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Podcast Pit Stop: Jimmy Daly on How to be a Red X in Content Marketing

How to be a Red X in Content Marketing

In episode 60 of Pit Stops to Podium, Jimmy Daly discusses how many companies now have large content teams where the role of content has become somewhat watered down due to the fact that their role often extends beyond growth to also include product marketing, demand gen, support, and sales.  The result has been a slowing of awareness and page views in these companies.

Jimmy is a longtime content marketer who started Superpath about 2.5 years ago.  Superpath is a free community for content marketers where they help people navigate their careers, connect with their peers and find work/talent.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on! 

Pitstop Highlights

Lone Wolf Beats a Big Team

The companies that stand out are the ones whose content teams are small, aren't getting distracted by other parts of the organization, and can focus on driving awareness, page views, and email subscribers.  When content teams are large, the content is watered down and the results are mediocre.  In addition, bloated teams are costly.

"When content teams get big, and as a result expensive, they usually get that way by accident."

What to Make of AI

Over time, AI developed a bad reputation amongst content marketers and now many people in that world are struggling to re-open their minds to how AI can actually be helpful.  It's most helpful in:

  • Filling in gaps where human hours and creativity are not needed
  • Testing copy variations
  • Content that can be created based off of a template

The future role of content marketers working with AI will be in learning how to provide good input and prompts.

"I think the initial thought was 'give it a keyword and it'll write an SEO blog post.  Done.'  But those suck, and everyone realized it really quickly."

Using Community to Impact Content Creation/Distribution

A good example of community impacting content is how Superpath uses their own Slack channel to generate blog ideas based on what people are talking about.  Another way is when companies use their communities as real-time training for their sales teams where they can see how people interact, what they talk about, and what problems they have, which can be helpful when assessing how to tackle the dark funnel.

"When a community hits a certain critical mass, it mostly runs itself and there's so much information passing from one person to the next every single day that content creation becomes low-hanging fruit."

Connect with Jimmy



Full Transcript

Brendan:  Hey everyone welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who competed and won in taking their companies from high growth to high scale.  My name is Brendan Tolleson and I serve as the co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today Jimmy Daly for this episode of Pit Stop to Podium.  Welcome Jimmy.

Jimmy:  Thanks Brendan good to be here looking forward to it.

Brendan:  Yeah this is gonna be a fun conversation Jimmy it's always good to talk to marketers and just get their views and thoughts on the world um for those in our audience who do not know who Jimmy is uh Jimmy is the founder and CEO of superpath um I would love for you Jimmy to give our audience a little bit of background on how you came to start super path and ultimately what is it.

Jimmy:  Cool yeah happy to do that so I uh superpath is a slack community at its core that's what most people know us as over the past couple of years we've built out a handful of lines of business that mostly happen behind the scenes so uh we were on a job board we have a paid membership for folks who want access to courses and more networking opportunities we work with Partners we run a talent Marketplace and as of last week we also run a site called help a B2B which is a Marketplace uh where content writers can go to Source subject matter expertise for articles that they're working on um so that's kind of a whole word dump of stuff right there I started the slack Community about three and a half years ago yeah three yeah three and a half years ago just kind of on a whim uh I noticed a trend of people using slack for more like peer-to-peer type communication I wasn't aware of one for Content marketers so I started one one thing led to another and about a year from starting it I left my job to pursue it full time so that's kind of a whole there's a whole lot there we don't have to unpack all of that but uh yeah I ran into the side  project for a while before diving in.

Brendan:  That's very similar to how we started RevPartners uh so you know sometimes that's a good way to put your toe in see if there's a need or demand for it before you go all in um especially when you have I mean when you have a wife and kids that's usually a good approach although uh some people look at it differently so uh Jimmy I I love kind of the origin story of superpath giving your background in content marketing that's really where we'll go for the big idea but before we do that we have a tradition here at Pit Stops to Podium and that's to get to know our guests outside of work so what are some fun facts that our audience should know about you?

Jimmy:  Uh living in Vail, Colorado um I've lived here about seven years I ski every chance I get um got a wife a little girl and a dog um so it's kind of like home life and then uh my I have a couple Hobbies my number one hobby is trail running though so I'm uh been running trail races and Ultra marathons for the past like five or six years and uh just love doing that um so if I'm not if I'm not working if I'm not with the fam I'm hopefully out on the trails.

Brendan:  What is considered an ultra marathon is there like a certain distance it has to be?

Jimmy:  Technically anything over 26.2 miles falls into the ultra category but it's like that uh however I mean there's like a wide range beyond that.

Brendan:  So what do you do, is there a distance you'd like to hit?

Jimmy:  Um I like I've run a couple hundred miles I love that distance um you know obviously it's very time consuming it's very tiring uh can't do it every year I just don't quite have a bandwidth but like if I had my if I had my choice I would I would do probably probably one a year would be the right amount yeah.

Brendan:  I can't imagine you get much sympathy from your spouse when you are doing uh say you're tired is not probably one that uh your spouse will really uh have any tolerance for when uh there's a baby or a kid at home totally uh well thanks for sharing a little bit that's really really cool to hear um a passion for the outdoors and for families always is always good it's always good for the mind and for your health to have those Outlets um for sure so Jimmy we talked a little bit about you know your background being in content marketing we talked about what you're doing with super path and I think it's you know a relevant topic for a lot of folks in marketing and also really in the demanding category we think about Revenue leadership it's just how do you be you know a red X and a sea of black as it relates to content um the world of marketing is constantly changing SEO is changing uh and so I think there's a big question mark for these content marketers understand how do I differentiate um but maybe walk us through a little bit more before we get into tactics uh what you're observing or seeing is as to why it's a challenge right now in the market?

Jimmy:  Yeah I think the biggest thing that's happened over the past I'll call it five years is that everybody does it like there's a lot of really well-funded companies who have built out uh pretty large content teams and the role of content in many of those organizations has become watered down for lack of a better word ten years ago content marketing was solely a growth Channel and folks doing it were tasked with growing awareness and Page views and then somebody else handles whatever comes after that increasingly content teams are asked to do a lot more so there is a growth mechanism built into it but they may also be supporting product marketing demand gen hopefully they are supporting sales to some degree they might be working with support so the effect of their work is somewhat watered down which means that companies are building larger teams bringing on agencies contractors Etc to run these pretty sophisticated content marketing organizations all of which is fine except that to me the thing that content is so great at is awareness and Page views and that is not happening for most companies as quickly as I think it could mostly just because it's gotten complicated and expensive to run a Content program these days and so for the companies that are standing out a lot of them are they're leaning on a couple things one is just a  very lean approach to content design for growth meaning like small team not getting distracted by you know other parts of the organization asking for things like they are kind of uh set up to drive awareness page views Etc email subscribers maybe and they're left alone to just go and do their thing those companies win I can think of some companies that have like one or maybe two people doing that and are getting really good results especially when you compare it to a large content team that's super watered down expensive to operate and only getting kind of mediocre results in all of the different areas that they end up being responsible for.

Brendan:  Yeah it's interesting so you're saying that some of this is derived from everyone's doing it um and now it's becoming naturally more complex and so how do you solve for it and yeah it sounds what you're saying is because it can be very costly and one way it can be costly is you've upload an organization and so there's like you mentioned the lean model I think you describe as a lone wolf beats a big team um which may be a bit of hot take especially as we're talking like high growth companies that have you know hey we know we need to drive demand so we we have to invest in this area and I think I hear you saying it's not that you shouldn't invest in it's how you invest in it so can you unpack a little bit further in terms of hey if you're thinking through how to build a Content team I imagine there is like hey what do you keep internal and then maybe there's a kind of superpath of the world where you say there there is this other arm where you can find Specialists to help you bridge those gaps so how should these organizations think about that?

Jimmy:  Yeah that's that's a great point I think uh two things come to mind one is that when when content teams get big uh and as a result expensive they usually get that way by accident meaning like somebody say a CMO has started building out a Content team with the intention of using it as a growth Channel but over  devolves into an internal agency where they're actually like sourcing requests from across the company for a variety of different writing needs which means they have less time to spend on growth so I think um for for teams that are currently in that situation or are in the process of growing a team you have to be super mindful of that you have to decide how much of there will always be internal needs sometimes it does make sense for content to chip in on things like um quality control for product marketing's blog posts or something like that you know but you can't let it it's a slippery slope as the content team starts working across other teams you know that tends to create that kind of bloated situation that ends to pretty ineffective uh growth and then the other thing is um you bring up a great point about what should happen in-house and what should happen externally I think that um I think that the perfect situation is that an internal team comes up with a strategy or a strong concept for their own content marketing proves it out and then hires people to help them do it certainly there are situations where you may bring in an agency to help with the conceptualization piece and the strategy piece but in general I think it's it's usually good if you prove it out in-house rather than hiring expensive Consultants to prove it out for you um for a variety of reasons uh there's a lot of absolutely fantastic Freelancers  some of that is a result of layoffs some of it is a result of great resignation which now feels like a decade ago just like a lot of people want to work for themselves these days um so as you as you do need Specialists there's really really good ones out there um I'm personally a big fan of finding individual Freelancers rather than agencies but the you know part of my bias is superpath is a small company so we keep everything pretty lean yeah you know if you're a multi-billion dollar company probably makes sense for you to find a big agency who can deal with that kind of stuff for you.

Brendan:  Yeah I think the first point you were getting at was really around focus and it's like very hard or when you got to be very clear about hey what's content team focusing on because they will get pulled a lot direct that the risk for danger is being pulled and stretched and they're not really focusing on what drives the impact um totally and then I like how you just describe hey what do you keep in house versus outsourced and it almost sounds like hey centralize the strategy function like test it iterate it once you see where there's traction at that point leverage an agency to accelerate those initiatives uh now that you know what's actually working in the market let's move into to kind of the technology side not necessarily like Market automation tools or things of that nature but really this AI is kind of a buzzword and almost every facet of business but it certainly applies into the content marketing side so um where do you see its role um AI specifically within content marketing um in terms of a value-add or or the opposite where it can actually have unintended consequences that are not positive?

Jimmy:  Um interesting yeah I feel like uh AI is a lot of the companies in this space like writer comes to mind Jasper copy AI like these are prominent companies in the content space who have ai tools and I think all of them are slowly undoing a bad reputation that AI developed amongst content marketers where I think the initial thought was you know give it a keyword and it'll write an SEO blog post done but those suck and everyone realized that sucks really quickly and so uh I think most people now are are kind of struggling to kind of reopen their minds to how AI could actually be helping them uh the ways that I see it really helping are filling in gaps where uh human hours and creativity are not particularly needed as an example um I've seen companies rewriting meta descriptions for SEO across hundreds of blog posts like having a person do that is a waste of time having AI do it takes 10 minutes you know other things like testing copy variations AI is really good at coming up with dozens or even hundreds of copy variations if you're running ads or putting ctas in an email that type of thing um and then increasingly for Content that uh can be created based off of a template and most companies do create some templateized content I'm thinking of things like press releases even ultimate guys which is a thing a lot of companies do are largely templated because the SEO best practices are so set and stone on those things you can get a pretty long way using AI to create those pieces and then have a person come in and fix them up later I think that I don't know five five-ish years from now like most companies that get past a series a stage are probably going to have someone on their team who's like the content strategist content AI strategist I don't know what that title is going to be but like their job is going to be to train and run the AI and then for companies who are getting themselves into trouble it's just because they'rethey're trying to  they're asking too much of it right now right like the only way AI works for Content marketers with excellent input that's the only way you get great output and so if you're lazy about it and you give it one keyword and say write a two thousand word blog post the product the end result is going to be junk um so I think most of what's happened is just people being sort of lazy and uh you know trying to get quick wins out of it when really like like can it help can it help efficiency can it help output absolutely but it does require a significant a moderate uh upfront investment of time.

Brendan:  Yeah so have realistic expectations of what AI can actually do for you and to your point the efficiency of these manual burdensome tasks um it's a great solution for but where it requires I think of the customer experience and like where it requires a brain um don't don't assume that can replace a human yet for those functions within content uh that's great I like that um and so you already alluded to some of those areas where it can help uh some of the tools are associated with that uh let's move into to the last topic um as we think about content marketing and how you can differentiate and that I think you can speak to this pretty well is really around the community concept and so what role can a community play to make you better at content marketing and to have you know kind of not only just differentiate But ultimately resonate with with the market so from your experience obviously be successful.

Jimmy:  Yeah that's such a good question this is such a rabbit hole and I will do my very best to be concise so for context superpath is Community we are not associated with a SAS brand I think there's a lot of opportunity for SaaS brands in particular to either build their own communities um or partner with existing independent communities that reach their target users um there's what I found is that when a community hits a certain critical mass it mostly runs itself and there's so much information passing from one person to the next every single day that  content creation becomes just like low-hanging fruit you know for example like we have a Content Marketing Manager on our team and each week she goes through our own slack Community finds the most interesting conversations and then pitches me on ideas for our  based on the things that are resonating most already right so like other other people like our community is basically telling us exactly what they want to learn more about and then we can take those ideas sometimes we actually repurpose conversations as user generated content which I think is we haven't totally figured that out but I think there's probably something there uh for some companies to do um but we will absolutely go to the people who leave the best answers ask them for quotes include them in articles you know and then when it comes time to distribute that content we're tagging to people who asked the question who uh chipped in to help us get the article written it creates this like really nice feedback loop where yeahum people want  answers uh to some degree they get them from their peers and then we take it to the next level with like additional research and data uh and Reporting and then bring them back these like kind of really comprehensive uh pieces of content that help answer thosequestions and that's just one way you know like uh I could imagine actually I and I know of companies who use their own communities as um almost like training for their sales teams because like here's a bunch of your prospects whether they've opted in you know for sales calls or trials or whatever yet it almost doesn't matter because you can learn so much from watching these folks interact and seeing what they talk about and what problems they have and it really creates a lot of fodder for the time when the sales call actually it does happen you know yeah whether you're speaking to the individual who like left those comments in your community or not like a lot of these people have the exact same problems and um uh kind of giving them a space to talk about them is just incredibly informative.

Brendan:  Yeah I like that the first kind of Point you're talking about ideation and ultimately how do you amplify the message uh which is smart like recognize the people but also tag them so that they then distribute to their Network so there's that Network effect uh that you were just describing and then kind of the real time training to take it from like keyword like searches to like actual humans that really wanted to talk about that problem and so you have a very much a captive audience and it kind of gets into that whole dark funnel kind of concept that marketing is trying to solve for um yeah like you're actually that that is the person searching in a very different way than organic it's in a community with a very specific need and leveraging that  Community versus doing organic search so it seems to be kind of next wave of where people are going for information um totally Jimmy this is really I think this is great just to learn a little bit more about what you're seeing from a Content marketing perspective if our audience wants to engage with you or ultimately with superpath what are some next steps they can take?

Jimmy:  Yeah for sure a few things is the site you'll find all of our stuff there um there's just a live Community blog we're launching a podcast in January um you'll also find a link to help a B2B writer which actually for folks who are looking for PR and or link building opportunities basically a place where you know if you're a revenue uh let's say you're a leader of a RevOps team like if you want to respond to queries you will absolutely get mentions and backlinks so it's kind of like a nice way uh to get some mentions for your company and then if you want to join the community you're welcome to there's an application form to fill out and uh in general we welcome everybody The Form is just to try to keep spammers out but uh happy to have everybody.

Brendan:  Well Jimmy thanks so much for stopping by I'm sure our community will will have to look into this I think it's a tremendous value-added uh I want to call it asset but just resource and ultimately relationships and communities I think what's the tagline for the community I think has it how do you phrase it?

Jimmy:  It's come for the community, stay for the camaraderie.

Brendan:  There you go uh and so that that I think it's a great line um so there's the relationship component to it too so uh Jimmy thanks so much really do appreciate it and we look forward to staying in touch.

Jimmy:  Cool thanks friend take care.

Brendan:  All right see ya

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