Insights from two decades of B2B tech content with Charles Dimov, VP Global Marketing at ContractPodAI

B2B tech marketing often involves an in-depth content strategy to generate leads, drive brand awareness and educate the market.

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast for B2B tech marketers, Charles Dimov, VP Global Marketing at ContractPodAI talks about his wealth of experience with content. Charles dives into common content challenges, such as gated or un-gated, working with outsourced writers, and balancing quality with quantity.

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Full Transcript

Alex (00:07):

Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the FINITE Podcast. Today I am talking with Charles Dimov. Charles is the VP of Global Marketing at ContractPodAI, an innovative AI based contract management technology. 

Charles has an extensive background in high-tech marketing across a number of different B2B tech companies and today we’re talking content, specifically how content marketing is so often sat at the heart of lead generation for Charles and his different roles across his career. And so from balancing quality and quantity and content marketing to whether or not to gate content, we’ll be diving into all the big content marketing questions. I hope you enjoy.

FINITE (00:47):

The FINITE community and podcasts are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast-growth B2B technology companies visit to find out how they partner with marketing 

teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

Alex (01:08):

Hey Charles, thanks for joining me today.

Charles (01:09):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. My pleasure to join.

Alex (01:12):

We’re very grateful for you giving up your time to talk. We are going to be talking all about content marketing, content marketing as a lead gen machine, which is an interesting subject. I think anyone in the world of B2B marketing knows just how important content is, its the fuel to the engine in many respects. So we’ll dive into that in more detail pretty soon, but as we always do, I will let you start just by telling us a little bit about yourself, your background experience, and then your kind of current role and team at the moment.

About Charles’ background in B2B tech marketing 

Charles (01:39):

Yeah. So, I’ve been in the high-tech market for a little bit more than about 20, 24 years. And most of that time has been in the marketing capacity, product marketing, product management and certainly sales. So I’ve had a little bit of breadth in that kind of area, know the importance of lead generation, demand generation. And that’s what led me to this conversation that we’re having about content marketing being one of the areas that I found to be most powerful in terms of my role. 

So I am the Vice President of Global Marketing here at ContractPodAI. It is a company that is very focused on contract management. So really caters to the in-house legal space. And what it does is, these contract management systems, they help in a variety of different ways on boarding your contracts into the digital space, making sure that everything is accessible. It’s all in one place. All the associated files are there as well. 

And it does a lot of automation and it’s got an AI aspect to it that allows the system to actually read through contracts, understand them and be able to really help lawyers make best use of their time, automating a lot of tasks and such. So again, really lending itself to content marketing, being a pretty major part of that strategy. So does that give you a bit of background there?

Alex (03:18):

It does. Yeah, that’s awesome. And it sounds like, I think contract lifestyle management was a new term for me, almost like a new category, I guess in some respects. As you say, it’s a pretty nascent part of the space.

Charles (03:29):

I would say that it’s been around for a while. Probably the past decade or so, contract lifecycle management has been around. However, I would also characterise the market as being fairly nascent for whatever reason. Well, not for whatever reason. 

I think the legal community often is a little bit risk averse. And I think if I were a lawyer sitting in my office, I’d be thinking, I really need to be doing legal things. I need to be talking about the strategy and risk aversion for my company, et cetera. And so I think we did some research recently that basically pointed to the fact that something like around 60% of the market still doesn’t have a system. It’s almost like you’re still doing things manually. 

Can you imagine trying to do Excel spreadsheets, but actually on a sheet of paper? You can do a simple one, but I mean, it’s silly once you start getting into big numbers and such, so that’s kind of where we’re at with that market. And again, not much as that’s a funny scenario, but the exciting part is the amount of opportunity there is. And the number of teams that are really being helped in terms of making big strides forward because once they start going, it’s like any business, once you go into the digital space. 

And I think the COVID virus really helps probably, as much as that’s a weird thing to say, but it actually has propelled a lot of companies to start saying, we’ve got to make a change. We’ve got to develop, we’ve got to move forward into the digital space and start automating things and improving things and making them a little bit more faster or able to access data from anywhere and such. And so it’s been big steps forward and those companies that we’ve helped once they’ve gone off of that digital transformation journey, they really never looked back. They kind of say, Oh my God, this is amazing. We’ve made such big strides.

Alex (05:18):

Yeah. That’s awesome. And so tell us also a little bit about the current team that you work with and how you kind of structure marketing at ContractPodAI.

About the marketing structure of ContractPodAI

Charles (05:26):

Yeah. So the team that I have at ContractPodAI, we do work on a global basis. So we have offices pretty much around the world and we have clients around the world. So it is a very global operation. The team for marketing specifically is focused on, I would say it kind of breaks down into about three elements. One is the communications and public relations area, very important there. 

The other aspect is content marketing elements and the campaigns. So again, I particularly find that to be exciting and important as well. That’s really one of the cores of the demand generation engine. And then also we have a digital team, so delving more into some of the, not just digital aspects, some of the more technical aspects of running the website and making sure that for instance, our Marketo is well synced with and stuff. And then how do we do all that technical stuff to make sure that our digital content is out there available and accessible by market?

Alex (06:26):

So it sounds like on the journey that you’ve been on as a marketer, you’ve had a few experiences where you’ve kind of realised just how powerful content marketing can be and how it’s become such a big part of what you do and how you approach marketing, your experience in the high-tech space. Tell us a little bit about that, and obviously we’ll come on to talk a bit about how things look now at ContractPodAI. But it would be great to hear how you stumbled across and how you’ve seen the kind of content marketing world develop over the years.

How has content marketing developed over time in B2B tech? 

Charles (06:56):

I’ll step it back a number of years. So once upon a time and in a different company, I’m not going to name them, we were just at the beginning phases of SaaS technology. And I’m not sure, a lot of people will have to scratch their head and say, oh my God wow, that was a long time ago and yet not that far ago. So I was actually hired on board to really bring this new way of doing business in the software realm. And again, it was a very horizontal market, so very interesting. And here we are launching the product and stuff. 

And one of the things that occurred to me was that I put a lot of effort towards developing the right content that the sales folk needed and I titled it as more sales enablement. And by making sure that our sales staff had access to a plethora of various different items, whether it was brochures, data sheets, whether it was white papers, whether it was case studies. That we just had everything and everything was accessible. 

And at that time, frankly, I tried to make it as easy as possible for them as well. I gave it to them in digital format, on a thumb drive, we put it onto the network drive. We put it onto because there was an area there that people went to. And frankly, we actually even printed off copies and put it into a binder, because every once in a while, you’re sitting back saying, I can remember what it looks like, but I don’t remember what the thing was called. And so it’s wonderful for people to just be able to flip through that. So again, that worked really well.

And then after that, I did some consulting and I was with another company and again, the same type of thing, I was working with a lot of smaller organisations. In fact, the company that I worked with, I was heading up marketing there too. They were a small organisation and yet doing a lot of global business. And so what we did is, I didn’t have massive budgets. 

So in other words, one of the smart things to do was focus on SEO and frankly a content strategy, really helped in terms of developing enough of that content that was exciting and interesting to the market, that they would come and consider us. And frankly, it got to the point where it was some of the really big names out in that market, IBM, et cetera. And then there was a smaller company that was actually amongst those big companies and actually considered from a good place. 

The beauty is that we went from an organisation that was 100% outbound. So there was a sales team who was really doing hunting, to 100% inbound. And I remember even the senior vice president of sales coming to me and saying, Charles, you know what? We are totally reliant on the marketing team. And you guys have done a great job because all of our leads, all of our demand generation comes from marketing, and I don’t know if that’s exactly the right balance. It was music to my ears to hear the marketing and sales team are collaborating really well. And frankly, the driving engine was that content marketing strategy.

Alex (10:00):

Yeah, as you say, there’s merits to some balance and split, but that’s a pretty dream scenario, dream story for a marketer to prove that, to be really interfacing into sales in that way. I’m interested when you mentioned that. How did the sales team in that situation react to that change? 

Because I think a lot of challenges that our members often have is generally that relationship with sales, but the difference between how sales approach an outbound lead, when they might be incentivised in a certain way to go looking for that lead. And they may be a hunter rather than a gatherer or whatever the terms you want to use, versus processing an inbound lead which can be quite different. It might be from an industry or vertical that they’re not as comfortable with if it comes their way, those kinds of things. So was that hard to navigate for your sales colleagues?

How did a switch to inbound happen gradually? 

Charles (10:44):

I would say one of the things is it wasn’t a dramatic change. So I know that when I characterise it that way, it sounds like at some point in time I flipped the switch and bingo, we went from 100% one side, black to white or vice versa. And that wasn’t exactly the case, it was more of a gradual thing. 

So what we did is we started with running a couple of white papers. We started putting the research employee so that we would be able to write some research papers that were out there that were actually really detailed and provide lots of stats so that people would find it useful. That was the whole idea of the industry. 

In that particular case, it was a retail industry that a retailer would pick up those documents and say, Holy mackerel, there are some stats in here, I can compare myself against my competitors benchmark. And that was really tremendously useful. We have people downloading this from all over the world, which was exactly the intent. 

Now what ended up happening is over time and doing that and the blogging strategy, which again, we blogged very much for the SEO side. We started kind of going up in the ranks. That was great on Google. So in other words, we started seeing ourselves in the number one slot a lot, and this was excellent. And what ended up happening is we got more and more in-bounds. 

And at one point I remember doing a little bit of research internally to kind of pitch the CEO on this and more out of curiosity say which one’s more efficient. And I did a comparison. So the SDR team or the sales development team reporting into me, I had them monitored for their time. How much time did they spend on campaigns? And before they got to, not just a lead, but a lead that actually converted into an SQL? 

And then I did the same thing with the inbounds and said, how long does it take you to go through this? And I think we tracked this for a couple of months and my finding was actually quite stark. The start finding was it would take 11.8 hours to convert an outbound lead into an SQL. Whereas it took the equivalent of one hour to convert that over to an SQL from an inbound lead. 

So inbound to outbound was an 11.8 fatter of extra time. And everybody knows time is money. And that was a completely telling remark. And the CEO immediately said, wow that’s incredible. You have to kind of build up that funnel so that you have enough inbound to keep the team busy. 

And so over time, a couple of months eventually we got to that stage where we invested heavily on inbound approach, and it went to a hundred percent, which was great. Now, the second part of the question is how did that work with sales? Again, good question. And I think what worked well was, I tried to use the sales team quite a bit to say, what’s going to work for you? 

And the type of content that we had digitally, I wanted it to be something that the sales team felt comfortable putting it into somebody’s hands. If they wanted to print it off at a trade show, for example. And the sales team liked the fact that they had their input on it, and they could kind of be part of that structuring of whatever the white paper was, the key messaging and such. So co-opting the sales team in was a smart idea. One to make the content more relevant to customers, and second to actually get them on board with the same idea as well.

Alex (14:18):

Cool. That’s good to understand. And so I’m interested in what stage you joined ContractPodAI, and how you found content marketing in general when you first joined in the role that you’re in? But it’d be great to understand the evolution of content strategy for you guys now, but also how the current content strategy for ContractPodAI looks.

Where to start with a B2B content strategy 

Charles (14:42):

So I would say, I joined ContractPodAI probably a little bit more than a year and a half ago now. And at that time, the company was about 30, 35 people. So again, fairly small company with a very aggressive growth plans. And what we had done in that past, roughly about a year’s time, we took it from a 35 person company to pretty close to about 140 people, which is where we’re at today. And again, we continue to grow which is very exciting. 

Wonderful thing is the sales side has grown at the same pace, our marketing went from leads and SQLs, which were in the handfuls to a system that now somewhere approaching a thousand SQL per year, which is great. I mean, we’ve really made it into an engine. Industrialising it, automating it, being able to scale it up. And that’s really important when you’re in an organisation like that scaling up that capability. 

And again, the approach at the beginning, we found we didn’t have a lot of content there. So I think that was one of the first tell-tale indicators to say, what we need to do in a nascent market is educate the market and provide content, which isn’t self-serving. I think that’s really important. It’s so easy to mistake content or good content for self-serving content, where you’re constantly talking about your own. 

I think you have to step away from that temptation as a professional marketer and say, let me first work on education. Let me work on that. Because what that ends up doing is it increases the credibility in the content itself. It increases the trust in the organisation providing that content. It’s fine at the end to basically say, by the way we do this type of stuff. We’ll be having a chat with you, give us a call, that type of thing. Absolutely. Nobody is silly to think that there isn’t a link there, but again, you do want to make it neutral and educational and provide some value to people. 

And so at the beginning, what we found was creating more content which was solving people’s problems, was pretty important. And that’s always a good idea regardless of what stage you’re at. But I mean, that’s where I started. We did a contract management primer in our particular case. The primer worked out fabulously much to my surprise. I honestly thought that we had taken it to a show where we were at and these were a lot of professional contract managers. 

And my honest thought was saying, professional contract managers, I actually felt a little bit concerned that I wrote the primer and thought am I going to be insulting these people? Because they’re saying, I’m a professional, I know what I’m doing. Well, I don’t need your primer to teach me how to do that. And yet to my surprise, people actually really gravitated towards it. 

They liked it that we put a couple of tools in there saying, if you’re looking for a system like this, maybe this is a checklist that you want to consider to help you frame out what your search pattern is like. And again, it wasn’t meant for it just to be for us. We just said, this is an internal checklist. You can use it or don’t use it or check or use the components that you think are valuable. And again, the amount of positive feedback we got from that was just amazing. And so again that worked really well. 

Alex (18:05):

I think that’s a really good lesson that I think sometimes as marketers, we can overthink the level of knowledge that certain personas have and level of experience. And just because they’ve got a certain job title this might be obvious to them, but actually I think surprisingly frequently not the case. And that’s a good example.

Charles (18:23):

Absolutely, and I think it’s a good place to start. I mean, if you are on the thinner side of content, that’s a great place to start. You start there, say here’s what the basics are and then build from there because once you’ve done that, then I bet that any marketer who’s created that first piece, you’re going to conclude it. 

And as you’re writing the thing, or as you’re developing it, your mind is racing forward saying, it would be really cool if we talked about this and this and this. And in fact, I would say the next steps, or maybe even thinking along the lines of a bit of a curriculum to say, here’s the basics, this is your primer, the fundamentals. And then maybe the next white paper is more of an intermediate look saying here’s some of the other things you need to think about, whatever that might be. 

Maybe more reporting or advanced functions. And then beyond that, maybe here’s what the return on investment of a typical model like this looks like. So again it’s funny, but when you dive into one piece, your mind is usually racing forward and thinking about the next piece et cetera.

Alex (19:27):

Yeah. And I guess I’m interested in particularly for ContractPodAI with it being a relatively new industry, do you think that lends itself to needing more educational content to really widen? I assume that some in-house legal teams you work with who don’t even know that there’s a solution to the problem, that the problem that they have is just part of that job and they’ve just accepted it as a way of life. 

And you need to make them aware that actually a solution exists. It reminds me of someone I worked with before in the spreadsheet management space and big financial institutions trying to manage spreadsheets and version controlling them and all this kind of thing. I think most people just carried on thinking this is a pain, but it just is what it is. And you have to make them completely aware that there was a solution out there. Is it similar for yourselves do you think?

How to use content marketing to educate an audience 

Charles (20:17):

I think the answer is yes. So I think that we do see the more sophisticated teams and a lot of times we have worked with other high-tech companies. And it’s funny because even the high-tech organisation, I think that maybe there might be a little bit more pressure on those legal teams to say, we are part of a high-tech organisation, we should really be doing this in a smarter way or using more automation, et cetera. So I’ve seen a little bit of that. 

Now, on the other hand, I also see that the very fact that, somewhere in the order of 60 plus percent of the market, doesn’t have a solution like this to manage your contracts. And now, at first you might think big deal, it’s five contracts or something. Well, the reality is the organisations that we’ve been selling to, the larger organisations, some enterprise organisations, many of them are multinationals. And at that level, they are on average working with 20,000 to 40,000 active contracts at any given point. 

And one of the smaller organisations I talked to, they told me about 10,000, but still I think my goodness, can you imagine the size of the spreadsheet that you’re working on to be able to manage that? And then even if you’re managing a lot of spreadsheets, the point is, so where is that contract? 

The worst case scenario for a lawyer is maybe they’ve got a lawsuit that comes up and then they realise that, Oh my God, I can’t quite find that contract because that was like five years ago, who kept it? Is it digital at all? Is it stored anywhere or is it still in a filing cabinet in Glasgow someplace or one of the offices that just happened to go there? Or even worse it’s in the storage area where nobody goes. I mean it can become a nightmare. So that’s interesting from that perspective. 

And what we did find is that in many organisations it is quite helpful to them to just cover the basics. I use that primer as an example, or the one-on-one or the fundamental system example. That’s a great place to start because a lot of times the organisations have been doing it manually, they didn’t realise that there’s another way to think about this. And then they do come across it and say, okay great, can you go and do a little bit of research on this? Where do I start? 

So it was great to have that starting point and the other element as well. Recently we did a guide on digital transformation of legal and that’s an important element as well. I mean, that’s not just the basics. Basics are there, but then even saying, so these are some of the things you’re going to experience when you’re going through this. And because it is a big paradigm shift and that’s helpful just to say, this is what you should be looking for and expect that you’re going to have to spend time here and expect that this is going to change the way that you’re working. 

And the fact that you’ve got processes, many of them will stay the same, but others will change as well. And then how do I get adoption? Because you don’t want a collective eye-roll from the inner community saying, oh my gosh there’s another initiative. The whole idea is to say, how is this initiative going to help you as an individual, do your work faster or better, or take away some of the mundane tasks? So you can keep focused on the stuff that frankly you went to university for.

How to balance quality and quantity of work, particularly with external writers 

Alex (23:46):

I wanted to talk to you about a challenge that comes up regularly in terms of this idea of balancing quality and quantity of content. And I think this is something that most people in the marketing world come across and maybe it’s a bit of a cliche subject that goes debated too frequently. And the answer can be very different from industry to business. 

I think we did some research through FINITE at the end of last year. And I think we found that 70% of marketers said that balancing quality and quantity was a challenge. Not necessarily just within content, but their marketing generally. How do you approach that? And I guess it leads into how much content is outsourced, how much do you produce yourselves? If you work with external writers, how do you keep tone of voice and everything on brand? And I think there are a lot of challenges that come with trying to scale that content engine.

Charles (24:36):

So there’s a lot to that question, but let me take a stab at it. How do you assess quality? And it’s a tricky question. In fact, funny enough, I did my master’s thesis on exactly that service and protocol and how to combine and how do I assess these things and service quality. I mean, you have the same question about saying service quality. It’s not like a hard product that I can assess, it didn’t make the metrics. Is it the dimension? But there are ways to do this. And I would extend that to the same concept in your content or in your marketing. 

Now the balancing act, as you had pointed out is exactly that, what is that balance of quality that I need? And what does that even look like? And so many times you’re going to start with the qualitative right? Or you’re going to have to say, I’m a professional, I’ve been doing this for a while, I know what I’m looking for, I’ve got an eye for it and that’s great. And you do that at the beginning. 

And so you put your emphasis on it and you structure what you want to say in this thing. This is the messaging that I want to make sure is conveyed in this white paper. These are the main points. These are the things that I’d like a user to walk away with. And maybe these are some of the questions that a beautiful source of questions is Google. 

For example, Google actually says, here’s why people came to your website. And I always find those tremendous because I grabbed those questions to say this is great. These are the top five questions that people typed into Google and ended up on our website. Let’s try to answer those in the white paper, which makes it immediately relevant to people. I think that balancing act is one you create it and put it out there and put it on content syndication and put it on your website, start advertising it, write a blog post about it. 

The thing that you watch for is to say, what are the learnings we’ve got out of this? Did that white paper actually flourish to do well after a while? Once you’ve got a number of pieces of content, the thing that you really do have to do is go into the quantitative area and start monitoring saying, how well did this do? How many leads? 

Now, remember a really hot topic could generate a ton of leads, but I often make this analogy. I can generate all kinds of leads by putting a little sign outside my door that says free beer. I guarantee that you’re going to get tons of leads and everybody wants free beer, but are those leads going to convert into real prospects, real clients, et cetera? That’s highly questionable, I doubt that. 

Maybe if you’re lucky, but that’s the next step to say we’ve got a bunch of leads, one of these converted, did we actually tap into the right market on these prospects? Is that what they’re looking for, et cetera. And so I think that starts telling you whether the quality of the resource was good and was tapping into the right target market. Did you speak to the right people? Did you answer their questions? 

And that is a tough balancing act. That is a tough balancing act, because I know that I’ve had discussions with some folks who really were perhaps more inclined towards the academic side and believe that you have to make your Picasso of works and it’s got to be amazing and stuff. And you’re right, but at some point in time, you have to say, I need some volume here as well. I can’t just create the one thing that my entire career is going to be dependent on. 

It really does have to be that balancing act. And I think as a professional, that’s what your call ought to do. The other aspect that you asked about was saying, do you outsource this type of thing? And it’s funny that you asked that Alex, because I wrote an article that I submitted to Forbes, and I’m very fortunate that they actually took up my article. 

And in the article, I wrote an experience that I had a few years ago where it was a bit of a newer thing at that time. It was around for awhile, but it was coming back and it was a bit new. And so I said, I’d like to refresh myself on this and learn whatever the latest techniques and tactics are. And so I downloaded them to white papers from a particular company that was promoting themselves as the experts in this field. Then you’ve got to have their software and their consulting services, et cetera. 

And throughout the white paper they kept telling the reader that they’re really smart at this stuff, and they do it well. And they’re experts and their consultants and fabulous and you need them. And I remember I read one and I was dissatisfied because I thought, I don’t know if I read it too quickly, but there’s nothing that jumped into my mind to say, this is what I learned. 

And then I read the second one and I actually got rather upset and I was pretty angry at this thinking, are you kidding me? I just spent half hour of my time reading these two papers. And they were brilliantly laid out very nice language, very effective, they did all the details right and it looked beautiful. It looked very professional. But at the end of the day when I finished, I was pretty angry because it was like, I have not learned anything aside from the fact that these guys think that they do this really well.

 And they think that they’re the experts. And yet I have no proof of that. And so what ended up happening is my credibility of the paper went down and my trust in the organisation went to zero. Now I didn’t just leave it there. I reached out to the VP of marketing there and I gave him my thoughts. And I said, I’m not trying to be negative, but I’m also a VP of marketing and I totally get it. I wish that if somebody thought that of some of my content, that they would connect with me and say, Hey Charles, you really screwed this one up. You need to give me this and this and this. And so I did and he was grateful. He told me so and stuff. 

And I said my recommendation really laid this out. I think what you did in his case, now he didn’t confirm this, but given that he didn’t say anything I took that as confirmation. And what he did is he just completely outsourced it. And it’s not the outsourcing agency, it’s not their fault. I don’t think that they provided enough details of information. I think they told them about how great their services are, but then didn’t actually give them anything concrete to say, you gotta make sure that your ABM campaigns have got this and this and this and that was missing. 

And it came through in the writing and ultimately we got rid of it. But again, hopefully the important lesson was whether you insource or outsource, the important thing is the part that you absolutely have to insource, if you’ve got to give it some thought, you’ve got to structure it the right way. 

And you’ve got to think about what is going to be the pertinent content that I need to convey in this paper, that I need to exemplify that we know what we’re doing, or that this product is the right product or service for you. And that this is the value that the person’s going to get from reading the paper, because if they walk away and say, I got no value from it not only have you not helped yourself, but you may have actually put yourself into a worse position than before. Which honestly, after reading those papers, I decided that I’m not going to be doing business with this company. Not because I didn’t like them, but because I just didn’t get anything from it.

When to keep content gated or ungated

Alex (31:56):

Yeah, absolutely. Well downloading some not great quality content is one thing, but made even worse when you have to give away your email address and contact details and go through some kind of gated content to get your hands on. It rubs salt in the wound I think sometimes. It’s almost impossible to have this discussion about content of this nature without debating the gated content or not gated content topic, which again comes out regularly. 

I know I’ve got quite a strong view on if it’s something that’s actionable and maybe it’s like a framework or almost like a tool or something that people can take and use and apply and fill out and share internally. Then I think that suits gating quite well. Whereas if it’s basically just a blog post saved as a PDF, I think gating is just a bit annoying and you’re probably going to benefit more from having it out there. What’s your perspective on the gated content side of things?

Charles (32:45):

So I’m totally with you. Blog posts really should be designed to say, I’m running these blogs for SEO purposes and to tantalise the audience and to show that we’ve got some relevance here and that we know we’re talking about. I think what the blog post should be doing is building up to be able to say, here’s the full blown content because your blog posts typically might be a thousand words, maybe some really lengthy blog posts I’ve read 2000, maybe even 3000. Those are pretty low. 

So typically the blog posts will be a little bit on the shorter side. And many times I’ll use the blog posts as a way to feed into that gated content. Now gated or not, that is a big debate. That is a challenging one. And I guess my thoughts on that have been that the more substantial content. 

So if you’ve got a significant research paper that you have just finished the research on and you’re excited about it, you’ve done the work, you’ve done the analysis on it. And you’re putting it out to the market, that has some really substantial value at the end of the day. I think that’s the way you have to think about it, is my customer, is my prospect going to see this as substantial value that when they type in their name and their number and their email address and who they are, et cetera, their personal details downloaded this, will they be in that same situation that I just described? 

Are they going to read through this and say, wow, this was pretty good. I got something out of this, I’ve got a benchmark. Or maybe I’ve got some new ideas or a framework or something that I think this was a useful use of my time. And I’m glad I gave them my details, cause that doesn’t bother me. Or are they going to turn around and say, geez I wish I hadn’t told them who I am because that’s not the good scenario. So that’s one thing. 

Now my observations have also been, if you’re talking more top of the funnel type stuff with substantial content, like again a white paper, a guide, a benchmark study, research, those types of people have gravitated towards it. And they think, this is pretty substantial, I think I can get something out of this or I can use this because I need some of those stats. 

Then what I have found is sometimes a little bit further down the funnel, things like a data sheet, which might be like a one pager or a brochure or something like that, which is promotional. That is, a brochure is totally, you can’t be embarrassed about this, it’s self promotional. And I’m telling you about what we do, what our features are, what our capabilities are, and I’m not going to hide that type of stuff, you really should be open. And that individual should be able to just download the thing and go on their merry way. And hopefully that tantalises them enough to at least talk with you. And that’s ultimately what you’re after.

Alex (35:37):

Makes sense. I think something I’m often surprised by is just how little process there is behind. Maybe this is more of a smaller startup issue, but people fill out the gated content form and then the details just sit in HubSpot. There’s not really like a process, either automated in terms of nurturing or even from sales or some kind of rep to follow up on that. They’re just gating content literally just for the sake of gating content.

Charles (36:00):

Yeah. And that’s a mistake. I think somebody didn’t think things through on the marketing side, so definitely the marketing leaders should be thinking this through. And I completely agree with you the important thing about any of the content which has been gated is that you’re doing follow up and frankly, the faster you do follow up, I don’t remember which research I had read. 

But recently I read a paper that said when a sales development team actually reached out to the client within 18 minutes, their response rate was much higher. And frankly, the engagement rate in terms of people saying yes, actually I am looking for a solution like this dramatically drops out. Once you leave it or if you never contact them, well that’s a totally missed opportunity.

Alex (36:56):

Yeah. It’s a tricky one. Cause I think you sometimes think to yourself, how long do we need to get people to read this? And if it’s like a five page white paper, it might take some time. But that’s some interesting data.

When should an SDR follow up after gaining a lead?

Charles (37:06):

I’m in that category also that, there have been some times that I’ve been annoyed that somebody has contacted me too quickly. And it’s like, are you kidding me? I just downloaded this. This is a 40 page guide. No, I didn’t read the whole thing yet. Give me a day or two, but still what the important part is that that sales rep made the effort. They actually reached out.

They caught me because I was interested and I said, I just downloaded this and that company is calling me. At least, I know that these guys are on the ball, they’re doing their job. And they’re trying, there’s no issues with simply saying, I know you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but why don’t we reconvene in two days or next week or something so that you set that expectation of that timeline. And frankly, you’re going to entice the person to actually give that piece of content a little bit more consideration, which is pretty important as well.

How to use automation to record lead data 

Alex (37:59):

Good point. When we talked a little bit about quality versus quantity, you mentioned some of the analytics and the data, and I guess some of the measures of if content is meeting a certain standard in terms of measurement and attribution. All these things are always a challenge, particularly in B2B with quite drawn out long journeys. 

A lot of the time, I think there’s a stat we saw, which was 8% of marketers said they’re always able to attribute ROI to content. So a pretty low number. Is that a challenge for you too? And any ways in which you’ve approached the attribution and measurement side? Particularly around content, obviously all the usual things in terms of Google Analytics and stuff, it sounds like you use Marketo?

Charles (38:41):

We’ve been a little bit more fortuitous. I’m not saying that it’s perfect, by no means it’s not perfect, but I think we’ve had a little bit more of a pulse in terms of knowing that when somebody comes to our landing page, we’ve got tags to say, where did they come from? And so we’ll know whether this was an SEM campaign. Did I pay? It wasn’t a pay-per-click, was it a LinkedIn campaign that had come from there? Did it come from SEO? What was the source? We do a fair bit of content syndication as well. 

So in other words, we’ll take some more content and provide it to some of the associations. And then again that sort of opens that up. Now, the nice thing is definitely marketing automation tools are exceptional at this. They’re able to kind of aggregate all that data, that information, so that I get that view to be able to say, aha! I know where it came from because at the end of the day, what I want to do is closed loop marketing and I want to know where did the data come from? 

How did these people come to the website that they actually downloaded the paper or the content of some sort? And the ones that work I want to do more of that and the ones that don’t work well, I don’t want to do much more than that. I don’t want to invest money in that for sure. And then take that to the next step. It’s not just about the leads, as I mentioned before, it’s about that conversion, which ones actually made it to an SQL stage? 

So in other words, which sources were talking to the right audience that are real prospects, as opposed to be just people who were interested in the subject and, not to pick on students for example, but a lot of times we will get students who download a paper and that’s because they’re doing a project and stuff and I love them. 

You know, my heart goes out to them. I was a student once upon a time we all were. So it’s important to support them. But at the same time, we also try to isolate that and say, if this person was a student, then sales development rep don’t knock on that door necessarily, unless it’s the summertime. And maybe they’re doing a project for their boss who they’re working for in the summer. 

But I find that marketing automation tools are great at collecting the data. And as the leader of the marketing organisation, you have to have a bit of that discipline to be able to go back on a regular basis and look and say, where are the leads coming from? Are we pushing them forward? Are the SDRs following up on it? What’s the timeline that the SDRs are following up? 

And if you’ve got the right tools, you can tell them down to the minute, how quickly did they get back by? But it doesn’t have to be that scientific and accurate, as long as I know, did you get back to them within the first day or the first two days? Or frankly, even the first week, for example, that’s pretty important. 

And at the very least, as you pointed out Alex, you actually do take the time if you’re a startup or if you come into an organisation where they don’t have this all the way down, take the time to sit there, work out that and say, here’s the process flow. We have to flow, follow us, and then make sure that the team gets on board and on that idea. And that you actually put this into action, because I think that is probably one of the most fruitful areas that you can spend your time on to make sure that it’s not just that I’m generating leads, but they’re kind of going into the ether.

What is the future of B2B content marketing? 

Alex (41:52):

I wanted to ask you to wrap up for the last couple of minutes, just about what you think the future is for the content strategy. I think when we first spoke, you mentioned that there may even be a book on the horizon, which might be a pipe dream, but I’m not sure. Tell us a bit more about it, cause I think we talked about all kinds of different types of content, right? And I guess, when you write the book on something, that really is the pinnacle of knowledge.

Charles (42:15):

Yeah. So in fact, this isn’t a unique idea of mine, so it’s not Charles’ idea you’re buying and eating. I was doing a little bit of reading on a book specifically about content marketing. And so I like to pick up books and read about them because somebody might have a great new idea that I hadn’t considered before or just hasn’t been used by utilised polling. 

And so I was reading through this book and one of the chapters was on literally writing a book. And I thought that is absolutely brilliant. Now I had read this idea a long time ago as well, but I think some good ideas in terms of the next waves in content marketing. And as you become more sophisticated as I would say at the beginning, you start at those primers, get more content out there, make sure it’s timely, make sure that it’s useful. 

The most important thing, please make sure that it’s useful to whoever has downloaded it, that is so vital. The next steps beyond that are getting into more benchmarking and getting into more research pieces that your company own because that is really important, and associating it back to your brand. And then the next step after that is setting up a curriculum, which isn’t that difficult to do because you think, I’ll set up the first couple of white papers as primers and the next couple are more intermediate concepts, the next ones are perhaps some of the more advanced features or how are our customers using it to really fully utilise this, the ROI, et cetera. 

And then frankly, once you have aggregated enough of this knowledge, the most brilliant thing, the pinnacle for me which I’m still kind of working on is stitch it all together and make it into a concise book. And can you imagine the beauty there. Not only are you conveying that message of we’re XYZ brand, we wrote the book on this, but the other part is, whether it’s an ebook, people like books, they see it as substantial. 

The second thing is frankly, wouldn’t it be brilliant to print these off and that’s your material at a trade show because those are usually popular as well. Because everybody wants to advance in their career and learn more and kind of be on top of things. And this is a great way to convey that. Of course for the sales person who goes knocking on the door afterwards, it’s great to be able to say, you guys are the ones who had that book that I read recently. Absolutely brilliant. So that’s my ideal state. So I’m not quite there yet, but working on it, for sure.

Alex (44:56):

We won’t hold you to a publish date just yet, but look forward to seeing that at some point on the horizon. But that’s been awesome, I’m really grateful for you giving up your time and talking with us. I think there’s some very practical tips and some good learnings and some great experiences you’ve had on the content marketing side. So thanks again.

Charles (45:13):

It was an absolute delight. Thank you so much for chatting with me. I’m always happy to chat about these things and content marketing is just one of my favourite topics too.

Alex (45:22):

Thanks Charles.

FINITE (45:25):

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