Episode 91:

C.C. Chapman describes himself as a New England raised storyteller, explorer, and humanitarian. Others have described him as a thought leader in the online marketing space, a grounded futurist and one the nicest guy on the Internet. Over the years of his career, he has worked with a variety of clients including Nike, HBO, American Eagle Outfitters, ONE, Verizon FiOS, and The Coca-Cola Company.

He is the co-author of the International bestseller “Content Rules” and is also the author of “Amazing Things Will Happen.” He travels the world speaking in front of audiences to do more in the world and how to understand content marketing better. C.C. has taught classes for Lynda.com, CreativeLive and now as an adjunct professor at Bentley University (where he also graduated from).

C.C. is an advocate who speaks about building passionate communities and the strategic values of content-based marketing. He is a Samsung Imagelogger, the original ONE Dad and a UN Foundation Social Good Fellow. As a storyteller for hire, his work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal.

C.C. serves as the Chairman of the Board at Wediko and serves on the board of The Hockey Foundation. He happily lives in the woods outside of Boston with his loving family.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Social Good: giving your employees an opportunity to make a difference
  • How to pick the right cause for your agency to support
  • Don’t be too humble: why you need to talk about the non-profit work that you do
  • The International bestseller “Content Rules” C.C. co-authored
  • Speak Human: the most violated rule from “Content Rules”
  • Differentiation: what makes your agency different?
  • Creating content that plays to your strengths
  • Why you can’t afford not to have content for yourself (and how to get it produced if you honestly don’t have the time to do it personally)
  • Building trust by giving away at least pieces of what you do
  • How to make your content stand out from all the other content out there
  • Connecting your offline life with your digital presence
  • Doing a regular social media audit to make sure your content is presenting your agency the way you want to be presented

 

The Golden Nugget:

“If something unique about you scares off a potential client, you didn’t want that client.” – @cc_chapman Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by Hubspot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line, bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody. Thanks for tuning into this episode of Build A Better Agency where we explore how to build a business that serves you, your employees, your clients, and your community. That’s why I know you’re going to enjoy hearing from today’s guest, my friend C.C. Chapman C.C. And most of you probably recognize him from being the coauthor of the book Content Rules with Ann Handley. He also has written another really fabulous book that I highly recommend called Amazing Things Will Happen. And really C.C. is a volt very multi-faceted guy. He is a speaker. He travels all over the globe speaking about content and marketing and creating an online community. He also is very hands-on with some of his clients. He’s worked with folks like American Eagle Outfitters, Coca-Cola, HBO, Warner Brothers. The other thing that C.C. does that some of you may not know is that C.C. and I share a great passion around being a great dad. And so he has built an amazing online community around being a father and an active dad. And so you’re going to want to check that out as well.

What I love about C.C. is he speaks frankly, but in language that everybody can understand. Content Rules was written several years ago, but it’s still in my top five books of recommending to agency owners that they read and reread on a regular basis. So I know that today’s podcast is going to be packed with things that you can go and do that you can improve on and that are really going to have a serious change agent focus on your agency. So with that, C.C., welcome to the podcast.

C.C. Chapman:

Thanks. I’m psyched to be here.

Drew McLellan:

I am psyched to be here too. So anything in the intro that I missed or anything else you want our listeners to know about you?

C.C. Chapman:

I mean, I think you hit it all. The only thing different, the only thing that I would add is that a lot of my focus these days is in the social good space. So whether it’s working with nonprofits and NGOs to develop great content and strategy, or working with businesses to realize that social good is about more than just the holidays. It’s about giving back, improving the world around you. So I focus a lot there. But no, you nailed it. And thanks for the super kind words about Content Rules.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s such a great book. You guys really knocked it out of the park. Yeah. So I think the social good is also a topic. So let’s just go there first and then we’ll come back around to content. So agencies, as you know and I know that, refresh my memory. You have owned and worked in agencies, but you’ve also been on the client side. So you’ve seen that 360, right?

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. I’ve seen it all the way around. Sure.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So agencies, many agencies are pretty active in their community and they want to be a good community partner. And a lot of them do a lot of charitable work. I know that when you work at an agency, you’re always asked to do pro bono work and I think there’s a good way to do that and there’s a way to really leverage it both for your agency and the community. So let’s talk a little bit about this idea of social good because I also think the other factor in that is agencies are struggling to find great employees and to keep great employees. The shortage is going to continue to impact small to mid-sized agencies. And I think one of the truths of today’s employees is that they want to work someplace that’s making a difference in the world. And so it’s not just about doing good, but it’s also about how it serves your agency.

C.C. Chapman:

Oh, exactly. And it’s funny because you see these articles all the time talking about how millennials want to work for a company. And it’s not just millennials.

Drew McLellan:

No, we all do.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah, exactly. All of us, if given the choice, if everything else was equal, pay and responsible, if we can work for a company that was making a difference and there’s nobody on this earth who would say they don’t want that. And I think, and that’s true. What social good is about is there’s this concept of the triple bottom line when it comes to social good about where you’re talking about people, planet and profit, because let’s face it, as a business, you have to make money at the end of the day, you can’t give all your work away for free, you can’t do everything pro bono. So you have to make profit. But then people, the fact that you’re taking care of your employees, you’re invigorating them, you’re giving them something more than just satisfying their clients. And then the planet, whether it’s helping your local school or the environment. There’s all sorts of different things. And I think it’s one of those, I think far too often agencies and companies in general forget that happy employees make better employees.

And you’re right, keeping the best employees is super hard because there’s always another hot new company, there’s always, especially in the agency world, the best get poached all the time because they’re getting approached and they want something new, they need new challenges, they need to feel excited going to work every day. And by doing something social good. And one of the things too, is that you said it, I was very happy you said it is people hear social good and they think, oh, we got to be saving kids in Africa or refugees. And that’s for sure, but at the same time, it can be your community, helping with the schools or faith-based organizations or your library. There’s so much. Social good just means helping your fellow man around you. It can mean anywhere. And I think there’s huge opportunities for that in the agency space.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s do talk about that a little bit. What are some, if an agency came to you and said, “We want to have more impact in our community. What are some best practices around doing that so that it does take care of that sort of triple bottom line of people, profit, and the planet?”

C.C. Chapman:

Well, I think one of the first things you have to do is just like everything else, everybody wants that cookie-cutter answer. And there isn’t one. I think I work, I talk to brands both big and small and agencies and all sorts of different companies. And one of the first things we sit down and talk about, okay, you want to do something more, but what is it about? And I’ll talk to the executives. If it’s a small company, you can talk to the whole company and figure out, one of the first questions I ask is, okay, what causes do you support personally, both financially and in your heart? Because if you start going there, you’ll hopefully start seeing some themes.

And you can start there and figure out, well, all of a sudden, if there’s a theme of education, all right, well then let’s start looking at the schools or maybe if you work with a lot of high-tech or healthcare, maybe partner with a vocational school, there’s a million different ways. But I like starting there is figuring out, well, what are you passionate about? To figure out, okay, maybe that’s the angle of your social good.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. That’s sustainable right now. Now I’m not just doing it for show, I’m doing it because I actually care. So now I’m going to deliver at a much deeper level, but I’m also going to be able to sustain it over time so that I can enjoy the perk of that consistency.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. It has to be part of your culture and your DNA, because if it’s not, then it is going to be just for show or it’s going to be very, you’re all going to be over it, yes, let’s do this. And then all of a sudden, it’s just going to fizzle out because it’s not part of who you are. Like for me, if it has to do with kids, adopting pets or military, I’m there, it doesn’t matter what it is, but those are my three things. Everybody’s got their different things. And as a company, you’ve really got to figure out what your culture is because when you’re doing good and giving back is its easy to do it, oh, it’s the holidays, it’s Giving Tuesday, let’s give money. That’s easy. But to actually do it on an ongoing basis and to do it more with than just dollars and it must be part of your culture. It just has to be.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So as you know, I not only do I own Agency Management Institute, but I still own my own agency and my own agency. As an agency owner, you get hit up every board you’re on and all of that, you get hit up all the time for free stuff. And I was getting frustrated because it felt like we were scratching the surface for all these nonprofits, but not really changing their world.

And so probably a decade ago, we created this program that we call Adopt a Charity and we adopt one charity for a year. We wrap our arms completely around it. We hit up all of our partners and vendors. And so they ended up getting between a 100 and $200,000 worth of time and stuff. And that way for a whole year, we can really impact that organization. And we have found that to really do a deep dive with one and to really get to know their board and their staff and to volunteer and to not just do a t-shirt or a brochure, that changes the way we think about our engagement with that organization, and it changes the impact we’re able to have on them, not just for that year, but forever.

C.C. Chapman:

I love that you do that. And you’re right, because it takes time, because you probably spend the first weeks or months in the beginning getting to know them, know what they’re about, what their goals are, what they’re trying to achieve, because if you don’t, that’s true, any content, any marketing, anything, far too many people just dive in and say, oh, you need this rather than actually taking the time to figure out what they actually need. And then you can start diving in.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s sort of that good for the heart and good for the soul, but it is also good for the bottom line. I think a lot of agencies are smart enough to know that nonprofits are run by boards of directors of the most influential people in the community usually. And so it’s a great way to get in front of people and demonstrate your expertise while you’re also changing your little corner of the world.

C.C. Chapman:

Right. And there’s nothing… And one of the things it’s funny, like I hope when you do, one of the things I talk about all the time trying to encourage whether it’s brands or agencies, you’re doing this great work here and I hope you tell people you’re doing that great work because far too often, especially on the brand side when they’re, like they’ve partnered with a nonprofit or they give back in some way, they don’t tell the world about it. I know, yes, there’s a really fine line between tooting your own horn and saying, look at me. But at the same time, if you don’t tell the world that you’re doing this good, it doesn’t help you from a business standpoint, it doesn’t help the nonprofit.

If you partner with somebody, you should be talking about it. And I see it all the time where it’s like, yeah, but we don’t want to talk about that side of our work. And I get it, being humble is an important thing, but at the same time, if you’re doing it, talk about it, talk about it in a realistic, in a human way that’s not tooting your own horn, but if nobody knows about it, yeah, it feels good to you, but it’s probably not helping your business at all.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And I think there’s a way to invite people to participate with you, especially your clients. And hopefully, just like you’ve searched your heart to figure out what charities you want to serve, you’ve done the same thing with your client base. And so I think it’s ideal when there’s an alignment between the agency, the client and the nonprofit. And when you can all do it together, you have the added benefit of its strengths and it strengthens your client relationships.

C.C. Chapman:

Ah, yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

So we end up doing a lot of events of the charities that we partner with and it’s fun to invite your clients to participate in some way in that. And so that really does create a community where you’re creating the community of people who have sort of a like alignment in terms of something that they care about.

C.C. Chapman:

Well said. And I agree. I agree.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. All right. Let’s shift a little bit. Let’s talk about content. Okay. So Content Rules is five years old. If you could add an addendum today, what would the addendum be?

C.C. Chapman:

Oh, wow. Well, it’s funny, it’s funny you mentioned it because Ann and I, Ann Handley, my coauthor, we’ve talked about doing a whole new revision of it and we’ve had that conversation of, do we add more? There’s 13 rules, do we add more to it? Do we more? I think there’s been some technology that’s come along to think of, like I remember when we did the paperback edition that came out a year afterwards, the concept of social photography didn’t exist when we first wrote it. So things like Instagram, they just didn’t exist yet. So we had to have that. I think now, but talking about the fact that virtual reality is right around the corner, truly right around the corner and things like Snapchat realtime, not realtime as like the Oreo, but like realtime sharing and experience is definitely been taken to a new level with things like Snapchat and Periscope and those sort of things.

And while I firmly believe, I firmly believe that the rules that we laid out, the “rules”, I think apply to any technology. I would like to add some sections about that because it is such a different thing. And so many brands haven’t really quite figured out how to use that for marketing. And there’s so much potential there. And it’s not going away anytime soon. So I think we’d add some about that. And I think we would actually, one of the things we didn’t talk a lot about, I know you and I are going to talk about it here is we didn’t talk a lot about the community aspect. And while it’s a whole other topic, I would like to add some about community to it because it is such a big part of it when it’s done right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Right. And so rarely done right.

C.C. Chapman:

So rarely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So one of the reasons why I continue to recommend and praise the book is because I do think the rules are pretty evergreen. I think they’re sort of tool-agnostic. It’s really sort of a best practices book. And the tools will come and go. You and I, we’ve watched all of these tools come and go. And you said, it’s funny when you go, Instagram didn’t even exist and now it’s such a common thing for all of us. It’s like, really, it didn’t exist. And I’ll be saying the same thing about something else in a year or two years.

C.C. Chapman:

Well, that was our goal from day one with the book was we wanted, because social media books are out of date by the time they hit shelves, even just six months from the time you finish writing. So we wanted a book that would stand the test of time and tried to focus on those. And it’s funny, because we had people yell at us that were like, “Well, you didn’t talk about how to blog.” And we’re like, “Well, yeah, we didn’t talk about specifics because we didn’t want to.” And I was really proud that when a year after the hardcover came out, we went into the paperback, we only had one technology we had to remove. And that was where there was a mention, like in a sentence, the word Google Buzz appeared. And we had to pull that out. But that was the only one.

Drew McLellan:

But that’s why it’s still such a relevant book today is because it really is about the philosophy of it rather than the specific grab a Phillips screwdriver and do this.

C.C. Chapman:

It’s why I cringe when people talk about it as a social media book, I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s not, but it is.” But yeah, I love it. I’m very happy what we did with it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s a fabulous book. So of the rules, which one do you think is violated most?

C.C. Chapman:

Speak human. I think speak human is violated every single solitary day just. And the whole point, and it’s funny because we are, I remember our editor said that we were too harsh with that rule, that people would be offended by us saying it. But every day I see brands and agencies out there talking in acronyms or treating their audience like they’re idiots or something. And just in today’s world where everybody is tweeting and Snapchatting and texting back and forth, people are talking more than ever. And a brand of any size or sort who can’t talk human, who can’t speak human, who can’t sound like a friend is dead in the water.

But every single day I see, I guarantee if I went on Twitter right now, I could find an example in two seconds of somebody not doing it well. And I think it’s just because they think for too many years, marketers talked at people, it was a print ad, it was a radio ad, it was a television ad, except today’s world, everything is a two-way street, it’s a two-way communication and still too many agencies and too many brands are speaking at people rather than speaking with them or talking with them. And I think that’s the rule over and over again that I keep coming back and I tell people all the time. And it doesn’t matter if you’re, even I see nonprofit, I see everybody do it. And it’s just every single day somebody is not doing it and I wish they would fix it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I look at agency blogs or content. And oftentimes, it’s, and I know the agencies, I know the owners, I know the people there. And I think if I was sitting across the table from you, you would never communicate to me this way.

C.C. Chapman:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

It’s just, just talk to me how you talk.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. And it’s funny because you see it happen. And what kills me is then you see like somebody new getting into the space and you see them, because they look to like big brand or big agency and they start doing it and it’s like, oh, stop it. And I teach a class, I teach a college class on online marketing and I warn them, I’m like, “You guys are going to go out into the workforce because usually it’s juniors and seniors.” I’m like, “You’re going to go out or you’re going to intern.” I said, “Please take what I teach you and fight the good fight because you’re going to have people who are going to, if you ever feel that urge, like, this doesn’t feel right or this doesn’t feel human.” I said, “Please speak up.” And I hope they do. I don’t know if they do. I’ve only taught one semester of it so far, but I’m like, “Please fight the good fight.”

Drew McLellan:

So you’re spreading the seed and you’re getting them to infiltrate the companies to do it better.

C.C. Chapman:

I’m trying to.

Drew McLellan:

I like it. So if you were sitting across the table from an agency, which you’re doing now, just a bunch of them while they’re walking on the treadmill and driving and you were going to say to them, “Hey, forget what you’ve been doing content-wise now. Just let’s clean the slate.” Here’s the one, two punch of the kind of content that I think agencies could create that would create differentiation and community around their shop. What would you tell them?

C.C. Chapman:

Off the top of my head, I would tell them to really figure out what makes you differently. Every agency out there rolls out the carpet of look at all these pretty logos of people we’ve worked with or look at our pretty awards. And no offense, but everybody’s got awards and clients, it doesn’t differentiate. What makes you different? Are you a playful group? Maybe you’re an outdoorsy group. Maybe you like music. Find something that’s different about and wear it like a badge of honor to show potential clients, look, we’re not just some big shop that you’re going to come throw a bunch of money at and we’re going to waste your money, because I just think there’s not enough character, because throw five marketing agencies beside each other, everybody can, I can show you great case studies, I can show you great work I’ve done, but what else? What else are you going to do? Show that human side, show that authentic. What makes people come work for you? I don’t think there’s enough of that.

I would start there as something to make yourself stand out. And I don’t mean necessarily like a goofy, viral “viral video”. How you implement it, that’s up to you, but there’s, show what makes you different as people and as an organization, because hopefully something makes you different. I hope so.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think one of the things we know is that at the end of the day, if you’re in an agency pitch and you’re down to three or four agencies, or if they’re shopping you online before they are ever going to talk to you, because we know about 80% of the client’s buying decision is done before they reach out to any agencies, either way, part of what they’re looking for is chemistry. And it’s hard to figure out chemistry if it’s a sterilized web presence or Facebook page. And all it is is about the work.

C.C. Chapman:

And I think, and I can hear, I guarantee you right now, there’s somebody out there listening to this podcast who went, oh yeah, C.C., that’s all fine and dandy, but what if it scares off some clients, whatever it is you do. And I would argue, that’s a good thing. Not every client, not every, you don’t want, you can’t have every client in the world. And if there’s something that makes you unique, whether you’re some young hip shop or maybe, whatever it is that’s unique about you, if it scares away a client, you didn’t want that client. It probably wasn’t going to work because the best client agency relationships are really a really trusting one. And that you have, like you said, chemistry, you have to click.

So if they get turned off by whatever content is you’re creating that shows your true self, it’s better to then than not ever walk in the door than to go down that road. And we’ve all had those clients where we’re like, “God, we don’t see eye to eye. That’s worse.” So those people doubting, because I know there’s some out there, that would be my argument. You do not have to be friends with everybody. You can’t. So don’t try to be.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and in fact, what kills me about agency owners is many of them are brand experts. And so that’s the exact speech they give their clients about why it’s important to develop a strong brand because a great brand both attracts and repels. And you want it to do both of those things. And yet, agency owners are petrified of doing the exact same thing for their own shop because there’s money on the table and it’s hard to walk away from that money, even though it’s, I call it tainted money, it’s money that you’re going to have to bastardize who you are and what you’re about to earn the money. And after a while, that feels yucky.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. And I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but there’s a great book called The Power of Unpopular by Erika Napol, I always get her last name wrong, Napole, I can’t get her last name right. The Power of Unpopular. Read it. Great, great, great book. She’s going to hate me if she hears this because I couldn’t get her name out. She’s a French.

Drew McLellan:

She won’t care because you pimped her book. So she’s not getting angry. She writes a great blog as well. She’s a very true to her own brand irreverence, brilliant, professional. I greatly admire her work as well. So yeah, it’s a great book. I agree. I have so many more questions that I want to ask you, but before we get into those, let’s take a quick pause and we’ll come right back.

I get that sometimes you just can’t get on a plane and spend a couple of days in a live workshop. And so hopefully our online courses are a solution to that. Lots of video, hours and hours of video, a very dense, detailed participants guide and all kinds of help along the way to make sure that you get the learning that you need and apply it immediately to your agency. Right now we’ve got two courses that are available. We have the Agency New Business Blueprint and we have the AE Bootcamp. So feel free to check those out at agencymanagementinstitute.com/ondemandcourses. Okay. Let’s get back to the show. So in terms of the content though, do you think it matters what the content is? Do you think it matters ebook, white paper, podcast, fill in the blank?

C.C. Chapman:

In that case, not necessarily, because I guess I would lean on, one of the other content rules is to play to your strengths. If you’ve got the video talent and the chops to make a great video, go in that case, if it’s an ebook, go that way, maybe it’s a blog, maybe it’s a series of Instagram posts. I don’t think it necessarily matters. On any given week, it seems like one platform is more popular than the other. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to create it and not everybody is great at creating everything. So stick with what feels right, what feels right for your audience, what feels right for the types of clients you’re going after, because it definitely depends, I think, a lot on that too.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think it’s also about what can you sustain over time? I think the consistency factor. A lot of agencies start and stop filling the blanks, blogs, podcasts, white papers, case studies, whatever it is, but then they never get enough momentum to get up over the hill so it’s a habit. And I think that sends a terrible message to prospective clients.

C.C. Chapman:

Oh, I agree fully. Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So one of the things that agency owners are always talking about is they get it, they know they should do it, but at the end of the day, it’s the stupid cobbler’s children have no shoes excuse of they’re so busy taking care of clients, they have a hard time creating content for themselves. Any thoughts or recommendations about how they make sure that they get it done for themselves?

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. They stop complaining and get to work. I’m not a big fan of excuses. And you’re right though, I get it. Even my website has that problem where I’m like, “Ah, I’m all doing this work, I haven’t taken care of myself.” I think at the end of the day, you’ve got to just sit down and get it done, or on the flip side, if you honestly can’t do it, hire somebody to do it, hire somebody to come and hire a pro. There are professionals out there, bring them in and have them do it for you, whether it’s bringing in like a branded storyteller, like an ex-journalist, they make great jobs or consultants, there’s things out there. Hire somebody, bring them in and have them help you because at the end of the day, you can keep complaining and use that excuse over and over. And eventually, it’s going to catch up to you. And then you’re in trouble.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. At a lot of the AMI meetings, we bring in speakers and several agency search consultants and all of that. And they talk about how clients, big and small clients are shopping for agencies. And the reality is today, if you don’t have a pretty robust web presence, and that can’t just be a brochure site anymore, you really do have to have a digital footprint that I can track you down and follow you around and stalk you for a little while to get a sense of who you are and what you’re about, or else you’re never going to be on the consideration list. So in my mind, it’s not really an optional activity anymore.

C.C. Chapman:

I agree. I remember a few years ago getting on stages and when people would say, oh, I don’t have, this is when content marketing as the buzz word was becoming popular and I’d get up on stage and say, “Listen, you can have all the excuses you want, but if you don’t do it, you might as well just close up shop and go home, because your customers, no matter what business you’re in…” And I still say this, whatever business you’re in, your customers are online, they’re looking you up on their phones, they’re checking you out on Instagram and every other social network. If you’re not there, they’re going to go away. And for any agency that thinks it’s any different, yes, that big brand that’s looking at you as an agency, they’re doing the same thing, they’re sitting at home flipping through their iPad, looking at your sites and figure it out. It’s not only happening in a sterile office. And those days are long gone.

Yes, people look at your office, but let’s face it. The first thing we do when we’re trying to figure out anything is we call out the Google. And if I’m searching for hot agencies in Boston or wherever it is and I don’t find, you’re invisible. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have any reason to go searching for you anywhere else when your 10 competitors popped up in front of me and I checked them out.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Yeah. You don’t have to work that hard to find people to put into the consideration set. So if you’re not there when I’m looking for people to put in the consideration set, I’m not going to break a sweat to try and find an agency I’ve never heard of before anyway, because as you said, there’s 10 here. Okay, great. Surely in the 10, I can find one.

C.C. Chapman:

And that’s something too. That’s one of the pieces of advice I’d give anybody out there running an agency, if they’re hearing this and going, “Well, I don’t know where to start.” The first action item I would give any agency is go look at your competitors. You know who your competitors are, you know who’s getting called into that, getting the RFP all the time against you, go look at what they’re doing, do your own research. And that’s like the very first year, because you’ll see, you’ll get ideas, you’ll probably shake your head at some things going, well, that doesn’t work for us, but that thing does by knowing what your competitors are doing. That’s warfare one-on-one. Look at your enemies.

And that’s, I mean, if nothing else, take an hour, take two hours and go check out what your competitors are doing. And that’s just not just a one-time thing. It’s a one-time thing when you’re first starting out or if you’re trying to get ideas, but you should be paying attention. If you’re not following them on their social channels, that’s just silly because you want to be on top of, you never know what something is going to spark of, oh, we could do something similar to that, or why didn’t we think of that? But if you’re not watching your competitors, come on. In today’s world, it’s so easy to follow along and see what they’re doing.

Drew McLellan:

And I think also sort of getting over the idea, a lot of agencies don’t want to put stuff out online because their competitors will see it. You know what? It’s time to get over that. I can remember we launched our agency blog back in like 06 or 07. And I can remember looking through the subscriber list. And every other agency owner in my region was on that list. And I was like, “Okay.” I can’t unsubscribe them. So you just have to be confident enough in your own abilities to just put it out there, but it doesn’t make sense in today’s world to hide what you do and how smart you are because you’re afraid that competition is going to see it, because the problem is if you hide it, the next client who would have hired you also doesn’t get to see it.

C.C. Chapman:

Exactly. And it’s funny because we have those conversations all the time with people when it’s like, oh, we can’t put that out there. I’m like, “Well, yes, you can.” If it’s a trade secret or something, of course you don’t. But that ebook you’re publishing is not super secret, why do it? If you’re going to create content and not make it public, why in the world? Unless you’re doing some very niche building community internal type of stuff, then that’s one thing. But yeah, you got to put it out there.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. I think the whole idea of trade secrets, I think agencies kill me, all agencies have a process and they call it their proprietary process. And the proprietary process is basically now that everyone has their own names for a biz, basically, we’re going to learn about you, we’re going to put together a plan, we’re going to implement the plan, and then we’re going to measure, monitor and tweak the plan.

C.C. Chapman:

But our process is different.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Right. And I think it’s important to have a process. I think clients want to know that you’ve done this before and you are process-driven. And I think it’s great to have things that you think of are sort of proprietary or secret or whatever, but you can at least give away bits and pieces of that to give somebody a sense of who and what you are, because you won’t get another chance.

C.C. Chapman:

Exactly. Yeah. You’re not going to, you don’t. And let’s face it, even one of my arguments for this too, I love to cook. I don’t bake because baking is chemistry and you have to follow the recipe. But I think, especially in the agency world, even if I laid out my exact process verbatim, it’s still just a recipe and the way I cook it and the way somebody else cooks it, it’s going to taste totally different. And that’s because there is some magic in there that you can’t document. There’s no way to explain that magic that happens when you’re coming up with a great idea or the execution. There’s always some magic in there. That’s why I always love when people like, “C.C., how do you do this or do that?” And I’m like, “There’s always that little magic box in the middle where something happens.” But it’s always different because it’s what’s going on in your employee’s heads, it’s what the discussions, it’s never just the stuff you put out there in the public.

Drew McLellan:

And that suggests that it’s this sterile thing that you make in a vacuum as opposed to, staying with your analogy, if I came to your house while you were cooking and my experience of hanging out with you in the kitchen and what we talked about and how I got to suggest some things to throw in to the soup or whatever you were making, all of that changes what we actually end up eating. And so that’s what agencies also have to offer is it’s not that you just walk into a sterile kitchen. It’s, here’s what it’s like to hang out in our kitchen and to work with us and our chefs and our sous-chefs and this is how, that’s what makes us different.

C.C. Chapman:

Exactly. Yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So in terms of content, one of the things that everybody’s talking about now is the whole idea of content marketing gets a little more mature is all of the noise and the buzz. And so give me a couple of rules for agencies of how to make their content stand out from the fray. How do they make it so it doesn’t sound like everybody else and all the other buzz and noise that’s out there?

C.C. Chapman:

Well, a couple of things. First, that’s where the whole recipe idea it comes into play too, because write an ebook that answers your top 10 questions that your sales force gets. There’s like a recipe for a really good piece of content, but it’s been done a million times, how do you make it different? How do you make it stand out? Maybe you find a fun angle, maybe you spend the money to have a really cool designer or partner with an illustrator who’s got a following or something. And there’s lots of different ways to do it. You have to find, even if you’re doing something tried and true, you’ve got to find your own unique angle to do something unexpected that will pop out and make someone go, “Huh, haven’t seen that before.” That’s one way.

The other way is to community building. You have to, you can make the most beautiful piece of content, the most engaging, perfectly created piece of content, but if you don’t have a community of dedicated fans or customers or donors that you can easily reach out to and put that in their hands, you’re in trouble, you’ve got to build that community always. And that’s the first line, right? But to be able to have that email database where you can email and say, “Hey, we’ve just created this piece of content, we hope you’ll check it out, we’ll hope you share it with your community.” Because reaching that first line is easy. And the key is you want them to share it beyond themselves.

But every day I see people not building their email database or not building their customer database. And Chris Penn always talks about you live and die by your database. And it’s true. I have to have those and don’t think that your Facebook fans and your Twitter followers are enough because they’re not, let’s face it. Your Twitter followers are reading all kinds of stuff and it’s really easy for something to go flying by.

And the other thing, the other tactic that I think is forgotten often about is when you’re creating a piece of content and you know, okay, you’ve got, we’re going to create this video and we’re going to publish it on Monday. Okay. So you’re publishing on Monday, but what are you going to do the week or two weeks ahead of it to tease it and tee it up. And then also once it’s live, how are you going to promote it? And then after the fact, how are you going to promote it more for everybody who missed it?

People I think seem to put all their effort in that day, the launch day, which of course is important, but there’s so many opportunities to tee it up and tease it ahead of time. And then even days, weeks, months later to still be driving traffic back to it because people miss it. And to assume that just because you published it, everybody sees it is dangerous. But I see that mistake all the time. I try to do that before, during and after. And it’s amazing how many people don’t figure that out. They just, they focus on the launch and that’s very short-sighted.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s shift a little bit and talk about community, because a lot of agencies create content, they put it out on their own blog, website, Facebook page, whatever. And then they sit and wait, hoping that people will find it. And I don’t think with content, especially the volume of content that’s out there and the volume of webpages, it is not a build it and they will come sort of a thing. You really do have to create that community. So talk to us a little bit about how an agency might create a community in advance so that when they do start creating great content, it does have the opportunity to get out in front of more eyeballs.

C.C. Chapman:

Well, I’m going to be really blunt and honest here and start by saying, most people could care less about following a marketing agency or a PR agency, because there’s no reason for them to. And I start by that because what my answer to the question is going to be is you’ve got building that community means you have to give something to that community. It can’t just be nothing, but your client pitches and products and stuff. Like I think of like Edelman, huge agency for sure, but I pay attention to them because they put out things like their yearly trust report they’ve come up with and other reports and other eBooks that they put out there that me as a professional in this space, I want to read that, I want to be part of it.

Drew McLellan:

It has to make you better, right?

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah, exactly. It gives me something. And then of course, that opens me up to getting their product pitches too and their client stuff, which is fine because it balances and it gives me a reason to opt into their email list or to follow them on Facebook or Twitter. And I see like, I think of shift communications is there. A PR firm here in Boston, they send out a really good weekly newsletter and I know every, I forget what day they send it out and I’m blanking, I know it’s going to come in my inbox. And what’s great is what their approach is, they gather the biggest news from around the industry every week, they put that in. And then of course, their clients are in there too. But I’m getting something out of it.

And if you want to build a community, a community has to, and this doesn’t matter what kind of community you’re building, that everybody’s got to get something out of it, they got to feel like they’re getting something out of it so that they keep coming back. And if all you’re doing is shouting, look at our clients, look at our clients, why would-

Drew McLellan:

Or look at us, look at us.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. Why would I care about that? The average person doesn’t. But if you give them something on a regular basis, create something to give them back to it, that’s when community starts building because they, we talk about the metaphor of the campfire. I feel welcome around this campfire. And every so often, you’re throwing another log on the fire and I’m like, “Oh cool, I’ll stay a little bit longer.” That you got to make me feel welcome, give me a reason to come in and sit down, and then give me a reason to stick around. I think that’s the community thing that people forget is that the best communities are constantly being fed. There’s something more to keep you there so you don’t leave or hit that unsubscribe button.

Drew McLellan:

And I think too, that’s where agencies have an advantages if they have sort of an area of expertise, whether it’s industry niche or some sort of a deliverable to really be able to dive deeper into that content. So now let’s say you’re a financial services expert. Now everything you’re writing about that’s about the financial services industry, that helps me as a financial services professional be smarter at my job and to what we were talking about before, if I’m a bricklayer, I don’t care and I’m not going to read it. Well, great, because that’s not the ideal client for you anyway.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. And it’s funny how many times I know like I’m giving a speech in the Netherlands here in a couple of days, and I know I have a whole slide talking about the content you create does not have to be for everybody, because I think that far too often, because when you go general, you see this with agencies too, where they’re like, “We do everything.” No, you don’t. And if you do, you’re not, jack-of-all-trades is not a good thing for an agency to be. You should, I mean, yes, you can do a lot of different things, but I hope you focus whether it’s an industry or if you’re very good at video or you’re very good at photography, who knows, there’s different, like you said, financial services. There’s lots of different ways.

But the content you create does not have to appeal to the general public. You want it to appeal to the types of customers and clients and brands that you’re hoping to attract. And I think too often people, they’re trying to appeal to everybody. And it’s YouTube that messed it up for everybody, because viral videos are the cat videos that get millions of views. And I think people forget that you don’t get a million views probably for your agency stuff and you don’t need a million views. You need a couple of 100,000. Don’t get me wrong, you always want more views, but I’ll take a 1000 views from potential clients rather than a million views from just random people who are never going to give me business.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. Yeah, absolutely. I think sometimes agency owners forget how few new clients they need to be successful. Really for the average agency that I deal with is 300 employees or less. And for them, a handful of rock solid new clients are all they can onboard in the course of a year. They don’t want to take on 15 or 20 new clients. They can’t. They don’t have the infrastructure to do it.

C.C. Chapman:

Right. And it’s almost, it’s a pro, if all of a sudden you bring on all these new clients and you can’t service them, that’s worse than not getting them in the first place, I think.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, especially in today’s world where you get talked about everywhere, you want to deliver on the promises you make, because otherwise, everybody’s going to be calling you out publicly.

C.C. Chapman:

Yep. Exactly. And then there you go. And then if you’re not creating enough content to bounce that off of Google’s front page, guess what people are going to find?

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Absolutely. So how else? I know that a lot of the stuff you talk about is things that happen online, but I also know that you have a very robust offline life. So how do you recommend people connect their online, digital footprint and content with their offline presence?

C.C. Chapman:

I’ve never been asked that one before. I think, wow, I think it’s one of those things where that’s where being who you are is really, really important. As an agency, I’ll focus on Instagram for just one second, as an agency, if you go to a networking event, whether like we have Creative Mornings was today in Boston and all around the world. And if you go to that event, take some pictures at the event and post it and say, “Hey, this morning we listened to a great speaker or we’re at a conference.” Or even if it’s just, hey, we had our staff meeting at this little coffee shop, whatever it is, adding that sort of out of the office. It has nothing to do with any, I’m a big believer in just, like if you follow me on any network, you’ll see I share, I took a picture a couple, I had a really good lunch a couple of minutes ago. And then the next picture was of my desk. Are either of those things going to bring me business? Probably not.

But what it does do is it makes it much more human, you start seeing these other sides. And agencies can do that. They can show pictures of their staff, they can show little slices of life and that kind of connects the offline and the online to show that you are more than just your clients, you are more than just your pitches or your product launches, there is more to you. And I think it’s amazing how many people don’t do that, where I see individuals do this a lot all the time where all their feeds are pimp, pimp, pimp, pimp, and it’s like, don’t you have a life, come on. It’s crazy.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think the balance to that is your community gives you permission to do those sort of off topic things when you’ve also given them enough valuable content that they’ll hang in there. And then over time, they come to know you and they like those things. I’m sure this happens to you all the time, but I’ll go to a conference or something else and I’ll bump into somebody who’s read the blog or followed me on Facebook or Twitter, whatever. And what I love is that they say two things, one, “My gosh, you sound just like you do online.” I love when I hear that. And the second thing they’ll say is, “How’s your daughter.” And I think, okay, you know what? They know what matters to me.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah. It’s always funny because I remember especially back in the early podcasting days when we did, like Facebook wasn’t, God forbid, Facebook didn’t exist yet, at least not publicly and stuff. So there wasn’t a lot of images and people would be like, “Wow, you’re just like you are online.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, who else would I be?” There’s nothing better whenever I go anywhere, I get, how are the kids? Or how is Nadia? Anybody who knows me knows my dog, it’s part of my life. And yeah, you’re right, those feelings, those are the people that make me really happy and I instantly want to have a conversation with because it shows that they’re paying attention to me and what I do, not just-

Drew McLellan:

That you matter.

C.C. Chapman:

Yeah, exactly. And it feels great. And it is weird though, because I always feel bad when I don’t know as much about the other person. And I always feel, I still feel awkward, like it’s probably someone I never even interacted with before, but I’m always like, “Man, I wish I knew something about them.” It’s my New England upbringing, I feel like I want to know everything.

Drew McLellan:

Well, but again, they have to share it first. So again, but I think a lot of times when an agency first picks up the phone or answers the email where the prospective client is finally reaching out, so they’ve done all their due diligence, they’ve done their homework for you to sound and feel just like what they’ve experienced online and for them to be able to reference some personal aspects of who you and your agency are takes the conversation to a completely different level, a much more a level of some intimacy and some connection that as people I think we all want.

C.C. Chapman:

I agree. No, I agree fully because it makes that human factor, it makes it a little bit more connected, you feel like you know the people and the faces behind the agency. And it’s just not the agency pitch. It’s actually, these are actually humans. These are actually good people and they do good work. If you can get that combination, it’s a beautiful thing, because sometimes bad people do really good work, but when you can actually work with people that you connect with, that’s even better.

Drew McLellan:

And ultimately, the work is better.

C.C. Chapman:

Amen. Always.

Drew McLellan:

All right. You and I could chat for more than hours on this stuff, but I want to bring us to some kind of a conclusion and I try and wrap up every podcast with some real action items. So based on all of the places we’ve bounced around in this conversation, if an agency owner is nodding their head and they’re saying, yep, either I want to build community, so my content has more reach, or yep, I got to get serious about doing content that’s good and differentiates us on a consistent basis, or I want to really dig into this idea of social good and how it can serve both my community and my agency, what are some things that agency owners could do right now as soon as they get off the podcast that they could put one or more of those into action?

C.C. Chapman:

Well, I was going to say they could hire me, but that’s for sure.

Drew McLellan:

Sure. Of course, they could.

C.C. Chapman:

No. I was like, it’s funny, I can’t say that with a straight face. It’s just, but I mean, I think what they really need to do, the very first thing they can do is to stop and take a look at their social channels. Seriously, take a look at whatever accounts they have, Facebook, Instagrams, the Twitters, and see what they’ve published in the last month. Just take the last month and really look at what you’ve done and ask yourself, if I knew nothing about my agency, if I was just somebody out there in the wild, what would I think of this agency?

And then get even more specific, think, okay, if I was a brand, if I was a dream client and I looked at this, what would I think? And if you’re looking to hire, do it from the employee perspective, play that game, put your mind in the other person and just look and say, “Am I doing it? Am I creating content? Have I done anything to build a community?” And if you haven’t done that in the last 30 days, maybe, I mean, that’s where I would start, because it’s a really quick snapshot of, oh my God, we’re not doing anything.

And I think it’s a really quick and easy way to get you started and then think, okay, well, if I didn’t, what can I do in the next month to get that ball rolling? And just right there, anybody can do that, any size agency, we’re not talking about coming up with a three, six and 12 month plan, although that would be a next step, just look at the past month of creation and the next month and how you could improve it and start there because you’ll start seeing, oh yeah.

And the other thing, the one bit of advice that I try to give people all the time, especially when it comes to content, but it’s true of anything you’re trying to get better at, it gets easier the more you do it. You can only read so many books, you can only watch so many videos before you actually have to get your hands dirty and do it. And once you start doing it, it just becomes second nature or it becomes easier. And there’s no shortcut to this. You have to either do it yourself or hire professionals to do it for you, but somebody is going to get their hands dirty. And if you just try to think of finding the shortcuts and automating all this stuff, it’s just not going to work. And I can’t be any more blunt than that because I firmly believe that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And given that many agencies sell this to their clients, it seems to me that this is a muscle that they should be exercising on their own benefit as well. If you’re going to go sell it, then you should be doing it for yourself. Otherwise, I think clients look at you and go, “I’m sorry, but the emperor is naked.”

C.C. Chapman:

And it’s amazing to me how many agencies I see doing that who they talk a good game, but then I spend five minutes looking and I’m like, “Well, they say they do this, but they’re not doing it for themselves.” And let’s face it, brands are getting smarter. Brands, they’re not your name, having the big agency name or the previous success alone is not enough. They’re actually, we all know this, budgets are getting smaller, they’re getting tighter. Agency or being an agency of record isn’t what it used to be. People are going up for review much more often. And so you’ve got to be constantly proving yourself. And if you’re selling this stuff, digital marketing, online marketing, whatever you want to call it, you’ve got to be doing it yourself.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Awesome. All right. So everybody, if you do nothing else, go back and do a little self-assessment and maybe ask some folks in your agency to do the same thing and bring people together and have a very candid conversation about whether or not if you were a prospective client, you’d be impressed or you would even noticed, because I think sometimes not getting noticed is the worst of all. So C.C., if folks want to track you down, what’s some contact information that they can use to find you?

C.C. Chapman:

Easiest place is cc-chapman.com. It’s my site. There’s a contact form, there’s blogs out there. I’m cc_chapman on pretty much every other social network. Hit me up, say hello. I love talking to people and I love helping people do this stuff right.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and another great place to start, I can’t imagine you haven’t done it already, but if you have not read C.C. and Ann’s book, you have got to get it on your Kindle or get it from the library or run to Barnes & Noble, whatever your, how you feed yourself with books, however you need to do that, but make sure that that is on your library shelf and that you have read it. And again, if you’ve read it five years ago when it first came out, it’s probably time for a reread because there’s great content in there. C.C., thank you so much for sharing what you know and your enthusiasm around the topic and being so accessible. I am very grateful that you are with us today. Thank you.

C.C. Chapman:

Well, thank you for having me.

Drew McLellan:

My pleasure. Everybody, another great podcast in the can, come on back next week for another guest. If you are enjoying this content, please subscribe so you don’t miss any. If you think that it is rock solid and you’re enjoying it, always happy to have a review and rating. If you have question about this topic or any of the things we talk about on the podcast, you can reach me at [email protected] Thank you very much for giving us your time and attention, and I will see you next week.

Speaker 1:

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build A Better Agency, brought to you by Hubspot. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.