Leveraging the Power of Content Partnerships to Launch a New Business With Brett McGrath From The Juice [AMP 248]
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Do you create great content for an awesome business but still find it challenging to be found on the internet? Building relationships with the right partners can build your audience by getting in front of the audiences of others.
Today’s guest is Brett McGrath, Vice President of Marketing at The Juice, a content distribution platform for B2B content. It’s like Spotify, but for business content. Brett shares how to develop content partnerships to launch ambitious new companies.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Content Collaboration: Takes time and effort to work the correct way
- Priority #1: Meet people and have conversations with them
- Learn Two Things: If marketing messages resonate, what’s on marketers’ minds
- Podcast: Having a show helps build partnerships and talk about passion projects
- Mutual Benefits: Build relationships to create, present, share, and add value
- Mindset and Philosophy: Launch product and company with people
- Biggest Win: Streamlining content process to create content with social proof
- Where to Meet/What to Say: Be comfortable and confident in social communities
- Podcast Practice: Ask questions, facilitate feedback, and promote people/brands
Ben: Hey, Brett. How’s it going this morning?
Brett: It’s going well. I’m actually recording from our office and not my home. I’m having a bunch of construction done on my home front right now. It’s an atypical day for me to actually be in the office, but it’s nice to see people for a change. That’s bringing me some energy this morning.
Ben: Good. Glad to hear it and glad that you are able to safely return to the office. It’s been a really weird 18 months, I feel like.
Brett: Yeah. It certainly has, and I don’t want to jump completely into this topic because I know so many smart people have talked about it. But the last 18 months really, I think, taught me as a marketer. I’m sure a lot of other people out there listening, you don’t have to be in the office 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day and have this rigid schedule. Most of what I do professionally is what we’re doing right now, which can be done anywhere in the world. I think those positive changes have been good for me. I’ve learned a lot about just how I operate over the last 18 months, trying to find a silver lining.
Ben: Yeah, for sure. I think finding the silver lining is a really healthy way of thinking about it and framing it. Awesome. I’m so glad to be bringing you on the show. I had jumped on your podcast earlier this year and had a great time with that. Then we had Jonathan from your team who has been on the show recently. I’m just super excited to have this conversation to talk about how you have handled content partnerships and content collaboration with The Juice. At least from the outside, it seems like you’ve been very successful with making that work, just to build awareness about your completely brand new company and product.
I’m particularly interested in talking to you about this because I feel like I see the word content collaboration get abused so much in my inbox every single day and it drives me nuts. Because really, people will say, “Hey, do you want to collaborate?” When really, collaboration starts and stops with me giving them the backlink. I don’t think that’s really a collaboration in any true sense of the term. To kick things off here, you’ve had a lot of success and you’ve obviously really put a lot of time and effort into making content partnerships and collaboration actually work the correct way.
It seems like you’ve been very successful with it. To begin with, how did you first go about finding influencers, partners, and fellow content marketers to help you create content and help you promote The Juice in a way that is organic and that feels authentic.
Brett: I think maybe start with a story about who I am and where I’ve worked over the past decade, and this might help lead into it. I’m a career B2B marketer. I’ve worked in software companies of all shapes and sizes. I’ve learned a lot from those experiences. Over the last, I would say, half a decade or so, I was nowhere close to the B2B mar-tech space. I was working in other verticals—retail and in education.
When I joined The Juice and I was back in what I call marketing to marketers or to me it feels like just being on a playground all day talking with people like you Ben and other people who are working on similar problems. I had my own thoughts about the modern-day B2B marketer like the things that motivated them, the desires, the roadblocks. I had my thoughts on what that meant for me in 2020 or 2021, but this was all assumptions. I did not know just from individuals if my assumptions were correct.
I think just out of the gates for me when I joined The Juice, priority number one was to meet people, just have conversations, and learn. One, if the things that we’re talking about in our messages, if it resonates. Two, what are the things that are on the minds of B2B marketers today.
For me, it was a lot of—before I went out and tried to pursue specific individuals, it was how can I take a step back? How can I reach out to people? And do it in a way that is authentic and natural and just building partnerships and just asking questions. I’ll say this, and I’m sure you can relate with this too, Ben, but one of my big priorities at the beginning was I need to have a show because the show gives me the opportunity. Once I need an individual for the first time and understand what they’re passionate about, especially if that aligns with our narrative then that’s an easy second step.
These people are on the same page with us. I’m learning a ton and I think our audience can learn a ton from it. Then the natural transition is, hey, will you be on my podcast? We can have a conversation about this topic. That’s really how the process has been for me starting with I need to talk to people like me and learn if my assumptions are correct. Second, meet individuals, and then third, if people have passionate takes, thoughts, and ideas of cool things that they’re working on that our audience can benefit from, then just invite them on the podcast.
Ben: Yeah, it’s great stuff. I will say I definitely can relate to that. Our podcast has been a huge boom for us, purely just as a relationship-building tool. Even if we got no other benefit from it at all, that alone makes it more than worthwhile.
You’ve touched on this a little bit, but what are some of the benefits in your mind behind the strategy of building relationships and collaborating on content that you maybe couldn’t achieve as well another way? I think that with some of these things with building relationships, you’re making connections in the industry. I feel like marketers struggle with some of this kind of thing because it’s hard to quantify the benefit. It’s hard to quantify the outcomes. What are your thoughts on that?
Brett: Yeah. I could spend a lot of time talking about just that in of itself. I think we as B2B marketers need to move away from me-centered marketing, marketing for our own KPIs and our metrics, or what our bosses want. One of the biggest things that just drives me crazy and I’ve been guilty of it in my career is like, what’s our lead number? We need more leads to pass over to our sales team and get caught up in that. But not focusing on actually presenting and creating value for the people that you’re reaching out to.
I think that’s a big thing. You mention the podcast and building relationships. That’s exactly it. It’s the opportunity to meet individuals and build those relationships, and know that talking with individuals and working with them. One conversation can lead to several and that compounds over time. I just think it’s focusing on the long game of marketing. So often, we want to focus on the short game.
I think for me, with building relationships, the biggest thing that I’ve found is that no matter the size of your company, no matter if you even have a product or not, I was marketing six months before The Juice was live. It was building relationships and an audience. No matter your size, there are other people out there that believe in your message and believe in your narrative. You need to find those people. If you find those people having that conversation, have something like a podcast or video series, and share that information out.
It’s a ripple effect. People see it. People want to be a part of it. I think it just benefits message feedback like testing messaging, after I get done with the podcast, can I run these things by you and let me know what you think. Aligning on the narrative and then ultimately, that builds early advocates and early advocates are critical in order to help get your word out. I think that’s been my mindset and philosophy. I’ve told our CEO, Jonathan, this a lot because we’re launching our business publicly. We have a product right now but we’re doing a big marketing splash here in August. I think as I’m building the plan, one of the big principles is to launch with people.
I don’t want it to just be The Juice launching but launching with other people. Laying that groundwork of having conversations makes it a lot easier to say here’s my list of 30 marketers that I’ve been talking with for the last six months. Can you all help us share this out with your networks? Just that sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight but it’s just doing the work and having these continual conversations over a course of time.
Ben: Yeah, certainly. This might be an interesting time to ask this question as you’re getting right up to the point where you’re about to really be ready to blow this whole thing wide open and really start to see the full impact of the strategy come to fruition. But at least up to this point, what are some of the biggest wins that you’ve seen from the strategy so far that have maybe help you get to this point to where you’re going to be ready to launch this product with confidence because you have all of these people who are on your side who are ready to help you promote it?
Brett: I think the biggest win if I were to zoom all the way out and just say one macro, it would be the streamlining of content on our side. We have a small team at The Juice and other people are contributing to the content but I’m the one who’s thinking about it and building and designing it every day. By incorporating other individuals into our work, it helps streamline the process. Not only are we creating more content. It’s content with social proof in it. It’s content that we’re not just sharing out but people are sharing out on our behalf.
I think just as a macro, that process has been a big win. I would say, ultimately, as I was trying to test this idea and concept out of the gates, yes, I had connections, yes, there would be people I’d meet online. But I really wanted to challenge myself and say if I built a list of companies that are doing excellent content and then I take the time and find who are the people behind that content. If I were to just reach out to them cold, introducing who I am, what I’m up to, would these people respond?
Probably one of the stories in the last six months I hang my hat on, there’s an excellent content marketer, I’m going to shout her out, Leah Friedman. She’s the director of content at Guru. When I was studying content, I kept looking at Guru and I was like, gosh, this is so valuable. This is helpful. This is excellent B2B content. I need to find out who was behind it. Obviously, I saw her name tied to it. I started doing research. I saw on Twitter that she was a contestant on Jeopardy in February and I was like that’s interesting.
I reached out to her and just said, he, I love what you’re doing. I’ve got this podcast. I’d love for you to come on and let’s chat. She came on, we met, an excellent podcast, excellent conversation. At the end of it, she’s like, I’m interested in what you’re talking about and what you’re doing at The Juice. I said that’s interesting. I introduced Jonathan. She has a conversation. Next thing you know, all of a sudden, a content partnership with Leah Friedman, cold, from Guru has turned into a business relationship. Now Guru is using The Juice. That story just gives me goosebumps talking about it because it’s a validation of the work we’re doing.
It’s just amazing working with people like her and just awesome content marketing teams in B2B who are not only pushing their brands, but me talking with them helped push me forward and the way I’m thinking about doing things.
Ben: Yeah, definitely. That’s awesome. On the flip side, as we were discussing before we jumped on onto this interview, nothing in marketing ever goes flawlessly. Nothing with startup life, certainly. It’s never without challenges. I’m curious, I’m not going to even ask whether or not you’ve faced challenges. I’m just going to ask which challenges may have been the biggest hurdles that you’ve needed to overcome and how did you navigate some of those difficulties or those lessons that might have been learned the hard way?
Brett: It’s not all roses, that’s for certain. I’ll tell you what Ben, I felt like I was off to a heck of a start. I was running fast. Things were happening and it was good. It was like every person I talked to just was turning out to be an amazing conversation that would end up in content and it was awesome. But then once our products started getting more visible, I personally wasn’t prepared as a product expert of The Juice to have the conversation with the marketer about value add and what we can do as a business for them.
I would hit calls and people would know who we are and what we do and people would start really drilling in asking me questions, questions that I wasn’t quite prepared for. I did okay, but it sucks to play defense. We’d all much rather be on offense. I think for me it’s taking those experiences back, working with our team, and making sure that I am prepared to put my best foot forward when I’m having conversations and making the people on the other end know that we’re not trying to do something that’s taking away from them. We’re trying to do something that’s adding for them.
That would be one. Then I think just the other one would be anybody who is at an early stage can relate with this, when no one knows who you are, you’re open to talking to everybody. You want to talk with everyone. You want to get feedback from everyone. But when the snowball started building and forming into something bigger, I would get a lot of inquiries and questions. There became a point where it moved from like I can’t talk with everyone now. I don’t have the capacity to do that. How do I position what we’re doing in that content offering that we have where we want to involve people to make it more specific and make the companies that we’re trying to collaborate with easily identifiable?
That was a big learning. It’s not like we don’t want you to be part of the content. We’re focusing on the segments right now. That was a big learning. I’m very ambitious, so having to restrain myself from having conversations with everyone is difficult and a challenge. But certainly, something we’re working through every day.
Ben: Something that’s really underrated about building relationships the way Brett and The Juice have done, by getting guests on your podcast, having experts write articles for you, and so forth is just how much you yourself as a marketer can learn from others. I mean it when I say that every episode of this very podcast is getting 20–30 minutes of free consulting from our guests. Even if that’s all this show did for us, it would be well worth the time that we put into it for sure. That’s something to keep in mind when trying to prove the value of this tactic. Now, back to Brett.
If a listener to the show is interested in building content partnerships and really just business relationships with other markers, with other content creators, and just collaborating with people in a very genuine way on things that are useful and interesting in the way that you have with The Juice, how would you recommend they get started? Let’s say that they’ve never really done this before. Maybe they’ve never actually been the one to initiate a conversation with another marketer in their industry outside their own organization before, what’s the first thing they’ve got to do?
Brett: I would say have some self-awareness and have some self-awareness that no one cares about your company and no one cares about your product at all. Especially because my next tip is where to meet people. Especially in these groups and communities, so you really have to be comfortable and confident with yourself, your individual brand, who you are, and what you represent. I think that’s number one. Never lead with, I’m Brett, I am at The Juice, and we’re a content discovery platform that’s going to change your life. Absolutely not. Don’t do that.
But what you can do is share your thoughts, ideas, and messages that might align with what your company, but is doing but it’s something you believe and you’re really passionate about. I would say you take that to places. A couple of places that I’ve met, probably 70% of the people that I’m working with every day are Twitter and communities, Slack groups. Twitter, I had never been a guy that used Twitter for business. I know there’s a lot of takes on Twitter and people just pontificating and hot takes galore.
There is that that happens, but there’s also the opportunity to build some really strong and solid relationships. To me, it’s not going into Twitter every day and sharing my hot takes. It’s commenting. It’s engaging in other people’s posts and building relationships that way. You don’t know how many times that can lead to a DM slide and then all of a sudden you’re having the conversation about, I love what you’re doing, I love what you’re doing, let’s create content together, so that’s one.
Then the second one I just shout it out. I’ve shouted it out on our podcast so many times. But if anyone out there is listening and is in content marketing and is not involved in this group, you need to be involved in this group. Jimmy Daly created Superpath, which is an unbelievable content marketing Slack group and community. I’ve learned so much from being a member of that group. I’ve met so many amazing people. The referrals from people, people come on my show. People say, hey, you need to talk to my friend. I think that’s been great.
It might be different for everyone, but just find the places where people want to go and learn and are like-minded and find ways to engage that’s not, I’m Brett, I’m from The Juice. We have a content discovery platform that’s going to change your life.
Ben: I think that’s fantastic advice. I feel like it can be difficult for people to maybe wrap their heads around. I have a specific goal that I want to achieve, but when you’re building relationships with other people, they don’t care about who you are or what you’re trying to do. I think sometimes, that leads to really weird things where somebody will, very obviously, say something that’s meant to be flattering or whatever. Then immediately after that, it’s a sales pitch. You’re taking all of the steps that usually lead to developing a relationship with another person and you’re just putting them in a check box. You’re just trying to do one thing after the next.
I think the way that you laid that out, how to actually just relate to people like an actual human being, I hope that that maybe clarifies some things for some people. You’re not just reaching out to people and then checking boxes off a list of, this person responded to me. Now, that means I have a relationship with them and I can sell to them now. That’s not how it works.
Brett: Yeah. I just want to double down on this. I’ve said it a lot but it’s really that abundant mindset. You’ve got to be a long game marketer. It’s a long game. You got to treat it as such. I think the biggest challenge that I’ve observed in B2B right now is there’s this mandate internally. This mandate is based on KPIs and metrics, and we need more. We need more now.
The most difficult part is you’ve got mid-level, junior-level marketers who get this new way, this new approach, this opens it up, the value of the brand. But they’re really not in a position internally or they don’t feel confident to have those conversations with their bosses and say this campaign that we’re spending a bunch of money on, creates a bunch of bad leads that our sales team complains about. If we were just to invest time in creating a show, this would be my plan and how I’d executed it.
Then over time, things are going to build up. I know it’s difficult and we’ve never done this before. I can tell you, it’s going to be really hard to measure rigid metrics, but what we can measure is relationships, engagement, value. Those are the conversations—as B2B marketers—we need to be having with their bosses right now. The more that we do that, the less focus will be around leads generated and then that conversation that goes and it’s like a hamster wheel. Those are my thoughts. I think that’s important. I wanted to clarify that.
It’s tough. It’s something that we’ve all had to work through, but I think the more we can educate and manage up, the better results and the more cool stuff will get to do as marketers.
Ben: For sure. I would agree that it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not easy.
Brett: Not at all. Ben, I talked with the brightest, most innovative, smart marketers who are so hungry to push their brands and businesses forward but hit that wall because their boss and their boss’s boss have become senior directors, VPs, and CMOs by doing marketing the way they’ve always done marketing. That’s really difficult. I can sympathize with that. Yes, it is not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a conversation. Those conversations can build up over a period of time.
Ben: For sure. Let’s say that a marketer has started down this path of just trying to authentically build relationships and partnerships with people where they’re able to just do things that are mutually beneficial and provide value for their audiences. That’s really what it comes down to.
Once they have the rudiments of this partnership strategy or relationship-building strategy rolling. Maybe they’ve started the show, they’ve started to get some guests, maybe they’re doing some just blogging or things like that. What are some more advanced things or more advanced tactics that they could begin implementing to really level up that partnership practice and really just mature that side of their marketing?
Brett: One thing that I think is easy and often forgotten about is that just asking someone else you’re collaborating with and working with, how can I help you? Just asking that question. The answer to that question is who knows what it could be? But whatever it is, that’s a relationship builder. You’ll continue to be engaged. You’ll be able to add value especially if someone comes on your platform and creates content, that’s one.
I would say that the next level is involving people that you’re collaborating with in your product build, new features, and new launches. The more you bring people in and ask them what’s your feedback? Can you give us some insight? I’m not even thinking about potential sales deals. I’m just thinking about that data that our product team can have from real marketers. That’s incredible. That’s one thing I think is that next level. If you built that relationship and you established trust, bring these people in and ask for their feedback.
When we launched our early access, we had marketers come into the office and just sit down and use our product. People we’ve met, use our product and give us feedback in real-time. The collaboration, the results, the fallout of that were just outstanding. That’s another thing. I would just say finally, try to make it as less transactional as possible by zooming out of all the content that you’re creating and you’re collaborating on and pull out the themes. There’s maybe one, two, or three themes and start creating a series over those themes. It might seem boring to you because you’re in it every day but it’s not to your audience.
The more you can zoom out, pull themes, and then bring people in who are subject matter experts on those topics and just facilitate it. I’ve used this example so many times, but the way I look at my role is like not as a B2B marketer who is going to run a bunch of campaigns who’s going to look at Google analytics. It’s more along the lines of Jimmy Fallon. I’m not good with jokes, but it’s having a stage, having a conversation, just facilitating it, and making people feel good.
I think if more B2B marketers could think more like a late-night talk show host and less like they did 5 or 10 years ago in the game, I think the stronger the results will be.
Ben: I think that is such a good piece of advice I think for show hosts. In a conversation like this, if you watch any late-night host, they don’t put the emphasis of the conversation on themselves. The most interesting person in that conversation is always the guest. I’ve never really thought about this this way before but I imagine for some marketers, that might be really hard. Because you’re thinking we’re putting all this effort into this show because we want to draw attention to our products, into what we’re doing.
That’s a total 180 to talk to somebody else and really make them and they’re saying really be the focus, but that’s how you provide value. Because like you said, no one cares about your company or your product, or at least not initially. No one’s listening to Actionable Marketing Podcasts because they’re passionate about content calendars. I couldn’t just come on the show and just talk about, let me tell you why CoSchedule is awesome for the 200th week in a row.
I think that’s a great way of thinking about it. I also think we’ve all seen a late-night show, we all understand the dynamics, how that works, and why we think those shows are interesting. There’s no reason why you can’t think about your B2B video series or B2B podcast show in the same way. I think that’s awesome.
Brett: Yeah and I’ll just put some spice on it a little bit. For us, I talked about that persona—I hate the word persona, but I’m usually just so people can relate. The persona of the millennial content marketer who is pushing forward and is the catalyst for change but is stuck in this box within their company doing things the old way. When I’m looking to bring on people and talk with them on the show, chances are, they might not be the marketing guru that’s on everyone else’s podcasts.
They might be just a junior-level or mid-level content marketer who might have never been on a podcast before. That’s absolutely okay. That’s actually probably going to help your brand out more. My goal when I’m bringing people on the show when the conversation is over with, my goal is to always try to make them look like the next industry thought leader in whatever subject that we’re talking about. The more I think you can think like that and try to promote those people who come on your platform, in the end, it’s all going to come back around and positively impact your brand.
Ben: Yeah, 100%. Well, Brett, this is awesome. Thanks so much for your time and for coming on the show. If people are interested in finding you online or if they’re interested in checking out The Juice, where should they go? Where can they find you?
Brett: I would say I’m pretty active on Twitter. You can follow me @IndyMcGrath, that Indy as in Indianapolis, it’s where I’m from. That is home. If you’re interested in The Juice, you can sign up to be a member. It’s absolutely free just go to thejuicehq.com, click explore content, and you can start enjoying a frictionless content experience. If you got feedback, DM me, tell me. We want that right now. I’ll also plug the podcast too because we talked about it. The 3C Podcast. You can find it wherever you stream fine audio content like the Actionable Marketing Podcast, it’s everywhere. We got episodes that drop Mondays and Fridays.
Ben: Very cool. Great stuff. To everybody listening, go follow Brett on Twitter, go sign up for The Juice. Thanks again for your time.
Brett: Thanks for having me, Ben.
August 17, 2021