(Re)Sessions 3: How to Use Content Partnerships to Your Advantage with Devin Bramhall
Devin Bramhall: There're no formulas and nothing's behaving, no one in the world, nothing. There's uncertainty, behavior's all changing. Nothing that was is anymore and you have to pivot all the time right now and so it's like, that's woof. You have less resources because everybody's getting canned.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes.
Devin Bramhall: So it's like you said, do more with less.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to Casted Amplified Marketing Podcast. This is the third episode of The Recessions, a limited four part series empowering you to think differently about your marketing no matter the size of your budget or where in the world we are in this economy. We're going to cover things like how marketers adapted during past downturns, so that you can future- proof your company. What creative ideas can you implement that help both brand and demand thrive, and how can Amplified Marketing help you do more with less when you're always being asked to do more with less? Am I right? I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted. I'm the first and only Amplified Marketing platform. We're built just for you, B2B marketers. In this episode of The Recessions, I spoke with Devin Bramhall, the former CEO of Animalz, a content marketing agency for B2B SAS companies like Amazon, Google, Zendesk and lots of others. We talked through what she's seeing in the tech space and how marketing teams can establish their value prop and stand out from the crowd, and what to do with a limited budget, now more than ever. But first, take a deep breath. Before getting into the nitty gritty with Devin of how we can overcome the economic downturn and strengthen our marketing strategy for what happens when we emerge, let's just take a quick step back, shall we? This has been a hard year for you, for your team, for your company, for your brand. If you're lucky to be all together still, just thank each teammate for rallying and weathering the storm, truly. There may be more ahead, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate what you've already done. There's a lot of pressure because everybody feels it as a human because it's happening to us as human beings, to us and to our teams that we're part of and that we're leading. It's happening to our business, and our businesses are taking a hit on revenue or bracing to take a hit on revenue, and also our customers. And so when you're speaking out on behalf of your brand and you're taking to social media or you're recording a podcast, it's like, I don't want to be tone deaf, I want to be sensitive, I want to be relevant, I want to cut through the noise. I don't want to yell into a void. It feels like it's coming at a marketer from every angle, the human, the professional, and the voice of the brand.
Devin Bramhall: Yeah. And I feel like the knee jerk reaction a lot of times when there's so much overload is like, okay, get really focused, get really tactical with your marketing plans. But I also feel like that can be a little bit shortsighted.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes. I had this conversation this morning. Yeah.
Devin Bramhall: And so it's hard. I think the hard thing is, I don't know if I have the answer because A, I don't think there is one answer for every business, but that's something that in my brain I've been trying to balance. When fear and uncertainty exist, you want certainty, Certainty tactics in marketing are very bottom line and go away from things like brand, community, connection. But those are all things the world kind of wants right now. So it's like, do people just err on the side of this is the thing I can measure so I'm going to keep doing this, but I'm like, is that working though?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Devin Bramhall: Does that really make any difference?
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's interesting, because this is relevant to this series, which is why we're having this conversation. But literally I had this conversation this morning about a marketing strategy that we were talking about and it was like, well I think that they really need to just focus on essentially it's not how we were referring to it, but essentially an ABM approach or is it brand or do they double down on this tactic that they know is going to work? And I'm like, yes, all of the things, because if you're too shortsighted, you might solve the problem for Q3, but what about Q4? Then you're going to be right back where you are. A common theme from content marketers that we've heard throughout the last few months is layoffs and budget cuts. So the big question is how to do more with even less. But Devin frames the problem in a slightly different way. How can we instead think about being more efficient with our time and energy instead of cutting the whole marketing tactics from the larger strategy altogether?
Devin Bramhall: I would say the objective for me at Animalz, and the question that I'm focused on right now, is how to make us an indispensable part of whatever company's team stack, whatever. I think that's really important for us and I think that that's a good way to think about your positioning, as a company, is to really go back to that value prop, and really double down on that, and make sure it's pure. Because I think that is really helpful for the marketers themselves. I hate to say it, but efficiency is really important here.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It is.
Devin Bramhall: The good news is there's a lot of stuff, I don't know, I feel like it's sexier to talk about net new ideas and big campaigns, but when I was at Help Scout, I was tasked with growing traffic by, I don't know, 120, 000 unique visitors a month in six months, and I did some flashy stuff and I'm very proud of it. The thing that moved the needle was refreshing some of our top posts because they were on really big keywords. I now take issue, I actually now would probably argue against that strategy and say that it was vanity traffic. They were really high volume keywords that were relevant but didn't bring in the highest quality traffic, so I'd probably argue again, but it's a good example of something that's not sexy, having a really high impact and a lot less effort because you're updating those images, you're updating the information, you're making sure it's optimized sort of format. Because these posts were years old, so format and forms change, et cetera. And also it gives you energy.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Is that-
Devin Bramhall: I remember I was like," Oh cool, results," while I was focusing my creative brand thing. And I think that's how you get to that combination you were talking about a minute ago where instead of saying what whole things do we need to cut, knowing that marketing is a pie that kind of needs a few different slices, what if you just made a smaller pie? What if instead of an eight inch round, it was like a four inch round, and you thought really strategically about how the fewer things that you do work together, almost support each other in a really succinct way. So okay, an example is you're going to refresh this post and you're going to come up with a redistribution plan, and you're going to make it into a video, and you're going to make that video into a bunch of different clips to help promote the new post. You do a relaunch of the post. People haven't seen it. If it's old, you're refreshing, it's old.
Lindsay Tjepkema: You can do amplified marketing with existing content. You don't have to create a new thing and then ring that out. One thing, because we just launched playlists and you don't have to have Casted to do playlists, but it's a fun idea to say, okay, what if you took bunch of stuff that you have, if you're doing shows, you're doing podcasts like this, take a bunch of the podcasts and put them together into, I'm going to say I think it was Drift. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry if it wasn't Drift. I think that they did a blog post. I think it was around Women's Month and they highlighted a bunch of their guests and a bunch of their episodes with women that they had interviewed over the years. They were all existing, they didn't have to record a new show. They wrote a blog post and it was a good blog post. It wasn't a summary post. It was like," Hey, it's women's month. Here's some really great conversations that we've had with really strong women that are really inspiring, have had it." And they embedded it into a blog and I don't know, but I bet it got a lot of traffic and then they were able to send people to it, and generate traffic, and highlight some strong voices. I mean that's creativity. Creativity doesn't mean what net new thing am I going to make? And actually that is net new. That's a new thing that didn't exist before based on things it did. It's repurposing finished products as ingredients of something new.
Devin Bramhall: Yes. That to me there's more brilliance in that in a lot of ways, or it's a different type of brilliance, I guess. There's no reason to compare it from a value standpoint. There's a different type of brilliance that I think doesn't get enough air time.
Lindsay Tjepkema: In this next segment. Devin floats the idea of experimentation. Most of your competitors are cutting back on their content marketing, reducing their ad spend, and trimming staff. So while your resources may be slimming too, and there may not be a ton that you can do about that, how can you get creative? Position to downturn is an opportunity to stand out and to take advantage of the situation. So I'm thinking partnerships, collaborations, performance marketing. It's really time to get creative, which I think is great.
Devin Bramhall: I also think that this is a really, talk about community. This is the perfect time to partner with other companies. Happen to other audiences by making friends and helping each other out. We're doing that right now. We've been working with this company Superside and we've been doing webinars with them. They reached out to us and we're like, actually you're very complimentary to us because they're more design, and so it's like, it's been great because we're both helpful to each other.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Right.
Devin Bramhall: And gosh, we've got time. I think that's another thing that you can do where it's these webinars, content partnerships, I guess I would call them.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I mean, hello, you're here and things like this. I mean conversations like this and a lot of conversations that I've had this have turned into," Oh my gosh, we're going to do something like that too. Do you want to partner on that recording, on that white paper, on that event, on that idea?" And it doesn't have to be a sponsorship, it doesn't have to be something you pay for. It can literally be, you know what, I need to do this thing, you need to do this thing, and you mentioned something really important, which is overlapping audiences. We're talking to the same people and we can actually expand each other's audiences by talking to those people together and offering them something that together, you talked about design, here's two parts of the same story that it's better together, and that serves both and it becomes a team project at that point and becomes a lot easier to lift.
Devin Bramhall: I do think though, to make those effective, I think it's important to connect those dots for people. So one additional layer of strategy that I wish I had done more of when I was actually doing marketing more, was instead of just taking those partnerships to another level and having some kind of offer between those two, it was always like," oh, we can market to each other's audiences." But if you're getting really smart enough with complimentary services or products, you can take it to another level of buying that's a little more intentional to experiment with. But another thing I think that for this is a very now thing is different types of content. I feel like video is one that can just be repurposed in so many different ways.
Lindsay Tjepkema: In so many ways.
Devin Bramhall: Yeah. YouTube is its own search platform now.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's the second largest search engine in the world.
Devin Bramhall: Yep, and especially when you start to think about how all the time you used to spend trying to get traffic to content from Twitter and LinkedIn and such, organically. I think on the paid side it's a totally different ballgame. And I actually think that people should be investing in performance marketing right now. I know there's diminishing returns, but I actually think that that's the perfect thing to do for a short period of time when you need a shot in the arm. Okay, fine. If it's your whole strategy, you've got a problem. But again, knowing that marketing is up high, adding that performance marketing slice, I think boosts your overall. And we're actually running some experiments with some other companies, or with and another company, to see how we can offer that to our customers.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Oh cool.
Devin Bramhall: And I think that's the other thing. It's like, okay, fine. You can't rule anything out. You have to consider everything before narrowing down. And I think this is a good time to add. If I were a company right now, I would be adding at least one small experiment to every quarter.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yep. There you go. That's a good idea.
Devin Bramhall: Because guess what? Recession isn't always a nightmare for every company. This is an opportunity, and I think if people get caught up in the fear response first. Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. If you can just relax, which I know it was crazy. It's crazy for me to say.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Chill out.
Devin Bramhall: I'm saying this to myself and I'm like," It's not the most fun time to run a company right now." But it's like if you could take a deep breath and say," Okay, think about things opportunistically," I think you can find more opportunity and more creative solutions and maybe you end up winning more than other people.
Lindsay Tjepkema: We as marketers are so accustomed to running a million miles per hour and during a recession it's even more so. So I go on a bit of an impassioned pump log here to say that it's okay to think, it's okay to set out an hour or two or a half day or whatever you need each week or each month, whatever you need to really think about your craft. So you need to strategize about your place in the industry. You need to contemplate where your art can create helpful situations for more people and attract even more leads and build a bigger audience and a better business. When you are under stress and you are facing a whole lot of fear and uncertainty, what are the first two things to go? Creativity and your connection with other people, right?
Devin Bramhall: Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: You go heads down. And even if you are talking to other people, you're talking to other people about how stressed you are and not really truly connecting and marketers, your whole job is connecting, is creating connections. And if you are under stress and under pressure and you're moving too fast, it's virtually impossible to be creative. And so to your point, you've got to slow down, you've got to chill out, and you've got to take a minute to think critically, think strategically, think creatively. That's when you can actually produce great art and then say," Okay, now what we're going to do with it?" You can then say," Okay, who is this for? Why are we doing it? Who is this audience? What's going to resonate with them? What are we trying to achieve? How are we going to cut through the noise?" If we get to create one thing, if we can record one podcast, how are we going to do it right? How's it going to be the best conversation ever? How are we going to take more time than we probably should to record one podcast and capture the fricking video too, and then really think about how we're going to ring it out, how we're going to get super crafty and super creative. Use what we already have. Because that's when you make a difference and that doesn't cost as much, and that doesn't require as much effort as far as time, and money, and resources. You have to use those resources wisely and I think and hope that if everybody, those who get that mindset now are going to be so much healthier, mentally healthier human beings, and also their brands are going to be a lot stronger because they're going to have that muscle, they're going to have that discipline of no, no, no, no. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Devin Bramhall: That's what my coach says.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's what my co- founder says all the time. I don't know, he says it.
Devin Bramhall: I don't fully understand it, but every time I hear it it relaxes me. So I'm like, this is fine. No, I think that's-
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's what people say to us. Apparently, that's what our people in our life say to us because it calms us down.
Devin Bramhall: Yeah. I don't even, it's fine. There was a time when I talked about everything being a mini campaign. So you start with an idea and in the past I would've called that idea a blog post title. I'm going to write a blog post about X. Right? Hear why I'm on this queue or whatever it is. Or it's because of this thought leadership or whatever. What if, instead of thinking about it, anything, any form, you were like," This topic is really important to my audience. I want to help my audience understand that topic, master that topic, use that topic to their benefit." Okay. It's just an idea. That's all it is. Then you're like," How does my audience consume around this topic?"
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes.
Devin Bramhall: Is it better as a video because eventually it's going to be a written blog post. That's just the way we work.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Devin Bramhall: And to me, a blog post these days are really more like a library. It's like your stack of Encyclopedia Britannica. They need to be there, got to have them, but it's not the be all end all anymore.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes. It used to be where you start and it was like, let's start with this post and let's ring out this post. And now that's this rally cry that I have of like, no, no, no, that it's great. Blog posts are great. I don't have anything against blog posts, but it should be a piece, it should be something that happens because not something that happens to. It should be a byproduct of a great conversation.
Devin Bramhall: Yes. And a great idea. Yeah, I think so. I think if people can start from that mindset, all the repurposing, everything else becomes automatic. It's not like," Oh, I'm thinking about how to repurpose content." It's like, no, you start with repurposing.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah.
Devin Bramhall: You're like," I have an idea and I want to think about how I want to spread that idea to my audience and hopefully find some new audience members in the process."
Lindsay Tjepkema: When you've defined your ideal customer persona, you're bound to turn people away who aren't quite the perfect fit for your services, and that's okay. Instead of sending them away with their head between their legs, you have an opportunity to strengthen that relationship, and getting brownie points, by referring them to an even better fit organization in your community. It's the power of community. No matter how it ends up working out for you or for somebody else who might be in that community with you. Both the customer and the competitor will appreciate you for extending that olive branch and helping in a way that most others won't. Most human person wins. And you know what? Competitor isn't actually the right word because you're not competing with someone down the street who sells widgets to a different ideal customer persona than you. Even if that widget is the same as your product or service, it's really all about shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance one. Do not get hung up on a scarcity mindset or a fear mindset. I think this is one of the themes of this conversation. It's like whatever you do, slow down, get creative, and prioritize creativity and connection. Because if you're connected with others and you're talking to people that would be very easy to be afraid of and assume that they're going to get all the business. They're going to get all the business, all the customers that want to spend money right now, they're going to go there and they're not going to come here because I didn't write the blog post the right way. When instead, if you take a minute and you think about what you do best, and you think about your differentiators and your value props, and you connect with other people that can help you or that you can help, it's going to be better and just hang in there.
Devin Bramhall: Bravery. It's one of our values at Animalz and it comes up. Bravery, if I were to liken it to our values, which I always think in that mindset, so forgive me, but bravery, curiosity, and brilliance. And in our definition of brilliance, it's not about intelligence or whatever. Brilliance to us is a diversity of ideas, and perspectives, and background, and so it's baked into our definition of brilliance is community.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love that.
Devin Bramhall: So it kind of encapsulates the creativity and community that you're talking about, which if you marry it with curiosity, because curiosity takes bravery.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes, it does.
Devin Bramhall: In times like this, right?
Lindsay Tjepkema: I know. And community.
Devin Bramhall: Yep. And so it's like, I think those three things, if you can deploy all three, you end up coming through this. You're the person that's telling the TED Talk after this. That's who you are.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It's true. I love that. I love that. I think, and I hope that people listening and watching today feel seen and feel equipped with some ideas and feel inspired because we got this.
Devin Bramhall: Yeah. It's going to be fine.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So Devin, thank you.
Devin Bramhall: inaudible Lindsay.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Where can people find you?
Devin Bramhall: Animalz.co and I would say search for the Content Marketing Podcast on Apple Podcasts because we're relaunching it in September. Lindsay was responsible for sending us the amazing podcast production company, Share Your Genius. They've been awesome. Thank you so much for that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Which is part of the series as well.
Devin Bramhall: Yeah, they were awesome. We've already started working with them. I love it so much. And again, we're spending money during a recession when we are not performing the way we planned and we're doubling down on adding value by increasing the value of our podcast. Thank to you, Lindsay.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There you have it. That's how it's done. That's how it works because of creativity and connection. Bravery, curiosity, brilliance. Thanks to Devon Bramhall for a joining us and sharing her unique perspective on the content marketing world. She's a former CEO of Animalz, a content marketing agency for B2B SAS companies, and actually pointed out you can find out more at animalz. co or their content marketing podcast on Apple Podcasts starting later this month. So stay tuned for the final episode of Recessions when we sit down with the co- founder of StudioPod, Julian Lewis. You won't want to miss this one. Thanks for joining us.
Casted CEO Lindsay Tjepkema and she discuss what marketers can do during a recession to be efficient yet creative.
Tune into this episode of (Re)Sessions to learn how to create and use content partnerships to your advantage, how to experiment and get creative during a recession, and why moving slow and smooth is smart.