Looking for an easy way to get more mileage out of your marketing content? Try content repurposing.
In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, AIIM VP of Marketing Tony Paille shares how his approach to repurposing the content that the organization is creating has enabled AIIM's small marketing team to dramatically grow visits and leads - all while saving time and effort.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about AIIM's content repurposing strategy, or read the transcript below.
Kathleen: I'm excited you're here, and I'm excited to talk to you about AIIM's marketing. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and about the association.
Tony: Sure, sure. My name is Tony and I'm the VP of marketing at AIIM. We are an association servicing the information management industry. We're based in Silver Spring, but I am actually located in Boston, so I get to work from home, which is really nice. My dog certainly enjoys all the face time she gets with me. My specialty is inbound marketing and inbound marketing for associations.
Kathleen: Awesome. I think it's very ironic that you work for a company based in Maryland but you work out of your home in New England, and I work for a company based out of New England from my home in Maryland.
Tony: Oh. Isn't that too funny?
Kathleen: Yeah, and I, too, have dogs. So who knows what will happen in the background during this podcast interview?
Tony: Yeah, yeah. They'll be barking at each other.
Kathleen: I know. Inevitably, I feel like the mailman comes right as I'm recording and my dogs go ballistic on me. But we'll see. We'll roll with the punches. It's all good.
Tony: I love it.
Kathleen: One of the reasons I was excited to talk to you, and I did not actually tell you this when we first met, is that I started my career working for a trade association.
Tony: Oh, wow.
Kathleen: Yeah. It was many, many moons ago in Washington, DC, and it was ... At the time, it was called the Environmental Technology Export Council, and our members were businesses that exported environmental technologies. So I have this background and experience in trade associations, but I haven't really been living in that world recently, and it has changed so much.
That was one of the first things that you talked about when we connected. Before we get into the marketing stuff, can you just address a little bit how the world of trade associations is changing and some of the trends you're seeing? Because I think that really provides some important context to this conversation.
Tony: Yeah, definitely. For the folks out there that don't know what a trade association is, almost every industry has one. You probably have heard of some of the big ones from the marketers out there: the American Marketing Association ... There's the National Rifle Association, American Heart Association, etc.
I think a lot of it started in the '40s and they were really prosperous all the way through the '80s. When you were in a trade, you can't get all of the really narrow, niche information that you need to know to do your job and really advance your career through college. You had to have education beyond that, and each industry would have its own association that would provide that kind of educational material. A lot of the associations would go beyond that and many of them would do lobbying or advocating on behalf of the industry. It sort of became a badge of honor, almost, to be a member of your specific trade association. It was something that people were proud of.
Over time, with the proliferation of information by way of the internet, it's so easy to learn new things that you don't have to go to an association anymore. Associations thrived on membership, and over time, membership for associations pretty much across the board was dwindling, so they had to really shift what their focus was. The good ones, I think, focused a lot on training. A lot of associations offered online and in-person training courses, certifications, things that you really couldn't just get from a place like Lynda.com or Coursera or any of these other MOOCs.
Even that is really starting to change because it's so easy, really, to host a webinar and really affordable to do that. So you're seeing education coming from all sorts of places. Software companies offer training, and consultants offer training through their websites. It's so easy to do that, so you're seeing a lot of pivoting again, which really makes the association world very dynamic right now.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's a fascinating trend. In fact, it's funny that you mentioned all the different types of companies that are now offering education and training because, actually, here at IMPACT we just launched an education division in the last two months. So it's something that we're going through as well. One of the things that I find so wonderful about associations, at least the good ones, is that they do tend to be prolific content creators.
Before I joined IMPACT, I had my own marketing agency and we had several associations that were clients. Some of them are still with us now at IMPACT, and I like working with them because I've always been in the inbound marketing world, and in inbound marketing, it's all about content. Very often when you work with companies, you have to pull and squeeze the content out of them, and it's always a struggle because they're busy and distracted and doing other things, whereas with associations, creating content is really part of the mission.
So it becomes less about how are we going to create it and more what are we going to do with it? So I think, in many ways, associations are just fantastic candidates for an inbound marketing approach.
Tony: Yeah, definitely. I would just say that we were doing inbound marketing before it was cool. But the truth is we were doing it before we even knew we were really doing it.
Kathleen: In your marketing capacity at AIIM, what is the approach you're taking there with your audience?
Tony: We have a research branch, in the vein of a Gartner or Forrester, but just much more narrow, more niche. We really focused just on enterprise content management. That way, we were able to create a lot of research and research papers that no one was really creating. So we were the only show in town.
We've been able to take that research and really expand on the amount of content we create and the different types of content we create. So what started as just research papers went to webinars and infographics and e-books and blog posts, podcasts, and everything else.
Kathleen: So you're dipping your toes into many different types of content. Are you seeing really great traction from any particular format that you're creating?
Tony: I would say it depends on what the goals are. I would say that e-books probably draw in the most traffic. I think that the biggest e-book that we did last year got 4,500 downloads and almost 900 new contacts, and lead generation is really the name of the game when it comes to inbound marketing.
But when it comes to nurturing a contact or an existing lead on to becoming a paying customer, there's nothing better for us than webinars. Webinars have been really great, especially for our training offerings.
Kathleen: Now, when you talk about e-books, can you give me some examples of the types of e-books you're creating? Because there's just such an incredible variety of content that we call e-books out there. Some are really kind of crummy, check-the-box, basic documents. Others are more like in-depth research reports. What is it that you're creating that's working so well for you?
But for people that are already in the thick of it, they have an ECM implementation ... For the folks that don't know, ECM is a type of software, enterprise content management software. For those people, that's where we do 20, 30-page, really detailed research papers. So we try to run the gamut because different stages of the buyer's journey are going to be looking for different types of content.
Kathleen: That makes sense. I'd love to learn a little bit more about your audience because when you say "enterprise content management" does that translate into you targeting large enterprises, and if so, who is the buyer within that enterprise that you're going after?
Tony: That's a really great question. In our space, in information management, it's mostly recorded managers. As records are becoming digitized or digitalized, you're seeing IT and information systems play a larger role, but it's still a lot of records managers. And records managers tend to work for any sort of company that has sensitive information, so our audience is a lot of government — federal, state, local — banking, finance, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, things like that where they're dealing with a lot of very private information, a lot of personal information.
Those folks have to be able to store this information and retrieve it but also be able to shut it down to people that shouldn't be looking at it, don't have access to it. That's really the audience that we play in.
Kathleen: Fair to say that a lot of them are highly regulated?
Tony: Absolutely. Yes, very highly regulated.
Kathleen: Okay. Do those individuals that you're targeting have continuing education requirements, or is it simply that to do their job well they really need to proactively stay up to date on this stuff?
Tony: It depends, I would say. There are a lot of industries and companies that do require a certain amount of education. For the most part, what you're starting to see is records managers have dwindling resources. That department doesn't get, really, the respect that it deserves for the amount of authority that they really have. So a lot of these records managers use this training and these certifications and designations as a way to say, "This is the expertise that I have." It's something they wear on their chest saying "This is why I deserve to be in this conversation and part of this project."
Kathleen: I imagine, too, that there is a case to be made within an organization that if you are not devoting the resources and expertise necessary to records management, especially if you're highly regulated, there is a substantial financial liability there. I mean, I know with HIPPA or another kind of compliance regimes that the penalties can be very, very large.
Tony: And it's becoming even more so, especially over in Europe. This spring in May, they're launching a whole new compliance regulation initiative, the GDPR. With that, it becomes huge fines, and it's not just for companies in Europe. If you're an American company that is storing information on European Union citizens, then you're subject to those fines as well, and there are very steep fines involved.
I think the sad thing is a lot of American companies have sort of taken the stance that they only care after they get fined, not necessarily before. So they're not taking these proactive steps, which is really where records managers are so important in any given organization, to be able to try to influence management in that way.
Kathleen: It's so interesting that you bring up GDPR because it's sort of a joke within my company. Everyone's like, "Oh, Kathleen's talking about GDPR again," because I've been a broken record on that. But what I have observed is exactly what you said, which is that a lot of people are aware it's coming. I mean, some are not aware, but a lot of people are aware it's coming but don't seem to feel any sense of urgency to do anything about it.
If you fall subject to those fines, it's a very expensive thing to have ignored, and it's coming fast. So I have a feeling there's going to be a little flurry around ... What is it, May? I don't remember what day it is in May, but whenever that regulation comes into effect, I have a feeling there's going to be a flurry of last-minute changes being made within people's databases and what their data hygiene practice is.
Tony: Yeah. I think, especially as marketers, I think we can really be the catalyst there. I think more and more, especially in smaller organizations, marketing are sort of seen as the keepers of their database. So compliance is our problem, too, even though sometimes we like to pretend that it isn't. So if you're working at an organization and you haven't even heard of GDPR yet, look it up and try to talk to your CEO or your CMO if you're not your CMO, and try to make some changes there because it could be very costly for you in the future.
Kathleen: Yeah, and I would just add that even if you are not selling anything to customers in Europe, you still have to look and see if anybody European is in your database, because if they're in there, it doesn't matter if you asked them to be in there or wanted them to be in there. They're in there, and that means you are subject to this.
When we first started talking, what fascinated me about what you're doing with AIIM is you are really looking at inbound marketing as an opportunity to overcome some of the broader challenges facing trade associations and their strategies for remaining relevant today. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Tony: I would love to. My first exposure to inbound came at HubSpot's INBOUND conference in ... I want to say it was 2015, and I considered myself a bit of a hotshot. I went to that conference and realized how much I don't know. That was a really eye-opening experience for us, and we were a small marketing team like many associations are. Many small businesses are as well.
We were doing a lot of content marketing and content creation but not really leveraging it as well as we could. I mentioned that associations are at a weird point now where they're struggling, and a lot of them, my company included, we sort of pivoted to offer training. And that was a boom for us. That was a smashing success. For almost a decade, we made millions and millions of dollars off training, but we started to see those revenues dry up or slow, and it became harder to hit our targets.
That's when we really became exposed to this whole inbound marketing methodology. So we were able to really look at the content we were creating, and one thing that was really important to our success was that ... I mentioned these research papers that we were creating, and we were creating this original research that nobody else had and nobody was doing. And we were creating one e-book out of it or one research paper out of it when we could turn that into a larger number of assets.
Just as an example, we took a section of that e-book and kind of reworked it and posted it on our blog, and now we're getting SEO value from that. We were able to take some of the key findings and present them in a graphical way and create an infographic out of that. We were able to take the general findings from that paper and turn it into a webinar.
We did some math, and this isn't the exact right numbers, but the research and coming up with the idea and organizing the information and surveying our audience, that took 80 percent of the effort. Actually sitting down and writing the paper and slapping a design over it took 20 percent of the effort. So any time we were creating one piece of content, we were doing 100 percent of the work instead of repurposing that 80 percent up front and just adding 20 percent for each additional asset.
I hope I'm not confusing everybody with all these numbers. But essentially, we were able to create a larger number of pieces of content way faster by repurposing that initial research up front.
Kathleen: You know, that is so fantastic because I do think as marketers, we fall into the trap quite often of working harder and not smarter. I talk to a lot of marketers because that's who my audience is. When I do persona research on my audience, one of the things I always ask is, "What is your biggest pain point?" and every one of them says, "Time." It manifests differently. Some people say, "I wish I had more time to work out," or, "I wish I had that 25th hour in the day to get more work done," or, "I wish I had more time to continually educate myself."
But it comes down to we feel overloaded and overwhelmed, and I think sometimes we do it to ourselves. This is a great example where you spend a ton of time creating an awesome piece of thought-leadership content, and then you throw it up there and it's kind of like, "Okay. Now moving on to the next thing," when there are so many ways that you can use it and repurpose it.
Do you have an example of something that you have repurposed in a lot of different ways? Because I think sometimes it's helpful to understand exactly how this plays out.
Tony: Yeah, absolutely. We created a great e-book last year called The Impact of SharePoint 2016. In our space, Microsoft has an offering called SharePoint, and it is an ECM system, but it wasn't born that way. And then it evolved into a more traditional piece of software. It was very disruptive in our industry, so it was kind of a hot topic back in 2016.
We created this e-book, and it was about 25 pages. It did really well. It performed well. It probably got about 3,000 downloads and 500 new contacts for us, so it's a higher-performing asset. Back in the day, we would have said, "All right. That's it. Let's move on to that next thing." It's so easy to look at the next item on your to-do list. Instead, we said, "How can we get more out of this?" And we created an article.
The very first thing we did was create that blog post, and we created ... The name of the blog post was The Problem With SharePoint: Technology or People? and we took some of the findings from that research and lifted a lot of the copy straight from the paper and kind of reworked it into an article that would make sense for people top of the funnel that are asking these questions: is it SharePoint that's the problem, or is it our implementation of SharePoint?
Tony: And then from there, again, we created an infographic. So that was very numbers-based, and we took all these numbers that we found by way of surveying our audience, and that was a huge success for us. Our audience loves infographics so much. I think a lot of companies keep those as open assets. We can slap an infographic behind a form and people are happy to give us their contact information. It's something, I think, kind of unique to our audience.
Kathleen: Nice. What kind of traction did the blog and the infographic get?
Tony: The blog got ... Let's see. It got 782 views, and the e-book ... I said that. The infographic got 371 downloads and 66 new contacts, and of 66 new contacts, four of them ended up becoming customers.
Kathleen: That is really interesting. To pause there for a second, if I'm remembering these numbers correctly, how many new contacts did you say the original e-book got?
Tony: I said it got about 400.
Kathleen: Okay. And the blog got a lot of visitors. The infographic got 66 new contacts?
Tony: Yes. That's correct.
Kathleen: That's great. I mean, that's huge, and you didn't have to put a lot of effort into creating it, I imagine. Especially if somebody was a smaller marketing team, there's probably people out there on Fiverr or, you know, one of these freelance platforms that could probably do it for you because you're not starting from scratch. You really just need a designer who can do some data visualization.
Tony: If you haven't heard of Canva.com, we love it as a marketing team. We don't have a whole lot of design ability in-house, and Canva works a lot like Photoshop does except it's free and it's just through your web browser. It's a pared down version, so it's very drag-and-drop, and it becomes very easy to create these infographics with almost no design expertise and without having a lot of graphics created ahead of time.
Kathleen: I love Canva. I actually use it. When I first started my podcast, the header images I put on the show notes used to be created by my graphic designer in Adobe Illustrator. She wanted me to start taking them over and I was like, "I don't know how to use Illustrator." So she created a template in Canva, and now little old me can go in there and work with the images and edit them and everything. It's awesome for amateur designers.
Tony: Yeah. It's the best.
Kathleen: You can't break too much in there, either.
Tony: Yeah. That's what I love about it.
Kathleen: So you've done this successfully with several different pieces of content. Am I right on that?
Tony: Yes. You are.
Kathleen: When you now start new campaigns or you're going to create a new piece of content, do you sit and think "how many different ways are we going to spin this off," or are you waiting until it's done and then looking at that final form and thinking about repurposing opportunities?
Tony: We try to plan everything out in advance. It's so hard to do that. We're sometimes our own worst enemy, so more often than not, it works the other way where we create the asset and then we see, all right, how many different ways can we whack this up?
Kathleen: Any tips or advice for somebody who is sitting here thinking, "Well, I just spent a ton of time creating an e-book," or, "I just spent a ton of time creating some other offer. I'm going to now repurpose it because that sounds like a great approach"? Lessons learned that you can share?
Tony: I would say look for quick wins. Everybody knows their own skills or what they have in-house, so try to do the things that you're comfortable with first. Those are the things that are going to take less time, and really, that's the whole point of this, is to try to do things as quickly and easily as possible.
Here's an example. We do about 30 webinars a year. And it's so easy to just take that replay, and you take just the slides from it and you post that to SlideShare. You take the recording of it and you put it on YouTube. So you've taken that one webinar, which has a shorter shelf life, and you're able to repurpose every single webinar into two additional assets with longer shelf life than what that original webinar may have had.
Kathleen: I imagine that if you're doing something written like an e-book, thinking about repurposing before you start it could help a lot because, for example, if you're going to create an infographic ... You mentioned you had a lot of numbers and so it lent itself well to that. If you knew you wanted to do an infographic, then it would probably make sense to have a chapter in that e-book or to incorporate different stats, something that was very heavily data-focused as opposed to all narrative.
Tony: Yeah. We try to approach our content creation for e-books by modularizing it. If you know you're creating different chapters, each chapter could be a blog post. We know that we will try to create an infographic out of it, so having numbers and percentages, and even ahead of that, asking questions in the survey that we do and the research that we do, that will start to tell a story and lend itself well to that infographic.
So it becomes easier as you go along and you start to think about it through that lens of, "I'm definitely going to repurpose something here. How can I set myself up for success?"
Kathleen: How big is your marketing team at AIIM?
Tony: When we first started, it was just two people and it was really hard to accomplish a lot of this stuff. I mentioned that we were seeing some struggles from a revenue standpoint, but over the last five years, we've been able to continue to grow and grow and grow by way of our inbound marketing efforts, and now we're up to five people on our marketing team. So we're definitely seeing some ROI on the whole inbound methodology.
Kathleen: That's great. When you were first getting started repurposing, I imagine the team was a little bit smaller. Any other tips besides things like Canva that helped you go fast with a tiny team?
Tony: I would say that the greatest thing that you can do outside of repurposing, which I'm a huge fan of, is automation. Automate as much as you can. Create these little workflows, especially for tasks that you do regularly. As an example, being a membership association, we know that every month we want to send out renewal messages. That becomes a very easy thing, and if you're using a marketing automation tool like HubSpot, you can just set up a workflow that will send that out to the folks that it has to go to so you don't have to do that manually anymore by way of Outlook or just manual pushes through your software.
But other things, too. Some easy ones are creating a re-engagement campaign for folks that haven't been opening your emails and try to get them to engage with you again instead of just treating them like everybody else. That's a quick one that you can do. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort, but now that's just something that you don't have to worry about and it's just always running in the background.
Kathleen: That makes sense. If there are things you can automate, do that because that's just buying you more time to work on the things you can't automate.
Other than infographics and SlideShares and putting webinars on YouTube, any other content formats that you've played around with that have lent themselves well to repurposing?
Tony: That's a great question. We do a lot of events here, and one thing that we've started to learn -- we've been doing this for about a year now -- is once the event is over, that doesn't mean that the promotion of that event has to end, because you know you're going to have another event down the line. So you want to create that fear of missing out.
We've gotten really good at taking video from the event and repurposing that either by putting it on blog posts or even sending out feel-good, make-good emails to folks that say, "Hey, check out this great video. This is from our last event." And people say, "Oh man. This is pretty good content. I wish I was at that event." But then they're also being given something for free where you're not asking anything in return. So that's been a really big success for us as well.
Kathleen: Those are good tips. We actually have a conference coming up in August, so I might just steal that idea.
Well, Tony, two questions I always ask everybody who comes on here. I'm curious to hear your answers. The first one is when you look out there at the world around you and you want to find a best-practice example, company or individual, who do you think right now is doing inbound marketing really well?
Tony: That's a really good question. My default response is always HubSpot. They're kind of the kings of inbound marketing. I'm a total fanboy. But I'll try to think of something off-script. There's this really great company that I've become a huge fan of recently called Adelante Shoe Company, and they're based in Waltham, Massachusets. What is special about them is they work with cobblers in Guatemala, and every shoe is handmade by a Guatemalan cobbler in their shop. And they're made to order.
So it's this really rich experience, and all of their cobblers are paid above fair trade, so they've really been supporting this local economy in this town in Guatemala. The content that they specialize in, it seems, is video. And they tell this really great brand story over a series of videos on their Facebook that talk about ... They go into the history of each shoemaker, kind of their own personal story, and you get to know these shoemakers.
It just creates this really great, almost cinematic story that you're like, "Oh man. I want to buy that guy's shoes from that person." You really build this emotional connection with their shoemakers, and I think they've done such a great job of it. So yeah, I would say they're probably one I've been keeping my eye on most recently.
Kathleen: I love that example. A lot of people have said HubSpot, and they really are the gold standard, but it's always fun to hear about new businesses that maybe don't have such a high profile that are killing it like that. Side note, I actually love their name. Adelante in Spanish means "forward," and I'm sure that they named it that because not only are they helping the folks that are making the shoes advance their lives, but as you wear their shoes, you're walking forward. So that's kind of cool. I'm going to definitely check them out as soon as I get off the phone.
Second question. You alluded to this, especially in the field that you're in, intelligent information management. The world of marketing, and especially digital marketing is changing so quickly, and it's very technologically driven a lot of the time. I'm really curious: what are your go-to sources of information? How do you stay educated and stay on the cutting edge of what's happening in the world of marketing so that you can do your job well as a marketer?
Tony: I am a huge fan of blogs. I get most of my education from different blogs. I would say that the thing with blogs is that you kind of grow past them, and that's okay. That's kind of a natural evolution. When I was first starting with inbound marketing, I was a huge fan of the HubSpot blog. But a couple of years in, I was like, "Okay. I have a handle on what they're talking about," and I feel like I sort of graduated to more niche blogs.
If I'm looking for something on SEO, I might go to the Moz Blog. If I'm looking for something more about pay-per-click, I'll go to WordStream. Neil Patel, who's the founder of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg and a whole bunch of other companies. Those are my favorite blogs, and that's usually my go-to for anything marketing related.
Kathleen: Thank you for sharing those. There's a couple of really good ones that I read as well. Well, this has been so interesting. I appreciate you sharing a lot of your tips and strategies with us. If somebody wants to get in touch with you if they have a question about this repurposing approach or anything else they heard here today, what is the best way for them to reach out to you?
Kathleen: All right. I'll put those links in the show notes. Thank you again for joining me this week. If you are listening and you enjoyed this interview, please do give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher or the platform of your choice. If you know somebody who's doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me@WorkMommyWork,because I would love to interview them.
That's it for this week. Thanks.
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