Social Studies is a talk show produced by TINT about marketing, social media, and technology through the lens of the industry’s most innovative minds. Hosted by Nathan Zaru. In this episode we welcome Kevin Goldberg, content marketing manager at AppDynamics. You can tweet him @Kevin_Goldberg and tweet us with comments or requests @TINT and @YES.
How To Build A Content Marketing Strategy From Scratch with Kevin Goldberg
Nathan Zaru: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the next episode of Social Studies podcast. Today I have with us Kevin Goldberg, Content Marketing Manager at AppDynamics. A former Red Bull marketing pro, he’s been in content marketing for years. He figures out problems like how to make messages people care about. We brought him on today to teach us about how to build a content strategy from scratch. Hope you enjoy the episode.
Kevin Goldberg: Thanks, Nathan. Happy to be here. Like you said, I’ve been at AppDynamics for a bit now, watching them go through hyper growth and really scaling our content efforts to match that. Previously I was at an Israeli startup, Walk Me, which helps with customer experience and customer success, then basically did a PR circuit for a little bit, which helped with my story telling. I learned a lot and it helps me everyday now.
Nathan Zaru: Something I don’t like you to not mention is you were at Red Bull.
Kevin Goldberg: Yes, sorry. I forgot about that. I was at Red Bull for a few years doing marketing for them, where I cut my teeth, learned the chops.
Nathan Zaru: I have a very soft spot for Red Bull marketing in my heart, because it was more than 10 years ago, I was in high school, like 15, 16 years old, I saw the Red Bull Flugtag Event. I knew it was preposterous and crazy, but it was cool and amazing. I totally forget who it was, it was a teacher I think, I asked them, “What is that?” And they said, “That’s marketing.” That has always stuck with me. As silly as that seems, that’s actually one of the main reasons why I got into marketing today. I just thought something as cool and amazing as that couldn’t possibly be corporate business, but it is, and you were involved with that. That’s actually one of the reasons why I got into marketing, and how you started your career. I think that’s really great.
Kevin Goldberg: Yes, absolutely. Even as a content marketer, we’re constantly looking towards Red Bull, because them, GoPro, Lego, with the Lego Movie even, is considered content marketing. They are the crème de la crème, so everybody’s trying emulate what they’re doing.
Nathan Zaru: Content marketing is definitely a hot topic now a days, but you’ve been doing it for awhile. How did you find your way to content marketing?
Kevin Goldberg: I’ve always been a fairly good writer and editor, so it was kind of pushed towards me. But really, where you need to own your skills is in that story telling capability, understanding true buyer personas and what their interests are, and most importantly the project management and the strategy behind that. It’s more than just writing and editing.
Nathan Zaru: Interesting. Is the best way to get into content as a writer, or can people in film do content as well? How about strategists, quote unquote?
Kevin Goldberg: Well, yes, I mean there’s so many different forms of content. Video content is a whole different beast. I’ll be the first to say that it’s not my area of expertise. I’m not the best at it. There’s tons you can learn. I think it’s easier to come into a content marketing role understanding that strategy, that project management ability, and that story telling, then learn the writing and editing as you go.
Nathan Zaru: I see. Kevin, I asked you here today, because you’ve been doing content marketing since before it was content marketing, and I think you promised me that you’d talk about how to build a content marketing from scratch. Do you want to walk us through how someone would go through this?
Kevin Goldberg: Sure. My role at AppDynamics before I got there, there wasn’t a true content marketing initiative, you could say. We spit out blogs, we spit out white papers, case studies, all that, but there wasn’t any high level person saying, “Hey, we’re not addressing these needs,” or, “We have no content audit,” or, “We’re not mapping it to any personas.” My first few months there, basically I formed an in-depth content audit.
Kevin Goldberg: In the first few weeks, few months, I did a content audit. What that entails is looking at every piece of content out there in existence that you have put out. Blogs from the start of time, white papers, eBooks, info-graphics, case studies, even the content that lives on your website, analyzing all of that and really bucketing in to your persona. What you do at the beginning is leaning on the product marketing team for really specific buyer personas. You need to make sure that your content not only maps to them, it maps to whatever products you’re shooting out, and it also maps to the buyers. For a company like AppDynamics, we have about 6 or 7 products, depending on how you want to define them, but in each of those, there’s different tech stacks. Our main product is APM, but we do Java APM, we do .NET, Node JS, PHP, C++, and all those are different personas in themselves. If you think, even as a buyer cycle being 4 stages, you have awareness, engagement, consideration, close, even as simplified as that seems…
Nathan Zaru: Can you say that again, what’s that 4 step process?
Kevin Goldberg: There’s awareness, engagement, consideration, close.
Nathan Zaru: Awareness, engagement, consideration, close. Okay, thank you.
Kevin Goldberg: That’s the most simplified you can think about it, and that’s only 4 buckets. You can get way more granular if you’d like. Then if you have a company with 7 products, that’s minimum 7 different buyer personas.
Nathan Zaru: Okay.
Kevin Goldberg: As you get more granular, you’re thinking about the spreadsheet. Do we have content for this persona, for this product module, in this level of the buyer cycle? As you can imagine, this spreadsheet starts getting bigger and bigger, the more granular and the more detailed you want to get into it. That’s what this content audit entails. I think it was maybe 8 by 8, 9 by 9 grid, and I did everything as simple as can be. Green was good, yellow was okay, and red was bad, and after I was done, about 80-90% of it was red. I go to the CMO and I’m like, “I did a content audit. I’m brand new, unbiased. We’re not looking good. We’re not addressing all these personas in these different tech stacks for this product module. We need to start filling these gaps immediately.” This is where the content marketing strategy comes in. It’s where should we address it first? How do we prioritize? [content redacted]
Nathan Zaru: How are you not product-specific when you’re at a company that’s supposed to sell a product?
Kevin Goldberg: That’s a good question. Our Java agent for instance, our personas for Java APM are ops persons, so IT ops and developers. All you want to do is create content that resonates with them that has a loose tie-in to your product.
Nathan Zaru: I deal with this all the time at Tint and every previous company. What does it mean to have a loose tie-in?
Kevin Goldberg: For instance, our best Java asset to date is an eBook called, “Top 10 Java Performance Problems”. As an IT ops professional at a company that runs on Java, that’s an eBook that’s going to intrigue them. Top 10 performance problems for Java, we run on that, I’m interested. They open that, a few of them, not all of them, AppDynamics can s olve. It doesn’t say that directly, but right then and there, we have them in our funk, in our grasp. That’s where content marketing really proves its value by continuing to feed that lead, that user, quality content that becomes more and more detailed and more and more specific on your company. Top of the funnel assets are going to be really vague, just really interesting, to get that person’s general interests at the beginning.
Nathan Zaru: We have a content team here at Tint, and I came up with this analogy a couple years ago. I don’t know where I got it from exactly, but every company sells products, and every company wants to sell you those products, but they can’t just say, “Hey, we sell pens. Do you want a pen?” It’s more like, “Hey, do you like to write? How do you feel about handwriting techniques?” The best way that I have found thus far to communicate to my content team here at Tint and other companies previously is to sell the dream. At Tint the dream is freedom from the IT department as a marketer. At Tint the freedom is to actually control your social media experience without having to worry about all the bad days that happen on social media. Is that far off from what you’re saying here? Selling the dream?
Kevin Goldberg: No, I think it’s spot on, better than I could even say. Going back to your pen example, as a general person that writes with pens, I could be a target market. If you had a blog post or eBook that said, “What your handwriting says about you,” that’s really interesting. Buzzfeed-ing it up, I guess.
Nathan Zaru: Okay, that’s funny you mentioned Buzzfeed, because you mentioned that you most popular piece of content to date is the top 10 issues of…
Kevin Goldberg: Java
Nathan Zaru: Java, right. Listicles. Let’s be real, this is a listicle. Is the content marketing solution really just to Buzzfeed-ify, if that’s a verb now, your company or you subjects?
Kevin Goldberg: I think the difference is a listicle in general really intrigues users, because they know what they’re getting into. Top 10, okay, I’m going to come away with 10 actionable insights, but if it was, “Top 10 Java Performance Problems as Presented by Cat Gifs,” they probably wouldn’t see much value in that.
Nathan Zaru: Got you. The content marketing, very interesting topic I think, because my personal opinion is that marketers should be product makers. We shouldn’t be like, “Here’s a pen, do you really want to buy this pen? How about now? 10% off. Do you want to buy the pen now?” I think we do much better things like, “Here’s a video pens being written on,” or whatever might be… For people who want to be content marketers, for people who are content marketers, what technologies can you recommend? What courses or what strategies can you recommend to use for people who are coming up? How do you get started with content marketing?
Kevin Goldberg: To tackle your question in parts, I think the tools are extremely important. If you split content marketing into project management, editing, and just transparency between you, the rest of the marketing department, and your sales department. There’s several tools that are [dustless 12:14]. You’ll need marketing automation and a CRM system, but a tool that I am getting into that I really like and I can’t say enough good things about is a tool called, Kapost. It’s basically a content marketing hub that takes on a project management overview. It really closes the gaps where spreadsheets can’t handle, like going back on that content audit that took me weeks and months to do, Kapost automates, so it can get more granular than you could ever think of. If you want to talk about our Java agent and what content supports it, it can split that into buckets and really show your gaps clearer than even my spreadsheet of 100 blogs.
Nathan Zaru: What kind of gaps are we talking about here?
Kevin Goldberg: It’s content supporting that persona, that product module, in that buyer cycle. In awareness in, going back to your pen example, in the awareness stage, if you have one pen, like ball-point versus felt or whatever, in the felt department in the awareness stage, you don’t have content supporting that, so you’re not going to be getting those top of the funnel leads that you need to be.
Nathan Zaru: You mentioned earlier a funnel. I really liked that, the awareness, engagement, consideration, and close. Where does content marketing fall?
Kevin Goldberg: All 3?
Nathan Zaru: All the stages.
Kevin Goldberg: Yes, so there’s a stat out there, or there’s several, anywhere between 60 and about 80% of the buyer journey is done before they even speak to a sales rep.
Nathan Zaru: 60%?
Kevin Goldberg: Yes, 60 to 80. It depends where you look, there’s tons. Sales people won’t agree with it. Content needs to support all the way through so that you get that awareness, and then you need to support email, nurture tracks. You need good assets to push them down, then eventually hand them off to sales, well-educated.
Nathan Zaru: Wow. 60-80% of your prospects will encounter your brand before sales even touches them. Okay, great. One last note, Kevin, I really appreciate your time here so far. What’s the future of content marketing? What company do you think is doing the best job of content right now?
Kevin Goldberg: I can’t say enough good things about Red Bull, GoPro, Lego, The Lego Movie, but one that’s doing really cool things is Cards Against Humanity. They did this holiday thing called, “15 Days of Bullshit”.
Nathan Zaru: I did that.
Kevin Goldberg: I did it as well. One of the things they gave you was a pamphlet of their support system emails, which any other company, that’s going to be super boring. It’s people complaining, then their service people trying to suck up, but this was incredibly entertaining, because the questions they got in and the responses from their CS team were just so on point on their brand. There brand is anti-authoritative, but really humorous, and those responses we’re just incredibly on point, that I was reading support emails. No other company can get away with doing it.
Nathan Zaru: Open source support emails. You heard it from the pro himself. All right, Kevin, thanks so much for all your time here. It was a great episode for sure.
Kevin Goldberg: Yes, thanks for having me.
Nathan Zaru: Cheers.