Kenny Soto Logo 2020
Content Marketing Is An Investment with Tracey Wallace – Episode #120

“I need content to connect dots that I didn’t know were connected before…Otherwise…I could go look all this stuff up already on my own.”

Tracey Wallace is the Director of Content Strategy at Klaviyo. Prior to that, she was the head of marketing for two early-stage start-ups (Eterneva and MarketerHire), and the Editor-in-Chief over at BigCommerce. She has 13 years of experience in content marketing, and began her career in Journalism. She is also a content creator for WorkWeek, managing her own weekly newsletter called “Contentment.”

Questions and topics we covered include:

  • How brands can scale (written) content practically
  • Tracey’s favorite brands that are best-in-class when it comes to content marketing
  • The general misconceptions around content marketing
  • Why all content marketers have to figure out how to tie what they create back to revenue goals
  • The difference between direct-content revenue vs content-assisted revenue
  • The headwinds that content marketers face that performance marketers don’t have to deal with
  • Why attribution is “political at best” and why marketers need to understand attribution modeling vs mixed-media modeling
  • Why you can’t create content without researching a topic first (cough cough, this is why AI content doesn’t work as a *final* draft)
  • How to confirm what really works and how to avoid the BS marketing advice that’s regurgitated online?
  • Why internal marketing is the most underrated skill that all marketers need to learn.

And more!

Say hi to Tracey on LinkedIn: 

Say hi to Tracey on Twitter: 

Subscribe to Tracey’s amazing newsletter if you want to become a better writer: 


Our Podcast Partner – MarketerHire

If you’re looking to hire expert freelance talent this year to scale your business (and impress your boss), check out MarketerHire. MarketerHire vets freelance talent so when you hire an SEO expert, Email Marketer, or even a Fractional CMO—you’re not wasting your money or your time. You can hire your first freelancer and get a $500 credit by visiting:

Full Episode Transcript:


Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing podcast with your host, Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Tracey Wallace. Hi, Tracey, how are you?


Tracey Wallace 0:14  

Good. How are you doing?


Kenny Soto 0:15  

I’m doing well. We were just talking about the struggle that’s happening in Austin right now. Yeah, cool. Yeah, people will listen to this in the future. But it’s unfortunate that we still have these infrastructure issues in Texas.


Tracey Wallace 0:32  

Yeah, yeah, the power has been out for over a week. Now, for a lot of people, because of some ice, like, it got to be 31 degrees, and the whole city shut down a bunch of trees fell on a bunch of lines. 


And it’s taking a really long time to fix. Which is really upsetting. So, yeah, I mean, we were talking about how, you know, we had to move this we were supposed to record last week, but I didn’t have power for four days. So I was trying to kind of figure out what to do. But anyways, it’s back. For me, at least not for all of Austin. So that’s where we’re at now. 


Kenny Soto 1:10  

Yeah, we work with what we have available. Now. I have done a lot of research on you. And there are many places that we can go. But the first place that I want to go is just setting the scene, and getting a sense of who you are as a professional. So my first question for you is, how did you even get into digital marketing?


Tracey Wallace 1:32  

Oh, gosh, into digital marketing. Um, I started my career at my very first job. So I graduated into the Great Recession. I graduated in 2010. And applied to God for probably like 1000 jobs, and nobody was hiring then for anybody who remembers what the job market was like at the time and ended up getting a job at a company called Demand Media, which was, at the time, a company started by the founder of Myspace, oddly enough, but it was a content farm. And content farms weren’t uncommon back then. 


So demand media owned, you know, LIVESTRONG media, or like, ie, how a variety of those kinds of publications. And essentially what they did was they would buy Google queries, or they would buy queries from Google, and then have people write content based on those queries. Now, at the time, that worked really well, based on how Google liked the maturity of Google’s algorithm. That does not work well, now, there was a Panda update. Panda algorithm update that happened. 


Gosh, was it 2010 might have even been 2011. That demolished content farms and Demand Media was certainly part of that. But that’s where I got my very first job, they paid me $30,000 A year I had, like, $15,000 in student loans that I needed to pay back. I was, it was not a lot at the time. But honestly, I had always just wanted to be into writing. When I was nine years old, I started editing issues of Vogue. I would force my poor East Texas mother to buy me these big old fashion magazines, and then I would just spend my time editing them. 


So I always knew I wanted to go into writing in some form or fashion and I was part of, you know, I helped run the news, the newspaper at my college, and won several awards there. Anyway, I was just happy to have a job in content. In general, whatever it was, I kind of didn’t care and ended up leaving that company after about nine months to join an organization called naturally 


Now they were a true publication and actually have since been acquired by Essence magazine. But at the time, they were the largest publication for education on curly hair, and how to take care of curly hair. They are the first organization to come up with all the different types of hair so type one is straight hair. Once you get into type two and above, there’s like ABC depending on the curl pattern, we don’t gotta go into it. 


They like to teach L’Oreal all about it. I mean, it was a really big deal. They’re the first organization to put curls on the runway. Curly hair wasn’t allowed on runways at the time. A really cool organization and I was there for a few years as their managing editor and it was really my first foray into, you know, being paid to actually like the right content to run an editorial calendar. 


Now, what was interesting about naturally curly, was that while they were a publication, maybe similar to, and those kinds of things They also had a selling arm, a commerce arm. So essentially what they did was because they had built this large audience of women with curly hair back then and in 2010 and 2011, women with curly hair were still for the most part making their own products because there were no real products on market for them. 


And so naturally curly would buy those products in bulk and sell and sell them out to their audience. So beyond getting advertising revenue, we were also very encouraged to try to tie the content back to E-commerce sales, or at the time it was content, and we’re not at the time. Now that’s called content and commerce. It’s what glossier does really well, right? A lot of brands do it these days. 


And naturally curly was, was, at least to my knowledge, probably one of the first to really put those two things together. So those two things were really my early entry into digital marketing, the first from an SEO standpoint, working directly with Google queries, and you know, learning how to manipulate an algorithm. And then the second, of course, over at more of a publication, but really learning how to use content to drive both ad revenue, as well as to tie everything back to E-commerce sales. 


And doing that, in a way, of course, that, you know, grew organic sessions and built a community. So that’s where it started, I ended up later working at, you know,, for a little bit, Mashable for a little bit, and then got out of journalism entirely, mostly because journalism pays terribly. And I applied for a content marketing job, it sounded very similar to the content work that I had been doing. 


But they were paying like three times more than my journalism job was paying, and I ended up getting the job. And I was only there at that company, then for probably about nine months or so. And ended up leaving mostly because I got super bored at that job. Like, my only expectation there was to you know, write, you know, publish one article a day, and I was coming from the journalism world where you write more than one article a day, often. 


And so I was done with my work by about noon every day, and just got bored, and then ended up getting a job over at Big Commerce on their content marketing team, I thought that it would be really helpful for me if I liked this Content Marketing World that paid more to maybe join a team where I wasn’t the only content marketer, so I could learn how to do it, right. As I came from a journalism world, I hadn’t been trained in it. 


So I joined Bigcommerce as a team of four or five. And then everyone got laid off, within about four days of me being there. And suddenly, I was again, the only content marketer responsible for the company’s blog. And was convinced by a variety of different folks at Big commerce to stay technically, I actually quit big commerce, but then like, things didn’t happen. But anyways, ended up staying, I was there for about four and a half years and just kind of, you know, pulled myself up from my bootstraps and said, Alright, I just got to figure this shit out. 


And I did. And then from there, I’ve gone on I’ve led marketing at early-stage startups. So that’s all up marketing, not just content marketing. And then now I am over at Clay VO as their Director of Content Strategy. So again, running content marketing for a larger SAS organization.


Kenny Soto 8:45  

But tangent, I want to ask you, how often do people mispronounce the name of your company?


Tracey Wallace 8:52  

Clay vo a lot. Well, so a lot, and I guess I guess for me, you have to keep in mind, you know, I have been in the E-commerce world since 2011. Right. So so when I started at naturally curly that was my first foray into E-commerce. When I worked at Mashable, my beat was the intersection of fashion and tech, which today is just e-commerce. And then of course, I was over at the Commerce so I’ve been reporting on it for a really long time and in the industry for a really long time. 


So for me, I always knew clay vo like I’ve known about clay vo since clay vo started right, and as a result, I guess I’ve just known how to pronounce it from then to I don’t know, but people get it wrong all the time. Like even people who use clay often get it wrong all the time. Like it’s across. It’s across the board. If I will say if you’re ever wondering how the heck do I pronounce this? Clay vo if you land on one of their 404 pages, it will show it’ll tell you how to pronounce it. It has One of those fun four or four pages, so just go to clay, put a slash in and some random letters, and let it bring you to a 404 page and it will tell you how to pronounce it.


Kenny Soto 10:12  

Nice little hack right there. Let’s talk about content. Content is a hot-button topic every year because there’s always a Google algorithm update or some change in the number of social channels versus clubhouse. Should we be using the clubhouse now that TikTok should be using tick tock? Sure. When it comes to producing content at scale? How can brands do that practically?


Tracey Wallace 10:40  

Oh, well, so I deal primarily with written content. So I say, to answer that question and take the concept of video content and even social media out of it entirely. Because that changes the conversation significantly. So it very much depends on your role and what channels and things you’re responsible for. But scaling content efficiently requires really great project management as well as a really strong production process. 


So I like to advise businesses that are on the smaller side, to produce maybe only one piece of content a week, maybe even sometimes a month, depending on how big they like and how small you are. Because businesses of that size usually don’t have a ton of employees. And to you as a result, you have to, you have to wear all the hats, right, you have a lot of different things to do. producing really good high-quality content can take a long time. 


On top of that, though, ideally, you should be producing content that is typically long-form in nature. For a blog, in particular, if you’re a b2b company that is generally long form in nature, has interviewed a couple of customers or partners or folks from around the internet so that you have some kind of outside perspective in there, you want to be adding to the conversation. So like adding a new point of view to an already existing conversation, which is something I certainly can’t do for folks right now. 


And then, of course, when you want to optimize it for SEO, all of that jazz, but then once you have that piece of content finished, you then want to repurpose it from there, right? Every single piece of content that you publish should be able to turn into you know, potentially dedicated emails out to your audience, or maybe in a newsletter, should and can be used across social media channels can be turned into white papers, or short pagers, or one-pagers depending on what your sales team needs. 


Or maybe you know what your lead gen efforts look like. I am very much in the camp of if you can focus on creating the best content for a given topic at the top of the funnel, so that’s that blog article asset, then repurposing it for all the use cases down the funnel, you should definitely do it. And to give it gives you a starting place, right, you’re not having to start from scratch. 


And so that’s the efficiency part of it, which is like that long-form, really high-quality content top of the funnel-like that’s the stuff over time with consistency, that’s going to gain traction in organic search and grow your brand’s visibility as a thought leader, all of that jazz. But especially if you’re a smaller organization, you can do this on a bigger scale than your larger organization with more people. 


But especially if you’re a smaller organization, that SEO traction and that thought leadership traction is going to take a while right? You have to build your brand authority, you have to build your domain ranking all of that jazz. And so it’s really helpful then to repurpose that content into a variety of other assets for different channels. So that your company can start seeing some revenue and value from content sooner rather than later. Because if you don’t do that, then your job is probably on the line.


Kenny Soto 14:22  

Putting you on the spot here. Sure. I’ve been trying to convince some of the listeners to create a swipe file if they don’t have one already. What are some best-in-class examples of brands that you’re seeing either from last year or even these past few months that are producing content at scale? And it’s noticeable, it’s effective, you’re impressed, etc.


Tracey Wallace 14:47  

Um, noticeable, effective, and impressive. I probably have different brands that like to fall into each of those categories. So I don’t think I have any of that. I hit all of them, I’m happy to talk through the ones that I do, like a lot that I think are doing really interesting work. So candor, they have this like a salary negotiation guide and a variety of other guides that are just absolutely phenomenal. 


Like the work that the quality of the work that they have put into that content is next to none. Like I mean, I can’t find anything else on the internet that is even kind of like it to the point where like, I think they have like three or four of these like longer form guides all at that quality level. And then it doesn’t look like they’ve produced a lot of other content outside of that, which really goes to show that like, especially if you’re just getting started quantity doesn’t necessarily have to be the game that you play, right? Like you can play a quality game and the way that Candice is doing it. 


And still really when Wealthfront I think is doing a really fantastic job with their content, their UX, and formatting of their content also really good, their blog homepage interlinks really well between their guides and their blogs. Robin Hood, I think he’s doing a fantastic job with content like, I mean, I’m a Robin Hood user, but beyond that, I think Robin Hood’s content email might be one of the only content emails I regularly open. And I don’t even know why to like, I’m like, what is it about it and they just approach difficult to or what feels like difficult to understand topics in a way that is that feels approachable, feels understandable. 


And their blog, their blog newsletter, for the most part, is an RSS feed, and like that doesn’t work for anybody anymore, but them, right? So like that, that really speaks a ton to the work they’re doing there. I do think intercom content does a really great job. Intercom content has been really effective for that organization for a long time. They’re an organization that focused very early on content quality. They published the republishing books back, I think in 2012 Bigcommerce started publishing books when I was there, in like 2016. 


And we hopped on the phone with content people at the intercom to find out how they were doing it. Like they’re the only other people in the industry even thinking about it. They did have to add SEO and optimization afterward which they’ve done pretty well, so I know that’s taken off for them. But there’s a really good one to look at. I don’t love the UX of their site anymore. But whatever it seems like they do and it goes with their brand. For runner ventures, another place that has really great content seems to be repurposing quite a bit. 


They’re not really in the tech space in particular, but they report on the tech space. So yeah, those are some of the top ones that come to mind. I do think like dropboxes content is like really pretty. I don’t know how it’s working for them. I think MailChimp looks really interesting. Same thing, I don’t know how it’s working for them. I also kind of put MailChimp in the same bucket as I would a HubSpot and even a Shopify to an extent, which is like they are just so big, and they’re producing so much content across so many different verticals, and so many different mediums that like, it’s actually not worthwhile for any content marketer to really look at them as an example. 


Because very few businesses are going to give content teams the resources and freedom to do that. Like I don’t know, based on what I see looking at those sites, I’m like, I don’t know how much content has to map back to revenue for you guys. And if that’s the case, then like, you kind of just have like a creative free for all, which is great for content marketers, if you want to go like work in that environment, but just know very few companies are like.


Kenny Soto 19:01  

That’s a great call out sometimes a brand isn’t, even though they might seem like they’re performing very well. And they are they might not be applicable to anything that you’re actually doing on a daily basis.


Tracey Wallace 19:11  

Right. Yeah, I mean, that part of it is really interesting. I tell my team all the time that my definition of strategy is like, you know, you want to take a goal that that you’ve been given or that you’ve come up with, and you want to create, you know, the best possible tactics, supposedly, to get you to that goal, the best possible ones in the most perfect state the coolest best things you could put out on the internet for short, like that’s, that’s that first part of that strategy. 


But then you have to time-bound it and you have to say and we want to get that out by this time, and suddenly that means you can’t write as many pieces of content as you wanted. You might not be able to get it out in the exact design that you wanted following like doing it in the exact way that you wanted. And so while organizations like MailChimp, HubSpot, and other really large organizations have a ton of content, again, across a lot of these mediums and channels, they’re fun to look at their examples, people on content marketing throw around all the time. 


But like, they’re just not realistic for most people, like the moment you add in the time boundedness, like, very few organizations are going to be able to hit that, especially if the goal is different than what those organizations are gold on which at this point, those organizations started doing content marketing so long ago, and are probably driving so much organic traffic that like, doesn’t actually matter what they do, to a certain extent, right. And like, that’s not true for most content marketers at most organizations.


Kenny Soto 20:50  

This is a perfect segue to start talking about misconceptions. What are some general misconceptions you hear about when it comes to content marketing overall?


Tracey Wallace 21:00  

Oh, misconceptions about content marketing overall. Okay, so this first one kind of has like two sides to it, which is one, a lot of content marketers. So I grew up in, in marketing in general, once I got out of journalism, in a growth marketing function, so I lived, I lived in the growth marketing world from a content and SEO perspective, which meant that I had numbers I had to hit every single month, or, or my job was on the line. 


That way of working very much informed my content strategies. And I know that a lot of content people don’t come from that background, a lot of content, people come from a more creative background. And I love that for them. But that is not, that’s not, that’s not the world I come from. 


So I mean, even in the way I just described strategy, right? Like, you want to do the absolute best thing you can in the time you’re given to hit the goal, right? So for me, I have always opted for trying to do everything I can to map content back to conversions and or revenue. As often as possible. And I hear a lot of content marketers say that that is impossible, or it’s really, really hard. 


And it certainly can be really hard. There are a lot of content marketers who hate lead gen assets or gated assets, right, they just refuse to participate in that. None of that stuff makes sense to me as a marketer in content marketing, your job, your primary function as a content marketer is to drive traffic and to drive lead gen. And then lead gen should be able to be tracked all the way back to either direct revenue or content-assisted revenue as much as possible. 


So that, I think, is a big misconception of content marketing. I also think that content marketing, marketing as a whole not being more growth, marketing, or maybe performance marketing, from like, a mindset has kind of stopped it from becoming as big of a career as maybe things like, you know, paid media is has become this huge career for people or product marketing is like a whole discipline, right? content marketers, by and large, still are vastly underpaid in comparison to a lot of the other marketing disciplines out there. 


And I have a really strong hunch that a lot of that is because content marketers aren’t, as an industry as a discipline, aren’t tying their work back as well as they probably could be, or maybe should be, to the overall revenue and impact that that discipline can have.


Kenny Soto 24:02  

I attribute my recent promotion to essentially not just focusing on brand marketing, top of funnel content but learning that skill of performance marketing, I find, and maybe you might agree here that performance marketers are able to understand how their impact or how their work impacts the business overall, and how to map their strategy to company strategy and revenue growth. It’s only been like, I want to say a year and a half that I realized that my job is not the metrics on the platform. My job is to either bring in sales or sales opportunities to use me or bring in direct revenue. It’s just those two things at the end of the day.


Tracey Wallace 24:44  

Right. Right. Right. Well, and I mean, like, we all like that’s capitalism, right? Like we all work for companies that need to make money and you were hired to make the company money no matter what they sold you on. That is actually what you were hired for. or, and the sooner you can figure out how to prove that you are doing that, the better. Now, I will say, paid media has a huge advantage over content marketing, right? It’s really effing easy to track paid media back to revenue, like ridiculously easy. 


And it over attributes, right like Facebook for the last decade, I guess, except for like, the last year and a half two years, was giving paid marketers credit for something that happened 6090 days ago like that is so upsetting. No wonder, you know, the whole industry got so obsessed with performance marketing, content marketing, you can’t do that if we don’t use UTM. And honestly, it’s bad for SEO to use UTM in between all of your, main, like your site’s properties, right? It’s a lot harder to track content efforts back to revenue. And direct content revenue is typically a lot lower than content-assisted revenue. 


And so what’s the difference for me there is, you know, there’s revenue that like content can drive on its own, which is like, someone downloads a piece of content, and then they become a paid customer. Wow, cool, amazing. It’s not the way most people shop, it’s not the way most revenue happens. Instead, content marketing. And most organizations should be serving both a strategic and a service function. The strategic function is like you need to drive traffic, you need to drive lead gen, and you want to track that back to revenue 100%. 


But the service function is your paid media organization, your life cycle organization, your brand, your organization, and your sales team, all need content, and they’re coming to you for that content. So you have to produce content for them, right, and then they use it in their channels, and then they get credit for whatever success they see. Like, cool, cool, cool, I get it in like a marketing funnel, world content sits closer to the top of the funnel. 


But what I don’t like about that model is, is one, because content, marketers can’t talk in the same way that paid paid paid media marketers can about how they’re contributing to revenue, they get fewer resources, they often get paid less, they can’t do as cool of programs. And I just think that’s BS. So I have often instead leaned on a content assist metric, which is for everyone who lands on content, and then within a certain timeframe either becomes an MQL, or customer, I am counting that as a content assist, because that number is so much bigger. 


And what you start to see when you can measure that for an organization is that content is contributed like 1111 Till I don’t know, like 60% of the people who end up closing or the revenue that’s generated in a given month, those people touched content prior to closing, right. And so what you’re beginning to see then in those models is just like the service impact of content. 


And I have found that when you can present content to executive executives and leadership in that way, as a content assist metric to show them how much you’re helping the organization, make money, and how you could help the organization make a lot more money with more investment, that’s when you start getting those additional resources, that’s when you start getting the raises all of that jazz. 


So again, paid marketers, I don’t think there’s like a fair comparison between content marketing, and what those folks are doing just because like, it is a lot easier for them to track back to revenue. And they have to write for them, for every dollar they put into something they need to get $1 or more out, right? Content marketing should be that way too, but like content marketing, while your biggest goal should be driving traffic and lead gen, you still have to think about brand marketing, right? 


Like consistency really matters building, you know, you’re going to get more successful over time, the better you are producing high-quality content, you want to track stuff back to revenue. But because content sits at the top of the funnel, the revenue that you drive might not come until 60 or 120 days after somebody downloads a piece of content, right? Or maybe someone needs to download a variety of pieces of content before they actually close. 


It’s just not as one-to-one as paid media or even lifecycle marketing can be because of where content sits in the funnel. And because of how often content is used throughout the funnel to try to move leads into the next part of the funnel. So again, I like to rely on that content assist metric a little bit more, because it gives you a better understanding of just how much work every individual piece of content is doing to try to help close.


Kenny Soto 30:04  

I’ve been conceptualizing a course that I want to build out of this podcast. And the more I have conversations like this, the more I’m honing in on the course, the topic being attribution. Yeah, attribution models, because it’s the one thing that affects every single marketer, regardless of their function. 


And this is giving me that signal that it’s still an issue where, if you’re, first of all, you have to agree or use first touch, last touch linear, right? That’s a whole argument in and of itself, your team needs to get buy-in on that you need to justify the decisions of your CFO, because they might have their opinion, especially if they understand marketing, they’ll give you their opinion. 


And then outside of that, then you have to think about okay, so if we’re using linear, which I think is the best case scenario, then how are you making those decisions from either a leadership, the position or trying to advocate the right decision for your pod, your function to get the resources it needs to grow revenue, either directly or indirectly, which is, in most cases, you’re highlighting a big issue?


Tracey Wallace 31:16  

Yeah, I mean, look, attribution. attribution is hard. And it sucks. And it’s never accurate, ever. Right? Like it, like that’s, that’s.


Kenny Soto 31:25  

And you have the dark funnel, which is a whole separate monster word of mouth, like, how do you try to?


Tracey Wallace 31:30  

Yeah, so like, its attribution is political at best. Like is, is the best way to put it? So like, Yes, I think it’s important that marketers understand the different attribution models. I am somebody who likes leaning more and more toward mixed-media modeling. But it’s not one of the traditional ones. It’s like, you know, it’s, it’s where Facebook and others are beginning to go. 


And I think it’s a good model. It’s an important model and necessary model, because cookies, just one of the ways that you even attribute are dropping away. And that’s going to continue to happen and marketers are going to continue scrambling to prove their value. But yeah, I mean, honestly, look, I think I think what’s really happened is less about attribution over the last decade, or 20 years or so, and more about this interesting shift that we saw happen in marketing and in the industry, where marketing, you know, the saying used to be, you know, 20% of what you put out drives 80% of your revenue. 


The trouble is, you don’t know which, you know, like, you don’t know which 20%. So you have to do all of it. Right? And they would try to attribute historically from a marketing standpoint, but you know, you had to do like, like in-person sessions with customers, really, how did you find this? And like, what were the steps it took months to figure that stuff out? And all of that changed when Facebook came on the market, right? And Facebook had this fantastic attribution, or not attribution, that they had this fantastic targeting platform from an advertising platform and back in 2010, was super cheap to us. 


Like it was crazy people were coming like millionaires overnight selling golf clubs and shit. b2b got into that world as well and started seeing a lot of return on what you began to see. And you have to keep in mind that a lot of things were happening at this time, you know, Facebook’s targeting came out, providing really clear attribution back to extended attribution, but neither here nor there, it was also the Great Recession, right? So a lot of people have either lost jobs or you know, aren’t making as much money as they were and have lost their homes. I mean, a lot like the economy was just not in a good place. 


And so I think what we ultimately saw was a lot of fear from a marketing perspective, and which was, you know, turned into a reliance on only putting money into the channels that drive revenue. And that is not how marketing works. That has never been how marketing works. Taylor Holliday over at common thread collective tweeted something out a couple of years ago, I think now where he made the point that if you are only putting money into paid advertising, or if you’re only putting money into like retention, marketing, like whatever if you did choose the one marketing thing that you want to put money into, essentially, marketing is like a sponge. 


And you need water in that sponge to be able to continue to squeeze that sponge to get water out of it right. We all understand that, but so few businesses actually invest in driving a pipeline for their organization. And your brand builds a pipeline, your content consistency builds a pipeline, and your social media channels build pipelines, even if none of those things are driving revenue back or attribution back, even if you can’t track it, they are still adding water to your sponge. 


And if you don’t invest in those tactics, and you only invest in paid media, for instance, you’re going to end up with a dry sponge, paid media is going to be really expensive, you’re not going to be able to convert people. Or if you are, it’s just not going to be sustainable. So anyways, I think we have gotten to a weird place with attribution, where there’s a whole generation of marketers, me included, that over-rely on attribution as a way to keep our jobs because that’s what leadership has been expecting for the last decade. 


And I think as cookies disappear, that overreliance on attribution will disappear, too. But I think it’s going to take another decade for us, for us to get there. And in the meantime, we’re all going to be sitting here trying to figure out how to map content back to revenue, even though that’s not the content’s main purpose.


Kenny Soto 36:15  

I want to be respectful of your time. So one more question. The next one, is research skills, how to leverage research in content.


Tracey Wallace 36:30  

How to Leverage research and content. I mean, you can’t write content without research. I don’t, I don’t know that that would probably be a whole other podcast on how to research, I don’t think we can answer that in a short period of time. I mean, it is like every single piece of content, at least the teams that write content for me, I need content to connect dots that I didn’t know were connected before, right? Otherwise, why am I reading this piece of content, like I could go, I could go look all this stuff up already on my own. 


But I need every piece of content to take two seemingly disparate ideas or two seemingly disparate events and make it clear that those things are related. And you can’t do that without research. You can’t do that without reading a ton of content about your industry. You can’t do that. Without interviewing folks often like to read to draw connections and dots that other people are not making. You have to research have to put you have to put the work in.


Kenny Soto 37:41  

Next question. And I’m making an assumption here. So if I’m incorrect, we’ll go the other way. Why have you taken a generalist approach in your career versus specializing in one specific thing?


Tracey Wallace 37:55  

Oh, yeah, I have taken a generalist approach, I think it’s my personality. And just like the way my brain works, I was asked the other day by another content marketer, they said, they said content marketers tend to be either really good at like, the creative side of it, or really good at like, the, like, process side of it. And they’re like, which one are you good at? Like, naturally in which one did you have to grow? And I was like, honestly, I think I kind of suck at both. 


Like my skill is that I can see the forest for the trees, right? Like I can see the big picture of what it is that we’re trying to do, why it matters, and what we’re trying to connect it to. And then and then I can take detailed actions to go after those things, but I am not particularly creative. I am not particular I had to learn how to do project management. I had to learn how to tell better stories, yes, I was in a journalism world but you get ripped apart there and told how to write better stories all the time. 


I had to learn all of that stuff, but I can see the overarching arc of stories and have a process and have a department and what it is that we’re trying to do to make a difference and so for me, generalism just works better right? I, you know I’ve led marketing teams all up you know all of the channels and disciplines under them. I also while I see the value in specialists I get worried a lot of companies hire specialists and under hire generalists and that creates a lack of efficiency basically, specialists are really great at the individual thing they do that they’re often not very great at is talking to anyone else outside of their special Realty. 


And that’s a huge issue. marketing needs to be integrated, especially when you’re in a bear market like this potential recession like this, every single piece of content that you put out every single campaign you put out, every ad you put out, it all needs to be tied together so that the business doesn’t seem like it’s working, you know, like, with an octopus that can’t control any of its legs, right, like, like you’re trying to all work together. generalists are typically the ones who make that work. 


They’re great at project management, they’re great at seeing that bigger picture. Specialists are super important and have their place for sure. But I do get, I get really nervous when I see companies hire too many of them and no generalists to help manage or not enough generalists to balance it out. Typically, that sort of big indication that that organization is wasting marketing spend.


Kenny Soto 40:56  

You write a lot for your personal brand. What advice do you have for the listener who’s trying to sift out the right advice to follow?


Tracey Wallace 41:09  

Oh, I’m also what I have been telling my team a lot recently. No content marketer does content marketing in the same way. And that’s a good thing. It is always best for this guy. This is something I kind of took from the journalism world, right? Where like, it’s always best in the journalism world. If you follow your own curiosity, right, follow your own curiosity, follow the things that are interesting to you write stories about that stuff, because that comes through in your stories, it comes through in your interviews, like everything’s going to be better because you care because you’re interested because you have this natural curiosity. 


The same thing is true in content marketing. Rely as much as you possibly can, on what makes you curious about what your strengths are, where, like the stories that you want to tell that bigger picture that you want to draw? Yes, and content marketing, there are foundations that are probably in general, good for everyone to follow. But beyond that, like, it’s kind of every person for themselves, you can do whatever you want, you can figure it out however, you want, it’s very helpful to have people offer advice and kind of help steer you in your thinking. 


But the ultimate goal is that you are super stoked and excited about every single piece of content that you produce. And if you can’t do that, following the process that you’re following now that you’ve gotten from some other expert, then it’s probably the wrong process for you. So to like, Yes, take other people’s advice. But other people’s advice, honestly, should always be taken with a grain of salt. They don’t know your exact situation. They don’t know your exact mind. They don’t know your exact skills. 


They don’t know exactly what your company is trying to do. And the tools and the tools and everything changes all the time, like what worked, you know, 10 years ago won’t work today where it worked five years ago, what was two years ago. So like, yeah, advice is helpful. But follow your own gut, get excited about the advice you like, and follow the experts that you like, but again, still take their insights with a grain of salt and figure out your own way.


Kenny Soto 43:30  

And the last question for you is hypothetical because time machines don’t exist. Okay, one did that you can go back into the past about 10 years knowing everything you know, right now, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Tracey Wallace 43:44  

Oh, goodness, um, how would I accelerate the speed of my career? I mean, look, I made a lot of mistakes as a professional at Big commerce, because I was coming from a journalism background, I was not someone who cared about capitalism, or the way businesses ran. I thought politics and business were absurd and abhorrent. And I did not want to participate at all. And as a result, I never got promoted, despite how much traffic I was driving for that organization and how much revenue I could prove I was driving. 


I had other people steal my ideas and present them as their own and get promotions that I should have gotten, the repercussions of which some of those people are a lot wealthier than I am today because Bigcommerce was a company that had shares and IPOs. And a lot of that was because I refuse to play the game, internal marketing, and politics within an organization or crucial. 


And it exists everywhere big company, small company, it doesn’t matter how people perceive you, how you communicate the importance of psychology and philosophy and working with others, I would redo all of that at Big commerce, I don’t think it would change at all the success that I saw from my output, right? Like, I mean, the huge success of big commerce, it would have sped up my career, and I could say, I’d be sitting on hundreds of 1000s of dollars today, had I done it.


Kenny Soto 45:37  

It’s, um.


Tracey Wallace 45:38  

You took a deep breath, it seems like you know, it, too, sucks.


Kenny Soto 45:42  

I learned this. Luckily enough, I learned this in college. Before I even got my first job. I was in student government. And I learned right away that it’s just a reflection of working in groups of people like, obviously, they’re organ organizations that make a conscious effort to have a good company culture, where politics are at the very least not toxic, where you can’t get rid of them. 


Tracey Wallace 46:07  

You can’t get rid of them. They’re there. You have to play it, you do. And I just refused for four years. And I burned out, which was a result of my refusing, again, I lost out on a lot of career progression, like so many different things. And now, I do internal marketing, I can play the politics game just fine. But it’s not even playing politics. It’s just like, talking to people, I guess, I don’t know.


Kenny Soto 46:38  

It’s not advocating for yourself.


Tracey Wallace 46:42  

It is advocating for yourself advocating for your team, and its internal marketing, right? And I did not do enough of that, or really hardly any of it out big commerce. And it held me back massively. And so yeah, so if I could go back, I would try to tell young Tracey, to stop being so stuck up and just like participate, and what is happening around you. But I was very much of the mindset, I come from Southeast Texas. 


And, you know, my grandfather was a big figure in my life. And he was very much he’s a, you know, a child of the Great Depression. And he was very much of the mindset that, like you, you work hard, and you’d be nice to people, and you will find success. And that is sort of true. If you work hard and are nice to people, it’ll get you in the right position for success. But that’s not all there is to it. 


Your network really matters, playing internal marketing and ads and advocating for yourself really matter. And I just thought that if I went in every day and kept my head down, and did cool work, that would be enough. And that was great. That’s it’s certainly gotten me to where I am today. But I am moving far faster, far better in my career now because I have learned the importance of my network and, and advocating and internal marketing. It’s, you need to spend probably just as much time on internal marketing, as you do on actually producing the work that you’re doing.


Kenny Soto 48:23  

If I ever get the opportunity to do a part two, a few I already know two things that we can dive into research. Yeah, and internal marketing and just having that as its own thing. If anyone wanted to say hello to you online, where can they find you?


Tracey Wallace 48:37  

I am on Twitter. So I’m at trace wall. That’s probably the best place to find me. And then I will say I’m about to be out on maternity leave here for a good little while. So don’t anybody get your feelings hurt if I don’t respond for a while that’s what I offer for almost six months? I’m not going to be back until August. So I might be online here and there but probably not too much.


Kenny Soto 49:02  

Yeah. So by the time this episode airs, I’ll put a disclosure in the show notes that they can follow you but the DMS might be closed for a while.


Tracey Wallace 49:10  

Yeah, exactly. Feel free to DM me, you just might not hear back from me for a while. That’s all.


Kenny Soto 49:16  

Thank you, Tracey, for your time today. And thank you to the listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. This is episode 120. If you’ve listened to at least one other episode, I’m asking just one favor. Just one, please rate us. Four stars five stars. I’d ideally like a five-star review. But if it’s just four stars, that’s okay, too. There’s always room for improvement. And yeah, that’s the only request I have at the end of this episode. Thank you for listening and thank you again, Tracey. Thank you.

Related Episodes