Consistent content production is hard.
Even with a solid content marketing strategy in place, sometimes the ideas for new content just aren't there.
As a B2B marketer, there will be weeks when you can't stop thinking of new content ideas...but inevitably, you'll have times when the creative juices just aren't flowing.
It would be great if there was a way to ensure that the former--the weeks when great ideas flow like honey--happened as consistently as your content needs to be produced.
While we haven't nailed the formula for a magic creativity pill just yet, there is a realistic way to guarantee that you always have great content...even when your creativity is on vacation.
What is it you ask?
Start With a Structure
Content creation needs to start with a structure.
I'm a huge Gary Vee fan boy, and it's fascinating to me the sheer volume of content that he creates every single week. But there's a clear method to his madness.
He's able to produce so much content by leveraging two very strategic YouTube shows that he and his team produce like clockwork: #AskGaryVee and DailyVee
#AskGaryVee is a show that's 100% driven by questions that Gary's audience asks him via social media and email.
So Gary doesn't have to sit in a room and guess what content would be best for his audience...he simply sits in front of a camera, listens to their questions, then gives his refreshingly honest answers.
DailyVee is another source of waterfall content for Gary.
David Rock (aka DRock) is Gary's full-time video producer. DRock follows Gary around pretty much every day with a video camera and records everything from Uber rides and business meetings to airport downtime and keynote speeches.
Throughout the day, Gary goes on motivational rants that are related to what's happening in his world at that exact moment.
Every moment, every rant, every conversation is captured...then it's edited into a 8-15 minute documentary-style video that gives tremendous value to any entrepreneur or B2B executive.
I know what you're thinking -- man, it sure would be nice to have a videographer follow me around all day, but there's no way I have the budget to make that happen.
Have no fear...we have a realistic solution...keep reading and we'll get there. 🙂
Gary Vaynerchuk's Content Strategy
Back to Gary's content creation strategy.
#AskGaryVee & DailyVee are just the beginning...
The answers he gives on #AskGaryVee and the rants he gives on DailyVee are then repurposed in a gajillion different ways. The first sentence in his article, Content on Content on Content, says it perfectly:
"I'm about to get real meta on you: the article you're about to read was made from a video, that was made from the making of an article, that was originally based off a video."
He goes on to say, "When you have something at the top, use it as a source to create other content."
Gary claims that this is the infrastructure for a true content strategy.
Here are just a few of the things that Gary's team is able to do with the content that comes from those two shows:
4. Specific answers from #AskGaryVee get edited as shorter videos on a YouTube channel titled "Entrepreneurship Answered".
Gary Vaynerchuk is a content MACHINE, and he's able to do it because he created a structure that he can execute consistently...and that structure naturally pours out great content.
The Definition of Waterfall Content
If I had to give an official definition of waterfall content, this is how I'd define it:
Content created inside a defined structure that can fuel an entire content marketing strategy.
We use a content waterfall approach at Sweet Fish with our podcast (B2B Growth Show). As a result, we saw 300% revenue growth in the first quarter of this year.
Our inbound leads have skyrocketed, we've quickly established authority in a very crowded space, and we've created genuine relationships with ideal clients, influencers, and referral partners.
So because we've seen such incredible results using a waterfall content strategy, I want to dedicate the rest of this article to showing you how to implement the same approach in your organization.
Picture a waterfall. Or better yet, just look at this one...
The water cascades over the edge to make a massive impact on the water below. But the source of the water doesn't seem all that exciting. It's just a simple river or stream.
That river is like the source of your waterfall content. It doesn't seem particularly exciting or remarkable, but with the right execution, it can cascade into a variety of content pieces that make a huge impact on your content marketing strategy.
Like I mentioned above, the source of our "waterfall" is our podcast: B2B Growth Show.
It's an interview-based show where we talk to incredibly smart B2B sales and marketing executives. We then use those interviews to create a tidal wave of content that, collectively, has a far greater impact than a single podcast episode.
How it Works
To show you how the waterfall content strategy works, I'll share a story using a pretend scenario (I'll share an example from our show later on).
Joe is the CMO of Securely, a venture backed SaaS startup that provides cloud security solutions.
One of Securely's best customers is Megan, the CTO of a mid-market technology company.
As Joe builds the content marketing engine for Securely, he wants to make sure that the content his team creates is attractive to CTOs like Megan.
But Joe's a marketer...not a CTO.
It's not necessarily obvious to him what topics will be most helpful/engaging for a CTO, ultimately directing their attention to his product.
Joe and his team started out with a lot of great ideas. But over the course of several months, as the team started turning those ideas into content...the pool of ideas got smaller and smaller.
So Joe decides to start interviewing CTOs on a weekly podcast called "The CTO Show". He does this to get his finger on the pulse of what his ideal clients really care about.
He starts by reaching out to several CTOs from his sales team's list of targeted accounts.
Incredible Reply Rates
The SDRs from Securely's sales team struggled to get responses from the CTOs at these targeted accounts...but Joe doesn't seem to have an issue at all.
Since he's not trying to sell them anything, and he's just asking them to be a guest on The CTO Show, about 80% of the CTOs that he reaches out to agree to be on the podcast.
But the next part gets really interesting...
Choosing the Episode Topics
Once the CTOs agree to be on Securely's podcast, Joe asks each guest to choose the overall topic for the interview. He asks them to simply choose a topic that, in their opinion, will be most helpful for a fellow CTO.
Do you see that? Joe just found his river.
And the river doesn't require any guesswork.
Joe knows that every topic he covers on the podcast is relevant to his ideal clients...because he's talking to his ideal clients about real issues they've faced, and how they overcame them.
So essentially, every interview that Joe does becomes a really helpful resource for any other CTO (Securely's ideal client).
Securely's content strategy is no longer limited to the creativity of Joe and his team...it's only limited by the number of CTOs that Joe features on the podcast.
How Do You Do It?
Joe's story sounds great in theory...but how do you actually pull it off?
How do you create a structure within your organization that allows you to execute a waterfall content strategy?
At Sweet Fish, we believe that it all starts with a podcast.
We believe in the podcast strategy so much that we've built our entire business around it. All we do, day in...day out, is produce podcasts for B2B companies.
Since we execute a podcast-based waterfall content strategy every single day for our clients, we've got our process down to a science.
We've seen this process work time and time again...in a variety of industries. So I'm confident that if you're a part of a B2B marketing team, the process outlined below can work for you too.
Note: If the process outlined below seems a bit overwhelming...have no fear. When you work with Sweet Fish to produce your show, we handle every single detail for you. 🙂
Since most of the guests that you'll feature on your show will be ideal clients, you'll want to work closely with your sales team during this part of the process.
Use the existing list of accounts that your sales team has identified as "best-fit" target accounts, and start from there.
Once you know exactly who you'll be asking to be on your show, it's time to start sending some emails.
When it comes to cold email, there are a few really important things to remember:
1) Keep it short
When you're asking someone to be on your show, it shouldn't be more than a 3 sentence email.
If your email is 8 paragraphs and 14 miles long...nobody will read it. And they definitely aren't gonna agree to be a guest on your podcast.
2) Don't talk about yourself
Instead of droning on and on about you and your show, focus on why you think the prospective guest will be a great fit for your podcast.
Make sure to put a link to your show (and your social profiles) in your email signature. So if the potential guest wants to learn more details about you or your podcast, they're just a click away.
3) Make it easy for them to respond
If you want someone to reply to your email, you have to make it easy.
Make sure to ask a crystal clear "yes" or "no" question as the last sentence of your email. A simple question that I like to use is this:
"Up for it?"
Super simple...but it works.
Produce the Podcast
There are several elements in this part of the process. And rightfully so, because this is where our clients get the most amount of value from our service.
To produce a podcast that serves as the backbone of your waterfall content strategy, you'll need to have a process that covers all of the details below:
1) Recording the interviews
We recommend using Skype (the free version is great).
2) Editing the audio
Once the interview is finished, you'll want to send the interview over to an audio engineer.
Your audio engineer will mix & level the audio, then they'll edit out all the "ums" and awkward pauses throughout the interview.
They'll also add your company's ad spot, the show music, and the standard intro/outro voiceovers to each episode.
While your audio engineer is editing the interview, you'll want to send the original interview to someone on your copywriting team.
Once it's in the hands of a copywriter, they'll need to write:
1. Headlines. We shoot for at least 3-4 headlines for every episode. These headlines will also double as tweets and social media updates.
2. Episode summaries. These will primarily be used in iTunes, but you can also use this as filler copy on your website until the blog post is complete.
3. Quotes. As the writer is listening to the interview, they should be writing down any quotable phrases from the conversation. These quotes will get turned into graphics, then used for social media and blog post images.
4. Blog posts. This one is crucial. Way more people read articles than listen to podcasts, so you'll want to have a version of the interview in an easy to read written format. We don't recommend using a transcription, because...well...nobody reads transcriptions. Use this 12-part checklist as a roadmap for writing blog posts that people will actually read and share. It's also important to note here that each blog post can easily be repurposed as a LinkedIn published post, a Medium article, or even a guest blog post on a larger blogs.
4) Graphic design
When your copywriter has worked their magic, it's time to send the copy over to a graphic designer.
The graphic designer will make sure that headline images get designed for each podcast interview and each blog post. It's my personal preference to have two versions of each headline image...one that features the guest's headshot, and one that doesn't.
We have 2 standard templates that we use for every episode. Using the same standard format gives the brand consistency, and it also makes your designer's life a whole lot easier.
In addition to headline images, your designer will also create quote graphics based on the quotes that your copywriter noted earlier. Similar to headline images, we use a standard quote image template for these as well.
Your audio is edited. Your copy is written. And your graphics are lookin pretty.
Now it's time to get everything uploaded to iTunes and your website...
This might sound like it's a brainless part of the process, but it's not easy. There are a ton of little details (spacing, image placement, click-to-tweet links, etc) that need to be remembered every time a new episode is uploaded.
You'll need to have a detail-oriented administrator handle this part of the process.
So you tracked down your ideal guests, you got them to agree to being on your show, you've produced their episode, and now it's time to follow up with them like a boss.
We break up this part of the process into 4 stages:
1. "Your episode is live!" As soon as every episode goes live, you'll want to send the iTunes and website links to the featured guest. When each guest has the links to their episode, they'll spread it like wildfire and your show's audience will start to grow organically.
2. Repurposed into blog post. One week after the episode has gone live, we recommend going live with the blog post that was written based on the interview. As soon as the blog post is live, send another email to your guest and let them know. This will give them another excuse to share the content and drive their network to your website.
3. Working together. 2 weeks after the guest's episode has gone live, we recommend emailing each guest to start a conversation about what it could look like to work together. This email will obviously look different depending on whether the guest is an ideal client, possible referral partner, or a thought leader in your industry. The most important thing to remember here is that you want to lead with adding value first. Give them a suggestion that will increase conversions on their website, refer some business their way, or offer to turn one of their popular blog posts into an infographic. GIVE before you ASK.
4. Stay in touch. Great relationships don't happen overnight. It takes a ton of work to nurture a relationship, but I wholeheartedly believe that it's worth the effort. We wrote a really in depth article that shares 23 different ways to nurture relationships with your podcast guests.
Turning a River Into a Waterfall
So now you understand how to produce a podcast, and you have a solid foundation for a waterfall content strategy.
But when does this river (your podcast) turn into a waterfall?
If you simply publish the podcast to iTunes, there would be no waterfall.
However, if you leverage the interview to produce multiple types of content--like quote graphics, blog posts, tweets or status updates, and even video--you've got yourself a waterfall.
With waterfall content, instead of using a one-and-done approach, you stretch the content to produce a variety of pieces that are native to different platforms.
So if you want to turn your river into a waterfall, follow these 3 steps:
1) Find Your Source Material
A few months ago we interviewed Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, for our daily podcast (B2B Growth).
The episode provided a ton of great content for B2B sales and marketing leaders related to time management. This was our source material.
Note: While the benefit to you is obvious, it's important to remember that the interviewees are reaping some rewards, too. An interview with you puts their name on your listeners' radar and gives the guest a platform to influence a new audience.
Kevin was a great guest for the B2B Growth Show because he provided a ton of valuable content for our listeners. Beyond that, he's a well-known author with a large following. In other words, he's an influencer.
Interviewing Kevin gave us an opportunity to connect with his followers through social media via our waterfall content, which we'll go into more in the next step.
2) Expanding Your Content
You now have an interview full of content that your audience will get a ton of value from.
But at this point, your content is just a calm little river. To produce a waterfall, you'll need to expand the interview into a variety of different formats.
And this is where things start to get really exciting...
Because when you start expanding your content, your calm river starts bubbling towards the cliff's edge...just moments before it gushes into the massive body of water below.
So let's stick with the Kevin Kruse example:
The interview first appeared on our iTunes channel.
Then, we promoted the episode on our own website with a short summary summarizing the interview. At the bottom of this summary, we included some quotable graphics that listeners could share.
In addition to the quote images, we also designed several headline & quote images that we use as we continue promoting Kevin's episode on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Next up, we wrote a blog post that unpacked Kevin's episode in a clean format that was easy to read.
We use Yoast to optimize our blog posts for a specific keyword...this way we're getting even more mileage out of our podcast interview (organic search traffic for the win!).
It's important to note here that we did NOT simply transcribe this episode.
I never read transcripts. You never read transcripts. So like I mentioned earlier, let's not waste time and resources creating something that nobody is actually going to read. 🙂
Once that blog post was written, we were able to publish it on LinkedIn, Medium, and since I'm a contributor for Huffington Post...we shared it there too.
Note: LinkedIn publishing is incredibly powerful. Here are 4 reasons you should be publishing your blog content natively to LinkedIn.
So as you can see, this one little interview with Kevin added a TON of fuel to our content machine. We created a huge variety of content from a single, 15-20 minute interview.
Types of Micro Content
The Kevin Kruse example is an outline of how we expand on our own podcast interviews...but our marketing team is small, so we're limited in the amount of micro content that we can create with each episode.
If you have the resources, here are 5 more types of micro content that can come directly as a result of your podcast interviews:
1. 1-2 minute video clips. Take audio from specific parts of the interview, and combine the audio with a well-designed still graphic. The combination of the audio and graphic make for a simple, but effective video for YouTube or Facebook.
2. Use Facebook Live or Periscope during the recording. Give your audience backstage access by letting them watch you record your podcast interviews live. You can even ask your audience specific things they want to learn from the guest, then cater your interview questions accordingly.
3. Anchor. If you're not familiar with Anchor yet...trust me when I say it's awesome. It's like Twitter, but audio only. The platform allows you to record micro audio content (2 minutes or less) into a Twitter style feed. As soon as you end your Skype call with each guest, share your biggest takeaways from the interview as content for Anchor.
4. Snapchat & Instagram Stories. During your pre or post interview, let your guests engage with your Instagram and Snapchat audience. This gives your guest direct access to your social media audience, allowing them to share their social handles (personal and/or company) to a group of people that will probably end up following them.
5. Instagram images. Since your designers have already created headline and quote images, have them reformat the images for Instagram. Just don't forget to change the link in your profile to point to the corresponding interview on your website.
3) Distribute, Distribute, Distribute
A waterfall content strategy is about creating a variety of content. But it's also about distribution.
Every time we distribute a piece of our content, it gives us an opportunity to engage with our audience. But this only works if our audience actually sees the content.
We don't need to tell you that social media is a hugely effective way to distribute your content. But the best sites for distribution will depend on your industry and a number of other factors.
We're partial to Facebook and LinkedIn, but Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Quora, and Reddit are all being effectively used by marketing teams for content distribution.
Aside from the sites listed above, there are a lot of smaller social sites (like Anchor), that depending on your audience, could be the perfect reservoir for your waterfall content to fall into.
I mentioned it briefly a bit earlier, but another strategic way to distribute your content is by publishing your articles on large blogs or publications. If you target the right publications, you'll be tapping into an existing audience that's hungry to consume the type of content that your guests are helping you create.
No matter how you choose to distribute your content, the important part is that you work out a system and stick to it. Consistency, both in content creation AND distribution, is the heartbeat of an effective waterfall content strategy.
So Many Benefits
As you begin to implement a waterfall content strategy within your marketing team, you'll quickly realize that the benefits are seemingly endless.
In short, waterfall content that's driven by an interview-based podcast allows you to:
1. Establish or maintain thought leadership in your industry.
2. Create strategic relationships with your ideal clients, referral partners, and thought leaders.
3. Add depth to your company's existing relationships with customers, vendors, or partners.
4. Drive more inbound leads by having relevant content that's attracting your ideal buyers to your website.
5. Access a wide variety of content ideas that your team doesn't have to develop internally.
6. Put out content that will undoubtedly resonate with the exact audience you want to reach.
7. The ability to engage your social media audience with helpful content in a variety of formats.
8. Provide content to your sales team as they engage prospects along the buyer's journey.
9. Expand your social reach by tapping into the audiences of your guests.
10. Access to large audiences by using your content as guest posts for blogs and publications.
A waterfall content strategy is a no-brainer for marketing teams...especially B2B marketing teams.
Your team can't wait to "feel creative" to produce content. You need to have a systematic method to create quality content even when the creative juices aren't flowing.
Waterfall content (stemming from an interview-based podcast) is that systematic method.
If you'd like to implement a podcast-based waterfall content strategy, but you don't have the internal team to pull it off...we'd love to chat with you.
Tell us how we can reach you here, and someone from our team will connect with you in the next 5 minutes.
Even if you decide not to use our done-for-you podcasting service, I guarantee we'll give you enough value to make a phone call worth your time.
You can find the interview that this post was based on, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes.
James Carbary is the founder of Sweet Fish Media, a podcast production service for B2B companies. He's a contributor for the Huffington Post & Business Insider, and he also co-hosts the B2B Growth Show: a podcast dedicated to helping B2B executives achieve explosive growth.