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Do you have too much on your plate? Are you spread too thin? Are you constantly putting out fires? All of these are symptoms of a bigger problem, and oftentimes, that problem is a lack of prioritizing and planning ahead. If you see yourself in any of this, you will not want to miss today’s episode.
We are talking to Jana Barrett, the senior content marketing manager at GetFeedback. In her position, she needs to balance prioritizing with getting all of her projects done. Today we’re going to talk about setting priorities for your projects, coming up with great ideas, and getting it all organized so you don’t fall behind.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Nathan: Do you ever feel like you’re spread too thin? Maybe you deal with one fire drill after another. Or, still another one, maybe wear many hats, or maybe you’re so deep in the weeds it feels like too much of a time suck to actually plan ahead? Prioritizing the work you take on helps you produce bigger results.
Today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast, you and I are chatting with Jana Barrett. She’s the Senior Content Marketing Manager at GetFeedback. Jana has found a way to balance between executing projects and prioritizing the kind of work that will generate the biggest return. I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and I’m excited for you to learn how to prioritize your projects, come up with great ideas, and plan ahead so you’ll feel completely organized. Let’s check this out.
Hey Jana, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Jana: Thank you, Nathan. It’s great to be here.
Nathan: It’s great to have you. Just to kick this off, could you tell me a little bit about GetFeedback?
Jana: GetFeedback is a customer experience survey solution. We’ve been around for about two years now. The company was founded by two previous SalesForce executives who branched off from the company and were interested in starting their own venture.
One thing that had really been coming up over the years was that every time they needed to survey customers or partners or employees, they felt like they had to send out these college scantron type surveys that were just a slug to get through. They wanted to create something that felt on brand, that you would really be proud of sending.
What they came up with was this really beautiful product that allowed companies to create really dynamic surveys that adhered to best practices, kept it short, kept it really on brand. That’s where the idea originally came from.
Then over the course of a couple of years, their SalesForce background started peaking through and they realized that people were collecting feedback and then not really knowing what to do with it. I think that’s a really common problem in any industry or company. You hear things from your customers and employees and then you’re not totally sure what to do next.
What they determined was that actually integrating that feedback with SalesForce was the best route for these companies. So many companies use SalesForce for all their sales, marketing success, service needs, so that’s where they store all of this data. And then actually integrating customer feedback can add a whole other level to these customer records and really give teams the access and insight they need to do something with the data.
Nathan: That sounds like it’s built to turn data into action; we’re all about that here at CoSchedule.
Jana, something I wanted to ask you is just the lowdown of what you do there.
Jana: I am the head of content marketing. I’m sort of nestled under the demand gen scope. As a content marketer, I’m focused on driving demand for the product, spreading awareness around GetFeedback and our whole brand statement, our greatest message, which is that customer experience is really the new frontier for businesses. As what feels like a buzzword these days, customer experience, you hear it everywhere. Frankly, not that many people actually know what it means.
As a content marketer, a lot of my job is crafting a message that people can connect to. On a tactical level, that looks like producing job posts, writing long form content, social media, email marketing campaigns, sales enablement; an array of content that really sticks to that chapter two vision that we have for our business which is becoming leaders in the customer experience measurement space, and giving prospects and our own customers, our current customers, the content that they need to actually be successful.
Nathan: Something that you just hinted on was that you do a lot of the strategic work, but you’re also executing. I think that sometimes, that’s a struggle for marketers to prioritize their time between the two. I was wondering if you could tell me what have you done to get yourself out of the weeds of doing to focus more time on that strategic thought process.
Jana: Absolutely. That was probably the biggest challenge that I faced and continue to face. Being able to execute, create the content that people need and that we need to push our organic traffic forward. You have people tweeting at you and you have blog posts that need to get published. I think as a content marketer, it’s really easy to get sucked down into the day to day and lose sight of that greater strategy that you’re actually here for.
On my end, when I joined GetFeedback, we had very minimal content. We had a blog but it wasn’t regularly posted on. We had social profiles but not many followers. Content wasn’t really the priority. When I joined, I was in this position where I wanted to just be publishing. I felt like I needed to be writing and editing and optimizing existing content.
I spent probably the first three months of my time here just constantly with Google Doc open drafting new content or editing existing stuff. I soon found that I had backed away a lot from the conversations I was having with the founders where they were talking about the brand vision and the content strategy and what they needed to do to move forward into chapter two for the company.
When I realized that, I actually soon was joined by our new CMO. Our CMO Craig Spencer, one of the original founders, came back to GetFeedback after a couple of years. He was able to really digest what we had been doing for the past couple of years and then put that into a new focus. He came back with this newcomer eyes and started sitting down with us and having these weekly meetings with the marketing team where we would discuss not just the projects we were working on and what was going on on Monday, but we would look forward three months, and we would look forward six months.
Having those conversations every single week really helped me get in the frame of mind where I was thinking about content through that lens. It wasn’t just that I was the content marketer, I was running our content strategy.
Starting with literally just talking about it, I think, began to frame my day and my week in the lens of the greater strategy. On a day to day, I found myself spending a lot of time just getting sucked into little projects. I’m kind of a data nerd, so I love just starting at Google Analytics. That can be helpful, certainly. We want to stay data centric and be doing things that drive real change. It can also be a black hole. I had to check myself and begin saying there isn’t actually a reason for me to look at search console right now, I could be crafting content that’s actually going to provide real value for people.
I found myself doing similar things on social. We, at the time, were using Buffer primarily for our social posting and were just manually tweeting things here and there. I actually found that just managing those social accounts took so much time that I didn’t even quite realize an hour would go down the drain and that would turn into five hours throughout the course of the week.
Actually, CoSchedule was a huge, huge benefit for us. We eventually started using these social campaigns which cut out an absolutely tremendous amount of time that I had previously been spending just checking our Twitter stats and doing all of these things that were just split off in different tools and different browser windows. Suddenly, I was able to see all of that in one place. Publish a blog post, set up the social campaign.
I think the combination of having those conversations, just starting the conversation about strategy and where we wanted to be and putting things into paper. And then actually consolidating tools, making sure we were getting the most out of the tools we were using, making sure we were really focused on the big picture instead of tossing hours and minutes down the drain by getting caught up with some data and charts.
Nathan: I can 100% relate to that. Coming into something new, being the creator, you want to spend your time executing but planning is really important too. Something that you talked about was getting organized personally and making sure that you’re using your time most effectively. I’m wondering if you could tell me about your personal system for time management.
Jana: I obviously rely on my calendar quite a bit. I found that it helps personally when I actually put an event on my calendar to edit something. We meet a lot between teams here, we’re super cross functional. It’s easy to get caught up in a lot of meetings, and then you get back to your desk and you feel like you need to suddenly produce content or check that email or do whatever. It’s helped me significantly to actually schedule time with myself to work on projects that are top of mind.
What I also rely on a great deal in addition to just your basic calendar is what I call content dashboard. It’s essentially just a Google Spreadsheet that has all of the content projects that I’m either working on or plan to work on. It also serves as an idea dump. Every time I think of something new, or someone else thinks of something new, I’ll just toss it onto the spreadsheet. Of course, all of this lives in CoSchedule as well.
What the spreadsheet does for us is it gives us a super simple way to just digest all of the upcoming projects at once and then toss in a priority level of one, two, three. One being the most important projects that we feel like we really need to get done in the next month, in the next quarter. Three being the things that could maybe be a blog post instead of a long form piece or maybe we want to think about an infographic. This gives us a way to look at everything that we have going on in our minds and then actually share that with different teams and get there and put as well.
For instance, just a couple of weeks ago our CEO went through my list and put his little priority levels next to each project. Although the majority were pretty similar to my ranking levels, there were a few that jumped out and were like, “Oh, I guess that’s way more important than I realized it was.” He actually represents our sales team, he oversees them, he’s basically serving as the head of sales in addition to running our company. Getting his insight is really interesting because he’s the one who’s directing our sales team, helping them identify and attract prospects.
I ultimately want to enable our sales team and getting their insight on how they would rank each piece that I’m working on is essential to actually being an effective content marketer. I do the same thing with our success and service teams. I meet with them monthly, we talk about what’s happening, what they’re getting questions about, and then we go through my content dashboard and draw a line between a current project and an issue that they’re facing or something that just seems to be in the water these days.
Stuff like that, it’s hard to pin logic to it but I feel like everyone is familiar with that where concepts just start getting talked about all at once. As content marketers, we want to be able to tap into that. The easiest way to do that is to have a really healthy relationship with our customer facing teams.
Nathan: That’s really smart, Jana. I was going to ask you just to dig a little bit deeper into that, why do you think it’s important to get feedback (pun intended there) prospectus from that sales team, from your success folks, and just people outside the marketing team? Why is that important to make your marketing ideas that much better?
Jana: I think marketers, we tend to silo ourselves sometimes. We get so used to speaking to this hypothetical prospect or opportunity that we lose touch with the people that actually become customers. I certainly don’t think it’s intentional, we all do it at some point. I think when you get feedback from the people that are actually having these really direct conversations with the humans on the other side of the phone or the computer or the table, you are able to connect to them.
I feel like by actually developing close relationships with our sales and success and service teams, I can connect to the customer. Of course it’s indirect, and that’s why we also ask for customer feedback because that’s hugely important. But by meeting monthly and just chatting about current projects, I can align and just begin to learn from them a little bit. I think instead of wagging our fingers and telling our sales team what they should be selling and how they should be selling, it’s super helpful for them to tell us what they actually need in order to execute.
Nathan: That seems really smart, Jana. Something that I wanted to ask you. Last time we chatted, it sounded like you could do pretty much anything with marketing. When you first started, how did you actually decide what to do at the very beginning? Where did those marketing ideas come from?
Jana: As I mentioned a little bit, we started as the survey tool and then transitioned into more of a customer experience measurement solution. That kind of represents what we call our chapter one and our chapter two. Chapter two was super SalesForce heavy, we realized that that was really the market we wanted to tap into. When I started, we were entering that chapter two but not quite there. That made it really important for me to start actually being able to talk about customer experience and actually understand what that was.
When I was deciding on our early projects, I was just simultaneously doing a lot of research. I come from a pretty customer heavy background, I’ve worked in customer service, customer support, a lot of customer facing positions. That was really useful just tapping into my background and my own experiences. I started literally just scraping and jotting down ideas from thought leaders and started subscribing to blogs and just getting a lot of content and digesting a lot of content as much as I could.
When I was planning our early content initiatives, they started pretty small. They started with a blog post about survey design, a blog post about customer experience in financial services, and just things that I could wrap my arms around as I was getting acquainted with the company and what our employees and our team actually needed.
It was a little bit difficult, like you had mentioned earlier. A lot of content marketers get sucked away from their strategy because they are in the weeds. I certainly experience that. I felt like I was publishing a lot of content, but it wasn’t quite hitting the nail on the head.
When we started thinking about different types of content that we could be producing, whether it’s webinars or actual resource guides as opposed to just your standard blog post, I think framing these bigger ideas into bigger pieces of content helped me start thinking at a higher level. I wasn’t thinking let me just tweet about this, or let me just draft an 800 word blog post about this. I was thinking what can I create that will actually serve as a pillar piece that our sales team would want to send to people, and that our customer facing service teams will send to a customer if they have an issue or have a question about how to develop a customer experience program.
Once I started thinking at a larger scale, just more ideas started coming to me. A lot of people have this question of what is customer experience so we needed to check that one off the list. They’re just a lot of topics that when you’re dealing with a space that’s relatively new you can talk about. You need to establish your authority in a space, so that’s really what we were doing. We were writing content that showed people that we cared about this and we could talk about it. We weren’t just interested in talking about surveys and what surveys can do for a small business.
Nathan: That’s really smart, Jana. Something that I wanted to ask you was you have all these different ideas, tons of things you could do like webinars or blog posts, you name it. It sounds like you guys are doing it. How do you actually prioritize those marketing projects at GetFeedback?
Jana: When it comes to prioritizing my own projects, I definitely rely on that dashboard quite a bit, just the exercise of going through and writing the one, two, or three next to something I think helps you start thinking at that scale.
In addition to that, as a marketing team, we actually do a daily stand up. We get around a table, not usually standing, usually sitting, and we each talk for a few minutes about what we’re working on that day, what we worked on the day before, and what we want to accomplish that week as a whole. What that does is it gives us really quick visibility into all the things that the rest of the marketing team is working on. It also forces us to actually think about that everyday. It’s at 9:30 every single morning.
The first thing you focus on that day is what you’re going to accomplish. We try to limit it to two or three things tops because I think the more you start getting into the tens of things you’re going to accomplish, it becomes pretty unrealistic. Setting your focus and just setting intent helps quite a bit.
In addition, we also do a weekly meeting with the marketing team that is just purely dedicated to discussing existing web projects. Since our website drives over 90% of the prospects and sign ups that we get, that’s a huge marketing asset for us, if not the pillar marketing asset. We focus the majority of our time on just getting new landing pages up that will serve as really great demand gen pieces, transforming current pages and really optimizing those for our new goals.
We go around the table and we use basecamp for that. We have a list of probably over 50 projects and the top of mind projects are ranked one through ten. Then, anything that is not actually being actively worked on, we move to the 50s. We have a list that looks like a bunch of tiles on a board and it’s super overwhelming, but when you get in a room and you actually go around and talk about each of the one through ten projects that the team as a whole is working on, it helps focus us all and it really gives us greater visibility if we’re being a blocker for a project for instance that comes out in that meeting.
Each of these projects has an owner. If I’m the owner of a new resource guide, I’ll have a few minutes to discuss what’s going on with that, when I think I’m going to be able to finish it, if I need anything from our designer or our web developer, whoever.
And then we actually have a list of tasks that are projected up there on the board so there’s no hiding from it. If I haven’t checked off a task, then it’s right there for all to see. It not only instills this sense of we want to get stuff done as a team, but it also helps us all think about projects in terms of that one through ten priority.
In addition to that, whenever we archive a project, we move another one up into the one through ten. It just develops the cadence of action as opposed to let’s work on this a little bit, let’s work on that.
Nathan: I love that. Do one thing well.
Nathan: Something that I wanted to ask you about Jana is let’s just say we’ve got your highest priority project, you’re working on it. What does a typical content workflow look like at GetFeedback?
Jana: Typically, I would say we can get a really solid piece of content pushed out, a really spiffy resource guide. We can get one pushed out in a little under a month. If you know, that’s starting with the ideation phase where we’re actually thinking through it, outlining it, getting to the point where I’m creating an outline that I can actually send to a writer; we work with a few freelance writers.
Starting through that strategy ideation phase, that maybe takes a few days just to get it in the hands of a writer. At that point, I would assign something in CoSchedule to that writer. They would run away with it, start drafting, get it back to me in the course of a few days or a week, maybe longer if it’s something super meaty. By that point, the editing phase takes maybe one or two days.
We’re trying to get super image forward with our content and include more interactive content instead of just endless copy. We work with out designer, we have one lead designer. Sometimes, I’ll try my hand at Photoshop and whip something up. It usually doesn’t turn out nearly as good. I back away when necessary.
This whole process of actually coming up with the idea, getting it written, editing it, putting some imagery in there, getting it to start feeling like a living and breathing piece usually takes no more than two weeks. Then, at that point, we rely on WordPress for most of my content publishing.
Formatting it in WordPress, making sure everything is really coming together nicely and on brand would put us at the three week mark. Then, we actually publish, start promoting it, plug it in CoSchedule and turn on that social campaign which has saved my life. That puts us close to the three and a half, one month mark.
Of course it’s very substantial. If we’re talking a blog post, I can get one out in a day. I think that I have a tendency to underestimate my amount of time and set the length that are unrealistic. When I actually think about it piece by piece like that and think about all the contributors that are going to have their hand in this project, it helps me to more realistically set deadlines for myself.
CoSchedule actual workflows have helped me tremendously. Once I realized that’s not ever going to happen, I’m not going to be able to publish this incredible resource guide in less than a week, the first time that happens then you tweak it, you iterate, you change your workflow, you change your templates. All that stuff I think has to be flexible in order for us to actually be successful. When you set your expectations for yourself effectively, then you can also manage the expectations of the people that rely on you.
Nathan: Yeah, I love that Jana. This all seems like really good advice. I want to pick your brain just a little bit more on that. So it takes about a month to create something and create it well. I really like that you said you can create things fast but you take the time to make sure that it’s on brand and really great.
What I was wondering is how many things are 100% done on your calendar, and how far out are you planned?
Jana: I would love to say that I have a bunch of content done at any given time and I’m just waiting to hit publish but I find that more often I have a lot of stuff drafter, a lot of stuff edited, and I’m mostly working in the formatting stages to get that into WordPress, get it published. I have a million Google Docs lying around that are integrated into CoSchedule. I see them waiting for me to do something with them.
As overwhelming as that can be to have this bank of content, it’s also really, really useful if at any point maybe a question pops up or a new feature is released and suddenly you can rehash that and bring back a draft that maybe wasn’t ready at the time that it was submitted. I think that’s super useful.
In my case, I do like to schedule pieces, at least a few months out at a time. In CoSchedule, I’ll have usually a couple blog posts that are scheduled, assigned to a writer, and drafted for the next three months. We’re looking at two or three blog posts a week. That’s really helpful because when I actually go through and layout a month at a time, I can make sure that we’re hitting all the marks, that we’re talking about customer experience, that we’re talking a little bit about product, that we’re discussing SalesForce and really touching on the three pillar topics for us that are going to drive the traffic that we want.
I can’t say that it’s a hard and fast rule that I’ll go through and make sure that I have three months of content laid out, I don’t think that we can be that rigid with ourselves, especially because we’re in tech particularly. Things change so quickly that it’s almost like you’re putting yourself in jeopardy if you try to over schedule.
What I do is I’ll lay out three months hypothetically and then I’ll change things. We have a customer marketer that sometimes wants to publish a customer story in the blog, or maybe we release something early and we want to publish a piece that tells people how to use image upload in surveys, stuff like that that just pops up. It helps to not be super rigid with myself and with my content strategy and my content calendar because I think things change and we have to change with them.
Nathan: Definitely. It sounds like you’re a massive planner, organizer. I was wondering, you mentioned something about product there. I want to pick your brain, how do you stay ahead or in tune with those new product releases? How do you stay ahead of the game with that sort of thing?
Jana: We have a really dynamic product. Our product team is amazing, they push so much stuff out it feels like the marketing team can’t really keep up with them half the time. Staying in tune with the product, I think for one I try to be hands on. I create my own surveys, I have my own content marketing dashboard that has feedback from our blog and from our resources. Actually finding ways to incorporate the product in my job has helped me tremendously. When I’m using the survey tool every single day, then I’m able to discover things on my own and even reveal new use cases that maybe I can write about. That helps a lot.
What also helps is just having an open channel of communication between your product team and your marketing team. We actually have what we call a weekly customer experience roundup. We sit in a room together with all five departments represented and we usually have a focus of the week, whether it’s a new piece on customer experience that came out that we want to discuss or if we want to talk about our customer journey, new objections that our prospects have had. We sit around and actually discuss those and the product team is represented in that.
Whenever the sales team has an issue that they can’t seem to overcome with a certain lead or an account or whatever, the product team can actually chime in and say, “Well, did you think about this?” Just having those conversations and discussing our own customer experience at GetFeedback, we call it eating our own dog food. Having our own customer experience measurement system internally and communicating about that with each of those five departments represented gives us this opportunity to connect and help each other out.
I’ve had a lot of moments where in a meeting I’ve been talking about something and our product manager will say, “Oh, you should write about this, that sounds super relevant. You should write about this feature.” It sounds kind of oversimplified but I think just talking, just having those conversations really helps me stay in tune with our product and using the tool.
Nathan: That makes perfect sense, Jana. Talk to your customers, talk to the people that know your customers really well, it can make for some really awesome content.
Jana, it looks like it’s about time to wrap this up. Just one more question for you. Let’s say I’m a marketer, I’m trying to plan ahead, prioritize, get organized, what’s your best advice for someone to get started there? Where should they focus?
Jana: I would say start by looking at a calendar of one day, looking at Monday, seeing how many hours you’re spending on things that are just not really essential, things that don’t contribute to your brand voice, or put you into that chapter two mindset with content. Just start crossing things out. Being able to say no to things, to yourself and to other people, is really important in a content creation position. Also, just being able to simplify your days a little bit, not try to get ten things done but maybe focus on getting one or two things done that are actually going to move the needle. The last thing I would say is making sure to really foster connections between not just the leaders and the strategy owners in your organization but also the people that are customer facing. The most effective way to speak to your audience is to actually get in touch with your current customers. If you can really foster great relationships with your sales team, your service team, your success team, whoever, then you’ll be able to do your job more importantly.
Nathan: Yeah Jana, that is all really good advice. With that, we’ll wrap it up. Thank you so much for sharing everything you know about personal time management, prioritizing and strategizing your workload from a strategic level, and everything else that you’ve shared to get things organized. Thank you, Jana.
June 6, 2017
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