Don’t Fear the Content Monsta: A. Lee Judge

From Digital Marketing Manager to Co-Founder of Content Monsta, A. Lee Judge joined me for an episode of The Experience Maker Show to discuss the importance of the customer funnel and creating the right kind of content for your company.  

Dan: I have been seeing A. Lee Judge in my LinkedIn feed over and over and over again. I wrote to him and said, “You must be doing something right because LinkedIn keeps putting your content in front of me. It’s great content. I want to get to know you a little bit more.” He is the co-founder and CMO of a company called Content Monsta, which helps companies with digital marketing, personal branding, content creation. And like me, he’s got a background in customer experience as well. We’re going to talk about the intersection of marketing and customer experience. You’re going to have to give me some of your secrets about how you’re always in my feed because whatever you’re doing is working.

Lee: It’s hard to see who’s seen your stuff. The algorithm is always this big mystery. I guess the secret is consistency. It’s a crossroads between quantity and quality. I always tell folks when they’re starting, it sounds counterintuitive, but start with quantity because it’ll make you better at it. If I go back three or four years, I’ll probably see a lot of really bad material. Bad content from my standpoint is bad lighting or poor sound, but it resonated then when I wasn’t focused on quality as much. The consumer didn’t care. With that quantity of doing it over and over, the quality gets better and better.

Dan: We are our own worst critics usually. I got the same advice when I joined Twitter and had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know what a hashtag was, and a mentor of mine said, follow Nike’s slogan,” just do it”. Just get on there and start tweeting. Don’t be an observer or a lurker, just go do it. Sure enough, you start to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Lee, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background and Content Monsta. 

Lee: I was actually in Boston about a year or so ago doing a talk with Brightcove. Because I was in Boston, people assumed that Content Monsta was “Monsta” because I was from Boston. It was just that “Content Monster” was a lot more expensive for the domain name. Interestingly enough, in the customer experience industry, I worked for a great company named Jacada. Jacada creates customer experience software, so their main clients are call centers and large organizations that speak to a lot of customers. As a marketing director there, I found myself learning about content marketing and needing more and more content. I already had a background in media and broadcast communications. I began creating content for that company and already had the cameras and the know-how to create content. As I was examining all these vendors, I said, you know what, let me just create some videos of myself for the company. I began creating a lot of talking and thought leadership type videos for the company. Another company reached out and said, “Lee, was that work? We love those videos. Was that outsourced or was it done internally?” Both – I offered my services and my equipment to create content for their marketing director, myself. I needed it, so I went ahead and made it. There was no conflict of interest.

I began making content for that company as well. They became our first client. It grew from there – creating more and more content. What made it work was that I’m a marketer who happens to have a background in audio-video production. So those two things coming together made for a great situation to form the company Content Monsta. We approach it not just as a production house we’re a marketing company that knows production. Our target is other marketers because we get it. We know what it’s like to be a small marketing team that needs more content and needs to find ROI in the content we’re creating. Content Monsta started three or four years ago now. We’re growing well even with the pandemic. We’ve pivoted into a lot more podcast production. Ironically, we were studying how to do things remotely before the pandemic, and it turned out to be a good thing for us.

Dan: I would imagine that with the pandemic, there’s so much more demand for audiovisual right now. Folks that never were on video in their lives are now getting on there. I’d imagine that it’s not a bad place as some industries are actually thriving very much in the stay-at-home environment. The experience of most content consumers is that we have content coming at us from everywhere, all sorts of channels in audio and video, in print with memes, with gifs, with emojis. How does one stand out in what is only a continually growing marketplace for content?

Lee: The single most thing you can do to differentiate yourself is being yourself. I did a keynote at Content Marketing World last year, and it was called Be Content. It was based on helping others understand that right now, people long for a personal connection, either because we haven’t been around people as much or because we are tired of seeing marketing stuff. And so, this third party from a third-person kind of content doesn’t resonate as well. But if it comes from a person, even if it’s the CEO of a company, seeing that CEO do his everyday things reminds you of that company and has a positive value towards a company, even though he may not even be talking about their product or service. I think getting above the noise means showing your face, being yourself, not being afraid to go off-topic a bit to show more of your personality. The differentiator is having the guts to show up as yourself and be personable.

Dan: I think people forget so often that we buy from people more than we buy from companies and particularly any business that requires a salesperson you often choose based on the salesperson. We made a big purchase of windows for our home a couple of years ago and we had probably seven salespeople come to the house. They all say the same thing and they all made the same joke. We ended up buying from the salesperson that we liked the best, even though he was a little bit more expensive than some of the others. We trusted him, we felt like we established a relationship. And that is critical in the B2B or B2C space. Get out there and just be a person because we all have a story to tell and we all have the interesting parts of our background that sometimes you dig into and they make for a great story.

Lee: I think what we often miss as both marketers and salespeople is that we all have common playbooks. If there’s a way to sell something, we’ve all read the same blog, the same white paper on how to sell, reading the same industry information, going to the same industry trade shows. They tend to be in a bubble thinking, okay, even though we’ve read all the same styles and pitches and ways to sell this, somehow, we think that we’re all that different, and as you said, you’re not different until you add your personality and your experience to it. Until then, you know, you may think that what you say is original, but the reality is you’re just part of an industry, and everybody’s doing the same thing. Whether you’re marketing, creating content, or talking to your customers, you have to understand that you’re not the only one. Your message is not that unique unless it’s coming from you.

Dan: It’s a great point that other people read it too. I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about some of the corniest sales come-ons that I had received being in corporate America. 

Lee: At some point, someone had a blog or a training session that said, this is a great new thing, try it. And he said it to a million people, and they all thought that they were the only ones who heard it, and they tried it. Within a month it’s dead, and it’s already high on the spam filter.

Dan: Exactly. I’ve always felt that one of the jobs of marketing is to set up the customer experience because after all, a marketer is usually making some sort of promise about what a product or service or company is going to be like. My feeling in today’s society is that marketing is critical because it’s often the first interaction or experience that somebody has with your company. And secondly, it’s kind of in charge of setting up the promise. You want to make sure that you are promising something that the rest of your company can deliver on. Can you talk about where you see marketing’s role in terms of these and the customer experience? 

Lee: When it comes to marketing the personality of the company, that’s the first introduction. My wife has a fear of meeting celebrities. Her rationale was that she saw their marketing – how they looked, how they’ve been in the movies, and everything that was all made up. But what if she meets them in person and they have some corny laugh, or their voice sounds funny, or they smell. For that reason, she doesn’t even talk to celebrities because she doesn’t want it to be ruined for her. Think about that in terms of marketing and customer experience. We get all the marketing, the how they look, how they sound, how the company’s supposed to behave with us. But sometimes once we start to interact with them, all of a sudden you start smelling things that didn’t match the picture.

It’s important to make sure that customer experience is aligned with the marketing so that marketing doesn’t sell an image or expectations that the company can’t back up. Customer experience is the combination of sales and marketing. We have this map we create for our customers internally. But the customer doesn’t see the map. They just do what they do in their journey to buy what they’re going to buy. But our map says come into the top of the funnel with marketing and they go through our marketing process. Then they go through the sales process. That’s all nice and pretty and all, but it isn’t how it works. People come through marketing, they leave, they come back. They may start talking to sales, they leave, they come back. All of that is the customer experience we’re talking about. It has to be a very well-orchestrated dance between sales and marketing to make sure that the customer experience is positive and it’s what you expect it to be.

Dan: One of the best ways to improve the experience for your customers is to break down the internal silos in your company. Often what happens is marketing or sales is one of those silos, and they don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the company. So, they promise things that sound good from a marketing perspective, but the rest of the company can’t deliver on. If you establish that connection as a two-way street, you’re also not only improving your marketing, but you’re going to end up improving your experience, too. When everyone’s talking to one another, we can deliver something consistent. Let’s talk about Content Monsta. What are your clients asking for today? What’s hot in terms of the type of content or the channels? What are people interested in?

Lee: Podcasts are hot right now. I’m seeing it in certain industries. It makes us wonder was there a conference or something or a white paper that pushed one industry faster than the other? But we do see trends in certain industries. We had prepared before the pandemic to do both remote videos and podcasts. Once the pandemic hit in March, we had to cancel quite a few in-person video shoots, but at the same time, we got a lot of demand for podcasting. Having a background in audio-video, we were prepared for that.

Dan: The big secret is that every time you record an audio or video if you’re doing things right, you’re creating many pieces of content off of that one particular piece of content. For example, in this show, the video gets uploaded to YouTube, it’s available as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. I take the transcription of the interview and usually write a blog post about it. A single half-hour piece of content, audio or video can turn into dozens, if not hundreds of pieces of content. That’s where companies can scale this content thing because as you said, it’s quality and quantity. Different people consume in different ways, and the more we can offer it in different ways, you increase your chances of finding the right prospect.

Lee: That’s important from a content marketing standpoint, but also the customer experience standpoint. You’re going to lose out on a segment of customers if you can’t do various forms of content. That’s why Content Monsta focuses on the basic content because from there we can create written content and social content. If you start small, you have less content you can create under it.

Dan: Tell me about a particular customer experience you have personally had.

Lee: I surprised my wife with a trip to Paris a couple of years ago for our anniversary. I had the choice of piecing it together myself and thought am I getting the most value out of my Costco membership? What else can I use that for? I tried them out. I was calling them all the time because I felt a little skeptical because I haven’t used them before. And they kept repeating to me, don’t worry, we have a handle, it’ll be there. We’ll send you everything you need to make it seamless. And I was totally the skeptical customer. But sure enough, everything was just that seamless. And on top of that, we get to the hotel and there’s a fruit basket and chocolates from Costco. That was just the icing on the cake of the experience. From leaving home to traveling there to all the adventures we did while we were there and coming back, that package was a great experience. It didn’t require much effort on our behalf to make sure everything went smoothly.

Dan: That is what people want when they travel. Lee and I met because I reached out to him on LinkedIn because his content was resonating with me and I was seeing it in my feed. I want to encourage people to do more of that because I have found as I do more of that, I am meeting very interesting people and expanding my network, and helping other people expand their network. As Lee said earlier, it’s about the people. Without people, we don’t have customers. Go through your LinkedIn today, look and see if somebody is talking about something that’s interesting to you. Reach out to them and say hello.

Check out the full interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d13sE9IAlrI

Photo Credit: @aleejudge on Twitter & contentmonsta.com