June 20, 2024

Captivating Content Experiences… That Convert!

What does it take to craft a fully-fledged content experience that not only engages but also drives conversions? Tune in to this episode as 3 seasoned B2B CMOs reveal the secrets to transforming content into a powerful tool for connection and conversion: 

🌟 Warren Daniels (Bynder) reveals how leveraging content templating enables localized, relevant experiences that drive results, like increasing campaign recall by 32%. 

🌟 Ellina Shinnick (HUB International) discusses orchestrating thematic, integrated campaigns that bring the brand’s personality to life through creative, energetic content, and their “HUB Outlook” campaign. 

🌟 Katrina Klier (Sage Strategy Group) introduces the “Source and Savor” model to maximize content efficiency and impact while boosting resonance.

Uncover strategies to: 

  • Balance brand storytelling with performance marketing tactics 
  • Leverage research to redefine problems in a compelling, ownable way 
  • Measure content engagement to prioritize what resonates (and what to retire) 
  • Capitalize on AI’s potential as an indispensable content team member 
  • And more!

Whether you’re a content marketer or senior leader, this insightful episode is packed with actionable tips to elevate your content experience game. Don’t miss out! 

What You’ll Learn 

  • How 3 CMOs are building full content experiences 
  • How to balance performance marketing and brand 
  • How to assess and adapt your content plan 

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 402 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned 


  • [2:50] Warren: Bynder’s approach to content
  • [9:12] Use case — Content templating for relevancy & scale
  • [11:11] Ellina: HUB International’s 3 content pillars
  • [19:56] Katrina: Balance performance marketing & brand
  • [22:45] The Source & Savor content model
  • [29:50] CMO Huddles: Built-in colleagues
  • [33:24] Assessing content
  • [42:36] Alignment around experimentation
  • [45:24] Content trends 2024
  • [50:11] Top tips to improve content experience

Highlighted Quotes  

“Content experience at the simplest level means delivering the right content to the right people at the right time and in the right format.” —Warren Daniels, CMO of Bynder 

“Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s at the heart of MarTech and e-commerce ecosystems. We have to think about how to quickly and efficiently deliver content to those end user touchpoints in order to drive that engagement, that conversion that fuels purchasing.” —Warren Daniels, CMO of Bynder

“Having the courage and the confidence to profile our advisors as real people with humor, with energy, with pith underscores the fact that we’re so confident in their expertise.” —Ellina Shinnick, CMO of HUB International

“Don’t create disparate, small pieces of content. Have a theme, anchor in on that theme, and then orchestrate your distribution channels. You should have email campaigns living on the right, thought papers on the left, and everything else in between.” —Ellina Shinnick, CMO of HUB International

“The balance is in getting that brand purpose message of your long-cycle efforts infused in your performance marketing, short-cycle efforts.” —Katrina Klier, CEO of Sage Strategy Group 

“Think about how you can create that source narrative and then pull out the little savory pieces, make them fit for purpose in the channel, and blow it out and see what happens. Give it a try.” —Katrina Klier, CEO of Sage Strategy Group 

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Warren Daniels, Ellina Shinnick, & Katrina Klier

Drew: Hello, Renegade Marketers! If this is your first time, welcome. And if you’re a regular listener, welcome back. You’re about to hear a recording from CMO Huddles Studio, our live show featuring the accomplished marketing leaders of CMO Huddles, a community that’s always sharing, caring, and daring each other to greatness. This time, we’ve got a conversation on enhancing your content strategy with Huddlers: Warren Daniels of Bynder, Ellina Shinnick of HUB International, and Katrina Klier of Sage Strategy Group. This is about getting the right content to the right people at the right time in the right format. It’s not easy. Fortunately, our guests will detail the power of things like content templating, infusing personality into your content. And wait for it—the source and savor model. You’ll have to report back on what you think of that. If you enjoy this show, we’d love it if you could subscribe and leave a review. It really helps us out in our quest to be the number one B2B Marketing podcast. Alright, let’s dive in.

Narrator: Welcome to Renegade Marketers Unite, possibly the best weekly podcast for CMOs and everyone else looking for innovative ways to transform their brand, drive demand, and just plain cut through. Proving that B2B does not mean boring to business. Here’s your host and Chief Marketing Renegade, Drew Neisser.

Drew: Welcome to CMO Huddles Studio, the live-streaming show dedicated to inspiring B2B greatness. I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. Crafting a content experience that truly resonates with your customer—it’s just not that easy. Every click, every page, every video tells a story to your potential customers, making them feel understood or not, and ready to engage or just leave your website. Boo! What does it take to create a content experience that not only engages but also converts, where each piece of content seamlessly supports, if not guides, the customer through a journey, addressing their questions and interests at every turn? It’s a continuous process of tuning and adapting, ensuring that every piece of content reflects the brand’s message and the customer’s evolving interests and needs. Today we have three B2B CMOs sharing how they’ve turned content into a powerful tool for connection and conversion.

And so with that, let’s bring on Warren Daniels, CMO of Bynder and returning guest, who previously appeared on the show to discuss adapting B2B digital in a downturn. Hello, Warren. Where are you and how are you today?

Warren: Drew, thanks very much for having me back. Probably a little bit grayer, a little bit older than last time, but other than that, not a lot different. I’m about 20 miles outside of London in a little sleepy town called Weybridge in Surrey. I always say that expecting folk not to know where that is, but I’m always surprised at how many people know exactly where it is.

Drew: Amazing. Well, I had the vision of all these British mysteries where in these little small towns, someone dies every week. And then they solve that problem every week. So hopefully, that’s not the real case in Weybridge. We do see a lot of these smaller towns across the pond here. So let’s talk about Bynder’s overall approach to content and the kinds of things that you’re doing to help your prospects find what they’re looking for.

Warren: Absolutely. And of course, you know, I’ll talk from experience from our own organization here at Bynder as well as from our customers’ perspective as well. But you know, I think first of all, we should talk about what content experience is. And we can’t do that without, I think, just framing it in terms of the recognition or movement towards the role that content now plays in driving cut-through in an incredibly crowded market, often with lower barriers to entry and fiercer competition. And I think if you think about buyer engagement in the digital world, the tip of the arrow is content. It’s content that buyers see and engage with, and they’re increasingly doing that across a number of different channels and touchpoints, both physical and digital in the B2B world. Content experience, I think at the simplest level, means delivering the right content to the right people at the right time and in the right format. And we kind of look at content experience through the lens of a few characteristics. I think first of all, brand consistency. How do you safeguard brand identity to deliver consistent on-brand omnichannel experiences? I can tell you, much more difficult than perhaps it sounds. Relevancy and personalization: How do you deliver more relevant and contextualized content to target audiences, often based on data? And then connected to that, speed and agility: How do you review approved content, get it to market in a timely manner? And when it comes to distribution, because content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s at the heart of MarTech and e-commerce ecosystems, we have to think about how we quickly and efficiently deliver content to those end-user touchpoints in order to drive that engagement, that conversion that fuels purchasing. So yeah, I think they’re some of the things that we talk about and think about when we kind of lay out what content experience is. And of course, scale and performance sits on top of those things as challenges organizations are facing today.

Drew: Yeah, it’s a lot of dimensions. I mean, if you think about—you just started with right time, right format, right information. And you’re trying to do that—you also mentioned this notion of sort of personalized. And obviously, that’s going to get harder too with, you know, a cookie-less world. It feels like one, we’re at a very interesting juncture when it comes to content. But two, I want to just go back to this—you had four rights: right time, right format, and so forth. And I’m wondering how you manage that on a matrix basis.

Warren: You’ve got to have some structure around what you’re doing and organizing around some very simple things like, for example, key personas, stages of the buyer’s journey. And we use a simple learn, scope, select-type methodology, mapping content channels, watering holes. To those things, I think simplifies a lot of the things that are required in order to deliver joined-up content experiences that are relevant and contextualized or personalized. So you can’t boil the ocean with this stuff; you’ve got to keep it simple, as with many things in business. So we have a few pieces of criteria that we religiously use to determine what we do and when we do it, and to whom.

Drew: The matrix just got a lot simpler, because learn, scope, select are sort of the phases in their journey. And then we’ve got persona based on who that individual is. And so if we had six personas, for example, then there would sort of be potentially 18 different gateways or paths. So before you answer that, let me just keep framing the question a little bit more carefully. If they’ve clicked on a Google link, then you know, at least you have a starting point. But if they just come to bynder.com, they just type in bynder.com. How do you sort that out and sort of take a guess at where they are, or allow them to sort of tell you?

Warren: We use IP lookup technology on our website to identify types of accounts. So there are things that we can do through IP, that enables us then to personalize website experience based on vertical, based on size of organization, things like that. You talked about a cookie-less world before, Drew. Of course, once you drive engagement, and you capture more information on your website, and your website, of course, connected to our CRM and marketing automation platform, you can start to gather much more behavioral information on folks in terms of preferences of content, what web pages specifically they’re looking at, that you can then use to craft more personalized experiences going forward. So I think there are different levels of content experience and relevancy that you can generate based on the information you’ve got at your disposal.

Drew: We’ve been pretty broad when we’ve been talking about content experience so far, but I’m wondering if there’s a specific experience that you’ve created in the last year that is worth highlighting here to sort of help folks understand what we’re talking about?

Warren: Oh, well, actually, let me give you an example from one of our customers, and it’s a B2C example but I promise you it’s super relevant to B2B as well. So, Pernod Ricard, many people will know them as a global producer of wine and spirits. Now Pernod Ricard has all of its content creation in-house through their own internal agency, but recognize that that internal agency operating at a central location wasn’t producing content that was as relevant to local audiences as perhaps it could be. And so they invested in content templating, to address the challenge of scale and relevancy. And off the back of a set of core creatives that were delivered, they were given to the field. And in-market marketers that had no specialist design skills, were then asked to take those and update them to make them relevant for the cities in which their Absolut Vodka “Drop of Love” campaign was to be executed. And that increased ad recall by 32%, just by swapping out imagery, and text editorial content in those ads, to make them relevant for local markets and not hyper-personalized. This is more generic personalization. But I think that’s a really, really great example of the value of relevancy and scale.

Drew: Awesome. Okay. And really, it sort of goes back to that classic “Think global, act local,” and this facilitates that. Alright, we’ll come back to Warren but now let’s bring on Ellina Shinnick, CMO of HUB International. 

Ellina: Hi, Drew, happy to be here. 

Drew: First of all, how are you? And where are you?

Ellina: I’m well, thankfully, and I’m in Chicago.

Drew: Awesome. All right. Well, we are sort of working our way from England, New York. And now we’re working our way Midwestern. Talk a little bit about HUB International’s approach to creating content experiences.

Ellina: Sure. HUB International, we’re in the insurance broker space. We provide customers advisory on risk and insurance, benefits, retirement, and private wealth. In our kind of Lehman, as a marketing organization, content is incredibly critical in building the brand and highlighting and outlining the value proposition of HUB International. I’ll get back to why that’s important in a second. We also spend a lot of time developing content that’s going to retain our clients, create cross-sell opportunities, create more stickiness. We do play in the enablement space. But the fact of the matter is, we deal with a very highly complex sales model. So our goal is to inform, maybe create fear at certain points, right? To dislodge competitors at certain points. And so our content really needs to inspire, let’s just call it a first action, because success for us is to quickly get a prospect to speak to an advisor. We have to think about that. Of course, there’s going to be self-service, etc. But we’re not talking about micro-business where it’s more of an e-commerce play. And that’s a really critical nuance.

So our approach to content, top of the funnel is to be informative and energetic. Okay, no one is going to look up workers’ compensation insurance like they will, but that’s a different point. We’re dealing with business owners with sophisticated business problems and the intent of our content is to position the strategic value of insurance and get out of kind of this traditional notion of a commoditized product and how much more impactful it can be. So we write content at the top of the funnel that, again, is informative, that takes macro themes that are happening in the economy in the world, and we connect the issues to business problems. Most of our content rarely actually talks about the product, the coverage. We get to that, but really, that’s the role of the advisors in the meeting.

We think about what’s keeping our decision-makers or buying groups up at night and usually it’s how they’re going to grow their business, their profit margins, adding new products. How are they going to retain and attract new clients? And our role as insurance advisors and consultants actually is very relevant. So what‘s really exciting is that anything that’s happening in the world, from wildfires, economy, interest rates, global warming at large, cybersecurity issues, right? All of those things have an impact to a client’s risk profile. So our content experience ensures that we’re really thinking about what’s happening in the world and we have a timely perspective and are writing about that.

Now writing is just the foundation. That writing then is distributed in a white paper, in a webinar, in a social media post, and we typically orchestrate all of those things. We always have an anchor piece and then we’re always distributing it. So the key thing there, and I’ll say the word energy drives everything I do. Energy and the team does, energy and creativity because a lot of people are talking about kind of dry things. And that’s not our point. We want people to be like, “I never thought about the role of insurance or how HUB can be an adviser to me in this really strategic problem. But in fact, they have a lot of value to offer.” So we always kind of think leading edge with the intent of saying, “Now speak to an advisor” and get them there quickly.

The other part of our content top of funnel is that ultimately, in our business, people at that complex level buy from people. They put their trust in our brand, but they put their trust in the individual expert, who is either literally physically across the table or physically across the screen. So the role of our content strategy is also to put a face on the brand and highlight our leaders. And again, not in a traditional, not interesting kind of a way like, “Hi, I do this and this.” It’s to be fun. People want to buy from people, but they also want to know that they’re people. We do things like three fascinating facts and they’re not that I went to school here and I’m accredited in this. It’s a “hey, I did a triathlon, I was once in a Jon Bon Jovi video, by the way,” and the reason I can talk about being in a Jon Bon Jovi video is because I crush it as an expert in insurance. And that is the least interesting thing about me. We want to appeal to people, to the next generation who want to deal with people who want to know that you’re an expert, but to some degree, having the courage and the confidence to profile people as real people with humor, with energy, underscores the fact that we’re so confident in their expertise.

And then the third pillar of our content experience, and we actually anchor quite a bit in webinars because they’re very effective for us, are timely webinars that serve as educational series that really talk about actually the product, how you’re going to use these insurance coverages to achieve XYZ as our client. Regulation is changing for employee benefits landscape, I’m making this up as an example, here’s what you need to know as a result of a regulatory update in legislature yesterday, we can turn that around really quickly and be first to market. So why that’s important on the experience side, and the KPIs, is that our clients are not going to be dislodged. We’re first to them with updates, we’re first to them explaining things, we’re telling them, we’re monitoring things and have their back as advisors in the risk space and benefits and so forth. And then if they don’t have that product, and they are buying it from someone else, it’s an opportunity, “hey, you know, it’s better to have full share with HUB.”

So it’s really across the entire buyer journey. And for us, experience is about inspiring action if we’re dislodging like, if your broker isn’t talking to you about something, why? And we’re going to put those thoughts in your mind, we’re going to showcase the people behind the brand, because ultimately, that’s our job is to introduce you to them. And those people are real awesome experts who also happen to have a personality and you want to work with people who have a personality. And then finally, once you’re a client, we’re building trust, with all of the retention tactics, typically anchored in webinars, but often can come in the format of a white paper or a short article, that is a really fast way to get to market. 

Drew: Wow. Okay, that was a comprehensive look at a program. I’m going to break a few things down just for the folks that may be listening to this after the fact that I think are so important. One is, it’s attitudinally, it’s very much about being helpful and being of service. And so thinking about this content first as something that is of value at whatever stage that customer or prospect is, is just essential to content. I love the emphasis on energy and people. I’m going to combine them for a second because content is useless if nobody looks at it and reads or engages with it. So having a person as an author, as opposed to a company as an author is something I think a lot of folks miss because they just have blog posts, but it’s really about that individual and why you should care about them. So I love the fun facts, fascinating facts.

Also a notion is a lot of times content programs are death by 1000 paper cuts, and what you’re really talking about is sort of this large piece of something and then surrounding it and you know, slicing and dicing it and taking advantage of that because you could do an endless number of pieces of content. But the truth is that you probably don’t need that. Again, I’m just gonna reinforce the personality that comes through with this and then ultimately drive an action, which is what this show is really focused on is getting from that. Alright, it was a lot to digest. And I want to come back to you but I think we got to move on to Katrina, and then we’ll come back and we’ll go through some of the specific things that you’re doing. So stay with us.

Now let’s welcome Katrina Klier, Senior Marketing Partner at Sage Strategy Group who has previously joined us on the show to shed light on the intricacies of B2B content pollution. So hello Katrina, welcome back.

Katrina: Hi Drew! Nice to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Drew: How are you? And where are you this fine day?

Katrina: I am great. Thank you very much. We’ve taken a turn and headed back to the East Coast on our adventure. And I am in Metro New York City just north in Westchester County.

Drew: Awesome. Alright. So you wrote an article a few months ago about balancing performance marketing and building brand and that’s come up so far in the conversation. Ellina really leaned into the brand aspect of the content, and we’re going to share a link to the article. But maybe you could summarize why it’s so important and what this balance looks like.

Katrina: I have to say, I’m kind of pulling from experience in different parts of my background. But if you think about the balance, it’s the tension every CMO has to deal with all the time, right? It’s the long cycle part of marketing and the short cycle parts of marketing. Brand purpose and building a brand is definitely a long-cycle effort, right? It’s about making sure you weave in, you know, the things beyond what your company does, like what’s your reason for existing. It’s a little bit bigger than just the products or services that you sell. It incorporates the spirit of the culture of your company, the values that you have, and really the community that you create through your clients and customers out in the marketplace. So brand building is long-cycle, you’re not done in a week, it’s not a campaign by itself, it’s a long-cycle thing. Performance marketing, in contrast, which is another big focus in terms of demand and lead generation for most CMOs, is by definition short-cycle, it is all about speed, it is about scale. It’s about leverage, and it’s about measurable impact as fast as you can possibly get it. So performance marketing is really about knowing your audience and really kind of just showing up, if you will, when, where, and how they want to engage with your brand. So the balance, then, is getting that brand purpose message and all those other attributes of your long cycle efforts infused in some way in your performance marketing short cycle. I kind of highlighted like four things to think about when you’re tracking.

Drew: Before you do that… So I want to just highlight, Ellina talked about the personality of the company. First of all, she talked about how we’re on topic for the most important issues of the day and we’re giving them information, and insight into the challenges that they’re facing. We’re not talking about product here, which I think is so interesting, because that’s such a tendency. So I feel like that’s part of that sort of balance of brand building and performance marketing.

Okay, with that, let’s go ahead and talk about some of the points that you were going to elaborate on.

Katrina: Yeah, and you made a good point. I think both of my fellow panelists here today have alluded to some of these, right? It’s just kind of breaking it down and being intentional about it. And the first one really is that purpose or your long-term commitment to your values and beyond profits, you know, we need to make money, we’re not in business for no reason at all. And so thinking about maybe it’s inclusivity, it’s sustainability, maybe you have humanitarian goals connected to your brand. The second one is, you know, we talked about it a bit, is really those emotional attributes of your brand and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a range of emotional attributes. But just generally speaking, do you want to come across as really confident, maybe you want to be very sophisticated, maybe you’re like cool and clever, or, you know, whatever that might be that helps your buyers connect with your brand in specific ways. And then, of course, you know, there’s the functional benefits, this is the value that’s delivered by someone consuming your product or service. And those are important things. And, you know, really thinking about the quality and design of how you highlight those benefits in some interesting ways. Speaking of content experience, which leads us right into those experiential qualities and some of those could be, you know, aspects of your product or service that isn’t like something that goes on a feature list, if you will, from a piece of marketing collateral. You know, maybe you’re known for being really consistent in the marketplace, or you create a lot of convenience. Maybe you respond to your customers or clients super, super fast. So what do you want your brand to represent in your target market? And so when you think about these four things while you’re putting your content together, you can create content in a little bit of a different way. You know, I’m a foodie, Drew, and I love to cook. So with SSG, we have shifted to what I call a source and savor content model, and similar to what Ellina highlighted as well, we build out our source content, which is a blend of these brand messages, kind of the typical things you would see in demand gen, the value of our services and so on and so forth, and some clear client value messages. And so that’s kind of the source content. It’s a longer narrative with a companion that have visual assets that help bring that narrative to life, but that source content doesn’t go into market as is. So think about this like the pantry in your kitchen, it’s all the ingredients that you can use to make amazing things to actually like eat and that you’re having people for dinner, they will also enjoy. The savor piece is then about taking those components out of your source content and cooking up really interesting componentized content for people to, you know, consume and digest and act upon in different channels. So we use our source content to pitch for things like podcast appearances, webinar appearances, speaking engagements, media placements, and those kinds of things, in addition to shopping for assets that are going to go in demand generation campaigns. And then the savor pieces, again, it’s the blog post that goes with a podcast, or it’s the social media posts that are a companion to a case study we pulled out of that narrative content, and so on and so forth. And so by doing long cycle brand-building messages, with that short cycle and performance marketing, activation of both demand-gen and brand, this is relatively new at Sage Strategy Group, because we’re not a particularly old firm yet. But it’s a model I used really successfully at prior companies I was at. At Pros, we pivoted to this model, which was a bigger shift because it was a well-established brand and company. And thankfully, I hired an absolutely amazing performance marketing person who loved this idea and could in real-time manage all the digital gymnastics required to optimize that savor content in the marketplace and it was fantastic. At Accenture, we eased into this on different parts of the business. We didn’t quite have the full-blown performance marketing aspect of it, but still got a lot of mileage out of it. You know, it’s a culture and a mindset shift in the marketing team. But if you think about that source and savor, think about those four aspects that you want to weave into all of your content around your purpose, the emotional attributes, as well as the functional benefits and the experiential qualities, you can find that you need less content, and you get more done with it.

Drew: So it’s interesting that we’re getting to content experiences through this language of performance marketing. I don’t know if the listeners actually think of content marketing and performance marketing in the same breath. But in a sense, we’re really talking about the content is there to enable someone ultimately to do business with you, right? In one way or another. That’s what we’re talking about, and I suppose that’s what performance marketing is about, right? It’s about getting someone to do business with you. So I get the connection, and so forth. I’m wondering, in this source and savor notion, it’s kind of interesting, because it basically says, if it doesn’t have the savor part, you probably don’t want to use it. That’s not going to go on the website. And I think that bar is probably getting higher rather than lower. Because let’s face it, Gen AI has created an explosion of content, a lot of garbage out there. I think it’s even harder to get the savor part. Are you feeling that?

Katrina: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, Drew, we should go back and revisit our content pollution discussion in the age of AI. I feel like that could be another episode maybe. But I think it’s really, the savor piece requires a lot of experimentation and innovation so that you can fine-tune it. And to savor something, it has to be a little bit more unique, or be such an immediate solve to an acute pain point, that you’re going to savor it even though it isn’t unique. So a unique message could be a different pivot on a main theme, it could be an interesting point of view, something maybe people hadn’t considered, or grouping together of some trends that they hadn’t thought about that way before, or just a different lens on it and it doesn’t have to be radically different. It can just be a few steps different, which is completely fine. I think that’s important. You’re going to want to test things out in that regard, you won’t necessarily get it right out of the chute. And I think the benefit challenge of AI is that you can create a lot of content a lot faster. But for people to really savor it, you’ve got to infuse the personality of your brand and your people and some of that purpose into it. Otherwise, it’s not something you can savor. It’s super generic.

Drew: Well, that’s I think the key in all this, and this is why one way to look at AI is average intelligence. If you want to put average content out there, then just use the tools.

Alright, it’s now time for us to put a spotlight on CMO Huddles, so we’re gonna bring everybody back and I am going to show you my penguin hat. Now there’s method to my madness. We launched CMO Huddles in 2020. It’s a close-knit community of over 300 highly effective B2B marketers who share, care, and dare each other to greatness. We also happen to donate 1% of our revenue to the Global Penguin Society, in honor of the fact that a huddle is a group of penguins. So given the extraordinary time constraints on CMOs these days, everything about CMO Huddles is designed to help leaders save time and empower them to make faster and better decisions, just like penguins have to do in real time in a very harsh environment. Okay. Warren, Lina, Katrina, since you three are all incredibly busy marketing leaders, I’m wondering if you could share a specific example of how CMO Huddles has saved you time or helped you in another way. And let’s start with Warren.

Warren: Yeah, thank you very much, Drew. So actually, I’ve been looking at evolving my marketing organization. As well as these huddles, of course, there’s a Huddles Slack channel as well, you’ve got access to a network and community of peers. And so I’ve used that in order to validate some of my thinking around evolution of my organization before I’ve done it. Found it incredibly useful in not just turning on some ideas, but also turning me away from some of the things that perhaps I was going to do that would have had me zig when I should’ve zagged.

Drew: I love it. Yeah, I mean, that’s so critical in all of this, if you are going down a path and someone else has already done it and can help you sort of think through why it didn’t work, and maybe it’s relevant to you. Okay, Ellina, anything to share?

Ellina: What I really appreciate about this group is that I have a built-in board, a built-in group of colleagues. So you know, really, for those of you listening live or on demand, there are countless times when I email Drew and say, “Drew, I’m thinking about this particular scenario or this particular opportunity, please put me in touch with someone who’s done this,” to Warren’s point, “validate this or give me maybe a framework so that I don’t have to recreate the wheel.” And I’ve had many conversations that have continued to build relationships with wonderful CMOs, in similar industries, completely different industries. And that’s great, because it’s been diversity of thought, experience, and it’s really helped me make good decisions, and not to make mistakes that I didn’t have to along the way that others have, you know, tested and learned from on my behalf.

Drew: I love it. Okay, Katrina, anything to add.

Katrina: You know, being a Head of Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer, it’s a lonely job. It really kind of is and people don’t realize that because you’re usually so engaged with customers and various audiences, but it’s a lonely job, and having the CMO Huddles community to be a sounding board for things I’m trying to figure out. And for me, to also be a sounding board for them, has been just tremendously helpful. It’s saved me loads of time, it’s picked me up on days when I felt like I’m on the floor. And it’s nice to be able to give back to the community, people are super, super open to helping and it’s really nice.

Drew: Awesome, well, thank you for these wonderful powerful thoughts. If you’re a B2B Senior marketer, who needs a shortcut to B2B greatness, take a second and sign up for a free starter program at CMOhuddles.com. And don’t worry, penguin hats are not required.

Okay. So we’ve been talking around this idea of customer experience when it comes to both customers and prospects. And it’s such a delicate balance because you’re under pressure to deliver at least some form of business value. And it could be just we could call it as opportunities or pipeline or in Ellina’s case it was about, you know, getting them to meet with an agent. Let’s just talk about how you sort of assess your content and decide, well, you know what, this should get retired or we should use this. Katrina started talking about testing. I’m curious, maybe Ellina, how do you assess the content that you’re creating?

Ellina: So I’ll start very high level, and then I’ll get specific. The first thing is, is it getting visits? And is it getting engagement and time on site? So let’s just kind of talk about your standard digital thumbprint KPIs that many of the folks I’m sure on this live do. So that’s number one. The second piece is, I talk a lot. My team talks a lot to our partners in the sales organization and we work with them to develop the content, because it’s only as good as their thumbs up, frankly, their validation, and then sharing the content and using it to drive business. So just one quick example if I have a minute Drew to talk about how we created savory content.

One of our biggest pieces of content that we develop each year is called the hub outlook. We just launched the hub outlook 2024 at the end of December and it runs through Q1. Now what I would say to kind of use Katrina’s language, we did that with savory was rather than putting out a top 10 trend report that you see in industries all day long, we created content pillars for our outlook that bubbled up to bigger impact issues for business owners, rather than “here’s the top 10 things” and you kind of put them together. We said, “Here are the things you need to be thinking about as it pertains to the profitability of your business, the vitality of your organization, and the resiliency of your operation,” all really well aligned to our value proposition.

And our kind of different spin on things is this year, we put together an executive summary report where we surveyed over 1100 executives for their insights about how they’re driving business objectives. And the aha in that report is that many of the survey responders find themselves in a state of perceived preparedness. Now, how does that tie to savory and an aha? We could have simply said, “All these people have X amount of insurance in this category. This is how they’re thinking about their benefits insurance.” And that would have just been a benchmark report. Rather than doing that, our let’s call it savory piece was, “So what, what is the aha?” And the aha is the discrepancy in the insights. Our respondents are saying, “Here are their goals. And here are the risk mitigation tactics they’ve put into place.” And as experts, we know that there’s a disconnect. And that disconnect is one that we’ve called being in a state of perceived preparedness, and what is the value? The value is we will get you out of that state of perceived preparedness.

And how do we know that all of this works? By asking and working with the sales organization to say, “How do you use this?” So in fact, earlier this week, we had a town hall where I pulled in a number of people from the sales organization, experts in the company who helped develop the content, we invited our entire sales organization to this live Town Hall. And I literally asked each of them, “Give the listeners on the phone your perspective or your insights and guidance on how to effectively use this to drive your business goals for the year.” And they validated and provided examples. And so that’s how we know it works, not just the digital KPIs for the transition, but ultimately having the validation of our partners in the field, who are actually using the content who are sending me emails of clients saying this is really helpful and informative, and sharing it themselves.

Drew: Yeah, and there were a couple of things I wanted to just sort of… We’ve done a show on research and having reasonable research is just so awesome, because that one gives you some IP that you’re not going to find on generative AI, but two, it allows you to redefine the problem. And what you did is redefine the problem in a way… Perceived preparedness is such an interesting concept. Because the gap is you think you’re prepared, but you’re really not. You’ve created a problem that obviously you solve and using language that you can then own. So I love that example.

Warren: I love the qualitative example that you gave there Ellina, you know, asking folks for feedback on the content that has been produced. And sometimes we’re so performance-oriented, that we forget actual human feedback can be equally valuable. That’s a great lesson and takeaway for me here, get the balance right between the performance metrics related to content and qualitative feel instinct-type stuff.

Drew: Well, and I also imagine there’s depends on the stage where they are in the journey going back to what you were talking about, right, Warren with your matrix, where are they, because if they’re at the end of the journey, you know, they want the pricing page, they want the demo, they want that stuff, and you just got to make it easy for them to get there.

Warren: You’ve got to create the right measures for the right pieces of content as well, because I think of top-of-funnel content, or what we call learn content in our Learn-Scope-Select methodology. And what you’re trying to do there is measure emotional engagement. Do they watch the video through the whole way or do they drop off after two seconds? Do they get two pages into whatever they’re reading or do they open it and close it immediately? Do they start to binge on content, do they consume something, and then go on to consume more information from you? And so I think that those types of pieces of content engagement metrics are the right thing.

For something that is more akin to a higher intent piece of content or kind of the scope phase of the buyer’s journey or select phase of the buyer’s journey, let’s take an analyst report, for example. I’d be measuring that in a separate way, right? I think that’s less about volume, and consumption, and engagement. For me, that’s more about things like MQL to SQL, SQL to opportunity conversion, sourced ARR, eventually, and then when you look at other content type like email, social, you’ve got click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, engagement rates, follower growth. So you’ve got to pick the right metric for the right piece of content. But ultimately, hopefully, you measure content and the value of content in win rate and brand perception.

Drew: I want to just put a punctuation point on the word binge. And going back to what Ellina said about, you know, you’re creating content that has a savory flavor that they’ll continue to read and like the personality, and so you think about it, we’re used to binging on Instagram and YouTube. But if you actually had a prospect who binged on your site, they are saying, one, I like your stuff. And two, I’m really interested in your stuff. So the notion of that, and that all of a sudden talks a little bit about the technology and how you’re, based on them reading this one thing, how you’re serving it up, and suddenly you’re in, you know, you need to do what Google does, and Instagram does is really being able to sort of respond in almost real-time and say, “Oh, if you like that, you’ll like this.”

Warren: And also Drew, connecting that to your lead scoring mechanism, right? You know, some of this is time-bound as well, if folks are consuming a lot of content within a very, very short period of time, that is a trigger or an indicator that they have higher intent than perhaps someone who comes back once, once a quarter or so and plugs away at a product datasheet, for example. So you know, again, there is a lot of behavioral data you can glean from consumption of content that helps support higher intent.

Drew: Interesting. The recap that’s gonna go out and be in your inbox on Friday is about the media conversation that we had, and the media guys were advising. So you take a behavior that they do on your website, like, say, read 10 things, say, get people who have done that in other places, and then use that as a targeting method, because I think that someone who binges is probably a very high-intent customer to begin with. And it’s certainly validation that your content is worth binging on. So it’s a kind of double sort of validates the content and it also has this opportunity not just to sort of get you to move them along but also maybe your retargeting and maybe your other marketing can be guided by that.

So we’ve talked about this, I’m wondering if you could just sort of share what’s the challenge here in getting this right. And maybe Katrina, you could talk a little bit about this, because this is not easy and it’s constant. You know, you talked a little bit about testing.

Katrina: It is hard and I think, you know, as is always the case with things in business, if you’re going to drive change, you have to change the people before you change the business. And so the marketing team is usually the easy sell, quite honestly, on this. They’re usually kind of excited about it because it can make their life easier, it can make things more impactful that makes them more successful in their job. And they like that. I think oftentimes, it’s the other stakeholders within the company, whether it’s sales or product, or whatever it might be, because they have to be okay with the fact that there’s going to be a fair amount of experimentation as you get through this. And then you’re going to kind of find those core things that people really do savor that you’re wanting to do again and again. But even then you’re still going to want to mix it up a bit, like, you know, add a little bit more of this, try a little bit more of that, take a little bit of this out, put something else in. And so I think getting alignment across the executive team, that they’re up for the experimentation and make it a little bit fun, don’t make it a surprise that it’s coming. And as we all know, with experiments, some things work great in terms of your desired outcomes. Some things don’t. But as long as you’ve learned something, it’s not a failure, it just makes you better each time. So it’s about incrementing. But getting people okay with it before you get too far down the path, I think is really essential. And quite honestly, I feel like it’s the hardest part. I don’t know what everybody else thinks.

Drew: I think that’s a really interesting observation. If you really want to change your content approach, you have to change your team approach, right, certainly the structure and so I think the challenge is maybe having the right team and that team may be something different tomorrow than we are today. Now, this is the moment of the show where I wonder out loud what would Ben Franklin say. He was a man of great content, prolific, prolific writer, and ironically, not very much of a public speaker. He used all sorts of aliases to create content and put it out there in the world. And so he would say, “Writing has been of great use to me in the course of my life and was a principal means of my advancement.” And I think there’s some relevance here in that we’re talking about all sorts of content. But still, a lot of this comes down to the written word and your ability to persuade, or at least to engage in the moment. So much to cover in this thing. It’s such a broad, broad experience, content experiences is so broad, particularly the larger the company and the more personas that you are targeting. Is there a trend that any of you want to highlight when we talk about content experiences for 2024?

Warren: Yeah, I’ll jump in Drew. So, you know, I think the content creation has been relying on creative and editorial teams to crank it out. But the proliferation of channels and the variance of assets required to support those channels has meant the reliance on those teams have become much, much greater. And it’s creating chaos. I think the harsh reality is that content operations and creative teams just aren’t equipped to manage the challenges that come with this growing demand and delivering exceptional content experiences. And I think as much automation has happened in marketing over the last decade, I think content operations has been largely untouched. So now I’m gonna say 2024 is the year when marketing opens their eyes and recognizes that content is critical and that needs to be evolution or revolution in content operations in order to support the demand from the market.

Drew: Yeah. It’s funny, I’m so glad you mentioned that about the content operations. I know one CMO who’s had repeated success that one of the first hires they have is an ex-editorial person at a major publication or TV network because these people understand how to create content that engages. That’s interesting because I think there are a lot of people in content that are just in content, but not necessarily. It feels like editors, being an editor and having a great editor is going to be even more important if you start to rely on Gen AI. Katrina or Ellina, a trend that you want to highlight?

Katrina: Yeah, I mean, I’ll jump on the AI bandwagon if you don’t mind. I think this is the year that AI moves from pure experimentation and becomes almost like another member of your marketing team, or maybe multiple members of your marketing team. And not just the generative AI side of things. I know that’s where all the hype and everything is today and for good reason and there’s certainly value there. But using AI in terms of being able to find those trends, find those kind of nuances in the data, if you will, that could be really meaningful that can give you another savor moment, right, that you would not find fast enough any other way, clean your data a bit more, tailor and personalize your responses. It can be like a buddy to your SDRs or BDRs, if you happen to have those, I feel like this is the year that AI moves from pure innovative experimentation into being an integral part of the team.

Drew: I couldn’t agree with you more. And I think the opportunity is so far beyond content.

Ellina: I would jump in, Drew. So right now, it’s just in lab but if we think about generative search experiences, right, that are in the Google lab right now, and how that’s going to potentially change search results. What I’m interested in is actually how the fundamentals of content and search best practices are going to influence that. On the one hand, Google may potentially completely upend how we’re getting data, you know, through search, etc. But on the other hand, how are they going to pull those results and how are you going to be the top link and that might be kind of back to those core best practices on the experience. So you know, that’s a complete kind of 180 from the things I’ve been talking about. Which is to say, even though we focus quite a bit on top-of-the-funnel content and being engaging, and having a unique point of view in order to inspire action, ultimately, there are also core elements of that content ecosystem, like SEO optimization to make sure that when people want to find you in that channel on their terms that you do. But fundamentally, what is Google going to look at in that algorithm when they redefine that experience? That’s pretty interesting, slightly scary, energizing. And the other thing I would just say that I’m thinking about is the role of influencers in B2B. It’s not necessarily new, but we’re seeing more of an uptick over the last year. And how do we use those partners to bring that pith, that energy, that editorial perspective, to elevating content and experiences and ultimately bringing audiences to the brand?

Drew: Yeah, so just one thing, I know we have to do a show in the next three months on the Google Apocalypse and the fact that there are fewer links just on the current page alone. So you used to have 10. Now there’s only three. And so you’re really competing in a very different way. So I do think that you’re absolutely right. SEO strategies are going to change dramatically.

Drew: Okay, so we’re getting near the end. And we need final words of wisdom. We’re gonna go in reverse order. So let’s start with Katrina. Final words of wisdom, what advice would you give to marketers looking to develop or improve their content experience?

Katrina: I would say don’t be afraid to try new things. You know, think about efficiency, as well as kind of your outcomes. And if you haven’t tried the source and savor concept, it goes by a lot of different names, maybe give it a try with one initiative that you have coming up. Think about how you can create that source narrative, and then pull out the little savory piece, of make them fit for purpose in the channel and blow it out, and see what would happen. Give it a try.

Drew: Perfect. Love it. Ellina.

Ellina: Three things. Number one, I would not create tens of disparate small pieces of content. Have a theme, anchor in on that theme. And then all of your distribution channels should be orchestrated. You shouldn’t have email campaigns living on the right, thought papers living on the left, and everything else in between. They all need to work together, you’re gonna get more bang for your buck. Number two, bring in your steerco from the field, your product marketers, your advisors, whatever your business model is to help inform and advocate for your content. Spend as much time with your business partners, explaining how to use the content, get their validation and their feedback to get as most juice out of the squeeze as you can. And finally, ask, is this interesting? Is it creative? Don’t be afraid to be a little bit uncomfortable and creative. And have fun, because there are people reading these things like you and I.

Drew: That’s it! Is it interesting? Okay, Warren, bring us home.

Warren: Yeah. So I think when it comes to content strategy, content operations clearly linked to business goals or your marketing strategy. I think just a really great example, to bring that to life, you know, as we have been in this economic downturn is you may be looking to level up content reuse, content repurposing. I think that’s just a really fantastic use case. You know, one of our customers estimated they saved more than $4 million in new content production costs because they’ve given themselves a single authoritative source of truth for all of their creative assets that were easy to find. And so that they could put existing content to work with minimal work. And they didn’t need to go and buy additional content or create additional content. And then just measure what content is getting consumed in what format at what stage of the buyer’s journey, just figure out what your audiences want in a content experience, and align against that and you can’t go far wrong.

Drew: Amazing. Thank you, Warren, Ellina, and Katrina. You’re wonderful sports. And thank you, audience, for staying with us.

To hear more conversations like this one and submit your questions while we’re live, join us on the next CMO Huddles Studio. We stream to my LinkedIn profile—that’s Drew Neisser—every other week!

Show Credits

Renegade Marketers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Hey, that’s me. This show is produced by Melissa Caffrey, Laura Parkyn, and Ishar Cuevas. 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 and learn more about CMO Huddles or my CMO coaching service, please visit renegademarketing.com. I’m your host Drew Neisser. Until next time, keep those renegade marketing caps on and strong!