What is content marketing? by Chris Marr

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What is content marketing by Chris Marr

Hey folks, and welcome to the show. We’ve made the trip across Scotland today to Fife to meet with Chris Marr, the founder and director of the Content Marketing Academy.

Welcome to the show, Chris.

Thanks very much, Ali, it’s good to be here.

Do you want to tell us a bit about what you do, Chris, give us the background, fill in the gaps.

Absolutely. Well, like you said, my name’s Chris Marr, we’re based in Scotland here on the east coast of Scotland in Fife. We run the Content Marketing Academy, the business is about three years old now, and if we’re going to cut through all that and make it nice and succinct, it’s really about changing the way that businesses and organisations communicate forever, and we want people to embrace the principles of content marketing and never look back. What we do day to day, everything that we do, without going into too much detail, is just about getting people to think about the way that they communicate, the way that they go to market, the way that they communicate with their audience and their customers, and just have a think about how they can really just add value to that experience.

Fantastic. Now, we’re fans of content marketing, we do content marketing in our business, but a lot of the people that we speak to, maybe some of the people that will watch this video don’t know what content marketing is. So without going too deep, do you want to maybe explore a bit of that, explain a bit of that for us?

Yeah, I mean, it is one of the most popular questions we get asked, what is content marketing? You probably get it in your business as well, what is service design and all these things, and to be honest with you, I wish it was called something else, because it would maybe make it a little bit easier for people to wrap their head around what it is, and I think it’s really about a different way of communicating. It’s the exact opposite of pretty much what we’re used to today, I think, when it comes to marketing, so to give you an example of this, we promote and we teach content marketing as a philosophy, as in it’s the way that you do business, the way you communicate.

It’s not specifically the blogs or the podcasts or the video, that’s the medium that you communicate with, so it’s more about the way that you deliver that message is really important. So I can give you some examples of this. One would be that it’s communicating without selling, so it’s almost like you need the ability to talk to people without talking to them about your products and services and what you’re trying to sell.

For example, if I was trying to create more value for you in your day to day life, it wouldn’t be about our products and services, because maybe you don’t even know about our products and services yet, so how can I talk to you for you, the problems and the questions that you have now, how can I create some content from my knowledge, my skills, my experience, that’s going to help you today, without selling? You’re not ready to buy, so I’ve got to figure out how I can talk to you when you’re not ready to buy yet, so that’s one big thing, communicating without selling, so it’s not sales or directly selling to the people, it’s the exact opposite of that. Another element of this would be that it’s non-interruption marketing in that what we’re used to today is like pop-ups and ads and all that stuff interrupting our experience.

I hate that.

Totally. Radio ads, TV ads, and we know now that we’ve got the ability to fast forward through ads, skip ads, no-one wants that stuff anymore, they don’t want to be sold to, so this is about creating content that people are actually looking for. They’re actually looking for it, they’re seeking to find it, and you’ve got to create it for them so that you can build that relationship up with them and build trust. That’s really at the core of content marketing, what can you do every single day, a piece of communication, a piece of content that you create that builds a relationship and builds trust? That’s what it’s really all about at its core.

And do you find that…let’s call them traditional businesses, people that aren’t familiar with content marketing, where they struggle with this, and my experience so far is that they’re used to spending something and getting an instant return. This is more of a long play, more of an investment, perhaps, in your business, than just an expense.

Exactly. I call it an asset, so something that increases in value over time as a piece of content, if it’s done well and it’s done in a way that adds value and is about building trust, then that’s something that you could maybe use today, you can use it next week, you can use it next year, it’s a piece of owned content. The opposite is true with paid advertising or traditional marketing. You typically pay to borrow someone else’s audience. It’s not yours, you don’t own this, and as soon as you stop paying, regardless of how it’s performed, that’s it, it stops. The phone stops ringing, the traffic to your website stops, everything, so this is about creating content that works for you over a long period of time.

It definitely is a long play, but I think people need to see this as the best way to build your business. Yes, you can use paid ads, yes, you can get paid traffic, but long term you’re going to have to keep paying. You want to create content that’s actually going to create or bring things like organic traffic to your website, and this doesn’t cost you any money, you’ve already spent the time. It is a time investment, but it’s almost like you need to have the faith that this stuff works, it does work, and it’s the best way to build the foundation on your business.

We’ve been doing this since…well, I guess we went full time on the business in the summer of last year, and we’ve been doing content marketing, and the benefits we’ve had have been significant. We’re winning a ton of business as a result of the content, and sometimes it’s the content that we produced six months ago that’s doing that for us. One of the things that I was thinking about as you were talking there was platforms and which platforms people should use, and again thinking of conversations that we’ve had with some of our customers, then people don’t know where they should be doing this. Have you got any thoughts about that or tips you might like to share?

Yeah, so really to take all of this full circle, really, you’ve got to understand what content marketing is, you’ve got to really appreciate the benefits of it and get it. You’ve got to value it. This is one of the reasons why people don’t do this stuff, is because they just don’t get it, they don’t see the value. You’ve got to understand that this does work. One of the other things is really just try to figure out what you’re actually doing with this stuff. You’ve got to have some sort of plan or some sort of idea how you’re going to get this content to the marketplace, so platforms, there’s loads of ways you can do it. We’re doing a video right now, you can do blogs, you can do podcasts, all of these things. You can’t do them all, though, so you have to look at your resources and figure out what the best strategy is for you.

We’re in 2016, we’ve got massive opportunities, there are tons of platforms to put your content in. I think the key piece of advice is to figure out where your audience is, or figure out where your potential audience is, and people say this without really thinking about it. It doesn’t matter what channel you go to now or what platform you go to, you’re going to have to work hard to earn their attention. Your ideal client might be there, but you’ve got to give them a reason to pay attention to you. It doesn’t matter what platform it is, or if it’s blog or podcast or video or whatever, doesn’t matter. You’re going to have to work hard, you’re going to have to turn up consistently, you’re going to have to put in what it takes to earn that attention, and then build that trust. So I don’t think it really matters what platform it is with regards to how much work…basically what I’m trying to say here is, there isn’t an easy channel. It’s not going to be easier to blog or easier to do video, you’re still going to have to take the same principles to that platform or to that channel, and deliver with the same sort of principles.

I think there’s also a thing about going to the platform that you’re most comfortable with, so we’re both on video here and we’re both quite happy being on video. Not everybody is, and I was reading Mark Schaefer – who’s coming to talk at your conference – I was reading Mark’s blog at the weekend, and he talked about his preferred type of content, which is blogging, sits in his armchair on a Sunday afternoon on the sofa…I think Sunday morning, actually, with some coffee, and writes, and that’s where he’s most comfortable.

Yeah, so this is about your strengths, absolutely. If you’re a small business and there’s maybe only one or two of you in the business, then you do need to look at what your…because it’s easier if it’s something that you either…you’ve got to enjoy it. I mean, content marketing is about…this isn’t supposed to be painful, you’re supposed to enjoy this stuff, you’re supposed to have fun with it, so if video is something that you’re really interested in and something you want to explore, and you happen to be good at it and you like it, then great, go with video, absolutely. But if writing’s your strength…and written content still trumps things today, Mark Schaefer talks about this, blogging will be dead when reading is dead, and I think we still need to have written content out there.

There’s a balance between thinking about what your strengths are and what your audience needs from you as well. If you’ve got the resources, you really want to be touching all these points, audio, visual, written, you really want to get that out in multiple different ways, because people learn in different ways depending on the situation they’re in, if they’re at work, if they’re on the train, the bus, commuting. If they’re driving they might want to listen to podcasts, if they’re at home or at work they maybe can’t watch video because of sound, they maybe could read the article, so you have got to think about your audience. You’ve got to balance that with your strengths, what you like and what your resources are as well, absolutely. I think you’ve got to enjoy it, otherwise it becomes a chore, and that’s not what business is all about.

I guess if it’s becoming a chore, that’s going to come across in the content itself anyway.


Now, obviously our business is about customer experience, and I’m interested to have a chat with you about that now, where content marketing and customer experience align, how they would be aligned? My own thoughts on this are that…so we invest money in our brand, we work with brand consultants to create a brand and a brand promise, what the brand values are of the business, which we then bring to life, I guess, through our content marketing. I’ve a worry sometimes that people haven’t thought about customer experience or don’t even know what it is, so we do content marketing, people come to us as a result of that, we’ve established some trust, then they experience our service, and if it ain’t good, that’s going to kill the trust, isn’t it?

Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I like talking to you, I think they go hand in hand with each other. I think content marketing adds to the experience in some way, so a lot of people think when it comes to marketing it’s about getting customers. It is about getting customers, but it doesn’t stop there. Content should work for you when people have never heard of you before, it should work for you when they have heard of you, it should work for you when you’ve got customers, and it should create a relationship or a stronger bond with those customers until they become ambassadors of your business or advocates of your business.

So content works as a layer across the top of the whole customer journey to add more value at each of those stages. From a customer experience perspective, what are the touchpoints, how do they experience the product delivery or the service delivery, all of that stuff, content should be there to add to that whole experience. But you’re right, you can’t put content marketing on top of a foundation that doesn’t exist, so you could tell everybody that you know everything about it and you’re great at it, and they get this feeling of trust, and then they actually buy from you and it’s the exact opposite experience. I think that’s what you’re saying.

I guess where I’m going with that is that I want people to think about this, I want them to think, yeah, we’re creating great content and we do aspire, we aim to deliver a great service, but maybe they need to watch a few of our other videos so they can understand what a good experience is.

So there’s two things. You could be great at what you do now, and if you are great, if you’ve got a great business and you have great service delivery and all the rest of it, content is going to massively grow your business. The opposite obviously is true, if you’ve not got a great experience, you can’t really put content…that’s just like saying, you could, I guess, go into market with a really bad product. You could have the greatest advertising, but you’re just going to fail faster if you put marketing on top of that. It’s the same with any product or service, if it’s badly delivered or badly executed, putting marketing on top of that is just going to tell more people that it’s bad.

There’s no longevity to that.

Exactly, so they go hand in hand. I think customer experience, content marketing, the branding, all that experience is all geared towards building trust and building relationships with people, not only so that they will buy from you, but they’ll stay with you and they will not want to look at another provider of what it is you do. You become their go to resource business, service provider for that thing, and they just don’t want to move. That’s what the end goal is, it’s not about getting customers, this is about building trust with people, massively.

And the fascinating thing with that is that that always delivers the business benefit anyway, in the long term.

Yeah. I mean, it’s the ultimate tiebreaker in business, I think, is to build that relationship so strong, a bond so strong, that they won’t leave.

They’re not going to go anywhere else.

It’s not transactional anymore, it’s emotional. That’s the key.

Fantastic. Can we have a chat about the conference?


So this is the third year you’ve organised the conference.

Yeah, so it is our third year of organising the conference, but it’s kind of like year two. The first one was the beta test, I guess, we did an elaborate workshop, really, to be honest. I think we sold something like 26 tickets that first year, and there was maybe 40 people in the room, including people that I know really well, and the speakers and the sponsors and stuff like that.

And your mum.

Yeah, my mum was there, of course she was. She was there last year as well, and she’ll probably be there this year, my number one fan. It was a very small conference, but it was kind of like the start of something. I mean, our business is called the Content Marketing Academy because we started this thing, and long story short, it was really interesting how it went from 2014 to 2015, that whole year it was like this community was building up around what it was that we were trying to do, and it started to just get clearer and clearer what this was all about. We talk about content marketing like it’s a thing that you do, but it’s massively about philosophy and mindset, it’s unbelievable, it’s more about what’s going on in the head than anything else, and all of the people that we’ve attracted because of that, they’re of the same type of people, like forward thinking.

So the conference was the catalyst for that whole thing, and it kind of built this different business for us, really. It kind of grew year on year, we sold 110 tickets last year, so it grew massively in that one year. We started getting international speakers, so we booked Marcus Sheridan last year as our keynote speaker, so it’s grown arms and legs, but to be honest with you, it’s the core of our business, it changed the way we do business, because we’ve realised that this is what people need. They want to understand how they can go to market in a better way or do business better, and it’s just the best way to do it, really.

So if people want to come to the conference, they’ve heard us talk about content marketing today, how can they find out details about the conference.

If you’re in business and you’ve got customers and you want to lead in your space – because this is what it’s really all about – you need to be at the conference, absolutely. We’ve got three international speakers coming this year, Mark Schaefer, Ann Handley and Amy Schmittauer. Mark and Ann are like two of the leading voices in the world, globally, and between them they’ve written 70 books or something like that, they’re all bestseller in the marketing space. In fact, Ann’s written the bestselling content marketing book in the world, and they’re coming to Scotland to speak to 200 people. These guys speak to thousands of people, so this is a really rare occasion. The best thing to do to find out more about it is just type into Google, Content Marketing Academy, and that’s where you’ll find out more about us.

Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed the show. All the links with the discussion with Chris you’ll find in the description. Please make sure you subscribe and we’ll see you again soon. Thanks guys.


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About Chris Marr

Chris is the leading voice of the growing Content Marketing movement in the UK. His pioneering work has helped countless organisations grow through content marketing. His drive comes from a desire to help people break free from the world of interruption marketing.