By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA
When we were kids, shortcuts were celebrated. Hearing from a buddy, “You want to go play at that new field? I know a shortcut,” was met with a smile.
That get-there-as-fast-as-we-can mindset is often avoided in business because we assume the time-consuming, complex way is the best way. This is especially true with content marketing. Instead of focusing on creating quality content as quickly as possible, VARs and ISVs get bogged down in extraneous details, bloating the project to a point where the planned content never sees the light of day.
One organization I worked with to launch a podcast and video series a few years back wouldn’t let me move forward until we purchased, installed, and learned how to operate an expensive sound mixer. Then I had to integrate it with a new video/audio hosting platform and a professional-grade headset. They also wanted me to research how to convert my 14×12 office into a soundproof studio. All that would have added weeks to the project launch and required intense setup and testing before every recording. Before we could move forward, the person holding me to that lofty standard left the company, so I shared with his interim replacement my time-consuming technology struggles. He said, “Nobody expects us to be NBC. Use the headset you have and record everything on WebEx.”
I haven’t looked back since. The RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast follows that spartan approach – and it’s working. Not only are we engaging our target audience, we’re also winning awards. Recently we stress-tested our best practices to help RSPA member RedIron Technologies, a retail-focused ISV headquartered in London, Ont., launch their own thought leadership video series. After just two conference calls, a few email exchanges, and some digital elbow grease, we produced the kind of content that eludes most solution providers.
Here’s the RSPA’s 5-step Spartan Plan to Powerful B2B Content Marketing:
STEP 1: CONCEPT MEETING
During a strategy session with RedIron co-founder Rick Williamson, he identified his company’s need for thought leadership content. We talked through a few topics at a very high level and then planned a one-hour concept meeting with Marketing Director Jeff Williamson. In that meeting we discussed the following – which can serve as a guideline for your organization:
Who is our target audience? Be as detailed as possible with your answer. For RedIron, here are my notes about their audience:
- Enterprise retail executives; C-suite, VP, director level
- Decision maker or influencer for store operations (POS integrations, loss prevention, returns, etc.)
- General merchandise, hard goods (think Williams-Sonoma)
- Mid-market retailers, 10 to 100-store range (e.g. Pet Food Express)
- North America
- Not: restaurant, food service; not mom and pop stores
What do we want to achieve through this content? There are two answers to this question: what you want to achieve for your target audience and what you want to achieve for your organization. Again, my RedIron notes:
- Answer “What is the future of retailing?”
- Solve retailer pain points through technology
- Present RedIron as a complete solution provider
- Refer to prior episodes to show listeners a complete picture of the future of retailing
What will be the format? There’s a lot to choose from, but I recommend starting with a YouTube video series. We all have experience with video meetings, so plan one out, record it, and – voilà! – you have yourself some content. My notes from the RedIron concept meeting:
- Video interviews/podcast series to be launched on RedIron YouTube channel
- 25-35 minute conversations launched approx. every 4 weeks
- Ask prepared questions to spark conversation, then follow-up questions
- Excerpts from interviews will be utilized to create blog posts
- Bundle blog posts to create eBook that captures leads
- Promote all content on RedIron social media channels
Who will do what? How will we divide the labor? I recommend your content series feature a host and recurring guests from your organization who can show your company’s expertise on subjects your target audience cares about. I volunteered to serve as the host for RedIron’s first few episodes. I would help them craft the script for each podcast (more on that later), interview their expert guests, and record the video and audio of our conversation on the RSPA’s Go To Meeting platform. Jeff Williamson would download the recording, trim only the beginning and end of the audio/video, create an introduction montage and outro montage with music, and then launch the finished product on the RedIron YouTube channel. Jeff would turn that core piece of content into video snippets, blog posts, eBooks, social media posts, and more.
The guest experts for at least the first three episodes would be RedIron CTO Jeff Patterson, a 20-year veteran of the company, and COO Barry Egerter, whose been part of the RedIron team for nearly six years.
A note about editing videos and audio: This can be the biggest time suck if you allow it to be. As I mentioned, I recommend you trim only the beginning (from the moment you press record and then count down 3-2-1) and the end (from the moment you say goodbye until you stop recording). Everything in between shouldn’t be touched. I tell my guests to treat our interview like a panel at a trade show with the audience listening live to a conversation among experts.
Just because you can spend hours editing out “ums”, “errs”, and pauses from your podcast doesn’t mean you should. The audience cares if the audio and video are functional and if the content being delivered is helpful. They’re okay if one of the speakers stumbles or misspeaks and has to correct themselves.
Also, while RedIron chose to edit the video/audio and create the intro/outro montages, those can be easily outsourced for a fairly affordable fee.
What will be the frequency? I recommend you start slow – one episode per month. That will allow you to work out any kinks and streamline your process without feeling threatened by an upcoming next episode. Then you can adjust the frequency as appropriate.
What should we name this content series? During your initial conversation on this topic, determine what important words or phrases should be part of the title. We landed on “retail” and “RedIron,” and I volunteered to research possible names and then propose them to the group in our next meeting.
Do not attempt to finalize the name as a group during your initial conversation. Not only is that unproductive, but someone needs to be assigned to research if the proposed name(s) has already been taken.
What should be the topics for the first three episodes? This should be an open-ended, freeform discussion. Assign one person to take notes, and it’s healthy for everyone to ask questions about each topic so you can flush out details. For RedIron, we landed on for the first three episodes: cloud migration, digital transformation, and customer experience. I took tons of notes and volunteered to have a takeaway to create titles and 5-6 questions for each episode. I leaned on my notes from this portion of the concept meeting to generate most of my questions.
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STEP 2: CONTENT PLAN
Assign a PDR (person directly responsible) for thinking through and proposing a written content plan that should have three elements: the name of the content series, titles for the first three episodes, and 5-6 questions for each episode. Also, the notes that answer the questions we already addressed should be part of your written content plan to ensure everyone is moving forward on the same page (literally and figuratively).
Content Series Name: I was the PDR for the RedIron plan. I searched on Google for “retail podcasts” to help me generate some ideas – and also to show me what names were already taken. I added these five possibilities to the content plan:
- All-Star Retail Tech, powered by RedIron Technologies
- Everything Retail Tech, powered by RedIron Technologies
- ALL CAPS Retail, powered by RedIron Technologies
- The Retail Evangelists, powered by RedIron Technologies
- The RedIron Retail Roundtable
Step 3 spoiler alert: The group landed on “RedIron Retail Roundtable.” It included our desired keywords, it was short, and it reflected the types of discussions we planned to have.
Episode Titles and Questions: Even though I’ve written headlines for 30+ years, they don’t pop into my head immediately. These two sources help me (and will help you) spark attention-grabbing titles:
The first episode of the RedIron series focused on cloud migration. Here’s my suggested title and six questions:
Should Retailers Fear or Embrace Cloud Migration?
- This is the first episode of our podcast, so can each of you take a minute to introduce yourself to our viewers?
- What’s your definition of “the cloud” as it pertains to retailers today … and how did we get here?
- Where do you think we are in the cloud migration process? Is this just the beginning?
- For retail executives who are resistant to embrace this change, what are the major benefits of cloud technology?
- When retailers start moving down the path to cloud, what pitfalls do they need to avoid? What are the most common or most painful mistakes you’ve seen?
- Each episode of this series will deliver actionable information to our listeners and viewers. What are the first steps or next steps you recommend retailers take related to cloud technologies?
I emailed my content plan to Rick and Jeff Williamson and scheduled a meeting for us to review it.
Step 3: EXECUTION MEETING
If you’ve been thorough and conscientious with the first two steps, this stage should take less than an hour. The team should meet to determine the series name, finalize the episode titles, and tweak the question set. Update the content plan in real time to save yourself an extra job after the execution meeting.
Step 4: PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW
You shouldn’t leave anything to chance when creating quality content, so I recommend using a checklist and script for every recording. This also helps your audience because they are seeking consistency in the content you produce. A consistent introduction, format, and conclusion give them a sense of comfort and connection with your brand.
The checklist and script are part of one document I will keep on my computer screen – located directly underneath the camera – while we record. That way when I’m referencing it, I don’t have to look away from the audience. I use my mouse to slowly scroll through the script so the text is always right under the camera. I’m not actually looking into the camera, but from the audience’s perspective it appears I am. Consider this a spartan version of the teleprompter used by TV broadcasters.
Checklist: I review this checklist aloud with my guests before each recording:
- Check sound
- Check lighting
- Close door, put phone and all devices on silent
- Review intro/outro
- Who will take which question first?
- Press “record”
Needless to say, #6 is the most important item on this checklist!
Intro: Outside of the title, the intro script for each episode should remain the same. Again, this text is on my screen directly under my camera and I make my tone upbeat and conversational as I read it. The margins in my Word document are 2.5” on both the left and the right so I don’t have to read across the screen very long which would tip off the audience I have a script.
Hello and welcome to another episode of “The RedIron Retail Roundtable.” I’m Jim Roddy, your host for today – thank you so much for joining us.
In this episode we’re raising the question “Should Retailers Fear or Embrace Cloud Migration?” and lucky for you providing answers to that question will be two retail technology experts:
Jeff Patterson is a 20-year veteran of RedIron Technologies where he serves as Chief Technology Officer. Good to see you, Jeff! [pause for reply]
Our second expert is Barry /egg-er-ter/, RedIron’s Chief Operating Officer. He’s been part of the RedIron team for nearly six years and has worked in the retail technology industry for many years beyond that. Hello, Barry! [pause for reply]
To our viewers, if you’re not familiar with RedIron, they’re a multi-vendor systems integrator that helps retailers implement, extend, or maintain any major retail software system. RedIron is forging retail innovation and solving retailer pain points through technology. For more information on the company, visit redirontech.com.
Questions: Next on my script are the questions I planned for the interview. I also have close by a pen and notebook so I can jot down points raised by the guests and ask them follow-up questions. If you do not listen for cues and ask follow-up questions, your interview will sound more like a stilted high school project instead of a discussion among professionals. Your content should sound like a conversation, not an interrogation!
Outro: Just like the intro, your outro should be consistent from episode to episode:
That does it for this episode of The RedIron Retail Roundtable – we hope you enjoyed our discussion. If you did, be sure to subscribe to the RedIron YouTube channel so you never miss an episode. Just go to YouTube and search “RedIron Retail” to find us.
Before we go, thanks again to Jeff and Barry for sharing their wisdom with us today. Thanks also to RedIron Marketing Director Jeff Williamson for his production work, and, last but not least, thanks so much to you for listening.
For more information and retail technology best practices, please visit the RedIron website at redirontech.com. Thanks again for listening and goodbye everybody!
Technology: As I alluded to previously, there’s no need to get fancy with your microphone, camera, and peripherals to generate respectable B2B content. I use a Plantronics Audio 400 DSP USB headset/microphone that’s such a workhorse it outlived its company name (Plantronics is now “Poly”) and its product line (the 400 DSP has been discontinued). I use the camera integrated in my laptop which works fine, but you could quickly and easily upgrade to an HD camera with USB plug-in if you prefer. Another technology to consider is an LED video light on a tripod; they’re easy to find online or in your local store for less than $75 and can be handy if where you record is a little dim.
Step 5: POST-PRODUCTION
Edit Video and Audio: Repeated for emphasis: Don’t allow this step to expand into a time suck! Trim only the beginning and the end and leave everything in between alone (unless there’s some calamity that needs corrected, of course). Stitch in your intro and outro music/graphics to give the content a polished look and feel.
Write a Summary: A summary of the video is not only helpful to the audience, but it will give you a boost in terms of SEO (search engine optimization) and YouTube’s search function. Be sure to always include your company website where the viewer can obtain more information. Here’s the summary from the first RedIron Retail Roundtable:
In Episode 1 of “The Retail Roundtable,” Jeff Patterson (CTO) RedIron, Barry Egerter (COO) RedIron, and host Jim Roddy (VP, Marketing) at RSPA discuss the benefits and pitfalls retailers can expect when migrating to the cloud.
“The Retail Roundtable,” powered by RedIron, is a content series designed specifically for enterprise retailers. Our goal is to educate and discuss a variety of topics around retail technology. For more insights, visit us at www.redirontech.com
And here’s how RSPA crafted our podcast/video summaries in the lead up to our RetailNOW trade show, which we highlighted in every pre-conference episode in 2021:
For more information on RetailNOW, July 25-27 in Nashville, or to register for “Where The Industry Meets,” follow this link: www.GoRSPA.org/retailnow
“The Trusted Advisor,” powered by the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA), is an award-winning content series designed specifically for point of sale resellers and software developers. Our goal is to educate you on the topics of leadership, management, hiring, sales, and other small business best practices. For more insights, visit the RSPA blog at www.GoRSPA.org.
Launch Your Content: Immediately after your content is published, conduct a quality check to make sure it’s presenting the way you want. Occasionally glitches happen in the upload process, or you realize upon further review you made an editing error.
Share Your Content: In addition to distributing content on social media and through an email newsletter, send a note to your podcast guests after their episode goes live. Here’s my RSPA Trusted Advisor template:
SUBJ: Our podcast is now live!
Great news! The audio and video of our discussion is now live on the RSPA Blog, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Audible, and Pandora. The link below will enable you to access the pod in all its forms. Feel free to share this web page with all your friends! :)
Thanks again very much & I hope to talk with you again soon.
Following those five steps, you can create your own content series that enhances your brand, engages your target audience, and gains the attention of new prospects. The first three episodes of the RedIron Retail Roundtable are now live on their YouTube channel:
Ep. 1 The Retail Roundtable “Should Retailers Fear or Embrace the Cloud?”
Ep. 2 The Retail Roundtable “What Every Retailer Needs to Know About Digital Transformation”
Ep. 3 The Retail Roundtable “Customer Experience Deep Dive”
We’re now planning the next three episodes which are guaranteed to take even less labor than the first three because we’ve already determined the goals and format and created the foundational materials. To keep up to date on RedIron’s content project, take a moment to subscribe to the RedIron YouTube channel. To follow the RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast, subscribe to the RSPA YouTube channel or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
If you’re an RSPA member and would like guidance on content marketing, reach out to me anytime to take advantage of the RSPA VAR/ISV Advisory Services offering. Or email RSPA Marketing Manager Chris Arnold – he’s the behind-the-scenes warrior for all RSPA content – so he can add you to the RSPA Marketing Committee.
We’re happy to show you the shortcuts to creating quality content that impacts your top and bottom line!
Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions