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Martech Stacked Episode 12: How to collaborate with the influencers who matter - Neal Schaffer

Blog Post Author – David
David13th August 2020

I’m joined today by a man who’s authored 4 books on social media, including his latest one on influencer marketing - “The Age of Influence”. He’s also a consultant, a speaker and a university educator - welcome to Martech Stacked, Neal Schaffer. (You can find Neal over at NealSchaffer.com)

Listen to Martech Stacked on Apple, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Here are the 3 top tools in Neal’s current martech stack:

#1: ActiveCampaign ActiveCampaign gives you the email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM tools you need to create incredible customer experiences.

#2: BuzzSumo Find the content that performs best & collaborate with the influencers who matter

#3: Respona The all-in-one digital PR and link building software that combines personalization with productivity.

Full transcript:

David Bain: I'm joined today by a man who's authored four books on social media, including his latest one on influencer marketing, 'The Age of Influence'. He's also a consultant, a speaker and a university educator. Welcome to Martech Stacked, Neal Schaffer.

Neal Schaffer: Thank you so much. It's an honor to be here.

David Bain: Yeah. Thanks, Neal. Great to have you on then. You can find Neal over at nealschaffer.com. So, Neal, explain what your business does and how you use marketing technology to make it better.

Neal Schaffer: Well, I am in the business of helping businesses with their digital and social media marketing. As you can imagine, as an agency and consultancy, the use of tools is critical to our own branding to helping clients. And in many ways, to teaching clients as well. Part of what we do is we help clients learn how to do this themselves. People, tools, process. And that tools part becomes so critical.

Neal Schaffer: In fact, I believe that tools are so critical for success in social media marketing. I actually had my own conference related to all the different martech vis-à-vis, social media marketing. It was called the Social Tools Summit. It was back in 2015 and 2016, and so the early days.

Neal Schaffer: But yeah, I've always been a big fan of tools. I've always looked for tools to help make my life easier. And I know if they can do that, they can help make the lives of a lot of marketers easier.

David Bain: Yeah. It's incredible. It's funny talking about 2015 and saying, "Back in 2015." But in terms of tools, digital tools, things have evolved so much over the years, you're talking about going from a few hundred tools to thousands and thousands of tools. So, can you maybe give us a flavor of what category of tools are the kind of tools that you've got your eye on at the moment?

Neal Schaffer: Well, obviously, social media dashboards are always evolving. It's an area where we're always looking for new features, new functionality. You have newer networks like Instagram and now TikTok, and will the tools be supporting those, as well as automation features and analytics. How can you let us know better how we're doing? And more importantly, how we can report back to our clients on how well we're doing. So, that's always going to be an area.

Neal Schaffer: I'd say other places where there's innovation is more sort of content discovery, trying to find content. These are ideas for your own content, understand how your competition is doing. And then we've seen some evolution in what we'd call outreach tools. Tools for helping you find other people to reach out. They would be bloggers or podcasters.

Neal Schaffer: I guess you could consider that part of influencer marketing reaching out to influencers in those spaces. And then in influencer marketing itself, we've seen that just a plethora of tools emerge and technology emerge to help you find who might be a relevant influencer for your campaign. So, I'd say those are the areas right now where I'm most focused on.

David Bain: Great, okay. It's certainly difficult for the average marketer or for anyone for that matter to actually keep on top of the new tools, the latest tools, the best tools for them to use in their organization. That's one of the reasons why we wanted to start this podcast was just to see what tools other people were using and hopefully get a few recommendations.

David Bain: So, let's delve into some hopefully specific recommendations from yourself. So, starting off with number three, what are your top three tools in your current martech stack and why?

Neal Schaffer: Well, I'd say if we're going to go in reverse order, the number three tool I'm going to have to put in there is a tool called Respona. Now, I mentioned this whole idea about influencer marketing or reaching out to bloggers and podcasters. And I think more and more businesses realize, especially in the B2B space, the influence that podcasts and blogs have.

Neal Schaffer: It's interesting because when I published my recent book, I work with one of the world's largest business book publishers, and they recommended as part of my media outreach that I reach out to podcasters and bloggers. That's how influential they become.

Neal Schaffer: Respona is a tool that will basically spider the internet, looking for bloggers, looking for podcasters. Now, they recently have started HARO or 'help a reporter out' access or I should say integration as well. And now, they've actually released sort of an influential content search engine as well.

Neal Schaffer: The concept is that you could upload a list from an SEO tool of domains that you want to reach out to or you want to be featured on. It will scour the internet looking for the email addresses of websites or podcasters from their RSS feeds, and it will conveniently display them in a dashboard where you can then create a pitch, which is going to be an email. But versus other systems, it really allows you to personalize it for each and every one of the companies you want to reach out to or people you want to reach out to. It also gives you the ability to get credits to be able to access email addresses without you having to look for them. And it gives you the ability to send follow-ups and what have you.

Neal Schaffer: So, I've used Respona for a few different campaigns. It's been really, really successful. I think people don't think it's coming from an automated tool. And if you've been on the other end, you've probably been there recipient of these things that look very artificial, which we all cringe at. These tools have been around for several years. Respona has a very interesting story to it, because it was actually created by a content marketing company, or I should say a visual tool company called Visme who specialize in providing tools for marketers to be able to create things like infographics, and graphics, and PowerPoint presentations, what have you.

Neal Schaffer: They were very successful doing blogger outreach for their infographics to the point where they developed a tool around that process, and that tool is called Respona, which now has spun out from the company. So, I think that's a great story. I think that often, technologists create these martech companies, but they're not always run by marketers or they don't necessarily have a lot of input of marketers and therefore the technology may be great, but the use case scenario or the process may not be aligned right. And therefore, they may be difficult for marketers to use.

Neal Schaffer: This is an example of a tool where everything is aligned because the people who developed it used it themselves. A great example, I don't think any tool can replace a process. You first have a process and you find a tool that can help automate and make that process more efficient. I think Respona is a great example of and it's still relatively new. I think they're probably still in beta. I think they came out in Q4 2019. So, they're really new, fresh technology, but they're innovating, revising it, adding new functionality very, very frequently. So, I'm very excited about that tool.

David Bain: Okay. I'm glad you said that they're new and fresh, because I don't believe I've heard of them before, but it looked like a wonderful platform. Reading out the meta description, Respona is the all-in-one digital PR influencer marketing and link building software that combines personalization with productivity. So, that's just Respona.com.

David Bain: It does look like a very interesting tool to try out. It was funny that you mentioned HARO, help a reporter out. I remember using that service when I started a podcast in 2014. That was a great service for reaching out and get getting the few first few guests on a podcast.

David Bain: Respona. Why did you select that particular tool or platform as opposed to another one out there? Are there very close competitors out there to Respona?

Neal Schaffer: There are competitors out there. In all honesty, this is an example of a company that pitched me because I'm sort of out there in digital and social media. They pitched to me, me being an influencer, to try out their tool.

Neal Schaffer: Maybe some of you listening also get pitched by various companies, but this was a tool that I thought they wanted to listen to my inputs. They wanted to make sure that I used it properly. They really went out of their way. It didn't feel like they were selling me on something. They went out of their way to help me best use it and to listen to my input and to try to accelerate roadmaps based around the needs that I had.

Neal Schaffer: I think this is so important for any tool company that's listening, the ability to do that. So, I also like the fact that they were newer, they had a different approach. The other tools in the market are older. I won't say they have a spammy approach, but it's all about you can reach so many people in such little time. Whereas Respona is more about creating relationships and personalizing messages and really using this sort of technology in a responsible way.

Neal Schaffer: So, that was the other thing that sort of sold me. And obviously, the functionality really spoke for itself as I began to use it and just the ... You want to find a tool that's very intuitive. The first time you use it, it's like when you first got that first iPhone or iPad back in the day, you didn't need an instruction manual. You just turn it on and figured it out, and that's really the sign of a great tool.

David Bain: Exactly. And it certainly seems as if it has lots of functionality in there as well. If you have a look at the pricing page, they compare themselves to BuzzSumo, RocketReach, Mailshake and Upwork. If you're taking away all the functionality from those different services, then that could be a very, very useful tool in someone's arsenal. So, that's tool number three for you, so let's move on to tool number two. What is that one?

Neal Schaffer: So, tool number two is a tool that you just mentioned, and I'm sure it's been mentioned or will be mentioned on this podcast, but it is a tool called BuzzSumo. And BuzzSumo is a really critical tool for a few different reasons.

Neal Schaffer: Obviously, when you look at digital marketing, social media marketing, you need to be visible on search, on social, on email. And everything you do, you need to have content, you need to have your own branded content, and you need to understand what is already out there. You often need to be curating content as I will do.

Neal Schaffer: So, in order to, whether it's curating content or whether it's creating your own content, BuzzSumo is just an incredible search engine of content. And what it does is it gives you the ability to find content based on publication date. You can filter by country, by TLD, what have you, but the ability to just tap into what has been published in a certain timeframe. And more importantly than that, what has social proof.

Neal Schaffer: And the social proof is they calculate or they get the data of the number of Facebook shares and tweets, LinkedIn shares, what have you. Obviously, the data that they can get from social networks varies from time to time based on the API access of those social networks. But they've done a really great job of building this database of content that allows you to tap in find well performing content. Not just for your content creation.

Neal Schaffer: I use BuzzSumo for my primary content creation tool, but also for ideas as to what content you should be creating, and for my clients as well. Knowing what's out there knowing what performs well, we can go even further and tap into ... Respona mentions that they sort of compete with BuzzSumo. They compete with them in a way that BuzzSumo also helps you find influencers.

Neal Schaffer: So, who are the influential people that are creating content, that are sharing content? What content are they sharing? So, if you want to get on people's radars, there's a lot of data inside BuzzSumo as well. So, just for that content piece, there's a lot of different ways to analyze the content that you should be creating. I think a great SEO tool is another way.

Neal Schaffer: If I could choose number four, it would be the SEO tool that I use for that reason. But I think that the BuzzSumo approach, which is a very social first approach, which is what is that content that performs well on social, especially for the industry that I'm in. And a lot of my clients, yes, they want to publish content for SEO purposes, but they also want to get really creative, and they want to find content that's going to be well received in social media as well. BuzzSumo becomes a really, really important technology.

David Bain: So, you talked a lot about finding content in BuzzSumo. And that's great to hear that you're still using it as a very important platform to do that. But I'd like to get a feel for what you do strategically with that content that you find.

David Bain: Do you, for instance, ever still curate that content and offer it as a resource based upon the content that you find for your readers, for your listeners, for your viewers? Or do you actually use it as a means to detect what content perhaps doesn't exist in a particular space and use it as an opportunity to actually write some original content yourself?

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. It's twofold the way that we use BuzzSumo. One is on the content creation piece. Every social network is different, but Twitter is usually the social network where you need to be tweeting a little bit more frequently in order to be seen, which often requires the use of content curation unless you have a lot of your own content.

Neal Schaffer: Now, my website has 450 pieces of content on nealschaffer.com. 450 blog posts. I've been blogging since 2008. Yet, if you're just talking about yourself, then people are going to tune you out. It's when you offer up different ideas from different sources that, number one, you'd be able to be seen as more representative, more objective about the content you provide, and therefore it actually builds more trust with your audience.

Neal Schaffer: And number two, depending on how you publish that content, if you tag the creator of that content, it gives you the ability to develop relationships with other content creators and influencers. So, we use BuzzSumo as a way to find that curated content specifically for our Twitter feed where we tend to publish the most curated content.

Neal Schaffer: We also use that for newsletters. So, we have a weekly newsletter. We have a monthly newsletter. And it's specifically for the weekly newsletter we will bring in newsworthy content as defined by how buzz worthy it was on social media as defined by how we found that content in BuzzSumo.

Neal Schaffer: So, those are two very, very specific use case scenarios. We can simply plug BuzzSumo into your process. It's going to save you time and I believe provide you a better result and therefore that email marketing, or your Twitter or wherever you want to curate content is going to be more successful.

Neal Schaffer: For the creation, yes, there's two different ways of looking at that. Number one, originality. You want to publish something on a subject, what have other people published about. And I think we would tend to look at an SEO tool, we would do our keyword research, we'd go to Google to look at Google search intent. But the other side is looking at what is currently being published in social, what is performed well in social, what hasn't performed well.

Neal Schaffer: And yes, definitely, is there a creative angle that we can bring that others haven't brought? Or do we feel that we can do better than what is the most successful article on that in social? Or, hey, no one shared anything about that on social, maybe this is an opportunity for us and we find that in a lot of niche industries.

Neal Schaffer: I'd say that the content curation right now for my company, BuzzSumo, has more value, but that content creation also is just another touch point that I think provides a lot of value.

David Bain: And in terms of where you'll link out to from your own social media, will you quite happily link out to third-party sites, third-party resources and just directly refer traffic to them? Or will you generally attempt to curate a list of resources as a blog post on your own website, and then use social media to link to your blog post and then hopefully get people to stick around your website for a little bit as well as actually checking the resources?

Neal Schaffer: Yeah, we do not do sort of content curation roundup blog posts. I know that many companies do them. I've seen them be done. I think blog-

David Bain: Do you think they are happening too much at the moment?

Neal Schaffer: Well, I just don't know how much value they provide. And I would rather get someone on my list than ... I mean, they come to your website, but really the idea is to get them on your list. So, I think that the problem is that once you've been blogging for 10 years, 12 years, you now have ...

Neal Schaffer: If you've been doing a weekly roundup, you now have hundreds of these blog posts that are not evergreen in nature. They immediately have no value. So now, you have a lot of dead weight on your blog. And I'm not an SEO expert by any means, but I go through a regular process of pruning out content that doesn't perform well anymore for whatever.

Neal Schaffer: I don't want that dead weight. I want Google to be able to see that any piece of content from this site is evergreen, is deliverable, and is actually ranking and is getting traffic.

David Bain: And by pruning, do you 301 redirect the old article to do something more useful for someone at the moment?

Neal Schaffer: Absolutely. And I really found this out being that my blog was about social media marketing. I had posted about Google+. I had post about StumbleUpon. These things are not being searched for anymore. And although they do still have backlinks attached to them, hopefully the 301 redirect is going to carry some of that over. It's irrelevant content.

Neal Schaffer: And I realized this that ... And this is a whole different subject that I've recorded a separate podcast on myself. But I realized that as I was doing this content audit, and we sometimes hear in the SEO world the importance of content audits, that it was when I was actually moving my website to a new one, to nealschaffer.com about a year and a half ago. I just noticed that there were a lot of links that were broken. And these were links to yahoo.com or entrepreneur.com. And these huge media sites were pruning. They realized that for whatever reason, this content wasn't relevant anymore, wasn't getting any traffic.

David Bain: But doing a bad job redirecting.

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. That's another story. Well, yeah, they have a lot of redirects to create, I guess. So, I realized after that then that because I had so much dead weight, maybe this is something that was holding my website down from getting better rankings. That Google saw this as being a site of lots of old content that just wasn't relevant. I think I always wanted to have relevant content.

Neal Schaffer: So, even post that talk about recommendations for 2020, I'm very cautious about publishing those because they're going to have a shelf life of 12 months, unless you have a process to go in and revise them year in year out, which is something I've started doing recently.

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. So, there is a pruning process, and I'm a big believer in it. There are certain things that instead of pruning will do a process of revising, because they're strategic to the site. But in nature, that weekly roundup post is not going to survive.

Neal Schaffer: Yes, as a curator, there is some value there. And I know that there are curation sites like Scoop.it where they'll have case studies of companies building micro hubs of curated content and the value that's generated. So, it's going to be different for everybody, but I think what works best for ...

Neal Schaffer: I really want to keep that blog content. If someone is subscribing to the RSS feed, every post that's evergreen has unique value to it. I just don't think the roundup posts, unless they're incorporated into a blog post around a certain subject, then they might have value. But because the subject matter that my blog conference is so broad, I don't think that would be possible.

Neal Schaffer: So, that's why I took my approach. But I think this brings up a good point, which is every company, you can't just read blog posts and listen to experts and do something. It has to be right for your company's own unique situation. And this is one solution that I found.

Neal Schaffer: This may work for your company, this may not work, but this is what works for my company. I just think that everybody needs to be an open thinker, open-minded thinking and really analyze which of these approaches best makes sense for our company.

David Bain: I love taking really relevant, interesting sidetracks. That was certainly one of them. And if you're a social media marketer listening to this, you can't just be thinking about sharing your content on social media, it has to be about user experience where you're sending people and what people do on your website and how that impacts how popular your website is going to be in the future.

David Bain: And there are many top SEOs that I've talked to that have said something similar to what you advise there Neal. That once a year, prune your website. Look at what perhaps isn't so interesting anymore, isn't so relevant anymore. And then look for an article that is much more up to date, but appropriate, and perhaps the most authoritative article on your website on that particular topic, and then redirect your articles to that.

David Bain: And there have been quite a few different case studies that have shown that the sum of the total is actually greater than the sum of the parts. I.e., if you redirect five different articles to one core article, and each article got 100 visits per month, then you may get 1,000 visits per month in total because of the increased authority of the end page. So, it's certainly something to really be aware of.

Neal Schaffer: Again, I think also ... I wanted to just add that. In Google's eyes, what is this website about? And if every other blog post has the title, Weekly Roundup, Google is going to think that Weekly Roundup is the most strategic keyword for your website.

Neal Schaffer: Also, you're always sculpting what your website looks like in Google's eyes. You have to proactively sculpt that. That's also part of the pruning process is when Google scans what keywords they see popup most often. So, if you're talking about old technology, like Google+ that doesn't exist anymore, then obviously they're going to think your website is out of tune with what's going on right now.

Neal Schaffer: If you did a lot of TikTok ... And it's really interesting because I've seen, for instance, influencer marketing, there is a website called Influencer Marketing Hub, and they can came out of nowhere and they own top search results for almost everything influencer marketing related, because that's all they talk about.

Neal Schaffer: So, in Google's eyes, of course, they're going to get better and better ratings over time or rankings, because that's their expertise. We have this expertise, authority, trustworthiness with this algorithm, and we talk about SEO. So, I think that's another important thing to consider is if your company is an expert at something, that should be the center point of your content. You should own every keyword variation.

Neal Schaffer: And when you start blogging or creating content not related to that topic, that's when you might run into a little bit of trouble from an authority perspective. On the other hand, if you're like an influencer marketing hub, you can now take that influencer marketing authority you have in Google's eyes, and now start to talk about Amazon influencer and sort of dab out into different areas.

Neal Schaffer: So, this is something I've learned over time, but just something else to consider when we talk about pruning and sort of sculpting your content in the eyes of Google.

David Bain: Definitely. And as a content marketer, the first thing that you need to be doing is deciding on whether or not your search covers all the core topics that you need to cover from your industry perspective before going off there and producing your weekly blog posts or whatever content you get fired up about personally.

David Bain: It's about defining whether or not the content really represents what you do as a business, and whether or not you're really covering everything to do with that on your website before you get sidetracked and start talking about topics that aren't quite so closely related in the eyes of Google and search engines. So, we had Respona, tool number three. We had BuzzSumo, tool number two. What is your tool number one?

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. One more thing on tool number two, content creation. I'm really sorry to drag the point because we got caught up in the SEO there. Another critical thing about curating other people's content is at the end of the day, you get the analytics as to how that content performs. You can see what if you don't have that content and you're sort of curious as to whether you should be creating content around that subject.

Neal Schaffer: By curating that, using BuzzSumo to curate that content and publish it on social media and see how your community responds to it is a great way of analyzing what is your community interested in and what type of content you should be creating more up to get more engagement from them. And that's something I think a lot of people forget about that. It's counterintuitive to share other people's content, but it's critical for that reason.

David Bain: Great. And I'm going to zip my lip now and not ask you any more questions about that. I'll just ask you about tool number one.

Neal Schaffer: Yeah, we did get there. So, tool number one, we talked about or I talked about in this digital first era of today, you need to meet your customer where they are, and it's either search, social or email. So, I think we talked a little about all those, but I really want to focus on the email piece because I think that email marketing, if you look at a lot of different digital marketing surveys, email marketing still delivers very, very high ROI.

Neal Schaffer: And when we talk about social or when we talk about search, we want to get people to our website and we want to convert them. But in order to convert them, we need to get them into our funnel, right? And this is sort of this email marketing, which regardless of text and WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, I think we all agree that it's still very, very powerful.

Neal Schaffer: I have worked with, boy, on the email marketing/marketing automation side. I've worked with Constant Contact, MailChimp, went to Infusionsoft, went back to MailChimp. Went to ActiveCampaign. And in addition to ActiveCampaign, I actually use a second tool that is called MailerLite. But I really want to talk about ActiveCampaign, because I feel that there are a lot of different tools out there, but ActiveCampaign is just very, very rich functionality to enable you to really optimize and to automate and to personalize to an extremely high degree your email marketing.

Neal Schaffer: And we can go beyond email marketing because there are components like web forms that you can add with ActiveCampaign. You can obviously display custom site messages to people on your list when they come to your website if they're cookied into ActiveCampaign. And the automations are ... They have this sort of unlimited ... You're not limited to like a few automations at a time like some other software does. So, just gives you this unlimited potential for really, really leveraging marketing automation technology in a very, very savvy way.

Neal Schaffer: I know there's a lot of other technology out there, but it's something that if you haven't looked into, I have found that really ActiveCampaign, all the check boxes that I think of when I'm looking for marketing automation. Now, obviously at the enterprise level, there are other tools, so maybe it's more appropriate for, although enterprises do use them. But definitely, at the mid market or SMB market, ActiveCampaign. And even for startups that I work with as clients, they subscribe to ActiveCampaign as well.

David Bain: Yeah. I've heard some great things about ActiveCampaign. One of the things that I love about ActiveCampaign is how many native integrations they've got. It's so easy just to get that flowing nicely with your own tools.

David Bain: I interviewed Gavin Bell for episode number five of Martech Stacked, and he actually moved from ConvertKit to ActiveCampaign, but then back to ConvertKit. Again, because for him, he felt that ActiveCampaign was just a little bit too complicated for what he was looking for. Do you think ActiveCampaign is possibly better for e-commerce or maybe high volume B2C type sites? Or, did you really think that any type of business can take advantage for what ActiveCampaign offers?

Neal Schaffer: Thank you for reminding me that I was also a ConvertKit user right before moving ActiveCampaign. Because I thought that the price that I was paying for ConvertKit, maybe there was something similar that had richer functionality, which is what ActiveCampaign did have now.

Neal Schaffer: It was a little bit more complex, but the struggle that I have with ConvertKit that I have with a lot of these lesser powerful email marketing automation tools is that they limit the ability for me to understand the person on the list.

Neal Schaffer: We know that we need to be delivering more personalized communication. And really, our list should become a CRM. I want to know who is actively engaging on my list. I want to be able to give them a social score. I want to be able, at a certain point if they hit a social score, to be able to offer them a coupon which I do with my e-commerce clients.

Neal Schaffer: So, this isn't a necessity to be an e-commerce client. But if you want the ability to understand the people that have subscribed to you, if you want the ability to understand them better to be able to navigate and search and find people based on various ways they've engaged with your content or your websites, if you architect everything right, ActiveCampaign gives you the ability to do that. It really blows ConvertKit out of the water in that aspect.

Neal Schaffer: I mean, we can go into more details about that. Now, ActiveCampaign, they are, I believe, really into customer success. They're rolling out these workshops. I actually joined one of their workshops when it was in Los Angeles right before the coronavirus pandemic. They're now doing these virtually. They did offer free migration. They also offered this sort of free email at any time. If I had any questions, I could reach out and I would get an answer. Sort of a little bit separate than their customer support.

Neal Schaffer: So, I've found that as a company, they're pretty invested in the customer success. And I found other companies where it takes a little bit of time to ... You subscribe and then you don't know what's next. I do for the ActiveCampaign did a really good job of recognizing that with that power, with that functionality comes responsibility, and lending a helping hand.

Neal Schaffer: Looking at the clients that have adopted, I had one move from Robly to ActiveCampaign. I had another move from HubSpot to ActiveCampaign. I think they've been able to figure it out pretty easily. So, I don't think it's overly complex by any means.

David Bain: Okay, great. One more question that I'd like to ask you in relation to marketing automation just before we move on, and that is you talked about landing pages and calls to action on your websites quite a bit. Is there a particular call to action that you're finding to be quite effective at the moment in terms of conversion rates?

Neal Schaffer: I think that I go a little bit old school when it comes to call to action. So, you have your splash screens, what have you. I tend to get a lot of traffic from search no matter how well I do social media. I have 220,000 Twitter followers, what have you, and Twitter drives the most traffic.

Neal Schaffer: By the way, Pinterest is second after Twitter well above LinkedIn and Facebook, but Google just outperforms any of them and it always has. So, I consider the current journey of coming from Google, consuming content, where do I go next. And I found that's been the most successful in terms of having buttons that are placed strategically near the bottom of blog posts, but the content has to be relevant to that piece of content.

Neal Schaffer: So, there are general calls to action you'll find throughout my site, but it's the specific ones where they're related to that content that are doing the best.

David Bain: Okay, that's a good tip. Because I think the easy thing for everyone to do is to put a popup or exit intent or something that really interrupts people from interacting with the content. And why would someone want to fill in a call to action if they haven't even had the opportunity to consume the content that they were searching for to begin with?

David Bain: So, to perhaps accept the fact that you're going to get slightly reduced conversion rates but the people that are going to opt-in to your list actually have consumed your content and are doing so because they really want to hear from you more. So, I think that's a good piece of common sense advice.

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. No, I couldn't agree more. I think that, obviously, in terms of that call to action, you have that full page that rolls down, what they call the landing mat. I do use that on my homepage because I don't think I'm going to be duped from a Google SEO perspective, because it's only on my homepage. So, people are coming to me for that anyway. I'm very selective as to where I have that. That has performed OK.

Neal Schaffer: I have a static bottom bar, which to be honest with you, still performs okay. As far as the exit intent or what have you, I'm still very conservative about that. I know marketers will say that it works, but as you pointed out, it's the relationship you have in that journey. And if people are coming because they want to consume the content anyway, I think just a more sophisticated approach at the end of the day is going to provide a better result, better conversion, less churn on the list as well.

David Bain: So, let's focus back in to your business's use of marketing technology. So, as your business grows, what's an example of a process that you currently do manually that you may wish to automate using marketing technology in the future?

Neal Schaffer: Wow. I'll be very specific here, but I am a podcaster. And I would love the technology to exist to create a podcast page for me. So, this is an interesting one. I know that more and more businesses at ContentCal are getting into podcasting. They're very smart to do that.

Neal Schaffer: And the problem with podcasting ... So, I talked about this SEO and pruning your content. And I found that these podcast show note blog posts always underperformed normal blog posts, which makes sense because the podcast is for my podcast audience. It's not for my blog audience, and a show note is not a blog post.

Neal Schaffer: So, what I've learned over time is I stopped doing show notes. A lot of them got pruned away because of the process that I have, but I wanted to create a single page where people could go to that whenever I had a podcast episode, they would be able to look at that podcast episode regardless of if they were a subscriber on Apple or what have you.

Neal Schaffer: So, I created a single page. I actually recently did this. Even though I'm at Episode 170, it's something I never did. And I'm quite embarrassed to say that, but I think that the technology should exist to have a really robust, automatically generated podcast page.

Neal Schaffer: My podcast page has my most recent 25 episodes. And below it, it has my top performing 25 episodes. It includes a widget which has the player. It includes the show notes for each of those posts. And every week, I am revising that page. It is being manually updated by not necessarily yours truly, someone that works on my team. But I think it's important because I always want to be sharing these podcast episodes in social so that I can get maximum visibility. But I want to be able to have this sort of content updated dynamically.

Neal Schaffer: So, it's very interesting because podcasting is flourishing, yet there's very little tech ... There's technology that allows you to cut and paste players for episodes, what have you. But there's no technology that exists that does something like I recommend you do. This is a solution that I've found. It's going to be different for everybody, but I'd love to be able to see more web content tools based around podcast. I think it's open for innovation right now.

David Bain: Definitely. I think things are improving. I guess it also depends on what podcast host you use. What host do you use?

Neal Schaffer: I use Buzzsprout. And I was actually going to recommend them. If we were to go to a number five tool, I would recommend them. They offer a website, buzzsprout.com/ what have you, but it's not on your site. They're not cookied in. They can't be re-targeted. So, I think it's important.

Neal Schaffer: And you could use technology like Chartable to retarget people even though they don't know they're being retargeted, which I'm not a fan of. So, I want to bring them back to my site. I want them to see all the other content and be able to opt-in what have you. So, that's the sort of automatically, dynamically generating website content tool.

David Bain: Well, we use ...

Neal Schaffer: You tell me if I'm wrong.

David Bain: Look, I don't think there's any such thing as wrong. There's things, there's personal experiences and what's appropriate for you and your business and your exact circumstances. I think, as we mentioned about quite a few things earlier on, there's no perfect tool for everyone.

David Bain: And the podcast host that we're using for Martech Stacked is Captivate, and that was a company started by Mark Asquith. Mark Asquith was actually on the show on episode three I think, earlier on. And I really like the platform. I've used Libsyn quite a bit in the past and, to me, Captivate's so much easier to use. They've got their own embeddable player. They've got a player that can take episodes, recent episodes and play multiple episodes in the same player as well.

David Bain: And they've got a WordPress plugin that I haven't used, because we're not using WordPress in the site that Martech Stacked's published on. So, I can't comment about that. Pat Flynn has got a plugin that's used to be called Smart Passive Podcast Player, I think, but is called something else. I can't remember what it's called now.

David Bain: So, there are a couple of options. I'm not so familiar with Buzzsprout. I'm always a little bit concerned when podcast hosts try and encourage you to direct traffic to their site instead of getting traffic in your site there as well. So, I think the key thing is within your RSS feed for each episode to have the permalink pointing to a URL and your own site, and then to have the podcast homepage being on your own site as well. And As long as if that happens and things are fairly automated, then it seems like it's one of the better hosts.

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. So, I've heard great things about Captivate. Obviously, Mark is well known and revered in the UK. I know he's come out. I saw him at Podfest right before the pandemic hit here. I also was a Libsyn user, and I thought that it was built on Windows 95 user interface. I had to hire someone to help give me training as to how I can update past episodes. It was that bad.

Neal Schaffer: So, Buzzsprout is an up and coming platform, but it offers rich stats regardless of price tier. It offers the ability to automatically get you in different podcast directories. It's very proactive in helping you do that. It is the one that Pat Flynn uses that he promotes. So, that's one of the reasons why I trusted them, but I've just had the ability with Captivate as well to have an easy to use user interface that gives you full control has just been critical.

Neal Schaffer: They also offer a WordPress plugin like Captivate does. And I've used Pat Flynn's player. It used to be called the Smart Podcast Player. But those are only for single episodes. And since I don't have show notes for single episodes, my needs were a little bit different.

Neal Schaffer: Buzzsprout has an amazing Facebook group community. They're one of the few tools where I've joined the community and I really found value in joining it, and it's nothing salesy. It's not Buzzsprout talking, it's really about the user sharing their experiences. So, that might be another thing when you're considering a tool in the future, do they have an active Facebook community? And are they openly sharing advice and tips? Because that can be a real game changer I think.

David Bain: Absolutely. That's a great key takeaway. And to be honest with you, we can continue this conversation for a long time, but we probably better finish things up by saying, would you say there's one key takeaway from either what we've discussed so far or something else that you'd like to bring in that you'd like to leave the listener with?

Neal Schaffer: Yeah. As marketers, we love martech, but the tools don't solve the problems. I believe the process and your own critical thinking is what you need to do first, develop the process, then find tools that fit the process. And often, I think marketers get that wrong. I think employee advocacy is something we didn't talk about. Leveraging employees as influencers.

Neal Schaffer: But I think this is an example of a concept where the tool was developed before the processor or even before the concept was mature. So, you had a lot of companies adopting the tools without really thinking through, "Does it make sense? Would employees want to auth their profiles to automatically share whatever the company wants them to share?" It just doesn't make sense when you think about it now.

Neal Schaffer: At the time, I think people were so caught up in the technology and so excited about it that it was very different. As marketers, we need to always be thinking critically about what we're trying to achieve, and those processes and really taking a look at them on a regular basis.

Neal Schaffer: We talked about curating content. We talked about this pruning idea of content on your website. We talked about marketing automation. We talked about podcasting. We actually covered quite a bit of ground here. So, the takeaway really is to critically think about that process. How can it be automated? But not only that, what other functionality or what other steps is it missing? And therefore, what are the tools that exist?

Neal Schaffer: So, I don't believe, as we talked about and you mentioned as well, there's no one tool that does everything, but I do use tools for very, very niche purposes. And I think that's totally okay. So, I think that's something that you should be doing as well. If you find the tool that niche ...

Neal Schaffer: Instead of one tool, your martech stack should have a dozen tools, probably. I probably have more than a dozen. I think that's where the future is going, because it's just so hard to create that one comprehensive tool that's going to fit everyone's needs.

David Bain: Great thoughts. Thank you so much for your time and your tips. Neal, what's the best way for the listeners to find out more about you and what you do?

Neal Schaffer: Well, I'm Neal Schaffer. Everywhere on social media, nealschaffer.com. That's the real Neal and N-E-A-L. And there's a few of us Schaffers lurking out there in social media. S-C-H-A-F-F-E-R. No, I don't have any blood relationships to any of the others. I also have a podcast called Maximize Your Social Influence, and my recently published book, The Age of Influence is available wherever fine books are sold.

David Bain: Superb stuff. Thanks again, Neal.

Neal Schaffer: Thank you so much.


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