For over a decade, Brandon Andersen has been at the forefront of the content intelligence movement. As the CEO, Founder, and Chief Strategist of Ceralytics, a content intelligence platform, Brandon has dedicated his career to helping businesses better connect with their audiences.
At Ceralytics, Brandon helps clients identify and evaluate the needs of their audiences through the use of content intelligence. Ceralytics taps into the science of content to help clients identify and predict the content topics and themes that provide the most value to their audiences. By adopting content intelligence, Brandon and the Ceralytics team have helped clients pinpoint content gaps, strengths, and opportunities in their respective industries.
Brandon leads the overall strategy for Ceralytics and oversees product development, marketing, and sales. Recently, he launched a new newsletter for Ceralytics called Sketchalytics. This newsletter features micro-lessons about marketing and business in a single sketch. In March, Brandon and the Ceralytics team will be releasing a state of content marketing in healthcare report. This report, featuring samples of around 20 healthcare sites – both consumer and provider facing – will identify the topics and trends that are driving engagement in the healthcare space.
Before overseeing operations at Ceralytics, Brandon served as the Director of Marketing at Cision. He has written over 30 articles related to content marketing and SEO, including five for Relevance, and has written a zombie novel entitled ‘Mantrap.’
What inspired you to pursue marketing and content intelligence as a career?
I had no intention of getting into marketing. I was a tech guy. I started my career as a web developer who happened to fall into a web design role at Bacon’s Information – now known as Cision. From that I started getting into SEO and moved my way up through the marketing ranks to lead US marketing efforts for Cision. In that role I oversaw demand generation, content marketing, and marketing operations. A glaring gap in the market I saw was a lack of data-driven insights that could tell content marketers what topics they should write about next. It was all just a guessing game. I wanted to create something that took content marketing from guessing to knowing. Content intelligence was the answer.
Can you tell us a little more about what you do at Ceralytics?
I’m a co-founder and chief strategist. I oversee marketing, product and sales. The fun stuff. My (and Ceralytics’) main mission is to take your content marketing efforts from guessing to knowing. In doing so, we help you deliver more value to your customers.
What helps you stay motivated on the day to day?
Seeing and hearing the “AHA!” moments that happen when we present our initial findings to a client. Those moments can come in the form of surprise, clarity, or relief based on the findings. The best part for me in those moments is that the team now has a newfound sense of confidence in what they’re doing. The path is laid out before them and they can now do what they do best – create awesome content.
What’s your favorite quote?
Teddy Roosevelt’s Daring Greatly quote. It’s literally above my desk right now on a huge wooden sign that I got as a gift from my wife right after Ceralytics was founded.
You recently launched a new newsletter called Sketchalytics, which features these unique and informative micro-lessons about marketing and business drawn in a single sketch. Where did this idea come from and what do you hope content marketers will get out of it?
We interviewed Jay Acunzo on how to fix newsletters that suck. When we got his answer, I realized that our newsletter sucked. So we went back to the mission of the company, and a big part of going from guessing to knowing is education. I’ve talked to hundreds of content marketers and all of them have something they want to learn more about. Nobody has a grasp of everything. So we thought micro-lessons in marketing and business would be a good fit.
But just a weekly lesson seemed pretty bland. I stumbled upon Sketchplanations and said, “This is it! We do something like this, but for marketing and business!” Luckily, a good friend and former colleague, Amanda Davidson, is a fantastic artist and does all of our sketches for us.
In March, you’ll be launching a state of content marketing in healthcare report. What was the inspiration behind this and how do you envision healthcare marketers utilizing the information?
Healthcare seems to be way behind the times when it comes to content marketing. Regulations definitely don’t help matters, but there also seems to be a huge opportunity for healthcare companies to take the lead in delivering real value for customers, especially in the US. If the insights from our report can help make a positive dent in how healthcare companies engage with the general public, that would be a win for us.
Tech like Amazon Alexa and the recently announced Apple Homepod are really blowing up. Do you think content marketers should start exploring AI in 2018 and beyond?
AI and machine learning are definitely taking off, but I think investing in it just for the sake of investing in a new trend is the wrong approach.
These technologies need to demonstrate that they can solve a pain point for you. Having AI for the sake of AI doesn’t do any good. But, if that AI is packaged into something that saves you time, money, or gives you a competitive advantage, then it’s something to consider. At Ceralytics, we heavily lean on these technologies, but no one cares that it’s marketing AI. What people care about is that it gives them a competitive advantage, gives them confidence in the content they create, and does it all at a fraction of the price of having a big analytics department and paying a third party huge royalties for competitive data.
Blockchain for marketing has become sort of a buzzword lately. Do you think marketers should start paying attention to the way blockchain is disrupting digital marketing or do you think it’s a passing trend?
Blockchain is having a real impact on the world. The biggest and best thing about the blockchain concept is that you can’t hide anything. It’s completely transparent. It’s as much a marketing play as it is a PR play because you can show your financial transactions to charities, where you source your produce, and where you make political contributions.
From the marketing standpoint, the idea that people could get paid by brands to be advertised to seems really strange, but I think it could work. People buy Amazon Kindles that have ads on them because they save a few bucks over the non-ad version. People play freemium games and put up with ads because they want to save a few bucks instead of buying the full version. Ads are worth money to people, so if you told someone, I’ll give you a dollar for every article you read of mine, I think people would absolutely do it.
Is there a viable future for augmented and virtual reality content marketing?
Augmented reality for sure. Providing real-time feedback for things around a person would be huge. Travel and tourism industries could do great things with this. Not sure about virtual reality though – I think that may be further away from making a content marketing play.
What game-changing content intelligence and data trends do you think marketers will be latching onto this year?
This is going to be a shakeout year. Companies doing content poorly are going to exit the space and reallocate budgets to paid advertising, because that’s showing true ROI. Bad content won’t bring in audiences and those who create it won’t be able to show a positive ROI.
I think, and hope – let’s be honest – that content intelligence platforms will catch on more in the mid-market. Large enterprise companies with giant marketing teams can already do a lot of what content intelligence platforms can, but they require multiple teams of analysts and really expensive competitive intelligence data. They also do it much slower. Content intelligence does the same thing faster, offers real-time updates, and for a fraction of the price.
There’s millions of pages of content out there and it can be tough for a small or an up and coming business to find exposure. What advice would you give to a marketer who is struggling to find an audience?
If your company sells something, and people are buying it…there’s your audience. Learn about your customers by talking to them directly. Understand their pain points. What keeps them up at night? What are they trying to accomplish day to day? What are they trying to avoid? If you can’t talk directly to your customers, talk to your sales and client support teams. They will have a lot of this information too.
Then, find how your company is uniquely positioned to address resolving those pain points. Now, here’s the kicker. Don’t just write about what you want to write about. You need to blend the things you want to talk about as a company with what your audience wants to hear. That’s tricky – and is where content intelligence comes into play. Once you find that middle ground, it’s then a matter of executing great content that consistently relieves the pain points of your audience.
What advice would you give to marketers who have no idea how to get started with content analytics?
Start with Google Analytics. Moz has a great 101 guide. You can also sign up for Sketchalytics because we cover content analytics all the time. In fact, on the main page for Sketchalytics is a sample newsletter all about sources and mediums – two essential concepts for content analytics.
What piece of advice would you give to young professionals who want to get into marketing?
The #1 differentiator for marketers that I see right now is whether or not they understand analytics. Those who do stand out among the sea of new marketers out there. Even if you’re a content creator, having an understanding of analytics will set you apart from 90% of other content creators out there.
You could be the best marketing writer in the world, but if you’re writing content that isn’t resonating with an audience, that content is worthless. Understanding analytics and drawing insights from them will enable you to understand your audience better. You’ll learn how your audience wants to consume stories, where they find your content, what they do once they land on your content, and if it’s truly effective. If you have an analytics team, you can get this information from them, but first you need to know what to ask for. Unless you have the basics of analytics under your belt, you won’t know the right questions to ask, and therefore won’t get the answers you need.
Last but not least, are there any upcoming projects you’re working on or events you’re excited about?
We’re working on monthly guidebooks that address other gaps in the content marketing industry that we don’t feel are appropriately addressed. The first will launch in April.
We’re also making constant updates to our content intelligence engine within our application, and will be launching some big new features in the coming months.