Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Vot Are You Voorking On?

299311799_75ebae8abe_mI’m in the middle of a bunch of projects right now.

One project has me writing about security in the cloud.

Apparently, security concerns are one major obstacle to adoption of the cloud, in spite of the many advantages this computing model offers. My client is trying to change all that.

Another project has me mapping out a strategy for a blog focused on outsourced (sometimes called “offshore”) product development (OPD).

While the offshoring of IT services is hardly new, for the last several years we’ve seen outsourcing move up the value chain to include what were once considered core functions like R&D and new product development. As you might imagine, there are myriad challenges associated with this approach. My client is trying to solve (some of) them.

In addition to the above, I’m doing content strategy (“what kind of content do you need to generate leads, close sales, and improve search rank?”) and development (actually producing the stuff) for an array of B2B firms.

Bigger-picture-wise, I’m exploring various business models for content marketing services. If you’ve got ideas about that, let me hear ’em!

PS. The title question of this post was posed by Irini Galliulin to Ensign Chekhov in the classic Star Trek episode, “Way to Eden

Image Courtesy of Dollie_Mixtures.

Content Marketing and the Hegelian Dialectic


In the olden days, the watchword was: “Content is King!” Thinking on this now, however, I’m not sure that that it was ever really true.

Certainly, if your site featured lots and lots of stuff that lots and lots of people wanted to read, look at, and/or share, if it was “explorable,” in other words, then it may have, at least for a time, stood shoulder to shoulder with its peers in the interwebs’ pantheon of much-favored destinations.

Still, though like any great house it may have owed its rank and status to the tireless service of its retainers, the site itself was the true lord and master; the content, on the other hand served as knight and page, courtier and courtesan attracting visitors to the gilded halls, making their stay enjoyable, and vanishing like the April snow when the favor of these visitors or the sovereign turned from them.

Which is not to say, of course, that content is unnecessary. On the contrary, the content on your site – and I’m thinking both of information generally (address, phone number, product descriptions, client lists, etc.) as well as articles, stories, reports, white papers, opinion pieces, user reviews, videos, podcasts, and consumable images (i.e., NOT stock photos evanescently embodying your brand’s look and feel), and so on – is your site for all intents and purposes.

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Is Marketing Mainly Manipulation or Might It (also) Be Education?

3232486691_16a0553f54_m-1Last spring, while attending a lovely brunch, I got into an unexpectedly heated dispute with the host and one of the guests, professors at a local business college, about the Nazi philosopher, Martin Heidegger.

Having told me that they sometimes taught Heidegger’s essay, “The Question Concerning Technology,” to their students, I told them that Heidegger’s unrepentant allegiance to the Nazi cause, coupled with his very conscious desire to provide the philosophical groundwork for an as yet unrealized hyper-elitist society in which the Many served the Few, made such a pedagogical choice highly problematic.

To my way of thinking, I explained to them, introducing impressionable minds, or any minds for that matter, to the diabolical musings of the old, forest-dwelling, Swabian sorcerer was to fulfill his clearly articulated plans and, therefore, to be avoided at all costs.

Naturally, they thought me mad.

Flash forward to a recent dinner party featuring many of the same characters. Recalling our bygone dispute, one of my erstwhile protagonists found it ironic that I considered teaching marketing the better alternative to teaching Heidegger. Ascertaining that he equated marketing with manipulation I asked if he didn’t in fact try to manipulate his students, an imputation he vociferously rejected before absenting himself.

There ensued an illuminating discussion with his colleague concerning the way “marketing” had supplanted “sales” in the college’s curriculum. Whereas the institution had once upon a time striven to steep students in the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of persuasion proper to business, this was now deemed “kind of sleazy” and had been replaced with the more oblique, and ostensibly scientific, rigors of marketing.

On hearing this, I remarked that, funnily enough, with the ascendancy of “content marketing,” it was now education that provided sales and marketing with its dominant paradigm. And so we sat down to eat.

Customers don’t want to be marketed to anymore than they want to be sold to. They are, however, hungry for information, if not knowledge (or, perish the thought, wisdom). For this reason the contemporary marketer begins to increasingly resemble a research assistant or a reference librarian and, in some cases, a teacher.

Which is why I would like to suggest that, while education may, in its way, be manipulative, we must also allow that manipulation, in its turn, may also be, at times, educational.

Don’t you think?

Image Courtesy of coyote2012.

Two Thoughts on the Link Economy

This Sunday past, Richard MacManus published an article on entitled, “Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried.”

MacManus believes that Google et al. should be worried because ranking algorithms use in-bound links as an indicator of authority but, due to the rise of “content farms” such as Demand Media and, which can effectively generate links to their own content at scale, the number of in-bound links may indicate little more than the ability for an organization to generate in-bound links.

A conversation that I had with two SEO jedi back in October at the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer caused a similar thought to haunt the darkened corridors of my tortured mind. That is, it became clear to this novice that building links is, in part, merely a question of resources and effort. If, like the one jedi claimed, you have “guys in India” who can help by Digg-ing content and taking care of directory submissions, you’re gonna rank. If not, good luck.

Thought #1: If link-building is primarily a question of effort, then search results in Google primarily reflect this effort, rather than some quasi-meritocratic invisible hand.

In other words, the problem with this aspect of the link economy is that, in effect, people can print their own money. Now I ask you, how many “real world” economies could survive that kind of devaluation of its currency?

Still curious about the link economy, I hit the Googles and discovered a raging conversation about the value of links being waged from the content producer side. This dispute started with an article by Arnon Mishkin on “The Fallacy of the Link Economy” in which he argued, in effect, that links ARE content so that link aggregators should be paying the sources for these links.

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A Quick One on “Content Strategy for Marketers”

Doing some research on content marketing and how companies source or buy content and came across this concise (don’t let the slide count fool you), thorough overview of the steps involved in the creation and management of a solid content strategy:

It was produced by Melissa Rach at Brain Traffic. I like it because it introduces the skimmer to the doable nitty-gritty stuff demanded by the content strategy process while giving the aforementioned skimmer a healthy sense of its (almost) overwhelming complexity.

Good work, comrade!

“It Doesn’t Feel Like Marketing” – Matthew T. Grant on Noteworthy Content

Kyla Cullinane interviewed me during MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum last month. The topic was “How to Make your Online Content Stand Out.”

Briefly stated, I believe that your content will stand out if it is useful in and of itself (not just as marketing copy for your company). Of course, when you focus on “usefulness” you begin to move away from the notion of content as “words on a page” and begin to think of it in terms of tools, applications, and ideas. That is, as Shakespeare used to say, “the rub.”

If you don’t have two minutes and thirty odd seconds to spend on this video but you want something to think about, consider this: What question is your product or service the answer to?

Now let that question guide you in developing content that is meaningful, pertinent, and, above all, useful to the people who matter most: your customers.

If on the other hand you do have the time to watch, what do you think?

Like Soilent Green, Content IS People

2987167878_fa9e3315a1_mLast week on Twitter, Lewis Green asked if anyone was interested in writing a guest post for his blog, bizsolutionsplus. I said I’d been playing around with the idea of content as a process, not a product, and he encouraged me to write something on that topic. What I came up with was, “Content Is Still King (It’s Just Not What You Think It Is),” which was inspired in part by Mack Collier’s provocative assertion that “content is king” is “total bullshit.”

My main point was that stand alone content (whether in the form of a blog post, a white paper, an eBook, or whatever), no matter how well written, had certainly been dethroned, but that it’s place on the throne had been taken by all the content created by members of an organization in the course of their numerous, ongoing, continually evolving online activities. (This point is not dissimilar from Mack’s that your activites off your blog are what make your content interesting, relevant, and attractive.)

Now it is certainly easier to manage a collection of discrete, set pieces than it is to manage an unpredictable range of actions undertaken by a constantly shifting and sometimes loosely defined group of people, and yet that is the challenge facing anyone interested in developing and executing a meaningful content-based marketing strategy today.

What makes the shift from content as product to content as process particularly challenging is that it forces marketers to involve themselves in business operations to an unprecedented degree because, at the end of the day, an organization’s people are rapidly becoming its most active and vital communications channel.

At the same time, these people – their attitudes, their personality, their style, their abilities, and their actions – serve as more than a channel; they constitute in themselves a company’s most meaningful and influential content.

My question on Lewis’ blog and here is: Are marketers ready to engage the rest of their organization as intensively as the rest of the organization is engaging current and prospective customers day to day and minute by minute?

Image Courtesy of miuenski.

MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Boston 2009 – Assorted Afterthoughts

3609889588_dd2d4ff833_mI spent Monday and Tuesday at MarketingProfs B2B Forum where I moderated a panel on “creating robust content to engage customers and prospects.” The panelists – Phil Juliano of Novell, Valeria Maltoni (the Conversation Agent), Chris Penn of the Student Loan Network, and Mike O’Toole of PJA – were all smart, funny, articulate and great to work with. It was a privilege to be associated with these folks.

While I hope that our panel discussion, which Valeria recapped on her blog and which Mike and I previewed on MarketingProfs DailyFix, provided attendees with a useful framework and practical advice for advancing their content-based marketing initiatives, I know for a fact that I learned a lot from the sessions I visited and the numerous people I met at this conference. To whit:

  • More and more B2B marketers are feeling the need to leverage social media but are not sure where to start.
  • Even when they are producing interesting content, organizations are not taking advantage of the many available distribution channels nor are they thoughtfully or aggressively re-purposing this content.
  • Even though marketing department budgets and staff have been cut drastically, companies still need to market their products and services, which seems to offer a lot of opportunities for independent consultants and agencies.
  • Companies don’t realize the importance of integrating their SEO efforts with the full range of marketing, advertising, and, most importantly, IT initiatives.
  • As a corollary, the lines of communication and collaboration between IT and Marketing seem to be broken, which is a problem because the state of marketing today calls for increasing and ongoing integration with IT.
  • Finally, the individuals on your sales force are your most important channel in the B2B space, so your marketing efforts need to be geared at educating, enabling, and empowering them.

I have more to say on each of these topics but am actually more curious to hear what you have to say about them. This stuff sound right? Wrong? Whatever?

Image Courtesy of Bob Collins. Thanks, Bob!

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

I wrote this about a year ago but still think it’s relevant and true. What do you think? – Matt

On Twitter the other day talking with the Conversation Agent about the Associated Press’ decision to go after sites that quote too much of their content — they had called out the “Drudge Retort” (not to be confused with the “Drudge Report,” – though some confusion is undoubtedly intended by the author of the former) for quotations ranging in length from 39 to 79 words — I got to thinking.

I’m no lawyer but I learned about “fair use” as a graduate student and always assumed that, if you were using a quotation in certain expository contexts, that the copyright holders would just have to grin and bear it. I can see there being a problem with populating your blog or website with entire articles penned by someone else – but even then, if you have given proper credit and linked back to the original location of the text, is that really so wrong/bad?

Though I tend to lean in this direction, I’m not saying that all content should be free or that copyright doesn’t mean anything. I am saying, however, that trying to control where your content shows up on the web goes against the tide of history as well as the essence of the web an sich, as the Germans would say.

On the “tide of history” front, “give it away” is the order of the day. I’ve referred elsewhere in these pages to an essay by John Perry Barlow on the power of giving away “content,” and my ideas have not changed on the subject. Specifically, every business should focus on their absolutely unique, inimitable, and irreplaceable offering, and deploy their “content” to sell that.

Barlow uses the example of the Grateful Dead allowing taping at their shows because they realized that circulating bootlegs increased interest in their music and, more importantly, promoted attendance at their shows which were always one of a kind. As the bumper stickers used to say, “There’s Nothing Like A Grateful Dead Concert,” which is why concert revenue was the core of their business.

Apply this to your business and ask yourself, “What is my live-in-concert moment and how can I use my content to get people through the proverbial door?”

On the “essence of the web”-front, I see the distinction between sites as more conventional than actual. Every page on the web is exactly one click away from any other page. That means, not just one click away from any page that belongs to your site proper, but one click away from any other page you can find anywhere on the web. To tell the world, “It’s ok to look at my content here but not there, one click away,” is like saying, “You can access content via your computer but not your iPhone.” In other words, it’s absurd.

More importantly, however, we’ve got to face facts and concede that the site is no longer the absolute home of content, nor is it necessarily the place where the content will be viewed, consumed, or otherwise processed by the end user. Content circulates freely. This circulation can be influenced, but not controlled. Since it cannot be controlled, any business based on selling content or access to it is going to have a shorter and shorter lifespan.

Am I right or am I right?

Image Courtesy of frankh.

Do you consider SEO a part of marketing or a separate job?

I did a webcast on marketing careers for the Aquent and the AMA in September, 2008. We got a lot of questions during and after the webcast and here’s how I answered one of them. – Matt

Got this question after our AMA webcast on marketing careers t’other day and I’m reading it this way: Should all marketers be thinking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or should there be a specific individual in the organization who focuses on SEO?

My answer is, “Yes.” Now let me explain, since it doesn’t make any sense to answer an “either/or” question in the affirmative.

Marketers, especially in the communications and advertising realm, all need to think about SEO. The “comms” (PR, corporate communications, investor relations, etc.) should be thinking about it because most if not all the content they produce will probably live on the Web and should serve to drive convertible traffic to the relevant site. For this reason, said content ought to be optimized for search and fit the company’s overall SEO strategy.

Likewise, ad campaigns should have an SEO component in the sense that you should think about buying keywords you don’t already own if they are showing up in your TV, radio, or print spots. For example, I believe the folks at Sobe bought “Thriller” when they ran their Super Bowl ad, though my memory could be playing tricks on me.

At the same time, SEO has emerged as a discipline unto itself, meaning that people can get paid to focus entirely on that. Because this is a specialized and evolving field, every organization should at least hire an SEO consultant or contractor to help get their strategy right. In fact, it will even make sense for some larger organizations to hire a full-time SEO specialist.

In other words, “Yes, SEO is part of marketing AND a separate job.”