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Have you spent a ton of time on a piece of content, only for it to get no traction or traffic? Does it end up in the graveyard of the Internet? What about a piece of content that drives traffic, but not to conversions? These are huge problems for content marketers.
Today, we’re talking to Garrett Moon, CoSchedule’s co-founder and CEO. He will share content solutions and information from his new book, 10X Marketing Formula.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
Jordan: A few things are as demoralizing as spending a ton of time on a piece of content like a blog post or an ultimate guide or an infographic only to have it get no traction, to have it get zero traffic, and end up in the graveyard of the internet where no one visits it, it starves and produces no results. That’s such a bummer as a content creator but the other thing is it’s perplexing when you have content that is driving traffic but you’re not actually seeing conversions, you’re not really driving business value. These are two huge problems for us as content marketers.
Today’s guest actually has some awesome solutions for us and is actually CoSchedule’s very own CEO, Garrett Moon. We are talking about a couple selections from his book, 10X Marketing Formula that just hit the shelves today. I read the book and it’s fantastic first of all, but I picked a couple of my favorite sections as a content marketer. I tried to sit in your seat as well and think what would our podcast listeners want to know most and benefit from most. That is what Garrett and I are talking about today. My name is Jordan. Welcome to the Actionable Marketing Podcast. Now here is my conversation with Garrett.
Garrett, thanks so much for being on the show again. Today is a really big day. 10x Marketing Formula just hit the shelves. Can you start by giving us an overview of what the book is all about, why you wrote it for anyone who’s new to the show or just getting back into it?
Garrett: Yeah. We made it to launch day, it’s exciting. It’s nice to know that other people, besides myself and editors, are gonna be reading this thing finally. I’m really looking forward to it. 10X Marketing Formula is one of those projects around the office. It’s kind of been in the back of our mind and our team’s mind for a long time because as we look around and we see our customers and clients, people who use our tools everyday. You go to marketing conferences, you talk to marketers, and you hear about what their work flows look like, what their processes look like, where their pain points are.
Content marketing is just not always living up to the hype that it was promised. It’s not always giving the results they feel they deserve and they’re probably right about that. There’s a lot of things that we’ve learned here at CoSchedule over the years that have helped us kind of breakthrough some of the roadblocks, the barriers that get into the way to actually achieving results with your content.
One of the things where it finally became the right time to put it on paper, spend the time organizing our thoughts, all these things that we’ve tried, these tests that we’ve done, these theories I’ve babbled on endlessly about to the team and organized them so that they actually become something useful for everyone out there.
Jordan: I’m super excited to pick this conversation back up especially today because you have people like Jay Baer saying, “It’s a book for marketers that wanna win.” And Joe Pulizzi saying, “It’s gonna give marketers the insight to truly differentiate their company from the competition.” It really is doing the things that you’re saying that it will do. A lot of really smart marketers are corroborating that which is also really nice when some smart people read your book and they’re like, “Hey, you should buy a copy of this.”
Garrett: Yeah, they’ve been super generous. I appreciate them a lot.
Jordan: It’s just cool because it really is kind of a who’s who and the people who have given testimonials for it. I’m really excited about it here. Today, I wanted to talk about why so much content marketing doesn’t get results and see if you can help marketers fix that.
Let’s jump right into the interview here. I’ll just start with my first question. What are some of the core reasons marketers aren’t getting results with their content?
Garrett: There’s so many contributing factors as to why this happens but I think the reason that it really boils down to is it’s just not good enough or it’s just not unique enough, or doesn’t stand out enough. There’s nothing about some content that is really differentiated enough in order to really work and stand out. Let me kind of unpack what I mean by that. I don’t want that to come off as they’re just bad content. That’s the easy label to put on it but I think it’s sort of a deeper problem than that.
There’s a book I’ve read a long time ago called Blue Ocean Strategy, it’s a business strategy book. Some people might be familiar with it. It came out pretty early 2000s. It really just talks about this two different oceans. This is great visual that you can think about. You just got the red ocean which is bloody with competition, businesses are fighting each other, they’re literally making the water bloody by fighting to go after the same customers. The real goal of a business is to find that blue ocean where they don’t have competitors. It’s a wide open, blue expanse, clear crystal blue water that they can sail on and really grow their business on.
It’s this whole parable or metaphor that you can use for business growth and business differentiation. There’s a lot of pieces that go into it. But I think with content marketing, we kind of have that same, similar problem, and it’s something that I call the need to create ‘competition-free content’. Really, what that is, it means that as a marketer and a content marketer that’s creating content, what we actually have to realize is that our content is not in competition with other content.
It’s not the early days of content marketing where if you are the one creating helpful content, if you are the one who showed up that you could stand out from the crowd just because you showed up. You’re the only one on–way early days–you’re the only one on Facebook, so you stood out, or you’re the only one who’s creating value-based content on your blog every single day, so you stood out. 2017, ‘18, ‘19, we don’t have that luxury anymore. You’re here, you’re one of thousands. You’ve gotta find ways to differentiate yourself and that’s why I call it ‘competition-free content’.
You’ve gotta find ways to create content that is competition-free where you’re not competing, so to say, against your competitors in that bloody ocean, but rather, you’re kind of charting your own course, you’re setting the bar a little higher or a little differently, and you have that blue ocean expanse that you can sail on.
Jordan: Isn’t the stat like there’s almost 80 million blog posts published a day or something, just on WordPress alone? It’s something insane like that.
Garrett: Yeah, at least that. But even just your industry, you just take whatever business you’re in, you could probably come up with five or six competitors pretty quickly. They are all writing content just as frequently as you, have people that are just about as smart as you, have graphic designers that can do just as good of a job as you can.
Once you start to think about that, you think about your top five or six competitors and you really say,”What are they doing in terms of content marketing?” If it looks a lot like what you’re doing and it’s very similar, you’ve got an opportunity there to become the only one creating competition-free content. But at the same time, if you don’t kind of step back and realize that you’re essentially doing the exact same thing as them, you’re never gonna stand out and you’re actually never gonna get results from the content even if you’re following all the so and so rules of content marketing.
Jordan: If we’re looking for that blue ocean, this competition-free content niche, I guess you could say. Where do we start then?
Garrett: Well, I think you have to start by just doing that assessment. Looking around and seeing what your competitors are doing. Just like what I said, if you’d look around and their marketing program kind of looks a bit like yours, or their content looks a bit like yours, you’ve got a problem. Now you’re just kind of breaking that down. What are some of the consistent things that are happening there? For CoSchedule, once we started looking around, we saw very consistent pattern of length, the posts were generally less than 1000 words. We saw very consistent use of imagery, one image per post, often times stock photo. We saw low usage of resources that could be taken away with the post, it was just the blog post and comment section. Not a lot of people were giving away free downloads and free resources.
We just started to see some of these were simple thing. Those are all really easy, there’s no rocket science involved here. Just observing what they’re doing, where the cracks lie, where can you kind of make the difference. We started writing 2500-word blog posts and going deeper than any of them were going. We started giving away free stuff with every single post that we have. Free downloads and things like that. We just started finding those opportunities that really, really allowed us to stay ahead of the competition.
That just starts by looking around and seeing what’s happening. What you are looking for primarily is consistent patterns. What are the patterns that everyone is doing that if they are all turning left and you turn right that you can stand out from them. I think after that, there’s a lot of strategy that you need to put into place in terms of how you’re delivering it, how you’re approaching your audience, how you’re presenting it, and some of those things, by getting into the real nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts of that in a book.
There’s also a lot of research that you can do just in terms of topics and content and how that works. That first thing is kind of stopping from the creation zone and just kind of focusing on what’s happening and observing what’s going on in the industry.
Jordan: In the book, you share that story about GrooveHQ and I know we’ve talked about it before in different places, but I think it’s a perfect example and case study of–it’s not just CoSchedule that’s done this and had success. This is what other really successful companies with good content marketing programs are doing. Could you share that story just real quick?
Garrett: It’s one of my favorite examples just because I think it’s so easy to relate to as a content marketer. There’s a story about GrooveHQ and it’s a few years old now. They’ve moved past this in their strategy. But they are, if you’re not familiar with them, they are a piece of SaaS-based business software that provides tools for help desk companies. CoSchedule, we have a help desk that’s answering customers’ technical questions all the time.
We might use something like Groove in order to manage that email and those conversations. They’re very much targeted at a customer groove like CoSchedule. They’re looking for SaaS companies and software companies that have support teams. They had this very “regular” content marketing blog where they talk about things that would be useful to support professionals. You can imagine what that might be; five tips on how to provide outstanding support or how to write great job descriptions for customer support agents, or things like that.
It was doing fine, they were getting some traffic. I think they had 10,000, I don’t know, blog subscribers or something like that. It was okay. There was moderate success but it wasn’t great. It wasn’t like they can point to their marketing process, their blog, and say, “This thing is churning out customers like crazy. This thing is basically printing money.” They weren’t quite satisfied with it. There’s this kind of moment in time where Alex Turnbull, their CEO, just sent out an email to the marketing team and said, “Hey, our blog sucks. Let’s meet in the morning.” Not the email you want to receive…
Jordan: What an email.
Garrett: …if you’re in that marketing team. But nonetheless, it just brought up this conversation. Everyone is going left. Everybody has content just like this. All their competitors, Zendesk, help.com, Salesforce has a tool out there called desk.com. They’re all doing this exact same type of step. We’ve got to do something different. We’ve gotta stand out.
They ended up coming up with this whole new blog, they actually took the whole blog offline I believe, or moved it to a different URL and launched something entirely different. It was called Grooves Journey to $100,000 in Monthly Recurring Revenue.
They put this little meter at the bottom of the site and it said, “Hey, here’s how much money we have right now.” I think it was $40,000 or $50,000 in recurring revenue, at least when I started following it. They said, “We’re gonna track it every single day until we get to $100,000 a month in recurring revenue. As we’re doing it, we’re gonna tell you everything about our journey. We’re gonna share the things that worked for us, the things that didn’t work for us. As a startup, we’re going to share why we took VC funding, we’re gonna share some of our internal metrics about churn, and blah, blah, blah. You, as a SaaS company, you can follow along with this story and learn everything that we did and how you can make it work for you.” That’s a pretty cool promise. That is totally different.
They were willing to be transparent with their data. They were willing to tell a story, they turned themselves into a story. They were totally blue ocean, only person really doing that, and even to this day, there’s not a lot of companies that do that, at least not effectively. They, overnight success, they had 5000 or 6000 new email subscribers a week. Now, they’re on their way to $10 million, they’re still doing something similar. It was just one of those things where it gave them this 10X boost in terms of results very, very quickly.
Jordan: That’s such an incredible story too because I think, to a lot of marketers, they’d sort of deer in the headlights. If you’re like, “Hey, tell everybody exactly how much revenue you have. Tell it to the people who you want to earn revenue from.” That’s a risk to find that blue ocean. Do you think there’s an element of you have to have some sort of appetite for risk if you’re really gonna stand out?
Garrett: Absolutely. No doubt about it. There’s two things you have to have an appetite for in that case. It’s not so much risk, actually. Risk is not the problem, it’s failure. That’s the problem. We’re not really scared of trying something as much as we’re scared of failing at it. I think in terms of, particularly in a marketing team, we’ve kind of grown up on this, the error of marketing plans, you kind of choose the results you want, you pick your strategy, you bet on that horse, and you ride that thing. Whether it produces result or not, it’s sort of a different category.
So much of marketing has become about the methods we use, like, “Are you using content marketing? Okay, great. Here’s the formula for how you do content marketing. Here’s the 10 tips on how you can do it even better. Here’s the other five tips on how to write really zingy headlines for your content marketing.” Once you follow all those tips, we’ve got it. We’ve got the method perfected.
But the reality is, if you’re constantly building your marketing on top of those ideas, you end up just copy catting whatever else is doing. There’s gotta be somebody who’s trying something new, who’s willing to take the risk and say, “You know what, we’re gonna try writing a super long pieces of content with tons of our visuals or we’re gonna maybe even try writing really short pieces of content or we’re not even going to write content. We’re just gonna go to core.com and we’re gonna answer questions there and that’s gonna be our content marketing.”
Somebody has to try those things to see if they work. The fear is in them not working and us spending time and they don’t work.
When we’re controlled by this marketing plan concept where we make a campaign, we design the messaging, we design the methods, we pick the mediums that we’re gonna use, and then we just run that plan, we’re not really willing to put risk into it because it’s all documented, it’s on the page. We don’t have room for risks. If one of those things doesn’t work out, we don’t have a plan B, and that’s I think really where the fear and risk comes from. Again, risk is all about failure. I think that you have to learn to sort of embrace failure and use it as a learning exercise and a way to improve what you’re doing or to stop doing something that’s not working which marketers could always tend to get better at as well.
Jordan: This resonates so much with me because you know before I joined CoSchedule, I did the marketing agency grind. A lot of what you’re talking was my experience. One of the things as a content marketer…
Garrett: Well, that gets even tougher because you’re actually selling the plan. You write the plan, they buy the plan, and now you just execute the plan. The plan better work because that’s what they bought. It gets really tough.
Jordan: Yeah. Not only that but you are on the hook if it doesn’t unfold exactly as you guessed. You guessed and like you said, it’s that horse that you pick to ride on. You make this big guess and you sell it and then if you start deviating from it, well, that wasn’t the plan, like, “That’s not what we bought.”
Garrett: Right. Yes. You stick to the plan. It’s perceived as risky to try anything else, it’s too risky. It’s safer to stick with the plan even if the plan doesn’t necessarily work.
Jordan: When I joined CoSchedule from that world, that’s part of my background. From that world, one of the concepts that was really new to me, and I think my favorite that you actually addressed head on to the book, there’s a whole chapter about it, it’s this idea of content core. The Groove example is perfect for competition-free content but I think it’s also perfect for this content core idea. Can you share what that content core is and then what those parallel topic trap that we get stuck in as content marketers is?
Garrett: I think a lot of times when we go about content marketing we start thinking in terms of, “What does my audience want to read about? What does my audience is interested in? What would get my audience to click on a link and come to my website?” We start kind of asking ourselves some of those types of questions. In the book, I actually make the point that our head of Demand Gen, Nathan, who you guys hear from on this podcast all the time, he’s really into beer and Metallica. I could probably write a great blog post about beer and Metallica and he would definitely click on it.
Jordan: Yes, he would.
Garrett: Lots of other people might even click on it but they’re not all gonna be like Nathan. They’re not all marketers. It’s really an extreme example but what I’m kind of talking about, everyone in content marketing is familiar with this idea that clicks don’t equal value and results.
But it’s really easy to land on these parallel topics that get interest and get people to click, and they might even come to our website, they might even share it. You make a lot of very, very positive feedback on that piece of content. But it’s not really going to work. It’s not actually gonna do what you need it to do as a content marketer and that is deliver value to the business. Not deliver traffic, not deliver shares, but actually to put dollars in the cash register which is what your marketing team is employed to do. If you’re an agency, that’s what your agency is employed to do.
That’s the real trap that you can fall into. That can come in the form of traffic trap where you’re getting activity and interest. You’re definitely talking about things that your audience or at least people might be interested in but not customers or you could be into that promotion trap where it’s the opposite. You’re probably not getting a lot of attention because it’s just talking about yourself too much and it’s just kind of a waste.
The idea here is really trying to find the blend between those two things. Where does that overlap happen between the topics that you need to cover for your audience and the content that you need to produce as a company? I call that overlap with the content core.
What I mean by that is there’s two things that kind of lay on top of each other. One, it’s the topic, it’s what your audience cares about. We have that right before like, “What is my audience interested in? What do they care about? What are they gonna wanna read and click on?” etc. The key is the second piece of it and that’s really asking yourself, “Okay, in what value do we, as a business, provide?” What we have to find is the overlap between what we do and how we provide value as a business, not just as a marketing team but actually as a business, and what are our audiences interested in.
It’s at that intersection where we can really find those content core topics that will bring readers in and actually connect to them directly through the problems that we solve as a business. Once you can figure out the art of doing that on a day-to-day basis, you can really start to get a lot of business value from the content you’re creating. You actually make less traffic but the business value can go up exponentially.
Jordan: I think you said something really important too that was really quick and maybe it’s easy to just let it pass by but you said, “Target customers.” You’re focusing on customers, not just on users, coming from wherever and focusing on that traffic number.
Garrett: The audience.
Garrett: Audience is the thing that marketers have been talking about since the revolution of social media and content marketing. An audience is great. You have to have audience. We talked about audience building in the book and give some really good strategies on how to do it. Talked about exclusively how CoSchedule focused on it as our core metric for a really long time. But that audience needs to be up made of customers or potential customers or else it’s not really that useful.
Customers are really important. I even talked about some strategies for actually really understanding that and helping your team, your marketing team understand that. I actually find it surprising as I talk to marketers oftentimes how little interaction they have directly with customers. That sales has interactions with customers, we don’t have interaction with customers.
Jordan: Right, right.
Garrett: Sales just tells us it’s working and it’s not working. I actually talk about having your marketing team talking to your customers and asking them not necessarily questions about what their preferences are, not necessarily what conferences do you go to. Those are useful but asking those stuff like, “Why did you actually buy our product in the first place? What other things were you considering? What’s the one thing that really stood out to you about CoSchedule?” I’m talking to one of our customers now that made you you choose it over anything else.
Really understanding what is the problem that they are hiring CoSchedule to solve and why did they think we are the one to solve and how do we solve it for them that makes their life easier. Now we’re taking all that stuff and saying, “Okay, how do I turn that into content?” We have a feature called marketing projects and it essentially allows customers to manage marketing campaigns, so multi-facet campaigns with social media, email, blog posts, you name it. All this stuff is happening together, they have this marketing project on the calendar, makes it really easy for them to say, “Hey, this is what’s happening with this marketing campaign,” very clear.
One of the problems that we’re solving for them is just effectively managing a multi-part process. It’s easy to imagine, “Hey,” delegate it, “you write a blog post and do it by this Friday.” They’ll get it done. But when you have a bunch of those types of projects happening, it gets so much more difficult as a manager. Our marketing managers feel the pain of this all the time like how to manage a complex marketing campaign, how to get your entire team working on the same page. There’s these problems and these things that they’re interested in having solved. CoSchedule, we can create content that helps them do that. I don’t mean content that just says, “Hey, if you wanna solve that problem, here’s a marketing problem.” I mean content that gives them a solution.
Right on our blog, you can get Excel file templates and worksheets that you can download that will help you manage those projects without us but we just assume that if we’re helping you solve those complex problems in a free simple way, that you may also trust us to solve the more complex and more at scale using our software down the road. It makes a really direct connection between the value that we’re providing in our product and the value that we’re providing to our customer audience.
Jordan: I think an awesome statement from the book that sort of sums that up too is you said, “If you help your audience be successful without you, they’ll be dying to be successful with you.”
Garrett: Totally. Actually, I credit that to Nathan from our Demand Gen team. He’s said that a few times. I don’t know if I credited him in the book but I should have.
Jordan: Now. You heard it here. There you go, Nathan.
Garrett: Sorry, Nathan. It’s out there now. That’s exactly right though. You gotta do both. I think that’s the real power and that’s kind of a way to think about that content core like, “Does this piece of content help them solve a problem? Is that problem one that they can potentially solve with our service or our product as well?” If that’s true, you’re right on the money with content core, you’re right in the sweet spot.
Jordan: Yeah. I love that. This was super helpful. It’s sage wisdom time. This is one of my favorite parts of the show at the end. I always like to ask what is your best advice for getting results with content? For a marketer who maybe is either falling to that promotional trap or they’re not getting a ton of content. They’re in that traffic trap where they’re getting traffic but they’re not getting results. What’s your best advice for that person to actually drive business value with their content?
Garrett: If you’re getting traffic but not value, and I think there’s a couple of ways, you just have to diagnose what’s wrong. But if you’re getting a lot of traffic and attention without value, you need to figure out why and you kind of have to just take a step back and maybe you just need to talk to your audience directly like, “Is people in my audience directly customers? Can you connect them to actually a buying relationship or not? If that’s the case, then you really have to sit down and start thinking about your content core. I would start talking to customers.
I think the number one advice I would have is just go to the sales team and say, “What do our top 10 customers or customers who most recently purchased our product and can we talk to them?” Set up some interviews with your marketing team, record those interviews, we did this in the early days of CoSchedule. We recorded every single interview we’ve had with customers and we made new hires listen to them over and over again. Just start really putting into the mind of your marketing team the voice of the customer talking at them and to a certain degree, that would just start to work its way into your content, but more importantly, you should probably set up a very strategic process.
I have some suggestions in the book but there’s probably some in the CoSchedule blog too just for brainstorming topic ideas and how to put them together. But do that around the interviews from the customers and put those into place.
Jordan: Well marketers, there you have it. Thank you so much, Garrett, for being on the show today. Really excited for the book but these are some of the best takeaways I think I had, so thanks for sharing.
Garrett: Hey, it was a lot of fun. I’ll be on the show anytime. You always know where to find me.
Jordan: I do know where to find you. Alright, thanks Garrett.
Garrett: Thanks, Jordan.
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