John: [in mock surprise] Wait, IMPACT is a marketing agency, right? What do you mean you don't write content for clients?
Melissa: IMPACT is a digital sales and marketing agency that focuses on teaching sales and marketing teams to come together and learning to sell digitally in today's world. So no, we don't write content for our clients. We did for many years, but we found that it didn't really serve our clients.
If you think about any experience that you've had working with an advertising firm or digital sales and marketing agency in the past, you spend so much time getting your agency up to speed on your business and your terminology, and they still never seem to really get it right.
We still do all the other things that you would think an agency would do. But content writing is one thing that we know that only you can do well, and we'll coach you through that.
Why this makes sense for our clients
John: How do potential clients react when we tell them this?
Melissa: There are really two types of businesses that come to us. The first type comes to us already knowledgeable about either IMPACT or our foundational philosophy, They Ask, You Answer.
The second type comes to us because they want to hire a top HubSpot partner agency.
If somebody has read the book They Ask, You Answer, heard Marcus Sheridan speak, or were referenced from one of our rockstar clients and understands that the foundation of their success is owning that conversation and writing their own content, then it's a very easy conversation.
We talk about the things that are going to help them really become the most trusted educator of their space, and how IMPACT can play a role in helping them do that.
The other type of businesses that comes to us are those who've never heard of IMPACT, our philosophy, or the foundation behind this success.
In that case, we need to educate them about our vision before they have a deep conversation with us because it's going to be very different from what they’re used to.
And so we try, through content of our own, to educate that potential client before they have a conversation with us.
If they're not bought into the fact that they are the only ones who can write content and that we can coach them through it, then we're not the right fit for them. And that's okay.
John: Chances are, if they're coming to us, it didn't work out with whoever they were working with before. So it seems like whether they've heard our philosophy or not, they’re at least in a position to listen.
Melissa: Yes! And it's interesting, when we have these conversations, especially with people that haven't heard about us, we say to them, “we may be a good fit, or we may not.” However, at the end of this conversation, we're not going to spend four weeks trying to figure that out.
John: The philosophy behind in-house content creation makes a lot of sense. But what are the practical advantages?
Melissa: If you think about any type of agency relationship, it's a pay to play. If you need more work, you’ll need to pay the agency more money.
A much better model involves you bringing on an employee to create that content so you can be self-sufficient. We generally work with clients on a 12- to 18-month roadmap to help empower their internal resources to be self-sufficient.
Our goal is to get your people trained so that you don't need us anymore.
Wouldn't you rather invest in your own people than pay an agency in perpetuity? That's why it's going to help not only your pocketbook, but your productivity as well.
Instead, we know it is cheaper and more efficient to have one person own content creation in-house. Somebody who's responsible, with a good journalism background, who's able to interview salespeople and subject matter experts and get that content published.
How IMPACT helps make your content marketing successful
John: If a company agrees that they should own their content creation in house, can IMPACT help teach them how to do it?
Melissa: Yes, that's what we do! Interestingly enough, a lot of people see the vision and understand the benefits. But when they try and do it themselves, they never seem to get it right.
IMPACT can help with training and coaching to apply the foundational principles.
Think about it like this: if you want to go be a bodybuilder, you could do that on your own, but if you were really serious, you’d hire a personal trainer and a nutritionist to tell you what to do and what to eat and to hold you accountable.
Anyone can learn the fundamentals through our online platform, IMPACT+, but they could also talk with us about the specific content that they should be writing, have us review their articles, help them strategize on keyword research, make edit recommendations, and hold them accountable.
It’s not just about doing it, it’s about doing it right.
I'll give you a perfect example: Steve Sheinkopf from Yale Appliance was writing a blog article every single day, pumping out all this content thinking he was following the principles of They Ask, You Answer from the book.
And he had an honest conversation with Marcus Sheridan who said, “Steve, this is all fluff. You are not truly answering people’s questions. Until you do that, you won’t be successful” And that's what a lot of people do. What they produce is really just fluff, and it's not true to the principles.
So, when companies hire us, they want us to tell them what they’re not doing right and how they can course correct.
Real content, not fluff
John: What would be an example of a fluffy blog post? How can people tell the difference?
Melissa: Let’s compare two blog posts. One substantive. One fluffy.
This is an excerpt from a blog post from our client Bill Ragan Roofing on factors that go into a new asphalt roof costs:
And here is part of a blog post from an unnamed company on the same topic:
In the first blog post, I’m not only given specific information about what materials may be used, but what can drive the cost up or down.
The sample is just one bullet point out of 10 on a 2,500-word blog posts that even gives me a range of costs I can expect.
The second example is much more general and I haven’t really learned anything. In this case, I’m likely to look elsewhere since they haven't really shared any valuable information or taught me anything new.
John: When businesses start with They Ask, You Answer, what type of content should they produce?
Melissa: Typically when we start working with a business, we will coach them to identify the biggest gaps in their content. A lot of times it starts with a group brainstorm between sales and marketing and leadership in which sales lists the common questions they're getting in the sales cycle.
If companies start by answering those questions in content — in articles and videos — they’re starting off on the right foot. If you’re able to answer 80% of people's questions before they even talk to a salesperson, your salesperson is going to end up talking to more qualified people.
Next, after you’ve done that, you can start to brainstorm the questions that have to be answered before a prospect even gets to talk to a salesperson. What are the questions that are going to come up on that first call that can be answered to better educate a prospect?
John: How should video play into a company's content creation strategy?
Melissa: People today consume a great deal of video content. A few years ago, we would say content first, then video, because a lot of businesses were not able to approach both effectively. However, now more than ever, video is becoming more relevant in the buyers’ journey, and people are consuming it at a faster pace.
We've seen many of our most successful clients in past years adopting a culture of video because video builds trust faster. It establishes a personal connection because you can see a salesperson, or see a product or service.
I don't think that there are many companies out there who aren't doing video today, but we recommend that you create a culture of video by hiring a videographer and getting your team comfortable being on camera. That way, you can produce more videos — and do so more cheaply.
If you’re not sure how to get started with video we have content and courses lined up, or we can coach you directly as well.