Talking Content Marketing – Lee Odden Interview

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‘Talking Content Marketing’ welcomes one of the pioneers of the industry, speaker, author and respected blogger Lee Odden.

Lee specialises in content, search and social media marketing and is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a  digital marketing agency specialising in strategic internet marketing consulting.

Our focus for the content marketing discussion is the role that relationships and experiences play in attracting audiences and making profitable action.

Is successful blogging not about treating everyone as a mass audience, but investing in a niche audience who find interest in what you stand for?

If success is about branding and awareness, then sure, it’s important that readers like you and what you have to say. Blogging can be a great platform for attracting likeminded thinkers. However, too much of that sameness can breed a lot of boring content. To stand out, blogs in competitive markets need to be more sophisticated in order to reach the multiple objectives that are possible.

It’s entirely reasonable to achieve a mix of goals through blogging using a layered editorial approach. Not everyone reads every post and different people discover blog content through different channels, especially influencers that they follow. so it’s important not to think of your readership as just one customer group. Creating a matrix of audience targets in a blog content plan allows marketers to reach niche vertical audiences by segments like industry as well as the media and influencers that they follow.

When it comes to creating online content, how important is it to write for people rather than search engine robots?

Of course, for 99.9% of companies, it’s humans that buy things, not search engines. A marketer could choose to treat content creation for people and search engines as mutually exclusive (and fail at both) or understand who the most important audience is and create content for them.

There is a time and place for SEO and if a company’s target audience uses search to discover information and solutions relevant to the brand, it would be irresponsible for that brand to avoid making it easy for their content to be found. Optimize for customers first, but also consider how those customers want to find content and then optimize for that experience as well.

I wrote a book about this topic. Search Google for “optimize” and you’ll find it pretty easily. Or just click this link.

You’ve highlighted empathy as the skill for content marketing. How important is it to look at the service/product we provide from the audiences side?

Creating awareness and informing customers has been the focus of marketing for ages. But simply providing information isn’t enough. With ubiquitous internet access and the sheer volume of information available about every little thing, the number of distractions during the customer journey are a significant threat to a brand’s marketing ROI.

Empathy with the customer experience as well as how the product or service is meaningful to them can provide insights to optimize the customer experience. With each customer segment there are unique reasons for buying and questions to be answered as the customer moves from awareness to interest to purchase. Understanding that journey from the buyer perspective can inform content marketing programs that shorten sales cycles, increase order volume and referrals as well as the number of overall transactions.

Empathy is about understanding and it’s through understanding what’s important to the customer that we can optimize their experience with the brand.

When do we know that we’ve reached a level of content success. Is it subscribers? Is it recognition? Is it bookings?

All of the above. Companies make their own decisions about what a content marketing program is to achieve. Most marketers will cite increased awareness and revenue. Along that journey there are key performance indicators for content that I organize into three categories: attract, engage, convert.

Content must be found by an audience, so there are impression and reach metrics to be tracked including social, search, industry media and advertising referrals. Once the content is discovered, it needs to engage, so anything from time on site, pages viewed, paths through site and popularity of content topics can be monitored. For action, everything from social shares to comments to registrations, sign-ups, downloads, inquiries and sales should be tracked.

Success is according to goals, but to ensure we understand we’re on track to those business outcomes, KPIs should be monitored and performance optimized.

Who are the current thinkers in the marketing world that you respect (and wouldn’t click the ‘unsubscribe’ button to)?

There are a lot of marketing smarties out there, so here’s a “short list” that I pay attention to:

Ann Handley @annhandley
Joe Pulizzi @joepulizzi
Jay Baer @jaybaer
Ardath Albee @ardath421
Mark Schaefer @markwschaefer
Michael Stelzner @Mike_Stelzner
Brian Solis @briansolis
Susan Emerick @sfemerick
Chris Brogan @chrisbrogan
David Meerman Scott @dmscott
Jason Miller @jasonmillerCA
Brian Clark @brianclark
Ekaterina Walter @Ekaterina
John Jantsch @ducttape
Pam Didner @pamdidner
Tim Washer @timwasher
Jonathon Colman @jcolman
Tom Webster @webby2001
Bill Hunt @billhunt
Adam Singer @adamsinger

Your up and coming Content2Conversion talk ‘How To Win Buyers Hearts, Minds, and Wallets with Content‘ can you enlighten us a little bit more?

The premise of the presentation is that to become more effective with content, brands need to understand the relationship and experience their target audience segments have with information and what it takes to stand out in an age of information overload.

Answering 3 key questions is paramount to this understanding:

– How do your target audiences discover content?

– What are their preferences for consuming that content?

– What messages and offers will inspire them to take action?

By answering those key questions, companies can develop meaningful content marketing plans that address the modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. So much of B2B marketing is focused on the credibility of the brand and the logic of things, the “information”, but not on the emotional connection or the experience.

I’ll share a model for creating this kind of content marketing plan along with examples of B2B companies that are putting it into action.


A huge thanks to Lee for sharing his insights and hopefully food for thought for you to take away and consider when it comes to your content strategy.

To find out more about Lee, why not:

Lee on Twitter: click here

Top Rank Marketing: click here

The Top Rank Marketing Blog: click here

The Optimize Book: click here

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