Jan 7, 2014

Twist Image: Monetize Your Marketing – It’s Not A Fantasy

Imagine for a moment what it’d be like if your marketing made money. Not just making money by generating sales opportunities, but if your marketing was so good you could monetize it and make it a revenue engine for your business.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

The idea that people would pay for your marketing, as well as your products and services, seems counterintuitive. In the majority of businesses marketing is a cost. Money is invested in marketing programs to increase brand awareness, generate sales opportunities or increase customer engagement. It’s like a watermill. The marketing investment is the water that drives the wheel which drives the mill’s mechanical processes.

But monetizing your marketing is not a fantasy. Twist Image is one of the largest independent digital marketing agencies in North America, and their content makes money.

Bake content into your brand

Content is an integral part of Twist Image’s brand. Mitch Joel, President of Twist explains, “We made a decision in the very early days that a human face would best suit the company’s brand. And that happened to be my bald face. Out of all of us it was me, because I was a content creator and I enjoyed it. It’s something I really like doing.”

Mitch has been prolific in his 12 year tenure with the firm. He’s written two bestselling books, Six Pixels of Separation and Ctrl Alt Delete. He’s a sought after professional speaker with big name clients like Google and Walmart. And Mitch blogs 7 days a week, podcasts weekly, and writes for the Huffington Post and Harvard Business Review.

And I will gush for a moment. Not only is Mitch prolific, his content is insightful and brings people back again-and-again. I read his stuff daily, because I know I’ll always find a gem in his work.

But Mitch doesn’t create content for content’s sake. Twist Image takes Mitch’s role and his content very seriously. Mitch said Twist Image strategically manages three brands:

  • Twist Image: the digital marketing agency
  • Mitch Joel: the persona or the human manifestation for the brand
  • Six Pixels of Separation Content Platform: the blog, podcast, speaking, books, Facebook Page and all the other content touchpoints

It’s not just marketing. Content is baked into the fabric of Twist’s business and brand.

Marketing as a revenue engine

Mitch Joel could make an outstanding living as an author and professional speaker, but he doesn’t take a dollar from the revenue he generates. All of his speaking, book and writing fees go back into the firm as a revenue stream.

Mitch explains, “If we’re not driving economic value to the brand, the company, then there’s no point doing any of this. So when I speak it’s an engine of revenue. And when I write, hopefully it’s an engine of revenue.”

Twist Image leverages the revenue stream from Mitch Joel and the Six Pixels of Separation Content Platform to offset their sales costs. Mitch continues, “When we pitch [my speaking and writing revenue] offsets the pitching costs, which are very significant in the agency world.”

Twist Image is creating a substantial competitive advantage by monetizing their marketing, because they don’t have to draw into their operating budgets to go after new business. Mitch’s activities offset their business development costs, and sometimes they end up cash flow positive. This gives Twist Image a leg up to hunt for large accounts and large projects, and they can compete and win against the global advertising agencies with deep pockets.

By monetizing their marketing Twist Image punches outside of their weight class.

It starts as a strategy

Monetizing your marketing can seem like fantasy, because so few firms do it.

Twist Image didn’t monetize their marketing by happenstance. It was a deliberate strategy they executed from the very beginning of their firm, and they capitalized on a unique set of skills and assets:

  • Resources: Twist Image has 4 Partners (business owners), including Mitch Joel, with clear roles and responsibilities. Mitch drives content and business development.
  • Pride: They didn’t outsource their marketing. They owned it, and scaled it.
  • Commitment: They took a long view of building not only a firm brand, but a human persona and a content brand. Twist recognized early on the value of a three-dimensional brand experience.
  • Talent: Mitch Joel has a unique ability to professionally speak and write at the highest levels.

Monetizing your marketing is achievable, and Twist Image offers a model of how it can be done. The challenge is bringing together the pieces: talent, commitment and strategy.

There’s no doubt about it. If people are willing to pay for your marketing, you’ve got a sticky brand.

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