Imogen Allen: The right way to learn about content marketing

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Imogen is a website consultant who truly understands the power of content marketing to grow your business.

She didn’t want to take on another sales tactic and found that content marketing was the right thing to do for her, her customers and went deep on her learning.

Imogen shares how content has taken her on a journey of growth discovery both personally and professionally and how it’s helped her discover a unique topic to bring to her business.

The Interviews:

Additional Resources:


Chris: Well good morning, Imogen. How are you?

Imogen: I’m very well thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me here this morning.

Chris: Thanks for joining me. I really wanted to chat to you about your content marketing journey and just have an extra private, well in some ways public, celebration of you winning an award recently as well, which I’d love to talk to you about. But first of all, tell everybody who you are and what you do for work. What keeps you busy?

Imogen: Sure. Okay. Yes. Hello everybody. My name’s Imogen Allen. I’m a web designer and my business is Umbrella Digital Media. So that’s what I do, and I like to think of a slightly different approach, perhaps, to your usual work designer.

Chris: Oh yeah? What’s that?

Imogen: Well content’s become a very big part of what I do. I’ll tell you more about that later.

Chris: Yeah, definitely. Now, I think what you do is great. And one of the things that’s really interesting to me, and obviously we’ll talk about all of this stuff, but I’m reading through the nominations from the awards.

I’m going to pick out some things. So just sit back and listen to this, Imogen, and don’t get too embarrassed. I actually got a whole bunch of nominations for what we titled the Content Success Formula Award. And for those listeners don’t know what that is, it’s our 12 module program, and essentially what people have done here is nominated Imogen for this award because she jumped straight into it, she did the learning, she did the implementation. And not only that, she then developed and improved her content over a period of time as well and still continues to do so.

So people said things like, “When Imogen joined CMA, she immediately threw herself into the 90-day Challenge,” which is another thing that we do in private, a challenge that we do in CMA and the membership.

“Determined, works hard, listens carefully and takes action. Not many people do that when they join our community, but it’s great to see how much she’s committed and bearing her own content.” Other people said similar things really, that you are just taking it all in, learning it, applying it.

And obviously the reason that people, I think, are nominating you, there were at least four nominations, is because you’re not just doing the learning, Imogen, but also doing the implementation.

And in my experience through teaching hundreds of people through the Content Success Formula, I would say the smallest percentage are people like you, Imogen. So I wondered, what is it that makes you a great student, not only doing the learning but just seeing it right through. Because a lot of people, they start something but they never finish it or they start it and they never actually do anything with it. What do you think the difference is?

Imogen: I think for me, I am careful about what I choose to do. I think the biggest problem that we face now is there are so many choices of what to do, and I think you have to narrow down to find the right thing for you that’s going to enhance what you’re doing, benefit yourself, and a way to benefit and help other people.

I think if you’re going to do something, I know life can get in a way sometimes, but my approach is if I’m going to do this, I’m going to give it 100%, because if you don’t give it 100%, you’re not able to know if that is actually going to work and that it’s right for you.

If you go at it halfheartedly, then whatever you do, you’re not going to achieve what you want to or you’re not going to get the success that you hoped you might get. You’re not going to meet the outcomes of the course you’re going to do. So I think if you choose to do a course or involved in a community, you have to make that decision very, very seriously and decide if it really is the right thing and go in 100%, because whatever you put in is whatever you get out.

That’s probably one of my biggest mantras in life, is whatever you put in is what you get out.

Chris: Absolutely. I totally agree, and I think I’d love to see more of that. We really obviously want people to learn and to almost like have their own intrinsic motivation. I think a lot of people struggle with that. They constantly need or they continually need to people to be accountable to. But when you can be accountable to yourself, I think it makes a big, big difference.

Have you always been that way, Imogen? Is that something you’ve always experienced through learning and development, that you’ve always kind of been dedicated to studying and learning and implementation?

Imogen: Yeah, I think I’m a bit wired in that way. It’s not always been successful. You know, I’m certainly not perfect by any means, and I have had times when I haven’t perhaps given that 100%, but there might’ve been other reasons why that is. Perhaps the course wasn’t for me or it just wasn’t working out or life did get in the way. But I think that you have to be selective about what you do. And I think if you have too many things on the go, have too many courses on the go, you’ll actually just not be able to focus. If I say yes, then I mean yes 100%, so I am wired that way, yes.

Chris: Yeah. I think that’s a great lesson for everybody as well is to think this whole idea of it has to be a hell yes, otherwise it’s a no, and that’s your commitment from the very start. You’re right.

People tend to take on too many things, especially I find in the marketing space, when we’re thinking about marketing and sales and growth or a business, there’s so many courses and so much content and so many people try to sell you things that honestly there’s no wonder that people struggle to make good choices. And then they’re constantly being pulled from pillar to post.

Imogen: Yes, exactly. I think there are statistics out there that say that people who start a course, only something like 5 to 10% of people actually complete. Shockingly low statistics. So you know, it is a common problem.

Chris: Yeah. That’s something that I’ve definitely seen in this whole behaviour through having this 12 module program especially, is that people, they’re not interested in getting below the surface on something. They want to get the gist of it and then somehow they want to be able to drive world-class results from it, but they’re not prepared to go levels deeper. Does that make sense? They just want to get the gist of it.

It’s like skim reading a book and going, “Oh yeah, I get it,” instead of sort of studying something and saying, “Not only did I get this, I’m going to be the best at this and I’m going to continue to improve to get better at it.”

Imogen: Yeah, definitely. I think that you can also apply that to actually the writing of the content. One of the skills that I’ve learned from doing this is that you have to go deep, and it is really hard work. If it’s not hard work in the right context, that you are not going to get the results that you want. So I totally agree that you do have to dive deeper. You have to really get to the understanding, because if you don’t understand the basics, the foundations, and grow with it, then it won’t be successful.

Chris: Yeah. What would you say, other than the going deeper and the writing part of it, that’s been your most significant lessons through your whole content marketing journey? What stands out as being the most significant shift that you’ve had in learning and development?

Imogen: Definitely one of the biggest things for me is actually my own self-development.

I think if anyone’s embarking on the content marketing journey, it would probably be the last thing that they would think of that would be a successful outcome from producing content, and that is actually your own learning. And what content marketing helps you do is to become that expert, if you like, and add to your credibility, but also it deepens your learning and your understanding.

That’s definitely been a journey for me, and it might actually, what’s happened for me as well, is that it’s given me an interest in something particularly that I haven’t had before.

So for example, in changing my business, I’ve developed an interest in consumer psychology in terms of user experience in the context of websites. Now, before I started this, I would never have dreamed that that was something that I would come away with, but it’s become a real passion. So that’s a really surprising change in my business and my learning journey.

Chris: Yeah. That is the bigger picture, I think, this whole personal and professional growth that people don’t… First of all, they see the hard work, then they need to tick boxes, then they need to get the articles and the content or video or whatever created and put out there simply to get more customers.

But seeing that bigger picture of that professional and personal growth, I mean we’ve seen people, I mentioned, that have gone through this journey, changed their business. They’ve not just changed their business but changed the products and services that they offer, stopped doing some things, started doing others. Their interests, passion changes. So there’s, like you said, this personal thread that goes through it in terms of discovering yourself or discovering what you’re interested in, which I think is possibly the most important part of it, that bigger sphere of what we’re all going through.

Imogen: Yeah, definitely, because ultimately the content comes from you. So if you are going on this journey of development, not only does it bring you into areas of discovery that you didn’t know about, it also means that you can explain and educate consumers, clients, prospects, peers in all aspects, because not everybody knows everything about everything. And you bring your own take on that.

I think that’s one of the biggest struggles with confidence in producing content, is that you think it has to be a certain way or it has to be a certain point of view. As long as your point of view is backed up with research, your own experience, your point of view is valid. It may defer to somebody else’s, but that’s actually okay.

I think that’s one of the biggest issues that people have starting out, is this confidence that they have to be a certain way or say a certain thing. But going in CMA, how we approach content marketing, it reveals a lot more.

Chris: Yeah. Where did your content marketing journey begin, then? Before CMA, where did content marketing start becoming a thread for you, something that you’re interested in?…

Imogen: Well, I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. It’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed all throughout my life. But in terms of business, it was back in 2016, and I took my very first business course, made that very first investment that was a lot at the time to take that plunge. Now, it was in a lead magnet kind of context, and blogging was part of that. It wasn’t necessarily something that was taught in a way that CMA teaches it, but it made me realise that it was something important that you needed to do.

But looking back, I had a very long journey to find my expertise, my rhythm, what I wanted to talk about, finding my voice and getting over that imposter syndrome that we all go through. But the biggest thing for me, but I felt uncomfortable with the approach at that time. I found it very salesy. I knew there was a better way to do it, but I didn’t know what that looked like or what that was. So it took me then another two years before I came on board with Content Marketing Academy, because the approach of CMA was what I knew was a better way to do it and resonated with me as person and how I am.

Chris: Yeah. We get this. We hear this often, the difference. I find it extremely difficult to articulate to people, especially if they’ve never heard of us before or they’re discovering us for the first time, this difference between how we teach, and not just teach content marketing, but really help people to almost see it differently entirely versus how other people teach it.

Do you have any words that can help people understand the difference between, and maybe even part of your own journey, what is the significant difference between the way that we teach and the way that we’ve all heard about it before?

Imogen: I think the biggest takeaway for me and what has applied throughout and into my business and how I help customers is that there’s a big thing. You feel that you have to be up. You are in the limelight when you’re delivering the content, and I think that’s the biggest mistake that is made. And it doesn’t sit right with me. You know, almost showing off to say, “Hey, I know this. Hey, you can do this. Come work with me and it’s going to generate you this, that, and the other for your business.”

And what was lacking in all of that approach was that it was about people and it was human-focused. And that was what was missing. I know that now, that’s in retrospect, that’s now, because I’m with CMA and I know it’s totally centered around the consumer getting the information that they need, having their questions answered that they need.

So in effect, it’s even made me look at helping introvert business owners who feel that they have to shout loud to be heard. In actual fact, that’s not the right approach. It’s about giving that information to, and the consumer being the hero, as Donald Miller says. It’s the hero in the story is the consumer, the prospect, the client, not the business owner. And that is the biggest shift for me. I know I’ve referenced Donald Miller, but that is already there in CMA, that approach.

And it’s also about developing self. We all want to belong, and I think belonging to somewhere where everybody has a similar outlet and it’s a safe place to have those challenges and talk about them together means an awful lot. So does that answer the question? I’ve kind of gone off a little bit on a tangent there, but in a nutshell it is about the human approach, whether that’s others doing it, consumers, and I think that’s been lost in marketing along the way.

Chris: Yep, totally. I totally agree. And I think you’re right about that significant difference. Part of our book club recently for those listening, we read Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand, and I’m just going through it and nodding my head at everything. And I think everybody agrees that what we teach in CMA, or the underlying philosophy of what we teach, is very much embedded in Building a StoryBrand as well and making the buyer the hero of the story, and you’re the gate to help people through that journey of buying what it is that you offer.

So, yeah, I definitely felt there was a major fit in terms of the philosophies just come together. But you’re right. I think a lot of times in marketing it’s about this overtly selling to people, and I just don’t think people see this other part. They don’t see this other way of thinking about marketing.

Imogen: Yeah, definitely. And I think for me personally, being quite introverted, if there’s a lot of noise in the room, I won’t be contributing to it. And I’ve always found that in life in general, people have approached me when I’ve not expected it. And I think that’s because I’m just consistently, I’m kind of there, helpful, but only when people want that from me. And I think that’s really important. So for me it just was an extension of how I am as a person. Yeah. I think you can’t fault being helpful to people, but only when they want it. You know, you can’t force it on people.

That’s just like human behavior, really. As soon as, even if it’s in person, and you can see that someone needs help, and if you try to help them, they sort of push you away. But when they try to seek it for themselves, they’re much more open to change. So I think that’s a good way to think about content marketing, is that we create all of this content that they can find when they need it, and then they feel like they’re in control of their own journey, rather being pushed or manipulated into something. Which again, that’s the dichotomy, I think, the differences between how other people see marketing and how we see it in CMA.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely.

When you talk about having an opinion, and you mentioned this a few times, and I think people do shy away from this, but how has that changed for you?

I mean, we’ve talked about being introverted, but do you feel like you’ve had, in terms of your own personal development, professional development, you’ve started to have your own thoughts and own opinions in your content? And how has that changed? How has that shaped your content?

Imogen: Yes, it’s a really important subject area. I think people often struggle to have an opinion. I’ve always been somebody that I kind of see all sides. So sometimes because I see all sides, I’ve not necessarily formed my own opinion about something. And I think people may shy away from feeling that they should have an opinion because that makes them opinionated, but that’s something very different. I think you can have an opinion, but you’re willing to listen to other people’s input and their opinions and they, while you have a debate.

So I think that’s how I’ve approached my content marketing, is to, “Well this is my experience. This is some evidence that I’ve seen it in practice.” Present it as a holistic thing rather than just being, “Well, this is what I think,” and expecting people to take that.

If you present it in a way, say, “Well, this is what I think, but this is why,” then they can go off and decide whether they like the idea of that or not, but they don’t have to. But they can go on then to form their own opinion and perhaps based on other research that they’ve made as well. I think that that comes from researching when you’re creating content. And that’s one of the biggest challenges, I would say, about creating the content is the research. Sometimes you can go down a few rabbit holes, but you get practiced at it, so you’re not over-researching.

But it means that you actually read other people’s points of view and opinion, and you get a really good blend of opinions which help you decide how you might approach it. It doesn’t mean just say it can’t change, either.

I think that’s one of the biggest things, that if you have an opinion of something today and you back it up in this way, it doesn’t mean to say that you would have that opinion forever, because I think they change because life changes and you change and technology changes. It’s movable. It’s moveable. Just because you said that today doesn’t mean to say that you might think that in 12 months or five years.

Chris: Yeah. I think with the opinion part of this, it’s really, really important for a couple of reasons, and hopefully you agree, hopefully you’d be out there talking about it if you agree or disagree.

But a couple of things would be like, one is that your buyers need to see you as the expert or they already see you as the expert. So you having your opinion actually helps them to shape theirs too, but only if they trust you. So they read your content and if somewhere in that you say, “Yep, you’ve got all these options, but here’s the one that I think is the best, and here’s why.” You’re able to see it from their perspective. You understand that they might be a little bit cynical or whatever about you and your content, but you’re trying to build trust.

But giving your opinion can sometimes add trust, because you can say, “And this is what I believe. This is what I think. This is what I would do if I was you. You don’t have to take on my opinion, but I’m just giving you my expert opinion.” If they see you as an expert, I think it’s important that you have your opinion.

And secondly, I think it’s one of the things that can truly make you different in terms of your content, whether it’s blogs, videos, or even just your tweets and your Facebook posts or whatever, is that you’re able to sort of lead with your own thoughts and your own opinions. I think that helps you to carve your own place in the market as well. So I think it’s really important that people over time are able to shape their own opinion and say, “Actually, I believe this about this thing because of this,” and have justification for it, instead of what we normally see is people sort of preaching or ranting about something without any real forethought or justification. Does that make sense?

Imogen: Yeah, it does. In fact, I much prefer reading a blog when I get to the end and I get a recommendation, because I feel disappointed if I don’t, because I might be a little bit more educated on the subject, but I still feel confused at the end of it if I don’t have that content marketer saying to me, “Well, I recommend this because, and these are the reasons why.” I find that really, really helpful, and that’s something I’ve learned. I definitely wouldn’t have had perhaps the confidence to do that beforehand. It falls flat if there’s not a recommendation or a recommended approach. Definitely, yeah, that’s really important.

Chris: Yeah. When it comes to your journey, I know you’ve been doing lots of blogs and you’re going through a 90-day Challenge and you’ve been really creating content consistently. And we’ve seen your content really shape itself over the last three to six months, which has been amazing. But when we dig beneath the surface a little bit, what has really been your biggest challenge in creating this content?

Imogen: I think the biggest challenge is, initially it can be overwhelming. I think that the biggest hurdle can be actually getting started. You have to get started to then be able to develop your style and your flow as you go along. Definitely, having accountability with other people is crucial. I think if you don’t have that, it is a slippery slope to not being consistent.

I think I found it hard to know what to write about to start with. I think that planning for content is really difficult, but I did find one of the biggest things I’d recommend for people is to actually go really quite micro with your topic, because you can go really wide and general, but you get into that as you go on and you think, how can I make this smaller? How can I make this smaller? How can I make this smaller? Because that one question that you might think needs answering could have quite a lot of different facets to it. So yeah, definitely go micro and being really specific, and yeah, just breaking it down for writing into manageable time chunks, perhaps not doing it all at once, especially when it takes you a good few hours for each one.

Chris: Okay. This is oftentimes, people that are listening, they’ve had these challenges as well, where they struggle to find somewhere to start. And that could be because they don’t have any ideas or they don’t know what to write about, or they do have ideas but then they don’t know how to approach it. You’ve kind of overcome those things in your journey, by getting more specific with your content. And obviously the accountability of the 90-day Challenge in some ways, I would imagine the Content Success Formula has helped you to formulate some of those big ideas for you as well.

Imogen: Yeah, definitely. Going through the Content Success Formula, it helps you with the planning, it helps you with the content ideas. You look at keyword research as well. You look at ways to find out what are the questions that your potential customers are looking to have answered. How can you help people? And listening to the content in there, with yourself and Marcus Sheridan, gets your ideas flowing, gives you advice of where to start and things you can do to find out the answers to that to get started.

And I think that once you do get started, even if you don’t think it’s great in the beginning, you just keep going because you’ve gained momentum.

When you’re having conversations with clients, you think, “Right, that could be a blog post. We just had a discussion about X, Y and Z subject.” And it’s not a standalone thing, content marketing, it’s part of your business. It’s part of your processes. It’s every turn that you’re dealing with clients, and the Content Success Formula gives you the practical steps of how to do that and how to go about it. It’s something that I am actually planning to revisit in this next 90-day Challenge that’s coming up, just to regroup and refresh and know where I’m going for the next 90 days.

Chris: That’s an awesome recommendation. Thanks for that, Imogen. And it gives people a good idea of what to expect.

To finish up, I think it’d be good for everybody to hear from an award-winning content marketer on how they should start. Where do you think people should start if they want to get on this journey and ultimately get the results and grow their business and everything that you sort of mentioned, that personal and professional growth? What do you think they need to do to get off on the right foot and to build up to the success they’re looking for?

Imogen: Okay. Well, first of all, commitment. If they want to go on this journey, they have to be committed. There’s no point in putting in 50% effort, because you won’t get the results that we’ve talked about, in terms of business and personal growth, et cetera. So commitment.

Find the right community to support you. It could well be that they need to come along and join us at CMA, or there might be somewhere else that they need to go. And it’s just being in a right place for them that’s important. They need to find accountability. They need to find out what their customers’ struggles are. They need to accept it’s going to be hard work, but they need to take action over perfection and realize that this is long-term gain. It is consistent and you will get the benefits over the longer term.

It’s not a quick fix, so you’ve got to be dedicated and put in the hard work. Have fun, meet new people, and get that accountability. Yeah, and find your passion. As you said, people’s businesses have changed doing this.

Chris: Yeah, absolutely. I love that. I love all of those things. I love having fun, the commitment.

The personal growth that you’ve described as well, Imogen, I think is definitely, it’s all part of it. And I hope that people listening to this can see that bigger picture. Come and join us. Do the Content Success Formula. Do what you’ve done. Do the work, get the results, and embrace it, which would be amazing.

Congratulations again, Imogen, for winning the CSF Award.

Imogen: Thank you.

Chris: It absolutely couldn’t have gone to a better person. You have absolutely embraced that, you’re doing the work. And what I love about your approach is that even though you, in some ways, some people might say to themselves at this stage, Imogen, that, “All right, I’ve got this. I know what I’m doing here,” but you’re back into the CSF. You’re refreshing, getting yourself ready for your next three months of content marketing.

And I think you truly embody this philosophy that this learning is never done. There’s always room to improve and to get better. And in order to do that, I’m going to do the work. I’m going to turn up. I’m going to get the feedback. I’m going to make the changes. And I’m going to get better at this. So it’s very much deserved, and people are recognizing your work, which is awesome too.

And I’m just really excited and looking forward to what you do next. That’s the thing that I can’t wait for, so thanks for everything that you do, Imogen, and thanks for all your work. I think it inspires people, and it inspires me as well, to want to be a better teacher and to showcase your work to other people too. So thanks very much for joining me.

Imogen: Thanks for having me on Chris.