My job, really, is that of an advocate and consultant. "Content Marketing Advocate" simply does not have the same ring to it. "Content Marketing Consultant" only describes half of it and besides, that…Read More
At the beginning of the year, we are always looking for resolutions. Things we want to change, areas we want to grow it, and ways to make our lives better.
One of the areas we tend to focus on is our education. In marketing, you are asked to do the impossible, stay on top of new trends and be proficient in your ability to drive results.
That's right, we have to try new things and be right all the time?
"Especially once you do any craft for a while, you learn a lot about it, and so all of us have been practicing this art and craft of digital and content marketing, we've learned some things, and believing in your ability, and having that sense of self-confidence, I think, can help you do even better, you know, and that's what I think everybody should really recognize is what you are accomplishing, especially when you're selling hard products, and your milestones are minimal, you've got to learn to celebrate your successes along the way. To me, that's essential."
In this conversation, Jeff Julian and Vishal Khanna discuss the need to grow as marketers and ways to consider the different approaches from different trades for becoming better at what we do.
- We're here at the Intelligent Content Conference, and I'm here with Vishal, and I'm excited just to talk to you again, because last year, I met you waiting for the Martian signing, right, over at Mook's?
- [Vishal] Yeah.
- I looked in mine, it was already signed, so I went in and met him again, but you're just an amazing guy to talk to, I think you're well-grounded in the space, and it's great to see you come back, and it's great to see you at Content Marketing World, too, you're just a great resource for everyone.
- Well, it's been, I've been, learning a lot from this community, and I think that's why I like coming back, because every time I come to one of these conferences, I walk away with new contacts, new friends, sometimes new freelancers to help me do things, and new ideas, which is, you know, that's the bread and butter of what we do.
- We've got to constantly be thinking of something new we can do to keep our businesses going.
- So what year were you the Content Marketer of the Year?
- Uh, 2015.
- Cool, and what was the campaign, or not the sorry, I think that's a bad word. What was the approach, the content marketing approach, that you did?
- So, at the time I had built a little marketing group of two inside of a university and academic medical center. We were basically going around and helping different faculty create businesses based on an invention or a great discovery they had, and you know, it would be a different range, sometimes it would be just setting them up and doing the initial marketing plan, and then letting them go, do their thing, and sometimes, we would own it from soup to nuts, and really manage the entire process, and so the award came from some of those things were were doing, we were managing the process and really, in two distinct sort of business sets, one was a research group that did research services for pharmaceutical companies, testing their drugs and making sure they were effective, and the other was really promoting the inventions of our faculty, new treatments for cancer and things like that.
- And so, what we have done there was take strategies that were pretty commonplace in our industry, especially when you look in, say, the software space, which is where I'd come from before, and translated over into this sort of academic location, where, at the time, and you know, things change so quickly in our space, but at that time, people weren't doing content marketing inside of an academic medical center, and definitely not in tech transfer and invention. And so I think, what we did, we had great results from it, and I think those results, which were first published in a publication I can't remember right now, but anyways, it was seen by Arda Thalpy, who actually just walked by us.
- Oh, nice!
- And another reason I like these conferences, you keep on running into people that you know. And she queried me, and that got everything rolling so that was sort of the narrative behind it, but what we were basically able to do was really just massively expand our lead gen, and revenue programs using content as the sort of driving force for that.
- Yeah, and so, since then, you've kind of continued on your journey. What's been going on, after the award?
- So, you know, I'll tell you, there's two ways I think that award really changed me, and the the first was it opened opportunities for me, first opportunities to write and speak and build my personal brand, which is important, and then, you know, opportunities to go out, find new adventures, and I took on a new adventure a few months ago, working for a start-up company, still in the healthcare space, it's a company called HealthPrize, but a little different, you know, we develop software technology for pharmacompanies to engage their patients. But there's another thing that I think is more important from that, there was a level of justification that came from the award, you know, for me, I'm probably like you, I've been doing this since the late 90's, and in different ways, and you know, I think with marketing, you never feel like you've done enough, it's one of those specialties where, no matter what you do, there's more you could have done, and so you always have this sense of being behind by a day, a project, etc., so this was a justification that a, this process works, but b, you have to have a little trust in yourself. Especially once you do any craft for a while, you learn a lot about it, and so all of us have been practicing this art and craft of digital and content marketing, we've learned some things, and believing in your ability, and having that sense of self-confidence, I think, can help you do even better, you know, and that's what I think everybody should really recognize is what you are accomplishing, especially when you're selling hard products, and your milestones are minimal, you've got to learn to celebrate your successes along the way. To me, that's essential.
- Yeah, exactly, and you know, we have a small agency, and so, we don't have a lot of sales per year, right, there's a certain number of clients that we can actually handle, and a certain number that I want to grow to. I got into this to be creative, not to be the boss of a bunch of creatives, and so yeah, it's hard to get those measurements, right? How effective are the, well, I haven't missed a paycheck, and we're doing fine, and everybody's happy, and clients are happy, right? And so you do need some of that validation, and outside, but you bring up an interesting, point of like calling it a craft, and calling it an art, it means that you actually, beyond work, this is something that you truly enjoy doing, it's almost like it's a hobby and a career that you get to do, something to enjoy.
- Oh sure, you know, my hobby's making websites, terrible hobby to have for a marketer, I should really get out and do other things, but I just enjoy it, and I really have, since I started doing this, for different people, different things click, and for me, this sort of combination that digital marketing especially has, where you combine creativity, this sort of free flowing, un-boxed level of creativity that you have to have with a very analytical way of thinking, really was the perfect blend for me, and it just worked right, and I definitely, you know, I don't consider myself an employee of a company, I'm a journeyman. And I think in the true sort of historical sense, I think a lot of us are journeymen and women, you know? We have this certain skill, and we can take it, and apply it, to a different business, a different model, a different product, whatever it is.
- And I think there's more marketers that need to start to embrace that again, that, you know, if you look at usually the collegiate structure of how people get into marketing is, what do you want to do when you grow up, kid, senior year, um, I'll go into business, right? And then my elective will be marketing, and then I come out of this, or maybe journalism, I really wanted to be a journalist, and there are no real journalists anymore, and so I went into marketing, and so there's this, like, I don't know, this is what I do for work, and the kind of mentality for a lot of marketers and not the, 'How do I get better?'
- 'What's out there, how do I self-educate, how do I continue to advance my career?'
- Journeyman, craftsman style approach, that I just don't feel that we're embracing enough as an industry, teaching people that to truly love.
- And so I think, two comments on that. One, I came to this space from being a failed writer, not making a living as a writer, and having kids and needing a good way to make a living, but I think what I learned through the process was I enjoyed this way of making a living, and for me, if I'm going to do something and try to be good at it, I really have to give all of my energy to it, and that's my own limitation, I'm not good at doing two or three things at once, I usually have a single passion, and I'll put all of my energy to that, even down to when I work for a new business, every thing is focused on that business, it's story, it's success, and how we can make it happen, and I think that's really important, and I don't remember my second point, so we'll keep on going.
- But no, man, I think that's great one that it is true, if you focus in on you, and the aspects of you that will help you then make the business that you are apart of at this time more effective, right, if you think of yourself as a person who uses tools and the better you can use those tools, the better product you can produce, the higher value you have, then the more happiness you'll have in your life when you build an amazing table and you ship it.
- And you see it in somebody's living room, and that's what marketing is.
- And then I like the analogy of the table, you know, I think that that really, it is, in a way, a table, a product, you know, your marketing engine and the results that come from it, to some extent, it doesn't matter what that table represents, I mean, I think that we should have some level of ethics, you know, I wouldn't go work for, say, Monsanto, because I don't believe in their business model, just like I wouldn't sell my table to Hitler's daughter.
- So we have ethics, but ultimately, it's a table that is what you're learning to do, it's a marketing engine that you're learning to build, and build better, and build in your own unique way.
- Yeah, exactly, and provide some sort of value for someone to use it, as a functional piece, but also it is creative, it's a piece of art, it's something that people just will love and continue to tell the story of, and I think with content, we can get that, you can see like, just the book, Epic Content Marketing, has effected so many marketers in this space, and I guarantee, the majority of us here have read that book.
- If you ask Joe, 'Did you think that you would impact the industry this much when you wrote it?' He'd say, 'No, I wrote a book on,' but he invested himself into it.
- And I think that's where we really need to get the industry.
- Yeah, I think it's good to find that spot you can go deep into, and be uniquely specialized, you know. There's another Joe Poleitzi thing, but it speaks about when you look at your product, find the product's tilt, or unique perspective on whatever business it is, I think you need to do that for yourself as well. What is it that you're best at, what is it that you can become exceptional at, and then go be exceptional in that way, and learn to outsource the things that you just suck at, you know?
- Don't try it. Go find someone else to do it.
- And I think it's like, there's a good balance between knowing when you're really bad at something, knowing why you're really bad at something, and then, say, what in it, can I learn from the other person that is really good at it? Because we do have to have some cross-pollination to give us the ability to understand and empathize with each other, and to be able to understand, you know, because I work with a lot of designers, and I work with a lot of developers and marketers, and those groups of people don't necessarily mesh well easily, together, but we're all targeted around building valuable assets for particular.
- Sure. Well, you've got to start with, I think, also when you work within a group like that, of disparate individuals, start with a single goal, right, what are we all trying to do? What are we trying to say? Build this new method to generate new revenue for Company X, right? So each of us has a role in reaching that, and you'll do your best there, but if you all understand what the goal is, and what your particular part of that is, I think it makes more sense.
- And I think you're able to sort of contribute in a more authentic way, as opposed to this sort of, you know, Ford's style of automaton, you know, you do one thing over and over again.
- Yeah, exactly, because we need to break the assembly line, but we do need to know that there are steps and skillsets, and limitations to each set, and just continue to grow in that process.
- I'm also, you know, everywhere I've worked, I've either been the only marketer, or one of two or three marketers in the company, and so, because of that, you sort of learn to be all those things yourself, too, which is something that I like, I like having that autonomy as well, where the idea is owned by you, the production is owned by you, the distribution, the measurement, the success, the failure, it's all on you. I like that stress.
- It keeps me going.
- It's funny, because we're at a conference for marketers and the term marketer means everything, the person who gets into the market, right, and understands and sells to the market, and we build content, which could mean anything. The event's content, the podcast is content, the video is content, the stuff that you write is content, it's all content, so we have one of the most general jobs doing the most general thing, and we define what that is for us, and we define what it is for our customers. It's awesome.
- Yeah, and it's always going to be somewhat different, right, for every company, you know? Some place, you might just be a lead generation machine, and that's all it is, and other places, you're building communities, your measurements are completely different, your tactics are completely different, your tone of voice is completely different, but the structure by which you do that remains the same, I think, through out. Evolving through time, but ultimately following a similar path.
- Well, awesome, we better wrap this up, but it was great to talk to you.
- You as well.
- It's awesome to see someone who well deserved the award of Content Marketer of the Year continue to use it and to help and give back, and be a part of an amazing event and organization and provide so much value.
- Well, it's tough, because I always, I feel a little strange speaking about the topic, because I feel like I'm still learning, and usually, standing in a room with people that I'd like to learn from, makes it a little uncomfortable for me, I try to just present it as, 'This is just my perspective, what I've learned, and take what you want from it.'
- Exactly, somebody is always going to be in a group of other like-minded people, understanding that no one is the smartest person in the room, we've all got something to share with each other.
- Thanks a bunch, I'm looking forward to learning more in the next few minutes, too.
- Awesome. I'll see you soon.
- Thank you, take care.