What Content Strategy Really Means Today – Interview with Nicholas Holland

Jessica Janda
Posted by Jessica Janda on May 11, 2018

Nick_Holland_Experience_Inbound2018Nicholas Holland is the General Manager for Marketing Hub, as well as the VP of Product at HubSpot. Before joining HubSpot, Nicholas was an entrepreneur, starting several companies in Nashville including Populr.me, a sales-based web publishing platform specializing in one-page websites and landing pages.

Nicholas will be a keynote speaker at Experience Inbound, being held June 5th at Miller Park in Milwaukee and 6th at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. To help give a preview of what to expect from his presentation, we sat down with Nicholas last week for a video interview. Here’s what he had to say:


What was the most successful product launch you had when you were Director of Labs at HubSpot?

So we had an interesting idea here at HubSpot that we were going to build a piece of software where if you installed Javascript on your site, it would listen to the entire site. And anywhere that a form is submitted, it would catch the data before the form sends off the email to whatever marketer or email address it was going to. We would catch that data, and then would basically process it ourselves and put it inside of our CRM. This is what we called “Collected Forms.” And the reason why that’s amazing is because from that moment forward, we were able to go to any company out there and say, “Hey, do you want to know more about your leads? Do you want to consolidate your leads? Do you want to make it super simple to get your leads over to your sales people? If you install the Javascript on your site, we’ll handle everything else.”

Tell us about the content strategy tool and some of the results with it.

A while back, some people at our company had been analyzing the search space, all the words from Google, and things like that, and they started to recognize that it should be about content, and the quality of it, and the intent behind the content and topics. This doesn’t sound like super rocket science, but what really became rocket science was when we sat down and started to audit a site, and we’d look at it and say, “what are the topics that are really on this site, and how are they related?”

So Angela, the Product Manager at the time, worked really hard to get some of our alpha customers on there, and they began to work through this, and it’s hard. That’s one of the things we’re still working on. It’s like how do you make it easier? How do you do it more automatically? How do help people basically do this? But, at the end of the day, she got some of the alpha customers on there, and we waited with bated breath, because nothing happens fast in SEO. So she kept refining the product, making it better and easier to use, and sure enough, come about the 90-day mark (or a little past that), those customers using the content strategy tool started to see movement. Pretty soon, we weren’t talking about a little movement—not 5%, 10%, 20% gains—we’re seeing like 100%, 200% gains! Just insane. So then we were wondering, “is this just a few, or this really the overall?” So we expanded it to more and more people, and the gains were consistent across the board.

What’s next for content strategy?

The new Product Manager, Lars, has now recognized that we’re no longer proving that it works. That ship has sailed. Now what we’re proving is “how do we make it accessible to the masses?” It’s like how people don’t like to go to the gym. We get it. Now, we’re trying to bring the gym to them. Can you imagine if I came to your house and you’re just sitting on the couch watching TV, and I just strap on some things to your legs and did the workout for you. Because, at the end of the day, we’re maniacally focused on helping our customers win. We know making content is hard. We know thinking of new topics and being creative is hard, and we’re not going to stop until we get everybody having the best possible shot at winning when it comes to search.

What is one piece of advice you give marketers?

The phrase is repeatedly, “work on your business; not in your business,” and I think it applies more to marketers than almost any other genre, as marketers are typically working in the weeds versus on the overall strategy and playbook.

What is one of the biggest marketing misconceptions?

Cranking out content alone is not enough, and some people think it is. Cranking out content really comes down to [the question], is it the right content? Have you put in the work to know your audience? Have you actually sat down with who you think is really interested and just said, “is this interesting to you?” Writing content, it’s not enough to just post it on the blog and auto Tweet it; you have to actually say, “Where is my audience there? Why would they read this? Where else is my audience and how do I get it to them.” Putting that stuff out there on social media isn’t enough nowadays, because things are changing. You actually have to buy ads, do content promotion, and push it out there.

What’s the best thing you could tell viewers?

I think the greatest thing I could tell everybody that’s listening to this right now is, when’s the last time you took a customer or prospect and showed them a piece of content and asked them how they felt about it? I bet for 99% of the people listening to this, the answer would be never or maybe when you first got started. You do everything in an echo chamber, because you’re always working inside the business. You think to yourself, “who’s got time to take this piece of content and get a sense of what its journey will be? I don’t have time for that. You know why? Because I have to go ahead and right the next piece of content.” You spend so much time working in the business, but you don’t have enough time to work on your marketing to see it as a much more zoomed out experience.

What do you want people to learn from your keynote?

When we talk about content strategy, it’s a ToFu (top-of-the-funnel) strategy. But as a ToFu strategy, it really has pull through the whole funnel. You start off very clearly in the beginning thinking about a person (like all marketers should), thinking about their intent (like all marketers should), answering questions about their intent (like all marketers should), but you also have a much clearer understanding of when someone comes under their intent, what they want the rest of their experience to be. So while content strategy in almost everybody’s minds is “grow the top of the funnel”, “get more people to come to our site”, what I also want them to understand is that this has strong pull through the whole relationship; even to the point where let’s say they become a customer and you still want to re-engage with them. You kind of know over time what topics are interesting to people that have already bought.

Want to hear more from Nicholas about content strategy? Join him at Experience Inbound, held June 5th at Miller Park (Milwaukee) and June 6th at Lambeau Field (Green Bay).

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Topics: Search Engine Optimization, Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing

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