This week on the Boagworld Show we look at how I organise my marketing efforts to get the maximum return from my time.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld show. The podcast about all aspects of digital design, development and strategy. Although I don’t know why I’m saying development because we normally avoid talking about it because we don’t really know very much about it! But there you go. My name is Paul Boag and joining me on this week’s show is the very wonderful Marcus Lillington. Hello Marcus.
Marcus: Thank you very wonderful Paul Boag.
Marcus: What a nice thing to say. That’s a good way to start because I feel like today’s show is going to be a bit of a therapy session for me.
Paul: Well, you know, I’ve got… Do you know, I like having guests on the show. It’s great. And we often have guests but I have to say when it is just you and me, which it hasn’t been for ages, has it? It feels more relaxed somehow, do you know what I mean? It feels like you and me hanging out down the pub.
Marcus: Yeah, I can’t remember the last time we just did the two of us. Basically it is more interesting if there is someone else on the shows so generally speaking that is a good thing. But you are right, just once in awhile we should allow ourselves just a bit of a chat.
Paul: Well I don’t know. Is it more interesting?
Marcus: All right, sometimes it is.
Paul: It’s more interesting for us because, you know, we are bored of one another but I don’t know, it will be interesting to hear from people that are listening to the show. After they’ve listened to this show did they feel like it worked okay with just the two of us or actually do we need somebody else, do we need a guest? But do you know, it’s a lot of work getting guests as well. I feel like now I’ve just run out of people that I know.
Marcus: Just keep getting the same ones back on. That’s worked for years Paul!
Paul: I know, but I’m getting bored with doing that. It’s like there’s only so many times you can talk to Jeremy Keith and Andy Clark. They’re boring aren’t they really!
Marcus: We had that guy on last week from a CoSchedule. Or CoSchedule as they have to say.
Paul: But it’s finding new people is always a bit of a challenge. So if you are listening to this and you fancy being on the show, you know, why not? Even if you are not necessarily an expert on the field, just having someone else on the show, another point of view. I mean, we’ve got talks coming up… We’ve got subjects coming up on video, use of video in content marketing. We got a talk coming up, were going to spend a bit of time talking about tone of voice and writing for the web so if any of those things vaguely interest you drop me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org and we will have you on. You don’t need to be Internet famous or anything like that. You know, if you’ve got something to say I think that would be great wouldn’t it?
Marcus: Yeah, I think now is the time for a confession from me.
Paul: What’s that?
Marcus: Well I was thinking when you are saying that, Ooo, tone of voice, writing for the web. We should get Ellen DeVries back on. Because she was great, wasn’t she?
Marcus: She messed up her recording, right. I think I probably mentioned that to you. She recorded all three of us so I had to go through and chop out all the bits and I emailed her and said look, any chance you got like a raw version. This sort of thing. And she said “Oh no, I haven’t. I’m really sorry to put you out but I’ll get you a present."
Paul: Oh, now that’s why you want her back on.
Marcus: Er, well no. Well, yes, that would be nice. But she got me a present because she felt that she had kind of messed up.
Marcus: And the present was basically a little kind of mini, tiny mini hamper from Marks & Spencer’s full of chocolate related items.
Paul: Ah, bless her. Which you didn’t share with me.
Marcus: Which was fantastic. No, because considering I had to do the fixing of it.…
Paul: Yeah, fair enough.
Marcus: … It was for me. But she said “Make sure…” this was after I had eaten it all. She said “I hope…” Because I said thanks very much via email, sent a picture of it, it was lovely, lovely, lovely. And she said “Make sure you share it with Paul.” And I said “Okay.” Or words to that effect…
Paul: Oh, okay and you had already eaten it.
Marcus: After I had eaten it.
Paul: Well, I know what a pain in the arse it can be editing the show so I don’t resent you, I don’t resent that. You earnt that in that particular case. You’ve had to deal with some shitty ones recently so.
Marcus: The weight off my shoulders and chest now is…
Paul: You were living with guilt were you?
Marcus: I’ve confessed and now the guilt has left me.
Marcus: Ah, so, so much better.
Paul: That’s okay, that’s all right. I’ll forgive you. Yeah, we ought to perhaps get Ellen back but I feel like there’s other people out there as well and you know, it would just be good. I think a lot of people think, I can’t be on the show. It’s like with the lightening talks, people feel that they have to have something specific. I don’t care! Anybody.
Marcus: The lightening talks for me were the best season in a long time.
Paul: Yeah, exactly.
Marcus: Because, in this is straight of the top of my head because I haven’t thought about this, but I think it’s because it wasn’t all the expected names.
Paul: Exactly. Yeah. So I am thinking next season I am going to do something very kind of broad. I thought we would do something like user interface design. So there will be tons of designers that can come on and share maybe a bit about a project that they have worked on or whatever else. But this time we will do it, we will include them for the whole show. We will get them in and, you know, actually on the show and rather than just the talks. But yes, I just think… I think it’s nice to have guest but also I do like it when it is just us. It’s good.
Marcus: Yes, basically in a very long winded way of agreeing with you and we should do it more often.
Marcus: Maybe do it in the pub!
Paul: Ah, that’s such a good idea. We could do a whole season from the pub. And in fact we could record the whole season in a single sitting so as the season goes on we get more and more drunk. Oh, that would be such a funny one!
Marcus: I was thinking more sort of pub crawl style, it has to be a different pub every week. But yeah, either one would do
Paul: Yeah, no, I like this plan.
Marcus: We would really annoy people though. Who were these idiots in the corner blathering on?
Paul: Yeah, that would be.… We would have to have a special room, wouldn’t we. To get drunk in by ourselves. That’s another thing we ought to do mind. Is a meet up. We haven’t done a meet up for ages. I went to meet up in Southampton.
Marcus: Yes, I saw that. I was impressed by your keenness Paul, thinking “Ooh, not sure I would have gone." But I should. But I should. This is the theme for this show. I should do that.
Paul: Yeah, you should. And didn’t.
Marcus: And I didn’t.
Paul: Well that one came about because I did the… I sent out a newsletter, you know, my biweekly newsletter that I send out. And in those things you are always inevitably asking people to do the something. Sign up for my course! Buying my UX cards, by my book. Hire me. You know, blah, blah, blah. Which is kinda the point of them but I sent out one where I just said “I always do that why don’t… Let’s turn it around, if you’ve got a favour you would like to ask me.” I got some lovely… I got such a lovely response from so many people it was great. And people mainly just said “No, it’s great, we really appreciate what you send me.” But I did get a few requests for favours and one of them was a meet up group in Southampton said why don’t you come along and give a presentation. So I went along and did a “Ask me anything” instead. It was just a really good evening and it was really… We had a really good time. So I have decided I am going to do more. Apparently, now this shocked me, there’s a really good little UX community going in Bournemouth, just down the road from me. So I’m definitely going to get involved in that which is brilliant. I really enjoy it.
Marcus: I wonder if a certain Ed Meritt is a part of that, probably not, knowing Ed. He’ll be part of the baking bread and barbecuing fraternity.
Paul: Yes, meet up.
Marcus: Yes. But I have to… All the way back to the way you started that, you said, and this is really important, it’s not!
Marcus: Your biweekly podcast.
Paul: My biweekly newsletter.
Marcus: Newsletter. Podcast is a thing we are doing right now!
Paul: Does that mean twice a week or does it mean every other week?
Marcus: Well guess? What do you think!
Paul: Well, biweekly I meant it as every other week.
Marcus: There is a word for that but…
Paul: Well it is called a fortnight but if you talk about a fortnight Americans don’t understand you.
Marcus: Well, the answer is it’s either. How rubbish is that!
Paul: Ah, that is really useless! Yes.
Marcus: They changed it. Biannual means twice a year and they, somebody, created another word biennial for every other year but bimonthly means twice a month or every month other month. And biweekly means the same.
Paul: Ah, that’s useless.
Paul: So I got my… Talking of designers and next season of the podcast and UI designers and that kind of stuff, I got myself into trouble again on Twitter.
Marcus: Uh Oh! I missed this.
Paul: But more importantly I got someone else into trouble which is a lot more fun, right?
Marcus: I thought you were going to feel bad about that then for a minute!
Paul: No, no. No, I don’t mind getting other people into trouble.
Marcus: Oh, I did see it, I did see it. Yes.
Paul: It really… I was somewhat shocked at the response I got. So I tweeted… There’s a great, I watched a really great presentation called “Beyond the tipping point” by Jared Spool who is an absolute hero of mine. It’s a really good presentation and in the presentation he said “Anyone who influences the outcome of a design is making design decisions and is therefore a designer.” And I was… So I tweeted that, which I thought was a very reasonable comment. And I kind of could see where he was coming from but a lot of people really didn’t like that idea. Well, designers didn’t like that idea. Essentially we’ve reduced their career to nothing. But I don’t think… In my mind that wasn’t what he was getting at. He was just saying… He wasn’t saying they were good designers or trained designers but you know, if you are influencing a design and you are making design decisions, either consciously or subconsciously then in a sense you are a designer. I thought that made perfect sense.
Marcus: It’s a funny one isn’t it? Again, referring to how probably most of this particular podcast episode is going to run, I could sign off my emails as Marcus Lillington UX designer.
Marcus: Because I do UX design quite a lot of the time. But I do feel very strange about doing that because I’ve had no training in it. So I can see why people take the other… Because if you have had lots of training, if you have been to you know, University and done design and studied all the great designers of the 20th century et cetera, et cetera, that that kind of comment could get up your nose a bit. So…
Paul: Well I have done all of those things. And I consider myself a professional designer. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see other people as designing. Whether you call… And so therefore in a sense they are designers, right? They are shit designers sometimes, you know…
Marcus: Me doing a logo!
Paul: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t mean that what they produce is always good. Although sometimes it is. I think as designers we can be very dismissive of people that come from a non-design background, that they can’t have good ideas and that is bollocks. I think, I think it’s the context that matters doesn’t it. And in this particular case what Jared was getting at in the presentation was that there are all these people across the organisation effectively making design decisions from senior executives through to project managers, through to developers, all of which are affecting the user experience and having an impact on design. Therefore our job as professional designers is to ensure that those people are making good design decisions, all right? That they are being educated and informed about making good design. Because the alternative is that you try and hoard everything and only the designers make the decisions. But actually that doesn’t… Well, it’s not scalable for a start. And also it is naïve to think that that is ever going to happen. The reality is that there are always going to be people making decisions that impact a design beyond, you know, just pure designers. And so it is our job to help educate people and to improve… You know, to become design leaders is what he was kind of inspiring people to be.
Marcus: There’s also this kind of… To dig up another Twitter discussion is the “What is a designer?” I know we kind of said it could be anybody who is making design decision but you know, there is this “I’m a designer,” that usually tends to mean that I do visual stuff. I design logos, for example, or “I do user interfaces” or that kind of thing. But someone who designs an engine or someone that designs a wireframe, maybe, and this is getting into that kind of slightly, kind of, what is a designer territory. I think that people, using the kind of visual designer type thing, people who design logos and interfaces and that kind of thing, I think there’s a certain amount of you are born with it. I think you can learn it, you can learn about the kind of rules that go with graphic design et cetera, et cetera. But I think you tend to have to have a bit of spark in that area to be any good at it. Whereas, learning about, researching the inputs into creating a good wireframe is something that you can learn. And I don’t think that you do need to have a kind of natural talent for that. And I have written about that, why I have said all of that is to prove that I have written a blog post!
Paul: Oh. There you go, well done.
Marcus: A long time ago, it was about two years ago but it does happen. So it’s a good place to start, that I do do that sort of thing once in awhile.
Play Discussion at: 14:38
Paul: Which brings us nicely on to the topic for today. So, we have been talking about content marketing and, as I think I have said on a previous show, the entire season was basically about getting Marcus to market Headscape properly. So we kind of skirted around it with various guests but this show is where the rubber meets the road, right? So what we are going to expose you to is essentially conversations that me and Marcus have kind of had a little bit behind the scenes for ages, right? Since I have left Headscape, about how Headscape needs to do more marketing, more promotion and that kind of stuff. And so I’m going to share a little bit about what I do with Boagworks which is my own business now with the idea that maybe Marcus can do some of those things himself and introduce those into Headscapes working practices. My hope is that while we have that conversation that may be there’s some stuff that you can integrate into your business. Whether that is running your own agency, being a freelancer or even in-house for an organisation that is selling a product or something like that. All of the advice, all the experiences that I share I think will be applicable in all of those situations. So I thought a good place to start, Marcus, was what is stopping you? Why… Because let’s be honest other than this podcast really you guys do nothing from a marketing point of view. It is all word of mouth now isn’t it?
Marcus: Yes. I mean to say nothing is too strong but the occasional blog post, that’s it.
Marcus: I like writing and I think Chris does as well a bit. I’m going to go back on what I have just said, Chris has agreed to speak at a conference.
Marcus: I know! Wow, I fell off my chair as well. He tried to get me to do it and I said, and to the point of him saying, I’ll fret about it, this is him saying, I’ll fret about it. So I said “All right then, I’ll do it.” And he said “No, no, I’ve got to do it.” (Laughter) So it’s like, he’s going to be talking at a sort of charity tech kind of conference that’s run by one of the payment providers that the charities use. So hurray! So it is little steps, very tiny steps but generally speaking we don’t do enough. And what’s stopping me? I think… Earlier on I started to write things down about this and I think one of the things that is stopping me is that I know I can do it, and I know the rest of the guys can kind of do it but what we have a habit of doing is; there will be a bit of a flurry and then it will fizzle out for a while and there’ll be nothing, nothing at all. And I know that that is bad so therefore I don’t do anything at all. Do you see what I mean?
Marcus: It’s kind of like a backwards logic to that. But I kind of just go “I don’t want to make this big fanfare and maybe do something that people like and then there’s just silence for six months.” So all of this comes down to worry really. That’s one of them. The other one is that this is the stuff that you do Paul. It’s not what I do, I do kind of sales and lots of other things and I’m talking about hosting today, of all things, with a client. So you know, marketing that’s not what I do, that’s what Paul does. So, so, you know, I’m not very good at it really.
Paul: Ah, okay. But is that… Do you honestly think that? Or is that just an excuse?
Marcus: A bit of both, because I kind of generally think… You know, we’ve talked about impostor syndrome many times on this podcast with other people.
Paul: Yeah, yeah.
Marcus: And I feel like I am the biggest impostor in the entire industry. Most of the time I don’t care, it’s fine, whatever. But as I mentioned earlier about design training, I don’t have any training at all. I am a musician, that’s what I did and then I kind of wandered into doing this and then wandered into doing that and I’ve ended up here.
Paul: But you’ve wondered into it for a very long time now so even if you started from zero knowledge after what? 15, 20 years surely you end up knowing something?
Marcus: Yep, and I’m intelligent enough to realise that. I can talk endlessly about things we do so I must know something.
Paul: Yeah, but I know what you mean. Impostor syndrome isn’t logical is it?
Marcus: No, not at all. So then you think, I’m just lazy then.
Paul: Yeah, Okay.
Marcus: I don’t want to add to my workload, who does?! So, yeah. But I’m not really that lazy. I get up early and I get on with it and you know, I work pretty hard. But with this task maybe I am. But as you say it might just be an excuse. What’s the next thing I’ve written here… I like writing, I do like writing but I don’t like having to write.
Marcus: And I can compare that exactly the same with making music. When I stopped being a professional musician, well, not immediately but I stopped being a professional musician, that was when my kids were tiny so I was kind of taken up with babies and things like that. And then I met some guys locally and I joined a band. And I can remember at the time saying it was the best musical experience I have ever had. It was basically because it was all for fun. There was no pressure on it whatsoever and it just was wonderful. If I write now, and I do, I mentioned earlier, I was kind of joking with it, but I do write the odd article, it’s because I want to. I enjoy writing something I want to write. But if it’s Monday and I got to write something then it suddenly stops being something I’m enjoying doing. I think that’s the case. What else have I written!? Oh yes, I have written, and this is me maybe getting a little bit deeper on it. It is the un-measurability of it, and what I mean by that…
Marcus: … Is if I do a lot of work in this area I can’t guarantee that that will equal a piece of work, nice new shiny client comes in the door later on. It’s all kind of just a bit fuzzy.
Marcus: Yeah. Which doesn’t mean… I’m perfectly aware that you need to do that but that’s another reason why it would get pushed to the back, and get pushed to the kind of the back burner because there’s something far more important, in air quotes, that I should be doing because it, you know, relates to a client, that needs doing right now. So it’s that kind of woolliness and fuzziness. To finish this off, I’m not that keen on the idea of marketing at all. I don’t like being marketed to, I never have. So therefore I’ve always been a bit squirmy about doing it myself, and then maybe don’t take it as seriously as I should. This is all kind of… I’m saying these things knowing what the right thing is to do here but you said “So what’s stopping you?” So I’m trying to get deep down inside and I think it’s because I don’t take it that seriously.
Paul: Yeah, and I think that… I think it’s good to say that because I think everything that you have just listed I hear from a lot of other people. You know, marketing feels a little bit dirty doesn’t it and a bit kind of like you’re manipulating people or you are having to whore yourself out, for want of a better word. It is much nicer to think that you can sit back and everybody admires your work and goes “Oh, I want to work with them.” The un-measurability I really associate with as well. Especially by our point in our career because I think both of us, I think both Headscape and myself could sit on our laurels to some degree and just live off the back of word-of-mouth and reputation.
Marcus: Yeah, we have made a conscious decision not to grow and part of that is because we think we can survive without… we can survive off reputation. Whether we can survive for another 10 or 15 years, which is probably realistically how long we’ve got till we retire, I don’t know. Which is why this is serious and I do need to take it seriously but you know, if we don’t market we won’t suddenly have no business.
Paul: Yeah, which is a difficult challenge to face isn’t it? Especially when you get busy as well, you think “Everything is going great, I don’t need to market.” But of course then things slow down because you are not marketing or potentially. And then you go into this frenzy of marketing and everything gets busy again and then you slow down and don’t market as much and you get this kind of boom bust. But also there’s such a delay between doing the marketing activity and getting the return from it. It’s not like you write one blog post and you will get X number of leads off of it. You know, it is a cumulative effect. That kind of grows over time.
Marcus: Is it though? That’s the thing with me. It’s like if I do loads of marketing activity will it actually mean we will get more work? Logic says to me yes, it’s like you are spreading the word further which means more people talk about you, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But again, it’s the un-measurability thing. It doesn’t… One doesn’t equal the other. There’s lots of bits in between.
Paul: Yeah. And well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. So for example I did a presentation, a webinar for terminal4, I think it was last week, which was great, it was actually a paid piece of work so it wasn’t really marketing in a sense, but it was. But immediately after that I got an email from somebody saying “Hey, we’d love you to speak at our away day. I really enjoyed your webinar.” So sometimes there is a direct relationship but where it gets kind of more circumvent is would I have got that gig to do the webinar if I wasn’t blogging or podcasting every week? You know, there was very much a direct relationship between, in my career at least, of when I started to put out content then I started to get approached asking me to speak at conferences. Then I started to get book offers and so one kind of built on the other. But it is a cumulative effect that happens over years rather than necessarily being kind of a magic formula that gives you results straightaway. And I think that that is problematic. That lack of causal effect.
Marcus: Yes, exactly. And it takes me right back to the sort of the first point which is I am worried about putting a load of effort into something that fizzles out. That you need to keep on doing it. I mean, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with you wholeheartedly that it has to be, that you have to put something out weekly or daily or whatever. I think it just has to be regular.
Paul: Yes, and no, I would agree with that. I think it’s fine to put something… There is a certain threshold where it becomes, you know, putting something out quarterly for example, I think probably would be too big a gap. Well, maybe not. But it’s the regularity of it that I think is more important than the frequency of it, if that makes sense. And this whole thing about marketing feeling a little bit dirty or not particularly pleasant. You see, that I can associate with as well which is why I think that the stuff that I tend to put out is more for… Has got to have value in its own right. You know, it’s not… Like I hate writing product reviews because somebody has paid me to because that doesn’t feel real. I hate, you know, I wouldn’t… You’ve got to produce value in itself for the people that are reading it and I think that is the difference between maybe content marketing and traditional marketing. You’re not just broadcasting at people you are offering them content of value. You are sharing your expertise is what we are basically talking about and that, you know, I see that as more than just a marketing effort, that’s a, you know, teaching people stuff. I see myself primarily as an educator with what I put out. And Boagworld and this podcast has got to be primarily an educational resource or a community resource and the fact that it wins me work sometimes is kind of a secondary part of it. And I think it still is even now, especially now, to be honest because now I have kind of reached the point where work kind of comes in by itself and so it has become more as a it’s just something that I do and, you know, people know me and they kind of respect what I’ve got to say and that’s great and so I want to keep sharing what I’ve done. So there’s got to be more behind it than just a marketing effort otherwise it is going to feel like something that you kind of, ugh, struggle to do. Do you see what I mean?
Marcus: Yes, and that’s what makes it particularly difficult when it’s not something you don’t do naturally. Which… But we will cover that later, I think will talk about that in a bit.
Paul: Yeah, yes. So I mean, okay, let’s talk about finding some time for this because I think time is the biggest problem. So how I deal with it, and by the way this doesn’t need to be blogging necessarily, right? This podcast is an example of it. You could do video, YouTube videos, you could just do social media stuff. You could be actively involved in a kind of open source thing if you were a developer. You could be posting to dribble or whatever it is for you. But I think what’s necessary is to kind of ring fence some time to do that kind of stuff. To actively engage with a wider audience beyond clients and your colleagues at work. That’s how I view it. It’s about engaging with people outside of your immediate network. So perhaps it is more networking, which equally people find just as distasteful! But you know, you learn a lot through doing stuff as well as putting content out. So for me, I ring fence Mondays for it. So every Monday I dedicate to doing marketing. So sometimes it kind of shifts around a little bit and sometimes I do stuff on other days and all the rest of it but primarily most Mondays are set aside for this. So normally on a Monday I will write a blog post and I will record this show, which is what we are doing today, most times it’s Monday, not always. So every other week I also write the newsletter. So that’s kind of the three pillars of what I am putting out every week. But I don’t think it is necessary to do that much for most people. Going back to what you are saying about you don’t want to start something that fizzles out, I think that’s the real danger if you say “Oh, I’m going to do a newsletter and I’m going to do a blog post and I’m going to do you know…” So you get one thing that is working regularly for you which you have kind of already got in the podcast. Then you build on it and you add more to it. So, I started blogging then I added the podcast and then I added the newsletter over time as I knew I could sustain it. Because of course the more you do it the easier it gets as well. So, for example if you look at the editing of the podcast that you do, it doesn’t take you that long compared to what it would have done previously, I’m guessing.
Marcus: Um, yes. Technical issues aside that kind of true.
Paul: Yeah, so it’s about finding a regular time, because if you don’t find a regular time I think, like you say, it always gets pushed out by other stuff. So, that’s one part of it. Also I think if you look at it and you start going “I just don’t have the time to do that, I couldn’t make the time.” Not necessarily a whole day but however much it is. Then that rings alarm bells in terms of the rate that you are charging out at. Whether actually you are not charging enough if you are not allowing some marketing and sales overhead in that. Does that make sense?
Paul: That’s not the case with Headscape I know because you could make the time if you wanted to.
Marcus: I think I could and I think Chris could as well. But not all the time, that’s my concern here. Sometimes we are absolutely… Sometimes I go away for a week and I’m running workshops for a whole week. I mean, that is pretty rare but it does happen. I was reading these points earlier and I thought “Does that mean we should be hiring somebody else to do this?” And it’s like… Because could we afford to do it? Possibly, well not… Could we afford someone for half a day a week? Yes, we probably could.
Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean that’s certainly an option. You could go down that route. I’m not a huge fan of it because I don’t think then that you get the other values that come from doing this kind of stuff. So for example I do it… We are go to touch on this later, but I do it as much as a learning experience for me and as a way of me articulating the things that I am learning and being a reference, a piece of reference material and various other reasons as well. So there are other benefits to doing this kind of stuff. And you know, if you get somebody else to do it you are not getting those benefits.
Marcus: What I’ve got in my head is just someone to beat me with a stick really! Someone to make me do it. And if you’re paying that person then it really would make you do it. And you know, maybe they would do some element of it, I don’t know, I’ve got no idea. This is completely off the top of my head.
Paul: Yeah, and I don’t have a problem with that. I think that is certainly something that is worth considering. But I would say you could be doing it all the time, Marcus, if you planned ahead a little bit! You know, I have weeks where I go away for a week to a conference or I am working on-site with a client and it is simply a matter of “Oh, okay, we’ve got to record two podcasts this week.” You know, you go away on holiday sometimes and we still manage to get the podcast out every week.
Marcus: I end up editing them when I am on holiday though.
Paul: Well that’s just because you are badly organised.
Marcus: No, it’s because you can’t do it. (Laughter)
Paul: Errrmm. Yeah, there is a degree of that! No, I can do it, of course I can do it. It’s just I don’t do it to the standard you expect! But my point is… All right then, take it another way, I went away for three weeks to Canada recently and I still put out a blog post every week.
Marcus: Yes, I know, I was just being cheeky Paul. You are absolutely right, if you are organised then you can take all of these things into account. Yes, of course you can.
Paul: The other way is, you know, if you are really struggling to do it then you know, maybe you need to do it in an evening once in awhile. I mean, that’s how Boagworld started. You guys… I remember, I don’t suppose you do because you get selective memory over these kinds of things but I remember that you guys thought I… You thought it was a waste of time. And actually I was doing it in the evenings, because you couldn’t, at the time, see the value of it. And by the way this was a long time ago before anybody really saw the value of things like blogging. But you know, so I just did it in the evening and then as we began to see the returns of it then it became a little bit, you know, more worthwhile doing. And that kind of stuff. So it might be that you need to, not you Marcus, but the listener, because I think you could find time in the day.
Marcus: I could, definitely.
Paul: The other thing that I try, so I’ve got the blog post, we’ve got the podcast and we’ve got the newsletter. Then I also try and read every evening. So I try and read three articles every evening. I don’t always… This is where I do fall down but that is the principal. You know, we should be learning anyway, do you see what I mean? We’ve all got to learn. Then I try and then turn that into, that either becomes inspiration for my own blog post or alternatively social media shares and updates and that kind of stuff. So that’s why anything like this, because it is such a time commitment I have to get more value out of it than just being some theoretical marketing return that is quite hard to measure. You know, it’s got to teach me something, I have got to learn something, it’s got to have more value, does that make sense?
Marcus: Absolutely. I don’t read anywhere near enough industry, air quotes again, related stuff. I do some but not as much as I should. As I have often joked but it isn’t really a joke, I learn everything from this show because we have fantastic guests on pretty much every week who are talking about all sorts of different things and I’m like “Hmmm, that’s great, I’m picking up loads and loads of stuff.” This is something that I could change easily. Because I’m always reading stuff but it tends to be more general news related or my personal favourite reading is nearly always fiction. But I can replace that easily. This is the thing that I think I should do first.
Paul: Yes, I agree.
Marcus: I could decide, right, every, I don’t know, Thursday afternoon I am going to spend three hours doing this and then I am going to dive straight in to writing blog posts and whatever. I think maybe the first thing to do, little steps type of thing, is to start just absorbing, absorbing, absorbing, and reading more basically.
Paul: Yes, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Totally agree with that.
Marcus: Then take it from there.
Paul: And the great… What will happen is is that you will read something, you’ll read an article, there will be some quote that jumps out at you and you’ll think “That’s really cool.” So what you then need to do is not just stop there of going that’s really cool but to turn that into a LinkedIn update, right? Where you quote the bit that you’ve just read and then put a couple of lines about why you think it’s cool and then a link back to the source, and share that.
Marcus: Mmm Hmm.
Paul: You know, just doing that will… But what you need to do is you need to make sure you get a tool like Buffer. The buffer mobile app, right? And why that is so good is because then obviously you are going to sit and read those points all at the same time, you know, you’re going to read all your articles in the evening or whatever and so as a result you need to have a tool that spreads them out when they are posted. So, absolutely, I think that would be such a great… Like three articles is 30 minutes tops, every day. It’s not a lot is it really?
Marcus: I do have a bit of a problem with not finishing articles though. I have a… Maybe it’s just a personal thing that maybe I’ll read it and go “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh that’s an interesting point.” And then be distracted by something. Or…
Paul: But that’s okay. I think if you get to a point where you’ve got the gist of the article or is not particularly inspiring you, move on.
Marcus: Yeah. Yeah.
Paul: You know, there’s so much content out there, you know. Instapaper is such a great reading app on the iPhone and it can deliver to the Kindle if you prefer that as well. And then you just send it from… You pull out a bit, you send it from Instapaper onto Buffer and that shares it on to LinkedIn and Twitter. So it’s easy job. So I would agree that’s a great point to start with.
Marcus: I will.
Paul: And another thing that works really well is to make yourself accountable in some way. So the fact that we say a podcast goes out every Thursday, you know, that makes sure it happens, doesn’t it.
Marcus: Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
Paul: Exactly. Now, you won’t get that from your social updates but maybe when you start blogging or you start combining those different updates together into a newsletter for example because that’s quite an easy one to do. Where you send out a fortnightly newsletter that is all the latest articles that you’ve read. So that’s a nice easy next step. then you want to start committing yourself, you know, it goes out every Tuesday or whatever because that helps.
Let’s take a little pause and just talk about our sponsor and then we will dive back into the conversation and look a little bit more not so much time which is what we’ve been looking at so far but making blogging happen. Or, not even blogging. Podcasting as well or videos or whatever else. Anyway, our sponsor is ResourceGuru which is all very relevant in terms of available time and that kind of thing because ResourceGuru helps you find that kind of time. Particularly this time of year it is quite a useful tool to have because we have the holiday season fast approaching which means that we have a lot of projects to square away but also a lot of people going on holiday and taking vacations and that all gets very confusing and you end up with a lot of last-minute scheduling mishaps because there’s so many different moving parts. Everybody wants their project done before Christmas and all of that kind of thing. So, having something like ResourceGuru helps to kind of avoid those problems and enables you to relax a little bit more. It’s a fast and simple way to plan your projects so that you can take that time off over Christmas. It gives you an accurate up to date view of everything that is going on. Who is busy, who is available, what they are doing. So you can be a lot more confident about your project and whether they are on track and what resources you need in order to be able to deliver those projects before the holidays start really kind of biting and everybody disappears. You don’t want to be spending Christmas working to meet those unexpected deadlines. Used by all kinds of organisations including Headscape but also Apple, Uber, Ogilvy, Nasa. A lot more impressive organisations then Headscape to be honest.
Marcus: Considerably. Yes.
Paul: Yeah. You can start your free trial by going to – ResourceGuru.io/Boagworld. You can subscribe using the coupon Boag2017 and you will get 20% off the lifetime of your account which is obviously a hugely good deal. So that is ResourceGuru.
Yes, so one of the things that I kind of hinted at a lot when we were talking a minute ago was the idea that you need to have some kind of motivation beyond just, you know, “Oh this might have a marketing benefit.” Because that goes back to what you were saying about you don’t know when that’s going to happen or there is no direct correlation. So I think this is a really big one. So, for me I think even if nobody read my blog I would still blog.
Paul: There’s kind of three reasons for me for that. The first one is that when I learn something new it kind of buzzes… I don’t know whether other people have this problem, perhaps it’s a shortcoming in my own mental processes or something but stuff kind of buzzes around in my head and it feels like lots of fragmented pieces. I need a way of processing what I have learnt. Also I know I’ve got… So writing it down in a blog post helps me to process it and get it all straight in my head, if that makes sense.
Marcus: Yeah, totally.
Paul: So, for example this coming week. No, it will already have come out by the time this podcast comes out. I’ve written a blogpost about how to go from gathering user questions all the way through card sorting and top task analysis, all the way to information architecture for your site. The reason I wrote that is because I’ve had… I’ve been talking about this a lot with various clients but it felt a little fragmented in my head and I needed to kind of get it all down in a logical way so I blog partly because of that. The other reason I blog is because I have this horrendous memory and writing something helps me remember it. But also then I can search on my own blog post. I think I said this before on a previous show that I probably use my own search as much as I use the Google search. So it’s this huge repository of great reference material that helps clarify things. Then finally it also looks really impressive to clients. You know, if you can say… If you have a conversation with a client and they ask a question you can give them the answer and you can say here is a resource which repeats all of that and it’s all laid out very neatly for you. Or putting it in proposals when you want to kind of explain in a bit more detail what information architecture is or whatever else. So having this repository of posts is just so valuable and looks so, so impressive. So there are lots of reasons to do it beyond just you know, because its marketing.
Marcus: Yeah, and that last point actually really relates to why I would be doing this. You know, how can I put this? I am not expecting any kind of Headscape blog to be a great resource that thousands of people kind of refer to a lot. It’s more that it’s the case of it would be… It could help us talk to clients.
Marcus: If you’ve got something that’s not just the proposal, because proposals are very sales-y really, it would help that process. But as you said you would blog if nobody read it and I wouldn’t, that’s the difference here. Therefore that’s why I like the idea of getting more into reading because that might inspire more things because I feel that I have to be inspired to write something. So I would want more inspiration points to make that happen. At least I like writing. Because a lot of people don’t like writing. I mean, that’s one point that I don’t have to worry about, although I am a bit too fussy about it when I write. I don’t know if you talk about that on here?
Paul: I don’t particularly but yeah, that is a big problem isn’t it? I know a lot of people struggle with that.
Marcus: But you know, maybe I’ve just got to try and get over that or just put more effort in. What all this boils down to is just putting a bit more effort in really. You mentioned something earlier about once you get started it becomes easier. And that’s the same with a lot of things isn’t it?
Paul: Yes, of course.
Marcus: No one likes a bank page do they? Even writing a blog post is much easier when you’re two thirds of the way through it and I think this whole process, if there is a kind of backlog of stuff that has happened for two years then it will become more of a habit and it’ll be that much easier I’m thinking. Fingers crossed!
Paul: Keeping that list of ideas as well of inspiration is I think a really important one. So that you are not just sitting down and going, okay, what am I going to write now? I mean, I do that in Things, the task organiser and I have basically three types of posts that I have so I have new posts, so new ideas that have inspired me. Then I have old posts that I want to rewrite because they are a bit out of date. So now my own blog has become my own inspiration because I have been doing it for so long which is quite nice. You can look back at stuff and go “Ooo, that has moved on a bit, I ought to update my thinking on that.” Then the final one is I’ve got what I call Cornerstone posts which are longer pieces that draw together various strands on a subject. So, for example I have written loads of stuff about writing for the web so I need to have something that kind of unifies that and holds it all together. But again, that is something that is as much for me as it is for the reader because obviously I am not going to remember all the nuances of every article I have ever written on writing for the web. So having this kind of one-stop shop that then points me at the right articles is really useful but, of course, that is also useful for the reader. You so, you know, again it’s always having that kind of difference… Different reasons for doing it. You have got to always have more than one reason for doing it I think. The other thing that I do is I map out a little bit ahead. And this is the problem with you talking about "I need inspiration to write.” That means you are never getting ahead of yourself particularly.
Marcus: Yeah, what I’m hoping will happen is that I will be inspired, if I start reading more I’ll be inspired more and I will make a list. Because as I’ve said I am not intending to do this massively frequently, I just want to do it regularly. So if I look back at the things that I have written over the last three years, say, then they will be like a… Usually there’s two or three that I will write in a month or two and then there will be six months with nothing. What I want to do is kind of one a month maybe, maybe one every fortnight, something like that. I’m hoping that the inspiration, that I’ll have many inspirations that will just go into the “That is something you could write about in two months time.”
Paul: Yeah, yeah. So, I basically… This is where I use CoSchedule which we talked about obviously last week. Where I’ve got about a month of posts mapped out ahead and they normally have even a few bullet points of what I am going to cover so I know what I have got to write next and there is a framework around which I start writing. And then I try and write at least one week ahead of what is currently going on so I don’t need to panic too much. So, scheduling is a way of avoiding that kind of “Oh shit, I’ve got to write something.” Feeling and getting ahead of yourself. Like you say, I don’t think anybody likes sitting down and thinking ”I have to write something." And there is a pressure to do it right now, you know.
Marcus: Yes, that is what I want to avoid, very much.
Paul: Which is why you need to build up a few ahead of yourself. Write a load and don’t publish them yet. You know, so you’ve got half a dozen behind you. Then, going back to the whole business of you saying about being to picky. That’s when it comes back to Ernest Hemingway’s great quote of “Write drunk, edit sober.” You know, so when you first write it you have just got to write through without thinking. As if you are having a conversation with someone. And then you go back and be picky afterwards but your first go through you have got to just let it happen really. But we’ve kind of, we’ve kind of done this in a little more depth when we talked about blogging with Vitali earlier in the season so I won’t necessarily go into all of that. But basically it boils down to that I do an initial pass, I then edit it, I then put a bit of thought into SEO these days but again that’s not essential if I’m honest but you know, as you become more confident you introduce more complexity into it so I spend a bit of time on SEO. Adding imagery, you guys are rubbish at that! (Laughter) When you write posts you never put any imagery in it. It means that it looks just like this intimidating block of text.
Marcus: Yes, we do… At least it’s not too enormous paragraphs any more. At least it’s kind of broken up with headings and things.
Paul: You’re getting there.
Marcus: Imagery is a funny one isn’t it. It’s kind of like… I often feel like I might kind of hunt around for something I think is maybe relevant and then I look at it and I’ll go "No, it looks like it’s trying to hard.” And then I just don’t do anything.
Paul: Yeah, I do know what you mean. I do understand it. And sometimes I feel like I am putting images in for the sake of it but then I always put captions with my images and then I try and make the caption be almost like a pull out quote in another form, if that makes sense.
Marcus: If it is relevant then yes, then is easy. Let’s say we are talking, a case study, for example, which is not what we are talking about here but that is a much easier thing to fill with images because you are talking about, usually talking about a website so it is easy. But if you’re talking about something that’s a bit more etherial, for want of a better word, then it’s harder to find images. Well I find it is anyway.
Paul: It is a tricky one. So then I always record an audio version of it as well because I find that a little bit more approachable, a little bit more human and I know a lot of people like that. So I have been doing that and that seems to have gone down really well. And again, that goes back down to the recycling thing we talked about in previous episode. Then I go through and prepare all the social media updates and that’s a nice thing you can do in CoSchedule so you can set your blog post to post and then as soon as it does a whole load of social media updates associated with it. So I usually send updates twice on the day that it is published for different time zones. I’ve got one that goes out the next day, one that goes out the next week and then one that goes out the next month. I make sure there’s a nice image associated with every post that goes out as well so it gets the maximum, you know, exposure that it possibly can. So it’s not that much work. I reckon I spent three hours on a blog post. Something like that.
Marcus: I spend a lot more than that. But that’s just…
Paul: It’s practice.
Marcus: Yes, exactly. It’s getting good at something isn’t it.
Paul: Well we are running massively behind schedule, have you noticed that?
Marcus: Yeah, what are we at now?
Paul: 54 minutes.
Paul: I know. So we better do our second sponsor which is GatherContent. Gather content has been supporting the whole season. They are a great tool for managing the content on your website, app or even social media campaign for that matter. So it is great for gathering and organising website content in a single place. You can create an inventory of all your content, you can define your site map, you can even create templates to help contributors know how they have got to add content or that they are adding it in a structured way and thinking about the right kind of things and that kind of stuff. You can import content into pretty much any content management system certainly a shit load of them from GatherContent. I suppose you are exporting, whatever, importing, exporting depending on how you are looking at it. Exporting it from GatherContent into a CMS. You can also define your requirements and rules for any content, any workflows and that kind of stuff. It really is just a lifesaver in terms of dealing with content heavy websites and getting content into those websites. So, you can do a 30 day free trial no need for a credit card or anything like that. Just go to GatherContent.com/boagworld and check it out. I’m not sure whether to do this. I was going to talk a little bit about social but I’m wondering whether we need to perhaps save that for another time because we are kind of going so long. I don’t know? What do you think Marcus, shall we keep going?
Marcus: Yeah, keep going. We will just steam through it.
Paul: Okay, because really this is almost more relevant to you isn’t it because this is the bit that you want to do next is the more kind of social aspects of it. Maybe updating LinkedIn or Twitter based on what you are reading.
Marcus: Yes, exactly. I mean, as I have already said the reading thing is as much for inspiration for blogging but yes…
Paul: If all it does is inspire some social media updates that would be a start wouldn’t it?
Marcus: That would be a start, exactly.
Paul: Yeah. So I basically have two types of social media updates that I have. There are the ones that are scheduled and then there’s the ones that are spontaneous. So I have a collection of social media updates that are recycled and sent out on a pseudo-regular basis. That might be, you know, quite a prolonged basis. So I basically have one, two, three, four, five different lists. Some of which have got, you know, loads of updates in and some have less. They are sent to, you know, send out every, you know, you can send one from this list every week and three from this list et cetera. CoSchedule basically regurgitates these. So it means I don’t have to constantly be coming up with new content for social media platforms. Does that make sense Marcus? I don’t know whether I explained that very clearly.
Marcus: It makes complete sense and this is when we get into my kind of squirming this about marketing.
Marcus: And I’m like “Ooo, am I not going to irritate people by doing that?”
Paul: Yes if you do it too often. So if you have a… Take for example one of my lists. I will tell you what my lists are. They are evergreen posts, so these are blog posts I know don’t age, all right? That I want to periodically share. There’s the overtly promotional posts which are, you know, “Hey, hire me!” Kind of thing. There are stats and quotes, right? Then I have got those UX culture cards which are pieces of advice and there are 52 of them. Then I’ve got loads of examples of bad user experience that I share every now and again as well. For example, if you take the UX cards, there are 52 because there is a pack and maybe they go out twice a week which means you are not going to see the same card more than twice a year, right? Now, in social media terms that’s forever. So you’re not constantly bombarding people with the same content so it’s important… is it’s the how often people see them and if they are conscious that they are seeing repetition then that gets annoying but if they are not conscious of that then I think it’s all right isn’t it?
Marcus: Yes, I’m not saying there’s any kind of good rhyme or reason behind what I’m saying, it is just kind of feeling. It’s like you can only post something once, surely?
Paul: But you know, when you think what was it Nathan said last week with Twitter? A tweet has got a 15 second life-cycle.
Marcus: Yes, exactly. My logic therefore is that everyone who would be interested in what I have got to say will see that tweet. But of course they won’t!
Paul: But they won’t, yeah. Yes, I know that this is right because from my stats and quotes, right? My stats and quotes list is a shorter list than many so it is regurgitated more often than some of the others. Yet I obviously am paying attention so I see the same quote going out, or the same stat going out but every time I get a reaction to… There’s a certain stat, I can’t remember what it is but every time it goes out people go “Oh, wow, that’s really interesting.” Or “I don’t agree with that.” Or whatever. I will see the same debate happening every time so they are obviously… And it is different people, do you see what I mean.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: So it’s obviously… They are seeing it for the first time and responding to it for the first time so you’ve got to get the scheduling right. Too much and it’s annoying but I think the principle of having a nice kind of repository of stuff to send out is worthwhile. Especially for evergreen posts. You know, I’ve got 12 years of blog posts, you know, those disappear into obscurity once they fall off the front page if I’m not tweeting about them occasionally, do you know what I mean?
Marcus: Absolutely, yes. I’m not disagreeing with you it’s just something I need to get my head around.
Paul: Yes, and I need to expand my lists a bit more if I’m honest so I would like to have a list of videos. Because there’s so many cool UX talks and that kind of stuff that I could be sharing. So having a list of those. I’d like to have another list which is kind of doing little pull outs from various, you know, quotes from articles I have written in the past where there are certain things I know that often gets quoted that I say. For example “Design for somebody alienates nobody.” Is a thing that people often pick up. Or another quote I said once I when I wrote something was “To be a great designer you need to dig a little deeper than what people say they want.” So, you know, I want to collect those together and have them in a little kind of list that can go out. So that’s the scheduled stuff. Then there’s the spontaneous stuff which is “Oh, I’ve read a post and I want to share that.” Right? I’ve got less time for doing that kind of stuff than I would like these days which is why I was saying I don’t always read those three articles I talk about everyday. So, the spontaneous stuff is a little bit harder than the scheduled stuff so I use Coschedule to deal with that kind of scheduled list but then if I’m reading an article then it goes into Buffer, like I was saying earlier. So I focus primarily on Twitter and LinkedIn. Those are the two networks I spent most of my time pushing out. But because you are using something like CoSchedule Buffer it is actually easy to push stuff out to Facebook and Google+ and all the rest as well. So it’s not actually that difficult to post to moat multiple accounts. But the main two I focus on are Twitter and LinkedIn. So, that’s pretty much it in terms of how I kind of work. Marcus, you’ve got this comment here and I don’t quite understand it. Why I stopped using Twitter really.
Marcus: That’s to do with this idea of annoying people.
Marcus: Because on Twitter, obviously there is probably a couple of thousand people still follow me on Twitter even though I post once every six months. I just sort of felt like I was maybe repeating myself or saying things for the sake of it. So I just sort of… Which is a bit like, as we were just talking about, it is the idea of repeating yourself, so I sort of just stopped using it. That was an example of that actually happening, based on what I was just saying there about feeling uncomfortable about repeating stuff I sort of just stopped using Twitter. And also…
Paul: I mean Twitter, I think Twitter has changed in the sense that it is not what it was. You know, I used to use it just to share random thoughts. Now it’s become… It’s almost become an replacement for RSS, right? So I think there is a value, I see myself as a curator for people. So the stuff I push out on Twitter it is useful information that people might want to know, right? So it might be a link to a good article, it might be a quote, it might be a piece of inspiration, that kind of stuff. So it’s kind of, you know, do you get what I’m getting at there?
Paul: So it is useful because it is a repository of useful bits and bobs. That is kind of how I see it. Although, I have to say I think it has made a huge difference them… Did you know they have just increased the character count from hundred…
Marcus: I did, yes.
Paul: … Yeah, and that I think has made quite a big difference in terms of enabling you to give a bit more information. So yeah.
Marcus: I mean, I tended to previously use Twitter, and when I occasionally still do, it’s just for a chatty remark really which as you say, that’s not maybe… I’m not using it properly.
Paul: Well, I think you were. You are, for your personal account but if you are using the Headscape account maybe I would do it a bit differently. Or even with your own account you might choose to go “I’m not using it really for personal anymore so let’s make it a repository for people that have been asked to follow me.” You know.
Marcus: Yeah. Then this kind of comes down to the very last point I made here in the notes which is… I think I said this may be last week or recently anyway. I write a lot of tweets and then delete them because I just sort of think does anyone really care about that and actually am I right?
Marcus: You get this idea of not wanting to to court controversy. And I think that is something that I need to get over a bit.
Paul: Yeah, I can kind of understand that. I mean, I think the way that… The advice I tend to give people over that is always say you are expressing your opinion. Say “I think…” or, “I might be wrong but…” If you say it in a softer tone and you caveat it then you avoid a lot of the potential backlash. Or “I’m no expert but in my experience…” You know? That helps a lot. Then just talking about your personal experiences as well, so for example ”Today I was doing wire framing with a client and we found it was really useful to do…” You know?
Marcus: Yes, absolutely.
Paul: Then of course the other great one is the, you know, just quoting something from an article because then it’s not even you that is saying it, is it. It’s someone else that is saying it!
Marcus: You might be endorsing it though. But yeah, I know what you mean.
Paul: Then you end up getting Jared Spool into trouble, you know!?
Marcus: Yes. (Laughter)
Paul: As we started off with. But I think everybody… You do, sometimes you do get in trouble. You do cause a bit of a shit storm, it is annoying but then people are always going to disagree with you. We talked about this last week. As Nathan said, if no one is disagreeing with you then you are doing it wrong. So.
Marcus: Yeah, okay.
Paul: Anyway, I think we probably ought to wrap this show up.
Marcus: Yes, we ought.
Paul: It’s a bit of a mammoth. You see, this is what happens when it is just the two of us, we waffle on.
Marcus: Chat, chat, chat, chat. Yes.
Paul: Chat, chat, yeah. So anyway, next week we are going to talk about video. I have no idea whether we are going to have a guest on or not. It depends whether somebody volunteers and whether I can be arsed to get around to it, to finding a guest. But I think, yes, we should have a good chat on video. So, Marcus you have a joke for us?
Marcus: I do. I send myself jokes in emails and I didn’t say who sent this one so apologies. But anyway, here we go. What breed of dog only replies to commands in Spanish? Espanol.
Paul: Espanol. A spaniel. Oh, I like that one. I like that one, it’s good. Well done Marcus. Well, I really enjoyed that show even if no one else did.
Marcus: Me too.
Paul: It was just nice to catch up, just the two of us.
Marcus: I’m gonna go and have a little bit of a lie down now.
Paul: Oh, have I tied you out?
Paul: My wife is going to kill me for making the show this long. She’s got to transcribe at least another seven minutes. It’s coming up to 8 now. So we had better stop quick!
Links mentioned in the show
- “Beyond the tipping point” by Jared Spool