Ep. 108 – How to Grow Any B2B Content Platform from Scratch w/ Ali Schwanke
How to Grow Any B2B Content Platform from Scratch

When B2B customers (or any customers for that matter) try to find a solution to their problems, they educate themselves. And how do they educate themselves? The answer lies in good, interesting, and relevant content. We also know that promoting that content and distributing it through the right channels is equally (if not more) important so that it reaches the right people at the right time.

Join us as we talk about how to grow any B2B content platform from scratch with marketing expert and advisor Ali Schwanke (CEO & Founder, Simple Strat). During our conversation, Ali discusses the importance of growing B2B platforms to organizations and what mistakes marketers need to avoid. She also elaborates on the different components required to effectively grow your B2B content platforms, what metrics to pay attention to, and what actions marketers can take immediately to improve how they scale their content platforms.

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Topics discussed in episode

  • The importance of having strategies to grow B2B content platforms from scratch [1:51]
  • Ali’s advice on how to select which form(s) of content to produce [3:45]
  • The common mistakes and misconceptions with regards to growing B2B content platforms, and what should be done to address them [10:20]
  • The roles of researching and having the right strategy in growing B2B content platforms [15:35]
  • Ali shares her experience in generating good content ideas [20:31]
  • Ali’s thoughts on the key components to effectively grow a B2B content platform [24:27]
    • Think about the purpose of the content: Awareness vs. lead generation
    • From awareness, consideration, to decision-making content
    • Search-driven (i.e. capturing demand) vs. Creating demand
  • How to establish a unique point of view [32:45]
  • Ali’s shares an example to highlight how she grew her own content platform [35:10]
  • Quality vs. quantity: Which one should you focus on and why? [40:21]
  • Metrics that marketers should pay attention to in order to grow their B2B content platforms [45:01]
  • Ali’s thoughts on Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing humans [49:18]

Companies and links mentioned



Christian Klepp, Ali Schwanke

Christian Klepp  00:03

Welcome to B2B Marketers on a Mission, a podcast for changemakers where we question the conventional, debunk marketing myths, provide actionable tips, think differently, disrupt industries, and take your marketing to a new level, from improving your campaigns to making you a better marketer. These are the inspirational stories that will help us change the way we think and approach B2B marketing, one conversation at a time. This podcast is brought to you by EINBLICK Consulting, helping you to stand out in the market and drive revenue to your B2B business. And now your host, Christian Klepp.

Christian Klepp  00:44

Okay, folks, welcome to this episode of B2B Marketers on a Mission. This is the show where we help you to question the conventional, think differently, disrupt your industry and take your marketing to new heights. This is your host Christian Klepp. And today I am joined by someone on a mission to help B2B companies double down on content marketing to grow awareness, influence and leads. So Ali Schwanke. Welcome to the show.

Ali Schwanke  01:09

Thanks for having me.

Christian Klepp  01:11

Great to be connected Ali. And I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Because as you rightfully pointed out in your LinkedIn profile, content marketing is so important to B2B companies for a whole lot of reasons that we’re gonna get into in a sec. All right. So, Ali, you’ve been a successful B2B marketer for many years, and you’re an expert in content as well as HubSpot CRM marketing. But for this conversation, let’s focus on the topic of strategies to grow any B2B content platform from scratch, which is no small feat. So talk to us. Yeah. So talk to us why you believe that’s so important in the world of B2B marketing? Off you go!

Ali Schwanke  01:51

Yeah, exactly. Well today, we all believe in being empowered to buy and nobody hopes to be sold to, you and I included, our customers included. So when we go to find a solution to our problem, or even an aspiration of something we hope to do, we educate ourselves. And we only educate ourselves with content. So whether that’s written content, video content, podcasting, like what we’re doing right now, social content, we every single piece of information that we bring in, helps us understand our problem more effectively, and then ultimately leads us toward the path of a solution. And because that’s such a pleasurable experience for a lot of companies. At the end, when you buy, you end up feeling like you, you bought it,  you weren’t sold to. And that’s really what we’re all after. So, where that comes to head for me is we’ve been growing that way as a company since we started. And we believe that content is how people want to engage with us. So we’ve been growing a podcast, or excuse me, a YouTube channel since about 2019, mid-2019. And right before the pandemic, and we kind of just lucked out that everybody obviously had to go online at that time. And you know, ever since then we’ve sort of been known as the folks that teach HubSpot tutorials online. And then we’ve been helping other folks launch their podcasts and video mediums as a result of that as well.

Christian Klepp  03:09

Fantastic, and just for the benefit of the audience of what’s the name of your YouTube channel.

Ali Schwanke  03:16

Yeah, our YouTube channel is called HubSpot Hacks.

Christian Klepp  03:19

HubSpot Hacks. That’s an easy one to remember.

Ali Schwanke  03:21


Christian Klepp  03:22

Thanks for sharing that. And I just wanted to go back to something you said earlier, and you’re talking about the different types of content. And you probably know where I’m going with this. But do you feel any of these forms are more important than the other?

Ali Schwanke  03:36

I think people wish I had an answer for that. I think they wish that one of those things could be something they could focus on. And really, when people ask that they often it’s because they’re overwhelmed by the let’s call it need to have to create multiple forms of content. And so if you’re not doing a really great job today of using content to nurture your customers along their journey, the idea of writing blogs, and then doing webinars and then doing video and then doing podcasting, that all sounds really, really overwhelming. But usually what you can do first, before you start doing anything is identify what’s going well in this space, who’s doing blogging? What is their angle? How are they doing it? Who’s doing video? What are they doing? How are they handling it, and you’ll start to see some trends emerge. And that means that just like any football team, soccer team baseball team, you’re gonna have different resources and different strategies based on who you’re playing, who the players are on your team, what your talents are, are you playing the short game, the long game, and all of that’s going to be important and coming up with a content strategy. So if you happen to have someone on your team who has a background in broadcast journalism, you probably are going to have an easier time deploying video and podcasting or audio, than you might be doing written content. So think about the resources you have internally. Our team happened to have some background in video and myself. I happened to have done a lot of that in my career. So launching a YouTube channel seemed like a natural step for us. Now people have told us, Ali, you make it look so easy. And I’ll say, Well, what you don’t see is you don’t see the years and years that I spent doing, you know, play and drama and all the things that I learned a lot of at acting lessons in my early days. So when you get started with content, and people think what channel should I start with? One, you have to be where your audience is. So if you’re going to launch a, let’s say, a very active, ask me anything, Reddit thread, that’s a piece of content, a type of content. If your users aren’t on Reddit, or your customers on Reddit, that’s a terrible idea. But if you say, how do my users go to YouTube, and search for things? Usually, it’s how-to content is typically what performs quite well on YouTube. What will they be looking for on YouTube? And then, do we need a hosted show? Do we do a interview show? Do we do like how you do the content then becomes specific based on what gaps exist in the market. So it’s kind of a two pronged approach. What are you really good at in creating content? If you can write well, start there. If you then analyze the market, and come back to it and say, I think there’s a need for this, like right now, I’ll tell you we’re launching a podcast that’s very, very short form. Because there is very, there’s very little competition for podcasts that are 10 minutes or less.

Christian Klepp  06:23

Yeah, those are really interesting points. And thanks for sharing that. You brought up two things that I wanted to go back to on the past couple of minutes. So one about like, making it look so effortless. It almost, I think one of the greatest analogies for that as thinking about somebody like Lang Lang, who’s a world famous pianist. And if you’ve ever seen him in concert, and if you’ve ever seen Lang Lang play, he can play pieces by Chopin, which I think, undoubtedly are some of the most difficult piano pieces to play. And he can play those with his eyes closed. Right?

Ali Schwanke  06:57

Certainly. Do you play the piano, Christian?

Christian Klepp  06:58

No, I don’t. Well, I did when I was in first and second grade. But that’s, that’s about…

Ali Schwanke  07:05

I do play the piano. Yeah, I do play the piano myself. And I can play with my eyes closed. And I can play with all… I can listen to a song on the radio and just play it. But that’s hours and hours and hours and hours.

Christian Klepp  07:18

That was exactly the point I was just getting to, because people were saying like, how does he make it look so easy, and so effortless, and what they don’t see. And this is something that he said in an interview is that he practiced six to eight hours a day. Alright, so they don’t see the blood, sweat and tears and the effort that he puts behind looking so effortless on stage. Right? So that’s the first thing. The second thing, which I thought was such a great point to bring up is also that you’re creating content that addresses the problems that the target audience has. But also, it’s, it’s structured in such a way that it helps, or it’s designed to take into consideration how your best customers buy. Right. And I thought those are really like two things that you said in the past couple of minutes where I’m like, okay, that bears repeating that bears talking about again, right?

Ali Schwanke  08:13

Yeah, I think that a lot of times we forget that customers may have things that they’re wondering about that they feel actually scared to talk to us about, because by admitting that they don’t know what something means. So how many times have we been in a situation even in a sales conversation, where we have used an acronym, and we just assumed the other person knows what it means. And if they just stop and raise their hand and say, I don’t know what that means they risk looking stupid, they risk looking like that, they’re not going to have that same level of professionalism. So when you create content around these kind of lesser known things, you can also then empower them to come to the table in have a better sense of understanding as to what they’re buying how it’s helping them solve that problem. I’ll give you an example. So when you’re in the world of CRMs, which we are. Sometimes, if you go to the HubSpot website, for example, there’s starter, there’s free, there’s pro, there’s enterprise, and then there’s marketing hub, sales hub, operations hub, CMS hub, service hub. And so it becomes this like, wait a minute, is CRM the same thing as all these things. But if I ask Ali, if the CRM is the same thing as a service hub, is that dumb? Do I look stupid? So we literally have a blog post called what is HubSpot? And what can I do with it? Because that is what people are searching and they don’t want to get on a sales call and have the risk of them being sold something that they don’t understand. But they would never jump on a sales call and say, Now Ali, can you tell me what HubSpot is because they’re afraid that that opens then the vulnerability and that content therefore helps them feel more secure in that conversation.

Christian Klepp  09:51

Absolutely, absolutely. 100% and I and I thought was so good that you brought that up, because that’s such a great segue into the next question, which focuses on mistakes and misconceptions that you’ve seen out there. But let’s zero and again on that on our topic of discussion for today, which is growing B2B content platform. So specifically, mistakes and misconceptions you’ve seen out there around this topic, and what you believe she’ll be done to address those.

Ali Schwanke  10:20

Yeah, a couple of mistakes that I see people making when they’re starting content from scratch is their understanding of what it takes to build consistency is often just like anything that’s new. It… once that pizzazz and the flash kind of fades away, it becomes more of a grind. And it’s true. And so anything new, there’s this I, I wish I knew who made it, and I wish I knew the name of it. But it’s this kind of diagram where you see this like really great heightened thing. And then it goes down to like the trough of despair. And when you get into the trough of despair, and you need to create getting content, you often hear that people will say, well, it isn’t working. Or it’s, you know, we need to switch direction, and I can pull up our YouTube channel, I can pull up our blog. And every single time I can show you where we had a conversation of should we keep doing this. And we knew like when you’re in it for the long haul. Like if you ever run a marathon, if you ever get to mile 20… I’ve run a marathon, I’ll tell you at mile 20, you’re like it is a good thing that there’s a finish line up ahead. Otherwise, we would be bailing out right now. And that’s what happens in content creation. So there has to be like a minimum investment into the time for you to even get something from it. Now, the other mistake that I also see people making is they write a lot of content that is in the voices, in the words, in the terms of them. But it’s not how the customer talks. So again, back to that what is HubSpot? And what can I do with it? if I was going to write that in a very like marketing-y way, it would be like discovering more about the marketing automation platform. That’s the number one choice of something or other. Like at that point, marketing automation doesn’t even really mean anything to the audience, because they’re just like, I heard about this HubSpot thing. I don’t really know what it is. So the way to overcome that is to talk to your customers. And really just listen. So discovery calls for me are wonderful, because I can just say, hey, what brought you here today? And you know, what were you looking for online? Good questions asked might be, you know, what’s the last thing you typed into Google? And you start to understand their frame of reference and the paradigm that they’re coming to the table with. And if you don’t understand that paradigm, and that empathy, from their point of view, you will you will fail with your content initiatives.

Christian Klepp  12:35

Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, like, you gotta get into their, into their mind and see their thought process, right. Like, what are they looking for? What are they looking for online? What kind of information are they searching for? But even going back a step, a step backwards, what questions are they asking, right? Because it all starts with questions, right. And I love how you brought that up, that first point about consistency, that becoming a grind. That almost reminds me of a diagram. I’m sure you’ve seen it more times than you care to count. It’s the diagram of the entrepreneurs journey. Oh, yeah. Like the way the outside world perceives it and the way that you know, and then the other diagram shows what an entrepreneur actually goes through. And it looks like the Mariana Trench almost right?

Ali Schwanke  13:21

Yes, yeah, there has to be some sort of stamina there. And that is, again, I think it’s one of those things that if you like, one of the shows that I used to watch and enjoy the journey back in the day was the biggest loser. So you loved watching these people kind of go through this transformation. But there was a lot of content behind the scenes that I’m guaranteed never got aired, because it was just boring. It was just boring. They were just doing the same workout, the same thing. And a mentor once told me that success often is misguided, because in the middle of it, it looks like it’s just boring. Like success, when you consistently execute is just boring. Well, there she goes, again, it’s doing the same thing. But then three months later, they all want to talk to you about like, Well, what did you do? What did you do to get here? And you’re like, did you not see me every single day publishing on LinkedIn? That’s how I got here.

Christian Klepp  14:09

Absolutely. Absolutely. And to the point you brought up earlier about playing the piano, I’m a I’m a drawer, a sketcher. And it was something it was an on a hobby I had for many, many years and you know, throughout high school and whatnot, and then I stopped, right. But then I took it up again during the pandemic, right, but then I had to relearn how to draw and I do post on Instagram and Facebook and what have you, but I started by posting the finished product. But now what I’ve started to do is to post the process so people can see how much work goes behind such a detailed drawing and it’s hours and hours of tinkering away and using different types of pencils, you know, they’re darker and lighter and so forth so they can …. that the people can understand how much effort goes into coming up with one piece of artwork, let’s put up that way.

Ali Schwanke  15:02

Yeah, I love that. I think people are in… They’re intrigued at how something comes together. And they do. Yeah, you gain a lot more respect for the craft, when you can see it in that way.

Christian Klepp  15:12

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. On to the next question, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have no problem answering this. So what roles do you believe researching, and having the right strategy have in growing your B2B content platform? Because it’s not exactly like, you’ll just press submit or go and then boom, there you have it, you have your content platform with your community of followers, right?

Ali Schwanke  15:35

Yeah, really, there’s, so there’s kind of two sides of this. And it’s kind of like a pendulum. And so I will say that some people swing their pendulum over to the Strategy and Planning side. And you can get stuck over there simply planning and strategizing your life away and never actually publish any content. And that it’s a good practice to do your due diligence, because you do have to make sure you have a purpose for your content. However, if you swing the other way, you end up maybe creating something that either your audience does not care for it, it’s on the wrong platform, you’re not even really well equipped to understand what goes into it. So I will say when you when you look at what your goals are, and I’m gonna give you a couple of different types of goals. Sometimes your goal when you’re first starting a content initiative, is to learn how to do it. So if you’re podcasting for the first time, and you’re simply learning how to put together a good episode, a good strategy would be go listen to some episodes from people and companies that you like, try to model yours after theirs, and then just see if you have a good episode. In that case, the products what you’re after is a good episode, you should not correlate that with I want to have 1000 followers, because followers come when you actually create content that they want to hear in the way that they want to hear it and, you know, create episodic type of things. So when it comes to creating content, the single biggest thing that often gets missed is, why are you creating this show? Who is it for? And what do they want to hear or learn about? Because at the end of the day, if you don’t answer those questions, you might really just want to talk into a microphone. And that’s okay. If you just want to talk into a microphone and interview friends and build relationships, that’s fine. That is totally fine. But you typically don’t build an audience without having that really clear picture. And then someone said this on a podcast I was listening to yesterday, they said, when someone subscribes, they subscribe to your content with the intent to get more of what they just heard. So if you all of a sudden get the idea to veer off, because you’re interested in something else, you then violate your listeners, because they expected this from you. And now they’ve gotten that. So that’s you have to pick something that you can talk about exhaustively and not get bored. Because if you get bored, your listeners will get bored.

Christian Klepp  17:58

100% agree. And, you know, back to your earlier point, I think it’s so important for people to understand, you know, people like who are starting out with podcasts or launching them. I’m gonna use the French term, but like, what’s your raison d’etre. Right.

Ali Schwanke  18:14

I like that term. Believe me, I cannot say that that was good.

Christian Klepp  18:19

Sorry. I just, I just had to sound a little bit fancy, but like, you know, but long story short, what’s the reason for being and that’s back to what you were saying, right? Like, why are you launching this? Is it to become famous? Or is it because you’re genuinely trying to solve and this is the topic of the conversation today? Are you genuinely trying to solve a problem that your target audience is facing with this content? Right? And back to the ideal listeners, because not everybody’s gonna listen to the podcast, right? Like the people that subscribe to your YouTube channel, I mean, if they’re not on HubSpot, then why would they even go there? Right?

Ali Schwanke  18:53

Yeah, we that’s one of the things we did find. So for example, when we did our research into our channel planning, we identified that the folks that were doing some of the videos that we thought we could do online, were filled with a lot of topical, we’ll call them offshoots. And so you found that listeners would appreciate or in this case, like viewers would appreciate content for a while. And then they would find that all of a sudden, they’re doing an interview with someone over here that just kind of seemed a little bit off. So you know, imagine watching College Game Day, and suddenly one Saturday they cover a hockey game and not a football game like that would just like ESPN would never let that happen because it’s College GameDay, it’s football. But that’s that is what you do to your listeners and your viewers when you veer off topic, because it’s interesting to you, but it’s not relevant to what they you know, signed up to get from you.

Christian Klepp  19:41

That’s absolutely right. That’s absolutely right. I’m gonna throw in an additional question there, Ali. Because you know, this is, this is on the topic of growing your B2B content platforms and we all know that one of the… it’s not the only thing obviously, but one of the important aspects of successfully growing your content platform is to keep your content fresh. Right? And I know that sounds pretty broad and generic, but let’s narrow it down. Like, you know, from your own experience and your perspective. How do you do that? How do you… like to what you said earlier? How do you keep your content from getting boring and dry? And like, Oh, we’ve, you know, we’ve seen all this before, you know, going on LinkedIn, and like, okay, it’s a post about this topic again, how do you avoid that falling into that trap? Let’s put it that way.

Ali Schwanke  20:31

Yeah, I mean, I think if we could reframe this, it’s really like where do really good content ideas come from? And I know people ask me this a lot, because I’m always it’s kind of like this muscle that the more you exercise it, the better it gets. So if you think you don’t have a lot of good ideas, it’s probably because you haven’t gotten through your really bad ideas first. Really, like, there was a copywriter that I was following online, and he did this experiment, I wish I could think of his name right now, if I think of it, I’ll send it to you to put in the show notes. But he did this experiment, where he wrote 100 headlines every single day for like 25 days or something. And what I thought was fascinating about this, because this is kind of the mantra that I also, you know, have as well as I have these files and files of Evernote, which is the software where I just keep ideas. And I have one Evernote called ideas from the treadmill. And literally, when I’m running, if something pops in my brain, I just throw it on my phone, sometimes later. I’m like, where did that come from? Like, what was I thinking? But it definitely it’s like Jerry Seinfeld would do that when he was thinking about jokes. You know, Ellen DeGeneres has talked about, that’s the way she generates ideas. But this copywriter was talking about the fact that you get through your first I’ll say, 25 30% of your headlines. And those headlines are all kind of like, Oh, you think you’re doing a good job, and then you start to just suck a lot. So in the middle, they start to get really terrible. And then you kind of overcome what we’d call like the cliche, you know, this is like duh sort of content. And then once you work through that, then you start to really make your brain go in different directions. And you come out with these really different ideas, but you have to work that muscle and 100 headlines, if the headline is what gets people to read the article, you should spend more of your time on the headline than you should on the article. So I think that when it comes to content ideas, I spent a lot of time studying, like, I’ll go through LinkedIn one day, and I’ll write down all the headlines that were in my feed. And I’ll just run them down. And then I’ll study them. What did they all have in common? What were they different? How can I emulate some of these? I’ll do the same thing with Tik Toks. What kind of Tik Toks came up on my feed today? Same thing with YouTube shorts. I spent way too much time two nights ago. I was gonna be on there for a couple minutes. And I was studying shorts. What’s the format of them? What was the lead in that they use? Did they have some sort of like virality to them, studying other people’s content, it’s really a great way to do that. And then what I like to tell people to do is come up with what you have is like a playbook. So for our playbook couple of things that we do. One is product releases. So if there’s a product release on the HubSpot platform, that’s a good thing for us to talk about. Another one is going into Reddit. What are people talking about on Reddit? Are there questions on Reddit that we can answer? And the other one is the HubSpot community. People are asking questions in the HubSpot community? Can we answer questions there. And so really, you just start to have all these plays you can run and that’s ultimately if you do that enough, you will never run out of content ideas, that it becomes about prioritization of the ideas and which ones are most impactful.

Christian Klepp  23:31

Just give me some air to digest all that.

Ali Schwanke  23:34

Right, I’ll just share with you my Evernote folder.

Christian Klepp  23:37

Well, I appreciate that not just… I’m sorry, I’ve just been furiously taking notes here. And I hope the the listeners out there are doing the same thing. Because… thanks so much for that those are really those are really some interesting points and highly relevant. Yeah, absolutely. You should focus on the platforms where you’re, you know, where your customers are looking for content, looking for information. And I think that was your point, too, right? It’s not it’s not that everybody should go to Tik Tok right now, if your audience isn’t hanging out and Tik Tok, then you probably shouldn’t look there. Right? But okay, fantastic. Now, you’ve talked about it already a little bit, but break it down for us just think of this like a Lego set, and then you’re just taking it apart again, right before putting it back together. So tell us about the different components that you feel are required to effectively grow your B2B content platforms.

Ali Schwanke  24:27

Yeah, so really, you have to think about what your purpose of the content is. And also, in most cases, B2B content is going to serve as both awareness and lead generation content. And by awareness, that could be both brand awareness as well as well. I’ll use the word and I’ll define it here in a second, but thought leadership which thought leadership is attributing specific ideas to your company, as a leader in an industry. So for example, you know, my company’s thought leadership is attributed to us being experts in HubSpot which therefore means we understand how to drive revenue with your CRM, so on and so forth. And our channels, an example of that. And then obviously, this podcast as we talk about that is an example of that too. But your components, as you’re building up this, this content journey is, really you have to start with that awareness funnel, and all the questions people would ask at every stage of their buying journey. So to make it super simple, stupid, at the awareness phase, they have a problem. And they sometimes don’t know what the problem really even is. So if someone in our case, might end up needing help with their HubSpot CRM, they might think that they need a better salesperson. So they don’t even think that they’re tracking the right stuff in the in the system, they’re just like, I just probably need to have two salespeople instead of one. And it might turn out that one salesperson actually is terrible. And they don’t have a way to report on that, because the reporting in their CRM is terrible, right? So we could help them with that. So there’s problem and then there’s awareness once they become aware of those things. And so that that, we call it consideration content. So consideration content is going to be that middle of the funnel, where they’ve identified a direction they want to go, now they need to figure out what is the best way in which to solve this problem. So I could maybe either hire a sales consultant, I could, you know, upgrade my CRM for better automation functionality, those are two options. And then that what we call decision making content, which is usually things like, you’re gonna have, we call the bottom of the funnel, but you’re gonna have case studies, you’re gonna have testimonials, you’re gonna have how-to videos of like, what to do on your platform for very product specific stuff. Because at that point, whether you’re a service provider, or you happen to be a software, you’re going to be deciding that like, should I move forward with this software or this service, or not? Sometimes the or not, is actually your biggest competitor, the or not is like, that’s too much work, I’m just not going to do anything. Like you’re sometimes competing against nothing, seriously, nothing. And then post-sale, a lot of companies have a huge opportunity to do much better onboarding, and customer advocacy content, which would be things like, like Hrefs, is an excellent, excellent example of this content across the full spectrum of their funnel, because they’ve got how to content all the way down to how to get the most out of their software, and every single one of their videos as well as Brandon, it’s highly understandable, regardless of your use of their product or not, it’s super great on brand in terms of like production and consistency. And then you just feel like they care about you when you when you use their product. So all those four pieces are going to be part of the program. If you’re just starting, you’re probably going to start with content as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible. Because if you don’t have case studies that show your relevancy to someone who’s trying to make a decision, don’t spend your time on the top of the funnel, because they’re going to leak out of your bucket down at the bottom before they actually get to a sale.

Christian Klepp  27:52

Well, that’s fantastic. Well, thanks for sharing that. No, you’re absolutely right. I think, at least from what I’ve seen, many marketers get carried away with trying to do everything. Kind of like that movie that just won the Oscars, right? Everything and everywhere all at once. Right.

Ali Schwanke  28:08

That’s actually an excellent… Like that’s the content strategy do not do as according to the Oscars.

Christian Klepp  28:13

Yes, absolutely. Thanks, Michelle Yeoh. All right, Ali. So this show is also about actionable tips. So give us something actionable here. And let’s step back for a second and appreciate that you can’t do all of this in 24 hours. But if somebody were listening to the conversation that I’m having with you today, what are probably the three to five things that you would want them to do right now to improve how they’re growing their B2B content platforms.

Ali Schwanke  28:43

Yeah, well, I’m gonna take a step back to strategy first, and then we’ll talk action because really, it depends on which direction you’re going. So really, there’s really two kinds of content that exists for B2B companies. And we should have covered this earlier. But we’ll go here. So first one is going to be Search Driven. They know exactly what words to type into Google to solve whatever problem that they have. And that’s going to warrant something down the line for you. And a lot of times you talk to talk about this being capturing demand. So you’re capturing the fact that someone has a search about this, and they’re winding up on your website in some way, shape, or form. And then we have creating demand, which is much more about education, agitation of the market, shaking them up to realize they do have a problem, or they there is a better way to do this. So depending on which one of those you do, you’re going to have to deploy different tactics. So actionable wise, if you happen to be deploying the I’m going to capture them online, you’re going to want to make sure you understand and go make a list of all of the different types of searches that would be in someone’s Google search, for example, that would, you should be creating content about. And some people say well, I don’t know how to do that, I’m not sure which ones to write about. Start with simply the ones that you already know are being asked in the sales process. So again, back to the example we knew, we knew people were asking what is HubSpot? And what can I do with it based on both search data from something like SEMrush, if you use SEMrush, or Ahrefs that will give you that were suggested as another good tool that can give you that as well. And then secondly, on top of that, if you’re going to capture demand, you need to interview your customers. So again, go back to them, ask them questions, like, if you were to type something into Google to find the type of problem we solve, what would you type into Google? And that question is really interesting, because you’ll often get things that people will say, and you’ll be like, huh, I never thought of it that way. Because their paradigm is so much different than yours. Now, if you’re capturing demand, you’re gonna have to think about how to make this interesting, entertaining and relevant to me, when I already am not looking for it. So this is where studying some of the ways that your competition is capturing attention. I’m not saying go copy that. But definitely understand what the competition’s doing first, before you do anything else, and then you have to establish a unique point of view. Otherwise, capturing demand will just look like a me too exercise. So if you’re capturing demand, for instance, if you now create a channel with HubSpot tutorials, yeah, that’s a good measure. But there’s a lot of people doing that now. Like, we’ve been doing that for three years, there’s other people jumping on the boat, if you created I don’t know, a Tik Tok channel that had short pithy things about a CRM and was humorous. That might be interesting, okay, so you got to think about how to capture that attention. And then also make it so that they pay attention and not just, Well, that’s cute. And then I just kind of move on. So you have to pick a direction, either capture content or captured demand or create demand. And then out of that, that’s going to determine your next steps. And if you again, have nowhere else to start, talk to your customers and make sure you have content that answers their top questions.

Christian Klepp  32:06

Absolutely. No, thanks for sharing that. Um, I want to go back to something you said earlier. And that’s not because I want to play devil’s advocate, just out of curiosity.

Ali Schwanke  32:13


Christian Klepp  32:13

Right. Because I while I agree with you, like establish a unique point of view, you know, you know, as well as I do, how often that gets misinterpreted, right? Because there’s folks out there that think that having a unique point of view means like saying something controversial, it’ll piss everybody off. Sure. And I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant. Right? So please, elaborate.

Ali Schwanke  32:33

Yeah, this, I do think that I mean, given some of the political climate and things like that people may be this disposition to think that that’s the way that’s interpreted. However, the point of view is, if you think about your values as a company, and you think about the problems that your product or service solves, there is going to be a reason why that exists. So it is the way I’ve had people back up and think about this is there are things that you fundamentally do and say over and over again in your company. And if you took time to write them down and say, why did we say this? Where did this come from? What is the origin story of this belief? Or what are some origin stories? And then, when I talk about these things, what do I want people to feel and do as a result of these stories.

Ali Schwanke  33:24

So to wrap that all together, I’ll give you an example. I believe that marketing can be both short term and long term, but there is a strategic investment over the long term in order for you to be successful. And where that story came from, is, I have worked with far too many entrepreneurs who have given up on their marketing strategy and tactics right before the breakthrough point. And so all of the efforts that have been put into this are typically abandoned in light of new strategies. And I now am sitting in front of you as a person running a channel for about two and a half, almost three years, that has achieved a level of lead generation and visibility that most companies wish for, because we chose to play the long game. So that is one of the point of views that we have. Now. We also believe that we’re testing out YouTube shorts now, because we need to test out the short term strategies while we demonstrate the long term. So that’s a point of view that again, like makes sense for us.

Christian Klepp  34:20

Absolutely, absolutely. It may not be very timely or pertinent for me to use this comparison, but it’s almost like investing in stocks, right? You don’t cash out after three months. I mean, you have to be in it for the long run. I again, Let’s appreciate that. It depends on what kind of stock we’re talking about. Right? Yeah, I’ll probably just stop there because he’s getting into trouble.

Ali Schwanke  34:44

Yeah, we’ll have a disclaimer at the end of this episode, just in case.

Christian Klepp  34:47

Yes, yes. Yes. Yes. No, absolutely. Absolutely. Ali, you brought up. You brought this one up earlier, but like, I just wanted you to like talk about an example to highlight how you grew your own content platform, so just walk us through that process if you if you can, about what you did, and what worked, what didn’t work, and what the results were.

Ali Schwanke  35:10

Yeah, so we’ll give you a couple of examples when we first started our table in our blog, and that was back to that creating discipline around things. When we first launched our YouTube channel, it wasn’t a separate channel. It was a hypothesis. And it was a… we already had some clients asking us for videos that would help them do some common things in HubSpot. And at the time loom was a fairly new Chrome plugin, I knew that we were using it to just create these short videos. So send them to the clients, and we thought, one of the gaps again that we identified in…. so we take a step back. So we looked at all of the YouTube content out there related to HubSpot. And one of the things again, we noticed was, people were having less and less tolerance for the long like, here’s my life story kind of the way we all complain about recipe blogs, where they talk about their life story, and I’m just like, I want the recipe. That is that, you know, that happens on YouTube too where they talked about.

Christian Klepp  36:08

Sorry, the jumping does not drive you nuts like that. Yeah, every time I look up some recipe, and they talk about what they like to do. And I’m like, well, where’s the recipe?

Ali Schwanke  36:18

Yeah, well, you know, it’s funny though. It’s like a sidetrack. But is I follow it a gal on Instagram called Of Batter and Dough. And like, her Instagram is amazing. I will read all of her stories, because I become bought into her story. But I didn’t stumble upon her recipe first, I stumbled upon her Instagram first. So but I still don’t read. I don’t read the whole story on our website unfortunately, I read it just on Instagram. And then I’m like, I can’t make bread. Like I tried her bread recipe. And I was…. it was terrible. It was basically like flat. It was like pita bread.

Christian Klepp  36:49

It’s so small feet. But I’m sorry for interrupting. Please continue.

Ali Schwanke  36:52

But I think that what we discovered when we were studying that is, you know, Hi, my name is Ali. And I want to talk to you today about all the things… if you study, the reason why people stay engaged with content is they open their videos with a promise of what’s coming. And it’s not about them. And you get into it right away. So we identified that as the opportunity. So we thought what if we just made better versions of these How-to videos, and just instead of blabbering on for three minutes, we just go, Hey, do you want to know how to hook up your HubSpot inbox to your Gmail? Let’s dive in. And we learned that was it. That was the genesis of the whole idea. So we created some looms, we put them online and added some intros and whatever to them. And we amassed some views from that. So we use that sort like little bit of data to then say, Okay, what would be the result if we put this on its own channel and create an audience around it. So we have these kind of small bets that we put into the mix before we took the big leap into it, which I think is a really important next step. Now, if you’re thinking about this in terms of like a podcast, you can’t take a leap into it and say, I wonder if I can get a couple of listeners. Okay, podcast discovery is much harder. And there’s a lot of them. So that’s not necessarily a good way to do that. But I think like, I’ll give an example. Right now, I’m launching a podcast as well, I had a tweet that I sent out. And I said, I’m launching a podcast, I’ve got an eight minute episode, I’d love for anyone to listen to it, give me some feedback, I had 90 replies on that tweet of people that were willing to give me feedback, I did not send 90 DMs. But I did send about 20 DMs and I had probably 10 People listen, provide feedback, good or bad. And now I’ve got this interesting feedback to kind of build with my community in public. So again, back to that, like when you first start, analyze, make a small bet. And then what we did is we created the first initial pieces of content based on what we knew would be searchable headlines, some of the most common problems that people have that are new users, we looked for like a high level of search volume. And we created those pieces of content. You can’t analyze the performance of your content until you have a minimum viable amount of content. So I think again, people think they want to go back and analyze their performance. Okay, you can’t analyze the performance when you got four videos, and they’ve been up for four weeks, that’s just not possible. It’s like weighing yourself on a diet on day two, like waterway, you know, woo hoo, but like, you’re gonna go ahead and eat lunch, and you’re gonna be back to where you started, right? So when you’re analyzing, for us, we had to get to that six month mark. At the six month mark, our growth line still looked like a person that was dead, like it was not going anywhere… But once we got to this inflection point, we said we have six months of data. Let’s really dig in and we started doing a analyzation of like, how many subscribers did we get? Where did they come from? What were the search terms? We reverse engineered all of that and said you know what, we found three key insights that drove our content calendar for the next six months, and that then started to build a compound effect, as we created more content. So it’s, it’s so much like everything else in life where the more you do it and the more you study it, the more you learn. And it has to be an iterative process. And then ultimately, like we learned, you know, shorts and snippets and social pieces and whatever. But that’s really the genesis of how it all kind of came together.

Christian Klepp  40:21

Amazing, amazing story. And I think, with sharing that experience with the audience, you’ve also answered the question about quality versus quantity, which is, I think, a question that everybody in content marketing asks themselves or gets asked, and I think you just answered it, right? It’s something that happens progressively over time. You don’t you know, you don’t start with quality like I certainly didn’t.

Ali Schwanke  40:21

Yeah, there’s a couple of things that you have to keep in mind based on platforms. So I will say written content. Quality means you have to have an intro that captures me, otherwise, the rest of the article doesn’t matter. And there has to be something I learn that either inspires me motivates me or causes me to think differently. If you don’t achieve that in a written piece of content, you then get to the answer. Think about these pieces, where it’s like 10 Things You Didn’t Know About XYZ. If you read the article and go, I knew all of that, like you’ve, you’ve let the reader down, you know, so you have to have something that delivers on its promise. Podcasting, you have to be able to get rid of things like vocal tics, you have to really listen to your vocal inflection and your tonality, those things matter. On a podcast. If you’re not really good at that now, Toastmasters, public speaking lessons, those are all going to be important. But you can speak eloquently, if you don’t talk about something that people are interested in, who cares? Who cares how eloquent you speak, if you’re, if your strategy is not right. On video, again, same sort of thing. If you’re not watching your videos overtly, I don’t know if you do this Christian. But I’ve talked to a lot of people that they have a podcast, or they’ve been on video, and they never watch or listen to themselves. I’m telling you, if you have any sort of content, if you write it, you need to read it. If you record it, you need to listen to it. If you record it, you need to watch it like you have to analyze your own performance.

Christian Klepp  42:18

100% agree! And you have to answer your question. Yes, I do watch my own videos, and I do listen back to myself. And every now and then I’m like, argh, did I really say that?

Ali Schwanke  42:29

I mean, that’s a necessary evil, I think we’re afraid of what we sound and listen, like, or and look like. And I tell people every day, this is terrible to say this way, but like, I look at you, and I listen to you. So at the whole world is experiencing something that you think is not worth listening or watching, I find that hard to believe.

Christian Klepp  42:48

Exactly, exactly. And, you know, it was something also that I have to struggle to like unlearn, for example, because you know, it’s human nature, right? These pauses, or these gap fillers, you know, like what I just did, you know, you know, ahh’s and ummm’s. And, and I tried doing that, like with a friend of mine, who’s a, you know, she’s a public speaking coach, right, for example. And I asked her, like, you know, Tina, give me some tips, like, how can I get rid of this? And she said, Well, it’s human nature, you can’t really 100% get rid of it. But what you can probably do, instead of saying ahh or you know, is just take a breath, take a breath, and keep your mouth open without any sound coming out. And as awkward as that looks.

Ali Schwanke  43:36

I’m gonna tell my kids that too.

Christian Klepp  43:38

Yeah. But, but try getting people to do that. Right? You know, you and I, we’ve been doing this, we’ve been running our own podcasts for a certain period of time, and I still catch myself doing it. Alright.

Ali Schwanke  43:50

It’s because we’re all on Zoom every day, it becomes something that we’re accustomed to, since in our calls, they’re not performances. Yes, when you are on a performance, it is a little bit more difficult to remember that. But repetition and review. And every single athlete that I’ve ever watched or read their documentary, or watch a documentary is, they watch themselves compete, they see themselves in game performance. That has to be the way we think about ourselves as content creators. If you’re not the creator, if you’re the strategist, and you have a team of creators, then it’s up to you to be the coach of that team as well. So, identify that if that’s your executive, they’re probably going to have a little bit of an ego, and that your ability to help them realize their shortcomings and have that comes across to their customers. That’s a topic for a whole other episode.

Christian Klepp  44:44

Oh, yeah. Part two coming soon. Metrics, love it or hate it. Right? Which metrics would you recommend marketers should be paying attention to if they’re trying to grow their B2B content platforms?

Ali Schwanke  45:01

Good question, there’s going to be metrics at each level, or each stage of the journey. And ultimately, most marketing programs that are driven by content will have some sort of lead generation metric. So if you are utilizing webinars, for example, as one of your content deliverables, you will want registrants. If you are using blogs, and they are Search Driven, you want keyword rankings, and you want search traffic. If you are using YouTube, you want views and conversions from YouTube or on some sort of lead generating content. So I do think that I gave a talk once at a conference called metrics that matter. And what we don’t want is we don’t want vanity metrics. But usually, the way I tell people to do metrics is think about your dashboard as like just all the things in your car. So when you’re looking at YouTube, you want all the subscribers, you want that level of engagement, you want your average click through rate, or average view duration, those are very important for the algorithm, on your blog, you want click through rate, you want keyword ranking, you want time on page, all those things are important. You then analyze that on a monthly basis, and you do a couple things. So pretend that your executive only has five minutes to read your analytics report. What are the three driving metrics that matter? Here’s a link to the whole dashboard. And then here are three insights from that. And then here are three things we need to do as a result of those insights. So if you think about that, again, that’s kind of the way that we function, when we go to the doctor, here’s your blood report, here’s what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, you’re great, you’re not whatever. That’s how we interpret that data. Otherwise, you can get buried in metrics, and then you actually get in weeds that don’t really drive anything. And instead, they just, they look fancy, but if you got five more subscribers in the last month, it’s not a big deal. And it might, you might find that it’s accidental, and you have no idea how you got those additional leads or, or drivers.

Christian Klepp  46:59

Yeah, yeah. no, you know, that’s such a great answer. And I’ll tell you why. Keeping it short and simple, especially for senior members of management, because we’ve all been in those meetings where it’s like, oh, no, this has gone on for far too long, this meeting. And the report is way too long. And we’re losing them at some point, right. And to your point, I’ve seen this happen a couple of times where marketers are throwing all this data out there, but they actually sometimes don’t know how to interpret the data properly. Or they don’t prepare, or they don’t anticipate the question from the board, which tends to be. So what’s the point? What are you trying to get at here? Right? Yep. So how do we solve… Okay, so we know that there, we see this data, we see this chart, we know that there’s a problem, but how do we solve it?

Ali Schwanke  47:47

Oh, yeah, best practice in understanding metrics is the other benchmarks, both your benchmarks as well as industry benchmarks. And if you have been tracking data for three months, that becomes your three month benchmark. So your job as a marketer, your job as a content marketer is to help everybody makes sense of the what seems like crazy data. And I will tell you, the minute you show a chart that’s got any sort of down arrow and any red anywhere, regardless of how amazing your metrics look, that little teeny box with the red in it will just draw everyone’s freakin eye. Which is why it’s numbers and stats are so important to figure out what is your comparable because if you’re comparing time period or time period, and you had some sort of like, complete anomaly, like COVID. Okay, that isn’t actually a measurable year, like we had a really weird digital year, that year, because nobody went outside. So making sense of the numbers in light of the context is what your job is. And then And to your point, anticipate the questions so that you address them before they even think about them. And they know that you are actually ahead of all of that, and they’re not going to try and catch you off guard.

Christian Klepp  49:02

Absolutely. Absolutely. So we’re getting to the end of the show, but I’ve got two more questions for you. All right. Get up on your soapbox. The status quo in your area of expertise that you passionately disagree with? And why?

Ali Schwanke  49:18

I mean, there’s a lot of conversation right now around AI. And I’ll kind of go there because the I think anytime something’s new and unknown, there’s both a anticipation of amazement. And there’s also this fear of replacement. And anytime you go from the current known to the unknown, regardless how amazing it is, there’s this kind of treacherous journey. And what I disagree with is the idea that, again, we’re all going to be replaced by AI. I think a lot of the things we do are going to be replaced with AI. But I think the thing that I leaned into super hard I just tweeted this this morning is because we’re going to start to see human voices powered by AI, human faces and avatars powered by AI, what I think it makes a wonderful opportunity for you and I and content creators is go create content that is just so human that you can’t help but watch and engage with it. So if we did this podcast while we were walking, that would be different because you can’t do that. Right? You know, can I somehow have back to like, Jerry Seinfeld did his comedians and cars. Okay, that’s interesting, because, you know, that’s something you can’t do right now with that that AI component. So I do firmly believe there are things that humans want to see from other humans. And we’re, we’re going to crave that the more that that’s taken away from us.

Christian Klepp  50:48

Absolutely. Absolutely. And to your point, no the machines are not going to rise up and take over. Not just yet.

Ali Schwanke  50:53

I mean, we need to be careful… like this. There is a lot of experimentation. But there needs to be some healthy fare for some of the use cases of this. And that’s definitely, I think, on a lot of people’s minds.

Christian Klepp  51:05

Totally agree. Totally agree. Ali, as expected, this was an awesome conversation. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your experience and expertise with the audience. quick intro to yourself and how folks out there can get in touch with you.

Ali Schwanke  51:18

Yeah, well, thanks for the invite. For those that didn’t catch my name earlier. I’m Ali Schwanke. I’m the founder of Simple Strat and one of the hosts of HubSpot Hacks over on YouTube. We have a lot of great resources over at simplestrat.com you can find me on LinkedIn, I have tons of stuff there weekly newsletter. And, again, if you Google Ali Schwanke, there’s only one of me that I know of. So you’ll be able to track me down and I look forward to having conversations out of the show and hopefully maybe doing this again sometime.

Christian Klepp  51:46

Fantastic. Fantastic. So Ali, once again, thanks for your time. Take care, stay safe and talk to you soon.

Ali Schwanke  51:51

Yep, thank you.

Christian Klepp  51:53

Thanks, bye for now.


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