- Content is at the heart of most marketing strategies
- You need to be clear on what your business is best equipped to do and for whom you’re equipped to do it
Join us in this episode as we sit down with Lauren McGaha O’Brien, the Chief Strategy Officer at Newfangled. Newfangled is a renowned agency specializing in top-notch marketing solutions for digital agencies. With her extensive expertise as the Chief Strategy Officer, Lauren plays a pivotal role in shaping Newfangled’s dynamic and innovative digital marketing strategies for both short and long-term success.
As the visionary leader behind Newfangled’s content marketing team, Lauren invests most of her time in guiding and empowering them to deliver exceptional results. Beyond the borders of her agency, she collaborates with various creative services firms, digital shops, marketing agencies, and industry professionals to help them revolutionize their digital marketing practices.
Content is at the heart of most marketing strategies. If you don’t have something of import to say, then any channel you choose to leverage — whether it’s the site, email marketing, or social media — will fall flat if there is no content and messaging strategy to support them.
One of Lauren’s key areas of focus lies in helping clients clarify their unique positioning in the competitive market landscape. With her invaluable insights, she brings clarity and purpose to their brand narratives, enabling them to stand out from the crowd and connect with their target audience on a deeper level.
In addition to positioning, Lauren also places great emphasis on long-term marketing strategies. She understands that true success lies beyond the acquisition of customers — it lies in crafting a cohesive and enduring marketing approach that resonates with potential customers over time. Lauren’s expertise enables her clients to navigate the complexities of effective communication, making sure their messages are compelling, persuasive, and capable of inspiring action.
When it comes to your marketing strategy, you always have to think about the ideal future for your business — what are you best equipped to be doing now? What are you best equipped to do in the future, and how does your content strategy support your marketing strategy?
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. Every episode we explore content, its creation, management, and distribution by talking with the people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build content-first websites for universities, nonprofits, and publishers. Today, I’m joined by Lauren McGaha, Chief Content Officer at Newfangled, to talk about content marketing, expertise-based marketing, and marketing for marketers. Welcome to The Future of Content, Lauren.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Thanks. It’s great to be here, Todd.
Todd Nienkerk: So, full disclosure, we work together at Four Kitchens. Newfangled is our content marketing agency and we are super happy with our relationship and it’s been extremely successful. And in fact, it’s that success in that process that got me interested in how you do all of this — the world of content marketing, the world of marketing for marketers — because Newfangled specializes in marketing for other digital agencies, which is a very interesting niche. And of course, Newfangled is always pushing the necessity of finding a niche being very narrow. And that’s something that you’ve done yourself as well. And I find that fascinating. So welcome.
I think what would be useful for folks just off the top is if you could tell us a little bit more about Newfangled than I have. Maybe I’ve stolen all your thunder. Maybe there’s a little bit left. If you could tell us a little bit more about Newfangled and what your role is there.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Sure. Yeah. Newfangled. I describe this as a digital marketing consultancy, although we do have a pretty strong emphasis in the world of content marketing. So it’s not incorrect to describe this as a content marketing firm. Really, what we do is work with primarily creative services firms, digital shops, other marketing firms, other marketers to get their digital marketing house in order for themselves. A lot of these businesses have become quite skilled at marketing their clients’ businesses, but most of the time those businesses are quite different than running a small to midsize marketing shop. So that’s our niche. We do a lot of work in the content marketing space. We also specialize in paid media marketing, email marketing. Got a lot of thoughts on how the website itself needs to be architected and designed in order to foster a prospect experience that’s going to lead to lead generation and true business development. So that’s in a nutshell what we do as the head of content, as the Chief Content Officer, my role is to oversee the content division at Newfangled. So I created our content, the content marketing wing of our business, which comprises two subdivisions. So we’ve got content strategists and we also have content writers. Part of that group, the content strategist, their job is to work with our clients to hone in on the messaging, hone in on the target that we’re trying to go after within our clients’ market focus, and to help our clients find the right point of view that’s going to resonate with those people as they progress through their respective stages of the buying cycle and create content to meet them where they are in their purchasing journey. That’s what a lot of our content strategists spend time on. Our content writers do what that sounds like, right? They do a lot of writing for our clients. They do a lot of interviewing to help extract our client’s smartest thinking and then get it into a cogent argument on the page that is going to be persuasive and compelling to the target.
Todd Nienkerk: It’s interesting, your correction of my description is important and also reveals maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s other people, too. Some confusion about, like, well, okay, what is content marketing as opposed to marketing and how thinly can you slice this?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Content is at the heart of most marketing strategies. If you don’t have something of import to say, then any channel you choose to leverage, whether it’s the site or email marketing or social media, paid media, all of those things are going to fall flat if you don’t have a content strategy and a messaging strategy to support them. So in some ways, you could say that there is no marketing without content. That being said, our specialty is not only focused on designing that message but then applying it in the right kind of context and choosing the right channel to amplify it at the right time.
Todd Nienkerk: And what would some examples of those channels be with those be? Newsletters, blogs, case studies, stuff like that.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Yeah, stuff like that. But I think what I find with a lot of firms is there are so many options available to marketers today to get their voice heard and to get their message out there. It’s hard to know what the order of operation needs, what the order of operations is, and what’s appropriate for where you are in your marketing maturity. Because a lot of firms really just want to tackle it all at once. So, you know, there are newsletters, there are blogs, you’ve got the site, you have so many options available to you to get your message out there. I think one of the biggest challenges in working with marketers specifically who is well aware of all of the options, is helping them to decide and to prioritize where to go first.
Todd Nienkerk: And is that concept of marketing maturity?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Yeah. That’s how I think about it in that there’s yeah. There’s an order of operations to this, meaning that it’s important to spend time tackling the basics before you advance to the next stage of marketing.
Todd Nienkirk: What would an example of a basic step be? Or maybe what might illustrate that even better is like, what’s something that people try to jump into too soon and maybe they skip a step or they get ahead of themselves?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Yeah, well, I think the fundamentals of how content marketing is defined for a lot of marketers speaks to this because a lot of people come in and they want to hit the ground running with developing loads of content about their point of view on something, but they don’t actually have their positioning ironed out at all. So they struggle to —
Todd Nienkerk: So how can you know their point of view if you don’t know where they’re coming from?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Exactly. Exactly. And positioning decisions are really tricky. In many ways. It’s the hardest decision you’re going to make about your business. But until you have clarity on what it is that you are best equipped to do and for whom you’re equipped to do it, you’re not going to have a compelling point of view that anybody is going to remember. And that’s a big challenge in content marketing today because the landscape is really crowded. There are a lot of people out there, quote-unquote, doing content marketing. They’re writing and they’re publishing, but it’s getting lost in the ether because it’s just, it’s noisy. It’s noisy out there. And so for it to break through that noise, you first have to identify who it is that you’re best suited to talk to, and what’s your most relevant point of view on the things that they care about? Does that make sense?
Todd Nienkerk: It totally does. I’m, for those who can’t see, I’m thoughtful because I’m being reminded of our own experience and making exactly these mistakes for years and years and years. It took me way too long, for example, to realize the idea of positioning, which I think, well, I’ll speak from my personal experience. What I first thought that that meant was how you say what you do. But positioning is actually what you do. And you have to, when thinking about the reason, I assume why you say it’s the most important thing about the business is you’re actually deciding what you’re going to do as a business. You know, do you sell shoes? Do you make signs like these? These are all aspects of positioning. It’s not simply saying, “I make shoes.” It’s deciding that you are going to make shoes. And then for whom and what in particular? And is it geographic or is it industry-based or whatever? And that just took us far too long to really realize and we just allowed our business to be kind of blown in the wind for many years. You know, whatever kind of work came our way and seemed like something we could do or was interesting. We would do that, but we weren’t. We weren’t really trying to find a particular kind of business or to stand out in the noise by being the specialists and the obvious choice to do A, B, and C and not a good candidate to do A through Z.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Well, it’s really hard to do. It’s an exercise in saying no at the appropriate time, while also balancing the reality that you have to keep the lights on, you know, and from a marketing standpoint. It’s about what you’re being intentional about chasing. You know, you might have business come through your doors through any number of channels. But when it’s thinking about your marketing strategy, you’re always thinking about what’s the ideal future for this business? What are we best equipped to be doing now and in the future? And how do we chase that with intention? And how do all of our marketing decisions support that, despite the fact that maybe, yeah, we need to accept this work that falls outside of that position because we, we need to keep the lights on. We need to make payroll and all of those very real business realities. But from a marketing strategy standpoint, positioning is the foundation of all of it until you have that clear. It’s impossible to have a profound point of view on a subject that’s actually going to resonate with the people in that target. And it takes some courage to know that that point of view might not resonate with people outside of that target. You know, it might go over their heads or they might disagree with it. Or it might just; it might come across as downright provocative to some people. It just. And that has to be okay.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. And even more to the point that your point of view or your perspective, even within that niche that you’ve decided to hone in on, maybe you’re going to say something that some of those people well within your target will disagree with. But the thing that I’ve learned, at least I’m, maybe I’m beating you to the punch, is that people really appreciate a perspective. And if they see that you have a perspective and it’s well-articulated and they disagree with it, that’s okay. Maybe they won’t choose you as a result. But the people who do agree with that point of view, they stop looking. Because they realize these people get it. This agency is the obvious choice for me. This business is where I want, to spend my money. And these are the people I want to partner with.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Absolutely. And sometimes those conversations can happen with the people who disagree with you, too. It’s about having a perspective. And I meet a lot of firms who are, they got the best of intentions because they are trying to put a more generic point of view out there in an effort to attract as many people as possible and in an effort to avoid alienating people. But what that means is that the substance of what they’re saying is diluted. And I’ve experienced this in our own business, and I’ve talked to my own clients about it. There have been plenty of opportunities or plenty of times where somebody puts a really strong point of view out there. And even the people in the market, maybe there’s a certain subset of that market that doesn’t quite either understand it or agree with it. But it leads to an interesting conversation and an exchange of ideas, and sometimes to business, because it’s that prospect’s opportunity to realize that there’s a different way of approaching a problem. It illuminates knowledge gaps that perhaps they didn’t realize they had. And now they’re looking at you as an expert who can build those knowledge gaps, but who can lead them to the next stage of evolution for their business. But it takes courage to go there in the first place.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, absolutely. Expanding again on the idea of marketing, maturity, and tackling ideas all at once. What are some things that you found with your maybe more, I hate to put it this way, but like maybe more successful clients, meaning those that are are maybe more self-aware about this. What are some of their traits? What are the things that you find to make them more self-aware about their level of marketing maturity and what they’re able to do at any given time and are able to focus on as opposed to just trying to do lots of things all at once with no particular focused effort.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Well, beyond that initial positioning decision, because that does come first, the most successful clients are the ones who know who they are and know who they’re serving. Beyond that, they are very clear on the messaging in what I think of as the positioning focus areas of their website before they start to tackle the stuff that’s more of a revolving door of content — meaning that they’re crystal clear about that positioning on the home page, on their service detail pages. They’ve got case studies to back up the work that they’ve done. So the vast majority of the traffic that would arrive at their website is super clear on who this firm is. They’re not shying away from that. It’s very clear what they’ve accomplished for other clients. They lean into that all over the site and then beyond. Once those areas of the website are perfected, then they’re able to put a focused, concerted effort into what we think of as a classic content strategy, where they’re producing thoughtful long-form content about what they know. They’re able to put a concerted effort toward multimedia aspects in their content strategy so they can engage different styles of prospects. They’re able to expand beyond the confines of their website, into the channels of paid media marketing or building up a nurturing program through their email marketing strategy, things like that because they’ve started with the foundation of having the basics of their house in order on the site.
Todd Nienkerk: Expertise is something that I’ve heard your team emphasize a lot and something that we found difficult prior to and maybe in the early days of partnering with Newfangled. Back when we were kind of doing this on our own, we knew that content marketing was important and we knew that we should be publishing content that highlights our expertise and that has a point of view and things like that. But the stumbling block that we consistently hit was there were two things. One. A lot of these experts aren’t necessarily writers or good video hosts or webinar presenters or whatever. And when I say good, I don’t mean like, I am not playing on that trope of like engineers somehow being like introverted social misfits, nothing like that. Just that not everybody is really into writing. Not a lot of people can do that easily, or even with any kind of efficiency. And it just feels like this is so hard and it takes you days and days to write a blog post. And so there’s that, that kind of feeling. And I used to be a writer and editor, and I have that training and I have that experience. And for me, it takes hours and hours to write. It doesn’t come easily at all. It’s the kind of thing you have to constantly be working at. It’s a skill, like anything else. But the other stumbling block that we kept hitting was people just didn’t know what to write about. And I found myself coaching them a lot on, well, what’s something that, like clients have asked you a few times, you know? And usually, it’s simple stuff. For example, we build a lot of websites in Drupal. One of our engineers years ago wrote a blog post about how to create custom blocks in Drupal. And blocks are just like things you put in the sidebar of a website and this engineer was relatively new to Drupal. So they had this perspective of somebody being kind of new. And so this is something that they had to learn, and they learned kind of recently. So it was fresh to them and seemed interesting and new to them. They wrote this article and, for no kidding, like a decade, that was the most-read piece of content on our website, and in the end, it had very little to do with what we were doing, like services-wise. It wasn’t really doing us any favors in terms of lead generation. But it was the most popular piece of content that we ever published, and it was the kind of content that almost any other Drupal developer would roll their eyes at if they ever saw it on a company blog. Because it’s like, you know, how to sing the ABCs. Like, sure, this is the silliest thing. So, trying to get people to realize, look, the thing that’s interesting to other people is stuff that you’re probably going to find to be so basic or so easy or so boring that you almost don’t even want to write about it or you don’t even want to talk about it. But you have to really put yourself in the shoes of somebody who isn’t a 15-year expert in content, content management systems, and web development, and all of that. So how do you go about clearing these stumbling blocks with your clients?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: You’re touching on so many things that we coach our clients through day in and day out. One of the things you’re describing is the curse of knowledge, right? Have you heard this? So the curse of knowledge is that because you know something and you know it well, you assume that everyone else does, too. Regardless of your background and your expertise and the steps along your path that led to you being an expert in that thing, it’s actually quite simple to disregard that and forget to forget. And a lot of our clients suffer from this. They think they have nothing new to say because they’re getting caught up in their own narrative and what they know, and they’re looking for a way to position it so that it’s new and interesting to themselves. And that can trip you up. So your prompt to your teammate was to think about what questions you might be hearing from your client. And that speaks to step one of this process, which is to have clarity on who it is you’re talking to and to start there. Start with what you know, to be true for them, what you’ve experienced for that person, putting your own marketing or sales objectives to the side. That’s a tricky thing to do. As marketers, it’s really easy to get blinded by our own marketing objectives or the pressure we’re feeling to sell a certain service or to land a new client, or to expand our awareness, or maybe to build up credibility in a new positioning, whatever it is. We as marketers might be feeling some pressure there. And if we fall prey to that pressure, it’s quite human to lead with, hey, we’re really good at this thing, or we’ve got awards in this category, or we just onboarded this new hotshot employee — let’s talk to you about their capabilities as opposed to thinking first about what does this reader really need to know? What are they asking themselves to deal with their own pressures and complexity in their work? That’s step one, is identifying what those pressures are. Complexities are for the target market. And then because the other thing you describe here is, okay, we actually had a really successful piece of content that didn’t exactly align with what we do for a living. But, hey, it got a lot of engagement. The first step is understanding where your prospects are. But the second step is then aligning those areas of interest or challenge or complexity with where you have core competencies as a business or with what you get paid to do for a living. And it’s the intersection of those things, what your prospects care about, and where you hold expertise. That’s where the gold is. That’s where the most compelling messaging is going to be for that audience group. But it won’t always feel terribly new for you because you’re the expert. You understand these things so deeply.
Todd Nienkerk: What are your thoughts on content that — how do I describe this? It’s maybe content that runs in parallel or is maybe tangentially related to the goal at hand. Here’s an example: So we make websites all day primarily. Content-heavy websites. Publishers. Educators. Nonprofits. So one of our business challenges is finding new clients. Another business challenge that we have is finding really good talent to recruit. And that’s probably just as hard, if not harder, than finding really good clients.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Especially these days.
Todd Nienkerk: Yes, especially in the last year or so. And so our admin team, the folks that handle all the job posts and hiring and this whole process, had an idea a while back to start creating a content stream somewhere on our website related specifically to the experience of interviewing for and working eventually for Four Kitchens. And we had some conversations with your team like, Hey, there’s this thing we want to do. This is different than anything else we have on the site. What do we do about it? And there was a lot of good collaboration there and back and forth.
And I think there was one suggestion to maybe create a second blog that would sort of exist in a different area or that might have a different audience. But in the end we decided to just merge it all into one. So our company blog, 80% of the content is about making websites, all the aspects and facets of that. And about 20% of it is people saying, Hey, I just recently joined and this is what the whole recruitment process was like. We had X number of interviews and this is what we covered in each of them and stuff like that. And interestingly, like not only have applications, quality applications gone up substantially since we’ve been publishing this content, but our clients have cited this content like new clients have seen this other unrelated content and. The comments that we’ve gotten were like, I’d never seen another agency publish anything like that, and it just gave me so much insight into how you operate and what it might be like to work with you, not just for you as an employee. What are your thoughts on the kinds of content that aren’t necessarily right in that channel but that have kind of a glow to them that rubs off on prospects?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: It’s a fascinating thing and I think it has to do with the intention behind it. Marketing for recruitment purposes in this example, which is really what you’re functionally describing their space, there’s space for. For that in this context, because there’s an alignment between the prospects. Values on the marketing for new business front and the prospect values. When you’re marketing for recruits, recruits are wanting to understand your level of competency in what you do because they want to go work for the most qualified employer possible. And your prospects, who are considering the idea of working with a company like yours, I mean, that’s a really considered purchase. This isn’t somebody who’s just going to come and work with you for a week and pay a couple hundred bucks and leave. This is a highly considered purchase. And they really need to understand who you are. Who are the people that I’m trusting? Have the expertise to really help me solve this really thorny business challenge. There’s only so much that your sales conversations and your content on the site and your portfolio are going to be able to do. And by and large, those assets are the things that are doing the heavy lifting. Beyond your sales conversations in general, but this sort of tangentially related content on the site is another data point for those prospects to start to understand who you are, how you think, how you operate, how you treat your people? What’s the character behind the people that I’m about to make a deep commitment with for a long period of time? So I think that worked for you all because there was some alignment in the values, even though the personas, the intended recipient of that content, were different. One was for recruits; one was for potential clients. But there was some alignment in the values there. And it really does come down to that when you think about your marketing strategy, is the intention behind who it is you’re talking to and what do they need to hear from you in order to make the smartest and safest decision possible?
Todd Nienkerk: That makes a lot of sense. And I think that it might partly have to do with the types of industries we work with, the types of software, open-source software that we work with, that there is a strong emphasis on values and culture — and it’s probably not accurate to say that that’s the number one reason why maybe we are chosen to do a project despite maybe we’re a more expensive option. But they like us because of our expertise and also our values. And those are reflected not only in the stated values on the website but in the tone of everything that shows up in our content stream, including first-person accounts of I just started working here and this is what it was like. And some of it was a little weird at first, but a lot of it was really great and it’s just very open about that. And I think that the types of clients that we’re really successful with really respond to that kind of, I don’t know, emotional maturity or transparency or something like that.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Well, I do think it’s related to transparency. It’s the social proof aspect that a client testimonial provides in a classic case study, meaning no client can sell your services so much better than you can, and it comes across a lot more sincere and genuine. People trust it more. And I think there’s a similar dynamic going on here where you’ve got people on the inside talking about their experience in a really transparent way, that it feels like it’s providing a peek behind the curtain. Right. And I think it does give them a sense, a deeper sense of who you are and what you’re about. And again, helps them feel more secure when they’re making a pretty risky from their vantage point, a risky investment, whereas the firms get the trouble with this kind of thing, as if they lean too much into the culture side because it’s the fun stuff to talk about. And they get they’re so passionate about their incredible culture and it’s a beautiful thing and it’s a huge part of who they are. But they struggle to talk about what they do or what they know. I observe that most when the firm hasn’t checked that very first box of positioning. To be honest, their biggest strength is in the culture, is in the people, as in the camaraderie and the internal dynamics. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful part of the firm. I don’t have clarity on who they’re best equipped to serve. And so they kind of can’t talk about it.
Todd Nienkerk: That really hits home. That was us for probably the first ten years of being in business. That was the thing that made us unique and special. And then when the rest of the market kind of catches up and things become a bit more competitive, and then suddenly you realize, “Oh, we can’t like —” Just being who we are isn’t enough of a draw. We have to be who we are doing something specific for somebody.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: And being fantastic at that work.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, let’s take a short break. And when we return, we will talk with Lauren about marketing for marketers.
Hey, everyone, I wanted to very quickly tell you a little bit about Four Kitchens. You may know that Four Kitchens creates websites, but we do so much more than that. Our team of web chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team, and create world-class digital experiences. And most importantly, the work that we do gets results. We’ve helped media companies streamline their streaming platforms, public broadcasters increased donations, and universities enroll more students. To find out more about how we can help you, please visit us at fourkitchens.com. And now back to the episode.
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Lauren McGaha, Chief Content Officer at Newfangled. Let’s talk about marketing for marketers. So I think a lot of us in any kind of client service space — and that goes for web companies, marketing companies, law firms, CPAs, accounting, all of this stuff — why is it that we are our own worst clients? Why is it that a web design agency’s website is like the worst website they’ve made in the last five years?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: It’s funny how true that old adage is about the cobbler’s kids not having their own shoes. It’s really interesting. What I’ve come to observe is marketers struggle to give themselves the gift of being somebody’s client. And that’s not to say you need to go hire a firm like Newfangled in order to market well. You can make yourself your own client. But the rigor about what that actually means has to be taken quite seriously and followed up with quite a bit of discipline and. It is so easy to let ourselves off the hook because of extenuating circumstances that we all understand, Oh, this client thing got in the way. Oh, this major personnel issue popped up. I was distracted for these reasons, but they’re entirely valid, and the accountability is missing. It’s just so easy to let ourselves off the hook because of lack of accountability to somebody who’s not, from my perspective, often not on the inside. Our business model works because it’s not my job to worry about that personnel issue that cropped up. It’s not my job to worry about the client deadline that you’re under. It’s my job to make sure that you market it. And so, I think the reason that it works is that we just don’t have those distractions, you know, and I’ve seen firms manage this, and manage their own marketing internally quite successfully, but it takes a real shift in the dynamic. Yeah, we can talk about what it means to successfully manage your marketing internally.
Todd Nienkerk: I would like to talk about that, actually, because here’s my hot take — and this is totally from personal experience and maybe a subset of other firms that I’ve observed: There are some firms that I’ve seen that do perfectly well with their own in-house teams, with marketing and other things, but in our experience at Four Kitchens, if it isn’t client-related, stop trying to do it. So doing finance stuff in-house, forget it. Go hire a CPA firm. Like we don’t need in-house counsel. You have to be pretty big to need in-house. We definitely don’t need that. So go get a lawyer. Don’t hire your own. Like, just go find a law firm or something. This is why we have a PEO, a professional employment organization, that handles all of our HR administration and benefits and all of that. We are not in the business of administering benefits to people. So let’s find somebody else and pay them marginally more than we would a full-time person to make that problem go away. Somebody’s benefits issue won’t fall through the cracks because our attention is directed towards some kind of a client issue that we’re all hands on deck about or whatever. And I feel the same way about marketing. And marketing was among the last things that we got around to realizing we have to offload this. We tried for years and years to have a business partner like myself or any number of various roles, people splitting time or whatever, to try to handle all of the marketing. And it just never clicked. So my hot take is to stop doing it and hire other teams. But I have seen it work at other companies, and I’m very curious to hear what you think that that alchemy is.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Well, it’s interesting. I think, you know, I meet a lot of marketers who feel guilty at even having the thought of outsourcing it because they’re marketers. They know, of course, we’re going to — of course we’re going to outsource any legal advice that we need. Of course, we’re not going to stop that up inside or whatever. Of course, we’re just going to hire a CPA firm instead of building that up internally. But we are marketers. This is what we do for a living. We are so good at this. We help so many other people do this. How crazy would it be for us as marketers to outsource our marketing? That’s insane.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, so let me ask a question.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Yes.
Todd Nienkerk: So when I’m going to shift that view like about ten degrees and say, okay, so there’s marketing, which is at something. And then there’s web design and development, which is very closely related. Like those two things are sometimes the same thing, but in our case, we don’t do marketing, but we do web design and development. And any time I’m talking with another friend in the space, another agency or agency owner, when they do web design and development, and they’re not, they’re still trying to do their website in house and they’re not working with somebody else to make that happen. I always ask them, How long have you been working on it? And the answer. The average answer. The average answer is two years. When was the.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Last time to hear that?
Todd Nienkerk: Right. And then and then the follow-up question is how many client websites have taken you more than two years to build zero. Yeah. And that to me says it all right, like we do not build our own website. In fact, we explicitly say we have to find other people to do it. We will never try to schedule anybody to do it because we tried for 15 years, never happened the way we wanted it to. So similarly, like in the web development world, same kind of thing.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Yeah, yeah. Yes. And I’m aligned with you on this, but I think that I think it’s a shift in mindset to understand that it’s an investment either way. Because if you choose to own the work in-house, it’s still an investment of time and money, and it still requires the system that you apply to your billable work. So when firms get this right and they choose to keep it in-house, when they do that successfully, it’s because they recognize that keeping it in-house has nothing to do with saving time or money. Right. They recognize that it’s 100% an investment and they are going to apply the system that they believe is the best system. It’s because they believe in their way of doing things or they feel emotionally tied to the work or what have you. And those are all honorable reasons to keep the work in-house. But the ones who get this right are willing to make that investment of applying their client system to themselves. And preserving the discipline that it takes to see that through as if it were. A billable account. That’s really the difference.
Todd Nienkerk: I agree. I have seen that. That’s where people are successful. But I’ve only seen it work like twice. There are two companies I can think of that have done this and I fully agree and I do think and this is where I start to get a little frustrated with other business owners that I run into when they start to think, oh, well, I went and talked with this accounting firm and, you know, cheese to get their package where they’re going to be doing finance, forecasting a tax prep and bookkeeping and accounting and all of this stuff. Like I could hire somebody for that amount of money. Yes, exactly. Exactly. So that does not mean that the alternative is don’t hire them and don’t hire anybody. The alternative is okay, then you go hire that person who’s going to cost at least as much as that firm that you are going to go higher. And that’s all they’re going to do all day. And by the way, they had better have this one person that you’re hiring. They better have the whole stack of skills that a firm is going to bring to bear. And to me, that’s the part that I think a lot of people miss is, well, they start, they try to apples-to-apples it. They’re like, well, that’s the same amount as a full-time hire. Now think about the range of skills, because you might be getting 10% of a CFO and 20% of a bookkeeper and 20% of a tax. Like, are you going to find a person like that? Because that person is very rare and very expensive?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: No. I mean, and this is the foundation of our value prop in the market is the team of experts that you get. And it’s going back to this marketing maturity question for our business, for marketing specifically, it has to do with what you’re trying to accomplish because. Managing it in-house and achieving the foundational elements. To say that you are marketing is one thing, but advancing your marketing prowess to a level of sophistication beyond those foundational elements is a completely different objective. And at that point, it’s better to bring in a team of experts who has the benefit of the repeated application of doing this kind of thing for hundreds of firms over the years. Yep. So it really depends on what you’re trying to do, though. I mean, obviously Newfangled in business because we’ve been really good at helping marketers market themselves. That’s what we do for a living. But that’s not to say that I. I believe that it’s impossible for firms to develop a system internally to at least market the basics and get that right and do that consistently over time. It just takes a lot of consistent discipline and accountability and recognizing that there’s an investment. Either way, you’re not saving yourself time, energy, or money by keeping it in-house. That’s a myth.
Todd Nienkerk: Agreed. And one last bit of advice I’d offer to anybody else out there who might be thinking about saying, Oh, I’ll just hire one marketing person full time and that will take the place of an agency. Is, and I mean, I don’t mean this in any kind of ruthless way, but one of the advantages to hiring an agency alongside, well, you get all of these years of experience and all these different skill sets and access to a team and all of this, you also have a more removed and, well, a more businesslike posture with that group. You can simply ask, is this working or not? And it’s not at all personal because you’re not dealing with a person. It’s a business-to-business relationship. And that is, by the way, exactly the relationship that all of your clients have with you. So it’s not as if you’re treating anybody differently. You’re being treated that way every day, all the time. And it’s just a matter of like. Hold yourself accountable and to the same standards that your clients would hold you like that’s. That’s my thought.
Lauren McGaha: I mean, it’s giving yourself the gift of being somebody’s client either by truly seeing yourself as a client and applying all the systems and processes that come along with that territory for any other client inside of your business. Or just gonna be somebody’s client.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, I know. Exactly. I could talk about that stuff that drives me nuts, so I could talk about that forever. So let’s not. Let’s go back to marketing for marketers. What are some of the challenges that you run into? And I guess this could be applied to anybody who’s, like, doing a thing for somebody who also does that thing. What kinds of barriers do you run into or are there any advantages to that? Like when you are doing marketing for other marketers, do you have a shorthand with them? Because like, you all kind of do the same thing, and so you just say, Look, we’re going to do that thing that you already know about. We’re going to go do that now. And I don’t have to explain it to you because you get it, or does it take more handholding because they’re so opinionated potentially, or they’re trying to apply their own method and their own process to the way that you’re doing things.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: It depends on how bought in they are in being someone’s client and relinquishing control. And that really does vary firm to firm. That’s not to say that they have no control in the process. They certainly do. But if they’ve never been a client before and they are in a business model where they are used to leading the relationship. Sometimes that can be. A bit of a challenging dynamic to re-establish for them to help them occupy and stay confident in the client’s feet and remind them that you are the one leading that relationship. I got to say that most of them are pretty eager to do it. When they step outside of the client seat, it’s because they can’t help it. They forget. They’re just so naturally inclined to be the one leading the relationship. They’re so used to managing clients. They just. But they’re really coachable in that regard. I find one of the things I love about working with marketing firms is they’re all really motivated to be incredible clients because they have clients of their own. I know what that dynamic feels like. They know what it feels like to have a really healthy, productive, collaborative relationship with their clients, and they know what it feels like when they have toxic client relationships. Yeah, and pretty much every firm, I mean, with very, very, very few exceptions. Most firms that we end up working with are highly motivated to be incredible clients because of that experience. And I come from the agency world. I know what it’s like to work with, to have clients who don’t have clients of their own. They don’t. They don’t understand that reality. And I remember when I came to Newfangled, that was one of the biggest shifts for me, in that we only work with firms who have clients of their own. And that’s a big change that that dynamic is critical.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, in our last few minutes here, I’m curious to get your thoughts on where all of this is headed. Where do you see fhe future of content marketing or marketing for marketers or for other digital agencies? What are some things that are on the horizon that might be emerging or dissolving?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. I think we’re headed into a stage of being a lot more intentional and thoughtful about the messaging that we choose to put out. I think that the nature of the content marketing landscape is continuing to evolve in such a way that just and has — I mean, we’ve arrived where putting out content just to check that box no longer works and it’s a lot less about how frequently you’re cranking out the content and it’s so much more about the substance of what you’re saying and the thoughtfulness with which you place that in front of the right people. Meaning: I’m seeing firms achieve success with perhaps publishing less frequently, but then designing much more sophisticated outbound campaigns to get that content in front of the right people, as opposed to leaning heavily on, I’m going to publish, publish, publish, publish, and the prospects out there will come. They will find me. I think that interplay, that balance is shifting. I’m interested in the world of automation. Specific to content creation. There are automated services now out there, like artificial intelligence that will produce content for you as opposed to you sitting down, and writing that content and thinking through the perspective. And those tools have been around for a while, but they’re starting to gain in popularity and improve in sophistication, to be honest. And I’m curious about where that will take. I mean, I’m certainly firmly in the camp of if you’ve got a deep enough expertise, you should be the one, or you should be working with a writer who can extract that thinking and carefully craft that narrative. But I’m curious about these services that are popping up that are intended to help people automatically create content and the growing sophistication of those services. I don’t know where that will go, but it’s something that I’m noticing more and more. Intriguing.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, that’s an area that we spend a little bit of our R&D time in that space trying to figure out how machine learning can be used to facilitate the content production process. Like I think most people’s attention and interest goes towards the replacement aspect and like it’ll never be replaced. There was a presentation that I gave a while back about, like, the future of machine learning and content creation and all of that. And there are some genuinely interesting and. Maybe a little weird examples out there of things like, uh, I think it was The Washington Post that offloaded all of their local high school sports coverage to a machine learning bot to write. And you read these articles and they read, you know, they read like any other newspaper now. This is the local part of Washington Post. So it’s Washington, DC. It reads like any local paper where this player did that. And then in the fourth quarter, this and this and this. Well, what they don’t tell you is like — you flip over the story and you read the details of what actually happened in here. That bot had to be fed a transcript of the like. The announcers calling all the plays well. Okay, the bot isn’t actually watching the football game and interpreting who’s doing what and then writing the article. Like it’s just distilling what it thinks are the most salient points and actions from dialogue from an actual sports announcer. And like, that’s a totally different story. That’s, that’s machine learning, facilitation of writing content, that’s not replacement, which is what they had kind of framed it as. But I agree that that kind of approach, particularly when you intersect it with things like paying attention to metrics and how people are responding to content and all that, that gets real interesting.
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: It does get really interesting, but ultimately I think it comes down to the objective of what the content, what is the objective of the content? And there might be a place for that for marketers today. That’s not to say that both styles of content development can’t code this, which I think is what you’re describing here. But it is intriguing to see that technology continue to evolve.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Yeah. Well, Lauren, thank you so, so much for your time today. And of course, thank you for everything that you’ve helped us with at Fort Kitchens. For those listeners who want to learn more about Newfangled, where do they go? How do they get ahold of you or Newfangled and learn more about what you do?
Lauren McGaha O’Brien: It’s real simple. We can just go to newfangled.com and that’s got all of the details of what we do. And there are plenty of ways to get in touch with us through contact forms there.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Lauren.
And listeners, I’d love to hear from you. Yes, you. What do you want to learn about the future of content? Please feel free to send show ideas, suggestions, or examples of the content you create.
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