“I am Basically Marketing to Myself” In conversation with Henry Bruce, SVP of Marketing, Contently

Voted one of the 50 most influential people by the Sales Lead Management Association four years in a row( 2011-2014) Henry Bruce is a 30+ year veteran of B2B software marketing. A specialist in brand positioning, he has a long track record of successful product launches and sales enablement strategies. Before joining Contently, he was the Chief Marketing Officer for ComplySci where he worked to enable business development and integrated marketing programs at financial services and technology firms. Prior to joining ComplySci , Henry was Vice President of Product Marketing for Centro, LLC., where he is best remembered for implementing the Pragmatic Marketing framework.  Previously, Henry was President and Founder of the Rock Annand Group where he was responsible for consulting to software technology and services firms on business strategy and developing and executing go-to-market initiatives. Henry has also held senior sales and marking positions at Industri-Matematik International, Optum Software, Xerox and Ross Systems. Henry has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in economics from Trinity College and enjoys golf, fishing, skiing and kayaking. We caught up with him at Content Marketing World to better understand Contently’s newly launched Content Maturity Model.

Maturity models have been a popular concept in software development and even content marketing in the past. Could you please explain how Contently’s newly released maturity model is different?

The biggest difference is that The Contently Maturity Model takes a holistic view of the way content can impact an entire organization. When content marketing adoption first started taking off, the early models seemed to be aimed at the role content played solely in marketing strategies. Another way to look at it is the early models only focused on a marketer running a blog. Today, we have a better understanding of how much more planning, strategy, and execution is needed to make content effective for all use cases across the buyer’s journey. If your technology, strategy, and processes are all aligned and tied to business goals, you’ll rise above the average in your industry. That will lead to better audience engagement, sure, but also retention, upsells, and revenue.

Based on the above model, what do you think are the biggest process mistakes that brands make in their implementation of content marketing?

We see a lot of brands try to pilot a content marketing program by giving it to one (typically junior) staffer who has other responsibilities, which doesn’t put that person or the program in a place to succeed. Our editor-in-chief Jordan Teicher has talked about something he calls the content marketing honeymoon period: Brands prepare for the first 1-3 months of their program, but they don’t have a clear idea of how to keep it going. You need to know how you’ll measure success and how content can and should be used by other departments in the organization (Hint: Start with sales). Another common mistake is failing to revisit your content strategy more than annually. The best brands revise and adjust periodically based on data. A content program is not self-sustaining, and making iterative changes based on performance, business need, and customer need are key to your success.

You said “We are proud to say that we’ve not only written the playbook for successfully marketing with content but that we’ve helped global brands master their content strategies with it,” 

You mentioned that the model emerged from seven years of successful client implementation – Now given that most of your clients are big enterprise brands, what is the relevance of a model like this for smaller companies / start ups with resource issues? Also will the upcoming series of play books, allow for some kind of self implementation /DIY of the model or will it need consultancy support?

We designed The Contently Maturity Model so that it provides ways for all brands to identify where they belong. Then, depending on where that is, brands have certain benchmarks they can work toward as they become more mature. You don’t need to have a team of 12 to think about what technology you need or how to improve your process. Another thing I like to point out is that though the phases are connected, you don’t have to aspire to reach the final stage: Enterprise Content Operations. We work with plenty of customers who are running incredibly effective programs, and they fall somewhere between phases 1 and 2. Small teams or startups can pull best practices from phase 3 and adapt them so they’re useful for how they work. For the upcoming play book series, each one will include a checklist that outlines best practices and tactics that any team can use, depending on which phase they are in. This approach will help teams focus on certain priorities to achieve program success.

To quote youMoreover, instead of giving them the space to put a solid foundation in place, there’s often an expectation that content production should start immediately, which means the people involved will have to play catch-up from Day 1”.

Not all companies can afford a comprehensive solution like ContentlyOne – Do you think content marketing is a relevant strategy for smaller brands especially without the tools / platforms such as Contently to measure / track / modify content in the volumes needed to make an impact?

This question gets at two crucial points. First, having the foundation in place simply means thinking about your program as a long-term endeavor. You can’t start production immediately without planning, regardless of your size or technological capabilities. Additionally, you can’t only think about what it will take to launch a blog and run it for three months. Over the course of the first quarter, you can identify your audience, set goals, and involve your sales team and other subject matter experts early. Build a content plan and settle on a cadence that you can revisit. Think about how you’ll measure success and what will inform how you iterate and optimize. The second part of the question is asking whether you can run a successful program without a strong technology stack. You can in theory, but it will be more difficult. That goes back to taking the time to really build a solid foundation: Do you know how your content will be produced and who needs to be involved? Do teams know what role they’ll play in creating and activating content? Small teams will benefit most from putting processes and structures in place for their content production, which will reduce ambiguity and confusion when you’re in the thick of it. Further we have scaled our solution to allow smaller teams to follow an investment approach that provides the necessary tools needed for initial success within existing budgets. Later on, they can scale the solution as their program matures and expands to more use cases and content teams.

What would be your biggest advice to novices or short staffed companies looking to benefit from content marketing. Any campaigns that you can share?

At last year’s SiriusDecisions Summit in Las Vegas, we presented with our client Braintree, a payments provider. Our point of contact there was hired to run their content program, but she was a team of one. She partnered with Contently and really leaned on our talent network and editorial services, which gave her a team of writers and creators as well as additional support in the form of a managing editor. With this structure in place, Braintree decided to focus on creating one major piece of content per quarter while planning to reuse and repurpose it. For example, the team would produce a longform asset, chop it up, and turn it into a few blog posts. They’d take the introductory paragraph and turn it into an email outreach. Graphics became infographics, which linked back to the original piece. It’s a really effective way to maximize your resources and master your process before growing. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t be successful if you produce the same piece of content over and over again. However, you will be successful if you are purposeful in the content you create and identify how you can reinforce themes using work you’ve already done.

Again quoting you “We see machine learning as a critical part of creating a platform that serves actionable insights throughout the content lifecycle”.

Do you think that the ongoing advances in AI / machine learning replace / change content marketing or even marketing as we know and understand it today? Again will this create even a bigger divide between larger and a smaller brand, given the latter’s inability to leverage it as much.

Even with all of the advances we’ve seen so far in AI and machine learning, I don’t believe it’ll replace the core functions of a content marketing platform. But clearly AI can optimize the overall process to help marketers make smarter decisions when it comes to process and producing higher quality content. For example, ContentlyOne uses AI to mine our global talent network of over 100,000 freelance creatives to find the best contributors for our clients and their strategy. We know how hard it is for content to break through and really make an impact on audiences. Joe Lazauskas, our head of content strategy, has identified four keys to great stories: They have to be relatable, there has to be some sort of tension, they have to be clear to the audience, and there has to be an element of novelty. AI isn’t great at presenting totally new concepts in a way that makes sense, but it is good at testing out to identify which will be the most successful. We have embedded AI and machine learning into ContentlyOne to help brands establish governance at scale across all content teams for all marketing programs. We see this approach driving ever-increasing value for solutions like ours as enterprise adoption increases across the industry.

For more on Henry Bruce, you can keep up with him on LinkedIn and Twitter. Let us know in the comments who you’d like to see us interview next!