Brody Dorland – Co-creator of DivvyHQ

When I review my to-do list each morning, I think to myself, “If I only get one thing on this list done today, which item will allow me to feel like I had a productive day?

Normally “social butterfly” and “computer geek” wouldn’t be used in the same sentence, but that’s Brody Dorland.

While building his first website as part of a college project in the mid ’90s, Brody had a hunch that this Internet thing would be part of his future. After college, Brody battled in the trenches of corporate marketing and advertising agencies. But in 2005, he took the entrepreneurial leap by starting his own interactive agency.

Over the years, Brody’s unique ability to demystify the technologies and best practices of content strategy and digital marketing has propelled him onto the national speaking stage and landed him clients such as Staples, Major League Baseball, H&R Block, Walmart, Sprint, and Nokia.

Today, Brody is a digital marketing strategist, blogger, professional speaker, and co-creator of DivvyHQ, the marketing industry’s first web-based editorial calendar application built for high-volume content teams.

Brody is a regular contributor to the Content Marketing Institute, Thinking Bigger Business, and Smart Computing Magazine. Recently, Brody was featured on NBC Action News and Hot Talk 1510 AM.

With a strong background in both traditional and digital marketing strategy, Brody helps marketing teams get organized and transform their structure and processes to deliver like publishers.

Where did the idea for DivvyHQ come from?

In 2009, I switched my focus (and service offering) from digital execution to digital content strategy. I felt like there were plenty of service providers building websites and setting their clients up on social, but those channels aren’t effective if they aren’t aligned with business strategy or consistently fed with valuable content.

Over the years, I had grown to love the strategy development phase of my client projects and using my background in PR to craft stories for clients that would generate awareness and leads. Around this time, “Get Content Get Customers” by Joe Pulizzi and “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson were growing in popularity. I devoured these books.

Both suggested using editorial calendars to manage the planning and production schedules for content marketing. With this advice, I started crafting my own strategy process that included developing an editorial calendar in an Excel spreadsheet as part of my client engagements.

This scenario worked OK for a while and provided my clients with a solid schedule for creating their content, but as my client base and the volume of web and social content grew, managing multiple client spreadsheets became a nightmare.

In 2010, the pain of the process forced us to start looking at other platforms. We tried multiple project management systems, task management apps, and Google spreadsheets. Nothing truly fit the unique needs and workflows of content planning and production.

In early 2011, we started pondering the idea of building our own application. We gathered some resources, created the initial architecture and wireframes, and built the prototype in roughly three months. We launched the beta of DivvyHQ in September 2011 at the first annual Content Marketing World conference.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

As a startup co-founder, wearing multiple hats is the norm. A typical day starts at 8 a.m. with our morning development team stand-up. We use the agile development process, and as the product owner, I oversee the day-to-day development of our application and prioritize the build-out of new features and enhancements. As we prep for building new features, I develop technical requirements and wireframes to ensure a high-quality user experience.

I also manage all of the marketing efforts for our company. I crank out a steady stream of blog, email, video, and social content each week to support our sales and customer engagement team. The rest of my day is typically spent working with my co-founder on fundraising and HR-related initiatives.

I really have no choice but to be productive every day. I force myself to keep an updated to-do list and knock as much off my list as possible each day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When you boil it down, the primary roles of a creative marketing agency is to create great ideas and execute them. Having done this for the past decade, it’s now second nature. The difference is that we get to focus on just our ideas and executing them in a more focused way. It also helps to employ a great team of creative professionals who all know how to get their hands dirty and get it done.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

With the evolution of content marketing, it’s exciting to see companies across the globe starting to understand what it takes to really do content well in a sustainable way. Companies are starting to think, look, and produce more like publishers by making the necessary changes within their internal structures and processes.

These internal publishing teams have the opportunity to better align content with business objectives, which typically means a more focused and effective content strategy. And selfishly, our product is an ideal solution to help these internal teams get it done.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

When I review my to-do list each morning, I think to myself, “If I only get one thing on this list done today, which item will allow me to feel like I had a productive day?”

I normally try to knock out something big in the morning. The rest of the day’s tasks are gravy.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

For one summer during college, I worked for a long-distance telephone service provider. I was on the outside sales team selling long-distance telephone services to businesses door to door.

I learned that cold calls and intros just don’t work any more. Just getting past the receptionist is nearly impossible unless the timing is perfect. It also helped me start to grasp the concept of crafting a creative and succinct pitch or value proposition. Your first impression has to be powerful, enticing, and create a perceived value that can’t be ignored.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d say there were certain points in my career that, due to being young and less experienced, I probably underpriced my product and service offerings. In hindsight, I should have positioned my fresh, creative approach and digital savviness with a higher value right out of the gate. If and when a potential customer or advisor says, “Gosh, you’re not charging enough,” double your price, and see what happens. You can always discount to get a deal from there.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Always be learning. Never stop.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Relationships are everything. As Bob Burg, author of “Endless Referrals,”  says, “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to people they know, like and trust.”

I live by this quote. Much of my entrepreneurial success has come from building strong relationships with a “give to get” mentality. The more of your time and attention you give, the more it will come back around tenfold.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

For me, past failures have typically come due to a lack of focus and chasing a bright, shiny object that looked like a bigger (and more fun) opportunity than my current situation. As entrepreneurs, opportunities pop up all the time, and some are hard to resist. Focus and perseverance are important traits for entrepreneurs, and I’ve had to learn this the hard way.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I was really into theater and acting classes in my youth, and I’ve been able to take much of what I learned about character development (getting into character and learning or creating their backstory) and apply that to persona development, which is an important part of marketing and content strategy.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

For product development, I couldn’t do without JIRA, Slack, Google Hangouts, and Skype. For marketing, I use Infusionsoft, WordPress, Adobe Creative Suite, Dreamweaver, Camtasia, Hootsuite, Buffer, Bitly, Keynote, and GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar. Other tools I use include Dropbox and Google Drive, Google Chrome, WiseStamp, and Signals by HubSpot.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Besides the books mentioned previously, I’d recommend that everyone read “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott. Now in its fourth edition, this book helped me retrain my marketing brain from the traditional world that I was taught in school and practiced in my early marketing career. But this isn’t just a book for marketers. Every businessperson needs to understand how the digital world has changed us and how content (in its many forms) can be leveraged to connect with a global audience.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

• Joe Pulizzi:; @joepulizzi
• Robert Rose:; @robert_rose
• David Meerman Scott:; @dmscott
• Mitch Joel: ; @mitchjoel


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