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A Practical Approach to Content Marketing Success – Interview with Mark Schaefer

Posted on Aug 14th, 2014
Written by Lee Odden
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  • A Practical Approach to Content Marketing Success – Interview with Mark Schaefer
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    Mark Schaefer interview

    Today’s interview is with a guy that I’ve known for several years that brings a practical perspective to the often distracting world of digital marketing. He’s written the world’s #1 best selling book on Twitter, The Tao of Twitter, as well as several other books including Return on Influence. He publishes one of the most popular marketing blogs online, runs a successful consulting business and speaks all over the world on social media and content marketing.

    On top of all that he has received seven patents for new product innovations. Who is this marvel of modern marketing?  He’s Mark Schaefer  of course.

    In this interview with Mark as part of our series for Content Marketing World, we’ll find out his take on the importance of strategy with content marketing, the role of audience development, visual content and measuring ROI. We’ll also get a lesson in business from one of his favorite childhood stories.

    Strategy is first, then experiment & iterate. I don’t know many companies who approve budget based on “trust me” @markwschaefer

    How important is it for a company to have a content marketing strategy defined before asking internally for budget or engaging an outside consultant? Can experimentation lead to strategy or is a hybrid approach more practical?

    I actually think strategy should come first but then experiment and iterate. I don’t know of many companies who would approve a budget based on “trust me,” so I think some idea of the destination is important. However, you will learn so much in the first six months that you will be eager to adapt, adopt and move forward.

    What are some ways you can use audience insights to inform your content planning and promotion?

    At least for most large companies, there is probably a lot of research already available to get started. For smaller companies that might not have the advantage of that research, go out and talk to customers or even create a survey about where they get their information today and the information gaps and opportunities.

    Why re-invent the wheel? Benchmark the competition and learn from their mistakes! @markwschaefer

    An obvious step which is often overlooked is to benchmark the competition. Why re-invent the wheel? Learn from their mistakes! Often a content strategy can be determined by the mistakes the competition is making.

    Of course creating customer personas is a common technique to focus on messages and platforms but they can also be over-used. Remember that you might also be discovering new audiences beyond your customers. Personas can also inhibit creativity and depress the “human-ness” of what you are trying to communicate.

    Visuals in content marketing are increasingly popular but how important are they really? Is this the beginning of the end of text or just a phase?

    I don’t think it is the end of anything. People learn in different ways. Some learn by doing, some internalize an idea only by reading it, some prefer visual or videos. The CMO of Coca-Cola once told me that theoretically, there could be a marketing strategy for every customer. He was making a point that you need to segment as much as you can afford to do. We also have the opportunity to do this with our content. Why not segment by learning style?

    I think the increase in visual content is simply a reflection that we have been under-serving the visual learners for some time.

    Is Content Marketing ROI really that hard? What are you doing to measure content marketing performance?

    This is such an enigma to me. People seem to endlessly debate the measurability of these initiatives and yet we are in a period of almost infinite measurability compared to any other time in the history of marketing! What is the ROI of a highway billboard?  I rest my case!

    Even a free and useful tool like Google Analytics can provide us with amazing insights we would have thought miraculous 10 years ago.

    The way I measure content marketing success would vary by every customer. I would start with this question — “What is the behavior or attitude we are trying to change?” Usually we can backward engineer from that response to find a set of measurements or leading indicators to determine our progress.


    In the spirit of the Content Marketing in Wonderland (Alice) theme of the #CMWorld eBook series, what was your favorite story from childhood? Any lessons in it for business or marketing today?

    I was a voracious reader but the first book that really filled me with wonder was “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. I think the lesson is this — This is one of the most popular books of all-time. It was written in 1962 and is still around number 200 on the Amazon best-seller list today!

    And yet, L’Engle had to fight to get the book published and it was almost buried forever. Today, we don’t have those obstacles in front of us. Every person, every company, every brand can have a voice, publish and reach the world. How many potentially best-selling books were crushed forever by an editor? We don’t have to wait to be picked any more. We can pick ourselves.

    I self-published my first book, “The Tao of Twitter,” after it was rejected by three publishers largely because it was “too short.” I could not see the wisdom in making a book longer than it needed to be! So I put it out myself with no marketing and advertising support and it became the best-selling book on Twitter in the world.

    What an energizing time we live in!  What an amazing time to embrace the power and potential of content!

    Content Marketing Wonderland eBooks

    Thoughtful wisdom Mark, thank you!

    Be sure to check out Mark Schaefer in person at the Content Marketing World conference coming up Sept 8-11 in Cleveland where he will be presenting “How to Make Twitter Your Content Marketing Best Friend” September 10th at 11:30 am. If you use the discount code, TopRank, you’ll save $100 off main event and all-access registrations.

    A big thank you goes to the eBooks’ sponsor, Curata (content curation and content marketing solution). All of us at TopRank Online Marketing, CMI and the broader content marketing industry benefits from their support of this eBook program!