Anastasia Pavlova, (Former) Vice President of Marketing at Webgility talks about the current and evolving trends in B2B Content Marketing. 

Key Takeaways from the episode:

  1. When it comes to content marketing there’s a lot of noise out there. Everyone is now a content marketer, everyone has a blog, everyone is trying to communicate their message and it’s harder and harder to stand out. So you really need the right tools and you need the right skills to be able to break through the noise
  2. We are now seeing a really big transition from inbound marketing or traditional demand generation where content really plays a big role  transition to account-based marketing
  3. Having shorter videos, shorter webinars is a trend we see happening right now

Here’s the complete transcription:

Paroma: (00:21) Could we start with knowing a little bit about you. What have you been doing for the past couple of years and can you tell our audience about yourself?

Anastasia: (00:29) Yes thank you Paroma. Nice to speak to you and to your audience here today. So my name is Anastasia Pavlova. I currently run my own strategic advisory and marketing consulting service for  technology companies. So I advise companies of various sizes in Marketing strategies, Digital Transformation, Demand generation, Account-based marketing, product go-to market strategy and high-performance team development. Most recently I was Vice President of Marketing at Webgility team which is an e-commerce and accounting automation software provider for small businesses. And there I was responsible for all aspects of marketing, including Content Marketing, driving 40 percent year over year revenue growth. Before Webgility I ran Demand Generation at Marketo focusing on the entire customer lifecycle from net new logo acquisition, revenue acceleration all the way to platform adoption customer retention and cross-sell. And before Marketo I held various marketing leadership roles at companies such as Corail, Ruby, Sonic Solutions and Roxette Napster. So I’ve been around quite a bit and most of my career was spent in the technology industry.

Paroma: (02:00) That’s pretty interesting so what I wanted to know is how have you seen marketing evolve. You have held several leadership roles and there have been several changes in marketing over the last few years. Given the new technologies, the new changes in the way people are consuming content and also the way they want it presented to them, they are being choosy. There is a lot of content out there. So what how have you seen this  digital marketing, marketing trend change over the last couple of years.

Anastasia: (02:31)Yeah that’s a good question and marketing  has been evolving quite a bit in the last few years and we have seen more changes in marketing and digital marketing over the last five years than probably in the last hundred years. Right. And a lot of that is really fueled by technology. So if you look at the marketing technology knowledge landscape there are almost 6000 different vendors that are on the list and the category has become really fragmented which creates lots of opportunities for marketers but also presents challenges because a lot of those technologies- they’re hard to learn. They don’t integrate with each other and you need specialized talent to run them. But as marketers, it’s become on one hand again easier because many folks are empowered by the technology but also harder because everyone is using those technologies and it’s becoming very noisy right? When it relates to content marketing there’s a lot of noise out there, everyone is now a content marketer, everyone has a blog, everyone is trying to communicate their message, and it’s harder and harder to stand out. So you really need the right tools and you need the right skills to be able to break through the noise, and another ethics I would also mention is that we are now seeing a really big transition from inbound marketing traditional demand generation where content really plays a big role and a transition to account-based marketing which again we can get into the details later.

Paroma: (04:25) What would you tell younger marketers who are currently entering the space. There are so many challenges like you said there’s too much content out there. Everybody is doing the same thing. So what would you tell them, how can they differentiate themselves besides having a good balance between ideas, skill set and technology abilities? The ability to use new tools and the ability to learn about new tools, what else can be doing?

Anastasia: (04:50) Well tools certainly help but it’s important really to gain the experience and to be a great marketer as a starting point… and that kind of starts with being passionate about the field and also understand the products really well and also probably most importantly really understand the customers and customer needs that you’re marketing to, because content and any product message cannot be really successful without knowing what you are selling! Right! And understanding their needs and being helpful in and trying to help them solve their problem.

Paroma: (05:35) So tell me one thing, what are your thoughts on the driving factor behind content marketing. Why is everyone still so excited about it. Like this is what we’ve been observing even if you are a young startup, your a new company, everybody still wants to do the same thing even though they know that there’s already a lot out there. So, especially in your industry in the roles that helps so far. So what has driven marketing teams to always rely on content marketing?

Anastasia: (06:01) Well, first of all, let’s kind of define what content is, because sometimes people sort of narrow think of content as blog posts or e-books right? Content is a lot more than that content is really everything it’s everything you publish on as a marketer on all touch points, whether it’s your website, whether it’s thought leadership content or press releases, your presentations your video- everything is content right? So you really need to have content and the right content again to tell a story, story about your product, story about your company, story that will help your prospective customers really understand that they have a problem and how you can help them solve the problem right. Content also that fuels demand generation. So when we’re talking about B2B marketing your demand generation engine cannot run without content as a fuel right. Because you need to again provide your customers with it along the buying journey all the right information that will help them through that journey. And so that’s why content is so pervasive and companies use that.

Paroma: (07:17) Let me ask you here given all your past experiences and in this category of content marketing about content gating. Was it always a focus area as part of your overall marketing strategy? How much importance would you give to it?

Anastasia: (07:32) So there are a couple of a reasons why companies gate content. One is because it enables marketers and companies to collect information about prospects so that marketers can develop more relevant timely and personalized content. Right. So also to reach the profit database and it help marketing and sales to be more efficient. So the more information marketers collect on the forums the better they can segment and nurture prospects by providing them with valuable information. And that, of course, accelerates sales cycles, enables sales to have more relevant conversations that lead to more deals as a result.

Paroma: (08:16) Usually the norm that we’ve seen is that everyone has pretty much a similar content gating strategy in terms of lead forms to hide your webinar or your e-book or you know assets like that. So how would you tell people to sort of create a different content gating strategy, what should they keep free? What should they still be keeping gated? Given that everyone is currently following pretty much the same format. 

Anastasia: (08:56) Yes so the best way to think about it is, first of all, you need to develop the right content for the buying journey right. So different types of content apply to different stages of the buying journey so you can think of it like this- thought leadership content, for example, is early stage so this goes kind of content like your press release is your awareness piece so everything that sort of educates prospects about your company or industry trends creates affinity with a brand, helps prospective buyers to realize that they have a problem. So thought leadership content typically is not gated? And so examples of leadership content could include blog articles, infographics some introductory videos. Companies typically don’t gate late stage content. And so those are typically delivered sort of later at the evaluation stage of the sales cycles and late stage content includes customer case studies, product reviews, sort of how-to videos, so again everything that helps sales close the deal. Now pricing and packaging of products and solutions is kind of  interesting. So sometimes it’s gated and sometimes it’s not gated and it really depends on the complexity of your product offering and sort of the price point of the product or solution. Marketo for example when I started was focused more on the SMB segment. It also published its pricing. But as the company moved up towards mid-market and enterprise buyers  they stopped publishing pricing information. And so the middle of the funnel content, of course, is not gated by most companies. Right. And so again that content pertains to specific company solutions and the type of content that can be delivered in various formats whether it’s white papers webinars or product demos and the reason for gating this content is that you need to better qualify prospects by matching their needs to company solutions so that they don’t waste expensive sales resources.

Form sales are not the only way to gain Prospect information. We have the right marketing automation and data management tools, you can add behavioral data you can add intend data. So there are tons of vendors that can help you in gathering this information.

Paroma: (11:39) So tell me according to you in B2B especially in B2B marketing what are the few things you would say marketers especially content marketers to rely on if they have a scarcity when it comes to resources. So should they be focusing on open blogs e-books maybe they have a way narrow team very small team so what would you give high priority importance to?

Anastasia: (12:01) Well again it’s- I don’t want to give sort of blanket recommendation, the tool really depends on the products that they market or the service that they market. Right. How complex how technically difficult it is so it really depends on whether they need to, whether they can create content internally with just a couple of people whether they need to go outside and employ services of subject matter experts. So I think a combination of things is always sort of a good idea. So you need some good writers on the team and you need to really figure out where you need influencers who are subject matter experts  and then the combination of sharing blogs for example blog articles or working together with influencers and helping them promote their content on your property. And at the same time gating valuable content could help you build a library of good content.

There are many freelance writers available for many topics. Marketplaces that you can go to and employ the services of writers, platforms like NewsCred provide a lot of content that you can repurpose but you absolutely need to have content marketers on the team who can again not only write but also manage the whole content development process. And if you’re starting with a pretty decent content library again the rules that are helpful to keep in mind are that you can always sort of refresh, recycle and retire content and adapt content for different audiences. Right. So for example, if you have a large library of generic demand generation content and you need to drop that to account-based marketing focus on a specific industry or specific accounts then you can easily do that with some easy hacks.

Paroma: (14:27) What you said was pretty interesting towards the end and so can you tell us what some of your biggest takeaways are of a couple of words to our listeners before we end this conversation.

Anastasia: (14:39) So the take away again I think is that the industry is certainly changing a lot. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that companies need to sort of follow the, what we call 4-1-1 rule for example. Right. Not too late stage content like the data sheets of products information too early in the sales cycle. You won’t get any engagement or response as a result, you’re going to basically deplete your database. And basically, it means that for every four pieces of entertaining and educational and value-add pieces of content you can push sort of one soft sell piece and one hard sell piece like a demo or trial. And of course look into the various technologies that can help you understand and leverage our content effectively. So there is some pretty interesting technologies that are emerging as well. There’s a company called LookBookHQ it’s actually rebranded into path factory recently and it helps you aggregate content within their platform and Binch fed to prospect when they track the initial engagement or spark. And so platforms like that could be quite expensive for many. And so this approach can definitely help accelerate sales cycles and get your prospects to an opportunity to stage faster. And video is becoming a lot more prevalent, of course I think shorter form video as well so I’ve seen a couple of examples. In terms of having shorter video and shorter webinars – that again  is a trend happening right now. So we see a lot of transition from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

Paroma: (17:31)Yeah, that’s pretty interesting; There’s also this trend of shorter blog articles listicle formats because I guess there’s so much noise out there so you have to break it down for everybody so that you get attention also. So yeah a lot of changes.

Anastasia: (17:49)Lots of changes. Even when I was at Marketo and I mean it’s still challenging for many companies its really about how you measure content. How do you justify the investment in your content team and content strategy if you can’t put a dollar number on the returns? So there are different ways of doing that again. Many companies look at Google Analytics mostly and the number of visits to particular web pages,  your blog and then try to calculate engagement, but in the market, we invest so much in the content. We released a hundred page definitive guide almost every quarter and we treated each of these as a product launch with a huge integrated campaign to push it. And so we were able to measure not only the download from each but also the number of MQL’s, opportunities associated with each piece of content and revenue from each report. So with the right tools its definitely possible and again companies need to have the right methodology and the right tools to be able to again measure the success of their content strategies and be able to justify investments in that.

Paroma: (19:31) Right and that’s very important because everyone wants to create content so I guess this balance is very-very important. So I think we had a very interesting chat and I thank you for spending time with us. 

Anastasia : (19:46) Thank you. It’s been great. I really appreciate the opportunity. And I would say keep up the good work and for all young marketers and content marketers out there be passionate about what you do and try to understand your customers and try new things. Always test and always experiment and it won’t be dull.

Paroma: Thank you so much, Anastasia was a pleasure speaking with you. Catch you soon. Bye.

Anastasia Pavlova is the former Vice President of Marketing of Webgility. 

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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