The Beal Deal Interview Channel

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The Beal Deal with Lee Odden (@LeeOdden)

And we’re back!

Considering I have a habit of starting things and then getting bored, you should be amazed that The Beal Deal has made it to week 3! ;-)

lee-oddenThen again, how could I not keep it going when I have the honor of interviewing my long time industry compadre Lee Odden. Lee and I both started our blogging journeys back in 2003 and have spoken at numerous conferences together. If you’re not reading his excellent TopRank Online Marketing Blog, you are doing yourself a disservice.

For those of you that are not familiar with Lee (where have you been?) then this will be a great primer for you. If you remember when Lee was fresh-faced and clean cut, then hopefully you’ll enjoy these six probing questions.

Q1. TopRank has always been an awesome blog for marketers, but it seems you’ve upped your game even more so in the past few months. What have you discovered about your audience’s sweet spot for your content?

Big picture content gets shared less, but Fortune 500 companies that hire us mention them during conversations

I know blogging is a form of self expression for a lot of people, but for me it has to be a combination of planned and opportunistic editorial. I think that approach helps me get better ideas out of my head and onto the screen which is far less painful than a mind probe. Or surgery.

As far as audiences go, I used to write as an open dialogue with the search marketing industry but I stopped doing that about 4 years ago since all it accomplished was “preach to the choir” about modern internet marketing. I realized the time invested blogging needed to actually pay off, so my focus changed to target audiences for our business: potential customers, influencers, industry media, candidates for hire, clients and staff.

Our agency and key messages evolved from a singular focus on search marketing years ago to a more holistic and integrated approach towards digital marketing and PR. As a result, I think our content has become more “interesting and relevant” to the broader business community.

Lately we’ve been following an editorial calendar a little more closely than in the past. By “we” I mean Ashley, Miranda and other TopRank team members that contribute to the blog. Our editorial calendar is tied directly to the topical objectives for our agency (i.e. how we want to be known). To be relevant for our audience, we consider multiple levels of editorial ranging from thought leadership and strategy to tactics, tips and lists.

Big picture content gets shared less, but Fortune 500 companies that hire us mention them during conversations. The tactical posts get shared far more often and that exposure helps us stay top of mind in a very crowded marketplace. Trends, news and contrarian content gets on the radar of news media.

There really is no one “sweet spot” but many of them and on different levels according to the value we’re creating for various target audiences.

Q2. Your book Optimize was a big hit. What did you learn about promoting your book that made you a better marketer in general?

Well Andy my friend, I’ve learned three really important marketing lessons from book promotions:

1. Apparently, people really like their books free.

2. Other authors can be generous or as fickle as they come.

3. Unless you organize deals for bulk sales, engage in major publicity and go on a multi-city book tour (sponsored) you’re going to have to earn each and every single book sale with sweat, blood and tears.

Actually, book marketing renewed my appreciation for publicity and the powerful influence of traditional on and offline media.

Actually, book marketing renewed my appreciation for publicity and the powerful influence of traditional on and offline media.  Overall, the promotions for Optimize helped me to see the value in long term strategy and investments in certain tactics that will not see payoff until further down the line. Even then, there is no guarantee they will pay off.  It was also a great exercise in multi-channel and integrated marketing combining multiple media, channels and online to offline and back promotions.

Optimize is still bouncing around the top 10 in several marketing categories on Amazon, so I can’t complain. I’m glad to have gone through the process and am a better marketer as a result.

Q3. It seems like we don’t bump into each other at conferences as much these days–there are just too many of them! What conferences have you found are best for your business and why?

Over the past few years I’ve been a lot more involved with giving presentations and workshops at private corporate events and user conferences. These tend to be some of the best events for me and the attendees because I get to work closely with the organizers to customize my presentation to the exact needs of the audience.  I’ve also been keynoting more, which is nice, because there is no competition for audience and I can spend time being both inspirational and educational.

When it comes to conferences, I am very excited about our continued involvement with Content Marketing World. It’s really one of the best events for B2B marketers you can find and incredibly well-run by Joe Pulizzi and his team. I’ve also continued a long time involvement with SES shows, which is where we met originally, in the U.S. (San Francisco, New York, Chicago), Toronto and London.

Some of my favorite conferences from 2012 include a group of niche events like the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston, Fusion Marketing in Antwerp, PRSA Digital Impact in New York and on occasion, regional events in Minneapolis with the awesome folks at Social Media Breakfast MSP, the local MN AMA chapter or MIMA.

Q4. You keep your blog separate from your main business website at TopRankMarketing.com. Have you thought about merging into one? What’s stopped you?

We’ll finish off the new corporate site and shortly thereafter move the blog over

I have and I will in 2013. We have finally made all the right decisions about how our main business site will function and have a new design and format being developed right now that will enable a migration. We’ll finish off the new corporate site and shortly thereafter move the blog over so it will be one awesome destination for online and digital marketing goodness.

Q5. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the past year?

Finding more A+ talent that have relevant experience in online marketing and PR, that are organized, motivated and have high standards will be my focus in the coming year

We’ve been a very conservative business when it comes to growth. Over the past 12 years we’ve grown every year, but not in the ways we could. Our pipeline is always full and we decline a lot of projects.

Finding the right people to support the kind of growth we’re capable of has been an off and on challenge.  There’s simply a shortage of real-world experience and skills in the areas where we specialize. That’s both a challenge and an opportunity though, because companies are feeling the same pain and our current team is pretty amazing.

In fact, right now I have some of the best digital marketers on our team that I have ever worked with. Finding more A+ talent that have relevant experience in online marketing and PR, that are organized, motivated and have high standards will be my focus in the coming year. We’re hiring for multiple positions at the moment. hr at toprankmarketing.com :-)

Q6. Let’s talk about facial hair. Your beard has spread over the years. Does it give you special marketing powers or does it just keep out the Minneapolis chill? 

Hey pal, don’t mess with my hirsute secret sauce. Samson had his locks, I’ve got my face cleavage.  A Winter beard is a tradition for me and this year I decided not to shave it off. We’ll see how long that lasts :)

Remind me not to mess with Lee! That’s it for this week, see you next Saturday!

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    Thanks for doing the interview with me Andy :)

    • http://www.trackur.com/ Andy Beal

      Thanks for being a great sport! It sounds like you’re going to have an epic 2013!

  • Lisa_Barone

    This is the best Saturday interview yet!

    Lee is definitely one of the folks I respect and look up to in this industry the most. He’s done an incredible job growing his agency blog and influence, while staying above the nonsense. And I agree, as great as his blog has always been, hes really upped his game in recent months.

    As Lee so famously said, you can’t pay the bills with a pocket full of famous. You have to bring it and he certainly does.

    Thanks Andy and Lee! :)

    • Lee Odden

      You are a gem Lisa and extra kind with your words. :)

      I am lucky to have a great team working with me and both Ashley and Miranda have done wonders for keeping our blog high quality.

      BTW, it is so awesome to see where you’ve come in the past few years and even more so to think of where you’ll be in a few more!

      • http://www.trackur.com/ Andy Beal

        OK guys. You can go get a room now. :-P Mutual respect and love for both of you–hence you guys being top of my interview list! ;-)

  • MirandaM_EComm

    Great interview, Andy. You really did get into the probing questions with the beard lol. There is a picture kicking around somewhere, from the TopRank holiday party… each staff member might have been decorated with their very own Lee-inspired face cleavage. It’s catching!

    • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

      Empowering!