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The Content Strategy Podcast

24 // Dana DiTomaso, Kick Point // Marketing and Measuring Content

August 1, 2019

Dana DiTomaso joins Kristina this week to stray only slightly from the topic of content strategy—this time diving into the world of marketing and measuring content performance. As president and partner at Kick Point, an Edmonton-based digital marketing agency, Dana works with clients to untangle their varied and sometimes disjointed marketing efforts. In this episode she shares specific tools her team uses to analyze content consumption and build more data-based and customer-centric marketing strategies.

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About this week’s guest

Dana is president and partner at Kick Point, where she helps people and teams do better marketing. Alongside the team at Kick Point, Dana pushes people and teams to set goals and track data so that they understand what strategies and tactics bring value and what is just a waste of money. Dana speaks at conferences around the world about reporting and analytics, SEO, and brand building. In her spare time, Dana is the weekly technology columnist on CBC Edmonton AM. She also enjoys drinking fancy beer and yelling at football players.

Episode transcript

Kristina: Hello again. Welcome to The Content Strategy Podcast. I’m your host, Kristina Halvorson. This podcast is brought to you by ContentStrategy.com, and Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy. Find out more about Brain Traffic at BrainTraffic.com.

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Hello and thank you so much for joining me again here on The Content Strategy Podcast. And today my lovely guest is Dana DiTomaso. I forgot to confirm that that’s how you pronounce your last name.

Dana: You totally got it right, congratulations.

Kristina: I knew it, I knew it.

Dana: I will send you a prize.

Kristina: I’ve read it in my head one million times, and it’s one of those things that comes up, and I’m like, “I’ve never said this aloud, I’m going to screw it up.” But I didn’t.

Dana: Good job.

Kristina: Dana, you … I’m going to read you your bio. It explains who you are.

Dana: Alright.

Kristina: Dana is the president and partner at Kick Point, where she helps people and teams do better marketing. Alongside the team at Kick Point, Dana pushes people and teams to set goals and track data so that they understand what strategies and tactics bring value, and what is just a waste of money. Bless your soul.

Dana speaks at conferences around the world about reporting and analytics, SEO and brand building. In her spare time she is the weekly technology columnist on CBC Edmonton AM. She also enjoys drinking fancy beer.

So do I! And yelling at football players. I don’t.

Dana: You don’t enjoy the football player part? Alright, that’s fine.

Kristina: No, I mean I’m sure I would enjoy yelling at them, I just don’t know enough to know what to yell at them about.

Dana: Well, if you enjoy stats and data, may I recommend fantasy football. Because that’s basically what it is, but with people instead of websites.

Kristina: This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. You know who is going to be psyched about this is my 14-year-old, who loves fantasy football and is really mad he’s not old enough to bet on it yet.

Dana: [laughs] Danger.

Kristina: Oh yeah. Dangerous since a young age. Dana, tell me about how you came to run Kick Point.

Dana: Yeah, so I co-run it actually with my business partner Jen, she is the quiet, behind-the-scenes person. But the way that this all started is I graduated with a degree in geography in the 90s. Which I use every single day.

Kristina: Of course, of course.

Dana: And there were no jobs in what I was going to do, which was ecosystem restoration. So I ended up working at a software company, because I’ve been a big nerd for a long time. And I worked in software for a few years at two different companies, got laid off with a really nice severance package. Used that money to teach myself web design, this was in 2000, 2001. And started becoming a freelance web designer.

And my first or second client said to me, “Why is my site not on Google?” And I said, “I will get back to you.” And it turns out I enjoyed the marketing side of things much more than the web design side of things. So while we make websites at Kick Point, I personally do not make them because I was not a very good web designer, but I’m a much better marketer.

Kristina: This is fantastic. I know I say this every single podcast, and I’m really sorry, but the path that people take to get to where they are now through like the early to mid-2000s is just so similar across the board. And aren’t we lucky to have been there when the web was being made in the very early days.

Dana: Oh yeah, because you could say, “I have a degree in something completely random and guess what, I’m an expert because no one was an expert.”

Kristina: Oh, I got that from my parents all the time. “And what makes you an expert in content strategy?” And I’m just like, “I don’t know. People started calling me that, and I get really ... I don’t know.”

Dana: Is that why you wrote the book, so you could send it to your parents and say, “See? This book says …”

Kristina: It doesn’t matter. I was like, “Look the cover is even red and that means it’s important.” And it still didn’t ... I don’t know. Well you know how it goes. Hey, so tell me a little bit about … I love that part of your mission is to help companies understand which strategies and tactics bring value, and what is just a waste of money.

Tell me, when you sit down with a company and they are approaching you with, you know, “Do this thing for us that will help us make money.” What kinds of questions do you ask them right up front to start that conversation around what’s going to work and what’s not?

Dana: Yeah, some of the things we ask are really, “Where are all the places that you’re spending money now?” And often we won’t get the answer because sometimes companies don’t know that they’re spending money in all these different places until we start digging and digging. We say, “Why do you have traffic coming from X?” They’re like, “Oh I didn’t know that was there.” “Where did this tracking pixel come from?” Or, “I saw a billboard you didn’t mention.” Like those kinds of things.

And so that’s really where we try to dig in and just figure out all the different places that you’re spending money right now. And what we often find, I mean, it’s that intersection of digital and traditional, where often companies have been spending money on traditional for a long time. Have no sense of whether or not it’s bringing them any value. And it might be, I’m not anti-traditional. I just think that maybe you should qualify that before you sign a giant contract buying billions of billboards.

So a lot of that is setting up tracking with the client, and showing them different ways in which they can sort of convert offline to online when it’s possible. I think it’s better now, for sure, than it used to be. Now that we have things like beacons and geo-fencing and whatnot. But it’s never going to be perfect, offline and online. And I think just making clients aware of the fact that it’s not going to be perfect is also a big part of our job.

Kristina: So, I now have one million questions. So when clients call you … Before we started recording you were talking about that you build websites. And we have talked about that you play in the SEO field, and so there is ... And as I think you know I come really from a background in content strategy from user experience perspective. And so talk to me a little bit about how you ... Because once you start asking them all these questions, not only are they having sort of marketing assets pop up, but also I’m sure you’re unearthing like one million content assets all over the place.

So how do you help clients get their arms around that as you are looking at what is it worth to continue investing in?

Dana: Yeah, definitely one of the first big steps is an audit. And I mean I always say, no one comes to us because things are awesome, so obviously we just have to dig in and see why everything exists. And why did you sign up for this? And why did you sign up for that? It’s a lot of poking around and asking people questions which people love, of course.

And at that point it’s not really questioning the decision, it’s more like, “How did you end up here?” is the question. Because sometimes for example, you’ll have a page on a client’s website and they’re like, “This page is really important, we have to make sure we keep it.” And you just keep asking why, like you’re talking to a five-year-old, until you get ... Not that I’m saying clients are five-year-olds.

Kristina: They’re not.

Dana: You know, but you have to keep asking questions—why—until you get down to the final, final piece of where this thing came from in the first place. And often it’s a disconnect between audience; it seemed like the least path of resistance to get it up there instead of doing something else instead. So and so didn’t want to do any work. Someone’s protecting this department. You know, there’s so much politics involved in the decisions that end up on websites. And often it’s because it’s organization-centric not customer-centric.

And really trying to educate a company on switching that around is tough, but it’s part of that initial work is getting and thinking about that customer first. And the customer doesn’t care about your internal departments, you know? They don’t care that you don’t talk to so and so, or this is the silo you need to go talk to. Or you can’t call us for that you have to call that person. The customer literally does not care. So what can you do to turn that around?

Kristina: And this is where I start marching alongside marketers. Because when we start talking about making things customer-centric, because I have been called a content marketing expert, and I’m just like, “No no no no.” That’s not what I am. But I am constantly pleading with content marketers to come at their craft from a customer-centric viewpoint because ultimately if we’re talking about truly engaging people and bringing them onboard with your brand, we have to have spoken with them and know what it is that they need. And know what their priorities are. And frankly, as agencies and consultancies we also need to have that information to come back to the client with and say, “See, we were right. Nobody cares.”

Dana: Yeah, and the other part of it too is really making the decision for the customer, so you can point out and say, “Let’s put all of our egos aside,” and we’re making the best decision for the customer. Which is really the entire reason why your business exits. So let’s serve them.

Kristina: Now how do you go about finding information out about these customers? As you’re helping companies make better choices around where they’re investing their marketing dollars, if the value and the perspective is, let’s make everything customer centric because that’s where money’s going to be at the end of the day. How do you approach that?

Dana: Yeah, so obviously research of course. Talking to people if we possibly can. Calling customers as often, a really good thing to do. I really like having phone calls, or at least email surveys if we can’t do phone calls with customers. And not asking them things like, “Why did you decide to buy product X?” But, “What kind of TV shows do you like? What makes you decide to share something on social media?” Like those kinds of questions.

Because that tells you a lot about the customer in terms of how they think. And I don’t necessarily care as much about why they made the decision to go with the company, for example. Because really, it’s, again, they don’t call us because things are awesome, so it might have been in spite of themselves. For example, right?

And we also sometimes talk to people who chose not to go with the organization, for example, in B2B process. Like give us some leads that didn’t work out, we would like to talk to them and find out what the issue is. And sometimes it isn’t the marketing and the website, sometimes it’s the disconnect between the website and the proposal process, for example, which is a really great content thing to think about right there.

And then we’ll look at things like their social media profiles. We might run them through persona enrichment tools if we have the budget to do so. And we’ll start looking at user paths. And this is where analytics also really comes in. So one of the things we’ll do at the beginning is set up a really beefy analytics implementation, so we’re capturing way more data than the client is currently, using lots of custom dimensions and metrics, and Google Analytics to get that extra data that normally we wouldn’t get off of the default set.

Kristina: How do you convince people to spend money on all that? Because this is the number one thing that I hear from clients, is we come to the table to help them with their content strategy. And we cannot do good work for them unless they know who their priority audiences are, and what those audiences needs and expectations are. And when we ask about research they’re like, “Oh yeah it’s really hard for us to get funding for that.” How do you convince clients to spend money on that?

Dana: I don’t know if we do, I think we just work with the clients who are easily convincible perhaps. It’s not, I’m definitely not a sales person. I mean unless the sales person is super honest and says, “This is what you need … ‘da da.’” And that’s it. Then great, I’m a sales person. But I’m certainly not going to sell people into it, I don’t persuade them. I think a lot of it is just presenting them and say, “Look if you want to get here you have to do this. And it’s up to you.”

And frankly that’s another reason why we’re a relatively small agency, because we don’t want to try to sweet talk people into stuff all the time. Either they see the value or they don’t. And there’s a lot of businesses out there who do see the value, so if you can’t get there, then I’m not going to spend like two years trying to convince you.

Kristina: I’m so with you. That’s what we were talking earlier about how Brain Traffic is only eight people, and Kick Point is nine people. And I agree. And I recognize that it’s a privilege too, but gosh, when people come to me and they’re like, “Oh I’ve been trying to sell in the value of content strategy forever. And I’ve been trying to explain why we need this research, and I’ve done some guerilla research and presented the results and no one is paying attention. What do I do? How do I change the culture?”

Sometimes I just have to say, you know if you can’t find executive sponsorship, or if you can’t find like-minded individuals across the organization to partner up with you on some pilot projects and sell that value, you might have to leap.

Dana: Yeah, and I mean I think that a company that’s driven by emotion solely, instead of emotion and fact together, is not necessarily going to make the best decisions. And you see that again and again where they’re like, well I don’t like this color. That’s not about you, it’s about your client. And if you can’t separate those two, then you’re just not going to have a good time.

Kristina: And we’re all about having a good time.

Dana: Mm-hmm.

Kristina: Hey I want to ask you, you said two words together and I have no idea what they mean. Actually it was three words, and you said, “persona enrichment tools.” What magical thing is that?

Dana: Okay. So we use a tool called FullContact. Sometimes if the client budget permits, and that is a “person enrichment tool,” which means that we give them an email address and they tell us all sorts of fun things about that person. Like their Facebook profile, their LinkedIn profile, how many followers they have. When they joined, sometimes. And there’s a few tools out there that do that. And FullContact is just one of them, it’s one that I personally happen to like the most. They did not pay me to say that.

And it really helps us figure out things like, for example, for one of our clients they were large enough and they had sort of in their CRM already, had person enrichment so we took a look and it turns out that they’d been heavily investing in Twitter, and very few of their clients were actually on Twitter. And the ones that there were signed up maybe five years ago to follow a bunch of news stations and then left. So that’s why your Twitter engagement is bad. Your clientele is not on Twitter.

And really that’s where the data comes in, and the answer is, don’t do that. But without that data you wouldn’t know, you would think just maybe I’m just bad at Twitter. But that’s not the case, you’re talking to no one because your audience isn’t there, your audience is on Facebook. And I love Facebook. And for this particular client it’s one of the few audiences that still does love Facebook quite a lot, and that’s where you should be investing your time.

Kristina: I am both intrigued and creeped out that a tool like this exists.

Dana: It’s horrifying the amount of data you get back from this stuff.

Kristina: Horrifying and fantastic.

Dana: Yeah, well that’s how most of my technology columns on the radio go as well. It’s like, “Here’s this super creepy thing, it’s great for advertising. Turn off everything.” Honestly.

Kristina: I’m watching through Parks and Rec for the first time and I just watched the episode where Ron Swanson decides he wants to go off the grid. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, anyway, it was real good.

So tell me about how when clients come to you and they are all over the place. They’re on Twitter, they’re on Facebook, they have this website. I am confident that one of the things that they want is consistency with their content. When you are starting to advise them on larger marketing plans, or to redesign a website, does that enter the conversation in terms of how we’re going to get this done?

Dana: Yeah so definitely part of that is a brand voice. Which as you know, is a very important part of content.

Kristina: Yes, go on.

Dana: Yeah. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this thing or not, it’s very cool. But definitely doing a brand voice. And then we also do a blueprint. Which is sort of like a sitemap, but more of a strategy document. So not just saying, we’re going to have a homepage and it’s going to have these six pages off of it, but here is this page. This is what it’s going to describe. This is the call to action. Here are the people we want to come to this page. Here are the SEO factors we need to consider. And that way by the time we get to, wireframes, development, marketing, we know everything that’s supposed to happen for that particular page.

We call it like the “NASA version” of a sitemap essentially. Because we found that what you get out of a sitemap is just sort of a suggestion of what’s possible. But this way you’re setting up real expectations for what that page is going to do, and then you can see really clearly if you’re trying to make a page do too many things, which also happens a lot. And it also sort of de-emphasizes the homepage, which I find that a lot of people really fixate on, that the homepage is going to fix everything.

The homepage is like the, “I didn’t know what you wanted so here,” part of a website. And trying to tell clients, and say, “Look I don’t want them on your homepage. I want them to start on this page,” can be a really eye-opening experience because if they’ve had bad SEO in the past, which again, they have probably which is why they’re calling us. Then they don’t know that people should start on the right page for their query, not if they Googled your company, maybe the homepage. But probably the about page should come up, for example.

Give them the right page for the right query. And that idea of query page-matching is generally a pretty new concept for the clients who we work with. And then by the end they’re really getting it and firing on all cylinders and all the other car metaphors you can cram in there.

Kristina: I am actually picturing people who are listening right now in their cars bouncing up and down in their seats going, “Yes! Yes!” in response to everything.

Dana: Please pay attention to traffic.

Kristina: Yes, exactly. Please. Be careful, there is someone coming up on your right.

Tell me then, because I think what kind of triggered my inviting you on the show was I asked something about measurement, or measuring content performance on Twitter and like eight people were like, “You need to talk to Dana.” And so I wanted to make sure that we spend some time around talking about content performance. And how you kind of get your arms around that. Because, this is another question that we get asked regularly. “How do I know if I’m measuring the right things with my content?”

Because you can do it from UX perspective, you can do usability testing, even though that’s almost never on the content itself. You can measure behavioral analytics. But we know it also goes so much more deep than that. More deeply. I don’t know, I can’t talk. And I’m a content strategist. Tell me a little bit about how—

Dana: Well it’s writing not talking. Right?

Kristina: Yeah, exactly. So tell me how you get your arms around that? How do you start that conversation? What’s your approach?

Dana: Yeah, so our thing is a Google Tag Manager recipe that we came up with last year, I represented it at MozCon 2018. And it was called “Content Consumption.” And the reason why we came up with it is that we were pretty frustrated with the default measurements that you get in Google Analytics because a horrifying thing about Google Analytics that a lot of people don’t know, and I’m sorry if I’m about to burst everyone’s bubble.

When you look at Google Analytics and you see the metric of time on site, or time on page, probably wrong. Because Google only records that time if the person does a thing that you’re recording as a success metric, for example, such as signing up for your newsletter. Assuming you’re doing it on the page and not a destination goal, so they went to the second page.

If they only stay on that one page and they never do anything else, the time on site is recorded as zero. So you could come on my website, well not mine because I’m recording this stuff. But someone else’s website. And you could spend 10 minutes reading in depth, taking notes down on a piece of paper, thinking “Wow this company is great, I’m totally going to call them.” Writing down their phone number, maybe they don’t have call tracking installed. Calling them, buying a thing, no one would know you spent 10 minutes on that page because then you closed the tab.

Kristina: Whoa.

Dana: And that’s sad.

Kristina: That is sad. I’m tearing up.

Dana: Yeah, and so what you also see a lot of, and I hate this so much. Is a lot of web developers, you know bless your hearts but don’t do this, will set up dwell time goals in tag manager. So if the person spent two minutes on the page with a tag manager timer, because you can actually set a timer with tag manager, and it would record that as a goal. It’s not a goal, it didn’t make you money. It’s not a goal unless you’re say, TMZ. Then maybe it was a goal.

But that’s something frustrating as well because then it’s making your site look amazing when it’s not. So one of the things we created in Content Consumption is a way to measure if two things are true, did they actually get to the bottom of the content? And did they spend long enough on the page to read the content? So the way that it works is that when you have the tag manager recipe installed, and it’s on our website you can grab it, it’s free. If you use WordPress it’s pretty easy to set up. If you use something else, might need to talk to a developer, it’s not that hard though.

And so when you first light up the page we count the number of words in the div container that you’ve defined as containing your content. And fun fact, in JavaScript when you count the number of words, you’re actually counting the number of spaces, which I didn’t know until we made this. So that’s cool. So it counts the number of spaces, figures out how many words that is. Figures out based on normal human reading time, how long it’s going to take them to read. And then a timer starts.

And then when the amount of time that they’ve spent on that page matches the timer, then it sends off a custom metric to Google Analytics saying, “Yes this person read the content.” Great. But the second half of it, and we all know how many people have a billion tabs left open in Google all the time. Right?

Kristina: You don’t know me.

Dana: Yeah, I sure do.

Kristina: You don’t know my life.

Dana: You tab hoarders are ruining the internet because what happens is that every time you have those tabs, and every time you open up Chrome, or reactivate it, it sends a zero second hit event off to every single website you have open. So you people are terrible, stop doing that.

Kristina: I’m a good person.

Dana: I know Marie Kondo is super hot right now, but just like if that tab doesn’t bring you joy you should close it. Anyway. So we call them “tab hoarders,” we actually have a way to identify them using this recipe. But the second thing we look at is if they scroll down to the bottom of the content. And if you’re on the Kick Point site you may notice that when you scroll down to the bottom of the content there’s an adorable little rocket ship. If you click it, it will take you back to the top and in a rocket ship type fashion, it’s quite adorable.

Anyway, if you see that rocket ship enter your view port, then we know that you got to the bottom of the content. So that counts as page was scrolled, the content was scrolled through. And if both those things are true, then the content was consumed. If not, you skimmed, so you went too fast through it, like you got to the bottom but you didn’t spend enough time to read it. You hoarded it, which means that you spent long enough time but you didn’t scroll, or you just abandoned, which mean nothing happened that we were happy about. Or you consumed it, so those are the four different options.

And so we have segments in Analytics setup to capture each of those and we do some reporting with it in Google Data Studio. And then we know if people are actually reading the content. Which is an important thing to know about your content, and it’s also kind of scary how little people do actually consume content on websites. The percentages range from anywhere to 2% to maybe 15–20% or something really good.

Kristina: No, really?

Dana: Yeah. At first I thought it was wrong, like the recipe was wrong because the percentages are so low. Nope, that’s just the internet. So when people say, “No one reads on the internet” and like, “No, people totally read on the internet. I read on the internet.” I think people do in batches. And I think this is something that I’d like to see for future versions of this tool, is to create some sort of batching system. So one of the things that we’re looking at is creating a more persistent cookie so you can stitch several sessions together.

So for example, the Content Consumption article itself is pretty beefy, it’s going to take you a while to read that thing. You probably did it in several sessions. So I don’t want to discount you if you came back and did it in stages. But how to tie those sessions together in a way that’s going to make sense, especially if you read on multiple devices, that’s tough. So we haven’t cracked that yet, but at least we can tell in a single session if people engage with content. And if you have relatively short content on your website, which a lot of people do, then you should be able to consume that in one sitting.

Kristina: This is blowing my mind. So tell me about, then, are you bringing this information to the table now to clients after you’ve done initial research to say, “Look you have 5,000 pages. You think you want to cut down to 3,000 pages. You only need 200 pages.” I mean, is this conversation happening?

Dana: Oh yeah. Yeah for sure. And it’s not the best conversation sometimes, because it’s like, “But I wrote all these pages.” “Yeah, but nobody cares.” Right? Or, nobody knows they exist. Which is the other part of is you might have a real gem buried in there, but you have no idea because you’re looking at the wrong things. You might just be looking at pageviews, which is probably the worst way to consider that because some weird stuff, I call these noisy pages.

Where it’s stuff that just ranks because it’s been on the internet for a long time, and it doesn’t mean that it’s good for you that it brings in the right kind of traffic. But it brings you lots of traffic, so you just leave it. And it’s really distracting. And so often I’ll advocate for making a view, for example, that excludes noisy pages in you’re not going to delete them because you still like to have those traffic numbers. Or just deleting those pages entirely.

And also, giving a serious look, like do people actually, maybe we get 10,000 pageviews to this page, but once they get on the page they realize it is not what they thought it was because your title tag or meta description don’t quite match up with the piece of content itself. And then people bail. And then what? And I think that that’s important piece that Content Consumption brings to the table as well as you can see, that you have 99% of people are just leaving after being on the page for two seconds.

So on top of this we also usually try to capture custom metrics for percentage scrolled down the page, 25, 50, 75, 100% for example by default. And so then we’ll know, 99% of people are not consuming this page, and they bail at 27% of the way down the page. So what’s happening at 27% that turns people off? And then you can go look at the content and be more surgical in your approach to fixing it.

Kristina: Okay, so this is all amazing and dear listeners we will have all of these links in the show resource section for sure at ContentStrategy.com. So here’s my last question. You are finding out all of this mind-blowing stuff about the content. The people who have put blood, sweat, and tears and years into this content are about to have their hearts broken. How do you facilitate that conversation? Do you present results in a working group? Do you start with a core team and let them deliver the results?

Because, I would imagine that if people go and so you really plug this into the website, or do it and say, “Oh we’re going to better track behavioral analytics,” et cetera. How do you bring back that crappy news ... I mean its great news to me, but you know, how do you bring back that crappy news to tell people, you got to get rid of this, or you should?

Dana: I think it really depends on the client. And this is something where we’ll ask the client, try to get a sense of the politics going on in their organization, if there are any. I mean there always are some, but I find that some clients are much more, less hierarchical than others, and so you can present to everybody and there’s no egos in the room, and that’s really refreshing. But that is kind of rare. And so really thinking, who’s the right person to start this conversation with? And, who are the eyes that we’re going to need in order to bring this information up?

And I mean to be honest, we don’t always necessarily get it right. You know sometimes you don’t know that the CEO’s hyper, hyper involved and also thinks that they are totally an expert. And they’re not, but they think that they are, and nothing you say is going to be able to convince them, for example. And that totally happens as well. And I think that’s just one of the things with client management. And actually, I was on a panel earlier this week about client management. And yeah, I think everybody has the same horror stories. And sometimes it’s just you’re not a good personality fit for that client, and sometimes it’s just that client is not open to advice.

And you can see that too sometimes in RFPs. I don’t know, we don’t respond to a ton of RFPs, but when we’re reading them you can tell that they RFP just because they had to, but because they wanted to. That’s not going to be a good time for anybody. I think that sometimes too when you get a lead and you can tell they’re just asking companies because they were told to ask three. Yeah again, not a great time. And so that’s part of really where that lead vetting process has to be super important to make sure that you’re not going to end up in a situation where you present the results and they’re like, “I don’t believe you and this is crap and good day.”

Kristina: You know, I think what comes back to me over and over when I have agency folks on the podcast, whether agency owners or people who work for agencies, is that we talk a lot about client interactions and client management, and so on. But truly all of this really translates over to content people within organizations who are constantly trying to manage expectations of the people around them. You know, do this for me, clean this up, inventory this, why isn’t this performing? And from all across an organization whether it’s a big or a small organization.

And so it always occurs to me when I’m having these conversations, these are not exclusive to in-house folks, at all. Like these are all ways in which in-house folks can be continually kind of compiling data and building their case, shopping it around to the right people. The lens through which they can present this information. It’s just really the …

Dana: And we work a lot with in-house teams. So our favorite kind of engagement is not the monthly, pay-us-monthly-for-SEO-forever. And in fact we say that right on our homepage, that we don’t want that. Often we work with in-house teams who need some outside pushes in different directions. So bring in the experts, we’re going to do this, this, and this for you. Here’s what you need to do, here’s how to do it. And go.

And that really helps because the in-house people don’t need to pay, again, a company forever. They get some really solid advice, they get that institutional knowledge in-house, which I think is really important for an organization to have because part of the problem is that, especially if someone is managing marketing but doesn’t know how marketing works, there’s a real place of fear that they’re coming from. You know, people will find out I don’t know about this thing that I’m totally managing. And I think that that’s really difficult to navigate too, because you want to appear to be an expert. You want to let people know that you don’t know what you’re doing, but at the same time it’s really key to make sure you’re making the right decisions.

And so that’s where we try to come in and not be like, “We are the fancy experts, get out of the way.” But more, we know what you don’t know, and we’re going to teach you. And we’re also going to teach you how to keep up as much as you possibly can while still doing stuff that is not running a marketing agency so that you feel empowered for years, not just for like the next six months.

Kristina: I have to ask, how are you not just slammed and inundated 24/7 with clients? If I needed a marketing agency I’d hire you in two seconds.

Dana: Oh thanks. Yeah. Well right now, actually it’s funny because summer is usually a slow time for us. I don’t know what your delays in recording, but we’re recording this on May 31st. Summer is a slow time for us, and it is not going to be this summer because we have lots of stuff coming in. But I mean, this is the other good reason about staying small, but also not doing retainers forever, is that when you’re a small agency, once you get to a certain number of retainers you just can’t take on new clients.

But because we have these shorter-term contracts where we do stuff, train, off you go, and then move on to the next client, it means we can work with a lot more clients. Which I think is a much better model for us overall, in general anyway.

Kristina: Dana, I yell at marketers a lot. I yell at marketers all the time, but you are the smartest marketers I know. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your inspiration and your insights. It’s just been a pleasure chatting with you.

Dana: Thank you, and I’m totally adding that to my Twitter bio.

Kristina: You do it right now.

Dana: Thank you, I will.

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Kristina: You’ve been listening to The Content Strategy Podcast. I’m your host Kristina Halvorson. This podcast is brought to you by ContentStrategy.com, and Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy. Find out more about Brain Traffic at, of course, BrainTraffic.com. Thanks and we’ll see you next time.

About the podcast

The Content Strategy Podcast is a show for people who care about content. Join host Kristina Halvorson and guests for a show dedicated to the practice (and occasional art form) of content strategy. Listen in as they discuss hot topics in digital content and share their expert insight on making content work. Brought to you by Brain Traffic, the world’s leading content strategy agency.

Follow @BrainTraffic and @halvorson on Twitter for new episode releases.