An agile marketer isn’t necessarily someone who is up to date on the latest trends and able to create content quickly based on what their audience wants to consume. While that type of marketer is absolutely necessary, every marketing department must be full of people who can wear multiple hats. In this podcast, Jeff Julian, author of Agile Marketing: Building Endurance for Your Content Marketing Team, shares how marketers should “major” in certain disciplines, but “minor” in others: Marketers must be agile.
Heike Young (HY): Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Marketing Cloudcast. It is the marketing podcast from Salesforce. And I want to give a big shoutout to all of you guys who have been subscribing and sharing these episodes on social media channels. We really appreciate you guys.
Well, I love today's guest, Jeff Julian. I was recently a guest on his show, which is the Enterprise Marketer Podcast. He is a multimedia content producer, who you may have seen with a crazy video equipment rig at events like Content Marketing World, where he cranked out tens of interviews, he tells me, across a three-day period. I personally am a content marketer. You guys know. I talk about it, I work on our content and social team here at Salesforce. And I love content marketers that really think outside the blog and Jeff is one of those guys. And so is Joel, my co-host, if we're being honest. So Joel, why don't you do us a solid and introduce us to today's guest?
Joel Book (JB): Well, thank you very much, Heike. Hello, everybody. Joel Book here. I agree with Heike. Today's guest is really, really going to be very interesting, and I think real helpful for you. His name is Jeff Julian. And as you already know, Jeff hosts a podcast called the Enterprise Marketer, and Heike was a guest on one of his recent episodes. Jeff is the co-founder of enterprisemarketer.com and Squared Digital. He's the author of Agile Marketing — that's really going to be our topic today — Agile Marketing: Building Endurance for Your Content Marketing Team. He's going to really help us see content marketing in a whole new way, because we're going look at it from Jeff's perspective, from the mindset of a software developer turned content marketing leader. So whether you've been doing content marketing for a long time, or just are just getting started, I think you're going to get a lot of value out of this episode. Jeff, welcome to the Marketing Cloudcast.
Jeff Julian (JJ): Hey, I'm excited to be here, and thank you guys for doing such a great show. It's definitely been valuable for me as a marketer to listen to you guys, and your guests, and just keep up the good work. And congrats on the award.
HY: Oh, thank you so much. Well, I was just reading an article that Joel actually sent me, it was an interview with Jay Baron Forbes and Jay said something like, "Praise is one of the most overrated things in business, because [laughter] it keeps you from doing better." So,maybe after the show, after all of your kind words, I'll ask you for some tips on how to improve our show. But I really appreciate the kind words Jeff, and we love the work that you're doing with Enterprise Marketer.
So you, as I understand it, we've mostly talked in our conversations about content marketing, about digital marketing, but as I understand it you actually come from more of a technical and software background. How did you make the move into marketing? And what excites you about marketing versus what you were doing before?
JJ: I started online building web pages back in the 1995/96 time period. As a content marketer, I started listing out chat lines. And chat lines were the way you communicated online, back then, which is just a web page that you could write on. And then you'd refresh and other people would write on and you'd see the conversation. So I've been [laughter] doing this for…
HY: Okay, I've never seen anything like that. I guess I missed out on the chat lines.
JJ: Yeah. Exactly. So it's been two decades now that I've been in content marketing. But my passion was around software development and web development, primarily. And so where I shifted into marketing was that I built the largest technical blog community. So before content marketing, we just had blogs. And we had 4,000 bloggers on our site and 100,000 blog posts. And so my job was to manage the software. Manage the traffic — 2 million visitors a month. Teach bloggers how to blog. And then build the community.
And so you have two skills there, mostly development, and then marketing. And so as people started to come online — folks like Microsoft — we would coach them on how to build their own blog communities. How to define their voice. How to plan content. And so the marketer hat was always on, but over time it just, you know, mid-life crisis when you're 30, and when you start at 15. So just wanted to try something new and jumped into marketing.
JB: Jeff, I want to transition into the technology side of it. You've written a really interesting book called Agile Marketing: Building Endurance for Your Content Marketing Team. I am going to go out on a limb here, Jeff, and suggest that the term "agile technology,” or “agile marketing” is probably somewhat of a misunderstood term. Can you shine a spotlight on that and bring some clarity to that for our listeners?
JJ: It's so awesome because being a part of the original roll-out of agile, because I was such a young developer, and excited about the web, and building mobile apps back in 2001. And as the term rolled out, it went through the exact same phase it's going through as it's being rolled out into other areas. And so it's kind of fun to have already lived this moment in time before. But the idea of agile is not just quick and fast, it's not throw out the planning and just do what you need to: It's all about finding a way to perform better and then allow that performance to change over time. So when I go back, thinking of agile, there's five points that that most agile frameworks will agree with. And the first one is that it has a high priority on customer satisfaction.
Then you need to be able to work within a sustainable pace. You have to have the ability to react and change. You have to adopt the frequent delivery model, and then you have to reflect and make those changes in your process. So from software, we had to build these new websites, and no one had ever really built websites before. And so we needed a process that allowed us to meet all those goals and really get back into planning, that wasn't a 100-page spec document, but was more fluid and allowed for things to change in priority.
The execution of the work — the actual software development that will allow developers to focus in for a set number of days, or weeks, and work on something, and then come up with a feature, or a piece of functionality. And so that's kind of how agile really took off in software. But it got its start back in manufacturing in the ‘50s with Toyota. And so there's been a lot of use of this mindset over time and business.
JB: Can you speak to the application of agile in a marketing context? And let me just kind of provide some context to that. We're dealing now with a whole generation of marketing professionals that can no longer just be specialists in one channel, or one discipline, like email marketing. They literally have to have Swiss Army knife-like skills and really be able to understand the application of technology to really engage customers across a multitude of different channels. And do this in more of a real-time sense and respond fashion. How does agile apply to marketing in today's version of marketing?
JJ: Exactly, and that's why I love the fit of agile in marketing, because we do have such an assembly-line approach when it comes to content, and the production of content. So many people I meet with, and I interact with, will say, "I'm a writer, but I don't do graphic design." Or, "I've never recorded audio." Or, "I've never taken video and produced it. I'm a writer." And it's like, well, the problem is, writing is only going to work for so long before people are using other ways to consume marketing. And so you need to become a more well-rounded marketer. And so I call that the cross-functional marketer, or the content developer. And so when you look back at Toyota, and how they took off with this agile process, they fought the assembly line by making it to where no one job could ever stop the assembly line.
So we're in Detroit: If you ran out of tires, no more cars are being produced. Where in Japan, if you're running low on tires, somebody was moved to start assembling tires and wheels, so the process would never stop. From a marketing perspective, teams need to say, "We don't just need one of us. We need many of us, so that way we can all work in tandem, on the same piece of content, and produce it faster and more consistently."
HY: I love the idea of adapting agile to marketing, and incidentally I recently learned — I mean, within the past couple of years — what agile is as a software methodology, because my husband works at a software company. They produce a number of products, but the parent company is called AgileBits, and in my mind I just always thought of agile as just a regular word that means flexible. I didn't realize that it actually was this whole proper non-software methodology. And not having come from a technical software development background, I really like the idea of applying these processes to marketing. And just this way of thinking and some of those concepts, like you mentioned earlier, keeping the customer in the center, and customer experience. I mean, that is totally relevant to marketing. And so I feel like the software engineers have kind of been hogging some of these ideas for awhile, and I'm glad that marketers are starting to see them in a new way.
JJ: Well, we don't like talking to people usually, right? So we hide. The movie Office Space was very authentic, and so, yeah. And most software developers were forced into this process. They wouldn't have changed if it didn't have to happen. You'll see the majority of software projects using — it's somewhere like 75 per cent now — use agile techniques to produce. And that's where I hope marketing gets within the next decade.
HY: So I love the idea of the content developer. You talk about that in your book, too. And how all content marketers can start thinking of themselves and referring to themselves in this way. Do you think that there are other types of developers within marketing, that are important as you see the next evolutions, and next iterations of marketing? I'm thinking maybe "experienced developer" is another key term. Somebody who sits at more of a leadership level within an organization, and they're overseeing the orchestration of all of these different customer experiences. Whether that includes service, plus sales, plus marketing, or whatever it might be to craft that overarching experience for the customer.
JJ: Yeah, exactly. I mean, the beautiful thing is the word "content" absorbs so many other things, right? What's a blog post? It's content. What's a white paper? It's content. Well, the word "developer" is that same sort of absorption factor.
So what's a writer? They're a developer. They develop content. What's a graphic designer do? He develops content. What's the video producer do? He develops content. And when you have that roll-on, when you see work that needs to be done, and you've only got one video producer, and he's going on vacation next week — if a team is reactive and agile, they'll say, "Look, we've got an issue here. We need more content developers that can produce video, that can do the job. And so let's go through a process to learn, to train each other, to grow into a more cross-functional content developer.”
So that way, next time he's gone, or the next time we have two videos to do, I can grab one of those. And I will have a minor in that, but he'll be the guy with the major in it. And so it just balances the team more, so there's never a stopping point during the time that we're actually building content.
JB: Jeff, we do a lot of work with customers in helping them really map out what content, what content assets I should say, really should be used at different stages of the customer experience lifecycle. In other words, somebody that's just come to your website, raised their hand, and expressed interest in a given product. Or is browsing on different content on the website, maybe downloading whitepapers, ebooks, viewing video. Their content needs are going to be far different than somebody that is already a user of that particular product, or that service where they're now more in a product usage mode. What are the traits that, as you look at today's content marketing challenge, or responsibility, or job, what are really the top traits of a really smart, savvy, content marketer who is leveraging agile technology? Or agile marketing capability?
JJ: The number one trait you have to have as an agile marketer is empathy. It's not just this floating around, "This is a great word. I hope we all love it," word, and we use it as a buzzword. It's the true understanding of empathy. I still remember in fifth grade when my friend's father passed away from cancer. Our teacher had to describe to us what sympathy meant, and what empathy meant, because none of us had fathers who had died of cancer. And so we couldn't truly understand what she was going through. So we needed to have sympathy for her. But empathy meant that we've felt, or had an experience, along with somebody else. And so we could kind of have that bond, or that tie together.
I think marketers misuse the word all the time. But a good content marketer will sit back and say, "When I'm producing this whitepaper, what is my audience going through?" And if I don't know, let me go experience that. Let me go sit down with somebody else who's in that role, and ask them, "What kind of questions are you asking when you're going to a PDF document for answers? And what would be the best way to deliver value to you through that PDF?" It can't be 10 of these pages being in just giant graphics. It has to be something that is indexable, and searchable, and you can quickly go in and maybe even reuse it. And then you'll start to get that empathy, and you'll start to understand them.
JB: So it's a big part of really being able to effectively put yourself in a customer's shoes: Looking at it from his or her vantage point, based on where they're at, in the product evaluation selection process. And then having empathy, or really being able to care enough about providing content that is really going to help them make smarter decisions. Whether that's helping them in their whole product evaluation and selection process, or when it's onboarding a new customer, there are certain different components of content there that can be very useful in that critical first 90 days of the customer relationship.
JJ: Absolutely. And then the other two, I would say is that there's a passion for what they do. A lot of marketers kind of treat this as work and not necessarily if they couldn't do it, would it still be a hobby? Would you still write? Would you still design graphics? Would you still vlog, or create a podcast if it wasn't your job? Those really good ones would say yes. And they actually do it on the side. So it's a hobby and it's also their work, and it's their passion.
And then finally that they're focused, that they can say, "We need to get this work done, and I'm going to focus on it. Keep focus on it until it's done." And then they celebrate, plan, win, and then do it again, and stay focused.
HY: Jeff, I totally agree and I love all of these insights, and how they map back to that agile methodology. And I really appreciate you helping all of us think a little bit more technically, and a little bit more like a software developer. I love some of the things you're doing, too, with using content and how you serve the enterprise marketer community. One way you do that is through your podcast. You also do a lot of video episodes for your show, which I think is really fantastic. I know that you guys have a lot of equipment that you take to conferences, and you just set up a studio and do interviews with a lot of our favorites. Like I saw you recently had a video with Jason Miller, and you've done videos with a lot of people that we've had on this very show, as well. And you've clearly had a lot of success with this type of multimedia content.
I'd love to just maybe — we can all go around the horn on this, too, and look at content marketing as a whole and say, "If each of us..." and I can get started, "...had to point to one thing that's hampering our content marketing efforts today, what might that be?" And I'll let you think about that, and I'll just get started. And personally, from my standpoint, and talking to a lot of our customers, I would really say, if I had to choose just one thing that's harming content marketing, it's a lack of commitment.
You're not going to know, as a content marketer, if something works after 15 days, or 30 days. Heck, you might not even know if it worked after 60 days. Some of our top performing content at Salesforce only moves the needle significantly after 90 days. So going viral isn't what you want. Going viral isn't a strategy, right? It's sustained success that you want. And so you have to commit for the long-term, not just the short-term when it comes to your content marketing efforts. So, I mean, personally I would encourage content people, in their own organizations, to lead the way in thinking strategically, and long term about content and not quick hits. That's not a mindset that leads to year-over-year growth. I mean, we know per Content Marketing Institute research that 70 per cent of marketers lack a documented content strategy. So one of the first things that I would say is just kind of committing to that long-term success.
Jeff, maybe I'll have you go next, and then Joel, you can close us out.
JJ: Yeah, that's exactly why I named the book Building Endurance, because the concept of endurance — if you've ever run a race, or even tried to attempt to run. If you go outside today and you're not a runner, and you take off, you're going to make it to maybe the end of the street. You'll still see your front door, and you'll be walking back panting…
HY: You'll maybe get a cramp in your side, right? We all know that feeling, yeah.
JJ: Exactly. But after you do this long-term, like you talked talked about it, committed to it daily, just working on it and going from running, and walking and running, and building your way up, you have the endurance to then run faster. So, yeah. You're absolutely right that you need to commit to it.
But then with that commitment comes that desire to grow more. So I think that's the — for me, it's that growth as a marketer. I think so many people are afraid to try new things, because it wasn't mandated to them to do it. So they were told, "Hey, we need to update the website. And we need a blog." So they're so focused on a blog but…
HY: Just kind of keep the status quo.
JJ: Exactly. But the question needs to be, "If your target audience is a truck driver, when will they have the time to read a blog?" And it might be in the evenings but would they have more time “in the ears,” as they're driving down the road, where a podcast might make more sense? And so asking the questions that get you out of your comfort zone, and make you grow, because that's the better way to deliver value that is different than what everyone else is doing.
HY: Yeah. Great insight, Jeff. Joel, what about you? What would you say?
JB: Hieke, Jeff, I think the one thing that I observe that can really sabotage a company's content marketing strategy is for content to be done in silos, and not coupled. Here's what I mean: I see a lot of examples, day in and day out, of companies where they may have a great YouTube video. They may have a great eBook. They may do a blog post. They may have a podcast, like this one. But every one of those content assets is done in a silo. And back to the point that I think you made, Heike, and Jeff you coupled on this as well: The lack of having a plan to integrate those different assets, I think, can really scuttle what could be a really great content marketing strategy. Because one of the things I have observed the smart brands do, is that if they produce a video they tag it at the end with a call to action, that leads them to a landing page, or they direct the individual to a page where they can access more content on the brand website.
Or if they do a podcast, they use that podcast to maybe amplify a new research report that they have produced. Or they may use it to draw attention to a customer success story that is in printed form in an eBook. So I think the one thing that I would recommend to companies is when you think about putting this content marketing strategy, and execution plan together, think about the integration of those different content assets, because you're going to get much, much more juice for the squeeze, when you couple a really great eBook with a podcast that maybe references it as a commercial message. Or if you produce a great new customer success story, showcase it in a video. I think when you do things like that, you just get much greater bang for the buck.
JJ: Exactly, great insight there, Joel.
HY: Well, I totally agree with that Joel. It has been super educational to hear from you, Jeff, and we don't want to let you go just yet. We have a few more questions for you, but we don't want the inspiration to stop here.
We know, right now, you're in the middle of 2017 execution. You are probably juggling a lot of campaigns and meetings as a marketer, but you should still take some time to take a step back, and feel inspired, and reading a book is a great way to do that. We put together a list of 20 book recommendations, from past guests of the Marketing Cloudcast, and we ask everybody, as you know if you've listened to this show before, for their top book recommendation. And we'll do that for Jeff in just one second. And I collected 20 of the best for you in one single place. I had a lot of requests to do this, so I went ahead and did it.
And this list is now available on the Salesforce blog, and I hope you'll read it. And then, I hope you'll take a trip to Amazon, or the library, and you'll read one of these books. You can check out the post now at sforce.co/books17.
So Jeff, as you know, we like to always ask our guests these final five questions, to just get to know them a little bit better as a marketer. We know not everybody is all work. Everybody's got another side to them. They've got an origin story. And we want to know a little bit more about you, and your personal life as a marketer. And so I'd love to start with this. Who would you say is your biggest influence professionally?
JJ: I love that question because it's been the same since I was 12 years old, and it would be Bill Gates. One of the very first books that I actually volunteered to read was The Road Ahead, back in 1995. And I just got into computers, and I was online. And it was just amazing to see how much he described the last two decades in that book. And so it helped me, kind of, see where we were going. And then I dug deeper into who he was, and who he was as a kid. And he was very much like me. Into technology. Smarter than most people in the room about it, so it just allowed me to kind of model my life after somebody who's done great things for software, but also done great things for the world too.
JB: That's an awesome answer. I am really glad that you mentioned Mr. Gates, because I could not agree with you more. Such an inspiration for all of us.
Question number two in the final five, Jeff, really comes down to brands. Specifically, is there one company that you would say you have a brand crush on, because you have found their marketing so incredibly awesome?
JJ: Yeah, I would think it's CreativeLive by Chase Jarvis. So I got into photography early on in my life. My first digital camera had a floppy disc drive on the side of it.
HY: That is awesome!
JJ: Yeah, and so as I continued to grow as a photographer, Chase was one of the first people to incorporate video into his teaching online. And then he launched CreativeLive after that. And it's such a great training tool for creative people. He has live sessions. He has online courses you can go through, and it's all about giving back to people. Some of it's for charge. Some of it's for free, but it just makes you inspired, and you always see cool things other people are doing. So I would love — I mean, their whole company is marketing right. It's about how to change lives of the audience and your customers. And so he's definitely nailed it with his stuff.
HY: Yeah, they've got like a crazy YouTube channel with so much content. I mean, it's prolific.
JB: I bet. I'm going to check it out.
HY: All right, Jeff. If you had 10 per cent more marketing budget this year, let's say for Enterprise Marketer, and you could only invest in one strategy, or channel, what would you pick and why?
JJ: I'd pick live video, and that's through Brightcove, which is our cloud-hosting platform, Facebook, Instagram, and all these other platforms. It makes you get on your toes. I think there's a lot of people that are horrible at it. But then when done right, there's a lot of experiences people can actually be a part of, and not just feel like they're a part of. So if you want to give me 10 per cent more budget, I'll give you a list of the gear that I need right now [laughter].
HY: Love it. We'll have to take some sponsorships for that.
JB: We really should. I just had a quick follow-up question on your answer. Do you think that live video will become, kind of, the go-to creative tactic in 2017?
JJ: I think it will be 2018, because it's going to take so many people. You have to get off your mobile device, because that's just not quality. It's great for when the Chewbacca Mom wants to put the mask on and have that go viral [laughter]. But for a B2B brand, it feels cheesy and cheap. And I think people need to have bigger equipment. So I carry around, like Heike talked about, I have an actual TV studio set up that's in a box, that has multiple monitors and recorders, and cables flying everywhere, and several cameras set up. And so I can pull that feed into a live stream, and actually send it out. Just like a TV studio does. And so I think if you can think of live video, like you would the news, or any live broadcast on your television, then you kind of see the, "Oh, wow. Yeah, we can get there, and that would be amazing." But it is going to take some time and a lot of education on our teams.
JB: I love it. Heike, I think that's our future right there. I like that.
HY: I totally agree.
JB: Hey Jeff, you heard Heike talk about the amazing library, the Marketing Cloudcast library, that has been contributed to by our guests here. My question for you is, is there one book that you would recommend to our listeners, and why?
JJ: Yeah, the book would be The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, and he's a screenwriter who talks about the hero's journey. And I love learning about the hero's journey, and all the different steps on there. One, it helps round you out as a storyteller, because it's this two millennium kind of pattern of how somebody grows, and then the challenges they face, and the walk back home. And all these pieces that almost every good story has that same rhythm.
But from a content marketer, I have to see my customers as the ones that are on the journey. And so it gives me insight to how do I guide them into those challenges that they're about to face? How do I guide them into those learning experiences, as they need to have, and show that ultimate growth? And so I love thinking of the hero's journey as, "How can I be the map in the backpack of the person who's going on that journey?"
HY: Great answer. Jeff, it's our last question for you. What one word sums up the state of marketing today?
JJ: For me, I was thinking of "empathy" but I'm going to go with "disrupted," because everything seems to be disrupted. Businesses disrupted now. Mobile apps are disrupting everything. But I think our jobs, as marketers, is really being disrupted right now. The fact that tomorrow could mean we're producing something new, or we're trying to reach new things. New teams are starting to come, or new budgets are coming our way. Salespeople are interacting with us, and now we have to generate more leads and return on investment. IT investments are happening in marketing. And so it is nowhere near where it once was, even five years ago. And so if you find yourself in that stable position, nothing's kind of changed, then either somebody else is going to replace you, or your customer's going to replace you with some other company.
JB: It's a revolution, isn't it, Jeff?
JJ: Oh, yes.
JB: Or evolution, depending on how you look at it, but gosh, it's really exciting. Folks, our special guest today has been Jeff Julian. Jeff is the co-founder of EnterpriseMarketer.com and Squared Digital. He's the author of Agile Marketing: Building Endurance for Your Content Marketing Team. One of the really great experts on content marketing that we've had here at The Marketing Cloudcast. Jeff, thanks so much for joining us.
JJ: Thank you guys, and I mean, just keep up the great work, and I'm not going to stop giving you praise, Heike, you guys are awesome [laughter].
HY: Thank you so much.
JB: Well, that's very kind of you, we really appreciate it. And folks, on behalf of Heike Young, and myself, and all of us here at Salesforce, we really want to thank you for listening and tuning in here at The Marketing Cloudcast. Much like Jeff Julian, Heike and I have really tried to focus on bringing great guests that are really going to be inspirational and educational for you. And if you enjoy listening to the Cloudcast, do us a favor, please go to iTunes and rate us and subscribe, if you haven't done so already. It's easy. All you have to do is go to sforce.co/cloudcast. And you can find us at Google Play Music, Stitcher, or wherever else you like to listen to podcasts. So, once again, I'm Joel Book, thanking all of you for giving us a little bit of your time today, and we'll look forward to seeing you on another future episode of The Marketing Cloudcast.