Content Marketing Is Dead
Content Marketing Is Dead Podcast
Brooklin Nash and Nathan Collier: How to Show More Value and Raise Your Rates as a Content Marketer

Brooklin Nash and Nathan Collier: How to Show More Value and Raise Your Rates as a Content Marketer

Five Tips on Leveling Up Your Content Strategy

If you want to build a successful career as a content marketer, Nathan and Brooklin are two people to listen to.

Nathan Collier is currently the Director of Content at PERSUIT, an enterprise legal platform. He’s also the founder of the Content Marketing Lounge — a supportive community for freelancers, consultants, and professionals working in content marketing. Nathan is one of the top 100 influencers in content marketing, according to Semrush.

Brooklin Nash is the cofounder of Beam Content, an agency that specializes in content for B2B SaaS companies. With a decade of freelance and in-house marketing experience, Brooklin focuses on helping both clients and freelancers stand out in B2B marketing. The memes are free.

During our chat for this podcast, the two gave a lot of advice that can level up any content marketing career, including advice about how to show value right away and what sets apart a $200 blog post from content worth $1 to $2 a word.

Listen now on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Resources Mentioned

Highlights From Our Conversation: 5 Ways to Level Up Your Content Strategy

1. Have a New Client? Start with a Case Study or Customer Story

A huge part of maintaining happy clients and being able to charge what your worth is showing clients the value your content is creating for them.

For freelancers, showing value early on in an engagement can be difficult.  (By the way, this is especially true if you’re focused on SEO content which is a long-term play.)

So how do you start to create value right away? Here’s Nathan with a tip:

“If you get the opportunity to start working with a new client, the first thing I always asked when I was doing contract work was: Can I do a customer story? Can I do a case study? Can I do a profile story?”

This was a hack he used to get in front of his client’s customers in a way that created value for everyone.

See It In Action

Check out this customer story from PERSUIT in which the platform’s CEO and founder interviews a customer about how their team moved from time-based to value-based billing.

What I love about it:

  • It features the customer as the hero while still explaining where PERSUIT fits into the story.

  • It utilizes the CEO as the face of the company.

  • It provides value for prospects which makes it memorable.

2. Can’t Talk to Customers? Try These Alternatives.

The easiest way to create better content is to base it on interviews instead of research. Especially when you’re writing for a new market. If you believe you understand an audience based on what you’ve found online — think again. You’ll miss out on all the nuances of their lives, jobs, goals, and frustrations that can make anything you write for them more practical and relatable.

The ideal is to talk to customers since they’re the people you’re writing for. But if that’s not an option, consider these alternatives.

Try Other People In the Target Market

Nathan suggests researching people in your target market. “If you can reach out to them and find a way to include them in some content piece that you're working on, that gets you on the phone with them and then you start to understand them better.”

Talk to Sales Or Internal People Who Match Your Persona

Brooklin recommends talking to the sales team“because guess who's talking to prospects every day?” And if your client contains the roles you’re trying to reach, talk to them, as well.

See It In Action

You can even involve the sales team in your content. When I was managing content at FastSpring, I hosted a LinkedIn Live with sales lead Tony Markov about a data report we’d just published.

The live stream gave us both the opportunity to showcase the content and our knowledge of SaaS customer markets. Tony was able to use it to start conversations with prospects, as well. And by interviewing Tony live, I also learned more about the kinds of conversations he was having.

3. Want to Charge More? Multimedia for the Win!

If you want to charge more for your content, make each piece go further by adding multimedia components.

There’s a bit of a war right now with many content marketers creating exclusively text-based content while others in the industry are recommending a switch to a video-first approach.

Really, we need both (and more mediums), because the best content gives people a choice on how they want to consume it.

Nathan tries to incorporate text, video, audio, and visuals into each piece of content he creates: “If I’ve got a visual person that's just scanning, they can get the point. If I’ve got a reader, they can read and get the point. If I’ve got an audio person, they can take that same information — I'm telling one story but in different formats.”

Brooklin added that you need to think about this before you start to create: “If you take the time to go through this curation process before creation, you're going to be set up with a lot better opportunities for audio and video and visuals.”

This includes how you’re going to promote the content. Think about ways to break it up for social and email before you go into interviews or publish the piece. “If we're starting a piece of content with an hour-long conversation with the CEO, do you know how many little sound bites and video clips and visuals come out of that conversation? So why limit it to an article?”

See It In Action

This post on Beam’s website uses people’s Twitter responses and GIFs to make the post more engaging. Best? Beam and Brooklin have a ton of images for social posts that don’t even need to be connected to the blog post. And since they were crowdsourced, they have people to tag who will be more than happy to share the posts.

4. Tie Everything Back to Your Target Audience’s Pain Points, Core Goals, or Values

“When we're going through editorial strategy with our clients, it starts with the pain points. There's usually four, five, or six pain points per. So that the individual pain point helps inform actual topic ideation of what we want to cover because it's content that addresses that direct pain point,” Brooklin explained.

I’d argue that those four to six themes don’t have to be based on pain points. They can also be based on a market’s goals or values. But there has to be an emotional connection to whatever content you’re producing.

Too many content strategies are based solely on what people search for or similar research/ideas that don’t directly connect back to a consumer’s motivations. Content that stirs an emotional response will always win.

This is the best way to optimize content for conversions. As soon as you explain you have a solution to readers’ pain or a way to help them reach their goals faster, they’re going to be much more likely to want to learn more — whether it’s signing up for a free trial or a demo or a consultation.

5. Be Bold — Create Content a Computer Can’t Create

“How can create stuff that no computer can create because it doesn't exist yet? It's unique, it's insightful, it's a customer story. It's a subject matter expert. It's something that doesn't exist on the internet or in a book yet. That's what I want. That's what I'd love to see happen,” Nathan said.

AI marketing tools work by taking in what content they can find on a topic and regurgitating it in a new way. “But it can't replicate well articles based on conversations. It can't replicate social roundups. It can't replicate in the weeds, real-world examples,” Brooklin explained.

These are the types of content that can add real value to a company and part of what, according to Brooklin, makes the difference between a cheap piece of content and one worth $1 to $2 per word.

“The key to making differentiated content is maybe 30% about the quality of the writing itself,” Brooklin added. “It's much more about making sure we're hitting the right topics, making sure we're pulling in either real-world examples or quotes from leadership or an actual expert or screenshots — just making it tangible.”


Brooklin Nash: [00:00:00] I think way too often you have content marketing who puts stuff out there, but then you have product marketing and customer marketing who they get to talk to the customers, but content doesn't, or demand gen talk talks to sales, but content doesn't. Or brand talks to the leadership, but content doesn't. And it just, I think content flows through, not just all your marketing functions, but like the entire go-to-market org. So I think we need to stop treating content marketing as this siloed thing that sits alongside and treat it something that's more foundational to functions.

EJ Brown: Nathan, Brooklin, welcome to Content Marketing is Dead. You're two of my first guests. I'm super excited to have you both together.

Brooklin Nash: Thanks for having us.

Nathan Collier: Thanks EJ.

Brooklin Nash: Good to meet you both.

EJ Brown: I'm gonna let Nathan go first. So what I would love from you is just a thirty second pitch. How do you introduce [00:01:30] yourself at a conference, like something like the, you know, content marketing world where you're not pitching your company, you're pitching yourself, and what is your content marketing superpower?

Nathan Collier: Oh well, I'm Nathan Collier. I'm a content marketer by trade, former journalist. I started the Content Marketing Lounge about seven years ago now, almost eight years ago. Which is a community of 8,000 plus people. We start on Facebook now. There's a podcast and some training courses and some other things that are out there.

That's kind of my online home and what people know me for. By day I'm the director of content at a company called PERSUIT, which is a legal tech company based out of New York. But I live and work out of my, my hometown here in Dayton, Ohio. My content marketing's superpower To be a content marketer, you have to wear so many hats, right? So it's like, which one? Storytelling is, is where I come from, right? So that journalism background for me taking, and I, and I think the voice of the customer, bringing the voice of the customer or even not like, could sometimes even be like the future customer, right?

Like the, the voice of the audience and bringing that into content is, that's where I live. That's what I love. And that's what That's, that's probably the thing I do better than any other thing.

EJ Brown: So, I know Nathan way better than I know Brooklin. I have worked with Nathan at three different companies and he knows that I'm incredibly envious, jealous of his interviewing skills. Every time I listen, I think, how did you keep up with that? You know? And then I listen to myself and I'm like, I just got lost. You know?

Nathan Collier: Many, many, many, many conversations with high school football coaches and, and [00:03:00] all of that when I was in my twenties.

Brooklin Nash: That journalism background coming in handy.

EJ Brown: Yep.

Nathan Collier: does.

Brooklin Nash: I love that.

EJ Brown: All right. Brooklin, thirty second pitch at some sort of content marketing conference and your, your superpower.

Brooklin Nash: Hmm. Yeah, I'm a co-founder at Beam Content, along with a couple of other co-founders. We started in June of last year, so we're pretty new. I I, before that, I was freelancing for about eight years and worked in-house for a couple of years at other B2B SaaS companies. Yeah. Superpower. This is totally gonna sound like I'm copying Nathan.

I wouldn't say storytelling, but the whole reason we started Beam was we wanted to offer content that started with conversations with actual experts. So, Most of our core offering focuses on content that pulls out insights from internal experts. Future. I love that you said future customers, Nathan existing customers, other people in the space.

Just to give that next level of, of truly educational content. And sometimes that's like a ghost written piece. Sometimes it's a feature piece. It just depends on the needs of the topic. That's what I've loved working on these last couple years.

EJ Brown: So what, what was it that really spurred the start of Beam? What were you seeing or not seeing in in marketing that led to it?

Brooklin Nash: It was a couple of things. So number one was actually my in-house role. I was at outreach focused on community content. So kind of by default a lot of the content that [00:04:30] we. We're creating, started with actual sales experts, VPs of sales, SDR managers, people who knew their stuff, they weren't necessarily writers.

So we were kind of like walking them through that process. And it was just really fun. So that was point number one. Point number two is I've seen a lot of agencies either go all in on SEO or be generalist agencies. And it really did. It was super anecdotal, but it did feel like a gap in, in B2B SaaS, so that's why we decided to, to go this direction.

EJ Brown: Sweet. Nathan, I wanna ask you too, like you, you really help launch a lot of content marketing careers to the content marketing lounge. It's fascinating just being in it and seeing people's questions and then their questions evolve, you know, over time. What's, like, what's one common piece of advice that you give?

Do you find yourself giving over and over again to, to just help people become better content marketers?

Nathan Collier: Well, it's on theme for, for what Brooklin was saying, and I think what we're, it's, talk to the audience. And I'm, I'm, I'm just, I'm so, so shocked by this because it seems so fundamental to me and it, maybe it's the journalism thing, like maybe it's just my journalism muscles, is I cannot believe how many marketers go through their lives never — they never get on a call, they never go to a conference. They, I, I've talked to marketers who've been in a content marketing role for years and they've never been on a call with a customer. Like they've never literally had a discussion with the [00:06:00] people who they're trying to sell. And that just, I don't know.

I, I personally can't do that. Like I can't, I can't do my job if I haven't spent some time with the people that I'm trying to reach with the content. And I think and, and I know it can be hard, right? The very first job I had in marketing when I made the switch from marketing or journalism to marketing back in 2008, it was really difficult.

Like just, it was a huge organization. We had 50 people in marketing. 300 people in sales, 5,000 people in the company. Like they just didn't let you just join calls, right? You couldn't just like jump on a call. And, and so it took me, it took me a while to sort of figure out kind of how to do that. And my biggest hack for that, honestly, esp there's a lot of people who come into the Content Marketing lounge who are self-employed or who want to become self-employed.

And so maybe they have a job today, maybe they're freelancing maybe. Doing both, which is what I did when I started. So, cause I freelance for a while as well. But what I tell them is, if you get the opportunity to start working with a new client, the first thing I always asked when I was doing contract work was, can I do a customer story?

Can I do a case study? Can I do a profile story? And it was just a hack, but what it did is it got me on the phone with one of their customers and it, did it in a way that wasn't just. Hey, I want it wasn't just a, it wasn't just a pure ask from their customer. It was like, Hey, let me, I'm gonna actually feature you in a story.

And so it's value to them, but it's also value to the company and it's value to me as a contractor. So it wins, all over the place. And so my [00:07:30] best, my best like advice for people who really wanna get good at content marketing, it's just find any which way you can to talk to the audience. And that can be, it's usually customers is the easiest thing. But if you, if you can't do that, then the, the people in market that you're trying to reach, if you can just reach out to them and find a way to include them in some content piece that you're working on, that gets you on the phone with them and then you start to understand them better. Because once you have one conversation with, with somebody, they stop being that like blank persona, right, that HubSpot taught us. Like that Marketing Mary thing where it's just like, this is Mary. She cares about leads.

Brooklin Nash: Yeah.

Nathan Collier: She drinks her coffee black, whatever, whatever it was that they put on that. And it's a, it's an okay story. Like I'm not bashing HubSpot. They're really good at what they do. But that person is just two-dimensional and once you talk to them, they become a three-dimensional person.

You start to, you start to just have that human connection. It just becomes so much easier to create content from that point forward. now I have somebody in my head that I can actually, they're a real person and I can start to think about them when I create.

Brooklin Nash: What's worked for us if you can't connect directly with customers, is talk to sales. Cuz guess who's talking to prospects every day? And especially if you're a larger company, talk to the people inside your company that match your personas. Like if you're selling to VP of people, talk to your people team.

Nathan Collier: Mm-hmm.

EJ Brown: By all means, feel free to to. Just turn this into a conversation, but I'm really curious, Brooklin, like when, when you start engaging with prospects or [00:09:00] new customers, do they know what's missing? Is that why do they come to you or they just know they need something different?

Brooklin Nash: most of the time it's, they know they need something different. Often it's walking through to what that thing maybe 90% of the time they come to us and they have their SEO on lock, we don't need to help them with that, thank goodness. Cause we don't do SEO. sometimes they have customer stories that like case studies down, but haven't figured out how to leverage customers for more than just a challenge solution outcome type case study.

Like instead getting in with your champions and telling an actual story. So we just spend a month, our first month kind of walking them through. Can do. and that really helps kind of fill the gaps with what they have in place versus what's missing.

Nathan Collier: What's the aha moment for them? Like when they, they realize that this is the thing that, that has been missing.

Brooklin Nash: I think there's a mini one and then a main one. The mini one is when we come back at the end of our kickoff month and present. Okay. Here's what we heard by talking to your VP of sales, your ceo, your head of customer success, listening to customer interviews and pulling a topic. Ideation out of that, rather than just like pulling it out of a hat and kind of formulating, this is what people are talking about.

Here's the questions they're asking. And I think it kind of clicks once they see the types of topics we can cover. And then number two, and this is, this sounds braggy, but I think seeing the first deliverables and the, [00:10:30] the quality of the content, because I think we all know there's such a huge range. Like you can pay a writer 5 cents a word, you could use ChatGPT or you could pay a $1.50 or $2 a word, the equivalent.

So there's such, such a big range in the quality that you. In content and I think when those first drafts come back, they can, they it.

Nathan Collier: Yeah. Interesting. I think, I think the I was on job boards taking like those crappy jobs where, you know, some company would just throw a keyword at me, right?

And be like, go write a 800 word article about gutters or paint or whatever. And I didn't know anything about gutters or paint or whatever, so I just opened up Google. Searched around, and if I could find some list posts, those were the best, right? Because then I could just, if I got three list posts, I can take two points from each and then boom, I'd create my own article, right?

And they would pay me 60 bucks or 80 bucks or a hundred dollars or whatever. But that's not insightful content. That's not good content. Right? And, and I think we were, so we as an industry are, so we're just inundated by that. I just see that is still rampant today. And I wonder. I wonder if ChatGPT is finally gonna like wipe that out.

Like, because ChatGPT could do that better than any human. Right? Like that's fundamentally what it's doing is it's

Brooklin Nash: You can do it faster.

Nathan Collier: Faster. That's a good point. That's a good point. It's doing it faster. Certainly cheaper.

I just want us to get more into, I would love for the industry to get more into how can we we, those of us who create content, how can create stuff that [00:12:00] no computer can create, because it doesn't exist yet. It's unique, it's insightful, it's a customer story. It's a, it's a subject matter expert. It's something that doesn't exist on the internet or in a book yet. That's what I want. That's what I'd love to see happen.

EJ Brown: I think, I feel like this all ties together that what's missing in content marketing is often that the writer goes in or the content creator, whatever, gets hired to be the expert. In most cases, as opposed to being the person who knows how to find the expert, frame the expert, et cetera, which is often the customer, right?

Or it's somebody internal in the company, or it's, you know, or it's even maybe like studies and things that you can find, but it, it's not generally what Nathan tends to refer to as like dumpster diving, which is really what ChatGPT does. You know, it's the expert dumps, dumpster diver of like just finding content online and making it sound like a typical right now content marketer would write it.

You know, and I just wanna say I just lost my first possible job to ChatGPT I just, I just left my full-time job at, at FastSpring where I was leading content after Nathan left. And I was talking to somebody who was looking for a company a young company. Who was looking for a content lead and they decided that they were just gonna have ChatGPT write all their content, as opposed to hiring somebody to create strategy and content. I thought this is [00:13:30] scary, like, yeah, so

Brooklin Nash: I think that's the first I've heard of that. Yeah, that actually happening.

Nathan Collier: Feels like you might have dodged a bullet on that one.

EJ Brown: I, yeah, exactly. I think a new company that is willing to, to go that way with their brand is probably not seeing the big picture. But I'm curious, like, I feel like this is often the case of so many agencies that I've worked with in the past that produce content. In this way of, without, like, in some ways like doing the soul searching of the market, you know, that it, it feels sort of par for course.

Brooklin Nash: Hmm. Bland, is that what you mean?

EJ Brown: Yeah. Like, I don't know how many times that I've been asked as a writer to write based off of a brief that was created by somebody who has not talked to customers, has not talked to people inside of a company and is just doing it based off existing content. And it, you know, it's, it feels just like rabbits reproducing in a way.

Like, no, we just need more of the same content as opposed to, and I feel like that's both what you both are saying, right? Is that, you know, if you talk to customers, if you talk to people inside of the company, if you, then the quality goes up because. You actually become experts in this thing as opposed to assuming you can research your way [00:15:00] into that role.

Does that sound right?

Brooklin Nash: Yeah, yeah, the rabbits reproducing is spot on because that's exactly what ChatGPT can do. Just faster.

EJ Brown: Right.

Brooklin Nash: And I loved how you put it, Nathan, of like, how can we as content marketers aim to create content, the type of content that AI can't replicate.

And I feel like I've had to modulate my response here. Cause I'm a content marketing agency owner, so of course I'm gonna sound like the grumpy old man on my lawn, like yelling at chem chemtrails or but I just don't see it.

I've tried again and again and I just can't see the quality. I think if you're trying to replicate what you're talking about of let's peruse Google and rearrange things and rewrite, then yeah ChatGPT can replicate that, but it can't replicate well articles based on conversations. It can't replicate like round social roundups.

It can't re. In the weeds, real world examples. So I think the, at least for us and what we work on with our clients, the key to making that differentiated content is maybe 30% about the quality of the writing itself. And it's much more about making sure we're hitting the right topics, making sure we're pulling in either real world examples or quotes from leadership or an actual expert or somebody screenshots, just like making it. Tangible for because even in the research stage, I don't think it works that well. Cause you can ask ChatGPT to spit out a list of 10 [00:16:30] topics. But are those really tied to what your customers and your prospects really

EJ Brown: I would love for you both to give me an example of something that you've recently published that you were proud to put out into the world. Does anything come to mind?

Nathan Collier: I got a bunch. We've been, we've been like, I've produced so much stuff lately. I'll give you one. It's, it's not even like it in terms of like, it didn't go viral. It's not like, you know what I mean? It wasn't, it wasn't a piece that had like a world shaking impact. But for me, in the work that I'm doing, so, so to give you some context, like the, we're at a company called PERSUIT was founded by somebody who used to be, A practice head in, in one of the global regional heads at the third largest legal firm in the world.

And the companies that we sell to are all comp, they're all, they're all Fortune 500, and many of them are Fortune 100 companies. So the biggest companies in the world, like there's no, there's no going up market for us. We are at the top of the market. It. That in that world, and we sell to the legal departments inside of those companies.

Like they are, they're all like, they're all, you know, they all have law degrees. They all went to Princeton and Yale and like the, they're all incredibly smart and incredibly bright. Like, I can't, I can't just spit out a G P T piece, so put it in front of them, you know, like that, that audience is, they, they could just do that themselves, right?

They don't, they don't need me to do that for them. And so in that, in that world, like we have to do something, something that's a little bit different. Something that's a little [00:18:00] bit. It just has a little bit of bite to it especially in a world like legal, which is traditionally very conservative, very like cautious about doing things.

And so we, we have been playing around with this sort of, this campaign called Kill the Billable Hour, Kill Billable Hours, which, for the rest of us is just sort of like a billing … Like, okay, I charge hourly versus I charge my project. Like I was a freelancer for a while. Like, whatever, like you can pay me however, I don't really care.

As long as it, as long as it makes sense. But in the world of legal, like that's a, it's like a whole, there's like a whole cultural thing that's built up about the, around the billable hour and all this stuff, and I, and I've had to sort of like learn that market as I've joined this company. But we did, I did a podcast with the founder and it was just, just a, just a, like a, we do one a week, right?

But I sat down with the, the guy who runs the company that I work at, and we went through like, if you really like, because of the billable hour, because this is the like, Billing model of choice in this market. It has all these negative downstream impacts, right? Like, like the lawyers are very unhappy people like statistically, like they have high rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide, depression, all this stuff, and. It was jarring. Like some of those stats were jarring. And, and so just, I, I, my job was to come to it and be the journalist, right? Is to sort of investigate and to dig into those kinds of things and to bring the stats, to bring in the research and that kind of stuff.

And I just, I, I was really proud of the output on that one. And it became like an anchor piece that I can refer back to anytime we, [00:19:30] like, even when I get like a, somebody who's joined the company, like I could talk, I can sort of point back to that episode. I'm like, you should listen to this. This will really sort of get you. Into this story, this sort of brand story that we're building that's, it's bigger even than just the brand. It's a market level kind of story. And it was fun to be part of that. That wasn't, I didn't come up with that, right? But it's my job to amplify that thing as as much as I can to sort of get that thing to go out into the market so that people know who we are and what we're about.

So that was a, that was

Brooklin Nash: Yeah.

Nathan Collier: proud of.

Brooklin Nash: I love that it started with the founder. Yeah, I do. I have an answer for you EJ but I You mentioning your job to be was to be the journalist Nathan. I, I wanna interject with a question, if that's ok. Probably one of my most controversial tweets ever was content marketing is crappy journalism with better pay. curious I'm curious for your thoughts on that.

Nathan Collier: You're not wrong. That that's a, that's a, so EJ's laughing because like EJ and I, that, that's a phrase that I use a lot. I think the way I would phrase it, having lived both of those lives is content marketing is journalism. Journalism, but it's sales. Like, I have an ad, I have an agenda, right?

Like, so when I, when I worked, when I worked in, and, and I don't mean that to be like, I, I don't mean that to be it, it sounds a. Sketchy. Right. So let me unpack that a little bit. When I worked in journalism, like you go in a newsroom, I worked in sports, right? I was local sports, I was covering high school football [00:21:00] games, and basketball and baseball, right?

There wasn't anything that controversial about it. There were a few pieces that I did that were like, there was one piece, there was this field, right? That was all screwed up and peop kids were getting hurt on it. And it became like this story about what the community was doing about it and funding and all this kinda stuff.

But that's pretty rare, right? Normally it's like this team beat this team. They had a good quarterback or whatever it was. But I did spend a lot of time in an, in a newsroom. And when you talk to journalists, there's this like, there's this, I don't know how to say it. There's this culture in journalism that is about objectivity and bringing the truth to the market.

And, and I'm talking about like the reporters, like there, there's plenty of jaded people do within journalism and there's plenty of sketchy stuff that happens in that world. But most sort of people who work in journalism, they have this, they have this idea that the stories are. They're valuable in and of themselves.

And that, and that, like getting to the truth of a matter is a, it's like a public good. It's like a public service. They, they view themselves as public servant. I'm in marketing today, right? My job is to find products that I believe in, right? And if I do truly believe in them, I'm gonna push them, like, and I, and I mean push them as in like, promote them in a way that like, good products solve real problems for real people.

And so I'm proud to be a part. Like a of a career field that does that. Right. And that's like when I do my job well, I'm legitimately wake up every day and I get to help people solve their problems. That's what I get to do. And me as a content person, I get to do it at scale, not just like a, not just like a salesperson who does it one to one which is also [00:22:30] totally honorable work if you're doing it in, in, in a, in the right way.

But make no mistake, when I write my pieces, I have an agenda. Whereas in journalism, my agenda was just to capture the story and to. Sort of the truth to the newsprint that that went on every day.

Brooklin Nash: Yeah. I'm glad you uncovered that because that's exactly what I meant by that. It just is inherently biased, which is inherently bad journalism. So I think people thought I was saying, Content for B2B or tech, whatever, is inherently crappier than journalism. And that's not what I mean. It just means it has an outcome in mind, and if it doesn't, then it's bad content marketing.

So it's this inverse.

Nathan Collier: The pay is.

Brooklin Nash: Thanks for indulging me in that.

Nathan Collier: The pay is definitely better though. I like no doubt.

Brooklin Nash: That was the sticking point. Yeah. And I think this is super anecdotal, but I think in the responses overall it was the journalists who agreed and the content marketers who disagreed.

yeah. Speaking of journalistic approach, I think one of the, my favorite pieces that we've published on our site was all focused on how to write a B2B intro that doesn't suck and it. Ended up being really in depth in the weeds. It was like over 3000 but our writer just pulled in probably 10. It was 10 or 12 outside content marketers to get their take and examples that they had worked on. So the whole thing was filled with number one, super tactical advice. Number two, that validation and [00:24:00] context.

Those who are really good at content marketing with quotes and number three visual examples to show, okay, here's the tactical advice, here's what it looks like in and it was so much more effort than writing a thousand word posts that was ba that's basically a listicle, but it's something that's evergreen, really resourceful and sets set itself up recycling and repurposing and putting out in all sorts of different formats, right?

Rather than, I'm going to die.

EJ Brown: I'm curious for both of you and, Nathan, I sort of know the answer for you, but I mean, I personally believe that content is becoming less and less synonymous with text, you know, or text-based pieces. Where for both of you how is your work as a content marketer evolving to, to include content from different mediums? Nathan, we'll start with you.

Nathan Collier: I'll give a short answer because it's not complicated. I think you gotta give people a chance to, the best pieces I like are the ones that are. This is what I try to do whenever I can, is I try to, I try to incorporate text, video, and audio in one piece if I can. Visuals too. Text, pictures and so, so if I got a visual person that's just scanning, they can get the point. If they got a reader, they can read and they get the point. If I got an audio person, they can take that same information. It's just like I'm telling one story, but in different formats, right? Like, Visual and text.

And I, I think the, the most robust content marketing strategies will allow people to consume information the way that they, like. I think I've, [00:25:30] you hear this debate come up every now and then, like, people don't read. People don't listen. People don't — that's just, that's missing the point because you've got a, you've got a wide audience of people.

Some of those people read, some of them. Watch some of them listen. So like your job is to make that information accessible to them in whatever way that they want to consume it. If you can,

Brooklin Nash: Yeah, I think the key for us is that the type of content we're talking about, if you take the time to go through this curation process before creation, you're gonna be set up with a lot better opportunities for audio and video and visuals. so we're a pretty hyper-focused on what we offer. Like we don't do SEO, we don't do email marketing, et cetera, but we did bring social into what we offer, because in our minds it's so tied together. Like if we're starting a piece of content with an hour long conversation with the ceo, do you know how many like little sound bites and video clips and visuals go, come out of that conversation? So why? Why limit it to an article?

EJ Brown: Right.

Brooklin Nash: on the site,

Nathan Collier: Yeah.

Brooklin Nash: know,

Nathan Collier: EJ and I were just, we were just talking about using descript to sort of subtitle videos and how to get that like to, to work better.

Um, you know, stuff like that.

It's just, and when you were at — Brooklin, when you were talking about that article that had all the different examples, like in my head I'm just like, boy, I'm just filling that into my content calendar for social.

There's 10 right there. Boom, boom, boom. Right. You know, I got two weeks, two good weeks of content.

Brooklin Nash: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you get away from. [00:27:00]

Sorry to interrupt you. You, it's like this mindset of social is, here's a link to our post. Go check it out. Rather than you have all these insights and visuals, like there's probably 20 posts there if you chop it up.

Nathan Collier: yeah, I think that's one of the things I learned. Go going, because I've, I've done it too. Brooklin you have too, where I've sort of been in house and I've been freelance at different parts of my career. I'm in house today. Who knows where I'll be in five years. When I was freelance, it was very, like, I was very tight.

Like I had like two types of things that I delivered. Like I delivered ghost written thought leadership, and I delivered like profile story style stuff, right? Like sometimes that was a case study. Sometimes it ended up being like a longer form piece, but it was two styles of thing and they were very distinct, right?

I did this in this way and it this in this way. Now that I'm in house, I'm sort of, you know, running, sitting in the director's chair. It's, it's much. I, I see this a lot where I'll, I'll, I'll be talking to somebody and they'll have like a podcast strategy and a webinar strategy and a blog strategy, and they'll be separate, right?

They'll be somebody who owns all these different things. What, what I, the way I think about it though is like, I want like a story. Or a set of stories, and then I'm gonna tell those stories through the blog. Like I'm gonna tell, it just makes it easier, right? Like, okay, during the next six weeks or so, I'm gonna tell a story about this particular topic.

This is what I'm doing for Q2. Q2 just started yesterday, right? I've got two of 'em. We're gonna tell these two stories. Or like, I got webinars and blogs and social media posts like, and so it's one strategy, but it's against all these different channels, and so it simplifies it for me from a strategies [00:28:30] perspective, because I don't have to come up, I'm not constantly just trying to come up with a good idea for the next webinar.

Like I just, I'm like, okay, how can I tell this story through the webinar that we're gonna do, you know, in four weeks or whatever. so that has helped me simplify sort of my thinking.

Brooklin Nash: Any chance you are subscribed to Devin Reed's newsletter? He was at Gong and that was at Clarity. I'll forward it to you too, but I think it was his last one walked through exactly this and he has some great visuals for kind of this waterfall of if you're starting with like, here's the narrative one or pillar one, pillar two, pillar. Webinar that goes with that, articles that go with that gated asset, that goes with that, social posts that go with that, and it just waterfalls down. and approach works well.

Nathan Collier: the, the strategy just, it just becomes obvious, right? And I, I think what's fun about that is like we create the stories first, like, we don't even think about, I'm not even thinking about the channels yet. So I've been too conver, too many conversations over my career where it's like, oh no, we need a blog next Tuesday.

What do we do? And that, that, that sort of like scrambling it leads to content that's, it's oneish. It's not, it's not as, it's not as good as it could be when it's paired with a sort of a larger strategy.

EJ Brown: I wanna pivot. We, Nathan, you and I were talking about brand positioning earlier and, you know you were talking about the content that you were creating around the idea of killing the billable hour and how. The billable hour [00:30:00] is the villain in the story when it comes to the legal industry and really love this idea.

And we were having this text exchange, and I texted you back that there was this lesson that I learned as an English undergrad. That no story exists that isn't based off of conflict. You have to have conflict in order for there to be a story. And it, it also goes along with Donald Miller's story stuff like, I think it was in Blue Like Jazz.

No, it was one of his other books where he was talking about that like, people are reticent to change, you know, like they don't wanna change. There has to be something that pushes them to change and that, that pushes usually conflict, you know? And.

Nathan Collier: Hmm.

EJ Brown: So I'm curious about like where you both are in terms of like building a strategy around, I mean, is it the same as pain points or is it something different to you when you're thinking about like the brand messaging is the, you know where does the villain

Brooklin Nash: fit in?

I think it's,

EJ Brown: Yeah,

Brooklin Nash: sorry.

EJ Brown: on.

Brooklin Nash: For us, when we're going through editorial strategy with our clients, it starts with the pain points, but there's usually four or five, six pain points per. So that the individual pain points help inform actual topic ideation of what we want to cover because it's content that addresses that direct pain point.

But then we also try [00:31:30] to identify what the commonalities are and boil that down to. I mean, if it's branding like one message, like kill the billable hour like you're talking about Nathan, if it's for content strategy, like here's the three max four themes that we want to talk about over the course of an entire year, and unless it's like opportunistic or topical, nearly every single piece of content should pull back to tie back to one of those three or four themes.

Nathan Collier: That's exactly how, that's exactly how I set it up too. Same, same exact thing.

We just went through the whole messaging. We went through the messaging exercise. We ended up with six. I'm not gonna attack all of those all at once. It's six f it's six across three personas. So it's to each that's, and we wrote, we wrote value props for each one.

Sort of, there's tons of overlap between the, the two. So it's not quite as, it's never quite as clean as just, you know, if I have three, there's usually overlap between them. But yeah, a hundred percent, like, I think, I think you're talking about A Million Miles and a Thousand Years is, I think that's the book from Don Miller that was talking about that.

But the conflict, it's interesting, you know, you get back into some of those old school copywriting books where they talk about like the awareness ladder and do people even know they have a problem to solve? And I think there's a really good book called Great Leads. I think the, the authors are Masterson and Forgetting, I'm forgetting the next one.

I'll send you the link EJ so you can put it in the show notes or something like that. [00:33:00] But it's, it's based on the awareness ladder from that book, Scientific Advertising from Eugene Schwartz from like 1967 or whatever. But it just says like, if you have an audience that doesn't even know they have a problem, you can write headlines that look like this.

If you have an audience that knows they have a problem and they're searching for an answer, you can write headlines that look like this, right? You can be, because if you go to an audience that doesn't even know they have a problem, you can't talk about product. They don't care.

Here, buy this umbrella. Well, it's not raining. Like I don't need an umbrella. Right? But if I go up to you and I'm like, your head's on. You've lost all your hair and you don't have any sunscreen on your head, and you're gonna get sunburned. Maybe you want this umbrella and now you started somewhere and introduced me to a problem and then give, handed me a solution.

So the, the villain in all those cases is, it always comes back to some sort of problem, right? Some sort of issue that they're trying to solve. And so I do, I do think that, Easy. This is what we learned at when we were working with Grow and Convert, right? They talk about pain point SEO. That’s the way that they talk about it there.

And so even for things like SEO, like those pain points, if they're, if they're compelling enough, if they're real problems, problems we're solving, those are villains in those people's lives. So I don't. The, the danger, I think is the danger when you start to talk about villains and conflict and modeling against like the, the hero's journey stuff is in the hero's journey. It's the villain is a person and there's a really, there's a really big danger I think that some, some marketers fall into where they make, [00:34:30] they make some other person or some other group of people the villain in the way that they tell their story. And that always just comes across. Kind of gross.

Um, the, best villains when you're talking about marketing are problems where it's a system that's the problem, where it's a symptom that's the problem, where it's -in the case of the billable hour, right, it's a system itself. It's, not any one person that created the system. Everybody is sort of, they find themselves boxed in by the system and we're talking about breaking free from the system, right? Tear it all down and do something new.

This, this kind of stuff. So you have to be really careful not to villainize people. Right. Otherwise you end up you know, even that is a bit controversial though. There are marketers out there who will say, you need to like, pick a villain and go after them. I dunno, I, I've always found more success by talking about systems that are broken that you maybe didn't even realize or maybe have never even examined. That, that tends to open people up to, to just considering new ways of doing things.

Brooklin Nash: I think another good, I really love all of that. I think another good villain is the, the actual thing that you're working on. Like I think of Lavender, which is a sales email tool, and they, they don't talk about sales reps being bad at sales emails. They talk about sales emails being crappy because guess what?

We've all received a crappy sales email. So their whole thing is making better sales emails, and I think it's. Smart because it's not a person, it's not save time on your emails. It's let's make a better sales email.

Nathan Collier: I love it. I was, I was working on a conference in, in Vegas last fall and it was again, [00:36:00] legal, right? And so every, every, there's probably 7,500 booths there or something. They're all blue. Or like dark green or like purple, and it just, they're all like, we'll save you time, we'll make you money, we'll make you more efficient.

Like they, they all could have been created by the same exec person, people. And we're like, in the cor, we had a crappy booth location, but we're in the corner with like bright yellow stuff, just kill the bill, flower down. Our shirts running around like you couldn't miss us. And it was just good. It was just because we had something to say, right?

Something to say that. That wasn't just the same old thing that everybody else was saying. And so, my boss

Brooklin Nash: and guess what You.

Nathan Collier: it's so easy to be ignored. Right?

Brooklin Nash: Because you could have gone that route, like, help find, help with finding outside counsel, save time in the process, save money.

Nathan Collier: Yeah.

Brooklin Nash: but you didn't, you found the more compelling

Nathan Collier: Oh, I

have tons of that stuff still on the internet that I gotta eventually replace. Right. It like, that stuff is still floating around there. Like, like it's not, it's not as, That stuff that isn't out there eventually, but I've got a website, revamp project to, to work on over the next couple of months.

So stuff like that takes, it takes a while. It takes a while to really sort of get your hands around something like that and, and really make it go in all the different places where people might see it. But but yeah, spot on in terms of like the courts, the storytelling.

EJ Brown: I am really excited. I'm, I'm actually talking to Chelsea, who's the content person. Lavender in a day or two for the podcast. Yeah.


Brooklin Nash:

She's been great.

EJ Brown: sweet. I, I haven't talked to her yet, so I'm excited. But one of the [00:37:30] things that I told her I wanted to talk to her about is Taking risks in brand, you know, which I think is what we're talking about.

You know, like there, and I think there are some brands that really lean into it, like lavender. But I think as when you're working in an agency setting or as a freelancer it's, it's harder to build that trust and that confidence up to really. Have bolder brand or even just encourage bolder brand statements and that kind of thing.

And I, I think that's one of the things that I, I didn't realize I was missing, only freelancing and, and never having worked at a, for a corporation until I worked for FastSpring was that, oh, when you have a couple of years to really like. Dig into what a company should be or wants to be, then you can start to get a little bolder and, and just more aware, I think, of what those stories are that are hiding under the surface.

Right. But I'm curious do you, do you have examples either of you of like these these aha moments where All of a sudden, like content marketing, like the, the possibilities or the, the content that you created got deeper and better because there was a relationship that had developed with the company that you're working with or writing for.

Brooklin Nash: I think for me it was, it muted a similar path as me, Nathan, I, it's one of the reasons, one of the pieces of advice, not universally, but I said just consider it. If you're a freelance writer and you've only been a freelance [00:39:00] writer, or it's been a long time since you've been in-house, go in-house for a while because you'll learn so much more about the broader marketing function and go to market.

and that's what it was for me. It was when I went from, I was only a freelance writer for seven years and then I was in-house for two years at two different startups. And for me that was the turning point because, then I Connected the dots between, okay, this is what demand gen is looking for out of content.

This is what sales is looking for out of content. This is what the CEO is looking for and wants, and they all want different things. So you have to figure out how to juggle and then I found the best way to juggle it and land on something that appeals to everybody internally and let alone your prospects and customers is what we, just, what we were talking about at the beginning of this conversation is starting with those Insights and being purposeful.

Nathan Collier: I think every time I talk to somebody from my target audience, like I come away. So many things and I'm like, man, I wish I would've known that before. That always happens. And I'll tell you the first time that happened, it was, it was probably is like 20 10, 20 11, something like that. This is wait first job back, back after I made the first marketing job after I moved outta journalism.

This was the one I was talking about earlier where it was like, 50 people, marketing 5,000 people in the company. Really difficult to get in front of a customer, but I talked my way into doing it ride along with a salesperson. And would they, they would actually, like, they had like company cars and they would visit, so we were selling we were selling software to car dealerships across the US and Canada.

So if you, [00:40:30] if you've ever, ever been to a car dealership to try and buy a car and they like pull out a tablet and like type your name in or computer and type your name into that system, there was a 40% chance it was that company's, that company's software. Selling software to car dealers. Like there is no more aggressive sales audience than the car dealers.

Like, like those, those people are up for the fight. They're like, you wanna sell me something? Let's go. Like, they, they, they do it almost just for fun, right? And so I didn't know it at the time because I was really, I was completely new to marketing. I, but I, I know now how good of a sales team that team was.

Like they were, they were among the best salespeople that I. Had a chance to work with. And so, so I did this ride along with one guy and he was taking over an account, right? So one guy left, he was taking over part of his territory. So he's like, come on, we'll just like, we'll go visit this, this dealership.

And it was in, it was in Indiana, two, two hour drive to get there. And going to this guy like, Hey, is the dealer there? And the guy, like, the dealer's like walking out as we're walking in and he's like, are you from, are you from that company? Like, and apparently like nobody from our company had visited him in like two and a half years and he'd been under this big contract dispute and. He was beyond angry. Like he was like red hot, angry. He's like, come here. And he takes us up to his little office, which is above the showroom in this car dealership and where, I can't even remember where we were in Indiana. And he like, he's like, sit down. He's so, sit on his little chair and he like opens his file cabinet and it pulls out like the contract we had him in like locked in a seven year contract. And we had forced him through the contract to, to do [00:42:00] some really expensive upgrade on something. I don't remember the details, but he was so angry and he had two years, two years left on that deal and he slapped that thing on the, on the on the table and just started like laying in to the both of us.

And I'm like, what is happening right now? This is the first like sales experience first, first time in front of a customer at this company.

Brooklin Nash: Oh God.

Nathan Collier: and. I, I'll never forget my, the sales guy I was with, he was just like, oh, interesting. He just sort of like, he just sort of, he listened and listened, listened. The guy just raised and raised me.

He probably raised for 10 minutes or so, and then finally he took a breath and our sales guy said, well, I'm sorry to hear all that, but I'm your new sales rep. You got me for two years. Is there anything I do to help you? And he just started to ask him questions and the guy was like, well, you could do this.

And well, you could, if you come back, you can at least show my service guys. You know, improve how they do. And like, quietly, gently, like my sales guy just started to sort of get buy-in for a few next steps to sort of get into the account. And the guy was not, it's not like we walked outta there. The guy was happy, he was still angry as, but I, we wa we eventually walked outta the dealership and the guy went, he was going to lunch, we cut him right for lunch, which was like the worst time ever. But we got the sales guy's car and I looked at him and like, does that happen a lot? He was like, oh, it happens every now and then. You just gotta let 'em get it out. And I remember thinking like, okay, like that's the audience. Like that's the audience I'm writing for. When I go back to the office and I write the email that goes out this week that goes out to [00:43:30] 70,000 people, that's who it is, right?

Like this guy. This is who it is, this is, this is who he cares about. This is what's interesting to him. And that's how to make it completely changed everything for me like that, that having that insight into what was important to him, even though it was delivered in a very angry way, but to have, to have my sales guy be so. Just it, just roll with it like that, that experience was so eye-opening for me personally. And I have, I've never had an experience quite that combative before, but I think every time I've, every time I've been on a call or had an opportunity to talk to somebody from the, the audience, whether that's a customer or future customer it's always like that.

I always learn so much about what they care about. And so that, that's just what it was for me.

Brooklin Nash: Nathan's story was so much better than mine. That was

Nathan Collier: I've been practicing that story for a while. I told that one a few times. So

Brooklin Nash: a good one.

EJ Brown: Well, I, you know, superpower is storytelling. There you go. We've already got, I, I was gonna end by asking, you know, if you could change one thing about B2B marketing, what it would it be? And I feel like both of your answers would be something around, you know, actually talking to people, talking to customers.

So anything else, like any. Here's how I'd like you both to, to leave it is for content marketers out there, wannabe content marketers or any type of marketer who's working in b2b. If you're not able to talk to customers [00:45:00] what are other ways that you encourage people just to learn the market that they might not be thinking about and to break down these really shallow personas.

Brooklin Nash: I think for me it's, we've talked a lot about talking to your customer and your audience. I think it honestly can start with, I mean, when we first started chatting, we were talking about content as a silo. And I think way too often that's the case where you have content marketing who puts stuff out there, but then you have product marketing and customer marketing who they get to talk to the customers, but content doesn't, or demand gen talk talks to sales, but content doesn't. Or brand talks to the leadership, but content doesn't. And it just, I think content flows. through Not just all your marketing functions, but like the entire go-to-market org. Like everybody needs content. So I think we need to stop treating content marketing as this siloed thing that sits alongside and treat it something that's more foundational to functions.

Nathan Collier: Wholeheartedly agree with that. I think that's what I would say is that if we can get content embedded more into the other parts of the organization that'll go a long way to giving, it'll solve this problem where we're isolated and just writing stuff based on what we find in Google.

EJ Brown: Great. Well, thanks again both of you. This has been great, so, and I'm so happy you now know each other.

Brooklin Nash: Yeah, finally, face to face.

EJ Brown: Love it.

Nathan Collier: ej.

[00:46:30] Appreciate it.

Brooklin Nash: Thanks for EJ. I love the, the multiple guests format. This is really fun.

Content Marketing Is Dead
Content Marketing Is Dead Podcast
Interviews about the future of content and brand marketing.