Ep 58: Serious Social – The long and the short of it

To celebrate the launch of our Technology CMO outlook report, Katy Howell joins forces with co-author, Kathryn Strachan, MD at Copy House, to share highlights from interviews with technology marketers and talk about some of the trends, tactics and plans from brands including Adobe, Siemens, SAP and WorldPay.

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Welcome to serious social live on this really, really muggy, well it is down south, muggy day. Let’s talk about tech. So exactly how tech brands marketing. What’s changed in the last year and what has consequently changed the future forever. Well, that’s what immediate future, and the team at copy house also sells earlier this year. We decided to talk to CMOS, at some of the big tech giants from Adobe and WorldPay to SAP and Zeeman, and everything in between. Together we wanted to do more than a report filled with data and benchmarks, and that’s quite hard for someone like me, because you know I like data. We want to get a feel for the tactics, and the plans that are changed and how CMOS had shifted their marketing. The report came out this week, and it’s the 50+ pages of really juicy insight and verbatim interviews, it kind of, it puts flesh on the bones, if that isn’t too revolting a phrase, of marketing in 2021 and beyond. So today what I want to do is just give you some highlights but I’m not going to do it alone. So I am actually joined let me just add, Kathryn, I am joined by the amazing Kathryn Strachan MD at Copy House. Welcome, Kathryn. Hi, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here. So, tell us a little bit about your business, because obviously everybody knows here means your business channel. And, and what in the report, stood out for you most.

 

Yeah, so I’m the managing director of Copy House, Copy House is a content marketing agency specialising in technology and fintech content, so we work with some really exciting brands and the tech explored with people who do it technology.

 

Sorry about that. Yeah. So, what I was saying was that we’re a content marketing agency specialising in technology and tech in the technology space we work with some really exciting clients who are doing everything from biometric technology for airports to cybersecurity DevOps AI in the FinTech space we work with big club clients like Klarna and modular, it’s really it’s really exciting and what we do is we basically, all the way through its lifecycle up so we start at the beginning with workshops, and then do strategies and then from strategies to content production so ebooks and white papers thought leadership articles, case studies, blogs, and then you know do content dissemination and really support all the way through so we’re doing some really exciting work. So obviously you know throughout the pandemic we have been helping our clients and you know when the pandemic first happened we had to help them readjust their whole entire strategy their approach everything, and then adjust to it so that you know they could be on top of things and with recent news, and continuing to, you know, adapt and change and pivot as things have evolved, so we really had a threat. So this report was fascinating because it allowed us to see some of you know and confirm some of the trends that we had already seen within the marketplace so for me, you know, the big thing from the report was not so much the reveal of it, but being able to have these things confirmed things that I’d seen and felt and realised, like, you know, personalization and the importance of customer avatars which has definitely become more of a trend over the last year, having that you know echoed back to me by some of the CMOS, some of the world’s largest technology firms was really was really fascinating and very interesting. The report is, yeah it has so much, as you said so much meat on the bones.

 

Yeah, absolutely and I think, I think you’re right, it was validation for anybody who works with Tech brands including ourselves. It was a massive validation of the things we’re hearing but it’s kind of, for me, it’s lovely because it also distilled out the things that stood out for us, for instance the move to simplicity and efficiency, a real desire for quality of thought leadership content, and most importantly, which is something I bang on about because everybody knows I bang on about it, is a need for data and insight to bring that personalization and empathy into conversations. One of the interviews, Adam Morgan, who’s executive creative director at Adobe said, a lot of companies are thinking let’s get through this, and then we’ll be done. And that’s not true so much has changed, and digital presence is net is crucial. Now, how looking at that phrase, how has this impacted your specialism, what has changed forever.

 

Yeah I mean I think there’s quite a lot this change forever and I think that mentality was really common in early COVID When we thought that it was only going to be I mean I remember the first lockdown. I thought it was going to be three weeks and then we would be back to the offices and everything would be totally fine. Boy was I wrong. But, I mean, when you have so they say it takes what three months to form a good habit or a bad habit. So when you have something that goes on for you know any length of time it fundamentally changes how we interact with customers how we interact, as a society, so actually you know when it comes to our services. One of the big things that we’ve definitely seen is, is changed customer reactions and interactions so you know how people engage with online content is totally different than you know it was, it was a year ago, so many brands you know when COVID happened because they had to move away from doing in person events, moved everything online, so all of a sudden there was a massive amount of content coming out, and that that made it much harder for brands to cut through that noise to build those relationships I mean if you’re competing against 1000s of other for your customers attention, it becomes much more important that you understand the types of content that’s going to resonate with them, that you understand you know their pain points and that you can build, you know this relationship and you can build this relationship online which is another reason why you know thought leadership articles, having a really stimulated view and adding something unique to the world is far more important than you know really valued today than it was perhaps a year ago.

 

Yeah, it’s funny, isn’t it, because remember we all jumped online with webinars and everybody thought this is great and about a month later, we’re all webinar fatigued or Zoom fatigues or whatever it is and now a webinar comes up and, you know, unless there is that thread of quality that as you rightly said the uniqueness about it. So, it feels like there’s a lot more work that goes into the one piece of content rather than volume and content, and that lesson has been hard learns in the last year. One of the threads, sorry, one of the very clear trends was the need to extend and deepen the digital customer relationship which part of that, and that as you’re saying is kind of the focus on hyper personalization, but what does that mean when it comes to crafting copy.

 

Yeah, so I mean when we, when it comes to creating content, you know where we start is with customer avatars so even in the b2b space, we work almost exclusively in the b2b space, and the old way of thinking was at b2b that new customer avatars because you’re selling to a company, but over this last year I bang on all the time about the value of creating customer avatars, the value of taking the time to think about who your customers are, what are they struggling with what keeps them awake at night, what are their pain points and how can you leverage those pain points to help them solve a problem so this last year has been a massive problem for everybody in the whole entire world in some way or another. So the best thing that brands could do would be to find a way that they can alleviate some of that problem you know whether you’re a mental health app and you’re helping employees stay mentally fit, or you know your cybersecurity and your health and make sure that companies are protected when they’re working remotely and in the cloud. There’s so many different ways that companies can solve some of the problems that brands faced over the last year. So creating these avatars taking the time to really build them out and really think about the psychological elements that go on behind the scenes because I think one thing that we’ve definitely realised is that we’re all humans even when we’re at work, you know, there’s no divide anymore between home and personal, personal and work, you know, you can’t just leave your personal life at the door and neither can your audience so it’s really important that when you’re creating content is created from an empathetic, and that it’s created, you know, emotionally sensitive so you understand you know where your audience is and you’re not expecting them to come meet you where you are but you’re going to them, you’re engaging with them and talking to them in the way that they need to be supported, so it’s all about building that relationship and when you have that detailed customer avatar. You can really create content that tailors to that person so it almost creates a one on one dialogue. So rather than having individual conversations with hundreds and 1000s of customers, you can have a one on one conversation because it is actually one person on the other side of the screen reading that article, I mean it might be read by lots of different people but at any one time, you know, it’s just one person reading it and you can create that two way conversation you know you can create that supportive environment and you can, you know build brand loyalty and when you build brand loyalty you then get advocates get people who love your brand who champion it, talk about it who share articles that you’ve created because it helped them solve a problem. I mean I share articles all the time from people like stemrush who you know, helped me understand SEO and you know the context that we work in. So, I mean if you think about it, you’ll, you will share articles and whether or not it’s the article that your brand created or not you know is really comes down to whether or not it connects with that pain point whether or not it solves that person’s problem.

 

And actually at the root of that, all the way through the report, virtually every single interview talked about data and data insight, and there is a really a much more fundamental push now between stretching the data, not just at the end for measurement and KPIs, which is the very obvious part, but actually right up at the beginning, to define, not just the demographics of those personas, not just the clumps, but actually looking at behaviours and psychographics and attitudes and values, and all the things that feed into those avatars, which, of course, is music to my ears, and it is a better understanding where, where data now fits across the process to define that intent that customer intent.

 

Yeah 100% I mean search intent has become a massive thing over the last year, I mean, in the end of 2019 Google rolled out Bert so birches natural language processing, which essentially is very complicated, but essentially comes down to search intent and understanding what your audience wants, and making sure that your SEO strategy aligns with that, and that’s only accelerated over the last year so that was right before COVID And then, you know, over, over COVID has accelerated to be that search intent and yeah really understanding what customers want and you know even Google and Google’s algorithm is now on board with that.

 

Yeah, and it’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because it impacts and impacts social to so as we’re, as we work through the customer journey in social, the same principles apply because intention changes from research for instance to, as people move on to share with their decision-making unit, and then on the purchase all of those elements have a different intention. And so we have to spend quite a lot of time working out where it all fits in the customer journey, and then how you sequentially story tell your way through that, and that mirrors what happens at last click at that point where search plays its strongest card as to where they will be in that in that intention process.

 

Yeah, marketing is really interesting isn’t because it’s so flexible. It does fit across entire funnel so when we create content strategies you know we met them all the way through so all the way through that customer journey that you’re talking about. So there’s some pieces of content that worked very well at top of funnel so at that research stage that you’re talking about and then some that are you know much more suited for mid so when you’re actually talking about the brand and your approach and you know what you do. And then you know of course bottom of funnel with, you know the last click or, you know downloadable’s you know things like that where they marketing leads actually turn into sales lead so that’s one of the things that I love most about content is that it’s so flexible that you can do so many different things with it and you can tailor it to create that journey and nurture somebody from not knowing who you are all the way through to actually wanting to speak to your sales.

 

It’s fantastic isn’t it and I think what’s what came through in the report is a deeper understanding of how to make that connected and we spoke to Beth Burgess from the ITSM who’s just actually published a second edition of her book on Account Based Marketing so definitely want to go investigate after this chat. But, she said businesses had to quickly shift to a serve not sell mentality as a lot of things they had intended to market suddenly weren’t relevant. The reason why this matters to me is I think we must have been banging on about this particularly in social it’s really hard to do the sell, sell, sell in social you’ve just you’ve come across a bit slimy but it’s been one of those things that, you know, we’ve been banging on for the 17 years we’ve been doing social media, and then this last year. It feels like everybody’s switched to serve not sell, and it’s been fantastic. But how does that impact the work you do, and how can our listeners move their content to this, this, more serve approach.

 

Yeah, so I mean, this really comes back to creating meaningful content and how I see content marketing is creating conversations and building relationships with your audiences, what it does. So I mean if you think about it if you went on a first date and you ask somebody to marry you. They’re probably going to say no, but if you take them on several dates and you know, provide a really nice time by the good experience, you know, they get to know you, you get to know them and then you ask them to marry you, you know, it’s much higher that they’ll say yes, it’s the same kind of mentality so if you’re constantly going out there with buy from us buy from us right from us. Not everybody you talk to is going to be ready to jump into bed with you. But, you know, creating that creating that relationship and building that connection, then makes it far more likely that they will jump into bed with you so when it comes to content you know it’s not, it’s not just sell, sell, sell, it’s about creating the relationship, opening the conversation starting conversations on things, especially in the tech space that might seem overwhelming and scary because you know, if you, especially if you’re working in an innovative technology, you know, it might be something that is brand new to somebody or to company, they might be scared to make a change you know there’s lots of fears that play into that original, original thought process and, you know, helping them, supporting them, is far more important, far more likely to get you high qualified leads than, you know, trying to get everybody who you need to marry you.

 

I love that. I love that analogy. And in social that also means if it first date, not being boring. The problem we have in socialists that attention spans are minimal. Now people are racing through their feeds, and in b2b tech, tech, I mean I do agree with pre-pandemic Kathryn, I do this little look at all the visuals that the cloud technology businesses are running and I would say about 80% of the moral blue, and they all have a cloud in them, and it was like How on earth, you’re going to get that to stand out so pushing product endlessly doesn’t cut it, but also just the serve mentality has got to be about moving really quickly into that informing an education as well as a lie, aligning against the buyer values, and then delivery. You’ve got about two seconds to grab attention we call it some stopping content. To get to the thumb stopping content, you need to move really quickly, which means you can you can go into the depth you can you can add the link that goes into the deeper, more meaningful information, but in social we need to grab those eyeballs first and, and, and I think that’s a real, real challenge 72% according to their IT estimate they did this survey 72% of their members said ships as thought leadership is more important than before, and 60% are increasing their spend on content, and I think, I think what’s really interesting about that and I’m just add up throwing in another question here, because thought leadership sounds like it gets thrown around a lot, but it’s not easy, is it Kathryn it’s not to be a thought leader, as a business or a person takes time.

 

Oh, I think you might be asked 100% You really have to. Oh yeah 100% You really have to develop opinions and you know, cultivate those insights so how we do that for our clients is we will do an interview with one of their technical leads so people behind the scenes technology companies have really brilliant people in them, in general, but most of the time these people are never seen you know they’re so busy working on the product or the service that they, you know, don’t get a chance to write and even if they did, you know, them spending four hours of their time to write, you know 1000 word article is perhaps not the best use of their time, but they have, you know they’ve been working in these fields for sometimes decades so they have really great, really great opinions and I think it’s about creating that employee advocacy and allowing your employees to have a voice in the content that’s created so how we do that is we just take 20-30 minutes of their time and do an interview and ask them some big questions really push them on it really encourage them to think and to think a bit deeper, and we get some really brilliant insights from that and then we take those insights and we turn them into a thought leadership article and that’s a really easy very effective way for most of our brands to start creating thought leadership content because they basically have somebody taking them by the hand and leading them to the final content.

 

Oliver Hill Kristoffer CMO at IFS says, “I always talk about the fundamentals of marketing. I don’t think it’s changed. Our aim is to deliver compelling messages at the right time, to the right people. It has always been”, I love this because we’ve just talked about all the things that have changed but there are some fundamentals that are never likely to change. How does that impact what you do?

 

Yeah, I mean I think like COVID was not a massive, you know, everything was totally different overnight. Or well, it was but not when it comes to marketing what happened in marketing is that it accelerated the evolution of it so a lot of these things were already in place beforehand so like Bert, you know, Bert was rolled out before COVID But COVID accelerated it because people are all of a sudden spending a lot of time online so you know, we all of my team have been creating content for a lot longer than the pandemic. So our roots are very much in the pre-pandemic and then what we’ve had to do to stay on top of it is to, you know, think and become a bit more empathetic and to understand customers and encourage our clients to understand their audience a bit better. So we’ve had to adapt with the times, but if you already have that strong foundation, it’s much easier to adapt with the times than if you’re trying to start trying to start from scratch. So thankfully you know for what we do, it was quite easy to adapt as long as we were aware of, you know, having lots of very interesting conversations and staying up to date on everything that was going on, which, obviously, this ebook helps feed into.

 

And to be honest with you, it’s the same inside, I mean, anybody who thinks marketing has fundamentally changed is, it’s, it’s only the execution that’s changed the fundamentals are the same. And frankly, I was thinking, thank heavens because everything else in social keeps changing, you know, from our army level we wake up in the morning and things have changed, outside, we are continuously running marketing on shifting sands, so those fundamentals are really important and really anchor everything that we do. And a lot of people in the report talked about agile, everything, agile, everything, basically agile from message delivery to shifting with the nuances of data insight. So I call this session the long and short of it partly sort of tongue in cheek because catching you do long form copy and we as social media folks spend our lives in short form have, however, regardless of the long and short of it, it seems that most of the brands we spoke to are focused on on this quality element. And, and I wondered how that plays out for tech companies, how does that meaningful value, really, really play out, when it comes to, because people talk a lot about it, but the doing is a different thing altogether.

 

Yeah I think it’s very difficult to deliver that which is why it’s really great to have an outsource partner because what one of the big challenges that most of our brands struggle with is finding the time to create quality content so obviously quality content takes some time to create and you know, most of our clients really struggle with bandwidth because technology companies typically run with very lean teams. So technology companies will only have, you know, maybe a handful of people in their marketing team, and you know being able to take the time to create that content to search, strategically to look at internal business objectives as well as you know the wider ecosystem what customers care about what’s going on in the marketplace SEO industry trends so you know the marketplace, especially with COVID Especially early COVID was changing all the time. So to stay up to date with that and then create quality content that you know has a clear search intent that has clear value to the users and positions a brand and the right light is a really difficult thing to do and takes a lot of time, so you know for us. All of our all of our copywriters also double as strategists because they are trained to think about these things to look for the opportunities to help our clients see these opportunities. And I think you know it really requires that level of support to be able to create quality content quickly as well because you know you mentioned agile working and that’s one of the things that I’ve definitely seen happen over the last year, everything moves much quicker so even, you know, creating long form content, which obviously is quite time consuming, you know clients want it yesterday, or need it tomorrow because the situation is changing and evolving and especially when you know, new laws new rules that were coming into place you know clients needed to talk about them today not tomorrow so you know, my teams had to get very good at creating quality content quickly. We actually came up with like a coffee house equation that’s quality plus reliability, plus speed equals a coffee house way. And yeah, we definitely, definitely try to stay true to that.

 

I love it I love it. I need to come up with a little equation to one of the things though that came out of this report that I thought was summed up brilliantly by one of our interviews he said, we create, we crave brain changing and delightful experiences, and I think at the root of everything, whether it’s data or long form copy or shorter form of copy, I think, coffee, because see what I mean, it’s that delightful experiences which is that being relevant being relevant to that, as you said right at the beginning that single audience that one person who reads it and is delighted because it’s given them some information, knowledge, entertain them educated them whatever it is. That’s the thing we’re trying, that’s the nub of what we’re trying to get to. And that’s kind of a great place to close. Thank you, Kathryn so much for your thoughts I really appreciate them. I think you’ve nailed the highlights brilliantly although, you and I both know there’s an awful lot more out because our fantastic interview shed a whole lot more. And you can get it today, I’ll put a note in the comments afterwards. We’ve, we’ve got views on the martech stack is that worth having, what are people doing with martech stack, thoughts about the changes that were that brands will keep, and the ways in which hold businesses have turned to face the customer. During the last 12 months. You can download the report on the resources pages of our website. I’ll pop the link in comments and

 

it’s running and next week CJ talks in depth to one of our brilliant minds in the eBook, Graeme Stoker, integrated CX senior campaigns manager, my word what a mouthful Nutanix. A chance to hear smart marketing thinking. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend.

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