Episode 89: Position your digital marketing agency through content with Simon Thompson

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Own a digital marketing agency? Learn how to keep content interesting and focused on business issues your clients are looking to solve.

Simon Thompson is the founder of Content Kite, a content marketing company that helps digital marketing agencies increase their quality and number of leads through content marketing.

Simon has held content marketing roles for some of the largest digital publishers in Australia such as Mi9 (Microsoft + Ch9), Daily Mail, and MTV. He’s worked on content projects for major global brands such as L’Oreal, Nissan, BMW, Adidas, Disney, and Mondelez, to name a few.

Whilst he was in a good place in his publisher roles in Australia, the entrepreneurial bug eventually took hold, and he decided to go out on his own and start Content Kite. He now runs Content Kite full-time and hasn’t looked back.

Digital-marketing-agency
 

What you will learn about a digital marketing agency in this episode:

  • How a digital marketing agency can keep its content interesting and on topic for the business issues and challenges your customers need to solve
  • Focusing all your content so it moves toward the same goal
  • Optimizing your content to collect email addresses and then regularly engaging with those people
  • How a digital marketing agency can effectively repurpose content across multiple mediums
  • The frequency with which you must create content
  • Why you should spend as much time promoting a piece of content as you do in creating it
  • Influencer outreach: how to actually motivate people to share your agency’s content by positioning them as authorities
  • Tools for mapping out an editorial calendar for your digital marketing agency
  • Why you must share a piece of content more than once
  • How Content Kite works with agencies to create amazing content

The Golden Nugget for Digital Marketing Agencies:

“You need to spend as much time promoting a piece of content as you do creating it.” – Simon Thompson Click To Tweet

Ways to Contact Simon Thompson:

Helpful Resources:

Transcript: Digital marketing agency: Positioning through content

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Many agencies struggle mightily with the whole idea of creating content, whether it’s for their clients, but in particular, I think many of you struggle with getting it done for yourself. A lot of you want to leverage your biz dev through a authority or thought leadership position, and you know that to do that and to establish that thought leadership that you need to have content that demonstrates just how smart you are in whichever area you’ve decided to focus. But the day-to-day of running the agency, and there’s only 24 hours in a day, and you need to sleep for at least two or three, and you have kids and a spouse, and all of that gets in the way of getting it done. So today’s guest is going to talk about some ways that can be done in an easier, more efficient, and more effective way.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: Simon Thompson Introduction

So let me tell you a little bit about him and then we will jump right into the conversation. So Simon Thompson is the founder of Content Kite, which is a content marketing company that helps digital agencies, and I suspect any digital marketing agency that wants their help, to increase their quality and the number of leads through content marketing. Simon has held content marketing roles for some of the largest digital publishers in Australia such as Mi9, which was a combination of Microsoft and Channel Nine, Daily Mail, and MTV. He’s worked on content projects for major brands like L’Oreal’s, Nissan, BMW, Adidas, Disney, and several others. So he was in a great place, he was in the publisher role in Australia, and as all of you know, every once in a while that annoying entrepreneurial bug just keeps itching and so he decided to go out on his own. Created Content Kite and now runs that full-time and has not looked back since. So Simon, welcome to the podcast.

Simon Thompson :

Thank you very much for having me, Drew. Glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

So how did you get into content marketing at all, to begin with? Because back in the day, not that long ago, that wasn’t even a phrase.

Simon Thompson:

It’s a good question. So I mean, my background I guess in the world of media, and marketing and advertising started in a fairly unexciting part of that, it being print magazines and really uninteresting ones as well. So we were putting together catalogs for construction companies who were putting in the hexagonal screws that an architect might specify for a building so really, really uninteresting-

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Simon Thompson :

Really uninteresting stuff. But believe it or not, I did actually learn a ton about sort of the fundamentals of finding an audience and creating content and images that are going to appeal to a particular audience. But to cut a long story short, as you mentioned in the intro, I found myself at a company called Mi9 who were fairly forward-thinking in terms of how to attract audiences to brands and how you can sort of do that in a way that provides a lot of value.

And content marketing is a great way of doing that. You sort of give something and in return, you tend to get leads, and customers, and traffic, and all that kind of thing. So that sort of really appealed to me. The fact that it’s not just you create an ad, you pay for the ad, and you get a number of customers. It’s just you give, give, give, and then eventually the customers come to you. That sort of idea really appealed to me, and that’s what led me eventually to start Content Kite where I am today.

Drew McLellan:

You know though … Well, while I agree with you, it sounds like the early part of your career in terms of the subject matter was not fascinating. I’m guessing that one of the things you learned, and this is something that digital marketing agency owners and I talk about all the time is that, while the construction magazines and the specific nuts and bolts that architects care about was not particularly interesting to you and probably was not particularly interesting to 95% of the world, to the 5% of the world that you were trying to attract it was vitally interesting and important. And I think one of the things that I worry about when I think about how agencies do content is, so much of it is so generic that it doesn’t A, differentiate them, and B, I could get that same piece of information in 12 different places so you don’t really become a trusted resource for me.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly. I could not agree with you more. It was very uninteresting to me but very interesting to the audience. And I think that’s probably the number one sort of mistake I see agencies making along the way when they’re creating content. They may not be particularly interested in the problems that their customer has so they write about what they’re doing. So, for example, a web design or digital marketing agency, they may be the thought leaders in HTML5 or JavaScript or whatever it may be and so they write a lot about that. But oftentimes their ideal customer is someone in the marketing department who’s not particularly technical, who doesn’t really know anything about HTML5, and so that content is just not going to resonate with them. And so the number one thing that we always say is, write about the problems your customers are having first, and how it relates to you is secondary because if it’s not interesting to your audience it’s never going to attract the types of customers that you’re looking to attract.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How Content Falls Short

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think oftentimes that’s the problem with the hey, we’re going to make everybody the digital marketing agency blog strategy, which is hey, art director what do you want to write about? Well, I’m going to write about the Pantone color of the year. And hey, account person what are you going to write about? Well, I’m going to write the five mistakes of blah, blah, blah. So there’s not a solid direction and it’s not really even looking at what the prospect is wrestling with. It really is, well, here’s something that I know or something that I can scrape off the web pretty easy because this is not really my day job this blogging so I want to get it done. And so again, that content falls a little short.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly. And so the first thing that we say to agencies when we start working with them … Or even if we’re not working with them, if we’re just in discussions, the first thing you’ve got to do is put a strategy in place. And I think that can sort of just turn people off right then and there when they hear this strategy they don’t exactly know how to tackle it, and it seems like a lot of work, and something they don’t know much about, but it really doesn’t have to be. And so we like to simplify it into this framework and it’s called the hub and spoke framework. And we didn’t come up with that but we think it’s a great framework to use. But essentially you just … You come up with one central idea and that’s generally a problem or solution to a problem that your ideal customer has and then you just schedule out 12 different ways of solving that problem.

So if you’re a web designer, web design may be one way to solve the problem your customer has. And usually, the problem is something like we don’t get enough leads or enough customers. It’s not, we need a website. It’s we need something that’s going to drive leads. So, right, about driving leads rather than web design. Now web design might be one way to do that, but there’s also other tactics you can weave into that schedule. And so that’s a really important thing to focus on to just make sure that your … All of your pieces of content are in a cohesive sort of balance with each other and they’re all moving towards the same goal.

Drew McLellan:

I think that makes sense but it’s so counterintuitive to not write about what I know about to automatically, right.

Simon Thompson :

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

And it takes more time and effort.

Simon Thompson :

For sure. And this I guess comes back to that sort of notion of do what’s right not what’s easy. I mean, it is … It’s a great thing if you want to write about what you’re doing and sort of … If you enjoy doing it, by all means, do it, but just know that it’s … If you’re not solving a problem your customer has … If you’re not writing about something that your customer wants to hear about, it’s not going to attract your customers. It’s not going to do much else other than satisfy your sort of desire to write about what you know.

Drew McLellan:

Well, it checks the box. A lot of agencies know they need to do it and they’re trying to do it as expediently as possible, but it just ends up being an activity they did rather than a means to an end of whatever their goal is, which typically for a digital marketing agency is also about lead gen.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How to Impact Your ROI

Drew McLellan:

So I know that you spend a lot of time with agencies, and you are looking at what they’re doing well and what they’re doing right. So what are some things agencies don’t do that if they did it would impact the ROI from their content?

Simon Thompson :

So I think the main thing after, of course, having a strategy in place and making all the content sort of be cohesive and working towards one goal, is optimizing your content to collect email addresses. And I’ll get into why this is so important. I mean, I know I’ve heard you say on your show, Drew, that most customers of a digital marketing agency are just not ready to buy when you want them to buy. They … You generally have to create as many touchpoints as you possibly can over the course of potentially a three-month, six months, a year, even a couple of years. So the importance of getting someone onto your email list so that you can continue to engage them, whether it be through your content or reach out to them, is fairly important. And so the best way that we know how to do that is by creating what’s called a content upgrade, which listeners may be familiar with, but it’s essentially a hybrid targeted version of a lead magnet, which is a download piece of content that viewers can get in exchange for their email address.

So, for example, if you have a … I’ll use an example of top five SEO tactics of 2017. You might create a content upgrade that’s just a basic cheat sheet that has those five tactics, and maybe you’ll add a couple of bonus tactics on there. So there’s something in that piece of downloadable content that isn’t in the original post that incentivizes someone to enter their email address. And once you have that email address … I mean, this is probably the topic of another podcast entirely, but it’s extremely valuable to have that opportunity to continue to engage your audience via email because the likelihood is that person probably isn’t going to just regularly come back to your blog on a weekly basis because you want them to, they have other things to do.

Drew McLellan:

What? They’re not going to just keep bookmarking our blogs and going back.

Simon Thompson :

Unless your Agency Management Institute, of course.

Drew McLellan:

Sure. Sure.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How to Effectively Repurpose Content

Drew McLellan:

I’m sure everyone is rushing right back to our site. I know better than that, that’s why we said emails. So a lot of agencies can barely get a blog post done so I’m sure they’re going, that’s a great idea but how in the world do we get that done? So do you have some strategies around doing that? Then I want to get back to the things that agencies can also do to double their ROI. But if I’m creating a blog post or a less meaty piece of content, do you have some strategies for repurposing that content into longer formats that are worthy of an email trade?

Simon Thompson :

Absolutely. So the first thing I would say is that … I mean, creating content is quite the time commitment. Anyone who’s created a blog post knows that there’s a lot of work involved and that’s just in writing the piece. When you add in all of the other components like … Even just uploading it to your CMS and formatting the images correctly and all that, that can take 30 to 60 minutes to do online. And then if you’re promoting it properly, whether it’s through social media and writing an email newsletter, there’s more time there. And then if you’re reaching out to people to get people to share it, it’s a big-time commitment put it that way. So before anyone gets to creating content, I’d just like to say that make sure you’re putting aside a few hours a week at the very least to put into this, and don’t just sort of make it a sporadic thing that you do every once in a while because you just … You won’t be setting yourself up to properly leverage the content as an asset.

But to go back to your question. In terms of repurposing, this is a really good way of creating more content without having to create something entirely new. So like I said, I mean, you can create things like cheat sheets and checklists that go in conjunction with your blog post. And then if you want to even create a separate blog post that is just the outline of that, that’s something you can do. I mean, creating a podcast if you prefer to speak over audio, that’s another example of repurposing content, and you can speak about a particular topic that you’ve written about on your blog. But the key idea is you don’t have to create something entirely new every time you create a new piece of content. You can repurpose things pretty effectively add value with each … Well, with each method of repurposing.

Drew McLellan:

So how often do I have to offer something new that someone can download? So is that once a month, once a quarter, once a year? So if I’m … Let’s say I’m … And we’ll get to how often agencies actually blog or create content, but let’s assume I’m one of the rare ones that I’m regularly creating blog posts let’s just call it for lack of anything better, how often do I have to do something meatier that is downloadable in exchange for an email address? What’s the recipe for that?

Simon Thompson :

Sure. So we say once a week, and this is based on a couple of studies. The main one I can think of is by HubSpot. But they found that the agencies that … Oh, I’m sorry. The businesses that are creating content once a week, and a decent, good, meaty piece of content on their blog once a week getting significantly more traffic than the ones that are doing it less than that.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. But that’s not like I’m exchanging an email. So you just gave everyone listening a heart attack because now I … My question was, how often do you have to create a new downloadable something that people swap out for an email address? But let me just make sure I’m understanding. You’re saying you should have fresh content on your page, on your website once a week, but that could just be a blog post.

Simon Thompson :

Right. That’s what the data would suggest is doing it twice a week.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How Often to Create Big Content Pieces Like eBooks

Drew McLellan:

I totally agree with that. But in terms of me creating an ebook or a checklist or something, how often optimally should I be doing that?

Simon Thompson :

Sure. So with Content Kite, for our clients, we do it for every single post. So every post we create is going to have a content upgrade that goes along with it. However, we entirely understand that there is a time commitment that goes along with that, and not everyone … That if you’re looking at 80/20 kind of thing it may not fall into the most efficient use of your time. Although, before I go on I will say, it doesn’t have to be war and peace that goes alongside every blog post you create. A one-page cheat sheet or checklist or something like that can take as little as five or 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing.

What we say to agencies who don’t want to create it with every single blog post is create a category-specific content upgrade. So if you’re say a full-service digital marketing agency, maybe you write about SEO, you also write about web design, you write about AdWords, et cetera, et cetera, just create one content upgrade for each of those categories and then put that alongside each post you write about that particular topic. So you don’t have to create one for every post. But what we do find is there’s a direct correlation between the relativeness of the content upgrade to the piece of content. So the more closely related the content upgrade is to the blog post, the higher the email subscription rate will be, and it can be significantly higher. We’ve seen it be 10X versus a generic lead by any content upgrade.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How to Double ROI

Drew McLellan:

Okay. I want to get back to the things agencies don’t do that if they did they could double the ROI. But first, let’s take a quick break, and then we’ll come back to that. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while odds are you’ve heard me mention the AMI peer networks or the agency owner network. And what that is really is that’s … It’s a Vistage group or an EO group only everybody around the table owns an agency in a non-competitive market. So they … It’s a membership model. They come together twice a year for two days. Two days in the spring and two days in the fall and they work together to share best practices, they show each other their full financials so there’s a lot of accountability. We bring speakers in and we spend a lot of time problem solving around the issues that digital marketing agency owners are facing. Go here if you’d like to learn more about AMI’s live peer groups.

Okay. Let’s get back to the show. All right. I am back with my guest Simon Thompson from Content Kite and we are talking about how agencies can do content better to serve themselves better and to grow their business. So before the break, we were talking about things agencies can do that perhaps they don’t do now that can really ramp up the ROI they have from their content marketing effort. And you had talked about that they had to create content upgrades, which was, in essence, taking some element of the blog content or whatever it may be, and creating some sort of a downloadable tool, ebook, checklist, whatever that may be, to build their email list. So that’s one. What’s another thing agencies can do to really get more ROI out of the effort?

Simon Thompson :

Sure. Well, a huge part of it is promoting the content and so there’s a ton of ways that people can look at this. But if you read about content marketing online, most content marketers, and influencers, and et cetera, et cetera will say you should spend at least as much time promoting a piece of content as you do creating it, and we agree with that line of thinking and here’s why. There’s just so much content on the internet right now. I mean, I think there were 60 million blog posts or something created in the last week. So unless you have a huge following already of … Let’s say you’re a HubSpot and people are just coming back to your blog every week, then you need to be doing something to getting it out there and getting it some initial traction.

And so the first thing that everyone should be doing is sending it to their email list and promoting it on their social media accounts. So that’s sort of an easy when you continue to engage the audience that you already have. The next thing to attract an audience that you aren’t already speaking to is doing this thing called … Well, blogger outreach or influencer outreach. And many people may have heard of this, and there’s a bunch of tactics that are published on the internet and usually look something like you create this piece of content, and then you reach out to a bunch of relevant bloggers who are writing about similar topics and you say, “Hey, so and so, I found your blog post about X. I recently wrote a similar post. Here’s the link, have a read and let me know your thoughts.” And that is code for, can you please share this with your audience? And that used to work somewhat to an extent and people would share it out and it still does but it’s getting far less effective as it just happens more and more.

I’m sure you Drew have had a ton of those emails coming your way asking people to share their content. And there’s really nothing in it for you unless you already have a relationship with the person or whatever it may be. So what we suggest people do is start planting seeds before you publish the piece. So if you’re linking out to people in your article, then before you publish the piece reach out to them and say, “Hey, we’re writing a piece about this. We actually … We really liked your resource on the same topic and we’d like to sort of feature you within the article. Do you have a quote or an additional piece of insight or something that you could add to the article and we’ll link back to you?” And maybe include an image of them throughout the article. And people are generally more than happy to do that because they sort of look like the expert or the authority within the article. And at the end of the day, people share things that make them look good.

So you get two really good things out of that. So first of all, you’re getting additional insight or a quote or something like that, that doesn’t already exist in the world. So you’re doing a form of journalism basically so you’re getting extra content for your article. But B, when you do eventually go to ask that person to share the article, the success rate is going to be significantly higher than had you just reached out to them after you’d published and asked them to share because you’ve already provided some value to them in that you’ve made them look good and you’ve already had a touchpoint with them so there’s some sort of relationship already there before you go for the ask.

Drew McLellan:

And I think the key to that … I am the recipient of that kind of an email on a regular basis. And I think the key is A, be really clear about what the deadline is in terms of what you need from that person and when you need it back. And B, you’ve got to give them time to get it done. You can’t … It can’t be a I need it today or tomorrow, you need to give them some time to work it into their schedule. And I think C, sometimes they still don’t promote it so you also have to accept that not everybody is going to … They may give you the quote or they may say it’s okay for you to link to something that you’ve written, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to promote it through their social channels either.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly. And there’s been sort of an expectation-

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Simon Thompson :

That you’re going to get to that.

Drew McLellan:

But they’re certainly more likely to, to your point.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly right. And to your point about giving them enough time, this is exactly where things like a schedule and a strategy come into play. If you’re just writing content and you’re publishing it on the day that you write it, then, of course, you’re not going to be able to have time to do this thing so that just sort of adds to the importance of having a schedule, and writing in advance, and having at least a week before a piece actually goes live.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: How to Build an Editorial Calendar

Drew McLellan:

As I’m listening to you talk, and you’re talking about sort of the schedule, and the strategy, and all of that, is there … Are there tools that you guys use or that you recommend … Either the tools you use with your own digital marketing agency clients or that you would recommend agencies use to map out an editorial calendar, and a schedule, and sort of manage all of that.

Simon Thompson :

There are, but honestly, we just use Google Sheets. It’s just … It-

Drew McLellan:

You’ve gone old school.

Simon Thompson :

Exactly right. There are tools out there and we’re looking at a few at the moment actually. But at the moment, Google Sheets you can invite the client to collaborate on that. You can both make notes in the schedule. There are a few finicky little things. If you want to move things around it can get a little troublesome. But for the most part, Google Sheets works really well and it just simplifies things. You don’t have to pay for another tool and you don’t have to monitor another tool.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And in a schedule like that, how … What are you organizing? You’re organizing the topic, and the author, and due dates. What … Is there anything that we wouldn’t have … That would surprise us if we looked at one of your Google Sheets and go oh, I hadn’t thought about putting that on there.

Simon Thompson :

Let me bring one up. So no. For the most part … I mean, the only thing that we probably have in our schedule that won’t be in most is that content upgrade for every single piece we create. But no, for the most part, it’s going to be the headline, the date … I’m just bringing one up here. A keyword that we want to go for. The type of content, so whether it’s an article or an infographic or this, that, and the other. There are tags. I’m sure the listeners know what a tag is. Which category it comes into. So like I said, if we’re going on that hub and spoke framework there’s usually only going to be sort of one or two main hubs or categories that we’re writing in. And then just a checkbox. Whether it’s the first draft is complete and a checkbox has been published.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. But one thing that we should be putting in there is A, is this a good piece that we should consider a content upgrade for? And I guess if we’re following your model, that … There is one for every year, most pieces. I think for most agencies who are doing this on their own, even having a content upgrade by category would be a huge improvement.

Simon Thompson :

Definitely. I mean, like I said, we create a content upgrade for every piece because we sort of have the processes in place to be able to really efficiently do that. However, we’re very aware that most digital marketing agency owners aren’t only solely focusing on their content marketing plan, quite the contrary. They have … It’s probably 5% of what they’re thinking about right now. But like I said before, it doesn’t have to be a super in-depth piece of content, it can be a one-page PDF.

Learn more about how a digital marketing agency can build and scale at the Build a Better Agency Summit here.

Digital Marketing Agency: Findings from Research Study

Drew McLellan:

So I know that you probably spend a lot of time looking at how agencies are handling their content. And I know that you recently did a study that was sort of looking at blogs specifically, but what are some insights? So if you could wave a magic wand and fix a bunch of agency’s content practices based on your own observations in the study, what would you fix?

Simon Thompson :

Sure. So to give listeners a bit of a background of the study. We had … Like you mentioned at the start of the show, we had heard this piece of advic