We invest heavily in the experience our customers have- not only with our platform, but also with our team from a support and success perspective.
MEDIA 7: You have a long track record of successfully working in multiple roles and managing diverse marketing teams. Please take us through your journey.
SCOTT ROGERSON: Entrepreneurship was never something I expected to see myself doing. Upon leaving undergrad, I worked as a Certified Information System Auditor (CISA) helping organizations of all sizes and industries grapple with compliance challenges that may become present within their organization’s information systems and the processes and policies that surrounded them. It was a fantastic way to gain a “real world” understanding of how organizations actually operate and how to dissect a potential problem and think through how creative adjustments can help to resolve these risks using the tools the organization had available (as an internal auditor, the budget was certainly not something we could command).
It was a fantastic experience but the travel became draining as I evolved from “single in a small apartment” to “married with a house”. I also wished to understand how the strategies from which these technologies, process, and policy decisions were derived, were actually put together. That is when I made the switch to a boutique management consulting firm and focused on helping a variety of organizations (including nonprofits) build the strategies that would inform the elements I used to assess. These were new problems I didn’t have much experience with but wanted to ensure that I was bringing the best tools and approaches to my clients – resulting in my decision to head back to school.
While there, I was speaking with a fellow classmate who was interning at a search fund (something I had never heard about). In learning more about the model, I became enamored with the idea of bringing together the work I had done on process, policy, and system with that on strategy, finance, and design – and be able to actually see the approaches come to fruition by being a part of the organization you were assisting. We successfully raised a fund and had a group of investors that I would have never expected to be affiliated with. We searched for a company to acquire and manage for about two years. Had a handful of close calls (that’s a story for another day) but came up short in the end. We made the decision to wind down the fund and find “the next thing”. My business partner (the same classmate that originally introduced me to the idea) knew exactly what was next. I had no idea (but knew I needed to figure it out fast as there was now a family in the picture).
It took about a month (maybe longer, I’d like to forget that period of time), but I was introduced through some mutual connections to an individual who had just sold his startup technology company and was going to be assuming a position at the acquiring organization. The only struggle was that he was also leading a small group of great individuals that were focused on supporting clients in their social media, content production, and advertising efforts and needed someone to assume that role upon his departure. I jumped at the idea. We successfully transformed how the organization went to market, grew significantly in headcount, client size, and revenue, and, over that time, invested in a technology that would help our team become more efficient in supporting our clients by making the discovery of relevant, third party, articles that would help inform original content and support the development of social media posting calendars.
As much as I enjoyed building the agency (almost entirely due to the team we had assembled and the clients we were working with), I kept finding my “free time” focused on exploring what the technology could help us accomplish – and working with the very small subset of our team that was tasked with helping us layer on capabilities to make the solution viable in the market beyond ourselves.
In 2016, we brought on an outside investor that was seemingly interested in both the services company and in supporting the growth of the technology. In 2017, there was some disagreement with the new group and I found myself leaving the agency and taking the concept, initial technology product, and the team that was helping to grow and support it to create a new company, UpContent.
As a company that supports a diverse array of organizations in solving their marketing, sales, and HR challenges through the implementation of a curated content strategy, I am constantly rejuvenated each time I witness the delight of our customers in using UpContent. In each review, we receive when someone takes the time to share how the use of UpContent has benefitted themselves and their company in achieving their goals, and the personal joy in helping someone, whether it actually involved UpContent or not, identify the technologies and map the process to achieve their vision without having to request significant budget to do so.
While entrepreneurship was never something I expected to see myself doing, the spirit of entrepreneurship – finding new solutions to common problems in a way that unlocks value – is what I’ve always enjoyed most about every role I’ve had.
M7: Every marketer is chasing the golden combo of personalization and privacy. What are your best practices to deliver a blend of both to your clients?
SR: If you are going to bring personalization into your strategy, make it real. Not so long ago we co-hosted a webinar with one of our partners, rasa.io, about the importance of personalization in today’s strategies, and the main takeaway from hearing their perspective is that merge tags and demographics are no longer going to move the needle for your business goals (let’s face it, we all know how this is done), but those who can find a way to attract and stimulate their audience by connecting with their personal interests will build credibility and open the opportunity to win their business.
In the past, there was a multitude of options for organizations to buy this information from third parties and attempt to leverage it for targeting and personalization. Looking ahead, as many of these third-party options are either eliminated by the organizations that once supported them or by individuals blocking the release of this information, such data will need to be earned or traded for by providing value to the individuals that you are looking to target. How can you best address this evolution of personalization? Ensure that the impersonal visit still provides value while showing the visitor the benefit to them in sharing more about themselves and their interests.
In terms of tactics, we support a weekly email digest of articles curated by our team in the areas of audience building, how to earn trust, the evolution of content curation, and other business growth and leadership areas of interest. Historically, we’d spend a decent amount of time reviewing all that had been curated in order to select the best, since all subscribers received the same email, but now the content within each email is being automatically customized based upon what each subscriber has engaged with historically (thanks, rasa.io!). This not only allows us to be more authentic in what we approve as candidate articles for the campaign but also allows us to increase the variety without fearing that the article isn’t worth of “taking up a spot”.
In other cases, personalization can be accomplished by allowing the audience member to personalize for themselves. In many of the employee advocacy and social selling efforts we support for our customers, their ability to provide their team a variety of content clearly organized by topics in an easy to use interface, such as Hootsuite’s Amplify, empowers each employee to subscribe to what interests them – giving them a customized view they personalized to their own needs.
If you are going to bring personalization into your strategy, make it real.
M7: What are the major advertising and marketing tools that you use to hike up the brand awareness of your company?
SR: We are a pretty small team so our marketing and advertising stack are pretty simplistic from a technology perspective. In terms of brand awareness, we’ve had success in “standing on the shoulders” of our partners and joining them in their campaigns (e.g. conferences, webinars, written pieces, webinars, etc.). We also invest heavily in the experience our customers have not only with our platform, but also with our team from a support and success perspective. This has resulted in some fantastic responses on our G2 profile and provided a prominent, third-party, site as an initial result for both branded and non-branded keywords.
We’ve also seen success in digital advertising on Facebook and Instagram (I know, I was skeptical at first as well) in terms of both volume and quality of demos booked.
M7: How do you target content to your audience, and what are the challenges that you face while producing effective content?
SR: The understanding and effective use of curated content in marketing, sales, HR, and other efforts is undergoing significant evolution. Just a few years ago, using third-party articles in your efforts was largely considered a way to “fill up” some posting slots on social media just to show that your brand still has a pulse. Today, there are multiple examples of curated articles delivering direct revenue by providing context and support for original thought leaderships, building brands through email digests, and sparking relationships between individuals on social media. This understanding, however, is far from pervasive and the number of technologies charting their own path in their vision for how curated content can be best leveraged has created a fragmented industry.
The content we create is meant to help educate and stimulate thought on how to best leverage curated articles across multiple channels and, often, including one or more of our partners in sharing their thoughts as well. As with most organizations, we don’t have the creation budget we’d like and thus work to derive the most possible from the assets we do create. This often means ensuring joint webinars are recorded and made available for on-demand review as well as translating these discussions into text-based articles for those who like to consume information in black and white rather than via video or audio.
We’ll never have the budget to craft all we want to say, but if we can ensure that nearly every piece we do create can be a pillar for receiving traffic over a long period of time, and provide those visitors value, we can build these assets over time and begin to position ourselves as having a unique perspective and authority in our space.
Focus on quality. The future will be less about volume of content and chronological blogs and more about identifying the areas where you and your organization have something truly unique to share, doubling down your efforts to make that piece highly valuable to your audience.
M7: What do you believe are the top three product marketing challenges in the post COVID-19 era?
SR: 1. The loss of off-agenda interactions: Yes, we are a SaaS technology company. Yes, the rapid growth in organizations needing to define and implement a digital-first effort for connecting with their internal and external audiences has been beneficial for our space, but the inability to attend conferences and have in-person conversations with current and potential partners have introduced a number of challenges in building trust and certainly elongated the timeline from first interaction to effective partnership.
2. Uncertainty: As with the financial markets, there is nothing more damaging to product marketing efforts, particularly in SaaS, than uncertainty within your prospects' organizations. Unlike bigger ticket items that require a single purchase decision, many product marketers not only need to focus on the initial conversion decision, but ensuring that decision continues month after month in order to keep churn low. Even certain bad news allows the reinvestment of resources elsewhere, but uncertainty can become paralyzing if not managed properly.
3. Noise: Remember how many of those “We’re still here for you.” emails you received from technologies you may have signed up for and trialed once five years ago that hit your inbox just as the pandemic was reaching a fever pitch? Our partner, HubSpot, did some fantastic analysis over 2020 and provided weekly data points on the number of emails sent and the resulting open rates of these campaigns. The summary? When the pandemic’s lasting effects become more certain, sales organizations opened up and blasted their lists with emails. The open rates plummeted. Marketers did the same, and the open rates stayed the same and, in some cases, even increased. Why? The messaging.
Customers in any industry have the tools to find nearly any answer on their own, but the organizations that can consistently cut through the noise that exists in attempting to find the answer by providing compelling content (original or third-party) will be the ones that can command the attention of their prospects.
M7: What do you read, and how do you consume information to stay at the top of your game?
SR: If I didn’t answer this way, you should stop reading and forget everything that has been already said. I leverage UpContent to stay abreast of the latest in the industry and personal topic areas I enjoy. I then share those that I believe relevant with our internal team, share some to my social profiles, and approve others to appear in our email campaign and website.
M7: Your advice to B2B content writers?
SR: Focus on quality. The future will be less about the volume of content and chronological blogs and more about identifying the areas where you and your organization have something truly unique to share, doubling down your efforts to make that piece highly valuable to your audience, and then leveraging curated articles to stimulate your targets to understand the context of your piece and drive more traffic to it.