In this podcast episode, we interview Cat Anderson, Head of EMEA Marketing at Sprout Social, a social media management solution.

Cat shares how she started her career in digital marketing, spending time working at Berlin-based technology start-ups before eventually landing at Sprout Social. She discusses the current lack of creativity in B2B social media compared to B2C, the opportunity this presents, and how social media offers a great, relatively low-cost platform for experimentation.

Cat also shares the benefits and insights social media tools can offer users and gives some tips and tricks on how to stand out and overcome a reluctance to be creative.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Cat Anderson – Sprout Social

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Cat Anderson

Mike: Thanks for listening to marketing b2b Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in b2b marketing today.

Welcome to b2b marketing the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Cat Anderson. Ken is the head of marketing for Sprout Social. Welcome to the podcast. Hi, Mike. It’s lovely to be here. Thanks for having me.

Well, thanks so much for coming on. I’m really interested because I had a quick look at your LinkedIn page. And you’ve had a really interesting career. Can you tell us what you’ve done? And how you’ve ended up at Sproutsocial?

Cat: Yeah, no problem at all. Yeah, it has been a bit of an interesting one. Now, to be fair. So basically, when I immediately came out of university, the world had collapsed in 2008. So a nice little recession to start my working career off with. And, and I promised the story gets interesting. But after a couple of years of sort of doing some freelance work with the BBC, which I was very lucky to do, I was doing odd jobs, we jobs here and there, I actually entered the channel for reality TV show come down with me on a bit of a whim, having never cooked before. And I came joint first. And with the 500 points that I want from that, I decided to go and visit a friend in Berlin. And I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those experiences Mike, where you go somewhere, and you’re just very instantly taken with it. And I really at that point, that was about 2010 2011, I was really taken with Berlin, there was a huge scene of startups and entrepreneurial sort of tech. And it really caught my attention coming from Northern Ireland originally, there wasn’t a lot of that in Belfast. So I just decided to move over there. And I threw myself headfirst into the world of startups. This is where I got really into digital marketing. And I stayed there for five, six years.

And then I came back to Ireland and and worked for a couple of larger companies until Yeah, eventually 1516 months ago landed at Sprout Social. And I have to say I was really enticed by this role in particular, because although sprite is an international company, its HQ in Chicago. So a lot of the team is based over in the States. There is a very, very quickly growing team based here in EMEA in Dublin. And we have like other people dotted all around Europe. But I thought the opportunity was quite unique, because you would have that feeling of a startup of building something up from scratch, but also with the budget of Big Brother in the States. So that was kind of like a perfect for me a perfect dream because you could get that startup vibe, but with a little bit of a of an enterprise budget, which is surely any marketer’s dream.

Mike: No, absolutely. And you’re not alone in terms of American companies who have bases in Dublin either. Yeah. So it’d be interesting to investigate what would have happened if your cooking wasn’t quite so good on come down. I know. That’s probably another podcast.

Cat: I think that as well, because it’s such a bizarre story. If I didn’t go to Berlin, where would I be? No, I don’t know.

Mike: But anyway, you ended up with sprout, which is great. I mean, I have to ask this because when we think of social media, we see a lot of creativity in consumer sector. But b2b really seems to lag, particularly in terms of doing things that are interesting, creative. Why do you think that is?

Cat: So this is a conversation I feel like I’ve been having quite a lot recently. And one report that I always refer to and would really recommend for anybody to read is The b2b Institute, which is actually like a LinkedIn Think Tank, they released a report called the b2b effectiveness code, which coincided with the new b2b marketing award that was launched at Cannes earlier this year. And in it, they basically analysed, you know, I don’t even know how many different types of b2b marketing in terms of what the overall return to the business would be. And they came up with this really interesting effectiveness ladder, which shows what is good and what is not that good long term. And one thing that was really key and Kemo and huge in abundance was that b2b marketing is really sort of lacking in creativity.

And I think to your point, this is something that we see on social in abundance with b2c companies, because social is fast. Social is for the most part, relatively cheap for you to experiment with different types of marketing so fast and cheap means you can kind of throw loads of different ideas onto the plate and see what sticks. But b2b just isn’t really following suit with this. And I think this report says and I’m inclined to agree that there’s a little bit of a lacking of creativity and this is yeah,

It’s certainly something that I agree with. I don’t know, what do you think, Mike?

Mike: I mean, I completely agree, I think one of the problems is is b2b tends to be incredibly conservative.

And, and equally, you’re trying to appeal to a hugely broad demographic in b2b. So, from everyone from graduates who are coming out and you know, a very immersed in social media, they understand what people are trying to do to have fun on Tik Tok or other platforms. And then at the other end, you’ve got people like me who are much older, perhaps less, you know, looking for the fun things who perhaps wouldn’t view something that was cool for a 20 year old as being something that is a campaign that should be run by one of their suppliers. And I think I think that that broad demographic is particularly challenging for a lot of b2b brands.

Cat: Yeah, I think that’s a very fair observation. But I think I mean, I hope that it’s changing because I think that, for all businesses, having a sense of agility, and not being afraid to change is always going to yield results for you. But yeah, we’ll see, I think it’s going to change. So like, watch this space.

Mike: Do you think one of the challenges b2b brands have is that they do so much on LinkedIn, which obviously appeals to this incredibly broad demographic, they don’t have the ability to segment their social into different activities for different channels. Do you think that that’s holding b2b back?

Cat: I think it’s interesting, I don’t think that they don’t have the ability to use the other channels, I think it’s that they just never maybe just don’t know how to use them and to their defence as well. There’s not a lot of examples of b2b brands, really utilising effective cross channel marketing across all of the different social media channels. LinkedIn is a really, really obvious choice, because it’s obviously the one that’s been earmarked as for business. But again, we’re not seeing people sort of really step outside their comfort zone and do really interesting things. So I think there are b2b campaigns that are happening where people are starting to test the waters and starting to try new things. But compared to the b2c market, it’s a lot slower. Personally speaking, I think this means that there’s a real opportunity to maybe stand out in a good way by trying maybe looking to the b2c marketing ideas that have been working and thinking, would they work with our audience? Could this be adopted? Is this something that we could try in a way that we feel comfortable with in a way that probably most importantly, we can get signed off? Because I think because no one’s really raising their head above the parapet. There’s a real opportunity, therefore, to be like, to really stand out in a good way, I suppose as well, you could also argue in a bad way. But if you do it right, in a good way.

Mike: But then I guess that there’s a challenge around working out who to target, you know, in b2b, it’s actually relatively easy to build communities around particular products or technologies. It’s much harder in in those other platforms to do that.

Cat: Yeah, I mean, yes, I think so. But something that I firmly believe, and I’m very happy for you to tell me that I’m wrong and naive, is that ultimately, with b2b Marketing, you are still marketing to a person. So you can still find ways to connect with people, even if it’s not in like a LinkedIn group that is specifically around a product or a service. I think that there are still other ways to connect with your ideal customer type. So for a lot of the time, of course, you’re going to be thinking about the brands that you are and the types of companies that you want to market to. But further down from that, we can have a think about like, well, who are the buying personas within these companies that you like? And what other ways could we get a little bit creative and try to reach them on different platforms? I think it’s potentially a little bit closed off to say that it’s not possible to build those communities on other platforms. I know that there definitely are lots of companies who do things on Instagram, for example. And of course, depending on, you know, what the product is, there are probably other platforms that you can consider as well. But yeah, I mean, I definitely I would not close the door on b2b companies being able to find a different type and maybe a new sort of ship of success on different platforms. But I agree, I don’t think anybody is doing it yet at all, and doesn’t really know how to do it.

Mike: No, I think it’s difficult. I mean, I see people, for example, doing retargeting advertising on Facebook was a very easy thing to do, to get an audience that you know, but I think building that organic audiences is much harder. Nobody’s really cracked that. Even with Facebook, I mean, there was a period where everybody wanted their own Facebook group, and from b2b and pretty much none of those have been vibrant or exciting or successful.

Cat: It’s an interesting one, because obviously, all of these platforms change so quickly, as well. And as you say, everybody was mad about the Facebook groups for a while and that’s maybe not the primary user experience on Facebook now. So you know, we don’t really know exactly how they will evolve, but it’s very clear that they will evolve. And again, potentially for b2b, it’s going to be getting a bigger flywheel into motion to get this sort of marketing campaign set up. So if it’s feeling like it’s too quick and transient, it might be putting people off.

Mike: I mean, one of the things we are seeing that maybe is a bit more creative is people building their own personal brand around their career. But yet we see you know, even in larger companies, people building a brand that’s maybe not quite in the same style and tone of voice as as the corporation, do you think that’s a good thing? Or do you think marketers should actually be trying to ensure that there’s consistency, and people’s personal brand should reflect the company they work for?

Cat: I mean, this is a great question, you Rotter? This is a difficult question. I think that having a personal brand, and marketing and a slightly different tone of voice from your company shouldn’t be an issue unless it is so drastically different that it’s actually crossing some of the values of the company or anything like that.

I definitely know of some people within different companies who fit exactly what you’ve just described. And I don’t see that there’s any issues. And in fact, I see that those people who’ve built up a personal brand, and are very well known for being Tom Smith, who works at AIX, it is an attribute to the company, I think that having strong individuals can be a definitely can be an attribute, or can be another branch of how people see your company and like put a little bit of a human face to it. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive. But I do understand then the marketers concerned about having a consistency with the tone of voice. And so I think having something like an advocacy tool in place can be helpful where you can control the messaging, if that’s something that you’re really, really concerned about. And you’re like, I want my employees to share information about the company. But I don’t really want them just to be saying it in any which way, if you’ve got a very, very, very strict tone of voice, then absolutely use an advocacy tool. There’s ways around that. And I think you can control that. And that’s great. It’s definitely always good to be encouraging your employees to share things because it’s a great, easy way to reach into new networks. But I heard Yeah, I personally think that it’s a good thing to show that you have people in your company who are passionate about what they do, who are free to be themselves, especially in the current climate as well you want to be it’s good for your employer brand, as well to show that you are helping people be passionate about their jobs develop themselves as well as promoting the company.

Mike: Sounds great. It sounds like you’re really in favour of diversity in the broadest sense of the word. You know, a company should be lots of different people rather than one single voice.

Cat: I definitely think diversity has been proven time and time again, like across all sectors to be something that should be embraced and encouraged. As far as possible. I think it will only bring, it’ll only bring good things avoid groupthink.

And yeah, if you can encourage it, definitely do.

Mike: I mean, on the other hand, though, I think a lot of b2b companies actually a less worried about the enthusiastic social media users, they’re much more worried about trying to encourage the average salesperson to do something on on social, how would you go about trying to get the sales team more engaged in social selling?

Cat: Wow, we again, a great question. As a marketer, I know that it always is in my best interest to make things as simple as possible for the sales team. And so I do think having an advocacy tool is really helpful for that where you can just take away any friction that anyone in the sales team might have with regards to time or trying to think of how to promote things.

And it is something that we offer at sprout, but I know you could, there are alternatives available. But with an advocacy tool, you can just have everything ready to go it’s a couple of clicks, making it super duper easy. Another thing as well, I guess, is to be creating content that’s made with the sales team in mind as well. So if you’re a company that is specifically targeting other enterprises in a certain industry, and your sales team say that a certain topic has come up time and time again, in their sales conversations, creating content that you know, is going to like light a fire within them. I think like just listening to them is also a great way to try and get them on board and get them to be active with sharing the content.

Mike: So actually going out and engaging the sales team is an important part in terms of determining what content you create, as well as trying to motivate them

Cat: Yeah, to an extent now I do think as any marketer will tell you, you can’t be doing every single thing that the sales team are telling you to do. Because otherwise you will be working seven days a week, 24 hours a day. There’s always going to be other requests coming in. But yes, I definitely think listening to the people that are having those frontline conversations so you know best what content is going to resonate?

To me, that’s a no brainer.

Mike: That makes sense. If people are listening to say they’re trying to move forward, I mean, obviously, one of the things they can do is talk to the sales team. But if they’re looking to prioritise their social media, how would you go about doing that? Would you look at targeting specific platforms first, or what would be your your first steps to building a social media plan?

Cat: So I think the first thing that I always say for any any question of this type is about data. So I think having a data foundation before anything is always a good plan, I can help you choose your strategy and pick your goals wisely. So understanding, first of all, the lay of the land of what you have done so far, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what you looking at that understanding, like what you wish could have gone better, and then creating your strategies around that.

It’s also good just to have some like, initial benchmark pieces of data to work from, so you can measure your success or not. I think as well, having we mentioned it already. But knowing what your tone of voice is, like already understanding if that’s something your company is prepared to be flexible with at all could also determine which platforms you might have success in.

And then of course, thinking about your audience. So if you want to keep it very, very much about trying to just reach other companies, that’s fine. Maybe it is like, let’s stick with LinkedIn. But if you do want to go down to that persona level marketing, that’s where you can maybe consider different platforms that you could be incorporating into your overall strategy.

I do think as well, to be honest with you, I think if you’re coming up with a social media strategy, generally, it’s really good to have an attitude of experimentation. Because as I mentioned earlier, it does move very fast. There’s lots of opportunity here. And it’s all relatively low risk. I mean, of course, we all know that there are moments where things can go desperately wrong. And you know, when you can say something that’s incredibly tone deaf, but I think those are actually pretty rare in the grand scheme of things. It’s social media is a great testing ground for trying out new things and seeing like, what will stick. And it’s something where you can try out things that you maybe want to try and other areas of your marketing strategy, just to sort of see what the audience reception to it is like, Finally, then I think closing it off with data as well is really important.

And after you’ve run any kind of campaign, you’re obviously going to want to know how it’s performed. Again, I think that if you’re doing this on social media, not just necessarily using the analytics platforms that are available on the actual platforms. But again, I’m obviously going to say this working at Sprite, but um, but other platforms are available, using a social media analytics tool, where you can actually have a deeper look, or using something like social listening, where you can understand exactly how your customers and your prospects prospective customers are talking about you understanding the sentiment around different campaigns that you’ve run, you can get so much more data, lead and deep insight into how your campaigns are performing, which is, again, not only useful for how you move forward with your social media strategy, but how you can apply it to other areas of your marketing as well.

Mike: That’s interesting. I think one of the fascinating things is you’ve talked a little bit about tools. And you’ve mentioned data and analytics, you’ve mentioned advocacy tools. What elements of a tool do you need to really get the best out of social media? I mean, I know you’re from sprout, but what sort of things to sprout to, in addition to just posting content?

Cat: Yeah. So I think it’s funny because I definitely think a lot of people know Sproat for that entry level use of publishing and scheduling, which is obviously really helpful. And that consolidation of all of your channels in one place, although that is at the ground level what we offer, and then that’s like level one.

It is, I don’t want to say that that’s not incredibly useful as well, it’s a huge way to save time, and to make things a lot easier for anyone who’s running your social media. But further from that, yeah, I’ve mentioned a couple of the different things that I know that is offered in sprout. So like having a deeper look at your analytics. So we’ve got a section of our tool called premium Analytics, which is where you can have that deep insight into all of your social media performances and also beyond your own content, having a look at how people are talking about you like competitive insight.

You can access all of that because it’s all publicly available on the web anyway, then I do think as well, we’ve got things like the advocacy tool. So as well as that’s making sure that if people are wanting to share things about your company, you want to make it super duper easy. We can do that. And then of course, there’s things that we can offer where we can help chat like set up chat bots for you. There’s like there’s a whole heap of different things. And actually, if you’re interested, I’d recommend taking out a free trial, which we offer. I have to get that in there, Mike, I hope you don’t mind.

Mike: And that’s actually great. So tell us about the free trial. What can people do with the free trials that are limited product? How can they actually find out about sprout?

Cat: Yeah, of course. So I mean, the websites always the best port of call sprout And we will very, it’s a very easy direction to finding where the free trial is, it’s like right there front and centre. The free trial itself is no obligation, 30 days, you get to use the tool inside and I touch social media accounts. It doesn’t have the premium analytics and social listening attached to it as the free trial option. But I might live to regret this, if you if you do want to try it, and you would like to have those assets attached, get in touch with me, are at Cat Anderson on LinkedIn, I will be happy to sort that out for you. I mean, we can get that sorted. That’s absolutely fine.

Mike: That’s awesome. That’s really kind. And then people are gonna want to try the tool. So maybe the next question is, do you have any like hints or tips, ideas, you could give people of how they might do something on social perhaps on LinkedIn, that’s going to stand out, there’s going to be better and more creative than everybody else.

Cat: Oh, so I know, we spoke a little bit before the podcast, Mike about this. And I firmly believe that, especially with the advent of this new award at Cannes, and all of the there’s a lot of buzz of the minute and all of the marketing presses about creativity in b2b marketing. I also do think a massive trend that we see in social media is personality led marketing, where we’re starting to see brands shake off the sense so much of them being a business and you start to feel the people behind the accounts a little bit more. So we’re seeing things where people are having a little bit more fun cracking a few more jokes, or it could be that they’re turning how people view their industry on their head.

I always use this example. But Monzo bank, I think do a really amazing job on social media. So obviously, they’re an online bank, if anyone doesn’t know them. And obviously, when we think of financial institutions, we always think of, you know, security and trust and CFT. And typically, that results in a very, like stared conservative and steady kind of voice. And ones who have kind of switched this up to like, I mean, I have to hand it to them to a wonderful effect, which is that they have decided that okay, that is absolutely true that people want someone that they trust and very, like safe, blah, blah, blah. But their tone of voice on social is that they’ve decided, well, people probably would also like to bank with someone that they feel that they could talk to, or maybe ask a question that they’re not, you know, going to feel silly by asking if they don’t really have that much financial acumen.

So their tone of voice is very data driven. It’s they talk about data a lot. But it’s also very friendly. And they do crack a few jokes, not too much. Let’s bear in mind, they are still a financial institution. So they’re not like doing stand up comedy, though. But I think they’ve done it to great effect, you know, they’re becoming very, very popular choice. And for people who have chosen to go like, Okay, well, yeah, I do want CFD and trust. But I actually want someone who I think is friendly, and who I can ask questions to as well. So I think there’s opportunities just to maybe think about how people view your industry.

Think about if there’s opportunities where you can show a little bit of personality in a way that will make you stand out from your competitors. I just think in the b2b world, it’s, it will be a game changer. And I know Mike, again, we talked about this, and I’m interested, I’m happy for you to argue with me.

I think personality lead marketing is what is going I think it’s going to sweep right, I think it’s only starting in b2c. But I think it’s going to continue, not maybe totally comprehensively through every single b2b company in the world. But I think we’re going to start to see a lot more of it, as people understand that a calculated risk with a little bit of humanity. People really respond incredibly well to it.

Mike: Yeah, I can see where you’re coming from. I may be a little less optimistic about people willing to take those risks. And maybe, I don’t know if you agree with this, but maybe Monzo taking a risk is because they’re more of a challenger brand. And the more established incumbents are going to be much slower to take risk, because they’ve got much more to lose.

Cat: 100% I definitely think so. And I think this is, it’s the blessing and the curse of being an established enterprise block brand. People know who you are, you have that stability, you have that brand recognition, but it means that it is it’s definitely it’s harder, again, to get that flywheel of change into motion. It’s, you know, there’s actually a bigger distance to go.

Mike: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I do think that some of the smaller the emerging brands are going to be much more adventurous than some of the bigger ones and maybe that will ultimately force the big established brands to be more creative, but I do think there’s a significant amount of loss aversion amongst big brands at the moment, they’re very worried about making mistakes. And there’s lots of cases where big brands have made mistakes.

This has been great. It’s been very interesting. Definitely could talk a lot more about social and what people could do.

But before we finish, is there any sort of tips or ideas or suggestions you’d like to give people as a way to try and overcome their reluctance to be creative? Maybe it’s a campaign, you’ve seen that people could copy or something like that?

Cat: Yeah, well, I think like, my first tip would be definitely to check out the b2b effectiveness code that came out from the b2b Institute, I think it’s a really interesting read for anybody who is in the world of b2b marketing, and certainly, for myself, even has helped me put a lot of framework on how my next 18 months strategy looks like. So I would really recommend checking out that report. Secondly, was thinking about, like, what b2b campaigns do you think have been particularly effective. And I think a few years ago, we saw a lot of larger companies starting to go down almost like, I think it was a little bit of a trend of like cinematic YouTube videos, or almost like mini movies.

So there was, let me see HBS, the wolf was Christian Slater, and there was Maersk, which is like the global logistics company, they did this like one called disconnected where they were all in an elevator and it was very trippy. But I kind of do think that the the way things are trending at the minute, like big, large cinematic campaigns, I don’t think we’re going to like sort of cut the mustard anymore. And in fact, we’re going in completely the opposite direction, which is shorter video is really, really like what people is grabbing people’s attention.

Unfortunately, our attention spans are being eroded away at a rate of knots, and so shorter is better. So I think like, Chuck, your five minute videos into the bin and start thinking in shorter terms, I think as well. Another thing that, to be honest, I always think is really, really helpful is no, I’m not going to say case studies, because Lord helped me case studies are, I think they always make a marketer sort of dive a little bit inside, because they’re always quite difficult to get across the line. There’s a lot of rigmarole with them.

But I do think having like user generated content, so if you can find any way to work with your customers, like that’s, that is evergreen, you know. So that’s if you can show the people that you’re working with, and like I personally always like to try and find more agile ways to do that, to show Yeah, look, shining a spotlight on whatever it is that your customer is doing. But also in a way where you’ve got that brand alignment as well. I think that’s always really, really helpful. And yeah, that’s, that’s evergreen, to be fair. So maybe if you can get that, squish it into a little tick tock video. I’m only joking. But yeah, those are really my two, my two little tips.

Mike: Awesome, if that’s super helpful. So you’ve already said people are okay to contact you on LinkedIn, which is very kind and you’ll also help them out with a trial and making sure they can try the whole of the product, which is great. Is there any other way people should get ahold of you if they’ve got questions?

Cat: Yeah, I mean, I think probably LinkedIn is best. To be fair, I do use it pretty regularly. As I say, it’s, it’s cut Anderson? Yeah, I think we’re just leave it at LinkedIn. How many listeners do you have on this mic? So if I put out my email address, I think it could be, I could have an influx?

Mike: Well, I can let you into a podcast secret, actually. Because whenever I appear on other podcasts, I always give out my email address, and I’ve never had more than one email. So either I’m incredibly boring, or most people contact through social so

Cat: well, I’ll say that. I mean, it’s not it won’t take a rocket science scientist to figure out my email. It’s cat dot Anderson at Sprout But I’m very happy to chat to anyone. So please feel free and it’s cat with a C, just like the animal. That’s awesome. And hopefully people won’t fill up your inbox too much.

Mike: Or if they do, it’s just with people wanting to become Sproutsocial customers. I really appreciate that. The conversation has been such fun. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Cat: Thank you so much, Mike. Me too.

Thanks so much for listening to marketing b2b Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier b2b dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.