In this digital age, there is a plethora of content being produced and circulated each day by companies seeking to connect with and grow their audience. Alyssa Fox is no stranger to the world of content with years of experience running technical content teams before shifting into content strategy roles within large public companies and startups.
Alyssa now serves as Senior Director of Partner Marketing at Alert Logic and shares her industry knowledge and insights in this information-packed episode. Listen below as Kyle and Alyssa discuss where to begin in tackling the giant that is content as well as delve into strategies for creating and structuring impactful, meaningful content and more.
Welcome to the Summit- a podcast about marketing, interesting things on the web, and how to grow your business. Today’s guest, being Alyssa Fox, Senior Director of Partner Marketing at Alert Logic. Good morning, Alyssa.
Good Morning Kyle.
Hey, uh, I would love to have you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure. First of all, thanks for having me here today. I’m really excited to talk to you about this. So my background is primarily in content. Um, I started out in technical content and was in engineering departments for a number of years running technical content teams. And then I actually made my way over to marketing through, um, content strategy, looking at content strategy across the enterprise, across marketing, information development, technical content, support, content, et cetera. And, I’ve discovered that in my various marketing roles that I’ve had, um, in the last over the last few years, content really plays a central role. So I’m currently in partner marketing as you noted earlier, but I’ve also run marketing departments for our startup as well as, was in a content strategy leadership role in a very large public company in the marketing department before that. So I’m really excited about how content plays such a significant role in marketing, um, across the board as well as larger enterprises when you look across various departments that all use content.
That’s great. Well, we’re excited to have you as a guest today and as, as you have stated, we’re going to have you talk to us about content marketing. Now, you know, in your role as you’ve transitioned from a technical writer and technical documentation and moved into this role that’s, that looks at a broader spectrum of marketing communications and how content plays. Tell us why content marketing is a such a big category, and b why it’s important for organizations to consider.
Yeah, I’d love to. So content marketing has kind of evolved over the last, I’d say maybe 10 years or so. I know Joe Pulizzi, from, the content marketing institute played a big role in that. And to me it kind of evolved from a need to look at ways to talk to customers more about how we solved their problems rather than the navel gazing of really saying, Oh, look at me and my products, aren’t they outstanding? Um, so nobody really cares about your products if they don’t know what they’re gonna do for them. So content marketing kind of arose out of that. The one thing I really like about content marketing, especially having been in several different marketing departments now is seeing the kind of impact you can get from a properly targeted and, written piece of content that really aims at helping customers.
What kind of impact and ROI you can get based on that versus the historical, traditional way of doing marketing with either advertising or, um, an event heavy strategy. So I think that, based on my experience in marketing, you know, you can really get a lot of bang for your buck with a, with a well-written well aimed piece of content. And all of the things around that and campaigns run around that and atomized content in other ways and formats of sending that out, um, for a lot less cost than perhaps running an event, which frankly doesn’t bring you the qualified leads that you would normally get from content quite as well because they’re not as targeted always. So, that’s something that I’ve noticed in my, my last few years. Content marketing has really risen to the top, I think especially also because of the digital, transformation that we’ve seen over the last several years. Obviously going from an event where you actually have to spend a lot of money to travel and show up and talk to people face to face, is obviously more cost intensive and, and a lot more effort around that versus content marketing because so much stuff is online. Being able to go out and search in Google or whatever for information about the problem that you’re having and who could possibly solve that and how it could possibly be solved is really powerful.
That’s awesome. So, you know, it sounds like content touches on a lot of different areas and from a ubiquity standpoint, it’s ever present and evergreen as it lives online. You talked a little bit about the specific use case of a targeted piece versus an event. How does content fit into an integrated strategy? And maybe even before you answer that, what, what types of content? I think sometimes people think content is just a blog or is a, is a newspaper article or things like that. What is content?
Ah, that’s an awesome question. So I, what I like to say when I’m talking to people about content is that no deal is ever done without content because there are so many types of content that people don’t even realize are content. For example, the email that a salesperson might send a prospect that’s content and the way that they frame the message and the way that they talk about the customers problem that they’re trying to solve, that’s content and it needs to be aligned with the message that your company is trying to send about how you help people solve their problems. In their everyday jobs. Um, other things like you, you mentioned blog, right? Obviously that’s content. Um, an Ebook is content, pdf, assets that you can download, build campaigns around all content, social media, tweets, 140 characters is content. And the important thing about content is that it all needs to align because if you’re, if what you’re saying in your emails from a salesperson to a prospect doesn’t align with the voicemails that your lead development representatives are leaving for people to try and get them to engage, doesn’t align with what the messages on your homepage, on your website.
Again, another form of content, web pages, um, then your customers and prospects are going to be confused. And that’s why it’s so essential to have a strategy around content, which we’ll probably get into it a little bit later. But all of that comes together and really needs to be integrated. So, you know, back to the integrated part of the question. When you’re talking about building campaigns or programs around, publicizing and promoting content, you know, you can’t really build a campaign without some sort of content, whether it’s a webpage that you’re pointing back to or a landing page for an event that you want to invite people to that they need to register for, or a content asset, like a white paper. Um, all of that is built around content because you want to point them to something that they can actually use to help them solve their problems. And that’s right. And I know I keep saying that about helping them solve their problems with- that is the core of it. That is the aim of your content to help them understand what they need to do to be able to take care of that stuff. So they’re not worried about that particular problem. They can focus on their day jobs.
That’s great. And you know, the thing that, that, that’s interesting to me, Alyssa as I listened to you talk, is you know, the, the, the world of content can almost seem too big. Where do I start? What, what, where’s the right place to focus on? What’s the right place to kick off with? As You, as you think about strategy, you think about organizations regardless of size, how does an organization begin to eat the elephant that is content or a content strategy for their company?
So I think you really need to start with your messaging because everything you do flows from that messaging. Every time you write an email, every time you leave a voice message, every time you create a webpage, it all needs to align with the messaging around who your company is and what they do and how they help you. And you know, there’s obviously different levels of messaging. There’s company level messaging, there’s um, solution level messaging. There is all the way down to product level messaging. But understanding what you want to say about how you help customers and prospects is absolutely essential or you’re going to find yourself going around in circles. So when I worked at the startup that I mentioned earlier, when I first got there, they didn’t really have any marketing. They had a website. Um, but it was primarily written by developers and not not marketing people and there was not a lot of thought put into what is the message we are trying to put out to the world.
You know, and your message can’t be, “we have great products” because as I mentioned earlier, nobody cares about your products if they don’t understand how they correlate to what they’re trying to do in their own jobs. So understanding that that messaging takes time is important to get it right. You want to get it right. That’s not to say the messaging can’t ever change, but really understanding and getting everybody on board with this is how we want to talk about what we do and how we help people. And then you start building content around that. I would say my personal recommendation is if you don’t have any content, build up your website first. Because the first thing anybody does when they hear your name is they’re going to go to the web and look up your website. And if your website doesn’t properly convey who you are and what you do, that’s going to be a problem with any other type of content that you then try to do after that.
And you, you talked about focusing on the core message and what you’re trying to say that that proves to be more difficult than I think a lot of organizations give, give credence or credit to. Is there a, is there a framework or a thought process that’s a really good foundation for helping people identify and, and hone in on what those key messages or key elements should be?
Great question. So there’s probably a, there’s multiple frameworks and multiple ways to approach that. I can tell you from working in a $4 billion public company down to a startup with 20 people that we approached it very differently, right? For those two different organizations. Um, so when I was working at the startup, I actually worked with an agency that had a, as a sort of framework and, and questions that they asked of the client to really understand and dig into what they were trying to do, what, what their main value proposition was, where they were most, uh, where they were the strongest, and really delivering that value to prospects and customers. So while I can’t really point to an exact framework, I’m sure if you search on the web, there’s a bunch of different ways to go about this. But when I worked at the larger company, you know, we had a huge messaging framework doc that could be, you know, anywhere from five to 10 pages.
If you’re a startup, you probably don’t need five to 10 pages of messaging. But if you’re in a company that has, you know, 15 portfolios with 200 products, it might be a different answer there. Um, the way I like to look at it regardless of the scale is as I mentioned earlier, making sure that you have those levels of messaging. Um, all the way from company level messaging to solution level messaging or could be even portfolio level messaging below that or product level messaging and understanding the right ways and places to apply those different levels.
That’s great. That’s great. Uh, great advice there at the end as far as how you stack rank those. Now, once you have your message, how do you choose what to do with it? I mean you talked about focusing on the website because that’s where, where everybody goes first, but there’s a lot of folks out there who would say, okay, the next thing to do is email marketing or social media. Now we’re starting to get into the channels that we’re delivering the content. What’s, what’s the right approach to taking your messaging and figuring out how to campaign it or, or do you campaign it, what do you do next once you have your message?
Well, I don’t think that , you know, I wouldn’t jump straight from a website into email marketing for example, especially if you don’t have any content assets because when you’re talking about email marketing or drip campaigns or nurture campaigns or even, you know, paid media and, and pay per clicks and all of that, you’ve got to have something to point back to. And it’s funny that you asked this particular question cause I had this argument over and over with our CEO at my last company, the startup. He was very, well, I wouldn’t say very familiar, but he was pretty familiar with, um, paid media and wanting to spend a lot of money on ads and retargeting and driving people back to the website. But what my argument was was that we don’t have anything to drive these people to.
So if they come to a website and they just kind of see a very kind of bare bones website of sorta what we do because we’re just building our messaging out, but we don’t have any additional things to point them to and guide them through, you know, discovering their problem and understanding their problem and understanding a solution to that problem, then they’re going to get frustrated, they’re going to leave and they’re never going to come back and we’re going to lose that potential lead or opportunity. Whereas if we hold off a little bit on that paid media, actually build out some content assets, some white papers, get a blog going on a regular basis, um, you know, maybe do some ebooks for a little more graphical interaction and actually have something to point them to that gives them useful information, then they’re much more likely to either stay with us through a nurture campaign a little bit down the road or come back to our website in the future.
So we did a lot of education, a lot of discussion around that. Um, because he just didn’t understand content marketing and what the value of the content was there. Just having a website isn’t gonna do you any good if you don’t have stuff that gives people things from that website. So I would say email marketing might come a little bit further down the road when you actually have something to build into that, especially around nurture campaigns. But my next step after the website would be some sort of assets, you know, the white papers, the ebooks, the infographics, the blog. The second thing I did at my last company was after I got the website going and, and a little bit better in shape, I started a frequent blog series. And if nothing else, at least you have something on your website while you’re building out larger content assets that can provide that guidance, that information, that thought leadership around the market that you’re in and the information around those problems that they’re trying to solve.
You know, there are, there are people specifically in, I would say probably more of a sales role that would argue or, or take a position of the content leads or the content people that we’re establishing these relationships with is a waste of time. We need people that are gonna drive revenue right now. How do you, how do you negotiate that? Especially when you’re in a, an environment like the startup where you’re in, where we have to balance driving revenue for today’s needs, but also, you know, the content which appears to be at least as you’ve described it, more of a longterm play strategy.
Yeah, that’s definitely a dichotomy that you’re going to have to deal with. And you’re absolutely right, the content marketing, it is a longterm strategy. It is not something that happens overnight. We’re talking six months minimum before you probably start to see return on that depending on your sales cycle. But what I find so funny about that is because of course I had that from, you know, VP of sales and stuff. Well, I, you know what why yeah, sure. That might help down the road. But here’s what I need right now. The funny thing is, every time they came back to me and said, hey, I need x, guess what? It was content. They just needed it on a shorter timeline. It might have been a chart showing, you know, feature comparisons that might’ve been a chart showing different the different order of in which a customer was going through certain things and need a quick response.
It’s like a conversation card or a battle card, that sort of thing. So they’re still asking for content, they’re just asking for it on a shorter term or a shorter timeline. So, it’s definitely a matter of balance. What I tried to do when I built out my content plan and my content strategy, I, I tried to do a longterm plan and then a, a more, uh, short term by quarter plan. So here’s exactly what I’m planning on doing this quarter. And then that’s gonna feed my overall strategy for the next year in this way. And what I tried to do was build out what I really thought was important for the longterm content plan and then also allow some room for those short term requests from sales, you know, the battle card or a quick webpage to address a need that, you know, we’d had a whole lot of requests about that sort of thing. So being able to really understand how to estimate that work and have the right resources on hand helped me do that.
So it sounds like, you know, you’re, you’re touching different, different sides of a funnel and as you step down through the funnel, a lot of content strategy is I would say probably aimed at the attract at least the stuff that most marketers are, uh, propagated with in, in either social media or the stuff that’s touched on as it relates to content. But you, you bring up some interesting things as it relates to the buying cycle in the conversion part of a funnel. How does an organization balance attracting new customers and closing the people that they do have in the pipeline?
So I think typically when people are working with content marketing, the vast majority of the content they put out there, I’d say 70 to 80% is in that attract part of the funnel like you mentioned. And there’s a couple of reasons for that. Number one is the easiest. It’s easiest to do just period. It’s easy to go out there and see what people are talking about online. It’s easy to see what your competitors are doing as far as you know, thought leadership content. And it just doesn’t take quite as much digging into the details and the really understanding maybe specific customers or prospects and where they are in that cycle and, and what they really need to close the deal. Secondly, the, the mid to lower funnel, you know, the actual consideration and decision part of the funnel where you know, you’re actually working on closing the deals.
takes longer and it’s harder. Obviously flip side of the top funnel being easier. We’re talking about things that really start to close the deal for people like customer k. They want to know that somebody else has adopted the solution and it’s worked for them and they would understand their problems. But then you have the whole problem of, okay, how do I get a customer to commit to actually publicly saying that they use this product and it’s, it works really well for them. So there’s a lot more of that sort of digging. There’s a lot more of technical details. So you’re having to engage other teams and things for, you know, what are the technical requirements for this project? Things that nobody cares about when they’re first starting to look at things that or even realize they have a problem. So not until they get later down in the funnel, do they care about this?
So there’s a lot more people involved in creating that kind of content. There’s a longer content creation cycle. There’s usually a longer content review cycle as well. Reviews are always, um, sometimes seem to go into a black hole going back and forth and back and forth, trying to get that sort of thing in there. But I think if you don’t plan properly for addressing all three areas of the funnel or for however you depend, you know, depending on how your organization might, might siphon it out, um, then you’re not, you’re almost always going to neglect the middle and the bottom of the funnel. Just because it’s so much harder to do and harder to come up with, with the content as well as the ideas and topics for that content. So I think when you’re building out a content, and that’s one reason, you know, a content strategy and a content plan is so important.
Just doing ad hoc content. You know, let’s say you put 10 pieces of content out in a quarter and you know, maybe one of those will resonate and really hit home with some people. But you just got lucky, in my opinion, if you’re not sitting down and thinking about who is your audience, what part of the funnel do you want this particular piece of content to hit? What is the point of this piece of content? Who is it aimed at? You know, can you use it again in a different way? Can you atomize it into different formats? Then you’re really not going to get what you need out of that piece of content. It’s not going to perform for you like you really want it to or like it could. And so that’s why it’s so important to think of all areas of the funnel versus just randomly throwing content out there because a salesperson asked for a white paper on the hallway or, you know that so and so your competitor x and competitor y are talking about this topic. So you better rush out there and get something else out about that topic. That’s not what’s going to close deals for you. A well thought out strategy, addressing all areas of the funnel is what, what’s gonna really make it work.
That’s great insight. So as you, as you take those learnings and you try and boil it down, what are the critical elements to have in just a basic content offering.
Now when you say content offering, do you mean a content strategy or a set of content assets?
I would say a set of content assets.
Okay. So, um, again, I’ll go back to the content strategy. Um, making sure that your content strategy addresses what you want to do with the content and understanding that audience are your very basic starting points. WhenI was working in a really that really large organization that I mentioned earlier, there was a lot of, hey, we need to do this content and this content or we’re going to do a campaign around x. So we need to create these four pieces of content versus thinking about who was the audience that really needs content. What do we want this content to do for us? Uh, do we want it to, to inform, do we want it to persuade? Do we want it to provide a humorous look at this? You know, how, what are we trying to do? Do we want it to convert? What do we want this piece of content to do?
That was our biggest issue. There was no thought about what task that content was supposed to do for us. So as a result, you know, 70% I’m sure you’ve heard the statistic, 70 to 75% of the content that marketing organizations are creating nowadays, never get used, never get looked at, never get touched. And when you think about how much money and effort goes into creating the content that we’re all putting now, that’s really sad. So you need to kind of flip that around and think about what are we doing there? And that’s again, knowing that audience, knowing the purpose of that content is the very most basic thing. And then once you understand those, I think it makes it a lot easier to come up with the topics based on also what part of the funnel you’re trying to address. And then after that point, it’s kind of a little more around creativity, right?
It’s like, what kind of content do we want to put out there? What resonates with our customers? Hopefully you have some sort of statistics on, you know, webinars work really well for us on this particular particular topic with this particular audience or you know, we see a lot of blog hits from this particular region, so maybe we should try an event there, you know, regional event. So hopefully using that data to then to inform what you’re offering and content, um, should definitely be a focus. And then again, I know I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, but atomizing that content, we don’t reuse content enough. Um, that’s not just the problem in marketing. That’s a problem in technical content. That’s a problem in content in general. And that’s how you kind of get to these places where you have 14 different versions of a piece of content and you know, nobody can find it.
And there’s then 17 different white papers addressing pretty much the same thing. But that’s because nobody talked to each other. And there’s a number of reasons for that. It. Part of its people, part of its technology or lack of, and part of it’s just this lack of planning around the content. So when you’re actually sitting down and thinking about the content you want to create based on the audience and the purpose of that content, I think you should also think from the very beginning about how you can reuse that content. And that’s, you know, for example, taking a white paper and saying, oh, we can also build a webinar off of this. We can have a podcast, we can build an infographic, we can build social media copy, perhaps, well obviously for us to use, but maybe our partners as well to help us promote this. So thinking about that from the beginning really helps you get a lot more bang for your buck in that particular offering.
Great. Well, I really appreciate your insight and taking time to be here in give us your experience with content, Alyssa. If folks have additional questions or would like more information about how to improve their current content strategy, is there a way that they should get in contact with you?
Sure. I’m on Twitter at afox98 and I’m also on Linkedin. Just look me up, Alyssa Fox, and um, you can contact me either way through one of those.
Great, well, we really appreciate you taking the time to share your insights on content strategy, Alyssa, and we wish you the best as you grow things there at Alert Logic is that senior director partner marketing. Thanks for joining us today.
Thanks for having me.