In this episode of Sunny Side Up, Jeff Rohrs, CMO of Yext, (a Digital Knowledge Management platform) discusses their content marketing strategy, and his views on content gating.

Questions addressed in this podcast:

  • Tell us about your background/key successes with content marketing.(02:20)
  • What are the primary objectives for content marketing at your company? (04:37)
  • How do you decide what should be gated and what to give away freely?  (05:12)
  • Does the buyer’s journey impact your content gating strategy? (06:04)
  • Are you seeing account-based marketing changing when you gate content? (08:36)
  • What methods do you use to quantify or optimize the effectiveness of content you do gate, especially PDFs where you might lose visibility after the download? (10:05)
  • What do you do to minimize getting bogus information on your lead forms or otherwise cleaning up the data? (15:19)
  • What’s your vision for the future of content marketing in the area of gating content? (16:14)
  • Any tools, technologies or services that you have found beneficial? (15:52)

Here’s what you will learn in this episode:

The key learnings from this insightful chat with Jeff Rohrs, CMO at Yext include:

  1. Learning how a Knowledge Management Platform can transform your business
  2. How the Yext team chooses to gate content and breakdown content creation and curation activities
  3. What matters most when identifying what content to gate and what to deliver free
  4. The growing impact of Voice Search
  5. Exploring the relationship between ABM and content marketing

Here’s the full transcription:

Chat with Yext: Knowledge Management Platform

Theme: Content Gating

Dave (00:41): What is the problem that Yext solves for customers?

Jeff (00:45): So, our vision is that consumers deserve perfect information everywhere across all of the intelligence services they use in a given day to navigate and discover the world around them, and in order to do that we put businesses and our customers in control of their information (their digital knowledge) everywhere we possibly can. We have a Digital Management Platform known as the Yext knowledge engine. It integrates with hundreds of services including Google and Facebook, Apple Maps, Siri; pretty much anything you can think of, so that a business can update information like name, address, phone number, menu, doctor’s information, doctor certifications, insurance information and other things of that nature- facts effectively that a consumer might be looking for and need and update it in our platform and publish it everywhere at once with a push of a button. That’s really kind of the core piece of what we do. But it goes beyond that, as we also help manage reputation on behalf of customers who use our Yext reviews product, generating first party reviews also listing competitive monitoring, essentially getting a sense for where they are in the marketplace and making sure that consumers can connect with them. And that’s a complementary service because obviously when you’re dealing with local brick and mortar businesses or local individuals the review’s space has become critically important. So, we really aim to help our customers control the information about their business. So, the consumers get better information in the palm of their hand.

Dave (02:20): Would you mind just telling the audience a little bit about some of the background and successes you’ve had with content marketing both at Yext, and early in your career.

Jeff (2:27): So I’m actually a recovery attorney by degree and practiced in the mid-90s. I was an attorney for a couple of years before jumping to LexisNexis and I caught the Internet bug when I was doing a dual degree master’s program at Boston University. When I jumped to LexisNexis I hadn’t really connected the dots on this until recently. I kind of started to get into early content marketing and marketing in general just kind of by accident because we had a competitor threat- a competitor came out with a product that was far inferior to ours but because of the way it leverages technology a lot of attorneys felt that it was superior but there were some real legal ramifications to relying on this particular product. And so I took it on myself just as a field seller and educator to create my own marketing materials and content to educate my users as to the pitfalls of that product.

And that caught the eye of the marketing team and I got this call one day and thought I was going to get my hands slapped and behold they said ‘hey can we take this national’. And so now as I trace it back, that might have been the earliest stages of content marketing, but then when I ended up joining I had a great opportunity to work with a great CMO- Tim Kopp and some other great folks like Morgan Stewart who’s now the CEO and founder of Trendline Interactive. We created a research series called subscriber’s fans and followers which was supposed to just be kind of one white paper and turned out to be a three-year 25 release Odyssey examining the changing nature of relationships between brands and consumers through the different channels they use. That then served to be the springboard for my book: Audience marketing in the age of subscribers fans and followers. So content marketing has always been near and dear to my heart well before it was even called Content Marketing.

Dave (04:37): At Yext then what is the core objective or objectives you have for content marketing? What are you trying to accomplish with it?

Jeff (04:44): So, our principal one is like most companies and that is- demand generation. So we tend to gate the vast majority of our content- that would be ebooks or white papers or webinar registrations- those types of things, and the things that we don’t gate would be things like the blog or our publication. We have a wholly owned publication called that covers the world of marketing and all of that is available without any gating.

Dave (05:12): How do you decide what should be gated or what to not gate and give away freely?

Jeff (05:16): If we have a piece that we have invested a significant amount of time on and its part of a campaign- we’re doing it to give an order or a spin-off of existing content. Then we’re going to gate certain whitepaper downloads because you want to create those additional points of ability to acknowledge that this is a lead and then create nurture opportunities potentially down the line. If it is a shorter form article type of piece then that falls into you know blogger geomarketing and those aren’t gated. So really, it’s interesting, it really does not hit my radar on a weekly monthly basis it’s almost kind of a fait accompli that we’ve kind of created a motion whereby we know what to gate.

Dave (06:04): I heard at the beginning that your primary objective was demand generation and capturing leads for the sales people in SDRs across your organization. Beyond that is there any way that the buyer’s journey impacts your content gating?

Jeff (06:17): I would say right now we’re at a point of evolution of getting more sophisticated with regard to looking at marketing automation and nurturing and things of that nature. So you know if you’d asked me that question perhaps another six months later I think you’d probably get a more specific answer. Right now. I think it is enough for us to be looking across our digital portfolio and make sure that we’re optimizing every touchpoint, every type of conversion opportunity etc. In addition to content, we have tools like our location knowledge scan apps where people and business can understand how the digital ecosystem is reflecting their core location information let’s say. For instance- is it accurate, is it inaccurate etc. Something like that is a very key important thing today for us to drive and generate leads. And so, as I kind of look at the gating and the lifecycle structure I think there are opportunities for us to optimize.  Certainly some of the content that you wouldn’t gate is post first engagement. So once you’ve actually got the information about the individual who’s expressed interest you can provide them more ungated content as long as you have the ability to track that back in and nurture the individual appropriately. And so, I think for us it’s a moving target. But I will say this, you know you asked me the principle for content- if I didn’t say it was management but there’s another big piece for us and that is education. We are carving out a category of Digital Knowledge Management and there are you know really no other companies in total doing what we’re doing and so we have to be creating content that educates the marketplace as to why this is an important process and important technology and important thing to embrace. And if you want to think of live presentations as ungated content, that certainly is a big part of this as well. Getting up there, taking that print content or that webinar content that might be put behind a gate and taking it to a stage where the only gate is ‘did you register for this conference or not’ and spreading that gospel of Digital Knowledge Management.

Dave (08:36): That’s interesting! Are you seeing account-based marketing having any impact on the thinking you and your team have around gating content?

Jeff (08:43): Absolutely, but I define account-based marketing very broadly. Because of the rise of ABM technologies, most marketers tend to gravitate immediately towards the technological piece of that and the software as a service that you might buy to support marketing, highly targeted marketing within just a specific number of entities as opposed to that broad-based shotgun type of approach. For me however account-based marketing is much more of a holistic practice whereby you’re identifying the accounts that you want to engage with in a given order, period of time and developing a more holistic strategy that doesn’t just impact the technological ways in which you can engage them through email, through content, through web etc but also the physical part through events they sponsored or owned or field marketing events, direct mail. All of the different ways that could potentially touch an inference is the account, so we take it, we try to take a holistic view there and that requires our marketing organization to be hand in glove with regional sellers and our sales leaders to ensure that we’re on the same page as to what are those accounts that we are trying to bring in within a given quarter so that we’re being wise not only with our spend but we’re being wise with our personal outreach at these live events.

Dave (10:05): One of the things that happens with a lot of content that is gated is that it is put in a PDF form, an e-book or a white paper. And of course you know that someone downloaded it but you don’t really know to what degree they engaged with that content- did they read it, did they drop off at some point? What are you doing to make sure that you can optimize the content?

Jeff (10:31): On the PDF side of things- Whitepapers, ebooks, we’re not looking deep into that engagement but I’ll give you a specific project that provided some insight- so I worked with Duane Forrester who is our Vice President of industry insights. When he came on board we identified a number of factors about the marketplace standings, about our technology or what we do as a company. And so he set forth and put together a 10 part blog series called “A Better Way with Yext” in which he addressed each one of those fun factors in a blog post.

We first released those as individual posts. Then we aggregated them into a downloadable gated PDF- so you can get all that content on our blog without having to go through a gate mechanism. But here if you want it bundle you’re going to get it through that mechanism. We’re able to look at the analytics on the website and understand where the points of engagement are, which of these topics has the greatest traction, and then begin to cook that into our thinking downstream about how do we support that with web and our content or other educational materials. It’s more about creating this breadth of topical content around the key movers than it is right now to get into individual piece optimization. We’re more interested in that.

Duane also did a great piece called “How voice search changes everything”, we had a great couple of live sessions and an onward conference featuring Dave Isbitski from Amazon and the gentleman who invented Cortana and a gentleman from Google who was on voice.

And then we involved those folks into webinars in the early first quarter. Then we spun off a checklist and Duane did another webinar about the SEO applications of voice and how you need to think about SEO in terms of voice search. And so it’s really created this cascading family tree of content not necessarily looking into that original release or that original whitepaper. There is a lot of interest here. We’re seeing a lot of uptake. We’re seeing a lot of engagement. It’s very related to our business since we are the factual platform and voice search delivers singular answers instead of 10 blue links. How does your business become the answer and it is about getting your house in order when it comes to your digital knowledge of the facts about your business, your people, your products, your menu and your locations. And so we did this family tree approach to the content as opposed to a deep optimization ensemble piece.

Dave (13:45): Your technology you said was a new technology that people didn’t really understand. It’s not an old category like marketing automation or any SP where people get what it is. Does that influence what you give away? I heard you were out there freely talking but does that change your thinking at all.

Jeff (14:01): I think that’s a great question. I’m not sure it so much influences what we give away as it definitely influences where I invest our dollars as a marketing organization so that we are building our content capabilities. This is about education on the front end through content and it’s about creating relationships throughout the funnel and after sale.

So and again it’s because we do not have a large number of equally sized competitors whose marketing dollars are contributing to the awareness of this entire category of Digital knowledge Management. So it is up to us, we have to seek out more stages. We have to create more content that resonates with different industries, for different reasons and our voice search content is flying off the shelf because that is just tremendously topical. Kudos to Duane and our team. I was out at breakfast this week and across the table from me was someone talking about how she had leveraged this whitepaper that we had produced and actually shared it with her folks, so when it resonates beyond just our buyers set that’s actually a good thing because it’s creating awareness for us and as a public company that’s important.

Dave (15:19): What’s your strategy to try to reduce the bad information that you might get in a lead form.

Jeff (15:25): I really don’t have any desire to reduce it, that’s self-selection in my mind. Those are competitors or individuals who don’t want to be contacted. And we’re constantly evaluating what is the right type of content- Is this content top of funnel, middle of funnel or bottom of a funnel. And from there I look at it and I know it would be great if everybody filled out their information. If you want to self-select out, I’m fine with that, and if you keep finding yourself engaged with our content and it’s relevant to your business at some point you will fill out the form. Otherwise I’m fine to educate the marketplace and thought leaders and agencies and others who do might just want to download the content because it’s of interest to them for a project that they’re working on. That helps spread word about the brand and how we fit into this world of AI and products and tech services.

Dave (16:14): What’s your vision for the future of content marketing in this area of content gating?

Jeff (16:17): I don’t know if I have the breadth of vision into what others are doing to be able to necessarily predict what will happen overall- I don’t see gating going away. I certainly do think that GDPR coming out of the eurozone is going to have a huge impact on gating and you actually will probably see more of it because you need to have an over opt-in and you need to have a very locked in process to then opt-out folks or cleanse your database after a certain period of time or you know with an initiated request to be forgotten. Forget an individual who subscribes. So if anything, I think some of those forces are going to lock in gating because businesses still need ways to collect interest and buyers don’t want spammy aggressive overburden follow-ups, but if they fill out a form there is interest there. And so, I think the point is not necessarily the gating, it’s what happens after. How do you get better at engaging, better at anticipating better leads so that you put together the right type of follow-up to ensure that you maximize the business opportunity while minimizing the prospect’s frustration or eliminating it.

Dave (17:52): Have you or your team seen any tools in the area of content marketing or content gating that you think other people might want to know about.

Jeff (18:00): A lot of what we do is not based on a sophisticated set of tools. The lineage of the investment is in the people and the process to produce high quality content. When you get that team together you will see changes. Technology can only take you so far. If you don’t have the people and process it won’t go far. We’ve got a bunch of smart folks who can read the signs in the marketplace and say what- This is a breaking trend. This is something that’s relevant to our business or our customers are going to have questions about this. We could write this type of piece and they’re thinking around corners.

Dave (18:33): Words of wisdom indeed. I think some of us have gotten technology fatigue from time to time and we forget about the underlying importance of the people in the process. I couldn’t agree more. Jeff thank you so much. Really insightful observations about content marketing and content gating…any final thoughts that you have before we wish you well?

Jeff (18:56): It’s all iterative nobody gets it right out of the box, your business changes, Consumers change. And so I think Content Marketing is about being adaptable and listening to the marketplace, trying to connect what you do to the cultural or business touch points that ultimately emotionally move that buyer. As I say often, the B2B sales process and purchase process is a far more emotional one than B2C because your job is often on the line. And so, if you come out of it then you have an empathy for your buyer that can really guide and improve all of your efforts.


Jeff Rohrs Yext- PodcastJeff Rohrs is a creative, strategic, and experienced marketing leader with a passion for collaboration, innovation, and building dynamic brands in today’s fragmented media landscape. Author, recovery attorney, bacon-lover, and Clevelander-at-heart who serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Yext in New York City.

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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