In this podcast episode, we discuss changing B2B Digital Marketing Practices and trends that affect B2B Tech Marketers with Eric Sharp, Founder and CEO of Protofuse Inc and Host of the 1 to 10 Podcast series.

Key Takeaways from the episode:

  1. If you try to set up multiple channels at the same time and you’re trying to do everything well and you have a resource issue and you don’t have people that are helping you push content to that channel and engaging people when they engage with you it’s just you’re going to get burned out really quickly.
  2. I think using video in your digital marketing is a bit of a foregone conclusion right. Everyone knows that they have to it. I think from a B2B space. I think the leaders that B2B companies especially within this space. Again they understand that video is important in their overall digital marketing. But I think the gap that I’m seeing at least is, is it doing well.
  3. Your website should be running Google Analytics especially if you’re going to be subscribing to some sort of content marketing plan. You need some sort of other tool to measure the effectiveness of that too.

Here’s the complete transcription:

Paroma: (00:14) Hi Eric welcome to the DemandMatrix podcast series Sunny side-up. We’re so happy to have you here today. How are you?

Eric: (00:21)I’m doing great. Thanks for inviting me. I really appreciate it. 

Paroma: (00:29) So, let’s get started, shall we begin with letting the audience know about you, a little bit about what led you to start your company Protofuse Inc.

Eric: (00:39) Sure. So my name is Eric Sharp, I’m the founder of ProtoFuse. We do digital marketing for midsize B2B technology companies. For the most part, we try to work with companies within the United States and this positioning of working with B2B tech companies is fairly new for us. We’ve been around the website and digital marketing world for quite a while. Personally speaking, I got into building websites back in 1999. I graduated college right around the dot-com explosion and kind of got thrown right into things. I kind of like to describe it as jumping on a moving freight train with no destination. That’s just kind of how it felt at the time. And so I started there I started working for a company called Wild Card Systems and as a web designer in 2000 and collaborated with a bunch of designers and developers and QA and leadership on building web applications and interactive training for  Fortune 500s, Bank of America, just to name a few. And so I was kind of  working on these big scale sites. And during that time, I knew what I wanted to do- work with my own clients. I had that entrepreneurship type of bug and I decided to start my  freelance business and pretty much designed a website for anyone that had three hundred dollars. Literally, if you had three hundred dollars in your pocket I would design your website and I just kind of built up my business over the next couple years. My agency had grown to a point where it was sustainable and I saw a lot of good things for the future. So that was 2005. And so I’ve been doing Protofuse full time since 2005. And like I mentioned, we’ve been kind of going around servicing a lot of different companies, a lot of it in a lot of different verticals, and within the last two years, we said we want to be the experts in this space- The B2B tech space and we want to work with clients in this space because we feel like we can deliver a lot of value. So that’s where we’re at today.

Paroma: (03:06) That’s amazing. So tell me, you’ve been involved in digital marketing since a while, since the start almost. How have you seen it evolve over the past couple of years especially given the Martech boom off late?

Eric: (03:19) Yeah, that’s a good question, the web with social media just becoming a part of our daily life and everyone wants to be on social media. There is this desire and this urge to want to be on social media. And when I started back in 2000 all these channels really didn’t exist and MySpace wasn’t even out there. So it was really about just get their website right. It was about having your digital presence through your website and just making sure that it was usable and functional and cross-browser compatible and mobile hadn’t really exploded at that time. So we had a couple of different devices that you just needed to make sure the site worked well on. So the emphasis was always on your website right and just making sure that we rethink your website as the hub of all your digital marketing. And so when I first started out there was this sort of emphasis on your website and then social media just exploded and all these channels started to pop up and then all of these people started to flock to those channels. And then the emphasis came onto the channels. Right. And rightfully so that makes total sense to me why that happened. But what happened through that process is I think people’s focus got distracted a little bit and they took their eyes off their website and got more focused on the social channels. And so from a B2B space, I’m going to probably go to be revolving around a lot of B2B and tech and that’s where our focus is and that’s where my opinions are based essentially. But I just felt like with from a social media perspective especially within the last year or two people are starting to realize that these channels are vulnerable. You don’t own your content on these specific channels and you don’t have a whole lot of control over that content as well. And so what I have seen (I guess this is a really long answer to your question) but what I’ve seen is the focus slowly start to shift back to your website and what you can own. Right. So people now have had this realization. Wow. The volatility of these social channels. I put something on Facebook, the algorithm is going to change. I got to relearn the algorithm and how I can sort of connect with my audience. And now the focus is slowly shifting back to well let’s put our emphasis on our website right and make sure there is quality user experience. It’s got great content saying we’ve got all the right lead generation tactics built into it. We’re tying into multiple platforms where we got all of our data in one spot. So that’s what I see and it’s kind of been a bit of an evolution where we’re starting back to where we were back 50 years ago.

Paroma: (06:05) So you mentioned that there was this explosion, this multichannel explosion everyone wanted to be everywhere and advertise their product and solution in multiple places. So now you’ve seen this trend where the importance of having everything on one website and in one place is picking up again. So according to you what would be the primary objectives for digital marketing for their digital marketing campaign, for a smaller B2B tech company especially given these changes that you’ve seen. What would you tell them should be their primary object or their primary focus. 

Eric: (06:41) Great question, yeah if you’re talking smaller B2B tech companies so maybe they are under the 10 million dollar of revenue. I would say, to keep it simple and really start with defining and ironing out your value proposition. And this gets so muddied in this particular vertical. Typically leadership at a technology company- They’re so close to their product and service right. And they’re so smart and they know it so well but they seem to always struggle with articulating their product or service in a way that other people are going to understand it. And so they may be fancy about it and use a lot  of technical mumbo-jumbo. And so my advice would just be to start with that because that is your value proposition and how you’re different from your competitors and in what you do well in your brand’s personality and all that stuff, that is sort of the…I guess the groundwork to all your marketing and all your communication from that point forward. Right. So instead of jumping into a specific tactic or really just sitting down, see what your content strategy is like. Like what kind of content are we going to put through our website. It’s like well wait a second let’s really focus on what you guys are good at first, let’s actually write that down on a piece of paper. let’s get other people involved in collaborating and really sort of strain and focus on every single word that you use. So, I would say the value proposition. Get that written down, share it with the team, maybe even bring in some of your clients, your customers and say hey you think this is the value that we’re bringing to the table with our product and service, do we feel right about the solution or the value that we offer the world  how we articulated it in a really concise way. The easy answer is to like oh have a great website right and start generating leads. But if you really want to break it down into a granular, smaller bite-sized format, is really work on the value proposition and how you’re going to sort of express that to the world.

Paroma: (08:55) Okay. And in terms of the channels they should focus on, of course having a great website and keeping in mind what you just said that’s important but what about the channels especially for B2B marketers, technology marketers. What would you tell them to do? Definitely maintain in terms of sharing content, uploading new things or engaging with their prospect, which are the best channels for them to be active on.

Eric: (09:18) So this is a little bit of a tricky question. Yeah, because it really depends on the resources available at the company. So, if you’re a smaller tech/ B2B tech company you’re probably not going to have a dedicated marketing department that is going to allow you to push your content in multiple platforms and just to really own it and be regular about it. And that’s the thing you don’t want to do, to circle a social channel and start broadcasting to the world that you’re on Twitter. But then someone goes to your Twitter channel and realizes you haven’t posted in three years, that doesn’t look good. So, now what I’ve seen with the people, with the clients that I work with that are in this space is that the popular ones that seems to get the most emphasis are channels like LinkedIn. So it’s all about connections. It’s all about forming relationships. And I’ve seen just a lot of B2B owners and VP’s of marketing, VP’s of Sales really flock to that channel because it just seems to work for them and they understand that. So that will probably be the first one off I’d recommend, the next channel would probably be Twitter. Twitter is a great way to engage in conversations with people that you don’t know. There are definitely some downsides to Twitter.

Paroma:(10:27 ) I guess with Twitter it’s not that much about lead generation like LinkedIn but more about brand awareness maybe. Something like that.

Eric: (10:34) Yeah and I’ve also seen clients use it as a way of promoting their content that they’re pushing on their site. So it’s just another source to potentially bring in traffic, bring it quality traffic and get that exposure whether it be a blog or a white paper or graphics or whatever it may be. So again, depending on who I’m talking to, if it’s a small B2B company, you want to start out on LinkedIn or Twitter maybe have a little bit of Facebook. But I think the core or the most important thing that I say to my clients that are getting into social media. This is just what I’ve seen work.  Focus on maybe a singular channel for a certain length of time and then move on to the next one. Because then if you try to set up multiple channels at the same time and you’re trying to do everything well and you have a resource issue and you don’t have people that are helping you push content to that channel and engaging people when they engage with you, it’s just you’re going to get burned out really quickly. And so I kind of just try to break it down in a simpler way and say let’s start with LinkedIn. Learn the nuances of the channel, how you post content, how you like other people’s content how you publish content, how you network with people. You have your own channel, you have your own sort of company profile right like what type of things are you going to share in your company profile versus your own personal profile like learn the nuances right and then move on to the next one. And it’s just kind of a snowball from there.

Paroma: (12:19) Yeah. So with all these new platforms coming in, there was obviously a shift in the way they consumed content. People have a choice, in terms of content consumption pattern. There is a shift. People don’t want to read as much anymore, probably just want to skim through the content or they want to listen to a podcast or they want to probably watch a video. And you mentioned earlier that you’ve seen this entire cycle from a focus on your website to this entire multichannel focus and going back into the website and their plans alike again rethinking the entire strategy or where their content of that information is going to be dumped. where do you see this is going again in the future. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Eric: (13:06) So I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about video, now I know everyone is familiar with video, YouTube has been around for a while, Vimeo and all those specific channels that do video content and from a B2C perspective I think using video in your digital marketing is a bit of a foregone conclusion right. Everyone knows that they have to do it. I think from a B2B space. Again they understand that video is important in their overall digital marketing. But I think the gap that I’m seeing at least is, is doing it well. And and I’m not talking about fluffy company promos that is promoting your product or your service or it’s a company overview or something like- that’s not the stuff I’m talking about. I’m actually talking about video content that is helpful. That’s going to pull in your potential prospect, that’s going to educate maybe entertain and really establish you as an authority in your space. And that’s the type of content that I feel is really missing when it comes to B2B tech. I don’t think enough people are doing that well enough. I mean you could literally pick up your iPhone and you could film the video and the quality is going to be good. I guess the recording quality is going to be great. Right. You need to have good lighting and frame it in a way that looks professional. But we have all these tools, you can go to Amazon and buy a light kit for 150 dollars. Most people are carrying around an iPhone right, that is HD and and so it’s no longer an issue about having the tools, we have all the tools we have all the ideas we know that we should be doing it but it’s the people that really say what we’re going to roll up our sleeves and we’re going to do this well and this is the type of content we’re going to create. It’s not going to be sales it’s not going to be promotional. It’s going to be engaging. It’s going to be helpful. We’re going to commit to this for the next two-three years. And I think in this particular vertical again- B2B tech- this is a space this is an area where I see video just really taking off in the next couple of years and the companies that commit to it are the companies that are going to be winning big time in three or five years.

Paroma : (15:18) Pretty cool and in terms of tools and technologies that B2B tech marketers can use to boost digital marketing or content marketing effects, have you come across any that you would like to tell us about.

Eric: (15:31) We’re a SharpSpring partner, SharpSpring is a marketing automation platform and I know there’s a ton of marketing automation platforms, I’m sure everyone has heard of the big guys like HubSpot and Marketo but if you are anywhere between that one and ten million dollar revenue mark maybe even a little bit over, SharpSpring works really really well. It also has a CRM as part of the marketing automation platform. It’s less about the tool and probably more about this overarching theme of wanting to make sure that you pull in data into one spot that the leadership team can review, can export out, reporting can really get a sense very quickly and very easily on what’s working and what’s not with their digital marketing so sometimes I run across companies that are running a CRM which blows my mind. I don’t understand how they can manage all that data either in an email or an Excel document so there are plenty of simple CRM solutions out there. Get locked into a system that’s going to pull data from multiple spots into one area that allows you to analyze what’s working and what’s not. And so use a marketing automation CRM. Of course, your website should be running Google Analytics especially if you’re going to be subscribing to some sort of content marketing plan. You need some sort of tool to measure the effectiveness of that. But that’s it for me that’s more top of mind. The clients that are sort of subscribing to some sort of marketing automation platform realize the value of saying hey there’s data everywhere out there and all these different tools and all these services. We just don’t have the time to go into each one of these tools and export out a report and really look at what’s working, we need everything pulled in underneath, sort of you know one umbrella, that we can access very quickly.

Paroma: (17:50) That’s pretty interesting. Thank you so much for your input on this question. And do you have any last key takeaways or words to share with our listeners.

Eric: (17:58) That’s an open-ended question. Well yeah! it’s putting the pressure on me.  OK. I see. I gotcha. So I would say, the content marketing we touched a little bit on- I know  people that are listening may hear a little glimpses or little reports that content marketing is dying and we’re in this constant crash is what I’ve heard it before and there’s a lot of saturation and there’s just so much content out there, how do you ever compete with all this content that billions and billions of new content that’s going up online every single day. Don’t let that intimidate you. Again everyone knows that you have to commit to creating valuable and unique content on a regular basis through your website and through your social channels. But again not everybody is doing it well. So if you can commit to understanding best practices and you could commit to really generating quality content on a regular basis that’s going to resonate with your audience and then make sure that it’s got great user experience. It’s the small things, that you can do can really make some headway. And so content marketing isn’t going away it’s just about doing it better than the next person and committing to it and being consistent and making sure that you’re sending out relevant content that is really going to make a difference.

Paroma: (19:30) Right. Thank you so much. I think that was a very interesting answer. And I’m happy that you had the time to spend with us today and I hope to catch up with you and probably collaborate with you on many other things in the future.

Eric Sharp has 20 years of digital marketing experience and has worked for over 250 different businesses ranging from 1 Million to 1 Billion in revenue. He is the Founder and CEO of ProtoFuse, an agency focused on helping B2B Tech companies grow their digital leads. He’s also the host of the ‘1 to 10’ podcast where he shares the stories of B2B tech companies that have scaled, or are currently scaling, from $1M to $10M and beyond. He’s done work for companies such as Stanford University, Dixon Ticonderoga, and Sun Communities.

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.

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