going to improve by having a single person rock this all day long. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need a new breed of marketer. There’s a funny story I talked about in the book the comes from friends of mine who started Eloqua. They talked about back in the day when they were selling marketing automation platforms, they had to sell to these weird marketer they called them. They described them as being really analytical and they almost called themselves analysts versus marketers.
The first time these guys shared this story with me, my team was there and all the demand gen marketers are laughing because they know they’re being described as this person, as the weird marketer. Now, we have job titles for these individuals. I think that’s what we’re going to see as an evolution of content. It’s the people who want to go beyond just content creation and want to get more strategic in terms of aligning content to that journey. To do that, we need to be open to working with different individuals in our organization in the meantime. Essentially, those weird marketers again.
There’s all these various use cases where people need to team up. To take as an example, sales enablement. Before you roll out a more personalized content delivery to your entire sales org find that one sales rep. That BDR or STR who’s really willing to try new things and willing to help you prove that if we deliver these personalized experiences, it will make a difference. Find that AE on your team whose got 10 accounts that they’re really trying to engage with in a personalized way, and work with them to deliver more personalized landing pages for those accounts.
It’s a matter of championing these little wins, and then being able to go with a combination of those findings as examples, and show your C level in your organization that could be your CMO. Or if the CMO is going to champion this, he could be going to the CEO and say, “Look, when we deliver a personalized experience, we lead to these better outcomes. I am willing to guarantee you’ll see higher engagement. It just makes sense.” The same way all of us spend way more time on Netflix than we ever did wandering the halls of a Blockbuster video store.
That’s just the reality of those personalized experiences. They lock us in. The other thing that I kid around in the book is you got to have guts. You got to have a little bit of courage in this situation. Whatever it takes, down a Red Bull. This is just to make it easy. Take the book that you can get on Amazon from me and slam it on your C level’s desk and say, “We got to focus on this, otherwise, there’s really no point in my job creating content if we’re not going to leverage it.” That’s been the exciting thing for me.
As you said out of the gate, Eric, I took a risk saying F#ck Content Marketing, but I’ve seen a lot of content marketers, whether it’s leaving reviews on the book site, whether it’s pinging me directly and saying, “You know what? I couldn’t agree more. If we’re not going to leverage all the content that I’m creating, I don’t see the point of my job and I don’t see the point of coming in and working away as hard as I do.”
Eric: I love that justification at the beginning of the book, too, about if we’re not going to do this right, then eff it, let’s not do this. I think that’s really smart. To everyone who’s listening, it’s hard to argue with the idea of, if we’re not going to do this right, if I’m going to waste my time creating content that lands on deaf ears, or no one absorbs it, or no one uses it, it’s hard to feel like you’re making an impact. I think there’s some really good tips in here.
Randy, you are the author of this book, I’ve been pulling out things that I thought were really good. Is there one chapter or one concept that you are most proud of that you want to end the show on just highlighting for our listeners?
Randy: That’s a good question. I haven’t had that one yet. As you said, I’ve been doing a lot of these. I think it’s the idea of having a framework. That’s outlined in part two of the book. We go into each part of the framework in detail on its own chapter. It’s not textbooky. It’s designed to get you to think more strategically. I’m a big framework guy in general, whether it was the inbound framework when it came out from HubSpot, whether it was just a SWOT analysis when I was in high school or university.
They give us a better way to think about scale. I think before we go, we say to ourselves, “Okay, let’s personalize everything.” We need to take a step back, because personalization is really only possible once you have control of that content and you take time to structure it properly. I think having that framework is really what’s going to set people up to be successful.
Eric: Good stuff. Randy, I’m a big fan of the book. I know there are listeners who may want to take a look, buy it, snatch it up right now. You just said at the beginning of the call, it is live, it is published, it’s ready to be purchased. Where can they go to get that?
Randy: They can go to Amazon. That’s the most logical place to buy it. Some of us don’t know how to spell F#ck. We do it as an F#ck and we’re working on the search with Amazon to make sure people can find it in many ways that’s more complex than what we originally imagined. The other place to go to is b-rand.com. A lot of my friends call me Rand, not Randy, so b-rand.com is the best place to go.
Eric: Awesome. We’ll make sure and get those in the podcast notes as well with links to both of those resources. I appreciate that. Randy, it’s been a blast. Congratulations again on the book. I’m excited. Listeners, go get yourself a copy. You’re going to really enjoy it. I appreciate your time today.
Randy: Absolutely Eric. Thanks so much for inviting me on.
Eric: You’re welcome. Take care.