For our next Moneyball Marketer Demand Generation All-Star, we go a little bit outside the box and talk to Courtney Kay, who is becoming a trusted ally to many demand gen marketers in her role as VP, Field & Product Marketing for TechTarget. Courtney has her finger on the pulse of the latest demand generation best practices and as brands need to behave more and more like publishers to build and engage their audiences (prospects and customers), there’s a lot demand gen marketers can learn from experts like Courtney.
(You’ll notice several related links that Courtney shared as well interspersed throughout our conversation).
Zak: I’m excited to pick your brain so let’s get right to it. TechTarget is a publisher, and brands are being told to act more like publishers to support their content marketing and demand generation. What are your top tips or tricks of publishing that you’d recommend to marketers?
Courtney: I really feel for B2B marketers today. To be effective in this environment, we really do have to act like publishers and for most folks, content isn’t their business- so the skillsets, the tools, the resources and the budgets frankly aren’t aligned very well to a publishing model. Being a publisher means both a marketing and overall organizational shift in mindset, followed by an alignment of teams and processes to essentially create a content architecture that can deliver thoughtful content with a regular cadence. I’ve been in this business for over 10 years now, and when I work with brands in the tech arena today on this topic, I focus most on getting the foundation right. I see three critical steps to get started as a brand publisher:
Number one - shift from a product centric to buyer centric mindset. Digital enables buyers to define their own research path. If they don’t like the way we have to say what we want to say, they’ll simply leave us out of that journey. Historically, businesses have lead with product. Being an effective publisher means leading with the buyer: what does he or she need to know, and how can we as a brand meet that content need while inserting our point-of-view in the right place, at the right time. Sirius Decisions does some great work on buyer-centricity, particularly Jay Gaines if you get the chance to work with him.
Zak: Absolutely, I just saw a quote in an article with one of Jay’s colleague, Jason Hekl – Jason said the key to effective demand generation is to figure out how to genuinely help your buyers – I love that. OK, so what is number two?
Courtney: Number two is getting the right team in place. Traditionally we’ve used product teams to talk features/functionalities, sales folks to talk differentiation and execs to talk vision. Now we need advocates and editors who can translate the brand and product story into a language and suite of content on any one topic that facilitates the buyer’s holistic research process. This often requires skillsets beyond marketing to more of a journalistic background.
And then third is create a smart content taxonomy, organizational structure. Your value as a publisher lies in your ability to convey expertise and meaningful coverage against the specific topics related to your business that matter to your target buyer. We classify our content in multiple ways and align our production to ensure coverage across each element of that taxonomy through smart calendaring. The fundamentals for a solid taxonomy include: topic, stage of the lifecycle, and the specific solution. If you’ve done the work, you can also leverage personas here, which will ultimately inform your personalization efforts later.
Zak: This sounds like an area where that publisher know-how can really help.
Courtney: You’re right. The key is don’t try to cover too much- think depth, not breadth to facilitate that journey and align the right types of content to the various lifecycle stages. We have a quick grid that can help.
Zak: What aspect of demand generation do you see as particularly ‘hot’ over the next year?
Courtney: When I think about demand gen trends I think about 2 aspects, 1: what we’re doing buyer-side to create deeper engagement and 2: how we’re utilizing that gained buyer insight in conjunction with other data on the backend to continue to facilitate that journey -- be it via marketers, advocates, or sales. Regarding #1, I think we’re going to continue down the personalization path with brands thinking beyond email nurture, to more seamless/holistic personalization of brand experiences thanks to technology advancements. The second trend, regarding #2, is the real-time utilization of data in our marketing, sales & service efforts. We’re bringing not only contact details but behavioral details into our systems and providing visibility real time. We’re also starting to augment that data with other relevant external data to create 1-a more comprehensive picture of our buyer and 2- a better functioning, more efficient CRM system.
Zak: So you’ve mentioned a couple technologies that TechTarget is focused on. What technologies to support demand generation are you seeing increasing in adoption by marketers?
Courtney: This idea of personalized content experiences and better, deeper engagement is being made possible by some pretty exciting technologies that we’re going to start to see more widespread adoption of, and probably acquisition of by the major marketing platforms. In particular I see content experience tools- tools like Uberflip and Ion Interactive are a few examples of software tools that are allowing us to bring more, related, and personalized content offers to prospects, at their point-of-consumption. They’re doing some exciting things to by assessing your engagement and capturing information on the buyer as he or she researches and using it to customize it as buyer’s progress.
And then also retargeting & programmatic- the display ad is essentially born again thanks to our ability to merge interactive experiences with advanced targeting tactics, and the immediacy afforded by programmatic to react more real-time with progressive, personalized content via the banner.
On the backend, when it comes to the utilization of data, I think we’re on the cusp of something really exciting. First we’re starting to see much more powerful data being made available that can help us make better sense of our CRM systems and prioritized our sales efforts. Then we’re seeing the growth of predictive tools that are mining our CRM systems and these additional data sources to predict where our next opportunities lie. This is a space to watch and invest in for sure- we sure are!
Zak: Is there a marketing program that you’ve seen in the past year that stands out as being especially innovative and/or effective?
Courtney: I really like the work that CommVault did this past year- not because it’s any big, over-the-top concept, but because the team got very strategic about how they tackled some real challenges I think we can all relate to, and they share their results- which can often be hard to come by. I won’t run through all the details, but to summarize- the team was struggling with a few key things heading into their FY14- 1: having so many distribution channels and efforts that they felt as though they weren’t getting meaningful enough visibility across any 1 channel- 2- they were running into challenges trying to drive the adoption of a persona-based strategy and 3- they were struggling with cross-pollination – meaning driving any one account to purchase multiple solutions. In response, the team reduced the number of channels they were leveraging, created a very integrated brand/demand/enablement approach across those they were leveraging (aligning teams and technology) and worked with us to develop a buying-team focus and cross-solution messaging strategy that drove both deeper engagement with prospects, and a greater solution awareness across accounts. You can watch the case study (3rd video down) and also check out an interview with CommVault’s marketing teams if you’re interested in learning more.
Zak: OK, we’ve gone deep into some great topics. I want to learn a little more about your background and how you’ve grown into these areas. How did you get your start in marketing?
Courtney: I actually started out in sales and quickly realized that it wasn’t the close that got me most excited, it was creating the vision for a client of how he or she might use and benefit from my solution- relating to them, and seeing that “ah ha” moment. It was the storytelling that I loved, and also figuring out how to visually represent that story is something I really enjoy. I do think the background in sales was one of the best things I could have done for myself as a marketer because it helps me relate well and frankly work very well with my sales team- something I think a lot of marketing and sales organizations struggle with.
Zak: Absolutely and I’ve had similar experiences to what you’ve described. And now that you are an absolute marketing and demand generation pro, what do you like most about those areas?
Courtney: This is where I get to geek out a bit. I love digging into the data to test hypotheses, debunk myths and bring those marketing stories to life. Demand tools provide a very measureable way to draw some pretty clear conclusions about our marketing efforts, I love to survey, test and measure everything. If you’re ever subjected to one of my presentations, you’ll quickly realize my love affair with all things statistically oriented!
Zak: What skills do you see as most important for a demand generation marketer?
Courtney: This is more of an attribute than a skill but is directly related. I personally think one of the best things a demand generation marketer can be is inquisitive. So often I deal with media buyers or demand generation marketers that are so focused on the numbers – and rightfully so, it’s a big job! -- that they often overlook the bigger marketing point. For example with one client we had a series of content that we were marketing. A subset of that content was generating exponentially more leads so they want to stop circulating the rest rather than poke at why that might be. So we took it upon ourselves to test out a few ideas and discovered that a number of the assets they wanted to stop circulating were actually driving exponentially more secondary touch points which were also directly correlated to a higher engagement with trigger content. So being inquisitive to me is really important… and the corresponding skill: being at least a little bit analytical.
Zak: What advice would you give to any aspiring demand generation marketers?
Courtney: I have three pieces of advice.
First - avoid “analysis paralysis.” As much as I do think being analytical is important, don’t lose sight of the reality of the situation. It’s easy to get absorbed in the numbers- I’m definitely guilty- but try to stay rooted in the reality of what you’re dealing with and looking to achieve.
Second - just because you can doesn’t mean you should – technology is enabling us to do so very many things now with our targeting and content delivery. Be sure that what you’re taking on is enhancing- not detracting- from a buyer’s journey.
And third - don’t over-engineer it- at the end of the day, we’re all trying to sell a product and nothing will ever beat a great conversation and a personal connection. You don’t need a 200 parameter scoring mechanism or 30 touch nurture and retargeting strategy that takes an astrophysicist to decipher to make that happen. Take the time to understand a client’s journey from introduction through to close and service and figure out the right places to add your value to that journey.
Zak: Where can we find you on social media?
Courtney: You can find me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/courtneylkay/en and on Twitter: @CourtneyLKay I’m always happy to connect and hear about your great marketing experiences or chat about challenges!
Zak: Thanks so much Courtney.