On this week’s episode of Performance Delivered, we’re speaking about leadership marketing with special guest Lacy Boggs. Lacy is the Director of The Content Direction Agency, which helps busy thought leaders to consistently publish content that moves them closer to their business goals and captures their voices perfectly.
“When I was getting started, I started working with a brand strategist, and she pointed out to me that I had the gift of being able to write in other people’s voices. I honestly didn’t know that was something that other writers didn’t do, I thought that was something we all did. She told me that she thought a lot of people who had personality-driven brands, whether it was a person, for example, a coach who is the brand, or a product that has a strong personality brand, they would be very interested in having a writer that could mimic that brand voice that was already established. And so that’s sort of what I leaned into as we were growing the business,” says Lacy.
We chat about what it takes to be able to write in someone else’s voice, as well as:
- The differences between leadership marketing and thought leadership marketing
- The importance of channels to your leadership marketing
- Developing a brand personality
- Marketing strategies
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today, we’re going to talk about leadership marketing. Here to speak with me about the topic is Lacy Boggs, who is the director at the Content Direction Agency. Lacy helps busy thought leaders consistently publish the content that moves you closer to your business goals and captures their voice perfectly. Lacy, welcome to the show.
Lacy Boggs: Thank you so much for having me.
Steffen: Lacy, before we dive into today’s topics, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself.
How Lacy Became an Expert in Brand Leadership Marketing
Lacy: Sure. So I’ve been doing this business for about eight years now. Before that, I was a journalist here in Colorado. I worked for a hyper-local magazine in Boulder County, Colorado. I was the food editor there and the associate editor. And that’s nice work if you can get paid to eat. Not a bad job, but it was very time-consuming. We were a very small team, so we worked extremely hard. It was, you know, 60-plus hour weeks on the regular. And sometimes we were, well, most of the time we were there till two or three in the morning every month on deadline for the magazine.
And when I got pregnant with my daughter, I decided that that was not sustainable, especially with a baby. So I went out on my own and decided to freelance. And I did that for about a year. I started a food blog, which because I was a food writer, that made sense, and that’s what you did back in 2011. Everybody was starting a food blog. But I didn’t realize when I started, I didn’t have any business experience at all. And I didn’t realize the business model of a food blog is very much you have to have a huge, massive, massive audience to make any money from it.
So I lovingly call that my four-figure year because I didn’t make very much money at all. And so at the end of that year, I thought to myself, well, I’m pretty good at the writing, the blogging part of this. Maybe other people would pay me to blog for them. And turned out they did, there was definitely a demand for that. And so the content direction agency grew from there. We mostly write blog posts and emails and other ongoing content for small business owners and thought leaders and help them produce more strategic content in their voice without them having to do it themselves.
Steffen: So what made you decide to focus more on developing content for leaders, for business owners instead of going the route that many content specialists go developing content, general content for businesses?
Lacy: Sure. So when I was getting started, I started working with a brand strategist as she was my client. And she pointed out to me that I had the gift of being able to write in other people’s voices. And I honestly didn’t know that was something that other writers didn’t do. I thought that was something we all did. But she told me, she pointed out that it was pretty unique.
And she said to me that she thought a lot of people who had personality-driven brands, whether it was a person, for example, a coach or something like that who is the brand or a product, but that has a strong personality brand, that they would be very interested in having a writer that could mimic that brand voice that was already established.
And so that’s sort of what I leaned into as we were growing the business. And as we have hired other writers, that’s the skill I have looked for so that we can mimic the brand voice of somebody else, so we can sound like them and their followers, their audience need never know that they’ve outsourced if they don’t choose to say so.
Steffen: Interesting. So what does someone have to have in order to write in someone else’s voice? Is there a specific skill set that a person has to have?
Writing in Someone Else’s Voice
Lacy: It’s funny you asked that because it’s been very challenging for me to define it in order to hire for it. What I have found is that people who have a fiction background tend to be really good at it. I think it’s because we have a lot of voices in our heads. So we naturally think in other voices, but also people from journalism backgrounds tend to be able to do it. And I’m not sure why that is, except maybe that they are accustomed to interviewing people and hearing the differences.
You know, when we get down to the nitty-gritty, it comes down to being able to change your diction and the style of your writing to match the style of the brand you’re writing for. So we’ve developed a way of creating brand voice style guides for the writer so that we can say, for example, you know, they don’t use contractions or they do use contractions or they swear they don’t swear or whatever it is that we need to convey about how that person’s voice works in a content standpoint.
Steffen: So when you work with someone, do you sent them kind of a questionnaire saying, so what kind of words do you use or don’t use? What is your general style? Because I mean, I would assume that you have to kind of identify those little quirks or those differences in order to be able to write for them.
Lacy: Yes, yeah. So yes, when we’re doing the strategy, a lot of times I’m asking questions specifically just to listen to them talk because very often a personality brand is very similar the way they talk and the way they present themselves online. So I want to hear how they speak, what kind of idioms they use.
But yes, we will actually ask them, talk to us about your lingo. For your business, you know, what phrases do you use? What metaphors do you use all the time? And then we also have a list of things we never use, right? So I asked, you know, what words do you hate? What phrases should we never, ever use on pain of death? And we put those in the style guide as well.
Steffen: So today’s topic is leadership marketing. Obviously, there’s another term out there, thought leadership marketing. Is there a difference between the two? And if so, what is leadership marketing that thought leadership marketing is not or doesn’t include leadership marketing?
Lacy: Sure. So thought leadership to me is when you’re going out there and presenting new thoughts, new ideas that are different in your space and using that communication as a way to build your platform. When I say leadership marketing. What I’m actually talking about is being as much a leader with your marketing as you are with your thoughts or with your services or your products in your niche. So what I was seeing is that there were all of these business owners and businesses that were unqualified, I mean, completely, leaders in their own niche, right?
Everybody would say so, but they were following the same cookie-cutter marketing plans to try to market themselves. And I kept thinking to myself, you know, if there’s such a leader with all their products and services and their thought leadership and what they’re saying, why are they doing the same thing that every other person out there is doing to market themselves? And that’s kind of where I came up with the idea of leadership marketing that we can be leaders in how we market to our audiences as much as through what we do and say in our business. So that’s really where the term came about for me and that’s kind of the difference I see.
Steffen: How much do channels play a role in that leadership marketing that you provide?
Lacy: You know, that’s a great question. I think channels depends very much on your audience and also on how you like to create. So leadership marketing to me, has three parts. It has your brand voice, it has your ideal customer, and it also has the data that we need to look out to say what’s working and what’s not. And where those three things come together is where we can find your particular leadership marketing strategy for any business.
So channels would fall into the ideal customer. Where are they hanging out? You know, so you’re not going to get a lot of traction on Tik Tok if you’re looking to talk to CEOs because they just don’t hang out there. Likewise, you’re not going to reach Gen Z on LinkedIn very often. So we kind of have to make sure that the channel is aligned so that you can be a leader because you’re actually reaching your ideal customers.
Steffen: How does an individual become a leader in their marketing? What’s a different approach to marketing, their business, their products, their services, compared to marketing themselves?
Becoming a Leader in Your Marketing
Lacy: Sure. So there’s two ideas there, right? So is the business and the personal brand the same? In some cases they are and in some cases, they aren’t. I think a great example of this is a client I worked with for a long time. The company’s called Bluffworks. They sell men’s and women’s now, I think, technical travel clothing but doesn’t look technical.
So they sell clothing that doesn’t wrinkle on the airplane, but it still looks like a nice suit. And when they got started, they started on Kickstarter. It was very scrappy. And their CEO, Stephen Lobel, was really the voice and personality of the brand. And then as they got bigger, they hired this giant Madison Avenue branding agency, which put them with like, these very serious models and very dramatic moody photographs.
And they lost a lot of their brand share. They lost a lot of people because it wasn’t the same quirky brand that people had come to love on Kickstarter. So when I came in, they were rebranding again putting Stephen back at the center of the brand and so for about four years, he and I worked really hard at creating content that was direct from him as the CEO, but still relevant to Bluffworks as the brand, right?
So people had come to enjoy his travel stories and his quirky personality. And that’s what we wanted to bring back into the brand through his blogging and emails and things like that. It worked out really well for them as well. We had a, right before I left, they were doing a round of angel investing. And so since we always did behind the scenes, blogs and emails for them about what was going on in the business, we wrote a blog post about going into this round of angel investing.
And when we sent out the email we put at the bottom as sort of a PS said, Hey, if you’re an accredited investor and you would like to talk to Stephen, hit reply. And it went out to about 10,000 guys who were pants, right? These weren’t, it wasn’t like a list of investors. But within a day or two, he had 16 responses. And that turned into three investors investing over $300,000 in his business. So it was one email that generated $300,000 but it was actually the four years we had put into building that brand with him and his personality.
Steffen: So how personal does someone has to be in order to create their own marketing so they’re marketing for themselves? Does it have to be personal, that approach?
Lacy: No. I don’t think so. We tend to work with those types of people but I think it would work just as well for a brand that is a brand, not a person. Really, the key is not so much does it have to be personal, but are you creating something that is leading in your market space. And what I mean by that is like, for example, if everyone in your niche is doing, you know, 90-minute webinars that lead to a sales call that a sales pitch that leads to whatever blah, blah, blah, and you decide to do something different, that is being a leader in your marketing, especially if it works, right?
So if you know that your clients don’t have time to sit through a 90-minute webinar, you can jump ahead to something else or give them a quick challenge they can do before they get on a call. That’s being a leader. So it doesn’t necessarily have to do with how much, how personal you are in your brand. But is the marketing you’re doing personalized to your clients and your business?
Steffen: Yeah. You know, in the beginning, when we started talking when I looked at your website, my understanding of the service was more that it is mostly focused around content, but from what you just said, I get a feeling that you do much more than just content creation because this obviously requires a strategic approach. It just requires someone to sit down and think about who is the person that I’m talking to? What do they want to achieve? And how can we go potentially a different route to achieving their goals?
Lacy: Right. So what happened was I got sucked into the marketing strategy because I found that when I started this business, I thought, as you were saying, that I would just show up and produce the content. I would just write the words. But what I found very early on is that people were asking me for advice. They were asking me for what do you think of this strategy? How would you do this? And so I took it upon myself to get educated.
And as I was getting educated about marketing strategies, I developed a lot of strong opinions. So over time, I have moved more into that strategy space because what I discovered is, you know, we can have the best writers on the planet, we could write the best blog post ever written. But if there isn’t a strategy in place to support it, nobody will see it and it won’t do any good.
So yes, I would say nine times out of 10 now, we start our engagements with our clients with a strategy session so that everybody’s on the same page, we all have the 30,000-foot view of what’s trying to be accomplished and I really enjoy brainstorming those ideas. So how do we reach your customer who doesn’t want to watch a 90-minute webinar? You know, what do we do differently? How do we make that happen?
Steffen: After you or as part of your strategy, obviously, is creating a marketing plan. What’s the frequency of, again, I don’t want to just minimize it to content creation and pushing something out, but how frequent does the marketing have to be done in order to promote the leader and create a voice for that person?
Lacy: It totally depends on the goals, but it also depends on the bandwidth of the leader. So if they are outsourcing to us, that helps with the bandwidth, but we still have to interview them at some point or get some kind of, you know, brain dump for them to tell us their ideas so we can create the content. So a lot of it depends on the goals of the marketing, we always start with the goals because, for example, if they just need 1 $20,000 dollar coaching client every month, that’s very different than somebody who needs to sell 10,000 $4 widgets, right?
And so we have to create the plan based on those goals and understanding what we’re trying to derive. So the guy who’s selling the $4 widgets needs to post much more frequently in order to get enough leads to make enough sales. Whereas the coach who maybe only needs one sale a month can get away with less, but we still want it to be very high quality, right? So there’s a lot of it depends in that answer.
I think what I normally tell people is anything less than once a month with a piece of quality content, whether that’s a blog, video, a podcast, whatever is too little, and it can go up from there. So most of my clients are posting a piece of something needy once a week, and then using their social channels to promote it during the rest of the week.
Steffen: So if every marketing activity at the end of the day, there’s kind of a goal that you want to achieve. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a monetary goal, right? Or as you said earlier, you know, this Bluffworks, they were able to get me $1,000 in funding through one email. Talk a little bit about identifying the ROI or goal for leadership marketing. How do you go about that?
Identifying Goals for Leadership Marketing
Lacy: Right. So sometimes it’s a sales goal, sometimes it’s, you know, a monetary goal. But other times it’s about engagement, or it’s about growing a particular channel, or things like that. So for example, if I had somebody, I did have a client who was trying to sell a book, so she had written a book proposal, was trying to sell it to publishers.
And she was given the advice that she needed to have at least 10,000 people on a platform in order to prove to the publisher that she was marketable. So she, because she’s very high integrity, didn’t want to go out and buy 10,000 followers, which you can do. She wanted to create them organically. So we started talking about what is the type of marketing? What is the type of content that will draw in the right kind of audience and get them to share it right? Get them to engage with the content, share it with their friends invite people in?
So how do we create that kind of viral for a better, lack of a better word, content that will grow her platform to 10,000 people. And so that’s kind of a different ROI, right? It’s kind of a different measure of whether or not we succeed. And sometimes, with my clients, the biggest ROI is that we’re taking the content production off their plate, right? So they get back those many hours that they might have spent creating this content themselves. That’s a different kind of ROI all together as well.
Steffen: Earlier you mentioned that, you know, when you start with a client, you ask a lot of questions in order to get their, get a feeling for how they communicate in order to write content for them. How much time is required for someone that engages with you on a monthly basis, if they just want to hand off the content creation?
Lacy: Right, so it definitely depends on the person. But we have clients who spend as little as maybe less than an hour a month. Some clients just want us to research the topic and present an article. So I can think of one guy in particular, he sends three topics a week. He says, here’s some articles, go for it. Like it probably takes him 10 minutes to send that email. Other people.
They prefer to talk it out or be interviewed because that’s how they think better. So it might take a little more than an hour, maybe, let’s say two hours a month to get enough information for the writer to write the blog post. But in most cases, that’s a significant decrease from what they were spending because if they struggle to get their thoughts out into writing, for example, I’ve had people tell me they spend upwards of eight hours writing a single blog post, which blows my mind. But that’s, you know, that’s my zone of genius. So of course, it doesn’t take me eight hours. So if I can get them back six of those eight hours, that’s a pretty good deal.
Steffen: Yeah. So obviously content needs to be hosted somewhere. Does the business, the leader of the business, do they have to have a specific blog post or destination to house the content that you create? Or can that just be integrated in the existing website, for example?
Lacy: I think it can be integrated into the existing website for sure. I always recommend to people that they, whatever their piece of content is, that’s sort of the hub of the wheel for their marketing engine, that it needs to live on their website. So sometimes people will say to me, like, Well, I do really well on Instagram. Can’t I just do Instagram? And I’ll reply, yes, that’s great. But you don’t own that platform. You know, we all know the perils of being at the mercy of the Facebook algorithm or the Instagram algorithm or the LinkedIn algorithm.
So I always want them to keep the hub of their content on their own website and then promote it through Instagram or wherever. A long time ago, Brian Clark of Copyblogger, called this digital sharecropping, where if you’re building your platform on somebody else’s land, it’s not a good method, right? You want to have your own platform somewhere. So I definitely recommend that it be on your own website, but you don’t necessarily have to have a separate blog for it or it can all be under the same umbrella.
Steffen: Yeah. So how does one outsource content when you’re trying to be a leader within your marketing area or within your business? What will be, talk me through the steps someone engaging with you?
Lacy: Yeah, sometimes people struggle with that idea because in their mind, if they are becoming a thought leader, that means that they have to produce it. themselves, right? But really what we do is we take their ideas and we just do the work of putting it out there. We do the work of putting it down on paper.
So when somebody engages with us, we have a strategy session first so I get to know the business, understand the goals, we come up with the marketing plan, and then we create the editorial calendar. So for usually about six months at a time, we will actually brainstorm out what are we going to write about each week and why? How is that going to lead to more sales for your business?
And then the writer takes over from there. And of course, depending on the client and what they want to do, they either interview them or get an email from them with their ideas. So at that point, the CEO or the thought leader, whoever it is, is able to just say, here’s my idea, you take it and run with it and produce the final piece, right? That’s how we look at it. And then what’s great is once you have, for example, a really nice article written, a really great email that you can send out, even podcast show notes, we do that sometimes.
Many, many other pieces of content can be created from that core piece, that hub of the wheel. So we can then take lots of clips and put them on Facebook or put them on LinkedIn, you know, take quotes out. The team can turn it into graphics, all kinds of things so that the actual CEO, the thought leader doesn’t have to be involved in all of that, right? It takes a huge burden off of them so that they can be doing what they do best, which is usually not marketing.
Steffen: So the content you create, is that much different to content that usually is created for businesses? You know, you mentioned podcasts, you mentioned graphics, blog post, is there anything from a content perspective that is different to that of businesses that create content?
Lacy: I would say no. I would say the actual meat of it might be a little bit different. You know, if you have a personality-driven brand, you might be telling more stories, you might be telling, giving more personal anecdotes, things like that. But the delivery mechanisms are not different. We do try to personalize and create marketing plans where we take the puzzle pieces and put them together a little bit differently, right?
So the way we put all those puzzle pieces together to create a marketing plan is going to look a little bit different for every single business we work with because we are looking for where is their leadership opportunity. So but the pieces are all the same. We just mix them up and put them together a little bit differently.
Steffen: Yeah. How do you measure the success? We talked about KPIs earlier, but how do you measure the success and when do you decide to make adjustments to the strategy that you develop? Because you might be spot on or you might have to adjust certain things. How does that work?
Measuring Success in Leadership Marketing
Lacy: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m definitely not like a psychic or a mind reader but we definitely have to make sure that my plans are on track. When a client does a strategy session with us, we have a built-in a three month and a six-month check-in to make sure that things are trending in the right direction. And when we do those, you know, 30,000-foot view strategy sessions we define what those metrics will be that we’re going to look at.
So, sometimes it is email subscribers, sometimes it’s as simple as sales. Did sales go up? Sometimes it’s as simple as did traffic to the website increase? Other times it can be a little more specific. I have one client we just worked with recently and I wanted her to track how long people are on her email list before they become a customer because we were specifically looking at whether or not her automated email sequences were successful or not.
So, you know, the average customer converts within 15 days, that tells me one thing. If it takes them 90 days to convert, that tells me something else. And it would change how we spread out the emails. So, you know, when we check in with her in three months, and again in six months, if she can collect that data, we’ll be able to make some better-educated guesses as to how to address that in the strategy.
Steffen: Yeah. Is there specific software or tools available that can accelerate, further improve what you’re doing? Other than, you know, the platforms like Instagram, Facebook, where you post the content or where you share the content.
Lacy: We actually try to keep it very simple because most of my clients are not super-duper tech-savvy. So we try to keep it as simple as possible. For example, I do my editorial calendars in Google Sheets because everybody can look at a spreadsheet. However, I do love, I love Airtable right now for creating a hub for their marketing team so that everybody can be on the same place.
I’m also really liking Notion as a way to keep content all in one place, you know, and have sort of a home base, especially when you’re working with a team that might need to access different parts of the content at different stages, that can be a really useful tool. But no, we don’t really have any specific tools. I wish there was. I wish there was like a here push this button and it makes everything work. If anybody wants to develop that, please let me know.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, Lacy, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your thoughts on leadership marketing. Definitely, I have to say a different approach or different thoughts to the normally discussed thought leadership marketing for which you can find tons of articles and blog posts, podcasts, etc. Not so much on leadership marketing, unfortunately. If people want to find out more about you and your company, how can you get in touch?
Lacy: Sure. Best way is to go to lacyboggs.com. To check us out and if you’d like to schedule a call, you can go to lacyboggs.com/undercover. There’s a big red button on that page to get on my calendar. We use undercover because we go undercover as you in your business. So that’s just our fun branding message in there.
Steffen: Terrific. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks and see you next time.