A Napier Podcast Interview with Mark Williams-Cook - AlsoAsked

Mark Williams-Cook, the Founder of SEO tool AlsoAsked, explains how users can maximise the data provided by Google’s “people also asked” feature and how this information can be useful beyond just SEO.

He shares his journey to founding AlsoAsked and the advice he would give to someone just starting out in marketing or communications.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Mark Williams-Cook - AlsoAsked

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Mark Williams-Cook

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 Mark Williams-Cook, who is the founder of AlsoAsked a tool for SEO professionals. Welcome to the podcast, Mark.

Mark: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you here. I really appreciate you taking the time. I mean, I think let's start off by talking about your background and how you ended up founding also are so you know, I look to your LinkedIn, it's very interesting. You've done a lot of different things. Do you want to, you know, just give us a potted history of your career and how you ended up where you are today?

Mark: Yeah, sure. So I've been working in SEO for around about 20 years now. I'm 39. Now at the moment, almost 40. And I think for a lot of people that got into SEO, that amount of time ago, I kind of stumbled into it. Because there wasn't really much in the way of even online courses, let alone SEO being covered in like any kind of marketing syllabus or anything like that. So a lot of the information was kind of on forums. And I fell into it after making some of my own kind of just passion websites, and then realising, hey, I'm starting to get traffic here. And I'd had friends helped me set up like little affiliate schemes with Amazon. And as it happened through complete luck, and chance, absolutely no skill or effort whatsoever. One of those sites started earning like 50 6070 pounds a day through affiliates. And that started this investigation of, well, where's it's coming from? And I think it was Aw, stats at the time we had to use because there was no Google Analytics. And we found a lot of that traffic was coming from Google. And that really started kind of my interest of well, how does Google decide who should be top of the search results and who should be second and third?

So I started teaching myself a bit. And I was fortunate enough that there was an agency at the time, local to me hiring for an SEO role. So I'd been sort of amateur practising for a couple of years, myself, and I moved into an agency role that was really helpful. And, you know, to fast forward many years, I've worked at various levels that four or five different agencies in the UK have always been agency side, I've really enjoyed it, because you're constantly surrounded by people who are very good at what they do and constantly learning. So you're never, you know, while I've thought about getting in house roles before, I think a lot of the people that I know work in house sometimes get a little bit isolated, because they don't have that big team to work with. So I've worked my way up essentially, through through that and actually released some of my own SEO tools along the way as well. So very spammy ones to begin with, that were helping throughout YouTube videos and kind of game Google AlsoAsked came about as kind of a shadow IT project in that weird started to build some tools internally to fix issues we have. And then it was, you know, just, I think this might be useful for other people as well.

Mike: so I mean, just tell me a little bit more about what AlsoAsked does and why you built it.

Mark: Sure. So AlsoAsked, essentially, is a very easy, convenient way to harvest what's called people AlsoAsked data from Google. So if you do a Google search in English, approximately 50% of the time, you will get a little box below, normally the first result that says people also ask, and it'll give you four sets of questions. If you then click on those questions, you will get questions related to those questions. And we've been using this data for content for SEO purposes for for a couple of years. And I'd originally done that just through using like local Python scripts where I've programmed something to grab this data and use it. The reason why I was kind of attracted to this data in terms of this, it's helpful for content is it's one of the very well a couple of reasons, actually. But one of the most interesting to me is it's one of the only sources of data you get where Google has done a lot of the clustering for you. And by clustering, I mean, if you do a search term, Google is giving you insight into what the closest intent proximity is. So if someone searches for this, this is very likely going to be the next question that they ask. And that's really powerful when it comes to the overall strategic goal of making your content as helpful as possible, which is having that information.

There's lots of things but the other main thing that makes the data particularly interesting for me? Is that a lot of those questions that Google gives you, if you look at them in standard keyword research tools, they will normally incorrectly come back with that they have zero search volume, zero monthly search volume. So actually, it's very hard to sometimes discover this information and these links anywhere else, but Google. And yeah, our tool essentially helps people get this data at great speed, map it out, allows you to do all different countries and do it at scale. So we can get you 50,000 questions in a few minutes and have it all out in CSVs. For you with what's ranking, what's not.

Mike: So you're effectively doing a Google search and seeing what Google says other related queries. I mean, you're literally scraping this off the Google search.

Mark: So we we also, we do that by simulating the click on the question, which we're the only tool to do it that way. And why that's important, as opposed to the other method, which is essentially re googling. The question is, I discovered something really interesting when we're doing this research, which is, if you do a Google search, and you get your four people also ask questions, if you click on one of those questions. So the top one, the questions that Google will then show you are different to if you just Google that question. And that's got to do with Google's understanding of intent, the journey, what knowledge you already have, as it affects the like probability of what you're going to ask next. So by by simulating these clicks, firstly, we actually get more than just four questions. So you get more data this way. But you also get a much better view of what that intent path is, because that's really what we're trying to, to help people understand, which is okay, if someone is interested in this, what is the nitty gritty specifics of what they need to know, what do we need to be providing them in answers in terms of value? And that as well, I think from a purely SEO algorithmic point of view, statue up very nicely of Google can say, well, when people search for this, they search for these 10 Other things, and this page has answered nine of them. So that's quite a good from a probability point of view that you're being helpful there.

Mike: And that's really interesting. And the way you present it is in this this really neat kind of mind map format. So you can you can see that flow of what what is directly related. And then also what's related to those, those secondary questions. So you actually get to see visually what the questions are.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's important because it naturally, I think it naturally blends into how we can structure content for the web in terms of you know, people read webpages, we know very different to say like a magazine or a newspaper. It's not this just we start at the beginning. And then linear linearly read, a lot of the time people are looking for specific information or their scan read, which is why, you know, we've got this all this encouragement about using like headers to let people know what that section is about. And having the intent kind of group that way, gives you an idea, firstly, of maybe how you should lay that content out. And secondly, there comes a point because you can continue clicking on those nodes essentially, forever. Until you'd have a huge web of questions, there does come a point where this needs to be a new article. And the other interesting thing that you see from that data is maybe where the intent is completely different to what you expected. So working in any particular industry, you get a little bit blinkered vision on well, people search for this, they're obviously looking for something in our industry. And then you realise when you do this research that that word also means something completely different. And it shows you how that branches off. And just the number of questions that fall into one of those two categories also gives you an idea for the overall intent if you like, so if actually, your business is only, you know, related to 1/10 of the questions have that root keyword or root query, it's actually unlikely you're going to rank well for it. Because Google knows nine out of 10, people are actually looking for something else.

Mike: And this is really interesting, because what you're doing is you're, you're giving people ideas for content effectively, you know, if you're looking to rank for a keyword, and then ranking for the related searches, typically will be the right thing to do. But you're also telling people when you've got a keyword that's going to be really tough for you to rank for, because it's more frequently used for something else. I mean, I remember an example where we were working with a client, and we're talking about coding standards for software. And we thought that nothing in the world is going to have a coding standard because it's got to be software. And as it turns out, coding standard is a very common term that is used in the medical industry about blood

Mark: I've worked with a company that runs coding courses. And this was my surprise as well, coming from that bias background on the word coding just means computer coding, and then you get I think you actually get the Google Knowledge Graph come up, that it's a medical thing. I was like, Oh, okay. Yeah, yes. Brilliant example.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it's, it's also really interesting in terms of coming up with ideas. I mean, I've just, I've actually literally just put hardware learn cricket into AlsoAsked, I thought I'd better try this whilst we were talking. And it's interesting, because, you know, I would think the related questions would typically be around, you know, what skills do I need and things like that. But you know, one of the related questions is, what's the best age to start cricket? And I think that's, that's interesting, because maybe you wouldn't have thought to write an article about what's the best age to start cricket. But clearly, if you want to attract people who are looking to take up cricket, this is a great term.

Mark: So there's two sets of tools that we'll use very regularly with content planning. So one's quite famous. It's called Answer the public that uses Google suggests data, which is very different people get them confused. A lot of the time are two tools, because the output looks similar. But a tool like answer the public using suggest data is a really good way to get an overview of different topics you want to write about, because it's using Google Autocomplete at the actual article levels, you've decided I want to write about learning cricket, that's when you might use also OS and as you say, yes, there's probably a whole separate article you could do about, you know, examples of people that started later in life and became really good at cricket. And you know, the benefits of starting young, that's like a whole, even, you know, you could dig deeper into that as an article itself.

Mike: And so this is great. And obviously, SEO professionals, I can see how they're going to use it. But I think a lot of our listeners are probably not specialist SEO is that they're looking to generate interesting content that's relevant to their audience. And to me, this is perhaps where, you know, we, as marketers should, should look towards some of the SEO tools, because this is a great way of not only finding relevant questions to answer, but But surely, it's also a great way to get ideas to write content that actually resonates with your audience as well.

Mark: Yeah, 100%. And I think it's, it's been marketed a little bit as an SEO tool, just because I'm ingrained in the SEO industry. But from speaking to people that have actually used it, the use cases have been surprisingly wide. So even things like product designers, people are getting a view on how people perceive their brand. Just understanding your customers, pain points, their insights, all of this, you know, even if you're not writing content, it's helpful to know, okay, if someone is looking to solve this B2B problem, these are the kinds of things they're Googling and that they're that they're worried about. But yes, absolutely, I would hope it's used by anyone producing content, let alone you know, even if they're not involved, even in SEO, but I've even had people do pay per click. So it's been really useful for them again, to even in writing their ads, their ad copy, so not just what questions they're targeting. But if they do a search around a product, and they see lots of comparisons to another competitor brands, they know they need to focus on that.

Or if there's lots of, say, searches that are price sensitive, then they know that's a particularly big thing for customers. So that yeah, there's there's all kinds of value you can get from getting this insight from from people's searches. So just unpack that analysis of what people think your brand.

Mike: So you'd actually put your brand in as a query and see what the related queries are. Is that what you're saying? So larger brands?

Mark: Yes. So you have to have a brand that's kind of understood by Google as an entity. But most most of the larger brands, when you put them in, you'll get people also ask questions. And some of them which I won't name have questions like, you know, is Brand X a scam? And why is this so cheap, and then direct comparisons to their competitors, and it gives them insight into? Firstly, well, if people are asking those questions, maybe we should produce content. So we own that space to answer that question, because there's a good chance as the brand if you produce that content, Google will pick you to answer that question. Rather than leave it to some other random website or blog to tell the world it's piggybacking on your brand search, which might have hundreds of 1000s of searches a month. So it gives you that visibility about again, what people are thinking and asking what questions they're asking you about your brand.

Mike: And that's fascinating. I mean, I've literally just done this with one of our clients ABB, you know, he's an absolute total business to business company of a very large company, but you know, got back some very interesting questions. So, one of the big questions is what does ABB stand for? Which

You know which key I guess people want to know, what does the company do? But then there's a question is Abb owned by Siemens, which I think is very interesting because it shows that people don't actually understand that ABB and Siemens are direct competitors. So that's an amazing tool to get some insight as to what people are asking about clients. A fascinating use, I'd never thought of. So I mean, yeah, the question there? Well, in my mind would be, you know, why do they want to know that? Is that affecting their kind of businesses? Usually they're making if it was a was not owned by Siemens, why are they why is that important to them? And how can that be covered in our kind of content, even if we don't directly answer that.

Mark: So I can immediately see some, some opportunities to create content. And it's interesting what you say, as an SEO professional, it makes sense. You know, if you ask, answer a question about your brand, you're saying that Google is likely to rank your answer quite highly, because you're considered authoritative about your brand. Yeah, absolutely. So generally, for branded search terms, you know, there's there's high a high probability, you can control the search engine result page for that. There are some exceptions, when it comes to things like reviews where Google wants a third party. That's, that's non bias. But certainly, again, for larger brands, I will try and own as much of that space as I can, because you know, that's, that's your brand, you want to convey the truth and control the information that goes out if you can.

Mike: And it's fascinating. I mean, I love the idea, I love the idea that someone who's who's a real practitioner has come up with a concept and made it into a product. I guess one of the things you know, a lot of people will be asking themselves listening to this is, are you as a software engineer by training? And if not, how did you manage to get something coded? Because it's obviously a very polished, very professional product?

Mark: Yes. So I wouldn't say I'm a software engineer by profession, very much amateur. So I have coded for many, many years, I've released like games for iPhone and stuff like this. So I'm okay, at kind of a hobbyist level, but I do work at an agency as well. And we've got coders here.

So essentially, as I said, the way this tool emerged was I made the kind of local version as a proof of concepts that we were using getting value from. And then it occurred to me that we could possibly make this as an available tool, because the libraries to do this did get released. And I was aware that while it was kind of plug and play written in Python, that still quite an entry barrier for a lot of people that aren't comfortable with like command line stuff. And it just seems all a bit techie. So we had a very kind of brittle version, put online as a would you like to use this. And essentially, it was phenomenally popular. To the point, it got so popular, it was like many sites just breaking. So we ran a beta for a year and a half, which allowed us to get feedback from customers, it allowed us to stress test things, because we were just running it for, for free.

And this is where we had to get Professional Coders involved. Because, you know, we had to start using AWS have to have things scale. And even during the free trial of this, we were handling around about a million searches a month. So even the database size as we were caching the results was growing very, very quickly. So there needed to be a lot of planning and testing in terms of how does it scale? How many concurrent users can we have? How much does searches cost, because when you're interacting with Google that way, they tend to like blocking you. So like, you know, like many of the major SAS tools, you have to use proxies. And then that's got its own cost and complexity. So it did take longer than I thought it would.

But it was around about a year and a bit development to get something really solid to where we are now. So we launched the paid version in March, we still operate a freemium model, which means people can go in and they can do 90 searches a month for free, which is three a day. And they're tapered like that to allow us to make sure there's no like spikes in demand. Because if everyone gets 90 Free whenever they want, and you get lots of people pile on, it can be difficult to maintain the service. But then there's a subscription model for people that do want to get slightly heavier use, there's more features as well, if you pay for a subscription, and essentially everything at the back end like scales as we get new people sign up so we can meet that demand. And we've just put status kind of checking lives. It's publicly available now the status of the website and the back end. But yeah, it's Touchwood been super reliable so far.

Mike: Yeah. And I think that's very cool. And a lot of people probably listening to this are working. You know, with Napier on PR perhaps as a PR pro three searches a day is probably more than you need. So, to me it's fascinating. You can access this kind of technology and insight, but you can do it basically for free. I mean this is not an expensive enterprise product or not something you need to go cut a purchase order for Yeah,

Mark: That's true. Yeah, it's very interesting. So I did some pricing research at the beginning on what people would pay and how much they expect for free. I got hundreds of responses, but no parity in some people were very angry about the fact that it was ever going to cost anything for anything. Other people were saying they would pay hundreds of dollars a month, other people were saying, you know, five bucks. So it's, I think we settled essentially on a model that I don't think is greedy at all, it scales with our cost. Even on the most basic plan, you can have unlimited users attached. So we just scale on on the certain number of searches, which is where our cost basis.

Mike: I've got to ask this, and it might be hard for you to answer but you know, is it a nice profitable part of your business?

Mark: Yeah, it's working well, now. I mean, I guess on a, on a monthly view, like starting from now, yes, it's profitable, like a lot of SAS tools are? Probably not if I dug into the couple of years of development and head scratching and time spent on it. I don't think we've recouped that yet. So as of wide view, we would still be in the red. But that, you know, that's the that's the thing with SAS tools that yeah, once they're up and running, if they're stable, if they're providing value, it's been growing naturally itself very strongly. Every single month, we've had more users sticking with us than the month before, with without any type of paid marketing, it's all just been kind of word of mouth and me demonstrating it to various people. So that that gives us confidence that at least it's a good product, people are enjoying using it. They're, they're getting value from it.

Mike: That's very cool. I mean, you did mention before that, you know, your day job, if you like, is it an agency, but you're also running this business? Or? I mean, I'm intrigued to know how you balance your time between those two competing roles.

Mark: Yeah, that's the million dollar question, isn't it. So I've worked at a couple of agencies where they wanted to do side projects, and it's inevitably ended up in disaster, because you just never get time to do your own thing. The key here, all stems back to when we founded our agency, we did this on the premise of trying to make it a very nice place to work, because there are some agencies where, like burnout and staying late and unreasonable expectations are kind of the norm. And this has had a cascading effect, I think, in that we've got very good staff retention, which has meant we've been able to train and have people stick with us and promote them to positions of responsibility, where I've actually been able to take a step back, and we've got a brilliant, you know, head of marketing. Now, we've recently taken someone on giving them shares as a director, so it's given me more time to try and run these projects and, and peel off time for them. So we actually run an E commerce business as well. And we started some different content sites. And that's all been from essentially, I think, through staff retention and unhappiness, which seems kind of abstract in the, you know, how did we implement a system to divide up this time? It wouldn't have been possible if we didn't have the right people there to do the work that was left over. But I honestly think that's what it was. And it wasn't easy, and it took a long time.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's awesome. I mean, it's interesting, there's been a couple of really great products actually come out of UK agencies. I mean, obviously, also ask is extremely well known, particularly in the SEO industry, and I think should be more broadly known in marketing. But you know, we also see products like coverage book, which again, came out of propeller net, which is another great product, it seems actually search agencies are really good at doing this.

Mark: I think it's got to do with the, the age of the industry, and that, as I saying, nothing existed in terms of specific tooling. So probably the most famous technical SEO tool is one oddly named one called Screaming Frog. And, you know, this came from an agency, because before that, there was only one piece of software I could think of that did anything similar. And lots of agencies just kind of half bake, you know, make their own solutions. I think we're still in a, even from a digital PR point of view, to be honest, you know, we've got things like rocks Hill, which cost quite a bit of money, and all respect to them, even things like adding and removing users, you still need to email them to do that, which doesn't seem very 2023. So I think there's definitely in the kind of digital marketing industry still spaces where the demand for certain types of products exceeds the supply of good up to date. Products that that make things easy.

Mike: That's awesome. It makes me feel we should be doing something as well. Yeah. Well, I've got a list of ideas always. It's just like you say, trying to find time to do them. Well. I think my favourite phrases though, is ideas are easy, execution is hard. I mean, the fact the fact you brought an idea to a product, a real product that's, you know, not only being used but also is commercially viable. That work is really tough. And it's amazing. You've done it.

Mark: Thank you.

Mike: I'm really interested, you know, so you obviously started, you started, you know, relatively early in the world of SEO, you stay there as a career. I mean, if you were talking to a young person today, who was looking to start a career in, in marketing or communications, I mean, what advice would you give them?

Mark: I don't know how good of a person I am to ask that question. Because I came into SEO, from a very technical background, having no clue about marketing, I was essentially hired by an agency because I could get things to rank well in Google. And it took me many years of sitting next to people who knew about marketing to understand, you know, concepts about brands and, and things like this. My advice would be from being an employer as well. And obviously talking to people coming straight out of uni, and people that want to work in, in marketing, especially digital and such, I think there's still a big gap between maybe what you're taught academically and theoretically, in marketing, versus when you go into even very big companies, the reality of what's happening, and who's doing what. And in between those two realities, there is a lot of room for you to teach yourself to try things yourself, it's the bar to set up even like basic websites is very low. Now, there's no code solutions that cost no money, you know, if someone can come to me interested in a job in search, and they can say, Here's my blog about my hobby, I got it to ranking Google, because I did these things. That is hugely impressive to me that they've gone and had that real exposure.

You know, I've spoken to many, like graduates that come out of courses. And they've never, for instance, even looked in how to look at Google Analytics, which is one of the main tools, you know, that our industry uses. So you can really give yourself an edge just by getting some hands on experience, even if it's just playing around with it, again, like Google Analytics, completely free, you can set it up yourself, and you're spoilt for choice in terms of videos as well. Even if like me, you've got a very short attention span, you can put the YouTube video on times to speed and whip through tutorial and you can learn something new that you can you can demonstrate. So the actual application, I think, of what you're learning, if you are getting that education, and I don't even think that's, you know why it's good. I don't think it's necessary. So I don't, I don't have a degree, I didn't go to university. I'm self taught. So there are ways to get there. So don't think if you're sitting there maybe thinking well, I didn't go to university that this rules you out at all, because it certainly doesn't.

Mike: I think that's a great point. I love the idea of getting some, like, you know, practical experience. I think that's really important, often underestimated by a lot of students. I think that's, that's awesome. You know, I'm aware of the time and we need to wrap up. I mean, I think the first question is, you know, if people want to actually try using also ask, I mean, how do they go about that? How do they get on the system?

Mark: What made it as super easy as possible. So you can literally just go to also ask.com, and you'll see a big old search box there just like Google, and you can just start typing away. As a head, you've got three questions a day, you can use three queries a day, you don't even need to sign up for anything, it will just give you the results. There's live chat on there. So if you get stuck whatsoever, you know, you can ping me and pretty much no matter where I am, it probably be me answering it. This is the bootstrap nature of a SAS. Yeah, it's meant to be super easy. There's an inbuilt help system as well. And if anyone does use it, and has any feedback, I always love to hear it. Because there is always, you know, the, when you're building products like this, people encounter friction. And it's the right expectation to have that everyone tells you when they get problems or errors, because most of the time and experienced they just leave. So if you do think of you know, this is very good, or I wish it did this, just let me know, because I can probably do it.

Mike: That's brilliant. I mean, in terms of people contacting you whether they got a question about, you know, something we've discussed today, or, or have some feedback on AlsoAsked what's the best way to get ahold of you.

Mark: If you want to kind of just talk to me, I'm very active on Twitter. I'm also fairly active on LinkedIn. If you just Google Mark Williams-Cook, I think I'm actually the only Mark Williams-Cook on the internet. So if you just Google me, you will find all my social profiles and creepily everything I probably posted online. But yeah, I'm super easy to find.

Mike: Oh, that's awesome. I mean, Mark, it's been absolutely fascinating. I think it's great, you know, that not only have you been able to take an idea and produce a tool that works really, really well and it's certainly something we've used. It's also a tool that's got a whole range of uses, you know, may have been designed for SEO but as we talked about, you know, the the ability to find out what people asked about brands is super helpful to lots of people in different marketing roles. So, really appreciate it. Thank you ever so much for your time, Mark.

Mark: Thank you for having me. I've had a lot of fun. Thank 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 Abhi Godara - Rytr

AI has become the hot topic across marketing, raising questions about its potential impact on the industry. Abhi Godara, CEO of Rytr, an AI content generator, shares his thoughts on the future of AI, and explains the technology behind Chat GPT and how other platforms, such as Rytr, build on this technology. He also shares how to get the most out of AI-powered content and why being aware of its limitations is important.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Abhi Godara - Rytr

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Abhi Godara

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 Abhi Godara. Abhi is the founder and CEO of an AI product called Rytr. Welcome to the podcast. Abhi.

Abhi: Thanks for having me, Mike.

Mike: So it's great to have you on I mean, I'm interested learn about Rytr but first, you know, can you tell me a bit about your career journey? And how you got to the point where you decided to found Rytr?

Abhi: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, like most good things in life, nothing is like a linear path, I guess, to where you get to today. But I started my career as a professional consultant working in London in one of the big four companies back in 2007. Eight, did that for about five years, mostly in strategy consulting, bit of private equity work as well. And then I moved into startup space, pretty much for the last 10 years, that's where I've been working and started as an early stage investor in one of the leading seed funds in India, worked with more than 50 startups, 150, founders across product marketing, fundraising growth, you name it, all those areas where founders need help, and then started my own sort of venture studio based out of Valley, late 2015 16. And that's where I've been dabbling with a lot of homegrown ideas incubating quite a few product companies, mostly SAS companies, over the years, you know, some, I would say outright failures, a couple of moderate successes and a few whole brands. So that's how pretty much the journey has been over the years. But yeah, you know, it's my passion to work with entrepreneurs, who are, you know, solving big problems with innovative ideas. So that's basically what I love doing.

Mike: That's awesome. And I love the fact you've done this in different countries. So I think that international view is really interesting.

Abhi: Sure, absolutely.

Mike: So you founded Rytr, I mean, Rytr is an AI tool to help people write, unsurprisingly. And if anyone's listening, it's spelt ry T R. So that's the product. What inspired you to build a tool to do AI generated written content?

Abhi: Yeah, that's a great question, Mike. So as an entrepreneur, you know, I've always found content generation to be a pain, especially when you're a small team that is just starting up. And it's a fact that many startups and professionals fail because they don't possess effective marketing and copywriting skills. And moreover, a lot of entrepreneurs, you know, potentially give up on the idea, due to the overwhelming nature of content creation. And I've been in the AI space, you know, for the last five years, started working on a chatbot platform for influencers and creators, which, you know, scale to millions of users at one point. But we didn't have the technology like Chad GPT at that time, right, or GPT, at that time. So when GPT three came out, I think this was back in 2020, you know, so we realise the potential of this technology and the market, it could race, you know, copywriting, creative writing was one of the first use cases which kind of emerged from this, this tool.

So we looked around evaluated some existing writing tools, and we're not the first ones in the market, we were definitely in the first, you know, few players, you know, who built something like this, but there were other players out there. But we found the experience very frustrating tools for delivering you know, subpar outputs, it was very overwhelming in terms of UX and UI, there was a lot of cognitive overload for users to get started. So at that point, we decided, okay, let's give the market what it deserved. An intuitive a writing assistant, which offered the best quality of output at a very sort of fair price. So although we were slightly late to the party, but with limited resources, and small team we launched in April, I think 2021. And since then, we haven't looked back Currently, we are serving close to, I think 5 million customers globally, with almost perfect ratings pretty much everywhere, and recognised as one of the market leaders in the space. So yeah, that's that's been kind of a journey that we've had over the last couple of years.

Mike: That's a huge number of users. And I'd like to go back to that. But first, I think it might be worth for some of the the less technical listeners, you talked about chat GPT. And you talked about GPT. Three, can you explain what the difference is? And the technology that actually underpins Rytr?

Abhi: Yeah, so I mean, technology is pretty much like if you go to the really fundamental get a level that technology is called a transformer models. It's called Bert, which was pioneered by Google back in, I think 2017 18. So all the sort of future evolutions that you've seen in terms of GPT 123 3.5. And now chat GPT is based on that underlying principles. And I would say model language model so to say, so that's pretty much I think, powering all the applications in writing applications that you see around us. So charge GPT is just an evolution of Jack GPD. Three, which was like one of the, I would say, more mainstream models, which, which a lot of AI lighting companies started using, you know, bank starting from 2020 till the end of last year, and GPT 3.5, or chat GPT as this call, it's just a more refined, sophisticated version trained on even bigger datasets than than its predecessor. So that's essentially, you know, the difference between the two. So obviously, it's, it's trained on one data, it's more powerful, it can give more sort of, I would say, better outputs, higher quality outputs than its previous versions. But yeah, the underlying nature of the technology language model is still the same.

Mike: And I think we've all you know, played with chat GPT, and been been impressed by its ability to communicate it in what feels like very natural English. But but I'm interested, you know, you're obviously using, you know, this model to build a tool that specifically for writing. So what are you doing differently to what's been done, for example, in chat GPT? To make it, you know, better suited to writing blog posts or adverts?

Abhi: Yeah, absolutely. So we have our own sort of training data. And this is what we have refined over the last couple of years, you know, again, with Chad GPT, or any other sort of piece of AI writing technology, it's, you know, the basic principle of garbage in garbage out is still true. So if you, if you just throw some random inputs are sort of ill defined prompts, you know, the output that you might get is probably less than optimal, right. So we do a lot of pre formatting, you can see at the input level, and kind of post formatting at the output level, to make sure the output is aligned to the intended use case, or if it is, social media posts, blog posts, you know, your job descriptions, or song writing anything, there is a level of I would say intervention that we have to do from Rn, to make sure the output is customised. The second thing is the reliability of charge up like the the UX, the UI, whole sort of experience of people getting used to it, you know, it takes a little bit of time in the absence of any sort of education. So that's where we have created this very seamless interface, very easy to use navigate, so folks can get started immediately, right, without having to learn the ABC of, you know, AI copywriting techniques. So I think that those are two things we have done. So we have abstracted away all the complexity that users have to go through to understand and use this technology, and to obviously, making sure that the use cases are aligned to the sort of intended needs of the end users. And the third is obviously, you know, the pricing and the value for money aspect. So we are still one of the most, I would say, value for money products out there in this space. And that's how we've kept the whole proposition. Very, very oriented towards, you know, early stage users, smaller teams, you know, who do not have necessarily have the bandwidth and maybe the budget to go for, like, you know, more expensive solutions out there.

Mike: I think that's that's a really interesting point. I mean, you're giving people quite a lot, because, you know, you talked about the underlying data, you're adding extra data. So so your product understands adverts better than maybe chat GPT does. But you're also, you know, almost providing this structure, this kind of wizard to help you create content. So I mean, what are your users really looking for? Is it the quality? Is it improving the speed of generation of content? Or, you know, what's really driving the way that you're introducing features for the product? Yeah,

Abhi: I think I think it's a bit of both, actually. So I think if you if you just say, Okay, well, it's about speed of content creation, with compromising the quality, I don't think it works. You know, people want everything, you know, they want faster content generation, higher quality output, at a very affordable price point, right. So you have to take all those boxes. And, you know, luckily, nowadays we have, we've been doing all three of them at the same time. So you know, things like just a document management, the workflow management, again, going back to the point that we abstract away all the complexity, so you can, as a Rytr, you have to not just create content, but you have to manage the content as well. So creating documents, you know, sharing those documents, downloading that content, managing your team, allowing your team members access, seeing the analytics, history, all that stuff, is what you need if you're running a proper business, right. And those are the things which you cannot expect in a standalone are sort of chat GPD kind of platform, which is more geared towards, let's say, just casual use cases and, you know, end users who are not necessarily entrusted into those kinds of workflow management tools. So we provide that suite of features so that users can get the maximum value while at the same time they can create really high quality content with the least amount of time it takes to get there. So yeah, so you know, we have to balance out between those things. We are constantly adding features which can improve that workflow management for smaller teams, freelancers, agencies, and of course, keeping an eye on how can we improve the quality of output, you know, Every day, even if it's like point 1% improvement, we try to make sure you know those interventions are added so that the quality gets better over time. So it's a compounding effect.

Mike: I mean, presumably one of the biggest challenges you face is where you see a lot of AI generated content, you can begin to feel particularly from something like chat GPT, you just get a sense that it's not a real human. So what are you doing to really develop the product to make it feel much more human when people are reading the output?

Abhi: Exactly. So I think this is more of a philosophy question like and that's, that's a good point here is because as a company, as a team, as a product from day one, our philosophy has been, we don't want to encourage content factories to be built on top of this era, I think platforms, you know, the world doesn't need more content, it needs better content, and motivated content. So if you if you look at how it works on Rytr, when you play around with the tool, you will notice that we don't mindlessly allow people to generate content by pressing like just, you know, keep writing keep writing kind of button, it only takes in a limited amount of input, and then gives out a certain amount of output so that people can review the outputs when they come out. And they can edit and then refine it as they go along. So it's not like you press a button, you have like a 5000 word blog post ready for you to be published. And I think that's where a lot of people are getting it wrong. I mean, unless you spend time effort and reviewing and refining outputs, it will feel very mechanical nature in some shape or form. The second thing we do is we provide a lot of these granular controls, like we have a feature called readability score, which gives you the idea of how readable the content is. Second is we have an inbuilt plagiarism checker as well. So you can check the authenticity of the content. So you can just select any piece of text and then run it through our plagiarism checker, it will tell you whether it has any piece of copied content or references that you can edit. So we give all these controls. And again, this is this is what's this is something which adds up to me that will won't provide you out of the box, right? So all these things make the content writing experience much more, I would say emotional and practical for the real world use cases.

Mike: It's interesting. I mean, what you're describing is a product. That's that's not really designed to write content, but to accelerate that content writing. And I think it's really interesting, you talk about pleasure, and I think a lot of brands are going to be very worried about plagiarism with with AI. I mean, certainly some of the early AI, generative text that we've seen, has has had plagiarism in it and has caused a lot of problems. I think CNET got into a lot of trouble recently, didn't they?

Abhi: Right. Right. And yeah, again, I think you have to make that clear to the end users, and you have to give them the right tools so that they can address those things as they go along. So I think it's ultimately responsibility, the platform to encourage, you know, the right kind of writing behaviour, I would say.

Mike: And I mean, another thing I think that people are concerned about is where, you know, AI generated content has data or facts inserted by the AI and whether the AI is actually correct or not. And I know, you know, Google recently ran an ad where they actually had something that was wrong. So, you know, I mean, treated me, Sam, when, you know, said that chat GPT wasn't designed to be right. Are you doing things to try and make the output factually correct? Or do you see that as being something where really, because it's somebody's producing it for a project, it should be driven by the human and the human should be driving those facts and information?

Abhi: Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, so like, again, I mean, we encourage people to use it as a bit of creative Rytr's block, kind of tools to end the Rytr's block. But at the same time, you know, when you get the content out, there is no guarantee that it will be 100%, you know, factually correct. So we encourage users to spend some time cross checking the facts and stats which are thrown at them. And, you know, again, let us this is part of some of the feeling that we do, like, on our site, the, you know, the prompt engineering, so to say, is to avoid throwing exact or specific numbers as much as possible, and leave that task to the end user. So they can decide what is the best, that are number of figure that can fit into that particular piece of content. But inevitably, you will come across cases where still AI would probably, you know, generate on its own some of the stats, which could be fake. So we encourage users to review and that's another reason why we ask them to you know, go through things, you know, with a fine tooth comb to make sure there are no sort of random figures. And one thing which we are working on internally is called Fact Checker. So we are trying to work on, you know, these tools and features, which can allow users to fact check some of the numbers which are thrown by AI or generated by AI. So that could potentially really address this issue. Big time.

Mike: That's interesting. I love I love the fact check it out. I think a lot of people would fill you know, reassured if there was some degree of checking, you know, what's claimed in an article. I mean, another interesting challenge I think people have is Is that when you're using AI, the AI is fundamentally trained on a training set, and kind of produces the average of what the training set is. Are you looking to, you know, somehow train the AI on the very best marketing material, the very best blog posts? Is that something that people in the AI sector are trying to do? Or is it all about volume of content?

Abhi: I think that's an interesting question. So yeah, I mean, we, you know, some of the copywriting use cases that we have, we try to give those best, you know, kind of best practices, so to say, the swipe file kind of examples, so that AI can produce content, which is aligned with that, that sort of examples and samples we have shown, but still, there is a high probability that it will just generate based on the earnings, it has had, you know, based on the underlying data set. So it's difficult, but again, you know, with a lot of fine tuning a lot of examples that you can provide, it obviously gets better and follows the guidelines that you have provided, and tries to stick to, you know, those kinds of examples, one of our sort of sister companies, Poppy Smith, they have a very unique approach to addressing this issue, where they only work with like bigger companies, enterprises, instead of taking their existing content and trying to fine tune the AI models. So the content that is generated is very customised to their brand, voice, their sort of product and description that is already out there. So yeah, so there are ways to do it. But again, we want it to be a little more open ended, and less, I would say, one particular brand or sort of use case focused.

Mike: One of the things I'm interested in, you know, just moving on to some of the applications. Is there an area you think that that generative AI today is doing really well? I mean, do you think, you know, using a tool like Rytr is best for, you know, short form social media posts for ads, or for blogs? I mean, where do you think it really shines?

Abhi: I think you've hit the nail on the head, like when you say, you know, creative writing, content writing, I would say, and I think that's what Simon was alluding to, maybe in the quotes that you mentioned, it's not meant to be like 100%, factually correct. It's meant to remove that writers block that you face, in your creative content generation process. So if you're writing blogs, if you're coming up with video ideas, or add ideas of social media posts, I think that's where AI could really help you as an assistant, to throw new ideas and new sort of direction of thinking, you know, so to say, and I think that's where it really excels. So whether it is next generation, or image generation, or any sort of similar things, I think it really opens up new possibilities in terms of ideas that you can explore as a copywriter, or a content writers. So that's where it excels. So I wouldn't expect it to write novels end to end fully formatted, completely factually accurate. I don't think that's the intended use case, at least as of now, you should think of it more as a tool in our repository to sort of just get rid of that writer’s block and come up with new angles to write about or think about.

Mike:  I think I think that's really interesting. I mean, you know, looking at it as a tool to help the writers today is fascinating. I mean, some people are almost saying, you know, writing is dead, it's all gonna be AI. And clearly you believe that writers have a lot of value to add. I mean, how do you see AI changing over the next five years? I mean, do you think it's gonna get dramatically better? Or have we seen a big jump in performance, and now it's maybe going to hit a bit of a plateau?

Abhi: I think you can probably see some of the possibilities already in front of you, right? I think the vision of AGI doesn't feel very far fetched now, with how the technology is evolving. I think the use cases will emerge in other industries as well. So I think what we have seen is just barely scratching the surface in terms of content generation. But I think where you will see more of it being used is other day to day tasks. So things like predictive analytics, you know, doing tasks on your behalf, automating a lot of internal tooling, in a company answering, you know, questions on your site. So these are things where maybe, you know, content creation, or new ideas, or less of a use case, but more about, you know, how AI can actually do tasks, different kinds of tasks, in a much better simplified and efficient way for a variety of use cases. I think that's what I'll see more. I mean, I think we'll see more of over the next five years, whether we'll we'll get to see that dystopian world some people have, you know, probably envision is yet to be, I think it's still it's still far fetched. And I don't think we'll we'll get there. It's a new piece of technology, which we should embrace, try to embed it in different parts of our lifestyle and different tools that we use, and that's how I think it will become over the next five years, just like an invisible piece of technology is there to help you and guide you. A lot of new kinds of categories of jobs and skills will emerge. So I think some of the concerns are overblown, some of the potential. You know, I would say impact is also overblown, maybe in a dystopian sense. But, you know, I think we have to use it wisely and use it for the right use cases, I think it can be really powerful piece of tech.

Mike: I'm pretty interested. I mean, the way you talk about this, it's all about, you know, speeding up that process of generating content. I mean, do you do you have a number or a guide as to how much quicker someone could write a blog post, if they've got support from from a product like Rytr versus, you know, trying to do it all themselves or an ad or anything like that?

Abhi: Yeah. Finally, actually, we we've had a tool on our website like homepage, from pretty much the early days when we launched. And this is, this is exactly what we went, you know, it's just an indicative sort of assessment of how much time and money you can save with a to like Rytr. So it basically takes in the number of words you write, and we have some sort of logic in the background, we tries to calculate, okay, if you write this much content, then you're probably spending this much time and you know, each hour of your time is probably this much in dollar amount, right on average. So that gives us a sense of how much money and time you're saving by using a platform, right Rytr, based on how many works you do, right? So it's there right on the website. In fact, one of the stats we show when you land on it, is how much time and money people have potentially saved by using a platform like Rytr.

Mike: That's awesome. And I think, you know, I do feel sorry for people who, who are, you know, writers as a job, because traditionally, they've had very little investment in them. I mean, you know, you buy them a word processor, and that's it. And so it must be fairly easy to show massive ROI, you don't have to improve speed that much to to get value from a tool like Rytr, I think it's fascinating. Right, right.

Abhi: You know, again, just touching upon that, I think, I think if anything, it will have a positive impact on the content creation process as well. So, you know, I firmly believe that people with highly, I would say, sought after skills are people who are really good at what they do, whether it is copywriting, blog writing, or just coding or anything for that matter, they would probably benefit from this, because now you can probably appreciate their value even more. But I think some of the middle management and mediocre skills, like just people writing content, for the sake of it, nothing original nothing, you know, inspiring, I think they will probably have a hard time because that can easily be replaced by something like, you know, GPT, for example, or AI can do it for you. So I think it becomes important to upskill yourself, if you are one of those sort of, you know, middle layers to try to, you know, get to get to, I would say more close to the client requirements, understanding the end user personas and writing content, which is really authentic and original and inspiring, which is good for overall, like I would say, for the whole space marketing space.

Mike: I really like that positive view of things, I think it's it's good to see that as producing, you know, as output fairly average content, if you're above average, you're going to be more valuable exam. So if you upskill yourself, I think I think that's great. We'd like to ask a couple of more general questions. So it's really interesting. I mean, you're on the forefront of some massive change in marketing in terms of bringing AI to marketing. If a young person was thinking of marketing as a career, would you advise that or having, you know, seen a lot of startups and work with them? Would you advise them to do something different?

Abhi: No, absolutely, I think I think even more, so I would encourage them even more. So now with this technology, because like I said, if you're really champion of your skill, then I think your value is going to go up, even with this piece of technology. And if you know how to use this tech to your benefit, then it is even manifold the impact that you can create. So I would definitely encourage, I think, I always believe that the first principles, the fundamental needs never change, you know, marketing, still marketing, you need to put content out there, you need to target certain people with the content, and you need to sell the solution. Right. So the best piece of marketing advice, I think I got was, don't think of it as a marketing, you know, as a different function, it should be an extension of what you're doing, like a product you're selling. So the best marketing is something which doesn't come across as marketing, it comes across as educational, it comes across as helpful. And just as an extension of what you're actually selling and making money on. So I think that skill is still going to be even more valued going forward with with AI. And I think if you know, your way around using AI, then you will be even better positioned going forward. So, you know, keep at it, I would say

Mike: That's great advice. I mean, I'm sure people listening to this will be quite excited and you know, pleased to hear that actually Rytr’s there to help them rather than to replace them. If they wanted to try right. How would they get a chance to to actually use a product and experiment with it?

Abhi: Yeah, absolutely. So we again, we take pride in being one of the most seamless and easiest way to get started with here I think, you know, space so Just go to our website, right a.me You know and start writing, you will see easy to sign up process, just sign up with any of your social accounts or email accounts. And then as soon as you're inside, you can just start generating content for a variety of use cases, we offer a very sort of healthy, I would say, free plan. So you don't have to put any of your payment information, you can generate up to 10,000 characters, and use all the features that we offer pretty much. And if you need extra credits, then you can sign up to our zero plan, which is again, very, very generous, just $9 a month, and you can generate up to 100,000 characters and some images as well. And then if you really want to up your game, then we have an unlimited plan, which is $29 A month or Yeah, and you can generate as much as you want. So it's it's fairly easy to get started.

Mike: Yeah, and I think most people, if they're like me, they've sat down, tried to write something and been faced with a blank page and writers block. You know, that sort of pricing is pretty cheap to avoid that pain.

Abhi: No, absolutely. And yeah, and that's why I think it's such a lifesaver for a lot of people because, you know, you'll get tonnes of value for the money that you're spending, there is a lot of value of getting from A to like Rytr.

Mike: I really appreciate you been a great guest. If people listening to this would like to know more information, I'll get ahold of you, what would be the best way to reach you.

Abhi: I mean, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, or you can just drop me an email at abhi@rytr.me. That would probably be the easiest way to get in touch with me directly. And yeah, you can follow me on Twitter as well. Abhi_Godara is my handle. So if there's anything I can help you with a writing space using Rytr or anything else, just feel free to reach out to me, please.

Mike: That's very kind. And thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast. I really appreciate it, Abhi.

Abhi: Thanks, Mike. Appreciate you having me on the show. Thank 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 Rena Fallstrom - Pure Storage

Rena Fallstrom, VP of Communications at Pure Storage, discusses how they adapted the communications strategy as competition in the industry dramatically expanded and how she collaborates with the international team to ensure communications are tailored to each region and no valuable region is ignored.

Discover why working with analysts can be beneficial and hear some top tips on how to build relationships with the analyst community, to ensure a beneficial working relationship.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Rena Fallstrom - Pure Storage

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Rena Fallstrom

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 for podcasts from Napier. Today I'm joined by Rena Fallstrom. Rena is the VP of Communications at Pure Storage. Welcome to the podcast Rena.

Rena: Thank you, Mike. Great to see you again.

Mike: It's good to see you. We met fairly recently in the States, which was really nice. You know, just to kick off, I'm always interested with people in how they got their position, you know, you're running global communications at pure storage. Can you give us a bit of a background as to how your career got to this point?

Rena: Absolutely. You know, I will say my entire career has been in the data storage industry. And, you know, it may seem to the unassuming eye, that Oh, it's just the data storage industry. I absolutely love it. I've been doing it since I graduated from college, which I won't say the number of years, but it is definitely well into the double digits. And I absolutely love it. I love it. And that's how I got I got into it, I went to an engineering lead school down in the Southern California area. And I have just been bitten by that bug. And I've just continued to work in, tech and in storage my entire career. And I absolutely love it.

Mike: I mean, that's really good to hear. So, you started off in PR, is that right? And then moved to analyst relations. I mean, talk me through a little bit about, you know, some of those career decisions that took you through those different roles.

Rena: Well, my end goal was to get to a broad communications function, eventually running this function. You know, with a rise of titles like chief communications officer, I knew that I needed to get every single tool in my toolbox. So, I guess I did start off in PR. And I did that for many years, very much enjoyed it. And I thought I'd kind of take a chance at doing analyst relations, which I absolutely adore and love. I love working with the industry analyst community for many reasons. I then said, okay, what else do I need to do in this area to try to be proficient and learn in order to feel like I could step into the broader communications role?

Mike: And was there a particular area you enjoyed more? Or is it just building that breadth of experience has been fun all the way through?

Rena: I mean, I, I can't choose a favourite child. I love all aspects of communications. And it's ironic because well, yes, there are disciplines like PR, and AR and exec comms and whatever other different comms internal comms, the one prevailing thing is that you're communicating to an audience, no matter whether it's an internal audience or an external audience. And I enjoy that craft quite a bit of just creating and crafting, great communications tailored to whatever audience you're speaking to. So can't choose a favourite child, Mike, I'm sorry.

Mike: I love that enthusiasm. That's awesome. I mean, let's talk a little bit about the company Pure Storage because, you know, a few years ago, Pure Storage was an absolute leader in terms of the the all flash storage. So if people are listening to this, this is, you know, large storage boxes that are basically storing everything in Flash, so superfast, rather than using hard drives, you know, at one point, you will almost trying to define a category. And now it's an area where there's a lot of competition, you know, it feels like almost everybody's got a solution. So I'm really interested to know, how things have changed, you know, how you communicate with the audience has had to change as the markets changed so dramatically.

Rena: Absolutely. Great question. I, you know, it's very interesting. Our founder, John Colegrove, he is still with his company it’s been what we're coming on 14 years since the start of the company. And you're right, in the very beginning, it was we were swimming upstream, it was not trending, it was completely going against the grain of people are like, Oh, you are not the entire data centre, people are not going to move to all flash. It's just not gonna happen, as you mentioned, you know, hard disk drives will still have stronghold. And you know, through the years, we've really proven that, that no, it is we are going to be moving to an all flash data centre and the things that Pierre is doing is getting us there a bit sooner based on some of that secret sauce that we have around engineering, software, hardware engineering, but you're right, it is it is growing more in a mainstream nature, right. Like before, where there were a lot of sceptics, a lot of competitors that were sceptical, potentially, you know, some end users that were a little bit hesitant that now has changed and it is the realisation of it is happening. So absolutely. We are having to very much change the way we do communications and marketing overall, to move with the trends in the market and the adoption curve for sure. I still believe and perhaps I'm slightly biassed, but I still do believe that we do have a huge differentiation in the space because we we believe that we put then that flag of the all flash data centre, the vision that our founder had some 14 years ago, and it's coming to fruition. So he was able to get ahead of a lot of things and foreshadow a lot of things that I think he's still giving us a huge amount of differentiation.

Mike: So it's interesting. So you're still carrying that brand equity you built by by pioneering the space, even now that I think that's really positive that must really help you in terms of your your communications.

Rena: Absolutely, absolutely. I think any for any communications professional, you're looking for the thing that differentiates you in the market, the thing that makes you special, the things that separate you from the past. I think that's what every communications professional reaches for. And the more you have, the better, the better off, the easier also, the easier your job is.

Mike: No, I love I mean, I'm interested as well, in terms of that differentiation. Do you find it as easy to sell those differentiation points through to analysts as you do when you're talking Jordan's? Because, you know, so I think sometimes people have a perception that analysts are almost like these these scientific robots that don't take notice of anyone who's pitching them. But do you find you can still get credibility because of the history?

Rena: Absolutely. I, I love the analyst community. I love them the most, because I believe that they have, number one, a great post on the market. They are talking to end users. So they are hearing it directly from end users, they synthesise it, and then they're able to provide great feedback. I think that the key one of the key pieces of animals relations is yes, constant communication with them. The more you tell them, the more you keep them abreast and in the loop of what you're doing them. Absolutely the better off you are, because open lines of communication are really important with the animals community. And yes, I absolutely do try to put our best foot forward with the analysts, but I also my team, I also work on ensuring that you know, when we are hitting a roadblock, or we need their advice on something, early stages of development, or early stages of messaging, we go to them, Hey, I would love your opinion on this still debate still in its infancy, but would love your opinion on this, I think they I hope that they value it. I think that's really interesting. You're not seeing analysts merely as someone to pitch to you're seeing them as a resource as well, which is, is fantastic. You hit the nail on the head, a lot of companies sometimes just think that, Oh, it must be perfect messaging must be finalised and must be wrapped up the big red bow in order to bring it to the analysts. In fact, the contrary, it is great to bring on finalised messaging to the analyst because they can help shape it for you because they have such a wonderful pulse on the end user community. And they are they can bring that into it and help you out a bit more, you know, versus just the internal position that you have.

Mike: I think that's great. I mean, one thing I'm interested about, you're talking about learning about your end user community. And basically, you know what your audience wants to hear. Clearly analysts is one route you've really developed well, are there other ways that you're really understanding what the customer wants to optimise those communications and make the messaging, right?

Rena: Absolutely. My team, the communications team takes advantage of a lot of resources that the company has pure has a great way of tapping into the customer mindset, whether it be communities or little forums where you invite certain customers in to get their feedback, that is gold for us. So us in the comms team, we try to wedge your way into those conversations, or at least get the notes so that we can figure out okay, where's the pulse of the customer, we're getting direct feedback from them, that is just gold for us. And so we mind that for sure. And then the other thing that you and I had chatted about when we had met in person is let's make sure that we are going to their watering holes. So understand what their hopes and dreams are their fears, through these communities through these forums that we have. And then let's make sure as a comms team that we are going to where they're going, where are their eyeballs going, let's be there. Let's be there. Let's make sure that peer is positioned where they're reading where they're going to their sources of information, to try to do a bit of both. I can't say it's always easy, but it is what we strive for.

Mike: I love that. I feel I need to ask an audience questions a little bit cheeky. I mean, certainly in Europe, American companies have a bit of reputation of being a little bit insular and focusing a lot on the statute. Your responsibility is global. So I'm interested to know how you make sure that pure pays the right level of attention to each region in the world.

Rena: So it's a good question. I have to say I you know, as you speak, I'm looking at my home monitor and I have a little post it that says Think International. I have an amazing team that is dispersed within the UK, Singapore and India and they cover everything outside of the US and they keep me on my toes but I always look at this post and say okay, let's make sure that we're not looking at everything in such a US myopic view. We know we have amazing customers in Latin America in EMEA and APJ around the world. And are we making sure that we're tailoring those messages for those audiences? And also the thing that people don't look into my guess the adoption curve is so poor potentially, in the US, you may see bleeding edge adoption of technology like Flash, and then you go further out into Europe and Asia, and perhaps they're not there yet. Some are, but perhaps some are not. And so you can't provide messages into the market that are so far advanced, they haven't even thought about it. So let's make sure that we localise it, that we translate it and that we're putting out the right messages. You know, I think every every company struggles with that, but I have an amazing team. And this post it to remind me in your to do that. Is the secret to a successful international marketing clearly as opposed to Yes. It all in all lies in that secret?

Mike: No, I love that. And I think you're right that sometimes it's not about focus and how much you put it might be about timing. And I think I don't know what you believe. But it seems to be that there's a bit of culture, particularly in Europe in terms of a reluctance to adopt the bleeding edge and maybe go for something that feels safer. Do you think that's true?

Rena: I do. I do. I think I think every every industry is different. And every every organisation is different as well. But I also think it has to do with the industry that they're in, and if their headquarters are in the US, and if they're not, you know, where do they go in terms of the adoption? It's hard for me to generalise because I've seen as soon as I start to generalise something, I'm proven wrong by some customer I meet and I say, Okay, no, you are the exact opposite of what I thought so hard to generalise. But I just want to be aware that certainly there can be slower adoption of bleeding edge technology, and then how do we speak to those audiences? Where meet them where they're at?

Mike: I mean, I I'm interested, you know, when someone's buying and investing in in a flash strategy. I mean, certainly, you know, a few years ago, didn't that require a lot of buy in from people who weren't? Maybe not the decision makers, but influencers is a big part of your, your job reaching people who might influence the decision, but maybe not the technical decision maker?

Rena: Well, well, absolutely. And when you say influencer, Mike, do you mean internal influencer or external influencer? Because I believe that matters, too. I think there's both I mean, typically, you know, a lot of tech companies, if I'm to be honest, I see them focusing on the technical decision maker in certainly, and missing those internal influences they might focus on, you know, perhaps some external influence like analysts. But But I think it's that internal influencer, that, that she's quite hard to communicate with, because you've got a complex product. And you're talking to someone who's not an expert in that sector. I, I'm interested in how you approach it. Absolutely. Okay. Yeah, she got very good I am, I will say that there are absolutely influencers within organisations, and a lot of the times they are lined with business owners who are more empowered now. Or even, you know, if I may get down into the weeds a bit the DevOps community within the DevOps persona within an organisation, you're right, there are decision makers, and there are those who are implementers. But they do draw from line of business, or a DevOps focus person who is adjacent to their business. And we try to reach them in the same way that we reach our traditional audiences as well, because we know that they are part of the decision making process. So we definitely take into account how we communicate and how we market to those audiences within a particular organisation. And you have to run completely separate campaigns, or do you find that some of the campaigns can stretch across both technical experts and also somebody who's perhaps more on the financial side? I think both. I think both when you're looking at a DevOps audience, they do not use typically traditional sources of information. They don't consume, you know, they may or may not speak to industry analysts, but they certainly rely on peer to peer, for example, they're big into peer to peer. And so if they're, if they're in the peer to peer, how do we go to the places where we create peer to peer forums for them, right? We don't we don't interject, we but we just create the forum so they can go talk to their peers. So that's a way that we reach for example, the the DevOps community, the developer community, is creating peer to peer environments for them.

Mike: I mean, it brings me on to the next thing I'm thinking about, you know, you've got these different audiences. You've got some very different ways of communicating. I mean, how do you measure success of your campaigns? I mean, how do you look at something and say, Yes, we know it's been successful or we think we can improve it?

Rena: It's a real question in communications in particular, there has always been an age old debate about quantitative versus qualitative measurement. We know it those that are communications professionals out there know that oftentimes the qualitative metrics sometimes are even more revealing and more important than the qualitative metrics, however, to anyone outside of communications, and everyone is in a, they are so bent on needing quantitative measures and quantitative results, they want hard numbers, they want to see the numbers. And so it's really important as a communications professional to balance quantitative and qualitative measures together, he can work harmoniously, and so ensuring that you've got measurement that is based on hard data and some numbers, but then also, especially with the animals committee, as we spoke about earlier, sometimes the measurement for them is just okay, they tonality, it's positive, but it's anecdotal. It's because you were in an analyst meeting, and they said something positive, you can checkbox that as a measurement tool, because you don't always get an actual piece of collateral or something written, or they say it's positive. It's just anecdotal. You know, going back to finding a balance between quantitative and qualitative measurement for comps, I think is important to satisfy every audience. And then you can go back and see, okay, have we reached them? Have we reached these personas that we're trying to go after? And then kind of back into that from there?

Mike: And then interesting, how do you take that that kind of mix of data and opinion? And how do you sell that up to the board? I mean, is there a way that you can package that up to explain to the board how you've made a difference to the business?

Rena: Absolutely. Communicate it far and wide? Mike? Absolutely. But I found the best rule of thumb is make metrics, no matter qualitative or quantitative, simple to understand. If you have to explain a measurement in detail, and it takes you more than a sentence to do so. You've lost your audience completely, because it's too convoluted, it's too difficult to understand. So keep the measurement as simple as possible. numbers driven if you need to sprinkle in some qualitative measurement, make sure the measurement is clean and simple to digest. Because everybody, you know, in a busy world that we're all in, people glanced quickly, and they look at numbers, it just quickly glance through it. And so keep it very, very simple.

Mike: I love that. I think that's, that's great, you know, really good advice simply, as is always the best. You know, one of the things that, you know, we're interested in is, we're obviously trying to recruit young people into the industry, I'm sure you are in pure storage. You know, what are you looking to do to encourage people in? And what advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in communications.

Rena: we, as a company as a whole, we are hugely into university recruitment, early in career recruitment, we've had programmes where we've, you know, everything every company has brought in interns. But we also had a additional programme, in addition to just internships is early in career, we've hire folks and bring people on board who were early in their career. And so we've done a lot of that, as a company, I'm super proud of that, in terms of shares ability to do so especially when we're coming up against some other larger vendors that may appear more enticing to those that are in universities. I will say my one piece of advice, perhaps one and a half, two pieces of advice for anyone trying to get into communications, it sounds very mundane, but read, read a lot. And not just read a lot. But make sure that you are you know what you like when you read. What I mean by that is, the more you read, the more you form an opinion, the more you like certain writing, and certain styles of writing, or what you're willing to absorb. You and I both know, Mike, there is a barrage of information coming at us from many different facets, many different channels. And so read a lot and be super discerning about what you like to read the style of the communication, the vehicles that you like, because the more you can decide who you are, and what you like to read, and what you don't like to read is going to help you in your communications career. The other bit of advice I would give is, and this is for anyone actually in any field, engineering, other parts of marketing, finance, HR, it is things are more subjective than you think we are. I know we're in the business of technology we are, but we're also in the business of people. And understanding people's motivations, what drives them, what they like, what they don't like, is really important because sometimes the decision making comes down to people, not necessarily that thing itself that you're trying to solve for

Mike: That's great advice. It's amazing. Yeah, I really appreciate your time. I know you're incredibly busy. So to finish off if people are interested in finding out more or even working at pure storage, which I would say would be a great choice. How can I contact you?

Rena: Yes, definitely I am reachable in all of the different ways that everyone is certainly can imagine, you can always email me, I am the one who curates your email very closely, and I read every single email, you know, certainly through our social channels we do, we're very proud of our social channels, you know, and we have a, as you mentioned, a very robust careers page. And they can reach out that way to you. I also try as much as I can to contribute to the Forbes communications Council and write as often as I can. And if that helps anyone who's trying to get into the comms profession, I try to write frequently on different comms topics that I feel are super relevant out there.

Mike: I think it's amazing. I've certainly seen a lot of your Forbes counsel content in your LinkedIn feed. So yeah, I love that. That's great. Reena, it's been a real pleasure. I really appreciate you being on the podcast. Thank you very much for being a guest.

Rena: Thank you so much, Mike. Great to see you again.

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.

it-daily.net and speicherguide.de Announce Storage Survey

it-daily.net and speicherguide.de have announced that, together, they are undertaking a survey assessing the state of storage infrastructure in 2023. The aim of this survey is to provide an overview of current storage systems and whether these systems will be able to handle the increasing pressures of the industry over the next five years.

The survey will ask responders a range of questions including their current forms of storage, the demand for primary and secondary storage, their requirements for storage systems, and the challenges their storage infrastructure poses.

The results from this survey will provide readers with insight into the industry’s trends and pain points, helping them to reposition themselves and face upcoming challenges.

With the technology industry constantly evolving, surveys such as these are essential in providing businesses with the information needed to adapt. While analysts are often relied upon for their industry expertise and market knowledge, publications have access to expansive and accurate databases, putting them in a fantastic position to gain insights, and share these valuable findings with their readers.

Find out more about the Fit for Future survey here.

IEN Europe to Attend Face-to-Face Tradeshows

We were delighted to hear that IEN Europe will be attending Hannover Messe, SPS Parma, embedded world, SENSOR+TEST and WIN Eurasia in the coming months.

Published by TIMGlobal Media, IEN Europe provides eight printed issues per year, and three digital issues, covering trends from 5G technology, and cybersecurity to robotics and energy shortages.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the editorial team in person and discuss the latest information and technology developments in the industrial B2B European market.

After a few years of virtual alternatives, it is great to see more publications making a return to face-to-face events. Trade shows such as these are a great way for publishers to increase awareness of their publications, helping to expand their databases and benefiting both the publishers and their customers. Attending these events will undoubtedly be a valuable experience for both IEN Europe, who will be able to connect with their audience, and their customers, who will gain valuable insights into the industry’s developments and trends.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Mark Stouse - Proof Analytics

In the latest podcast episode, Mike sits down with Mark Stouse, CEO of data analytics platform Proof Analytics.

Mark discusses the difference between marketing mix modelling (MMM) and marketing resource management (MRM) and how they can demonstrate the impact of marketing activities on business bottom line.

Mark also explains why it is vital to trust and use math when making marketing decisions and why pressure from the C-suite means this is increasingly important.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Mark Stouse - Proof Analytics

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Mark Stouse

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 Mark Stouse. Mark is the CEO of Proof Analytics. Welcome to the podcast, Mark.

Mark: Hey, it's great to be here. Thank you so much.

Mike: So Mark, tell me what happened in terms your career? How did you end up founding Proof?

Mark: You know, I started out like probably everybody else in marketing and communications, because I used to do that as well, you know, and I was beating my head against this brick wall of the inability of being able to prove the value of what we were doing, right, where everyone understood that they needed to have marketing and communications. But they saw it more in terms of tactical execution, rather than business impact. And so when there was a budget cut, the conversation was always around, well, what activities, what levels of support are we going to lose, it was never about loss of business impact. And this just seemed to me in this very kind of, at that time, very ethereal sort of way, right to be utter insanity. And so I got to a point where rather than cursing the darkness, I decided to try to strike a match. I mean, I hated math in high school. But all of a sudden, when I rediscovered it in my late 20s, early 30s, professionally, I really gravitated to it. And so I, I started with a team, I started kind of scaling the heights of this problem, and got to a very high level of maturity, not in the b2c side, which is, you know, had already done all this long before, right. But in B2B, I mean, I am probably still one of a handful of B2B CMOS, large company, B2B CMOS, who can prove that they connected everything that they were doing, and their teams were doing to various types of business impact, to the satisfaction of the C suite, and the board, which is the key phrase, right, none of us get to define our own success. Other people do that. And so, you know, I just kept I kept on gone. By 2010, I was hired to be the CMO of Honeywell aerospace, by Dave Cody, who was the CEO of Honeywell International at that time. And you know, we just incredibly complicated very long cycle very business with a lot of time lag in it. And we were able to, to put it all together and change that part of the world at least. But we it costs us like eight or $9 million a year. And so it became very obvious that automation was going to be a really important part of the next step. And that's what took us to Proof. And so took us three years to build the platform, the way that we felt like it needed to be and we had a lot of early customers, like Intel and Oracle and people like that, who were chiming in and saying, Yeah, I really like that really hate that. Don't do that, you know, all that kind of stuff. And so it was, it took a while to get going. But boy, you know, it's it's been good ever since.

Mike: And that sounds amazing, because what you're basically saying is you can tell marketers, the impact of what they're doing. In terms of the business bottom line. I mean, that's kind of the holy grail for everyone, isn't it?

Mark: Yeah, no, I mean, I think that really what, you know, most people still talk about this in terms of establishing the ROI on stuff they did in the past. And that's certainly part of it. And regression, math will generate those multiplier numbers. That's what they're called, technically. But the real deal here is can you forecast into the future? So this is not prediction. Prediction is a qualitative thing. The forecasting is quantitative, right? It's calculated as computed, you need to forecast the impact of your investments into different time horizons. And then you have to be able to recompute those models over and over and over again on a on a an appropriate interval that's relevant to your business to say, okay, you know, what, the reality is deviating from the forecast, why is that, right, and what do we need to do about it? And if this sounds sort of similar to the way a GPS guy had you on a journey? You would be right on. Right? That is actually it's been said by somebody a lot smarter than me that every business decision is essentially a navigation decision. When do I need to make a change? Why do I need to make a change? What do I need to change? And by how much do I need to change it? And that is, that's navigation. And so that's what mmm, automated modern marketing mix modelling. That's what it does.

Mike: I love that GPS analogy. So just tell us a little bit more about the company first. I mean, you've talked about the mmm product and marketing mix modelling, you also have another product as well.

Mark: Yes, MRM, which is marketing resource management, which is, as a category has been around for a lot longer. And there's some very, very large players a primo and allocate it. And there's been a lot of consolidation in the space in the last three years. It's historically very expensive. So like, you know, if you were to buy, you know, these are general numbers, but if you were to buy 300 seats, for a primo, you're probably looking at a million and a half and licence fees, and another million and a half and implementation costs. So your total cost, your one is not for the faint of heart, or the sleight of wallet, right? We came along and we said, look, that just doesn't make sense anymore. And then and this was happening before the bottom fell out of the economy, which made it even more relevant. You know, SAS is supposed to I don't care what SAS you're talking about. SAS is supposed to make things cheaper, not more expensive, right. And so we came out with a MRM product native on Salesforce, lightning, we're the only one that has that. So we have automatic data sync within minutes after you spin up Proof MRM. It's automatically syncing with whatever Salesforce clouds you have. This is the tool that this is essentially an ERP for marketing, right or for go to market. It's tracking, your planning, your budgeting, your approvals, your asset management, it's all that stuff. And it's a very known category. We're just disrupting the heck out of it, both from a product point of view and a pricing point of view.

Mike: That's amazing. I mean, how do you get down to such a low price? When your competitors you say a many times more expensive? What have you done that's different?

Mark: Well, I think that you have to look at price. I mean, there's a huge reason why price is one of the four P's of marketing, right, and this is, this is something that a b2c marketer totally gets and deals with every day. But most B2B marketing teams don't even touch pricing. So they're trying to constantly sell value. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's really that's part of the equation. That's really important. Right? But you know, I can remember when I was 16, getting my first car, and I had to buy my own car. And I really wanted this BMW three series. And there was actually one available for low dollars, relatively speaking. And I and I told my dad about it, and he goes, Well, you know, it's, it's not a deal, unless you can afford it. Right. And it was a that was a really tough point. And and the same applies today to enterprise software, right? You can, you can have great value, it can be totally worth it from a value standpoint. And if you can't stroke the check to buy it, it's not happening. Right. So you have to price based on where the market is the reality of the market risk factors. I mean, SAS customers have never been more risk averse than they are today. And that goes back probably three years now. They're dispensing more procurement teams are saying I'm not doing annual contracts prepaid, right. I want an annual contract that's payable either monthly or quarterly. And I want to be able to get out at any time, right? I mean, these are major shifts in the SAS universe that you have to deal with. And so we decided, I had a great opportunity to talk to Michael Dell about it. And he's like, man, he goes, you know, you want to be as disruptive as possible right now. Right with your pricing. And so we had the ability from a cost basis point of view, which actually exists in most software companies anyway, to go real low. Right. And so essentially, I mean, I don't think I'm being unduly transparent here when I say this. Mr. M is our volume, it's our it's our generates our the volume of seats, the volume of revenue, all this kind of stuff, the margin is not as high. Okay, we get our margin out of MRM.

Mike: And typically people would want both right, they'd want the the MRM to do the planning, and then the mmm to actually model what's going to work and what's not not going to work. Is that really, how people use the products?

Mark: Yeah, no, that that that is an accurate statement. Although I would say that, typically, they come in that, you know, their first purchase is MRM. It's a very straightforward, let's call it transactional sale, right? There's not a lot of implementation pain and suffering attached to it. Unless, unless, of course, you know, we do have some customers that insist on massive amounts of customization. And that's a different category altogether, right. But the the main customer, the main customer type that we have in large enterprise down through the upper end of the mid range, right is, is going to be, hey, we want to buy it, we're gonna use it initially, at least for the first year, straight out of the box, right? We want 300 seats that maybe a little bit of services for six months, going down the road, right, and then we'll talk later if we need more customization or something, right. So basically, they they implement MRM, they get solid with that. But our mmm is fully integrated into that. And so at some point, they feel at a at the right level of maturity, or they're getting pressure from inside or, you know, whatever, right, and they activate the mmm, portion of it, which makes it completes the loop, right? I mean, so what Salesforce says about Proof is that we're the only fully closed loop marketing analytics offering around today, right, which is not actually true. Right. There are some others, we have competitors, but I think we are the best. And particularly if you are a Salesforce customer already, right? I mean, there's just no reason to go anywhere else.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. I'm, that's such a good endorsement from Salesforce. So let's step back a bit. And for people who maybe don't fully understand and print maybe I don't as well have not having worked in a huge marketing organisation. Can you just explain what MMA is, what the process of using it is, and how it helps you plan more effectively?

Mark: Sure, I mean, mmm, is nothing but the application of multivariable regression math. So this is the same math that used to answer about 85% of the world's questions. You know, if you look at the science behind climate change, if you look at the science behind epidemiology, you look at I mean, you just run through all of these major things, right? The analytics are fundamentally rooted in two things, multivariable regression, and then machine learning to establish patterns, right, repeating patterns. And so and they're very complimentary, they work together, right? So we have automated the regression part, which is the only way and this is one of the laws of gravity here. You know, if you don't like it, I'm really sorry, it's not my rule, right? It regression is the only way to get to causality. The only way period, right? And so that's what we've automated. And so essentially, the way it all starts, if we kind of frame this through and the way we onboard a customer, we sit down with them, we say, okay, what are your top 20? Top 50 questions, whatever it happens to be, that you really need answers to right to support decisions that you're having to make on a regular basis. Usually, formulating that list is not hard for people. Right? It's particularly, you know, one of the groups that we talked to is we talked to the C suite about marketing. And so we get all of their questions. And these questions are now extremely predictable, right? I mean, like, seriously, there's like we actually have codified the 50 most common questions right about marketing and marketing impact on go to market, right, the overall go to market sequence.

So we, we we start there, each one of those has parameters to the question, right? Because the way the question is being asked, it starts to suggest the different factors that are important to At. And so we we list that, we start to create a model framework or we are assisting in some cases, the customer to do it themselves. And then those model frameworks become models when they are armed with the right kinds of data. We have brought agile as a methodology into the analytics and into the modelling process, because historically, the way that analytics teams have approached this is to create a giant mega model that's designed to pretty much explain everything in one model. And it's just not the way life actually operates. It's very, very hard to communicate that with the business leaders that need to get value from it. So we exploded it and use you know, we, we created the idea of a minimum viable model, which is something that's now gone really viral and mainstream in the data science community, it allows you to spin up a very focused, targeted model, you know, work on it in a very discreet very tight way with whoever the business leader is that's supposed to benefit. get to a point, you know, and say, a week or two, where that business leader is saying, Yeah, you know, what, that answers my question that gives me real value that helps me out big time. At that point, it goes, the model goes into production.

And what that means is it starts to get hooked up to automatic data flows, API's, right? At which point it becomes largely autonomous, is automatically recalculating that model, every time new data is presented to the model. So this is why this system actually does literally work like a GPS, because you are throwing out a forecast, right? So this would be in GPS terms, this would be your route to your destination, right. And then as, as you move forward, and you have to adjust and bad things happen, or good things happen that get in the way, or, you know, they either hinder what you're trying to accomplish, or they make it even more effective. You're having to make changes, right? Just you're ultimately like going back to the GPS, GPS and saying, Hey, tonnes of traffic ahead, if you stay on this route, it's going to totally suck, you're going to be an hour late, right to dinner, or whatever. But if we reroute you, if you go right, left, right, left, right, you'll only be 10 minutes late. It'll all be good. Right. And that is, I mean, one one cmo recently, I actually, I guess it was earlier this year, so not all that recent. But he said, you know, the thing I really love about prove is that I'm never really wrong. And I kinda kinda like, didn't know quite what to do with that, right? And then all of a sudden, it clicked, right? And it's just like, with a GPS on your phone, you're never not getting there. You always ultimately get to your destination, it's changing the way you get to your destination. Whereas if you were using an old fashioned map that was printed 10 years before, right, you you could very easily actually be wrong. Right? You could fail to arrive. Right? And, and I guess probably all of us have a certain age have actually experienced that, right? So that's really what he meant is that the GPS means you're never wrong. Also means and if you're a guy, you really understand this, you never have to ask for directions, which is something that men, whatever reason really hate to do. It's a universal construct, right? And GPS made it possible so that we'd never have to do that anymore.

Mike: And presumably, because you've got this model, you don't just need, you don't just have to feed it real values, you can create scenarios. Yeah, you know, maybe you change your marketing mix. And you're almost saying, Well, if I did this, where will I end up? Is that is that kind of the way it works?

Mark: That is exactly how it works. In fact, that is the single most popular part of the tool, right? Because when things start to change, and that shows up in the way that everything is represented to the user, so it's very intuitive in that sense. Then how do you know how to reroute right what is what are your options? You're gonna you're gonna have to respond and experiment with different scenarios to get back on track. And the you know, with every model and every model has its own screen, right for you to do this, you can play around and you can say, Okay, this is the best choice. I mean, like one of the things that I loved, I mean, we were doing it the old fashioned way, this is pre Proof. But at Honeywell, we would be sitting in a meeting with finance and the CFO who was a big believer, and all this would say, you know, so what would happen if we gave you an additional $20 million to spend in the back half of the year? Right? How, what would that look like in terms of impact, timed impact, all this kind of stuff. And we could say, Okay, we're going to take that money, and we are going to, because you have to make certain assumptions on something like that, we're going to assume that it will be allocated according to the current allocations in the system. And, and then we would run the model right there in the meeting, right, and it would show what what happened right?

Now, what was really interesting is that there's, you know, what you're really trying to do is you're trying to optimise spend in light of results. And the results are often time lag well into the future. So all of that has to be computed. And it all has to kind of be packaged into a single answer like that. And what that means to is that, you when you're optimised, that can mean, that can also mean that you are past the point of diminishing returns. So it can mean actually, if we continue spending more and more and more money in this particular area, the amount of goodness we're gonna get back is is not worth it, we kind of have maxed it out under the current market situation. And so don't spend any more money in that area right now, because you won't get any additional value. The really, the really super, excuse me compelling scenario is when it shows that you're low on the S curve low on the optimization curve, but you're killing it at that point. So that means if they spend more money, they're gonna get even more good stuff up to a point, right. And so if you're a business, and you can afford to do it, so this is where affordability is always part of the equation. But if you can afford to do it, you would be insane not to do it. Particularly since you have analytics that are totally governing it right. So it's never going to not be transparent, what's happening. So this is really where it is. And I think that five years from now, particularly if, if the what happens in the macro continues to get really rugged for two or three years, this is going to be the only way that people do it, right? Because it is actually the only mathematically viable way.

Mike: I'm really interested by by the fact you say it's the only way people can do it, because we still have a bit of that Mad Men, you know, kind of mentality and marketing where people want to go for what they like and what they feel should work rather than necessarily trusting the maths. So do you think the push towards a more analytic approach is going to come from marketing? Or is it going to come from the C suite demanding, you know, more predictability and more value from marketing?

Mark: I think I think right now, at least it's overwhelmingly the latter. It's coming from the C suite who are just basically saying, not doing this anymore. You know, we were talking about before we started, right? If you look at the MAR tech stack, in the average company, this is all about economies of scale. This is all about being able to do more, touch customers more, all that kind of stuff, right? But there's no governance, there's no it's the Headless Horseman, right. It's, it's, there's no economies of learning being applied to the economies of scale. And the prima facie evidence for this is when when martec portunity, marketing automation and things like that really took hold. Most marketers just went crazy with it. And the law of unintended consequences has been awesome, right? Because you have GDPR you have California doing its thing. All these laws are getting more, they're getting tighter and tighter and tighter and they're not softening at all. And by not being able to calibrate and govern what they were doing. They actually killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Right, they didn't do it intentionally. Right, but they still did it. And so this is about saying, You know what, there has to be a brain, there has to be a way. And I'm not, I'm not saying that marketers are not a brain. But let's just look at real life science here for a second. The unaided human brain can't process more than three or four variables at a given time. And if one of them is one or more of them is extensively time lagged, and its relationship to effects, right, you're screwed, you're just totally screwed you are, the human brain is not going to be able to intuit its way to the truth. So you have to have math.

And and if we look at B2B go to market, we're talking about every model has 50 factors in it, there abouts, more or less, two thirds of which represent things you don't control. It's the wave that you're trying to serve in the model. Right? That's two thirds of the model. So I mean, I, you know, I just honestly, I, what I say to most people is, which seems to be resonate very clearly with everybody is, if you look at your bets in 2019 2020 2021, and 2022, if you basically made the same bet every year, for those four years, your way out, even even if they were all killing it in 2019, and 2020. In 2021, they were like, tanking, right. Field Marketing is a great example of this, but there are many others, right? And then you look at what's working today versus a year ago, at this time, it's totally different as well. And so how are you going to keep up with that, you short of using an analytic. And remember, it's not just a data thing, data is critical, but data is like crude oil. If you try and put crude oil into your car to run it, you will have destroyed your engine. Right? It has to be refined into something that can be combusted in your car and add value to you. Right. Analytics is the refinery for data is the thing that generates the final output that has meaning. Well, why is that? Because data by itself is only about the past. And it has no ability to forecast anything by itself, right? And we live in a multivariable world. It's all about the relationships between things, not about single measurements of different things. So this is all like, I mean, this is not me, obviously, I you know, I'm the CEO of Proof. And I want you to buy great stuff from Proof. Right? But this, what I'm saying right now transcends anybody's product. It's just fact. Right? It's like a law of gravity you and you can't change it, it is what it is.

Mike: I'm fascinated about what this change is going to do to marketing. I mean, if you were talking to a young person today thinking about a marketing career? I mean, do you think that the ability to use this data is going to make marketing a more exciting and interesting career? Or do you think actually marketers are going to be governed by the data and have less influence? I mean, where do you think things are going?

Mark: So the, I think there's a real answer to that question is that, unfortunately, all of us as human beings, we tend to be people have extremes, before we hit a point of balance. So marketing for as long as I've been a marketer, has been skewed creatively. A lot of B2B marketers believe that we've already put too much science into it just because there's a martech stack, which is sort of scary. I mean, to be really honest, because it's there's no science in it at all yet. So I think that what will happen, largely because of what is kind of the mindset of a lot of C suites that I meet with, is that they're going to swing the pendulum hard in the other direction. And so creativity will be redefined as problem solving, you're gonna have to be able to prove it with the numbers. Now, what I also really believe and really no, because it's throughout history, that this has been proven over and over and over again, is that creativity in the way that marketers define that term? It only gets better and better and better, with more and more and more information. I mean, can we think of somebody who's more creative? Again, using the marketing definition of creativity? more creative than Leonardo da Vinci? Probably not. Right? And yet, why was he so creative? It's because he knew so much about so many different things. And he would cross pollinate. And he would bring data into art, he would bring math into art, right? And make the art better, make it more compelling, right, make it more beautiful. So and that and that's a, you read the latest biography of Leonardo, that is talked about explicitly, as they translate his own diaries, right? He's talking about it. Which is really surreal. Right? When you when you think about how long ago he lived, actually, the same is true for Aristotle. Aristotle also talked about this, that's even further back. Right. But it's, it's when you read what they're talking about, it reads just like today. Another kind of example of this real fast, right, is that there's a lot of tension between marketers and business people, right? Same kind of tension actually exists between business people and data scientists. They define things differently. If you look at the letters between Leonardo da Vinci and meta Qi, his patron, it is surreal, it really is to see them having the same arguments, right, that we're all so familiar with today, right? I mean, meta cheese basically going, Look, man, I'm at war with Venice, and I need those war machines that I hired you to build for me. Otherwise, I'm gonna lose. If you do that, I'll buy so much marble for your sculptures that you won't ever be able to use it all. Okay, but dammit, can we please focus on what's really important right here first? I mean, you just kind of sit here and go, Wow, you know, human nature hasn't changed at all.

Mike: I love that. And I think it's actually a really optimistic point to to end, the discussion is that we can all be Leonardo and make our marketing, you know, a little bit more beautiful. I think that's a great thought. Is there anything you feel that we should have covered in the discussion that we haven't?

Mark: No, I think it's been awesome. You know, I mean, there's so many different things about this topic, to discuss that you can't possibly do it in one podcast. Right. But I just I do think is very hopeful, right. I mean, you know, and let me just also say this to kind of pile hope upon hope, right? Because the there's that old saying that hope is not a strategy. But let me tell you, I hope is really super important. Okay, so most marketers are scared of analytics, because they are scared that it will prove them wrong. That it will mean that marketing really isn't as important to the business, as they've always been saying. I can tell you categorically that the analytics do not agree with that assessment. Marketing was created. Modern Marketing was created as a multiplier, a non linear time lag, asynchronous multiplier of the rest of the business, which is largely linear sales is linear. Right? What I mean by that, if you get a bigger sales quota, if your CRO and you get a bigger sales quota, how are you going to meet that quota? Well, you're going to hire more sales, guys, because you know, that every single sales guy, or most of them will hit their quota, right, and it will all add up, right? But that's not how marketing works. Marketing is a multiplier marketing is getting huge leverage across time and space.

The mission of marketing is to help sales sell more stuff to more customers as revenue faster. That's cash flow impact and more profitably, that's margin than sales could do by itself. That's the whole ball of wax right there. And so if you can prove that in the math, and you will, because if you're running a competently run solid marketing effort, then you're generating these multipliers, including brand brand is a huge multiplier on stuff that really matters. It's not a theory at all. All, anybody who said that brand is soft, he can't measure it can't understand it. It's all kind of like metaphysical and all it literally doesn't know what they're talking about. So this is all really, really great stuff for marketing, if marketers will grab a hold of this math, this approach, whether it's you buy Proof, or you buy somebody else's product, right really doesn't matter from that standpoint, right? You will be more successful, and you will have a better career and you will enjoy yourself exponentially more than you currently are. You have the best damn job in any company, except for one thing, and that is you can't prove your impact. And so you get sucked into these really debilitating conversations with the business that end up in budget cuts and recriminations and arguments and all this kind of stuff. And psychically, it's just terrible. Right? So let's fix that. Right? Let's stop doing this crazy shit that we've been doing. And let's use the math that's been there to solve the problem. And it'll all be good. Trust me. You're really well.

Mike: That's such a positive way to end. I love that, Mark. I mean, just one last question. You know, if people want to follow up this interview, or find out more about Proof  Analytics, how can they get ahold of you?

Mark: So I've, you know, my big channel is LinkedIn. So I'm very easy to find on LinkedIn. That would be choice number one. DM me on Twitter. That's another good one. I'm still there. I'm kind of weighing it back and forth, right now, but I'm still there. And then, you know, our URL on the website is Proof. analytics.ai. Don't try and email me. It's like, I'm, you know, I'm 56. But I kind of operate like a 26 or 27 year old, right? I don't really use email very much anymore. So you're, you're gonna get almost immediate responses from me on LinkedIn mail, and we'll go from there.

Mike: That's awesome, man. It's been a great discussion. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Mark: Hey, thank you for having me. I really enjoyed 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 Karthik Suresh - Ignition

In the latest podcast episode, Mike sits down with Karthik Suresh, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Ignition, a go-to-market platform automating the product launch process.

Karthik explains how noticing a gap in the SaaS market for a tool supporting product marketeers led to Ignition's development. He discusses the pros of working in start-ups versus large corporations, and what marketers should consider when undertaking a product launch.

Karthik also shares how to approach putting together a go-to-marketing plan, from establishing a target audience to communicating the value proposition of a new product.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Karthik Suresh – Ignition

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Karthik Suresh

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 Karthik Suresh Karthik is the co-founder of ignition. Welcome to the podcast, Karthik.

Karthik: Thanks for having me on the show.

Mike: It's great to have you here. I mean, to start off with, can you tell me about your career journey and how you've ended up at ignition?

Karthik: Sure. So I have a tech background, I started my career in high frequency and algorithmic trading in New York, did that for about seven years. But you know, wanting to get into something more tangible and then went to business school and after that had been in startups for a while, was early early on, was a co founder at a fin tech startup, for alternative lending, then was the second employee at this company called craft, its enterprise intelligence company, where and I was a second employee, and I was there to seize a CIO, I was there for four years, had them build a product, an operations team and help them find product market fit. And after craft, I joined Facebook, wanted to see what it is like to build products at scale. I was a pm on the Facebook search team, and then a pm on the Facebook reality labs team. And that's where I met my co founder, Derek to on deck, Derek was heading Product Marketing at rippling, which is another B2B, HR tech company.

And when you're brainstorming ideas, for a B2B SaaS business, we felt like, there's so many tools for engineers, there's so many tools for product managers, and auto sales. There's like project management tools, task management tools, everyone has a go to tool, but there's no real tools for product marketers, and specifically for planning, go to market, planning your product launches, and managing all your go to market plans. And yeah, that's how Ignitionwas born. So we've been doing this for about a year and a half.

Mike: That's amazing. I mean, I'm always impressed with people who want to create something new. You obviously love working at startups. I mean, what is it that that really gets you excited about creating and building something new?

Karthik: Yeah, yeah. So let's port on. I think, for example, when I was at any of the large companies, I was also at Morgan Stanley, and that Facebook, it's great. And you have you have probably have a stable income, but you're still a cog in the wheel, and you don't have that much of an impact on on the product as a whole. And, and also, like, there's so many, I think so many stakeholders and people you need to get buy in from and even to build a new product in a large company, it takes a lot of time and efforts. And 80% of the time is in meetings and in getting approvals and buying. And whereas early on in startups, or even smaller companies, you have a lot of autonomy, and you can really get your vision to kind of come into life. And

like, for me, that was one of the one of the most important things where, you know, it's not just about improving and maintaining existing products, but like rapidly building new products, which have a real use case for the for the people and the being able to have a say, and being able to be autonomous into the work. So that is what has always taught me to be in small companies or startups.

Mike: That's awesome. I love the fact that it's a combination of what you can achieve and how you can work. So being autonomous, but also being able to achieve more. That's, that's awesome.

So you mentioned that the premise for Ignitionwas to provide something to help product marketers with go to market. I mean, that's a very broad range of things that you could do. So just the high level, can you talk about what Ignition actually does for product marketers?

Karthik: Sure. So initially, as a platform to manage all your go to market plans and plan your product launches, just to before going into ignition, just to talk about just the go to market process in general. A lot of the times even in several late stage companies, sometimes, you know, just shipping code to production as a launch, just sending an email to customers or doing a blog post launch. But that's not really a launch you need to like go into in that core market planning process. And a lot of the companies are leaving money on the table by not doing it right. So just talking about go to market plan in general. First, you need to figure out who's your target audience you need to have a research done about your ideal customer persona.

Then you need to figure out the messaging for them like how do you clearly communicate the value prop of the product in a way that resonates with your target users. Then you need to come up with a positioning you need to figure out who your competitors are and how you position yourself so that you stand out. And then you need to price your product, you need to package your product, you figure out what channels you need to use to reach your target audience. And then you need to work with designers and copywriters to come up with your campaigns and execute your campaigns. The same time getting buy in from the execs getting buy in from legal and everybody else, their training your customer support people training salespeople to talk about it, there's a huge process, which is like very fragmented and done, like, you know, you have documentation tools, project management tools, asset management tools, but it's all fragmented. And there's no like structured process, and also all the learnings of the past launches have lost because not everything is in one place. So Ignition is specifically built to solve this problem. And you can manage your end to end go to market planning process in one place, and also deal with all the stakeholder communication.

Mike: That's really interesting, because it sounds like this is actually not just a product for product marketers. But it's also important for everyone from marketing, communication through through to sales, I mean, it's really pulling together all the different departments during a product launch. That's exactly right. So the primary person who might be driving the launch may be a product marketer, maybe a brand marketer, or maybe even a product manager if there's no product marketers, but but the idea is to like basically bring in all the stakeholders for the launch in one place and be able to find it.

And in terms of the tool, I mean, obviously pulling that data together is really important. Are you doing things to make each of the steps a little bit easier, I mean, how you, for example, accelerating things like customer research?

Karthik: Yeah, so talking about FICM, specifically, customer research, you know, you can run all the surveys, for example, like you know, you can run a pricing survey, you can run your brand survey in a messaging test survey or an NPS survey. And then once you have all the survey results, you can aggregate all the insights, you can categorise, you can summarise. And then make sure to use this as inputs for your all your messaging in various launches.

Mike: That's great. So you're bringing in something again, that that might previously been done in multiple different tools into that same one platform to make it easier it sounds.

Karthik: That's exactly it. So customer search is one competitive intelligence, where you can track all your competitors and create battle cards. And we automatically track all the data on them, and news and websites, screenshots. And then once you're done with the market research and coming up with a launch planning, you have a timeline, your go to market calendar. And then after all the launch is done, this is another thing I forgot to mention. You know, a lot of the times, in companies when you do a launch, you just go party and you forget about a launch and move on to the next. There's not a lot of times when you have to go back and actually have any attribution. So we're also building and analytics to actually measure the impact of the launch post on the business metrics, and also the product metrics. So that's that's another component in English.

Mike: That's amazing. I mean, I think one of the things we ought to bear in mind is a lot of the listeners here are more on the marketing, communications or marketing side, rather than the product management or product marketing side. I mean, what do you think people on the marketing end can actually learn about product launches? And do better when they next launch their next new product?

Karthik: Yeah, so absolutely. So I think the most important thing is having a structured process, almost like a two year process, for like a tier one launched here to launch tier three launch depending on the on the importance and budget and size of the launch. And making sure that the product and engineering teams give the marketers enough time and notice to make sure they can do justice to the go to market planning process, which is probably one of the most important pain points because a lot of the times, and also I come from a pm background, I've learned the mistake as well. They're just there's just a week left for the product to be shipped. And I'll be like, hey, this product is shipping in a week. And there was a word no, I need at least like two months. And so there's a lot of disconnect between the product and marketing teams, sometimes in terms of the timeline. So that's one of the first issues to make sure you're on top of it. The second one is just sending an email is not a launch, you really need a multi channel approach to getting in front of target users, you need to layer in messaging, and you need to hit them again and again, in different channels to make sure you they understand the value prop. The last thing I would say is like, also make sure to get the marketing objective, right. A lot of the times like there's very different strategies for whether you're creating a new category versus you know, you're competing in a crowded market. Maybe you're creating a new category, don't invest in SEO because nobody's gonna be searching for you. versus you know, if you're if you're doing going after competitive market, maybe it's easier to just go after the customers of your competitors, rather than have them discount or something. So really. So just to recap, you know, make sure you really understand your users. Make sure you have a multi channel

approach to getting in front of your target users have a bit of a structured clearing process in place. And you're in sync with the product and engineering teams regarding the launch cadence. And finally, make sure you have very clear objectives and KPIs to track the largest.

Mike: I think that's great advice. I mean, obviously, that applies across pretty much all product launches. But are there particular products that Ignition was really aimed for a particular industries?

Karthik: Not necessarily. We have. We have bought, for example, even software and hardware company that is the biggest companies are on a platform are actually hardware companies who plan to hardware launch in different markets. We also want to expand to like CPG companies. I think typically, typically you have brand marketers and CPG companies, and they do a tonne of launches. So we want to target them. And also like gaming and entertainment gaming is also something which my co founder worked on early on in his career, he was a product manager and PlayStation. So I think the fundamental go to market planning process is pretty much the same. It's more about the last 20%, and how do you customise the plan is what's different. Actually, just one other thing I just thought off is like,

I think the go to market planning process has been always there for a long time. I guess the biggest trend right now is the growth of the product marketing as a function. You know, I think in 10 years ago, when you had all these new channels come up like Facebook, Google and all of the ads, it's so easy to just throw in some money, and messaging and try to get as many users as possible. But right now, it's not not the same case. Like everything's expensive. And you know, product marketing as a function where you really need to invest in the user research thing about messaging, think about how you actually position the product and stand out is again becomes super important. And that's where the Ignitioncomes in.

Mike: I love that it feels like a lot of what you're trying to do is get people to invest the right time and effort into each stage of a product launch. And by structuring it, you're giving them that framework, that's gonna help them make sure they do that. That's exactly right.

I'm just interested about, you know, size of your customers. I mean, it seems like like, again, the product really is not specific to a certain customer size, you know, if you're launching products that it's relevant is, is that the case? I mean, as long as you have the structure of a product, having a product marketing team, you know, does that mean you're big enough for ignition?

Karthik: Yeah, so right now we see like our just our, the size of the product marketing teams, we, we have like mid-market enterprise, which at least the minimum is like 100 to 200 employees. And that's where the go to market planning really becomes very painful. It's no longer just a vitamin, you know, because you have so many stakeholders and so many other departments, you need to like, make sure you bring them on the same page. But we have like even public companies, somebody like square using us. So we have, you know, a few 100 employees all the way to 1000s of employees range on a platform.

Mike: Sounds great. Sounds like there's there's a lot of success at the moment. And it's good to hear you've got such a wide range of customers.

One of the things I, you know, I'm interested in is you obviously see a lot of your customers launching products. And one of the things I think a lot of marketers struggle with is getting really good competitive intelligence. What are your recommendations for getting better intelligence on what your competitors are doing either by research or begun and maybe asking customers?

Karthik: Yeah, so I come from a product perspective. So I always believe that, make sure you're working on your own vision and value prop and then not focus as much on competitors. You know, keep an eye on them track what they're doing, but don't lose sight of what you're doing. Because it's so easy to like, oh, yeah, they're building this cool feature, we should build it. Oh, yeah, they're doing this amazing thing, we should build it. But that's not how great products are built the spiritual product perspective. But yeah, it is really important to attract customers so that you're not caught off guard, especially if they are building an exact same feature, which is probably not a much differentiation. And in those cases, it all comes down to the data. You can track everything from you know, the locations that job openings, you can see like what they are, who they're hiring for what they're doing. Then you can see what kind of people are they're hiring. You can see if there's any new changes in the exec or executive level to see like what they're bringing on a new function, then you can see that they were probably going to expand, you can see that they're acquiring any smart companies or they're partnering with any companies. That's another data set. You can also track the website traffic, the keywords, they rank for keywords they're placing ads for so that gives you another good sort of intelligence are what they are doing.

Finally, there's obviously there's news you can also screenshot their website every few weeks to make sure how their messages is changing and any new products. So there's a few different ways. But it all comes down to how good you are at tracking all these kinds of different data sets about competitors.

Mike: And for that, I guess you need some sort of structure and maybe some sort of tool.

Karthik: That's exactly right. And one of the, one of the components within Ignition is tracking your competitors. So we don't just pull all the data on competitors for you. We also make it very easy to structure the data in a in a battle card format. And you can share that around in your company to your sales, customer success and other other teams who would get a lot of value using the intelligence collected for them.

Mike: And that's awesome. I want to change tack a bit because it's great to have someone on who's actually not a marketer, they're a founder and an executive. Because I think a lot of marketing people are really interested to know, what do you want from a marketing team? What are you looking for from a great marketing team?

Karthik: Yeah, that's a great question. And as you said, you know, I come from a product management background. But obviously, we have been working closely with marketing for a long time, as a founder, what I want from a marketing team is, I really want them to be very strategic and analytical. It's not just about executing, or just doing the tactical day to day stuff, but really like system thinkers, who are like thoughtfully designing the marketing activity around the whole customer journey. And also, it's very important that they do understand the customer really well. They've done their research, they've spoken to the customers, they really understand what the pain points are. But at the same time, they're not afraid to take like big swings based on insight into, you know, kind of intuition. So again, deep customer empathy is the most important skill. And

Mike: I think that's great. I mean, I love that that need for, you know, someone's thinking strategically, but also someone prepared to take risks without those big swings. And, you know, maybe the next question is, you know, what do you see as being the really great marketing campaign so that there's some campaigns you've been involved with, that you think of have massively moved the needle for the business?

Karthik: Yeah, I think it all comes down to, you know, the great customer insight, the great the customer empathy and customer insight, that's what really enables, like being able to tap into like the pain of the customers viscerally and concisely with your communication, and deliver that message multiple times across multiple channels, to your target audience, right, we talked about how multi channel approach is very important, but you need to be able to layer in that every reader standout, not just blend into like hundreds of ads and blogs and everything a user sees, but being able to stand out, but at the same time having a creative twist. That's what makes a great marketing campaigns.

Mike: That’s great. I think getting to the bottom of the customer's pain is always that's always key in a marketing campaign, isn't it?

Karthik: Yeah, exactly. It's, it's not always just bright and splashy stuff, it's really being able to like, tap into the pain, the customer pain point and then communicate the value prop of your product.

Mike: So awesome. I'm interested. I mean, you're not a marketer, would you recommend if a young person was thinking of marketing as a career for them to choose marketing? Or maybe you'd recommend a different approach?

Karthik: Yeah, for a young person who think of marketing as a career. First, I want to say that marketing is not always about the big splashy stuff that's advertising. Like marketing is really about like customer empathy, customer insights, first understanding the customer pain points, and being able to tell the story, that how a product can actually solve that pain point. The real success in marketing doesn't come from this big, like once a year, splashy launch, but really like mundane day to day stuff. It's like doing that little campaigns and promotions and feature launches, doing it every day. And make sure they all roll up into this bigger narrative of the company's vision and mission and being able to tell that story, you know, in in multiple channels, and being able to really resonate with your target users. So that's what marketing is all about. And if this is what excites you, then great.

Mike: That's awesome. I think it's really good today. And it's true, I think, a lot of marketing. It's the unsexy and exciting things that actually at the end of the day, when they're all add together make the biggest difference. I love that.

I'm, you know, I'm obviously aware of time, you know, I just wonder, is there anything else you feel we should have covered in this interview?

Karthik: No, I think I think we covered quite a bit is great. The one one other thing I just start off for any young person starting their career is like, always take risks. Make sure especially when you're young and you don't have a tonne of responsibilities, be don't just get into a large company and get into a cushy job. Just take risks and you never know where life might take you.

Mike: Right. It's such an optimistic view. I'm sure people you know, they'll have been interested in some people certainly will be very much involved in go to market for new products. If people want to ask you questions or maybe find out more about ignition, where should they go?

Karthik: Yes, you can. You can sign up for our free trial on our website, which is haveignition.com. And you feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you just post my it's my first name, last name, Karthik Suresh, that's my Twitter handle. And I'm also on LinkedIn. So feel free to connect with me. I'm always happy to talk about anything, go to market product management and B2B technology in general.

Mike: That's amazing. It's been a great conversation. Thanks so much for being a guest. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed the conversation.

Karthik: Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech.

Mike: 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 Jeffrey Mack - Agility PR

Jeffrey Mack, VP of Marketing at Agility PR, sat down with Mike for the latest episode of Marketing B2B Technology.

Jeffrey discusses the benefits of having a PR platform that integrates distribution with measurement, and how measurement is becoming a critical component in successful PR strategies. He discusses how measuring PR success is evolving from traditional quantitative AVE data to more qualitative data and how marketing teams can benefit from this shift.

Jeffrey also shares his thoughts on the future of trade publications and why marketeers may have more impact from reaching out to smaller industry publications.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jeffrey Mack - Agility PR

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jeffrey Mack

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 Jeffrey Mack. Jeffrey is the VP of Marketing at Agility PR. Welcome to the podcast Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: Thank you very much happy to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you on it's great to have someone who's involved in the PR side of marketing as well. So I'm really interested, you know, how did you get into the PR? How did your career develop? And how did you end up at Agility?

Jeffrey: Yeah, it's a pretty, pretty interesting career trajectory that I'd say is sort of characterised as just being curious and wanting to do a little bit of everything. But I actually am a, I guess, a proud law school dropout. So in college, my plan was always to become an attorney and make a lot of money. I went to law school for a year and realised Oh, man, I can't imagine myself doing this every day for a paycheck. So started getting a real job. So I began my career in sales, actually. And it was a small Fintech startup where we had to call hundreds of people each day and try to get them to open brokerage accounts. And I personally didn't really like calling people all day long. So I decided, You know what, let me do this a little bit smarter. There's this thing called the internet, there's a lot of people who are interested in foreign exchange trading. And I'll just go infiltrate a Yahoo forum, do my sales pitch in a post and see what happens and sort of did that and ended up being a very successful salesperson setting company records for accounts that were closed in a day, a week in a month, and all of that and got a, you know, an email to go see my boss in his office. And when I went in there, they said, Hey, listen, I don't know what you did. But we can't really pay you all this commission. This is crazy. And then also, on top of that, you seem to understand the Internet pretty well. So we're gonna move you to marketing. So that's essentially how I ended up as a as a marketer. And again, this was a small Fintech startup. There, I started working on the product side of things, really focusing on trading education and building community, which is a theme that sort of runs throughout my career and ended up working my way up through that company and several other companies and had a lot of experience with sort of storytelling and demand generation and Account Based Marketing, and just was able to dip my fingers in a lot of different areas of marketing, which was a tremendous value for me as I sort of rose through the ranks and eventually spent time at some great companies like LinkedIn at some small companies that have since been valued over a billion dollars. And now I'm at a Agility, which is a great software company, based in Canada that provides software for PR and communications professionals.

Mike: Awesome. So you ended up being sort of moved to marketing because you're earning too much in sales? I think that's a great way to start a career pretty much.

Jeffrey: That's what I always tell people. Yeah, fair, fair. unfair. Right.

Mike: Cool. So you know, the Agility? Can you just tell us what the Agility does?

Jeffrey: Yeah, absolutely. So, Agility, we do a little bit of everything. But we're primarily focused on providing end to end solution for PR and communications professionals. So I like to say that we offer essentially a PR hub, right, which is a platform where PR and comms professionals can start in in their day and allow them to do essentially most of the facets of their job, everything from, you know, discovering the key journalist and media people that can help them sort of amplify their story through distribution. So sending out news wires, press releases, or story pitches to those journalists, and then monitoring their their own medium. So what are people saying about them? Right? How are the stories being told, and then ultimately, just measuring everything and making sense of the true value of their PR and comms programmes, because at the end of the day, you know, you always want to align things back to the business outcomes. So all of those different areas where these PR and comms people are being tasked, we're able to allow them to do that all in one place in one platform, where they can jump back and forth between all those different facets and really, sort of build a cohesive PR strategy.

Mike: That's really interesting, because back in the day, the monitoring side was always split from the database side. So what do you think of the benefits of actually merging those two together in a single platform?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I mean, it's it's synergy, right? At the end of the day, you want to try to make things as simple as possible for people. And when you think about monitoring anything about database, and you look at sort of the landscape of companies that are out there, they've all more or less sort of started in one of those areas, right? And maybe over time, they've acquired other companies consolidated to add those together. But you really want to have sort of that that synergistic feel for for people. So if I'm out there, and I'm looking at monitoring and I see some some great articles that are written about my company or my brand. I want to be able to then right from that article, be able to look at that journalist or that author's profile to see what are their articles are they are they writing? What other themes or areas are they covering, things like that. And if it's a journalist who's maybe written about me once, and they cover, you know, the area that's important to me, and they reach the audience, that's important to me, maybe I want to build and establish a relationship with that journalist, maybe I want to reach out and pitch further stories. Or maybe I just want to introduce myself, right, and let them know, Hey, I'm here. For future articles or things of that sort, feel free to reach out to me I can, I can give you a quote, right, or I can be a resource for you. So I think making it really simple to go from the coverage that your your brand has directly to that journalist, and get that journalist contact information to, you know, establish and build that relationship, it's really important, I don't want to need to log into separate platforms to be able to do that, I want to be able to do that all in one place. With to two parts of the overall solution that talk to each other really nicely. It's about about synergy. It's about making my life a little bit easier.

Mike: That's really interesting, because it sounds like what you're talking about is quite an intelligent approach to PR. I mean, I think one of the criticisms of, you know, some of the use of database services is people have just pulled a big list of journalists and just spam them with with emails. So maybe you can talk about how PR professionals can be a little more intelligent in the way they use databases, rather than just doing this simple blast and hope kind of approach?

Jeffrey: Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. And I wouldn't doubt that there are some PR people out there that probably, you know, send their story pitches, and the release is to everybody under the sun. And that's, I think, the wrong strategy, right? You want to be really deliberate with your outreach strategy. The database is great. I mean, it has an infinite sort of universe of people that could help tell your story. But at the end of the day, if you want to have people effectively tell that story, and you want to get value from that, you really do need to focus in on who you want to go out and pitch, right, I don't think it's much different than being a marketer, right? You want to understand your audience. But you also want to make sure that based on the audience that you're deciding to market to, you have a very relevant and potentially personalised message right and in your distribution is in a way that makes it really easy for them to sort of come across your marketing. So I think it's very similar. When you're out there, pitching, you know, I could very easily say, here's 100,000, journalist, here's my story, boom, go. But what you're going to end up with is a very impersonal pitch that you're sending out to people, people are busy, they can see through things pretty quickly and easily. And if there's a very impersonal message that's sent out, you're probably not even going to get a response, or even probably somebody that's going to look past the subject line. So I think narrowing your focus in your database approach and finding not only the journalists that are going to be relevant to your audience relevant to your sector, but also maybe some that are not, you know, the biggest journalists out there, those are the ones that are probably going to act and say, Oh, wow, somebody's pitching me a story, right, I'm gonna go ahead and do my best to tell the story in a great way. So I think it's just about having a strategy, having a little bit more narrow focus, and being very selective in who you're actually pulling out of that database. And then being very thoughtful about the pitch that you're sending out. I mean, I would not recommend sending out the same email to 1000s of people. I mean, it doesn't doesn't kill you to switch it up a little bit, right. And that could be manually personalising them, or using things like tokens and other things where you can, you know, change the name of a publication or change the name of an industry, something that's just going to make it feel as though there was a little bit more effort put into it.

Mike: And that's really interesting. So there, I think you're talking about some of the benefits you get from combining the database and the distribution together, is this ability to insert tokens. Do you want to talk a little bit more about, you know, how people might be able to benefit from that distribution being integrated with the database?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I mean, I think for one, it's measurement, right? That's the most important thing, you can send out a million emails, right. But if you don't actually know what's happening on the other end, you know, you're not really moving the needle forward in any, any way. So with our software, I'm sure some some others that are out there. Since we're handling the monitoring, we're handling the database, we're handling the distribution. Soon as that goes out. We're able to tell people right away, you know, what are their open rates, sort of what are the response rates, right? And then, again, going back to monitoring, we're able to see like, are we actually getting pickup? Are we getting earned media? And again, what's really interesting about agilities software is that we've actually created an engineered all of those different components, so that they were built on the same codebase. You know, they were built to talk to each other. If you look at a lot of the other solutions that are out there. A lot of their, quote unquote platforms were sort of built together in a Frankenstein method where they acquired company A and acquired company B, acquired company C, and then they sort of mash them all together, put lipstick on a pig, let's say right and say, Hey, we have this full full solution, but wasn't really designed to be used in an integrated fashion. Whereas Agility truly was. And I think, again, a benefit to the end user in that there's a lot of visibility across all functions of what they're doing. Again, whether it's sourcing, monitoring, measuring, right distributing messages, all of that data sort of flows within an ecosystem, that's going to give you the data back to say how successful or maybe how unsuccessful was like with a specific campaign. And we're going to take that data, and we're going to use that to inform our future campaigns to try to get a little bit better.

Mike: I love that idea of like, you know, be able to have that closed loop of, you know, running the campaign, and then getting the data to feedback on how effective it was, I guess, you know, a lot of PR pros are thinking, that's really useful. But also we need to report to the board, and the board always wants to know the value of PR. So how does Agility approach, you know, giving some sort of value to the results achieved through PR?

Jeffrey: Yeah, and that's, that's a, it's a hot topic in PR. And it's, it's really interesting, because my personal background is not a background in PR. So when I joined Agility, it's like, okay, I understand the marketing bit. And I understand a little bit of the PR piece, but now I really need to sort of put two and two together and sort of understand what is the day to day look like for a PR professional? What are they actually looking to accomplish? And I think the measurement piece is a critical component. And one that is it's a hot topic of all of the industry events that you go to I just came back from prsa icon, which is, I think, the largest PR conference in the United States here. And when we looked at the content of programming, and I was lucky enough to go as an attendee, so I didn't have to be there trying to shill Agility to every person that I spoke to, I actually got to absorb and understand what were the topics that were important for our core audience. And measurement was, was probably one of the most important and most popular topics that was out there. And a lot of people be our comms people, you know, they're understanding that measurement is a critical component to their jobs, what they're looking for, is they're looking for a little bit of help on moving away from sort of the traditional way of measurement, which was very quantitative, right, and very much based on outdated KPIs like abs, which is add value equivalencies, that's the the old way to say, Hey, this is the coverage we got. And this is the value in dollars of what we got. And what we're seeing. And what we're actually advocating for is a move towards more qualitative measurement, right. So how we actually measure the impact of our activities and our programmes as they relate to overall business outcomes. And, you know, maybe not the easiest thing in the world, but I think it provides a better picture for, for why we're doing the things that we're doing, right. And when we talk about sort of qualitative things, you can essentially break it down into three categories.

So it's like awareness. So like, are we actually improving awareness? And there's ways to sort of measure that engagement? Are we seeing engagement and engagement can be a few different things, right? Are we selling more products? Are we driving more traffic to our site? Are we getting more engagement on social media? Things like that? And then also reputation? Right? How are we actually impacting our reputation? Is it improving, right? Are people thinking about our brand in a in a much better way than they were potentially before? So sort of taking all of that into account, the qualitative component of measurement is going to be, I think, what you're going to see being more popular moving forward. And then there's also other things like, you know, instead of saying we want pickup in 1000 publications, okay. Big deal, right? I'd rather have pickup in maybe five publications that are on my priority media list, right? So if the New York Times and The New Yorker or The Wall Street Journal are writing about me, that's much better than the Jersey Shore Gazette, no offence to the Jersey Shore, which is where I live, which is why I use that as an example here. But there is also sort of that component from a quality standpoint. And then also things like prominence, right? Like, where are you actually being mentioned in an article? Where are you being mentioned in a publication, those are not all equal, as well. So we want to make sure that it's it's qualitative, we want to make sure that it's driving impact, we want to make sure that it's actually measurable. And we want to be able to your point that you brought up when you ask the question, want to be able to ensure that we can sort of summarise these activities and present them up to the executives because I think at this day and age, you know, the C suite does care about the PR and comms initiatives, they do want to see what type of impact is being driven from the work that's taking place. And I'd say, in order to drive maximum impact, there does need to be a strategy involved.

And you know, I think earlier in our conversation, we maybe talked a little bit about database and I don't know that we touched Too much news wires. But when we were going back and forth on email, I think that was one of the things you were interested in is like, Does that still work is just still value there? And my answer to that question that I just asked myself would be, yeah, absolutely. As long as your strategy, right, when you think about your press releases, don't think about as I'm just going to send out this release, and then we're done. And then I'm going to move on to the next one. And I'm going to send that out. Think about them sort of as a series of chapters and a story that you're trying to tell. If you think about it. That way, you have a strategy for getting that story out, eventually, you're going to get the right story, amplified by the right people.

Mike: I think that's great advice. There's an awful lot in there. I mean, to me, one of the most interesting things is, you know, we talk about quantitative being things like Avi, which were easy numbers to generate. But actually, the interesting thing is the qualitative results you're talking about, they seem to be more closely tied to business objectives, the Navy, I mean, the value of advertising really doesn't impact business objective.

Jeffrey: And I think that's a trend that you see everywhere, you know, think think of the marketing side of things. I mean, for a while, in the good old days, right? Marketing didn't really have to show much of anything, right? They would produce some fancy PowerPoints or some presentations, and everyone thought life was great. You know, now, there's such a focus, as it relates to the marketing organisation and companies on actually contributing to the bottom line, right, and actually providing and sourcing or even influencing right revenue and bookings. And there was a period of time where people wanted to see how many MQLs marketing qualified leads marketing was was producing. Now you're sort of sort of seeing a move down funnel to see what pipeline is being generated by marketing, right, what revenue is actually being generated or influenced by marketing. So just like that, I think you're seeing that sort of translate across the PRPs, you're also starting to see it come across all areas of the business, right? There's probably a lot of departments within an organisation that never knew anything about where a company stood as it relates to sales and revenue, and now are all being asked to sort of pitch in and contribute towards all of that stuff.

Mike: No, I think that's very true. It's definitely a trend that everyone now is much more bolting on company results rather than focusing on their department and potentially meaningless internal metrics. I'd like to jump back to something you you talked about earlier, though, you were talking about the focus on publications and kind of implied that the big publications will become more and more important as people focus on a smaller number of high quality results. What's going to be the impact on the trade media? I mean, we've seen some trade publications struggle financially, is that going to get worse? Are we going to see fewer trade publications?

Jeffrey: It's an interesting question. And it would be easy for me to say, yeah, they're doomed. Right? But but I actually don't don't think that they are. Because there are several businesses that spend most of their marketing budgets with trade pubs, right? That's just the reality. And it's almost like, it's almost like a government subsidy, right? These these businesses that have sort of been around for a while, have always worked with these trade pubs, even with sort of maybe declining ROI. I think it's just a little bit of nostalgia, and just a little bit of doing business as usual. So I do believe that in certain industries, they'll continue to exist. I don't want to say though, they'll continue to thrive because I don't think I don't think that's going to happen, right? These small trade clubs, I don't think they'll thrive, but I think they'll exist. I mean, I worked for a technology company called Crestron electronics years ago. And a lot of our marketing budget was with the trade pubs, right? I mean, yes, we sort of understood that we were propping them up. But in that industry, which was, you know, high end audio video, the trade pubs did have a decent audience, you know, our core base, was there, maybe reading these trade pubs maybe going to their website, but it was just something that, you know, we've built those relationships over time, we felt pretty confident that our audience was there. And we continue to do business with them. I'm sure there are several other industries and companies that are in the same boat. So, you know, I think there's a place for them, I think, in some regards, they can probably tell our stories better than a giant publication, right? Because this is what they do they live they die with that specific industry. So I would say I, I personally think they'll they'll survive. I don't think they'll they'll be thriving anytime soon.

Mike: I think that's probably as good as it's gonna get for trade pups. I don't think they any of them believe that. The next few years are going to be boom times. I'm interested as well, you know, you're obviously a VP of marketing. So when you're promoting Agility, you know, what works for you. What are your best channels or what are your best campaigns that you've run?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I mean, a lot of different things work right. I think for me, the way that I think about marketing is always sort of with that business mentality of we need to deliver something to the bottom lime. So to that end, there's sort of demand generation, which is the hot topic and, and a core focus for a lot of companies when they talk about marketing. But when I think of demand generation, there's really a few things that sort of go into, into that sort of theme, right. And one, I think is, you know, demand capture is pretty critical. So if you think about your target market, at any moment in time, a very small percentage of that market is in market, right looking to buy something. So you need to be really good at getting in front of those people and understanding who they are where they are. So we do a lot of marketing as relates to intent. So the people that are showing intent to buy or showing sell signals, we want to make sure that we have some maximum effort to get in front of them. And we do so across, believe it or not display advertising. So we have some partners there. We do a lot with LinkedIn, I think LinkedIn is a great, great channel for B2B. It is maybe a little expensive, but hey, you know, you feel pretty confident that you're getting in front of the right audience. And then we'll look at other social channels as well. But we tried to do it in an intelligent way where we're really just retargeting an audience that we feel confident, you're not going to really find a great B2B Audience, specifically on Facebook or Instagram. But there is there's there are modes there to do things. We run and produce lots of great content, whether webinars or guides, or white papers, we also have virtual summits that we do that are tremendous drivers of not only leads for us, but also value for our audience, right? I think at the end of the day, if you can provide value for the audience, when they are ready to be in marker when they are ready to buy, you know, they're going to think about you and at least give you an app, that doesn't mean that they're gonna they're gonna pick you, but you want to just have an app that you have, you want to have an opportunity to put your best foot forward. And I think that all relates to sort of demand generation, right, which is different than demand capture to two very different things. And then the last thing that I typically think about where I think we have success is building a strong brand. I think if you have a strong brand, those first two things I talked about become a lot easier. So how do you build that brand? How do you build a brand where people sort of understand what you stand for? You know, in our case, we want to be thought leaders in the in the PR space, we produce a lot of great content as relates to measurement, we produce a lot of great content as it relates to crisis, communications and things of that sort. So we're really trying to provide value to our audience, so that when they're ready to buy, you know, we're top of mind and part of that consideration set.

Mike: So there's quite a lot going on. That's, that's great. And you're obviously, you know, really enthusiastic about marketing. I'm interested to know, did you have any, like pet peeves, or things about marketing that you don't enjoy?

Jeffrey: Oh, several. I mean, I do like a lot of marketing. And I think the reason that I like it is because throughout my career, I've been able to do a little bit of a little bit of all of it, right? And that's just I'm a very curious person. I love learning. I love teaching, I always joke if I didn't need to pay my mortgage, I'd be a high school history teacher. But I do need to make money. But yeah, I mean, I think, you know, when I interview people to join my team, typically I look for really curious, smart people. And I always tend to ask them the same question, which is, imagine that you're standing on top of the marketing fence, right on one side of the fence is the data and the analytics side. And then the other side of the fence is the creativity side and the art side, What side do you fall on? myself, personally, I would probably fall on that artistic creative side, nine times out of 10. So I do love the parts of marketing that are around creativity around just coming up with some wacky ideas and seeing if they actually drive driving engagement. That being said, it's interesting. When I talk to people, and I asked them that question, more and more, I see people saying they want to fall on the data side of things. And I don't know what that means, whether it's marketing since becoming a data driven scientific function of an organisation, if there's creativity dying, or maybe, you know, B2B companies, not facilitating the creativity that they should be. I think in this day, and age marketing is becoming a little bit commoditized. And by that, I mean, everyone has access to the same tools, everyone has access to the same data. So at the end of the day, your competitive advantage is going to be creativity. And that's sort of the way that I look at things. So if I had to choose between writing a brief for a really creative campaign versus creating dashboards and Excel files, I'm going to lean towards the creativity part, but I've firmly understand that to be a marketing leader. I need to be good on both areas.

Mike: Yeah, I definitely agree. I think it's it's now something you can't say you're all creativity or all data. I think everyone's got a span both for sure. I love the idea of you being a history teacher as well. And I, one of the things we'd like to ask people is, you know, if you had a young person come to you interested in the marketing career, what advice would you give them?

Jeffrey: I would go tell them to work in finance. Because they'll make a lot more money. No, I think I mean, I think it's, it's great, right. And again, I interview a lot of people for the teams that I've sort of led, and people are maybe fresh out of school. So I always, you know, ask them, Is this what they think that they want to do? I don't ask them. Is this what you want to do? Because when you're young, especially you don't you don't really know. But that's, that's probably one of the big questions. But overall, I mean, I like to just let people know that, at the end of the day, the job of marketing is to make sales easier. In reality, that's what it is. I mean, a lot of times what you see on TV is not necessarily what you see in real life, all day, every day, we'd love to be Don Draper, madmen was like probably one of my favourite television shows of all time. You know, what, there's not a lot of opportunity to be Don Draper, in the marketing world. So I tried to set realistic expectations, I tried to let people on my teams anyhow, dip their toes in a lot of different areas of marketing. It's what I had the benefit of doing for myself. And then you find the areas that you like, and the areas that you don't like, and try to put people in a position where they can work on more of the things that they enjoy working on, and less of the things that they don't, because at the end of the day, that's going to dictate the quality of the work that you get. So yeah, I mean, if young person came to me, I would say, try it out, see, if you like it. I mean, at the end of the day, you'll have to enjoy Storytelling, you'll have to enjoy business, because there's no free rides and marketing anymore. You ultimately need to deliver to the business. But I think, you know, if nothing else, if you're curious, and you enjoy creativity, and storytelling, and if you enjoy data, there is an opportunity for people in marketing.

Mike: Oh, that's awesome. That's, that's very positive. I'm, you know, I'm mindful of time. So I guess, is there something you'd like to leave the listeners with as a last thought? Maybe some, you know, marketing advice you've got or something around the product?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I mean, I think just overall as as a marketer, right? Don't be afraid to experiment. Don't be afraid to step outside of of your lines. I mean, it's done me Well, I mean, I remember, I was a product marketing working on educational products at a company and I, this is a long time ago. So I'm dating myself. But there was a new a new invention that had come out called an iPhone, and people were starting to buy it. And this is pretty early on. And I remember going to my boss at the time and saying, Hey, I think that people are going to want to trade currencies on their phone, like, I think that's going to be a thing. And they they sort of said, maybe, but we were given permission. And I was able to work on sort of launching an app and wasn't within my job description, right? I mean, so you know, I would say, do the work that you're supposed to be doing. But if you have any free time, I mean, don't be afraid to jump into another area, where you have a specific interest, I mean, that's ultimately going to get you to where you want to be professionally anyhow. So don't be afraid to explore, don't be afraid to take chances. Don't be afraid to work at night, on work, right. And maybe it's a facet, that's, again, not part of your job description. But if you have an idea, and you have something that you want to explore more, it's not going to kill you to jump on after dinner or jump on the weekend. A lot of the times, those are the projects that you enjoy the most, and you won't mind doing it. And in the long run, it will definitely be a tremendous value for you as you progress in your career.

Mike: That's awesome. That's I think that's a really great place to leave it. If anyone's got any questions they'd like to, you know, ask you anything, or maybe just find out more about Agility. Where's the best place to go to get hold of you?

Jeffrey: Yeah, I mean, I'm pretty active on Twitter. So I'm at Jeffery Mac on Twitter. Hopefully, Twitter's sticks around for a little bit of time, I think it'll be fine. It'll be in place in the next 90 or so days. So you can find me on Twitter. You can also find me on LinkedIn. If you searched Jeffery Mac, I believe I'm the first person to pop up there. But I do accept most connections and I love chatting with people. So try me on Twitter First, connect with me on LinkedIn and we'll have some some chats back and forth.

Mike: That's awesome. Thanks so much for being on the podcast. Jeffrey's been a great conversation.

Jeffrey: Thanks for having me really had fun.

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 Jason Byer - Crowdspring

In the latest episode of Marketing B2B Technology, we interview Jason Byer, Marketing and Partnerships Manager at crowdspring.

At a time when attention spans are shortening and competition rising, having great design assets can be vital to a successful marketing campaign. crowdspring is a collaborative design platform that simplifies the design process.

Jason discusses how businesses can produce great designs whilst sticking to strict brand style guides, and the importance of the creative brief.

He also shares why he thinks marketers shouldn’t get hung up on the tactics and the advice he would give to someone just starting out in their marketing career.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jason Byer – Crowdspring

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jason Byer

Mike: Thanks for listening to Markteing 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 Jason Byer. Jason is the marketing and partnerships manager at CrowdSpring. Welcome to the podcast, Jason.

Jason: Thanks, Mike. Excited to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you on. So I'm, you know, just tell us a bit about your career. How did you get to work at CrowdSpring?

Jason: Absolutely. So I met our CEO through his startup lab, but startup Lab is a company where you're creating multiple different companies, multiple brands, trying to find a product fit for those brands, finding partnerships, and then spinning them off into their own companies. And so that's, that's an interesting type of environment where you're trying to create a brand from scratch and then build it up very quickly and sell or spin it off. And so I met the CEO through through that company, and have been working with CrowdSpring for about six years. And I really enjoyed the partnership side partnerships and marketing because I get to speak with a lot of great companies, and get to tailor the conversations towards you know, challenges were each facing in our market.

Mike: That sounds great. And I have to admit, I did have a look at your LinkedIn. And if there's something that really jumped out, is it right? You were sponsored to do an Ironman by a beer brand?

Jason: A Yes. And the jersey was was pretty exciting. So I did a full Ironman in Wisconsin. And, you know, most people are boring bike parts on their jerseys, you know, shoe companies. And so I had, you know, the big Sam Adams seal and Boston lager was on my back and, and it was a looped marathon course, the marathon is the final portion of the Ironman. And it was a double loop. So everybody that was cheering people on saw you twice, and they were like, hey, the beer man is coming back again. Yeah, says it's a good time.

Mike: That sounds like it sounds like great branding and the fun time, although hopefully you didn't drink too much of the beer beforehand. It was mainly after

Jason: No, no, no, I'm part of the athletic crowd that you know, we we exercise and do this so that we can enjoy beer in the cookie afterwards.

Mike: Oh, that sounds like so much fun. Anyway, let's get back to CrowdSpring. So, you know, I think one of the things perhaps you ought to explain is exactly what you do at CrowdSpring. Because it may not be a brand that everybody knows.

Jason: Absolutely. So we're a 15 year old brand. And what we focus on is providing affordable custom branding and design services. And so we have 33 categories of branding and design, everything from naming a company or product, which can be very early stage, creating that core brand identity with your logo, and then all of the marketing materials that go along with this. So your packaging design and your postcards and your flyers and presentations for pitch decks. And then we have a pretty unique category of physical product design, where some large enterprises have used us to design physical products that are then manufactured, and we do this much cheaper than traditional agency resources, and you get a lot of creativity, all of these projects come with dozens of different designs. And so you're able to see the brand or the product come to life and, and grow in a way that perhaps you wouldn't have thought it was going to take that direction.

Mike: So just walk through how it works. If I want for example, you know, a marketing flyer design or something like that, how would I go about using CrowdSpring? And then what would happen? What are all these designs? I see coming back?

Jason: Yeah, so first off, the way we differentiate ourselves is through curation, you know, what we realised is, you know, platforms like Upwork, or God forbid, Fiverr, the business owner is the one who is taking the risk. They're the ones trying to figure out, is this person capable? Are they going to deliver on time? Do they know best practices, you know, it takes a lot of time trying to find that person and takes the risk. So what we did with our model is we have a heavy emphasis on curation 212,000 creatives on the platform, and we manually review each of them that join to make sure they can participate at a high level in these categories. And when you post a project, you're giving us some information, you're telling us about what the project is your company, your brand. And we make the questions very simple, because we want to make sure that you're able to communicate the core information and then allow the creatives to take that information and shape the designs or the names, the products that we're providing. And then there's unlimited iterations. And so you can give feedback, you can modify the designs, but you're getting dozens of different custom designs to be able to see different directions. It's It's described as a lot of fun by businesses because they're like, Wow, we didn't expect to be able to get so much creativity. The process typically takes seven days. We can do it as quick as one day if somebody's on a very quick time schedule, but we find seven days is ideal and we work with both small businesses, as well as large enterprises that, that have used us to kind of ideate on their maybe not their core brand identity, but some of the products that they're trying to gain a little bit more traction in the marketplace with.

Mike: So it sounds interesting. So basically, what you're doing is it like running a competition, you know, lots of designers submit their ideas, and then the, the company picks the best one from their point of view.

Jason: Exactly. So the client that's posting the project gets to select which one they think is, is strongest for their needs. And if I could use some examples, you know, in some of our large companies that have used as we've got Barilla pasta wanted to launch a different pasta shape, and which is really interesting. I mean, there's nothing really innovative and pasta shapes over centuries, really. And you know, so if you want to get a little bit of traction, you want to do something unique, they created a contest where they were trying to find different pasta shapes to get a little bit more PR, LG uses to design a phone. And so that was through the product design industrial design category. We've got companies in the energy sector for things like charging stations for electric vehicles, some very interesting projects outside of the core logo design or core branding or naming products.

Mike: That's interesting. I mean, presumably, though, the branding the design, and marketing side is the biggest part, though, is it?

Jason: In terms of volume in terms of volume, we do a lot of work with small businesses, agencies use us for their work, our pricing is public, we're very affordable, we have 100% money back guarantee. And so this is very attractive for the small business owner that can't spend 1000s of dollars with an agency. Whereas our, you know, enterprise level customers, they pay the same rate as everyone else. We have strong intellectual property protections, we were founded by an intellectual property attorney. So intellectual property and privacy is baked into our DNA, and which is, you know, attracts a lot of the enterprise level clients. And while those can afford either large in house teams or agencies, they like the idea of getting dozens of different custom ideas outside of that ecosystem, right. Or maybe asking their agency or their creative director internally to say, hey, post a project, you know, your jobs aren't in any danger, we just want to help you get some additional creativity for you know, a brand or a product that might feel a little stale. And so we've got plenty of creative directors, where this could be seen as kind of a competitive resource to their internal teams. But they'll post a project to help their their teams start iterating and thinking differently about the problem.

Mike: It's interesting. I mean, one of the things I noticed, you mentioned that the pricing was public, you have standard pricing, I know there are other companies in the sector that do a similar thing, where basically, you can name the price for your particular design. So why did you pick a standard price for each piece of work?

Jason: So we still have the ability to work directly with a client and the name, your price. And even when you can name your price, we still have a minimum threshold, we don't want our creative team getting taken advantage of by a company your brand, you know, saying hey, will you do this for you know, less than market rates. And so we want to make sure we stand behind them and say, hey, look, here's what good design costs, it doesn't have to be 1000s of dollars, but it's certainly not $50. Right. And so we want to set that minimum. So that so that we protect them, and it's still still very affordable, we have the ability to to negotiate based on the price. And what we find is this happens with scope, right? So if a company a large enterprise comes to us, and maybe they want to post, you know, dozens of projects, but maybe the variation isn't that significant between each one, that's where we can get a little creative on our side, because this is custom work. And we want that core price. So that we can say, you know, here's what's going to be delivered, here's what is within scope. And here's what we would consider out of scope. If you're looking to do something that's out of scope in this category, we allow you to increase the price to meet that. But we want to make sure that there's a a minimum to protect our creatives and a minimum so that the average business that comes can see that this is affordable design.

Mike: It's really interesting. It sounds like you've probably got designers from around the world many in lower cost economies, you're you're actually ensuring they earn a decent wage, which is great. You're protecting those those creatives. But in fact what you're offering your clients is quality. It's not about cost. It's not about sourcing, you know, the lowest cost economy, it's about sourcing the best design is that is that really what you're trying to do.

Jason: It is we and to backup our creatives, we have a large portion in North America that are working with us. The interesting thing is is these creatives get excited to be able to work with brands they'd never be able to work with on their own right so CrowdSpring is able to bring them 1000s of small business clients but also people like the Dallas Mavericks, LG Barilla pasta, these companies that you're not gonna be able to reach out to and say Hey, can I do this, this work with you? And so it creates a lot of excitement for them to be able to say hey, you know, I got to You know, stretch my creative muscles, maybe early in my career. It's really this idea of democratising design, where we don't care where you're from, you need to be able to speak English and communicate well with the clients. But we let the design speak, we let the designs that these folks come up with show their true skill. And I think that's just a an amazing opportunity for somebody at any stage in their career to be able to work with some of these and allows the larger enterprises to tap into potential that isn't at the top agencies, right. They're not they're not already working there.

Mike: I mean, that sounds great. It seems to me like you could have a problem where, you know, if I run one of these projects, and have multiple designs come back, and actually like maybe two or three of them rather than one. I mean, how would you deal with, you know, a client actually wanting to take more than one design? Is that possible?

Jason: Absolutely, it is possible, we actually created a product around this problem. It's called focus groups. And so what we found is folks, creating these projects are saying we like three different designs we can't pick. And sometimes that's not a problem. If you're running a custom illustration project, you can find places in your website marketing materials for multiple illustrations. But if you're running logo design, or presentation or packaging design, you can only have one. And so we created the focus group product where you preload several designs that you like, you share that with your network by either directly through email or direct link through social media, and you get feedback. And you're getting feedback directly from either the customers or the stakeholders at the company, and maybe family and friends as well. And you're getting that feedback to help you figure out you know, what designs and iterations you want. If you do want to purchase multiple every project comes with the intellectual property to transfer one design over per project, but we make it really easy to either offer to buy it from the creatives after the project is complete, or to add multiple awards into your project from the beginning where you can say, Look, we're going to award three different participants, because we know we're going to need at least three designs for say, a custom illustration project.

Mike: It's interesting. I mean, obviously, one of the things that really is important is the ownership of intellectual property. I mean, that's, that's really key. How do you ensure that your creatives are creating genuinely new designs rather than maybe plagiarising? Some stuff? Is there a process in place to stop that?

Jason: Absolutely. As I mentioned, we're founded by an intellectual property attorneys. So we take this seriously. And it starts with who we bring onto the platform. So if you went to CrowdSpring, and go to join up in the top, you'd find if you're trying to join as a creative, you'd be put on a waitlist, and we open up that waitlist maybe two or three times a year. And we do this because it's incredibly labour intensive on our part, we manually review everybody that joins the platform, and we make sure that they're qualified for the specific categories they want to participate in. So just because you can design logos, doesn't mean we allow you to name products or design packaging materials, you may be able to do that. But you have to prove that skill set to us. And so it starts from the beginning by bringing on folks that have strong quality, and in educating them right from the beginning, about what's important for CrowdSpring, what's important for our brand. And that's privacy and intellectual property protections and intellectual property protections under that umbrella means you're creating custom work, you're not ripping off, you know, the Disney font or Ubers logo, right to be cute. And so it starts with that curation, it starts with the expectation from the creatives, we provide them with a reputation score that follows them throughout the life on the platform, and it fluctuates up and down, based on about 80 different factors. So it's not just about how many projects they want, it's about the quality of their work. And following the rules. We have strict and our creatives understand this, we have very strict protections against violations for intellectual property or privacy, you're gone, there's zero tolerance policies for this, you're immediately removed from the platform, and you cannot join again. And we have protections in place to make sure that you know, we know you know, this person cannot come back onto the platform. Because it's such a manual process for us.

This has done a great job of of you know, after 15 years showing we mean business that there's no reason for you to to try to violate these rules, because we're going to find out projects, once they get posted by the client or reviewed by our customer service team. They're reviewed to make sure there's no ambiguity within the scope and the creative brief that are going to cause issues later. And then we review the entries we review the entries, the creatives, police, other creatives entries, and will alert us as well, because the creatives realise that we have to build this platform together, we can't have a rogue creative, that is acting, acting outside of scope and these boundaries. So it's created a platform. You know, that's really strong in terms of the quality and I think what ultimately stands to show that you don't have to believe me, just we've offered 100% money back guarantee for 15 years and we're in business. You know, you're not in business every day. at creating, you know, a strong product and still offering that guarantee.

Mike: I mean, that's really interesting is obviously something you're super passionate about. And I love that. I guess the other thing that you know, particularly people working in larger enterprises might throw at you is, how do you deal with restrictive style guides, because some enterprises have quite prescriptive guides on style. And I think quite often platforms like CrowdSpring might be associated with new ideas, new concepts, but actually, they've still got to fit in those restrictions. So how would someone ensure that that works, and they don't get something that the brand police, as they call them, would then come and block from being used?

Jason: Absolutely. I mean, I think this is the value to a creative platform like CrowdSpring, that has a strong curation, because this is a challenge for folks, internally, these companies, you know, they're looking at their brand guidelines, and they're seeing kind of maybe the Cavalier marketing tactics of newer companies or maybe some of their colleagues and you're thinking, okay, but I can't do that, right, I can't do this, in my, my role, I have these very strict guidelines. And so it becomes a process, especially if you've worked there for for many years, where you feel like your creativity is really hampered, you know, as an employee here, looking at these guidelines, looking at things you would like to do. And so by outsourcing this to a platform, and we'll get into the curation and following side, but the concept of outsourcing this to somebody that can understand your brand guidelines, and still provide some some additional creative and innovative solutions, really allows you to start thinking fresh about what could potentially become a stale brand, which is something we don't want to happen, right, we want to, we want to follow our brand guidelines, so that we maintain that brand equity, but we don't want to become a stale in not innovating on our brand. And so that's that's why enterprise is like trying out projects on CrowdSpring. To answer your question specifically on the on the brand guidelines, we have a creative brief and that creative brief is the very first step that you take. And you're telling us about the project, you're telling us about what your goals are, you know what your potential your competitors are, if you're trying to model this after, after one of these, you're telling us your goals for this campaign. And we allow you to upload any documents that you need. And so one of that for the enterprise level clients are their brand guidelines, these are the creative tracks, you have to stay on, you know, these are the fonts, these are the colours, this is the style we're looking for. And that doesn't hinder creativity from this audience. It allows them to stay focused on what they're looking to do. And, you know, what we find is that you're getting when you have dozens of different creators participating, instead of one or two marketers within a company trying to think about how to be innovative and follow these guidelines. You're outsourcing this to dozens that are able to see this potentially for the first time. And they're bringing their fresh ideas. And so having that that those creative rails, as I call them through the creative brief, is not a challenge. We work with that regularly with our clients.

Mike: One of the things you mentioned just talking there, I'm interested you talk about curation, I mean, how do you curate the designs that come back so that it makes it easier for the client to actually pick the one that that's most appropriate, or that's best, rather than just being faced with a sea of different options?

Jason: Yeah, it starts with that creative brief, the more specific the client can be in terms of what they're looking for, and what the creative rails are, the stronger the results are. This product is designed for any level of business owner or marketer, but the folks that understand design that understand their company, really well get the best designs, because they're able to communicate that within their creative brief, they're able to say, what they like, what they don't like, what's allowed, what's not allowed, what exactly, they're looking to see who the target audience is, when you have all of that information in a creative brief, it becomes much easier for the creatives to say, Okay, here's what I can do. Here's what I can't do. Here's what I've done in the past, here's how I can modify that to work for this client. And you get some fabulous designs that come back right from the beginning, when you have that much detail. One thing that we've done is there's three different ways to give feedback, you have unlimited iterations and the CrowdSpring projects. And so what you're doing in that very first step is you are you're you're giving either a score out of one to five, you're giving on that specific design, you're giving comments on that design, or you're updating your entire creative brief and saying, Hey, I forgot to mention we can't use green or we can't use this word. You know, so you can you can provide directions to all the creatives that way.

Mike: It sounds awesome. Oh, it sounds like a platform that people just have to try to experience what they can get back. It's really interesting.

Absolutely. You know, the The fascinating part is going if you go to crowdsource dot com forward slash categories, there's 33 categories of branding and design. And for creatives and marketers, this is kind of an exciting area to say, okay, my wheels are turning on some things we could do, because for a lot of the enterprise level clients listening to this, we're not going to change your logo, right? We're not going to touch the core brand identity. But there's things that you need to do within your marketing. And I'll give some examples, custom illustrations, right. So within your your marketing to make it feel more human, more fun, more exciting, or communicate maybe a difficult concept very quickly, we process imagery 1000s of times faster than text. So instead of having a lengthy paragraph explaining something, maybe a custom illustration designed specifically, to educate on that problem can communicate more quickly and more succinctly. And so custom illustrations are popular with enterprise level clients. You know, we mentioned logos might be out of the equation for the core brand, but maybe they're appropriate for things like the podcast, you know, that is targeting a specific group that wants to be on brand with the main company, but wants to show its kind of innovation and independence, you might have internal events, like corporate run walks, or fundraising events, where you know, logos and things like this are needed, packaging, sometimes it's fun to, to create a product that is on brand, but it's not something that the company actually creates or sells publicly, you know, sticker mule is an example of this, where they do custom stickers, but the owners and CEO is passionate about hot sauce. And so they created a a hot sauce, and they you know, give it away to to clients. And it's kind of like a fun interaction with the brand. It's they're not in the business of selling or creating hot sauce. But it's a fun way of extending that that brand into an additional touchpoint. I mean, this is the challenge for for marketers is we've got a lot of competition, right? How do we stand out? And more importantly, once we stand out? How do we communicate, we're different? How do we communicate that the product that we have is for them, right in some ways to do this, or to touch them with different types of marketing that, you know, they're not used to seeing, they're used to seeing some of the standard pieces of marketing, but something like a custom designed hot sauce bottle for that company is is much more unique for such categories on CrowdSpring is a great way to start looking at different creative uses of this crowd of designers that CrowdSpring has created.

Mike: I love the way that you get so enthusiastic about all these different approaches to marketing. I mean, I think, you know, perhaps one of the things that people listening would be interested to hear is, when you're promoting CrowdSpring. What works for you, what are the best channels for winning yourself new customers?

Jason: It’s education. So what we do is spend an awful lot of time over the last 15 years educating on what is branding? What is a brand identity? How is this going to help you basically compete in the marketplace? How are you going to build a stronger business by focusing on your core brand and your core brand identity. So it's it's podcasts like this, it's live workshops, where we're helping iterate on things, it's getting on phone calls with innovation managers, and just riffing on ideas. And so, you know, if there's, if there's anybody out there that, you know, is working within a large organisation trying to figure out, you know, what to do differently, what types of opportunities, we could use 212,000 creatives to help their organisation in a creative way. I think the Burleigh pasta campaign is a perfect example of that. You know, it's like innovating on the pasta shape that hasn't changed in hundreds of years, gets you more publicity gets you a little bit more of a conversation. And so I'm happy when I get the chance to talk with innovation managers and marketing managers at large organisations where we can just riff on these different ideas, how can how can we work together?

Mike: Oh, that sounds awesome. We'd like to ask a little bit about you know, to get under the skin of what you do in marketing. So one of the things I'd love to know is about marketing advice. I mean, what's the best bit of marketing advice someone's ever given you?

Jason: I think it's the idea of lean into what your brand is actually about. And realise that it's going to, it's going to upset some folks. And those aren't your customers, right? That's not your audience that you're trying to create. And you want to make sure that whatever whatever your core brand is, whatever your core value proposition is, that that is what's coming through and you're not trying to be something you're not. We've all been on a phone call on hold where it says you know, your, your services really important to us. Please wait for 37 minutes before somebody picks up the phone and it's like the there's a disconnect there. You know, if customer service is not your strong suit, don't say, you know, it's really important. Don't say you know that my services or my patronage is really important. You want to make sure that you're aligning your brand and your messaging with with what the customer truly is. CS.

Mike: I think it was great advice. I love that. I'm interested in what you think of marketing as a career as well. You know, if you were talking to a young person who was thinking about marketing as a career, what would you say to them? And maybe what part of marketing would you recommend they get into?

Jason: Absolutely don't don't get hung up on the tactics. And the things that aren't important. Business is quite simple. When you boil it down, we're trying to get more customers. We're trying to reduce churn, we're trying to increase profit, right? That's, that's it. I mean, it's like, I think what happens, especially with junior level marketers is is we like to tell ourselves, we're succeeding because of how many Facebook likes we got or retweets. And, and while that can lead to sales and lead to growth, we need to make sure that that that connection is more clear. And it's not just nebulous. And so I think being clear on what the core principles are for your brand, that you're trying to advance, and making sure that you're not you're not confusing yourself with vanity metrics, thinking that success.

Mike: That's amazing advice. I mean, Jason, this has been great. I could talk to you for ages. I love your enthusiasm, about design and about marketing, but I'm mindful of time. So maybe the best thing to say is, you know, people want to continue this conversation, they'd like more information, how could they best contact you?

Jason: Absolutely, there's, there's a couple of ways. I mean, I think if you're If this sounds interesting, we have affordable projects that start at $300. So this is not going to break the bank to try something out. To be able to try a project and see how this works. So go to CrowdSpring.com. Take a look at the categories and see from there. If you're a smaller brand, and you're looking for a little feedback on your brand, we have a free brand identity grader, where we provide a custom 10 page report specifically for your brand. It's done by a human, we score your brand out of 100 and provide some actionable feedback. And if you're a larger enterprise, you're an innovation manager, your marketing manager, you're trying to figure out an interesting way to follow your brand guidelines, but also be innovative and creative and keep up with some of the tactics that newer brands are using reach out to me directly. I'm happy to schedule a call and, and have a conversation. We've built CrowdSpring as a self service platform, so you don't have to talk to me in order to move forward. But if it's helpful to be able to riff on different ideas and see how we can work together, I'd love to be able to do that and you can reach out jason@CrowdSpring.com

Mike: That's really generous. Jason, I really appreciate it's been a great interview. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Jason: Absolutely. Great to be here.

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 Sam Oh - Ahrefs

As more people understand the value of SEO, competition increases. In this podcast episode, Mike chats with Sam Oh, VP of Marketing at Ahrefs who offer a suite of SEO tools from keyword research to competitor analysis.

Sam discusses Ahrefs’ commitment to reliable data and how bad data can lead to bad decisions.

He also offers advice on how marketeers can approach SEO campaigns and how impactful SEO fundamentals and basics can be for companies.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Sam Oh – Ahrefs

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Sam Oh

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 Sam Oh. Sam is the VP of Marketing at Ahrefs, an SEO company. Welcome to the podcast, Sam.

Sam: Thanks for having me.

Mike: It's great to have you on. I mean, you've had a really interesting career you seem to have done, you know, everything, including founding companies, and yet actually, you didn't start from a business background, tell us how you got to HR at fail your career developed?

Sam: Yeah, so I guess it's run rather long story. So I started an E commerce in 2009. And I basically thought to myself, I'm young, and if I'm going to fail, then this is a great time to do it, when I still have my parents to help out. And if anything were to go wrong, then, you know, everything's alright. I did decently. And a lot of that was through learning SEO, and the company was acquired in 2012. And I kind of just rinse and repeat it for several years, I started an agency, and eventually 2018, I tried to acquire eight trips as a customer. And it was a lead gen experiment that I was working through. And instead they got me as an employee. And since then, I've left my agency side work. And now I'm full time at ETFs and have been for now four and a half years.

Mike: Wow. So you're gonna be a customer I liked so much you decided to join the company? Is that the story?

Sam: Yeah, they just treated me really well. And I think just the season in life that I was in, it was time to let go of the, you know, 16 to 18 hour days, putting out fires needed to come to a stop. And I was just, I was ready to just settle with where I wasn't very happy with being at a dress.

Mike: That's awesome. So I mean, the first thing to say is I introduced Ahrefs, as an SEO tool, there's lots of SEO tools out there. So can you just explain a little bit about what Ahrefs does, and how it's different to some of the other products?

Sam: Yeah, so we provide a suite of SEO tools. So that includes everything from tools for keyword research, for content for landing pages, whatever it may be competitive analysis. So if you want to look at your competitors, backlinks, their organic traffic, the keywords that they're ranking for, to do website audits, you can basically just click a few buttons. And then we'll check for over 100 plus SEO issues on your site, and kind of tell you how to fix them, where to fix them. In terms of differentiation. For me, personally, I was an HR Fs customer for maybe three years before I joined their company. And that's why I was excited to actually try to get them as a clients, which again, didn't work out. But I what I found, especially working here and understanding the intricacies of the tool is our commitment to reliable data. And a lot of this is because of the founder and CEO, Dimitri, he's the technical brains, you know, behind everything. And basically, our crawler is the second most active only next to Google. And what that does for the quality of the data is because links on the internet are always die, they're redirected that revive whatever, we're able to report on fresh data. And so all the data that you see at Ahrefs, including keyword data, we have the largest US database of keywords, and we're constantly expanding. And so yeah, I think just the commitment to reliable data is huge, which makes our tools I think, quite different from from other ones that are out there. We're also very transparent about this stuff as well.

Mike: And also, you've been around for a very long time, haven't you? I mean, you've had this track record of building up the crawler and making it the biggest other than Google.

Sam: Absolutely, yeah.

Mike: So one thing, I think, you know, a lot of people listening to this might not be SEO experts, I think, you know, what would be great is to have a kind of idea as to how people might approach putting together some sort of campaign to improve the search engine optimization of their site, you know, what would be the steps using a tool like Ahrefs?

Sam: Yes, I think it's a little bit of a loaded question, because depending on what it is you want to do, that can vary quite a bit, and also depending on the site that you're working on, but we'll, I guess a kind of a basic example would be creating blog content and ranking that. So you might start off with keywords Explorer, which is our keyword research tool, and you can just enter in some keywords that are related to your niche. And then you go to a keyword ideas report and you'll see millions and millions of keywords, which you obviously don't want to filter through because who has the time to go through a million keywords. So you can use some of the filters. So you know, assuming you want to rank for some of the lower difficulty ones then you can set a Keyword Difficulty filter and you can find the low calm Position ones that you can actually start going after, and getting results much faster than trying to compete for, you know, some of the fat head terms. So, yeah, that might for, for example, like if you're in the insurance business, you wouldn't want to try and rank for insurance because you probably won't be able to compete, unless you're, you know, the cream of the crop and have the biggest budgets, basically. But you can find lower competition topics that you'll actually have a fighting chance of ranking for, to get organic traffic. And then if you need to build backlinks, you can basically click through to different things within the tool. And that'll send you over to Site Explorer, you can see who your competitors are getting backlinks from. And you can use that as intelligence to try and get backlinks for yourself.

Mike: I mean, that's really neat, really simple to, you know, two areas to look at to start your campaign. It's interesting, you talk about keyword difficulty. I mean, is it more difficult to do SEO today? Is there more competition?

Sam: Yeah, that's that's, that's a little bit tricky. And I think this is like, I'll try not to go all meta here. But I think, because there are more competitors. And because more people understand the value of SEO, that it is more difficult, because there's just more people doing it. And naturally, there's going to be more competition. But at the same time, I feel like the way that things are moving in terms of attention span, we've all heard stats, like, you know, the average time on site is decreasing by whatever percent or humans have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. But that leaks into our marketing, too, I think. And I think a lot of people are always looking for quick ways to kind of make something happen. And so they're cutting corners. And so I think that opens up opportunities for people who are willing to create better contents, who are actually willing to put in the grunt work of building links to that page. Because as that happens, other people are not doing it, because everyone else is looking for a shortcut to get there. And so yeah, in some ways, it's not as hard if you can just stay focused and keep your head down. But at the same time, because of the number of competitors, it is naturally a more competitive landscape than it once was.

Mike: And it's interesting to talk about that, because, you know, one of the things I'm interested in is how much expertise do you need? I mean, you said, you know, it's all about getting some links and creating great content. I mean, is it as simple as that? Or do you need to be an SEO expert,

Sam: You really don't. So I created a, an SEO course, for beginners in our academy. Now, it's been a year and a half. And I get messages from people who say, like, I never knew how to do SEO, now I know how to do it. And now I'm making multi six figure income from doing this, like affiliate SEO through their company. And they're just grateful. And like, of course, I don't know whether this is true. I don't know why someone would, would lie about that. But, you know, these people are coming from nothing, and they're just taking the fundamentals of SEO is all you really need to do is stick with the basics, keep your head down and get better at the basics. And as you do that, you're going to get traffic. And if you're going with a business approach in mind, then you're going to generate revenue. And yet people who have never done this kind of stuff who were making, you know, 2040 50 60k are now making two $300,000 through their own stuff. And so yeah, a lot of potential there. You don't have to be an expert. And I think pretty much anyone can do it now. It's just mostly a lot of trial and error. But yeah, I really hope that people will, will actually give it a shot because it's not as difficult, at least at a basic level to get into.

Mike: I'm presuming that applies to people who previously wouldn't have thought that much about SEO. So for example, if you're involved in media relations, creating press releases, I mean, is it the case you should be thinking about SEO in your press release, as well as your website content?

Sam: Well, I'm not, I wouldn't claim to be an expert at all, when it comes to press releases. I guess it really depends on the purpose of that press release, I don't think you need to really focus on ranking it well, because what are you trying to rank it for? Usually, it's press releases or more announcements, I think of what's happening in the company. And so if you're a publicly traded company, people are going to see that press release. Because as you go to Yahoo Finance or whatever, Bloomberg or whatever, it's all going to be listed under your stock ticker. Not so much for SEL, I don't think it makes sense in the sense of ranking those those press releases.

Mike: So the message there is really focus on the content, you want to rank and spend the time optimising that

Sam: Yeah, so basically ones that are ideally going to be somewhat evergreen and that are going to drive business value, like for your company, because at the end of the day, like traffic without any kind of result, like without any kind of business value is just kind of pointless if anything, it's a waste of money because now you're wasting bandwidth.

Mike: That makes sense. I'm interested you mentioned So about, you know, checking for SEO issues, I mean, is that one of those features where you can actually get very quick wins on a website is where you've got issues that need correcting?

Sam:  Yeah, so that really depends on what the issue is. But yes, there. So we have a free tool called Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, which includes Site Audit. And you basically just verify your website just like you would with Google Search Console. And then you can run free audits on your website. And so depending on what you find there, it could potentially be a very, very quick and big win. So if you have, if you're no indexing some of your important pages, and you're wondering why it's not ranking, we'll find that out. And you can actually index the page or request for it to be indexed technically. And so yeah, it really depends on on what the issue is, like, if you're going to be fixing some redirects. Depending on what those redirects are, that could potentially be a big win, or it could be a nothing burger. So it really depends on on your specific business issues. But regardless, I think that people should be auditing their websites regularly, so that they can find what these issues are. Because nobody knows what these issues are until you find them. And nobody can say how valuable or how important they are until you find that

Mike: Makes sense. I mean, again, going back to this desire to want to see quick results from something that's inherently going to take quite a long time. I mean, are there big mistakes people are making maybe in terms of the shortcutting, you talked about, that mean that they they're actually undermining their SEO, rather than improving it?

Sam: The shortcuts often mean that people are looking for hacks. And often when you look for hacks, you're getting into a lot of technical details that do not matter. So we're looking for these advanced hacks, and we see these tutorials and we're like, oh, this is the same stuff that I've already seen before. Well, the reason why you're seeing it, again, is because it works oftentimes, right. And people are just discounting it saying it's not important, because it's not advanced enough for me, I literally see comments in our YouTube channel sometimes that say, this is not advanced enough. But in my head, I'm just thinking, just stick with the fundamentals. And you will get very far and you won't even be watching these tutorials anymore. And that's fine with me. Because, yeah, that's a good thing, it means that people are actually getting things done. So in terms of mistakes, I think overcomplicating is a huge one, and also trying to cut corners, looking for some kind of advanced hack, which ends up just being a waste of time. And then yeah,

Mike: Makes a lot of sense. I'm interested about, you know, measuring the value of SEO, because obviously, people tend to talk about growth in traffic. But that's kind of unrelated to business. I mean, is there a way to measure ROI? Or does that vary from, you know, perhaps one industry category to another?

Sam: Yeah, so there are so many ways, and you might not like my answer, but I don't think that you really need to measure strictly the ROI of SEO, because I don't know if it's possible to do properly. Like, there's so many different attribution models like blast like position based, first click whatever, there's just so many different attribution models. And so what we do is we actually don't do things like goal tracking through Google Analytics, we don't even have Google Analytics installed on our site. But we look at our annual recurring revenue. And if it's going up into the right, that's a good thing. So as our organic traffic probably works together, and I've just never seen an attribution model where like, I won't have a million questions to doubt the accuracy of it, like how do we know why these people are converting? Are they converting from this page? Have they how many interactions have they had with the brand? We can't measure that because it's not always through things that we control? If it comes from bad data, it's going to lead to bad decisions. And if it works, does that mean that it's actually factual? Not necessarily, we just don't know. And so when it comes to measuring the ROI of SEO, a lot of it is just common sensical. So if we're creating content that has clear business value, so for Ahrefs, we have a keyword research tool. If we have content on a Keyword Research Tutorial, of course, we're going to show people how to deal with our keyword research tool. If we're getting a tonne of organic traffic to that page. Naturally, people are going to click and explore keyword research tool, it's impossible to get a significant amount of organic traffic, where our product is really the star of the show, and to not get business value from that. So for us, we just keep creating content like that, but that has business value, and we get traffic to it. And our annual recurring revenue goes up. SEO is profitable for us in that case.

Mike: I think that's a great way of looking at it. I mean, one thing, I guess might be worth exploring just a little bit is this idea of an attribution model. Can you just explain what you mean by that and why it is sometimes so limited?

Sam: Yeah, so we can't track a full customer journey, I don't think we can at least I've never seen a tool that can do it properly. Because now, like people, we interact with so many different channels. So you might, let's say, for example, you want to even buying a garden hose. So you might buy a hose that's, you know, 30 to $50, or whatever it is. But how do you actually buy that hose? Well, you might ask your neighbour for a recommendation. But then you go, and you don't trust your neighbour fully. So you go, and you start a YouTube video, and then you search for best garden hoses in Google. And then you click through from that person's page. And as the retailer, you see that you got referral traffic from abc.com. And that person converted. So does that mean that abc.com is responsible for that conversion? Probably not maybe a little bit, we don't really know what's happening at the end of the day, is that there's so many different variables, and now we're bombarded with information from social media, from search from ads all around us from podcasts from everywhere, information is everywhere. And we hear these things. And now I'm talking about a garden hose. And somebody realises Oh, yeah, I need to go buy a garden hose now. Am I responsible for that conversion? Like, we don't really know how this works, and like how there's so many different touchpoints. Like for B2B, I think there's like hundreds of touchpoints, before you actually become a customer of a company. And so if we can't accurately attributed than, again, bad data leads to bad decisions. And so if our Garden Hose Company says, oh, yeah, it's because somebody spoke about garden hoses. A person on a B2B podcast spoke about garden hoses. Yeah, then we should go and find more B2B people who will speak on podcasts about garden hoses. That's a bad decision. All right. And so if we can't properly attribute the sale to the source, it's because there isn't one source. And so yeah, that's why I don't think that attribution models, they usually don't make sense, but especially at the enterprise level, they almost force it for reporting. But at least for us, we're still a pretty small company and our CEO and founder, our CMO are all very much in agreement that these just don't make sense. So don't try to force something that way. Instead, we'll keep it common sensical. And look at our revenue up into the right, organic traffic up into the right. Things are working, let's keep going. And in not just that, but word of mouth. People will often say the great things about our content. And a lot of these people are our customers. So I think it shows that it resonates with them, and that it contributes to our bottom line.

Mike: Makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, you've explained how hard it is to work out what actually works and drive sales, although you did allude to the fact that, you know, you've seen pretty competent things like your blog, but what do you find the best channels or the best tactics to promote the tool? Well,

Sam: Yeah, so I think so for us, because we're in SAS, naturally, people want to see how the software works, and not so much a software demo, but they want to see how it solves their problems. So for us, our two main channels are the blog and our YouTube channel. We're obviously involved with social media newsletters, and sponsorships, and etc, etc. But I would say that these two are the biggest for us. And it's kind of what our brand has become well known for. And literally like, we keep it so fundamental, we just think does this topic have business value? Does this topic have traffic potential? Yes, yes. All right, let's do it. And so because we just trust that if we're creating content that's going to naturally in a very organically showcase our product, and it's going to show people that by doing it this way, it actually solves the problem that you're looking for, then people aren't going to purchase and it doesn't mean that they're pushers right then and there. They might purchase tomorrow, a month from now, five years from now, whatever it might be, we're planting seeds. And we're just constantly planting those seeds. As they search for solutions to their problem, the more I guess, aware they become that our tool can solve many other problems, then it becomes worth the investment for people to try and to eventually, I guess, become long term advocates in our tool as well.

Mike: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I like that. I'm interested about you as a marketer. So from your point of view, you know, You've obviously done a lot of marketing in your career as well as building businesses. But what do you love about the marketing element? What's the things you really enjoy?

Sam: I really actually enjoy the operations aspect. So I like creating systems SOPs, and basically finding ways to optimise that specifically in marketing so not so much in the other areas. But I also love just promoting a great product and the kind of sounds cheesy but you Like, there's so many bad products out there right now that I would not want to be responsible for marketing it because I feel like I'm just lying. And so I think that has been a huge thing. Like our CMO once said something like your product is your marketing. And I didn't quite understand what he meant when he first said that. But over time, it's just become so apparent because like, the reason why I was happy to join Ahrefs, the company as an employee, after being self employed my entire adult life is because I just love the product. And all I was doing was just sharing what I was doing with the product before. And it just naturally was good marketing, because people were like, oh, like, I didn't know you could do that. And so they have to try it themselves. And then they go and share it. Some people, like they'll say, Oh, I learned this from Sam, other people will just share it as their own. Whatever it is, it doesn't matter because the company is now benefiting from these things being shared, because we're just talking about how we use the tool. And I just love that. Like, we can market a great product just naturally, it's like I would talk to a friend about it. But now we're doing it at scale and reaching millions and millions of people doing that.

Mike: As that's really interesting, I think that's actually interesting marketing advice, you know that the product is your marketing, I think that that's a great way to look at things. Are there any other tips or things people have said to you during your marketing career that you've really taken as being good advice, and you've used to drive your career forward?

Sam: The best, it's not so much advice, but it was a question that somebody asked me. And that question was, who cares? So when you think about it, and you, like, as we write blog contents, as we're going through the edits, or editing process, our feedback process is, is super, super, brutally honest. And it's also strict. And oftentimes we look through it. And the question that will often ask is, who cares? So if you say a statement, and I look at that, and I say, Who cares? Then the author now needs to ask, Who cares? And if nobody cares, then it's time to cut that. And I think it cuts out a lot of the fluff and the marketing that we're very much used to. And now people are kind of intolerant of this fluff. And so I think oftentimes, when we ask Who cares, it also makes us think about who are our customers? And so, yeah, I find that that is a question that I just keep asking myself, whenever I'm doing anything related to marketing is, who cares?

Mike: I love that it's really powerful. So um, I mean, I think the only thing is, I can imagine some people in your team submitting work and getting that question and finding it a tough one to answer. Sometimes.

Sam: It is. And I think we're all the important thing is that within our within our organisation, we all know that, like, the criticism that we gave is constructive. It's, we're not there to hurt anyone, or to challenge anyone's ego or anything like that. And like, we're not just going to say to anyone who cares, like in such a way that would offend most people. But like, for me, like I review Josh's content, he reviews mine, and oftentimes will say, Who cares? And like we look at that, and we're like, good point, like, who cares? And I think just taking that as constructive feedback, as opposed to an attack that needs to be established within the company as well, before you can start doing things like that.

Mike: That's great advice. I mean, we've created company looked at and gone. Yeah, actually, people really care about this. Are there any campaigns that you've driven from that, but you're particularly proud of or have been particularly effective?

Sam: I did a case study, it was a three part case study where we created a statistics page. So SEO statistics, we wrote the content, we built backlinks to it. And we ranked him for a very competitive term in around two weeks. And so we did a case study on that. And I loved it, because it was a very different way of of creating content, it was very data driven. And we knew exactly who we were going to get links from before the campaign even started. And we just showcase literally everything. And it was so cool, because it was almost like I was in my agency days where we're not allowed to share those secrets with people because then competitors can take it. But now that I'm on the tool side, I literally get to give an over the shoulder view of like, oh, this is what we're doing. And it's just like, we're having these aha moments, kind of as we're going and yeah, it worked out really well for us. And so I don't know if we're still in pole position, but yeah, we're in position one or two, probably for SEO statistics. And it was yeah, the everything is laid out there and I just loved it because it's also organic marketing because I'm just showing people what I didn't eight trips because that's what I did.

Mike: That's awesome that, you know, you put this together you plan the campaign, and then it actually achieved the results. So I love that as a story. One of the things we'd like to ask people and particularly people that you've had a lot of experience in marketing, if you knew a young person was thinking about marketing as a career, what advice would you give them?

Sam: Oh, that's a good question. I think the most important thing are results. And I think people often think of degrees. And I'm not saying that education is not important. That's not what I'm saying at all. But people who actually go out and and get results is what's going to get you hired. If a job is your goal, it's what's going to help you get better at marketing, is even just having a personal site saying I want to rank for this, or how do I do that, and then figuring it out, trying failing, trying failing, and then that's actually going to make somebody much more attractive from an employer standpoint. And also, yeah, like, you're just gonna get so much out of that just out of three months of just like, getting obsessed with ranking, or whatever it is that you're going to do in marketing, I think is, is, is probably the best thing you can do for your career.

Mike: Amazing advice, I think that's really quite inspiring as well, you know, that, that anyone can go out and try and learn SEO by by actually doing it, and then become successful. So I love that feels really inspirational. So I'm obviously mindful of time and, you know, really appreciate the time you spent with us. Is there anything else you feel we should have covered? Or anything you feel listeners would like to know?

Sam: No, I feel like we've covered quite a lot in a pretty short period of time.

Mike: That's amazing. So if anyone listening to this, we'd like to find out more about Ahrefs. Or maybe ask you about something that you've mentioned on the podcast. I mean, what's the best way to firstly find out about the product? And then also maybe get hold of yourself?

Sam:  Yeah, so you can learn about our product on our blog, Ahrefs.com/blog. You can go to YouTube and just search for Ahrefs, so A-H-R-E-F-S. If you have any specific questions for me, then you can tweet me. My DMS are open as well. It's Sam SG Oh.

Mike: That's amazing. That's very kind to offer people to have the chance to DM you as well. So I know you're probably incredibly busy. I really appreciate that. Sam, I really appreciate this. This has been fascinating and insight into SEO and particularly into the Ahrefs tool. So thank you very much for being on the podcast. Thanks for having me. 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 Darby Sieben - Unbounce

The internet is an increasingly crowded place, with competition rising and ad costs increasing. Ensuring landing pages are as optimised as possible is more important than ever. In our latest podcast episode, we interview Darby Sieben, Chief Product Officer at Unbounce, who shares top tips and insights about creating effective landing pages.

Darby shares how Unbounce continues to evolve to build tools that drive better conversions for marketeers, and his opinion on how pop-ups can be used for success.

He also shares the advice he has gained from throughout his career and discusses his goal of helping marketeers get better at what they do and levelling the playing field between small and large businesses.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Darby Sieben – Unbounce

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Darby Sieben

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 Darby Sieben, Darby is the chief product officer from Unbounce. Welcome to the podcast Darby.

Darby: Thanks, Mike. Glad to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you on. I mean, I'm particularly interested, I had to look at LinkedIn and seen you've had like this amazing career where you've worked for the Yellow Pages in Canada, you've been an investment advisor. I mean, can you just give us a bit of a background about your career and how you've got to the point of working with Unbounce?

Darby: Yeah, I'll give you a very quick two minute overview. You know, I won't, I won't give my exact age to the users, they can probably figure it out some of your podcast listeners. But when I graduated high school, I had a vision and a dream to become a computer programmer. And I realised there was a difference between a good one and a great one. And I would never be a great one. But I was always fascinated in the 90s with the intersection of business and technology, and really had a deep passion for where the internet was actually going to go. So typical, you know, story I dropped out of school started a company hired by friends who are great programmers, we built our first company, and then in 90s, sold that, that I built the second agency in Calgary, Alberta, which we sold the Yellow Pages group, and then I joined YPG, to help them with their digital transformation as we were moving from a print focused company to a digital focused company. And so that was a really interesting journey around, you know, how do you take 100 year old organisation, and rethink the business model. And so you're offering to transform the entire company, literally an order to become a digitally focused company after 100 years of print. So it was a really, really an amazing journey.

That from there, I went to Royal Bank of Canada, which is the largest bank in Canada, one of the top banks globally, as part of their ventures group to build out one of their largest ventures called amply, which is a cashback application.

Darby: And that was really designed to, you know, connect merchants and consumers within the Canadian market, and reward them for purchases with those particular merchants. And then earlier this year, I joined Unbounce as their Chief Product Officer after speaking with Felicia who's their CEO, understanding the vision of where the organisation is going. And it's, you know, another one of those great, I think it'd be great transformational stories, as Unbounce evolves its business and continues to evolve its business. And then as you mentioned, I do some investing and advising technology's been really good for me and parlayed that into now helping some of the startup founders on not necessarily what to do, but maybe some of the things that I've learned in my career on what not to do, as a way to, to accelerate their businesses as well. So, you know, just I just have a really deep passion for technology, the intersection with business and how, you know, businesses can use tools to continue to grow and expand. It's kind of always been my mission over the last 30 years, as you know, how do we help marketers get better at what they do? That's kind of been the theme across my entire career.

Mike: That's awesome. And I think, you know, a lot of people know Unbounce as being a product that's designed to help marketers in a very specific situation, which is to get people onto a landing page and get them to convert, but he just give us a bit of a view as to all the things Unbounce does, because I think you do a bit more now.

Darby: Yeah, so as you mentioned, you know, Unbounce is really one of those kinds of iconic Canadian brands started about 13 years ago, for the most part really invented a landing page space. And it started with a group of founders that really looked at the market and said, you know, people are spending money on digital advertising. They're driving traffic to their web page. But the web page may not actually be the best conversion engine. And so henceforth, you know, the creation of a landing page to say, let's really direct your traffic to a page that's focused on conversion. And that did really, really well for Unbounce. We created I would think the category and obviously what happens when you create great categories and categories that work. Lots of players come into the marketplace. The shift, you know, where Unbounce is today. And landing pages is still very important part of our puzzle because you need to be able to create content. But we talk about conversion intelligence. And so when I talk about conversion, intelligence, what problem are we really trying to solve?

We know that the internet's more and more crowded. We know there's lots of builder tools that are out there. competition continues to increase ad costs continue to increase. And we started to look at the assets that we built as a company and realise we have a lot A lot of data and a lot of understanding about what actually converts. And so we started to think about how do we leverage this data and its non PII data. But how do we leverage this data, to start to build intelligence tools that actually can augment what a marketer is doing using AI and ML. So we started with smart traffic. And what that means, typically, a marketer before would create an A variant and a B variant, they'd throw some dollars at a throw some dollars at B, then they would do the analysis and figure out which one works and then decide how they're going to go from there. Smart traffic was our first foray into conversion intelligence, which is really letting the machine do the optimization. So you can create those pages, and the machine does the optimization. And we see great results on that particular side.

We've also acquired a company called snazzy.ai, which is now called Smart copy, which is how do we use AI, to, you know, help get the initial set of copy that a user might be looking for. So as opposed to the blank page, and I got to write something out, let me throw in a couple of key words, and the machine can come back and say, here's a starting point, and then the user edit from there. And then a big area of investment right now is our smart builder, which is our second version of our landing page product. Our first one is called classic, which is the one that we built 13 years ago, the new builder is really how do we give eyes to the machine. So we know on the page, what the content is, where it's actually positioned. So we can actually do further optimization as opposed to just traffic, we can actually start to optimise the content on the page, based on all of the things that we know about that in order to increase conversion. So the mission of Unbounce to build tools to help marketers get better conversion still exists. What we're really thinking about now is how do we leverage the billions of visitors that we've seen in the billions of conversions we've seen, and productize those products to really help marketers accelerate what they're doing in terms of conversion, because it's all about ROI for the marketer.

Mike: Wow, I mean, there's, there's a lot there. I'm interested, because, you know, you talk about billions of page visits, which actually, I think is one of the challenges of a lot of people in B2B is a lot of the datasets we have are quite small. And do you think that's something that, you know, a company like Unbounce, can bring is this view over a very high level of traffic, rather than the small numbers that you know, of hundreds or 1000s that you might see in B2B?

Darby: That's exactly the mission that we're on at this point, is we have all of the companies, large, small, different segments, and what have you, building landing pages across our ecosystem gives us a really interesting view of seeing globally, what actually works. And again, we do that in a non PII way, in other ways, you know, merchants can partners can connect their data, but we don't do anything with that particular data, because that actually belongs to the to the merchant. So we're just looking at the conversion data. And so yeah, we think that's a really competitive advantage, when you can start to take the insights, the learnings and the recommendations at a much higher global view, with a billion data points that we have, it starts to become meaningful, you know, provide those insights back to the marketer, and then the marketer can decide how to action on those. And so you're absolutely right, we think that the creation of a page is still very, very important. We think that the competitive advantage is that Unbounce is really starting to lean into is we've got a great set of data, that if we use it in an intelligent, smart way, we know can help accelerate and help produce a better return on investment for marketers.

Mike: I mean, that's amazing. And this is probably a bit of a cheeky question. But there's lots of products, particularly information platforms that have landing page functionality within them. But nobody's really either offering that the same user experience in terms of building that landing page, or this route to actually providing insight from data to help you enhance it. I mean, why do you think these other companies are so far behind?

Darby: I think there's a couple of things. One, we all know that, you know, in the AI and ML space, it's an emerging space. And there's still lots of toolkits that are being built and but you got to fight for talent in order to get really, really smart people that understand this. And that's only one side of the equation. I think the second side of the equation is you know, to do AI and ML really, really well. As you mentioned earlier, you need to have a large data set. And so starting from ground up, it's really, really difficult to do that. Unbounce you know, because of the length of time that we've been in business And what we've seen over the past decade, has really given us that ability to have those insights. So you know, we built a great builder years ago. Now, you know, we have really great pool of data, and the new products that we're building, both have the focus on how do we make it simple for the marketer to build. But then more importantly, how do we make sure that we've got all the semantic labelling in place to give them machine eyes on the page, so we can really understand the text, copy, the tone, the image, the call to action, and start to look at all of those factors that play in to help in a market or convert. And so I think that's probably one of the big reasons why it's difficult to become really strong in the AI ml space is because you got to have that large data set. And then bonds is in a privileged position, because we do have a large data set that we can build off of.

Mike: I mean, this type of data is amazing. I think we'll come back to it in a minute. But you mentioned something about simplicity, making it easy to build landing pages. So you know, I'd really like to start there, because fundamentally, a lot of what people are doing in marketing is having to build landing pages. How do you make it simpler? And what can people do themselves to make that process maybe a little bit less difficult?

Darby: Yeah, so there's a couple of things that and I'll just speak a little bit from an Unbounce perspective, and just maybe more generally, some tips. Marketers are original builder, we call it classic, but let's call it the original builder, was just, you know, your standard Perfect Pixel Perfect, I could come in and build what exactly what I needed to do. Our new builder, smart builder does have some restrictions, it is more templated based, it's more container based to drop and drag. And we've done that specifically to make sure that the machine has eyes on the page. So it kind of knows where everything is, in order to actually do the optimization on the back end. If a marketer starts to play with our smart builder product, we start off by simply asking some questions. What is it you're attempting to do? What is the tone here, some templates, just to give that kickstart for the marketer to get going, even to the point of copy assistant, which is, hey, just tell us about your business. And if you want to have more content, you can, and then our AI will actually go and give you the starting point of text.

So we find it's easier for somebody to edit something that's already there, maybe as opposed to having to create it. So those are some of the simplicity tools we're trying to do on the front end, make it more templated, make it more walk through templated, but still with the flexibility to give the marketer that ability to you know, put their own brand and what have you. And we're going to expand that we're going to do stuff like you know, dropping your URL, and we can use your URL and actually detect all of that information, and just help you streamline the creation, then that's when once we got it up and built, then that's when we can really kick in with our conversion intelligence side. So we do think about the building side, how do we make things simpler, and in some cases, using our tools, so we can say to a merchant, you know, you're putting in that headline, that's great. But if you actually shrink the headline, it's actually going to be a little bit better based on our data, because we know certain headlines produce better size than others as an example. So those are a few of the things that we're tackling for, for simplicity, I think generally, for anybody that's building a landing page to drive traffic to, I think it really does come down to synthesise the core pieces of information for your audience, make the call to action extremely clear, and give them a really good compelling reason why they want to go forward from there. Because clearly, the fact that they're on your landing page, they've expressed some sort of interest. What we're attempting to do and smart builder is, you know, I talked earlier about a testing in a very intended to be variant, we actually see a world in the future where there is no variance, where if a marketer is comfortable with the intelligence that we have in place, I can build my page once I have the guardrails in place, but let the machine optimise the headline and say, Oh, for Mike, who's coming in here, not Mike specifically. But for this user that's coming in here. This is a better headline to present to that user than, say this user and provide all of that to the marketer. So the really the machine starts to become the let's just optimise the how to get that conversion. But the marketer still has to determine the story. They still have to determine the simplicity of the story. And they still have to be very, very clear on what that call to action is. And then we can kind of take over from there.

Mike: So that's really interesting. So you're thinking about, you know, a world where I'm going to give a simple example, perhaps someone who came came in to the landing page through Google ads, might see a different headline to someone who clicked through from the company's website.

Yes, exactly. Exactly. When we think of optimization, there's traffic optimization, content, optimization, placement, and then image optimization, all of those play factors and conversion.

Mike: And I think we're all looking forward to that world where we can pretty much kick the machine off and let it run. I mean, presumably, whilst you're getting close, we're not quite there yet. So if I'm building a landing page today, one of the tips or the guide you can give me to help me build a landing page that's going to convert at a decent rate.

Darby: Yeah, I mean, there's a couple of very high level things that we've learned over the years. I mean, these are just general for any landing page that you would you would see out on the marketplace. First of all, make sure that the landing page message aligns with your marketing message. So if I see that ad on Google, or I see that ad on Instagram, or Tiktok, or wherever it's going to be, there has to be some continuity with what drove my initial interest than what I see on the page. And I would say, in a lot of cases, marketers do a good job of that. But I think we've all seen those cases where you click on an ad, and is this the same company that this just doesn't make sense. So be very clear that your landing page copy and your ad copy are in line? I think the second, which we know for sure, is the call to action, because at this point, we know what user has interest, bring that above the fold, that's a really, really important thing, especially for users that might say that, you know, some will require more information. So they're gonna want to go deeper, some will want to have a, I just want to actually start to action. So bring your call to action on top. The third thing we say is, you know, keep it authentic. Keep it authentic to your brand, keep it authentic to your tone, I don't think landing pages are there to replace anything that your marketing departments already doing. But just be consistent with, you know, your brand colours or imagery or tone. So that you've got that continuity on your landing page is not that thing that's just sits out here. It's actually part of the overall story. Its job, though, is to convert, but I think its secondary job is also to make sure that it's continuity from a marketing message. A few other things, you know, keep it fast, make sure whatever you're doing, if you're driving stuff to a landing page, it's got a load quick, it's got to be really, really fast, latency is going to be a thing that's going to kill you. So whatever service you're using, make sure that they've got speed and top of mind in terms of delivery of your content, because that's really critical. Design for different devices. Well, you know, we're in a world of desktop and tablets and mobile. And so just be very mindful as you're building a landing page. How is it going to render on all three of those because you know, users today, we don't get to tell users anymore, how they want to interact with us that they're going to choose. And so we've just got to meet them in the right area. And then last, and most importantly, is, you know, test and iterate, do a B testing, do multivariate testing, or come to Unbounce and use smart builder. And we'll do that for you. But no, it's you know, you got to continue to test your landing pages, what works today may not work tomorrow, and so you do have to continue to innovate on top of it. And then maybe the last one is keep the call to actions, probably to one, I think, you know, some of the worst landing pages are the ones where you're trying to do too many things. And that's going to be really confusing to the user. You know, lead them down that journey, get crystal clear on the one action you're happening, maybe there's a second, I'll be really, really crystal clear on what you're attempting them to do and try to remove any of the other clutter. That's why we think landing pages are still an important piece of the marketers toolkit, as opposed to your website, because your website is likely designed to do something else than maybe what your landing pages

Mike: Definitely agree. I mean, I think people who aren't building dedicated landing pages are missing out because you can achieve a much better conversion rate, if that's what you're designing for. Yeah, and I guess my my next question is going to be so how do I know if I've got a good conversion rate? What would be a good conversion rate for a landing page?

Darby: That is a absolutely great question. And you're the answer is it's it varies. And it depends. There's always a caveat to that. But this is by far one of the most common questions that we get from our customers. Is the rate that I'm seeing a good conversion rate or not a good conversion rate. And, you know, as we said, we call it it depends. So one of the ways that we've tried to address this a few years ago, again, we started to look at all of the data that we had over the past 10 years and said, Could we create a Do we have enough intelligence to start to give what would be good industry conversion benchmarks across different different industries. So We produce a product called our conversion benchmark report. It's available on Unbounce. And it just talks about conversion rates that we've seen across different industries. So for example, you know, media and entertainment industry, on average, you'll see about any percent conversion rate, finance insurance, you know, is going to be over six, SAS is around three. And we have a report, though, that actually captures this across all industries. And we continue to produce that report annually, keep it refreshed, keep it update, and we use the data across our entire ecosystem to, you know, help marketers understand this is what we see as a benchmark. Obviously, we want you to beat the benchmark, we continue to go from there.

Mike: That sounds like an amazing resource, actually. So I'll go take a look at that. I mean, I've certainly seen very variable conversion rates, I mean, from client to client, we'll have some clients in a sector Well, there are achieve, you know, relatively low single digits, we will have other clients will achieve 20% conversion rates around particular campaigns. And I think it's, it's always hard to give an exact number. But it's great to have industry benchmarks, at least it knows where you should be aiming.

Darby: Yeah, 100%. And I would definitely encourage your listeners, go to the Unbounce website, look for our conversion Benchmark Report. There's great information in there, we have a lot of thought leadership information on our website. You know, I would definitely encourage your listeners to go check out some of that stuff, because there could be some some really good information in there for them.

Mike: Perfect. I do have one other question around numbers, because I've noticed that you've got some other features like pop ups and sticky bars, which haven't always had the best reputation. So I mean, when should marketers use features like pop ups? Is there a rule? Or is there cases where you've seen it working?

Darby: Well, the think the key there is you've got to be really, really cognizant of when you're going to disrupt the user and throw something in front of their face, especially when they land on the page. So I think you've got to be really clear around, you know, the, why am I doing it. And then second, you know, you've really got to test it and make sure that it's there. And so some of the things that we see, when you're looking at, I don't know, a new white paper as an example. And it could get buried on the page. There's that moment in time or a pop as a good reminder to go. Okay. The other thing too, is depending on your ad copy, if you're looking at different long form stuff that's coming in, and then you're going to the landing page, there could be a hey, you know what, if you came in on a certain link, we see that that a user has a propensity to do this, that might be better to manifest it within a pop up. But the key there is you've got to be really clear, because I'm most of us don't like pop ups, I think done well. They can be really, really effective tools. But if it's just you know, hey, we want to throw something out, to just try to get as many emails as possible without really thinking through it. I think it's going to damage your brand more than ever possibly would help.

Mike: Yeah, I think we've all been to those sites that as soon as you scroll, you get a pop up asking you to subscribe, and then get rest wherever you go. Yeah, it's not it's not a good experience, making it work at the right time. For sure. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm interested. I mean, obviously, you know, are they your response responsible for the product, you are also involved in promoting? Unbounce? So when you promote Unbounce, what works for you? What are the best marketing channels?

Darby: Yeah, I think, you know, there's the standard marketing channels, we have an amazing marketing team at Unbounce, that optimises, you know, all of our spend across all of our different paid channels. And like every other marketer, you know, we are a product lead growth organisation. And so you just got to go out there and do some targeting. Word of mouth is incredibly big for us. Same thing with SEO people doing a search for landing pages and the education of being a thought leader. We do pride ourselves on trying to provide information back to the community on how to grow because we think, you know, a lot of the industry grows, then, you know, as they often say, title but all boats. So we do really want to have that key leadership position as thought leader. So word of mouth is very big for us. Then we do some other stuff. We have a really robust affiliate programme. We work with our agency clients who definitely are number one fans, you know, I'm building on behalf of their customers. And going into 2023, we're really going to start to think about a partnership model, which is how do we start to look at our toolkit, both used within our environment and use outside of our environment, to help marketers who might be using other tools or other workflows, but could use some of the aspects of our toolkit, more of, you know, an API licencing type model. So we you know, we grow like a traditional B2B business would paid marketing, word of mouth, thought leadership, affiliates, partnerships. It's kind of you know, the big Big trucks.

Mike: That's interesting sounds like, you know, are you doing paid marketing to get conversions a lot of what you're getting word of mouth and things like that. That's actually a very long term marketing strategy, you know, that's built on. I mean, fundamentally being the brand in the landing page space, I guess.

Darby: Exactly. And that really comes from the roots of the founders, who, when they built, you know, Unbounce, really focused on the marketers, really focused on thought leadership, and really focused on how do we move the industry forward. And we want to continue doing that, because it's been very effective for Unbounce. And we're going to continue to do that forward. And, and we know when we do that, it helps our competitors as well. And that's okay. Because, you know, it's the industry of landing pages that as you said, you know, I think more marketers should be using landing page products to get better conversions.

Mike: Yeah, and I'd say sounds great. It sounds like it's this overnight success that's actually been built over a huge number of years. It's, it's awesome to see how you've built that momentum and that reputation.

Darby: Yeah, and we think, you know, now we've got a new challenge ahead of us, which is not on just the creation side. But now is the conversion side. And we are really investing all of our time and energy around. How do we complement the marketer with AI and ML tools. So we don't believe in a world where the machine who's going to replace the marketer, we think this is a connection of the marketers know how and their instincts and what have you complemented with strong AI and ML practices and the to go hand in hand, because we can be right in a lot of cases and other cases, there are those nuances, but we can learn on those nuances fairly quickly. So we really do believe in a world of how do we marry the two together to make one plus one equals three, it's not the machine is going to come in and just you know, figure it all out? No, but the machine can really help the marketer get faster on acceleration and optimization than trying to do it on their own, or trying to do analysis within an Excel spreadsheet as an example.

Mike: No, I think we've all used too many Excel spreadsheets for sure.

Darby: It's still one of the greatest tools, though, for for a marketer, Excel has continues to be a good tool, I guess, in some aspects.

Mike:  Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I think everybody, everybody uses it more than they'd like, but value of that more than later myth as well.

Darby: Yeah, I agree.

Mike: So one of the things I mean, obviously, you know, you've had a, perhaps a more business focused career than a marketing career, but you've always seemed to have been involved in in marketing and one aspect or another. So what do you like about marketing, what's drawing you back into the world of marketing.

Darby: So for marketing, well, I've always been passionate about the space. And I've been very passionate about the small business space. And part of it comes from the roots of growing up, I grew up in the standard, middle class, lower middle class family, both my parents were entrepreneurs, in what I witnessed firsthand, and why I think it's really, really important to help marketers out was, you know, especially in the small business marketing area, these marketers are putting in money, and they do need a return, but it's really tangible, this is going to be the return that's going to put food on the table for their kids or send them to university. And, you know, as we've seen, in marketing, in a lot of cases, sometimes there can be a lot of misconceptions, and people, you know, just trying to get people to sign on the dotted line. So I've always had this view of the small guy is at a disadvantage, because they don't have the big data sets of the big companies, they don't have all the resources of the big companies. And the risk profile of ROI not panning out actually has more of a meaningful impact. And so I've always looked at how do we level that playing field to give the small and medium sized businesses the same leverage, and the same access to the toolkits that the large guys get access to?

And I'm not saying the large guys are doing anything wrong or bad? That's not it? I mean, we know how it works. But I think there's always been that underlying, you know, I saw what happened in my own family when marketing didn't work, and the impact that I could have, and so that's where I've always been passionate on is how do we democratise this and make sure that everybody has equal footing to the toolkits in the leverage to be able to use it? And then of course, you know, great run companies, whether they're small, medium, or large, or are just going to continue to go from there. So that's kind of the thing that's always driven me and why I've always been appeal to marketing and I like this notion of done right. The consumer wins because they get to buy something from the business. The business wins because they of acquiring a customer or they retain the customer. And it's just a good synergy when that magic happens, where I pull up my credit card, or my cash or my debit, or whatever, and I buy that thing, and it's delightful. You know, it's, it's, I think it's a great experience to see that happen, because it's both sides that are gonna win.

Mike: I love that concept of levelling the playing field, it's almost like what we hoped the internet would be like at the start, where it's all down to quality of product or quality of company or quality of marketer. But as it turned out, the big companies got big tools and lots of data. Now you're coming in and loving that playing field? I think that's an awesome concept.

Darby: Yeah, we think it's, it's going to be beneficial for all stakeholders in the ecosystem, both the consumer, and the merchant, and some merchants who are B2B, it doesn't matter, their consumer happens to be a business, but it benefits all sides of the ecosystem. And anything we can do to help that out, we think is a good thing.

Mike: So awesome. I'm interested, if you were talking to a young person who was thinking of marketing as a career, would you recommend that?

Darby: I would, I think I think marketing has been around, almost since the beginning of commerce, I don't think it's going to go anywhere, it is an industry that evolves, changes, you're never going to get bored. It's constantly in an evolution mode. So I think if you're looking for something incredibly challenging is there. But also marketing is starting to become very technical as well, you know, and all the data points that are behind it. And there's so many segments of marketing, I mean, whether you want to go into being a tactical numbers driven marketer or brand marketer, but really, you know, both of those interconnected together great brand, great storytelling, great mission, great vision, combined with really tactical marketing plans, there's just a synergy that can really happen there. So I think marketing is an interesting field, because there's so many directions that a young person can go, that could really align with their passion, whether they're more creative, or whether they're more, you know, numbers focused, or whether they're more technically inclined. marketing as a category can fulfil the dreams of a lot of different individuals based on what they want to do. So I think it's an exciting career. And we know marketing is not going to go anywhere, there's always going to be businesses that are going to need the market to get more consumers and businesses buying their product.

Mike: I think that's great advice. And the the range of opportunities. You're absolutely right is bigger than it's ever been that sort of some one of the things I'm interested in from you Darby is, you know, have you ever been given the great advice or marketing? What's the best thing that you've been told?

Darby: Yeah, that is, that is a great, that is a great question. Probably the biggest piece of advice that I found, or or one thing that I've kind of learned time is lots of experiments. Some are going to work, some are not going to work, you almost can't do anything wrong, because it's all a learning step and a learning journey. And so I've had some, some great bosses in the past, that's, you know, don't take everything so seriously in the context of, you know, no, we're not going to go and spend $10 million without having some validation. But if we're going to spend $1,000, to figure something out, you know, let's, let's make that happen. But really try a lot of different things. What may have not worked a year ago, could work today. So in some ways, you just almost need to unlearn the stuff that you've learned in the past, and then apply it going forward, because things will always constantly change. So I think marketers need to always challenge their assumptions, keep moving forward, fail really, really quickly. We live in a great environment now where you can doesn't cost you a lot of money to get some initial sense, are we going in the right direction. And if you are, you throw a little more at it than when you've got the real confidence. You throw the big, big money behind it, and you go, but test fast, don't don't, don't be afraid to fail, because even the failures depending on how you define them are probably not failures are actually good learnings that you can just apply somewhere else. And don't take it too seriously. Like, it's serious, but don't take it too serious. We're not you know, marketers are not doctors, patients aren't gonna die on the operating table. If we do something wrong. You know, it's just going to be degrees of of right. That's what I would call it.

Mike: That's awesome advice. I love that. I'm mindful of time. You've been very generous with your time today. Is there anything else you feel we should have covered?

Darby: No, I think we covered a lot. I mean, I would say you know, to all of your listeners for the ones that use landing pages, if they if they haven't experienced our spark builder product, test it out. They got a 14 day trial. Don't doesn't cost you anything, test it out, we think there's some really interesting stuff there. And then for all the other marketers that may not be using landing pages, whether they think Unbounce is the right product, or whether the the other companies out there that do it, give some thought to how you might want to, you know, test these things. Because done right landing pages can really extend your marketing dollars, and they're not a replacement, they really are just an extension of what you're doing. And if you've never used them, you know, I would try to find the time to at least give it a proof case to say, will it work for us? Or will it not work for us? What we see in most cases it will work? I think our competitors would probably say the same thing. So that would be my advice to to marketers.

Mike: Actually sounds like good advice. Just go try it, whatever it is, and see if it works. Yeah, exactly. I mean, thank you very much for your time again, Darby. If people have any questions, or would like to follow up anything you've said, Is there a way they can contact you?

Darby: Yeah, absolutely. You can easily find me on LinkedIn. If you do a search for diabetes, even you'll easily find all the locations on the internet that you can you can tackle me. You know, or feel free to just drop me an email. My email is darby@unbounce.com. Really easy. Happy to hear from from marketers. Yeah, that'd be your have your have your listeners reach out. We'd love to learn more about what they're up to.

Mike: Thank you so much for that. It's very kind of you to share your your email as well. I mean, this has been a great conversation. I hope everyone listening will you know, take away the idea that they should go out and they should try different things and try and improve their landing pages. And obviously, hopefully, some of them if not all of them will visit Unbounce to do that.

Darby: That's you know, we we're ready to we're ready to take them on as clients if they're willing to give us a shot. Absolutely. Thanks.

Mike: That's awesome. Thanks so much for being on the podcast Darby. 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 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