Zero Click Content with Amanda Natividad

Lauren Volpi's headshot on a blue background

Amanda Natividad is the Vice President of Marketing for audience research startup, SparkToro. In her career, she has managed B2B and B2C marketing teams across SaaS, Consumer Packaged Goods, and on the agency side. Amanda created Fitbit’s B2B content program and helped build their B2B marketing team. She is also a contributor for Adweek, a former journalist, and for good measure, she’s also a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

 

  • Amanda’s Zero Click Content framework and how you can put it in place today
  • How to leverage different use cases for audience research
  • Why you need to lead with your best stuff and optimize for impressions
  • How the content marketing game has changed
  • The critical mindset shift for companies to win in content marketing today
  • How the 3-person team at SparkToro can operate like a team of 10

 

Resources:

Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin

Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg

Doing Content Right by Steph Smith

Landing Page Copywriting Mastery by Jeremy Moser

Swipe Files

 

Connect with Amanda: 

Twitter

LinkedIn

 

Connect with Jeff:

LinkedIn

 

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

Jeff Sirkin:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection. I’m your host, Jeff Sirkin. On this show, we talk to people making a difference as marketers, entrepreneurs, and social impact advocates. We dig into actionable strategies and tactics to help you connect with your audience and keep your finger on the pulse of your market. My guest this week is Amanda Natividad. She’s the vice president of marketing for audience research startup SparkToro. In her career, she’s managed B2B and B2C marketing teams across SaaS, consumer packaged goods, and on the agency side.
Amanda created Fitbit’s B2B content program and helped build their B2B marketing team. She’s also contributor for Adweek, a former journalist, and for good measure, she’s also a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef. I had a great conversation with Amanda. We talked about how their three person company at SparkToro can operate like a team of 10 and how to leverage different use cases for audience research. Then we dug deep into content marketing, how the game has changed, and Amanda shared her zero-click content framework and how to put it in place today. Without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Amanda Natividad. Hi, Amanda. Thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Jeff.

Jeff Sirkin:
I want to start with where you are today. Can you give us a sense for what your world looks like at SparkToro?

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah. My world at SparkToro, I live in the world of audience research. SparkToro, we call ourselves an audience research company where we create tools, free and paid, to help people better understand their audiences or really just kind of any audience online. We have free tools like a SparkScore analysis, which helps you gauge the overall engagement of another Twitter account, which is really helpful because sometimes you’re just trying to find relevant high engagement accounts. You’re not looking for somebody with 200,000 followers. We also have something called a Fake Follower Audit. You might have seen this in the news earlier this year about how we actually did…
We took that tool, but did a better, bigger version of that and included more sampling to get a sense of how many fake, spam, inactive accounts there are on Twitter. You can run an analysis of your own Twitter account or someone else’s to see what percentage of fake followers they have. And then of course, the crown jewel product that we have is our audience research tool where we help people find their audiences’ sources of influence. What I do at SparkToro is I do marketing and content. I kind of think of it as a sort of product led content overall strategy, where everything that I do is related to essentially content that better educates people about our tools and about audience research at large.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s awesome. I want to just touch on the team at SparkToro. I know you’re very lean. I want to just get into one of the things I was really fascinated by is with a lean team, some of the things that you specifically don’t do as a company. I’m curious specifically, I mean, I want to kind of ask about product demos, but I would love to just get your sense specifically of how you guys operate as such a lean team.

Amanda Natividad:
I mean, it really is just the three of us. It’s myself and co-founders Casey Henry and Rand Fishkin. I think it works because we’ve all had at least several years of experience in marketing tech startup world. I do kind of think we have a sort of unfair advantage, where we’re not a team who’s just starting from scratch. I feel like with the three of us, we have more so the power of 15 or so marketers and tech people. Casey’s more on the tech side, but Casey also has his… He’s our co-founder and CTO.
He runs a tech side of things, but also he has a lot of experience in growth marketing as well. He gets it, right? And then of course, Rand and I are more from the marketing content side, but we also have our own very complimentary skillsets.

Jeff Sirkin:
Talk to me a little bit. I mean, I like the idea that as a team of three, I think that causes some what I would call positive constraints, but it also forces you to basically say, we can’t do anything that won’t scale with the three of us. Specifically around product demos, I really love your perspective on that product demos maybe sometimes a false positive for some companies and that’s part of the reason why you’ve chosen not to do them.

Amanda Natividad:
I really like that phrasing. It’s sort of a false positive, because it’s true. Any sales marketing rep knows that you’ll get a lot of people who are like, “Yeah, I want to do a demo.” When you’re maybe newer to the industry, you think, “Oh, awesome! I booked five demos this week.” None of those are going to convert into actual customers. If you’re around the industry long enough, you kind of see that. We’ve realized, well, people might ask for a demo, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to convert. Often it might just be that they aren’t sure what they’re looking for. They’re like, “Yeah, maybe a demo will solve my problem,” when that might not even really be it either.
What we prefer to do is we say, “We have free accounts. You can use a free version of our audience research tool. You get five free queries per month. You get a sampling of the results.” We say, “Just play around with it. Run some searches. Here’s a starting point. If you have any specific questions, let us know.” And then from there, we always write some kind of custom response. Every now and then. I’ll even record a custom Loom video for someone. I’ll say, “I’ll walk you through the query that I ran for you.” A lot of it is because the product that we have, it’s not really a one and done like, “Here’s the answer. There’s the thing. You’re done.”
It’s more like, “Here’s the answer and here are 10 different things you can do with it.” It does require some connecting the dots. It’s sort of like if you are a PR executive using SparkToro. Sure, you can run an analysis to see the people who visit your client’s website, the other press websites they also frequent. Great, that’s useful. But then from there, well, what else do you do with that? But with SparkToro, you can do things like look in our text insights to see the topics that the audience is talking about online. And then you as a PR executive can pitch a publication and say, “Hey, people who visit our website also read your publication.
They’re also talking about these topics, which I’ve noticed you haven’t covered in the news recently. Here’s a reason you should cover us and how to go about it.” It gives people a lot more specificity and real data behind the marketing activities that they do.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. I’ve spent the majority of my career as a data analyst, and I always say the most important skillset, both in marketing and analysis, is what I call intellectual curiosity. It’s the idea that you find something, right? You have a question that you want to have answered. What other websites is my audience visiting? And now you have the answer. Now, that in and of itself is not the final answer. To your point, that should bring up two or three more questions. What are the topics they’re looking for? What are the podcasts they’re listening to? What are the other things they’re doing? How can I start creating more of a complete picture?
But to your point, it isn’t a step-by-step, here’s the five steps of exactly what you do and what you do with. It’s sort a choose your own adventure. To your point, it really is very much a research tool for people who want to do the research and continue to dig into the next level.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, that’s exactly it. I think the other thing too is we’ve realized there’s… We say that, sure, in an ideal world, you’ll do focus groups. You’ll do some market research, and you’ll do audience research. You’ll do all the things. But not everyone’s really able to do that, right? Because doing something like a focus group, it costs, what, tens of thousands of dollars, weeks of your team’s time. You need to get an expert into facilitate. And not everyone’s an expert in doing this, or even running a research survey. Done right, those things are at least 30 grand. These are really expensive. There’s an issue of sometimes there’s a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do.
What SparkToro addresses is here’s what they actually do. If you were to ask me, “Hey, Amanda, as a marketer, what are some publications that you read?” And then I would probably say, “Oh, marketing publications.” Well, the real answer, which I’m comfortable saying now is, “Well, I don’t actively look for marketing publications. I don’t think about it like that.” It’s a valid question. As a question, it makes sense. But the answer, the reality is I don’t really read marketing publications. But if I’m kind of put on the spot, I might just say like, “Oh, I read Ad Age, and I read Adweek all the time. I go to MarTech.com.” That’s probably something. I just made that up, but I’m sure that’s something, right?

Jeff Sirkin:
Oh, it is.

Amanda Natividad:
Okay, right? It’s one of those things. I’m sure a lot of people do read these publications. They go to these websites. But I might say these as a reflexive answer because I feel like I’m supposed to say that. When in reality, I occasionally read Adweek if there’s a certain coverage I’m looking for. I do read some of my friend’s marketing Substacks or marketing newsletters, but I might not always think to answer in that way.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love the idea, frankly, that people will say or think they do things different than they actually do. The best example of this I’ve seen was around… I believe they did a study around people who go to the gym. They usually ask people, “How often you go to the gym?” They’re like, “Three, sometimes four days a week.” Because again, this is what they think of in their ideal week. But over the course of a year, maybe that happens one time. And then they look at their actual scans into the gym. On average, they’re there once a week. But they legitimately think they’re there three or four days a week.
For me, I was a behavioral economics major, and that’s why I always loved the idea that economics says, here’s what we should do if we had perfect information, but we’re humans. What’s the psychology that drives us to not make those decisions? A lot of that, that’s where the friction lies. I always love the idea of, sure, you can ask people what they think, but you should really also be tracking what they’re actually doing.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, exactly. That’s so interesting. You have a background in behavioral economics.

Jeff Sirkin:
Oh yeah. You know what it was is I started in econ and loved it, but it was so theoretical. It’s the idea that, oh, if they refer to them as econs, if we were perfect beings with perfect information, what are all the decisions we would make? Well, we would save more, we would do all these things, but then we don’t actually do them. For me, the interesting part is why don’t we, right? Where are those places? Frankly, how do we overcome some of our own biases when it comes to investing? As an example, we’re taught that you want to sell high, buy low. But the problem is in practice, that’s really hard to do.
That’s why they’ve created things like these robo advisors that will do it for you. Because it’s really hard as a human when stocks are going up and up or crypto or whatever, it’s hard to say, “Yeah, this is the time to sell,” or vice versa. When the market’s doing poorly, it’s hard to be like, “I’m going to come in both fists right now.” I’m always fascinated by that, is really the intersection of psychology and economics.

Amanda Natividad:
I think investing is a good example because there’s always FOMO. Whatever it is in the market, when you’re faced with the decision, you’re like, “Is this the bottom or is this near the bottom? Should I buy more, or should I sell now and cut my losses?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Exactly. I want to switch topics a little bit into content marketing strategy. It feels like to me, we’ve gone through really a decade of evolution in the last few years alone. Although to me, it kind of feels inevitable at the same time. I recently saw a term that you coined and to me perfectly encapsulates where we are today. I’d love to hear your perspective on what would you say is zero-click content.

Amanda Natividad:
Zero-click content, I describe it as content that offers valuable standalone insights with no need to click. Clicking, therefore, is additive, but it’s not required. In practice, this is essentially content that’s native to any platform. Maybe it’s a Twitter thread on Twitter, or it’s a LinkedIn post versus simply a link to a blog post, or it’s a 60 second TikTok video that immediately jumps into the how-to demonstration. The idea is that it’s very, very easily consumable by anybody scrolling past. It gives that immediate value, but it is so valuable and it is so good that people actually want to click. It is creating zero-click content.
The idea is that you are optimizing for impressions, but you’re optimizing to get seen. But the quality of it is so good that over time, at least, but if not immediately, people will click because they’ll be like, “Oh, that was a totally original insight, or that was super funny. That was entertaining, or, oh, I really like this piece of advice. What is the rest of the advice in this article?”

Jeff Sirkin:
I think one of the big pieces about that… Again, I think all this makes sense. I think when you hear it, it says, “Oh right.” You think of social networks and all of those networks have a bias for keeping you on their platform. They don’t actually want you to leave. And frankly, the people that are there aren’t looking to leave either. They’re not there saying, “Please send me some link to a blog post that I can go read or, God forbid, a gated piece of content, an ebook or something like that.” No. Basically what they want is they want the good stuff up front.
I think for me, that’s one of the biggest shifts is really the need now that it used to be all about teasing the content and come here to get it, but now I think more it’s kind of flipped to you want to give your best stuff away up front. I’d love to hear your perspective really on that mindset shift and then ideally how to put that in practice.

Amanda Natividad:
I think it’s probably scary for a lot of teams. To your point about teasing the content, I think that worked well maybe five, seven, 10 years ago, but it just doesn’t work today. It isn’t even just we as marketers. I think everyone on the internet. The internet has matured. People have matured. People are smarter now. They’re scrolling past. If they see like, “Want to know. How to drive more leads? Join our webinar,” people will be like, “Ugh! Just tell me how to do it.” Or like, “What is your unique thing?” Just say what it is, and then I’ll decide if I want that content. It does require that mind shift because I say that it’s optimizing for impressions. That’s the way I see it.
The way I see it is it’s optimizing your content. Content as defined by whether it’s a blog post, whether it’s a webinar, whether it’s a conference, those are all types of content. It is ensuring that your content actually gets seen, that people actually want to look at it. The interesting question that I get pretty often from this is, well, how do I make the case to optimize for impressions if my CEO cares about revenue and clicks and converting? I’m like, yeah, when I say optimize for impressions, I’m not saying don’t make money. I’m saying optimize for impressions so that you can build your reputation, build your credibility, build affinity, which then drives money.

Jeff Sirkin:
I’m a huge sports fan. I remember growing up, I would watch SportsCenter in the mornings before school. It used to be, at that time, they would have the intro to the show and, “Bulls and Knicks, find out who won.” They’re teasing their own content that you have to stick around to watch. I remember probably about 10 years ago, right around that same time you’re talking about from a content perspective, they made a shift themselves that I remember noticing at the time, which was very much now in the intro of the show they say, “Bulls prevail in double overtime. See the highlights next.” It’s kind of like they’ve given away the best stuff.
But I think for me, one of the big reasons that it made sense is they came around to realize, if all you wanted was the score or who won, there are easier and quicker ways to find that, right? Again, it’s like, okay, let’s not try to… Frankly, even on their own platform, on ESPN’s website and app, you can find out who won that game pretty easily and quickly. If that’s all you want, great. They’re giving away the best stuff right up front, but they’re saying, “Yes. If you want to see how it all happened, if you want the detail behind all of it, now stick around. Watch the highlights. Here are our analysis of why it went that way.” I think that’s kind of the same idea.
You want to give away the best stuff because a certain percentage of people, that’s going to be enough for them. But there’s going to be a whole lot more. To your point, when you optimize for impressions, there’s still going to be that ideally 20% or so that will see it of a much larger number now and say, “I want all of the detail behind that.”

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, totally. Sticking with that, I mean, another really good example of that is, what, ESPN’s RedZone. It’s only football, right?

Jeff Sirkin:
First of all, it’s the greatest invention ever.

Amanda Natividad:
It’s the greatest thing ever. There are so many games going at once. You want to see all of them. But let’s be honest, it can be pretty slow. One football game can be pretty slow. But you want to see if, wait, might they get a touchdown soon? Of course, you want that. They basically zero-clicked all the games. But it’s so valuable. I can’t get this anywhere else. I need to pay for this.

Jeff Sirkin:
When I travel, I will literally pay so that I can get RedZone on Sundays because it’s the most… To your point, it’s sort of mainlining exactly what you need in that moment of, well, wait a second. It’s the FOMO of, well, am I missing something? You know in that case the answer is no, because they will show it. You won’t miss a single relevant thing if you just stay glued to that channel for seven hours, like I do.

Amanda Natividad:
Oh yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. Again, I think one of the things that brings me back to is the idea of… I’ve heard a lot of people saying, again, back to psychology a little bit, that our attention spans are shorter and things like that. Personally, I don’t really believe that. I think it’s really just that the content isn’t really that good and we didn’t have as many options. I think to me, that’s my perspective. Again, I mean, I think about my own… The way I consume content on LinkedIn is sort of my primary channel that I’ll use, but I’m there to learn, to laugh, to kind of connect, but I’m not there to then go download an ebook or, to your point, sign up for a webinar and things like that.
I know myself. I sign up for a bunch of webinars that most of them I don’t show up to. It’s like, but that’s what I want. To me, it really comes back to aligning with the way people want to consume content. It’s kind of the idea to me that we’ve had to do in both marketing and sales and product, growth is all about letting the buyer be in control. The same thing. The person who’s consuming the content, let them be in control and we should be aligning as the creators to how they want to consume it, not the other way around.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, to that point, there is so much content out there. A lot of really good content and a lot of really bad content. I think people are willing to go through all of it. I mean, that’s why we’re online all day because actually our, I don’t know, our monkey brains really do want all this content. We just have a lot of it to wade through. I feel like that’s why the way go is zero-click content of like, okay, understand that you have a ton of competition and your competition today as a marketer isn’t really other marketers. Your competition is Joe Rogan. It’s Netflix. It is Hulu, Disney+, whatever. Your competition is everybody.
The more that you can do to stand out by truly delivering that value is the way to be. And then over time, people are going to remember. Even for the zero-click content example, I think it’s the only blog post I’ve written this past summer, but it’s something that people are talking about, that I’m getting asked about, having great conversations about. My hope is that people will remember me, for a couple months at least, for this piece of content. I think when you are optimizing for impressions, to get seen, to get remembered, inevitably there comes a focus on doing fewer, but better things.
Like I said, it was my only blog post this summer, but it was a good use of time and energy versus being like, got to get on the hamster wheel, got to create more content, got to do three new blog posts every week. That just isn’t my style, at least not anymore. It might even just be because I feel like everything I have to say, I’ve already said it. It could be that. Who knows? But I think having that focus on high quality valuable content where you feel like you are generating novel insights. It’s also just being respectful of your audience, respecting my audience. I actually have not sent my personal newsletter in maybe a month.
I meant for it to be every week or at least every other week. Haven’t sent it in a month. It really is because I don’t have anything that I really think is worth saying. Not really, at least. I would rather just leave people alone rather than try to just meet some arbitrary quota.

Jeff Sirkin:
You brought something up that I want to come back to is the idea of who is your real competition. I think about this a lot. For me, restaurants is sort of the obvious where if you go to the fancy steakhouse in town and you ask who their biggest competitors are, they’re going to tell you the other fancy steakhouses in town. But in reality, how is the pizza place on the corner, how is that not a competitor of there’s also, right? Because it’s another way to satisfy the same fundamental need. Especially we’re all talking about, sort of irrelevant to what your product does, it’s attention, right? It’s attention online.
It’s not just your specific niche and all of the other companies that have the same kind of offerings you do or things like that that you think of. If you ask somebody inside a company who their competitors are, who they think of, it’s anybody that’s trying to serve that same audience. It’s fighting for limited attention in these big channels, in these overcrowded channels. I think the idea when it comes to creating content is you aren’t at that point just competing with the companies that have similar product features and benefits to you that are in the same category. You’re competing against anybody that’s trying to get that same audience’s attention.

Amanda Natividad:
Totally. I really want to go back to that restaurant point, because I love that point and how you’ve articulated it, because I think this makes sense broadly. The fancy steak restaurant in town, they might say their product is steak. They make the best steaks within, I don’t know, a hundred mile radius, whatever. That’s their thing. But I’m sure a lot of people who go there would say, “I love your steak. I do order every time. But I don’t come here for the steak. I come here for the ambience because it’s romantic. It’s quiet enough, but it’s not too quiet. There’s wine. Someone else pours it for me. It’s dimly lit. I can get dressed up and feel cute. That’s why I’m here.”
And actually the pizzeria across the streets is your competitor because that place is also romantic. It also has a great vibe. Their wine is actually better. It’s better for groups. Not as romantic, but it’s good for groups of four, not for groups of 10. They’re actually your competitor. Then when you think about it, if you as a restaurateur are thinking, “Oh, my product isn’t stake. That’s my differentiator. My product is a terrific romantic premium experience.”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes. I think about that, I remember just myself personally when COVID hit, because I do steakhouses, but I didn’t go because when you have those little outdoor seating things, which are great in general, to me, when you remove the complete ambiance, you’ve removed for me more than 50% of the experience, right? But to your point, I think what that kind of speaks to is the value of audience research and better understanding of the customers you’re trying to serve. What’s the benefit they’re actually looking for?
Oftentimes, to your point, we think we know. I think that’s kind of my favorite perspective is as a business owner, as a marketer, we think we know. We think we know more than our customers do. But in reality, it’s only their opinion that matters. So often that’s really what it is, is, “Oh no! My wife and I come here every year on our anniversary because this is a special place to us that means all these other things.” Inside the restaurant, they’re thinking, “Well, we just make the best steak in town.” Again, to me, I think that also speaks to the value of better understanding your audience and what actually does drive them, right?

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, totally. You could better understand the audience by looking at the other websites, social accounts, press they follow, podcast they listen to, things are talking about online.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. Are you ready for a couple of not so rapid fire questions?

Amanda Natividad:
I am, yes.

Jeff Sirkin:
Great. I used to call them rapid fire questions, but I never actually wanted to make them that quick. The first one, what would you say is the most overrated marketing activity, things that we marketers and maybe especially in B2B, maybe we’re doing a little too much of?

Amanda Natividad:
I’m going to say email. I think people send too much email. I’m sure you catch SparkToro in a bad week, meaning a week in which you’ve signed up for the free product, haven’t run a search, and we happen to have a newsletter that week. You might think that SparkToro is guilty of it too. And arguably, maybe we are in that week. But in general, I think people send too much email. I see it all over marketing. It is mostly B2B, but whether it is B2B, B2C, I will go to a website and enter my email to join their newsletter. I’m like, cool. Maybe I’ll hear from them once a week.
But instead, I end up getting some kind of drip campaign where they’re emailing me every day in the week. Or I went to a website to potentially buy a rug and I wanted the 10% off, so I put in my email. Immediately get the coupon code. But then the next day, I get a coupon code for why our rugs are the best. And then day three is an email about our commitment to sustainability, where it’s like, I don’t need any of this. I’m not reading this. Nobody needs this. Make it better. I don’t know.

Jeff Sirkin:
But I think that’s what it is. I think to me, it kind of goes back to something very fundamental is we refer to email as an owned channel. But to me, it’s that concept, that I idea that somebody has signed up, meaning they just want to hear everything we have to say. To me, I think it’s like, we should really think of email as an earned channel, that you have to earn their attention every time. To me, I love what you said about that you haven’t put out your personal email in a month. Because again, if I don’t have anything good to say, then I’d rather say nothing. I think that’s the thing that we forget. We think of it as…
Companies, to me, this kind of reminds me of the MQL hamster wheel that we’re all familiar with as marketers of the, well, we have 10,000 people in our nurture campaigns. That means that we can move X percent of them into being hot leads and that will drive X amount of sales and things like that. We kind of forget at the end of this that there’s humans on the other side of this and are we actually providing valuable content is really the question we need to answer. The thing I always say is put yourself on the other side of that. Would you find value in getting that email? Would you find value in reading that content? The answer is no, don’t do it.

Amanda Natividad:
You know what? I even skipped the SparkToro newsletter one week because I think I was like, this is feeling too much of a slog this week. Our format is 3-3-3, three audience research tips, three articles and resources, and three tweets. I think I only filled in half of them and was like, I can’t find anything else. And then was like, I can either keep banging my head against the keyboard to find stuff for the next couple hours, or I could just move on to something else and get better ROI on that. I’m just going to move on. Going back to our earlier conversation, this is sort of a function of being a three person team.
Is my time best spent searching for an hour for an interesting link to share, or should I work on testing this new product that we’re going to be launching in a couple weeks? I should probably test the new product.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s why I love the positive constraints. I think we’re all familiar with the 80/20 rule, but it kind of forces you to say, what’s the 20% that’s going to get the 80% of the impact? I have to give this example, because I read this last night, that apparently Dr. Seuss won a bet that he could write a bestselling children’s book called Green Eggs and Ham with only using 50 different words. And it worked. The idea is that constraints can sometimes be positive and especially for creativity. But I love the idea that when you’re sort of forced into that with a small team, you’re constantly making those trade-offs.
In a larger company, if there was a marketing team of 50 people and somebody is responsible for the email newsletter, you better believe that’s going out every week, even if there’s not really anything of value.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, absolutely.

Jeff Sirkin:
Let’s spin it positive then. What’s the most underrated marketing activity? What should we be doing more of?

Amanda Natividad:
I think it is encouraging more employees to build their personal brand, and by extension be sort of ambassadors for the company. I think that’s very underrated. I think a reason for that is, one, it’s hard to build an audience and it’s scary to do it. But I think the other factor is that people see this as a binary thing. It’s growing an audience or I’m not, where actually I don’t think it needs to be looked at that way. I think it is build your personal brand, however that means to you, and that may or may not mean growing an audience.
By building a personal brand, what I mean by that is being more public about your affiliation with your company. Anyone can do this on LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is the easiest place to start because we all have a network there. Actually, I don’t know. I don’t know how many connections the average user has. I think it’s 500 actually.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, it sounds about right.

Amanda Natividad:
It’s not five. It’s not one. You’re starting from a couple hundred. Anyone can post there. You can post anything from you love working at your company and it’s sort of an HR recruitment play, or it is you love the marketing that you’re doing, and so it becomes more of an acquisition play. These could be small things where it’s not about I’m going to get to 10,000 followers, and then 20, and then 25. It’s about, I’m going to communicate to the people in my network at scale, how I feel about my company, my passion for the marketing strategy that I have. In doing that, you’ll start to kind of serve as a beacon for the like-minded people.
Then you slowly become top of mind for people who are like… A great example of doing this is like if you work for an agency. Agencies typically sell services, and these services are things that people either need or they very much do not need. That is very either/or. What you can do is post about your work, the things your company is doing. It could be just LinkedIn posts, I don’t know, once a week. It doesn’t have to be often. And then slowly over time, people in your professional network are going to be like, “Wait, doesn’t Jeff work at that agency? We’re looking for a marketing agency. I think Jeff can help me, or maybe Jeff knows somebody.”
I think this is something that’s really underrated because people see this as some big all or nothing kind of thing, when it’s not.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think just to play devil’s advocate, I think part of the reason why a lot of companies don’t do it is to me, this is sort my belief, is it comes down to control. The fear is if somebody goes off and develops an audience, just as an example, and builds a personal brand and gets known for something, well, it’s going to be easier for them to leave and find other jobs. It’s going to be easier for them to find side work or, God forbid, become an entrepreneur and leave this. Well, I get that there’s a chance that it will create benefit for the company, but there’s a bigger chance that it will create more benefit for the individual.
To me, again, maybe this is a little pessimistic about the state of Corporate America, but I believe personally, the reason that companies… I think part of it is they don’t understand the benefits of exactly what you just laid out. I think obviously there’s startups that are a lot smarter about this and have developed in the right way. To me, I think about this as well as somebody who’s active on LinkedIn. There’s so many companies that probably, to me, I assume are so much bigger just because of the personalities of the people that I know and see all over LinkedIn, right?
As a result, I see personally the benefit that these companies get, but I think the reason they don’t push it is that they’re not aware, and then the ones that are aware are worried about what it may mean and that they’re more likely to lose some of their best talent if that would happen.

Amanda Natividad:
That’s a good point. I do think that’s part of it too.

Jeff Sirkin:
I hope not. I don’t want that to be the case. I want to believe in the goodness, but I can’t help but wonder if companies are… That’s a big part of saying, “Well, let’s not give them an ability to go off and do whatever they want.”

Amanda Natividad:
Right. Or it’s more like, you know what? Whatever. If they’re going to do it, they can do it. We can’t stop them, but I’m not going to enable this.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. But it’s like, I’m not going to enable it. You do it on your own time kind of thing.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, that makes sense.

Jeff Sirkin:
What would you say from your perspective, I especially think of this in terms of marketers maybe earlier in their career, what’s the most important skill or skillsets for marketers to have?

Amanda Natividad:
I really truly believe that it’s writing. I think that’s the most important skill set, because I feel like… I think everything can be learned. I really believe in that, but I also think that writing is something that uniquely requires some level of intuition. I think you can learn the intuition. You just have to be willing to do it. Not everybody is. Whereas I think there are other things in marketing that are easier to learn that, without realizing it, you would build intuition. You can learn how to run super effective Facebook Ads.
That’s a skill you can learn. You learn how to set it up. You learn what makes a good creative. You test things. And that’s cool. Great. But I think where writing is tricky for people is you c an’t really A/B test a blog post. Not really, right?

Jeff Sirkin:
No. Maybe a headline, but that’s about it.

Amanda Natividad:
You can’t really A/B test an analogy. It’s either good or it isn’t. You got to just keep practicing. There are books you can read, resources you can consume, courses you can take. Absolutely. But I think most people need to do that, even people who think they are good writers or people who self-identify as writers. I’ve always self-identified as a writer, but it doesn’t mean that I think, oh, I’m a good writer and I’m done. That’s it. All I have to do is do it. I mean, I do still consume a lot of copywriter advice because I’m like, I don’t know. When I have writer’s block, the last thing I am thinking is that I’m good at it, right? It’s still a skill that I am always learning.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t agree more. As somebody who grew up professionally purely on the number side of things, I never wanted anything to do with it. Writing is something for me over the last year, year and a half that I’ve really been trying to dive into. Yeah, it hasn’t been fun, it hasn’t been easy, but I couldn’t agree more in that perspective. For me, I think writing and speaking for me are really what helps… One of the reasons I love doing this podcast is it helps me clarify my own thoughts. I mean, I think for me, putting it down, whether verbally or written, actually helps me clarify my own thoughts on things. I think that’s also an underrated perspective.
Honestly, even back to personal brand, just for people to start writing on LinkedIn, honestly, it’s been the most beneficial thing to me. I’m not even going to say because it’s helped me build an audience or followers or anything like that. It’s not even about that. Honestly, for me selfishly, it’s really been more about my ability to organize my own thoughts.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, I love that. That’s what I love about podcasts. When people say writing is thinking, longform podcasting can be thinking too, because you’re refining your thoughts out loud. You’re bouncing it off somebody. You might not be saying, “Can I bounce off this idea,” but that’s what you’re doing in effect. You are getting the real time feedback from somebody and that helps.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s awesome. What resources, books, podcast, newsletters? They don’t have to be marketing related. I don’t want to put you on the spot in the same question. We talked about it earlier. But what would you recommend to our audience? What things have provided value to you?

Amanda Natividad:
Let us start with books. I think for anybody, whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or founder or early stage employee, if you work in tech, I really think that Rand Fishkin’s book, Lost and Founder, is excellent. It is meant to be read from cover to cover, but you could kind of just read standalone chapters. He has a whole chapter on the failed acquisition of Moz in it’s earlier days. I think it is just so valuable to read about his hard won lessons and the lots of successes and failures that he had during his journey at Moz. That’s a great book. A book that I am currently reading that’s been recommended to me a million times, so I’m just going to go ahead and recommend it, is Out on the Wire.
The book by Jessica Abel. This is about storytelling in audio format. Storytelling for radio, podcasting, that kind of thing. What else is there? Those are some of my favorite books or books that I’m like reading/love. The other book I’ll recommend is a Nonviolent Communication. This is a book by Marshall Rosenberg. This is about how to more effectively communicate, whether it is receiving or giving communications. I think it’s essential for truly everybody. It’s helped me as a people manager, helped me in my day to day life. It is even worth reviewing once a year. There’s even a glossary of words you can use that are nonviolent that you can replace in your vocabulary.
Something that is violent would be saying, what is it, I feel threatened. It’s implying, you’re threatening me. Whereas maybe what it actually is is you’re scared. Scared is a feeling you can feel by yourself. You can tell your partner or the person who you are talking to, it doesn’t have to be your partner, it can anybody, you could say, “I feel scared about this situation because of this reason,” versus, “I feel threatened by you,” because that’s going to set the other person up to be like, “Whoa! I’m not threatening you.” It makes them super defensive.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that because it puts the vulnerability on us. My wife and I have this conversation a lot, sharing our own feelings. It’s I feel this, not I feel that you’ve done this. The idea, to your point, of using a word like threatening brings in somebody else to it and you’re basically placing judgment and blame on somebody else for the feeling you have. Ultimately, what you really mean when you’re saying that is I feel scared and it’s because of this thing that I feel like you’re doing. It’s exactly that. It’s just saying, mo, I feel scared.

Amanda Natividad:
Yeah, totally. And then I do want to wrap up this thought with a couple of other more marketing specific recommendations. I really like the Swipe Files community and library. This is Corey Haines’ product. It’s a community. There are other marketing resources there. He has some other courses about growth marketing. That’s sort of my first stop when I’m like, “I need a marketing thing. I need some help with this. I think maybe Swipe Files has a resource on this.” I start there. Other ones are, I really, really love Steph Smith’s ebook, Doing Content Right. It’s my favorite content book in years I think.
She covers everything from finding your unique differentiator to podcasting, to launching a new channel. It’s a very comprehensive book. Totally worth it. And then finally, Jeremy Moser’s Landing Page Copywriting book. It’s also an ebook. I think he also turned it into a course where there are some self-paced video modules. Now it’s more of just a robust resource for effective copywriting for landing pages. It’s a great guide, and I’ve referred to that a couple times as well.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. We’ll link to all of those in the show notes. And then before we let you go, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Amanda Natividad:
They can find me on Twitter @AmandaNat. I’m also on LinkedIn if you want to follow me there. My newsletter, which I will hopefully eventually send out, you can find it on AmandaNat.com.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and you should subscribe because as you know now, she will only send something when she has something worthwhile to say.

Amanda Natividad:
Absolutely. Oh, and then for SparkToro, check us out at SparkToro.com and look up the audience research newsletter. Subscribe to that. We send it twice a month. And kind of similar, if I don’t have anything to say, I won’t force it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Again, I will say, as somebody who follows you on LinkedIn, I couldn’t agree more. You probably have the highest percentage of worthwhile posts. Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for sharing your story with us.

Amanda Natividad:
Thank you so much, Jeff. This was fun.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Amanda. I love her framework around zero-click content and especially the need to lead with your best stuff and optimize for impressions. It’s a mindset shift that’s critical for companies to win in content marketing today. If you want to learn more about the resources mentioned in the episode, you can find them in our show notes. In addition, we’re publishing full text transcripts of our episodes on our website at SirkinResearch.com/podcasts. Thank you for listening. I hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

 

Sign Up for our Newsletter:

Designed for B2B marketers like you, full of highly curated inspiration, trends, news and more.