Inbound marketing is one component of content marketing that is often misunderstood. Relevant, compelling, and interesting blog posts, Webinars, and other content can attract and educate prospective and existing customers. What best practices should you use to align team of teams creating content marketing?Today’s guest is Valaer Goldsworthy, director of content marketing at EZ Texting. Valaer describes how teams collaborate with business units outside of marketing to understand use cases of EZ Texting’s products and services.
Nathan: Inbound marketing can be misunderstood as inbound marketing. Really, inbound is just one component of content marketing. Inbound helps drop prospective customers to your business by publishing relevant, compelling, and interesting content. Content marketing tactics from the inbound side like blog posts, videos, guides, ebooks, and webinars can also really benefit your existing customers too. You can use content marketing tactics to educate customers on the things that they can achieve by using your products and services.Then what are some of those best practices when it comes to aligning teams of teams to create content across the marketing, sales, and customer success funnel? I'm glad you asked. That's why we're talking with Valaer Goldsworthy today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast. Valaer is the director of content marketing at EZ Texting, the number one mobile marketing platform for business. Today, you're going to learn how Valaer, and her teammates collaborate with business units outside of marketing to truly understand those use cases their customers want to implement with their services. You'll learn the three H of Hero, Hub, and Health content—how those things work together to educate prospects and customers. You're going to learn a little bit about change management too.I'm Nathan from CoSchedule, and now without further ado, let's get AMPed with Valaer.Hey, Valaer. Thank you for being on the show today.Valaer: Thanks, Nathan. Great to talk to you.Nathan: Yeah. Great to talk to you too. Valaer, I'm super interested in everything that you are doing at EZ Texting. Let's begin with just getting a feel for the company itself. Tell me a little bit about EZ Texting and what it is you guys do there.Valaer: Absolutely. EZ Texting is a SaaS company. We're in the business of messaging and voice solutions. Our founders who are still on board, they started out and about 2004 with a company called Callfire, then, acquired EZ Texting about seven years back. It's really become our flagship brand. We went through a rebrand about a year ago. We are now EZ Texting.We’re a cloud-based selfservice text marketing platform, our main users are business owners, small business owners, entrepreneurs that use us for alerts, notifications, promotions, and also customer support. It's a broadcast platform to be able to text one person to many or be able to text one to one—kind of having a direct text conversation. Nathan: There's definitely a need for that. We would benefit from a tool like that here at CoSchedule. Very cool to hear that story. I know you were the director of content marketing over there. What does the day in the life look like for you?Valaer: The day in the life... I am the very first content marketing director that the team has had. I really spent my first quarter getting acquainted with the various teams, the various content needs across the entire company. I worked with our demand gen marketing team, I worked with our product marketing team. I worked with design and UX. My team also have a lot of requests that come from sales, customer success, and carrier ops, even HR. We really get to dabble with a lot of different types of customer and consumer phasing content. It's busy. We do a lot of juggling of demands. As I said, my position is really new to the company. I'm just in the process of building another team right now. I brought on a new hire a couple of weeks ago. I have a content producer starting this coming week who's really going to be building out and ramping our inhouse video production efforts. That's very exciting.Nathan: Valaer, you've kind of mentioned that you’ve got demand gen, product marketing. You got sales, HR, it sounds like you are a team of teams. Would that be right?Valaer: Yes, definitely. We are a team of teams. When I came on board, we didn't necessarily, not just gone through a rebrand. It was a slowly evolving rebrand. We didn't have set brand guidelines or a set brand voice. That's something I have a lot of experience with coming from an editorial background. I spent a long time really establishing those, doing a lot of interviewing throughout the company, checking out a lot of our net promoter score reviews, a lot of our review site reviews across G2, trust radius, and others. Really getting to understand why we are so highly rated and why our consumers have been with us since.Also, it's an interesting company because it's been going through such a rapid growth phase. We closed our series B funding a year ago. The company itself is really ramped up. It's pretty much doubled in size. We still have members in the marketing team who've been here for five or six years. In my world, in digital, that's a very long time to be at one company. We have a lot of different perspectives throughout the company from new voices and people coming in on board. Our CEO, for example, comes from Evernote most recently. Before that, Intuit. My boss, our CMO, Matt Reid, comes from Velocify and other SaaS companies. It's been really interesting to find that center point in terms of voice, customer benefits, and what is our mission with our content.Nathan: Yeah, that's super interesting to me. You said you look at G2 crowd and your net promoter score for some of that stuff. How do you use that to actually help with some of these unified marketing voices? I'm super interested in that.Valaer: For me, part of it was ramping up in a new product. I have never used EZ Texting before. I've only been an end user. Many of us will signup using a keyword and that kind of six digit short code like text "Pizza" to 313131. Then, you either get a coupon—text coupon—or you get occasional promotions, and things like that. I've only ever been an end user. I had never really realized what the entire backend of that is. For our customer base, as I said, they're small to medium size businesses. Per SMB customers, many of these people are not marketers. The pillars of marketing aren't things that they live and breathe everyday. They live and breath their business. They're now learning how to market their business. It was also getting real understanding of why people use this particular product, often because guess what? EZ Texting, it's pretty easy. It's very simple, it has a very basic UI. One of the things that we always kept in mind is not to make it very crowded, not to make it this huge, heavy tool, because our users aren't marketers, they're not necessarily always tech savvy. That was why it's really important to get super in depth in trying to get into the minds of who our strongest customers are from an NPS point of view that's in a promoter score. Also, from the LTV point of view, who are the people who have been with us since 2006 when EZ Texting was launched? Nathan: One of the things that really leads me to believe is knowing the audience is such an old school marketing thing. How did you figure out how to get in front of an audience that's like your existing best user? You're talking about users with high lifetime value who've been around for a really long time. How did you use that information to define how you will go to market for new clients?Valaer: I think that EZ Texting has a really unique challenge in that our customer base is so wide. As I mentioned, our customers have very different use cases. Alerts, a school using us for alerts. Classes cancelled, classes delayed, weather notifications. People using us for retail sales promotions. People using us to be able to step away from their phones inside their floral shop and be able to text with their customers, being stuck in a brick and mortar store. They're so different from each other. There is some overlap but considering that there’s a variety of use cases and there's a variety of vertical industries. If you think of an audience that are real estate agents compared to an audience of retail business owners compared to an audience of marketing agencies, also nonprofit marketing teams, that's a huge shaft of the public. How do you be everything to everyone, but also to have a point of view and have a distinct voice? Because we are in the business of telecommunications, trust and consumer confidence are of utmost importance to us. The CTIA, who is the trade organization lobby group that pulls together everybody in the mobile industry and tries to make sure we're all following best practices, they found that 90% of people believe that text is a safe space for safe communications that is protected. We try to maintain that in all of our content, our collateral, and our voice. That's one of the ways that we try to speak to so many different types of users.I think the other element is really not trust but it's also constantly reminding people of what they can use us for. There's an element of inspiration and aspiration that we try to provide our content and collateral with. That definitely speaks a lot more of my personal editorial background which I've been in travel, food, and wellness. That content always is very inspirational. I try to bring that with me to the content strategy for EZ Texting.Nathan: Yeah. I want to pick at that because I think it's really interesting. You had mentioned to remind people what to use us for. Earlier, you had said use cases, specifically. Do you use that stuff as inspiration for content marketing, like actual content you are creating to attract people in for those use cases. How do you use that information that you've gathered from this research to help you out with your marketing?Valaer: Sometimes, it's really a matter of working really closely with our front lines who are our customer success and our account services teams. We're really understanding what are the constant roadblocks for our customers. Why are people working with our sales teams or revenue team to really understand churn? What it is about the product or the experience or maybe even the use case that creates that kind of drop off. Then, developing content around that. It gets people excited. I think there's so many ways you can use voice, power words, visuals, and web experiences, or email experiences, to develop or ignite that excitement in the user.Nathan: Yeah, 100% agree. I love that you talked to your customer success people for ideas for marketing. I think that's extremely smart.Valaer: We have the most awesome customer success team. They all are here in our headquarters in Santa Monica. We get to work really closely with them. That's been a really important part of EZ Texting's success.Nathan: There's more to come from Valaer but it's time for a break. I thought you'd enjoy an example of how we've used a similar tactic that Valaer covers in this episode here at CoSchedule. Our customers have great ideas. When we gave them a tool to post on social media, they asked our customer support team when the best times to post on social media.Our marketing team then researched the question and published a blogpost to help them out. They also helped new prospects discover CoSchedule in addition to helping existing customers. Shortly after that, our product development team built a feature in the CoSchedule using our research from marketing that we labeled or named Best Time Scheduling. Anyway, it's a fun example of how listening to customer service can, and should influence marketing, and beyond. Now, I'm excited for you to learn even more from Valaer so let's get back to this conversation.One of the things that you've mentioned was that you think a lot about your customers and ways to get them excited in using your tool. When you're creating content, are you thinking about existing users, or are you thinking about net new. I’m very curious about this because there’s this new thing called customer marketing. It almost sounds like you’re hitting the nail on the head with what you’re talking about. Valaer: We segment our content into essentially our hero content, creating awareness type of content. Then, our hub content which is our ongoing customer education. There's also an element of SEO to it as well. Then, our help content. We have a knowledge-based based on Zendesk that is really robust. Then, with our content producer who's going to be coming on, a lot of that content is going to now become visual in terms of videos, product demos, and animated gifs. All sorts of levels are part of our strategy. Traditionally, to be honest, the marketing team has historically been focused on free trial signups. Then, as a company, as a whole, we're obviously focused on free trial to new users. Because there's been a shift in terms of the marketing and the marketing support to move into ongoing customer support, ongoing customer education, in an effort to work on churn, and an effort to work on our NPS score, we have really left the goals when it comes to those. We've needed content around that. Content within the product itself and content outside of the product.Nathan: I really like that example, Valaer. Like you said, your content is for awareness. You have a hub of content which is for customer education but also SEO and then health. You have the three Hs, which I think is really good framework to remember. Do you have those things all in one place? Are you separating these out for customers so that you can funnel them into the right sources? How do you handle the strategy into placement or distribution?Valaer: It's kind of like a game of Whack Em All. I'm kidding. We collectively work on larger campaigns and then within each group, we carry forth those campaigns. For example, we talked about various customer reengagement efforts. That is a matter of our demand gen team working on display, retargeting that as an email nurture campaign that is new blog content, that is a form of a new branding video, those types of things.We try to distribute. Social is a big aspect of that as well. For the most part, most of our social audience are current users. They're looking to get ideas, tips, and strategies on how best to utilize our platform. All of those distribution methods, taking a piece of content and leveraging it for all of those different platforms, all of the distribution channels, is a key part of making sure that we're hitting all parts of the funnel.Nathan: I really like that example, Valaer. I think a unified message going out multiple mediums can make it 10 times more effective than just in one area. One question I have for you based on this, it sounds like you have your demand gen team that's working on some of those ad side of things. You're likely working on the blog and that sort of thing from a content marketing perspective. How do you coordinate all that stuff together or make sure that you're working as a unified team? How does that work?Valaer: It's interesting because before I started, the marketing team didn't really have inhouse content creation. There were a lot of needs that I had to deliver on when I first came on board. One of them was helping the team to work more collaboratively so that we could execute on those campaigns. That was a big reason behind getting the entire team on CoSchedule—the entire marketing team. There have been a lot of siloing. There's a lot of individual goal tracking and strategy—kind of like siloed strategies.To be honest, that's something that's really come about more recently as we’ve transitioned onto CoSchedule. I've been using it over the past quarter. It's been so successful for us. We were able to work on the change management, getting everybody on to a new platform, teaching everybody, onboarding everybody, working on our flows, our workflows, creating our templates, it's been really helping the team have the transparency and also the ability to sign off on various parts of a project or a campaign. That's really helped in terms of making sure that we are filling in all of the margins on any types of campaigns, any types of messaging that we need to get out.Nathan: That makes a lot of sense. This signoff is like a form of handoff when you're collaborating among multiple teams. Is that where you're going with that?Valaer: Exactly, yeah. The ability to give each subgroup within marketing the transparency about what individuals are working on and then say, "Hey, this is ready for you to review." You don't have to Slack them, you don't have to email them, and then re-email them in case it got lost in their inbox. Everybody's on CoSchedule. Everybody's checking out all their latest alerts and notifications. That becomes a part of their workflow. It's been much easier to have those staged campaigns.First part of marketing needs to do this, we need to get their positioning. Then, content marketing needs to put together a copy for that, and then it goes to design. There's a lot of stuff. Then, it goes to demand gen. Being able to have a team our size working cross functionally, it's been so important to have a scheduling platform that also has project management.Nathan: It's fun for me to hear some of these things too. I'm very curious about this. One of the things you have mentioned is you were going through a little bit of change management there at the beginning. I know you had mentioned that some of those marketers have been with EZ Texting for five or six years. You're trying to help them embrace a new process or a new tool. What are some of the lessons learned you had with change management for that? Maybe other marketers could benefit from it. They're thinking about changing something up or trying to break down silos themselves.Valaer: I think that silos are natural when you have a really talented group of people who know their stuff. There are inevitably going to be silos because everybody wants to execute. Everybody wants to deliver on their goals and their KPIs. It was really entering a phase for the team of saying we have larger goals, we have team goals that we need to hit together. That was something that was happening throughout the entire company. We're transitioning to an OKR system—Objective and Key Results—that we set as a company each quarter. Then, we set as a marketing team. Then, we set them individually.It was fortunate that that was all happening at the same time. It's a great reason for us to get behind a project management in our process that united us. Actually, I have to say that the people in the team who'd been in the longest work are the most excited to get a cohesive process in place because they had seen the need for it over the years as the team and the company grew.About a year ago, it was like five or six people in the marketing team. Now, I have six teams. We've just seen rapid growth throughout the whole company. It's processes become more and more important. I think that the change management aspect was really getting people to see that creating a process, scheduling stuff out, and assigning tasks, that takes a little bit more work upfront but the benefits outweigh the cost.Nathan: Yeah, I really like that. Process almost sounds like a swear word to some people but it's really not when it's done well. It can be empowering.Valaer: Totally.Nathan: Well, Valaer, I think that's about time for us. I just want to say thank you for sharing all this. I know and you know this, that we had a bunch of other questions that we're going to run through. I totally just got interested in these other things.Valaer: Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much for having me.
Nathan is the Head of Content & SEO at SimpleTexting. He's a demand generation enthusiast, content marketing advocate, and team player. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, running ultra marathons, and canoeing in the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.
Connect with Nathan on LinkedIn.