In this engaging podcast episode, Jason S Bradshaw welcomes Purna Virji, author of the bestselling book “High Impact Content Marketing: Strategies to make your content intentional, engaging, and effective.”
Purna shares insights into the motivation behind writing her book, emphasizing her desire to help individuals enhance their content marketing efforts. With a diverse background that includes agency work, startup experience, and roles at a search engine and social media company, Purna identifies common challenges faced by businesses of all sizes in creating standout content.
The conversation takes a turn to the role of AI in content marketing. Purna provides a thoughtful perspective, highlighting the importance of focusing on what doesn’t change—human behavior. She advises prioritizing emotional intelligence over artificial intelligence, acknowledging the evolving landscape while cautioning against over-reliance on algorithms.
Moving forward, Purna delves into practical strategies for understanding and connecting with audiences. She advocates for collaboration between marketing and sales teams, emphasizing the value of direct customer conversations. Purna encourages marketers to speak not only with current customers but also with those who almost made a purchase, gaining valuable insights for refining content strategies.
The episode concludes with a discussion on measuring content marketing success. Purna introduces the concept of backward design, stressing the importance of defining desired outcomes before creating content. Listeners are encouraged to align content with business goals and plan strategically to achieve long-term benefits.
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Get a copy of her book at https://amzn.to/4274cCF
JASON: Well, Purna, it is so great to have you on the show with us today.
PURNA: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been so excited to be on this.
JASON: Now, I have to say that your new book, High Impact Content Marketing, Strategies to make your content intentional, engaging, and effective. Not only is it a wonderful book, but I see that it’s getting rave reviews.
In fact, the CEO of SparkToro said that his verdict is if you want to become a great content strategist, and mark it up. Or if you want someone on your team to level up their work massively, that you need to buy the book. Now that’s just one of dozens of recommendations for your book. It’s no wonder it’s a bestselling book.
Congratulations on the book.
PURNA: Thank you so much. I’m still pinching myself. I spent so long writing it alone and just to see that, you know, my only goal was, can I help even like one person do better and It seems like people are really resonating well with the book, so I’m thrilled.
JASON: So can you help our audience out? Tell us a little about what the book is and what it will help our audience with.
PURNA: So overall, I have been working, so I’ve worked agency side, I’ve worked startups, I’ve worked at a search engine, I’ve worked at a social media, and I was a television producer for many years. Through all of these, I found that the questions that I get from customers of all sizes, from all businesses, from the smallest, you know, freshly minted startup to the most, world’s largest, most established enterprise companies, they tend to be the same.
They say, I’m struggling to create content. It’s so crowded. How do I stand out? I’m putting in all of this effort and I’m just not getting the results that I want. And so that was one of the big reasons why when Cogan Page, my publisher, reached out and said, Purna, we’ve seen you speak everything online.
Would you write, would you like to write a book about content marketing aimed at practitioners? My answer was a resounding heck yes, because all of the answers that I’ve gotten are very, they’re not all over the map. That’s a few set of questions that I knew I could answer with AI with all of these other shifts that we were seeing, just the timing felt perfect.
JASON: Yeah, there’s certainly a lot happening in that content marketing space. And as you would know, there’s a million theories out there. So for you to be able to distill it down into a book that shares proven strategies and to give people insights into what it is they need to do to start the journey to enhance their work is phenomenal.
And I know that writing a book is a very lonely task at times. So thank you for enduring through it and making it happen. Now you mentioned AI, and of course AI is the buzzword of the year and probably will be for a while. And there’s certainly a lot of software out there that promises the world when it comes to marketing and how AI will help.
So how do you see AI impacting content marketing and is it really a tool that people should be leveraging? Or do you think it’s a fool’s game to use AI?
PURNA: Well, isn’t that’s the billion dollar question of the moment now is what’s changing, what’s not. And for me, I always go back to telling people two things.
Like one, if you asked me, or if I asked you or anyone else five years ago, what would things look like today? I don’t think any one of us could have answered that correctly. And so if we ask somebody what’s going to change five years from now, I think the answer is still going to be the same way. We don’t know.
AI is changing things a lot. Certainly the pace of technology is always so different. My answer in the book is why don’t we focus on what doesn’t change? And that is always human behavior. A lot of what motivates us, a lot of what makes us human has stayed consistent since the time that we were cave people roaming the planet, right?
We like to be surprised. We want to survive. We move away from from fear, or, you know, we buy on impulse. So we want to feed our ego. None of this has changed how you connect with people, how you entertain, educate, empower them hasn’t changed. And so when it comes to these brand new technologies, they are important, but they are a tool.
They’re not a complete replacement. Wasn’t there a really good article headline that said that it’s humans with AI, it’s not that AI will replace humans. It’s humans with AI will replace humans that don’t use AI. So I think that that’s a similar case. What we’ll see with AI is that it will allow us to find brand new levels of creativity that we’ve never seen before.
And on the flip side, we’re going to see just levels of clutter that we haven’t seen before. So that’s an important consideration. And my advice to everybody is go back to what doesn’t change, which is human. Prioritize always the EQ over the AIQ. So your emotional quotient over the artificial intelligence quotient.
JASON: Yeah. I really love the call out there to, to remain focused on people, remain focused on who you seek to serve and add value to them through your content. And if artificial intelligence can help you do that faster, to do that more efficiently, that’s fantastic. But it is still that human connection that we seek to achieve.
And then the second thing that you said to us in that, which I think is. Really important people don’t miss is there is a risk with AI know there is just going to be a lot of content created. And as a content marketer, you have the opportunity to stand out from that noise. If you keep people that human connection front and center of your work, because a lot of that noise won’t be doing that.
So fantastic. You know, we’re only a few minutes in and already you’re sharing some golden nuggets with our audience. So I really appreciate that. Now, listening to this show will be people that intellectually get that content marketing is right. They’ve probably even been doing some form of content marketing, but it’s just not working for them.
So I’m wondering what are some of the common mistakes you see people making? And perhaps we can help people overcome those.
PURNA: You know, across the board, I’ll see, and these are really easy pitfalls. So the first thing I should say is that I greatly empathize with making these mistakes. I think we all need them at some point or the other, and let’s focus on three.
So the first one would be really focusing on outputs rather than outcomes. Most people are always saying that, sales are down. What do we do? We need more content, more, more, more. And then sometimes, in some cases, stakeholders will even judge their content creators by the amount of content that they put out.
But it’s really not about the amount that you put out, it’s about how well it performs. So go back and think about is it working, right? It’s so easy to make so much noise. You can make tons of noise online, but the only thing that’s important at the end of the day with content marketing or any form of marketing is did it work?
Did it drive the revenue or business impact that you were looking for for your organization? So that’s a big one. So content marketers and that’s also harder because different teams within a company can also think of content differently. Like the SEO team might just be like, yeah, yeah, yeah, you go create a blog that will help us with our rankings.
Or you’d have the video team that’s thinking about, oh, we’ll just put out these videos and that is our social media thinks about content in their own silo. Yes. Everything is content. But we have to ladder it up to one holistic cause. So I would say that would be the number one. Like, think about what’s the outcome you’re trying to drive.
And then it turns out you’ll need less content than you think you do. The other mistake, or mistake number two, is really focusing on short termism. And I don’t blame marketers at all for this. Like, for the longest time since we got into digital marketing, All of our tools, whether it’s Google Analytics, whether it’s Adobe or Omniture or any of the tools, they focus on what was your conversion.
It’s always the short term. We launch your campaign and then we’ll look to measure it in two weeks, even though buying cycles in some cases may be months long. So why are you judging it so quickly? Or the other bad part about focusing on the short term is we’ll tend to deprioritize things that are really, really important.
Yes, you’ve got to capture the demand, but you’ve also got to generate the demand, especially let’s say in times like today, when not everyone’s ready to buy, like you could be, you know, putting out content that wants to get people to take a demo of your product. But if no one has the budget right now to actually buy the product, they’re not likely to take the demo.
Focus on nurturing, focus on building awareness focusing on ways that you can stand out as a company but we’ll deprioritize that because we’re like, well, where’s the results that doesn’t lead to conversions in like the next 60 days. So don’t do that. So I would say that’s two and then and the third one is again focusing on machines over the humans the first question sometimes you’ll hear is oh if I how many posts I need to put out for the algo to rank me higher or to give me more visibility and I’ve worked at a search engine, work at a social media company.
I have been industry like in house. I have been agency side across the board. I can assure you that stop trying to game the algorithms, right? You can maybe get away with spammy tactics or those manipulative tactics in the short term, but in the long term, the house always wins, right? The algo is going to strike back, focus on the people.
Cause at the end of the day, people relate to people, people buy from people. And the good, the almost karmic thing is that if you can create content that drives a lot of buzz and engagement from people, the algorithms are going to want to give you more viewership and you’ll just get more engagement in that sense.
So those are my three common mistakes and what we can do about it.
JASON: Yeah, that’s great. Focus on the outcome versus the output. And I think it is really easy to get into that hamster wheel of churning out content and not being focused on the outcome that you’re trying to achieve. The second short term is talked about capturing demand, but also generating demand.
I think this is really important in almost every product that you could possibly sell because to build long term loyalty, you need to think beyond the immediate transaction you’re trying to get. And so your content should be taking that into consideration. And then the third is, again, bringing the human into what you’re doing. And I love how you point out that if you’re serving people correctly, that ultimately the algorithms will want to work in your favor because it will be generating exactly what they’re trying to achieve versus you trying to gain them all the time. So three great takeaways for our listeners there.
Now, from a customer experience point of view, web development point of view, user experience point of view, we’re always talking about journey maps and what journey is the customer going on? And quite often I’ll be sitting in a room and people will have no idea if they don’t really understand who their audience is.
So how do we, what are some ways that our marketers that are listening, our business owners that are listening can understand their audiences in a better way to provide a more holistic experience of more engaging and more engaging content for them.
PURNA: I love that you asked that. Well, the first thing, whether you’re a business owner, if you’re a business owner, do this one thing, bring your marketing and sales teams together, get them to align.
If you’re a marketer, Set up time with your sales team right now. And if you’re a salesperson, go and set up time with your marketers right now and come together. We operate so separately in so many cases, and there’s no reason. We’re two halves of the same coin, right? We have different purposes, but at the end of the day, we’re all in service to the customer, to our audience.
And so the number one thing is stop thinking about the surface level like persona mapping or ICP’s. And there’s this really funny, you’ve probably heard it, a lot of people have, it was in the BBC where they did that comparison. They said, hey, if you had two different gentlemen who this persona, which is like born in 1948, live in the UK, independently wealthy, have big houses in the countryside, have grown children, have been married twice.
Then, you know, would you serve them the same content? And some people would be like, yeah, yes, they sound really similar. But if I said that, well, they both describe Ozzy Osborn and King Charles and I would probably go out on a limb and wager that they both consume quite different content.
Sorry I got so sidetracked.
JASON: No, I definitely, I love that. I, sorry to interrupt your response to the question, but I think that is a pitfall that we fall into quite often is that we think that all people of a specific profile are the same and the reality is that King Charles is going to have a very different lifestyle to anyone else that fits that generic description, right? Or not even necessarily generic. So I think that some marketers absolutely do get caught up in this persona thing. So you were saying, bring your sales and marketing teams together, have them to collaborate, what more can they do to really understand their audiences so beyond those personas?
PURNA: One of the few ways you can, that I really highly recommend working with sales to learn more about your customer is the three things that I recommend.
The first one is shocking, but actually speak with your customers. I know so many marketers are like, what, no, when, why, but do that. And the other, the first response is I will bother them or they don’t have time or they don’t want to do this and I don’t have time to make a hundred calls. Well, let me bust that myth is you don’t need to make a hundred calls often even seven, eight, maybe even ten calls is all you need to start picking up enough consistent teams that will come up and you know, your customers would be honored to speak with you because they want to feel that their opinions are valid, that their thoughts matter, that you care enough about them, that you want to learn about them and provide a better experience.
So, speak with them, learn about what made them want the product, what would they expect, or your offering, what did they expect before. They made the purchase and then how is the reality after they’ve made the purchase? Did it meet expectations? What surprised them in a good way, in a bad way? What problem did it solve?
How are things going in their favor? I try to dive into all of the benefits and the reasons why they would buy and who else they may have considered so you get a really an idea of your competitors. The other thing that I find not enough people do is speak with the ones that got away. So can you identify even a small handful, three or four customers who got close to the end of the purchase cycle, but then decided not to purchase.
And if you can go into that meeting being like this is not a sales pitch. I purely just want to learn and ask you maybe three questions. Could you help guide us as to you know? What made you decide to look elsewhere? What did you like about us and then what you know, were you confused or didn’t know enough or you’ll get richer deeper insights that you can use to proactively address potential objections or different sales things in your content.
And then the third one is to go online and scour what customers are saying about you and the competitors learn from things in their own words. And that can be so powerful. I’ll give you an example. A while back I had worked with a client who was a large resort in the Caribbean and they had, you know, large stretch of private beach and they thought that was their big unique highlight and they kept doubling down on that.
They kept struggling, and we went and looked at some of their reviews. We scoured tons and tons of their reviews, and we identified that a big thing people kept talking about was the variety of restaurants and in the hotel dining options. And people kept saying there’s so much variety, there’s different cuisines.
I didn’t feel I needed to leave. It was so friendly. So I’m like, why do we never lead with that? It seems like that is what’s resonating. And then they switched that, and they switched that angle. And it really helped pay off for them. So learn, talk to you, talk with your customers, talk with the ones that got away, and then read about what they’re saying in their own words online about you and about your competitors.
JASON: Yeah, and I love the call out there, actually pick up the phone or go and speak directly with the customer. I think the other pitfall or trap that people fall into is they go and get a research company to get a focus group. And while that does provide some value there is nothing in my opinion, and I believe you’re with me here in having that direct conversation with that customer, because in that conversation, you’ll unlock stuff that no survey or scripted focus group will be able to do because it is two humans connecting.
So, I love that insight and we’ve covered a lot today already. And one thing is for sure. You believe that content marketing, as I do, can generate long term benefits to the business, and we probably shouldn’t be so fixated on short termism and the metrics that go with that. So I’m wondering, how do you measure the success of the content marketing strategy?
PURNA: Well, there’s two things. The first one is I do not believe in putting measurement at the end. So many marketers, what we’ll do is we’ll create content and then figure out how we’ll measure it at the end. And for me, it’s the opposite. I find it’s much more successful if you put the cart before the horse or however you want to call it.
Before you start writing your piece of content, you want to understand what other business outcomes you want that piece of content to drive. And there’s a concept in instructional design, which I spent many years in instructional design. So I’ve pulled some of those concepts, like how adults learn, how we absorb and retain content, and plus how you design a strategy.
And so I’m borrowing a concept called backward design from the learning and development world where they think about the learner outcome first and then the behavior change and so on. So let’s apply it as marketers. Let’s use an example. Let’s say that your customer is a fancy schmancy, like brand new car company, and they’re coming up with a brand new like electric vehicle that they would like.
So business goal would be sell more cars. Of course. So then if I think the next level down as a marketer, what behavior change can I influence? Remember, I’m not sales. I can influence certain behaviors up to a certain point. What would get me closer towards that goal? What’s the behavior change? One thing could be come and take a test drive of my car.
I could influence people to want to take a test drive or even one step back configure something on their phone, like look at the app, configure a vehicle for yourself, get that step. If I know that that’s the behavior change I’m trying to drive and that’s the end goal is to help increase sales, then I’ll think about it.
Okay. Who is the other customers or who’s the audience that’s most likely to come visit the showroom? You know, who’s got the money, who cares about electric vehicles, who would be interested in all the specs and features of the and where do they spend their time? Where can I most effectively influence them?
And then what type of content would they want or react best to? So you plan it once you know the outcome in mind. And I think if people remember one thing from today is don’t create content until you know what’s the go to, what’s the next step after.
JASON: Yeah, makes perfect sense to take that approach.
So, I know people will be interested in following your work. What’s the best way for people to stay in connection and to follow your great thought leadership.
PURNA: Well, I am highly active on Linkedin all the time. I also work there and I’m very proud of it. And I genuinely love linkedin. So I’m there all the time.
I also am on X formerly known as Twitter. I spend time on both. That would be great.
JASON: Fantastic. Well, we’ll put in the show notes for this show links to those two socials of yours, as well as links to your book. So people can get it. Now your book is available at all great, all places. Great books are sold.
But of course, one of the easiest ways to get your book is on Amazon. And I see that you have it in. Every available format, pretty much. So, that’s fantastic to make it really accessible for our readers. Now, or for our listeners, I should say. Now, before I let you go today. I’m wondering, what’s the one thing someone listening to the show today should do as soon as this episode is over to improve their content marketing, to improve their connection with customers?
PURNA: That’s a good question. I would say the number one thing is if you’re a marketer, talk to sales, make sales your best friend, identify the right customers that you want to chat with and pick up the phone, call a customer.
JASON: And that human connection theme has come out through the entire show. You think of humans in your content, create connection with internal stakeholders and with customers to drive better outcomes.
So absolutely love that we’re focused on the human instead of the content necessarily in the first instance or even the algorithm. It’s all about making sure that we deliver value. Purna, it’s been great having you on the show. I really appreciate it. I hope we get to do it again sometime soon.
PURNA: Thank you so much for having me. This was so much fun.