Sarah Beldo, Director of Content Marketing at Sift Science shares her thoughts on the changing trends in the realm of B2B content marketing, and how new technologies will impact content consumption behaviors.
Key Takeaways from the episode:
1.In order to find out what content is resonating we regularly make it a point to ask the people who come to our customer advisory board for feedback and we also have a regular meetup called the Fraud Offenders Forum
2.We partner with sales and we keep a running list of some of the top questions that they get when they’re on their sales calls. So that’s been very helpful for especially lower down the funnel content
3.I do think that the basics don’t change because it is all about delivering value for your audience though it’s the same as always- that you need to know what your audience cares about, you need to know the questions that you can uniquely answer for them.
Here’s the complete transcription:
Meetul (00:38): Tell us about the problem your company solves and your role there.
Sarah (00:41): Yeah absolutely. So Sift Science is a machine learning based platform for fighting all different types of online fraud that can be anything from payment fraud, for example a fraudster taking some stolen credit card numbers and using it to buy all kinds of goods across the world to account takeovers which is someone using your credentials from a site like say Facebook, Airbnb any of that, who log in and act like you and then basically commit some type of fraud which is basically spam and scam. So you can think of maybe like someone selling something, to spam or abusive content that you would see on any kind of social network or place that posted user generated content. So that’s Sift Science. At this company I run the content marketing team. We’re a team of three and we produce all of the content for the website, for ebooks, podcasts, infographics all of the traditional content marketing assets as well as run our social media accounts.
Meetul (02:11): How does this content change or does it change for sales & marketing type of audiences versus technical audiences?
Sarah(02:20): Yeah good question. So I think that the audience that we are working with right now is very focused on numbers, very focused on efficiency. They really respond well to metrics and to insights that make their job easier and may make it easier for them to communicate their value across the organization. So we always try to be as specific and useful as possible when we’re creating content. Numbers really work. They really like data so that’s different than a lot of the content that I worked with previously at LinkedIn. Also for this audience we found that sharing content is not something that they do as much as some of the other audiences that I’ve written for in the past. Being fraud managers and people who are concerned with risk- they actually don’t even love to use social media that much. If you work with these channels all day and that’s what you’re thinking about, you maybe a little more hesitant to just go on Facebook and share a bunch of stuff and click on a bunch of stuff and engage. So, we had to look at other ways to get people to share our content with each other.
Meetul (03:33): When we were having the conversation, you mentioned that you guys are pretty innovative in your approach as far as what type of content to write and to kind of figure out what content is working and what content potentially may not be working. I thought that was a pretty interesting insight. You don’t mind sharing it with our audience?
Sarah (03:53): Oh sure. I mean when we’re looking at content effectiveness, we really look at what content has either created a new deal or like created an MQL or an opportunity as well as how it has influenced the opportunity until it closes. So we don’t just look out for the first thing that they downloaded, but if a salesperson has shared something like an e-book or a worksheet with someone at any stage in the sales process to help them get past one of the hurdles in the months that they’re working together, the next step basically involves executing that specific piece of content. So we can see with every deal, what content has helped close that deal and then we can tie that to the overall revenue that deal has created for the company. So that’s been very helpful. That model has been very helpful for me as the leader of the content team to not just see what is successful and what isn’t but to show the value of my team.
Meetul (04:49): it’s almost very similar to the type of approach and how you are measuring content at every stage and trying to figure out what value this content is adding to closing the lead.
Sarah (05:01): Yeah exactly, And then as I mentioned before, we also just ask sometimes because that shows what is actually being shared.
We don’t always get the feedback on whether it’s been helpful with that model. In order to find out what content is resonating we regularly make it a point to ask the people who come to our customer advisory board for feedback and we also have a regular meetup called the Fraud Offenders Forum- that is exactly our target audience. I always make it a point to go there and ask people what they like, what they haven’t liked, as well as what type of content they want in the future and how they like to consume content. Honestly it sounds very simple. Those responses have been so useful and have really informed our content strategy quite a bit.
Meetul (05:49): So when it comes to creating content for the different stages, you’re seeing how they’re adding value. But how do you know as to what content to write, right? That’s the problem we grapple with many times. So like okay we’re dealing with an area that’s probably emerging that people don’t know much about. How do you know what resonates for the audience at different stages?
Sarah (06:16): We partner with sales and we keep a running list of some of the top questions that they get when they’re on their sales calls. So that’s been very helpful for especially lower down the funnel content because often these questions are things like- how in this specific way does your tool differ from your competitors or something, a lot more product-specific content. But we also get a lot more awareness stage questions from just asking sales people. For example Account Takeover is a fairly new problem in the fraud phase. I mean, it’s been around a while that there are some companies that are just now starting to experience that. So they have these questions like- how do I know if it’s a problem, how are other companies like mine experiencing this, what does their problem look like, are there any other common tools to fight it. So the more basic questions that people are asking sales has really shown us where those green spaces are, the places that we can help educate the audience much earlier on, because that is something that’s still emerging.
Meetul (07:18): So when it comes to content gating there’s all kinds of debate that’s kind of going on as far as gating versus ungating content and so forth. What’s the strategy and approach at Sift Science regarding gating content?
Sarah (07:31): So our approach has actually changed a bit in the three years that I’ve been here and I think it’s because we’ve grown as a company. We started out trying different things and seeing what will work. And now we found something that works for us now at this stage based on our company’s needs. We started out having a lot of content ungated and then we would retarget visitors to our website with ads. That way we try to get them to download like one key piece of our content. Most of our content was ungated, so we try to lure them in with information and then follow up later. But that just was not giving us enough leads. I think our focus as a company has shifted to- we want increased volume of leads. I mean we want them to be high-quality but we also just need more volume. So we’ve taken a more aggressive approach where we’re gating more pieces now than ever before. We would never gate a blog post or podcast. Basically anything that we think has enough value to the reader, now we will put a form in front of it. And then after they download that, we will follow up with the sales call pretty quickly with just a very helpful line like- are there any questions I can answer. And then if the person is not ready to talk, they go directly into an email nurture campaign which has about half a good number of emails, maybe one every week with a piece of content that could be webinars, could be a podcast, could be another ebook that we think would be useful and makes sense for them in their particular industry and their particular persona.
Meetul (09:11): Do you guys optimize your landing pages? There are all kinds of theories regarding the fields and questions that should be there. Did you guys go through that exercise of optimizing your landing pages to get the maximum number of visitors and bounce rate and try to reduce the bounce rate.
Sarah (09:31): Yeah we definitely did. We removed some fields and that was positive for us. What has actually helped a lot is just having a form that pops up on the same page versus sending people to a completely separate landing page whenever possible. So all they have to do is fill it out and then they will be redirected directly to the thank you page versus having to go to their email to dig it out. Like everybody, we are trying to make it as easy as possible.
Meetul (10:06): I think you had a pretty interesting insight into this- for the advent of all these new tools and technologies coming in the market with the buzz or hype around ML and all this new jargon thrown around in the marketing, I was just kind of curious to get your take on this when it comes to content marketing. How is it disrupting that feel, Is it changing that feel at all or you feel that there are basics and they don’t change and that technology is just an enabler in the process?
Sarah (10:39):I do think that the basics don’t change because it is all about delivering value for your audience though it’s the same as always- that you need to know what your audience cares about, you need to know the questions that you can uniquely answer for them. You need to differentiate your message from your competitors, deliver value that they can’t deliver. So those are all classic challenges but I don’t think they change at all depending on technology. What technology is improving is the ability to personalize the entire user journey and personalize the content that is delivered. I would love to explore that more here at Sift Science. We’re fairly personalized now, as I understand it, there are even more advanced tools becoming available to really know and be able to deliver the right content at the right time.
So I think that the future of content marketing is going to be an even more personalized experience. I think it is technology that will help us get there. We’re not quite there yet but I think that’s where most tools are headed.
Meetul (11:44): So as a parting thought last but not least, any kind of advice or guidance you have for people who want to be a content writer or content manager. Are there any blogs or books or other things that you recommend?
Sarah (11:59):Oh yeah definitely, I mean one of the great things about learning content marketing is there are a million different resources available out there for free because they are written by content marketers and content marketers love to write. And they love to share and they love to publish. So it is one of those very easy areas to get a lot of really great information. Like, when I was first starting out 10 years…however many years ago trying to learn what Content Marketing is, Content Marketing Institute for example was great, you could go there and do an entire course for free. There are many online courses on content marketing available that are taught by prospective leaders in the field. So very easy to access as well and often free. I used to read copy blogger a lot. I used to read copyblogger a lot. There is a company called Contently, we don’t use their tools right now but I really respect the content they put out. So those are just a few of the many places that you can get information about content marketing online from, and HubSpot as well- it’s like a classic leader in content marketing. They have so much available now, I find it overwhelming. I’ve actually stopped subscribing to their newsletter because there’s just too much that I know that when I go look for in Google, HubSpot will be near the top…so I know it’s going to be a quality article.
Sarah Beldo leads a team focused on content and events and has been with Sift Science for two years. She has held content-related roles in print publishing, news writing to UX content strategy and B2B content marketing.
About the podcast
Sunny Side Up is a series of 15-minute podcasts. Leaders and innovators share what they’ve learned in the B2B tech sector on topics related to marketing, product management, sales, and leadership.