Strategy before tactics

Mark Engelmann
Mark Engelmann
    15 minute read

In Episode 3 of the Show I speak with Kurt Sanders, Director of Strategy at The Content Division. Listen in as Kurt exposes the content marketing secrets you've been searching for to grow your audience and feed your sales team with an abundance of qualified leads.


Kurt Sanders, The Content Division

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Kurt is the director of strategy for The Content Division and helped co-found the company in 2016. He has more than 10 years experience as a journalist, trainer, content marketing strategist and public speaker, and has worked with brands across a huge range of industries including sales training, health, economic development and tourism.

Kurt is the co-host of the Telltale podcast, a resource for marketers who want to learn how storytelling can help brands cut through the marketing clutter.

Interview Transcript

Mark Engelmann: Record to the computer. All right. Hi, everyone, welcome to this week's episode of the Go for Growth Show. My name's Mark Engelmann and I will be your host for today. On today's show, we are very lucky to have Kurt Sanders with us and he's the big boss at a business based in Brisbane, Australia, called the Content Division. So welcome to you, Kurt.

Kurt Sanders: Thanks very much for having me and congrats on the new show!

Mark Engelmann: Thank you! It's a very exciting thing that we are doing here. So, Kurt, let's just crack on. Tell us a little bit about the Content Division and what you guys are doing.

Kurt Sanders: Yeah, sure. So the Content Division's been sort of in play since about November last year and we're digital marketing content strategists, we basically niched down to three parts - strategy, content creation, and execution of that strategy, which can involve all different sorts of things. So we actually started with a much broader set of products that we thought we would be using that as every good audience does, they tell you exactly what they need from you, and it's up to you to change to make sure you're servicing that. Yeah, strategy and execution has been a massive part of our business and our growth early on, so that's been great. We work with B2B clients. Mostly, there's a bit of B2C in our client base as well. Probably, our strengths lie in B2B. Its been a fantastic start. We've absolutely hit the ground sprinting, which is great.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, great. I think that whole digital marketing space is just the way of the future. Everyone's talking about it. There's a massive buzz on ... There's really no going back for businesses that want to grow. Right?

Kurt Sanders: Absolutely correct. Absolutely correct. I guess the big thing though for businesses saying, "oh, I need to go digital.", or "I know I need to go digital." Is to make sure that you don't go digital without a strategy. So, without actually planning it out. One of the biggest issues we're finding with our clients is, and an interesting point is, the smaller businesses are having the exact same problem as the bigger ones, which is a really interesting insight for us.

The lack of strategy and the jump to tactics for businesses has been a massive learning curve for a lot of them. It's a tough one because they see businesses flourishing on Facebook or on Instagram. They dive in, and they expect to have the same results. They haven't actually taken the four to five to six weeks to really break down who the hell they're talking to, what it is they're going to actually say to them, and how to do it in a non-disruptive way. How to be a part of their day. Let's face it, digital display ads, why would you try and interrupt their day. That's been a massive challenge for our clients. Digital, no doubt, it's no going back.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, great. One thing that always fascinates me about talking to business owners is really trying to understand what they did before they started their business, and why they got into it and how they came up with the idea, and why they decided to take the leap in to business. Can you tell me a little bit about your journey and why you decided to start The Content Division?

Kurt Sanders: Yeah, sure. The simple answer is that I was sick of doing it for other people. (laughter)

I’m sure this comes as no surprise. My history is deeply seeded in journalism. I started off as a journalist. I did actually have some marketing experience with agencies before that, but I spent the majority of my early career in journalism. I was the National Editorial Manager, the National Editorial Training Manager for a division of Australian Associated Press, which is Australia's Newswire. I was looking out for a tonne of journalists and teaching them better ways to produce the news, and how to do it in a way that actually engages audiences. The thing is, the traditional media models are just being absolutely pounded. Writing is kind of on the wall for that, and I decided to jump ship.

After that, I actually was the Digital Content Manager for Brisbane's Economic Development Board. In Brisbane, in a good market. I got to look after some pretty massive audiences there and had some really great successes with my team there as well. We looked after two different websites. which is firmly a business to business portal for investment attractions, convention attraction, all those kinds. They're digital Brisbane, so transforming the city digitally. Funny, on the converse side of that was Visit Brisbane which is our tourism portal. Both of those during my tenure there, we had a fantastic team. I think we've discussed this before, a fantastic team of millennials who just brought those products ahead in leaps and bounds.

To give you one stat, in the time I was there, we managed to bring the Visit Brisbane Portal and particularly one of my staff members there who's completely committed to it, or two of my staff members there who are completely committed to it from really an ‘also-ran’ website to something that was a huge lead generator. If we're talking purely in page views, because it is run like a social media website, talking page views, we took it from I think it was 170,000 article views or something in a year, we took it to close to two to three million article views. So total visitation to more than 13 million in a year. The more impressive stat was that we brought the leads generated up to... it was an insane number, but we saw the success because we engaged in really engaging content. So, that was what I was doing before that and then I decided that I can take this knowledge that I have in building audiences and generating leads and I can tailor it to my thing and that is how the Content Division was born.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, great. I think so often you see on the Internet and social media or EDMs, businesses attempts at digital marketing well but they seem to forget a whole section of like warming up the lead before they go in for the big ask that might be like a webinar or a free business consultation or something..

Kurt Sanders: Poor selling

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, that's right. Not really understanding the audience, can you tell me a little about that whole process and how you view that?

Kurt Sanders: Yeah, sure. It kind of goes down to the kind of businesses we work with as well. Those kinds of business cannot be purely transactional business. We just don't work with them. I just don't see value in a short term sale for a sale sake without creating a customer that you could have again and again. The idea of content marketing and with any marketing really should be to provide inspiration, a trigger, and some fantastic information for them and answer every question that they have before they actually decide that they want to buy something off you because that person becomes a fan of you and far more invested in what you do. That is the kind of businesses that we want to work with as well and we do work with those businesses. They are absolutely focused on creating relationships and networks. Digital marketing should be word of mouth on steroids. That is what it should be.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, totally.

Kurt Sanders: That is how we view it.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, great. So moving on to talk about your business the Content Division, tell me a little bit about how the first year of business or 6 months and what has your strategy been to date in terms of customer acquisition and exposure and brand awareness as well.

Kurt Sanders: Yeah, sure. The very first strategy that we knew we had to put in place was activating the networks that we knew we had. Working for Brisbane Marketing gave us an incredible network. I have a business partner as well and we both worked there. Working for them was great, because it really did activate a network for us. The second part of it for us was content marketing was for us to build an audience, so use that network, activate it and build that audience. That is absolutely where we got nearly all of our early business as well as the inbound side of things but it is all a combination, and that has truly been our strategy early on. It is to feature the stories of the people we know. Tap into their knowledge, amplify that knowledge. To do that we started a podcast called the Telltale Podcast. It is purely about story telling. It is about how brands use stories to engage. Mostly at the top funnel, at the moment of inspiration, right at the top. It is absolutely to done that for us. It has been an extremely strong tool for us. It showcases what we do for clients as well, and how we activate audiences and networks. The client ... you can almost see the ah ha moment when they realise they have a fantastic tool on their doorstep that is their own network. It is just how they activate it.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, totally. I know that you have said in the past that content marketing has been around for hundreds of years and I totally agree with the point you just made around activating your network. Your network is not only the people that you physically interact with every day and the people beyond those people, but it is the people that you digitally interact with as well, which is where social media comes into play. What are some of your do's and don'ts on social media? Everyone kind of sees Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and there is raft of others, I'm sure. I guess for a lot of people, it is probably really overwhelming to try and work out what does all of this mean and how do I have a laser focus targeted approach to all of this to get the results that I need for my business.

Kurt Sanders: Yeah, I think that the fact that you just listed all of them probably paints the biggest picture and the biggest problem that everyone has and that is you start a business and you see someone else is doing something on social media and you say "Ah, I need that." So, you go and you start a Facebook, you start a Twitter, you start an Instagram and you start a Snapchat. You start all of those things and you are like who is going to run this stuff, and no one is and that is when they die a painful death.

My number one tip is to always have strategy before tactics, because once you get into the strategic mindset you automatically say "my audience is in platforms X, Y and Z". Alright, can I even break that down further. "My most valuable audience is on platform X." Alright, I am going to do that, I am going to start there. OK, what do I do on that? What does my audience want to know about? How can I help them? How can I add value? Figuring out their questions and answering them or entertaining them on those platforms. But making sure that you don't just spread yourself thin like go to where your audience should be. For most brands, it is one spot. It really is one spot. Start there. Work on that niche. If you can nail that niche, feel free to move on to another niche but don't spread yourself thing and just strategically write down who your audience is. Build personas around who they are. Most brands have one or two. So you can spend time building a strategic plan for someone that is going to use social or digital. It is not for everyone, it really isn't. If you are going to do it, make sure it is strategic and absolutely niche down. The broader you are the less you are.

That is my number one starting point.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, fantastic and I think that is good solid business strategy. Don't try to sell it to the world. Find your niche and target that and go hard.

Kurt Sanders: That is exactly right. As you said earlier that has been going on for a long time. That’s not new. Digital and content marketing isn't new. It is a done thing. It just happens to be done in a different way now.

Mark Engelmann: Right, and so what's the future plans for the Content Division, Kurt? You have been in business for about six months now, and things are going really, really well for you which is always good to hear in those early days of business start-up. What's the next year going to look like for the Content Division?

Kurt Sanders: Yeah. I can say the first six or seven months have been a mental rollercoaster. I don't want to hop off now, it is not like a Dreamworld roller coaster, it is like one of those massive behemoth rollercoasters in the States that have those awesome names like ‘Meanstreak’ or something like that. As I said, I wouldn't hop off the world now. From here on we are now niching down further and we have a niched our products. And our workflow processes, getting those things right. It is actually quite handy because it helps you plan exactly how, building awareness, building a funnel, building an acquisition and building an audience. It actually paints that picture for you. If I were to say what the plan next, we will keep doing our podcasts. The blog has been a great source as well. Those are the two things that we are doing. We are not doing anything more. As I said, we don't want to spread too thin. We'll keep going and then the next step for us will absolutely be live events.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, cool.  

Kurt Sanders: The power that a live event holds for audiences for you, for our people like taking the fact that you might use that thing for lead gen. The value that it adds for other people is something that builds authority for yourself. So that will actually be part of our future in the very near future. We are going to keep practising  what we preach and in distributing helpful audience focused content and our why from the start of all of this was let's make marketing better. Let's stop disrupting people and let's make it a better thing for consumer groups. I am just sick of having a pop up ads. If I was to narrow it down, definitely live events will be the next focus for us.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Awesome, awesome. And I think that is a great step forward for a business like yours where you are dealing with a market that very generally speaking is probably not very well educated in the digital space and doesn't have access to the tools that they need to be successful in that space. I think having live events and learning events and education events and workshops just totally makes sense.

Kurt Sanders: It is actually the niches down the kind of client we want. We know our clients. We don't deal with transactional people. People come to us and say "I just want to sell 10 things tomorrow." To me, that doesn't make any sense. Unless you are an established business that has that capacity. Generally they are not, they have been around, but they are not doing any marketing. I guess the next thing is we actually, we want to work with really good people. Just great people and transactional people and dodgy people can go. I don't want to paint a picture of them too much. Thirdly, we want to work with people that have a really great vision for the company as well. If they have a great vision, generally they understand that you need to build an audience as opposed to just someone just having someone buy from you and forgetting about you. That is definitely where this entire business plan is taking us down to a niche path which is been handy and we are going to continue to execute in that way.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Awesome, awesome. So, we are nearing the end of the show today. I just have two more questions for you. The first one is do you have any growth tips for anyone out there that is looking to build their business, grow it, push it forward. You can define the word growth however you want to based on your journey and vision as a business owner.

Kurt Sanders: Yeah. I guess, I don't want to say I’m an expert in growth per se, but talking from a content level as that is my expertise, and the growth that I have been able to pull out of that is just if we niched out, find an audience, and just stick with that and find a really engaging way to talk to that audience. That will be our pillar for growth, I think, for at least another two or three years. Definitely. That would be my tip. Create really, really valuable and helpful content for an audience of one if you have to. Niche it right down. That will absolutely be my number one growth tip.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Great. And my last question for you Kurt, have you come across any pieces of tech or software applications or any services that you are using lately in the Content Division that have been really useful?

Kurt Sanders: Yeah. Sure. So we use quite a lot of software and services for all different kind of things. We use Panadoc for to create proposals and all kinds of things. I guess the ones that are adding a tonne of value are Zapier. I don't know if you use Zapier at all, but it is links together so many things and potentially a quarter of a person's job so that is really great. For a grow business anyway. So, Zapier is really great if the audience hasn't played with that they definitely jump in. One really great one for us is which is just a really easy service to use. It is just a transcribing service.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, we use that.

Kurt Sanders: I love it. It is a simple thing really. I don't know if it is a massive tip. If you have done a live event or you’ve spoken on something like this and you just want to transcribe it is super fast and super cheap and you automatically got a blog post to go along with your video, to go along with your audio and it's a killer. It is great.

Mark Engelmann: We use Rev and for a $1 per minute for audio, you can't go wrong.

Kurt Sanders: And our CRM, I'd just like to throw that in and I don't care what you use. Just use it. Use it as much as you can.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah. Awesome, awesome. That is the end of our show today, Kurt. I would like to thank you for your time and we will catch up soon.

Kurt Sanders: Thank you very much. It has been great.

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