By Chris Karel
In a career spanning 25 years, Kathie has marketed products ranging from insurance to t-shirt transfers. She got her start in traditional direct marketing, and has successfully transitioned to focusing on content marketing. Kathie is currently the Content Marketing Strategist for Stahls’ Transfer Express, a leader in the apparel decorating industry. In her spare time, Kathie does freelance photography and wastes an inordinate amount of money and energy on Cleveland sports teams. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, where she frequently shares actionable advice on content marketing and improving company culture.
Chris: Let’s dive right in shall we? What is the most common issue with today’s content marketing programs?
Kathie Kinde Clark: I think the biggest problem is that people have this sort of Field of Dreams vision: “If you build it, they will come.” People don’t realize that great content is not enough. You have to pay attention to keywords and SEO, the technical side or back end of content marketing. The back end isn’t as glamorous, but I’d argue that it’s just as important, if not more important. You also have to pay attention to promoting the content. There is still this mentality, “If I’m doing paid ads, it’s about the product itself.” We need to make a shift in this mindset: The content is a product, and that you need to put some ad dollars behind it.
Chris: What is the first thing you review when inbound programs aren’t driving the leads they should be?
Kathie: The first thing that I would check is that everything is technically correct. It’s surprising how many times I find errors with a link, like it goes to the wrong place or it’s simply broken. The second thing I would look at is if the content is appropriate for the audience. I ask, “Are we trying too hard to push product, or are we serving solutions to our customers and prospects?” More often than not, the program is too self-serving rather than having more of a service mentality.
Chris: What should young marketers know about inbound marketing?
Kathie: Learn every day; be passionate about it. When I got started in traditional direct marketing, you could know everything. You could be a great copywriter, amazing at segmentation, and be amazing at marketing analytics – all at the same time. Now, it’s just impossible to know everything about inbound marketing. There is so much change on a daily basis…new tools, evolving algorithms, etc. So we have to be lifelong learners. Find great people to follow who are experts and learn from them.
One more piece of advice: Everybody does SEO. Most marketers think, “I can just write interesting things.” No, you need to know what keywords you’re targeting, what the volume is for those things, and really write it in a proper technical manner so that your audience will find it. In other words, develop an interest in SEO, and then lastly, write, write, write, write, write. The more you write, the better you will be at it.
Chris: I love this, Kathie. Passion goes a long way towards being great at what we do!
Kathie: So true. If I’m hiring someone, I always look for the lifelong learner.
Chris: Indeed, you can’t easily teach this behavior. People need to come to work with that kind of passion. Getting back to it, what advice would you give to someone looking to start an inbound program at their company?
Kathie: Take your time to set things up. Avoid the urge to start generating content before you set things up properly. Do the keyword research. Look at what tools you want to use. Decide what you can do in-house and what you need to sub out. You won’t find a better time to plan your strategy than before you start generating content. Once you start putting content out, people will just want more and more and more, and you’ll never get back to doing it right.
Chris: What are the metrics you care about most?
Kathie: Revenue! Yes, it’s a long road to see that revenue—you’re looking at 18-24 months before content marketing really starts paying off—but at the end of the day, we have to be driving revenue. The second thing I look at is list building. Too many marketers make a huge mistake by relying too much on social media properties and their engagement metrics. I follow the Joe Pulizzi mantra, “Don’t build on rented land.” So I am always looking at my list to make sure that I’m doing enough to ensure that it is growing.
Chris: If there was one thing you could tell all marketers right now what would it be?
Kathie: It’s the same thing I would tell the young marketer:
- Learn, learn, learn, and read constantly.
- Find people who are putting out awesome content and follow them
- Seek out actionable advice and find ways to put it into practice.
Chris: Who are your go-to content creators?
Kathie: I’d say, my top four are CMI (Content Marketing Institute), HubSpot, Neil Patel, and Andy Crestodina. Everyday, I look to see what those folks are putting out, because like I said, you just can’t know everything about every aspect of content marketing. We need to find people that are really focused on a niche and learn what they’re doing.
Chris’ Final Note: Content marketing is a commitment—a way of life, you could say. By planning and then following through with the plan, you can create a long-lasting value for your audience. Since reading and applying Content Inc. by Joe Pullizzi, I have seen my role as marketer transform into something new and wonderful.