Enterprise Marketer - Make Your Marketing Matter.
Make Your Marketing Matter.

So many of us marketers, myself included, continue to kid ourselves when they measure the effectiveness of their efforts.  We can easily see a few sign ups here, a few views there, and top it off with social engagement from an "influencer" and we feel we are winning!  But often we find at the end of the day that we did not sell one more product or drive revenue to the business in any way. 

The answer for some marketers it to just push more content that over promises with headlines and under delivers with value.  The notion is if they can just get more attention and hook them in for their contact information, then they will leave it to sales to convert.  However, like Newell states in the show, "if you get the customers the first time but don't deliver, it will be hard to get them the second time." 

Getting your message out is hard, and generating leads from content is even harder.  For David and Newell, two executives in the marketing industry, they have faced these challenges and more for decades.  In this episode, we learn a little more about the products that Netline and Fabl offer to marketers, sales folks, and creatives to allow them to collaborate on amazing content and generate leads with that content.  

 

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Transcripts

- David, it's good to see you again.

- You too, Newell. Great to see you, thanks.

- Welcome to Content Marketing World.

- How about it, right?

- Absolutely. Since we caught up just a few weeks ago, I just wanted to recap and hear about Netline and what's new with what you're doing.

- Obviously, we're here at Content Marketing World, absolutely love the event. We've been here for the last three or four years. Last year, specifically, we actually released our fully self-service campaign portal tool, which allows marketers to launch a content-centric lead-gen platform, or a lead-gen campaign in the time it takes to flight a search campaign or a content discovery campaign, so that's been a huge area of growth for the company, something we're really excited about. Beyond that this time around, we're actually releasing a book that we just published as well, diving into lead-gen tactics, strategies, optimization, and obviously avoidance of mistakes as well. All in all, a lot's going on, but what's new with Fabl and you guys growing out now?

- Fabl's been great. I started Fabl almost a year ago and we're an enterprise cloud-based solution for marketers. Where you're the algorithmic science to the business, Fabl is for creators to build content and allow them to express that content in a beautiful and immersive way to deepen engagement and ultimately drive more demand for products.

- That's amazing. So tell me a little bit more about how those capabilities are brought to market and how clients are interacting with your product.

- It's really hard to describe exactly the use of Fabl in terms of how it meets a specific industry, because it is such an open platform so that everybody from small businesses to enterprise can use it, so we've seen a lot of different use cases. We have real-time communication tools that we've built into the Fabl product whereas people looking for more information can call and get a live agent on the phone, they have a Watson integration where they can talk to an algorithm and get feedback immediately.

- That's great.

- It's a very useful tool for all different types of marketers.

- That's interesting, so it's a very similar strategy. I referenced the self-service tool of ours, very similar approach. Obviously, you're delivering more of that creative aspect to the marketplace and really simplifying. I say we've democratized lead-gen, making it accessible for marketers of all sizes, all industries, and it sounds like you're doing something similar from a creationist and perhaps an experiential perspective.

- That's right, I mean, very much so. Creatively, I'm spinning out of a legacy publishing career into Fabl. My biggest challenge working in content creation in a brand studio was time and effectiveness of getting the story out the door in an efficient manner. All the back and forth edit approvals, legal, compliance. What Fabl does is it compresses the production cycle and makes it easier for producers and creators to get the content out the door, again, understanding the creative beauty and immersive nature of the platform we've built.

- Absolutely, that's huge. We've seen something very similar in enabling marketers, giving them the tools to actually launch a content-based campaign, which would typically take, if you're talking about deploying a lead-gen campaign in market, historically, that was done through insertion orders and RPFs, sales teams, client services teams, production teams, audience teams. All of that's been streamlined and theoretically can be done in minutes and it's been a huge evolution in the marketplace and something that it's cool to see being mimicked in all these various nuances or lines in business within the ecosystem of content marketing.

- Well, it's interesting right now, we're both kind of going down parallel paths in this disruptive state, right?

- Absolutely.

- What's going to end up happening in the future, well, no one really knows exactly what's going to happen, but there's creative and then there's distribution and as we go down the path, that convergence piece is going to be so important and then how do we work together to allow our clients to produce good results.

- Absolutely and the creative side, regardless of distribution, without amazing creative, conversions don't happen. That's really a powerful component to take away from your statement there. Our clients run the gambit of producing amazing content that generates conversions quite easily. We don't really have to work all that hard to support their needs. Conversely, we have some clients that are coming to us content-challenged and really could use something like Fabl to, quite honestly, bring them up to a level whereby they're delivering a really compelling experience to the market, delivering an engaging byproduct or experience that prospects can engage with and then drive downwards towards the funnel.

- Talk to me about, I know the funnel, but talk to me about your model, because to me, and I've noodled around with the tool quite a bit and kind of understand algorithmically how we can build, but talk a little bit about your network, because to me, the power with what you've built is incredibly interesting from a lead-gen standpoint by specific industry, by job title, et cetera.

- Sure, yeah. By the very nature of our business model, we're tied to content and filters, so if you're a content marketer and you're looking to drive pipeline, we own and operate the largest B2B content syndication and lead-gen platform on the web. We're typically reaching an excess of 125 million unique professionals per month. Those professionals generally consume between 700,000 and 800,000 assets on a monthly basis, so when I say asset, I mean an ebook, a podcast, a webinar, case study, you name it. Any kind of really highly-produced and long-form content. The most amazing part of our model is not just the engagement with that content, because anyone, and there's a lot of companies here that are good at showing content. Our business model's predicated on filters, specifically, so a client would come to us and say, we've got these five assets and we got this ebook. From there, they're looking to not only target personas, but explicitly filter based upon direct attributes, and so it could be we're looking at target marketers or IT decision makers working at companies of a thousand employees and greater with this specific sub-level job discipline as info security analysts located within a certain geographic segment as well and perhaps even industries.

- And that, you know, I'm thinking about that in the context of the broader distribution, and some of the folks who are here today, but programmatically, you see a huge conversation in the trade magazines and here about programmatic distribution, and yours seems to be a massive amount of reach, but also allowing people to really narrowcast into what they actually need to pull out of that mass.

- No, that's very true, and it's comical in the sense that programmatic does have massive reach. It also has the ability to hone in, but it's still very much playing with these ideas of persona-based populations. Especially in B2B, they're layered to company-level populations, and then you're seeing that kind of extracted into account-based marketing and ABM. Where we approach the market with that philosophy is our ABM philosophy is really heavily tied to flipping the script. Yes, we're able to deliver, you can flight a campaign in minutes, that's an account-based campaign using your own content, but by doing so, we're specifically getting the content in front of engaged professionals at the target accounts and doing so in an inverse perspective. Instead of saying what most ABM platforms are doing, is that there's seemingly some consumption going on around these topics at this company, which is persona reporting and targeting. We're saying this person, specifically, or this team of people inside this company have actually engaged and downloaded these five assets, these three assets, about these four different topics. It's very much actionable versus the traditional ABM approach. It's honestly a bit of a witch hunt. Yes, you know a company is doing some research, who? You told me that the marketing team is in market for a social media monitoring platform at Oracle. Well, Oracle happens to have 5000 marketers, I don't know. Being the salesperson that gets that news from marketing, it's a tough, tough story to execute against.

- How does your model work inside of the social channels, you know, if you look at LinkedIn and Facebook, obviously. How does your algorithm work to reach those people?

- A multitude of ways. First of all, as NetLine, our core brand, or the resource library's called Trade Pub, tradepub.com, that has its own social identity across all major platforms. All of our clients' contents constantly being repurposed, shared, curated there, but more compelling is our distribution footprint, which goes out to over 15,000 B2B tech, career, engineering, finance-related web publishers. We help those publishers do two things. We're feeding them a constant injection of really relevant content that hopefully is exciting and engaging of their audience's needs, but beyond that, they're receiving a revenue share. Now obviously, each one of those publishers has their own social identity, so they are then curating our clients' content and pushing it out through their social channels. That's actually where we're able to do something quite neat in the sense that you're getting this editorialized approach on top of what you've already given us. If you've given NetLine a campaign focused on reaching financial advisors, well, perhaps the financial advising publisher bars will take that asset and they'll have it as the featured white paper or featured ebook of the week that they tweet out and share on Facebook, perhaps even drop into their newsletters beyond social.

- One thing that I find interesting is one of the things that Facebook goes out and sells is the ability to reach CEOs and CMOs, and they have such a massive database, and of course they have that. Do you track and pixel where the customers are coming in from?

- [David] Absolutely.

- Is social a viable way to generate B2B leads?

- So mixed message here, and I apologize in advance. I would say LinkedIn is great if you are willing to do the work. What I mean by that is that you need to cultivate explicitly who you're trying to target and inherently tie your media execution to a model that supports efficient and cost-effective lead generation. What LinkedIn sells to marketers is not that. LinkedIn sells you a product that's specifically about lead generation. They position it as a lead-gen tool, but they comically charge you on a CPM basis. To me, that's kind of diametrically opposed. If we're all in on the game here and we're charging per leads and we're delivering leads to our clients, theoretically the charge should be based upon the lead, and so when you're paying on a CPM basis, you're inherently also inheriting a ton of that excess or waste that's associated to showing your ad unit, which we know the vast majority of people will either ignore or block, and then beyond that, even if people do click on and engage, you're talking about click-through. It's less than 0.04%. And so it's challenging to yield leads if you're falling into LinkedIn's bucket of exclusively using their ad tools. Now, if you want to go beyond that, kind of tap into LinkedIn groups and foster community there and real activity and engagement, and obviously in-mail, I think there's a ton of ways that you can do that effectively. But it's a bit labor-intensive too. Facebook, on the opposite side, we've not found a terribly successful B2B yield there. I think the challenge there, Facebook's challenge all in all is that most of their users ignore ads, they've been predisposed to do so, but they've done very well on the consumer marketplace, monetizing that. I think part of it is also our challenge, which is that our form of lead-gen is an in-email capture. If it's an email capture, I would say Facebook and LinkedIn all day long. You could probably pay CPC or CPM rates and it would work quite well. But on our side, our clients expect 18 to 19 values associated to every lead that's been delivered. A simple email address is not going to cut it. We're typically charging 40, 50 dollars per lead and so the bar has been set quite high, obviously, in terms of expectations.

- So the other big trend right now, in addition to the programmatic, this data that everybody has access to now is the transformation of moving away from the desktop to a mobily-centric content stream. How does that affect your business?

- For us, luckily we got ahead of it a bit years ago, in the sense that we first thought just like everyone else ads were going to be our salve for that. That's turned out not to be the case. We developed the Trade Pub app, which drove over 150,000 installs, which, in our marketplace, was really good. Thousands of users engaging and downloading content and reading long form white papers and ebooks in-app, that was really compelling for a period. That has continued to decline in terms of adoption and over the past four years or so, we've gone completely responsive, our traditional daily visitation is around 25% of our visitations on a mobile device. On the weekends, it comically flips, but it makes sense. Most of the time, our content is being consumed at work. They're at their desktop, they're at their laptop, it's easier to read long form white papers and ebooks on a larger screen, but when the professional and personal life personas have co-mingled now, this notion that the weekends are off doesn't exist for anyone and so that consumption through unified account continues, so they're using their same log-in, getting access to the same 7000-plus free resources, but they're doing that on a device of their choice.

- We have the same, with Fabl, we're built responsively. I think in this day and age from a creative standpoint, you have to build for all three, four formats in order to be successful, and I know one of the benefits of Fabl is that you can build inside the tool without having to reformat your content.

- Yeah, talk about that a little bit more, because I think when I heard you talking about that earlier, that's really compelling to me. I'm not familiar with many other tools that do that. I've seen various adaptations where they're saying upload these other gifs in order for this to be fully responsive, which in theory is not responsive at all. You're just giving a pre-formatted form factors while you guys apparently are doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

- First of all, I am not a product developer, coder, et cetera, but from what I know, we have put in the work on the back end, engineering-wise, to have a platform that allows you to build inside of an iOS environment or in the laptop environment and then have it move and morph to fit the appropriate device. Again, single log-in, right? Someone wants to read the same story that they've gotten halfway through at the work, when they're watching their kid's soccer game and it's halftime and they want to finish that story, they don't want to have to scroll across their mobile device to see that. They want it to be easy to read, interesting to read, so what Fabl does is our founder comes from the photography industry. He is a photographer, so his sensibility is to create these deep, rich, immersive, visually centric stories. Think about the B2B universe of downloading white papers. We want to create that front door, that beautiful red, bright bold front door that's very appealing to knock on and open and the back end of it, the guts of the story, are inside the house, but Fabl does a wonderful job of capturing the consumer, the businessperson, in their environment in a very busy stream, and let's face it, there are lots of different messages people are looking at now, so it's kind of showstopping. If we're able to do that and drive people to the larger body of work, then we feel like Fabl's more than done its job to help with engagement and interest.

- Yeah, I think from what I've seen of the limited exposure of some of your byproducts and your work, it's been honestly impressive. It's exciting to see.

- There are lots of little subtleties in the world of content creation. One example is load time. Load time, when you really think about it and you're in your stream looking at a story, if the video's not loading after one or two seconds, you move on. Weirdly, you don't have time to wait for that video to scroll up, because there's another one right next to it that you want to look at anyway. We have baked all of that in, so server-side rendered videos so it automatically loads and serves. If it's built that way, it's edge to edge design so you don't have to center anything, it just formats immediately on the screen. All of the little things have been done to create a great user interface.

- Makes it quite easy. So what more are your clients really focused on today? What are they asking you guys to solve for them and how are you going about doing that?

- It's funny, you know. I think of this disruption phase as the big bang theory. Everything's been blown out into small little pieces and we're all doing our one thing. I do think right now, gravity's pulling us all back together so we show them this platform, well, how does it get out when you hit publish? Who does it go to? We're building in the distribution solution now, to launch the 3.0 version of Fabl so that when a client builds inside of the Fabl environment we now have distribution that can push out across the larger network algorithmically, narrow-pass in through the Netline network as well, so that no longer is the right answer, well, we have this beautiful, immersive, creative platform you can build in. Clients need more of an end to end solution now. If we talk again next year at this time, the iterative state of Fabl is going to be a much more full-service, end to end solution than just the creator's tool for creating beautiful, immersive content.

- I think that makes ton of sense. You see a lot of the established marketing automation platforms and they're very much centered around this theory that they help you generate leads, and I think that's a bit of a fallacy in the sense that they provided a platform to do something with the leads that you've captured, but they don't help you at all generate any leads. They provide a platform for data capture, data cleansing, nurturing, all of that downstream activity, but actually how you go about engaging with users in the first place and delivering a compelling experience that they want to be a part of, that's not being done at any of the numerous vendors. I'll save them from shame. But yeah, I think specifically you're addressing a pain point. That point honestly needs to be addressed. On our side, I think the ability for us to be able to offer our clients a more visually impressive experience, our audience, the more visually engaging experience, only will translate into an increase in lead volume. To me, that's the holy grail, right? Always trying to execute at full capacity against our clients' needs. Sometimes they're quite aggressive goals, but every little nuance, and a lot of times it is the creative elements make or break the success or the efficiency and the viability of those campaigns.

- We talk a lot about the customer journey, right? The funnel, the customer journey, but I think that one thing that was said yesterday in one of the breakout sessions was time. If you waste someone's time, you will rarely get them back as a customer. If you have a beautiful, immersive story to get people into great content around an industry topic or whatever it is, then that customer is going to keep coming back as you provided them with a good service, a good user experience, and 90% of the content that's streaming through your device is a waste of time.

- Agreed, I always talk about, there needs to be an equitable exchange in terms of expectations of the user, especially if it's gated content and what they receive. If the user feels like they've gone through an experience and they've given you a ton of data about their professional life, their role, their function, perhaps even their purchasing decision-making authority, and then you show up on the back end with a one page, poorly-designed datasheet or a white paper that was written by an engineer, DOA, right? It's gone, that prospect's gone, there's no way you're getting them back and you just wasted money on that, too. It's definitely something that--

- I think the front end product development's key. The more I get involved in the front end business development, the more important it is for me to look back at product and say, how is this product structured, what are the key benefits for my customers, and if we're not delivering on their KPIs, then we really shouldn't be bringing the product to that specific sector and then what does that look like? I come from head of sales and marketing background, but I'm kind of backing into product development now because I think right now, the industry solved for distribution, we've solved for a lot of different things, but I think that all of the companies that are involved really need to focus on product and adapting their product to make sense in this new virtual environment that we have.

- Agreed, I think keeping the products incredibly simple, lean, efficient, but most importantly, value-centric for your customers is obviously key. It shouldn't need to be said, but comically, there's still a ton of vendors that are providing product experiences that don't match their marketing perception that they've delivered to the market, which is probably what we talked about earlier as well, which is, as you said, gravity's coming together. I believe that there will be some consolidation as well, coming with that, because some of these companies really are more features versus true companies or products, so that'll be interesting. What's your take on that?

- I couldn't agree more. Again, when I was in sales, it was always undersell and over-deliver. If you oversell and under-deliver, again, you can get the customers the first time, but they're never coming back a second time, so again, getting back to the value proposition of the product versus your sales and marketing materials on the front end, you have the front door, but if the rest of the house isn't delivering the same experience, you're going to have a very big problem on your hands so I think that I totally agree with you. Tell me a little bit about the feedback and maybe some results that you've gotten that are moving away from large enterprise into the smaller, SMB space with this new product that you launched last year here.

- Yeah, so it's been an exciting change for us. The full service side of our business continues to exist and flourish. That said, we recognized, this was a challenge by our CEO, about two years ago, if Netline were invented today, what would it look like? What would we do differently? How would we change? Would we change anything? The executive team went off and we started thinking about things from a clean slate perspective. The one thing that was always obvious was that we only work with enterprise marketers. We only accepted incredibly large budgets, that was it. Even if you had amazing content and you wanted to work with us, if you couldn't afford 20k a month, we weren't working with you. We knew we were always leaving a lot of cash on the table and it was foolish, but we were a small company. We had to pick and choose where we were spending our resources. The reality, though, came back to us in that the long-tailed web is something that we always believed in on the publisher side of the business, so in terms of our distribution outlet, we believe through portfolio-based play, we're able to deliver prospects covering every industry, every job title, job function, geographic region known to man, to meet the needs of our clients, but we didn't have that same philosophy when it related to how we supported marketers, so that was a key pivot internally at the company, to say, well, marketers very much have similar needs, regardless of what size company they're at. They have similar aspirations, so let's try to democratize that concept and let people, if they're working at very small firm, and they can only afford 50 leads a month, give them a tool that allows them to do that, but also build that tool in the same fashion that an enterprise marketer working at IBM or Citrix or SAP or anywhere can go in and extract the same levels of data, the same reporting packages and analytics and the same audience scale. It simply comes down to budget and service at this point, which is, our larger accounts require high touch, mainly because they don't have the time and the bandwidth to do a lot of this stuff, and obviously they're also paying for expertise and optimization. Our more self-service play allows marketers to easily experiment, to flight campaigns in minutes, and also allows us to grow into markets that we never dreamt we would ever be in. We're seeing big adoption into industrial markets, which is something that Netline really never played in, healthcare industry, again historically, we were, due to our scope, we were focused on serving IT enterprise marketers and now, a year later, we're dramatically different and I think it's for the betterment of the company but also just the overall direction of where we're going in the long term, too. It feels a bit more stable, it feels a bit more, in terms of having a true vision and a roadmap, versus always thinking that this world is full of 100 companies who are doing marketing, that's it, everyone else's, disregard it.

- Well, the democratization of all these tools online just allows anybody to get involved, and then you see these amazing success stories, so I think startups can scale quicker, everything is happening at the speed of light now, and I think with Fabl, very similarly, we've pivoted away from traditional publishing largely because of the sales cycle and the pain points that the publishing industry has gone through, and we've really moved more towards a brand as publisher, so another big development is that, because of the distribution and the democratization of distribution, any brand can now be their own publisher without needing to go to a big broadcast company or a print publication. They can have an as-affective media campaign, content strategy, aka Red Bull as a good example, Marriott, SAP, go down the list.

- [David] GE.

- GE, these are brands that tell amazingly beautiful stories and at the same time, sell their products because they know exactly where they're engaging people in the funnel and how to bring them through that. I think for Fabl, we can participate in a variety of different sizes of company, et cetera, and we are largely a DIY tool for those people who understand creative production, but we also have to offer those back end services for clients that again, going back to the time issue, they think they want to get inside the tool and use it but at the end of the day, if we can nurture them, and we've seen some of our clients, now that they've been using it for a year, they're showing us how to use the tool, because their creators are asking us for things and we're ideating and iterating with them so that our products, as mutually beneficial, the information flow back and forth, we're getting better and they're getting better at the same time. I'm sure that that happens on your side.

- Absolutely, yeah, that's huge, with the advent of the self-service product, I mean, I always talk about this internally is that people never really interfaced with Netline as a tangible product. It didn't exist. We delivered data, and data's not sexy. Data, many times, our marketers, our customers, wouldn't actually even look at it, it's being fed real-time into their marketing automation systems, so they're seeing counts, they're seeing reports, but they weren't seeing us. They had phone calls and emails with our sales team and our client services team, and we've really changed that, so regardless of whether you're full service or self-service, you are now interacting with Netline, a tangible product which also allows for feedback, so this a huge part of the productization roadmap ideation around where we're going. I just sat down with our CEO the other day in California because we're rolling out another release and most of those features are driven by our customers making requests. Obviously, they're the first people that find bugs that we obviously should have caught but sometimes fail and then beyond that, we even have our full service team, internally, our client services team is using it extensively as well, and so they're coming at it from a different perspective, saying, well, I'm doing massive amounts of campaigns, have we thought about this, because it would be helpful for me as an internal user, but I know our clients and I know their needs, so they would probably want this as well, and so yeah, I think user-driven feedback is huge. If you're not listening to your users, you probably won't be relevant for all that long, and then beyond that, I think quite honestly, even going beyond just hearing from users directly, tools like G2 allow us to hear unsolicited feedback and validation of what we're doing, how we're succeeding for our clients, sometimes the occasional wish-we-had-this-feature, and then we iterate based upon that, but yeah, it's open and easy feedback these days.

- You really have to live in real time product iteration. There's no time to rest on your laurels. Every day, you need to look at data points and pivot towards where the opportunities are and how to get better.

- Absolutely.

- That's the beauty of cloud-based marketing, because you can rapidly change your direction with good customer points.

- I completely agree. So no, this has been great, it's good to catch up.

- Yeah, likewise.

- Hope you have a great rest of the show, and thanks, Newell.

- Yeah, thank you.

- Take care.




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