Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!
We recently interviewed Mark de Grasse for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Mark and here’s what we discussed about –
1. The impact of visual content in accelerating the buyer journey for potential customers
2. Hyper personalization in marketing
3. Balancing promotional intent with customer intent
4. The importance of adhering to trends
5. How to leverage data sources other than 3rd party cookies to create targeted content
6. Tips to rank higher on Google in 2022
About our host:
Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co. He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.
About our guest:
Content strategist Mark de Grasse is focused on holistic, sincere methods of marketing and management. Since the middle of the 2000s, Mark has worked in the field of content development, producing tens of thousands of articles, graphics, videos, and podcasts. He is currently Digital Marketer’s president and general manager.
EPISODE 086: Creating Cohesive Content To Increase Customer Conversion
Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s marketer of the month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda. I’m the creative director at Outgrow.co. And for this month we’re going to interview Mark de Grasse, who is the president of digitalmarketer.com. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
Mark de Grasse: Thanks for having me.
Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!
Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!
The Rapid Fire Round!
Saksham Sharda: So Mark, we’re going to start with our rapid-fire round just to break the ice. You get three passes, in case you don’t want to answer the question you can just say pass. But try to keep your answers to one word or one sentence only. Okay?
Mark de Grasse: You got it.
Saksham Sharda: All right. So the first one is at what age do you want to retire?
Mark de Grasse: 95
Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?
Mark de Grasse: 10 minutes.
Saksham Sharda: The most embarrassing moment of your life?
Mark de Grasse: That is a hard one. *Guessing*
Saksham Sharda: Okay, that’ll have to be the pass. Your favorite color?
Mark de Grasse: Blue.
Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?
Mark de Grasse: 6 am.
Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?
Saksham Sharda: Five
Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank: An upcoming marketing trend is _______.
Mark de Grasse: That’s a good one. AR
Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?
Mark de Grasse: Orange
Saksham Sharda: Pick one – Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey?
Mark de Grasse: Oh god. Dorsey, I guess.
Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of their career?
Mark de Grasse: Selling my first company.
Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?
Mark de Grasse: Workout
Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?
Mark de Grasse: Four
Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate
Mark de Grasse: Shyness
Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skills you have learned in life?
Mark de Grasse: Pattern Recognition
Saksham Sharda: Your favorite Netflix show?
Mark de Grasse: Actually, there’s a new cyberpunk series. That’s pretty good.
Saksham Sharda: Okay, so that’s the end of the rapid-fire round. You scored almost 99%, except for one question which you took a long time to think about.
The Big Questions!
Saksham Sharda: But anyhow let’s move on to the long-form questions. The first one is do you agree that well design visual content can increase customer interaction and move prospective customers further along the buyer journey more quickly?
Mark de Grasse: Yes, absolutely. Okay, so you know what’s funny is the visual aspects, I always tell people and I did a photo shoot last night, and I was talking to the photographer, and saying everything we do in modern society is visual like, and not just visual because we always say “A picture’s worth 1000 words”. But a video, or even just animated content is worth how many words if you do it that way. So I think from a bunch of different angles, the visual aspects and the continuity behind both your message and your visuals could have just astounding impact on everything that you do not just say, from your advertising side, because that’s what everybody usually refers to when they think of creatives like “Okay, here’s the paid ad”. But if you look at the consistency between the paid ads, your website design, and even your customer service elements, the forms that you give people to fill out, like all of those things impact the interaction of people on to your brand. So, I could talk about that for quite a while. But I think it’s hugely impactful, actually, almost as impactful these days as the copy.
Saksham Sharda: And so what are some of the tools you’re using to make your visual content?
Mark de Grasse: I use the whole Adobe Suite. So After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and then, as you know nowadays since we work with such a big community of marketers, I’ve been transferring a lot of my stuff onto universally used platforms like Canva, for graphic design. Graphic designers are always like “Oh Canva, it’s horrible and blah.” I’m like man, I could create so much content on Canva in like seconds. And it’s not just because it’s easier than Photoshop, is because they pull these elements from everywhere where I don’t have to go find a stock photo, and I don’t have to go look at Pinterest for inspiration. I don’t have to go to all these places. I just go on Canva and just pull everything at once. So as much as graphic designers will probably hate it. Canva is super cool. So those are the primary ones. And then I tried to do everything else in-app. So especially with the social media elements, Tiktok, Instagram, and all those different ones, they give you credit if you use the in-app tools. So I’ve been trying to make an effort to use those different elements, especially with TikTok, you have those trending filters and all that kind of stuff. So if you just try to use it, it expands your creativity. And you’re doing better on the platform, just for employing what they give you.
Saksham Sharda: So visual aspects are one thing. But there’s another trend that’s out and about, and that is hyper-personalization in marketing. So do you believe marketers can tailor content to specific products, marketing channels, and languages by considering each buyer’s persona?
Mark de Grasse: Yes, I think it’s the first place used to start whenever you’re producing anything. Like we call the customer avatar on Digital Marketer, where you have your customer avatar canvas, where you analyze actually, the demographics and who this is but then we do what’s called the before and after grid where we say, “Okay, your ideal customer avatar, where were they before they started using your product or service, and then where were they after they started using your product or service”. And the more detail and story you put behind those two elements, the more effective everything that you create will be. So my favorite example is actually in our E-commerce certification, where we have the late dead Darrell and the company that was built for sales like stuff, toys, and things for boats and wakeboard, and all that kind of stuff. And before like that Darrell had Chromia equipment and his kids liked to go to the lake, and nobody wanted to join him on his boat, because the boat was lame. And he was really sad. And so he ended up not going to the lake, not spending as much time with his family, and he was miserable. And then he found this sports equipment provider, and all his stuff is the best, and everybody wants to go on his boat, and everybody wants to join his barbecues and his kids love going to Lake and everybody’s a happy family. He’s a happy guy. Everybody loves like that, Darrell, so just putting that fictional story behind, this person, automatically, you can visualize the person. And then now you can say like, oh, who would reach out to this guy specifically, and then since you have that avatar, now you’re able to create anything you want. And you can do that with any product within the same company, or you can just have a general avatar for here’s our ideal customer, or our favorite customer and then you just pitch it to them. Otherwise, what happens most of the time is you run your demographics, and then you say, “Okay, well, people are reacting to this type of copy or this type of visual.” And then what you have is a disengaged approach to visualization. And then everything is individual case studies. So it’s like, well, we’re selling this product to this person. And then here’s the visual, and then we’re selling this product to this person, here’s a visual. So if you don’t have that, what you have is just a divided approach and a lack of cohesiveness in terms of your visuals that don’t reinforce all your other visuals. So that’s really what you’re trying to do with that consistent approach to your marketing style, allows you to create way more creativity because you do not have to think of new stuff all the time. Plus all your other creatives will lead to the other creatives because they look similar enough, that people even if they don’t realize they’re doing it, they’re categorizing your content. And they’re knowing like, “Oh, I think I liked that before. And oh, look, there’s more of it”. And now you could lead them down what we call the customer value journey, which allows them to consistently be hit with all your visuals, and now you’re building brand recognition, rather than just making a sale or getting a click.
Saksham Sharda: And what do you think are the best methods for balancing promotional intent when it comes to brand with customer intent? So how can we offer something valuable and innovative enough to compel customers to act when their attention is limited?
Mark de Grasse: Well, I think for that type, I like doing series of content. So rather than just thinking, “okay, I’m going to create this awesome piece of content”, do several pieces at the same time that are different, but similar enough that if somebody found one piece of content, they can see go down the path of consuming all of the content. So I’m not sure if that answers your question, but I think the approach is to do more, just to get a real test because I think what happens a lot of times is we have say, an A/B test where you’re saying okay, here’s this visual against this visual, people like this visual better. And then you have this visual and this visual, but again, that just separates your approach into a bunch of different methods, no brand cohesiveness, and no way for people to connect the dots between what you’re doing. And so what you have then is just these independent actions, and you’ll get results and you’ll get numbers, you will get the metrics and feedback from everything, but you won’t get, I’d say real results, these real results take little time. And they take more effort than we want to give most of the time.
Saksham Sharda: And how important is the ability to pivot the brand based on what you might think the customers want now, or like how their wants change?
Mark de Grasse: That’s so hard. Because I think the whole pivoting thing is what people want to do all the time because I’ve worked with so many companies where they’re just like, you know what, we just need to rebrand, like, we just need to start from scratch and start fresh and so on. And they’ll spend all this time and effort rebuilding everything when what they had before wasn’t necessarily bad or wrong. They were just bored with it. So I think it’s hard because most of the time. I did brand development, where I worked with, 300 companies who want to start brands, and then I built everything out for them. And most of the time, especially when I had somebody who was in business for a while, like a 25-year-old company, and their branding is antiquated and it’s ugly, but it works. And the temptation is always to look at and be like, “Oh, well, it’s all old and blah. It’s like, okay well, is it effective, though? Like, do people recognize it? Is ugliness part of the brand? And if you break that part of the brand, are you ruining everything?” Because that happens a lot. I see it all the time. And it just breaks my heart because I’m like, No you have all this brand authority, and it’s built off of your ugliness feel like that, though. Especially business owners, we all want to have a cool brand, we all want to be the cool guy that everybody looks up to him like, “oh, man, I want to copy that company stuff because it’s so neat”. But if the visualizations and the process that you’re going through are ego-driven, rather than customer-driven, or say trend-driven, then what you have is just a different thing. You didn’t trade up from the crummy old car to the brand new supercar, you just traded it for another very similar car, and you’re kind of in the same boat, but you just spent tons of resources and time that could have been spent doing something else, like cold calling. You know, that sounds ridiculous. But sometimes it’s like, man, if you just spend a little bit that time, a little bit that money just doing a little bit more of what worked. Since you’ve been around for a while you do way better. So yeah, I’d say if you’re going to do it, right? It requires a lot of discipline, a lot of soul searching in terms of why you’re doing it, and then not doing that knee-jerk reaction, which is to blow the whole thing up. I think people don’t realize they do that a lot. Like you destroyed everything because you were tired. And your 18-year-old niece said, “Your brand is lame”. And then you got offended by that, then you want to “Oh, come on in, we’ll rebuild it for you”. And you ended up with this mess of a 50-year-old company that now looks like it was built by a 12-year-old Tiktoker and it’s bad.
Saksham Sharda: So speaking of changes, do you believe that because third-party cookies will no longer be available, leveraging a variety of user data sources to target audiences will aid in the creation of more personalized and targeted content?
Mark de Grasse: That’s a really good question. I think all marketers will work around that third-party cookie issue. Actually, I already know of several that are working around and they’re like, yeah, it doesn’t even matter anymore. Like we pull the data, we get everything we need, and we’re still doing what we used to do, which is really what I had seen when we made all the changes over the last 12 months, I was like old marketing or not old marketing but the marketing that we use over the last 15 years is dead. Doesn’t work anymore, we got to get back to true marketing and advertising, which is going back to like Mad Men, where it’s like, man, it’s a bunch of guys, or girls or whoever sitting around the table, coming up with ideas, and then pitching those ideas and selling those ideas and making it happen. And, nowadays, we do that through content creation, rather than just an ad, which is how it was done back in the day. But going back to that, now I see marketers working around it. There’s so much new tech in terms of AI and ways to assess data. And at the end of the day, like all the privacy laws and stuff is not stopping any company from collecting your information. That’d be like, if you think of our companies, we think we will protect your data. And we do protect your data. We’re not gonna give it to anybody. But we have the data. I have everybody’s information. I can look up anything I want. And I know everything that you’ve done, at least within my platform. So I think it’s a fallacy to think that type of tracking is gone. And even though it makes everybody feel better, that we have these things in place, and it’s good, you don’t want that data put into the wrong hands. And that’s what’s supposed to be protected. But at the end of the day, marketers are still gonna use it, and they’re gonna find a way to get it. And it’s not going to change that many things, other than what I’m talking about, which is that organic approach to marketing, where we say, “Hey, instead of tracking you, instead of hitting you up on 50 different places for this ad, because I have a cookie on your platform, and now I see you everywhere, so I’m just gonna keep on hitting you until I get that 100 touch points, and then you’re gonna buy from me.” It’s going more towards content, where I’m gonna feed you content, it’s not gonna look like I’m tracking you because I’m giving you good organic data, or good organic content. But at the end of the day, I am tracking you. And I know what you’re looking for. And I don’t know exactly how to hit you. And I’m not going to stop. Because why would I do that? Because it’s wrong. You know, that’s not how anything works. You know people, if it’s effective, makes money, and isn’t technically illegal, people are going to keep doing it. So I think we have both, I’d like an altruistic side of me to say, “No, we’re not going to do that anymore, we’re going to focus on good content, we’re going to focus on real connections with our customers. And that’s going to give us all the information we need to keep on doing more and building the company.” But then the other side is accountants and metrics people, and they’re never going to let go. Because they love that stuff. They love the data. And it’s from a scientific approach, it’s the best way to do things, but it takes the soul out of marketing. And I recommend not doing that and saying, worrying about connection with your customer, giving them good stuff, because you care about them. And that’s your job is to keep them learning. And if they buy something from you, great. But at the end of the day, your job is really to make their lives better. If you focus on that and everything will be great. But all that other stuff is gonna happen still.
Saksham Sharda: And so is this a raging debate at digitalmarketer.com? Could you tell us more about that website again?
Mark de Grasse: So digitalmarketer.com. when I came in a year ago, my main goal initially was to rebuild the website into a content platform. So we had 5000 pages of front-end content, and it was not organized at all. There’s no categorization system, there’s no presentation system for how you could connect the data to other data. So what I did was reformulated the whole navigation of the website, made categorization systems, made subject systems and keyword systems, all that kind of stuff, you need to intuitively help people find the information that they’re looking for. And so that was my big side because I came from a content side. Now, digital marketing itself was built of copywriting and kind of classic digital marketing methods, landing page design, funnel design, follow-up design, email, drip design, and all the stuff we teach, which is awesome. And then the core frameworks like the customer value journey, which is walking people from having no awareness of your brand to being an active promotional advocate of your brand, essentially a marketing channel for your brand. While they still consume the content that you’re creating. So no, it’s not a debate, it’s just two sides of the same coin, or it’s like the organic approach is happening, the paid advertising and copywriting approach that’s happening. And then we now know, what we’ve done is we’re integrating both approaches into a singular approach that just takes advantage of all of the tools you have available. And in the meantime, I’m kind of just a content freak. So I just am going to produce as much content as I can all the time, which leads to 30 to 50 pieces of long-form content a month.
Saksham Sharda: So speaking of organic approaches then, Google is prioritizing visually acceptable recent content to build drip soaps that provide immediate answers. What would be some tips to rank higher on Google in 2022 then?
Mark de Grasse: Yeah, I’d say get as specific as possible. Like, for no one question is too mundane, boring, or unsearched to answer. So I’d say if you could just make a list of those and don’t just base your list on your analytics research or your answer the public research those are good starting points. But if you get into knowing your customer and thinking about that avatar that we talked about earlier, then what you’ll have is some real questions that people are asking. And so instead of focusing on those high volume search, terms and questions, just let go of all of it, answer questions that would be useful that people are either asking of your brand or that you’ve seen people, ask of your competitor brand, just make a list of them, and just start typing out the answers. And I’m all about database design. So I would say, make a category system on your blog, and then systematically answer each question and try to do it in 300-500 words, and then take those answer questions and assemble new articles. Because what you’ll start finding is you’ll have related information. And now instead of just having single answers to questions, you can have an article that’s the five top answers to this question. And then now you’re taking your content, you’re building new content that’s also useful, but also leads back to the other content. So I would say databases of answered questions are probably the best, easiest approach to start getting ranked, and then do your standard SEO optimization and your backlinking strategies and all the other stuff. But at the end of the day, if you think like I’m going to answer three commonly asked questions about my product service industry trends, then you’re going to be set.
Saksham Sharda: So this is kind of like the core application of marketing then because every website then would aim to become like what these aggregators of answers are doing?
Mark de Grasse: Yeah, exactly. Well, because I always tell people, I’m like, if you’re not answering a question on your website, then your competitor is. So there’s no question that you shouldn’t be answering. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have it on your website. Because if it’s on your website, then you’re sending traffic to Facebook, sending traffic to LinkedIn, sending traffic to YouTube, you’re sending traffic everywhere, but the one place, you should be driving everybody, which is your website. So yeah, that’s like the way I view the future of like how big companies will be organizing their data is there’ll be essentially libraries of information, where it’s like, the value is actually in how much info that they can contain, display, and help their users find. And that’s going to be the real battle, the future is not going to be which ad campaign is going to work, it’s going to be like, who has the knowledge base, the public knowledge base to prove they’re the best, to prove that they have the systems that everybody should be using. Because they show everybody everything. It’s the reason why I like SpaceX so much because I’m like their content generation is based on all their failure. No, like, they blow crap up, they explode, and it goes terribly, and everything goes wrong, and then they just tell everybody about it. It’s like, could you imagine if everybody did that, like the lessons that other companies would learn, lessons that the customers would learn if everybody just shared everything they were doing? It would be incredible if it’s not going to happen. But if you look at companies like Harvard Business Review, their platform, we analyzed them a while back, and we found that they were posting 600 times a month on Facebook. And the majority of those posts are for new, original content. So whenever we argue about quantity versus quality, I’m like, well, Harvard, does 600 a month, not even trying, they just that’s what they do all the time. And so you can never make too much content because it goes back to just quantity versus quality, you don’t know what quality is. Because I’ve never produced a piece of content where I’m like, this is gonna hit, everybody’s gonna love it. Gonna get a billion comments when you get all the traffic and it’s gonna blow things up. It’s like, Nope, that piece didn’t do crap. Now, that cat video that you spliced in and spent five seconds creating, that’s what people want. And you’re like, alright, never mind. That’s why I always just default to like, I’m going to talk to everybody, I’m going to collect as much content as I can, I’m going to make it easy to find, I’m going to make it consistent to consume. That’s a whole nother element that I haven’t talked about. But the consumption ability of content, and how you structure it consistently makes a huge difference. That’s why if you do have a content approach, and your approach is to send me articles, but you have no way of organizing or standardizing that information, then you’re doing that off, case studies stuff that I talked about earlier, rather than a consistent approach to giving people like, “hey, you know what you’re gonna get here. And that’s why you’re gonna come back”. It’s not just because I typed into Google, and you were the first one. If you think about that, how many times you type into Google, you click on the top link, you consume the content, and then you leave. It had maybe a little bit of brand recognition, but I can’t tell you that the last five searches I did, and the five links I clicked on, right? I mean, it’s just “thanks, buddy. Take that.” It’s like going through Costco and grabbing the food samples. Oh, this is good. Yeah. I’m not gonna buy that thing. I might, it would have to be so, like, incredibly amazing that I’m like, I have to buy this item because this one little bite was so good that I have to have this now you’re gonna be like, chances are you probably have to consume it several times. And then you’ll be at some friend’s house three months later, and you’re like, “Oh, I love this meal. And they’re like, oh, yeah, it’s that spice from Costco. And they’re like, oh, you know what, I tried this before. And that’s now I’m gonna go back and get it”. So it’s like, is that long-term process that we just forget about? And instead just says, Well, I did this article, and it ranked number one on blah, it’s like, good for you. Do it 10,000 more times, and now you get brand recognition.
Saksham Sharda: The last question then is for you a bit personal. What would you be doing if not this in your life right now?
Mark de Grasse: I like my dream, like when you say retirement, I don’t consider retirement because it’s, what is that? But if I did, if I said, “Okay, I’m not going to work all the time anymore”. I’d be a sci-fi writer, I love space operas, where it’s essentially a universe of content. It always goes back to content, though, because I like it. Because it’s like when you create a space out for a book, you could set these rules like, here’s the tech, and I talked about books, I read like Alistar Reynolds and Orson Scott Card, and, you know, a bunch of British.
Saksham Sharda: And the SpaceX website as well.
Mark de Grasse: Elon names all his boats after, it’s called the Culture series. And it’s a fantastic series, it’s about a huge space civilization that has made it like they do whatever they want. And they have these AI spaceships that are personalities. And that’s why he names his drone ships after, which I thought was super cool. But the whole concept behind that is that you have a set universe, you have a shared history, you have set tech, usually, you’ll see tech, like going back to like the Alien movie franchise, where it’s like, if you want to go from this place to this place, you have to get into the sleep chamber, like that’s consistent tech, everybody does it. It is known. You don’t have to explain it through every book, because you already explained it once. And now it’s just consistent. So that allows the story to come alive and stuff, the explanation of whatever, which is really what people think sci-fi is, I think it’s like, oh, it’s about spaceships and aliens, etc. It’s like, no, it’s actually taking out a present-day view of society, and then expanding into the future, or expanding one element of it into the future, like, what do we do today? And how is it going to look for the people 100 years from now? Like, what impact is that going to have? And then you build your story off of what happened? That’s what sci-fi is. Which is why I like it. But anyways, I would write sci-fi. That’s what I’ll do.
Saksham Sharda: Yeah, okay. I’m always fascinated by how people answer this last question, but yours is quite epic. Just put it like that. Alright, well, that was the last question. And thanks so much.
Saksham Sharda: Thanks everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Mark de Grasse, who is the president of Digitalmarketer.com. Thanks for joining us, Mark.
Mark de Grasse: Thank you. This was a lot of fun and good questions.
Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we will see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.