A Napier Podcast Interview with Terri Delfino - FormAssembly

In the latest episode of Marketing B2B Tech, we interview Terri Delfino, Chief Marketing Officer at FormAssembly, an online form builder.

Terri discusses what makes FormAssembly stand out amongst its competitors and how marketers can integrate forms into their marketing automation and CRM systems like Salesforce.

Terri talks about the importance of branding forms, and how features like pre-fills give customers a better experience. She also shares details around the need to be compliant with legislation, such as GDPR, is driving more people to tools like FormAssembly, where it is harder to make a mistake.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Terri Delfino – FormAssembly

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Terri Delfino

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 technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Terri Delfino. Terri is the CMO of Form Assembly. Welcome to the podcast, Terri. Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me. Thanks. It's great to have you on. I think, you know, what we always like to do first off in the podcast is, is find out how you got to where you are today. So how did you build a career that led to becoming the CMO Form Assembly?

Terri: Well, I'd love to say I had a masterplan that started when I was in elementary school, but I'd be lying. I actually started my career in finance. And I thought that would be my career path. And I found myself working in finance at a high tech PR and advertising agency. And they came to me one day, and they said, you have a little too much personality for all this finance stuff. No offence to finance people, I love you. And they moved me into account service, and I never looked back. So I have worked for agencies, consultancies, nonprofits, public companies, startups, mature companies. But I've always, I've always been in high tech since that time, and I've always been in marketing.

Mike: That's awesome. And I love people who've got a background in numbers, I used to be an engineer. And I keep saying it's like, having good background numbers is the best thing you can do for going into marketing, particularly now with digital and all the data.

Terri: Yeah, being able to read a balance sheet and an income statement comes in handy.

Mike: Yeah, I was gonna say, I guess you're, you're always on budget with your campaigns I?

Terri: Well, if I'm not I know how to hide it. Let's put it that way.

Mike: Awesome. So I mean, you've joined a company called Form Assembly? I mean, there's an obvious question here is, did the world need another company offering online forms?

Terri: Well, I don't look at it as another form company, I look at it as having the right form solution. There are a lot of form solutions that come in, within packages, things like Marketo, and your other CRM solutions will have built in forms. But I've never met a marketing person that didn't complain about the form builder in their CRM or something like that. So what we like to do is we offer a no code, easy way to collect information. And then we have built into that ways to make that information. actionable, right, you can share it, you have it in a structured format, you can do more with it than simply collect collected. And when you think about the fact that most of us are either going through a digital transformation or have gone through a digital transformation, collecting information isn't just for the marketing organisation anymore. Anybody in your organisation that is collecting data, is doing it probably in some type of digital form, whether it's, you know, onboarding forms for insurance, or you know, how to get a parking pass, or collecting leads off a website.

Mike: That's interesting. I mean, you talk about data, and I guess being European, one of the big things we have in Europe is is GDPR is one of the things driving better form tools and need to be compliant with legislation is is that something people are looking for from suppliers like Form Assembly?

Terri: Absolutely. And we pride ourselves on our security functionality, not only do we have encryption, and we have physical methods within the product, we have HIPAA compliance, GDPR, GLBA, sock two, all of those things to ensure that we are treating your data, when we are being stewards of it in the in the best possible way with regards to security, compliance, and privacy and data stewardship is actually in our mission. And it is one of our tenants, we believe, and this is something we can get into more is that when someone shares their data with you, they're not transferring ownership of it to you, they're loaning it to you. And it's incumbent upon the organisation, whether it's a not for profit, whether it's a for profit organisation, to be a good steward of that data.

Mike: And so can you expand a little bit on how you make sure that happens? You've talked about security, but you also making it easy, for example, to gain consent for GDPR?

Terri: Absolutely, so we haven't built into the product so that the things that you have to know about the things you have to be aware of those things are standard in their rules in the product. So you it makes it harder to make a mistake.

Mike: Oh, that sounds great. Harder to make a mistake. Sounds like a very underrated feature there.

I'm interested, you know, so obviously, people are using Form Assembly to gather data. I mean, presumably, typically, what they want to do is then put that data into some other system. Can you talk a little bit about integration and what you do to enable Form Assembly to work with other systems, whether it's marketing automation or anything else?

Terri: Sure, sure. We have over 30 off the shelf connectors as well as an API for building specific ones. And probably the thing we're best known for is our Salesforce integration we have, I will say, I'm biassed, but we have the best Salesforce integration. And we have over 305 star reviews in the AppExchange. to back us up on that. So, again, that is a part of, of why would you need, you know, a dedicated data collection platform or form building solution. And that is because getting the data is only half of it, and you want to get it into the systems you use most and make it actionable.

Mike: I think that's really interesting. I mean, Salesforce, they don't Okay, as a business, you know, they're pretty successful. A lot, right? Like their chances. Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, the forms, you know, I totally agree are not the most fun part of the system. So how have you managed to integrate to make that so seamless and make people so happy with the integration?

Terri: We started this business in 2005. We've been at it for a very long time, we have Salesforce experts in house, we understand the Salesforce environment, and it is our business, it is the it is the one thing we do so we dedicate ourselves to making that as simple and seamless as possible.

Mike: That's really interesting, because I see with some, you know, marketing technology vendors, you know, it's like, we built an integration with Dun, it sounds like you're doing a lot to continually optimise and improve that. And certainly, you know, you've built this reputation around Salesforce. So I guess that's a key part of your business.

Terri: It is it is continuous learning. And continuous improvement is not just, you know, it is something we do throughout the organisation. It's something we do in our marketing organisation. And, you know, our product, and our engineering teams adhere to it as well.

Mike: Cool. So, I mean, presumably, you're using a very wide range of different applications, do you want to touch on a couple of areas where people liked to use Form Assembly and why they feel that that Form Assembly is so much better than using Salesforce forms or whatever other system, they've got their built in system?

Terri: Sure, well, some of the ways you know, we use it right. So we use it every day in our organisation throughout internally and externally. Externally, we use it for things like Event registrations, contact forms, all of the forms on our website or in Form Assembly, downloading content waivers, e sign double forms, you know, things that require signatures, legal documents and things like that. Internally, we use it for all of our marketing requests, we use it for event planning, onboarding, and training, just collecting things like travel information to build travel profiles. And then of course, internally and externally, it's things like feedback, forms, quizzes and surveys, meeting planning, so So it also, not only is it easy to use, right, you can get up and running, you don't have to get it involved, right, you can build forms and start, no code, just get going. The joke is easy as a caveman can do it. For me, it's easy as a CMO can do it, if I can do it, trust me, anybody can do it. So not only does it make things easier to use, it also helps, you know, eliminate or reduce the reliance on other tools, you know, you don't need things like an event planning tool or a survey tool, or you can do some data analysis and get feedback on your forms, without bringing it into a spreadsheet tool or something like that. So it helps reduce kind of that, that martec footprint, which as we know grows almost on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel like it just grows by itself.

Mike: No, absolutely. I'm intrigued. You mentioned about gathering feedback and things like that in terms of internal uses. I think as marketers, we're often you know, really focused on how do we get customer data, but I'm really interested in do you have some examples about how you've got data internally, that's really helped you improve projects or, or create campaigns that perhaps wouldn't have been so successful without involving some sort of formal feedback or data input mechanism?

Terri: It's an interesting question.You know, so we're involved in a product launch right now. And when this product launch is over, not only are we using our form in our product launch, we will send a survey out to all of our internal, all of our internal teams, and how was that launch experience for you? Did the sales team have everything they need? Was Customer Success prepared? Did product feel that product marketing? Did it share the work, right? Just to get that feedback internally? We use it we use it all the time.

Mike: That's awesome. Because I think a lot of marketing campaigns that run people look at results and move on, there's not necessarily a lot of an analysis about how well the campaign that was executed, whether there could be improvements. So it feels to me like making that data collection easier. is one of those key obstacles you've got to overcome in order to be able to collect that data. I mean, is that your experience?

Terri: Yes. And there's there's ways so not only does the data about the campaign help, but we help make your forms more successful. Right. So we have improve your odds of good data collection. So not only do we have rules in to help you design better forms, but we make it easy with things like dynamic picklist, and conditional fields and payment processing and pre fills so that your user is having a better experience, right? How often do you get to a form? And you're like, hey, know this information about me? Why do I have to fill it in again? Or I just filled this out on the previous screen? Why do I have to do it? Again, they know who I am with pre fills and things like that. You don't have to refill information with conditional fields and dynamic picklist and things like that you can select your choice, or based on your answer, more areas of the form will filled up. And if you don't answer the question in a way that makes that form, expand, you don't have to deal with it, you don't see this long, daunting form. So our users find that not only do their their or their customers happier, their employees are happier, because it's easier to build. And it's a better experience. Plus, we provide data about the form, right? How many form completions did you have? How many times was it abandoned? How long did it take people to fill out your forms? So that again, you can get to that continuous improvement? Because we all know, if you don't, if you don't give a good user experience, and you don't capture people, and you don't keep them moving? You're gonna lose them?

Mike: No, I mean, I love that I'm just intrigued with, you know, you're saying about building rules and functionality to make it harder to make mistakes? What are the typical mistakes you see people making when they build forms? And what have you done in Form Assembly to try and prevent that happening for your customers?

Terri: Well, some of the things that that I just mentioned are sort of how we help from a structural building the form point of view, but in general, you know, thinking about the user experience, I say that at least five times a day, you know, and how would this this work for a user? And what would a user think if they were doing this, right? So just we all fill out forms all the time, right? If you shop online, as much as I do, you know, a lot about forms. So you know, how would you feel if you had to fill out this form? Try it for yourself, see how that goes? What information do you absolutely need? What information? Can you pre filled? You already know? what information you know, is are you going for nice to have? And maybe that's a progressive profiling thing. And you don't need that right now. Do they know who they're talking about? Have you branded the form is it customised? Again, and it's also considering security and compliance so that you are being a good steward steward of that data from the time it comes into your possession?

Mike: Yeah, that's really interesting. I love that kind of branding. I think that's something that's often forgotten with forms, because typically, most form builders, it's really hard to do. But I think it's quite important, you know, people don't like going from, you know, maybe a really glitzy marketing page into a form that is just not branded. So I love that comment. That's great.

Terri: Yeah, you can launch our forms, right, within a webpage? That's really cool. I'm interested about where Form Assembly really shines is is there a particular either application or feature that you find people keep coming back to and go? Just absolutely love it? Because it does this? That's a good question. You know, as I said, I'm sort of new with the company. And I haven't really spent as much time with our customers as I'd like, I do know that we're really strong in higher ed, in financial services, in health care. And that is one part because of our data security and our integrity. And also because of our ease of use and friendly approach.

Mike: I mean, that data security thing, I think, is really interesting, more and more. And we should have been considering this for many years. But I think more and more people are getting more focused on being fully compliant with regulations. Whereas perhaps people have been a bit sort of loosey goosey in the past. There are a lot of driving factors there.

Terri: And you know, I remind my team about all of the all of them on a regular basis. We all know GDPR, and all of those things, and there's carrot and stick, right. And that's definitely the big stick, those penalties are increasing, and they're getting more serious and different regions are developing their own requirements. So it's time to take notice. And as we all know, the threat landscape increases every day, right? Every time the good guys find a way to block the bad guys, the bad guys find a new way in so you've constantly got to be up to speed and up to date on security practices. And you have to work with vendors who are too. But there are there are other things more and more people are voting with their data and voting with who they trust. And they don't want to work with companies that aren't being good stewards of their data. And we see this specifically, especially in millennials, they also want to do business with companies who do good, right? It pays to do good it pays to have good practices and when you're when you're doing that it became become a competitive differentiator for you.

Mike: Definitely, I mean, I think you're absolutely right that people are are using their data as a source of power with with some kind companies. And that's because the data is really so valuable and the things that people are collecting. So I definitely agree with that I'm really interested in, we've established that value of the data. What can B2B marketers do to improve their forms? And ultimately, I think for, for most B2B marketers, it's primarily about improving completion rate, but also about getting richer data. I mean, what can they do to try and achieve those two goals?

Terri: Well, I think, you know, when you work with a technology that gives you flexibility, and gives you the ability to do some advanced capabilities, you can do things like progressive profiling, right. And when you couple that with a pre fill, so when you come to my forum, all you have to do is look at it, all your basic information is already there, you know, it's already right. So maybe I have the opportunity to ask you another question and get a little bit more information about you. And because you didn't have to fill all that out, you're going to feel better, and you're going to feel more open to sharing that information with me. And you also, you know, again, going back to what you said, you're on a branded form, you know, Who you talking to, you don't feel like you just got passed off to something you don't recognise. And it's also personalised. Right. So I know, you know who you're talking to.

That definitely, I mean, another thing I'm interested in is obviously Form Assembly has the ability to, to a B test. I mean, how are people using a B testing in forms? Is that something that's widespread? Because you hear a lot about it with, say, landing pages or emails, but much less about the form itself? Well, I if they're not doing it, they should, because it's a huge opportunity. Because how often do you get to that form, and you're like, oh, and you go on, you know, you just move on, you're like, I'm done. I don't want this that bad. Whatever it is, I don't want this that bad. So again, there's a million things you can do with design, right? How we perceive things visually how we take things in matter. So always adhere to those best practices for design and try things try. What level of information can you get away with? How much should you be trying to collect at a time? Look at those form, fill stats and see, right? Are people abandoning my form? And where do they abandon it and use that to try to shorten it and try some different things?

Mike: That's great advice. I mean, I think, I think the obvious thing that now, you know, a lot of people were thinking is, but it's my for many good. I mean, what is a good conversion rate? Is there a good conversion rate? Or is that one of those questions you really can't answer?

Terri: Well, you know, I could give you numbers, I could make some up I could give you depends on who you ask, right? Everybody's got an answer. But to me, it goes back to what you just talked about, about AB testing, what is a good response rate, better than you had last time, right? Because you should always be testing, you should always be trying to continually improve, you should always be looking at the results of the campaign results, the form results, the programme results, the feedback, and, and tweaking and little tweaks can make a difference. And using the advantages that forms give you such as pre fills, and, and conditional fields and picklist, and things to try to make your forms easier. So I believe in continuous improvement, so better than the last time is, is I think, the best rate to have.

Mike: That's a great answer. So just keep getting better. I love it. I'm really interested, actually. I mean, obviously, you're you're fairly new in the role as CMO. But what do you see as the main way you can impact the growth of former assembly? What do you see as being the things that are going to drive more users?

Terri: Well, I, I really want to see us and we will be leaning into this notion of data stewardship, and being good stewards of the data and and raising the profile of data collection within the organisation. So typically, when someone needs to build forms, they're maybe a Salesforce admin. And they come and they say, I need to build a form and they purchase our solution. They get up and running there. They're off, they're happy. They're collecting forms, and that's where it stops for them. Right. That's the extent of how they're thinking about it. But I think there's an opportunity for CIOs and CISOs. And IT leaders to think about what's going on across their organisation. Where else in their organisation is data being collected? And what type of governance and oversight do they have of that process? Are those people following good practices as far as security, privacy and compliance? Is it possible for them to have one flexible system of record for their entire organisation that they have governance over to to not only improve the experience but reduce risk for the organisation? I think there's a big opportunity there.

I think that's huge. I mean, we've worked with a lot of clients and we had one client recently that said to us, right, here's three steps, you just do this, this and this, and your form will work with all our campaigns it will feed through to leads you'll have the right data. Yeah, I think that ability to you know, whilst you're giving people the capability to add fields and ask for more information. But the ability to say this is going to guarantee it's going to work is awesome. I mean, to me, that's the biggest challenge with forms. And I think, you know, a lot of us have seen campaigns where people have collected data, and then you've found you've not got the right information. And suddenly, all these potential prospects for this external, that could become sales leads can't because you don't know where in the states they live, you don't have a zip code or a state. So I love that idea of governance. And I think that that's something that is gonna become more and more important, not only in large enterprises, but also, you know, a lot more in the midsize companies, because it takes away. Again, I think that the thing you said earlier that that ability to make a mistake, I love that. Yeah, we, you know, our mission is to help our customers and our in the people we work with be good stewards of the data that that's entrusted to them. And that at the end of the day, is really what we focus on. And that comes from the top that comes from our CEO.

Mike: That's great. We've talked about the systems as well. And I think we've talked a lot about Salesforce, because I think that's where form assemblies really known to be, you know, if you'd like one of the favourite products is somebody using Salesforce and natural thought is phone assembly for the forms. But what other systems do you interface to, I mean, it give us an idea of the kind of range of different things that that you're able to feed data to?

Terri: Sure, well, we have marketing automation systems, Pardot, things like that. So that's, that's critical, especially, you know, you want that, that that triangle between your data collection, your marketing automation system, and your CRM, payment processing, such as stripe and PayPal, so that smaller businesses especially can use those forms to actually do commerce, tools, like survey tools like MailChimp, and things like Go To Webinar, WordPress, Drupal, all those types of applications where you might want to move data to, in your, in your process to again, not just collect it, but make it actionable.

Mike: That's, I mean, that's awesome. That's such a range from, you know, surveys through to payments through websites, CMS is so it shows I think, what a lot of efforts got to go into to produce a form product that's going to work in all sorts of different environments. That's amazing. I'm, I'm aware of time, I just want to ask one quick question this this is, I think the killer question, you know, how much easier is it really to use Form Assembly rather than using Salesforce or Marketo. And I think maybe this might need a bit of a bit of explanation, because maybe some of the listeners haven't tried to build a Salesforce form.

Terri: Well, I've never tried to build the Salesforce form either. And I think that's because the prospect of it just seems so daunting. So I think just by the fact that I was willing to try, it will tell you that it is easier. One of the things that I think is wonderful having been in an organisation where you've got this great new solution, and you really want to get up and running, and you're just waiting for it to give you that time. So you can get going, we take all of that out. So it's a no code, easy to use solution where you don't have to get it involved. But yet you get power above and beyond some of those sort of built in form builders that you may get with some of your applications. So like I said, so easy, a CMO can use it.

Mike: And that's got to be a recommendation. I love that. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Terri, is there anything else you feel we should have covered or anything I should have asked?

Terri: Well, we did touch on it a little bit. And I think I mentioned it a couple of times. But we really have this commitment to data stewardship, and we are a cybersecurity champion. And we are kicking off a campaign to help educate organisations about the need to shift from data ownership to data stewardship, and why that is so important. And again, it goes back to this feeling that when someone shares their data with you, they are not giving it to you, you have a responsibility. All organisations have a responsibility to the person who shared that data, while it is in their care. And we want to help organisations be good stewards of personal data. We have a lot of resources on our website, webinars, infographics, white papers and things like that, to help them sort of learn about the tenants of data stewardship and why it matters. And, and as I said, it can become a competitive differentiator for your organisation.

Mike: Oh, that's great. So I'm sure a lot of people want to go there and learn more. I mean, if anybody's got a question or would like to contact you, what's the best way to get ahold of you? I have an idea. It might involve a form.

Terri: Exactly. Just come to Form Assembly.com. Fill out any form on our website, and we will get back to you because we will have that data right exactly where we need it when we need it.

Mike: Thank you so much for your time. I've really enjoyed the conversation. Hopefully, people listening to this are going to think a little bit more about the data and not think about owning other people's data but thinking about data stewardship. I think it's a great a great concept for everyone to think about.

Terri: Thanks very much for being on the podcast, Terri. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Mike: 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Daan Reijnders - Foleon

In our latest podcast episode, we interview Daan Reijnders, co-founder and CEO of Foleon, a content creation platform where users can create engaging long form content.

As an increasingly bigger portion of the customer journey is done offline, out of the marketeer’s view, the amount of individual investigation prospects do is increasing. Daan discusses how content is a good solution to support that journey and shares his expertise on how to ensure you capture attention and overcome shortening attention spans.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Daan Reijnders – Foleon

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Daan Reijnders

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 marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I'm joined by Daan Reijnders. He's the CEO and co-founder of Foleon. Welcome to the podcast, Daan.

Daan: Thanks.

Mike: So, Daan, I mean, you've had really quite a varied career. Can you talk to me about, you know, how you've got to the point of founding Foleon?

Daan: Yeah, sure. I think everything or direct, right, this little bit digital transformation, right. So when I was to 19, I started my first web design company, building websites, it was more like a big sandbox, where we could play around and learn how working with clients actually works. And later, when I was about 23, an agency asked me to join them and set up their digital arm, they didn't have any digital services up until then. So I joined that company became partner when I was 25. And within that company, and we were working with working for a couple of customers that digitised our content, more to screen, so it was built for screen. So let's say the trends transition from print to web, but different types of content and websites. So more magazine kind of content. So initially, we obviously tried Flipboard PDFs, but we wanted to have something that was natively built for screens, and we use technology or flash may be familiar to some of your listeners, but a younger audience will probably not know it. But Flash was not supported by iPhones and iPads. So when the iPad really got traction back in 2011 2012, we were looking for an alternative solution, then flash and html5 and CSS three was the answer, but only supported by a browser Safari. Yeah. So in that migration, we were looking for a solution. And that could help us build digital content. And in a faster way than then having a whole set of designers, digital designers, developers, front end designers, that all together build these, these web publications. So I was looking for a solution that can help me out couldn't find one. And that's when I started folding them. So based on our own needs,

Mike: and that's a great story. I mean, I think, you know, all the best startups come from from a need that you can't fulfil for yourself. But the interesting thing for me is you're not based in Silicon Valley. You're based in the Netherlands and Amsterdam. So how is it creating a marketing technology startup in the Netherlands?

Daan: Yeah, that's a good question. So I think we're here called Silicon canals instead of Silicon Valley. But the No, just kidding, it's, it's funny that quite some publishing platforms are from the Netherlands. So you have a large company that also has a global footprint called WoodWing, are also based from the Netherlands. And we have a couple of direct competitors, also from the Netherlands. So I think it has to do something with, let's say, urge to expand abroad, because the Netherlands is such a small country, that if we want to grow, we have to grow outside of Netherlands, we don't have a big home market, so to speak. And to I think Dutch design is also pretty famous. So Dutch design agencies are also often known outside of the Netherlands.

Mike: Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, I think we're seeing more and more of these startups coming from from Europe. And it's great that there's the infrastructure in the Netherlands to support it.

Daan: Yeah, I think, you know, London was obviously together with Berlin, where the two tech hubs of Europe and Amsterdam was lagging a little bit a couple of years ago, and but we really put some emphasis on promoting the Netherlands as a good country for startups. So a lot of expats moved to Amsterdam, and then we have pretty, pretty big ecosystem of larger SAS businesses from the Netherlands.

Mike: Sounds good. So let's talk about failure in itself, fully insert content creation platform. So I mean, sort of alluded to this, but can you explain what you really mean by a content creation platform?

Daan: Yeah, it's a good question. If I would explain it to my mother, I would frame it a little bit differently than maybe do a marketing audience. But we are a content creation platform. And that's a really broad category, right? So email marketing tools, or social media tools, or tools, like Canva are also defined as a content creation platform. So if I were to niche it a little bit, then I would say that folium is a platform where you can create media rich, long form content. So typically, stuff like ebooks, white papers, also Annual Report stuff, magazines, customer magazines, proposals, let's say long form content that needs to be engaging or persuasive. And that's what people build in our platform. And we typically replace legacy formats like PDF and PowerPoint by something that is mobile friendly, that is that uses what technology so you can take advantage of tracking personalization, responsiveness, that kind of elements are important to us. And I think what makes folium different than our direct competitors or alternative platforms, adjacent technologies is that we focus very much on the market there so that if even if you don't have a design background, you should be able to create, let's say, agency level content in our platform.

Mike: And so how do you do that? Is that by creating templates and doing it that way? Or is there another approach to getting consistent good quality?

Daan: Yeah, hopefully, that evolves. So I think the first version of our platform was very much a template driven platform. So we started out with one navigation form 10 templates, and people could just fill out some form fields and hit the preview button, and they saw what they created. So very limited, but very consistent in output, because people were just not able to mess things up. The second version that we launched in 2018, it was more of a drag and drop editor that gives you more visibility in what you're creating. But at the same same time, it was also a little bit more daring for non designers, because they have so much options with spacings, adding multiple columns, and you know, optimising content for three types of screens is jumping on itself. And with all those designs, options, it was for some customers pretty hard to use the new drag and drop editor. And that's why we launched the Template Manager. So people can create templates themselves or have their design agency to create a template for them. And they can just start or run off those templates and create something that is that is that has the quality that needs and, and protects your brand, but at the same time, is helping you to create content faster than before.

Mike: Sounds great. I mean, looking at what you're doing, it seems like you're almost taking away the need for having a design studio and having web developers create this content is that kind of the idea behind Foleon

Daan: not per se, right. We started as our own internal tools, so to speak for the for our own studios. So we had digital publishers and designers that did not have any coding skills. So I think the first version of folding was a no code platform for designers. And now that we move more towards a no design platform for marketers, and it's our vision that everyone will be creating content, it's a little bit the same trend that you see with iPhones with an iPhone, everyone is a photographer, or with HubSpot, everyone is an analyst because you have so much access to the dashboards. So I think it's, you know, making those technologies available for for regular people. That is a trend that you see in other industries as well. So whether it sits in design or sits in development is everything is is being made so simple that everyone can do it. I think that's definitely a trend we're on. I'm not saying that we're replacing agencies, I see you're still I think that our co creation between agencies and customers that use our platform. Yeah, and if you can assemble a great publication doesn't mean you're able to create amazing content, right? So it's, it's still often a collaboration between design, marketing or content creation, and obviously, also distribution strategy. And you also have to be able to interpretate the analytics and learnings you get out of it to improve it. So it's, it's it brings up a whole lot more than just being able to create a piece of content.

Mike: Yeah, and it's interesting you say that, because with our clients, we've actually seen folium can create more work for agencies rather than less particularly as we're not a dev agency. Because there's less cost involved in the technical creation, then it's all about the writing of the content and generating that great content. So you know, definitely I'd agree with what you said there.

Daan: Yeah, it's a it's always a little bit of a, I don't want a tension. But the question, right, so what is, what is phobia? And what are replacing? I think, in general, we replace man hours, right? So we don't replace technology. If you use nowadays, PowerPoint to create an engaging proposal you saved as a PDF, and we don't really replace PowerPoint and replace the PDF, obviously. But that's not something that is a budget line item. I think the value is in creating content quicker. And that's also how we see the world a little bit that people are, are expecting more from content nowadays, right. They expect content to be personalised, they expect content to be accessible at any time. They expect more content, right? A bigger portion of let's say the customer journey is is done offline or online, at least outside of the vision or the view of the company that sells services or products. So people do more investigation and content is a really good solution to support that customer journey. But that also means that more and more growth has been created. And then saw the need for content is still rising. I think that's, that's that's the enter that we tried to that's the solution we tried to answer.

Mike: And it's interesting you say that people are demanding more from content, because I think that that's very true. And one of the things I see is people looking for more interactivity to improve engagement. So do you wanna talk a little bit about what folium can do, you know, particularly compared to PDS, which basically have no engagement? I mean, how can you get the the audience the reader more engaged?

Daan: Yeah. So it's a combination of a lot of things. But first of all, it's being able to support modern media format, right. So more and more videos being used in marketing campaigns. And it doesn't always need to be like a super highly edited content can also be more user generated or company generated video content. But the ability to edit to add that to your content, that's already a big win the fact that it's mobile friendly, you can just check it out to every device. That's, that's important. We see more and more traffic from mobile still in across the base of our users, but you can also include interactive forms, you can include interactive quizzes, if you have if you have that. So there are a lot of options to to make content more engaging. But what we also see is that people typically spend less time right, so we are all very busy. And attention span is based on a research I recently read is, is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. So the attention span of goldfish is about nine seconds. And of people, it's nowadays eight. So you really have to catch people with something that is compelling. That is very clear. Right. And so more bite sized content. And I think the format itself forces people to create more bite sized content that is easier to digest more visual, you know, look at Instagram, just swiping to images. That's what what people expect nowadays from B2B content as well.

Mike: Now, I agree. I mean, you've talked a lot about some of the features and failures, obviously incredibly powerful. Does that mean that it's a product that that's really priced for the enterprise? Or is it something that's got broader market appeal?

Daan: Yeah. How shall I answer this one, because the pricing is one of the hardest things, right? It's every every SAS company struggles with pricing, the best way to pursue pricing is based on value. So what kind of value do you get out of it? So initially, when we started, we had a very much of product lead growth strategy. So customers setting up a trial themselves, converting via credit card, and just got started charts 102 to $400 a month, and people could just create content as much as they like. But at the same time, we saw that there was a big difference in the needs of really large enterprises versus really small, small companies. And then it became harder to kind of map our product roadmap on those on those customers. Because we literally served everyone from one burden company up until EY global. And so it was really hard to determine, Okay, how are we going to price this? What level of support can people expect? How are we going to set up our customer success team? What kind of marketing strategies are we going to going to deploy in order to reach that audience? So we did try to focus more on B2B companies, because they typically create more content. And if you create more content, you get more value out of our platform, because it's all about the numbers, right? If you if you outsource 10 publications or 10, white papers externally or to your internal design team are you do 100. And you can imagine that if you do 100, you have the benefit of scale. So the more content people create, the more enticed they will get, the more reusability of content they can apply. So the more value they get out of it. And then just it's also easier to map our roadmap to it. So we invested a lot in integration with marketing automation platforms, no CRMs, like Marketo, and HubSpot, Salesforce. But also with digital asset management platform like binder, or now we just released an integration with Adobe Experience Manager. So that all makes sense.

So we did go up in pricing. It's always tempting to also set a offering next to it that's more based on product lead growth, because the platform has such a broad use potential, right? Every company creates content, whether it's a proposal that you want to make more engaging, or where you want to get more reader insights from or it's a company presentation, or it's an annual report. Every industry we can serve and even b2c, right, even even consumers that will create digital photo books or their portfolio or their resume in our platform. That's also a use case that that is being requested quite often by prospects. So we're still optimising towards the needs of customers and map that also on our, let's say to an organisation, but typically, the short answer, sorry for the lengthy answer. The short version is that we We focus more on mid market. So companies between 50 and 5000 employees, where I think our sweet spot is in B2B companies that use us across multiple departments. So if they create content and sales, so presentations, proposals, pitch decks, marketing creates ebooks, white papers, thought leadership content, event content, HR, create staff, magazine, onboarding manuals, resumes, HR handbooks and support great manuals and release notes, updates, product updates, etc. If they use us across multiple teams, I think that's where free to publish.

Mike: That's, I mean, that's amazing. There's so many applications there and failure. I don't know, Daanny, is there? Is there an area where folium really, really just shines? Is there an area that it stands out? I mean, obviously, you know, I can see replacing PDF with something better is, is going to apply across a broad base. But But is there a particular market where if somebody's trying to do something, they're going to use failure, and then they're going to fall in love?

Daan: I hope everyone, but I think the sweet spot is, it's not per se a segment or an industry. But if companies create a lot of versions of the same content, and they have the need to distinguish themselves from their competition strongly, or if they have like a complex product offering or service offering, that requires quite some explanation and quite some thought leadership content or requires a lot of content to explain what they do. Exactly. That's, I think, where we see most direction. So industries, like a consultancy firms, where the Big Four is working with our platform, they all have on look and say the same a similar offering, it's really hard for a someone from the outside determine, Okay, a tax audit, which firm will actually write, they all have the same hourly rate, they all have the same talent, right? They all went to the same university. So how are they going to stand out? So I think if that's the case, then then we see a lot of traction. And also companies that are a little bit more mature in their content, marketing strategy slash operations. So the maturity level of our customers skills are important, right, if, if you, for example, integrate with HubSpot, and you can retarget people that are that are spending more on your content than someone that just bounced it off to one page, or if you send out proposals, and you get it. And you can see on the personal level, the engagement on how they how they perceive your proposals, then you can get a lot of value out of it. But not every company has a sophisticated marketing automation platform in place, and the roles are set up internally to execute on that. So I think that's the second part of the sweetspot.

Mike: I can definitely see that. I mean, our interests. I mean, obviously not everybody's as sophisticated. But I think at this, the more sophisticated and a lot of people now are really focusing on on analytics and data about their content. And the big issue is if you create a PowerPoint or a PDF, there's nothing. So can you talk a little bit about what phalion does to, to explain to marketers, how people engage with the content and help them understand, you know, which parts of the content their audience loves, and which part maybe isn't resonating.

But basically, I think it's two areas. So one is more content performance. So you put a lot of time and effort and money to create content, then it is good to know whether people are engaging with it, whether it's to to attract another audience, or maybe you want to change the order of content. And when we just started, we had a lot of these learning sessions with customers where we also help them to interpretate the insights. So if you see, for example, people leaving on page two, what does that mean? Can you maybe reach out for the content a little bit or a sandwich, for example, getting your content? Do you want to get up front? Or do you want to get in the middle, so people already see some of your content, get interested, and maybe they're more willing to fill out that form that lead form in order to continue reading, right? So all those experiments to making the content that's that's one part. So you see, where they drop off, you see how much time they spend, right? And people read on average, 250 words per minute. So if you have like a page with 500 words, and people spent on average 10 seconds, then you know that the content was not engaging, at least. So you can start optimising it changing the frequency, right? If it's a newsletter, for example, or magazine, we had a lot of customers that had like a quarterly magazine that had 40 pages, and now they switch to digital format like ours, and they create 12 shorter versions because the attention span is shorter, which ultimately led to more engagement in the confident self. So that's one area and the second one is to optimise. Let's say your your customer journey based on engagement. So if you create a white paper the fill out, fill out a lead form and they get into your database. And you see that the people that left her email address drop out after page one, then you know they're or not engaged or wrong audience, but at least they don't deserve a follow up from your sales team, right? So what if you can distinguished people that are highly engaged with your content or read multiple piece of content and you gather all of that in your in your market formation platform, and apply lead scoring and separate, highly engaged out of the lower engaged audience and then have a different follow up based on on that data, then I think you can have more effective marketing. So I think that's, that's the second area where we see a lot of value.

Mike: And I love to talk about testing content and iterating. to optimise it, I guess you've seen a lot of people create a lot of content on Foleon. And so I'm interested, do you have any tips for marketers as to how they can get that first revision of that content to be more effective? Any ideas of improving quality or engagement?

Daan: It's hard to say, right? Because it depends strongly on the type of company you're creating your audience, right? If you create a proposal, for example, versus a ebook, or a white paper, or a customer magazine, or staff magazine, and you would expect different behaviour, right. So if it's, for example, a staff magazine, you would expect people to read it, from beginning to the end, if it's more of a catalogue, where people can just browse through and you don't expect initially to read everything, then you expect different behaviour. But I think in general, people have a shorter attention span nowadays. So in general, it should be bite sized, it should be short, right? So we see the ideal amount of pages, somewhere between six and eight pages for content. And also try to include a lot of visuals in your content or video content imagery. So you need typically more footage for your content, more images, more visuals, and the most important thing is just to test it out. Because you just simply don't know until you until you distribute it. And then then you can you can you can test it and optimise it do AV testing right or include Hotjar as a solution, where you can see how the engagement on the pages where they look at be very keen on drop off rates on specific pages, you can also optimise the design a lot. So for example, if you have like, if people are on their smartphone, they see a limited amount of the content on that first few, right, so maybe it's only a header, and an image and a button to scroll down. If they don't scroll down, we also track a scroll depth tracking, like scrolled up, scroll down defence. So if they don't scroll down, maybe the answer is just to simply change the button or let the colour stand out more now, but it's often those small, simple things that people overlook. While looking at the data.

Mike: I think that's great advice. Thank you. One thing, you know, just moving on, I'm interested in is how do you promote Foleon in you're in a crowded market. I mean, marketing technology is is crazy in terms of number of vendors. And even as you narrow it down to the content platforms. There's an awful lot of people doing so many different things. So how do you manage to stand out and get marketers interested in folium? Yeah,

Daan: I don't know. Maybe you can help me out? No, it's for Genesis is indeed that it's a market that is a crowded space, right? More than 1000 vendors are in that known map. And our platform is not per se part of a category, right. So we're not a CRM or a down like a database management that is an established category that people know off that they need. As I told before, we typically don't replace software, but we often replace people or man hours or services, whatever. And often people don't think of a better alternative than for example, a PDF. So they are they some they experience the pain. Sometimes you have a PDF like Oh, I wish I could understand better how this PDF is, is being received by our audience. Or if it's a proposal that you want to see who is reading a proposal because you simply don't know it's you send it out to one person and then it's like books for you. But it's not something that people will by default look for for a better alternative. Right. I often give the example of Henry Ford when he when he launched the T Ford the first production car he also said that innovation is you know, if you would have asked 100 mil man, how can I help you do your job better than the majority would say give me a horse that goes twice as fast and no one would ask for a car. So it's a little bit the same with our platform. So that means that we need to do a lot of different utilisation. So my business card currently doesn't say CEO but Breacher. So it's a lot about advocacy and and I think solution marketing is is our best way to do So we tried to produce a lot of content ourselves around the problems that people have, whether it's called then bottleneck or insight in engagement or doing more effective marketing, or maybe initially, like you mentioned, you also do ABM as, as an agency. So ABM also requires a lot of personalised school then. So that really resonates well with our kind of solution or focusing on companies that use adjacent technology. So if you show bet, or seismic or Terminus or demand base, then you know that you have marketeers that already produce a lot of content. So we try to reach those. So that's, that's, that's our current strategy. And a lot of things is based on content marketing, but also performance based. So we do a lot of LinkedIn advertising, getting in front of the right audience. And then we try to educate them and inspire them. And then we try to introduce them to, for example, let us build your PDF into a folder in like two, three pages to show the power because it's often harder to explain. It's easier if you just see it. So we we have that also as part of our marketing strategy to do ask people to send us their PDFs and show them how it can be done better.

Mike: That sounds like a great way to do it. You know, show don't tell I think is the classic thing that everyone says and I love that. I really appreciate your time, Daan, it's been great. I'm sure people will be interested to learn more about failure and if they want to learn more or they've got questions about anything you've said today, what's the best way to find out about folding and be contacted?

Yeah, you can you can obviously go to Foleon.com and chat with one of our team members. But if they want to reach out to me directly, they can send an email to Daan@foleon.com and Daan with a double A which is typical Dutch name, but yeah, or you can be up on LinkedIn.

Mike: That's awesome. I hope you'll you'll get some inquiry through from this. That's that's great to share your your email address. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for all your insights and particularly the you know, the overview of how to improve content, I know people will, will really find that valuable. Thanks very much for being on the podcast.

Thank you so much for inviting me and enjoy the rest of your day.

Mike: 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Chad Reid - Jotform

In the latest podcast episode, Mike sits down with Chad Reid, VP of Marketing at Jotform, an online form builder offering a suite of productivity tools.

Chad discusses what makes Jotform stand out amongst its competitors, shares which marketing tactics have proven to be the most successful and offers some top tips on how to maximise form conversions, as well as how to approach a marketing strategy when marketing to a broad audience.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Chad Reid – Jotform

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Chad Reid

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Chad Reed. Chad is the Vice President of Marketing Communications at Jotform. Welcome to the podcast, Chad.

Chad: Thanks, Mike. Glad to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you on. So I mean, we always ask people at the start of the podcast, how did they end up in the current row? So can you give us a bit of history of your, your career and how you ended up marketing a job form?

Chad: Yeah, for sure. You know, it's funny I, my career follows a similar arc in some ways to previous guests I think you had with with Sprout Social, where I graduated into the recession in 2009, I had a journalism degree. And I kind of didn't know what to do with it after I graduated. And once I ended up in the San Francisco Bay area, I just sort of was blindly sending my resume all over all over the place for people who were looking for writing skills. And that kind of landed me in marketing. And of course, it took to it down a long, long, dark and winding path and sort of worked my way up and to into job form. And I've been a job forum for the past eight years, it's been a really remarkable journey. I joined in 2014, when we were just opening a San Francisco office. And now I lead our marketing efforts, which is again, housed in San Francisco. So it's been, yeah, it's been been an awesome ride.

Mike: I love those kinds of accidental careers where, you know, you end up in San Francisco look for a job and ultimately leads to running marketing, communications, and interesting marketing technology company.

Chad: Yeah, I remind myself very regularly how how lucky and fortunate I am. And we just moved into a awesome new office in San Francisco and overlooks the bay and the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge. And I have regularly have these like, pinch myself moments like I cannot honestly, you know, 22 year old Chad would have never, ever envisioned this. And, yeah, I'm very, very grateful, very grateful.

Mike: So I would have it cheeky here. Would 22 year old Chad have dreamt of promoting software that creates forms on the web? I mean, do we need another form software company?

Chad: Do we need another? You know? No, we don't. I'll phrase that in a way that Jotform has been around since 2006. So we were one of the one of the if not the first, What You See Is What You Get Form Builder software's at the time. Interestingly enough, two of our primary competitors also launched in 2006. It was kind of the year of the form, if you will, but you know, we've been a market leader for a long time. And I feel like we're really carrying a lot of momentum. So I would say no, we don't need another additional form software in addition to Jotform. But, of course, it's not going to stop new competitors, and everything else. But we're really well situated. I like to use the term that we're emote business and a lot of ways because 16 years of developing Jotform means we put a lot of resources into new feature developments and integrations and just a laundry list of product improvements that that really separate us so but it's the size of the pie is going to going to continue to grow. And it's not really about our competitors, so much as I think as it is people still using legacy, very outdated systems and pen and paper and printing things out and writing them by hand. And we're, that's that's our opportunity. So that's a long, long, long and winding answer to your question, but for in a good spot.

Mike:  And so I'm really interested because, you know, obviously, foams are pretty mature in terms of technology. Now 16 years in internet years is a long time. Are there things you do that you think are particularly cool or different to other form providers?

Chad: Yeah, you know, for job form, it's the suite of products. It's not just our forms, obviously, forms are bread and butter. It's in our name. But we offer document automation and payment collections. So we integrate with more than 30 different payment processor options, the process 10s And millions in payments, we handle that for our users. And that's something that's really unique about Jotform. And kind of maybe something that people aren't expecting that, you know, it's an easy way to get paid. But we have a an amazing database slash spreadsheet hybrid product that we launched a year and a half ago called Jotform tables that's been really popular. We have an app builder, so people you know, a small business can launch their throne app really quickly, just a very expansive and growing list of new products that are kind of into this suite of productivity and automation and all the things that we're allowing our customers to do so. Yeah, you know, it's not just about forms anymore, and Honzik still kind of at the the centrepiece of what we're allowing people to do. But it's, it's so much more.

Mike: And that's really interesting that, that you've really looked at adding automations, as well as presumably integrating with with other systems. I mean, I'm guessing you have a pretty long list of integrations as well.

Chad: I personally believe that, you know, a forum company is really only as strong as their integrations, that has, you know, been the case for withdrawal form, I think, in the past, until we started creating things that users could basically do with their data and stay within jot form, but for a long time, you know, forms are just an entry point, right? You know, you're not creating a form to have a form, you're creating a form to get the information, what do you want to do with that information, maybe it's sync it with a project management software, or a CRM, or email marketing software, or whatever, you know, if get a notification in Slack. So integrations have been really kind of a lifeblood, and they ultimately creates great partnership opportunities with these other companies, but also stickier users. They're providing a lot of value and, and ultimately, those users are less likely to leave off on the future. So the integrations are a big, big part of what we do. And we've, we've had a very long list of Direct integrations, and we're still continuing to add.

Mike:  And so you know, one of the things I'm interested in, you've got some automation capabilities yourself, you know, are there any really cool applications where people have used Jotform in a marketing context, that you're aware of that maybe use the database or use the payments, you know, some examples of how people have taken jot form and almost built a mini application out of it, because I think that's, that's the exciting thing about Jotform is you can almost build an application, out of the capabilities.

Chad: You can do anything with draft form, that's kind of the beauty of it, it's it's a touch point that can put the information that you want, just about anywhere. From a marketing perspective, I can talk a little bit how our marketing department uses it. And I think it's it's kind of a broad use case. But we funnel a lot of requests, we get requests from internally or externally. And just managing that from placing it to the correct team and putting it in syncing it with Project boards that where people can get their work started and organised. That's a big way that marketing teams all across the country and all across the world use it. And certainly how we do it at Jotform. And it's a big productivity saver, right, just funnelling information that you need, exactly the information that you need, and putting it where you need it is a big value add. Conventionally speaking forms, I think most marketers think about forms from a lead generation perspective, and then getting the correct customer information and making sure that's highly visible and a big touchpoint for acquiring new business. So that's, that's a, that's always a big, big drop from use cases, especially for for job or, you know, for marketers everywhere.

Mike: Yeah, that's interesting. I mean, talking about forms for lead gen. I mean, it's one of the marketers, you know, biggest concerns. I mean, what can marketers do to increase those form conversion rates, because that's always a big metric. For us.

Chad: It is, and I think the biggest mistake is, when they just think having a form is enough, and not not thinking about the aesthetic of the form, or the design, the layout, the flow, the conversation, that you're, you're initiating with your customer, when you have it on there. So you can always tell it's really plainly obvious when someone just, you know, a company is dropping a form on there, it does not match the the aesthetics, or the brand of the site, and it just looks like a completely different experience. But you know, that's something that even without a great design, eye or capability, you can always do the little things, right, you know, you can always get that the hex colour code and match the fonts. And and these are things that you can do within job form without even needing a technical expertise, you know, we have a Form Designer feature that kind of lets you lets you manipulate that. So just doing the bare minimums of making it look, at least like your site is giving a signalling trust, you know, with with your potential customers, and that's, that's huge. And then also just don't over ask, you know, I think that a lot of lead generation forms, in particular, think about questions to ask their potential customers that they don't need, but they want but that might be killing your conversions, you know, so I think really just boiling down to the information you precisely need. And then sticking just to that, especially as an initial touch point. Those are two things that will go a long way. I would say one, one final tip is the submit button by default, any form builder software, especially with job form, it's going to say a submit on it, and that's what we think about, but think about in terms of the, again, the conversation you're having with your customer and just tweaking the language on the best CTA it's, it's something that's a little bit more personalised. interaction item, you know, even if it's just request to speak with someone or send your information or whatever, whatever language you that makes sense for your business, injecting it into that, that standard Submit button to make it a little bit more of a personalised experience. All these are very small things, but they make a big difference when you're, you're looking for a high performing lead gen form.

Mike: And how much it is around experimentation? Do you see some things work for for some applications? And then then you'll have another customer who actually, you know, something different is driving the conversion rate?

Chad: Completely Yeah, every business is different for sure. Yeah, there's not like a one one size fits all. But if you do have the capability to do any kind of AV testing, certainly within Jotform, where there's some analytics, and you can check the forum conversion, Google will track that you'll be able to track the views to your form, you know, who's who's filling it out from, from which device type that kind of thing? Because that's certainly helpful. But it's, it's great to measure these things, you know, and just just kind of see for yourself, because, yeah, I, of course, the I think the the tips I just gave her broadly applied, but it might not for your business. So see what's working. And yeah, you know, it's if you're going to test anything, for sure to test your form.

Mike: That's great advice. I think it's really good. I'm interested as well, you mentioned something earlier about your automation capabilities around documents now. I mean, clearly, it's obvious why you'd move into a database and start offering that where people can collect data and store it. Can you talk a little about what you're doing in terms of document automation?

Chad: Yeah, you know, we're, we're just to kind of at the tip of the iceberg, I think With Jotform. But basically, at the moment, you can have your form submission, through a standard online form, spit out a beautifully designed PDF, there are a number of broad use cases, I guess, where that's going to make sense for someone. But if you need the submission to turn into a polished, professional PDF, that's something that you can do with jot form. And that's really, that's been a great feature. It's called a PDF editor. It's something we launched a number of years ago. Like I said, we're still refining even just PDF capabilities in general. But that's, that's been something that's been a fun, a fun value add and kind of an extension of what you can do with online forms again, sort of being the centrepiece of a lot of different capabilities yet.

Mike: So if you were organising an event, for example, it could spit out a person's I guess, the gender and and ticket. Yeah, rather, that's awesome. That's really cool.

Chad: Yeah, that's a great honestly, that's a great example. Because I think, you know, people are looking for something a little more tangible when they fill in something related to an event. And then you can have something that's custom branded and ready to go and that can be sent automatically to the person who just submitted it, as well as the, you know, the the form Creator as well. So it's, it kind of goes both ways.

Mike:  This sounds like a really interesting feature. Actually, it's not something you see with with other form builders, but I can see a lot of applications, you know, where people do want something customised in terms of PDF, particularly around events or webinars or something like that. For sure, yeah. That's, that's awesome. Love that feature?

Chad: Yeah, yeah. It's been great. Definitely. Great.

Mike: So, I mean, we've talked a little bit about Jotform, we talked about some of the features, is this an expensive, you know, sort of large enterprise kind of product, I mean, well, the sort of cost involved to get started with Jotform,

You can use Jotform, for free, that's kind of the beauty of it, we're a freemium service, where the lion's share of our of our users to this day are still still free, and, and we love them all the same, you know, and we offer a pretty robust offering for our free products, you get up to 100 form submissions per month. So if you need 50 form submissions a month, and you're fine with that, it's great. We've had users on the platform for years for free. And you get the full suite of our features and products, even at the free plan. So we're not locking any features behind behind paid tiers, with the exception of HIPAA compliance. We locked that under our silver plan, just because of the the additional costs and resources that that runs.

But yeah, so it's, it's, it works great for that and but we do have, you know, free which has kind of its own set of users all the way up to major enterprises that have 100 plus paid users on administered under a single accounts, you know, so it's, it's the types of businesses that need forms are every type of business right it's every every single organisation on the planet needs a way to collect some kind of information. So that's been sort of the beauty of working at Jotform from a marketing perspective. And also the challenge is, who are our customers? You know, it's it's the bakery down the street who needs to collect custom cake order forms, but it's also the major university who's doing scholarship applications or fortune five hundreds or major governments on the state and federal and county level and it's, and it's everyone in between. So it's always fascinated me looking at who's using jot form and why. But like I said, it's also a challenge, right? Like, who exactly are we speaking to when we're when we're marketing forms? Because it's utility service? That's great for everyone. You know,

Mike: I think that's a that's a really interesting point. You know, when you look at your audience, it's almost any organisation that's online, is really relevant to the job. I mean, how do you deal with such a broad audience? When you're trying to plan out your marketing strategy? Do you have, you know, personas you target? Or what's your approach

Chad: To to an extent we do, you know, we have great information on our highest value industries, and what times during the year, they're, they're most likely to activate or become paid users these types of things. But I've found it's actually more helpful to think about the use case, and not necessarily the persona, or the type of form that they're creating, and not necessarily the industry or the the person doing it. So we'll do you know, a bit of marketing around promoting application forms or registration forms or donation forms, which I guess is more industry specific. We're thinking about schools and nonprofits at that point, but because for the most part, those are used across different verticals, but the you know, that we're still identifying how they're using it, we have a lot of a lot of information on that, you know, and we've we've fortunately been, well, not fortunately, very deliberately, then dedicated some SEO into that. So we're, if you look for registration form, we want you to find us, if you look for application form, we want you to find us feedback form, we want you to find us and on and on. So that's been a big, big engine for us. And, and that's ultimately how we get a lot of a lot of new users.

Mike: So you mentioned SEO, though, that's interesting. I'm intrigued to know, what are the best channels or best approaches to actually driving both new users who might be free, but also particularly some of the bigger users as well? Are there particular channels that work better than others?

Chad:  You know, for bigger users, for the most part, in Jotform’s case, certainly, they started out as small users, you know, it's so our pipeline for our, our enterprise product was really the same as it was for free and our bronze, silver gold, which is our kind of base subscription package. But usually someone starts even if with their within a larger organisation, they they take a liking the job form, and, you know, maybe that's they want broader access, or they've introduced it to someone else. And then all of a sudden that, you know, there's a IT professional who says that this needs to be centralised, and then they've reached out for an enterprise account at that point. So the pipeline started the same, you know, they discovered off on the same way, you know, they needed, they had the same need, they had a registration form, and that they needed or they had an application form that they needed a contact form that they needed. So it's still kind of funnelled into the same into the same system. And then, of course, they discovered that we had more offering within an enterprise product than it did a standard. So realistically, we approach marketing from a initiation standpoint, similarly, regardless of the of the company size. That being said, we do, of course, have dedicated enterprise level marketing once, particularly once they've become a user, we have a lot of thought leadership around that we have a lot of more technical content that sort of resonates with that audience. But yeah, you know, from from what's effective, it's almost the same, it's almost the same whether it's a one person company or a 10,000 person company.

Mike: So your little like Dropbox almost in the way that you're getting individuals to bring the technology into a company rather than a three selling to a big decision making unit?

Chad: Absolutely, yeah. I think that's a good example.

Mike: So so I'm really interested in that as a marketing challenge, because in some ways, the easy bit is getting someone who loves the product to actually use it or work. The difficult bit is then getting the organisation to adopt it. And you mentioned needing some enterprise marketing content. What is it you're you really have to do with that content? Is it about convincing the IT department that you're enterprise ready? Or is it much more about, you know, convincing people that you're scalable? I mean, where do you find the the issues that you have to address?

Chad: I think it's, I think it's the former and that's really where the value add is, is if an individual within a large company is using Jotform. There is no administrative oversight. There's, it's not running through the channels that they're it your security team probably wants, it's not scalable, you know, and if that person leaves the organisation, then that information is gone right or that account is gone and are very difficult to read. We retrieve and it has to, it's a pain in the neck to go through our support channels. But having that control from an administrative or, you know, a broader enterprise level, it makes it much easier to handle. And, of course, it comes with additional touch points with our security and customer support, and you just kind of getting kind of getting more of everything. So that's that's the sell job form is compelling. From an individual level, we don't need to convince someone who's already using job form that, you know, they need an enterprise plan. But we do need to convince the IT department for sure.

Mike:  That's that's, I mean, like, what we're hearing is a lot of companies trying to get individuals bring yourself into a company then face the the difficulty of, of getting the IT department to accept it and roll it out globally. And it sounds like, you know, having had all this experience in the industry, that track record must really put you in a good state with the IT department.

Chad: Yeah, and sometimes the case is very easy. You know, we there are major companies, I won't say names of companies that we've all heard of that have 25 plus paid Jotform accounts, just sprawling throughout their organisation, and it creates a mess, you know, that it's much it's much better for the organisation so centralise that, put it through the same one billing, you know, easier to track. And of course, like I said, when someone leaves the organisation, just not having to deal with the mess of, of what what you're doing with these forms, right, because sometimes a form is deployed on a website, and you can't make a change if if that if that account holder left the organisation or so yeah, it's it's super, it's a big value add, and particularly when when Jotform is already already widely used within a company. So it's, we've seen a lot of success in that too

Mike: One of the things I'm interested in, you know, as somebody, you know, running marketing for, for an organisation, how do you measure the success of your campaigns? Is it just really easy it's number of new users? Or do you apply other metrics to get a bit more insight into the quality of those users?

Chad: Yeah, great question. And it might even depend on who you ask within within the company, I mean, paid users are always going to be the paid pay the bills, obviously, but we get a lot of free users per day, it's in the 1000s. It's, and that's something that we, we actively monitor, and we want to be to be healthy, because those turn into paid users, you know, knew someone who's just signing up for Jotform, today, most likely isn't whipping out their credit card, they come in with a typically with a single need. And, and, you know, that's something that they're relying on, but within time, they're likely to become a paid user. So we, we have some internal metrics that we kind of monitor, like how likely they are to converts how likely a channel is to convert a user to a paid user, within 30 days. So we call those p 30s. That's kind of something that we look at. And then if that if that's a healthy channel, and we're getting a lot of pee 30s from a particular landing page or referral traffic on a particular campaigns and advertising, whatever it is, then we'll double down on that and make sure that it's working well. But you know, it needs to needs to be good. And if if we're only getting free users from something that's not turning into paid, you know, we kind of we have that information, too, and we'll be able to make a good decision. And, yeah, that that tends to be that tends to be good, active users. I mean, you know, that's as any SaaS company is going to be monitoring or any software company at all. That's something that we watch, watch regularly. And to have any of the previously mentioned metrics working. Well, you need, you need active users. So yeah, those are all those are all things we yeah, we look for whenever we we initiate any campaign for sure.

Mike:  So in terms of getting those active and paid users, are there any campaigns you've run that, that have really stood out as generating? You know, particularly good results?

Chad: Not short term, but long term channels that have worked really? Well? Absolutely, I would say that the bulk of our new users are coming in via SEO or paid targeting AdWords. And that's, that's no accident. You know, we've put a lot of a lot of work into our, into our SEO, we have an enormous content marketing engine that fuels that we have a team full of SEO and content strategists who are helping identify new use cases that we can promote and things that are gonna be valuable. And we've worked with outside agencies for both the content production side of things and the SEO side of things and SEO. People think it's well known people don't think it is but it feels like it's going to be the low cost, the free version, you know, it's not it's it's a resource. It's a huge resource investment to do it. Well. And that's, that's something that we've obviously done but yeah, you know, I think from a from an individual campaign, I'm trying to think of a good example. You know, we'll we'll go after a particular industry and From time to time, and we have a new feature that that makes sense for health care or something like that, or summer camps, we've had very targeted campaigns where we've partnered with major summer camp associations and got promoted content through their channels and, you know, showed up at events and kind of doubled down and over over a particular time period are found partner companies to also promote Jotform through their channels regarding, you know, this specific industry, we've had some we've had some various success, but even even those nothing quite moves the needle, like our ongoing search from both a paid and organic standpoint, we need multiple sources of users, for sure, not saying that we're not trying other things, but the bread and butter is always going to be the organic.

Mike: think that's interesting, because, you know, a good organic campaign is, is one that actually gets spreads over several years. It's lots and lots of pieces of content, rather than one piece of content, something that builds rather than a particular one item of content typically.

Chad: Oh, yeah, I mean, Mike, we, we, we are currently producing, and we have been producing 100,000 words of written content per month. And for prospective, that's about a 400 page book, worth of content that we're producing predominantly on our blog, but also, this counts, our support pages and template descriptions, things like that, longer guides, white papers, things like that, every single month, and it starts slow, you know, you're not gonna see a return on that after the first month that you that you do it. But over time, you know, some of these pieces that we're writing six, nine months ago start to be crawled better, or all of a sudden, it's become a hotter topic, and more people are searching for it and the volume increases, and then all of a sudden, we have a healthy content channel. And it, it takes a very long time to scale that up. To even get to that point, from an infrastructure level, it took a full year of hiring writers and finding freelancers that we trust, and that we want to continue working with and hiring a full time editor. And now we have multiple full time editors just to make sure everything is running smoothly. And, you know, managing the flow from a project standpoint is huge. And then we have SEOs and strategists and the whole bit. So it's it's a lot of a lot of build up and you know, something that, you know, we we didn't take lightly, it wasn't just a single blog we threw out there. We don't do it randomly. We've poured a lot of a lot of time and energy, making sure it it's something that works for us.

Mike: I think that's very typical in most SEO projects, and sort of the multi year overnight successes. You know, people think it must be magic, but there's a lot of hard work.

Chad: Yeah, a lot, a lot, a lot of planning. You know, I made a mistake early on, I have to say to, you know, our CEO, when he was giving the greenlight for content, he's like, let's scale this thing, right. And it was exciting. To me that thought, Oh, we just need people who can write in the people who can write will also come up with the ideas. Not true. You know, I mean, great, great, great if they can, but they're a completely different skill sets to be able to have sort of a strategic awareness and research and SEO knowledge of what will work and how it will work, versus executing a really well written guide. So at the end of the day, it takes a pretty large team to even have a blog that will be effective.

Mike: So awesome. It's been really interesting talking to you. Now, I really appreciate all these insights. Chad, is there anything you feel we should have covered about Jotform? Or about some of your marketing activities I've missed?

Chad: Yeah, it's been a great, I would say one thing, just as sort of an extension of content that's worked really well for us. And I think I've seen it work well, for other b2b brands is in video, you know, I think people are consuming more and more video content. YouTube is the second largest search engine for a reason. And I think the ways that people are consuming or in taking information works really well for videos, anything that you can say on your site, and your blog, and your social can also be said in video. And it's actually not that large of an investment. If you have an iPhone, and you want to get started. You know, it's as easy as that, frankly, you know, if you want to put more more investment into it, that that works to at scale as well. So yeah, just put a plug plug in for video. If you need ideas on that, feel free to visit the Jotform YouTube channel where we're pumping out a lot of videos every day, I think we're close to 25,000 subscribers for we're seeing a lot of new new users on that channel as well. So recommend it for anyone.

Mike: So awesome. I really appreciate your time. If people want to get a trial of Java, a free pre licence, as you say people start a free theory rather than any sort of trust. Do they just go to the website?

Chad: Yep, jotform.com. It'll take you less than 10 seconds to get signed up and just you know, sign up with Gmail or whatever else and then it immediately drops you in our form builder and you can create another form and in 30 seconds or less and you'll you'll be on your way.

Mike: That's amazing. I'm sure a lot would people want to try it? And if anyone's got any questions about, you know what you've talked about, particularly some of the marketing campaigns or maybe wants to know a bit more about video, what's the best place to get ahold of you?

Chad: Yeah, chad@Jotform.com Feel free to drop me an email. Also, feel free to find me on LinkedIn. There's a lot of Chad Reids out there. But I think I'm popping up first, first or second in the search results and on LinkedIn. So yeah, I'd love it. If you're, if anyone follow me or add me on LinkedIn, that's great. I'm also on all over the Jotform blog says java.com/blog. And you can find my author profile and contact form there as well.

Mike:  So awesome. Thank you so much for your time and all your insights, Chad. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Mike.

Chad: It's been a pleasure.

Mike:  Thank you.

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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Ian Ferguson - Lynx

Ian Ferguson, VP of Sales and Marketing at Lynx Software Technologies, sat down for our latest podcast episode in the B2B marketing professionals’ series.

Ian discusses his career in the B2B technology industry and shares his opinions on the importance of having technical knowledge when marketing such products. He also shares his insights into how the need to shorten sales cycles is impacting the balance between sales and marketing, the importance of saying no when prioritising marketing activities and how course-correcting campaigns based on ongoing metrics allows you to optimise their success.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Ian Ferguson - Lynx

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Ian Ferguson

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 marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Ian Ferguson. Ian is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Lynx. Welcome to the podcast Ian.

Ian: Hello.

Mike: Great to have you on the podcast. So, you've had quite an interesting career in marketing, particularly in B2B Tech. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Sure,

Ian: I guess I graduated in the 80s with a electronic engineering degree realised that I was a pretty terrible hardware designer. And in addition to not being very good at it, I felt like I was more passionate about how the technology was being used, as opposed to sitting in front of a workstation and creating it. So I, I then started to look around early 90s. And you know, back in those days, there were like two tech companies that were really great proving grounds to sort of like you learn the trade of marketing, that was Motorola, semiconductor. And TI and I went to Motorola semiconductor and started to work on the journey there, I was always passionate about being the underdog. That's part of my UK upbringing. So I was always wanting to be, even in big companies, I always pick the technology that was the, the underdog and then try to go off and, and beat the big guys. So at Motorola semiconductor, it was after the, you know, trying to take out Intel, when I was at arm, it was trying to push arm technology into the service space. That's always been my passion as the small guy. And, you know, building that sort of puffer fish strategy where you make yourself look bigger than you actually are. And then tried to take on the big guy and make a meaningful difference in the industry.

Mike: Cool. So now your at Lynx. So tell us a little bit about what Lynx does.

Ian: So we're a software company, we've been around since 1988. And our main focus is software that keeps humans safe and secure. So in aircrafts, in helicopters, and increasingly autonomous platforms, so this is the software that has to work all the time in a deterministic way. So you know, you hit a break in in a car, you want that break to happen pretty quickly, as opposed to waiting for an operating system to reboot. If you're flying a plane and you're doing manoeuvres, in a in a military formation, those manoeuvres have got to happen, right there that right, then our software does that. And you know, you then have to prove to the various authorities that your software certified to do those things, no matter what else is going on in the plane, the drone, the car, the armoured vehicle, or the helicopter.

Mike: Interesting. So, you know, you've obviously said you've got a technical background, how important do you think it is to be technical to market some of these products? Do you think non technical people can do it as well?

Ian: Yeah, I think so. I think you've just got to have that curiosity about what's going on and keep poking with the why question. And you know, I think the other piece that's, you know, we've, you know, certainly very regularly for me, over the last two and a half years is sort of like holding up your hand in saying, Can you help me out? And I don't know that. So as long as you're willing to sort of like admit to your, your endpoint. And I'm curious to keep probing around with the right sorts of questions in I think the field is open to all.

Mike: Cool, that sounds good. So we obviously talked a bit about your background, obviously, being mainly client side, what why is it you haven't gotten to work in an agency? Is that personal choice?

Ian:  Yeah, I guess the first bit is, you've never offered me a job, right? You never call you never right. But I think more seriously, I'm quite proud of the fact that I'm a jack of all trades, master of none. And I actually like that ability to bounce around different bits of marketing, whether it's going off and engaging with customers, whether that's digital marketing, to grow the funnel at the other end, whatever it might be across that, that spectrum. So I like dipping into a lot of different things. And with the tech that I've been in, nothing gets deployed quickly. And, and for me, I just like to be there for that full length of the journey, sort of talking to people about why the technology is good for a particular application. Seeing it get designed in and seeing it get deployed for X years. I just like being there for that long, long journey. And I want to be able to hold up my hand and say if it was wrong, it was my fault. And and if it was a good idea, it was it was down to me. So that ownership of it from cradle to grave.

Mike: Yeah, I think I should correct you. I've never been able to afford you. It's not that I haven't been able to offer you a job.

Ian: Oh, I'm pretty cheap.

Mike: That sounds good. I mean, you talked about being a jack of all trades. And obviously anyone with a VP of sales and marketing roles got a very broad role. So I mean, how do you go about that? I mean priorities in that role.

Ian: Yeah, so I guess a bit of background, we we were acquired in June of 2022. So we were a very small company before that 45 people. And I think like any classic small company, very focused on the quarter, and sometimes on the month to make sure we had cashflow, and we had the right sort of deal pipeline coming on. So you know, there were certain points of you know, that life where it was probably 105% of my time was sales, right, particularly towards the end of a quarter to hit hit meaningful numbers. So, you know, I think where we are now, it's really, we're able to sort of step back and really look at what are the big things that need to be done. I'm a simple guys, as you know, from talking to me over the years, so I think of rocks, pebbles and sand. And so you know, if you're going to fill a jar, the first thing you have to do is put in the rocks, then you have to do the pebbles, and then you need to do the sands. So I really look at you know, the move the dial activities on sales and marketing and try and prioritise those, and they'll inevitably be some days where it's 9010. And some days, it's going to be 1090, just depending on where we are on a campaign or closable customer deal. But I rather than it being a sales versus marketing, I just tried to look at it on that sort of rocks, Pebble sand kind of mentality?

Mike: And how do you go about like really deciding what's going to move the needle, I mean, because obviously, both marketing and sales, there's quite a bit of uncertainty as to whether an activity will come off and result in a sale. So how'd you pick those rocks? That's what I'm really interested in?

Ian: Yeah, so I think, you know, what we're trying to do is, so where do we want to be X years out? And it's not revenue? Really, it's what do we want to be known for? What's our brand? What are the sorts of use cases? Are people really excited about our technology? So, you know, when I'm looking at rocks, pebbles and sand, I'm trying to hold up to that aspiration of where we want to be X years out and saying, Does this thing, move that needle in a really big way? Or does it sort of help nudge us in a little bit of that direction? And I think, you know, one of the things that I'm still trying to do a better job at is to say, No, I think as a small company, typically, you say yes to a lot of stuff, because it's like, oh, because I'm going to do all of these things, because it might end up in a lead, and it might end up in a little bit of dollars. And so that's good. I think, you know, me trying to actually do more on less things. I think that's also sort of the platform that we're trying to work on. So really trying to be okay with saying no to some of that, just activity without really a good use case behind it. And I think, you know, the other thing about marketing now is that it's, yes, there is still some fluffy stuff, and trying to predict where you're gonna go is hard. But there's some great metrics now that you can have, right? And so you don't have to pick a decision and be solid with it for three years, you can say, I'm going to do something with my website, or I'm going to do something with my email campaign. And you can say, after two weeks, okay, that was pretty underwhelming, we're gonna have to course correct, right. So so I think being being you know, holding up that mirror to, you know, where do you really want to be X years out? And then secondly, course correcting, not keeping your head in the sand and say, you know, what we tried that thing didn't work out, we'll do something else.

Mike: So that seems to be a real combination between long term strategy, and then also making fairly quick decisions based upon the feedback you get from some of the metrics.

Ian: Absolutely. Yep. Yep.

Mike: Cool. One of the things that really interests me is that, you know, recently has been a lot of studies that show that the pandemic particularly has meant that people are less willing to talk to salespeople and spend more time researching, so therefore accessing marketing content. I mean, is that something you've seen? And how's that impacted the way you balance marketing and sales?

Ian: Yeah, so I think it's absolutely something we see in the space. And and I think there's a few aspects. Yeah, I'm not sure whether COVID is really a big driver for us on that. I think, in our industry, people are having to shorten their cycles, because the old way of designing aircraft and plane and helicopters and automotive systems was like, well, we'll take X years over it, then we'll go into a testing phase, and then we're going to go off and do our certification. And, you know, you'd have these things where people were designing for seven years out, right, and, you know, the one thing I can guarantee is that if you try to predict the future outs in seven years, you're going to be wrong. And not only that, you've now got these eruptions going on. If you look at what Tesla did inside vehicles, if you look at now, in aircrafts, you've got these evito, which is the electric vehicle, takeoff and landing so they can take off vertically. And they're brand new companies coming into the spaces. And so your traditional Boeing's, and Collins's and latkes are now being challenged, not just in this country and in the allies, but in China, right. And I think across a number of industries, and this is a little bit more of a controversial topic, people are going away from perfection, and and wanting to go with good enough and learn and say, Okay, well, we're going to put this rocket up. And we're going to do this and we'll will course correct. And so that overall, I'm going to not wait for perfect data, I'm going to go off and create specifications. And then I'm going to say, this is our spec. And we're going to bring in a couple of people that we think meet that specification, and we're going to go with those down a path of making a decision on there. So, so long winded way, come back to your question.

So you know, what do you have to do as a marketing person you've you've got to get in earlier into those cycles, it can't be by banging on the door. And as I said, I think COVID is only a piece of it. And in our segment, people are back in the office, because if you're working on Department of Defence source code, you probably can't do that from Starbucks or in the house. So some people are back. And they're still not having a lot of face to face meetings. So I think the bigger factor for us is that collapsing of decision cycles, they're doing work themselves and with valuable partners. And for marketing, you have to be getting involved earlier in defining how those specifications are coming out. One of the things that was great about working at arm and there was a lot of great things that were great about working out, one of the things that they did was they talk to their customers customer and to their customers, customers, customers. So arm doesn't make chips. So their customers would be chip companies. But they were talking to Microsoft's Azure, they were talking to Volkswagen, they were talking to T Mobile. And so that understanding of the specifications and actually influencing specifications, further down the value chain, meant that they were in much better shape to actually go off and address these RFPs and RFQs, when they came out from the customer base. And there's a science to it, you got to be very careful about how you reach down those channels. But that's sort of part of our path on how we address these things is trying to get further down to beyond our customers to try and influence those specifications and get those people really understanding the value of what we do to be part of that small club that gets invited into the party.

Mike: That's interesting. And it sounds like what you've got to do is generate a lot of content for people to read in that early stage, or to interact in is it really all about content?

Ian: It's about content. And you've really got to understand in each of those stages down the value chain, who you're actually targeting, right? So we just changed our CEO, our previous CEO wanted to retire. And the new CEO was talking about a an all hands couple of weeks ago. And he said your CEO of Lockheed Martin is probably not lying awake at night worrying about his artistic choice, right? He's probably not worrying about some low level software. He's worrying about problems like hiring enough people on on into their software teams because Lockheed is competing with Apple, Google, you know, cybersecurity for banks. So how does he How does he go off and hire people? How does he deliver planes that have the right capability for the US Air Force that allows them to be superior in the air over China, he's worrying about those things, as opposed to the artists choice. So I think, especially one of the things that I think Tech has generally been quite poor at and when I first joined, our website looked like a Product Selector guide. And you really have to get away from that to try and understand truly what those people will be worrying about. And as you go further down that value chain, it varies. So we go off to chief architects because their badges on the line, if that system isn't safe and secure, bad things happen, right? But further down the value chain, those people are much more worried about the economics risk management of programmes into operability of that platform with other systems. So it is all about content, but it very much varies. And you have to be spot on with who you're targeting. And it might also vary as you go further down the value chain. It describes the sort of way that we're trying to do it.

Mike: So do you have a process for for developing a content strategy or how do you approach that?

Ian: Yeah, so I think it this is an area where it's pretty it's a Tiv will listen to what's being talked about in forums will talk to a customer. And you know, when there's material there that's in the public domain, we'll, we'll look at how we use that. And then we also use the metrics again, right? So, you know, if people aren't clicking on blogs, or going to a website, and they're getting bored after 15 seconds that says, We're either attracting the wrong people, or what we're putting there is not right. So one very specific example, you know, two weeks ago, there was four or five hours of the head of the US Air Force, the secretary for the Air Force, the head of the Army, you know, talking about their their challenges in our sector, about the pace of China and the US. You can argue whether it's right or wrong, but statement of fact is their number one enemy right now is China. And so that level of clarity of thought is driving all of Frank Marshalls activities in there. And then he outlined what his areas of focus were around that like hypersonics, and some of these other unmanned uncrewed. Craft. And so, you know, that's that top picture, we go off, and okay, so how do we then fit into those areas, we start to test that content with some of the people that are in our ecosystem, we start to post it on our website, do a B types of comparisons on a week by week basis and see, see how we're doing and then just do a fast iteration. I'll tell you the stuff we put in the first week after the thing. Not great. The second week was better, right. And you know, that's why marketing great is so exciting, right? Now you can, you can really rip and replace and learn. I came from the hardware industry where if you make a chip decision, you probably find that out in 18 months, you can find out on marketing where your content is landing, and whether you're in the right place within hours or days. And I think don't stick your head in the sand, get your head up and confront reality and then do something about it will be my message.

Mike: Interesting and a lot of testing on the website. But presuming there's other channels you use that are effective? I mean, what are the channels really work for you?

Ian: Yeah, so our industry is still quite conventional. So there's still trade show events. And we've tended to find that one of the most overused words at the moment is IoT, right? The Internet of Things, you know, you get these general purpose IoT shows from for connected cooker to underwater basket weaving machine, right, we found that we failed in those areas. So we've tended to try and seek out very specific events. And that might be events that the army are holding, there's an event in Poland in October called Global defence helicopter, there is no mistaking where that focus is of that event. So we're very excited about that event, the US Army are looking to do some things to proliferate some technology more broadly across the allies. We're part of that activity with the US Army. So we're trying to be smarter about where we pick those more, let's say niche, or niche, I'm bilingual now living in the US. So I tradeshows is still probably Third on our list. Our biggest our biggest hit for leads is SEO and paid search. And we spend a lot of time focusing on keywords, and then prioritising where we put our AdWords spends. And in our space, there's a lot of our customers that actually block Google at the firewall. So we do work with Google and with Bing, just to try and target the audience's but that's, that's our number one activity, even in accounts, where we already have designs, that such big organisations, you know, a few 100,000 people here, a few 100,000 people there, there's no connection, really about the tech inside those companies, we still see, you know, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon leads that come in to us. And I'll say one other thing that's really surprised me because our industry is thought of being quite elderly people that have been a system engineer for 30 years or whatever. We have a chat function on our website. And when I came in two and a half years ago, I was like, why do we do that? I get, you know, ask Erica, if I'm going to Bank of America, I get that. But maybe again, as part of what you were saying about less, less customer meetings and more of an immediacy of, of data, big companies are asking us questions, you're always going to get stupid people that post stuff on the chat function, fine. But actually, some people are wanting to engage that way as their first interaction. And rather than going through the whole websites, like hey, I've got a question. You know, I've been pointed to you by a Google search query, or whatever it might be. Tell me about blah. And so we've actually seen an uptick in the number of people that are using the chat function as opposed to leaving there and it might also be just the They then don't have to give full like, they don't have to give out so much personal information, we actually don't collect much. We just want an email address and a name. But you know, a lot of other people ask for inside leg measurements and where you go to your tailor. And, and so the chat function might be just partly immediacy, and partly not needing to fill in all that data. But we've surprisingly found that people want to engage with us more that way.

Mike: That's really interesting, actually, because I've just been talking to another client about putting chat on their website, I mean, presumably, you're doing chat with a real person, rather than trying to get a chatbot working.

Ian: We are a small company. So the chat function is supported by me. So and, you know, and other people in my team, so yeah, we haven't bothered with any of the chat bots stuff. We aren't Bank of America, or Lloyds Bank or Nationwide Building Society, we're dealing with a few people with very specific queries about how to use Have you certified this piece of software on an Intel platform to fly in an aircraft. So we managed with with humans, we've got no intent to move to AI bots or anything like that. But that's more about where we are in our journey and a 25 ish million revenue company as opposed to a few billion.

Mike: Yeah, I think it's still hard in tech, though, to to get enough data to train an AI or even to build a set of questions for a chat bot, because, you know, engineers coming on they are such specific things.

Ian: Yeah, exactly. And again, know your audience, right, ai, ai has come on leaps and bounds. But for us, it's all about credibility with those key people. And when an engineer comes on, yeah, you don't want to just give them some rubbish, you want to give them a decent answer. And several times if it's beyond my depth, which, like I talked about earlier, doesn't take too much. Yeah, it's like, I'll get back to you, right, and you give me your email address? I'll get you an answer. By the end of the day, I get them in the answer. But by the end of the day, and you start to build trust from there.

Mike: I think that's great advice, building trust. One thing, you know, I'm interested in we talked just before the interview about press releases, I mean, how important is the media still for you? And how do you approach that relationship with journalists?

Ian: They're massively important for us a you have to think about it as a relationship between you and and that press journalist so not something that something that transcends what's on your business card today. I'm, I've talked to rich NAS for 25 years, I've talked to people at VDC for you know, 1520 years, I talked to Patrick Moorhead at more insights for, you know, 10 or 20 years. And, and that's been across different areas of business and tech. And I think it's, it's really, you know, getting to that level of a conversation where if they can, if they have a topic, and it's like, okay, something's going on with Blockchain I'll I'll call in or if there's something going on with, you know, a challenge with Ukraine, I'll I'll call Tim Reid, our CEO, it's about really not about pushing product there. These days, it's about sort of trying to, again, share some of your knowledge and wisdom about what you're getting out of customers, because we're going to be closer to customers than they are. So delivering value there and really thinking it not in terms of press hits, and clippings, and that but really is trusted relationship for decades. And I think if you go in with that approach, that's what's worked for me. It's not about did they cover a press release of a product widget with these speeds and feeds. It's more about when they're when they're in a pinch, and they want some opinions on things? Who do they call, I view it on that as opposed to column inches on a product release.

Mike: I think that's great advice. Love that. Just maybe we talked about like media relations, we've talked about some of the other challenges, particularly your website. I mean, I'm just interested to know what you think makes a really good campaign and perhaps some examples of where you've run campaigns that have been really effective.

Ian: I think simplicity is one of the elements. You know, one of the If I think back, you know, I moved from the UK to California in 1999. And always love the dogs for life, not just for Christmas kind of campaign, right. And for those in the US group, because it hasn't really run here. The idea is that people get a puppy at Christmas is all exciting. And then you know, all of these kennels and rescue places get filled the week after Christmas with these unwanted dog. The reason why I use it is it's just such a powerful thing. I can then convey things around IoT, right, these platforms that get deployed, it's not just for a couple of minutes, it's for 20 years. And so you've got to think about a platform in tech for the useful life of a platform and that means being able to do software updates and making sure it doesn't get hacked and do bad things and, and so just that a dog is for life is ridiculous. It's just Very exciting. It was an easy conveying of the message. And I think the other bit for me is just something that pulls up the emotional strings at arm. As I mentioned earlier, I was always excited about how technology could get us, there was this, there was a guy who was farming nuts in, in Garner, right, and this guy had farmed nuts. And he'd been taught by his dad, he'd been taught by his grandfather had been taught by his great grandfather, a way to farm these ground nuts. And pick that period of time, right? 120 years, whatever he was getting his yields or whatever. And there's actually a lot more best practices now known about how to farm these nuts.

And so there was this company in out of Oxford, just close to Oxford University spin out, the creative the Talking Book. And the idea there was that this, this technology, which are very, very simple technology could just actually bring best practices and knowledge is to some of the most far flung, not internet connected areas of the world. And this This was like maternity advice. It was like just general healthcare advice. And for this farmer in Garner, it created a 25% uplift in yield. And he was, it was a fantastic story. He was pretty cynical guy. And so he did a side by side compare, right. So he did one, one field he did with the Talking Book, and one field he did with the passed down information. And the 25% uplift was the difference between living his life, right sustenance, just enough to feed the family 25% gave him some ability to actually go off and start selling stuff and improving things and suddenly give some other information back to the community. And it was just such a compelling and exciting story. We started to then go from there is like it will help what other talking book stories are out there, right. And we created something with UNICEF that was really technology for good. And just my I believe that the people that are closest to the problems, or the best one to solve those problems, right? So you're, you're a school child in India, and you've got no electricity when you get home, how do you do your homework, when you get home, this school child came up with an idea that as she was walking, it was charging a battery that could then actually charged a light. So we launched this campaign that was really focused on Hey, you don't have to understand the tech, you just have to have an idea for solving a local problem. And we got immunisation rights up in certain areas of India, because there was an RFID tag woven into a local bracelet. So it didn't look like just the ugly old piece of tech. And that gave immunisation rates so they can see who was what villages were immunising, at the right levels, where were they behind, so needed more training? So you know, that's just one example. But if I come back to the core point, something that actually I think creates emotion, right. And again, we come back to speeds and feeds and I look at my two gigahertz laptop, and yeah, you can crank out your work a little bit faster. Yeah.

For me, it's much more about generating some of those emotive feelings, like back to my dog, or back to a, you know, a lady in India who has used tech, so she can actually go off and do homework at home where otherwise, she wouldn't have been able to do it. And that makes the difference between her getting to college, and just a rinse and repeat of her mother's role instead. So that's my thoughts. What do you think?

Mike: I love the simplicity idea. I think it's, it's true, I think the dog is for life, not just for Christmas, very interesting, because everybody in the UK knows that. Not everybody knows who the organisation actually created it, which is one of those interesting things. And quite often the organisation that created it never gets credit for it. But it is such a powerful. I mean, it's part of everyday language and in the UK, and it's nothing complicated or involved or technical. It's just a simple concept.

Ian: It's a good point, because I think you raise a really good point because there's a number of adverts we would say in the UK or commercials, as we'd say over here, where people remember, remember the theme, but they don't actually then associate the brand with the resulting thing. And so, you know, I think some people I've made this mistake to over the years, I think we get so excited about that overall message of what we're trying to do, we then sometimes forget to actually properly apply and attach our company brand to that. So people remember the dog or they remember, you know, the the kids cycling down the steep hill to go get bread, right, and then they've forgotten some of the other bits. So I think that is an important add on that in addition to once you've done all that hard work and getting people to remember that sort of emotive see mean, you've then got to make sure you stamp your your tech onto that to be brought along for the ride?

Mike: Definitely. I think it's great. I mean, I love this enthusiasm. I just wonder what you'd say to a young person starting out in their career, if they're thinking about marketing, what should they do?

Ian: Think about three things. So firstly, and this, I don't know whether we could do a web link, or just people could look it up. I'm a big believer in this. This is like, Grandfather Ferguson speaking here. So I'm a big fan of this Japanese concept called iki. Guy, I K I G AI. And it's basically a the intersection of what are you good at? What can you get paid for? What are you passionate about? And what does the world need? And I think for all of the stuff that goes on in the world, and you're gonna get involved as in a job, and you do all of the nitty gritty, I found that a very powerful tool to say, you know, where am I on those four things, right? Because if I'm doing stuff, and I'm really passionate about it, but I can't get paid, then I'm still going to get some level of angst there. So I think always trying to pull yourself into the middle of those four circles. And if people are interested, I could provide a link and people can contact me or you know, Link, there's stuff on medium there's stuff on Forbes, there's a few places if you go do a search there so I think the big picture of getting out of work, I would say good luck that I think the second one is a jack of all trades is okay. You know, I think some people I've seen go specialise in certain areas. And I think change is happening so quickly at the moment that I'm a fan of jack of all trades I'm quite comfortable of not been deep enough technical to talk about multi core certification I'm quite comfortable about not being able to talk about how an ECU in a car operates. Right and but I know enough to be dangerous. And so I'm I want to bring back Jack of all trades as opposed to specialisation. And I think the third one is, I don't believe you can improve anything without measuring it. So the first step is you got to measure stuff in order to improve and that might be your running outside work. It might be your it might be your digital campaigns. So you've got to be very careful about what you decide to measure because then otherwise, you can go off down some weird routes, but you know, go off and embrace data, learn and adapt. That will be my third.

Mike: Sounds like great advice. I'm sure people would have lots of questions for all of these topics you brought up if people want more information, how can I get in contact with you?

Ian: LinkedIn is probably the best way might just hunt me down.

Mike: So Ian at Lynx is the easy search. Thank you so much for for your time, and I really appreciate it. Thanks very much for being on the podcast.

Ian: Absolute pleasure. Thanks for inviting me, Mike. It's always a pleasure talking to you.

Mike: 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Mike Roberts - SpyFu

In this podcast episode we interview Mike Roberts, Founder and CEO of SpyFu, a search analytics tool offering competitor keyword research tools.

Mike discusses how the tool leverages search data in real time, providing users with the data to build informed and successful campaigns for both paid search and SEO.

He also shares how the tool provides insights on multi-lingual campaigns, and how users should view competitor data to successfully influence future marketing campaigns.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Mike Roberts – SpyFu

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Mike Roberts

Mike M: 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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I'm joined by Mike Roberts. Mike is the founder and CEO at SpyFu. Welcome to the podcast. Mike.

Mike R: Thanks so much for having me.

Mike M: Well, I mean, you started a marketing technology company SpyFu. I mean, how did you get there? What's your career story?

Mike R: Oh, yeah, before SpyFu? Well, I had another software company. And the idea was to take data off the internet and put it into a spreadsheet or database. And it was called Web scraper plus, I would originally describe the product I described what we did as web data extraction, which is like a really nerdy way of describing technically, it was a correct way to describe what we're doing. But our customers didn't search for it that way, right. And so I didn't realise that until relatively late in the game, right, I was making sort of scraping by barely with this business. And then I changed the name from provide us, which is a terrible name, to web scraper plus a very descriptive name, but also a very good SEO name. And when I did that, I like quadrupled my sales pretty much overnight. And I was like, dang, I wonder if there's something else, something else that I'm missing? Are there any other keywords that I'm too nerdy to think of, that my customers are searching for? So I thought about it, and I sort of built this thing using web scraper plus, right, like, originally, I just like whipped together this prototype of SpyFu, to see if I could to see if I could spy on people's keywords, right. So you can type in a domain, one of my competitors domain and see all the keywords they buy. And the way to do that is to is to scrape all of Google just do millions and millions and millions of searches. And then you could kind of do like a reverse search of it. That's where that came from. I built it to solve my own problem to solve my own kind of nerd curse of knowledge. We call it right, if you have your own company, or if you're in a space, you sort of think of it in different ways. You think of like low fares versus cheap tickets, this kind of this kind of misconception, right? And that's what I solve for myself and ultimately solve for lots of people. Before there was SpyFu. There were no other products like our product. We're kind of the Oh, geez. Awesome. So I'm you kind of hinted at what SpyFu does, but can you give us a brief summary of exactly what the products doing what problem it's now solving? Yeah, you can type in any keyword into SpyFu. And you can see every keyword that they have ever bought on Google, every organic ranking, that they have all their ads, and their their entire ad campaign and organic search campaign, from beginning to end. What's interesting about that level of history of like 15 years of history is that you can see the very first ad like 99% of companies haven't been advertising this long, haven't had a campaign this long. You can see every iteration they've ever done, like, you know, 100 of them, it's so that you can see you can learn from people's mistakes, I don't mean to suffer through them yourself. You can also see this for your own SEO campaign or anybody's SEO campaign. So you can look back in the past, kind of like having your Google Search Console, but for any number of years, right? And not just for your domain. The beauty is, you know, you have these tools, Google Search Console, or Google Analytics, or Google ads, you have these for your own domain. But SpyFu gives these things to you. For anybody's domain, your competitors are primarily who people want to look at. Right? But you can also use it for things like partners or potential acquisitions or whatever.

Mike M: That sounds cool. So are you still doing it the same way? You still basically feeding these searches into Google and seeing what comes out?

Mike R: Is that the the approach the tool uses, broadly speaking, yeah, I mean, every piece of data that you can see on SpyFu is auditable back to a screenshot of the search engine result page. Right. So going back, we have SERPs from 2008. And you can see you know that somebody's been advertising this is really important. Because sometimes what we say you might not believe, right? We're saying, Look, this is a keyword that you're you're buying, you know, you're matching on this keyword, you're paying for this keyword, and you don't realise that you're paying for it. And so you might say, No, I'm not, I'm not buying that. It's like, yeah, look, it's right here. Here's the screenshot of it. So that's important sometimes, especially if you're talking to your customer, you want to be able to prove to them that you're speaking the truth.

Mike M: That's interesting. So is it really for SEO specialists? Or do you see anyone using Google Ads benefiting from SpyFu?

Mike R: Yeah, so we have customers from you know, huge mall.

I'll type billion dollar fortune 500 companies all the way down to startups. And we have agencies and we have professional marketers and everyone in between.

Mike M: So presuming it's really simple, you just put in a search term or a domain and SpyFu gives you results. Is it that simple?

Mike R: It is. Yeah.

Mike M: That's awesome. I mean, one of the things I'm interested in is how do you know what people are searching on and where people are advertising? presuming you have to work on generating millions and millions of different searches? Is that something that's complicated? How's that driven?

Mike R: Yeah, so we can get some first party data Clickstream data, if you will, about what people are searching for on the internet. And we can also like supplement that data with data from Google, right? So that historically, we've used a lot of keyword planner or keyword planners predecessor to sort of, like when I first did this thing, I think, for the prototype, what I used was Google suggests, so I would just start with a few seed keywords, and then type those into the Google Suggest right, and then scrape those ones, and then push those ones in and keep going and going and going, basically, recursively until I had a huge list, obviously, now we've got more sophisticated methods, and we literally can see what people are searching for in real time. And and we leverage that probably more than anything else. But we combine quite a few sources. Everything's really sophisticated, you know, as you can imagine, many, many years and many iterations into it. i That's fascinating. I mean, Are there limitations, though? Because it's quite hard to generate the whole universe of searches, does it cause you a problem? For example, when we look at foreign language, Google engines, for example.

Does it causes problems? I mean, it's challenging, in a sense, because I only speak fluently, I can read a few different languages pretty well. But like just QA ng things when you're kind of at the top level, trying to try to make sure that everything's working right. So as far as I know it works fine. But I would bet that we have, just like Google, we probably have better results in English than we do in in other languages.

Mike M: probably makes sense. Well, they've presumably, you've got a lot of happy foreign language customers, though.

Mike R: Yes, for sure. I'll give you an example of that, right? Like one thing that we do that's quite useful as you can type in a keyword and you can see all the questions that are related to that keyword, or you can type in a domain and see which which questions they rank on. And this is really useful for sort of topic drill downs, when you're building like a piece of content, maybe you already have one, and you just want to sort of make it better, right, just start answering questions. It's really easy. And so SpyFu gives you all these questions that people are asking, well, the process of figuring out how to identify what is a question is a very linguistic thing. And it requires sort of specialist knowledge of the language specialist in the sense that you speak you understand it. So that's one thing where it's sort of difficult to figure out what a question is when you don't speak the language. And you know, we have a process for this, and we figure it out.

But we have a way to scale it. But as you kind of get to the edge cases of languages, it's more difficult,

Mike M: is really interesting. I mean, another area, I would guess is quite hard as well, you have very long tail keywords, does it get hard to estimate things like, you know, how many searches and how much the spend is for some of the longer tail keywords?

Mike R: Well, the spend might be quite difficult, because what we get back from Google is, I mean, if you've been in the industry long enough, it's almost comical, how terrible some of the raw data that we get that you can get from like, Keyword Planner, Google ads is it's not great.

Actually, worse than great.

I mean, like kind of the opposite, I guess you'd say. So So that's, that's difficult on those longtail keywords, we can estimate those things we can figure out like sort of like they're they're related keyword neighbourhood, if you will, and and make some suggestions, assumptions based on that in terms of the search volume. Yeah, certainly, if we've never seen the keyword before, but we have so much like, we have so much data, so much Clickstream data and so on. That it, it's reasonable to assume if we haven't seen that it actually has very little volume. And so then we can say, well, it's either zero or like it's 20 clicks or something, you know, it's 20 searches is very small. Yeah, so maybe it's quite noisy at that, that real longtail bid, but over the overall campaign for a competitor, it actually doesn't make a lot of difference. Not really now.

I guess the other question is now, you know, Google's pushing people into responsive ads where you know, ads serve with different headlines, different descriptions. I mean, obviously, you're trying to capture the ad. Does that again, is that some

thing where you tend to see the winning combinations, or how does that work? Typically, we'll see the same ad on many, many different keywords. Right. And so we're taking multiple snapshots, we're just gathering so much information, that when you're looking at actual ad copy, yeah, we've got 20 snapshots per month, by the way, SpyFu is, is real time I talk in terms of per month, but it's just a random timeframe. Everything happens every every five seconds or whatever. But we'll have we'll have like multiple snapshots of the same ad copy. And then we kind of roll that all up and say, Well, here's the most frequently occurring variant. And we usually base that on. Well, we based on the ad copy, but it's more weighted on the actual headline, the number one.

Mike M: Makes sense. I mean, I guess one of the questions is, you know, if somebody tries to SpyFu, I mean, what should they do? Are you saying people should copy their competitors just steal the best ideas? I mean, what's the best way to use SpyFu? To improve your campaigns?

Mike R: Okay, so So the, the most important thing that that I think, takes a second to realise is that the competitor that you immediately think of might not be the one whose ideas are worth emulating, right? So you're thinking, Okay, I've got this direct competitor, I want to know what they're doing. See if they've got Okay, so let's see if they've got something that you haven't. Right. But broadly speaking, the first thing you look at as well, do they have something that I don't? Okay? Have they thought of an idea that I haven't thought of? That's the first thing you want to think of? Right? Okay, so that's my random direct competitor, but may not be really, you know, particularly good at this, you know, this form of marketing, right? But you do want to see if they've thought of something that you haven't, so you do that. But then when you really want to, like kind of like, take your, you know, marketing to the next level, you find somebody that's doing it on a scale that you are, that's worthy of admiration, right. And that may not be your direct and your most direct competitor might be somebody in a similar space. Or it might be somebody that's more like national or global than you are, you might be like, more locally focused, find that big competitor that's really executing well, and and take what they've done and improve upon that and apply it to what you're doing selecting the right competitors key.

Mike M: And presumably, identifying the competitor is something SpyFu could do that you wouldn't necessarily do yourself.

Mike R: Yeah. Yeah, like the first set of results that you get is like competitor suggestions, the first thing we say is, here's what their blend of organic and paid traffic looks like, here's how much they spent. All this stuff is free, by the way, you can go to SpyFu type this stuff in. There's there's very few tools today. And in b2b SaaS, where you can actually get things for free, right? SpyFu, you can type stuff in and look at domains, and you can see the top level results for free. It's not until you like want to download, you know all the keywords, you can get more than five or 10 keywords that you you have to like create an account. And I think that's pretty key. I mean, I think that's nice. We do that, you know, for a reason, not necessarily just for monetary gain. It's just to help the community keep everything, you know, like the way it should be.

And presumably, as well, people are liking what they see, because they're converting to paid customers as well. Oh, yeah, for sure.

Mike M: So you've kind of answered part of the question. Now, the the initial cost is nothing, just go to the spyfu.com type in either a search term or a competitor domain, and you get the results. I mean, what if people want to dig a bit deeper? I mean, how expensive does a tool get them?

Mike R: Yeah, so SpyFu is like $39 a month, all you can eat, you can. With $39, you can do as many searches as you want, you can download as much stuff as you want. I think there may be some, there's some limits, I think at this point on on, on the $39 plan, it gets actually this the all you can eat plan is $79, which lets you download, you know, like a million keywords from any domain right now. And actually, for the last few months we've been partnering with with click cease, which is a pay per click bot detection platform. Anyway, what happens is you can get SpyFu for $9 a month. If you sign up for a click cease trial, you sign up for SpyFu then you go sign up for click SES and send like this little receipt that you get, and then you get SpyFu forever for $9. And then you know, of course clicks these pays us and that's how the whole thing works. It's like you can technically get SpyFu for nine bucks a month, which is pretty pretty dope or $96 a year. It's forever. It's a good deal. Wow, that's awesome. Yeah. So

Mike M: I'm interested. I mean, we've talked a little bit and particularly about the paid search side of SpyFu. What do people do in terms of balancing for looking at SEO versus To the paid it took people tend to use SpyFu for paid, I think that's what I know SpyFu for.

Mike R: We're pretty famous for the paid we absolutely have. And we've always had the best results for paid, right, like everybody knows us for paid. And if you compare us against any competitor will tend to have like 10 times more paid results. But we get an equal number of SEO customers. And we actually have more keywords than any of the competitors that we have more results than SEMrush or Ahrefs. If you type in a domain, you'll see that there's more SEO results, SEO keywords, and obviously will destroy everybody on pay paid keywords. That's a relatively new thing. Actually, we spent the last couple years rebuilding our entire back end infrastructure so that we could do 5 billion searches a month, it's just like, massive, massive scale, you may have been familiar with SpyFu was doing US and UK, we've recently launched to like 20 countries, and will will launch to, you know, all of the countries in the course of the next six months. So much bigger, much more real time platform, it used to be that SpyFu would operate on a monthly cadence. And we now operate, you know, when we do a search, it's live on the site within seconds, you know, so the whole thing is real time, massive, international bigger than everybody's data. It's pretty fun. It's a big challenge.

Mike M: So presuming that that's quite a cool thing for people who are maybe in PR who are looking to, you know, news, Jack stories or find trending issues, you can actually see what's changing in real time.

Mike R: Yeah, for sure. Getting those real time keywords into the index is is tricky. But we have a process that gets those things in as quickly as we can.

Mike M: Cool.

One other thing, you know, I'd like to ask you, we've got a couple of clients in Phoenix. I know you're based in Phoenix, what do you see the benefits of being based there rather than being based in Silicon Valley where everyone expects software startups to be?

Mike R: Oh, man, that well, you know, I think that in some sense, it's harder to get funding, you know, which actually seems like a detriment, but in our case, it's, you know, SpyFu is completely bootstrapped company, I started in my garage, you know, like kind of the old fashioned way, if you will, in the beginning, that's a tough place to be. But at the end of the day, it's the best place to be, we can do anything, we can make decisions that benefit our customers, and not like a board of directors, and not like some specific exit plan. So, for example, we keep our pricing low. Because when we do, we make the same amount of money, like if we were to double our price, we would get half the number of customers and vice versa. So we keep the price at a at a place that's affordable to our customers, right? We want to level the playing field for small businesses and entrepreneurs. And so we provide intentionally excess value, because it's, it's our mission, our mission is to help everybody do better at marketing, so that they can make more money and spend more time with their families. Like the whole, the whole thing is create value in the world. Right? That's what we do.

Mike M: So awesome. It's been such an interesting conversation. I know, you know, a lot of people listening would like to go and try SpyFu. And obviously, as you said, you could do that for free. Is there anything else you feel we should have covered about the product or about what you see in terms of b2b marketing?

Mike R: Oh, not that I can think of, I think you did a great job. I really appreciated your your questions. Awesome. And if anybody would like to follow up and ask a question, how can we get ahold of you? Yeah, sure. I mean, I'm mike@spyfu.com you can probably reach out to me on LinkedIn, or Reddit, or Twitter. Oh, I'm Mr. Spy on Twitter. That works. MRSPY Sometimes I'm on Reddit and respond, but sometimes, sometimes not. Oh, um, sparked a post on Reddit.

Mike M: Awesome. I love Mr. Spy. That's a pretty good Twitter handle. Thank you so much, Mike for being on the podcast. I hope everyone who's either involved in SEO or paid search, they take a look at SpyFu. And if nothing else, take a look at the free product and maybe take a look at the paid but clearly very good value for money product. Thanks so much for being on the podcast. Yeah, thank you.

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 napierb2b.com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Hannah Ingram - Ignys

In the latest episode of our leading B2B marketing professionals series, we interview Hannah Ingram, Marketing Manager at Ignys, an electronic and software development company.

Hannah talks about how she built her career as a 360 marketer and the need to be quick to adapt and learn when marketing for a start-up business. She also discusses how marketers can build business credibility and increase prospect confidence in a business.

Hannah also shares some valuable insights into how Ignys prioritise the channels they use for campaigns, and advice to new marketeers starting their careers.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Hannah Ingram – Ignys

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Ingram

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I’m joined by Hannah Ingram. Hannah is the marketing manager for a company called Ignys. Now, Ignys are a hardware and software design company. So they build electronic systems for customers, which I think is really interesting, obviously, being an engineer. Welcome to the podcast.

Hannah: Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me on, Mike, I appreciate it.

Mike: So, calling you a design consultancy, in the electronics sector, you could do an awful lot of different things. So do you want to tell us a little bit about you know, what Ignys does, the kind of projects you get involved in and maybe a little bit about what your role is in those projects?

Hannah: Yes, absolutely. So we get stuck into lots of projects. As you can imagine, we work with everyone from sort of innovative start-ups all the way through to household names, you know, there’s big TV ads out at the moment of people that we help.

Sector wise, it’s very varied as well. So anything from IoT sort of smart hubs, anything you can really think of that involves electronics, really, we have sort of four pillars in terms of services we offer. So electronics design, you’re talking everything. So I’m simple board work on PCB, through to sort of FPGA development, that kind of thing.

Software wise, it’s mostly on the embedded side of helping people that so for example, we’ve done a case study recently on music, so streaming systems, etc. and sort of getting the software right behind that there’s an awful lot that goes on, in terms of technical debt around sort of writing code fast, and sort of the problems that can occur there. So we kind of help people unravel that, then we’ve got the test side. So we’ve got great partnership with mg products around test jigs, we’ve also got two environmental test chambers on site. And then of course, just product development. So everything through from doing a workshop, through all the way to sort of scaling up your project so that when you’re doing volume manufacture, it’s going to work well. There’s a lot of educational pieces around prototyping and the fact that if you get the first prototype, it’s very exciting. It doesn’t mean you should put that straight into production in terms of my job title here.

So I’m marketing manager, I’m lucky that I’ve got a team around me. So I’ve hired a marketing executive back in January, I’m very lucky sort of a content and SEO Wizard, we get stuck into everything really. So there’s a lot of experimentation going on here. Because it was a startup, when I joined, you pretty much have to do a bit of everything. So call myself a bit of a free 60 marketer from that point of view. So you have to be very comfortable to get stuck in. So for example, I’ve never done Pay Per Click properly when I joined. And then you sort of have to get stuck into that. So there’s a lot of learning going on, you have to be very comfortable with being constantly pushed out of your comfort zone and this kind of role.

Mike: Perfect. And I think that leads us on really well to how you ended up and how your career has developed. And you know, I’m particularly interested to know why you chose to give up your potential career as a film star.

Hannah: Yeah, so we should probably interject here around me being a Bollywood extra. Once I was looking for summer jobs. I wanted to try out something different. So I ended up on a day a bit like this. I think we’re all the suffering in the heat wave. It was actually a day like this in Nottingham, when we all sort of sat around cheering for the Bollywood star who was starring in this cricket movie called peculiar house, which I’m probably pronouncing completely wrong. I was bowled over because I actually worked in the cinema. It was a brilliant summer job. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do summer work. But I got very bowled over by the guy who was playing the father because he was in every Bollywood movie at the time. So that was very exciting for me. Anyway, I interject.

So my kind of career has developed in a slightly different way to other people. So I actually did a degree in meteorology, which is whether it’s very sort of maths and physics heavy, which doesn’t sort of you go hang on, how does that relate to marketing, I suppose to me, there was always a conflict between my love of maths and my love of sort of psychology and people and creativity. And I could never quite find my jam with that. So I went down the maths route, I realised quite quickly that trying to get into the Met Office is a bit like because you’re trying to be a rock star. When you’re in a band, you know, it’s very competitive, and I wanted to stay up north. So I looked around, had to think about it and tried out a marketing role. And luckily, I found someone prepared to take a bit of gamble on me. Great company called sumedh up and Glossop to do medical cushions and mattresses, and I kind of fell in love with the b2b world there really. I trained on the job. So I did a c ci M qualification over in Manchester. I found actually learning on the job. I learned so much through that really that sort of baptism of fire around marketing. I find the landscape has really changed so when I first started social media was in its infancy, but the main thing was nothing got measured. So there was little bit of sort of E marketing. But there was none of the tools we have now.

You know, how do you know where you’re ranking on Google? You pretty much typed into the internet and saw where you were. Now you’ve got Semrush, that sort of tells you, and you don’t have to have an argument about their computer showing up a different one to you. And so it’s actually coming full circle for me, because I’ve now got the math side as well through the data. And also through the very, very technical roles that I choose. That sort of, you know, the people that I work with, do the hard stuff, and I get to learn and absorb that free what they do, which is amazing.

Mike: Sounds cool. And it sounds like it was almost accidental. I guess it’s kind of almost a marketing approach to testing different careers and seeing which one you like.

Hannah: That’s right, I sort of highly recommend to say to people look, when you go into a career, and you choose your degree, the most important thing is to choose something that you find really passionate and interesting, because you’re going to be doing three years of it every single day. And you need to know that something you want to do. There is an element, I think looking back, I sometimes go well would have crazy chosen the career was a bit more of the right route for what I wanted to do. But trying to decide what you want to do when you’re 17 is really, really tough. And I think without doing that, and doing a degree or going into a first job, it’s very hard to know what you like and what you don’t. And I think was marketing, it’s very much a love hate experience. Sometimes the job is fantastic. You know, I love it. There are days when you go, people don’t understand the marketing side, and you get very disillusioned. So you have to be, you have to be comfortable, I think in marketing in knowing that your day is not going to be set out for you. So a lot of other roles, things will land on your desk and you do them. It’s not like that in marketing, you have to have the ideas, you have to come up with those ideas. People be constantly asking you, what do you think, and you have to be okay with that.

Mike: And I think that’s really interesting. You’re running, basically the whole of marketing with a massive team of one for a company that’s trying to reach you know, a whole range of different customers from start-ups through to global electronics companies. I mean, how do you decide on priorities in that situation?

Hannah: I think the most important thing is sitting down and deciding who your ideal customers are, but also how much you can help people. So for example, a lot of our start-ups, if they don’t have funding, there’s only so much we can help them. So for example, they might come to us and say they’ve got a budget of 10k. And we go, well, actually, that might only give you a few days engineering, we don’t want to eat anyone’s budget, we’re always very open and honest with people to go, Look, you may need to go away and get some extra help first. So we have to think about all we write for people for us, it’s just as important to be right for them as it is that they’re right for us. And we have quite a rigorous sort of pre-qualification process. In terms of managing the marketing that we do, we actually have come to conclusion that Excel is quite useful.

So within my team, I sort of have a list of priorities that we need to achieve high to low, sort of what percentage we’ve done that and it just kind of lays out, you look at it during the week, and you plan it out at the beginning of the week, then we have what I call a wins and rants session at the end of the week of what’s gone well, and what hasn’t and sort of looking at all those KPIs. Again, one of the lessons I’ve learned over time is waiting till the end of the month to check if your traffic’s Okay, on the website isn’t always a great idea. It’s better to do it on a weekly basis if you can do that. And also, when you prioritise and go, what’s the effect of what I do? What effect is it going to have? So for example, spending half an hour on Search Console, doing the technical SEO on a page could actually be far more effective than spending 10 hours researching and reading every word of everything that’s going on in the industry. So I think you have to pick your battles, and go what is the right thing here? Again, I love doing interviews. So I absolutely love interviewing our team guest speakers and things. But sometimes you have to say, well, just because there’s new members, staff is really interesting. Maybe their, you know, their niche isn’t particularly going to help a lot of people. However, I’ve also found ones where very few people read the blog, but the people who do or the people who come and talk to us about projects.

So another thing I would say for people going into the industry is don’t be disheartened if your blog doesn’t get 1000s of hits, because the one that’s got 50 people looking at it in lifetime total. That might be the one converting so you need to measure that not just how many clicks, how many impressions, how many likes you’re getting on social media.

Mike: I think that’s really insightful. I mean, if you look at Ignys, or any other b2b company, typically, there’s a relatively small number of sales. I mean, I guess, you know, your company is probably selling very little, it’s not like you’re selling 1000s of projects a month, it’s probably a handful at most. And a lot of marketing tools seem to be focused on increasing the numbers up making the big numbers bigger is always good. And actually, it doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s the same with us at Napier, we could most take on two clients a month. And it kind of doesn’t matter whether we have 5000 or 10,000 visitors to our website, because actually there’s only two we care about which of the two that become customers. So I love that insight. That’s great.

One of the things I’m interested in is the audience you’ve reached. So you know you’re selling this capability to design and develop products are you targeting an engineering audience? Are you targeting a non-technical audience? How do you go about deciding who to reach when it could be a real mix of different people influencing the decision?

Hannah: That’s, that’s absolutely right. So we’ve got a list of sort of buyer personas. And again, we looked at them, and they all very, very different people, for the most part is sort of head engineering managers, we find with these people, they’re a lot more receptive to understanding the process, understanding the costs involved, we’ve written a blog around sort of cost versus investment, I guess, because a lot of people see it as an upfront cost. And it is a lot of money to develop a project. When I first found out how much product development cost, I vowed never to make a product myself. However, it’s incredibly rewarding. But there’s a lot that goes in, you know, you need to test things correctly, you need to do feasibility studies to make sure that there’s more than sort of free people in the universe are going to buy your product. And you know, that you don’t sell it for too high a cost as well, you know, if it’s going to cost you 50 pounds to make, and people are only prepared to buy it for 40 pounds, that’s not going to work. So yeah, in terms of the audience, I think there is a bit of a split. And that’s why we kind of nurture a lot of our blogs, our kind of dual readership. So we split it out between the people who were just really getting into it. And so you know, what his test, for example, was designed for tests and the people who know the really nitty gritty stuff of well, how is this going to help you. So we try and we try and tailor it to everybody, the same way, we will have blogs that kind of blot out sort of, you know, SIC, and Gan really kind of really techie stuff, there’s just for that audience, and then other things that are very much sort of 10 ways product development can go wrong, we actually find seasonal blocks are really popular as well. So Valentine’s, you know, take all your services, right, a Valentine’s blog around it, that sort of thing, people really do buy into that kind of thing. They want a bit of light relief there, I suppose.

Mike: That’s interesting. I mean, you’re talking about targeting senior engineers who are not always renowned for their sense of fun. And actually, what you’re saying is having a bit of fun is a really good way to engage,

Hannah: I think so I think that’s the thing, again, that there’s so many different personalities within that might. So you can you can put people in a box. But you know, there are some people who really like to look at that. And there’s other people who will like to sit and sort of consumed sort of eight pages on something really technical. And again, I think that catering to both sides of it, because people can choose what to read on your blog. And the great thing about sort of keyword optimization is you can target different people so that they’re going straight to that particular blog, it same with LinkedIn, you know, there’s heads of engineering that won’t put their profile picture up, and they don’t really use LinkedIn. There are other people who sit there and comment on other people’s sections all the time. You know, we also work with owners of companies, a lot of them might have an engineering background, that’s how they got into product development, because they saw a need. That’s why Richard started Ignys, because he realised that there was a need for high quality engineers, and there’s sort of a gap in the market, in terms of encouraging people to come through into engineering. And that’s why he sort of started it in the first place. So again, a lot of the owners have seen something that other people haven’t, and sort of working with them and engaging with them. And it’s the risk factor as well. You know, even if you’re a head of engineering, and you really understand the process, you’re going to look really silly, if you pick a consultancy, or a contractor that then takes your product, leaves it for six months, we get quite a few customers come back to us after six months where they’ve tried to do it themselves, or they’ve gone with somebody who’s sort of, you know, decided that they’re that they’re not going to do the project for XYZ reason. And they get really stuck. So often, it’s worth that investment, just really sitting down and considering who you’re going to use the same way that we all do in the marketing when we’re choosing who to work with on video, and things but that the stakes are really quite high in in the world of consultancy, I think.

Mike: And that brings me on to a really interesting question, one of the things you’ve got to do is build credibility and trust and establish the fact that Ignys, which is, you know, it’s effectively an SME, it’s not a huge company, but give people the confidence that you have the capabilities to do a good job. I mean, how do you do that, as a marketer establish that credibility?

Hannah: Yes, it was actually, you know, particularly difficult back sort of two years. So when I first started, I was the eighth person to join. So there were very few of us now that the 16 is a bit easier, but that people ask the question, so you want to show, you know, I quite often show our office because I think it’s a bit bigger than people imagine, or at least imagined when they were eight of us. We’re not just sort of sat in our, you know, we are actually sat at home quite a lot, because we have a great sort of hybrid working relationship, you know, post COVID. But again, the testimonials are huge. I think it’s really important to sort of get customer feedback. And it’s not always that easy. What we found actually sort of dropping things that we’ve got a Slack channel where we share wins from customers. So where somebody sent an email back explaining how happy they are, because nobody likes answering a survey, and we found ways around it, you know, just hold on one was a competition for a remarketing tablet. But again, even then I think it’s engaging with people free the process with the kick-off meetings, and when he finalise something to go look that surveys are really for you just as much as us. We want a five-star review on Google but we also want you to work with us again, if you go Oh, that wasn’t great. I’m gonna go and talk to somebody else. And they’ve not told us because they’re shine, they don’t want to say anything that doesn’t help us or them.

My favourite responses, the ones that gives you five stars, but then go, oh, but there’s this little thing that we could improve. And that’s so useful. Yeah. And so do you, are you running that engagement? Are you talking to the customers and trying to get that feedback from, it’s very much a team effort here. So I do I do with this customer survey, I offered everybody a phone call sort of ring them up. And again, that’s great to from my point of view, I think sometimes people open up a bit more when they’re not talking to the person who’s working on the project. And it’s kind of takes them away from it a little bit, I think that’s quite helpful to almost be a go between a with, again, so open and honest with our customers, they can talk to any of us. But sometimes it’s nice to kind of open up that candid conversation without any other stakes going on. But we also have sort of a project manager here we have a sales manager, Poppy, who’s just fantastic, and a great engineering manager. So we all kind of get stuck in with that. That feedback, I think is really a team effort of doing that the same way that I think sales and marketing is a team effort, you can’t force anyone to engage on LinkedIn. And that is not what I recommend in the slightest. But if you can give them the option a go, it would be great if you shared some of our stuff, if you want to, you know the bits that you find interesting. And I think that’s why it’s important to have a solid sort of social media policy, if you’re going to do sort of employee led content, they need to understand the rules that they can’t get excited and post that, you know, Company X, that’s top secret. One of the most frustrating things about working in an industry like this is most of the really cool stuff we do. We can’t talk about, you know, I can think of 1020 30 things that would blow your mind that I can’t, I can’t say, and it is really sad, because I want to tell the world but then if we told the world, nobody would trust us, and we’d have no business. So getting that balance, right, you know, again, photographs, things that we’d love to take pictures off, and we just can’t do that. So, again, as a marketer, that can be really frustrating.

Mike: That’s interesting. I mean, you’ve talked throughout this discussion about a number of different channels, from your blog, on your website through to social. I mean, how do you prioritise the different channels? Which ones do you see working for you? Which ones do you see as being less effective?

Hannah: So we’re quite lucky in that in terms of data, we use some great programmes to see where leads come from. And I’m really strict on sort of going in and taking that time to see when something lands in our inbox, where it came from, because I think then you can see which channels to really approach and it is Pay Per Click right for you, or you’re just throwing money down the drain, is it the organic stuff, I mean, everybody would love the organic SEO to be the thing that’s working, I think you also need to look at acquisition models very carefully. So we’ve a lot of the leads that we see might come in through a referral channel.

For example, we’re a proud sort of Raspberry Pi partner, so we might come in through their website, but then they might go away, and then click on LinkedIn. And they look at that for a bit, which is where the kind of social proof comes in, and all these real people. And then they go and click on a pay per click ad, well, you could say, well, that’s Pay Per Click working, or is it the other stuff. So with social media, I find often it’s not that breadwinner is not the one that is going to bring you in the leads. But it’s a key ingredient we find sometimes, you know, 25% of the stuff that’s coming through to our sort of thank you page. So I think having that conversion metric is really important.

If you’re starting out in marketing, make sure you’ve set up a way to see that things are what is converting and what isn’t, I suppose. And if you haven’t got those cool tracking code tools that we we use, use something like Google Analytics to help you set up those conversion goals, you get in what you put out as well. So for example, if you’re going for LinkedIn advertising, you need to have deep pockets. And you have to accept that you unless you use that kind of barrier entry, you know, sort of four or five grand a month, you’re not likely to see any results back. So some things aren’t worth sort of getting into unless you’re prepared to put things up front and go. Let’s take that gamble and make sure it’s working. It’s the same with pay per click. If you run a campaign and you only sort of put a pound in the day, you will not see what’s working. Circling back to what you said earlier mic around, I think b2b a lot of these tools with pay per click, it’s quite easy to say easy isn’t, I know pay per click is hard. But if you’re selling shoes, for example, you can use an awful lot of clever keyword tricks. When you’re working in a nice industry. I can pick out an amazing keyword and it will tell me that the volume is too low to use on pay per click. The best thing about organic is it will never tell you don’t get a big screen going sorry, you can’t load this blog up because the volume is too low. And that’s quite a useful.

Mike: That’s interesting. And I mean, obviously, throughout your career, you’ve done quite a lot on SEO. But I think, you know, quite a few marketers view that as being a very complex thing to do. Do you think that every marketer can actually contribute and do something towards SEO or do you think it’s something that really you need to bring in specialists

Hannah: I think it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. So from a results point of view, if you’re really serious about sort of, you know, I always makes me giggle when people talk about being top of Google, top of Google is very much a term thing you can be, you know, we’re top of Google for several terms. But there’s other terms that we’re not even on sort of 100. You know, it’s a very subjective thing. So I think if you’re trying to triple the amount of people coming to your website within a few months, yes, you do need a team of experts on board. SEO is also not an instant thing. So you can’t, you can’t load two pieces of content and go, it’s not working, it needs to build up over time. And what we found is often if we’ve had sort of a busy couple of months, and we’ve gone, okay, we’ll pull back, you suffer because of it, it needs consistency.

What I would say is to anybody in marketing is if you feel that you are lacking in a skill, go and learn it. So when I was looking at jobs, just before I joined Ignys, I realised, well, I haven’t got any pay per click experience. So I went and got a Google qualification, which is really hard to do, because some of the questions are based on practical, and I don’t have the practical elements. So it’s quite a high pass rate. So that was really tricky. But I’d say some amazing courses on SEO go out and find them and learn, I think anyone can learn a lot of the basics was SEO, well, you have to put that time element in if you’re only prepared to do half an hour a week, if you’re an owner of a company, you’re trying to run everything yourself. You can’t be sales, marketing, whatever services, you’re doing customer service, there’s so much that plays into it. So for example, when we bring the leads, and they then need to be nurtured through the pipeline, I think simple things as well, from a customer service point of view, responding quickly, giving people that right attention, I always describe leads a bit like dating. So if you just take someone out for me or once and then you don’t ever talk to them again, I imagine only a few people would bother reaching out to you, you need to reach out to them, and you need to talk to them on a consistent basis, or they will get bored or they’ll forget your name. You know, I quite often go oh, there was a great company the other day in my inbox, I can’t remember who they were. And I’m too busy to go looking for them as a supplier. So you need to be top of mind without stalking them. I’m very keen to say that, you know, you shouldn’t put people off by just prodding them constantly. But there’s so many touchpoints now you’ve got LinkedIn, you’ve got traditional methods people are face to face, go out there, and was brand awareness when people are coming to our shows now. And I love it when people go. I don’t know why we know Ignys but we do two years ago, they just go who? Who’s that? So you know, there’s there’s a lot of osmosis around here of getting your name out in front of the right people.

Mike: It’s really interesting. You’ve talked a lot about sort of multi touch in marketing and the fact that you need to hit people with several different pieces of content, put it over several different channels. So how do you judge whether a campaign is really good or whether it’s not worked?

Hannah: So again, it comes down to I’m a bit of a data queen, I actually measure too much probably. But I find the most important thing was the measurement is to make sure you measure every bit of the funnel. So measure the lead measure what’s getting through to becoming a customer. So it’s very easy as a marketer to go great. I’ve got 70 leads in my inbox, but actually the salesperson is probably thinking, What is this, what’s, you know, make sure you’re super joined up, it’s so important. But again, measuring it all the way through and understanding the difference between a kind of watercolour skyscraper blog that’s going to bring in a tonne of traffic, and the stuff that only a few people will read ever. But you know, 50% of those people then go on and talk to you. So I think that’s, that’s really important.

Mike: And do you have any campaigns you’ve run that you feel have really worked well, for, you know, either of your previous companies,

Hannah: I’ve had a few actually, that I’m sort of really, really proud of, I find it again, Simplicity is key, I think the main thing is making sure that you kind of push them at that first bit to make sure that they, you know, they really engage. I had one around sort of checking your postcode, so it was sort of wireless broadband. And people weren’t sort of making that first step. So you weren’t asking them to buy, you know, not going in for the kill and that sort of things. It wasn’t so much a campaign but I’m quite proud of some of the interviews I’ve done. So I reached out to Derbyshire cave rescue. And I did a sort of seven-page blog with them on all the things that they’re doing. That was That was incredible. I very much enjoyed doing that. I’m sure some of the other campaigns will come to my head in a minute to be honest,

Mike: They sound really cool, actually, you know that cave rescue has got to be an interesting story, whatever it’s about, it’s going to be interesting people going and pulling cavers out and saying they’re absolutely incredible.

So I’m interested. I mean, obviously, you’re really enjoying a career that clearly you didn’t plan for when you were younger. Do you have some advice for people who are maybe starting out in marketing or maybe advice for the for the young Hannah, thinking about whether or not to go into marketing?

Hannah: Yeah, so what I would say is, you know, I said you have to have a bit of a thick skin you need to be prepared for some people, We really understand what marketing is, and other people won’t and they won’t get it. Because it’s one of those industries that sometimes people think, Oh, you do the colouring in and you put things on Facebook. Right? So you have to be prepared for that, I think. But why would say is it’s really rewarding. It’s moving so fast. Now, you know, some of the techniques I’ve learned last two years didn’t exist. Two years before that, it’s hard when you’ve just finished a degree to get excited about learning, because you’re probably saturated and tired and fine, give yourself a bit of a break. But then get back into it. When if you’re disappointed because you’re looking for jobs, and you’re not getting the interviews, well look at look at and write a list of the things you can’t do, and then go and learn how to do them.

Look out for what red flags as well. So for example, if it says something around event marketing, then it probably might mean you have to work on a Saturday, and that’s fine. But ask that question at the interview. If it’s talking about lead generation, that might be a sign to say look, they really want those high targets. Are you okay? Was it being fast paced environment? Is it actually a tele sales role in disguise. So I had some advice a few years ago around to digital marketing and some amazing digital marketing roles out there. But you know, some of them are very sort of sales orientated. And you have to be prepared for that.

I think a lot of people are specialising now as well, I think I’m a bit of a dying breed of this sort of free 60 marketer. So, you know, I think now you need to think a bit harder about what you might want to specialise in, do you want to go down the SEO route? Do you want to do pay per click? Do you wanna do social media? And what the pros and cons go and go and look online and see what the, you know, the industry experts are complaining about? So for example, social media will talk about being told to do tick tock and all these different ones. And actually, it takes so much time they’re doing the video strategy, they’re doing all this. Are you prepared to do that? Do you really love it? Or do you think, Oh, well, I’ve got a Facebook account. So I’m, I would enjoy that, you know, think really, really, really hard about it, I think. And if you get into a first role, and it’s not quite right for you, maybe you’re more customer service, maybe you love talking to people on the phone, maybe you love event marketing, it’s okay to go. Maybe I want to sidestep and there will be ways for you to sidestep, don’t feel that you’re then stuck in that role forever. That’s what I’d say.

Mike: That’s brilliant advice. I really appreciate it and really appreciate your time on the podcast. Thank you. I’m sure people would be interested to contact you maybe ask you some more questions if somebody has something they’d like to ask but with the best way to contact and

Hannah: Absolutely fine to connect with me on LinkedIn. I’ve also got an email address which I’m sure we can put in the notes here which is hannah.ingram@ignys.co.uk. Any questions around either my team myself my career? Any question really? I’m very happy to answer anything people want to hear.

Mike: Thanks so much. And I really appreciate all the great insights. Thanks for being on the show very much.

Hannah: Thanks, Mike.

Mike: 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.


A Napier Podcast Interview with Zachariah Moreno - SquadCast

In this podcast episode, we interview Zachariah Moreno, Co-Founder and CEO of SquadCast, a cloud recording studio platform.

Zachariah discusses his mission to cultivate creative collaboration and how his journey from a podcast listener to an aspiring podcast creator led him to becoming to a software creator.

He also shares his insights into what B2B businesses need to consider when launching their own podcasts, and how SquadCast’s unique development enables creators to overcome internet struggles and achieve good recording quality anywhere around the world.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Zachariah Moreno - SquadCast

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Zachariah Moreno

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 marketing B2B technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Zach Moreno. Now Zach is the co-founder and CEO of SquadCast, which is the tool that we're recording the podcast on today. Welcome to the show, Zack.

Zachariah: Mike, appreciate you having me on. It's an honour to be here.

Mike: It's great. So, one of the first things you were obviously really smart when you started podcasts. About six years ago, you realised that podcasting was going to be big? I mean, what made you realise that podcasting was going to grow as quickly as it has done?

Zachariah: Yeah, I wish that I could kind of predict the future and see what was coming. That'd be great. From like a startup perspective, were more so for us came out of solving some of the challenges that we experienced firsthand when we tried to do not a startup but a creative side project in creating a very creative podcast, we want to do like a science fiction, audio drama, which has a lot of production workflow involved, big, you know, bigger teams like production value on and on, the catch for us was that we were a remote team spread out across California. And we had a lot of skills that would help somebody who creating a science fiction, audio drama, I still think we underestimated the amount of work respect to anybody who's producing a science fiction, audio drama podcast, it is incredible.

But what we did was we set out to create this ambitious show, and quickly found that the quality of our vocals weren't there compared to the rest of the production value, the rest of the sound design that you really need with something like a drama of a fictional podcast to kind of full immersion, right, that is what you're trying to get with that sort of form of storytelling. But if the people sounded like they were recorded over the internet or over the phone, it sounds like it's you're not fooling anybody, right? You're not You're not fooling anybody that these people are actually in these scenarios and experiencing these things. So that was a real bummer for us. And it kind of stopped us in our tracks.

And a week or two later, we pivoted from doing the science fiction audio drama podcast to seeing if we could create some software that would allow people to kind of have their cake and eat it too, when it comes to getting that very high quality audio recordings for multiple people, without needing to be in the same physical recording studio. So we were really stoked on on podcasting, as like listeners, and my co founder rock introduced me to podcasting as a listener more on the nonfiction side of things, right, more and more traditional podcasts. Because I love learning. And it's a very quick way to learn. So that's kind of how I was a user of podcasts, through college and the end of high school. So that love really translated into jumping from being a listener to wanting to be a creator, to creating software that it helped other podcasters create.

And that's really what SquadCast has become, yeah, now six years later, and we really sit at the intersection of, you know, to your point of your question, podcasting, but also this kind of trend of remote work, not needing to be in the same physical space to create quality content and grow an audience. So that's really where SquadCast helps creators is that that added constraint of not being able to get in the same physical studio, like Mike, you're on another continent from me right now. And yet, we're going to sound like we're having this conversation in the same room in the same studio. So that's really the vision that we set out to do. And we've learned a lot along the way, because we're really big on community. And in an industry full of people who speak for a living, our focus is listening, and listening to what the creators that we serve, are telling us that they need and want from a platform like SquadCast, a cloud recording studio is the category that we've set out to define. And we try to get out of the way as much as possible and build what people need. And that's been that's been a fun journey thus far.

Mike: So awesome. So I'm interested in you know, came from a problem, but it sounds like actually, in terms of your career, you've actually got a background in software talking about development, how do you build your career up to to end up founding and running a really cool company like SquadCast

Zachariah: Not a traditional path into startup land, I can say that for sure. I have a background kind of in fine art and going to art school, and then learning software engineering. I did an internship on the Chrome team at Google. And that's really where I got kind of exposed and learned and indoctrinated to how Google builds software at scale for like, especially what's important to me like my mission is to cultivate creative collaboration and technology on The Web especially, can do that in really magical ways like these very real time experiences where we're collaborating with each other more in line with like, what you would expect from like a multiplayer video game, but applied to, you know, technology, B2B technology, SAS. And you get things like SquadCast, you get things like figma, or, you know, slack like these very real time, lots of people engaging with each other. And that's really what I saw being built at Google and was something that was like very inspiring to me. Because I had experienced as like in my fine art career or any of the kind of phases in my career, I had experienced creativity being amplified and enhanced when multiple people collaborated with each other, like pair programming as a software engineer, or collaborating on a painting together, like John Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol did for like 200 paintings, right? Like, their creativity was amplified by each other. And you don't really know where the creation is going to end up. At the end from when you start, you don't know what the start what it's going to end up like, because there's this element of improv to it. Right. And that leads to very interesting places. So that's my personal mission. And you can kind of see how that's applied in SquadCast of creating quality audio and video content together with other people anywhere in the world.

While my background is less traditional, I come from, yeah, not really any, you know, middle class background, nobody in my family had ever really done a tech startup or anything like that there's, you know, I don't have like a dad or a grandma, who was like a venture capitalist or something. There needs to be more grandma, venture capitalists that just occurred to me right now. Yeah, there's nothing like in my background, that would have said, Okay, this is an on ramp into startup land, other than I went to art school and studied design and user computer interaction, and then how advanced technology could bring new designs and new experiences to life. Just always try to stay at the bleeding edge of technology.

And that has really, you know, led to this place where if you had tried to create, if I had tried to create SquadCast, even a year before we did in 2016, let's say 2015, or 2014, or something like that, we would have failed because the web platform and the web standards and the cloud and a bunch of these, like interdependent technologies just weren't there. And that's where the founders of Twitter originally founded a company called audio. And audio had an element of kind of SquadCast, it was I think it was solo recording, but and it was all flash based. So I mean, it was kind of bound to fail. But that's how long ago people were, you know, been trying to figure out how to record remotely and have podcasts kind of be a first class citizen on the web. That's how I look at my podcast is that it's the internet of audio. And we can consume podcasts all day online. But how do you create a podcast online? It's fairly easy to do if you're solo, once you add a second, or a fifth person, how do you do that? Right? Like the internet kind of breaks down at a point, right? Where it's just like, okay, I can consume, I think a lot about creation and consumption and the balance between the two and people's lives, and you can consume all day. But creating is a different story, or at least it was before squat cast. So that's where we're trying to balance that out, make it as accessible to create this content as it is to consume this content.

Mike: I mean, that's fascinating. Obviously, you do something quite different to say a zoom or teams in the, irrespective of internet quality, as far as I can tell, you get great quality recording. So can you explain that what SquadCast does differently and why it's so much better for podcasts? Well, first,

Zachariah: Thank you for saying that. That's, that's really awesome to hear. That was totally, totally Our goal was to I mentioned kind of having our cake and eating it too. That's exactly what we're talking about is before SquadCast, the quality of the audio, let's just keep it fairly simple. For audio. We do it with video and screen and stuff now too. Which is more complex, we can get into that if you like. But when it comes to audio, we just asked ourselves like where is it being degraded if I record a conversation with you over Skype was kind of the the one everybody used back when we got started. Now it's more like zoom, stuff like that. Or phone like we just asked ourselves Where is the quality being degraded? Because if I stand with both people, if I'm sitting right next to you while you're having a phone call, you sound perfectly fine to me, right? You sound as high quality as my ears can can hear. But if I listened to that same phone call, have you it's way less than that. Why is that? Right? So we just tried to work our way backwards and say, Where's the quality being degraded? How can we preserve that there are clearly choices that these engineers and designers are making behind the scenes of Skype or Zoom They're clearly choices they're making, that don't preserve the quality. Sometimes it's good quality, but we just kind of embraced reality and tried to work backwards. So the reality is, is the solution to this problem is not a better internet connection, right? Like, that's just not what SquadCast is not an Internet service provider, I can't like write any code that's going to make your internet connection or my internet connection, or rather, your internet service provider give you what you're paying for. I have a lot of thoughts around internet service providers and stuff. But I encourage people to do their research and check that they're getting what they're paying for their. Anyway, that's not kind of the space that we can solve things in, right? We're not going to go and create a new global infrastructure of copper wire or satellites or something like that. That's cool if other people want to do that. Fantastic. But we thought we could just make different design choices, different engineering choices, all through this lens of this is a studio, this isn't not a conversation.

So you can think about SquadCast as the exact opposite of an approach like Skype or zoom, where Skype and zoom, they're focused on empowering, connecting you to have a conversation. That's why they exist. And then there is a feature of recording that somebody added at some point. SquadCast is the other way around, we are a recording studio, that just so happens to have a feature of remote conversation. It's a complete figure ground reversal. And what you get is much higher quality recording because all of our design decisions along the way, we are asking ourselves, does this raise or lower quality? Does this affect quality? Does this affect quality? And yeah, after a couple years of building and a couple of patents later, we've innovated and created technology that preserves the quality, yes, but then also addresses some of the challenges that come from quality files are bigger file sizes, they take up more space, right? They take longer to upload and download on our less than consistent network connections. So how do you do that reliably? Right? Like I could record for you, Mike, the highest quality audio file, but if it takes all day to upload doesn't matter. It's like the file never existed, right? It's just like, it's often the ether somewhere trying to do this task that it'll never finish. And that's that's a real shame.

So our founding adviser Harry Duran asked the question, Well, do you really need to wait to upload until the files like complete? Like at the end? When you click stop? That was a really good question. And I still think about it today. Because we did not have an answer to it. It was like, it's one of those things. That's kind of obvious in hindsight. But before that, it's like, well, of course, you can't start uploading the file until you have a file. Right? That's just what everything and all of my computer science classes have ever told me. But that's not how inventions get invented. Right? That type of thinking is not how patents get written. So what what that led to is, you know, some unique technology to SquadCast that we have since patented, that is our recording engine, that's what we call it now. And that features progressive upload, it also features cloud recordings as kind of like this layers of redundancy. And what that adds up for for SquadCasters and their guests is that what you said, whatever your internet connection is like today or during our conversation is not going to affect the quality.

So what we do is we actually separate those out if anybody is like a nerdy audio engineer, these are two independent signal chains from one another. So one stream of audio does not affect the other stream of audio. So we have the real time conversation you and I are experiencing right now. That's going to fluctuate with the weather with my kids streaming twitch in the other room that's going to fluctuate or a better example would be like my neighbour, right, like we are kind of interdependent in our connections to the internet. Things that are completely outside of my control shouldn't affect my quality, right, they shouldn't affect my audience's experience of consuming my content. So that's really where SquadCast, we just separate those two things out, we embrace that the conversation will fluctuate. Like, you know, people might get disconnected. And let's try to reduce that down to as close to zero as we can. But let's make sure people succeed no matter what even if the power goes out. Even if like, you know, things get unplugged, the network goes down. There's a coronal mass ejection and all the satellites go down, right like anything, any disaster, we should be able to still succeed, even in those situations. And that's really what you get is our recording engine that kind of gets you the quality but also very highly reliable in these less than reliable situations. Let's say

Mike:  No, it's amazing. And it's incredible how you know SquadCast is recording on your computer, not in the cloud, but it's uploading all the time and magically when you finish it seems to be there like you was yeah, it was always recorded in the cloud.

Zachariah: It's there's another, there's a, thank you. There's a bunch of benefits to it, a lot of what I've spoken about, but it's also super fast. Like, because it's already up in the cloud, you don't need to wait around your guests doesn't need to leave their tab open for like an hour, right, which is a huge security issue. And I don't know who can do that. Because you have another meeting, right? You have more to go on with your day. That's not how SquadCast works SquadCast, you can just hit stop bounce, you can, you can bounce, like close the tab kill the computer. And we'll have up to when you left in the source quality, in addition to the cloud quality, so what you said about cloud versus local, we do both. So SquadCast does both. And that's where it's like, okay, if you like zoom, fine. Those are like what our cloud record that's like our cloud recordings. So you'll always have those no matter what. But the local primaries show up 99 point something percent of the time, and what you're saying very quickly.

So whatever your workflow is, if your producers on the other side of the world, right? What if you had to download that and then re upload it, or past attempts at Cloud recording that no longer exist anymore? Like, you'd actually, they didn't have any upload component at the end, you asked your guest, hey, put this into my Dropbox or email it to me or whatever, you know, whatever kind of kludgy ways people glue together. So we think that like a guest on your show, should be like a guest at a dinner party, you don't like ask them to like help you with the dishes, unless they liked doing dishes or cooking or something like that. They're your guest. They shouldn't have to, like, become a podcaster and figure out all this weird technology just to have an impact for your audience. So that's really where the speed comes in, in addition to the reliability because yeah, we're not waiting for anything to upload. It's already in the cloud, where we can control the environment and give it as much horsepower as it needs to render that. Yeah, three hour long audio file for you and 10 other people in like, a few seconds.

Mike: Awesome. No, this was great. I mean, one of the things you've said a couple of times is you've called Scott Kosta recording platform rather than a podcasting platform. Can you talk about some of the other uses people put SquadCast to rather than just your classic podcast?

Zachariah: Yeah, yeah, it totally is. And this surprised us because we were very like podcast. And still, the vast majority of the creators that we serve today are professional podcasters. But we also listen, and that brings to light use cases of the platform that any technology, you don't know how people are going to use it, right, there's kind of the intended use case. But then there's a whole bunch of other stuff, right that people do with things.

So one example is our largest customer by recording time, like just like a physical studio. That's how our pricing works on SquadCast is recording hours, it's just way cheaper, is an audiobook production company. So they produce at a scale that would be very difficult or even maybe impossible in a physical studio, in one city, they can produce lots of hours of audiobooks. In parallel daily, they have, they can scale their business because they can work with voice actors who are around the world, not just in their city, they can work with authors around the world, not just in their city, they can work with producers around the world, not just in their city, and be very efficient and high quality at that. So SquadCast, because our emphasis on audio quality is there it's above the standards that something like Audible would require that you upload the audio that then people purchase and download on the audible platform. So Penguin Random House and auto VITA is the customer I just mentioned, that is you know, our largest customer by recording hours.

And then video is the other one that comes to mind is has been always kind of a force of nature online, right with YouTube. And and people prefer to consume video content. I think that data is clear. depends on the context, though. Because sometimes audio right, you don't have your eyes while you're driving, for instance, or something like that.

So that's where we were surprised how many podcasters how many of our customers were asking us for video recordings, our most requested feature by far like to a painful degree. And what we were trying to figure out was like, should we even do this? Like, this doesn't seem like why we got into this business, but that's fine. You know, we're open to learning and new opportunities, so that that answer became quick to answer but like, how are podcasters going to use this house as part of their workflow? Do they really know what's all involved like with lighting and camera and it's a whole another degree of like file storage, the size of the files, all that stuff? Right? So we were just trying to figure out okay, does our approach to our recording engine that we were just discussing, does that work for video too? And I think it inspired a lot of people because SquadCast was even in our beta from day one. SquadCast has had video for the real time conversation so that we have body language and eye contact That is something like 70% of human communication is nonverbal. So we knew from like really early on that, even if it's just for communication, that's, that's going to be better for the conversation for the final product. If we can see each other. If we want to, of course, you can turn it off, and it can feel more like a phone call. That's cool, too. There's other features you can like, hide yourself. And there's there's a bunch of options there. But like, video was an interesting one to us. And yeah, now people record lots of videos like on the SquadCast platform, and I think in the next version of SquadCast, video recording will even be more accessible to the creators that that we have the privilege to serve.

So so how people are using those videos is for a lot of marketing purposes, like to tease the episode to have content to share on social media, maybe in advance of the full on conversation being released on the podcast. So you can think of it kind of like a funnel, right? Where those clips are easier to digest in places and expose them to people in more places on social and elsewhere. And that's kind of like the appetiser, right and then the podcast is like the full the full entree, you might have bonus content. And that would be like the dessert. I guess it'd be another way to, to say it. Yeah.

So that's a lot of the use cases that we see there are more, but I think those are the big ones in addition to podcasting, and podcasters overall, have been embracing video a lot lately. And there's a lot of conversation around a Spotify, launching video podcast, YouTube, embracing podcasting more, we'll just more broadly Google with Google podcasts. And then a lot of YouTubers, instead of saying on my YouTube channel, they say my podcast and I find that interesting, because it's purely semantics. But it seems like that's kind of a trend that I don't think anybody could have predicted. But SquadCast, we don't have opinions about where the content that you record with us ends up. It's up to you. It's just audio and video content. So anywhere you want to create and publish audio and video content, we've had it end up in lots of places that we're very proud to serve those creators.

Mike: I love that concept of really, like trying to serve every place. I mean, I guess one, one sort of content that, you know, seems to be gaining momentum, particularly amongst podcasters is streaming. Is that something you've looked at offering as part of SquadCast? Yeah,

Zachariah: Yeah. It's fascinating. I mean, a bit of a different workflow, a bit of a wild ride to be on, you know, some live streams, you got to keep it you got to keep it moving. There's a lot of vamping, right, there's a lot of like, interesting dynamics that come with live. So we've been paying attention to live for a while now and talking to our creators to have that opportunity to listen, you know, is that something that you're finding traction with? You're growing your audience? Does it fit into your workflow? Is it sustainable, it can demand a lot of us to show up at the same bat time, the same bet our whatever that saying is I just butchered so like, that's where I think we're in the Listening phases. And then in the next major version of SquadCast, you'll see kind of our take on that. I think we don't ever want to just add things because others are we want to find opportunities to do things different and innovate. We didn't get into this business to just build something that already existed. That's a waste of everybody's time.

Mike: That's awesome and exciting. I'd be interested to see what will the new version of SquadCast looks like? guess one of the things for the listeners here is, you know, the listeners that typically from the B2B side, which can be quite hard with very small, very focused audiences. I mean, do you have tips for people working in B2B in terms of how they can develop and grow their podcast audience?

Zachariah: I do. And it's a category that we've been seeing grow and gain traction in interesting ways. So there's like, internal podcasts that companies have been embracing, especially through the pandemic, like when your team is fully remote? How do you do corporate communications? How do you continue to keep everybody moving in the same direction? Podcasts and recording those long form conversations are great for teams that find themselves in that situation. And I know everybody's mind probably jumps to the pandemic. And that was a window of time.

But I would submit to you that like, organisations like ESPN and Google, and like global organisations, they have lots of offices all over the world. And sure those people were not working from home. But a co worker who works in a different office in a different city than you is also relatively remote, right. So this problem existed for a long time did not just happen because of the pandemic. And a lot of those companies we've had the privilege of working with before the pandemic like ESPN has been doing their daily show with us for years now. Records lots of content with us and they have like ESPN support this In Mexico, they have their offices up in Seattle, even if everybody's in office that they're still remote from each other, how do producers and talent collaborate with each other from from those places.

So that's really interesting to us and is a use case for for businesses, that is less talked about SquadCast, we serve professional content creators. And one of the first things that we observed was, people immediately think of like, oh, the content is the product and the content is monetized. And that is how you are making money. That's why you're a business, and therefore a professional, but businesses that podcast for their marketing, and don't don't monetize the content itself, but they have another business model that the podcast feeds into. Right. So more traditionally, kind of part of content marketing, to feed into your business. So if you're a dentist, you have your dental practice, that's how you monetize, that's your product. But then it's a different question, how do I get customers into my business? And how can a podcast serve my content strategy there, and it can in lots of ways, so I think that the nature of long form conversations and really getting to know people, is something that people audiences are very hungry for in a world where everything is shifting in the opposite direction where everything is short form, and very surface level and paper thin. Podcasting stands in stark contrast to that and offers this three hour long conversations where you can really get to know people and have deep conversations. And in that process, demonstrate a level of expertise, and insight and consideration, where you can grow relationships with people who may be already our current customers nurturing the relationship with current customers, so that they're more familiar with your story, like, do you know your dentist founding story? I don't. Right, but like, I might trust them a little bit more with my teeth if I did.

Right. So that's kind of kind of one example. And it gives you a place to have conversations with other people to lend their expertise as well. And that leads to authority building, and can be a differentiator in your marketing strategy compared to other people in your space. So we see companies embracing podcasting, generally in those two, those two ways. But there's also the emergence of companies that content is their product. And, and that's fascinating to us, as well. So lots of ways that companies can embrace podcasting, a lot has been said, if you if you Google, like companies, podcast marketing, you're gonna very quickly find this word repeated over and over and over again, intimacy, podcasting gives you intimacy, you're, you have full access to the hearing sensory experience of your audience for as long as they're listening to you. And therefore it is intimate. I don't think so there's a lot of research that shows that, like USC is the study that that I'll cite more, more explicitly that the audience directly correlates the quality of the content that they're consuming with the credibility of the people that they're listening to. So if the whole goal here is to build authority and relationships with customers and you know, have this intimacy, but we're not focusing on our quality, you're actually degrade and you're losing credibility. It's like, you're you're trying to build it in all these ways. But then you have this, this hole in your bucket. Right. So that's really where the quality and a recording platform like SquadCast can help you scale that quality and not need to travel and things like that, to get your production out on the cadence that your audience comes to expect it weekly, or bi weekly, or whatever your cadence is. So I think that intimacy is just doesn't come for free, we have to cultivate it, right? We have to make sure that we are upholding that quality. And that's going to lead to the intimacy of having these long form conversations.

Mike: That's fascinating that the importance of quality, I think, is something you can't underestimate with podcasts. One thing a lot of people might be wondering, listening is, you know, perhaps they listen to podcasts, they'd like to launch a podcast for their company. It's really easy to do I mean, you put your email address in SquadCast, and you can pretty much go but what are the mistakes people are going to make? If they don't think about it? What are the things that they should have?

Zachariah: There are a lot it is easy to your point to get going which is fantastic. And you know, proud that we've played a part in that I'm proud to know a lot of people and get to work with a lot of people like the description the captivates and Buzzsprout of the world who are making it more approachable, right? That's fantastic because that was not always the case. If you look at the birth of podcasting, it was very, very nerdy, very like old white guy in the basement internet pirate radio right and could figure out and glue together all these technologies. I I used to hand code my RSS feed, like, cool, man. What did that do for anybody? Yeah. So that's really where things have evolved, right? Where people in my family can just on their phone, start a podcast, solo with other people narrative drama, whatever. The problem is that you quickly realised that podcasting is actually if you want to take it seriously, and you want to be a professional.

If the word monetization ever flows through your head, I think you should consider yourself a professional. And then ask yourself, what is my business, then you're basically a if you don't see it as a hobby, and it's totally fine to be a hobby, I'm not knocking it, I've started a hobby podcast. I know a bunch of people who do, that's totally fine. But don't worry about monetization. If it happens, fantastic. Great. But like, that's not why you're doing it, right. But if you are trying to monetize your podcast, which a lot of people are, you're running a media startup, not a podcast, a podcast is how you actually distribute your product, your product is the content that you're creating audio, maybe video as well. And then is that content so valuable, that people are going to pay you for it, sometimes probably, we can get it there.

There's a bunch of strategy to do that. But this is less and less sounding like putting audio up on the internet and more and more like running a SaaS business, right. And especially with the monetization options that Apple and Spotify have contributed somewhat recently with, like premium subscriptions, right, you can pay a creator monthly to get access to a private feed that is not public. And you get access to that premium content, in addition to whatever they put out for free, which again, is starting to sound like a funnel, right? So that's where we see creators embracing these new technologies, experimenting with it in service of their monetization journey. But this is you're running a SaaS business at that point, your products, just not software, it's content. And what about churn and what about B, and like, all these other ways that people talk about subscription business models, those apply to you. And I know, we want to create, right, that's why we got into this, I'm a creator, I wish I could just like paint all day, or do sculpture or whatever. But that's not monetization, nobody's necessarily gonna, like pay me for my painting that I just spent a week doing. That's a really hard problem to solve. And just because we have audio on the internet now doesn't mean that that age old problem of artists figuring out how to get paid, has been solved magically by the Internet gods, right? It's the same work. It's the same challenge. And you quickly realise that talking into a microphone and publishing it on an RSS feed and talking to your listeners on a slack or discord. That's part of the job. There's a bunch of jobs, right? You got to market that podcast, you got to get guests on your show, are you going to do ad deals? What about the technology needed to like do that premium subscription feed that I mentioned, or your Patreon? Who is going to create that premium content? Right? This is a company there are lots of, there are lots of roles, and one person can do a company startups do that all the time.

So I'm not trying to discourage anybody from doing it. I did that right. That's how SquadCast started was a side project as a startup. So there's a tonne of parallels that I've talked about a lot, both here today. And in other podcasts that I've done, what's the parallels between running a startup and doing a podcast are many, and I would encourage people if they're interested in monetization, to think about it in those ways.

Big caveat, though, we just talked about companies that podcast and have a separate business model, right? They're already running a business. So the podcast is additive to that, right? They can think of it as another marketing channel. A couple of differences, though, they own it. It's not like Facebook, where somebody else owns it, you own it. And there's no kind of like censorship, at least today, there's a couple of different characteristics to it that are different than other forms of media, right? Like a YouTube channel can be removed from the platform, a podcast can't, it just can't because it's decentralised from any one platform provider. So that's why it may be attractive to businesses. And in their case, they probably already have a team and already a business model and stuff like that. Right. So the podcast is more just about like the workflow and how does it fit into a sustainable marketing cadence?

Mike: That's amazing. I mean, Zack, this has been brilliant. I really appreciate it. If anybody is interested in having a go at podcasting, I strongly recommend they go to SquadCast.fm where they can go try SquadCast and start recording, or indeed, if they've got other projects. Zach, it's been amazing.

Zachariah: It's been a fun conversation. And as you said, we'd love to support and create creators at any phase of their journey, whether that's just you know, learning from the content or webinars or podcasts that we do. Free for the community. We invest in the community in a bunch of different ways and We're very accessible to continue helping in that effort. And yeah, if you're recording remotely, we'd love to support you and help you with a cloud recording studio that's going to serve you in the ways that we've discussed today.

Mike:  Thank you, Zach. 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Alex Price - Vicor

In the second episode of our leading B2B marketing professionals’ series, we interview Alex Price, Senior Marketing Manager at Vicor, a global power components manufacturer.

Alex explains why he thinks the barriers between marketing and sales teams are being broken down and the importance of aligning marketing’s priorities with the sales team. He also discusses the importance of leveraging subject matter experts when marketing complex products and shares his insights into how marketers can appeal to a more technical audience.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Alex Price – Vicor

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Alex Price

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm interviewing Alex Price. Alex is a senior marketing manager at Vicor, a power components company and runs the marketing activities in Europe. Welcome to the podcast, Alex. Thanks, Mike.

Alex: Thanks for inviting me on the show. That's great.

Mike: I'd really like to know just a little bit about your company, Vicor, obviously, quite a specialist area working. So if you can tell me a little bit about what Biko does, and maybe something about your current role as well.

Alex: Yeah, Vicor, a really interesting company to work for. It's a global electronics manufacturer that specialises in modular power conversion technology. But we very much operate at the high end of the market. So we typically concentrate on the High Performance higher power applications. So we're focusing on markets such as automotive, high performance computing, defence in aerospace, as well as the industrial broad market. So yeah, it's a really interesting space to be in because they very much invest in research and development, they really concentrate on introducing the best technology they can to the market. So from a marketing perspective, that's great fun. In terms of my role, as you say, I'm I'm a senior marketing manager, I look after marketing communications in Europe. I've been with the company nearly 15 years now. So you know, I've grown and changed and developed over that time. But more recently, I've also taken over responsibility for some global campaigns focusing on specific markets. So yeah, it's nice having both the regional focus on Europe, but also leading some global campaigns. So yeah, it's good.

Mike: That sounds great. So how did you get into marketing these modular power components? So kind of like, I guess the non-technical analogy would be something like Lego bricks, you can plug together to build a solution.

Alex: Yeah, exactly. The company was started probably 40 years ago. And I guess for anyone who's not an engineer or involved in electronics, the best way to think about it is any piece of electrical equipment is going to need power. So I guess the traditional way would be to build a power system or power supply using various components. And what Vicor did was they developed a modular approach, and just made it much easier for the industry. But they also kind of optimise those modules for originally for harsh environments or have a power density. And they kind of introduced this idea of distributed power. So rather than having one centralised box, with your power supply in it Vicor has modules now where you can sort of distribute throughout the system. So it's extremely innovative. And the company is led by a very clever CEO that continues to drive innovation. So it's great.

Mike: It sounds awesome. Oh, it sounds really interesting. You know, I'm an engineer. So I love I love this technology. But I guess at school, you weren't saying the thing I want to do is revolutionise the way engineers, systems. So tell us a bit about your career and how you ended up at Vicor. And particularly, from my point, I'm interested, why you end up in b2b technology marketing.

Alex:I wish I could tell you that I had a career master plan, but I really didn't, I kind of knew that I wanted to get into marketing at school, just because I liked, you know, adverts on TV. And I liked brands and why people prefer certain companies over other companies. But I guess at that stage, I just thought advertising and marketing was the same thing. And I didn't really understand it fully. So I did marketing at university. I didn't know what I wanted to do after that. I mean, I would say that I wasn't really equipped for a proper employment after university because I hadn't had any real work experience. And I kind of foolishly thought that having a degree, an average degree from an average university entitle me to getting a job in marketing. And it really didn't, in retrospect, I could have done with thinking about the type of industry that I wanted to go into and getting some work experience in that industry.

So yeah, I mean, I left university I was looking around, I didn't really have an idea of where I wanted to go, I got a job with a business consultancy in the pharmaceutical industry. And I started out at the very bottom really, I was doing data entry, I was looking after the CRM and the company, which was good because it gave me this grounding in I guess, CRMs and the importance of data integrity. And then I transitioned into being a marketing executive. And after about five or six years in the pharmaceutical industry, I applied for the job of Ichor. And the rest is history.

Mike: So think one of the things that interested me about your career is you went straight into b2b and I was going to ask you, well, that was part of a grand career. Sounds like it was something you kind of fell into and found yourself doing well and being successful. Is that right?

Alex: I just didn't know enough about marketing to make a decision. I knew I was I'm interested in business and marketing in general. Perhaps if you'd asked me at the time, straight out of university, I might have said I wanted to go and work for Manchester United, or Coca Cola or something. But I didn't really know why I was just interested in promotion anyway. So I didn't really make a big distinction between b2b and b2c. And even in my early part of my career, I don't remember thinking I want to get out of b2b and I want to get into b2c. So once I was in b2b, it's been a great experience. So I've continued down that path.

Mike: I think that's great. I think something you said earlier is really insightful about getting experience working in different marketing situations when you're at university when I was electric, and PR. I know that was a huge issue. And the students that got experience, not only were much clearer about what they wanted to do at the end of the course, but they also were much more likely to get the job they wanted. So I love that bit of advice, I thought that was really great insight,

Alex: The way you've done it as well, you started out as an engineer, so you understood in industry and sector, and then you moved into marketing. And I think the combination of two, the combination of understanding an industry and applying marketing to it is the ideal situation.

Mike: And presumably that was a challenge for you. Because obviously, you don't come from a technical background, you've you've not been an engineer, but you're in an incredibly technical field with, as you said, an incredibly technical company very focused on r&d. I mean, how hard is that to deal with those complex products and complex systems that you're selling into?

Alex: It took a long time to get used to that. And it can put you on the backfoot. Because you can be in meetings where you really don't know what people are talking about. But just as you get older, and with more experience, you just understand that there are subject matter experts. And you just need to extract the information from the people who understand the products, and you can still apply good marketing techniques, good marketing models, most engineers in our company, you wouldn't want to take those engineers and then say, learn a whole bunch of marketing techniques. I think, as a marketing person, you should take pride in the fact that marketing is a strategic function and important function. So you should just be proud that you have a place in the company. And just because you don't fully understand the products that shouldn't hold you back.

Mike: I completely agree. And actually, as somebody who was an engineer and as had training in engineering in theoretically understands that technology, you don't often say to people, my engineering background means that I know for certain I don't understand exactly what's going on, you know, you may not have an engineering background, you may not be quite sure how complicated is I know how difficult it is. And I know how far away I am from understanding it. So I think even when you've got a level of technical background, it's still nowhere near the level that the real experts are out. I mean, Vicor, frankly, in their sector, have some of the world's best experts on designing power systems. The average engineer doesn't matter if you've worked in engineering for a year or 10 years, you're not going to have that expertise. So there's always going to be issues where however good your background is, you're going to need to rely on those subject matter experts. As you said, I think that's a great point. Yeah, for sure. Moving on from your background, how you got into Vicor. I'm really interested about your role today. And one of the biggest challenges in marketing, is it prioritising things, I mean, so many different channels, so many things you can do. And as you said, you're basically dealing with all aspects of marketing your and also running global campaigns as well. At the same time, how do you manage to determine your priorities and work out? What's important and what you're going to focus on each day?

Alex: It's a good question, because I think marketing can be really overwhelming. There's so many, so many channels, so many types of content, so many objectives, so many metrics. So yeah, it's it is a really important question. And it's something that takes time and experience to get better at I mean, I've just got better and better at it year after year. One tip I would say is in terms of identifying priorities, I would say that you should start by looking at what the sales team is worried about, or how the sales team is structured. Because what they're worried about is really what you should be worried about, because they're the ones speaking to the customers. And they're the ones with the financial goals often. So that's one tip is don't just think about marketing in isolation, think about what the company is trying to achieve and what the sales team are trying to achieve.

I guess my other tip would be be focused on the goals rather than the tactics at the beginning of the year. Just write down three goals for the year, even if it's to increase revenue by X percent, or to drive more website visitors or to get more leads or whatever it is just write down those three goals. Because as everyone knows, in marketing, you go through the year and new stuff will pop up new, shiny things will pop up trade shows or whatever or people say, Well, why don't we run this email campaign or do that LinkedIn campaign and it can easily distract you from what you're trying to do. So every time you're in a meeting and the question of should we do this comes up, at least you've got that framework that you wrote down at the beginning of the year, cast your mind back to those three goals that you wrote down and go Does that fit in? Does it support what I was trying to do at the beginning of the year? Those would be my tips on prioritising.

Mike: I love that kind of top down approach and taking a relatively long term timeframe as well. That's great. You also mentioned working with sales, I'm interested to know, have you seen sales being more open to work with marketing since the start of the pandemic,

Alex: My view is that it's a long term trend, actually, I think, deep down, they will never admit this. But I think deep down, they realise that they've somewhat lost control of the customer. The internet provides people with so much information now that people who are searching for technical solutions don't necessarily have to go to the sales team every time to get their information, they go to the internet. So I think deep down, they know that they need to work with sales. And in fact, sales and marketing and alignment has been a thing for a number of years now. But it's I often find it's the sales team that are talking about it more than the marketing team. I guess, to your point about the pandemic, yes, it's it's probably accelerated that. And what's interesting about the pandemic is the sales team weren't able to go out and visit customers, but it didn't necessarily have a detrimental effect on the company. In fact, we had one of our best years ever during the pandemic. So it's interesting how things are evolving.

Mike: I think that's really interesting. I think you're probably right that, that this is a long term trend. And the kind of barriers that were were artificially built between sales and marketing are disappearing. I do agree, I think that's really positive. Moving forward. Now. I mean, we've talked a little bit about your role in Europe. And obviously, you're working for an American company and responsible for international marketing. Traditionally, that's seen as quite a challenging role, because American companies obviously tend to focus on their larger market, which is almost always the states. Do you find it hard to get mindshare and get attention for activities outside of the US?

Alex: I think you're right, I think they are focused on the US, perhaps it stems from the fact that they are the world's biggest superpower, as you say, it's a huge country, huge market. They're so dominant in so many areas. But I would say that they're probably no worse than the British, the French or the Germans in feeling like they're the centre of the universe, you know, my experience that the Americans are perfectly prepared to listen, if you make the case for something. I don't think they're against that they're not anti Europe in any way, I never feel that there's any objection. It's just that they don't always think about it, which is understandable. I think human beings are often like that. I just think if you're a European marketer, working for an American company yet just continue to make the case. I think if you take Europe as a whole, it's obviously a big market and a big opportunity and a big population. So you just need to make the case for Europe. And I think they'll listen.

Mike: And then within Europe, you've got a very specific audience you're targeting. So you're targeting a technical audience? Can you tell us a little bit about that audience and what they need, I mean, obviously, it's very different to running, say, consumer marketing or something like that.

Alex: Traditionally, we've focused on engineers. And as you know, Mike, we've as a result, we've concentrated on very technical content. But as we look to enter new markets, where I think we're conscious that we need to appeal to other areas of our buyers of senior management, purchasing, engineering, management, as well as the engineers. So my feeling here is that is, you can get caught up worrying about all the different types of audiences that you've got to go after. And it can quickly become complicated in terms of setting up different personas in various different countries. I think the starting point should always be to outline your story, and concentrate on making the story as interesting as possible. And then create that if you're running a campaign, or if you're just trying to build a brand for a company, start with that big piece of content that explains what you're proposing to the market. And then break it down into smaller pieces of content, and put that content into different formats. And then try and allocate or adapt those pieces to the different parts of the customer journey. So just make sure that you've, you've got enough content covering the awareness end of the customer journey, as well as the decision end of the spectrum. You got to be careful about only targeting engineers, you do have to be conscious about these other these other groups of people that are part of the decision, the buying committee.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I love that that concept of initially generating that overarching story, and then creating marketing around effectively the little, I guess, the chapters of that story. I think that's a great approach. And presumably, that then lets you generate different sorts of content. So content that's related to the technical decision makers, but also the non technical decision makers as well.

Alex: I mean, I was thinking, you know, when you watch all these YouTube videos, and they have these people do unboxing things and it's very to begin with, it's very simple. It's like I'm opening the box and here is the charger and here is the phone, but then it quit. as the video goes on, it quickly progresses into, like the technical specifications of whatever they're looking at, you know. So it's the same process. And that's how you should approach a campaign, I guess. And most people who are not that interested in what phone to buy, they might only watch the first one minute of the video and just see how it looks. And they just give up when it becomes too technical. You know,

Mike: if we talk about this, this engineering audience, which a lot of the people listening, the podcast are going to be focused on? What's your advice for approaching an engineering audience? I think there's always a perception that it's, you know, feels sometimes impossible to get engineers excited. But how do you get engineers excited and enthusiastic about products?

Alex: You know, engineers are still human beings, I would say that, they still have the same drivers as everyone else. So they still want to learn, save time, save money and be recognised at work, they might want to get promoted, they don't want to get fired, just be helpful to them is the first point, I guess, there are various surveys that have been done about the mind of the engineer and what makes them tick. You their job is to solve problems. And to find solutions. They're curious people, they're interested in how things work. So I guess play to that part of their personality, perhaps. So you know, a be helpful, but be be interesting, give them the information, you know, you're not trying to sell them a dream, they've got to create something real. So live in that world provide something real.

Mike: I love the way you said that they want to be recognised successful at work, I think that's really important. Understanding what gives an engineer credibility amongst his team or amongst his peers at work is really important. And a lot of that's around finding, as you say, solutions. So finding a great solution elegant solution to a difficult problem. It really is important to engineers, because it definitely is something that that is recognised by other engineers. And I think one of the things Vicor. Does, obviously is they provide pretty unique, very complex products that solve very difficult problems. So you're obviously in a great position to be able to do that with engineers at Vicor.

Alex: Yeah, yeah. It appeals to their ego, for sure.

Mike: Absolutely. I mean, I think the other thing about engineers is there's always conversations about channels, and how engineers just aren't into social media. They're just not social people. You're obviously affected, responsible for all channels in Europe, as well as running multi channel campaigns globally. So what's your view on different channels and different formats of content? Do you think there's one that works particularly well? Or do you think there's any that engineers really don't care about?

Alex: Yeah, I would say, obviously, make the campaign as as good as possible. And then, I guess, try out as many channels as possible, I think it's dangerous to focus on channels. And to think that there's some magical channel that will reach them, I think you want to obviously be consistent across all the channels. From what I've seen, I think it's hard to make social media work. I think most b2b companies or technology companies are probably still using it as a one way broadcast tool. From what I've seen, it's hard to drive genuine engagement, real discussion, people like a lot of posts and stuff, but to actually start conversations on social media. I don't see that in our industry.

So far. exhibitions, I think, are still effective if they use selectively. And if they're used as a platform for additional promotion around the year. I think public relations is still a really key part of the promotional mix. But I would say the traditional sort of trade press seem to be mean, you know, better than me seem to be under a lot of cost pressure.

So I don't know, it may be time to look at, dare I say influences in the industry. I don't I don't know, I haven't tried that. But that could be an interesting thing to look at. To me advertising. trade press seems expensive when you consider the volume that you get from it. But at least you can be confident that you're you're reaching the right people and the right audience. So that's reassuring, I think programmatic advertising on the surface is very appealing, because you can drive huge volume to your website makes everyone feel great. But the quality of the traffic does seem quite dubious. Sometimes I think it's open to to abuse there.

I think email is still really effective. It seems to be one of the best channels for driving response. But it's obviously difficult to get reach from email unless you've got a huge database or you're prepared to rent a lot of lists if you want to go out beyond your immediate sphere of influence is tricky.

I think virtual conferences are terrible. I think the idea of trying to take an exhibition and just put it online. I don't think that works, I think yeah, doing webinars is a good idea, an hour here an hour there, but I think virtual conferences are difficult to make work. But yeah, there's some of my thoughts on on the different channels.

Mike: It's interesting because it's always hard with an industry like the electronic component sector, because it's very skewed towards a small number of very, very high value customers. So you can generate a lot of customers that are maybe worth a couple of 1000 pounds a year. And then you have other customers that are worth 10s of millions. And so it's always so hard to really get that, that targeting right? And then make sure you're reaching the right people, because a tiny percentage of your audience actually can really drive success or failure.

Alex: Yeah. That's a good point, actually. And that's often when you put forward the case for something, during a trade show, or, or advertising something, you'll often get the sales team saying, Yeah, but we're only targeting five different companies, we should just go and visit them.

Mike: I remember talking to a sales guy about that one, I used to be working in a sales environment. And somebody had said, Actually, we've got, I think it was four major companies in communications we're targeting, so we'll just go visit them, we don't need marketing. And one of the global strategic account manager said, let's just be clear, there's 350,000. Engineers, business, I'm not going to go visit everyone. So I think the Account Based Marketing is really important. And it's something I know you've done quite a bit of a Vicor. But getting that focus down to the biggest opportunities, because often those biggest opportunities are also huge companies so that they're almost unmanageable for salespeople to go and visit. So really does need marketing. Yeah.

Alex: Yeah. And also, every time you release a new product, make a new announcement, the salesperson is not going to travel around those companies and deliver that information, you know, so you need to continue to market for sure. It's a good point.

Mike: In terms of campaigns and things you've done, I mean, what do you think makes a really good campaign at the end of the campaign? How do you go? Yeah, that was awesome, or no, they didn't work?

Alex: Yeah, you're talking about metrics, like or just any element of a successful campaign?

Mike: I think that's interesting. Because I mean, if we look back to the days of madmen in the 50s, there was no metrics. Really, it was all did we feel the campaign was good. And now you can look at campaigns with so many different ways of measuring. So be different metrics, like I'm interested to know, is there a particular metric or a particular result you're looking for that you really feel is a measure of a great campaign,

Alex: you can quickly drown in data, you can go into Google Analytics and just get lost in all the different metrics. If I'm thinking about measuring a campaign, I do tend to keep it pretty simple in my head, tried to boil it down to one overriding goal that you try and work out whether it's more about lead generation, or it's more about brand awareness, although the two often overlap, but you try and have a primary single goal. Is it 10 meetings for the sales team? Is it 100 registrations for a piece of content, or whatever it is, just boil it down to that one goal. And then I would just have a simple set of KPIs to measure your progress towards that goal. So did the campaign drive traffic to your website? Did those people engage with content on the website? And then did people convert? So just keep three things in mind? Did you drive traffic? Did people engage? And then did people convert and you'd work out whatever that conversion is, but just keep it as simple as that? Because you can quickly get lost in all the other stuff.

Mike: I love that I love the really very clear headed approach to like the these are the things we're trying to achieve rather than drowning in all the numbers, I often see people with tables and tables of numbers. And it's like, well, which number really matters. And I think you're getting it down to you know, let's, let's pick a couple of things that we really, really care about. And that's what we're going to optimise it. And certainly the way you've done it, they're they're quite business focused rather than necessarily marketing metric focused. So things like sales meetings, I think you said, how many sales meetings we drive for the sales team. I mean, that's very much business focused. It's it's it's very measurable. But it's quite a long way down the funnel. So you're really looking across, you know, a big chunk of that customer journey, which I think is really interesting. Yeah. I mean, just talking about campaigns, do you have any campaigns you've run that you think have worked particularly well, or anything you can tell us about you think we might get to learn from?

Alex: I think with those campaign we ran last year, targeting the automotive sector. I think that was a really good campaign, because we had the opportunity to really start from scratch. It was a new market that we were going into. So yeah, we were able to build it up. We only had I think we had one web page on the website, talking about automated solutions. So we were able to start from the very beginning. And it went well, because we engaged with the sales team early on. We understood what they were talking to the market about. So we're able to develop that messaging. We're able to develop the content to support the campaign, then we concentrated on how to distribute that content. And then we had solid measurement metrics. It just went really well. And I guess the campaign, we don't actually have products to sell off the shelf in the automotive market. So it was a slightly unusual campaign in that we were trying to build awareness, get engagement on the website, but we're really trying to initiate conversations for the sales team. You know, we couldn't we couldn't tie the campaign. impact revenue because revenue is it's still a number of years away. The sales team were really happy with it. There was some anecdotal stories about them being in customer meetings where the customer actually said, oh, you know, we've seen you all over, all over the internet, or you guys are everywhere, you know, so we would definitely achieving what we wanted to achieve. So that yeah, that was a really good campaign, I would say,

Mike: I love that I obviously know a little bit about this campaign. And I know, you went from literally one webpage to driving meetings with some of the biggest names in in automotive. And I think that was just fantastic. How far Vicor progressed into a market that, as you say, was effectively completely new to so. Yeah, I mean, I'm certainly familiar with the campaign. And I thought that was awesome, too. Yeah, it was great. I really appreciate your time, Alex, on the podcast, I'm sure people you know, might be interested in contacting you and finding out a little bit more about what you've done, and maybe some more about some of your activities and how you've been successful in a very technical market. I mean, what would be the best way for listeners to get in contact with you?

Alex: Well, actually, I'm on pretty much all the social media channels, Twitter, Twitter, Facebook, tik, Tok, Instagram, LinkedIn, all of them, but I don't post very much. I'm just kind of observing stuff. So I think LinkedIn is probably the best one. If you just look up Alex Price Vicor on LinkedIn, you'll find me and yeah, it'd be great to hear from anyone who wants to connect or chat about anything. So yeah, that'd be great.

Mike: Amazing. Thank you very much, Alex. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Alex: Thanks, Mike. Thanks for the opportunity.

Mike: 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Cat Anderson - Sprout Social

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 social.com. 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 social.com. 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Marc Mustard - ABB Robotics

In the first interview of our leading B2B marketing professionals’ series, we talk to Marc Mustard, Global Head of Content and Brand at ABB Robotics, a pioneer in robotics, machine automation and digital services.

Marc gives insight into his career, how he came to work in robotics, and how he thinks the robotics industry will change the way we live. He also shares his thoughts on why there is no standard approach to B2B campaigns, and how marketers can be creative, as well as why it's time to stop thinking of business-to-business/business-to-consumer and time to think of business-to-human.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Marc Mustard - ABB Robotics

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Marc Mustard

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 Marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Marc mustard. Marc is the head of content and brand for ABB for the robotics division. Welcome to the podcast Marc.

So first, I had a look at your LinkedIn, you've had a very interesting career history. Do you want to tell people listening about what you've done and how you've ended up working promoting robotics?

Marc: Yeah, so as was quite a traditional route for a lot of people. Back in the day, I started off as a journalist, trained as a journalist, I was working on my local paper when I was 15/16, had a radio show in my local area when I was 16. And then I went to university to study journalism in Edinburgh. And from there, I worked for a couple of car magazines with a Press Association in the UK, which is the national news agency of the UK. And then I worked for Auto Express magazine. The UK is largest selling weekly car mag.

And then I went to Australia for a while and worked on wheels magazine down there, which is the sort of car magazine of record in Australasia. And then I made the switch into communications. So as I say, quite a well trodden path started off working for SCADA in the UK. And then I worked for a couple of agencies, communications agencies, and also when BMW with many Bentley, and the last car company I worked for was Lotus up until about two years ago, when I moved into robotics.

And, yeah, I'm a car guy, I love cars. But when the opportunity was presented to me to work for the world's leading robotics company, and the sort of, I don't know that the relevance of what it is robotics can bring to society and industry, and people's everyday lives, it really struck a chord with me, you know, selling sports cars to middle age men is fun, and quite easy, a lot of the time. But when you're talking about, you know, the future of work, the future of healthcare, the future of things like construction, it, it really, it feels really, really relevant, really societally relevant.

And it's fascinating also, so I think, you know, where we are now versus where we'll be in sort of 10/15 years time will be night and day. And I think robotics has got a huge part to play in a lot of our lives. And I think it's going to be majority positive and beneficial to society. So it was kind of an opportunity to do something a different but be that was going to make a proper difference. If you save one life on a construction site, very dangerous places, construction safety, save one life and a construction site by having robots do something rather than humans. That's great. And people don't have to do menial, dirty, dangerous doll jobs anymore. They can go and do more uplifting and rewarding things, then there's a net benefit to society there. So that was kind of the appeal to me. And I'm glad I made the move, because there's some really, really interesting people at ABB. And it does some really, really cool stuff. And yeah, I've always been interested in cool stuff.

Mike: I think certainly, although you've moved for some very cool car companies. Moving to robotics is certainly one of the coolest industries in the world. So I can understand that. I was really interested, you sort of said Marketing sportscars is fun. Whereas you kind of said Marketing robotics is about changing the world. Do you think that's a kind of general reflection of consumer versus b2b Marketing that b2b perhaps has more impact, but maybe it's a bit less fun?

Marc: Honestly, I find the phrases b2b and b2c, I find them strange and probably a little bit anachronistic these days. I think b2b and b2c made perfect sense when you were talking about different print verticals that you were talking to, right. So if you're a b2b, b2c, you would be talking to an auto car. And if you were talking b2b, you'd be talking about em or car dealer or whatever, you don't like much more niche technical publications, whereas I think given the way things have changed, obviously online websites, podcasts, all the different content avenues that are available to you as a company and as a storyteller within a company. I don't really believe in either of those anymore. I believe in b2b Ah, so business to human and I think you might be an engineer, you might be a production line director in a car company or a distribution plant or a logistics centre or something like that. But you're a human being you're a guy or a girl who has a whole life outside of what they do on a day to day basis at work. And what engages people? Well, beautiful pictures, interesting films, interesting people, interesting conversations, detailed depth. We're in the business of attention, all of us, you guys at Napier, US ABB, you're in the business of attention. And there are so much out there today that is vying for people's attention nonstop.

I mean, you know, before we before I joined you today, I've got three screens on the go, right? As I'm sure you do. And a lot of people listening to you got three screens, you've got seven or eight different forms of different methods of getting in touch with you on Messenger and WhatsApp, etc, etc. So you're in the business of attention, and how do you get people's attention? You get people's attention by engaging them in an engaging way. I'm not sitting here thinking, How do I look at engineers, and it has to be grain facts and details and data points? No, they're human beings. And they want to see things that uplift them things that are new, interesting, different, a different perspective on something when I first started is going wow, you know, six months ago, I was taking pictures of sports cars going around the coronation beautiful, beautiful blue sky, and you're doing silly speeds with lots of pops, bangs and whistles coming from these cool sports cars, but actually doing a shoot with some of the our new Cobots in a warehouse in Munich in you know, whenever it was December, that was snowing outside, it was really complex. That was the first time we'd ever done it. That to me was so rewarding, because it was new territory. And we were trying to bring that content to people in a much more engaging, interesting, human way. So yeah, it's not to diminish anything people do when people are still working car companies. That's there's a huge amount of skill involved there. But what appeals to me about working for ABB is that a lot of what we do is being done for the first time, you're treading virgin territory, trying to think of a new way of expressing yourself and telling that story. So I find that hugely interesting. Yeah. And it's helped by the fact that it's all really societally relevant, and the products are excellent. And the company behind all is really clever.

Mike: I'm interested here, do you think that there's more opportunity almost to be creative in b2b Because a consumer has been driven by creativity for a long time. But at the same time, if you're Marketing a car, you're gonna take roughly the same picture of any car, doing roughly the same thing to promote it, whereas b2b, there is no standard way to approach things.

Marc: Yeah, it's having the, for me, it's all about your mindset. It's a mindset thing. So yes, it might be an industrial product, it might be a product, that it might be a thing that builds other things. But that's not to say that you can't convey that story and tell that story in a really interesting and engaging way. So is there a new way of bringing the data point? So you know, graphical overlays? Or is there a way of this is too complex to get into a picture. So it's not a picture of film, it's a podcast. And then with the podcast medium, you know, we do our own podcast, you've got your work, like you've got this opportunity to go into detail and tell the story, the rich, the rich, detailed, and the varied story that you've got. So it makes you think, sort of laterally quite a lot. I genuinely think that there's a top and a bottom to this, right. There's the actual people who buy the stuff, production line directors, board members for engineering and production organiser, there's probably a handful, 1000 of them around the entire world, right. So why bother? Why don't we just take them all out for dinner, and make them all our friends, right. But that's not the point. The point is, those decisions are influenced by other people. And that could be people in procurement. There could be people, it could be their family. It could be anybody. The world is so holistic these days, and there's so many different influences on all of us. So I kind of think that yes, you want to you want to focus on the people who actually made the decision. But coming up from the bottom here, you've got this groundswell of goodwill awareness.

When I worked for Bentley, right, very few of us can afford to buy a Bentley 200,000 pound car, beautiful, handcrafted piece of art. However, what what do you want? Do you want just the people that can afford a Bentley to be positively predisposed to it? Or do you want everybody who sees one drive passed on the road go, oh, that's a that's a Continental GT speed that does 209 miles an hour and it's got 15 hides in the end. You know what I mean? Like, you want that groundswell of positivity and awareness, because that makes all of the other decisions and all the other influences that could affect the people making the key decision at the top, feel positively predisposed to you. So it's a huge it's a huge task. It's basically everything and everybody all of the time, but that's what I aim for. That's, I want the guy who is going into the procurement meeting that morning to come downstairs for breakfast. And I want his 13 year old son who's on YouTube. Good Dad, Dad, have you seen this cool film of this robot painting this car with an artist's artwork? That is the sort of thing that influences people. And that that's my mindset. It's a bit daunting sometimes. But I genuinely think that's the way we have to go at these things.

Mike: I think it's fascinating. I mean, one of the things he you seem to be very focused on is improving, I guess, the image of robots, I think, you know, in industry, there's been a little bit of a focus on all the robots taking people's jobs. Whereas the things you're talking about a very different it's about improving safety, about doing things people couldn't do without robots. I mean, to me, you seem to be a complete believer in the benefits of automation.

Marc: Absolutely, you don't shy away from the fact that yes, a lot of jobs will go and be replaced with robots. But a huge, more jobs will be created as a result of the increased use of automation. So welding, people who do rebar on cotton construction sites, people who are involved in the installation of elevator shafts, that those jobs will go. But there's a really, really strong argument to say that human beings shouldn't be anywhere near those jobs anyway, because they're super dangerous. I don't think I'm being misleading when I say welding is potentially carcinogenic, that's not something you'd want human beings to be doing really, anyway. So So yes, let's take people away from those. We say dull, dirty, dangerous jobs, and give them the opportunity, the education, the ability to do something more rewarding, more uplifting, more appropriate for the humanity that only human beings can have. I mean, Samiha ter president, he always talks about, you can't, you'll never replace humans in terms of their abilities and the breadth of their talents and their skills.

But at the same time, there are certain things you don't really want people to be doing anymore, and we shouldn't as responsible employers and countries. So 100% I believe in it when I talk about it, or sometimes you get bogged down in the day to day of your job and the doing of the doing. But when I talk to people over a coffee or whatever about the potential and the scope for where the next decade will go, yeah, man I get I get really excited because it's it. Like I said, you're making a difference. And yeah, I'm just, I'm just a storyteller. I'm not, I'm not inventing the products. I'm not a clever software engineer or robotic engineer.

But I just think that the more people that understand and know about the potential and the benefit, the better it is for everybody. I mean, you look at it, right? I mean, 18 year old kids now leaving school, they don't want to go work at a construction site. We did a survey last year, they can't get off people, because nobody wants to do those jobs. Because they're you're outside. It's raining or it's too sunny. It's heavy. It's physically demanding. I mean, I guess they're fairly well paid, but it's not something people want to do. So what do you do? Stop building houses? No, of course, you don't stop building houses. Because we've got more and more people, the demand isn't going away. The ability to fill the demand meet the demand, rather, is diminishing, have to find a solution. It's not it's not a case of robots taking jobs, you know, should we shouldn't we, we have to welding there's a million almost a million open jobs in America for welding. Nobody wants to no one leaves High School in America where they've got Instagram, and they're looking at all their pals. And it's all everybody's Instagram famous and having a great time and living their best life. They're gonna say, Ah, I really want to be a welder who wants to be a welder? And that's no harm to welders. It's an important thing and all the rest of it, but there is a solution.

We need to investigate it. We need to, obviously those jobs need to be replaced the opportunity people need other things to do, but that will come inevitably when? Right Okay, the one the analogy that I love the most is when the car came around when the automobile was first invented that at the tail end of the 1800s into the early part of the 1900s. Yes, there was a point where farriers and people who were involved in horse coachbuilders for horse drawn cars, there was probably this there was probably a point in time where they didn't know which way was up, and they were there. Well, the sky is falling, and we're in trouble here. But they didn't all die of starvation at the side of the road. They went and did other things. They took the skills and the abilities that they had, and they had honed over the years, and they put them to good use elsewhere. coachbuilders being a perfect example they they stopped building coaches to be drawn by horses, and they started building cars. People like Mulliner and all those guys, they diversified and that's what will happen. I think there's probably a point where it's uncomfortable, inevitably, but we're human beings like We're the most incredible things ever. As far as I'm concerned, we won't just perish and starve at the side of the road, we will diversify and figure something else out and go and do that. And that's exciting to me. Because, yes, you're looking at the fundamentals, the Keystones, of you know, this job that job dedicated to the automation. But what does that mean? Like? What will that mean for humanity in society? What will it look like when all that other stuff is going on in the background? Who knows? Who knows? And that's, that's, that's exciting.

Mike: I mean, that's such a positive view. I love that. I'd like to move on to to actually your job now. And I mean, the first thing that strikes me is, you know, having a title like Head of Content and brand for ABB robotics is such a broad row. I mean, how do you decide, you know, when you come in in the morning, how do you pick priorities, how you decide what to focus on?

Marc: I love the idea that they're like selection of priorities is my choice. The way I look at things is what's going to make the most impact. We all have a there's a finite number of hours in the day. There are other things. We all have a life outside of work. There are other things demanding our attention. In my case, a couple of little people that need need me to be around and all the rest of it. So I prioritised by what's going to make the most difference? What's the reach of this thing? What's the potential audience? Which of our key messages is it delivering? Most obviously, because it's easy to be a busy fool, right? We can all be busy falls, no problem you could fill, especially in the post pandemic world where you look at your calendar each day in between eight and six. It's just nothing but teams meetings and zoom meetings, where do you do the work around that the actual doing of the do? So I try and prioritise the things that make the most difference? The biggest impact what's got the longest tail? And it's hard sometimes, because obviously, there's a lot of demands, and everybody thinks that their thing is the most important thing. And that's the same in ABB is it in as it has been in every company I've ever worked in, but you do try, you do have to try and put the most focus onto the things that make the biggest impact and move the needle the most for the company.

Mike: I definitely agree. And I think the other challenge or opportunity that people are Marcing have had is the explosion of different channels and the number of new channels we've got compared to when I started Marketing 30 years ago. How do you see this kind of proliferation of channels? Are there particular channels you think work better? Or does it depend upon what you're trying to achieve?

Marc: The analogy I always think of is when I was a journalist, you go and you cover a story. And you'd have to produce two to 1000 words on that story. And you take a photographer with you and get a couple of pictures. A journalist in that position nowadays, they'd have to go and do a story. One for the publication one for the website. They'd have to write a speech, script, sorry. And they'd have to record a video. So their journalist, their presenter, their script writer, the probably writing a number of social media posts as well to go across the different social channels. So somebody who was when I was never a great journalist, I wasn't a bad writer. But I didn't work for the New York Times, right? I work for car magazines. But that's not enough anymore. You've got to be the sort of Swiss Army knife of a person that can do all of these different things. And I kind of think, in a less frenetic way, it's the same for storytellers within a business.

Can you get a coherent film out of this? Note, there's too much there's too much information to go in here. You've got the product detail, you got the product benefits, you've got the specific customer base, you want to talk, right. Okay. It's not a film, it's a podcast, if you need to bring in the industry perspective point of view data points, right? Well, that's not a podcast, because you can't have five or 10 different speakers, that's a white paper. So you have all these levers at your disposal, and it quickly becomes apparent I think, when you try and look at it from a storytelling point of view, as in what is the hook here? What is the story? The five wh right, who, what, where, why, when how I live my life by my professional life by that I learned that when I was 16, Badenoch and strathspey Harold in Scotland, when I was working there two days a week. And I always think like that, so, you know, you take those five boxes, which avenue is the best one to pursue here and we've got all those different levers is case by case really, white papers are great because you get the detail you get the industry perspective. surveys, we do a lot of surveys. And I think a lot of the time people go, Oh, another survey. But actually, as I said before, a lot of the stuff that we do at ABB robotics is the first time it's been done. When we did our construction piece last year, no one else was talking about that. There was no there was no industry noise, there was no data to go. And we had to go and get the data. And we spoke to like 1000 construction companies around the world, and they got their got their opinion. And lo and behold, they backed up our story and adds that weight and that heft to it. So surveys, white papers, podcasts, films, obviously, images, infographics are useful when you're talking about something with a lot of different data points. And you can have different versions of those, obviously, you can have the sort of consumer style ones, you can have the ones that you want to put to the customer. So I find it really exciting. Again, it's exciting for me, we've got this thing, right, how do we approach this and then you got to go away and figure out what the best way of doing it is. And oftentimes, it's multiple, you have a film you have an infographic may have a survey, whatever. But there's lots of levers to pull.

Mike: That sounds great. I mean, the range of opportunity, I think the way you're picking those different channels and use the ones that work best. I think that's a great approach. I love that.

Marc: I mean, obviously, like, you know, social media is kind of goes without saying, doesn't it, but you have to pick the channel within that spectrum that works for you best as well. We have a lot of jobs on LinkedIn, understandably, given that we're sort of large engineering, industrial company with that comes the necessity to build things a certain way. But we're lucky we've got some really interesting people at the top of the business Samiha to Mike's agora Adric, asone, people like that, who have lots of engaged people following them. And if you know, we can give them the content to post and link to then works really well, because you've got this engaged audience, they've got a lot of reach, and we've got the good content to perfect circle.

Mike: That's great. I'm interested, we used to obviously be used to be a journalist, and presumably, when you moved into the auto industry, you were actually working with journalists, you knew, now you've moved to a new industry, presumably or work with journalists, you don't know. I mean, how do you see journalists? Are they friends and supporters? Or do you see the relationship between the companies you work for so Marketing people and journalists has been a bit more adversarial?

Marc: I guess like any microcosm of society, you've got different types of people, right. So some journalists are very easygoing, and want to get along, and others are quite adversarial. I think a lot of the time, they just want information, and they just want someone to be responsive. But that's key. The pressures on these guys are huge, right? And it's always time pressured. The worst thing you can do is say, right, I'll get back I'll you know, I'll be in touch and then not get in touch. This is terrible, right? There's a basic level of professionalism that I think a lot of PR people struggle with comms people struggle with. And they don't understand that this story is getting written either way. Right? It's happening. So you either pony up and come with your side of the story, or, you know what, it's gonna happen anyway. So I wouldn't I don't think it's adversarial. It's just like a mutual respect thing. Make sure that you are responsive, and you're servicing these people correctly. It's obviously beholden upon you to make sure that your story is being told in the right way. With the right focus should go without saying I guess. But I think the guys that I've come in contact with since moving to ABB, they're very, very knowledgeable. They understand. Quite often these guys will be industrial reporter or you know what, as a huge, that's a huge beat, right? That's a massive beat. That could be anything from an Amazon distribution centre to BMWs factory in Munich, or whatever. And they know a huge amount of the detail. They're familiar with the big, robotic players and the automation players. Yeah, I don't know. Are they adversarial? Are they nice? They're just people, right? Some of them are good guys. Some of them are harder, harder work. But I think the thing that unites them all is that if you deal with people on a professional level, and you give them what they need, and what they're asking for, then that's a good start, you know?

Mike: Perfect makes a lot of sense. You've obviously run a lot of campaigns or quite a wide variety of campaigns. Are there any campaigns that you know, you're particularly proud of what you feel did particularly well that you've run?

Marc: Well, as luck would have it. We just did a campaign around our new pixel paint technology, which is like an inkjet printer head for painting. Cardboard is with like a secondary colour or some form of personalization. And I said to my boss, when it started to become apparent, this was going to be absolutely huge. The biggest thing that we've ever done by a long way, the most successful thing we've ever done by a long way, bridging the gap but When Trade Tech publications in sort of the mainstream, so BBC, the time, Sunday Times, huge amount of coverage, I've never been more proud of anything really professionally, because it was taking this technological story with great benefits to the potential customers and all that kind of stuff. But actually just saying to people, this is what happens when you bring together cutting edge robotic automation and the humanity that only people can bring to something.

So we had two artists, a little chap called advisor Kolkata, who's the sort of child prodigy abstract painter from from India. And this digital design collective from Dubai called L. You saw, I needed to like Metaverse design, the robot, the basically the premise was the robot could bring that art to life on on the car. And it did both the kids art and digital design collide. And it was just so visual. So striking such a great story. And you kind of hope that these things do well. But when we actually put it out there, and we had all the sales or the stuff or the sales, guys, the social media is going to be part of a podcast, we did infographics, it was just this holistic thing. And it grew arms and legs. It was great.

But the interesting thing was, it was where humanity and technology were that Venn diagram a little bit in the middle. That's That's what people are interested in. And that really struck home to me the power of that kind of storytelling. Like I said, I've never been more proud of anything I've done professionally. And I'm glad at work, because it's a great idea. And it's a great story. And the technology is superb, you know, and again, looking 1015 years down the line with that. There's nothing you can't have on the car. And it's not a graphic that's gonna fade and peel off after five years, it's permanent, the quality is as good as the paint on the car. So the possibilities are endless, really, when that gets fine tuned, and people start figuring out how to build it into the production line. So you could generally ever be in a position where no two cars are ever the same ever again.

Mike: Yeah, I particularly like the way you say that was the intersection between humanity and technology. I think particularly the young Indian artist, I'm gonna saw this campaign. I think a lot of people did. You could see he just thought it was so cool that his picture was going to be on a car. And I think that's what for me really made the campaign was the fact that you've obviously got somebody involved who actually genuinely was really proud and really excited to be involved in what is basically a Marketing campaign. And to me that came through so strongly in the campaign. I thought that was really exciting.

Marc: Yeah, he was just he was just, I mean, you know, he's eight, right? I've got an eight year old, like, I can't get him to brush his teeth twice a day, let alone produce works of art that sell for hundreds of 1000s of dollars. But he was just really chuffed that it was the first time I'd ever been done. And it was his work that was going on to you know, an LED. So I came at it from a slightly different perspective because it was all about the metaverse and the digital crossover between their their design and putting into robot studio, and then having that transport into the car. So there's not no human touch at all. Other than the design it is transferred to robot studio. And Robo studio communicates with a robot and it's laid down on the car and they were just knocked out by that because everything they do is virtual in the metaverse, etc. To have it physically represented was was cool for them solving that. And plus, it's just cool working with cool people right like interesting people. How do you how often you get to work with a child prodigy? That's like fender or Steinway working with Mozart or something that it's incredible. So it was really cool. And there was a lot of people working on it behind the scenes and a few bumps in the road. And obviously, we had COVID at the time, and that makes everything harder. So yeah, that really chuffed and again, that is what gets me out of bed in the morning. The ideas, the thought that goes, okay, yes, this technology is cool. Tick, right tick. The trade media will write about this, the car media will write about this. How do we take it? How do we give this the audience it deserves? You know, that's the thought process that goes into it. So this one Yeah, I find that so interesting.

Mike: This has been awesome. It's been it's been a great conversation. I mean, I'm sure people will have questions and things they'd like to ask you. Is there a way that anyone can get in contact if they want to ask about anything that you've talked about? Or maybe even just want a job? Changing the world with robots?

Marc: Yeah, yeah, LinkedIn, obviously all my details are on there. So if anybody wants to drop us a line, be delighted to hear from you always looking for good ideas and good people to be in touch with so absolutely. There's only one Marc mustard. I think it's It wasn't much fun at school having a name to tell you but it's coming to its own latterly. So MARC and then mustard as in what you have your roast beef and you'll find me.

Mike: Awesome. Thank you so much for being on the podcast Marc. It's been great conversation.

Marc: Thanks, Mike. Nice to talk to you.

Mike: Thank you 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.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Shannon Martin - Podbean

In this podcast episode, we interview Shannon Martin, Director of Communications at Podbean, a podcast publishing solution.

Shannon shares what B2B businesses need to consider when starting a podcast, the vital role that podcast hosting platforms play in distributing across different platforms, and how to understand the download metrics of a podcast episode.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Shannon Martin – Podbean

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Shannon Martin

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Shannon Martin Shannon is the director of communications for pod bean. Welcome to the podcast, Shannon.

Shannon: Thank you glad to be here today.

Mike: It's great to have you on. And it's really interesting to have someone who actually works for a company that helps make podcasts easier to do. And actually, one of the things I can tell people listening to podcast, is the reason you're able to download it is because we're actually a pod bean customer. So I'm a huge fan of the product. Thank you. That's great. I mean, to start off with, though, why don't you give us a little bit of background about your career and how you ended up helping people do podcasts?

Shannon: Yeah, I actually come from a sort of a marketing and communications background, and did that I had a totally different sort of specialty, originally, as many people's careers take these winding paths, but I was a huge podcast fan. So I sort of came across this opportunity at pod Bean, and not really looking to necessarily get into podcasting. But I really loved podcasts as a fan. So it was kind of a perfect way to take the skills but also put it to use in an industry that I, I had been listening to podcasts since pretty much the start of podcasting. So it was really exciting for me.

Mike: That's awesome. I think a lot of people listening, obviously, like listening to podcasts, but maybe thinking about launching their own and haven't ever recorded or published a podcast. So I mean, do you want to explain how do people create and publish a podcast? How complicated is it?

Shannon: It can be relatively simple. And I think, you know, obviously, the things that you need to do, or I mean, first of all, know why you're doing it and what you're going to be talking about and what kind of format you're going to have, there's a lot of that kind of planning. But as far as the actual recording and getting it out there, you have to record somehow. And there are lots of tools for that everything from the pod bean app has a recorder on it, that's a free tool to a lot of podcast specialists recording tools, you know, to people repurpose other other things. So you have to obviously get an audio recording or an audio and video. And then in order to get it out all those places that we might listen to a podcast, you need a podcast host, which is what pod mean is, there's also ways that you can do that on your own if you're good with programming and a lot of things like that. But, but I would say 99% of podcasts out there choose to use a podcast hosting company to do that. And it provides a feed, which then goes out to all of those places, because we all listen to podcasts, different places.

So pod bean actually is also a listening destination, we have an app, but we make sure that the podcast gets distributed out to Spotify and Apple podcasts and any of those apps where people might listen. So you kind of basically have to record know why why you're recording what you plan to do, get it set up on a podcast hosting company and get it distributed out and then determine what your ongoing plan is with a series or a schedule from there. And obviously, depending on the type of podcast, there may be tasks, like booking guests or coordinating other things, but you know, it's some are scripted, so then they have to write a script. So it just kind of varies on the type of podcast.

Mike:  That's really interesting. I think there's a lot of really good information there about planning the podcast. And probably that's something for another show. In terms of the technology. You also talked a lot about different things there. And you explain that pod bean is a podcast host. I mean, I think most people be familiar with the recording tools need to record the podcast. But am I right? You can't actually just upload a podcast to Apple podcasts. And it's magically there. Is that correct?

Shannon: Yes, you don't upload directly to the places where people listen. So you need a host or, again, there's ways you can do it kind of through your own website and through different tools. But then you really have to know programming and bandwidth and a lot of different factors. So companies like pod Bean, and some of our friendly competitors. You know, that's kind of what our goal is. And then a lot of us that do podcast hosting, there's a lot of ancillary tools that go along with that to do everything from potentially recording that might be built in to getting a little more sophisticated with what's out there for the podcasting, automate some automated marketing monetization. So a lot of us do more than just have that hosting component. But that's really something that people before they get into podcasting don't understand. They think that they do upload directly to those directories. And thank goodness you don't because there are a lot of those. So just uploading to one place. There's a little setup up front, but the nice thing is you then just upload upon being and The feed gets it out. So you're not having to go and determine do I want to be on Apple or Spotify or this one or that put that work in every time I do an episode.

Mike: So that's really important. So what you're doing is a podcast host, as well as storing the podcast file that people download. You're actually telling all these different places people go to listen that there's a new episode, is that really the role of what you're doing?

Shannon: Yeah, so it uses the RSS feed kind of technology that blogging was built on. So it's kind of a broadcasting type of thing. And then those directories pull from that the new episodes, and then magically, the person that uses Apple podcasts and subscribe to your podcast gets those new episodes and gets a notification. And it makes it really easy to have one place that you go to do the back end. And then on the front end, the listeners get the podcast episodes.

Mike:   So those platforms obviously very important. I mean, you need to be listed on all the big ones, Spotify and Apple. And so how complicated is that? Are you going to have to manually connect pod bean to each of those platforms? Or is that sort of handled for you in the popping app?

Shannon: Yeah, it there is some initial setup, and we've tried to make it as easy as possible. While there is, you know, sort of like, for example, with Apple, there's an approval process, it's that you, so you do have to set up an account there and all that. So it takes a little bit up front. But we also have a lot of directories that we have a direct. They have API's, for example, so we have a direct connection with so in our back end, as a podcaster, you have your account, and there's a distribution section. And under that it covers all the major directories. And it says, here's the one step or the two steps that you need to do. And then we also have a more extensive article that goes into every possible thing that's out there. But all the major ones are covered directly in the pod bean tools. So yeah, it takes I would say, if you want to get a podcast out there, and you have in mind, you want it to be out there this weekend, you need to think about it a little further in advance, because you can't control you know, for example, how long Apple takes to approve it. But the work that will go into it will be fairly, fairly minimal and fairly quick to get it set up.

Mike: That's awesome. And then presumably, people are trying to get on as many platforms as possible to get as big an audience. But do you still see things like Apple podcasts being the biggest platform? Or Are things getting a bit more equal?

Shannon: Now, Apple and Spotify sort of vie for that at the moment, and it depends a lot to on the geography of the listeners, because certain countries are more apple centric and certain are more Android centric. So you'll see some variety in there. So yeah, there's definitely we hit in that account, we hit in the major directories that we definitely encourage you to be a part of. And then the reality is that a lot of smaller apps pull from Apple podcast directory. So once you're in Apple, for example, you get into some of these smaller podcast apps and that kind of thing. And then if a listener asks, Hey, I use a certain app, and I don't see you there, then that's also you can go in and quickly check what their process is.

Mike: Awesome. That makes it sound so much easier. I know when we set up, it was remarkably easy to get listed on a whole range of different platforms. So that was great. To me, though, one of the interesting things I'm seeing in podcasting is the emergence of people trying to do live streaming. So their live stream or podcast and then make it available on the platforms is that something you're seeing is becoming more important?

Shannon: Yeah, we actually started an integrated live streaming tool within the podbean app back in the autumn of 2019. So which was interesting, because then in early 2020, sort of pandemic driven, I guess, or you know, that that became, there were a lot of new players, everybody wanted to get into live streaming and stuff. So I guess we were thinking in the right direction. So we do see a lot of that, I think, especially we see people doing podcasts that have other ideas of what they might want to do something a little different, or an every now and then live stream to connect with their audience. But then also new people getting into podcasting that get in through the live streaming, and realise they can repurpose it as an on demand podcasts. So it plays different roles in different podcasts situations. But it's definitely becoming more popular, I would say.

Mike: Interesting. I mean, I've seen a similar thing with people who start live streaming on LinkedIn, and then realise that actually, that's great content for a podcast. So that kind of reflects your, your view that livestream isn't necessarily the second step for a podcast actually, it could be the intro in that's, that's fascinating.

Shannon: Yeah, it goes it goes both ways. Definitely. We see it so I think it's it's nice if someone's doing an existing podcast, and they're thinking about different audience engagement options, then that's one way to go. And then yeah, a lot of people do a live stream and realise, wait a minute, I have this record. What can I do with this recording? What are other ways I can get it out there? It's perfect for a podcast.

Mike: Awesome. I mean, I guess the other trend is where Oh we're seeing is video podcasts were currently audio only should we be moving to video?

Shannon: It really depends I we do see a lot more video podcasting. I think it what's interesting is pod bean has had video, the ability to watch video podcasts in our app since the start, and have has supported video and hosting in the hosting plans as well, since since the beginning, but those were people listening primarily on podcast apps, it's really evolved more to be related to YouTube. So our podcasters have the option to get sort of a static video they can use for YouTube. But those obviously aren't as YouTube doesn't like those as much they weren't true video. So some people are moving on to recording the video and using that, and a lot of them the focus is YouTube, but then they can get it out other places too. So yeah, it's supposedly YouTube is perhaps now the most popular place for people to, quote unquote, listen to podcasts or consume podcasts. So it's definitely changing. But it really depends. You know, I personally, as a listener, listen, while I'm not in a position to watch videos a lot. So there's still a certain magic to that audio on demand format that we can consume hours while we're out being healthy taking a walk or something like that. That's what a lot of people think of as a podcast. So it's, it really kind of depends on your situation and your podcast and your goals.

Mike: So it really is a matter of finding out what your listeners one, I think from what you're saying,

Shannon: yeah, it probably wouldn't hurt and could give you more exposure to have both of those options out there for different people. But also, what is the benefit of the video, I think about that, and the bandwidth. And I don't, I mean, actual bandwidth. But I also mean your personal bandwidth, and the comfort of guests. And you know what it takes to that mean? Video obviously takes more bandwidth to both record and get good quality. It's tougher to edit. I certainly and it requires more bandwidth when it's getting played as well. So those are the potential challenges of it.

Mike: Right. So if you're trying to understand your audience, I guess one of the things people really care about is reporting knowing when the podcast is doing well. I mean, what stats the podcasters wants to know about their podcasts and where do they get them from?

Shannon: Yeah, so you get them from your podcast hosting company. So that's another thing that we do and a big part of the role. And the statistics in podcasting. I won't get into the weeds too much on this, but they're essentially called downloads. Now, this becomes highly confusing, because people will say often and I read constant discussions and Facebook groups with a lot of misinformation. And they'll say, but everyone tells me they stream they listen, they don't download it to their phone. So am I Where are they? I'm missing those How do I know those numbers, but in the podcast terminology, and the standards are set by a an organisation called the IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, we actually are progressively or someone when they're listening is progressively downloading if they're streaming. So there's a standard standard set for an over a minutes worth of content. And it's kind of a complicated formula. But they're all called downloads. So when you see I, you know, my podcast episode, this week got 100 downloads, that can mean the person who actually downloaded it, or was streaming it and counts as this according to this metric. And then within that, we're able to also share things like the geographies where those listeners are coming from what sources so are they listening on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and all of that. And then at pod bean, we also have a specialised statistic or analytics for our business customers, and a lot of them are actually doing internal podcasting. But that actually shows in depth statistics of how the listening pattern was. And so in an episode, what people are skipping and all of that on all of the pod bean based tools, we can't tell that we don't get that information back from Apple, for example, but they are doing something similar. And I think Spotify also does. So all together, you could get a really good snapshot of that if you want. And in that particular case, too, we potentially have the ability to give individual listener data, again, with our internal podcast, these companies usually have that permission. Obviously, with data privacy, we can't give that kind of stuff for the general listener. But there's some kind of unique opportunities with statistics coming up. But yeah, the kind of who, how many are listening to popularity, and then some of that other source kind of data is what is provided and what people are looking for.

Mike: That makes sense. But obviously, one of the things you're saying is that a download is not necessarily a listen, is that right?

Shannon: Yeah, if someone listens, it will count as a download. So if they're streaming it will count as a download. But if someone actually downloads and I listened for example, Have an aeroplane later. You don't know, did I listen on the aeroplane or didn't tie it other than if we, we can find that out because we actually have a listening app or if I listen on your site, your pod bean site, we can get more of that kind of information. But generally because of the sort of democratic nature of podcasting, where there's all these different ways people listen, then some of that kind of what happens from there, we don't have and no one, no podcast host would have that information. So it's fortunately it's fairly standardised across the industry. So if you're using different podcast hosts, if they follow those standards, you'll get the same kind of information.

Mike: So everybody's equal, it's not quite perfect, but everybody's on a level playing field.

Shannon: Yeah. And right now, that's a little difficult. You know, sometimes people say, I want to know who my listeners are some of the demographic kind of stuff, there are some things developing that may be able to, you know, if you think of Nielsen and things with TV, that kind of stuff potentially, might move forward with that. But otherwise, right now, because there's a platform, and there's the server side that we see versus where people listen, those are things that aren't aren't necessarily available that way.

Mike: Perfect. Makes sense. So you mentioned something a little bit earlier, and I'd like to get back to it. You talked about internal podcasts for businesses, can you explain a little bit more about the difference between a public podcast and then something that's internal to a particular business?

Shannon: Yeah, it's one of the specialties at pod bean. And because it's internal, no one really knows about it very often, we've done case studies with a lot of the companies that are doing it, because we can't share the actual podcasts, obviously. So companies often use this for their employees, and also membership organisations and that kind of thing. So it can be the same very much as a podcast you would listen to publicly, but the purpose and how it's distributed is a bit different. So we see a lot of them being used for training, and leadership development, learning and development and corporations, messages from CEO and leadership, employee stories, these kind of all data, these kind of things. And basically, it's produced and created, and you use the pod bean platform. And then we secure it so that only the permitted users, whether it's members or employees can get it. And that's either password kind of situation, or a connected to the company's own sign in. So a lot of our companies actually do it that way. And that way, it's their own security. And it's also no extra, you know, accountant to make, since we all have 1000s of accounts nowadays. And we have a special app for that called the pro app, which is actually what a lot of companies use. And we can also develop special apps for them. But that's how the employees can access it, and have a nice podcast user experience, but not have to be concerned that it gets to competitors and things like that.

Mike: Presumably as well, they can add their own branding and make that that special out there own.

Shannon: Yeah, so we can create white label apps, which are completely separate from the pod bean names that we have several companies that have those, we have one company, it's the company name, and then on air, that's the name of their app. And the pro app is what I call a semi white label app. So when a person goes in, it's obviously it's called pod bean Pro. So that's how they download it from the store. But it's already available. We do all the development. But then as soon as they log in, it goes to a company page. So it has the logo and and everything. So it's pretty much pod bean name of front pod bean, you know, handles the load the app, but it's, you know, kind of a white label experience once they enter. So yeah, it's really a booming i We just were at a conference about a week ago, talking with a learning and development professionals and something that was very popular, they're all really considering how it can be used.

Mike: Okay, so it's a fascinating trend. And it's got to be something that's going to grow and grow because everybody's got their mobile device. It's a great way to reach people. Looking back at sort of the more standard podcasting, I mean, do you see b2b growing in terms of public podcasting, trying to reach customers and prospects?

Shannon: Tremendously? Tremendously? Yes, I think our for example, our internal podcasting business, we see it growing, but we've found that that side of our business is even more the public, the branded style podcast, the thought leadership, you know, we really see companies starting to and it's getting to that sort of tipping point starting to realise it's something that they need, like they used to realise, you know, they knew they needed a website, obviously than a blog, social media. Now there's okay, we definitely need a podcast and how can we use it best? And so yeah, and we have a lot of companies have multiple podcasts now for different different sorts of needs. So I think it's it's good I really believe in my our CEO has said this a few times that we do think at one point companies will assume that it's something they need just like a blog.

Mike: And in terms of the b2b space is that different from b2c in terms of attracting listeners and growing the audience?

Shannon: Definitely, I think even the largest companies, or the most beautifully produced interesting story branded story kind of podcasts are going to tend to have a smaller. Of course, this is very much a generalisation because even individual podcasts, some have to listeners, so, but generally, you're not going to find that you're going to turn into a Joe Rogan or a serial, you know, millions of downloads, because it's more niche. And it really has a sort of a different purpose, the purpose is not to get millions of listeners necessarily. So it's really to there's many different purposes that can be behind it. And that's the most important thing to think about when starting for b2b Did the podcast.

Mike: I mean, obviously, you really care about a certain sort of listener, in b2b, it's very specific. If you're in marketing, for example, motor drives, you care about people who are going to buy motor drives, and not about people who have no interest. So it's not it's not just vanity metrics, and

Shannon: very much yeah, the overall number of listeners is not nearly as important to that I actually, I think I heard this on a podcast originally, and then talk to this person, it was actually a production company that helps people with podcasts. And they had a company that did podcasts. And their success metric was actually achieved before they even put the podcast out into the public. And I thought this was fascinating. I said, Okay, tell me more about this. They said, because they interviewed thought leaders in their industry. And from that they got multiple million dollar sales that they couldn't have done otherwise, because they asked these people to be on their podcasts, and the people had a conversation with them. And some of them they couldn't access before, through other sort of channels. And that wasn't they weren't sort of doing that in a shady way. They were really intending to put out a podcast, but it ended up having this goal. You know, it was amazing that it achieved more than they ever thought by doing that. So obviously, that that is one potential benefit is just the guest interactions that you might have. And then obviously reaching out that niche customer, sometimes providing really sort of educational, thought leadership kind of information where they see you in that way. And also the intimacy of podcasting itself, the voice really can be come across in a way that other forms of marketing don't.

Mike: Makes a lot of sense. What's the best way to promote podcast to get more of the listeners you want? How could we, for example, grow our audience with a Napier podcast?

Shannon: I think that especially talking about b2b podcasts, it's important to know who is that audience potentially, who are you targeting, Who's your ideal listener. And to think of that, and that's kind of echoes from the very beginning of starting a podcast, because even at what kind of format you choose, and how long you make it, and a lot of those things, you might really base that on that sort of Persona and their life and their work situation. And then thinking about where to best market to those people. So a lot of b2b podcasts really, as far as social media, for example, need to focus more on LinkedIn, than Twitter or Instagram. So you may have all the social media for your podcast, but the ones that I know of the b2b podcast tend to focus on those on promoting it on LinkedIn, and particularly, maybe in groups that relate to the industry, making those kinds of connections, sort of CO marketing with guests that are big names in an industry, you know, can make a huge difference. And even sometimes some traditional PR is for any Podcasts can be really helpful. And sometimes it's overlooked. Because social media kind of you know, everything gets there's a lot of it, it gets kind of lost PR can still be very valuable, having an article written about what you're doing with the podcast. And so I think in industry related podcasts, that can be really true because someone reads the magazine or the website of an association. And that's where they go to for the information. And oh, this podcast is related to that topic. And it's a more of a fit than just trying to blast everything out there to the general public. So I think those kinds of things are really key. And, again, guest co promoting can be very useful. And similarly, one of the things we see with podcasts in general, and it can work for b2b is even just more direct kind of CO promoting on other podcasts. So if there are other related in your industry things and it may seem like oh, wait a minute, a competitor, but a lot of times, if you're in a specific industry, there's probably very little out there. If there's two podcasts, that's amazing. You may have to find something, it's more ancillary even but then talking to them about whether you can do some shared promotion kind of thing because if I'm really into technology, a specific kind of Technology and there's one podcast out there, I have space to listen to another one probably. So it's not going to your competition isn't going to take your listener away most likely.

Mike: That makes a lot of sense. So a bit of friendly cooperation, even with people who may be somewhat in competition is a good move.

Shannon: Definitely. And I think that another aspect that sometimes it depends, again on the podcast, and your and your listener, but there is there are also opportunities in in listening apps to promote. And so if you're looking at different if you're actually looking at advertising, and spending some money on promotion, and marketing, that's something to check. Because when people are in an app listening, it can if generally, for podcasts, it's a really good place to promote, because they're already ripe for adding another podcast to their subscribe lists. So there are some targeted ways you can do that within apps that might fit more to get your kind of b2b listener. But that's another thing to consider.

Mike: Perfect. I've got to ask this, are there any mistakes people make any things you should, you should avoid that perhaps if you're new to podcasting, or particularly in the b2b sector, things that you can do wrong, that aren't going to help your podcast?

Shannon: I think the first thing is to hear but thinking about it at the start, and because I'm saying, oh, a lot of people, now they're realising Oh, we just need to have a podcast. But the mistake with that can be thinking, we just need to have a podcast because it's cool. And we don't really think about the purpose, and the goals. And therefore, we are hoping to achieve something that that is unrealistic. So maybe the someone in the company, Oh, I see our competitors have podcasts. Let's get one. Let's do one. And I see that some podcasts have millions of downloads. So that's what we need to achieve. That's your KPI achieve that. And that doesn't, that's not a good idea. For a b2b podcast. Generally, those big numbers aren't necessarily your metric for success. So I think that's very important in setting things up. And knowing what your goal is, and setting everything up around that. And then I think the other thing is just taking years to do it, because you think you have to buy the most expensive equipment and spend a lot of money and that it's complicated. And, of course, in some companies, larger companies, that's also because the processes take a long time. So some of that you can't help. But if there's if there are ways to simplify it, and to get the product to market, I would say that's the way to go. Because otherwise, you'll find yourself years from now of saying we had a great idea, but it never came to fruition.

Mike: It makes a lot of sense. That's, that's great. I mean, I really appreciate everything you've shared here from the technology through to advice in terms of granulars it's been amazing conversation, is there anything else we should have covered or anything you think people should know about podcasting?

I think it's a follow on to what I just mentioned that it can be relatively easy and inexpensive to start. And there's a lot of great equipment, and great tools and things you can add on. But I'd say for most starting relatively simple, is very, very feasible with podcasting more than a lot of other mediums. So that's you can get started and get going. And if you know what your intention is behind it, then that you can have a really good quality podcast by putting out good content. And then you can always improve things and upgrade and and move up from there. But if you bring people something that's helpful or interesting to them, then you can succeed with it even without spending a lot of money or time.

Mike: That's awesome. That's great advice. If people are interested, if they want to learn more, is there a way they can contact you to find out more about podcasting or about popping in particular?

Shannon: Definitely podbean.com We have lots of ways to contact if there and I am actually I'm on LinkedIn a lot. So if people use LinkedIn, I'm Shannon Martin writes, writes like writer, Shannon Martin writes, and or just look up Shannon Martin podbean. And I'm very open to talking to people having conversations, and we have a lot of we have a million different ways that you can get pod bean information. But rather than listing all those, I'll just say the website, of course, we have all the social media, and for b2b in particular, we are we have a pretty good presence on LinkedIn. And we even have a group that's specific to corporate podcasting, both for the external and the internal purposes. And that's for people to be able to share their own experiences. So I'm glad to connect you up with that group. If you're interested.

Mike: That's amazing. I'll definitely be joining the group. I really appreciate all your time. And all your knowledge has been great. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Shannon: Thank you for having me.

Mike: 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.

A Napier Podcast: Interview with Jeff Coyle - MarketMuse

In this podcast episode, we interview Jeff Coyle, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at MarketMuse, an AI-powered platform which removes manual intervention by identifying content quality issues and accelerating the research, creation and optimisation process.

Jeff explains what it means to publish fearlessly and how MarketMuse brings content confidence and the assurance that it will have a predictable and meaningful impact on the business.

He also shares the two most common editorial mistakes he sees with content marketing, and how MarketMuse’s insight is data-driven to support all teams within the creative, content writing and marketing departments.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jeff Coyle – MarketMuse

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jeff Coyle

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today I'm joined by Jeff Coyle. Jeff is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of a company called MarketMuse. Welcome to the podcast. Jeff.

Jeff: Thanks for having me. I look forward to the discussion today.

Mike: It's great to have you on now. I mean, just to start off, you're now working at MarketMuse, a marketing technology company, but you've got a really interesting career history. So tell us how you ended up CO founding MarketMuse?

Jeff: Yeah, sure. So the short version is gonna be a seven hour version or a one minute version. So I went to Georgia Tech in Atlanta for computer science usability theory was a focus and information retrieval search engine design, I started working for a company while I was still in school, while still in college as an intern called Knowledge storm, and what knowledge storm was like one of the first companies selling leads to b2b technology company.

So we're trying to convince companies like IBM, and Dow and Oracle to have content and get it out there so that it could generate leads. I know, this seems like so wild that we were, you know, convincing people to list information about their products, their b2b tech products, all the modules or their products and their white papers and their ebooks and such. So what I did there, as I made sure we had tonnes of traffic going through the site, I got into kind of the search engine optimization world very early on in the 99 2000 range.

So now I've been doing it about 23 years, we were generating millions and millions of leads per month for business technology companies. And I also did product management, I helped design, the lead management platform, the lead nurturing solution, the ad server, all kinds of stuff like that. So I love all anything that relates to taxonomies ad serving search engines, and internet search, Enterprise Search, whatever it may be, I love it. So then, like we got acquired in 2007, by tech target, who if you're in b2b Tech, you're probably familiar with them. They're one of the largest publishers in certainly in the United States, but they also own computer weekly, and a number of properties throughout the world, in Europe and in Asia, I worked as their traffic search and engagement vice president. So basically, I was making sure all of their properties got traffic, and we were turning it into whatever it was, you know, readership, membership leads, data. On the cool thing about this story and why it matters to MarketMuse is, it was my first experience working with a large content team. So they had 300, editors, you know, award winning amazing editors and experts. And they also had writers kind of 1000 content contributors from throughout, you know, whether they were outsourced or whether they were like friends and family kind of stuff. And so I had gotten used to optimising sites and planning what content to put on pages, you know, without editorial oversight, and seeing how smart and intelligent those folks were. But they weren't necessarily using data to drive those decisions. It was all because they were subject matter experts. And they knew editorial and editorial processes. So bringing data to those folks was, you know, initially hard, right? It was like us, here's us some data's like, now I don't know if I want to use data. This seems like it's all art. And then over time, merging together the art of being an expert. And the knowledge one has an editorial excellence, and search engine optimization, trend information, but also topic information became something that allowed us to build out processes. Now, the punchline there is they were all manual. Like, you know, we were talking about right before the show very manual processes for research for gap analysis for editorial research. And still today, writers and editors. And journalists do a lot of their research manually.

I found at the tail end of my time at techtarget. I found my co founder, he had taken one research process which we referenced as topic modelling. It's a branch of artificial intelligence that looks to say, if I were an expert, and I were covering this topic comprehensively, what are the things that I would naturally include? And let's turn that into a graph or a knowledge graph or some sort of, you know, information architecture to say, this is what it means to be about that. Right. And he had taken a 30 hour manual resource search process down to about four minutes, and I went, oh, boy, right. And it was the outcome was better than what I would be able to do. And I was frankly, doing it better than anyone in you know, 2007 to 2011 1213, whatever. And so when I left tech target to go work at a private equity firm, he reached out to me and said, Hey, Jeff If you really understand these processes and how you would turn a bill into a law, effectively, how do you turn this topic model into a thing that can analyse a page into something that can analyse a collection of pages, or kind of the gold coin, which is analysed my entire site tells me where I have strengths and weaknesses tell me where I have gaps and opportunities from the lens of quality, because quality, comprehensiveness, and authority. That's the unifying metric for anyone on any team. So if I'm an editor, or lead from a GM, if I'm a writer, if I'm a search engine optimization professional, you can't not want the highest quality content, you can't not want momentum and authority so that you can write stuff and it can be successful. So it became this unifying metric that allowed us to build technology that crossed the chasm and broke silos at b2b organisations than we realise that publishers and agencies and E commerce all had the same challenges in that they, you know, they don't know what to write, they don't know what to update, because they might kind of know, but they can't back it up with data, so they can't get enough budget. So they do kind of get half as much budget as they need to write about a, they might spend too much money writing about B, they can't predict the outcomes. And so they're just grossly inefficient. And so what we did was we turned all of those problems that every single person that cares about content has into easy to understand workflows that allow your content team to be predictable, and that's critical. So we can basically say, hey, person, you run a ball bearing company for railroads in Eastern Europe, okay, cool. Here's the way that you can own, you know, railroad safety in your market, you have to write 140 articles on there about these topics, and you have to update these 15. And if you do that, in this timeframe, we predict that you're gonna have these types of outcomes. And that breaks people's brains. They're just like, yeah, so that's kind of been my journey from college to, you know, working with teams to become more data driven from a content perspective.

Mike: Presumably, when you talk about quality, you talk about outcomes today, a lot of it is around SEO, and where you rank on the search results pages.

Jeff: Yep. Yeah, absolutely quality comprehensiveness. Google has always cared about content quality, I love how people are saying, Oh, they now care about content, they always have, they've always wanted to bring the best results. The first time this was exhibited in their kind of public outputs was in around 2009, through 11, when they released a algorithm update called Panda, which is made by a guy named Navneet. Panda, it just happens to be visualised as a panda bear. But it's not like it was called that because of that, but basically, that was trying to bring machine learning to assess content quality, and then they've just improved on that. But they also have to look at it from how to process queries, how to rewrite queries, how to organise data, in data structures, so their goal has always been that even from the start, they just have to, you know, figure it out along the way, as well as much as anyone else has. But now really, they've put that into overdrive, because it's because of the ability and the advancements in the technology, they're able to assess quality much more comprehensively, much more well, and they're able to update, update things more quickly.

So it gives the perception that it's a higher level of focus for them, it's just they have a better ability to actually do it. Um, so how that's manifested is, you can't trick them. Right? And that you shouldn't have ever been tricking them if you had a real company, and desired longevity. But now it's, you know, it's one of those things where the risk that it creates is too high to even think about it. Especially if you have no real business. So if you have a search engine optimization firm, or an in house person who's advising things that you know, JDL or they just don't smell, right, it's probably because it's a bad idea. And you should be thinking about quality and comprehensiveness, the funds, the fun side effect is that it's such a unifier, right, a product marketing person, and editor, editorial person, your C suite, your writers, everybody wants to be presenting the company in the best possible light. We want content out there that people are gonna go to and go yeah, this is awesome. This really represents us as thought leaders. So it has meaningful impact on virality on brand on, you know, and then just kind of team unification. So yes, sure, it leads to higher rankings. But what it also does the meaningful impact that it has to build credibility for writing content, the content marketing team believe management team and the search team is really a measurable it makes teams go from kind of siloed, ineffective, inefficient kind of lobbying for budget to all being unified around one metric and that metric is quality and authority.

Mike: That's interesting. I mean, one of the things that intrigued me is on the website, you know, you obviously talk about quality too well, authority, but you have a tagline about publishing fearlessly. What do you mean by publishing fearlessly?

Jeff: I've never been asked that question. That's a really good one. So what do I mean? Why? I'm gonna flip it around, right? Why would one fear a particular writing or content investment? Right? The reasons why one would fear that there is because it's completely unpredictable. So I always ask people, the first thing you need to do before you invest any more money in context, stop. Don't listen to me. pause the tape. Don't pause this tape. But go look in the mirror at your existing site, not bias, not a funhouse mirror. How much content do you produce? How much content have you produced? How much of it how what percentage of it is successful? Then you do the math, and you're like, oh, only like 10%? Or I don't even know, right? The average on b2b teams is typically about 10%. That's painful. So now asked the same question, how much does each content item cost? All in? Not just how much? Did the writer charge you? If you're outsourcing? What's the total only cost? Right? Do that math, you'll figure out that each page is going to be in the 1000s of dollars. And you say no, it's not Yes, trust me, if you bet, if you bank all the hours and look at it, especially if it's something that is excuse relatively high quality, it's going to end up being in that four digits or more. Well, now, think about that, if you're only producing 10% effective, it actually 10x Is your costs. Right? If I knew that, I would be in fear, right? If every article was called if every effective article cost me 20 $30,000, which isn't unusual for a b2b technology company, right? Gosh, I really have to be sure of myself, before I invest that I can lie to myself and say the content cost a couple $100. Right. But even then, I'm fearful that I'm going to get budget to do this, and then it's not going to be successful.

So will MarketMuse brings you is the content confidence to say, I know that if I write this article, if I update these articles, they're going to have a meaningful impact on my business that I can predict. And then I'm comfortable that I'm going to go back. And it's going to have that meaningful closed loop. So I can go back to the C suite, or my you know, cmo and say, Hey, I made the case to build 10 articles about this topic. We wrote them, they all done well, or 40% of them and done well. Previously, only 10% of our content did well. That's what publishing fearlessly means.

Mike: That's, that's fascinating. That level of competence and level of, I think just honesty with yourself about costs is really important.

Jeff: I’ve got an example that you can everyone who's listening to this can go look up. Alright, so I was on a podcast, I do a lot of podcasts and webinars. I was on a podcast in January, where I was actually looking at MarketMuse, the platform at the market Muse account, the one that my content strategist, my lead content strategist, Steven Chesky, who's amazing uses to decide what we write in what we update, and I was using it as an example. And I said, Well, you know, Steven wrote this great article, that's early stage awareness about content briefs, it's what is the content brief? Market Muse surfaced that it had a intent mismatch, and but it was appearing in organic search results for a content brief templates and content, brief examples. Right. But we weren't really ranking very well. If you went to the page, there were no brief. There were no templates or examples. Right? So it surfaced that, hey, if we were to go attack, content, brief templates and content, brief examples, we would have noticeable competitive advantage and authority. So I was in this I was on this podcast and recording and I said, well, I need to go Estelle tell Steven to go write those articles. He did. They'll type in content brief template into Google. Right now, I don't even know you might be listening to this seven months from now, three months from now, the page that Steven wrote, he confidently published and it overtime, barreled through the results in order to perform well.

That's the kind of experience that I want your team to have, where you can say, whew, this is going to be a big lift. I was just talking to a b2b tech company. And they were changing focus. They're changing what they focused on. They're all about this one topic. They want to be about this other topic. They even went out and bought another company to be more about this other concept. And they're like, We have no idea how much content we need to produce on site a in order to own this topic. And I'm like, Whoa, okay, you got a migration to do and you're not sure. That's going to be you know, a big effort. And we can quantify that And we showed them there the data and it said, you know, yeah, you're gonna have to build a collection of content. That's pretty significant. Are you guys comfortable with that investment? There? We're like, Oh, it's a little bit more than we expected. But it's, it's real nice to have that documented, right? And I said, there is a wild card here, migrations throw a little bit of variability here. But, and that's not there's a little bit of unpredictability, and which I don't like Jeff doesn't like unpredictability. But yeah, that's the kind of thing that we like, is cases where you make a decision for the why I have a slide in one of my decks that says we're the why for content, right? Why am I writing this article versus that article? If you can't answer that you shouldn't ever write.

Mike: Makes absolute sense. So in terms of the product, you know, are you really focusing on the content strategist, Content Manager kind of persona? Or is it something that's used by writers as well?

Jeff: What a great question. Both. So it's a for the premium offering, it's definitely a team sale and a team target. So the content manager, the content strategist, the CMO, they're a decision making organisation, they decide what to create, and what to update. So for them, the value is the decision making the content inventory and auditing on demand, and being confident in, you know, giving orders and building plans, right? Because if they will build a plan that's not successful, you know, yeah, all downstream is going to hurt. Just imagine you republishing and only 10% of the articles that you wrote, were successful, right? What if you turn that into 20%, or 40%, I've got teams operating more than 50%. After working with us, which just imagine that world, the impact downstream is insane. I mean, the the value that that brings, but then we take it a step further, we know that there is content operations, dysfunction. So we allow teams to build content briefs, either with our platform, or as a managed service. They have complex brief requirements. What that does is it creates a single source of truth for writers, or, you know, editors, or search engine optimization professionals. So I say, hey, go write an article about coffee cups. A lot of times, that's what manifests as a proposal today. And so that's not enough, the person who gets that thing is good, maybe they'll have a bunch of questions, or they'll write something. And then the editor looks at it, the developmental editor, if you have a developmental editor, and they'll look at and going, Wow, this isn't what we wanted. So they mark it up with red pen, figuratively or literally, then they give it back. And then there's trust breakdowns, and then that's a disaster, right? So we always recommend, get a content briefing process that isn't just focused on SEO make it like, so that there's collaboration, information about questions to answer, make sure there's room for the writer to use their expertise. That's what you're paying them for to build a narrative. You can give them outline recommendations, title, recommendations, ways to differentiate questions answered, like I mentioned topics to include, so that they don't have any blind spots. So we provide all of that, and then allow you to customise that depending on your level of sophistication. And then we have a set of applications that are mapped to common workflows, right? So I want to examine a page and make it better, how do I make it better from a lens of quality? That's one of our applications? What is the competitive landscape look like? How can I make sure that my page is differentiated from my competitors? This page needs some internal links. Can I have some recommendations for internal links to put in this? This page needs to answer more questions? What questions should I consider? So common workflows? So that would be for the writer or for the SEO, and then the decision maker that's more for the premium solution. So a common makeup of using MarketMuse is going to have one to five people using the decision making capabilities. And the brief ordering, which is called inventory. And then maybe 1015 20 writers and SEO is using the applications.

Mike: Yeah, and I found it really interesting, because when I looked at marketing, and I mean, just so people know, you know, we went to look at marketing news, I ended up signing up and going down the rabbit hole of getting really excited about the whole product. But it seems that effectively what MarketMuse is trying to do is take all the bits that people are doing manually and not doing very well because they're doing it manually, and taking that pain away and automating it and it really seems like you've looked at where the pain points are in terms of content generation and try to automate that pain away as much as possible. Was that a deliberate approach?

Jeff:  Absolutely.

It is. That's my dream. My dream is that editors will be able to focus on the things that they're good at and not have to do the things that they shouldn't have to do or the things that they're bad at. And writers should be able to have more time writing and less time doing things they shouldn't. SEOs will have an easier time giving advice that can be heard. SEO is common pain. As they give information, and nobody can understand what they're giving them, right, because it doesn't translate into the way that editors think, or the way that writers think. Right? And I use the I always use the analogy of. So you're a chef. Oh, great. Can you farm? Right? That's one of my favourites. Right. And so a lot of times, hey, you're a writer. Oh, so you're good at SEO? Why would we expect that or you're an editorial person, that means you're really good at keyword research? No, those are learned skills, it's like saying Are you're an SEO. So that means you're good at pay per click, or you understand how ad servers work, or you understand information retrieval, right. So obviously, I've spent my entire career 23 years being able to do all of the things because I don't like the concept of a T shaped marketer, I always tell my teams, don't be a T be a square, because I want you to know everything about everything. And get there by the time you're done working here. So you can go be a CMO or VP somewhere else. But if you haven't done that, right, it's not fair to take somebody who's written for 20 years in print and digital combined and say, okay, so you're an SEO? Like, I don't think that's fair. At one point in my career, like in 2005, I thought every writer should be an SEO, I'm like, why wouldn't you want to be? Now I've realised, you know, you grow up, you realise, you get empathy. You're like, wait a second, an editorial expert who like, knows everything there is to know about, you know, hard drives? Well, how would I expect them to care about this? Right, I've got to give them this information. So yes, the dream is to take all those workflows that have any pain, any manual process, and automate the stuff that doesn't allow for expertise to shine, I want the editor to be sitting there, like I'm the most valuable person in this organisation, the subject matter expert, I understand how the stuff in my brain is going to add value for the business through content. And if I can achieve that within an organisation, then we got something I want to turn your writers into people that feel appreciated, and that they've got time to write. They want to spend time doing SEO, whatever that might be.

Mike: I think a lot of writers would love to hear that. I mean, maybe you could just perhaps, you know, delve down into a little bit more detail on, you know, when it comes to a writer trying to generate some content that's that's optimised, you know, what do you do to take that SEO pain away from the writer?

Jeff:  Absolutely. So first of all, it's that single source of truth, right? So and I'll tell you, I'll tell the story two ways. One is the actual process. And then one's the, the faulty processes, right? The actual process is to say, the person who's asking me to write this, how much trust are they putting into me as a writer, I need that to come through. So the person has a goal when they give a request to write. So it may be I want to own this topic. And maybe I want to rank for these things, I want to generate traffic, or they have no goal, okay, that's a big red flag, you need a goal with the content item. But so they're saying, I want you to go write an article that tells the story of do it yourself home ownership expertise, and explains to somebody how to get bees out of their garage? All right. That's kind of a thesis.

In order to tell that story. Here's questions that you'll need to answer. Here's topics that you definitely want to cover. Here's internal and external linking recommendations. Here's some points of reference from competition. Here's some subsections. Because this is kind of like your general guidelines. And we need it to be and it's going to probably yield over 1000 words, because that's roughly how much it would logically take. And here's some points, additional points of competitive reference. That's all I want to give the writer because I want to trust that they are going to know this or be able to get the basis their go write this, I want them to spend their time. Okay, so what's the beautiful narrative here? What imagery do we need? What production value is expected? Here? I want to make sure this has a flow a developmental flow, and communicates and answers those questions. Well, now, that's a big difference than if I just send them hey, go write an article about how to get these at a garage. That's it. Oh, right. They could put anything together. It could be two paragraphs. It can be 1000 paragraphs, it could be 10,000 words. That's a pain point. The other one would be if I just said, Hey, go write the article. And then they wrote it, and then I put it through some other sort of flow to optimise it, and SEO edit, right? Well, what if I wanted the person that's doing that marks it up in a way that negatively impacts the narrative, right, or decreases production value, or just like causes conflict? So if the writer has As that upfront, it's highly unlikely that that SEO edit has to be all that significant. And that creates a really great bond. And trust improves the trust with the writers versus the editors, makes them more likely to work together.

So the SEO edit is something that you really want to examine if you aren't doing it, especially if it's a developmental edit where you're actually, and I keep saying that, but it means like, you're actually changing the flow structure, tone voice, the actual like, frame of the pay of the article or the narrative, you're actually providing insights, you miss a section you, you didn't mention this concept. Those are things that are common in editorial operations. So then the other thing is where you might think that this type of technology will race you to the end faster. So like, I want to go from proposal to, you know, content quick, right? Yeah. Okay, as long as it checks off, all checks off all the boxes, and it's extremely high quality in the end, and everybody is confident that that works. But it's not necessarily the goal, to do anything that's going to jeopardise quality. So the process that is followed, no matter what needs to do that, what I commonly see now are races to the end, you the end yields low quality. And then the process of optimising or improving that low quality draft. Oh, it just is painful. Nobody really gets it. The end product isn't as good as it would have been if you built it incrementally. And there's a lot of chaos included. So I advise, I highly advise against that race to the end and modify. And I highly advise against not putting yourself in the situation where the SEO edit is extremely light. Those are two common editorial mistakes.

Mike: Interesting. I mean, I think one of the other things is typically in this classic approach where people are basically using judgement is very subjective. You know, you talked a little bit about using data being data driven. Can you explain how MarketMuse is data driven?

Jeff: Sure. So I like to think about as three scopes, right page level groups of pages, and then site or network level, page level data driven, we're able to analyse any topic, right? And we don't just look at like, the number one ranking page or the top five or the top 10, to say, like, what are they doing copy off of them, because that's, first of all, terrible. Nobody likes doing that. It doesn't work. In practice. Sometimes it works and allows you to spike but then you crash later, for a lot of reasons. There's five reasons that can happen. I won't get into them. But I will get into detail but one of them is don't copy your idols don't do what Amazon's doing. Don't do what the most powerful publishers in the world are doing if you're not at the most powerful publisher. Last some really sophisticated teams are, know how powerful they are. And they'll throw herrings out there for people to latch on to that some super meta stuff. So yeah, don't don't copy your idols is a core issue if you go copied Amazon S pages because Amazon S pages are outperforming you dig a hole crawl in and call me from the bunker three months from now. And by the way still happens me people with FBA sites are made for Amazon. A sites are literally going to major e commerce brands or Amazon S category page or search results and like trying to emulate those strategies, and then they three months later are wondering why their traffic crashed. Because of the Google product update. It's like Yo, you you didn't do anything that you were supposed to you thought you were because you got this nice shot of adrenaline. But it didn't work. Same thing though.

In b2b, the people are gonna copy, don't copy Capterra, please don't copy techtarget it's not gonna work out for you. I know, because I manage the entire met and tech target network. So trust me. So the I got so off onto a tangent there. But the framing back to the question, we go out to the web, instead of looking at just your competitor, we go out to the web, we and we learn about the topic, right? So we learn about everything we could possibly learn about this concept. So we might look at 10s of 1000s of pages, hundreds of 1000s of pages, we might look at existing knowledge data that we have, in order to build a topic model or a knowledge graph that says if you knew everything there was to know about Boston Terrier dogs, you would also know a bunch of stuff about these other dogs. You would also know that Boston Terriers are a bracket acephalic breed means they've smashed faces and and you would have coverage of that in this article. You would also then at the sight section level, you would have knowledge of other breeds and probably have other brachiocephalic breeds. And then let's go holistically, one level up. You'd have this much breadth of coverage, this much depth for coverage, this many items that are exhibiting high quality and expertise about dogs, right? And so we can tell you that at the page level, site section or site level that weaves together a narrative about where you are today, where you have gaps, where you should be focused on how easy or hard is that going to be to get to the next level with content. So how do we use data topic modelling, we can build those topics we can also, we are the only in market application that can emulate topic authoritative miscalculations. So we can actually say how authoritative your entire site is on any concept. So we can say, you are an expert in multifactor authentication. Hooray, go write everything you can. And that's kind of the story is why we use data. And we don't just tell people how to do things everybody else is doing. We also tell you how to differentiate your content. And that's something that only you can do. If you really have true knowledge. Because you you only have true knowledge, you can tell someone how to be like everyone else and how to differentiate. If you only know how to copycat, you can only tell people how to copycat. That's a critical critical aspect of marketing tech.

Mike: I just love that. Because that's, that's providing so much assistance to content teams. But still, it's placing those writers at the centre and using their creativity and encouraging something new rather than something bland, which I think is so nice.

Jeff:  It's my thing. I love it when the writer recognises that this is their, this are guardrails. But if they do something magical, like if I can do have five hours to spend, and they can spend four of those five hours, like thinking about something super cool and creative, because we took away four hours that they would have been spending doing yucky stuff and research. Like, I like that's what gets me out of bed in the morning. Like I'm like, Yeah, you did it right, or they have five hours, and they were able to put out one good article last year, at this time. Now they can put out four in those five hours because they just have this like super fast process. And like no matter whether it's that they are able to be creative with that time, or they're able to get more done. And they're doing it confidently. Like, that's, that's the dream, right? And that's and ask anyone if this isn't just me throwing smoke, like, that's what I want to hear that is so magical for me to have gone in 20 years. And you know, I'm not a writer, you know, I'm, I'm the guy with the blue stuff in my brain that talks in my head content strategist records our conversations and turns it into beautiful articles, like I can't sit down and write it, I just have too much passion for getting it getting the information out there. It's real hard for me to write. I use other processes. But no matter what the process you go through is I wanted to be faster. And I want the outputs and the outcomes to rule the day, not the process.

Mike: That's That sounds great. I mean, just looking at this, you've talked a lot about your focus on content teams, large organisations. I mean, does this mean that MarketMuse is something that really is only accessible to large enterprises?

Jeff: Well, we have multiple products. So we have a free product. And then we have a standard offering, which is for individuals and small teams that is currently being rebuilt so that it's much more accessible for the individual writer or SEO. So that's going to launch around this summer, a relaunch of the summer, and be at an easy to access price point. Our premium offering is definitely a team offering. That is where you are going to need to have somebody who wants to use data to make content decisions, you are going to want to be adopting a briefing process. And you're probably going to want to have two to three or more people who are touching content within your organisation to be able to justify the return on investment. But we have single one person solopreneurs with multiple sites who are our best users of our premium product. It's just being confident enough to make such such an investment in content. And it's really also like I tell everybody, like if you want if you think this is about cutting corners or checking Google like go go use another software platform, I would much rather you use something else. People don't really understand that. But I've learned that you're not going to be a good customer anyway, if you think you're going to trick trick the search engines like it's just not going to work out for you to use this go find something that's 4495 that cheats and and like, go do that. And then like a year later, when things don't work out for you. Find me at a conference cry on my shoulder and then I'll tell you what you should be doing and honestly that happens a lot. And so Okay, because cheating is time correlative as John Woo from Google, anti spam team, written in the book, the beauty of mathematics and computer science, one of my favourite books, which you should read, he wrote, I'm paraphrasing, but cheating is time correlative. If you're cheating on, if you're cheating in the search on the search engines, they're gonna find you, it's just a matter of time. And if there's software that's giving you insights, that aren't leading to content quality, and they're leading to manipulation, cool, all right, talk to me next month, might not happen next month, talk to me next year. And you'll realise that, you know, if you're self aware that what you're doing isn't focused on things that are going to make all boats rise, you might have hurt your brand. And what I want for you is what your cmo likely wants for their company, regardless of what role level, etc, that you're playing.

Mike: Such a positive message I'm aware of, you know, we're running out of time here. So I'm sure people would have loads of questions. I still have questions for you to be honest. But if people want to get ahold of you and find out more about market muse or have something specific, what's the best way to

Jeff: I’m uncomfortably accessible jeffrey_coyle on Twitter? Like, you know, follow, I'll follow back and we can DM for sure. jeff@marketmuse.com on LinkedIn, as long as your LinkedIn messages, don't say, Hey, I love that you do software development and have company I got what they wanted to say, I love that you have company in software development. I'm like, wow, yeah, you are definitely a bot.

As long as you actually wrote a note, maybe reference the podcast or reference, something like that. Shoot me a note on LinkedIn, shoot me an email, I respond to everything. I'm so passionate about this stuff and but also, go check out our webinars link on the top of market Muse got about 100 Content Strategy webinars there. And whatever you're interested in, I probably have done a webinar about it. And then also just, you know, typing into Google or YouTube, Jeff Coyle podcasts, you can find hundreds of recordings of me talking about something that you're probably interested in, and then reach out, give me some feedback.

Mike: That's awesome. Thank you so much, Jeff. This has been so interesting, I'm sure. So helpful to a lot of our listeners who are trying to generate some content thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

Jeff:  And this is my favourite discussion in a really long time. And I'm gonna be downloading this recording and like shooting it around our whole work like hey, listen to this. This was a great interview. And I love what you got y'all are doing. I think that your target with your group is is special. I had the opportunity to speak with you. I actually responded to my, my head of marketing. I was like, Oh, I like what they're doing gay. I'll do that. So I was already familiar with some of the work that you've been doing, and I really appreciate it. So

Mike: that's awesome. That's very cool. Thanks so much.

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.

A Napier Podcast: Interview with Matt Young - UserVoice

In this podcast episode, we interview Matt Young, CEO of UserVoice, a product feedback management solution for SaaS platforms.

Matt explains how the platform captures user feedback to deliver insights into product problems and solutions and how this raw data can be used to inform marketing and sales strategies.

Matt also shares his insight into trends within the SaaS industry.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Matt Young – UserVoice

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Matt Young

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 marketing b2b technology, the podcast from Napier. Today, I'm joined by Matt young Matt is the CEO of user voice. Welcome to the podcast, Matt.

Matt: Hey, Mike, great to be here.

Mike: No, it's great to have you on. So tell me a little bit about your career. First, you know, how did you get to become CEO of user voice?

Matt: It's a weird story and not one that you would expect. Given my background. I've was born a technologist. So my dad worked for IBM, and we had an IBM PC in the 80s in the early days, and I was the kid that went and taught myself to programme.

So naturally through college and graduate school, I was a computer scientist and started out as a software developer, and was fortunate enough to start working in software development, right when the web became a thing when when web browsers were first coming out. So my entire professional career has been in the delivery of software for the web, and the web.

Over the years, you emerge from software developer to engineering, management, and engineering team leadership. And I had always assumed that I would be a vice president of engineering, getting people organised towards a particular goal as efficiently as possible. And that was actually the thing that drew me to use your voice, I came to use your voice in 2015. Because being in the position of directing a large engineering team to do a lot of work, you want to be fed the best quality information and the most valuable projects to do. And I frankly, didn't really believe that product teams I was working with, were researching the work that they wanted to do well enough.

So you know, being the recipient and being asked to build all that stuff. It didn't feel great user voice as a product, as we'll get into that that really helped solve that problem. But over the years, I became the CEO. And if this is an interesting story, we can we can get into it. But UserVoice ended up spinning off a second product that the original founder of the company was working on. And I ended up taking over the original user voice product that was started in 2008. So unexpected position for me that I picked up about three years ago and never really had Grand Designs on being a CEO. And I don't really fit the egotistic San Francisco mould of a b2b SaaS CEO. But nonetheless, here we are, and it's been a really fun ride.

Mike: But I think it's great to see engineers, you know, be able to take on that role of CEO and be successful. So for me, that's a real positive.

Matt: Yeah, it has been in it. I think it's a fairly unique perspective. I like many engineers, I'm an introvert, I am empathetic to quite a number of the different roles that we have in the organisation. And I'm really keen on making sure that we are logically delivering great value to our customer base and providing a great place to work for everyone who's on the team here.

Mike: Sounds amazing. So you had a situation where effectively the company built a second product, the CEO, presumably love that product so much. He was what he wanted to go and work in the spin off. Is that, is that how it worked? Or how did it happen?

Matt: Yeah, so the original founder UserVoice, was was born out of the need to get feedback about a product that he was working on, he was building a calendaring app. And it was really, really hard to get people's honest opinions about it. So he built user voice to solve that problem. Fast forward about 10 years later, and we feel like we need you know, the internet's evolve the way people interact with providing feedback and their expectations of companies evolved. And we as a company and UserVoice felt like we needed to become a multi product company.

So Rich, the founder of the company went off and started it took a small portion of our team and in house started operating like a second company. He didn't attend the all hands meetings, they had their own. They chose their own methodology for software development and product management. And they went through several iterations of a product and the the product turned out to be one that is really good for product managers who is our target buyer, but even better for sales, customer success and marketing. The market was much larger for that.

While this was happening, and this happened over the course of about a year. His mandate to me was like, Hey, I, I hold on to user voice too tightly. I founded it. I have certain No feelings about what can and cannot be touched. But you don't. I'm not a founder of the company. And I think we we both recognise that things had stagnated a little bit, the market had evolved, the world had evolved. And, you know, I'm willing to take a hatchet to things that I don't think are valuable anymore and take big swings and big risks, things I think, are important to change to make the product overall more valuable. And that had been going really well.

So through this really nice serendipitous moment, this was at the end of 2019. Rich decided to spin off the other product, which is called fathom that video, it's a free zoom, integrated note taking app for doing any kind of interviews, market research, product, research, sales, calls, Customer Success calls. He's like you're doing a great job making User Voice better. So why don't you just take over the whole company and run with that? So I did, and you know, naturally, less than six months later, a pandemic hits. So if you want a newly minted CEO, trial by fire, that's a good recipe for it.

Mike: I mean, that must be challenging, and other CEOs must have gone through that. I remember when I took over Napier, it happened about three weeks before the.com crash, so I can. Yeah, it's a real challenge. So you've kind of by accident, inherited user voice, and become CEO of user voice, which is a very fortuitous accident. So you've talked about it briefly. But do you want to just, you know, really go into the details of exactly what problem UserVoice is solving. You mentioned, Rich's problem with the Calendar app.

Matt: Yep. And how that's evolved over time really, you know, won't be until the company that doesn't pay attention to what their their customers and potential customers are saying. But that's easier said than done. You've got the problem of collecting all that information, you've got the problem of sharing all that information internally, you have the question of how reliable is that information. Customers don't always express their problems, they tend to speak in solutions. You know, I want you to generate this report. Or, I wish I could do this or that you've got ideas coming in from your internal teams, you've got salespeople and marketing people saying, hey, I really think the product could be better. If we're doing X, Y, or Z. Once you've gathered all that feedback, you've got the problem of deciding which of it is the most valuable, what you should pay attention to what action you should take from it. And that requires pulling in a bunch of different data sources like CRM, information, user behaviour, etc. And then once you've acted on that feedback, how do you then radiate back out to all the teams that need it like the sales team, the marketing team, the customer success team, all the why behind it, how they should present the new functionality that's coming up what problem that's really solving.

So really, User Voice is a software platform that's meant to just make it easy for you to follow the best practices of listening to customers, assessing the value and importance of one piece of feedback versus another and then helping your whole team kind of rally around what you've learned through transparency, better communication.

Mike: And you've focused on SAS as a market. Is that right?

Matt: We have Yeah, I think it it works best for SAS, because you've got a lot of individual customers and a clear communication channel available to you. It works best in b2b, it works really well in b2c. But it's a it's a slightly different problem. b2c is more of a popularity contest, or a b2b is more of a segmentation of your accounts problem. And make sure that you're looking at the things that are most desired by the market that you serve. We have had customers doing things like consumer packaged goods, or internal IT infrastructure. That stuff can work. I think it just takes a little bit more discipline on the part of the user of the software to be able to do that effectively. But we tend to orient all our software primarily around b2b SaaS, and secondarily, b2c SAS,

Mike: anytime see that expanding into more general product feedback in the future?

Matt: May maybe I will never say never, but but we're a pretty small company. So you know, to try to dilute the use cases that we're trying to solve for we're just probably make an inferior product. So even though I think that's something that we could solve, it's probably not something we're going to tackle in the next year. So

Mike: it makes sense for sure. So you mentioned quite a lot of sources of data that you're pulling together. So how do companies use uses voice to gather all this data from different places whether it's you know, user behaviour or CRM or whatever, and pull it together to make conclusions. I mean, is there a sort of process they follow?

Matt: Yeah. So we we try to be present wherever that information might show up, especially the qualitative information. So, if a marketer is doing market research are a really good easy to understand example, is a salesperson doing a demo. And they're getting feedback in real time from the person watching the demo, and they're taking notes. In Salesforce itself, if that is product features and functionality that is missing, and potentially causing the deal to be lost, the product team needs to know that to be able to do that. So user voice integrates with Salesforce, and a bunch of other CRMs and support tools like Zendesk, we have API's, we have the ability to integrate with email and any other kind of communication that you do, or even if you're using Zoom recording tools, and capturing notes that way, just to make sure all of that stuff can filter into a singular repository that gets it all, and makes it really, really easy for a salesperson to capture that stuff and be able to watch it. That wasn't the way that user voice started in.

In fact, the way it user was started was to get the feedback straight from the people using the product, they could go to a web portal and you know, vote on ideas or offer their own ideas. They could pop up a JavaScript widget within the application, we still support all of those mechanisms. We have API's for collecting feedback directly from users. But I think a lot of a lot of product teams are a little bit nervous to open up the firehose of feedback coming directly from users, if you if you think about it, it's a pretty brave thing to say, hey, tell us anything about what's not working for the product, there's going to be a stream of pretty negative information coming your way, they're not going to sing your praises, they're going to tell you all the ways they want you to be better.

So most people get started by collecting all that feedback through their trusted team, the people who are on the frontlines talking to customers. And when they realise like, Hey, this is really, really valuable information, it's helping me get visibility into what's actually in the heads of our users, I would value having that straight from customers. And then that creates the opportunity to have a much more open dialogue, it creates the ability to say that, you know, the product team is thinking about a feature, but the marketing team wants to know about how to talk about that feature. So we already know who's interested in it, we already know who'd be game to have an interview, who to connect with. So in terms of gathering all the feedback, we just tried to be wherever that feedback might show up and make sure that it's very easy to capture at any particular time.

Mike: And is there kind of a processing step where you're trying to take this big pile of feedback information and make sense of it?

Matt: There there is because there's a lot of it even for small companies, we handle companies all the way from, you know, 20 or 30 people companies all the way to like the Adobe's and very large companies in the world where the volume of feedback they're getting is, is massive. So I think it all starts with making sure that we always know who provided the feedback.

If you think about a b2b business, if an individual provides feedback, that individual needs to be associated with the account that they belong to, What business do they represent, you probably want to know what that account is worth, how long they've been a customer, what plan they're on what kind of segments they're in. Also, that you can relate that data to what your overarching goals as a company are, if you're trying to sell into a new market, you're trying to increase revenue, you're trying to drive up your ACV, or increased retention.

All those goals mean that you're gonna want to look at that data a little bit differently. So it all starts with who provided that data. And once we have that, we can pull in all kinds of information from CRM and financial systems to decorate it and make sure that you can query it the right ways. I think that's kind of a nice power user feature. A lot of us most of us are not necessarily a business analyst. So you don't necessarily know what the right question to ask is. So on top of that, we also try to throw on some automatic parsing have the information to point you to what's really the most important. We do that on very tactical levels, for example, like duplicate feedback becomes an issue for a lot of people but we use AI systems to try to suggest you how to deduplicate that automatically, all the way up to really high level roll up reports that let you say, Okay, I want to break into the Asia Pacific market. And Alright, tell me what the top ideas are that people are request stealing from a PAC and rank them by how much revenue, those companies are making us. And most of the time, I think we advise people like lean into your fans, they're the ones that kind of represent the people who are going to expand that customer base the most easily. So we can just deliver a report that is constantly updated, there's literally no work you have to do. It's just always there in real time updated for you.

Mike: That's interesting. It sounds like you're not effectively ranking how many times people ask, but you're actually looking a lot deeper. And you're looking at, you know, what the most important customers want, or, you know, what your next territory wants is that really what you're trying to do to get another level of insight,

Matt: it really depends on what a company's goals are. It's, it's not always wrong to say, how many people voted for it being a driver, if you're going for the popularity contest, if you might be going through an effort like where you want to increase CSAT. And one way to increase customer satisfaction is to look at what most people want. And that's a good way to do it. But if you're if you're looking more at strategic business growth, you might be looking at things more from a business metrics perspective instead.

Mike: So, I mean, this is interesting, can you give us some, you know, maybe some specific examples about how people have used the product to improve their SaaS products.

Matt: Let me give you two examples. The first is not going to be a SAS example. Because I think it's easy to understand and relatable. User Voice is used by a lot of gaming companies like Electronic Arts. And in that case, it is a popularity contest. They are you know, if they're producing a game, that sports game that gets iterated every year, they want to make sure that the next year's version reflects the desire of the biggest player base, so that they have the highest likelihood of selling next year's version to those people. So that just happens all the time every day.

A really good success case for us as a company called Procore. Procore is a it's a unicorn SAS company that feeds construction managers. So if a suburb is being developed with 100 houses or something like that Procore deliver software that makes sure that all the materials are arriving on the right time that every other construction is on schedule, etc. But the users of that software are men and women who are wearing hard hats, and construction boots and using an iPad, to access the software. And that's really different from most of us, what most of us think about is assess user who's sitting in front of a computer with, you know, a nice polo shirt or something like that. They're happy to use software. If you use something like user voice, you can understand really like how to really serve the needs of a very specific audience like that, like how to make it simple enough to use to understand so that they can really get to the bottom of a very specific use case, which is building houses. So Procore is a company needs to really understand the business that their customers are in. But this gives them a really iterative feedback mechanism for them to find out where they're hitting the mark and where they're off. So it's, those are kind of two extreme areas. Most people are just working on using the feedback to figure out like, what's the next sprint going to look like? What's our next quarter or six month planning going to look like? And really trying to equate that with, with what the goals of the business are?

Mike: Makes a lot of sense. So one of the things I'm interested in is marketing, make use of user feedback. And I'm thinking particularly, you know, do you get feedback about features that customers particularly like? Can you then use that in marketing? How do marketing people use the data? Yeah,

Matt: I think that we always share the feedback that we use User Voice ourselves, of course, and we always share the the raw feedback that we got from our users with marketing, because as they're crafting messaging to this to describe what we actually did, what its value is what you use it for. It always lands better. If you're using the words and the phrases that came to you in the first place. This is the way that the user of the software is actually thinking about the problem and thinking about the solution. It's just going to make it very easy for you to communicate it effectively to people when it comes to allowing marketing to lean into the most loved areas of the product. We determined through behavioural Analytics, which is something that user voice doesn't do, where people are spending the most time and all of those things.

But whenever we're researching a new product, we take the opportunity, as we're interviewing customers from a product perspective, to learn about how it fits into the big picture of their workflow. Why do they want this improvement? How does it relate to the other tasks they're doing day over day, we capture all that feedback again, back into user voice. So you might think that user voice just captures the initial idea. It does do that. But then we continually add to that as we learn more about it. As we conduct interviews, all of that information goes into user voice. So if you look at the maturation of an idea in user voice from when it first showed up, to us actually deploying a solution for it, you can see all the discussion. And that's just a goldmine, not only for marketing, but for sales. How should we demo the software? What kind of collateral should we put together as a leave behind? Or, you know, what videos should we create? And how should we narrate those videos? In the end, I'm a firm believer that all the research that any company does, whether it's product research, market research, sales research should be shared cross departmentally, because there's value in it for for everybody. That's not always easy to do. And some company organisations get protective of their their fiefdoms a little bit. But if you can share that stuff, you'll at minimum, prevent duplicate work. And at best, just create something that's just a knock it out of the park, answer to the problem from the get go.

Mike: I love the idea of sharing. And it's particularly interesting, you know, when you started talking about the benefits to departments like marketing, it's not about the features. It's about how you talk and understanding the way that goes, we think I think that's a really interesting benefit from from getting that user feedback.

Matt: Yeah, I also think that it helps the whole organisation understand how product teams make decisions about what they build. There's a lot of recency bias in market research and in what salespeople hear, you might think that just because you've heard something twice recently, that it is the best thing to do. But if someone could actually come to you and say, Hey, thanks, I got that feedback, we read it, I can definitely acknowledge that I heard what you told us. But here's the analysis that we did. And we compared it against everything else that we've heard from you from sales from the research that we've done. And we can show you that, hey, you know, our biggest opportunity really looks like it's here. And then suddenly, the marketing team who's tasked with putting forth information about new features and retaining people isn't starting from this position of like, I don't know why they did this, you know, I told them that this was the most important thing to do. And that all came from a good position, a good healthy position, but it just wasn't objectively the right thing to do at the right time. And I think that takes away a lot of these like anxieties about not necessarily believing in what the r&d team or an organisation is building.

Mike: That's great. I love that way of getting everyone you know, buying into to the same goal effectively. I mean, that's a really cool benefits.

Matt: Yeah, we, we also User Voice intentionally, we don't charge based on seats, it would be an easy way for us to make more money, but like if, if I made you pay for everyone on your support team to be able to send feedback into the system that would kind of discourage you from doing that. And we think like, the more data, the better. We also don't limit the number of people who can log in and use that data for their own purposes. So I think it would just be at odds to try to like limit access to that information for people. So it's really common for our marketing team to look in our own user voice instance, not to figure out what we should build, but to start looking for phrases and language about how we should talk about things.

Mike: That's cool. I mean, you mentioned pricing there, and you said that you deal with you know, everything from a small 20 person SAS company to you know, some of these giants. I mean, how does the pricing work then for that? That's such a range of customers?

Matt: Yeah, the the growth levers are really built based off of the coverage of your user base, how many how many unique users you actually have giving you feedback, because we did a lot of research through a third party company to get this objective feeling about where, where you feel value, and it's, it's in the diversity of perspective that you're getting. If you're doing one on one interviews right now, that's great, but it's hard to scale up to a lot of them. And you might worry that like at great, you know, I've got this person's perspective, but they're the people I always talk to, where if you've got 200 or 500 or 1000 different points of view on it, you can feel much more confident in the actionability of what's going on.

So So, we have three different tiers. And those tears just have limits in the number of people giving you feedback and the early stages of a company, you might not have a huge user base, so it cost less. When you're a very large company, and we're processing a lot of data for you, then we're saving you a lot of time by being able to deliver insights from all that stuff for you. So hopefully, it scales well with the perceived value of a product.

Mike: I love that as it was just like a really simple approach to pricing there, you know, how many users are you doing? Let's put you in tears. That's great. I mean, is it as easy to deploy? Because it sounds like you're pulling data from lots of different systems is that does that become quite a complex project?

Matt: It's not, we've spent a pretty significant amount of time making sure that all of those integrations are quite simple, selfishly, from a business perspective for us, if we can't do that, and we tell you, you're going to have have to pay us a bunch of money, and then you're going to have this project. No one wants that the goal of SAS is to like have an out of box solution for people. So historically, integrating software with Salesforce has always been a big pain in the neck. And for us it anyone can do it, and it takes about three minutes to get done. So we try to make that very, very simple.

I think the biggest effort is likely in the organisational change of making sure that people think to capture feedback when it comes in. And one thing that's that we view is our job is really important to help our customers with is to make sure that everyone in their organisation like a marketing individual understands the value of doing this, you might not see it right now. But in two months here, you've got a bunch of really useful information to help you with your job as well.

Mike: That's, that's amazing. I, you know, one thing I'm intrigued about you obviously work with a lot of leading SaaS companies. Do you see any trends in SAS, I mean, what we're going to see in SAS products in the next couple of years is going to allow us and make us excited.

Matt: Oh, my God, I see a lot of trends in SAS, I think the as a, as a CEO of a company, I could say the diplomatic thing and say that I think that competition makes all of our products better. But if I were honest, I would say oh, God, that makes your job so much harder to begin with. But the nice thing about competition is that it really drives the quality of solutions forward. Eventually, even if you there's I think we all know the expression product market fit is the product appropriate for the market that you're you're getting into. There's another phrase called purchase market fit. Where are you able to sell the product to people? Is your marketing really good? Is your sales really good. But then your attention might not be good if product market fit is not there right behind it.

So I think some of the trends I'm seeing and says is that the people who have these amazing marketing engines, but they don't have the technology chops underneath or the smarts to really solve the problems, those companies are going to fall by the wayside. And it's not enough to be flashy, it's not enough to be the cheapest, it's not enough to be the newest darling. So, because of that, I think that the biggest thing that most SaaS companies need defend against is the very easy portability of moving from vendor to vendor in the same space it's vendor lock in is not as much a thing as it as it used to be. So we all as assess business operators need to make sure that the product is really good, that our support is really good, that our ability to coach and provide best practices. And I think that that's an area where I see marketing, being a very huge help less about selling the product more about driving continual value in the product. And that's where I think a product like user voice is really important. You may achieve product market fit, but how are you going to hang on to it.

As products become easier and quicker to develop easier and quicker to market, it means you just need to keep up and keep two or three steps ahead of where the market is going. So I don't see operating SAS businesses as getting any easier. anytime soon, I think it's going to get more challenging. I see.

You know, I'm a consumer of SAS software myself, and I don't have the time to look at all the options that are out there. I don't want to talk to people about it. I really want a product lead experience where I can do a free trial on my own, decide if it's the right fit for me, I want transparency and pricing to be able to understand what this would cost and make all that evaluation when there's so many options out there. The it doesn't need to be completely self service. There can be sales involved, but you need to be able to get to a point where you understand whether it's worth investing your time really, really quickly.

So I don't think I gave you one problem. I think I gave you the Legion of SAS problems just now but it's none of it's getting any simpler. It's getting there. To give you a positive, it is easier than ever to develop software, which is good because it will lower r&d costs over time.

Mike: You know, I mean, it sounds good to us as like me. You know, science pros are just going to get better. Maybe not so good. If you're the engineer, he's got to develop all the new features. But

Matt: yeah, are the person needs to place the right bets at the right time. But then again, that's why I think that research is so important. If you discover before you've lifted a design or an engineering feature, that something will not have the market impact that you thought it would. Cool, you may be throwing out some work that you did, but you didn't go way down this path, only to discover that it feels much later.

Mike: So awesome. I mean, quite a positive view there for SAS. I mean, I'm interested in what are your ambitions? So yourself? I mean, where do you see user voice going now that that your, your CEO, and it's all down to you?

Matt: Yeah. This may sound a little unusual, I think most CEOs will tell you that they expect to be a billion dollar company. And you know, from their private islands, start seven more companies and keep going and going. User Voice doesn't want to do that. But we want to be the best at what we do. And oftentimes we get asked to do things that are kind of horizontally associated with what user voice does. Why haven't we built a general purpose survey tool for marketing or for sales, because we're in the feedback business, or why don't we also have behavioural analytics or design review tools like product managers often use.

So user voice is going to continue to be the best at making sure that we can understand product problems and product needs from people and give people the ability to understand that versus their business goals. To do that, effectively, I think it's either going to come down to partnerships or acquisition for us like we need to hold hands with other best of breed solutions that are needed to operate a successful b2b SaaS company. And we are one of several tools that you would use to communicate with your customer base. Obviously, you'd use a CRM tool, your marketing team is going to have their own tools through HubSpot, etc. Making sure that all of those can provide value across the whole organisation is really important to us. And I think for us, that's going to mean partnerships from a business perspective. And then ongoing automation, the the volume of data that we deal with is going to not decrease as long as we do our job. Well.

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is keeping customers engaged. I think all of us know how hard it is to get people's attention. It's the slew of survey requests, meeting requests that we're all getting every day. So how do I make it as easy as possible for a customer or an internal team member to share their thoughts and bring it in. And we're trying to think of ever simpler ways to make that more natural through technology so that as you're thinking of it, boom, it's there. And it's very, very low effort.

Mike: So some, and I love the focus, we're going to do what we do, and we're gonna partner and that's how we'll be successful. Yeah, it's really refreshing to hear that

Matt: I don't want to produce a watered down version of something that someone else just really really does well, like, what why bother?

Mike: So awesome. So I really appreciate your time on the podcast, man. I mean, if people have got questions, wanting to know more about User Voice, or just want to talk to you about what you've said in the podcast, what's the best way to contact you?

Matt: Sure. I always say that it would be very hypocritical for me to not want feedback about what we have to say it's our core line of business. So my email door is always open. It's Matt at user voice.com. You can find me on LinkedIn met young Matt, young User Voice is the best search term because my name is so common.

But user voice.com is where you can learn more about our products. You can do free trials of any of our products and just learn a little bit more about it. Even if you're not interested in buying it. I'd love to have people take a look at its men in especially if you're willing to share with us like what resonated with you and where you thought like, yeah, not for me. It's just basically like free customer interview for me. It's a great thing. But if we can help on on any other front, like you just something that we said was interesting, and you'd like to chat. Happy to do that, too.

Mike: Well, that's awesome. I really appreciate your time. Matt, thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Matt: It was a lot of fun, Mike, thank you.

Mike: Thank you.

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.

What B2B Marketers Need to Consider When it Comes to Email Marketing

Natasha Websdale, Marketing Specialist at Napier, shares her views on what B2B marketers need to consider when it comes to email marketing, drawing from her own experience, and two insightful reports.

Email marketing is an important part of any marketing strategy, keeping audiences up-to-date on the latest products, company news and business insights. Email activity has grown massively over the last couple of years with an increase of approximately 60% from March-April 2020 and remaining at this level throughout 2021.

As email traffic increases and subscribers’ inboxes fill up, competition to capture their attention has grown; making it more important than ever for B2B marketers to stay up to date on the latest email marketing techniques.

I recently came across a couple of reports talking about trends and challenges for 2022. The Smart Insights Email Marketing Trends 2022 report presents the views and predictions of 10 marketing experts, whilst Validity’s Mastering The New Email Landscape report analyses global email performance in 2021 and forecasts the future for email marketing.

This blog will look at some of the things these reports, and my own experience as a digital marketer has taught me to keep in mind in 2022.

The importance of the customer journey

Something that becomes increasingly clear to me as I continue my career in marketing is the importance of the customer journey. Not understanding where a customer is, or how to move them through the funnel could lead to missed opportunities. Email can help you reach potential customers at the right time and move them from being unaware of your business to become customers and brand advocates.


Stages include:

This stage is all about brand awareness. Educational content such as eBooks and White Papers can help to introduce you to your audience and position you as knowledgeable experts on specific challenges.

Here audiences are actively searching for a solution to their problem and could be considering your products and services. Sending them content such as case studies and testimonials can help to build trust with your brand.

At this point, the audience is already educated about what you are offering, and the goal is to encourage them to press the “buy” button. Here you should include content such as demos and pricing sheets, providing the audience with the facts.

It is important to remember that not everyone’s journey looks the same, some may progress slower, and some may respond better to different content or a different email cadence. This is where email platforms that allow for audience segmentation, personalisation and triggered content come in.

Personalisation is vital

Personalisation is targeting an email or email campaign to a specific contact by leveraging the data and information you have about them. Chances are, if you are creating email campaigns then you are personalising the content. Personalisation is nothing new to us marketers, with Litmus sharing that 9 in 10 marketers believe personalisation is imperative to overall business strategy.

The top 10 personalisation factors used in email marketing are shown in the graph below. Complex personalisation factors, such as past website interactions, are being used significantly less than simple personalisation’s such as name. This is something we should take advantage of, to stand out amongst our competitors.

Basic personalisation tactics include using shortcodes such as “SubscriberFirstName” and “SuscriberEmailAddress” to insert the subscribers profile information. More advanced tactics include changing email content based on the data you have about the subscriber, such as the last product they brought and what pages they have visited on your website.

It is important to find the right level of personalisation within an email, some top tips to consider include:

Be sensitive to strangers
Be sensitive to the information you may have about a customer, including too many details and seeming like you know too much risks appearing creepy.

Plan for scenarios where there isn’t any or incorrect data
You may not have all the data you need, such as a first name. Make sure you have default options set up, so you don’t risk addressing an email to ‘Fname’.

Consider where they are in the customer journey
What are the expectations and needs of the audience at that moment? Marketing messages need to change depending on where the contact is in the customer journey.

Optimise automations and personalisation’s
AI is key here. For example, AI could replace manual segmentation to work out each customer’s interest towards certain categories and messages.

The power of marketing automation

I am continuing to learn the capabilities of Marketing Automation platforms and the benefits they can have. Platforms such as Hubspot and Marketo allow you to lead score, integrate CRMs, monitor campaign performance, know subscribers’ activity and much more.

This collected data means that you can trigger content, such as emails, based on the actions of each subscriber. For example, if a subscriber downloads a piece of content on a particular product, you could automate an email with more information on that product.

Triggering emails based on behaviour ensures the audience is receiving the right information at the right time, personalising their customer journey.

Marketing automation has become more intelligent with the addition of AI and Machine Learning, which evaluates historical interactions to generate insights for future communications. This can include the best time to send someone an email, how to optimise subject lines and automating content.

Measure what matters

Traditional benchmark metrics have been losing value over the last few years.

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) has had a significant impact, resulting in much higher and unreliable open rate figures. Validity says that as adoption of MPP continues, average open rates will level out between 30-40%. To get a true picture of open rates, senders will need to identify MPP opens versus genuine opens.

Because of MPP, marketers are turning away from opens to clicks as their key measure of subscriber engagement, meaning competition for clicks is higher than ever. But clicks are not a reliable measure for success either. Something that I have come across when measuring email campaigns is bot clicks. This is where “bots” click each link in an email to find any links that may contain harmful content. This skews click data and means that it is not a true reflection of the actions the audience is making.

It may be time to stop measuring the success of email campaigns on traditional metrics and instead how they help move us closer to our business goals. The future of metrics will be dependent on what B2B marketers are looking to achieve with their email campaigns and applying KPIs based on the actions they want visitors to take.


Email marketing continues to be a vital tool in any marketer’s toolbox. Considering our audience at every step, embracing new and emerging technologies and making sure we remain focused on our goals and not distracted by vanity metrics are just some of the things that can lead us to success in 2022.