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Interview with A. Lee Judge – Let’s Jump Into Content Marketing – Episode #42

“You should take a T-shaped approach…”


A. Lee Judge is the Co-Founder and CMO of Content Monsta, a digital content agency.

Focused on B2B marketing for over 20 years, Lee is both a digital marketing practitioner and creative content entrepreneur. He is a leading LinkedIn video creator, Forbes Agency Council member, and engaging event speaker providing training on digital marketing, content creation, social selling, and sales enablement from the Marketing point of view.

In this episode we talk about the fundamental principles of marketing, how to take a T-shaped approach to learning new skills (a fresh look into the specialist vs generalist argument), understanding your audience when making an agency, his advice for college grads in 2021, and more!

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:00  

Kord I can never get used to how loud she is. We are now recording in 54321. Hello, everyone and welcome to Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing podcast. Can you believe it? We are now more than 40 episodes in and we are now up to episode 42. And today I have a lead judge. Hi, Lee, how are you?


Lee Judge  0:23  

Hey, how’s it going, Kenny, thanks for having me.


Kenny Soto  0:25  

So before recording, I gave you a little backstory of the podcast, and essentially why I created the podcast for people like myself are learning more about digital marketing from experts like you. So my first question for you is very straightforward. Why did you get into digital marketing?


Lee Judge  0:45  

Well, it’s funny that you use the term digital marketing, because I think I got in a bit before it was digital. And when I first got my first title, digital marketing, I had to google it. I didn’t know what it was. So just starting, I guess, with marketing period, how I got into marketing was, I came from an entrepreneurial family. So I’ve had to market businesses before I even knew that it was called Marketing. 


And through and after college, I operated a DJ company, and my DJ company, where I learned how to learn about customer personas and advertising and customer database management, email marketing, and even even market pricing. So my first official marketing job came based on that experience, and not any real documented job experience, or even schooling experience. It was just life experience of working with my own businesses, my family businesses, and learning how to market those. 


And then later on, I was hired by a company when the CEO interviewed me, he noticed that I had built like six CRM, a CRM is a customer relationship management system, I built six of those and had manage years of email marketing campaigns for my DJ company and another company I’d worked for. But I didn’t even know at that point what a CRM was. And I didn’t even realize that I had built six CRMs by hand, coding them with SQL. And I didn’t know what SQL was, I just knew that I had learned this language. 


And I had began, you know, creating these databases. And the things that I told him that I had done, he knew more about what I had done than I had, he understood that I had built CRMs, which I just thought were customer databases, he knew that I knew SQL, because I told him about the coding, I used to do it. And so he had the insight to hire me and put Salesforce in my lap says, hey, you know, you know, relational databases, I’m gonna make you the Salesforce admin, I had never use Salesforce before. 


So long story short, as a marketer in charge of both the marketing tech stack and the sales tech stack, I learned a lot. And that’s kind of the basis of where I am today. Somewhere in there is where the digital part came in. I’ve always been a content creator, since since high school, I’ve loved creating video and audio. And so you know, with that, that marketing the creative part, when that part met the, the nerdy database part, that was digital marketing, and I didn’t know what it was when I was given this title of digital marketing manager, some years back, but I had to look it up. And so that’s kind of where, for me digital marketing happened when those two things collided.


Kenny Soto  3:24  

A lot of the listeners started their careers in digital, so they don’t necessarily know all of the distinct differences between traditional marketing and digital marketing. So my follow up question to your story is, what are those differences? And do they still exist today?


Lee Judge  3:43  

Yeah, and I think it’s the best digital marketers understand the aspects that aren’t so digital. Because even a marketer today, if you’re in school for marketing, today, you got to learn about customer personas, you know, which is basically who is your audience? What do they like to do? Where do they go? What do they read? You know, how do they consume content? What’s your company size and budget, all those things are not so much digital, they’re more, it’s almost partly psychological? How do you understand what people are doing and where they go and what they’re thinking? So that that’s a base that, you know, analog or digital, that’s, that’s consistent.


 Also, you know, I still feed on things I learned, you know, when I was doing more graphic design stuff from, you know, more analog standpoint, whether it’d be like a brochure or catalog or something. I don’t go back quite that far. But I did do brochures and things where people actually still did mail stuff. Even then, the psychology of what looks good, what doesn’t look good, what catches eyes. 


You know, writing a headline for an article, or a print item is the same thing as writing a headline for email. I mean that the principles are still the same. The words you use have changed, but having that background Definitely feeds into digital. So I can’t say there’s there’s nothing that I don’t, that I don’t use still, from pre digital. And I give it I don’t I don’t date that far before digital. I mean, when I mentioned that my DJ company, I built it using it creating databases on a computer that was digital. 


And then, you know, I did a lot of email marketing. You know, before I got before I was in a corporate job doing email marketing, I did it for my DJ company, but I remember it, there was a time when I can get like, 90% open rates, but because nobody else was doing it. And that was just a sign of me being the kind of person to always push the limits of technology to find out what’s next, find out what’s new. So, yeah, I was building email list, you know, probably in the early 2000s, late August, early 2000s, before I even got into corporate job to do so. But you know, that curiosity for new technology is probably what drives me right now. 


Because even now, I want to know, what is the latest marketing automation platform? What CRMs are coming up? You know, what are the best ways to use technology to do a better job faster? You know, what kind of AI is available to make something more efficient? That kind of curiosity for technology, I think, is a must for any any digital marketer today. So and I think that’s, I’m glad you mentioned the difference, because I think the difference is those who did not graduate into digital, can no longer hang in digital and digital in today’s marketing world at all. Because you have to understand digital.


Kenny Soto  6:37  

Everyone’s answer to this so far has been different. So I’d like to know what yours is. For someone who’s just starting in their marketing career, do you suggest that they specialize right away? Or should they generalize and do different things like graphic design for one job, email marketing, for the other CRM and lead scoring and lead generation for the next, etc, etc.


Lee Judge  7:02  

I think you want to be T shaped, basically, you want to have a good general understanding of all these things. But you want to be able to go deep on one thing, at least, right? So you can’t try to know everything, you can’t go deep on everything. But you have to really have an understanding of how these things go together. Because some of the frustrations I’ve found working with some marketers is they don’t go deep on anything. Or they don’t have a general understanding. 


They may ask, Can we do this? And the question they ask alone is already in an area where well, you should know that these two things doesn’t work that way, you know, you got to kind of know, like, for example, let’s take social media, for example, if you don’t have to be a Facebook expert, or Instagram expert, or you know, a YouTube expert, but you should kind of generally know how it works, you should really know that YouTube is for video and you do certain SEO on YouTube, that is the second largest search engine, as opposed to Facebook is more personal, the people who were there doing different things. 


That’s general stuff, you don’t have to know, you know, the nuances of what makes a Facebook ad work versus a YouTube pre roll. That’s a bit more detail. But you should at least know the differences on the surface. And I think for someone starting out, you should have a natural curiosity to have a general understanding across the board, and then find that place where you want to dig in deep. And


Kenny Soto  8:32  

For someone who’s interested in content marketing, do they need to also have a T shaped approach for when it comes to audio, video and written formats of content?


Lee Judge  8:44  

Yes, I would say yes. And it’s probably very, very debatable. But I would say yes, because you know, until you’re at a management position, you’re gonna have to do one of those things, you’re gonna need to be able to have some hands on to do something. And I’ll just say, from my personal experience, the people who have who have been my managers, they were always better managers, because they understood what they were asking for, because they had done it before. 


And so if you’ve never done any of it, and you just have a general understanding, it’ll be hard to communicate to the people who are doing. So I think it’s important to have some doing experience before you go for that just understanding experience. Because your understanding will be very shallow across the board if you don’t do something. Even if you only do one area of content creation, let’s say for example, you only doing blog articles, you’re only doing written content.


 You gotta have you got to be exposed to what happens with that digital with that written content. Do we repurpose it for audio or video you’re going to hear about the other side’s other areas, and I have an understanding of where that type of content fits into the big picture. But if you don’t go deep on any one of them, you’ll you won’t be able to have a chance to see it The interconnectivity between the different types of content. So, again, yeah, I would definitely, I would definitely say you need to go deep on something, and then get a general idea of everything else around you.


Kenny Soto  10:13  

This questions more for my own personal benefit, but I know some of the listeners will also benefit as well. If a manager, were to ask you or a client were to ask you, what is the monetary value of a piece of content? How would you measure that?


Lee Judge  10:32  

I would say like my dad always used to tell me, Well, how long was the string? That’s like, the distance from one end to the other? It’s, it’s, it’s not that measurable with that kind of a question. It’s like what you do with it, you know, it’s like to say, what can I do with this dollar? Well, you could buy all the candy you want if you only want three pieces of candy, or it may do nothing for you depends on what you want. So what is a valuable piece of content, one piece of content. In fact, I had a Post this morning on LinkedIn where I said, don’t get too caught up in your numbers, or your vanity metrics.


 Because let’s say for example, your podcast, if your podcast only has, say, 100 listeners or 100 downloads this month, do you say oh, wow, there’s no value my podcast. But what if one of those listeners was the right person who says We love your show? We want to give you syndication on iHeartRadio, you only need to that one. So whether it’s one or a million, you can’t weigh that one, you have to weigh the outcomes. 


You know, if I wrote a blog article about some new technology that I invented, but only have three readers, what if those three readers were Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and, you know, Jeff Bezos, then those three leaders, three years readers matter. So I think too many times marketers get caught up in their their vanity metrics, or their metrics that say, you know, my blog, this, this blog article had 1000 readers, this blog article has a million readers, which one has the most value? At the end of the day is? How does it serve your purpose? How does it serve your business? does it drive business? Does it bring customers does it bring relationships does it bring doesn’t move your whatever your intention is, it doesn’t move it forward, that’s where the value comes from. And any one piece of content may or may not make a difference. That’s why it’s just good to be consistent and keep on creating content because you don’t know which part will be the most valuable.


Kenny Soto  12:37  

For my next series of questions, I want to just add a little bit of context before asking them so the first question would be, what is content monster? And what do you do there?


Lee Judge  12:48  

Okay, so was that


Kenny Soto  12:50  

the full question? That’s the first one.


Lee Judge  12:53  

That’s the first question. Okay, so So content monster is a digital content production company, you may call it an agency, you may call it a marketing partner. And understand content monster, you have to kind of know the story behind it, which was, once upon a time, I was a marketing director at a company, and already had a background in media production. And I have a passion for creating content. 


This is before I knew it was called Content Marketing. And I needed some as as the marketing director, I needed some video created for the company. And so I wanted some talking head video of some of the thought leaders of the company. And so I went about it on my own to get purchase the equipment and to utilize it and to set up the shoots. And I created content for the company I worked for. And then another company saw the videos on LinkedIn. And they reached out to me personally, and certainly, was that video done in house? Or was it done by agency? I said, Well, kind of both because I’m not an agency yet at that moment. 


But I created it with my equipment, you know, my, my production. But I did it for the company I work for because the manager part of me needed that content. So it was in they paid for it. So it’s kind of in house in our house. Well, they said, Well, the question is, can you do that for us? And so there’s there’s no conflict of interest. The company was very different in their offering. So I said, Sure. So they became my first client. And soon after I formed content monster with the idea of as a marketer, what do I want from an agency creating content for me and some of the pains and some of the things that were missing were? 


First of all, some companies did not keep up with the technology. I would send out the video that I created to other video production companies and say, Hey, this video, I need more of these, what would you charge for this? And they will come back with crazy prices like 10 grand for a minute video, and I realized those companies who were video companies came from a time And when they needed big trucks and hot lights and giant cameras to do commercials, and they had not quite pivoted to today’s fast paced, lightweight digital marketing world. So I said, Okay, first of all, we can do it faster and less expensive and keep up the same kind of quality.


 And then secondly, they would always, most agency would take the credit piece of content for you and just drop in your lap. That’s all they did. They didn’t help you strategize how to use it, they didn’t help you plan, they didn’t help you analyze it after the fact, after you’ve had it and you publish it, you publish it, it’s hot for a week and disappears. I didn’t want to be that kind of company. So content masters was coming from aspect of let’s help marketers, especially ones who were in small companies like I was in there was only three or four of us in the marketing department. How do we make those three or four people marketing departments look like they’re 10,15, 20 people are more. And that’s what content monster was founded on. How can we create tons of content, from a strategy to analytics to the creating of really great content for small companies, and make them look big and give them a much, much bigger impact for their content creation than they can by themselves? So that’s what content mastery is we produce content and put a strategy behind it.


Kenny Soto  16:20  

Hypothetically, if any of the listeners wanted to create their own agency, what would be the number one mistakes to like the top five mistakes to avoid?


Lee Judge  16:33  

I don’t know about five. But the first one comes from the the exact pain that that I tried to solve with content monster was understanding the marketing, understanding your audience, like for us, one of the biggest drivers for our customers is that where marketers, they come to us, they may want to produce video, they may want to produce a podcast. 


But then they come out going wow, wait a minute. You mean you’re also a marketer, you can help us understand what to create and how to create and how to analyze it and how to distribute it and how to market it. That has been the greatest sales unique identify unique uniqueness for us is that we’re marketers, so I think anyone starting an agency has to first understand their audience understand who the Prasanna they’re working for and understand their pains. 


Me being that marketer, I knew exactly what I wanted from agencies. So I created the agency that I wanted to work with. So in terms of mistakes, the mistake would be first not understanding your audience, or the persona, that who’s who’s gonna most likely do business with you, Jesus, so many things will come under the I don’t know, if there’s, if I could name five, that’s a big one, understanding who you’re trying to work for. 


Maybe maybe trying to grow too fast. In fact, one that we one mistake we made, was trying to do too much. Trying to be too general. We started out doing personal branding content as well. We, you know, we we marketed a lot wider of services than we prefer to do. And we could do them. But we found that finding out what works the best for us and going deeper on certain kinds of content. For us, I sweetspot, as multimedia, you know, we can do video and podcasting. Better than any other company, I think, because we understand what marketers need. And we don’t overcomplicate it. If you want to, you know, ask us to do a PPC campaign for you, that isn’t our best thing.


 You know, we have partners we work with who can, you know, we can put it in the package for you. But we understand that going to wide is not the best thing for an agency. So find out what you do best find out what you can do the most efficient, and give the greatest value for your customers. And don’t do too much else for a while.


Kenny Soto  18:58  

When is it appropriate to start adding team members?


Lee Judge  19:04  

It’s good question. That’s a question that even I asked. You know, I do it based on based on the money. I mean, that’s it’s a business right? So I may say I want an additional team member, but does the does the finances of what business is coming in justify it? 


Now there are times you want to get ahead of the game and say let’s hire somebody just in case. But as an employer, you’re playing with folks lives. So you don’t want to hire somebody and then six months and go, you know, this isn’t working out. We’re not making enough money in this division. You have to let you go. 


That happens, but you don’t want that to happen. So I would prefer to make sure the business is there like for us, you know, we bring on for example, the past year the pandemic, saw a spike in a podcast production produce a lot more podcasts. And so just by the sheer number of customers coming in We had to add on more podcast producers, editors. And that was based on the money it was based on the volume of customers, it wasn’t based on a want, or, you know, looking like we were bigger company it was solely based on, we want to make sure we have enough staff to do the business. And not anymore. Simple as that.


Kenny Soto  20:22  

What are some common mistakes you see people make as chief marketing officers, and this can also come from your own personal life?


Lee Judge  20:33  

Yeah, so there’s a few places that I see most common. And I think one. And this is, well, let’s just say this, I think not striking a balance between product focused marketing and brand marketing. The needs for this vary from company to company, but when their focus tips too far in one direction, with the business is going to suffer. And a second mistake, I think I see is a tendency CMOS, who did not come through marketing. 


So oftentimes, they land in the title of CMO, because really, the company is looking for a chief revenue officer or a chief product officer, or, you know, there was a void for the CMO. So they gave this huge Chief Product Officer cmo duties, and it isn’t their fault. But the mistake is not taking the time to learn marketing. Especially when you know you have a bias, you actually may not even know you have a bias. If you are biased to two products, you gotta have some some some faults in your marketing. 


If you’re bias to revenue, well, everybody in the business has to be concerned with revenue. But there are some things with marketing that conflict with revenue in terms of, you know, revenue officers, probably thinking quarterly reports, half your reports, whereas a marketer needs to think a lot further down the line, you know, for the year for two years, they have to worry about the company’s reputation, everything doesn’t tie to revenue, at least not in the short term. 


So when the CMO comes from these roles of CRO or CPO, or have been from those backgrounds, they they’re gonna miss some things. So, it’s best to at least if you’re placed in a CMO position, to make sure you learn the basics of marketing, and not just you know, coming from the business level you came in at without understanding the nuances of, of marketing.


Kenny Soto  22:28  

So you just gave great advice for the people at the top. Now let’s talk about the people at the very beginning. There’s a lot of people that just graduated college, and they’re literally like in their job searching phase, either they’ve started it already, or they’re just about to start it. 


And you have a unique perspective as an employer. What advice would you give to the marketing major who just graduated, who has no idea where to look how to go about finding the right opportunities, how to go about being more competitive against all the other candidates that are that are looking for the same job? So what advice would you give to them?


Lee Judge  23:03  

So you’re talking about somebody who does not have a job yet?


Kenny Soto  23:06  

Yeah, all they have is just education and school experience, maybe volunteer opportunities and internships here or there, but their resume is basically a blank slate.


Lee Judge  23:16  

Yeah, so first, I would say, do what you can to get access to marketing technology. And that may be an internship, it may be something free, if you can afford to work for free or to you know, just get in a situation even if it’s a, you know, a job versus a career, just get in the door. Get in there and get access to these to these software platforms. If you can get in somewhere and say they give you access to marketing automation platforms like Pardot, HubSpot Marketo CRM, like Salesforce, or you know those things, if you can get in there and get access to those, that’s where the, the learning comes from.


 And you know, as you work in there more and more, you may be able to get more more access into these when I say more access, I mean, there’s access user levels, I may not let you see everything in there, but get access to these things and learn because even as fast as digital changes, having access to these tools will make a huge difference. Like for me right now. I you know, I have software that I’m thinking hey, I would I would give somebody a an Adobe license and a HubSpot license just to come work for me. 


You know, and at the same time as an employee I’m thinking who’s gonna do that me who’s gonna say I won’t get paid but I’ll you know, I’ll take an Adobe license or HubSpot license, whatever. But I think back to a time where I will be happy because I was in the music industry for a while and I’m thinking if you just let me sit in, in a studio, if you just let me get near the equipment, get near the software. I would spend half my day all my free time I’m just being there to soak up that experience. 


And so now, from a marketing standpoint, the same thing applies, you know, I’m in the position to provide that kind of experience. And so I’ll make a call right now to the whoever’s listening, you know, if someone will be willing to learn, I would give them access to software that they wouldn’t be able to just purchase on their own and have access to it not to mention the processes. I mean, we have a lot of software that’s all tied together does a lot of automation. And you wouldn’t be able to see all these intricate automations and things tied together if you were not inside a company. 


So if you can afford to do something for free, or for less than you want to get paid for, just get in and get access to stuff. So don’t look at the money as your only pay, look at access to technology as a big part of your pay. That’s that’s the best advice I could give to someone coming fresh out of school.


Kenny Soto  26:01  

Before I give my last answer, I just want to say that I resonate with excuse me, my last question, I resonate with your answer because I started off as a music major. And I got into digital marketing from an internship where I worked for free, and got introduced to Google Analytics, HubSpot, and all the other tools that I use now. 


So that’s really cool that you said that. My last question is hypothetical. If you had access to a time machine, and you went back 10 years into the past, knowing everything you know, now, how would you get to where you are today in your career, just faster.


Lee Judge  26:38  

First of all, buy a truckload of Bitcoin. But the only way that I would have gotten to where I am today sooner would be if I could have crammed all of my experiences that I’ve had in the past 10 years, into a shorter time, I would not want to bypass any of my experiences in business and marketing to get there sooner. 


So I’d have to have been able to cram all those experiences still have the experiences and on top of the knowledge, have the experience, you know, crammed that timeframe. If I could take my knowledge today, back 10 years ago, I would also work harder at building a personal brand. That brand plus my current knowledge would probably put me lightyears ahead of where I am today. That and a boatload of Bitcoin.


Kenny Soto  27:27  

That’s Bitcoin. Thank you. I really appreciate your time today. And if anyone wanted to connect with you, where can they find you online?


Lee Judge  27:36  

Sure. So my website is a And of course, the company is content monsta, And my favorite social platform is LinkedIn. So look me up there.


Kenny Soto  27:50  

Perfect. And if you do reach out to him, just make sure that you mentioned that you found him through this podcast because I’m sure he gets a lot of connection requests every single day. You’d have listened to another episode of Kenny Soto is Digital Marketing podcast. Thank you, Lee. Thank you to you, the listener, and I hope everyone has a great week. Bye.


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