Content in Context: Interview with David Meerman Scott
December 10, 2016
We had the pleasure of having David Meerman Scott, renowned marketing strategist and international best-selling author, join our ConnectIn event in Sydney. So we couldn’t miss the opportunity to pull him aside for an exclusive one-on-one about content marketing.
LinkedIn: Tell us, what’s hot in the world of content marketing right now?
David Meerman Scott: Social selling seems to be the hot topic, which is interesting because most people aren’t doing it right. Many of them are doing social selling the same way they do traditional selling. They connect with someone on LinkedIn, for example, then proceed to sell like they always have. That’s not quite it. Social selling is about engaging with people, having conversations, offering information at the right time.
I like to talk about the ‘sharing more than selling’ rule. It’s a simple concept — don’t just sell stuff through social networks, share things. I would say that, on average, you should be looking at sharing 85% of the time, creating original content 10% of the time and leaving 5% (or less) for promotional messages.
LI: How does ‘content in context’ come into the picture?
DMS: If you ask me, content in context is absolutely critical. Too few companies are able to put their content into context — whether the sales or marketing context — and do so in real time. The latter is also important because it means we’re creating content at the moment that is right for the buyer. Most people are creating content ahead of time rather than when it means most for the buyer. If you’re able to create content in context and in real time, imagine the impact you’ll be making.
LI: Can you give us some examples of real-time, content-in-context marketing?
DMS: Let me start by saying that I think B2B marketing is so boring. It’s boring because people often forget that it’s not businesses that we’re marketing to. It’s humans. The companies who remember that often do B2B marketing really well. One that immediately comes to mind is National Australia Bank. I remember back in May, when Budget Night was going down, they had a team creating content there and then — really relevant, engaging stuff that was in context of what was going on at that moment.
LI: How does this tie in with the concept of newsjacking?
DMS: Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story. Every news story breaks on a typical bell-shaped curve; it doesn't matter what the story is, it always does. Small stories can break, peak and end in a day while bigger ones can have a lifespan of weeks, if not months.
What marketers can do while the story is breaking is to inject their ideas through some form of content, whether video, text or infographic. The key is to be really quick. If you push your take on that story out at the right moment, a few things could happen: the media could pick it up and feature you in their stories, or potential customers could find it and walk away thinking: “Wow, I should pay more attention to this person or brand”.
When everyone else is thinking about the marketing content that they’re going to create for next week, month or year, and you’re pushing it out when the moment is right — that makes a huge difference.
LI: Where (or whom) do you draw your marketing insights and inspirations from?
DMS: When I returned to the United States working in Asia for some time, it was 1995. This was almost exactly the start of the Internet in the public eye. Netscape went public, Internet browsers became widely available and people realised they could access content online pretty easily. I started to think about how the World Wide Web would impact marketing. A few years later, I ran across Seth Godin. He was one of the first people I met who was really giving deep thought to what modern marketing is. I’ve been following Seth for more than 15 years now and he’s really shaped the way I look at the discipline. We’ve since become friends, which is cool too.
I also like to study the world, look for patterns and relate that back to marketing. For example, I’m a huge fan of the rock band, Grateful Dead. I realised that they were doing some really interesting things around content starting 40 years ago — they allowed fans to record their concerts when no other rock band did. People started trading cassette tapes (and later, MP3 files) of their music and that built interest in the band. They essentially created a social network before Mark Zuckerberg was even born. I found that so fascinating that I ended up co-authoring a book with Brian Halligan (he’s CEO of HubSpot and a fellow Grateful Dead fan) that we titled ‘Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead’.
I’m also a big fan of the Apollo moon programme. In the 1960s, the Americans created this programme to put humans on the surface of the moon. It was absolutely radical! What was really amazing, for me, was how the American government convinced its people to spend billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on this crazy idea. We ended spending 5% of our national budget to create the Apollo programme. It is, to me, the most important marketing case study in human history and the inspiration for another book, ‘Marketing the Moon’.
So, in short, I enjoy looking for ideas from different, sometimes obscure places, and applying them to marketing.
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