A Napier Podcast Interview with Domenica Di Lieto - Emerging Comms

As one of the world's largest markets, China presents an excellent opportunity for many businesses. But how should you approach marketing to the region?

Domenica Di Lieto, CEO of leading Chinese marketing consultancy Emerging Comms, shares her experience and advice on growing businesses in China.

From choosing the correct channels to the importance of localisation, Domenica provides an overview of the differences marketers should consider when working with the Chinese market.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Domenica Di Lieto - Emerging Comms

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Domenica Di Lieto

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 Dominica Di Lietto. Dominica is CEO of specialists Chinese agency Emerging Communications. Welcome to the show Dominica.

Domenica: Lovely to be here, Mike. And thank you very much for having me on here.

Mike: Well, it's great to talk to you. But I mean, to start off with, I'd really like to understand how you came to be, you know, an expert on marketing in China. So what was your career path to get where you've got to now?

Domenica: Way too many years on the clock for one. So I started life in publishing. So for many years, I was in women's glossy magazines, newspapers, the Daily Mail group. And then late 1990s, obviously saw this thing coming called the Internet called, that makes me sound old. And I went and work for a couple of clients and agencies that specialised in digital. And I was working across the apple, New York and London. And I ended up getting quite fed up with that and launched my first agency, which I sold in 2011. And that was a front end development ecommerce agency, we were a supplier to the company that bought us. And then when I was looking for something to do, I randomly ended up being a commercial director for a Chinese agency for a year. So an interim job, really enjoyed the market, but felt that possibly it could be done better, putting clients at the heart of what we do, and very much focusing on what do their customers want. So that should align what their marketing should be. And emerging communications was born about a year later, it's sort of like 2015.

Mike: So you were doing international marketing? Was there a reason you decided to jump into China? Or was it just the job opportunity?

Domenica: Well, I think for me, I get quite bored. I've been in the UK digital market and the American market for quite a long time. And China just doesn't stop you just about understand that and you understand the legislation, and all the channels, and then the following day will change. And I like that speed of change. wrongly or rightly, I love the fact that I never quite know what I'm going to find in the morning, literally. So the whole changing landscape of the way consumers behave in China, the legislation, the government narrative just keeps me on my toes. And I think I've just gotten the most incredible team of talented individuals. So I'm kind of with China. I think for the rest of my career, I would think it's fair to say, may not just do emerging comps, I might do other things. But China is fascinating. And people look to Silicon Valley, for learning about digital and tech, and they should be looking at China, because they're good five, seven years ahead of everyone in the world. And that really fascinates me.

Mike: That sounds really exciting. And also interest about something else you said you said you wanted to put clients at the heart of the agency. So tell us a little bit about who you work with who are your clients?

Domenica: Absolutely. So we do work with some b2c, but predominantly, we are working in the B2B space, even if a client also operates in the b2c space. So we work with people like Penguin Random House, where we have worked to basically give them a voice amongst their consumers, because all of the marketing they do is with distributors. So that's B2B. We work in the pharma space, biotech space with a lot of consultancy firms. We work with a lot of chemistry clients, clients that target librarians, universities that target the research space. So I would say that in terms of the B2B space, most categories, but they all tend to have one thing in common, which is that they're all established in China, with a distributor or an agent or a salesperson or a sales team. And they've they've come across some kind of issues, which we'll talk about a little bit later on. So it's more the fact that they are operating B2B in China. So they are very much reliant on a human being to close the sale. We're not tending to deal with clients that are selling the end result online in the B2B categories that we deal with it as a human being, there's actually closing that sale.

Mike: And that's interesting. Is that something you've build expertise about? Or is that a deliberate choice not to go into E commerce brands in China?

Domenica: We do do ecommerce brands in China in terms of marketing, but they tend to be b2c. So in the B2B space, it's more about how business is done in China. It's no different to here and as much the same Making units quite complicated. But in China that disjoint between what's going on in market versus what HQ wants, and that could be in the States, Europe or the UK, is where most of the problems lie. So a total reliance, for example, on your distributor in China to do your marketing to do your brand to do your sales and your marketing is one common problem. Or it might be you've got one or two salespeople who are alienated and lonely and misaligned with what's going on back at HQ. So I think that integration of often online and that integration with both Western and Chinese team is our forte, yes. But ultimately, everything we're doing is to make sure and ensure that the brands we work with are the brand of choice or the company of choice, so that their sales increase, and their conversion increases through their sales efforts. So in other words, we get the marketing, right, according to how customers want to engage with it, and what they want to see. And that sounds pretty obvious. And that's how marketing should work. But you'd be amazed at how many people try and shoehorn their American marketing with a bit of Chinese on it into China and hope it's going to work? And of course, it doesn't.

Mike: So that leads me on to the obvious question. I mean, how different is it in China? I mean, obviously, some of the channels are different, you know, for example, social media, in in America or in Europe will be different to China. But I mean, how different is the approach? Is it completely different from a strategic point of view? Or is it more tactical differences, both.

Domenica: So strategically, I would say that Guan chi, and reliance on your network of people that you trust is very, very high in China, more so than here. And so no matter how much marketing you do often online, if you don't take into account and nurture your top customers, and make them your platinum customers and make them what we call Kayo C's or keeping customers, you're going to miss a trick. I think that it's been a very interesting time with COVID and COVID restrictions, because of course, B2B has always historically been run a very key exhibitions, events, press launches in China. And all of that moved online to webinars, podcasts effectively, but using Chinese software and platforms. Now, there's a bit of a hybrid, there's still a heavy reliance on that. So strategically, I would say it's more complicated, because you've got to align your brand in China and your messaging and what you stand for, and why you much more so with your headquarters, but make sure it's still relevant to your B2B customers. But from a tactical standpoint, there are a lot of differences. So not just the fact that social media channels are wildly different, there's a lot more of them across the board. So using online PR, for example, social media and search, you're using a completely different channel mix, and some will work and some won't. And there tends to be a sense of oh, I'll just go straight and do some paid search to Monica. And I'll do a little bit of online PR and what we do instead to brands and customers is, firstly, we need to know who your customers are and where they hang out. Because the chances are, they may not be searching on Baidu, it may well be another channel, they may not leverage or engage with certain online channels that you're looking to use, they're going to use others. So understanding who they are and where they hang out and how your competitors behave in your space is more complex. But once you know that, then everything kind of fits into place in terms of driving sales, the right sales and your conversion rates, which is what marketing is supposed to do, right. But there are I'm struggling to think of a single channel we use here in the West that you've got in China. Now even LinkedIn is no longer accessible in China. So there is really nothing, no Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google. So basically, everything is just government owned, but a lot more sophisticated and a lot more one on one engagement. So that's a totally expected thing in China, much like one to one email used to be back in the 90s is expected that that prospect you will talk to them as if it's just then. And that's where we chat CRM and targeting through certain channels. And that's what really comes into its own but But you can't just broadcast your messaging in China won't work.

Mike: So just expand a bit on what you mean by that one to one marketing, you're talking about brands having to engage individually with people who respond is that what's expected?

Domenica: Yes. So I'd say one of the first things to understand is I talked to so many huge global brands I've been in China for quite some time and they're they're having problems with their with their marketing their sales, and we'll find that they will do their normal e CRM marketing from something like Salesforce or HubSpot in China, and your B2B, Chinese customers are not going to engage with you on email. That's just not a medium that's used. Everybody uses WeChat for every CRM. So when I say one on one, that's exactly what I mean, I mean, really understanding, because we're talking large customers here, in complex B2B, high ticket value, you know, sales, more often than not, because even if the individual sells tiny, they're buying in volume. And so that relationship tends to be done by human being. And so that sort of integration between the sales team and China or sales person, quite often it starts with one person, and what the actual marketing effort is, and making that aligned with what's going on globally is absolutely critical. Because all too often what I see is poor disparate, one or two salespeople in China, being asked to do the marketing plan, marketing, strategy, marketing, delivery, and drive their own leads, and their salespeople, they should be good at converting sales. And so we made that very clear with the client, their salespeople, and it's our job to drive them the right leads. And we talk to sales teams all the time we engage them in our regular monthly catch ups. They're the ones talking to the client, and they're the ones that are going to get the objections. And they're the ones that can tell us what's working, what isn't, what's converting what isn't. And so it's just that integration piece is really, really key. And then the same when it comes to now of course, we've got events and exhibitions and conferences now back in China, after three years with hardly any. And just basic stuff like collecting WeChat data, not business cards, making sure everything's translated, including ourselves schemes, making sure that you've got Mandarin speakers on the stand. Now, the sound already obvious, but you would be amazed, and you only had to look at the news at the weekend to get BMW to see how badly you can get it wrong. So the whole the whole cultural nuances and understanding that so it's not, I wouldn't say it's complicated, I'd say all comes down to one thing, understand your Chinese customers, all of them in the stakeholder chain, and understand how they behave and where they hang out how they want to engage with you. And then you map your marketing coordinator, you don't do it the other way around.

Mike: So it's interesting. I mean, you've kind of alluded to this issue of control. And obviously trying to basically transplant an American or European campaigns, China isn't gonna work. But equally, trusting salespeople to drive marketing themselves when they're not marketing professionals is probably not a good idea, either. So, I mean, how much control do you think brands should take when they're trying to grow their business in China?

Domenica: Oh, that's a really good question. I'm doing a webinar on this in a couple of weeks, because it's probably the single biggest question I get asked. we've coined a phrase called glocalization. And the reason that we coined that phrase is that you need to localise your approach so that your Chinese B2B Customers will engage with it, it's answering the pain points that they have, and using the channels where they're hanging out. But you also need to be on brand. Because if you're not, you're not recognisable, and you don't have the credibility, and you can't build the credibility, China is a humongous country with over 3 billion consumers and lots of geographies. So it's a balance. It's like a seesaw. And what I say to brands is, if that seesaw is, is straight, and you've got the balance about 5050, that's about right. If you localise too much, then it becomes absolutely no alignment whatsoever with the global brand. And then you get what I call leaks in the bucket, or holes in the bucket rather than leaks. So you get things like your distributor or salespeople running your WeChat marketing, and it doesn't even make sense. And it's too local. It's not on us. It doesn't look right. It doesn't sound right. It doesn't sound like you. It's not saying the right thing, or the literature is nonsensical, and the list goes on. But if headquarters are controlling the brand, then all it will look like and it's fine. If you are a footsie 100 company, everybody's heard of you. But most companies don't have sort of like bottomless pockets. So you do need it to be consistent, but for it to be localised, and we always localise at the very beginning of our campaigns.

And when we work with the client, we localise not just the typography, because of course, it's Chinese characters, but the brand of the way it looks and feels and also the narrative. So we have a very clear approved comms strategy. And another thing to think about with a brand alignment is crisis management plan. So if BMW had had one, I can guarantee their response would have been quicker and better. And so you can't stop salespeople or your representatives and say, exhibitions, events or PR stunts or what have you. You can't control everybody. But what you can do is if things, obviously, they get cultural training, but if things go wrong, you need to have a plan that can be actioned within minutes. Because things can go horribly wrong very quickly in China, just because everybody takes to social media and there's a lot of people and so what might be 1000 comments here is millions enjoy. So yeah, so you've got to have the balance, right. So I say in an ideal world brand control and marketing control should reside with the client and their specialist agency. But it should be a localised approach. And we've done work, for example, with IKEA, where I had to be the intermediary between the Russian global team and the Shanghai AES agency, so that they could understand each other in terms of why did the creative look like that? And why why was it localised in such a way? So it was actually really just so that the global team could understand the approach by the Shanghai US agency, which was actually perfect. It was on brand yet localised, localised? So it's, it's a balancing act. But if you get the balancing act, right, it's absolutely spot on. And the best way to find out is ask your customers, right. So that's my point, if you know what your customers want is pretty easy. Yeah.

Mike: That sounds like great advice. I'm interested. I mean, a lot of people listening might be from the States. And certainly if you look at geopolitics, the relationship between the West and China is not at its best at the moment. I mean, how Western brands have Dickie American brands seen by Chinese customers, particularly in B2B, is it still as big an opportunity is there still as much enthusiasm?

Domenica: There's no doubt about it. There's a couple of major obstacles to us right now, not just not just political ones. But also the time difference is potential depending on whether you're east or west coast, we tend to be the intermediaries for a lot of American companies, because we can just about talk to China because our teams start late in China and start early in UK. And we've got a bit more than four hour overlap on an average eight hour time difference. So time differences a problem. I think if you look at if you know anything about Hofstede, or any kind of cultural philosophy, there is an even bigger difference between American culture and China culture than European culture. So that's also a bit of a challenge. I spoke to not that long ago and American brand global American brands has been really successful in Indonesia and Vietnam and other APAC regions, they were going into China. And it's a franchise model. I'm not gonna say who they are, and they were absolutely dead set that this franchise model would work in China. And I was like, it will not. You're not offering anything that isn't offered by local competitors in China. Nobody recognises your motif, I nearly gave it away then. And the animal that is the representative in your logo. In fact, it has negative connotations, culturally, you'd have to localise. But that isn't their model. So they've decided to go to other APAC region.

So I think for America, yes, there is the political tensions, but there is still plenty of opportunity in China. And depending on what categories they operate in, obviously, you deal with a lot of B2B Tech, engineering, tech, pharma, bar science, biomedical science, chemistry, these areas are huge in China, and has have actually not been impacted by COVID. And some of our clients have grown substantially throughout COVID. Because actually, there was more demand for what they do. So I'd say that as long as you get the cultural side, right, you understand your customers, you work with a specialist agency, there's no reason why American brands can't be successful. I'm not suggesting for one second, that the strap lines and the creative and copy that we come up with focuses on where they're actually from, that might not be a terribly good idea. But if they have a better product or service than their competitors, you're still going to be successful in China. There's enough demand basically.

Mike: So that sounds really positive. I mean, one of the things I'm interested in is if a brand is looking to enter China, you talked about having kind of a sequence so people initially put sales teams in or a couple of salespeople before they they bring in marketing. I mean, what is the most effective way to enter and grow in China?


Oh, that's a million dollar question, which depends on the category that you're in your budget and your attitude to risk. But I'm a real believer in you see, you're trying to journey a bit like a staircase. And if you're getting to the top of the staircase, you don't try and fly from the bottom step to the top step you have to learn as you go, learn, invest, learn, invest, and mitigate your risk. You certainly depending on what category you're in, need somebody in market, we do have brands who don't have anybody and we are their customer service team and we support on the ground in events. Some of our largest clients only got one person in market, but has eight people in the APAC region that also support at large events and we support them a lot on the ground as well as strategy and marketing. But the reason I say you've got to have some foothold is you're selling something correct. So if it's consultancy, or if it's a product and you are on E commerce platforms like Taobao For example, JD, you still gotta have one person on the ground for customer service or one person on the ground that's going to talk to your key platinum customers. And how a lot of brands start is they will choose a distributor dependent on if that's their model, or they will have a salesperson and they'll use some kind of launch pad like the China Business British Council who are fantastic. And they'll work from their launch pad with that one person, they'll pay them from the CBBC. They'll go to exhibitions, events, and they kind of grow from there. But we do have a lot of clients whose HQ in APAC is in Hong Kong, or Singapore, and actually latterly Bangkok, a lot of expats left Shanghai during COVID, and went to Bangkok. And it also works if you have got somebody in the APAC region, it's not quite as good, because they have to fly in and out of events and exhibitions, but you do kind of need somebody, even though we can support that one person, but you've got to make sure your products and services can actually get to the right people. So most people start with a distributor, to be honest.

Mike: That makes a lot of sense. I guess that's not dissimilar to other countries. With a distributor, yeah.

Domenica: Yeah, very similar.

Mike: So if you're gonna give advice to people who are looking to grow their business in China, I mean, what do you think would be the one bit of advice people should really listen to to avoid making those big mistakes?

Domenica: I think there's a lot of assumption with global brands, that your brand or your product is going to be the right thing for the China market. So firstly, don't assume anything. You need objective advice. So I would say you need to be looking at who your competitors are in the China market. There'll be some global, some local, and can you compete in that space? What do you offer that they don't? What is your differentiator, your competitive advantage, that's the single biggest thing. And make sure that that's in the eyes of the consumer, the customer, and there will be many different types of customer in the B2B decision making unit. So don't assume that you're what I call your USP is what your customers that your USP is. So make sure that you've, you've done your competitive research and your customer research. If you've done that, and you know, what your competitive advantages and you know, you can compete and you've got a better product, and that there is a market there. And none of this needs to cost a fortune. We do this with brands quite enough inexpensively, but enough to know how we're going to market that brand. And obviously, the other thing you need to think about is how you're distributing your product or your service, which is your operations bit, which is why most people use a distributor, then it's just a question of about mapping out what marketing is going to engage, entice and sell to your customers that you've selected, according to where they hang out. So for example, Chinese search engine largest search engine is Baidu, there are a few others, but it still got the lion's share of the market. If there's no demand on Baidu index for your brand, or for your type of product, I'm not going to start there, I'm going to start with something else, I might start with online PR, I might start with some B2B influencers, in vertical sectors or on certain channels. So it's about really understanding your market, the opportunity there and your customers.

Once you've done that, and we won't touch a brand, that we haven't done that because otherwise what we're doing is noise. And China is huge. And we get fantastic results. And we get those results, because we know that what we are saying and where we are saying it is going to engage with their customers and they're going to buy otherwise, it's pointless is just basically throwing money at the problem. And I don't believe in doing that. I believe that it should get a return everything you do. And on that note, just real quickly about tracking is don't listen to anybody who says you can't track things in China. They've heard a lot of horror stories about clickbait, you know, and there are so many agencies that just fabricate results. And we can look at it and within two minutes tell a client that is not real people engaging that is that is that AI technologies, it's very easy to sport. So you can track everything and you should track everything. And we do track everything. So don't be for one second muscled into thinking that's not true. So you can track it properly, far better, actually, than any other market I've ever worked him.

Mike: I think that's great advice. I love that that real thought through process as well in terms of going into the market and focusing on money where it's going to generate return. I think that's fantastic.

Domenica: Yeah, absolutely. And but we've got an eight C's model that we follow in exact order of what you do first, and customers are right at the top before we even look at competitors is that literally your customers, your competitors you know, your competitive advantage your comps and just do it in the right order. And it's a bit like a tick box exercise as much as market research is would hate that and everyone's quote unquote, involved. But there is a process. And once you do it like that, then you'll get return. But if you go straight to the channels and activate channels, you don't know what channels you're activating, you don't know what you're saying, because you don't know what your customers want to hear. So it's the wrong way around. Yeah.

Mike: That's great advice. I've really enjoyed talking about China, there's a couple of questions we'd like to ask. So the more general questions of our guests. And you know, I'm interested, you're obviously really excited about marketing, thinking about marketing in China. What would your advice be, if you met someone, a young person who was thinking of starting a career in marketing?

Domenica: I would my biggest advice to anybody who wants to get into marketing is to study business first. So too often, the marketers I meet fresh out of university have done a marketing degree in marketing, postgrad, no practical experience, they focus so much on delivery of marketing tactics, that they don't focus on what the business problem is, you need to at least at the very least understand how business is structured, how p&l is structured, and how the board is structured. I think that's really important. And there are also so many jobs in marketing, you know, are your creative personality, an analytical person? Are you really good at writing, that people just lump it together as marketing. And they're very, very different roles. And they're going to be very different roles again, in 510 years time, you know, AI technology and drone technology. And so I think that, be sure that marketing is the right thing is number one, and which side of marketing but really do understand the business context, because it will make you a very good marketer.

Mike: I love that. So that's really thoughtful. The other question we always ask is, what's the best bit of marketing advice you've ever been given?

Domenica: I would say, and it's not just for marketing, it's just across the board is mistakes are good. We really celebrate them emerging coms every Monday in our speech, because every time we make a mistake, and we're very open with clients as well, it might be that we've leveraged a channel that hasn't quite gone according to plan, or maybe one of their sales team says something they shouldn't. If everything is a learning thing, you don't do it twice, then it's going to benefit, the brand is going to benefit the relationship and it's going to benefit the results. To not make mistakes, in my opinion means you're not moving forward, especially in China. So I would say making mistakes need to be celebrated within Ries. I think somebody told me that a couple of years ago, and I always used to feel awful if things went wrong. But now I'm very much do you know what? What do we learned from that? How can we make sure we don't do it again? And I think yeah, I think China's got a different context. And I would say the best advice I can give to anybody doing business in China is work with an expert, don't work with somebody who did Chinese a level work with Chinese nationals. And basically, you've got to understand the cultural context at all times when you're doing business in China, whether that is negotiation, supplier relationships, or talking to your customers. So work with people that understand that.

Mike: That's fantastic advice. Thank you so much for your time on the podcast, it's been really fascinating. I'm sure people would want to learn more about China and about how you can help them in China. What's the best way for listeners to get in contact with a

Domenica: I'm very active on LinkedIn, so Domenica Diletto, or feel free to email me Domenica at emerging comms.com. If you Googled America, Diletto you'll also find me through many different channels. I would say I wouldn't ring my mobile, I tend to have 60 calls a day, so I tend to switch it off. If you email me, it will get picked up or you send a message through LinkedIn, I go through my messages every day, I will get back to you straightaway. But if you call you might be waiting some time. I work out if it's a cold call or not because I get rather a lot of them.

Mike: Well, that's fantastic and very kind for you to give your email address out. Thank you so much for all your insight Dominica. I really appreciate it.

Domenica: Pleasure, Mike really enjoyed it. Thanks 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.

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Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Haralds Gabrans Zukovs - Credolab

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Haralds Gabrans Zukovs

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 Haralds Gabrans Zukovs. Harold's is the Head of Marketing at Credolab. Welcome to the podcast. Harold's.

Haralds: Thank you. I'm very happy to be here.

Mike: It's great to have you on the podcast. So we'd like to start off by asking our guests about their career journey. So can you tell me about your career and why you decided to join Credolab?

Haralds: Yeah, well, my career started like some time ago, I, when I was in high school, I actually started a project with my classmate. And it was about the tourist citing places. And I started as a copywriter. And then I slowly moved into social media. And kind of my interest grew through the years and from copywriting and social media, I moved into digital marketing and marketing in general. And then I quite quickly moved to B2B because I understood that I like to work and market with products that are not that easily to market that maybe not everyone would take a challenge like that. So I just started to enjoy working with products and industries that not many would find easily to market.

Mike: That's I mean, that's interesting. So you enjoy the challenge of B2B which I love because I think B2B is more difficult, but also far more interesting than consumer. So you obviously joined Credolab? I mean, what did you see about the company that excited you?

Haralds: Yeah, well, I guess, you know, before the crypto lab, I worked in an open banking industry. And at that time, when I worked in that industry, it was still developing, it was still trying to prove its worth. And then when I started like conversations about joining the Credolab, I saw a similar thing. Because like alternative data or behavioural analytic data, it's still something like it's very useful. But maybe the audience still needs some educating to do to understand the value of that and how to integrate it into their products. So I just saw another challenge to take on.

Mike: That's interesting. And I mean, you've hinted a bit at what Credolab does, but do you want to explain what the product does?

Haralds: Yeah, so we basically how risk fraud and marketing teams to take better decisions with advanced behavioural analytics that are based on smartphone and web metadata.

So we basically analyse millions of data points. And with those data points, companies can take better decision, whether it's for risk related things for fraud related things, or marketing related things.

Mike: That's interesting. So you're actually using this process of gathering data to actually do a couple of things. I mean, you know, one is looking at risk and fraud, but the other is to actually mark it. So are you taking basically the same data and using it to inform both sides of the business?

Haralds: Like for each of the for each of the products, the data is quite the way we take date is the same. But then the way what we do with that data is a bit different, but still the decision and how the companies interpret that data is on them. But all of the data that's taken from the interactions with your like smartphone or web, yeah, it's like, interpret that in modules that companies can use.

Mike: So that's interesting. I like to know, you know, what the sort of processes for a company to take data and analyse it? I mean, what are they doing, for example, in marketing, to make use of your data to make those marketing decisions?

Haralds: So we build personas by looking at the apps any user has on the smartphone without knowing the identity of that user. And we look at how organised someone is in saving for example, Contacts, Calendar, events, or anything else that they do on their smartphone. And like for example, do you save different phone numbers belonging to one unfriend under one single, or joint contact or rather John one, John two or John three? Like do you schedule meetings regularly? Or not? How many people are in your meetings? Even? How do you charge your phone? Like, how much battery life do you have for your phone at which time and when? And like, like, we can really help our clients understand their users in a very granular way without compromising data protection, and always complying with the privacy laws.

Mike: So that's interesting, you're almost using the way someone interacts with their smartphone, to kind of uncover their personality. Is that Is that a fair summary?

Haralds: Um, yeah, yeah, we kind of helped like, but not only the smartphone, also the web, the web.

But I think for the marketing product, it's, it's interesting that yeah, we can uncover the personality of the of this person, and then help the company to take better actions and better decisions in into their marketing, like, teams based on this information.

Mike: And so there you'd see someone who's, you know, very organised and very methodical about how they're doing it, you know, perhaps responding to a different campaign, to someone who's perhaps more spontaneous, or maybe less organised. And, you know, you'd see marketing teams customising their campaigns for those sort of personas, Is that Is that how it works?

Haralds: Yeah, you can basically take that data and then customise your images, text approaches, you know, because I think based on people personality, they react differently to different materials, which you see online or receive in your email or like, you know, consume in any way. It is basically based on your personality. So with that data, it might give you additional insight on what exactly to do with it.

Mike: And is this something you know, an approach you're using when you do marketing is trying to understand the personality of people in a B2B process? Because I think traditionally, B2B personas have been around job roles and you assume, for example, every accountant is very organised and logical, even though obviously, that's not going to be the case.

Haralds: Well, yeah, and B2B, it's a bit different than b2c in B2B. You have to think not only about the buyer personas about the ideal customer profiles, but you have to think about the organisation. And then how each of these job titles, because if you're talking about the job titles, how they fit into that process, and then how to work with them. It might like if we compare the B2B and b2c On one hand, it is more complicated to target them and to get what they want, at the right moment in the right place, but another hand, sometimes the b2c is more challenging, because even if it's easier to target the right people with the right message at the right time, the value you get out of that not always is as big as from the B2B side. So each side has its own challenges.

Mike: That makes that makes a lot of sense. You know, in terms of you know, we talked about personas a bit, and I think it might be worth delving a bit deeper into personas. How do you go about building personas when you're doing B2B marketing?

Haralds: It's actually one of the cornerstones I start with, you know, every join company. I do deep research on personas, trying to talk with the management with the salespeople with the customer success people, like everyone I can, and even with the clients to get as much information as possible to build profiles to understand what are their jobs to be done, how we can help them succeed, then to understand what to do on a sales and marketing side to deliver them not just ads or content, but try to deliver them a better experience when they interact with us.

Mike: That's so interesting. I mean, other campaigns you've run where you can actually see that you've had different approaches for different personas. And that's really worked there any examples in your career, you could bring out that show this benefit of really focusing down on personas.

Haralds: I think that the best approach that we have run you know if you for example, see that your product is being used by more than one industry. And I have compared what happens if you lounge, a generalise campaign for all of the industries, but like telling that this product can help you in this way, or what happens if you segment deeper and target the industries with an industry specific message, usually the industry specific message performs a lot better for the emails, also for the ads, because if you can speak in their language with an ad read the problem that that specific individual maybe in the Account Based Marketing space, or if you have a marginalised campaign, for example, in the industry, space has not only in theory, but on also on the practical side, it has a lot higher chances to succeed. Of course, there have been exceptions from time to time. But in most cases, the campaigns that target deeper and have been created more based on what these industries or account types need succeed a lot more.

Mike: That makes a lot of sense. Harold's I think I think I can, you know, see that. But obviously, creating these campaigns takes a lot of time. I guess I have to ask the artificial intelligence question. I mean, a lot of people are looking at AI to help them with marketing at the moment. And clearly when you're looking to segment and personalise, there's a hope that AI can really drive that, is that something you believe is going to happen? And is that something you've seen being used yet, either with Credolab or anywhere else?

Haralds: Well, if we talk about the marketing, I myself think that artificial intelligence like it can't yet do the job that you need to do. But what it can do, it's a really big help to speed up like the starting brainstorming or templating processes on which then you can build upon, because in a lot of cases, it takes quite a lot of time to come up with something from scratch. But if you have already some kind of filler, or some kind of a template that you know, that is into the right direction, but still means work, it's already a better starting point than just like starting from scratch. So in my perspective, at least at the moment from the AI that I have seen, for the pocketing, I would say that that's the best approach. And if we talk about the cradle up as a product, we don't really use AI, but we use machine learning algorithms, because using AI presents a few challenges. Like for a start, if you ingest bad, or garbage data, your your output will be garbage results. So basically, it means what data you input that kind of data you get out. So it's also a bit difficult to explain the outcome of an AI model. So So yeah, so that's why our products are basically built on machine learning, not AI.

Mike: So you're learning around the data that you've gathered, rather than trying to create a more general purpose AI. Is that is that the distinction?

Haralds: Yeah, well, we have we feel like it's like a learning based thing that learns on a lot of data points and then tries to like, help find what actions and what like what needs to be done, you know? So it's, it's like, it's like a better approach.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, that that makes a lot of sense. And I know, I've seen chat GPT produced some, some very strange and completely inaccurate responses when I've asked the questions. And so I think a lot of companies are going to have to build their own machine learning models based upon data they can trust. So that that makes a lot of sense in terms of what Credolab is doing. Yeah, well, I have used DBT a bit myself and I, the thing that usually its downfall in most of the cases has been When, however, it mentioned some kind of data. When you check it, you can trust it because you find out that it's not a real data. So so yeah. Yeah, I was very disappointed, actually. I mean, I don't know if listeners know, but one of my hobbies is speed skating. And for a short while, chat GPT thought I was an international speed skater. And it was very disappointing now that it says it doesn't know me anymore. But yeah, the data that goes in is is really key in terms of training those models. I agree.

Let's switch back and talk a bit more about marketing. I mean, you talked about AI and being a great way to cure writer's block. If you use AI, you can actually get something you can start working on, you're not faced with a blank page. I love that analogy. I'm interested in terms of the the different areas of marketing you've worked on. I mean, which are the areas that you've enjoyed the most?

Haralds: Yeah, well, I guess I enjoyed the most like ads, especially the LinkedIn ads, email, then I like working with the flip side, some conversion rates, like with websites structure, and then I enjoy a lot working with automation and CRMs, and a bit of our technical integration tool stuff. So I mean, all of those, I guess, are areas that AI could have a significant impact in on in the future.

Well, if it becomes better at what it does, then most likely, but it really depends on there is always, you know, there's, like always the right tool for the right job.

Mike: So it's just a question, can you find that right tool for the right job that you want to do?

And obviously, I mean, a lot of the stuff you're talking about is digital. I mean, that's relatively new in the world of marketing, you know, maybe the last 10 to 20 years, if we look at some of that. I mean, do you think marketing is gonna keep changing as quickly as we've seen in the last few years, as we look forward into the future?

Haralds: Well, if the AI really gets to the point, as you're saying that it can do a lot more stuff than now, then I think it will accelerate even more. Because you know, in marketing, it's all about how quick can you do things? How quick can you brainstorm and put out new things to test and learn and move forward quicker. So if that, like, if the speed of the technology increases, then most likely the speed of the marketing will increase as well.

Mike: That sounds a bit of a challenge. I mean, if if you were talking to a young person who was maybe thinking about a course to take at university, I mean, would you recommend marketing as a career? Do you think it's still going to be exciting and rewarding in the next few years?

Haralds: As I said, that really depends, like I like it's hard to predict. But in general, I think marketing won't disappear, at least not yet. Because even though if you could use the AI, it still means somebody who understands what they are getting, like not only inputting but also getting from the output and understand if that's valuable or not. So I would say that for now, it looks like that, yeah, the marketing is still an exciting place to be, maybe some smaller parts of the marketing will change. Like, you know, I don't know, the research will become faster. So maybe you won't have to spend so much time on the research data and analytics, I would imagine will become easier, faster to do than just like going through the sheets, or something like that. So of course, there will be changes. But in general, I think, still, for now, the direction looks like that, it will be that you still need that person who knows what is going on? Who checks if the thing that you are doing actually work or not.

Mike: And that's great to hear you've got such a positive view of the future. And it sounds like actually, some of the things technology is going to do is to remove some of the less fun work. And I have to say whilst analytics is super important, sometimes actually doing that number crunching is not as fun, is it?

No, no. And sometimes it just eat up your time. And then you'll think, oh my god, I just loved so much time just to come to this conclusion, and I need to restart the testing phase. So I'm basically back to square one. But at least I learned that thing, but But yeah,

Mike: I have another question. Actually, Harold's one of the things we always like to ask people is about the best bit of marketing advice. So what was the best bit of marketing advice you've ever been given?

Haralds: Like the best bit was, there are like, for me, at least there are no problems or issues without solutions. Like you know, if you can't find a solution, at least at that moment, that it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist at all, even if nobody has discovered it. So, this advice like has shaped my mindset and approach towards challenging situations in marketing. So I always try to find, as I said the right

Like tool or the right solution for the job that you need to do, and I have found that there always is one, maybe just at that moment you can't see it or like, you need to dig deeper.

Mike: So another positive view of things which is which is great to hear. Harold's I really appreciate the time you've spent on the podcast it's been really interesting and, and actually inspiring because I think, you know, you see a lot of positives in the future of marketing, which is great. If people want to contact you or find out more about Credolab, what's the best way to get in touch?

Haralds: So yeah, well, they could find me on LinkedIn platform as handled governance glucose or by searching Credolab on the thing. And then like finding me through the people's section, or visit the website and going to Credolab website and our website is quite calm. So you can go out and check out and see what we can do.

Mike: That's brilliant. Harold, you've been a great guest. Thank you so much for being on the podcast.

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.

How Should You Optimise Marketing Strategy?

Find out the role dynamic content plays in B2B marketing, how to build strategy into marketing automation programs and the benefits and limitations of using polls to collect data.

Mike and Hannah also share how to leverage marketing automation to successfully support face-to-face events.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Seven - How Should you Optimise Strategy?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the Marketing Automation Moment Podcast. I'm Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the Marketing Automation Moment. Today we talk about dynamic content.

Mike: Marketing automation strategy.

Hannah: A survey that shows B2B marketing leaders are focused on optimising strategy.

Mike: And give some tips on how to use marketing automation to make your events more effective.

Hannah: Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of marketing automation moment. It's great to be back, Mike, isn't it?

Mike: It's great to talk to you again, Hannah. I mean, it's been a little while I know you've been incredibly busy. And you're off on holiday as well, next week.

Hannah: I am indeed a nice couple of weeks in Italy.

Mike: I hope you enjoy that. And I'm looking forward to getting another episode recorded when you get back.

Hannah: Absolutely.

Mike: So, what have you seen in the news today about marketing automation?

Hannah: Well, I came across an interesting article on the robotics and automation news site, actually. And it was really talking about dynamic content, and the different ways you could approach it to enhance your results of market automation. And it's quite interesting, because the article in itself, to be honest, is quite basic. It talks about personalization, it talks about the kind of simple things you can do to make things more engaging. But what I want to have a chat about really is about dynamic content, and the different things we can do for dynamic content and market automation systems.

Mike: So I guess here, what you're talking about is not just changing a little bit of text dynamically, but actually putting in, you know, for example, something completely different, like a video or a picture or, you know, some other engaging content on the landing page. Is that what you're thinking about?

Hannah: Absolutely, Mike? Yes. So I'm thinking, you know, if we've got a landing page, and we add something as a poll, for example, what sort of information is that going to be able to provide marketers? And realistically, as well as visitors going to interact with this engaging content?

Mike: Well, I mean, a couple of really good questions there, you know, do you get information that's useful from polls, I mean, a lot of marketers use informal poll information. So sometimes it's the best data you've got, it may not be, you know, mathematically or scientifically accurate, but it's the best data you've got. So I think this sort of thing is useful. The problem is, as we know, a lot of our B2B audiences aren't really engaged with things like polls, they don't want to do that, particularly very technical people. And so I think what dynamic content gives you the opportunity is to run things like this, where you know that a proportion of your audience, and maybe, for example, you might think that the purchasing proportional purchasing segment would be much more interested in engaging in a poll than an engineering segment. So you can place that content just visible to the people who are likely to engage with it. And I think that's a good idea. I mean, there are lots of challenges in terms of doing that, when you look at a lot of, you know, B2B campaigns and some of the limitations around those.

Hannah: So it's been a bit more Mike, what do you mean about the limitations regarding dynamic content?

Mike: Well, I think we're really different from consumer marketing, there's a lot you can do with consumer marketing, because you have, you know, huge volumes, in terms of your audience size. Quite often, when we're looking at campaigns, they're very, very focused, and you know, Account Based Marketing is, it's certainly a thing, right. And, you know, there people can be targeting a small number, or even maybe even one account. So the numbers are quite small in B2B. And actually, what that means is, it can be quite difficult a to generate multiple different pieces of content that can be placed on the landing page, and then be to get enough volume where you're looking for interaction, like for example, in polls. So although it sounds very attractive, sometimes it can actually be somewhat cost and time prohibitive. And it also can be difficult to get sufficient audience size as well.

Hannah: As a really interesting point, my can actually I was listening to our other podcast marketing B2B technology. And we recently had SendinBlue on and and he was talking about how actually, we can take inspiration from b2c campaigns for B2B. But obviously, it's a really good point, because these are these limitations. And so we have to recognise that we are in the B2B industry. And so it might not necessarily be the best path, of course, for companies with dynamic content.

Mike: Yeah, I think sometimes it's just more difficult. And often, you know, in B2B, we sometimes always want to invent new stuff. And if you're looking to dynamically insert content into a landing page, you might be better looking at what you've already got, rather than trying to create something new for that particular campaign. So I think there's there's opportunities to do this and marketers should be thinking about, you know, should they be customising things like landing pages for different audiences, and if they should be customising it, how can they do it? But also we have to remember that sometimes It's not practical to make everything personalised and everything customised in our industry, just because of the balance between the relatively low volume and the relatively high cost of content creation.

Hannah: Absolutely. And I think this links on quite nicely to our next point, because we have to consider these things when we build a strategy for our market automation. So I actually came across an interesting blog, which talks about how strategy fits in with market automation platforms. Did you see it?

Mike: Yeah, I did that. I mean, I thought this was was really interesting. They're talking about, you know, using strategy right from the start before you even get a marketing automation system. And, and that was one of the things I thought was was, was fascinating, because actually, most people in B2B now have some sort of marketing automation solution. And I'm not sure that the strategy is around picking a platform. And let's be honest, most of the platforms can do most of the things you need. I think it's much more interesting when you look at how you can use strategy to create better campaigns.

Hannah: Absolutely. And I mean, I came across this stat that actually 51% of marketers are looking to increase spending on market automation this year. So can you give a couple of examples of where strategy really comes into what you need to implement on the platform?

Mike: So I think it's really interesting. You know, we see people who still use marketing automation tools, you know, much like a kind of souped up email system. And actually, I think what strategy should do is it should be looking at what you're trying to achieve with different segments of your audience. And one of the points that was made in the first article, you mentioned, was actually that it's really important to understand that buyers journey, and we talk about this a lot, we bang on about buyers journey a lot at Napier. But I think sometimes what you've got to think about in strategy is think more than a single campaign. And think how your campaigns can combine together to actually help your prospects move through that buyers journey, and getting those campaigns to work together, that generates synergies that absolutely are going to make your marketing automation campaigns more effective.

Hannah: I fully agree, Mike, I am a big fan, as you know, on the personas and the customer journey, and the stuff we do here at Napier with our marketing automation platform, I would be lost about it, it makes my life so much easier that we have our workflows and our content down to our personas. It's so valuable.

Mike: Yeah, and you do a lot of this, you do a lot of looking at, you know what we're trying to do with particular personas and moving them from step to step. And I think that that's a great example of what people should do. I think one of the challenges you have is particularly when you have a large enterprises, you have lots of kind of siloed groups that are all trying to run their own campaigns. And sometimes that means those campaigns don't necessarily work together. And one of the things that we as an agency can do is actually start helping people ensure that, you know, campaign that one particular team is running is at least somewhat synergistic with what other teams are running.

Hannah: Absolutely. I mean, I was helping out one of our account managers the other day with the development of a plan, and we were talking about the different email sequences that had to be implemented. And sometimes it's not a lot of work. It's just a slight tweak, but he's accepting that they do need slightly different messaging to be able to resonate with them. I think

Mike: That's a great example, Henry love that, you know, it's amazing how many people spend so much time on a sequence of emails, making sure that they flow nicely from one to another, which is obviously important, but then they completely forget that the next sequence should really flow from the previous one, because they deal with those two sequences separately. So I think that's a really important point. I love that.

Hannah: It's brilliant. So moving on, Mike, again, just focus on some stats around the market automation. You know, I love a good stat. I came across a survey from Insightly and they did a survey of 200 B2B marketing leaders. And I think it matches of what we're saying. But they found that five out of 10 of these leaders said that optimization of their overall automation strategy would be a primary goal for this year. And that actually, the areas they're looking to utilise the most are email marketing, social media, content management, and landing pages. None of this surprises me, Does it surprise you?

Mike: We did sound a bit like a laundry list of the main automation tools. You know, I think it's not surprising. I mean, if I'm a B2B marketer, I've got a marketing automation system. You know, I'm surprised of the 13% that are not worried about optimising the customer journeys. It seems to me like everybody should be looking to get their marketing automation system working as efficiently as possible. And clearly, one thing it does say, though, and I'm being a bit facetious about the features, but, you know, you point out that it's those core features of marketing automation that people really need to focus on. And I think that's interesting because what it's saying is, what we need as marketers is we need those core features, but almost the dole things to be optimised and improved and made easier to use, rather than necessarily market automation vendors trying to find, you know, little niche features that maybe don't appeal to a lot of users. What do you think?

Hannah: Yeah, I agree. I think I'm actually pleasantly surprised, because two years ago, we would have had a chat about this. And market automation was still this huge, nobody knows what's happening. Nobody knows how to use it. And actually, this gives me hope that they need these core features, but they know they need it. So they know they're going to use it to be able to be successful in their campaigns.

Mike: I totally agree. You're, you're absolutely right. And I think that learning that you've identified over the last couple of years, to some extent, has been driven by a sort of strategic imperative for businesses, as people work from home during the pandemic, quite clearly, you know, things like face to face sales visits just disappeared. And so marketing automation became very, very important. And organisations, they had to learn, they had to understand and I think the pressure that, you know, pandemic produced, although there was lots and lots of negatives, I mean, one of the positives is, is that a lot of businesses have actually improved their marketing automation game, don't you think? That's right.

Hannah: Absolutely. And I mean, actually, Mike, you wrote a blog about this, about a month or so ago about this change that actually sales have got to rely more heavily on marketing to be successful, because things like sales meetings, that they're not as popular as they used to be. And actually marked automation is becoming crucial to dry people through the customer journey, because sales is, it's not as important as it once was. But a lot of customers and visitors are now building their own customer journey through the systems and the content that they read in.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. Right. I mean, you know, analysts like Gartner have shown that more and more, this customer journey is what they call self directed. So the prospects are actually driving the journey. They're not talking to the supplier. And I think this is, you know, a bit of a legacy, again, of the pandemic, where we went from a position where face to face was, you know, sometimes almost the default, it felt to face to face disappearing completely. And clearly, you know, face to face is coming back now. And we're seeing trade shows return. And we're seeing certainly some positivity around conferences, and that's nice. But I still think that feeling amongst buyers and decision makers, that they should be in control of their customer journey. That's a change of approach that I don't think it's going away. And marketers have got to realise that they need to support their prospects in driving that customer journey, rather than trying to dictate a customer journey, because it's just not going to work in the future.

Hannah: I absolutely agree. And it'd be really interesting to see how that pans out throughout the rest of the year.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think it's not just this year, it's going forward. But you know, with more and more data available digitally, it's inevitable that people are going to feel like they want to be in control. They don't need to contact salespeople. I mean, I don't for a minute, think the sales function is going away. Clearly, salespeople are going to remain very, very important. It may be that organisations have fewer salespeople, and those salespeople actually responsible for many more sales, some of which they don't get involved in, because it's driven through an online engagement, which is primarily marketing. I mean, in fact, I talked to one clients a little while ago, and they said, you know, five years out, maybe we only have 10%, of the sales force that we have today, because of the move to digitalization. I mean, I think that's a little bit aggressive. But it was certainly interesting to see clients already thinking about, you know, really quite dramatic changes in the balance between sales and marketing. And this increased importance of marketing.

Hannah: Definitely. So I want to go back to something you mentioned a little while ago, Mike. And that was the return of trade shows and conferences, because we know face to face is back. But for insightful tip of the week. This episode, I want to talk about how to use market automation successfully with events. So can you share what you think the secret is to utilise in your market automation platform to help you be successful when you're going to a trade show or conference? Any kind of face to face events like that?

Mike: That's a great question. And I think, you know, it's really simple. We see a lot of companies doing effective outreach prior to events. So they're activating their database, they're encouraging them to meet at events, it's relatively straightforward. They're sending emails out, they then come back from the event, and they don't really nurture those leads. And the reason for that is that people tend to leave that kind of lead nurturing, post event engagement to after the trade show or after the conference. And the reality is, is they just don't get campaigns created after the conference. And I appreciate it's difficult. I mean, I've done trade shows a run to trade shows is fraught. But if you want your marketing automation to be effective, you've got to build the follow up nurture, prior to the event, that's the only way you're going to do it. Because unless it's ready to go immediately after the event, your emails are going to be late, they're not going to resonate as effectively with your audience. And also, you're going to be stressed, following up the event and tidying up all sorts of other loose ends. And you're probably actually not going to get that nurturing flow done. So, you know, to me, the secret is preparation. And if you can prepare, and get that, that campaign ready, you can then just drop the leads in straight after the event. There's no stress, and people will get that nurturing flow. What do you think?

Hannah: I couldn't agree more, Mike, I have learned the hard way, how important it is to get everything prepped before you go, because there is nothing, you're more thankful for them. When you get back from a trade show. And you're tired. You know, this is really important that you can just press a button on the system, and your leads are being nurtured.

Mike: Yeah, and you've done it really well. And I think one of the things you do well, is actually you realise you don't have to reinvent the wheel. So sometimes you can take existing content, and with relatively small modifications to, for example, an email sequence, create a new email sequence that works for the latest trade show. You don't have to sit down with a blank sheet and start from scratch. And I think that's something that you know, you've really bought into, and it makes that preparing in advance much less stressful.

Hannah: Absolutely do not need to make it complex. And the easier you can make it for yourself, actually, the more successful you'll be.

Mike: That's a great insight. I love that.

Hannah: Well, thank you so much for your time today, Mike. It's been another fantastic discussion.

Mike: No, thank you, Hannah. It's been great. And I look forward to talking to you again on the market automation moment.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the marketing automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don't forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application, and we'll see you next time.

A Napier Podcast Interview with Jeff Day - Act-On

When it comes to marketing automation platforms, the choices can seem endless. Jeff Day, Senior VP of Marketing at Act-On, discusses the key considerations mid-market marketing teams should consider when selecting a platform.

He explains the buyer journey, what customers need at each stage and how to create automated programs that encourage a buying decision.

Find out how to use data to identify what is engaging customers and inform where you send them next.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Jeff Day - Act-On

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Jeff Day

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 Day, Jeff is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at Act-On. Welcome to the podcast. Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here, Mike.

Mike: So what we'd like to do at the start of the podcast is to find out how people ended up at their current role. So do you want to give me a bit of background to your career? And what made you choose to join Act-On?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I think my career is maybe a little less traditional than some other marketing leaders, but without going through the whole trajectory. I started out as a engineer at Intel, many, many moons ago. And as I like to say, I kind of fell backwards into marketing. I really enjoyed being an engineer, but knew I didn't want to be an engineer for life, got my MBA, started doing product line management for Sun Microsystems. And then I really wanted to get into the startup space. And so I joined this startup. And I think on day one, they said, Yeah, we hired you for Product Management. But we really want you to run marketing. And I'm I don't know anything about what we call outbound marketing at the time. They said, Yeah, we'll work together, we'll figure it out.

Great, let's do this. It sounds fun. And then it's you know, so it's been two and a half decades doing marketing ever since. And I've thoroughly enjoyed it, I've really enjoyed the startup or the growth space, and have, you know, been the head of marketing at Aptio, very successful company highspot, an up and coming very successful company, domain tools, many different sort of smaller and startup companies, as well as some really big and great places to learn how people do it at scale, like, I ran partner marketing for technology partners for AWS kind of built and grew that organisation. And that was a great experience as well. Oh, and then you asked me about how, how I got tacked on. And so yeah, just another great step, or another chapter in the story is opportunity to work with this great company, it's been around for a while. So it's not exactly a startup, but they've got, you know, a fantastic product and a really great team, you know, at this stage of my life, I my number one criteria is that, who are the people I'm working with, and the better be fun, smart, driven people, or it's, it's not fun on a day to day basis. And so really great people that act on great product. And I think we've got a great opportunity in front of us to really take what our core charter was in building a marketing automation platform that was sophisticated, yet easy to use, and affordable for the mid market customer. And really living up to that promise and kind of winning that mid market entirety back from from sort of all of these bigger, more expensive players.

Mike: That sounds really interesting. I mean, you know, I think the market information space is is an exciting space, because you've got a couple of really big, well known players in the enterprise. But actually, you know, from my point of view, I see companies like act on actually closing that gap with those suppliers. I mean, is that where you see the real opportunity?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. And, and so we have a the sophisticated and fully featured enterprise platform, we have for some time, but we've really focused on delivering the core of those features and making it very easy to use, because our bread and butter or bass has been those customers growing up from maybe the upper SMB, and the lower mid market and growing up into needing, you know, full scale marketing automation platforms. And whereas, the quote, other companies, the more you know, sort of the titans of the industry, they've really done this feature race, to the top of what we like to call the Bloat cycle, right, which is these very expensive platforms that, you know, promised to do all these things. But at the end of the day, the vast majority of marketers are using it for the core features that we are very good at, right, the core of marketing automation and the rest of that stuff you're paying for, but you're not getting the value out of it.

Mike: So I think maybe one thing we ought to do is I mean, we're assuming everybody knows what a marketing automation platform is, is listening, but that's probably not the case. Do you want to explain, you know, what a marketing automation platform is, and what you see as being those core features that everybody needs?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. It's good. Good to set the context. Think about how I structure this. So yeah, so marketing automation, I think most marketers would agree that it is the core foundation of martec. For, you know, a mid market or enterprise marketing marketing team, right, there's a lot of stuff in the mahr tech space now, and I kind of laugh, as I think of all of the software that we use. But really, the foundation is this marketing automation, because it is the primary way that you engage with your customer and prospects in an automated and multi channel way. And so multi channel, you know, in this case means email for sure, as a core website, social media, you know, text, and all these sorts of ways that you're, you're engaging with your customer. And so marketing automation provides the ability to reach out your customer through those channels. Automated means that you can set up automated programmes that are multi touch, you know, based on triggers, or activities that that a customer does, for instance, landing on a web page, downloading a piece of content, and you'd say, Hey, you downloaded the five steps for perfect marketing automation.

And, for instance, for example, and you could follow up with another piece that says, you know, hey, we've got this great offer for helping you, you know, optimise your marketing automation. Anyway, I'm digging into the weeds a little bit here. So the core capabilities within marketing automation are these multi channel outreach, the ability to track then what your customers are doing, they land on your website, or respond to an email, or many, many, many other things. And then segment, your customer base, and the content that you want to send to that customer base. And so that you can have more personalised and custom content going out through multiple channels, right. So it takes it from essentially email blast that you would from, say, an email service provider, kind of a one touch, blast everything sort of approach to multi channel multisegment, automated capabilities based on the signals that you're measuring, for customer engagement. I think that reflects the actual power of market information platforms today that they are able to do a lot of, as you say this, this what we used to call the outbound communication, as well as the tracking as well as the segmentation. I mean, there's a lot there.

In terms of Act-On specifically, how would you position act on it in that world of marketing automation? Yeah, well, I guess I'll kind of repeat a little bit of what I said, because it is also how we see ourselves today is, you know, we were founded in 2008, to be a sophisticated and powerful yet easy to use and affordable marketing automation solution for the mid market customer. And that is very much how we see ourselves today and how we play today, our core customer base, we have many customers and sort of the upper end of SMB, very strong in the mid market, and more and more enterprise customers who are recognising the value to benefit ratio that we provide, were very strong and financial services and business services, manufacturing, and of course, technology. And, you know, our sort of our vision as this next inflection point of technology, you know, base foundation technology, namely AI is coming out, right, is that we want to be everything I just said about high value and easy to use. And then, you know, the most intelligent platform to so how can we use AI? bring that into our technology, again, to help those mid market teams realise value out of their efforts?

Mike: So that's interesting. You talk about mid market. I mean, one of the things I think a lot of people when they first start looking at market information platforms is they look at the range of pricing. And they kind of scratch their head and go, yeah, how comes? It's so big. You know, you talk about your strength in mid market. Why do you think the enterprise vendors can justify such a high premium?

Jeff: You're gonna get me on my soapbox here. Yeah, I mean, they've been very good at getting customers locked into not only their marketing automation platform, but their whole ecosystem around, you know, CRM and ABM and analytics and all of this stuff, and then they charge you based on your total overall database of contacts within the system. And once they have you, they're able to kind of keep ratcheting up the price and make it very hard to move. But we've taken an entirely different approach and said, again, just really focusing on the value and recognising that those mid market customers don't have the deep marketing budgets to be able to keep up with those pricing models.

Our pricing model is based on active contacts, meaning out of your whole entire contact database, we only charge you based on the ones that you're engaging on a month to month basis. So if you've got, you know, I don't know, picking numbers out, right, like, if you've got 200,000 contacts in your database, but you're only mailing 100,000 of them, we're only going to charge based on the 100,000. So again, you're only getting charged for, for what you're using.

And that's pretty unique. I think in in this sector, I mean, most people just count the contacts and billing for every contact. Whereas if you've got contacts there that aren't engaging with the website that maybe have opted out, act on, it's actually quite a good option, because you don't have to pay for them. Yeah, for sure. Right. And I, you know, I've used, I've used Marketo. In the past, I used Pardot, very briefly, but I remember, definitely going through the exercise of like, Oh, our contracts coming up, like let's go through, let's go through our database and, and call all the ones that we aren't using, so that we can get into the lower price threshold.

Which is, that's exactly the behaviour you don't want to have to do in marketing, wasting a lot of time pulling a bunch of contacts out, you know, playing games, you may want to go back to those contacts, you know, maybe you just like you're not marketing to them right now. But you know, you'll find a reason to market to them in the future, or you'll want to just see if you can refresh some of them. So, yeah, we hope that our customers don't have to play those games.

Mike: I love that. I think that's a great approach. You mentioned a little bit about, you know, the kind of industries that are benefiting from act on, one of the things that that, you know, interests me is, is what kind of marketer or marketing team really benefits from using a product like Act-On? I mean, do you need a big team? Is it a small team? Is it a team that's, that's driven by a database, I mean, what characterises a great customer.

Jeff: We like customers that pay us on time and are loyal and only say great things about us on on online. being cheeky.

What we've found, and how will we kind of talk about our customers, internally is that we have a great number of customers that we call graduate errs, and they're the customers that are either in growth mode, or growth mode and company size or growth mode and the number of customers they're reaching out to or whatever it is, but they've graduated from, you know, a simpler Mar tech stack, usually around an ESP system, email system, want to move into marketing automation, and need a system that's, you know, easy to use, because they have a smaller team, or they just, they don't have the sophistication or the experience with marketing automation, right. So they, they want a system that's high value, easy to use. And so we tend to play very well in that space, helping people maximise the value and how to use marketing automation tool for people who either have smaller teams or don't have experience with it. And I think part of that goes to not only our product, but we've invested in and take pride in our Customer Service and Support teams as well who are very accessible to our customers. Because our customers often come to us and say, Hey, how do we do this? How do we do that? How do we can you help us with this thing? And we want to be there for him? Right? So to answer your question is yeah, we do get a lot of these people who are moving up into what we call the graduating mode or playing with marketing automation for the first time, and you want to make sure that the AVID system that they can they can really use and get into it quickly and effectively.

Mike: So it's interesting. So you talked about the importance of support? I mean, is there anything else you do to help people train themselves up? Because you know, someone coming to market information for the first time? That's quite a steep learning curve?

Jeff: Yeah. And for sure, right. So we have, we have a very well thought out onboarding process where we meet with the customers, we get them the initial training they need, we have and again, we pride ourselves on this, we have a support team that's actually available to our customers that when you call you can talk to somebody and you can get help. And we can do online meetings to help our customers. You know, if it's a if it's a question on how to or something they're stumbling with, or an integration, or whatever it is. And then of course, we have, you know, our online knowledge base. We have regular webinars and workshops to help people improve and learn how to do new things that they maybe didn't know before. So yeah, we take we take a lot of investment and pride in making sure that our customers know how to get the most out of our products.

As interesting I mean, one of the things we have talked about is the range of features in marketing automation platforms today. I mean, is it the case that most people use a relatively small number of features. Is that what you're seeing? Or are you seeing people using more and more features, we see that most marketing organisations use the core of the marketing automation platform, like the stuff that I was talking about earlier, what we also see is that there are many features in many platforms. And I'm trying not to point fingers, you obviously hear that that you just don't, most marketers don't use, right. Either it requires a level of sophistication to use the product that most marketing teams don't have, or it's a, it's a feature that kind of sounds great, but really isn't in practicality, all that useful.

You know, and so here's, here's an example from my own history. And again, I don't want to name names, but Right, I was using one of the marketing automation platforms. And not only did I have my internal marketing ops team to help me set stuff up, I had my like web and designers to design forms and pages and emails, which was, you know, that's a, that's a pretty decent sized team right there to support this one marketing automation platform. But then I'd also have to get off site contractors to do the very specific, you know, in platform development in that sort of own special language, and how forms are displayed on and like, that's, that's a pretty high level of sophistication that we're asking many of these mid market marketing teams to have. And so, if that's what you need to deploy some of these features, you know, very customised, personalised websites, you know, higher order sort of automated social media, deployment platforms, things like that, like, you know, it's they're not going to do it. And what we're seeing and what we're hearing in the market is that a lot of marketing is like, yeah, we get that, but we actually don't use it at all, because it's just, it's just too complicated.

Mike: I mean, that's really interesting. So for someone listening to this, maybe they've already got a marketing automation system, maybe they're they're graduating up to a buying a marketing automation system. I mean, what do they need to do to run great campaigns? I mean, how can you really get the best out of a marketing automation system?

Jeff: Yeah, I mean, it's, maybe it's a little bit back to the basics. Or maybe maybe it's not basic for for some customers. So maybe that's a poor choice of words. But I think it is that you understand your customer, target with, with how you want to reach that customer based on your understanding, and then execute and sort of build on that a little bit more. It's used the tools that you have within marketing automation and other tools on who your customer is, and how they're engaging with you, and what content is, you know, they're using, right, what are they getting from your website? What are they opening on your emails? What's the what's the content that they're consuming any step along the way. Use that then to for the targeting sequence to build good automated programmes within marketing automation that reaches, you know, that particular segment of your customer base with meaningful content every step along the funnel. So for instance, we do a lot of financial services, outreach and engagement with customers. And so you know, one of the segments that we have within marketing automation is specific to financial services types, and even specific within like insurance and credit union, and brokerages. Right? And so we can give them the content that is relevant to financial services use the financial services, language, you know, even insurance language versus brokerage language, content that is meaningful to them, which would be very different than content that is meaningful to manufacturing customer or a technology customer, right. So I'm diving in, but I'm hoping this is useful to people within your audience. So target, you know, understand your customer, Build Content and automated programmes that reach your target audience where they want to be reached with content that they want to consume. And then execute. And that's, that's using the marketing automation tool to create these automated programmes, reach them through email and social media, and on your website. And then rinse and repeat, like analyse that, see how it's going, what's working, what's not iterate, build out more useful content and keep going.

Mike: You know, I think I think there were some really good nuggets in there. I'd like to just go back and maybe pull a couple of those out. So one of the things I think that people find difficult as they move into using marketing automation is the level of insight you get. And so we still see you know, some clients and that they're using marketing automation as kind of a an email sending tool. And I know that's a problem. But I think what you're saying is actually use the data to find out what people are interested in. And if you could just expand on that a little more and talk about how people can do that.

Jeff: We've got to, oh, yeah, yeah, data, data data, right. We're also data driven, or we should be also data driven. And I love this aspect of it, because it takes it from, you know, hey, I've got this good idea of what I think our customer wants to hear to, well, let's go in and look at how they're engaging with us and what they're looking for and what they're searching on and, and make sure that the data supports our thoughts or guides us in our decision making. So, you know, the data that we collect, specifically in the instance, is all website engagement.

Right? So as a customer or prospect, even an unknown prospect comes to your website, what pages are they landing on? What content? Are they downloading? Where are they going, and then tracks their engagement from any initial point through the whole sort of journey with you? Right? So if you're using marketing automation, they download a piece of content, you send them an email, did they open the email? Did they click on the email? What did they do next? Did they you know, attend a webinar? Did they attend listened to a podcast? Maybe although I say that I don't think we can measure if they listen to a podcast or not.

But we certainly get it if they attend one of our webinars that we host and using that data, not only to see sort of at the cross sectional level, like how well is our content performing? How well is our page performing? How well is our email performing, but then to say, Okay, let me look at my financial services, customers and prospects, or let me You know, I can right peel it down one more sub segment and say, let me look at my insurance prospects. What is their journey? When they hit our insurance page on our website? Where are they going next? What content are they engaging with? Right? So you can really use that data to drill in and see what your customers are doing? And how your output is doing. Right? Your content, your page, your email? I think that's really interesting. I mean, you're talking about using data, you know, not only to work out what's causing the prospects to engage what's exciting them, you know, where they're spending time, but also, you're using it to work out what to send them next. And I think that that brings me to my next question. You talk about automations and funnels. And so maybe you could just unpack that concept a little bit. And explain how the automations in in a marketing automation tool, help move prospects through that sales funnel, the marketing funnel? Yeah, absolutely. And right, and this is the core and the beauty of marketing, quote, automation, over just, you know, email blasting, right? It's the idea that maps to in a sophisticated sale, or in any complex transaction, every buyer goes through that age old process of awareness, consideration and 10 purchase, right? And I will die on that hill for anybody wants to argue.

There's a lot of talk about flipping the funnel and compressing, and I'm like, Yeah, you might compress. And but everybody still goes through that mental process, whether you're buying enterprise software, or a car, or I don't know, you know, a Valentine's Day dinner for a special someone.

And so you want to align your programmes and your content through a multi touch way that aligns to that thought process, right. So your first touch is just trying to attract the prospect with you know, an answer to a problem they think they have, right. And it's really about awareness, hey, we do this, we solve this problem for you. Maybe you didn't know you had this problem. So hey, you have this problem. And like, we're the ones to help you with it. Bring them in, get them engaging with you, then, you know, just deepen the engagement a little bit more, tell them a little bit more about what you do, eventually try to convince them that you are the best solution for that problem, that's when you get sort of into consideration in the intent phase. And once you've, once you've got them into the intent phase, which means they want to buy from you, then it's about hey, convincing them of the economic benefit of you know, the need to do it now give them all of the things that they need to feel good about the purchase and maybe convince their you know, finance team or their manager, whatever, that they need to do this, right. So it's, it's really peeling apart that whole sales process and creating these automated programmes that give them the information that they need to help them make the decision.

Mike: That's a great way of looking at and it's about this idea of giving them what they need to make the decision I think is brilliant. I think a lot of marketers we think they forgetting? How do I work that out? You know, how do I create this this model of a funnel that identifies, you know, what the prospects thinking? And therefore what I need to give them? Do you have any tips or advice on how to do that?

Jeff: Wow, you know, I suppose that is a little bit of the art and science of marketing, a few things come to mind, you know, one, it's, it's goes back to what I said before is use the data to analyse what's working, right, you can put, like, if you're starting totally from scratch, put a bunch of stuff out there, you know, you're probably in your position, because you're smart, and you know, the market. So put some stuff out there, see how it works, measure, tweak, put some more stuff out there, measure tweak, right, another approach, which I am a huge fan of, it's the it's the sales and marketing alignment idea. I like to work very closely with my sales teams, because they are the feet on the street, they're the ones that are usually having the verbal conversation, we're on a podcast, so you can't see me picking up my phone right now. But they're the ones having the verbal conversation with the prospects and getting that immediate and, and sort of deeper feedback on who they are what's working, what they're interested in what they're asking for, whether they're asking for, you know, at this point, they're probably in the sales cycle, right. So, you know, if they're asking for economic justification, if they're asking for, you know, an RFP, if they're asking for case studies, or customer referrals, or whatever it is, use that information to give them what they want.

Offer them case studies, offer them economic justification, you know, whatever that is, right. And so you can, you can start to use both the signals, I guess, three things, you know, your own knowledge and just sort of what you're learning and reading on the internet, and everybody's on knowledge, use the marketing automation to collect the data, and talk to your sales teams, talk to the people that are talking to the customers and, and use that as feedback as well.

Mike: As great advice, and I think a lot of people will feel a lot more comfortable with with kind of that framework, and particularly, you know, leaning on the sales team. And I know, we've done that a lot at Napier. And often the sales team can can really give you good pointers. So I love that advice. I mean, I think, you know, we've talked about the importance of, you know, thinking and the people behind the marketing automation is about, you know, intelligence that drive great campaigns, but actually a lot of hype today, it's all about AI.

And I'm just really interested to know, you know, your view of how AI is going to impact marketing automation. And, you know, I'm sure you can't tell me any plans that have been announced yet. But, you know, equally I'm sure Act-On is looking very closely at how AI can benefit users.

Jeff: Yeah, for sure. And just as you know, the hype cycle is very high right now on AI changing just about everything we do everywhere. It's gonna have a big impact on on marketing automation, as well. You know, we are I said, we wanted to be the most intelligent marketing automation platform. So we're definitely looking at machine learning and AI and how we can use it to help the marketer work smarter, right, provide scoring and insights and intelligence that that helped them improve their own marketing and work smarter and segment better, and all of that, right. I don't think I'm giving anything away there. But you know, I think there's a lot of things that could happen also in the in the generative technologies like chat TPT, right. That could be I don't know, monumental for the marketing automation and for marketing in general, one of the things that was obvious to me, coming out of AWS, where we are generating just a tonne of content that was tuned to each of our segments, right. And as you can imagine, AWS has many, many, many segments that we're working with, well, you know, something like Chet GPT, could be very useful in driving efficiencies and saying, Hey, we want to create this piece of content, please generate this content for all of these different industries. And then, you know, my specialists would go in and instead of spending hours and hours and hours writing original content, they take what we've been given through the generative AI and tweak it in, you know, maybe an hour or two. So I think in the same way that could be applied, you could think that that could be applied in for marketing teams using marketing automation. Like oh, I need a new piece of content, boom, let's let's crank out something quickly. Make sure that it's good and what we want to say in tune I don't think there will ever Well, I shouldn't say that anybody who's ever said there'll never be a time was proven wrong. But I for quite a while now. There's always going to have to be human intervention to say hey, this piece of content really what we want to be saying and the way that we want to be saying it, using the words that we want to use So there'll always be that that editorial overlay. But yeah, I think there's some pretty exciting stuff that that could make our marketing teams more efficient.

Mike: That's fascinating. I think that there's loads of options. And I love the way you've started with actually using AI for more of the data analysis, because I think in many ways, that that's the area that perhaps people find the most difficult. And having help in terms of segmentation and understanding, you know, the intent? I think that's interesting. You know, so I really liked the way you you started with that. Good. Yeah, thank you, I think there is just a tonne of promise there and, and providing real value. You know, in my opinion, I guess you didn't ask for it, but I'm gonna give it anyway. I think there's this

you know, we don't want to think too large and crazy, right? Because that's the natural tendency of like, Oh, what, you know, total out of the box thing? Could we could we think of an innovate, I think a lot of the value is going to come from kind of doing what we're doing mentally today and automating that and driving it through machine learning, right? Like, scoring or these insights around, you know, how could you improve your email? Or what is your financial services segment customers using today? And just presenting that to our customers, as opposed to them having to go and analyse and find it themselves? So yeah, I'm very excited for that.

Mike: It sounds like you're a real optimist about the future of marketing. I mean, I'm interested to know what would you say if a young person came to you and said they were considering marketing as a career?

Jeff: Well, to date myself a little bit, I started that that first job that I told you about where I started, my marketing career was right around the time when like Google Search, Google AdWords was coming out and marketing automation was just being formed. I remember working with those teams on how would you use this right. And so what marketing is, even for me today is so different from what it was 25 years ago, when I started, I guess some advice is, it's twofold. It's to two sides of the coin. One is never forget the basics, right? At the end of the day, as a marketer, you have to engage your audience in ways that provide value to them, right, we had this thing back then called Value Add marketing, which sounds funny now, but it's really just about him making sure that you're giving the user what they want, not the message that you want to push on them, right. So don't tell them about speeds and feeds, tell them about how they could use your system to improve their lives. So kind of get back to the basics that way, make sure you're focused on that, and that you're engaging your customer in ways that help them along the buying journey. And then the flip side is the total opposite and is very much aligned to what we were just talking about about AI. It's like, wow, you better you better be a technologist. And don't be afraid to dive deep into the technology and to get the most out of it. And even to the point where learn how to write a SQL query or learn how to code or, like, the more depth you have in that space, the more power you're going to have at your hands to leverage this technology.

Mike: Oh, that's that sounds like great advice. I mean, triggers well, and I'm actually going to cheat I'm gonna say you can't say us act on has been the best marketing advice. But what what's other than using act on what is the best marketing advice you've ever heard?

Jeff: There was this story I've I've kind of been giving it to you and dribbles a little bit. It's this bit about being value add to the customer. Don't think of yourself as someone who pushes your message onto the market. Think about someone who really helps that buyer get the information they need to make a buying decision. And if you do that, you're going to build credibility and trust with that buyer, and they're going to want to buy from you. So at the end of the day, it is self serving, but you can't start that way. Gosh, other advice, best piece of advice I ever got. Plastics, plastics, my dear boy plastics.

That was out of a movie sorry. Yeah, you know, I think it's been I don't know if it was a piece of advice. I remember working with this. This gentleman, Kevin Joyce has also been in the market for a long time back in those early days. And we really talked about how we use, you know, Google AdWords to test our message and test the market very quickly. And then you know, that that moved into like a B testing with email. And so I think it's, I'll take that as a bit of advice of like, hey, use the technology that you have available to you today to learn and think about how you can do marketing better because it's always the is the process of try something be smart, you know, be a little edgy, try to reach your customers, and then measure it and test it and do a B testing and test another message and see what works and just tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak, tweak, right, it's very rare that you're going to come in and hit a homerun right off the first pitch, like, go in and put your best foot forward and measure and tweak and improve. And that's, that's always been my path to success is in building really strong and high performing marketing engines is going in there doing your best work, and then and then adjusting stuff to improve.

Mike: That that's awesome. And I think, again, very optimistic advice. You know, you don't have to be perfect first time. I think that's a great bit of advice. You know, people listening to this, I mean, if they're not using a marketing automation platform, or maybe they are and they feel that it's time to change. I mean, how would they go about, you know, evaluating act on it? Do you have any advice as to, you know, what they should consider when selecting a platform?

Jeff: Great question. I guess I'm gonna reflect on how I've done similar technology assessment and purchases is, you know, you start with really being honest with yourself on what you need, and what you're trying to accomplish. Because it's, it's so easy to get sucked into the shiny object mentality, right? Like, oh, that feature sounds really cool. Oh, that feature sounds really cool. Oh, yeah. Wouldn't it be great if, when, you know, that might not be something that you even have the capability to skill set in house? Or the resources to do? Right? So go in with a very clear list of, hey, what's most important to me? What are my nice to haves? What's the price point that we want, and then you talk to a lot of vendors, be sure to you know, get demos and really get an understanding for how easy it is to use the system, right? Because how easy it is use the system at the end of the day is a sense of how much use you're gonna get out of it, and how efficient like if you can get the whole team trained up on using a marketing automation platform, because it's it's pretty straightforward and easy to use, then you're gonna be very efficient, leveraging that marketing automation platform. If you know, CMA is really complicated. And you've really got one expert in house, that person then becomes the bottleneck, right? So again, don't I guess the point is, I get in, understand the usability, make sure that is a level that you believe that you've got the skill sets in house to make use of it. And then you know, test and demo and also look at the other what we used to call the intangibles, which is outside of the product, the support of the online resources for learning the sort of knowledge base, the ecosystem of people that outside of the company that are available to you all of that that's the entire package. And it's all worth assessing, and making sure that you are getting what you want going into it.

Mike: Thanks. I mean, Jeff, you've been great as a guest, it's been fascinating to hear you talk about marketing automation, I think you've done a wonderful job of avoiding being, you know, too much of a salesperson for your own platform. And it's a very competitive industry. And there must be a temptation, I really appreciate that. I'm sure there's people who'd love to know more, whether it's about Act-On marketing automation. If anyone listening wants to get in contact with you, what would be the best way?

Jeff: Yeah, I think if you want to get in touch with me personally, find me on LinkedIn, reach out, I'm on there at least a couple of times a day. If you want to learn more about act on as a company or as our product, best to reach out through those various channels through our website, something like that, because because otherwise I'll be a bottleneck to getting you in touch with the right people.

But you know, thank you for you know, this this time, Mike, and thank you everybody for listening. And yeah, this has been fun. I'm obviously very passionate about marketing and the space because it's it's just a fun world that we live in right now.

Mike: Thanks, Jeff. I've really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for being a guest.

Jeff: Thanks so much.

Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you'd like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.

A Napier Podcast Interview with William Hearn - Sendinblue

William Hearn is the Sales Director for EMEA and RoW at Sendinblue, an all-in-one marketing platform.

The marketing automation market is increasingly crowded, and William discusses how Sendinblue positions itself to stand out amongst competitors. Find out some of the different requirements for B2B and B2C marketers and how B2B can benefit from replicating B2C campaigns.

William also discusses some of the most effective campaigns he has seen and some of the simple techniques that can have a huge impact.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with William Hearn - Sendinblue

Speakers: Mike Maynard, William Hearn

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 Will Hearn, Will is the sales director for EMEA and the rest of the world for Sendinblue. Welcome to the podcast. Will,

William: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Mike: So I'm really excited to talk a little bit about Sendinblue and marketing automation. But before we do that, can you just tell me a little bit about your career journey and how you've got to involved with and in blue?

William: Yeah, sure, probably to start with, as every salesperson says, I didn't plan to be in sales, I plan to be in marketing, which was a lucky twist of fate in the end, but I'm now saying a marketing solution. In retrospect, if we look at it, I always had a bit of a sales mindset, trying to turn my weekly pocket money into well, candies, and donuts, and so on to sell at the playground and end up with a lot of extra money at the end of the week. And so after that, all entrepreneurial background, helped my sister and a brother as they launch their companies, and went to university, studied marketing, really enjoyed it and thought, Okay, this is the way forward for me. And I joined a startup called open play in London, fantastic team, when I joined, they hired me to do PR and marketing. thing is they made a seed round, it was like 100k. And we didn't have any clients. So there was a very low income stream. And after a couple of months of doing some PR and marketing, working a bit on the product design and development, we realised if we didn't sign some deals, and get some clients in, this wasn't gonna last long. So I started doing some sales just to help out like to say, I was so good at marketing, they moved me to the sales team. But in the end, I really enjoyed it, stayed with them for a while, and had started to use Sendinblue, in that experience. So then, my partner's from Paris, I started to move over to Paris, then in blue, as headquartered in Paris. So I applied for a job with them. And what's kind of Right Place Right Time, I had the chance to join as the first salesperson after our series, a 2017. And we started building this sales team, out of what had originally been a pure product lead growth journey. So here, I joined them, we start focusing on customer goals and seeing where we can help really more than small business I start with. And we very quickly see that there's this inbound demand, because our tagline at the time was we help small businesses compete with enterprises. And we started having enterprises coming to us and saying, it's quite a nice tool you have, could it work for us? And so that's when we started exploring that topic. And that's a bit how I got where I am today.

Mike: That's interesting. And you've actually been there five years, as you said, so, I mean, there must be something you love about the company, is it the way the company has matured and developed, because you've changed quite a lot from, you know, helping small businesses compete with enterprises?

William: Yeah, exactly, I'd say there's probably three pillars of what I really like about Sendinblue. The first one is the solution focus is what attracted me in the first place, I understood a bit of pain, I'd use some other tools, wanted to set up automations and follow ups and so on, and wasn't very convinced, let's say by what I'd used as either way too complicated, or way too simple. And so there's a solution focused on my side, but from the company as well, we've got a real ambition to continue growing. But for instance, we've acquired seven companies the last couple of years, to really build on our feature and solution set to add really advanced capabilities around ingesting data, creating automations, delivering messages across multiple channels. And this, in the end has been very fun, because we have a lot of customers that come to us wanting to do exactly this, and it's very buzzword. But it really is what we're doing. And so there's a strong fit for me and for the market. The second part about the company that says culture, another buzzword pot. Everyone likes to use the word culture and the phrase I love, do things at scale. Well, one person says, and the next person says, do things that don't scale? Well, who knows what the answer is. But I'd say it's an in blue, there's a strong culture, that trickles down from the CEO, I've been humbly open about having an impact first. So we build tools will have an impact for our customer. We approach how we work day to day and sales team on the marketing team about okay, what will have an impact on our business and our clients business. And this whole philosophy is very strong. And then like you said, opportunity, the opportunity to be around some very smart people who are building a really nice tool to grow with the company. In the five years, the company has grown a lot we were at when I joined and we're now 700 going on 800. So it's been quite a nice journey. And with that there's also some personal opportunity that I'm in a startup that's growing fast. Now scale up with hardware didn't make the definition. And we have a lot of customers with very interesting use cases and the opportunity to really help either enterprises on my side or on the company side, for businesses really grow and become more agile.

Mike: That's really interesting. I love the bit about culture, particularly I'm interested because Sendinblue is French, which is, you know, France is not necessarily renowned as the centre of startups, although I know that there are some really good startups in France. But do you think the Frenchness impacts the culture?

William: It's a great question. When I joined Sendinblue, it was definitely somewhat of a culture shock. So I'm a South African, but I grew up in the UK. And when I was going to France, everyone said to me are the French, they're very different. When I get here, to be honest, I think we're 70% the same. There's a little bit of cooking skills that the French have made, and in the end, in meetings, that some things are handled differently. But I'd say France is also undergoing a change in a structure I call on the government here is very focused on the startup environment has been since around 2016, which was a good timing for me again. And then I'd say Sendinblue, was actually co founded out of Paris and Noida, our founder had been running an agency in Noida, and kind of that's where his, let's say, pain point and realisation came to create Sendinblue. So it was always quite an international company from the start. And I think we have nearly 14 nationalities in Sendinblue. So it's quite a fun team.

Mike: Sounds awesome. So we've talked a lot about you and the culture. But maybe let's talk a little bit about the product. You know, do you want to just explain very briefly, what Sendinblue does, and how you'd position it because you're obviously in quite a crowded market?

William: Yes, no, it's a very crowded market. I remember when I first had been attending with maybe a year, I was speaking to somebody and I said, Okay, well, effectively, you're an email and emails done, not just an email, an email is definitely not done. So probably the easiest way to explain us to tagline that give us is a customer relationship stack. So what we do at the core is to help our customers access the data, what we see is most B2C and many B2B companies, as well have huge amounts of data that they can't access or don't know how to leverage on a day to day way. So we help them access to this data, activated in segments and automations. And then deliver messages, whether it's email, SMS, WhatsApp, push, so on, and so forth. But really this customer relationship stack for managing the conversion and retention of customers. It's probably two parts of the business, which is where it gets more complicated. We have our classic product led growth stack for small businesses. Here, you can buy a plan online sign up, and you get access to much of the same feature set as an enterprise customer. But you just have to use it yourself. And there's help articles and a support team. But it's self service solution. And then we have the enterprise side, which we have some technical differences and multicast solution, let's say high scalability for message volume, and so on, as well as customer success team for onboarding and training people and dedicated customer support team for those enterprise lines.

Mike: That's interesting. You know, and obviously, one of the things you do is you cover both business to business and consumer marketing. I'm intrigued to know, do you find a big difference between what your B2B customers want and what's required for consumer marketing?

William: Sure, I always have an interesting take on this. I think that it's it's a good definition but not a great definition to say B2B and B2C. You know, if we took an ultra luxury yachts sale cycle, and technically that's B2C, but acts very much like a B2B sales cycle, the times, SAS, often if we're talking about low ticket value, SAS, it'll act quite similar to an E commerce, especially how you market it and how you manage those flows of data and messaging. So I'm a bit reticent to always say B2B is like that, or B2C is like this. I think that there's a lot of crossover, what I do see quite heavily, and it's not always true, but I find it more true is that B2B Customers maybe are not as digitally mature in their channel usage, and in the growth hacks they're willing to take for building those relationships with their customers. So E comm has a list of definitions as long as your LTV CAC RFM segmentation. If you ever go to a ecommerce agency talk, it's just acronyms.

Whereas on the B2B side, I feel often brands are missing that onboarding flow product recommendation aspect. You know, even if you're giving white papers and documents, you can still do recommendations of the next white paper you should read based off your engagement. There's a lack of flows. Often email is the only channel used, which other a great channel it's a shame to only stick to that one. In the end, there's also legal differentiators. GDPR clearly in our blacklisting, talking about email is different technical and legal challenges. So in short, I'm always a huge fan of looking at where are you positioned as a B2B brand. Looking across the aisle at a B2C brand that might have a say and kind of target market behaviour. And what can we copy and steal from the B2C side replicate for B2B brands.

Mike: I love that I think that's that's a really great way to position you know how B2B brands should be thinking, and actually just falling onto that I'm really interested because there are some things that consumer brands are using a much greater volume than B2B. So, you know, example might be SMS or WhatsApp, where quite a lot of consumer marketers are very active on those channels, but actually relatively few B2B companies. Do you think that B2B could gain a lot by using more of these channels?

William: The short answer is yes. The long answer is, you have to be careful how you use them. I think also on the B2C side, often brands use them without much thought into the real reason or tactic behind it. And that's a bit the double edged sword for B2B brands. Yes, they should adopt them. But they really need to consider it. I mean, about a week ago, I was giving a talk at the E commerce Expo in Berlin. And I spent about 45 minutes after this chatting with the guy who's working at a very large German enterprise group, were really concerned, how can they use whatsapp in their funnels? And we were talking about okay, roundtables, dinners, white papers, these are all things which you can create communities. Even in B2B, there's a lot of communities you can create. And WhatsApp is an amazing tool to manage a community glaring use cases could also be customer support, whether that's for a SAS brand, who really wants to have like a ticketing done via WhatsApp, maybe.

But also top tier accounts, probably can benefit from managing delivery tracking, depends on the goods you're selling on the B2B side, or returns Management Events and services industry for programmatic updates about okay, yeah, you're registered to be at this event tomorrow. Here's the location and link to the Google Maps. These are all I say experience wins, you can have on the B2B side, which are not used currently, but would have a big impact on loyalty retention, in the endless the same game for B2B. That's fascinating, because I think, you know, a lot of B2B companies shy away from asking from for a mobile number. And actually, more and more with people working remotely, the mobile number is much more important than just getting a switchboard number. But you're saying that, by getting that mobile number and being able to engage on you know, through SMS and through WhatsApp, actually, you can make the right audience more loyal and more engaged by using those channels, which, which I think some B2B marketers might actually feel a bit surprised about they tend to shy away from what seen as more personal data. Yes. Also, the definition of personal data is quite an interesting one. Williamette Sendinblue.com is personal data in some aspect. So I think sometimes we create wars between datasets at the wrong point. Yes, as soon as you have a phone number, I'm not at all advocating that you send everyone an SMS per day. Yeah. But we do have some clients who are sending annual renewal reminders via SMS. And what they see is, in general, a really positive experience. If my contract is about to renew at the end of the month, I would prefer to be reminded about it. Some people are great at checking their inboxes I wish everyone was, but a lot of people have an inbox, which they only cherry pick what they're going to read. Whereas this one SMS a year can be quite a nice touch point. Obviously, it's a slippery slope. But if you pick the right messaging, at the right moments, it can have a very positive impact.

Mike: Yeah, that sounds like really good advice is right messaging right moment. I love that. We're actually recording this podcast in March. I know it's gonna go out a little bit later in the year. But you know, the hype at the moment is all around AI and chat GPT. I've got to ask you the question. Are there any plans to incorporate chat GPT and have aI generated emails or messages within Sendinblue?

William: Yes, because I'm a big fan of chat. So I'd like to really push that topic. To be honest, the one use case we're testing right now is to use it in app chat functionality. So conversations, to provide a summarise Sync feature, I think summarise this chat, and find action items. The way we see this is a lot for customer experience and care teams to be able to say, you know, have the long conversation chat. And then before they maybe elevate the discussion to a JIRA or whatever their process is to summarise it, log into the CRM, log in whatever tool they need to and also create those action items of okay, I need to followup with the prospect on the client or ABC. So that's the first use case but we actually have a couple of channels internally dedicated to just experiences. We're having an idea as we have with chat GBT The opportunity is truly endless.

Mike: And do you see us ending up in a situation where most of them marketing messages we get are from generative AI? Or do you think people are still going to be the ones who who deliver the best and most effective messages?

William: Yeah, again, strong opinion on this. I'm dyslexic. So it writes better than I do. That's for sure. But no, I don't think you can replace humans. At least we're a long way away from it. I haven't seen it get there yet. And the short thing is that it's about usage of generative AI as well, you know, you're the first people are very early adopters.

We get in there we play with it, it's fantastic. And you have a few, let's say influences or some B2C cycle here, who will pass it over LinkedIn, a lot of pure usage. We're in that phase for me right now, where people are taking too many shortcuts, just creating content with a few prompts on the UI. And the problem with Chad GBT, or, or what is there to do, really, is that it generates the aggregate median, let's say of information. So that's fantastic for research. It's fantastic for kind of unblocking writer's block on your content. But I've already started to see some some brands who are not doing it well. And you can kind of sense this is a little bit of the brand DNA and how it's written the terminology. It's, it's not quite the same, which is quite normal. So I would say, be careful with it, use it. But use it as a way to build your story. You know, marketing is always about a story. You have a hero, a villain and a journey that they're going through. Well, I'm not convinced that chat, GBT can build that story and paint that picture for you. It can give you some, some cool chapters called outlines. But you have to colour it in, you have to make the story pop for your brand.

I like that. I mean, one of the other things. I you know, someone said to me earlier today was one of the great things chap GPT does is it lets you know what you don't like and you can get checked GPT to produce, you know, a bunch of headlines, and very quickly go That's wrong. That's wrong, that's wrong. And it really helps you focus down on where you want to be. So I think, as a guide, AI is certainly working as a human replacement. It's, as you say, it's really quite a long way away.

I've been to use the paint a picture analogy. I do love the dolly interface. But you can recreate a mani in there, but it can't create them on it for you. That's the difference. Prompt are very important as well. And I think it's incredibly interesting to see how many versions you can go through in prompting to get something that's quite good. But even that, I mean, I've played with it quite a lot. I've never seen something which I've thought Yeah, exactly right. For submission. I don't need to touch it.

Mike: Yeah, no, absolutely. It's definitely going to help us but but hopefully not take our jobs in the next few years.

I I'm interested to know, I mean, obviously working at Sendinblue, you must be exposed to some really good campaigns. Do you have some examples of some really effective B2B campaigns you've seen run and explain why you think they worked? Well?

William: Yeah, quite a few. I think one I mentioned earlier with a very simple campaign. So it's really not amazing. But the impact was huge love energy savings, UK brand, started sending their reminders via SMS. And I mean, just the renewal rate, the increased customer satisfaction rate. And it's a very simple thing. Huge impact. So it doesn't always have to be an elaborate campaign that takes six months to build. Sometimes it can just be as simple as would I enjoy getting this message? Would it improve the customer journey? Is it easy to do? Can we have that quick impact? Let's do a test. And that's what I did. There's another one which I quite like another UK brand. They do both B2B and B2C. That was quite interesting, because they quite instinctively are copying or translating their B2C automations into their B2B. So they decided to add WhatsApp, and I think chat as well. So conversations as a whole as a way of dealing with their B2B partners and providing a B2C service. They really have this second relationship. They're integrating WhatsApp and for multi channel communication, and it's having a nice effect.

Mike: That's awesome. I mean, it's interesting this, people talk a lot about omni channel, but actually don't necessarily do it. I think you know that the interesting thing you're saying is actually use those different channels and make sure you get to two people through the channel they prefer or through the most effective channel.

William: Yeah, exactly. You know, in the end, I will engage on my personal email address because I'm paid to do that. But if you want to really speak to me, a LinkedIn message or WhatsApp is, is where I'm going to be very reactive. It's where you're going to catch me in the moment I'm truly open to thinking. And it's also where I go when I have a problem to solve. I get my phone out almost as a reflex. We have to be careful with legal opt ins and all this jazz. It's very important as well, but I do see a big shift towards mobile, B2C is probably further ahead than B2B. But in the end, you're always dealing with another human. We're all experiencing this shift in our personal lives when we engage with B2C brands. So I think we're starting to now expect it on the B2B side as well.

Mike: I think that that's really interesting, really good advice that people need to think about. I'm aware of your time and, you know, we have a couple of questions we'd like to ask people, generally, I mean, the first one is, what's the best bit of marketing advice you've ever been given?

William: Probably just test test test, you can write the best campaign copy you want. If you're not delivering it in the right time, the right place, and by channel, it doesn't resonate. So whichever channel you're going to try and adopt whichever methodology tested as much as you can these days, we have so many tools, so much data available to us that yes, perfect is the enemy of good. But that's not a good enough excuse to not to not test your messaging and your channel.

Mike: That's great advice. I'm not sure I should ask this to someone who's moved from marketing to sales. But, you know, if a young person came to you was thinking of a career in marketing, what would you say to them? Would you recommend they did it?

William: Yeah, tell themselves? No, sorry. What I would say is that marketing is a very rewarding career. And I think the reason I enjoy being Sendinblue, is I still get to touch marketing quite a lot. I'll probably always stay in the marketing field in some way.

My advice for them would be do it, but get your hands wet as soon as you can. Marketing is a very broad field. And I think it's broader than you realise when you're young. When you're young, you think of marketing as billboards, or as TV ads. And those are very legitimate forms of marketing. But there's actually a lot more to it. There's the SEO, the PPC, the emails, the SMS, this whole journey orchestration, that's also changing quite quickly over time. So yes, intentions are great. But what's even better can be to access a tool that has a free version, build your own website and start really trying to consider how are you engaging with the brands you're purchasing with a young age? So my answer would be yes. And there's nothing better than practising it.

Mike: And I guess the obvious thing I've got to ask if if somebody wants to practice is looking for a free tool, or, you know, if maybe a professional marketer wants to experiment with SMS and WhatsApp as a channel? I mean, how do they get to try Sendinblue? And how much is it going to cost them?

William: Sure, we do have a free version of the platform. no credit card needed lifetime free. So you can push your jump in style using the interface testing, we give some free emails, SMS or WhatsApp, people, there's a press electron on the page.

But in general, you can jump in and start experiencing quite a lot of the interface just by yourself to see what we do. And if you want to really go in depth, there's a sales form you can reach out book a meeting with us or ping me a message. It's been amazing. I've really enjoyed this conversation. I I love your thoughts about hitting people in the right channel at the right time? I'm sure lots of listeners would be interested in contacting you and finding out more if people want some more information or have questions about what you said, What's the best way to reach you? Sure. The best way is LinkedIn. I can also get my email address, it's will.at Sendinblue.com. I generally like to tend to be very phone oriented. So LinkedIn messages are the best way. But feel free to reach me on either channel.

Mike: That's fantastic. Well, I've really enjoyed this conversation and appreciate you being a guest.

William: No it's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me on.

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 Ruben Vardanyan - Joomag

Ruben Vardanyan, Founder and CEO of digital publishing platform Joomag, shares how the traditional PDF has evolved in a more mobile-focused world and how interactive alternatives benefit both marketers and their customers.

He discusses the increasing requirements marketeers demand from their content, and how thoughtful personalisation leads to higher conversion rates. Find out how to optimise content based on reader behaviour and why we must educate businesses on how the digital world works.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Interview with Ruben Vardanyan - Joomag

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Ruben Vardanyan

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 Ruben Vardanyan. Ruben is the founder and CEO of Joomag. Welcome to the podcast.

Ruben: Thanks for hosting Mike.

Mike: So, Ruben I mean, tell me a little bit about how you got to found Joomag. You know, what, what was your career version and what inspired you to start the product?

Ruben: Yeah, that's an interesting story. So Jumeirah was founded back in 2010, during the ad of blogging, when platforms like Blogger and WordPress, as you recall, were incredibly popular. So our goal at this time was to create a platform that would enable people to create visually stunning authoritative content, essentially, digital magazines. And that's how we get started. At first, we focused on working with self publishing and small businesses. But over time, we grew to serve a wider range of clients, eventually amassing over 1 million customers. And as we've all we discovered that our platform provided the most value to the established companies. So we pivoted to focus more on serving that market. So right now we're more or less working with a mid market enterprise companies in B2B space.

Mike: So fundamentally moved from that that SME type product into something that's, you know, much more mid market, maybe, you know, much bigger customers, but perhaps slightly fewer them.

Ruben: Exactly, because we see that the biggest value they're providing, we have a huge plasma and the biggest failure we're providing or more for an established brands, where they already know have the strategy, they know what they are doing. Or they have this big initiative, and they just need the right tools and the right expertise to get off the ground. So that's why we concentrated where we are the best at and as basically the larger companies.

Mike: So you're you're creating effectively a magazine type platform. And can you talk about exactly what GMAC does and what problem it solves?

Ruben:  You know, enables companies to effortlessly create, distribute and measure interactive publications that perform. We like to use the term perform because it basically highlights the ultimate goal of grading conducive content. Right. So our approach is twofold. We focus not only on simplifying the publishing process and enhancing the workflow for companies, but also on providing readers with a smooth experience on how they receive and zoom, absorb and interact with content. This is like a crucial point on differentiating for us before, no matter how well crafted the content is on the company side. If it fails to resonate with the audience, it will not achieve its desired results at the end of the day, right.

Mike: That's interesting. I, you know, I totally appreciate that you've got to eventually got to customers, the paying customer, you're going to help create the content. But if the readers don't engage with the publication, that that's gonna be a problem. I mean, how do you find the attitude towards online publications? Because we're all kind of used to, you know, downloading PDFs in B2B. So how do readers respond to a Joomag? Publication?

Ruben: This interesting question. So Joomag publication is basically a visually immersive publication, right? So it's like a specific medium. So digital publications or OLAP publication, I'll recall them, they are not here to replace, let's say, a website, or they are not here to replace a blog, they are not here to replace any other already creative medium. And nowadays, in this small world, there are a bunch of millions, right from even the Tick Tock movies up to any other minute. So they're here to stay. And if we compare with PDFs, that's another equation. So while ease of use and time efficient, reporting the goals you see, but the ultimate objective is to basically ensure that the PDF files remain relevant and perform effectively in today's diverse digital landscape. Right. So therefore, our focus is not simply on converting these PDF files, to new formats, but on delivering engaging content that resonates with the intended audiences. And whilst the PDF is converted, you can further enhance the content by using our online editor or make updates as needed using our powerful online editor. So basically, we are in that vertical. And that's how we look at the things and PDF is still there. But I think PDFs became less relevant in today's mobile first world, as consumers increasingly prefer more user friendly digital mediums for reading. And I'll say that the show the PDF format was originally designed for offline use, while modern technology has shifted towards more cloud based storage and accessibility.

Mike: I mean, that's interesting. And you know, we've had a couple of other guests on the podcast who've got other pros arcs that are aiming to provide something that's really the evolution of the PDF. I think one of the interesting things I'd like to understand is, you know, you do have this automatic conversion, you can basically give Joomag, a PDF and get a, an interactive publication from a couple of clicks. I mean, how would you feel that works? And then how much effort do people have to put in to really get the publication interactive and engaging,

Ruben: It's pretty much effortless. I mean, when you convert the publications for generic just takes a couple of minutes to get it converted. The biggest thing is that you just don't care about reading the digital replica, I would call them, your ultimate goal is to make sure that they are mobile first as well, in this mobile first world, right. And it basically means you still have to put more efforts in creating an engaging content at the end of the day, it includes creating even either the adaptive version, so that it works on all devices, or software automatically does it but you still have to tweak it a little bit, because the PDF is not the best format. When it comes to the conversion. At the same time for adding interactivity, as you mentioned, it's just takes a few clicks. And it's a no cost solution. So anyone, no matter where we are designer or marketer, or sales rep, you're able to easily do it effortlessly, just with a few clicks using our online editor. So in sense of that, it's pretty much easy to use. But I would say that target should be not just by converting PDFs, but just making sure that those are usable. For the end consumers, you will be delivering the ultimate content.

Mike: That's interesting. So I'm interested, Are there features that people see and Joomag that, you know, they'll convert a PDF? And then a lot of people say, well, we need to add that is that is there something that that really is the magic to get people engaged when they're reading?

Ruben: It was yes, like five years ago, like, people were just converting PDF files and just putting videos on top of that. Nowadays, people are more demanding. And I would say they are not just demanding in terms of having more interactivity, like animation. So that kind of stuff is still nice to have, but it's not a necessity. But they are more interested in having something more personalised, I would say. Because nowadays, consumers have high expectations. It was not like a generic content they used to read before, let's say five years ago, three years ago, nowadays, they want everything very personalised. So there's how social media channels social media platform basically change, right? So you follow something, some kinds of topics, some kinds of people just get whatever you subscribe for. So it works the same in this modern economy. And I'd say the expectations of consumers these wish from just nicer actions with this full ethics, just like when iPhones came out, right? So they have multi touch, which was a big surprise for a bunch of consumers. But nowadays, like it's a regular thing, and everybody has it. Same with these digital publications, I would say they are expecting to have more personalised content, and of course, more visual content, because the idea of publications is not reading, but see. So I would say yeah, having more gamification more visual content. That's what makes it different. And it has to be personalised.

Mike: That's really interesting. It sounds like you know, what you're saying is the online publications of when you're creating them, that it's moved from, you know, looking at all the bells and whistles and the clever stuff, and actually trying to understand now, what the audience wants and really customised for the audience. So it sounds like, you know, what people are doing with with these publications has changed a bit over the last few years?

Ruben: Yeah, yeah, that's correct. And that's what makes helps publishers with to understand how the sentiments of the consumers are changing. So this is why like, we're trying to cover the entire lifecycle, not just the creation portion, not just the delivery portion. But also the measurement portion that we have to weigh measurement is not just the analytics, which is get a behind the scenes data on user behaviour, or user engagement with you. We also get direct feedback from the consumers. So we have a feedback tools. And let's say you can see on page five, a, what do you think about the content on this page? What do you like what you dislike, and the system basically merges all those feedback together along with the analytical data. And that's what we provide, eventually to the publishers to make the content so that they can show the future content and make it better.

Mike: So that's really interesting. You're trying to understand what the readers are actually, you know, enjoying and, and what they find less helpful. I mean, is there then a process that somebody would go through to optimise a publication once I've got that data to make it more engaging.

Ruben: Oh yeah, of course. So that's it for marketers, right? So marketers can leverage this reader behaviour reading variety ways. And one example of this is sending the retailer's YouTube platform to create catalogues. The ultimate goal of these catalogues, of course, is to sell products to their existing customer base. In the US, we typically see you have this threat email being shipped to our house, right? So that we see hey, like, there is a brand, ABC, they're selling this stuff, this is the catalogue and they're still even sending 40 Page printed publications to the recipients based on the zip codes or your targeting for their existing customer base. It basically the ones who sell more, right, so who understand how we are, but we also have to understand the back office, all the processes weren't there. So team creates a selection of products from the retailer's inventory, and categorise them in the catalogue. So this is a process when they have a dedicated team dedicated people who are syncing all those items, right?

By analysing the behavioural data insights provided by Joomag platform, retailers can start to identify patterns in how different cohorts of customers engage with the catalogue, and which product categories resonate with them. So basically, this allows retailers to personalise the content catalogues for different customer groups tailoring the content to better meet their needs, and interests. So the end result of this personalization to produce higher conversion rates, of course, as customers are more likely to engage with, and purchase products that are relevant and interesting to them. Right. And this is just one example of ultimately platform can help marketers to better understand your audience and optimise that content search for maximum results. And we have many other examples in corporate communication we have for many other examples in training and development, we have a bunch of other examples in lead generation, lead nurturing silver, so he's basically ever because there's a person who are we spreading on you're spending time spending resources on creating the content, right. And in traditional obligation is not just tax, it's everything, to lay out the photos, the photography, you have to create the videos, you have to hire photographer to do the photo shooting get right the writer to pay this tax, so bunch of pupil and bunch of voice and bunch of resources spent on just trading one piece or a few pieces of content. So that's why our ultimate goal is to make sure that those resources are efficiently span, and at the same time supporting these with the reader engagement.

Mike: I mean, that sounds really good. It sounds like you know, there's so much opportunity to to build this personalization around different personas or groups of audience. When you see customers doing that. I mean, how much uplift you see in terms of personalised version versus a generic one. Is there a rule of thumb? Or is it something that varies from customer to customer?

Ruben: With question varies from customer to customer, but the rule of thumb is the following. First, big compliment, let's say they just want to move from claim to digital, just the initial the first baby step they're doing. And the biggest difference is that when they were in print to process, the print lifecycle manager is completely different stuff. You have an internal team who is doing design and they have to produce the print ready publication, then to send it to the printers along with the customer details with the shipping addresses. Then you have the production team who's making sure that quality assurance to make sure that the prints are being with the right quality with the right papers and stuff like that, then you're sending these information to the FedEx or whatever shipping company these who get the chips. And then you're done.

Yeah, you just get the confirmation of receipt, the end user received the publication to print publication. And that's right. When they move this through digital, like we call it digital transformation from print to digital, right. It's a completely different beast. And the way the team the structure the team you had it completely changes, right? It completely changes everything.

And the first step is to educate companies. How the digital world works, right? What do you have to keep track so that you know like before, you just had a few metrics, number of recipients, number of deliveries, and that's it. And then the ultimate result let's say they have some coupons with the QR codes they can track how many people are scanning the QR codes that is nowadays in the digital area. You can track everything and then say delivery is replaced with something else delivery equals sending emails, sharing on social media and utilising as many channels where your readers are is not just using one channel because you know like especially when people are switching from print to digital, there are various age groups involved. And some of the age groups they prefer, let's say email channels, other Millennials are channels that they prefer even Tik Tok, you know, so you have to make sure that you distribute the content with those relevant channels. And then when it comes to content that will just start reading the content, and then cause the measurement. Right. So the first thing is that basically, the rule of thumb is number one, we help them to just transition from free to digital, that's number one. At that stage, the, they have these big expectation, but they don't know what you're looking for. They're just getting used to. The next step is professional bass probably think of recorded, we already were into this for a year at least, and didn't really know what they want to measure and what they want to make it better, or they want to make it better. And typically, that's when they start personalising the content.

And it's very natural process, you know, like in data science are the same, right? You have this big data, you have this analytics. And let's say hypothetically, you have three minutes reading time for the publication, right? Let's say you want to make sure that it goes to six minutes, because the more they read, the more engaged they are, the more engaged they are, the more as they see, the more as they see, the more money you make, or the more engaged they are, the more clicks they click. So whatever it is, so the the ultimate result, the performance equals, the more the engagement with the publication rate, it means the more time they spend on the publication, and how data analysts do it. So first, they start breaking down based on the course and see, is there a target audience? Let's say Is there a cohort who spent 90 minutes on the publications? And typically the answer is yes, that, that three minutes average time equals, like us small cohort, which is spending seven minutes on the publication and another board, which expenditures, one into the publication, and the average of those two segments comes up to three minutes, let's say.

So you try to figure out hey, for those people who spend just one minute, how could they do it better? What could I have done differently so that they spent also seven minutes rather than one minutes, right? And if you change the entire content, typically keeping one universal content to basically make all of the cores happy, it's almost impossible. So what do you do you branch out your content, you keep the same content for the cohort, which has seven engagement, and you create another version of the publication for just the adult cohort, which has 1.5 million, the same engagement. And you do this evening experiments, and the more you drill down further, the more personalization versions you create. So it doesn't necessarily has to be personalization doesn't equal the number of recipients you have equals the number of publications you should have.

And personalization is always confused with just a customising the name or the company name in the publication. This is not the case of personalization, personalization means that the end recipient receives the content, they desire to engage with the desire to read. That means personalization for us. And so that's why like, the more proficient with the platform, the companies become, the more they start branching out the company, the more they stop, crystallise it so this will be so and the more years they are with you make the more personalised versions we see.

Mike: That's fascinating. I think. Personalization is definitely something that people are realising makes a huge difference in terms of engagement, whether it's a publication or response rate, or whatever. And it's interesting to hear how you're, you're looking at not from an individual point of view, but from a cohort point of view. So you're grouping people together. And I think that's, that's something a lot of marketers might be quite keen to hear. Because it's less challenging than trying to think I've got to create completely custom versions for every single recipient.

Ruben: That's right. Yeah, that's right. And so we pride ourselves on our ability to provide deep insight into the reader behaviour offering this unparallel granularity and analysis. So that that's why like, this level of detail is one of our biggest selling points, actually.

Mike: I mean, that's great. I'd like to jump almost to something completely different. I mean, you've talked about a lot of applications here from lead generation to lead nurturing to to catalogues. But also, I mean, you have you have an ability and Joomag to actually sell publications. I mean, do you have independent publishers using the platform? And are they using the platform because they can get better results or better revenue than other forms of distribution?

Ruben: That's right. Yeah. So we have individual publisher, like, we will not have small publishing houses working with us. The rule of thumb is that you have to be serious about that. So it's not just something you're doing as a side project, but it has to be your primary project. Because small companies are doing this as a side project or just doing this in a hybrid model of say they have print and digital or just doing this digital bit like a small initiative, they are not willing to aid and invest money in this kind of solution. On the other hand, like work with us, it requires investment not in the sense of the funds, because we're not that expensive, but in the sense of like spending time working and using the data which we provide to make the content better. And this is something they have to do on their own. Like, we're not in the position of changing the content or writing the content, we're producing the content, because that's their job, not ours. But our job is to just provide with the writing sites, right recommendations and situations based on the industry, the use case in the vertical area. But yeah, we have many associations using us for various purposes, those who are making money out of the ads, or those who are just gaining more subscribers, have many brilliant, good use cases, who brought with us, let's say they grew from just 5000 subscribers to over 100,000 subscribers. We have very good use cases here. And yeah,

Mike: That sounds great. I mean, the yet another use case for Joomag. I feel I have to move on. And I don't think we're allowed to do a podcast about anything to do with content without asking about AI. So I have to ask you have you? Have you seen customers using AI to generate content on Joomag? And if you have, you know, have you been able to determine a difference in results versus using humans?

Ruben: Good question. Yeah, we've seen customers use engage, we also started experimenting with AI power content generation ourselves. I'd say while AI does not completely replace human input in the content creation process, we have found that it can significantly expedite the process, like more efficient content creation and faster time to mark types. So we recognise that the EMR content generation is still in the early stages, and there is much to learn and exploring the result is potential application limitations. But yeah, it's definitely there. It's going to revolutionise everything, the way we create the way we consume content, and it will be part of our daily life. We must soon

Mike: So it's interesting. So if we're writers, we definitely need to up our game because the competition's there from the machines?

Ruben: Oh, yeah, it is. It is. And it's not just for the writers for everyone. Marketers sales, like literally, the support reps, I know, are all in danger. Elon Musk said, Well,

Mike: I really appreciate your time. I mean, there's so many other things I could ask, but is there anything else you feel we should have covered or anything you feel people should know about the product?

Ruben: I believe we try to car things. So hopefully, people are you happy with our podcast? Oh, that's that's all? That's great.

Mike: I mean, obviously, Joomag is a relatively low cost product to try. Particularly if you're in a you know, midsize company or an enterprise. Presumably, they just go to Joomag.com if they want to try the product.

Ruben: Exactly. Yeah, you really love comm they can request the demo and give you the site.

Mike: That's fantastic. And if people have got any questions about what you've said, and you know, things you've talked about today, what would be the best way for them to actually get in contact with you? Oh,

Ruben: feel free to send me an email ruben@gmail.com.

Mike: I mean, Ruben, thank you very much. It's been been very interesting, very insightful. And I love all our discussion about personalization. I think that's going to be really helpful to people. Thank you so much for your time.

Ruben: Thanks, Mike. Thanks to Thanks for hosting.

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 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.

How are Marketing Automation Platforms Using AI?

How are marketing automation platforms using AI? Mike and Hannah address how artificial intelligence will shape the future of marketing automation platforms, and the limitations the systems face with integrations with tools such as ChatGPT.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Six - How are Marketing Automation Platforms Using AI?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah:.

Mike: And I might mean out.

Hannah: This week, we talk about marketing automation platforms using AI, MailChimp getting hacked, how many people are replacing marketing automation systems?

Mike: And we give you tips on how to get the most from your marketing automation system.

Hannah: Hi, Mike, it's great to see you. And it's good to be back for another episode of The Marketing Automation moment.

Mike: Hi, Hannah. Well, it's gonna be fun. I think there's been quite a lot happened in the world of marketing automation. A lot of it around, I guess, AI?

Hannah: Yes, definitely. And I really want to talk about what I think is the buzzword or 2023 so far, and that's chat. GPT. I mean, this seems to have blown. A lot of marketers minds. It's all over LinkedIn. It's all over Twitter. Everywhere you look, you're looking at reference to chat GPT. So it was really interested to come across that an E commerce focus market automation platform, called bloomreach, had actually made an integration with chat GPT. For me, this is moving quite quickly, you know, chat GPT has only been around a couple of months. And suddenly there's integrations. What does this mean for the market automation landscape?

Mike: Yeah, well, I think people have seen chat GPT has hit mainstream media and everyone's got really excited. I'm actually, you know, what you need to do is understand the background and chat GPT is based on this artificial intelligence model. That is actually GPT. Three. Not surprisingly, there's been previous versions of GPT. This is just the latest one. And so I think, you know, people are getting really excited about this, but it has been somewhat of an evolution to get to this point. And interestingly, you know, bloomreach, talk about integrating chat GPT. I mean, I'm interested in whether it's actually the chat client that they're integrating, or whether it's just the model. It sounds from what they're saying, like they've literally just put chat GPT as part of the product, and then allowing people to type in and say, writer sales email for me, which obviously chat GPT does and does very well. But it's a little bit formulaic, isn't it?

Hannah: Yeah, definitely. And I mean, it's interesting, because the way they've looked at the integration, or the way they're promoting the integration is really around the content aspects of subject lines, headlines, Google Ad headlines within the actual platform itself. But, and I know he won't mind saying this. But we actually had a chat a couple of weeks ago, didn't we, Mike, we have one of our directors, Ian, and he was mentioned how excited he'd got about chat GPT. But when he actually looked into it a little bit further, he realised that there was perhaps some issues on just relying on an AI platform like this, to build kind of the emails and the Google ads and the things needed for social media campaigns.

Mike: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean, you know, it's one of those things. And if you're older, like me, you will know when I say I'm as excited about chat GPT as I was when I first saw the programme, Eliza, which was an AI programme, or at least a pseudo AI programme written back in the 1960s. So, you know, it's very exciting, it can do a lot of things, but it's not a complete solution. We were testing out a tool that was using the same model as chat GPT, to write headlines for Google ads. And actually, you know, within the company, we found a couple of problems. Number one, it didn't seem very good at writing headlines that fitted within the maximum character limits. So you'd have to go and edit anyway. And secondly, and this gives away, you know how healthy I am. We were testing it by getting it to write ads for Milky Bar, which is a white chocolate bar available in the UK. And I think the American listeners will know about this, one of the greatest fleets in the world, clearly, but contains lots of things that could cause problems with people with allergies. So it's not gluten free. It's obviously got milk products in etc, etc. and chat GPT just decided to write all these headlines about how it's allergen free, which is kind of scary, I think, you know, if you look at what was said. So Sam Altman runs the company open AI that basically created the GPT model and chat GPT. And someone asked him about the errors that chat GPT makes, which, you know, been pretty well documented. And his answer was, we don't understand we didn't try and build chat GPT to be right. We've tried to build it to repeat what you know, other people have said on the internet. So I think it's important to understand that whilst it can help and accelerate today, it's not quite at the stage where it's going to replace people completely.

Hannah: That's such an interesting point, Mike, about what it's been built for to replicate what's already been done on the internet, rather than to be this innovation tool for something original. And I think that's definitely something that marketers need to keep in mind. It's using data that's been used before. It's Not this innovative tool that's going to provide all these original ideas to make the campaigns more successful, it might save you time. But with regards to actually getting these new outlooks and these new formats, it's not the tool for that.

Mike: No, for sure, it definitely hasn't got to the point where it's got sort of innovation insight in the way that we use it when talking about humans.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think the mention of data really links on well to our next point, and I was actually quite shocked to see this, you might not be as shocked, Mike, but I saw an article recently that the email marketing platform MailChimp has actually been hacked for the second time in six months. To me, that was quite shocking, because I actually had a conversation with a client the other day where they were like, you know, is our data safe? Or market automation platforms? You know, what happens if it fails? What happens if it goes down? And we were sat in this call being like, No, don't worry, these platforms know how to protect data, like we can do backups, it's all okay. And then I see this, and I'm like, oh, is data not as safe as we think it is? Yeah, I

Mike: think it's, it's a really interesting question. And it's a problem that probably should be in the discussions for IT people about the cloud, because it's really hard to, you know, say, yes, you can trust cloud based services. But equally, I think it's important to look at what happens. So this was an attack that appeared to be targeted around some specific accounts, they accessed 133 accounts, which is not good. But it's 133, out of what MailChimp claimer millions of customers worldwide. So a very, very small percentage. And obviously, it's been addressed, I do think it was a little bit of a concern that MailChimp weren't completely open with this. And actually, one of the customers who was hacked, kind of revealed that this has happened. But at the end of the day, you know, one of the biggest jobs of any marketing automation platform is data security. And you've got to figure that, if your target, putting the data with the experts is probably more likely to make the data safe than trying to manage it yourself. I mean, MailChimp has got far more resources to apply to data security around marketing data than probably any customer, don't you think?

Hannah: Yeah, definitely, I think you make a good point, because we can't protect our data, as well as perhaps, you know, a platform like MailChimp, which has these massive IT departments can. So there is an aspect of really putting a faith in the system when you sign up with them. And I think, you know, customers are aware of that. And obviously, it's not ideal that this has happened. But if it is going to happen, as you said, it's only a small amount of accounts, and it's not like millions of people have been compromised.

Mike: Yeah, but I totally agree with you. I mean, it's concerning, you don't want these breaches to happen. And certainly, you know, as you pointed out, it was the second time in six months, you know, so, so MailChimp, I know you're working really hard. But guys, you've got to step it up.

Hannah: Definitely agreed. So this relates nicely on to how are marketers choosing the right market automation platforms. And we've spoken a bit in our last podcast, Mike about demos, and what marketers should be asking in their demos. But I actually came across a report from Martex. It was a Mar tech replacement survey actually revealed that in 2020 to 23% of respondents actually replaced their mark automation solution with a different platform. So they weren't happy with what they were getting from this platform. And they actually went out and got a new solution. What do you think it could be that Why are marketers making these mistakes and not choosing the right platform from the get go?

Mike: That's a great question. I think there's a couple of answers to that. I mean, one is changing a platform doesn't necessarily mean you made a mistake. There could be other reasons, things could have changed, new products could have come online. The other thing is, I think we need to understand, you know a bit more about the audience. And the reality is, is that very large companies are not changing their marketing automation platforms. Frequently, they're making investments and they're really betting for 10 years or more, because of the cost of switching from one platform to another. You have companies using marketing automation that might have 10s of 1000s of landing pages or you know, 1000s of forms. When you look at, you know, a large enterprise with multilingual landing pages and forms and lots of products. They're not the people who are churning very quickly, this is definitely smaller and midsize companies. And I think there's a lot of reasons behind that. And probably most of the reason, you know might be down to the fact that actually these companies are learning about marketing automation, developing their skills and then realising they need something different once they've got more knowledge.

Hannah: That's a definitely less cynical point of view, then my view might I make you make some really interesting points because we've talked about this before as well but there are different levels of the market automation system. So if you are starting out with some think simple like MailChimp, for example, as you mentioned, when you grow your skills, and your company grows, and you realise you need something bigger and better, then you are going to see a switch smart automation platform. So that's a real fantastic point. And definitely more positive spin of actually the companies are growing. So it's more of a positive than a negative thing. Yeah,

Mike: and I also think I mean, if you look at the data actually said that the percentage changing in 22 was down a bit versus 2021. So you know, maybe people are actually settling a bit more, obviously, two data points. It's difficult to draw too much for conclusion. But there was a big jump, for example, in the number of people who've changed SEO tools. And historically, that had been quite small now that it's jumped up. I think a lot of it is just around maturity of the technology, and people internally, but you know, working out what they need, but also the fact that these tools are changing quite quickly. And so I think those two things are driving a need to perhaps change more often than people want.

Hannah: Absolutely, it really is driving the need. That's a really great point, Mike. So if we have a look at marketing automation platforms, we've spent a lot of time talking about the marketing side, we've talked about workflows, we've talked about content, emails, but what I'd be really interested to talk about is what are the benefits to sales. And I asked this because Active Campaign have recently released a report, and it's from a direct client called preview me, and actually revealed that sale reps from this company are saving one day per week by automating repetitive tasks. And I think it's such an obvious and simple thing, but perhaps something that isn't talked about enough because market automation platforms are meant to support both marketing and sales teams. So what do you think are the real key benefits of a mark automation platform for sales?

Mike: I mean, it's a great question. And it's really difficult, because in the past used to have a CRM system, and that was different your marketing. Now the CRM, like Active Campaign is integrated into the marketing automation tool. I mean, it's really hard, you know, you talk about saving one day a week, saving one day a week compared to what and I know, I'm the cynical guy here. But, you know, were they just really inefficient beforehand? Or do they have some competitive tool and actually active campaign is that much better, I suspect, you know, the story is a bit of both. But it's an interesting story. And I do believe that, you know, if you look at both marketing activities and sales activities, when they use automation, people can save a lot of time. One of the challenges is, is really building up the right automations. I mean, we have the same problem at Napier, where, you know, I'm sure there's a lot more we could automate in our marketing automation platform. And it's just a matter of having time and resources to build the logic to actually make that work automatically.

Hannah: Absolutely. And I think I would debate you on one of your points there, Mike, because you mentioned, you know, are the sales team ineffective? You make a good point, we can't compare it to any sets of data. But I think that is one of the key points of a system like this for sales reps is that even if they are a little bit inefficient, the platforms are meant to make them as effective as possible to let them do their jobs easier?

Mike: Yeah. And I'm not arguing the platform's don't work. I mean, you're absolutely right. The platforms are really good. I think the question is, it's saving one day versus what, you know, I mean, we're a marketing agency, we write a lot of press releases. And this is, I think, one of the dirty secrets that we're probably not allowed to admit, but we're gonna admit to our listeners, now, writing press releases, where you have a relative comparison, this product is 10%. Better, and then you just move on, actually haven't compared it to anything 10% better than what? And I think that's always always a difficulty. You look at this saving one day a week, what was it? How do they do it? Why was that the case? And really, I think, you know, although it made a great press release, and we certainly looked at it and liked it, I'd love to see a much more in depth case study explaining exactly what happened, and what sort of automations are implemented and why they save so much time

Hannah: releasing all of our industry secrets, there might QR but yeah, I definitely agree it would be good to see a bit more of an in depth review and analysis of how is it supporting them and have that little bit more data around how it could be saving them this much time?

Mike: Yeah, unfortunately, went to marketing people like us. And clearly someone just got really excited by the number, I mean, is actually over $10,000 a year, if you look at the average sales rep, you know, compensation. So, you know, it is a really big deal. And it's just like, it's really exciting. It's a great headline, I think, to be really useful to people. I'd love to see more detail.

Hannah: Absolutely. So to end off our podcast, as always, Mike, I want to have a bit of a chat about our insightful Tip of the Week. And this week, I'd like to have a bit of a discussion about really using market automation platforms to its full potential. So often companies sign up to these my automation platforms, but they don't really have a strategy or have planned what they're going to use the platform for. So they've got, you know, a big suite, such as HubSpot, for example, that's got everything from workflows, automations, you know, optimizations, SEO, but they're literally just sending email campaigns out on the platform. So what can companies do to really just make sure that they've got a good plan in place before they launch them off automation platform?

Mike: I love this question. I think it's a great question, it comes to the real hub of some problems where, you know, we have clients who basically have expensive marketing automation systems that predominantly just send out newsletters, I mean, one of the solutions is, don't spend all that money, if you just want to send newsletters, go use something like MailChimp, or Constant Contact, and that that would solve the problem. But But I think the, you know, the other answer is much more about thinking about and planning campaigns actually spending some time considering how you can use those, those capabilities. And this is something you've done quite a lot with Napier's tools.

Hannah: Yeah, definitely, I think it's taken a bit of a wider view. And I think this is what we do with clients, you know, I can't resist the plug, you know, I can't like it's part of my job role. But when we take a look at campaigns ever, it'd be in April with our clients, we look at what else we can do around to support that message. So if it's a product launch, yes, let's do these PR aspects. But how can we use the mass automation platform to also get that message out to the database, find new contacts to get it out to new prospects? And I think it's taken a wider look at, okay, we've got this platform, what campaigns are we running? How can we utilise this platform to make our campaigns more effective and more successful?

Mike: I mean, again, great point, think of it from the point of view of the campaigns and how you can make them more successful. I think, you know, the other thing is, is there's a balance, you know, you shouldn't just use a marketing automation tool as an email distribution tool. I mean, that's, that's silly. That's a waste of money. But equally, I think, you know, and let's be honest, it probably applies to us as well, I don't think anyone really uses 100% of the capability. So look at all the features, look at what the platform can do, and make use of as many of those features that are relevant to you as possible, without really killing yourself to try and tick all the boxes, because that can actually be counterproductive. You can spend a lot of time and get, you know, limited benefit.

Hannah: And times and resources. You know, as you mentioned previously, that's always going to be an issue. So as you said, it's a fine line, but it's balancing. What can you implement, that's going to make the real difference. And also, don't be scared to ask people around you ask the experts around, you get, you know, a third insight opinion on how can I do these campaigns? How can I use my resources effectively, to basically build the best marketing automation campaigns that I can?

Mike: I think that's great advice. I mean, it's really good. And probably the sort of advice we should end the podcast on because that's a great thing for for listeners to take away.

Hannah: Definitely. Well, thanks so much for joining me again this week, Mike, it's been a great conversation as always.

Mike: Thanks, Hannah.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the marketing automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don't forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application, and we'll see you next time.

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.

Why Should You Use Personas to Enhance Your Campaigns?

In episode five of the Marketing Automation Moment podcast, Mike and Hannah share how to deal with a Martech stack that’s getting too complex, and the questions marketers need to be asking in demos.

They also explore why personas can be such a valuable element in your marketing automation campaigns, and how they can help drive your content and campaigns.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Five - Why Should You Use Personas?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah:.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard.

Hannah: And today we discuss marketing automation platforms and quote in the complexity of the MAR tech stack, questions to ask in demos,

Mike: and the importance of using personas to build your marketing campaigns.

Hannah: Hi, Mike, it's great to have you back. You've just been in the US for the last couple of weeks. How are you doing?

Mike: Hi, Hannah. Well, it's really good to be back. We had a great trip to the US had a week at sea, but and also a trip around the Bay Area. But it's nice to be back even though the weather's a little chilly in England.

Hannah: Well, yeah. So you're coming from there wouldn't be quite as nice as Last Vegas or Silicon Valley?

Mike: Well, actually, Vegas was quite nice. But Silicon Valley was flooded, there was so much rain that I chose flooded out my hotel had to go and get another hotel because of all the water and the lack of drainage. So coming back here perhaps isn't as bad as I thought.

Hannah: Well, it's nice to know that it's not just the UK that gets torrential rain poor. Exactly. So I'm really interested to know, what was the key thing you'd say came out of your US trip? What was your one key takeaway?

Mike: Well, I guess you're talking about marketing automation, because that's the podcast. So one of the interesting things that became very clear was that companies, particularly companies in the sort of, you know, late stage startup, they tend to have marketing automation teams. But the thing was limiting their marketing automation campaigns is content. So it seems to me and this is probably not different from from anyone else. But the people we're talking to, we're really struggling to get enough content to be able to run the automation campaigns they wanted to run. And I think that that's something you know, we all need to think about, because content is so important.

Hannah: That's really interesting. Thanks, Mike. And I think you're completely correct. You know, there is no market automation campaigns without content. Exactly. Well, let's cover some of the news stories that you've missed from the market automation world while you've been away. So the first thing I wanted to have a little bit of a chat about and slightly out of the scope of specific b2b technology, market automation platforms. But is that demand bridge has partnered with age to power a quote to order workflow. So basically, what this integration provides is a real time product information coming directly from Sage to include imagery pricing, to basically populate customer proposal documents within demand bridge itself. So it's quite an interesting concept, don't you think?

Mike: I think it's really interesting. I mean, demand bridge isn't really a classic marketing automation platform. But it's fascinating that products, like demand bridge are really needed, because one of the big issues of marketing automation is that they focus on the marketing and not the sales. So typically, you're not seeing quotes, modules within marketing automation platforms. To me, that's something I think that that will come. I mean, I think it's something that has to change as we go forward. But today, even some of the automation platforms that integrate both marketing, and also a CRM for sales, they still don't have that quote, module, it's still external. So it's one big error, I hope we'll see improvements of going forward.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think it is a challenge that companies face when they're looking to export from just a CRM that they're using to maybe it's perhaps gold CRM, and they're looking to move over to a platform that's full sales and marketing. And actually, I've come across with they've been like, well, actually, we can do quotes directly in something like gold CRM. And that's actually can be a disadvantage when moving over to a market automation platform.

Mike: Yeah, I think when you go to these integrated platforms, you can lose some of the functionality that you got with a separate CRM platform. So it is an issue for some people. But equally, a lot of these marketing automation systems will also integrate. And to be honest, once you get to a certain size, pretty much everybody's on Salesforce. So we are seeing that you know that Salesforce dominance is still there for the larger enterprises. So it's definitely coming. It's definitely something that could could improve. It's an area where perhaps the the market automation guys are lagging behind the CRM, guys, but I'm optimistic it's gonna get fixed in the near future.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think there are solutions out there already, you know, there's integrations, as you mentioned, but integrations such as panda doc that can be used to help that, quote, functionality come back into the automation integrated functions.

Mike: That's such a good point. Because actually, even when you've got a CRM with a quoting function, sometimes people use other tools, Panda docs very popular because of its the signature capabilities. And so I think what you're seeing is this problem where you've got all these little specialist solutions, but I suspect in the long term, it will be a process of consolidation and we're just have to wait until that happens.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think the mention of integrations really moves us along to my next point, Mike. And this is because I recently came across an article by marketing charts. We're a big fan of marketing charts here at Navia. But what was really interesting is this focused on the MAR tech stack and how the market stack is actually getting too complicated. So the report actually revealed that 40% of respondents in the USA and 44% of respondents in the UK believed that their Mar tech stack had got too complicated. Now, when does it start getting too complicated? When does it start getting way out of control?

Mike: I'd say interesting, because I mean, the complexity of some of these products, it feels like just one product would be too complex, if you've got a small team. But But I do understand that, you know, what we're talking about earlier is a great example where you might end up with a marketing automation platform talking to a CRM platform, which talks to a quote platform. And that starts to get complex there in terms of managing just that simple process, from getting an inquiry through to quoting. But I think the reality is that actually, complexity means functionality as well. So today, people actually quite like choosing the best product for each particular task. And I will suggest that, although complexity can be a challenge, because we don't have these, you know, truly integrated solutions, actually picking the best solution. And then dealing with some of the integration issues, can be a better a better way to go about it, than trying to pick something as integrated and frankly, doesn't offer the functionality you need.

Hannah: I think that's a brilliant point, Mike, that functionality, because perhaps that's where marketers are getting confused. Because often these integrations or these platforms all have a use, perhaps it's just analysing what you're using what's actually beneficial to what you're looking to achieve. And that's how you can start narrowing it down. So it's not too complex when you look at the bigger picture,

Mike: for sure. And we're seeing some people trying to integrate, I think HubSpot is perhaps the best example. And I think other vendors will follow. But it will tend to be slower, because at the moment, now, the technology is still evolving. And actually what's happening is we're seeing, you know, vendors concentrate on what they're good at, and try and be the very best at that, rather than try and do an okay job across a wide range of different functionality.

Hannah: Definitely, and I think perhaps that's one to watch, as we move into, you know, further into 2023, perhaps the second half of the year, we'll see that slight change where the focus on the integrations will be made.

Mike: Yeah, I think maybe 2023 might be a bit optimistic. But But hopefully, you know, we're going to start seeing more integrations. And we've seen that to some extent, with some acquisitions as well. So I think it is gonna continue. But yeah, I probably not as optimistic as you when I say, I figure it's probably a three to five year kind of process.

Hannah: I'm always optimistic marketer, Mike, that's me. You are brilliant. Well, I thought another thing we could have a chat about, Mike. As we you know, we're now midway through January in 2023. And often this is where companies are looking at the different marketing automation platforms they can use. So whether they're going from an existing CRM to go to integrated platform, maybe they've decided their budget needs to change, and they want to integrate from one platform to another. So what is really the key thing within a demo, when you've got a demo, you're looking for your perfect marketing automation platform? What are the questions that marketers need to be asking in these demos to get the real outlook of how the market automation platforms are going to perform for them?

Mike: I love that question. And actually, martec.org has recently published an article giving the 15 questions you should ask during a marketing automation Demak. I mean, to me, I think one of the biggest challenges as a demo, it's not the same as actually, you know, using the product and running it every day. And so to me, once you've understood that it's got the functionality you need, which probably you've done on paper anyway, what your focus on a demo should really be is about ease of use, and how well the platform fits with your marketing processes. So to me, it's about you know, how easy is it to use? How easy is it to integrate with what you do? It's much less about seeing the flashy features? You know, that's something you should be able to research outside of the demo. What do you think?

Hannah: Yeah, I definitely agree. But I would also say other important aspects is the training and resources available. So you know, if we take HubSpot, for example, we know they've got a fantastic training hub. There's account managers per company that helped them have any questions. And I think that's really vital as well to really kickstart in the market automation platform to be successful. Is are those additional service and health features available to you as well?

Mike: Yeah, you got to Good point there. I mean support is, you know, I guess part of ease of use, but it's a very specific thing. I mean, however, I feel that today, most of the marketing automation platforms have realised that the biggest risk is having customers churn, so they sign up for a year and then leave, you know, the cost of acquiring that first customer is probably almost as much as the first year subscription. So therefore, it's very unprofitable if you have customers leave after a year. And to be honest HubSpot, were one of the first to work this out and really provide great training, great support. But now I think if you look at what's happening, in general, the training and support is very, very good across the board, may be, you know, slightly different in style for some of the, you know, big enterprise systems, where they expect a certain level of knowledge. And if you've got people who are really new, then perhaps the support isn't geared to them. But equally, there's also a big third party community in terms of training, support, and education. And, you know, a lot of people, they do tend to lean on their agency as well. So we know that quite often, our clients when they're talking about issues with market automation, they'll come to us first rather than going to the vendor, you know, and that's a whole bunch of reasons partly we understand what they're trying to achieve, then I have to give any context, partly because, you know, we're very invested in making them successful. And maybe also, it's just easier to talk to someone you know, and you're working with on a day to day basis. So I think the support is is interesting, important. But to some extent, I think it's becoming so because the vendors that are successful, almost by definition, have given good support.

Hannah: Definitely. And I know I'm very biassed when I say this, Mike, but I have to say I think you're spot on there when you say talk to someone you know. So you know, we have a lot of clients with their marketing, automation queries, problems, help them notch their campaigns. And I think a lot of our success comes down to that we have such good relationships, that we can tell the truth, we can tell them when something's going to work, when something is not the right idea for them. And that really is the benefit of having the experts around you.

Mike: Yeah, and I think we probably shouldn't say this, which is probably a secret. But generally speaking, if you're an agency partner, you get better support than you do if you're a customer. So vendors will give agency partners special access into support. And obviously, that's because they assume the agency partner has got a level of knowledge, they're not going to ask the basic questions. So you'll learn by skip that first level of support. So, you know, often talking to an agency, you're actually getting that shortcut into, you know, the more experience and deeper expertise of the second level support team. So a little bit of a secret there as well.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think to relate to that, as well, as you know, the things like free trials, you know, we've talked about user functionality. And I think being able to focus on the free trials, but use an agency to skip that second step and get that free trial, rather than having to go through the long haul the demos, is a real benefit for company sometimes.

Mike: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I mean, although trials are limited, you can never really put all your marketing automation across to a new platform in a trial. I think they're way better than demos. So they give you a much better flavour. So getting to that trial and be able to test a few things out. It's not perfect, but it's absolutely the right way to go.

Hannah: Definitely. So Mike, moving on to our insightful tip of the week, I was having a think about what I wanted us to discuss in this podcast episode. And we actually hosted a webinar on the first of February through pm GMT, focusing on customer journeys, and really how to use them, and how to use them successfully in b2b. And focusing on that, I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation around personas within market automation systems, because personas can have a lot of benefits within the customer journey, but also a lot of the functionality within the marketing automation platforms such as workflows, forms, things like that. So my initial question to you is, why bother with personas, if you could give me one sentence as to why personas are so important? Why should marketers bother with them?

Mike: Well, I mean, the obvious reasons, you make up silly names for the personas. So it's one of the most, it's one of the most fun bits of marketing is coming up with your persona name. So that's clearly a reason I mean, more seriously. Creating a persona is really important because what you're trying to do when when you're you're doing marketing is you're trying to hit a range of people, not everybody's the same. But what you really want to do is hit in the centre of that group of people. So you're going to be most effective at hitting the largest number of people in your audience. If you're aiming right to the side to someone who's got really, you know, extreme motivations or extreme views, you're probably going to be very ineffective at targeting that population as a whole. So your persona is kind of giving you the bullseye in the middle of this much bigger target, which is your audience. And if you're aiming for the bull's eye, that's going to give you the best possible results. So That's the really simple sort of technical reason for creating personas.

Hannah: And I think to add to that, Mike as well is this again screams why content is so key to market automation campaigns because we can hit the bull's eye, but you're going to make sure that not just your email and your messaging is Hitting the Bullseye. But also the content is tailored to their specific personas.

Mike: It's such a good point, I mean, different personas need different content. And by understanding the persona, and typically it's around, you know, the personas, pain points, what motivates them what their goals are, it's content that either helps them achieve the objectives I ultimate, I guess, you know, when you talk about individuals get promotional look good in inside a company, or it's content that helps them solve a problem. And the important thing is, once you begin to build personas, you've realised that different people involved in a buying decision will actually have very different pain points and very different objectives. And so therefore, you begin to realise the need to create content that's targeted at each persona. And not only that, but also these different personas take different customer journeys. So you know, whilst a safe persona as great as the bullseye of what you're looking to target in terms of your audience, the percent was also great because it effectively defines where you should be focusing your content, and also what the customer journey is going to look like. And all of those, when you put it together, fundamentally, the persona should be the foundation of a lot of your marketing activities.

Hannah: Absolutely. And I think it's key to mention here, Mike as well, that using personas, and especially within the automations doesn't have to be complicated. Now, you've mentioned a lot of different things there regarding how personas can work, how it helps within the customer journeys. But it doesn't have to be a complicated process. If you have a plan in place for how the automations can help you send out the sequences and send out this content, then actually, it can be a really, I wouldn't say easy, but I wouldn't say hard, but a really good way an effective way to target personas effectively.

Mike: Yeah, and I think for example, what you do with with Napier's marketing is great, because you've got two primary personas you target. And one is is fundamentally interested in PR and media relations. And the other is very much interested in digital. And actually, it really does reflect the kind of prospects and customers we see. So I think what you're doing with vapour is a great example of how you can simplify it down. And you know, we have other personas, but we have these two primary ones. And he's done a great job about defining what they care about, you know, what motivates them, and then building content that appeals to those two different personas. So much. So I know that you're actually almost able to define which persona someone is that they come in as a lead by which piece of content they've signed up to receive.

Hannah: Yes, absolutely, that. And I think that's the value of using something simple, like forms to identify which content piece links to which persona. And I have to say, when I've been building the strategy, and for this year for 2023, I've had it in my mind, okay, well, we want to run this Account Based Marketing Campaign for the example. And we're going to use this piece of content. And I know this is the persona we're targeting. And I think that's the rule of consistency as well. You know, I've worked at Napier, I'm in my seventh year now of working at Napier. And we've had the same personas, we tweak the, you know, we might tweak their values, their interest as the year and the landscape kind of changes, but their fundamentals remain the same of what we're trying to sell them.

Mike: Yeah, definitely, I think maybe the only thing is that the percentage of people we see who are really focused primarily on digital, obviously, as increased as Digital's become more widespread. But we still have that kind of PR Media Relations persona, they tend to be specialists in a larger organisation. So rather than being a, you know, someone running, marketing, like a CMO, they're much more likely to be a specialist. But for sure, you know, that persona has served us really well and continues to serve as well. So personas, I think work, they drive your content, they drive you understanding the customer journey, and ultimately, you know, they drive the market activities, as you say. So that's super, super important.

Hannah: Definitely super important. So we're heading to the end of our time. Now, Mike, it's been a really interesting conversation, as always, before we say goodbye, is there anything else you wanted to share to our listeners today?

Mike: Actually, that's a great question. I think the only thing is just to put another note out about the webinar we're running. So if people are interested in marketing, automation, you know, one of the most powerful things is looking at the customer journey. And I'd love people to come and join our webinar. It's the first of February, they can go to our website, or check out my you know, social media on LinkedIn, and sign up. So it'd be great if people could join.

Hannah: Brittany and thanks so much for your time today, Mike.

Mike: It's been great. Another good conversation, Hannah.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the marketing automation. Bye

Mike: And then podcast don't forget to subscribe in your favorite podcast application and we'll see you next time.

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.

What are the Marketing Automation Trends for 2023?

What does the marketing landscape look like in 2023? Mike and Hannah discuss the trends marketers will see in the new year, from omnichannel campaigns to personalisation and experimentation.

They also share their thoughts on the increased use of automation reported by ActiveCampaign, as well as some tips on target audience segmentation.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Four - What are the Marketing Automation Trends for 2023?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the marketing automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah.

Mike: And I’m Mike. Today we're discussing hub spots new film about startups.

Hannah: We discussed the increase in the use of automation. We'll give you some predictions for 2023. And share some tips on target audience segmentation. It's good to have you back after an eye operation Mike, how are you feeling?

Mike: Well, thanks, Hannah. I'm feeling great. Actually, the operations went really well. Still a little bit of blurriness from the drugs, but I'm almost back at full force. So looking forward to our conversation today.

Hannah: So I think the biggest thing that you've missed while you were away, Mike, is that HubSpot have actually released some news in collaboration with LinkedIn, that they're going to co produce a new documentary series called spiralling up the journey to become a unicorn. And I think the idea behind this is that it's meant to explore how startups can scale up because obviously, HubSpot started up as a start up, and really show some behind the scenes secrets. But I don't know, does it feel a bit wishy washy to you? Or do you think it's going to be an actual decent documentary?

Mike: It's, it's really interesting. I mean, I think the snarky view is, is that people used to talk about vanity publication when companies published books about themselves, and did it through self publishing. And that became very big. But now it seems like you've got to make a documentary mentary series about what you do, rather than just do a book. So I don't know. I think that there is definitely some element of vanity in it. But it'll be really interesting to see what they can do. Because I think a lot of HubSpot market really cares about startups. And they certainly seem to have got access to some big name people. So I'm actually I hate to confess it, but I'm actually quite excited about it and looking forward to watching it.

Hannah: I love the snarky view Mike, you know, I don't always like to be snarky, but wasn't there a book that HubSpot or someone at HubSpot wrote that actually you really enjoyed as well?

Mike: Oh, one of my favourite books. So I mean, maybe this is why HubSpot have decided to go the film route rather than the book route. is I don't know if anybody listening has read disrupted a book by Dan Lyons. downlines is quite a well known journalist. And he went to work for HubSpot for I think, was about nine months. And his description of HubSpot and the kind of bro startup culture that existed there at the time, I thought was fantastic. I love it and definitely recommend it as a read to anyone listening.

Hannah: I love that. So maybe this documentary series is actually going to be their version of the story and maybe a more sleek version, rather than Dan Lyons version.

Mike: I mean, downlines version love to talk about Nerf gun wars and things like that. I suspect there'll be less of a highlight of the film than they were in deadlines book.

Hannah: Yeah, hopefully, there'll be actual more insightful advice behind the scenes from HubSpot and LinkedIn actually.

Mike: Yeah, and if it can be as funny as deadlines is booked, that'd be a bonus too.

Hannah: So one thing I wanted to talk about Mike, because obviously, you know, we're gonna run up to Christmas now, but recently, we have had Black Friday. And Black Friday is obviously can be a goldmine for companies. And I actually read a really interesting report from Active Campaign, who said that compared to the Black Friday weekend, in 2021, more than 50% of their customers were sending emails and conducting automated experiences during the Black Friday period. And to me, I thought this was really interesting, because one of the big things I always hear a lot is, you know, clients and companies, they have their marketing automation platforms, but it's not used to their full potential, you know, there's so much more they can be doing, they're just sending a few emails. But actually, this stat really tells me that companies really are embracing all the capabilities or the market automation platform, especially for something as big as Black Friday.

Mike: Yeah, for sure. And supposedly, this year, more people were out shopping in physical stores, because we're not so worried about COVID the vaccination programme has let people feel more able to go out and shop in a real environment. So the fact that there's been a 50% increase in a year where theoretically online should have dropped relative to physical retail, I think is is a pretty impressive stat and it's really good to hear that people are now using their marketing automation systems for automation, rather than just to be you know, simple email platforms which I know sometimes happens with with companies where they really struggle to go beyond seeing it as an email distribution platform.

Hannah: Oh definitely. And also another thing that the report field that it's actually more than 1 billion automation actions every day in Active Campaign alone. So I mean, if you look at Active Campaign, that's 1 billion. What's it going to be like when you add all the marketing automation platform stats together?

Mike: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, active campaigns are a very successful marketing automation platform. But it's not one of the biggest platforms around here. So for sure, you know that they're a relatively small percentage overall, the automations. I do just wonder about that automation figure, whether it's, it's really a good number, because what is an automation? I mean, is it something as simple as allocating someone to a salesperson? Is it something as complex as routing someone through a nurture journey? I think you know, it, it's hard to say whether that's the right measure or not, but certainly relatively, the jump is huge. And it shows that people are not only valuing marketing automation more, but also trying to use more of the capabilities, which I think is super important.

Hannah: I think that's an interesting perspective. Because I agree, is it just something because you know, simple, that they're automating it so that a sales person is notified when they get to a certain stage in the customer journey, but to me as well, I actually think that's really valuable. So even if it is this real simple automations, it's still showing that they're using the platform, because one of the big things about marketing automation platforms is that they are meant to bring sales and marketing teams together. And so if the automations are counted the sales actions, then to me, I think that's a really good sign.

Mike: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think there's no good and bad marketing automation within a platform, the more automations are beneficial. You're absolutely right, Hannah, it's just you know, how you run that you might run an allocate people in your database to sales teams and have a, an automation that runs through your database every day to do that allocation, you know, for 99% of the database, that's not something new. Or alternatively, you might only allocate them when they come in as a new contract, in which case, I think that that automation number is much more valid. So there's some nuances there. But I think we can both agree, can't wait. But it's a good thing. People are using more automation. And that's going to help not only get better results, but also deliver better campaigns as well.

Hannah: I think we could definitely agree on that. Mike.

Mike: One of the things I saw that I think is very relevant to a lot of people using marketing automation is a predictions article on martec.org. On marketers, and what they need to do prepare for 2023. Did you see that?

Hannah: I did, yes. And it did actually have some really interesting thoughts about what the future looks like for 2023. I mean, to me, one of the things that stuck out, and it is obvious, but any saying is that Account Based Marketing is going to continue to grow. And it really is going to come more important. And I think, you know, the recession will have something to do with this. Because we need to focus budgets, marketers need to focus budgets on their biggest opportunities, and Account Based Marketing allows marketers to do that. And so I think it'd be really interesting to see, you know, if the recession hits, how marketers are going to use their budget, to really optimise the return of investment.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I agree. And I think the recession is a big issue, we are going to see problems across both b2c and b2b as the world slows down a bit in terms of economic development. And I think for people using marketing automation, this is super important, a lot of people are still being a little bit lazy in their testing. And so what they're doing is running one campaign, and then they compare the next campaign to the previous campaign and see whether the next campaign is better or worse, and they're not really doing proper A B testing. That's fine if the world's growing because as the economy grows, your campaigns look better, even if they aren't better, because economic growth makes them look better, it delivers better results. If you hit a recession, and you're comparing a campaign, you've run now to a campaign you've run maybe six months ago, the world was in a different place than a much more positive place. And so I think you're likely to see your results fall if you're doing these comparisons over a period of time. So I mean, marketers, and particularly marketers, using our automation tools, I think, needs to be really aware of the impact of the recession, both in terms of business and what they've got to do to make up for the economic slowdown, but also in terms of the fact that they shouldn't be doing what would be called longitudinal comparison. So comparisons of two campaigns run at different times.

Hannah: I think that's such a good point to make Mike because one of the things that I read in the article as well and and it kind of relates to what you were just saying there about the AV testing is that personalization is going to continue to really be a growth driver. And I think that so if i to especially when you're targeting different segments with target audiences, and I know we're going to discuss this in a little bit, far insightful Tip of the Week, but companies are going to need to spend more time personalising content, and it could be down to just changing the different landing page titles, it could be to share in the same ebook or white paper, but actually changing the messaging that's communicated in the ad. But I think you're so right in the fact that there needs to be more testing and the budget needs to be used to actually help marketers understand what's working for their company.

Mike: Definitely, I mean, actually, maybe now's a good time to move on to what we think is gonna happen in 2023. I mean, obviously, the listeners gonna have a look at the article in matec.org. But, you know, I think we came up with five key trends we think are going to happen for marketing automation in 2023. So do you want to kick off with Trend number one?

Hannah: Yeah, definitely. And I have to say, you know, obviously not alone, because the first two trends that we actually had on our list, Mike, were Account Based Marketing and personalization. So I don't want to brag, but we're obviously in line thinking with the experts. So that's all good. But if we move on, you know, you did mention to me earlier that omni channel campaigns is going to be a trend that we're going to see in 2023, did you want to explore a little bit more about that?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I have to say, I hate the term omni channel, it's something that's thrown out to basically mean multi channel. So I felt we had to put it in because you know, it's a trendy term. But basically, I think people are gonna go beyond this simple approach of you advertise, you drive someone to a landing page, they register, you send them in email, nurture campaign. That's it. Because although that's multi channel, it's multi channel in a sequence. And I think what we'll see is we'll see a marketing automation campaigns, being more directed to use multiple channels at the same time in the same stage of the journey. And my simplest example is, is when you've got someone in an email nurture campaign, why you're not advertising to them. You know, retargeting lets you focus on people, and advertise just to people in the nurture campaign, it's a really simple thing to do. And so I think what we'll see is we'll see people using multiple channels at the same time at the same stage of the customer journey. And that's going to make the campaigns much more effective. So to me, that's an obvious one. And it's really just an evolution and development of how people use marketing automation to make better use of the capabilities.

Hannah: I agree. And I think it's been really interesting to see I mean, even in the last quarter of this year, we've spoken to some clients, we've been speaking to some new prospects, and we say to them, okay, well, that's great. We can do an email nurturing and flow. But what about Google ads campaign? What about retargeting? And there's so much opportunity. And it's, it's good to see that actually, in the last quarter of this year, we're already trending to making that a reality.

Mike: Definitely, I hope we're going to see more and more of it, because it's going to make marketing automation more effective.

Hannah: So one thing that we discussed earlier, Mike, which I'd really like the listeners to know more about is the form of a micro customer journey campaign. What did you mean by that?

Mike: Yeah. So this is one of my big things is a lot of marketing automation, doesn't take much notice of the stage at which customers or prospects are at as they go through the journey. And so quite often, what we see is we see campaigns that try and get a complete customer journey in one campaign. So you'll start off with maybe some, you know, targeted LinkedIn advertising, driving to a landing page, some email, nurture, and then the salesperson will call. And magically, this contact in one campaign has gone from never having heard of your company, or offering all the way through to being ready to buy, which we all know is unrealistic in a lot of situations. So I think what we're gonna see more and more of is we're gonna see people breaking down the customer journey into multiple micro journeys. And so you know, a simple example might be if you use the, you know, awareness, Interest, Desire action, moving someone from interest to desire is a really simple stage knows, somebody knows about the product, they're interested in it, how do we get them to actually want to buy. So that sort of journey is fairly easy to do in terms of presenting the benefits and beat trying to be personal to the individual prospect. And also, you also need to present things like risk reduction or content like case studies. But it's very measurable to see when somebody moves their engagement from content that's interest driven to content, this desire driven, and I think you'll see a lot more people breaking down that journey, and trying to move from one stage to another, it's my big issue, as you know, with scoring is scoring just gives you a number. And if you've got a high score, then actually the next action is very different if you've got a high score, and you're just really at that awareness interest, kind of phase top of the funnel, as compared to somebody who's right at the bottom of the funnel and ready to buy so I'm not a big fan of scoring and I think by breaking down customer journeys, and getting these micro journeys, people will start getting a lot better results from their marketing automation system.

Hannah: I actually love this point of view because I believe what you're saying there, Mike, is that rather than this one, you know, there'll be a huge marketing strategy. But really, we're going to see a bit more detailed and campaigns running simultaneously from awareness to conversion, or from sales to desire, and how is that going to work? Could you give an example of how that would work in a campaign?

Mike: So I think what there'll be is they'll actually be separate campaigns. And so you'll have segmentation. And you'll split people out. And you'll know which stage people are at, or at least you'll have a model to define which stage people are at. And you're looking to move people along that segment of the journey. So you're absolutely right, you'll have multiple campaigns running in parallel. But one campaign will be targeting the people who maybe you've just acquired, so they maybe got awareness, but no interest or desire. You know, the other campaign might be bottom of the funnel stuff that's trying to get people who've really engaged to then start put their hand up. And the classic b2b thing might be to get a demo of a product. So I think you'll have lots of those, but segmentation will be the secret.

Hannah: I love that. So, Mike, I'm really excited about the next trend, because I will be honest to our listeners, when Mike showed me this tool, it really did blow my mind. I was really excited about the capabilities. And so we've not said anything about AI yet, Mike. So did you want to talk about chat? GPT?

Mike: Well, yeah, I mean, I think last trend is experimentation. And I think as you say, Chechi GPT is the hot new AI product at the moment. Although if you want to know what the marketing trends are in 2023, don't ask chat GPT. It'll tell you it can't give you trends. So there are certainly limitations with this cool new AI kid. It is amazing in terms of what it can do. And I think a lot of people have seen new stories about how chat GPT can help. And I think because of that it is going to make people feel a little more comfortable experimenting. And obviously AI is one area of experimentation. But I think people will experiment in lots of other areas, whether that be online chat, whether it's more testing, and all of this. So I'm really optimistic that now we've seen in the story earlier about Active Campaign, having more automations more and more people using the automation element of their marketing automation tool. So hopefully now the next step is to get people to experiment and optimise. And that really is going to unlock much better results.

Hannah: Definitely, and I think for me personally as well, I mean, we talk about AI, we've talked about AI on the previous podcast, but to see an actual tool that people are using that has the capabilities to help them experiment to help them optimise is actually really exciting.

Mike: Definitely. And I think, you know, the more people experiment, the more they're going to learn about their audience and their particular group of prospects. Because we all know that there's not golden rules for market automation that apply across everybody. And actually, what I really hope is that experimentation is going to mean that companies are running fewer campaigns that they like, and more campaigns that work. And we quite often see this, you know, companies do want to run campaigns that internally, they like the campaign. And sometimes they're great, sometimes they work fantastically, but sometimes they just don't resonate with the audience, they're focused more on someone who's already an expert on that particular company, or the product or service or whatever. So what we want to see is more experimentation, and more acceptance, when the campaign you like, isn't actually the most effective to use the effective one.

Hannah: I love that the campaigns that work, I feel like you speak as a true agency owner in wanting our clients to succeed there, Mike.

Mike: Well, yeah, and as you know, typically, when we try these optimization competitions internally, and we see who can generate the best optimization, I'm quite often not the person to write the best ad. So it's people like Helen, who always beat me. And it's not that I don't make the best out I'm sure mine are the best, but actually just happens that has performed better. And I think you've got to be very humble. It's got to be tried different things. And see which optimization actually resonates best with your audience. And don't have this ego that says the one that I like best has to be the one I run because I think that's very often wrong and particularly wrong when you look at something like marketing automation, which, generally speaking is a lot of touches, but quite low engagement touches.

Hannah: Definitely some great advice there, Mike. Thank you. So, to finish off our podcast, you know, we're coming to the end of our time, let's have a little chat about our insightful tip. Now, this week, we want to talk about the importance of segmentation with target audiences. So, to me, there's many effective ways to segment properly. I mean, one high level way is using the same content but pulling out different messaging, as I mentioned, reviews and ads. But could you share what effective ways you think are of how companies can segment their target audiences.

Mike: Yeah, so this is a really interesting one because I think segmentation is an area where perhaps there's a real lack of creativity. So we'll quite often see very simple segmentation. So it might be, we're segmenting our target accounts and every other account, which sometimes is strange, because actually probably they need the same messaging and the same content, or we're segmenting sea level people, and then everybody else or engineers, and everybody else. And I think what you need to do with segmentation is try and be a little more creative. So one thing that quite often isn't used for segmentation, but certainly should be is stage of the customer journey, we've already talked about that. Somebody at the awareness stage is going to need some very different content to somebody who's almost ready to buy. But also, I think, looking at how you create segmentation groups. And so you could look at, for example, buyers, people who actually buy your product and people who were influences, or you could split that influences out and there could be financial influences and technical influences. For example, if you've got a technical product, so there are people who, in an organisation might be responsible for saying yes, technically it's okay. And people who might be responsible for saying, yes, you get the budget. And I think it's thinking about roles and what people want. And that's the classic, you know, we're going to talk about pain points, and motivators and all those kinds of classic persona things. But really thinking about more than just a job role and the company name and maybe a company size is really important when segmentation. So my advice is actually don't feel there's there's a silver bullet answer. Just go mad, be creative, and try different things.

Hannah: I love that go mad. The best advice. And I think it's important to add on to that, Mike is that the segmentation needs to be used across all platforms. You know, we talked about the omni channel approach earlier. And it's not just you know, segmentation for emails, it's segmentation. In your LinkedIn campaigns, it's segmentation, your Google ads, it's being creative across all the platforms, as many as you can really.

Mike: That is such an important point. And that often, we'll see people run an email campaign where they segment carefully, and then they'll run an ad campaign. And those digital ads will be the same ads to everybody. And that clearly is not right, you need to try and segment. It can be harder to segment when you're advertising versus when you're running email marketing campaigns, or it can be harder on social and email marketing. But the more you can segment, the better. So that is definitely a super important thing to remember. And I love that tip.

Hannah: Brilliant. Wow. Thanks for your time again, like it's been another interesting conversation.

Mike: No, thank you, Hannah. It's been great. I've really enjoyed it. And all that's left is to say have a great Christmas.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the marketing automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don't forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application. And we'll see you next time.

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.

Are Chatbots Improving Customer Experience?

In the third episode of the Marketing Automation Moment podcast, Mike and Hannah discuss the latest thinking around artificial intelligence, and how chatbots are improving customer experience.

They also explore what Oracle's new 'fusion marketing' means for marketers, and share some tips on how to focus data on your goals.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Three - Are Chatbots Improving Customer Experience?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the market automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the market automation Podcast. I'm Hannah.

Mike: And I'm Mike. Today we're talking about AI.

Hannah: We have a discussion about chatbots.

Mike: We try to work out what Oracle means by fusion marketing.

Hannah: And we share tip on how to focus data on your goals. So to start our conversation off today, Mike, I'd really like to have a chat about AI. Now AI is something that I think has really gained traction over the last few years. And it's definitely something I've seen this year, especially that's been talked about a bit more. And I actually came across a really interesting report by Oracle, that detailed that 86% of companies that use AI are using it for customer experience. I think this is really interesting, because it looks like we're now not just talking about AI, we're not just reading the articles looking at the benefits, but people are actually starting to implement it for real data for real experiences to improve the customer experience.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think that's true. I think it's really interesting. To some extent, you know, maybe when when you've decided to deploy AI, you look at where it's going to be easier. And so I think, you know, maybe if we look at what's easy with AI, well, things that are easier chatbots, because they're kind of off the shelf tools, they're AI, things like recommendations for products, people who bought this bought that, again, now is typically using AI to make those recommendations. And all of those things are very easy and all are related to customer experience. So maybe it shouldn't be surprising that people are focusing on that, because maybe that's where the easy wins exist.

Hannah: Definitely. And do you think that using AI actually contributes to more personalised experiences within a market automation platform, the activities that are deployed?

Mike: Yeah, so I think you're absolutely right. This is one of the things that people can do, they can recommend products, or they can recommend content. The interesting challenge to me is perhaps not the people are using it. Because you know, people are using it. They're seeing improvements in productivity, they're seeing reduced costs of their marketing teams. They're seeing benefits. The question is, who's not using it and why. And I think what we're actually seeing is that a lot of the challenges are around smaller companies deploying AI effectively, if you're a large organisation, you've got a large number of customers a lot of website traffic, then you're going to be able to use AI because you've got big datasets. I think the interesting thing is a smaller companies are going to be left behind a little bit, because they're not going to have the data. I mean, what do you think?

Hannah: Yeah, I think I agree. And I think what you're saying there, Mike, is that really, it's the more the enterprise companies that are going to use AI. And I think that actually relates to almost the enterprise market automation platform. So you see Marketo, HubSpot, the big guys shouting about AI and the capabilities of the platform. But perhaps the smaller guys aren't shouting about it as much because they know their target audience, the small medium businesses aren't really that invested, because it's not going to be beneficial.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's a good point. I mean, there's two reasons. I think with some of these smaller marketing automation companies, some of it is resourced to invest. And they don't have as much resources as someone like a Marketo, or even a HubSpot. And some of it is actually their customers are going to find it harder to deploy. And so if you look at, you know, smaller companies, if they deploy AI, it's typically around things like chatbots. And it's typically around what I call off the shelf AI. So the chat bot will be able to interpret a natural language question and work it out, and then route it through a sequence of questions and responses. So they're buying stuff that's off the shelf. Whereas I think the really interesting deployment of AI is where it's customised to a particular enterprise and their customers and their website visitors. And that's where you get, you know, some real magic. But that's something that as of today, it's very hard to, to implement on a website with low volumes of traffic, you're obviously a different generation to me much younger. I mean, do you think chat bots are a good way of improving customer experience? Is that something that you believe people are more and more going to engage with?

Hannah: I would say yes. And I say this talking from my personal experience as well, because I have to say, I love the Amazon chatbot where my Amazon parcels don't arrive. I don't email I don't call customer service. I go right to the Amazon Chatbot. And so I think chat bots is really interesting, because it's something that I think people use more than companies realise. And I think that's really interesting because now the first point of contact is not necessarily a human. It's actually People go in. And if you know it's a product you're looking at, you need to know some more information, a chat bots really easy way to gather some information. And I think AI does allow that change of in the customer journey. And I think it's something we're seeing that companies are actually building to the customer journey, when they're looking at the website and the touchpoints. They want customers to look at.

Mike: Yeah, and maybe that's a really positive thing for smaller companies. I mean, we started off by saying, you know, the real challenge is getting big data. But actually chatbots are a great example of AI where a particular organisation using it doesn't have to generate the data, the Chatbot is generating the data across all the users to improve its understanding of natural language. So perhaps it's a real positive thing for smaller companies.

Hannah: I was about to say that because I think it adds to what you said about the lack of resources and the lack of capacity. They want to try AI, but they're not necessarily got the capabilities or the data or the traffic to do it on a larger scale. So this is actually a really easy and effective way for them to use AI within their business.

Mike: Yeah, maybe we should be out there talking to some more of our clients, encouraging them to deploy chat bots, or at least experiment with it, perhaps that's the lesson we should take away.

Hannah: Definitely, Maybe we need to get our Napier chatbot back up and running.

Mike: For sure, what else is happening? I think you saw something from Oracle recently on combining sales and marketing more closely. I did.

Hannah: So they've given it a fancy name Mike called Fusion marketing. And really what this does is it integrates AI with their marketing automation capabilities. So it helps introduce content recommendations that we've discussed before, but also helps predicts when a buyer is ready to talk to a salesperson. I haven't seen a lot of market automation companies doing this. Is this something that you've seen wider than I have?

Mike: Well, I mean, to me this, this sounds exactly like smarketing, that terrible term that HubSpot came up with a couple of years ago, combining sales and marketing. I mean, I think, you know, Oracle's interesting that they're bundling together a number of features and trying to make it this this whole fusion marketing thing. But ultimately, it's a number of separate features that linked together, I think one of the interesting things, of course, is that Oracle has both the CRM and marketing automation tools. So they can actually integrate closer, as does HubSpot. Interestingly, who probably drove this initial concept. Whereas if you look at Marketo, that's a standalone marketing automation tool. And even Pardot, I mean, it's gradually getting integrated into Salesforce. But you still sometimes feel that it's kind of two separate products. So I think that will happen more. But I think the real interesting thing will be when we see marketing automation tools, integrate with different CRM platforms that that will be when I think we see the magic about sales and marketing joining together.

Hannah: That is a very interesting point that is going to be a really interesting movement within the market automation world.

Mike: Yeah, and of course, the challenge basically, is marketing automation platforms need to talk to Salesforce. And, you know, it'll be interesting to see, I guess how easy Salesforce makes it for marketing automation platforms, because clearly, Salesforce wants to sell their marketing cloud or Pardot, to customers. So they don't necessarily want people going out and buying other marketing automation platforms. I hope it happens, I hope we start seeing much tighter integration. But to me, we're probably likely to see these kind of integrated approaches, really being focused around products that have both the market automation and also have the CRM together in one product.

Hannah: Definitely, it's definitely one to look out for. So I think this nicely moves on to our next topic of in the podcasts. And I was recently talking to a client this week. And we were talking about the low cost market automation systems compared to the high cost market information systems like Marketo. And they were really interested in why are they so different? Why is the price so different compared to the low cost? So you're looking at something like Groundhog versus active campaign versus keep versus someone like HubSpot? Pardot Marketo, the big guys, what's the difference between them?

Mike: It's really interesting. I mean, you know, a lot of it is around branding today. So particularly, were you looking at a sector where you've got similar products, it's about the brands that people want, there is a real difference, I think between the high end products and the low end products, you know, as an example, if you're using keep it will grow, but it will only grow to a limited size, it will start slowing down and having problems when you have a large number of contacts, or when you have a large number of users and in fact that there'll be limits whereas if you Look at Marketo that is something that's almost infinitely scalable, you can have millions or 10s of millions of contacts in Marketo. And the product still runs fine. It, you know, is something that's very usable, even when you've got like multiple teams of people working on the same database at the same time. So I think scalability is certainly one thing. But fundamentally, if you look at what marketing automation is about, it's about sending emails, it's about tracking people on the website triggering things, you know, building landing pages, most systems can do that. And actually, the truth is, is that most systems, the cost of deploying an instance, is pretty low. The big cost around marketing automation is acquiring customers. And then supporting customers providing that technical support. So you can actually have models where you have very, very low cost systems that are actually quite powerful.

Hannah: I think that's interesting. Because really, there's going to be a range of budgets. So you've got people who need those low, low cost platforms, because they've got the low budget. And they, as you said, email marketing. It's a fundamental thing within a market automation platform. But obviously, there are still some disadvantages because if you look at HubSpot, for example, they offer something called a content cluster. So that's something that monitors your SEO, it monitors the links on your site, and that you can form a whole pillar page that then supports with the backlinks. So there are advantages to go in with the higher cost platforms, even if you are perhaps got a lower cost budget.

Mike: For sure, and I think you know, HubSpot as well offers unbelievable training and an amazingly good user interface design. So HubSpot is without doubt for most people, one of the easier to use platforms, and if it's not something that they can use, that there's incredible training and support. So I do think that, you know, decision is not just features, it's also usability as well. So it's not necessarily the easiest thing to decide which product to buy. But the reality is you can run, you know, really powerful programmes on a product like Groundhog that will basically have a flat $50 A month fee, if you're in the sort of mid range kind of package, pretty much as you scale up to more and more contacts. Or alternatively, if you're a massive enterprise, you might want to be spending millions on Marketo. Both those decisions can be right, it's about making sure you pick something that fits with what you're trying to do the scales the level of activity, and ultimately also offers the features that you need.

Hannah: Speaking of choosing one that fits, I think we have almost missed out a section because we've talked about the low end, we've talked about the high end, but there are a couple of platforms that actually sit in the middle. So for transparency, we are SharpSpring partner, we love SharpSpring. We love the capabilities they do, but they do actually sit in that mid range market. And it's interesting because they would perhaps have more scalability available then something like Groundhog, but not as many features as HubSpot, but it's still a really good option to just have that little bit extra with the automations and the work those things like that, that you perhaps wouldn't get with something like Groundhog or keep.

Mike: Yeah, and I mean, maybe it's partly down to us. I mean, we're a SharpSpring partner, we're a marketing agency, but I think the SharpSpring brand isn't very strong. And if SharpSpring could build that brand, and get the same kind of records, for example, at HubSpot Scott, I'm sure they'd be incredibly successful because they're relative to HubSpot similar in features. And, you know, definitely you have an advantage in terms of cost. But I think the same thing applies maybe to Active Campaign as another marketing automation tool is more than powerful enough for pretty much anyone apart from the largest enterprises, but perhaps again, doesn't have that kind of brand. So maybe a lot of what we're doing as marketers is choosing based on brand.

Hannah: Maybe what we need to do is go into marketing for marketing automation companies, Mike and then we can help support them increase their brand presence.

Mike: I love that business opportunity we should definitely do.

Hannah: So I think something related that I'd like to discuss is we've talked about that email marketing is the fundamental thing of a marketing automation system. And I think no matter how many people say, email is dead, email is not existent anymore. Email isn't the tactic to use. It's actually very successful and very alive and kicking. And I actually saw a report that said that 70% of businesses are looking to enhance their email marketing loads to increase the email marketing activities for 2023. And I really think it's a really positive sign. Don't you agree?

Mike: No, I think it's great. And I mean, a lot of people are doing email the reasons it works. So for sure, I think emails got a big future going ahead. And you know, I think as marketers sometimes we can chase what's trendy and fashionable and you know, if tick tock is the latest platform, it's therefore the most fashionable The reality is, is that there's lots of benefits. I think the report you looked at said that the ROI for email marketing, on average, is 4,400%, which as an ROI number is pretty impressive.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think another thing that I found interesting in the report was that it actually said 73% of millennials prefer email as a mode of promotional communication. And obviously, we've spoken about the different generation, we've spoken about chatbots. But I think this kind of reinforces the viewpoint that as we, you know, changes a generation tactics have changed. Actually, email is still coming out on top, even with generations like millennials.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it is interesting, because you know, you get these continuous stories about email is dead. But the reality is young people use email. And marketing via email definitely works to millennials, and even generation Zed. So I think emails definitely here to stay. That may not be the best thing when you log in on Monday morning and have to go through your inbox. But the reality is, you know, we all actually look at some of these promotional emails, a lot of us buy from them. So it definitely works. And as marketers, we can't ignore it.

Hannah: No, I agree. And I think you know, everything, it comes down to tactics, if you're sending rubbish boring emails that nobody's reading, then you've got to relook at your content plan, rather than the channel that you're using.

Mike: Definitely, I mean, it does come back to what we talked about, which is content generation, and content distribution as being our two pillars of what Napier does. And I think you look at content distribution, you've got to look at the right channels. And it's not just one channel. Typically, it's multiple channels. And it's unbelievable how often email is a part of that mix?

Hannah: Definitely. So to wrap up the podcast, Mike, I'd like to end with our insightful tip. And this week, I'd like to talk about data. But really, I'd like to focus on why it's important to focus on the data that matters to your goals. So I think often b2b marketers fall in the trap of collecting data on absolutely everything marked automation platforms allow that. But then they're looking at all this data, and they don't know what insights they're gaining from it. So I think it's really around looking at key buyer intent signals. Do you want to expand a bit on that?

Mike: Yeah, no, I mean, what we do is, you know, obviously, we build these customer journeys for clients. And we look at where customers have to move from one step to the next. And when you see a customer moving from one stage to the next, that's a great signal of intent, because then moving down that customer journey, and as they get closer and closer to the purchase, that intense signal gets stronger and stronger. And so I think you're absolutely right, a lot of people are clicking these massive hoards of data. But it's all disparate data, it's hard to know what's important and what's not. The marketing automation platforms are then trying to put AI over it to work out what's important, but actually take a step back, think about what your customer journey is, how you're trying to drive behaviour, and then look at what really matters. And those indications can often be very, very simple. I agree.

Hannah: I like how you say, indications, because relating back to what you said earlier, it could literally be as simple as someone puts a question into your Chatbot.

Mike: It could be as simple as that. I mean, for us, and Napier, something I always talk to clients about is, you know, we pretty much have three pages that we care about, and anyone who's interested in hiring an agency, they're gonna look at what clients the agency has, they look at the people who work there, and they're gonna look at the contact page to go and contact you. So if you see a prospect as an agency, looking at your people page and looking at your clients page, that's a really good sign of intent. And that's when we should be approaching them. We don't need complicated algorithms on lots and lots of data. It's just a really simple thing. And a lot of companies have those simple indicators.

Hannah: And so would you say that these simple indicators actually better than something such as lead scoring?

Mike: For sure, I mean, when we look at visitors to our website, we've got a massive blog section, we've got a big set of marketing tools. So people can go and be very active on our site, which would in most systems gain them a pretty decent score. But it doesn't mean they're interested in buying it just means that they do marketing. That's why having that indication of real buyer intent. That's why it's important because it's different to someone who's engaging. And yes, the person who's reading our blogs and is a marketing manager. They might hire us in three years time, but it's not a sign of the time is right to approach they're not in the market. They're just interested. So that indication of not only someone who's interested and engaged, but they're actually in the market and ready to purchase. That's really key and that's quite hard to measure as a score. It tends to be something that you you measure by particular shins.

Hannah: I love how you've just compared the intent versus engaging there. I think that's a fantastic point to make Mike because it's very different from someone just interacting reading a blog. First is looking at a specific website speaking of a chatbot.

Mike: Yeah, you're right. And we need to do both as marketers, we need to engage people. Because the people who are not actually looking for a new supplier where you know, whether we're selling a product or as an agency selling a service, if people aren't ready, we still need to engage them. We don't want to bore them. So we do want that engagement that matters. But ultimately, you know, it's this question about, you know, whether you're in market or not, and I know there was some researcher, someone was talking to me about today, where they were saying that on average, and b2b 95% of the people you market to are not actually looking to buy at that time, they're not in market. So you want to engage them, but they're not going to buy. And what you've got to do is track them, monitor them, keep them engaged, nurture them, until they they're actually ready to buy they have a need

Hannah: some fantastic points. Well, thanks for joining me today, Mike. It's been another very interesting conversation.

Mike: It's been great. And I think you've brought some really interesting stories today. So you know, great conversation. Thank you again, Hannah. Thanks, Mike.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the market automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don't forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application, and we'll see you next time.

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.

The Latest Updates from HubSpot’s Inbound Conference

In the first episode of the Marketing Automation Moment podcast, we explore the latest updates from the marketing automation world.

Mike and Hannah discuss the latest updates from HubSpot’s 2022 Inbound conference, and what new features such as customer journey visualisation will mean for B2B marketers.

Mike and Hannah also share their thoughts around constant contacts new SMS marketing outreach capability, and a simple tip to maximise form conversions.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode One - The Latest Updates from HubSpot’s Inbound Conference!

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the market automation moment Podcast. I'm Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I'm Mike Maynard. This is Napier's podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Hello, and welcome to the marketing automation moment podcast. My name is Hannah, and I'm the Business Development Manager at Napier. And here I've got Mike Maynard, who's our Managing Director. It's great to be here, Mike, I'm really excited because what this focus of the podcast is, is to really talk about what's happening in the market automation world.

So to start, I was really interested by a survey I saw based on Marketo users, and how 75% said that they execute more than 30 campaigns in a year. Is that good or bad?

Mike: Well, I think it's actually on Facebook, very good. Because you know, one of the things that's very clear with marketing automation is the more focused you are in your campaigns, the better those results are going to be. So if you're executing more campaigns, in theory, you should have tighter audience segments. And you should actually be producing campaigns that get better results, because they're much more focused around particular personas or industries or, you know, other criteria you might use. But of course, the downside is that actually, when we look at the survey, they found that there was some disadvantages, because I think they said that Marketo uses weren't really thinking strategically.

Hannah: And I think, if we look at in that sense, then is it at risk of being a glorified MailChimp, if people aren't using it based on tragedy being driven by strategy, then what is the point of all these campaigns, because actually, it's not going to be generating the results that they want to get?

Mike: Well, I think that's true. I think a lot of people do invest in a marketing automation system. This is obviously isn't Marketo. Specifically, this could be anything. And then they run email campaigns, and they don't think about other things. So they don't think strategically, for example, about how they're going to generate personalised content, whether that be within the emails or alternatively, on your website, something that Marketo is, you know, very powerful and very good at doing. But clearly, you know, the survey showed that the people actually running Marketo today, and not taking advantage on what I think is a really important feature.

Hannah: I agree. And I think another key thing from the survey was, they're not actually looking at campaign impact. So if they don't know how the campaigns performing, it relates back to what you've just said, We don't know if the campaigns are successful for them or not.

Mike: Totally agree. I think, you know, what gets measured gets done. And clearly, if you're not measuring, then you're just sending stuff out and hoping it works. And actually, once you start measuring, you'll start optimising and improving. It's part of our four step process is to make sure we have that enhance phase. And so that's a really big disadvantage. It sounds simple, you know, but I think a lot of people are just looking at the reports sending them out, and not really thinking about why one campaign might have performed better than another.

Hannah: I definitely agree. But I don't want to spend too long on this one, because I think the big news that we've had recently is the product news out of HubSpot inbound 2022 conference. So there's been loads of product updates from HubSpot. And I've kind of picked out a few that we can talk about wherever they're interested in whether hotspots actually going to take them out of beta phase and move them on. So I think the first thing to talk about is that HubSpot has announced a new platform that's going to sit between slack and LinkedIn, which is basically a community of users. So it's called connects.com. And it's a mixture of chat. It's a mixture of LinkedIn with the sense that you have profiles, you can have topics you have paid as you'd like, but is this something we need? Or is it just going to be a glorified HubSpot community?

Mike: Well, firstly, I would say you know, I do love HubSpot. Actually, I think it's a great tool.But this seems to be another step in the route to HubSpot actually becoming a fully fledged coach rather than just a marketing automation and CRM tool. So I think absolutely, this is going to be popular amongst a lot of HubSpot users, particularly, they're really enthusiastic users, which is pretty much all of them to be honest. They generate so much emotion. So I think it's going to drive a lot of engagement, a lot of interaction. But I also think it's probably going to be limited to users of HubSpot. And maybe that's one of the downsides is that certainly if you're using HubSpot, and you want information on, for example, you know how to segment an audience or how to lay out an email, there'll be masses of advice. But I think, you know, if you're looking for something more general, you're probably not going to get it from connect.com.

Hannah: So it's pretty much going to be a really specific community thing for HubSpot, rather than a specific kind of software forum where it covers all the different market automation platforms at the same time.

Mike: Yeah, I think that's a good sign. Memory of where it's going to end up is it's going to be the people who love HubSpot are going to spend time on it. And people using it. We talked about Marketo earlier, I think they'll find it hard to have a reason to go and join.

Hannah: Agreed. So another update that HubSpot have introduced is an update to their customer journey analytics. So this is making the customer journey more visualised. So they can see what stages people are in the journey, what campaigns are running. But my main problem of this is that the customer journey can be messy. And especially if you look at b2b sales, we often have a long sales journey. So is it going to help more specific customers rather than a full HubSpot user? What kind of your thoughts on that?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it actually, if you look at it, it's very like the analysis you can do in Google Analytics, where you look at the pages people visit, the difference, of course with HubSpot is you don't just have page information, you have, you know, everything from all the data that you enter into the CRM, which could be dB offline activities, all the way through to form fills and things like that. So in some ways, it's very similar, but it's much more capable in terms of the things that can track, I think the big issue is, is that for a lot of b2b customers, they're not looking at simple journeys, they're very complex. And people have talked about this a lot. So to me, I think this is something that's going to work for either something like an E commerce business, where you've got a very clear route, where you're trying to drive out, you know, typically a relatively low involvement, short sales cycle, kind of purchase, and I think there, it'll be amazing. And then other than that, I think actually, what's going to happen is, it's really going to look at micro journeys. So if you think about a lot of our clients, they might have sales cycles of months or even years, you're not going to use this tool to track activity over that length of time, because there's just not going to be enough correlation between different users. And but what you might want to do is look at tracking, you know, what happens between getting someone to your website and getting them to register and fill in the form and how many visits that is and what pages they look at. And to me there, again, that could be a killer feature is optimising you know, micro stages of the whole customer journey. So I think it's, it's, you know, it's not the magic silver bullet that's gonna let you understand customer journeys in most b2b applications. But I think it's going to be a cool feature that people are going to use.

Hannah: I mean, that's a really cool way to look at it. And it will be interesting to see as kind of these features are rolled out, you know, do the E commerce apps people actually use it? Or are they limited by it as well? So it'll be interesting to see. And is that when we can come back to is, you know, how have the products actually been rolled out? And are they being used for by the customers?

Mike: Yeah, definitely. It'll be interesting to see. I mean, like all these features, where they turn out to be a core part of the product or something that actually, you know, people find less useful. I think this one will be a winner, though, provided people understand the limitations and don't try and make it, you know, the magic see everything, but try and focus down on different steps.

Hannah: I agree. And speaking of limitations, I think that brings us on nicely to another product rollout that HubSpot announced at the inbound conference. And this is the data quality automation that they're introducing into their CRM. So they are looking at their reports, their dashboards, the contact data, and they're actually using AI to clean up this data. Is this actually going to work? Or is it not as easy as HubSpot? Think it's going to be?

Mike: Well, I mean, to me, I really like this because one of the biggest frustrations is stale out of date data in marketing databases, whether that's marketing automation, or anything else. So I think it's great. And they've got a lot of features that are going to help people clean up data. So everything from better validation of data as it goes in, all the way through to highlighting where you're missing data, so missing fields for certain contacts. So you know, that's going to be great. They talked about AI, they didn't really go into a huge amount of detail as to exactly what that AI would do. So I'm kind of suspicious of that. It feels like everything's got to have aI attached to it. And I'm sure they'll work on developing, you know, some uses of AI in there. But I think actually, probably that the real valuable stuff is going to be what triggers you to do manual fixes and repairs to your data. But, you know, I mean, anything that improves data, right, it's gonna be a good thing.

Hannah: Yeah, definitely. I mean, cleaning data is the biggest problem in a lot of CRM systems. So it will be interesting to see, as you said, how the manual updates versus AI actually weighs up in the end. Mike: Yeah, but But I mean, like you say, those manual updates, if you can make them easier and make them quicker, you're more likely to do them. And to me, I think that's got to be the, you know, the potential valuable thing is, as long as people are more likely to clean their data and find it easier, and it takes less time. It's going to help isn't it?

Hannah: 100% Definitely. So moving on. This is one product rollout that I'm actually I'm really intrigued by because it may have been inevitable. But I am really excited about the WhatsApp integration that HubSpot is introducing, I'm really interested in how this is going to work because they're not the only marketing automation platform to announce something similar with constant contact actually announcing they're also be doing SMS marketing outreach. So how is this going to work with regards to prospects and tying in with the customer journey?

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think it's an interesting trend, what's happening is, you know, these channels we thought were owned by us and weren't affected by marketing, they're gradually going to see marketing come into them. So we've seen that happen with SMS, right? You know, text messaging, marketing is getting bigger and bigger. And it is not just spam messages. Now. It's it's real text messages. But I think, you know, it's clear Facebook would like to generate revenue from WhatsApp. So I agree with you, I think it's inevitable that it's going to happen. I think it's questionable as to how effective maybe it's going to be.

Hannah: And I also think as well, you know, within b2b Specifically, a lot of people actually use WhatsApp, for example, for personal use. So are they gonna want to mix personal and work related messages into the one app?

Mike: Yeah, I think, you know, this reminds me of a client we used to have, who said about his Facebook marketing campaigns, he said, When on Facebook, you've got to realise that people are there to waste time. And you should respect the fact they want to waste time, you shouldn't try and, you know, do marketing, that would be the same on LinkedIn, I think it's the same with WhatsApp, there's going to be an opportunity for some fun marketing there. But I do think it's going to be limited because people on WhatsApp for different reasons. Although you do sometimes see people using WhatsApp in a business contacts. So maybe there will be cases where it works, it'll be really interesting to see it.

Hannah: For me, it almost sits in the same boat as Tiktok. Completely different, but it's a different platform. Is it going to work for b2b, isn't it? So I think it's definitely a trend to watch. And really report back on is whether it's successful for b2b moving forward.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think there's a real chance that looking into the future, we're going to have to as marketers understand which channels our contacts respond to, because some contacts may actually quite enjoy engaging on WhatsApp. Other contacts might hate it. And as we see this continual increase of channels and tic TOCs another great example. You know, I think we're gonna have to understand more about where contacts want to interact, as well as the content they want and other factors that we're already monitoring.

Hannah: I definitely agree. So, to finish, I'm really excited to announce our first inspiring insight tip. So this is something we're going to do every podcast. And I'm going to hand the first honour over to Mike to share our inspiring insight Tip of the Week.

Mike: Yes, so what we're going to try and do is come up with things that, you know, are often quite simple, and maybe a little bit obvious. But we see people not necessarily doing so, the first thing is we always get asked about form conversion rates, and how can improve form conversion rates. So whether that's, you know, on a landing page or whatever, well, you know, one of the things we still see is a lot of people just having the submit button, right? You've got a button with submit. Almost always, when you have a form that is letting you do something, whether it's to subscribe to a newsletter or download content, if you change that word submit to something related to what they're going to get. So download that my white paper, or, you know, join the newsletter, that will increase conversion rates, it's a really simple trick. It's not going to move the conversion rates hugely, but it's going to make a difference. So every time you do a form, my advice would be make sure that the button the action button is actually related to what you're offering.

Hannah: I love that. I think sometimes it's the simplest things that make the most difference. And things that maybe you wouldn't think twice about. But you know, that is what AV testing is for in market automation to see what works.

Mike: Brilliant now it's been great. Hopefully the listeners have enjoyed our marketing automation moment.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the marketing automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don't forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application, and we'll see you next time.