January 13, 2022

Calling All Compelling Content!

Can your content cut through? Through the 27 touchpoints in a B2B buyer’s journey. Through the flurry of emails hitting everyone’s inbox every day. Through the clutter of millions of blogs, social posts, and videos online. It’s a heavy task for any company to run a truly remarkable content program, but when done right, it can boost your brand to new heights.

In this episode, CMOs Jamie Gier of Ceros, Suzanne Reed of LBMC, and Heidi Bullock of Tealium gather together to discuss all things content marketing. Tune in to learn how to create a content engine that will not only engage prospects in increasingly complicated sales cycles but will excite existing customers, garner partnerships, and draw in top talent.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How 3 different B2B brands run their content programs
  • How to optimize content via external partnerships
  • How to measure content marketing

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 275 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!
  • [1:29] B2B Content Marketing at Ceros
  • [10:30] B2B Content Marketing at LBMC
  • [19:41] B2B Content Marketing at Tealium
  • [29:13] Balancing In-House vs. Outsourced Content
  • [31:53] On CMO Huddles
  • [33:37] How to Optimize Content Partnerships
  • [40:07] On Gated Content and Metrics
  • [49:29] CMO Tips for Building a Content Engine

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Jamie Gier, Suzanne Reed, and Heidi Bullock 

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers. If you’re a first-time listener, welcome! If you’ve been here before, welcome back! In this episode, we’re replaying a recording from Renegade Marketers Live, our live show featuring the CMOs of CMO Huddles, a community sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness.

This time, we’re talking content. As in, how can marketers create the compelling content that will not only engage prospects in increasingly complicated sales cycles but will excite existing customers and draw in top talent. That’s a lot to ask for content, but you’re in good hands. We brought in 3 amazing CMOs—Jamie Gier of Ceros, Suzanne Reed of LBMC, and Heidi Bullock of Tealium—to talk remarkable content strategy. So, lace up your workout shoes or kick back on the couch, and enjoy the show.

[1:29] B2B Content Marketing at Ceros

“Good enough doesn't work anymore.” —Jamie Gier @Cerosdotcom Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in NYC. Thanks for joining us. In my book, Renegade Marketing: 12 Steps to Building Unbeatable B2B Brands, Step 9 is called “Sell Through Service.”

Like it or not, we live in the “give-to-get economy,” which means every marketer needs to give away something in order to get the time and attention of their prospective customers or employees or prospects. You need to earn your way into their good graces. You need to help them throughout the buying process. Or as Brent Adamson would say, you need to make buying easier.

One of the ways most B2B marketers try to do this is through content. Lots and lots of content. So, much content that most of us are buried in it. Which begs the question, how do you create intoxicating content? How do you create content that cuts through?

To answer these questions and many more, we have three amazing CMOs backstage ready to share their insights.

With that, let’s bring on Jamie Gier, CMO of Ceros. Jamie, Hello there.

Jamie Gier: Hi, Drew, how are you? Greetings from Seattle!

Drew Neisser: Well, yes. And greetings from New York. Nice to see you. Let’s dive in and talk about how important is content in your overall marketing mix? And what are the key roles that it plays?

Jamie Gier: Yeah. Well, as a marketer, content is key. But as a company, it is what we do at the same time. So, it’s kind of the interesting dynamic of… I use content like most marketers do to really bring out the best in our brand, but engage your buyers as well in very intentional, deliberate ways. But my company is also, you know, core to what we do is help our customers create really engaging content. It’s kind of this very cool dynamic that I have going on.

Look, the reality is that most marketers rely on really good content to break through the noise and engage their buyers full funnel. To get the best out of the channels that we stand up, you really have to have a good content strategy that involves a story that you can tell throughout those channels to really get the attention of your buyers and your customers, by the way. Because we always have an opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, and just expand how we service our customers.

I listened to the last live event, Drew, and Shirley Macbeth from Forrester indicated that the number of touchpoints required in the buyer’s journey has increased from… I think it was 17 back in 2019 to 27 this year.

Drew Neisser: I know, that was so scary.

Jamie Gier: It was so scary. And when I was really reflecting on that, I thought, why? Why? Now, I understand it’s very noisy out there and many of us require digital capabilities to reach our buyers in the time of COVID.

I think they also indicated that the volume of messages have increased by 40%. So, we’re all going after the attention of our buyers, but I think that underscores the importance of: How do we get back to fewer touchpoints with really engaging content that kind of breaks through?

I think now we’re faced with this challenge of, how do we do that? How do we get back to fewer touchpoints? How we’re engaging with content gets the attention of the buyers and gets them involved in the experience that we’re trying to create with them.

Drew Neisser: So, lots going on in that, and I want to break it down in a couple ways. One, you mentioned, since you guys are in this business, I bet the pressure is on you to do this better than the average bear. Because really, I mean, you’re using your own tool.

I would say, I always thought in the early days of marketing automation that Eloqua, HubSpot, and Marketo all had the best content. All of them, and they were showcases for that.

I’m just imagining that there’s a lot of pressure on you to up the bar. How do you go about making sure that your content is better?

Jamie Gier: Well, first of all, our mission is to help our customers unlock creativity. We want to spread more creativity to the world, and help marketers and designers be better at what they do.

For us, yeah, the bar is raised really high because we are here to show them the possibilities of how far they can take their content in ways that their buyers are going to engage in that and take some kind of call to action, whatever it might be. We happen to have just some phenomenal designers and content strategists on staff, and we’re always pushing the boundaries of what can we do in our studio.

Which, by the way, is no code. We’ve made it such that even marketers like myself—and I wouldn’t say that I’m technically savvy and I’m certainly not a designer, but I can actually get in there and create very interactive experiences because we don’t rely on front end web developers.

But we are always pushing the bar in terms of showing the possibilities of what you can create, which is why we’ve even focused on having an editorial site and a gallery to inspire people whether they use Ceros or not. But to inspire them to show the different types of content that you can create, that’s really going to appeal to your buyers, but also provides you a better way to tell your story.

Anything from interactive web pages that people can explore to games and quizzes. But what I love about it, and what I actually love about my job is that we get to push the boundaries and show the possibilities that are right there at the fingertips of different types of users.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it all makes sense. Again, a lot to unpack there. The one thing that you’ve mentioned, and that I really try to keep in mind when we create content is customer first. That’s part of the way I think about it.

Is this going to be of value to my most important customer? Will they get an insight or learn something or have a moment where they go, “Huh, I hadn’t thought about it that way”?

Because if that’s the bar, right, that this is an existing customer and I don’t want to waste their time, then you start at a very high place. Whereas if you have this imagined person out there, you can say, “Oh, that post is good enough.”

Jamie Gier: Good enough doesn’t work anymore. I mean, go back to the Forrester data. 27 touchpoints. You’re going to lose attention. I mean, that lengthens the sales cycle, so how do we—getting to your point—be more relevant and more specific to these different buyers? They all have different personalities.

That’s why most marketers now are looking at it from the standpoint of personas, and really figuring out taking the time upfront. The content strategy needs to be infused with insights that you know about your buyers.

What motivates them? What inspires them? What are they looking to do? How do you show them a better way of doing their jobs? Of living their life? Of contributing to society?

You have to do that work upfront initially to really get into the minds of your buyers so that you can hook their hearts. I think that the relevancy and level of getting to know these buyers and your customers—I should just clump them into one—is really important because guess what? They are flooded with information, and they are tuning out. I mean, who doesn’t? I sit there and delete my emails that come in. I just can’t. My mind can’t fit that in.

Drew Neisser: It’s like whack-a-mole.

Jamie Gier: It is. How do you break through that? It’s going to be through relevancy. Being allowed to be invited into the homes and the offices of the people that you’re trying to engage with. How do you do that? I think to a large extent, it’s knowing them, and then it’s creating this experience of inviting them in and showcasing what you have to offer in a very real, focused way.

[10:30] B2B Content Marketing at LBMC

“Less is more today, which is a little different than just a few years ago.” —Suzanne Reed @lbmc_pc Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re going to now bring on Suzanne Reed, who is the CMO of LBMC. Welcome, Suzanne.

Suzanne Reed: Hello. Nice to see you, Drew.

Drew Neisser: How are you? And where are you?

Suzanne Reed: Good. Where am I? I’m here in Nashville, Tennessee.

Drew Neisser: Awesome. See, we’re just covering the globe here. There’s a lot of content out there and I’m curious how you’re approaching content to make sure that yours is rising to the top?

Suzanne Reed: Yeah, so a lot like Jamie was talking about, content marketing for us is a commitment. It’s not a campaign. It’s a commitment to our clients and our prospects to help educate and bring them to where they can have that conversation or ask that next question. And so again, you know, we talk a lot about the personas and knowing your target markets.

At one point, we flooded all of the channels with the same content. Now, we’re being much more surgical and much more targeted in our approach. The messaging, the medium, and the actual industry and personas that we’re going after—and decision-makers.

Less is more today, which is a little different than just a few years ago. A big part of what we really, really focus on is that client problem. What’s the relevant client problem? What’s a simple and easy way we can help them understand where we help and where we can come into that process? And what are the right mediums and channels for us to give them that information?

I’m a firm believer a little bit like if you have teenage kids—you’re never going to tell anybody something one time and they’re going to get it. You’re going to have to give it to him two or three times, maybe five depending on what kind of teenager you have.

That’s our mantra. Our content strategy just continues to be very relevant and surgically targeted to our audience so that we can create that conversation to help them down their path of their problems, their solutions that they’re looking for.

Drew Neisser: Sure, I have this vision of water on a rock when you’re talking to your teenager, but just keep going, keep going. It’s just drip and that steady drip. There’s a certain commitment with content in the sense that you can’t just do a one-and-done kind of a thing.

The challenge I see though is, you get these content calendars, and you become slaves to these calendars. “We got to get a thing out here. And we got to get another thing out here.” And so, the machine takes over.

What I’m wondering, again—it’s easy to say, “All right, we have these five personas, and we need to get this kind of information to them in this time,” but it just becomes about getting it done. How do you make sure that it really is worth that prospect or customer’s time? What are the bars that you set for this kind of stuff?

Suzanne Reed: It’s a great question. Where we are always looking is, what’s resonating? Where are we getting feedback? Where are we getting connections? For marketers, a lot of our job is connecting the dots for individuals, right?

The feedback that we get from our clients and/or prospects, and that doesn’t all just come through the traditional funnel. We’re constantly asking questions. We’re constantly asking collaborators that we work with; we’re asking clients that we have, we’re asking prospects. We’re working with our sales team: What’s resonating? What are people gravitating to? What’s bringing them in?

I think constantly assessing that so that—to your point—it’s not a checkbox. We’d like to think of ourselves as serial marketers and it’s almost like that never-ending, if you will, dramatic shows that just continue on and they’ve always got an elegant ending with dramatic pause. We’re going to always be doing that. Constantly you get that dramatic pause, think about it, and then come back out.

Drew Neisser: Based on the way you’ve observed this, is there a particular type of content or a program that you’ve done of late that you think has really worked well for you?

Suzanne Reed: What we see working well is when we are using short clips. I call them chunking. And obviously, visuals are huge. Visuals, videos. I think the last statistics we saw 600% better viewership and engagement with video.

We definitely use those, but they’re not long-form. They’re more storytelling. They’re almost like live case studies. We’ve used those and those have really worked well to really help clients and/or prospects see themselves as the individual asking the question, and they can relate to the solutions and services that are being offered back.

Drew Neisser: You know, it’s funny. You’ve certainly been part of a Tuesday Tip. We’ve used Tuesday Tips for CMO Huddles, and they do get thousands of views. It’s kind of fun that you get this bite-sized information.

But at the same time, we’re recording a show that’s going to be an hour. And we do get views because we go deep onto a topic. I kind of feel like there is an overemphasis on snackable content. Because if you have a long sales cycle and a lot of people involved, snackable content isn’t going to get the job done.

I’m just sort of wondering how you think about the balance of this. Because yes, you can get a lot of people to watch a short video. But, you know, does that move the needle? I mean, just someone watching the short video, or is it just that it gets them on the progression?

Suzanne Reed: I think it gets, to your point, I think it’s getting them on the progression. That progression is where we talk about it’s a commitment. And because we’re doing the chunks, and we’re trying to encourage them to come in, we’re giving them each of those bite-sized pieces and bringing them down the path.

We call it road mapping. We do a lot of road mapping. You know, here’s your type of client, here’s your type of prospect. How can we do interactive? You’re at this stage in your company, you’re at this stage with the product, where can we help you along that continuum?

And to your point, yeah, we might not get him to read a white paper, but we might get him to look at four videos that together those four videos create that story that gives them the picture of what they’re looking for in the further information to go to the next evolution of reach out, contact us, wherever that next funnel step might be.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I completely agree with everything that you said. I want to make one more vote for long-form before we get off of the snackable thing. We have a post on renegade.com that’s 15,000 words. Like, “Wait, what?” It’s like the mother of all posts on B2B branding. We get 400 people coming to the website every day to look at that thing.

And so, while you can get a lot of snackables, there are times, if you can go deep on a topic—this is me from my experience. I think the key for folks as we’re talking about this is, don’t just think about it as one part of a program. We can’t just live on snackable content, right? We need some big things too for certain times.

Suzanne Reed: We call that evergreen. We call that evergreen content.

Drew Neisser: Right. And, boy, you feel really good when you find one of those, right? That just like, kills it on SEO and just keeps the traffic going. Those, you can build a lot around it. Do you think about evergreen as the center of a whole program?

Suzanne Reed: In our world with evergreen, yeah. Given that we have so many distinct service lines and so many different buyers, we look at evergreen as that brand authenticity that shows our reputation and reinforces the trust and that advisory aspect that we are trying to constantly work with our brands and our prospects.

Our evergreen content, we will have them for each of our service lines. But again, it kind of builds to that whole storyline of the reputation of our brand and our expertise.

[19:41] B2B Content Marketing at Tealium

“It's not just what you're creating, it's the channel you're delivering it in.” —@HeidiBullock @Tealium Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring on Heidi. Heidi Bullock is the CMO of Tealium and the star of episode 235 Renegade Marketers Unite. Hi, Heidi.

Heidi Bullock: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Drew Neisser: Hey, well thank you for your patience as we worked our way through this. And where are you?

Heidi Bullock: I’m based in Palo Alto, so representing for the Bay Area.

Drew Neisser: All right. All right, we have now literally crossed the country here on Renegade Marketers Live. So, it’s really nice to see you. This far in the show, we’ve been talking a lot about content as an acquisition model.

I was sort of surfing around your website and found this Tealium Learning Center. Content becomes a retention play in that sense. Can you talk a little bit about that program and what you’re doing there?

Heidi Bullock: Absolutely. So, this was said earlier, but for me, content is such a critical aspect across the entire buyer’s journey and it’s a great way to engage folks. But I kind of equat it to marriage. I feel like once people become customers, just like when you get married, that’s when the real work kicks in.

And I think that’s for people who don’t necessarily think enough about content, because again, like, in theory, we should know our buyers even better. We should know their industry, their titles. We should know, hey, this is a customer that we’ve had for a year versus a customer that we’ve maybe had for seven years and they’re going to need different things.

For us, we actually focus a lot on content once somebody is a customer. And again, for your viewers, whether they’re B2B or B2C, they’re thinking a lot about loyalty, retention, expansion. It’s pretty important.

Drew Neisser: What’s specifically going on in the Learning Center?

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, so for us, our number one objective for customers is—and this kind of came up earlier a bit—is to be the trusted advisor. I like to think about Tealium and our Learning Center as, it’s your trusted friend that you’d study with for a final. It’s like, they’re the person that you invite over. And so, we really think a lot about here’s tips and tricks for doing your job better.

It might not all be related to technology. It could be, “Hey, you’ve mastered one use case, here’s three more that you can start to look at.” It could be sharing success from another customer, so they can see that. But our number one goal is to really make sure that we’re making their jobs easier.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay. So, when you think about your content program, and we’ve already talked about that, is there something else that you’ve done of late that you went, “Oh, man, that really worked well?”

Heidi Bullock: Yes. I have something that I can share that I think worked really well, and something that I’ll share that I didn’t think well in addition. One of the things that we hear from a lot of people—especially in our industry, they’re looking at customer data platforms—is where should I get started? What are use cases that I should be thinking about?

You talked about long-form, or pretty detailed types of content. We put out a definitive guide to CDPs. What we really focused on there was less about the technology. It was more, “Here are the use cases. Here are some of the processes that you should think about. And the team, like, what team should you have in place?”

So, I agree with you there. I think having kind of these big rock pieces that then you can break down is great, but that was successful. Then we also put out, we called it The Joy of Data Cookbook that was just all use cases.

Because again, that’s what we get asked more often than not. You know, “Hey, we’ve done a retention use case, but how can we start on loyalty?”

Those two pieces worked really, really well for us. We got lots of engagement. The best of all, and you’d appreciate this, we heard a lot from our sales team that their customers just loved it. So, we look at that closely.

Drew Neisser: When the salespeople say their customers love it, that’s always a good sign because it means they’re going to share it, right? And this is one of the big, under-utilized things.

You create all this content, and the salespeople don’t share it. It’s like the salesperson is presenting a different brand because they’re not using it. So, if they’re not feeling the love for the content, that’s a problem.

So, you were going to share an example of something that didn’t work as well.

Heidi Bullock: Yes. So, this I think was touched upon earlier, but I love to save people the pain if I can do it. I think a lot of people—we think a lot about content, but we don’t necessarily think a lot about the channels and doing a lot of testing with the channels.

I think it came up earlier where, you know, we all get so much email. We have had a customer newsletter for a while that we’ve put out—and I think the content is great. But the newsletter itself, when we looked at the data, the open rates, the click-through rates, it just—Drew, it wasn’t there.

So, that was an example where I think the core content was great, but the vehicle and how we delivered it was not optimized. Then we actually took the same content, and we use a tool in our product called Pendo, so we can deliver some of the same content in-app and that’s been much more successful. Hopefully people, when they think about content, it’s not just what you’re creating, it’s the channel you’re delivering it in.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s funny you bring up newsletters because I love newsletters, but I think Microsoft—in the inbox with the Other—has killed newsletters. It’s just funny because I used to read a lot more newsletters than I do, but they don’t make it into the primary feed.

I’m also sort of thinking, I’ve been writing a newsletter since 2008 probably. I know there’s great value in it, but I do think we get more reads on it on our website than we do in the open despite the size of the list. Thank you for pointing that out. It’s like, you might just need to let go. But I don’t want to stop writing it!

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, but you know, it’s interesting. You said early on it was great. That’s the other thing too, right? It changes. We do all get a lot of content. And I think for me several years ago, sure, I’d look at a newsletter. And there are a few that I still love; I’m not anti-newsletter. But just for us, when we tested it, it just was not effective for our customer base. Then just you have to pivot fast.

Drew Neisser: Right. And look, if your customers aren’t reading your newsletter, why bother?

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, why bother?

Drew Neisser: Right? Why bother? Because if they’re not going to read it, nobody’s going to read it.

Heidi Bullock: Yeah.

Drew Neisser: So, either you have to then start testing a whole new approach to the newsletter because the content wasn’t quite right. Or you just have to accept the fact that getting their attention in their inbox is not going to work, so you’ve got to use the platform.

Heidi Bullock: That’s right. That’s right.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. Well, and you’re lucky enough to have a platform where you can reach your customers. A lot of folks don’t. Email is still hugely relied upon as a way of getting in the door with the content. I wonder if you took that same content and you put it in social…?

Heidi Bullock: Absolutely. You’re right. But that’s exactly what’s so great about what we’re discussing today. You can take the same content, and maybe it’s like you said—put it on social, deliver it in a different way. We did.

It wasn’t a content problem; it was just that I think our audience just gets a lot of emails. I mean, some people looked at it, but I don’t think it was significant enough to warrant the effort.

And I think you’ve talked about this on this show—as marketers, we can’t go do everything. We have to have our best bets. You have to be data-driven and see what’s working. It’s not personal, you just have to make a change.

Drew Neisser: So, let me ask you this, one of the things that I really feel about, and this happens, this peanut butter effect where you have 10 personas, you’ve got 10 different messages, you create this grid.

Suddenly, you have one piece of content that tells one story to 1/100th of your target audience. And it’s not additive, it doesn’t come back to this larger story.

I feel like that is crushing content programs. I’m just curious how you fight that and try to make sure that the content comes back to your main story and your main purpose?

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, that’s a good point. It’s kind of like, if you’re all things to all people, then you’re not resonating really with anyone. For me, I think it’s kind of figuring out—just taking a really simple step back.

What is the key objective that you’re trying to figure out in your business? Is it acquisition—and say it is—who’s that key persona that you’re trying to reach? Eventually it may be a buying group, especially in B2B, but there’s probably one or two personas that are really engaging early on. Or middle stage or late stage and what is it they need?

I really like to double down there because, as you said, you can get into these big content grids and little things for everyone. At the end of the day, does that move the needle that much? If you really look at it, it often does not.

I encourage people to be bold and take some big bets and do something that is really, really focused on what your goal is, and hitting that person that’s researching online. For your business, it may not be a CMO that’s evaluating all these solutions online. It may be somebody different, so delight them and don’t focus on everyone else.

Drew Neisser: Big bets and delight. Music to this renegade’s ear. Thank you for that.

[29:13] Balancing In-House vs. Outsourced Content

“If you have a great partner and there's a great shared perspective that you're trying to get out, it's wonderful to work with outside people.” —@HeidiBullock @Tealium Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s bring back everybody before we take a break here. One question for you is: In-house or outsource? Jamie, if you did a percentage, what percentage is in-house versus outsourced of content?

Jamie Gier: Well, the majority of what we do given the nature of our business, the majority is in-house. But I was actually having this conversation with one of our creative directors because I would suggest that it’s not one or the other.

I think that there’s a lot of merit in having partners outside of your organization that can come in with fresh eyes and challenge your thinking. Just like we want to be strategic partners to our customers, sometimes these outside agencies can be very good strategic partners to us as well.

So, for my business—and it’s different from prior companies I’ve worked for—the majority of content is produced in-house just given the nature of what we do and the makeup of our people. We’re all creators.

But for certain projects, we will go out to just infuse our own thinking and challenge our own notions and ideas with other agencies that want to partner with us. I don’t have a breakdown of percentage, but I see the merit and value in having both at your fingertips to leverage depending upon the project.

Drew Neisser: Suzanne, Heidi, where are you in that mix?

Suzanne Reed: We are the same. We do the majority of ours in-house. But we do some collaboration and partnerships with others outside in the marketplace, whether it’s an insight survey or whether it’s actually another professional organization that we feel like there’s some value in collaborating together. But the majority of ours is in-house.

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, we do our big rock pieces in-house. If we have a strong thought leadership perspective, we definitely want to do that in-house. But I would say we do a lot of outsourcing, especially internationally where we need to have a specific flavor or there’s something that’s really unique for a region. I think that works really well. And I think Suzanne and Jamie said it—if you have a great partner and there’s a great shared perspective that you’re trying to get out, it’s wonderful to work with outside people.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, it’s interesting because we this came up in huddles a couple of times as content fatigue and digital fatigue and response rates are going down. One of the ways to up the game is to partner with a better-known company that has some strong content. Like The Economist or Fortune or other things like that.

[31:53] On CMO Huddles

“Don't reinvent the wheel. Just learn from your smarter partners that have already been there, done that.” —Suzanne Reed @lbmc_pc Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re going to talk about that. But first, I’d like to take a second and talk about and plug CMO Huddles. Launched in 2020, CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.

One CMO described huddles as timely conversations with smart peers and trusted in a trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session.

If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them, visit CMOHuddles.com or send me an email to see if you qualify for a guest pass. You guys have anything to add about CMO Huddles?

Jamie Gier: Love it. I love how you described it as kind of a therapy group at the same time. I love the fact that we can come together and share commonalities in things we’re trying to solve or even recommend and refer vendors. It’s such a nice forum to be able to bond with other marketing leaders that are facing the same things that you are and to just have thought partners on a variety of different topics. But I love the therapy session because you know our jobs are hard.

Drew Neisser: They are hard. I gotta say, you guys have just the hardest job around.

Heidi Bullock: I would just say that somebody else has solved your problem, right? You don’t need to spend time rehashing it. There’s another CMO out there that’s figured it out. For me, it’s  it’s grea just because I feel like it saves you so much time. Like somebody else has solved that challenge.

Drew Neisser: I love that.

Suzanne Reed: Absolutely. Yeah. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Just learn from your smarter partners that have already been there, done that.

[33:37] How to Optimize Content Partnerships

“We want to make sure that not only do we enable marketers and designers to really create, but we're also here as a resource for them, a thought partner.” —Jamie Gier @Cerosdotcom Share on X

Drew Neisser: One of the things that we started talking about is partnerships. And I know that Paul Stoddart, who was on the show two weeks ago, from Epicor mentioned that he was partnering with Ceros. And I thought, that’s kind of cool.

Also, you have a partnership with Litmus. Talk about those from a content standpoint and how those partnerships work for you.

Jamie Gier: Sure. We love Epicor and we love Litmus. For Epicor, they have been a partner of ours for a few years. They use Ceros to create content for things like insight reports. They’ve been able to leverage the studio to take complicated information and figure out how to do really good, compelling storytelling with data.

They’ve also leveraged it for things like brand resources and brand guidelines and creating a really fun experience that they can share with their own partners and internally for making sure that everyone’s adhering to their guidelines. So, they have leveraged Ceros for multiple use cases, if you will, for content.

There’s a partnership, Drew, that is just partnering with companies to have access to a studio where they can go in and create. But we also have partnerships with companies like Pinterest. So, if companies want to be able to create, say, experiences from post-click experiences, they can actually leverage our internal resources—as I mentioned before, we have designers and content strategists—to specifically create post-click experiences for Pinterest.

Then the other thing—and Suzanne and Heidi kind of spoke to this as well. There are the channels that you have to activate that your content will feed. We understand the importance of distribution. So, we also partner with different technology companies that marketers rely upon to actually get content out into the universe.

There are different ways, but Heidi mentioned the importance of being a strategic advisor, and we take that to heart even at Ceros. We want to make sure that not only do we enable marketers and designers to really create, but we’re here also as a resource for them. As a thought partner, if you will.

Drew Neisser: Got it. Okay. So, Heidi, Suzanne, any partnerships that you’ve done of late that have been particularly effective to help you either reach a new audience or get in front of a different segment or just produce content at a whole other level?

Heidi Bullock: Absolutely. We think a lot about working with either analysts—that’s been a great thing. If there’s an area where you might need credibility, as an example you talked about—maybe, especially this last year, a lot of people are getting into maybe a new vertical.

And so, if you need credibility, say, in a new vertical, maybe working with an analyst that can back up what you’re saying or even a partner that has a strength there, that’s something that we do quite a bit of and I think it adds a lot of nice credibility. We also work with a lot of, for us, more technology partners where it’s Tealium and maybe Braze together, this is what somebody is able to achieve. I find like having a nice defined use case and describing that in content works really well.

And then kind of like what Jamie’s saying, I think that there’s other partners that you can work with. We’ve even done work with our PR firm on the state of a CDP report where they go out and do a survey for us, then you can kind of use that piece of content, talk about it in the media, do a lot with it.

It’s a really good strategy. And I think what we’ve all talked about since the beginning is how can you get more scale from what you’re doing? Because most of us don’t have teams of 20 content writers on staff.

Drew Neisser: I love the point about the research. We’ve been doing a lot of that kind of thing where you really do a well-crafted study that tells a story that’s really interesting to a lot of your constituents so you can get some PR, it’s data that you can use in big forms and little forms, the salespeople can use it. Having proprietary research makes a lot of sense.

And Suzanne, I want to go back to the partnership, any partnership that you’ve done of late that was particularly successful?

Suzanne Reed: As Heidi and Jamie both talked about, we do proprietary research. We also use the media and PR on that front end. But this past year, the media has really reached out to us to use us as a sounding board for some of those facts and statistics and to help give them some grounding and some base data and information.

Then we’ve used our expert partnerships and associations to help them fill in some stories and insights that they were looking for. That’s been a great resource for us. It was our fourth year to do it. We’re planning to do it again this year and that’s definitely been a big win for us.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. I think that what you’ve just described there is so critical. If you get some data in a study that starts to resonate, if you do it two years or three years or four years in a row, then you are a source of information, and the credibility is there. And I do think that’s, again, one of those things that people are like, “Well, we did that last year. We can’t do that again.” No, no, it gets stronger with each year because you’ve benchmarked it. Okay. Very cool.

I have to of course at this moment say, “Well, what would Ben Franklin say of all this?” And of course, Ben Franklin was a publisher, he was a big content guy. So, he’d be all over it. He was all over it. Poor Farmer’s Almanac—Poor Richard’s Almanac was incredible content that he had tremendous fun with creating.

But the irony of all that is the quote I’m going to pull out from him is one that I’ve really taken to heart: “Well done is better than well said.”

And the point of this is, ultimately, we marketers do stuff. Now we have to do it well, but we have to do a lot of stuff. I think the content that we’ve been talking about is very much about doing stuff that is helpful to somebody in their world.

[40:07] On Gated Content and Metrics

“At the end of the day, it's not a fine science. It's an art and a science.” —Suzanne Reed @lbmc_pc Share on X

Drew Neisser: Now let’s talk about metrics. We’re created all this content, we’ve got all these partners, we figured out the right channels. How are we measuring this stuff? One of the things I’m just going to make an editorial comment on is, for example—and I want to hear your opinion—gates or no gates? Who has gates?

Heidi Bullock: We have some gates.

Drew Neisser: Who was that? Heidi, you have some gates.

Heidi Bullock: Some. But I think selectively. Because in general, the question I always ask internally is like, “Would you fill out a form?” And most people are like, “No, I wouldn’t, of course.” So I think it’s something we’re probably moving more away from, but I’m just being honest. We do have a few.

Drew Neisser: I know. I know. It’s very hard when you’ve had gates because the first question is, “Well, where are you going to get the names from?” Well, there’s a ton of places to get the names these days. Anyway. Suzanne, gates?

Suzanne Reed: No gates.

Drew Neisser: None. And how about you, Jamie?

Jamie Gier: Rarely.

Drew Neisser: Rarely. Okay. All right. So, no gates because we can capture leads other ways. My feeling is, you could have a gate if the content that you’re putting up was worth paying for. Like, if it’s so good that it’s worth paying for, then put a gate up. But if it isn’t, what are you doing? What are you really doing here? You’re just wasting someone’s time.

Heidi Bullock: It also depends on the gate.

Drew Neisser: Okay, it depends on the gate.

Heidi Bullock: Sometimes it’s just putting in a name, then you get it. And that’s easy.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, but still. Every time you fill out a gate, you know what it means. You’re going to get a call from a salesperson, and it’s annoying. If I want to talk to a salesperson, I’ll be ready to talk to a salesperson when I’m ready to buy it. When I’m ready to think about it.

Anyway, we’re going back to metrics. What do you see? And Heidi, I know we’re light gates, but still, what metrics matter to you and what do you really look at in all of this?

Heidi Bullock: Yeah, so for us, I look at it across a period of time. So, maybe you put out a great piece of content and it’s week one. I like to look at downloads. Are we getting downloads from people that are in accounts that we care about that fit our ideal customer profile? As an example, if my mom downloads it, we don’t care. That’s the first piece of what I look at.

Drew Neisser: Sorry, mom.

Heidi Bullock: Sorry, mom. But then we basically have everything set up so I can see over time, which it does take time, start to look at: Are we getting meetings? Do we see pipeline? Can I associate that this is part of—are we seeing it in deals?

There’s a lot of ways that you can set up and that’s for another time, but we try to be very metrics-driven because as you know, it’s people, it’s dollars, it’s time. You have to measure it.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. As I’m listening to you, I’m also thinking about all the other things in this world of 27 touches. I mean, we’re talking about this impossible form of attribution modeling.

Now maybe you’ve nailed it. But you could be measuring the wrong thing, right? I mean, it could be downloads and you could be looking at volume of downloads, but it turns out that there’s one piece of content that’s only downloaded 10 times. But that’s the deal closer.

Heidi Bullock: That’s right. That’s right. In my past, I’ve seen it where there was a piece of content at a company I used to be at, and it was our top downloaded piece. But it was not the thing that moved the needle.

It was great for engaging an audience, but it wasn’t necessarily our buyer and that’s why I think it is important to look at all of the—are you getting engagement? Meetings? And then are you ultimately seeing it in your closed won deals?

And I think, again, we all know none of this—I’ll be honest—none of this is a perfect science. But you can compare it to other pieces of content. You can say, “Hey, we did see a little bit more on this one versus this other one,” so that that gives you a sense of it. It’s directional.

Drew Neisser: Right. What about you, Suzanne? What about metrics that matter?

Suzanne Reed: Very similar. We do have an attribution model we’ve built internally that we use. But a lot of ours is exactly what Heidi was talking about. It’s really just looking at it. And at the end of the day it’s, what is converting to an engagement, an appointment, an actual pipeline opportunity?

Content that’s getting absolutely no visits at all, then we’ll revisit that and say, “What’s the point?” And things that are getting an awful lot of engagement, but we aren’t seeing any kind of pull through, we’ll revisit that. Maybe that’s our evergreen content that’s just great for building that brand reputation, but really is not one of our funnel drivers, if you will.

We definitely… same thing. We also have put in some lead scoring that, for more of our technology type things, they have a very definitive path. But, you know, every group is a little different, again, depending on their service, their solution, and their business development team that’s going to grab it. But definitely, at the end of the day, it’s not a fine science. It’s an art and a science. We’ve got consistent metrics we’re looking at overtime to see if we’re moving anything forward.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. And as you’re talking, I’m also thinking about a couple of things I’ve heard. I can’t remember whether it was a podcast or this show, but one of the things—websites start to get really heavy.

You start to add hundreds of pieces of content every year. I think it was one CMO who said they went from something like 90,000 pieces to 10,000 pieces and their website, besides just being lighter, started performing so much better with Google. I thought that was fascinating.

More content does not necessarily mean better. That was part one of this thought. And then the second thought is, we can manipulate this a little bit. We have a piece of content and we put media behind it. Right? And then suddenly that content gets more support. It might get more Google juice. I kind of feel like some of this is you can control the levers here. Am I making that up? Because we can’t be counting on all of this stuff to be organic, right?

Guests: Right. Right.

Drew Neisser: Okay. We’re placing some bets in some of this content, and we’re supporting it. And we’re pushing it out, if you will, whether it’s, you know, through social channels or just through Google, we’re supporting it. And that will change the ballgame.

So, Jared, one of our listeners said: “Art and science.” Yes, no doubt with content it is about—thank you for that—it is about art and science. There are those who would like to believe it is all science, but we know better.

Jamie Gier: Drew, I’d like to comment on that real quickly, though, too because I feel fortunate as a modern marketer that we have now access to data that can tell us even in-flight how well things are performing, so we can course correct.

My fear is that—because the data can be imperfect in really tracking buyer behavior—that we’re going to make the wrong decisions or we’re going to come to the wrong conclusions because of the imperfect nature of data and these tools that are designed to track and measure.

We have to be careful of not over-relying on that since it doesn’t perfectly track human behavior of how they see things. So, for example, we may have a number of listeners today and they may end up showing up at Heidi’s website. They’re gonna be interested. Or Suzanne’s.

And you know what? Guess what? They came through here. We have to be careful of over-relying on some of the information. It’s good, but also our own intuition. We have to remember that we come with our own intuition and experience that may tell us that, yes, a podcast is going to help.

Is it hard to measure? Yeah. We need to make sure that as we swing this direction of “data, data, data,” and “performance, performance,” that it doesn’t stifle our ability to do just the right thing and understand human behavior of how they consume information and where they consume it.

Drew Neisser: Amen to that. I have to say, I want to just add a little coda to it, which is, you could make a mistake if you optimize content based on, let’s just say, readership, and promote that content with a very specialized message. You may be off brand. But that one could win, right? It’s like clickbait. You can get people to come to the website, but then they might leave.

I think that this is where having a big brand story and thinking about that in the context of all your content is so helpful. Because at least every piece of content you know will be on brand and will be on message. And then you can optimize within it.

[49:29] CMO Tips for Building a Content Engine

“Don't boil the ocean because you can and you will go crazy.” —@HeidiBullock @Tealium Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re getting close to time here. I want to ask Heidi—final words of wisdom for some CMOs who might be new on the job and the content engine hasn’t been built out. What’s your advice?

Heidi Bullock: My advice would be three things. It would be home in on the top goal that you have because, again, you can’t boil the ocean. You’ll get there. But figure out what content is most critical for you. Do you need it for retention, acquisition? Define that.

Make sure that you know the key people that you are sending that content to, or make sure you really get those personas and know what channels they engage with you on.

We talked about this earlier. Like, if your audience is big on social, a 50-page e-book is maybe not the answer. Really understanding how they consume that content is a critical one.

And then I think really, you know, come up with a big rock piece of content that has your thought leadership that you can then break up—and again, it’s a big, great piece. It’s kind of like your stake and your philosophy, but then have the ability to then distribute that in different ways and create videos from it.

All of the things that we all know. Taco Bell marketing strategy, I love it. So, that’s what I’d recommend. But don’t boil the ocean because you can and you will go crazy.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Okay, Suzanne, one last thought.

Suzanne Reed: One last thought. I loved your comment and I’ll reiterate it. Your content strategy has got to be authentic with your brand.

Drew Neisser: Love it. Okay, and Jamie, one last thought.

Jamie Gier: Content is a way for us to tell stories, so make sure that you have a solid story that’s relevant to your buyers. Content is simply chapters within that, so make sure you got the right story nailed down too.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Okay, well, thank you, Jamie, Suzanne, Heidi, you’re all great sports. Thank you, audience for staying with us.

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.