Joe Lazer

Head of Marketing at A.Team

Joe Lazer on Using Strategy to Drive Success in Content Marketing

In today's digital age, consumers are bombarded with an unprecedented amount of content daily. To stand out from the rest, it is essential to have a content marketing strategy that is well thought-out and executed. Simply producing content is not enough; you must also distribute content that matters.

Joe Lazer, Head of Marketing at A.Team chats with Prasad Shetty, Sales Manager - North America at Pepper Content about how you can use strategy to drive content marketing success.

Here are some excerpts. 

1. Please give us a quick introduction.

My name is Joe Lazer, and I am a writer and marketer. I lead the marketing function at A.Team as the head of marketing. Previously, I was the head of marketing at Contently. I have authored a book called The Storytelling Edge, and for someone who's been practicing, writing about, and covering the content marketing space for a long time, it's exciting to be here. When my goal isn't to have content drive returns for the company or a team, it's to grow the business as effectively as possible. I believe in content as the main way of doing that.

2. As a leader in content marketing, what are some lessons you have learned and tips you would give in terms of content strategy? 

Having a clear sense of your goals, KPIs, and the kind of content you will create for your audience is crucial. Previously, we have given brands powerful technology to measure content success, manage stakeholders around their content, and have great talent to work with and develop content. But many didn't have a clear sense of the kind of content they should be creating. They lack the editorial DNA. 

Also, creating an easy path to ROI is paramount. That's the biggest thing that most content programs trip up at. As we enter a time of economic uncertainty, there will be cutbacks. As a cost center, marketing is always hit the most because it's harder to show the ROI of content than it is to show the ROI of direct response marketing.

Content is a more complicated journey. Finding ways to calculate the return on investment in content is important. It can span from setting up tracking and analytics within CRM or marketing automation systems to developing tools for organic SEO traffic, etc. 

3. What are some things you feel a company shouldn't do?

If you're solely creating content and not thinking about its measurement, distribution, and impact, you wouldn't know if you're reaching the type of folks who will become your customers down the line. 

If you're not mapping everything out up front, you risk getting to a point where it's the end of the year, and your CMO or CEO asks, "Okay, we spent a million dollars on this content program; what did we get out of it this year?" It will be painful for you if you don't have a good answer to that question. 

4. What are a few learnings or insights for someone starting new in the content marketing space?

It starts with understanding your audience well and creating content that feels authentic and relatable to them. There's no real hack, and it requires spending time with them. Also, spend time with your sales and accounts team to understand your customers' stories. Once you do that, you start internalizing who your audience is, and it becomes easier to speak to them and create things that they will find interesting, valuable, and relatable. 

Don't feel like all of your content has to fit a template. As opposed to trying to follow some best practice hack you found on LinkedIn or a Twitter thread, I recommend starting by finding a way to tell stories, introducing new ideas that will resonate with your audience as a way to break through, and building something. It's important to think through the most opportune channels for you.

Now you must be more attuned to emerging channels and different strategies for building an audience because there's more competition out there.

5. In terms of the KPIs for modern content leaders, what are the two or three important KPIs to keep in mind to pace up with the current digital transformation?

One of the biggest issues we face is attribution with content. It's beneficial if you can sell the idea that content is influencing your overall marketing success early on. You have to correlate the content you're creating to a broader influx of organic inbound coming into your brand. It's important to set up internally for your team to start thinking about how you attribute success. Then you can think about quantifying the audience that you're developing. 

The demands of the modern content marketer require you to be analytical in how you think about ROI and get people to think about the ROI of content in the right way.

6. What is the one thing that excites and tires you the most about this role? 

Direct response marketing is becoming less and less effective. It's never been more important to build equity and value with your audience by giving them things that help them do their jobs better and see the world in a new way. That's always an exciting challenge to embark upon because you have to deeply understand who your audience is and then try different things to understand what resonates with them and helps them. 

As much as I consider myself a good content strategist, in reality, there's a lot of trial and error that goes into it, and you have to be humble about what's working and iterate quickly. But for me, the journey of building an audience, experimenting with what's going to be a hit with them, and quickly adapting a strategy is the exciting part of the job. 

7. What do you think is the most scalable way to go about looking at strategy?

Everyone has been looking for a magical content strategy tool to tell you exactly what to do. But in reality, all the content strategy tools will tell you what is working for others. It doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for you. For a successful content strategy, it's important to have a unique voice, perspective, and ideas that you're bringing out from your own company. It is also vital to have a deep understanding of who your audience is and where they're not being served today, and that's where the tools can help. 

If you don't have a unique perspective, ideas, and data to share, it's unlikely for your content strategy to work well. That's where the human touch comes in. We have robots that can write half-decent content. We now have strategy tools that can tell us keywords we should go after and topics we should write about. You can match the two together and automate a half-decent content marketing program. But if you want to stand out, you need that human element.

The biggest problem with many companies' content marketing programs is that they don't have anything to say or are afraid to say what they would like to put into the market. They eventually end up with bland content no one wants to read, watch, or listen to.

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