Drive Digital Commerce With Content Marketing

Webinar

Content is the heart of your business. It’s what drives people to your products and keeps them coming back for more.

Watch this live panel of experts from Square, PHLEARN, and Craftpeak share tips for using content to build a seamless customer experience at high-growth ecommerce businesses.

You’ll learn:

  • Content strategies to maximize your customer lifetime value
  • How to integrate marketing and product content
  • Tips to deliver a consistent experience across channels
  • Tools to benchmark the impact of your content

Featuring

Mallory Russell, Head of Content, Square

Mallory Russell is the Head of Content Marketing at Square, overseeing both the Editorial and Lead Generation functions. In her role, she grows Square’s brand and customer base by creating content that aid and inspires businesses of all sizes.

She previously led content marketing at Change.org where she used social and editorial channels to tell stories of people making change all over the world. Before working in tech, Mallory reported on the world of marketing at Advertising Age and Business Insider and worked at some of San Francisco’s most storied ad agencies.

Mallory holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Southern California and an M.A. in Business and Economic Journalism from New York University.

Seth Kravitz, CEO, PHLEARN

Founder. Writer. Collector of interesting people. 3x founder with 2 exits to public cos.

Specialties: launching startups, SaaS, journalism, photography, branding, big events.

John Kelley, CEO, Craftpeak

Craft beer drinker. Problem solver. Builder of things. With a degree in mechanical engineering and a penchant for fostering and accelerating startups, John is equal parts cowboy visionary and pragmatic business director.

While John’s early career was spent in a suit as a technology consultant for Accenture, he’s devoted the past 15 years to working with other entrepreneurs, designing and pioneering new kick-ass products and solutions to market in the hi-tech, non-profit, and real estate industries.  His startup experience traverses the spectrum of bootstrapping innovations from his kitchen table while pounding coffee to working sales for the world’s largest venture capital firm.

Transcript

Tess Needham (00:00):

Thanks so much for joining us for this webinar; Drive Digital Commerce With Content Marketing. Here at WordPress VIP, we have seen that content is at the heart of the digital experiences that our customers are building for their customers. So, in the case of commerce, that content can be really effective at driving customers to your brand and to your products. We got together this panel of experts from enterprise e-commerce to talk about their experience with content marketing. Moderating our panel is Jary Carter, our chief revenue officer. Jary, I’ll pass it over to you. 

Jary Carter (00:36):

Thanks so much Tess, and looking forward to chatting with you as we go throughout the webinar today. Thanks for hosting us here. My name is Jary Carter, I’m the chief revenue officer here at WordPress VIP, and I have an exciting set of panelists here today. Mallory Russell, head of content marketing at Square. We have Seth Kravitz, CEO at PHLEARN, and John Kelley, CEO and co-founder at Craftpeak. Welcome and thank you for joining me here today on this panel where we talk about driving digital commerce with content marketing. There’s so much to talk about today, and we only have an hour and we want to leave some time for questions at the end. But before we do jump into the questions that I have teed up here, I want to give each of you the opportunity to just introduce yourself briefly and share a little bit about your background. Mallory, we’ll start with you, and then Seth, if you wouldn’t mind introducing yourself and then John, over to you. 

Mallory Russell (01:40):

Hi everyone. I’m Mallory. I am based in San Francisco, California. I’ve been working for Square for about four years, grew the content marketing team from just me to a pretty multifaceted team at this point. But my background is in … I started in advertising, I became a reporter and I just blended those two together. That’s how I fell into content marketing. I’ve done really traditional B2B content marketing, I spend some time doing B2C content marketing at change.org as their first content marketing hire. And then, Square is a bit in the middle, which is a really interesting and exciting space to work. 

Seth Kravitz (02:23):

Hi, I’m Seth Kravitz. I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I got my start in tech, started out of a basement after I dropped out of college. A friend of mine, we started a company in the insurance business, scaled up about 65 employees, sold it to a company called Bank Raid. And then, ever since then, I’ve just been doing tech startups and now I have reached a phase where I wanted something a little more stable. So, about four years ago, I came in to run a company called PHLEARN. PHLEARN is a 10 year old company that … it’s pretty straight forward. We teach Photoshop and photography online. So, we’re a very large online platform for the photography community to learn those skills. That takes me through today, and just happy to be here and looking forward to the panel. 

Jary Carter (03:11):

Thanks, Seth. I always loved the stories of dropped out of college, started an amazing company. It took me way more school than that. 

Seth Kravitz (03:19):

I still have a debt. I had that college experience. I had to drink a lot and go to parties [inaudible 00:03:29].

Jary Carter (03:30):

All right. But now, I don’t feel so bad. I don’t feel so bad. 

John Kelley (03:36):

My name is John Kelly. I’m the CEO of Craftpeak, and similar to Seth, I think … Man, I graduated as an engineer coming out of school and got straight into technology there, ended up working for my first technology startup about 20 years ago, got bit by the bug and it’s been a string of technology startups since then. At Craftpeak, what we do, we’re based in Asheville, North Carolina, and we basically have built Craftpeak with the vision of aligning ourselves with great beverage companies, typically craft breweries. And really, our goal is to understand their business challenges and develop solutions and technology to help them address those. And as you guys may be aware, there’s many opportunities on the e-commerce and digital commerce side for breweries. It’s been an exciting time to see that shift, but here and happy to participate in this panel with these folks. 

Jary Carter (04:36):

Yeah. Thanks so much. Thanks to all of you for participating here today. One thing, we had a bit of a preliminary conversation with the four of us just to prepare ourselves for today’s meeting. And one thing that really came up in our pre-call was the growth of both audio and video marketing in content creation and particularly around commerce. So, how do you think about that? How do you think about this proliferation of audio and video content that’s now hitting the market. I’d love to get, because we have two perspectives on this, I’d love to start, Mallory with you and how you’re seeing this within a big organization like Square. And then Seth, maybe you can tell a little bit how you’re doing it within PHLEARN. 

Mallory Russell (05:31):

Yeah, absolutely. Square has always been … We have an in house video team, we’re very lucky. They’re amazing videographers documentarians, the whole thing. We’ve always done a lot of work on the advertising side around video. It’s probably our most common tactic in terms of your traditional ad campaigns. I’m thinking about it slightly differently, more from an editorial perspective, which is we’ve flirted with for a long time, and now we’re digging into pretty deeply. We’ve recently decided that our YouTube channel is no longer going to be just a place to put video, and we’re going to actually make it an editorial channel, which means really thinking about the purpose of the video along the entire funnel, how you bring in people at top of funnel with things that are maybe a bit more brand focused and then pull them down, but also cross-link with your site to increase visibility in terms of search. I think what’s really interesting is really, as a result of COVID, we’ve started really digging into audio across all of our channels. 

We just launched a brand campaign last week that really takes audio, the stories of business owners and puts those out for people to hear. We’ve been doing that across social since early March, and this also led to the proliferation of our first podcast, which I literally just uploaded the third episode of. But it’s really interesting, we’re finding people really engaging with that because at this point in time, people don’t really know what to do, business owners in particular. There’s a lot of questions, and so just letting people talk about what they’re experiencing and talk to each other has proved truly effective for us. 

Jary Carter (07:16):

That’s awesome. I want to come back to podcasting because that’s something I’d love to hear a little bit more about. But Seth, maybe you could share your perspective on video marketing, how you’re seeing that happen roll out of PHLEARN. 

Seth Kravitz (07:31):

Yeah. I mean, the biggest thing for me was, when it came to marketing, I had done tremendous amount of marketing from sites starting around 2002 up until 2016. When I joined here at PHLEARN and I had done, I don’t know, 1% of that maybe was video marketing. I mean, we dabbled in it every now and then. We barely touched it, I didn’t really believe in it. I just was like, whatever, it’s too much work and all these things. I had all these excuses and then I come to PHLEARN, and I’ve completely gone 180 on an hour. I can’t imagine doing any marketing going forward that isn’t video-based marketing first, and everything else falling in behind it. So, that fundamental shift has just come from coming to a company where PHLEARN were our content and our product are actually … they’re video. I mean, our product, we sell people video education.

So being a very much a video forward company, it was just immediate that I had access to a lot of video, yes, but also, just our customers would definitely be thinking of us in the form of video, and it just naturally lend itself towards … I guess it made it a little easier for me to just jump into, I guess, video marketing when the content and the product are both video. But at the same time, fortunately way outside of my comfort zone, it had me using tools that I had never touched before. What I discovered though, after only about a month and a half or two months into role here was that it was nowhere near as intimidating or difficult as I thought it would be. 

I discovered that I could even make videos on my own. I didn’t have to ask anyone on our team to do anything for me, I could go and use the tool, really common tools now, Animoto is one of them where I can piece together a video in 20 minutes that looks halfway decent, it’s all right, then run it and see if that copy worked a little better than this copy. I can make changes on my own, and these are things that I just would have been terrified to do before, that I thought video was this very scary, huge, intimidating thing that required massive budgets, and you needed to run all these cameras, maybe you needed models, maybe you need all these things to pull it off. And it’s like, no … If you look at a lot of the videos that are doing incredibly well, that are shared at a time on Instagram or Facebook or any other platform where you see video like Snap or Tik Tok or anything, they’re usually very low budget, very easily shot. A lot of them are shot on phones. 

I guess the bar to what people expect now, even when consuming video is just so much lower in the sense of people don’t mind homemade looking videos because a homemade looking video now actually looks pretty good considering the camera shot on was pretty phenomenal, and lighting … people just discover, just go outside, natural lighting is pretty amazing lighting. It’s like all those things were just things, again that I built up in my head as being this scary, intimidating thing that turned out I was completely wrong. And now going forward, any company I ever would work with or start again, I’m going to go video first on all of our marketing. 

Jary Carter (10:27):

Thanks so much. I hadn’t thought about all the video sharing platforms and how those are disrupting even how B2C video content happens. That’s fascinating. Mallory, talk to us about podcasting. That’s something that’s particularly come up, I think for a lot of companies and even individuals during this pandemic. How are y’all thinking about that? Just unpack that a little bit, if you don’t mind. 

Mallory Russell (10:56):

Yeah. It’s actually really funny. I’ve been at Square for four years and we’ve been talking about doing the podcast for four years. When it came down to it, well, a number of things, the really big one was finding the right idea that made sense strategically, and not just saying we’re going to do a podcast because podcasting is cool right now, but we’re going to do a podcast because it actually ladders back to our editorial strategy, our brand strategy, and serves a purpose for us. This came about, our social team had been doing these very short audio stories on their channels and getting amazing engagement. They were really moving, and they were filling this need during COVID that there’s just a lot of unknowns and we can’t give people all the answers that we usually give them because things are changing so rapidly and people have to adapt and pivot and come up with what works for them, even if it’s … I always say retailers are in food and beverage businesses now, beverage businesses do appointments and everything’s different. 

And so, they started doing this, I saw the engagement and I said, “You guys are going to laugh at me, but I think we should do a podcast. I know we say that all the time, but I think this actually makes sense. When we got together with our agency and talked through it and figured out that it really did, we had to talk through a format and find a host and we did it pretty quickly. We only started talking about this in May, and part of that is we have an agency who knows how to do this very quickly and came up with a great process for us, and the fact that we didn’t say we have to get this perfect on the first episode, treat it … You see a TV show with a pilot and the pilot’s often very different than the later episodes. Let’s do the first episode, see what works and iterate as we go. We’ve definitely seen changes over the episodes. It’s really exciting to listen to that part of it and find our stride. 

Jary Carter (12:58):

It’s so funny you say that, because I feel like every three months when we do our marketing recaps internally, I’m like, isn’t a time for the podcast to happen? I’ve been saying this for the past 15 months, I think maybe a podcast is a good idea. I feel you on that Mallory. John, anything to add on video, audio content before we move on? 

John Kelley (13:22):

Yeah. I’d be happy to maybe jump in with a couple of comments here. First of all, I completely resemble the statements that Seth is making about being intimidated by video. I think it was one of the barriers that we had early on, and still one that I think that we’re getting over to a certain extent. I think Mallory’s comments about starting this podcast and this initiative carry the same sentiment where it’s just like you have to be able to be willing to push forward without it being perfect. I think that’s been a shift also, is this idea of perfection, these polished videos versus what were taken on the phone. I think about even the shift where I find myself consuming information and there’s so much more time I’m spending on YouTube watching very unpolished stuff, but I find a connection with that. 

I think as I look at our customers and the engagement rates that they’re getting on social media and other platforms, anytime that they’re even going to put a video out there, no matter how simple it is, that the engagement rates are off the chart compared to anything else that they’re doing. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, video is more important, and I think there’s just something about the story and our human connection to that, that we’re drawn to. I think it’s definitely here to stay, but we can do a heck of a lot better ourselves. So, I totally, like I said, I resemble those comments from Seth. 

Jary Carter (14:45):

Yeah. Thanks, John. I want to just shift topics here in this, and I want to talk about driving customer acquisition through thought leadership content. This is something that’s come up in my conversations with each of you. Seth, you went so far as to you wrote a book that has been highly valuable in your customer acquisition strategy. Maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, we’ll start with you, Seth, if you wouldn’t mind just talking about how thought leadership plays into your customer acquisition strategy. 

Seth Kravitz (15:25):

Yeah. This would be the second time that I’ve been part of a company where we realized maybe writing a book could be really valuable. The first time was back with that previous company I had started where there really wasn’t any good thought leadership in a world of insurance basically. Our customers were insurance agents, people weren’t writing very interesting content. Shocking that the insurance related books would just [crosstalk 00:15:54] 

Jary Carter (15:55):

Flying off the shelf? 

Seth Kravitz (15:56):

Yeah. We decided to write one that was a little more, I guess, fun and less dry than they were used to, a little more personality, and we gave it away free to all of our new customers when they sign up for, and then we actually sold copies of it as well for very low price. But the point was it made a difference, it immediately separated us away from our competitors, nobody else that was competing against us was doing anything like that. They might write a white paper that was like five pages long, and they might publish two of those a year, but nobody had ever published a full long form book. And then because of that, I was inspired to try that again under PHLEARN. PHLEARN just published a book recently, it’s about marketing photographers and I decided I didn’t want to publish a book unless we had distribution figured out first. 

We partnered with Flickr and SmugMug, two of the biggest names in the world of photography to coauthor of the book with us. And so, they are now the authors as well on the book, so that means they’re distributing it to their entire user base or distributing to ours. There are coupons inside the book to sign up for any one of our particular services, but it is a very valuable, good book. We put a tremendous amount of work into it from industry experts who are experts at marketing photography. So, the value is there, and so having the value be there, we know and stand behind it as a high quality book and having the distribution figured out ahead of time was really the key to making that work. So now, the book has been emailed out to 10 million plus photographers and hopefully that’ll continue to trickle in from here on out, as far as … 

That’s a very much a top of the funnel thing where we just get on their radar as being someone that they can trust who’s giving out free information and really believes in their success and wants them to be successful photographers. And then, we hope that that Goodwill will pay off in the future, and that’s the way we look at it. 

Jary Carter (17:47):

Yeah. That’s great. Thanks. Thanks for sharing that. Mallory, how are you all thinking about that at Square? 

Mallory Russell (17:54):

Yeah. I mean, I think content marketing, you have to think about the entire funnel all the time. You can’t just be producing for one piece of it, you have to think about how those pieces connect together. So just anything that you’re doing, there’s going to be a finite group of content that really converts. It’s a small number of them and they’re like your work horses, but you have to get people to them, and that’s how you build a funnel from the top to the middle phase, to the bottom. The podcast, which I’m going to plug it, it’s called Talking Squarely, if you want to go and take a listen. That’s a thought leadership type of content. It’s being used as part of our brand campaign, and so we’re driving people in that way and then we’re linking them out to other types of content. I think anytime we think about thought leadership, which is incredibly important, that’s how we bring people in and start forming the relationship. It’s how we let them know what we’re all about and why they should trust us and why we’re credible. 

Our goal from there is to think about what would be interesting for them next and create a web of content that they can get pulled into, at some point, even potentially leading to some kind of email capture where I’m going to deliver you content to your inbox. Thought leadership for me is always the first step. We do a lot of it because you need a lot of top of funnel content to get people to the bottom eventually, and it’s also that thing that people … I think people come back to you even after they’ve become a customer, it’s that thought leadership stuff that keeps them engaged. 

Jary Carter (19:33):

Yeah. How do you think about the effectiveness of your content? Because that really resonates, I think with a lot of people that say, look, we have this top of the funnel content. I like that workhorse content, that phrase. But this top of the funnel content, then moving methodically customers down the funnel, how do you think about the effectiveness and how do you measure the effectiveness of content as you take it through the funnel to conversion? 

Mallory Russell (20:03):

Totally. It’s such a hard question for every content marketer. I have just ongoing debates with people about this. I think a lot of places I’ve been, they come in and they want you to measure everything by conversion. Like I was just saying, there’s really a few number of pieces that really convert for you, and you may get credit through like multitouch for other pieces of content, but really, you should be judging the content by however it’s being used in that particular moment, because one piece of content could be used for a campaign potentially that’s driving awareness and another that you really want to look at engagement. So, as a program, we look at really high level business metrics, like for us, because we have a lead generation team within content marketing, we are looking at leads into sales, we’re looking at what money is actually coming out of the work that we do. 

But when you’re actually looking at the individual pieces of content, you should be judging it by the purpose it was created for as opposed to just one metric for every single piece. That means that reporting out on these things is actually quite complicated. What I found is that most measurement systems that are set up, even within marketing organizations, aren’t specific to content. There’s a lot of other things I think that content marketers look at and look for that you wouldn’t do with a webpage, even sometimes the way that balance or engagement is measured on a webpage on your site is really different from how you would want someone to look at that for content. Example, I know a lot of pages, they measure bounce by a bounce, unless the person went to the next page. Well, sometimes with content, you don’t need someone to go to the next page, you need them to sign up for your newsletter or you need them to maybe just even read it because you’re expecting them to come back later when they have the next question, because it was so top of funnel. 

So, I think my experience is that you really have to, every content we’re going to have to really be their own advocate in terms of measurement and what that means, because it is a different way to think about it than traditional advertising and traditional digital marketing, 

Jary Carter (22:22):

Being your own advocate, I think that will resonate with a lot of people on this call who are really pulling forward the work that content’s doing in the conversion funnel-

Mallory Russell (22:35):

For sure. 

Jary Carter (22:36):

… within their organization. I really like that. Seth, John, anything to add into this? 

John Kelley (22:42):

Yeah. Maybe a couple of comments here is that I think top of the funnel is exceedingly important. I think that buyers are becoming more educated on their own, so that content needs to exist out there as part of that buyer’s journey that they’re running into earlier in their experience. The statistics will say that 67% of people are making a decision prior to probably even talking to somebody directly from your company. It’s just more important that you’ve got that content out there. The second piece of that is if you’ve got good intentions, lead with them. I think we just happen to work in a market where there’s a lot of change right now, things are going through some dynamic shifts in both the market and the businesses that are trying to adapt to that. I think what we want to do is serve to be a guide or a source of information, and not necessarily always thinking about it in terms of a direct acquisition or conversion, but in that education phase, that awareness phase, and it gives us the ability to begin that conversation, to begin building that relationship. 

So certainly, there is a business and transactional element associated with it, but just expecting that people are going to be making those decisions much more frequently on their own, so it’s important to meet them where they’re beginning to get educated. 

Mallory Russell (24:11):

Yeah. I’ll just jump in really fast. I mean, I was talking a lot about how we move people down the funnel and overarching business metrics, but when you’re actually creating the content … What I always tell my team is, your ultimate goal is to provide value because nothing is going to happen after that if you’re not providing actual true value to the person on the other end in the way that potentially … you think part like a publisher and part like a marketer in that respect. 

John Kelley (24:38):

Yeah, absolutely. I would say the other thing is that we look … and I would consider Square and other strategic partners that we have relationships with, an important part of that equation because there’s things outside of what we know where we want to leverage our relationships with other industry experts to bring them to the table for the benefit of our customers. So it’s not only about the content that we can provide, but also, how can we leverage our relationships to bring the right skill sets and the right thought leaders to the table. We’ll be spending a lot of time with our own video and webinars series, just focused on that, bringing the right partners to the table to educate our market. 

Mallory Russell (25:18):

Totally. 

Seth Kravitz (25:20):

Yeah, I guess just one final thought. 

Jary Carter (25:22):

Please. 

Seth Kravitz (25:25):

As far as content marketing goes, I feel like when it comes to measurement, as Mallory was saying, it’s not only very difficult, but it just takes a lot longer than I think anyone in performance marketing is used to taking. They’re used to … I run Facebook ad, ad generated these number of clicks, here’s how much money we made. They’re not used to like, hey, there’s usually a big ramp up period that takes a long time and costs a lot of money typically upfront anyway you want to do. I mean, it can be a lower cost thing, but it’s like, you want to build even a knowledge base of 100 articles that cover all of the most common questions. Even things like that take a lot of work, a lot of time and a pretty good investment, and then it’s going to take a while before you even see the results that you want to drive. How they’re marketing in general is just … it’s not like, we create a viral video on the first try and just magically, that was content marketing. It’s never been how it works, it’s only hard to measure, it takes so long. 

And then, I’ve always viewed it also as like … I’m think about what John said, that it finally gives you an excuse to reach out to people that have typically been very difficult to reach, or you always wanted to talk to them, but you never could figure out any way other than … You can’t just email someone and be like, “Hi, you want to chat on the phone sometime?” You might say, my magazine … PHLEARN has a magazine that we started partially for this purpose was … be like, “Oh, we would love to interview you for the magazine. This is our readership, our numbers … You compliment the hell out of them to make them feel really good about themselves, and then hopefully they reply back and say, “Yeah, sure. I would love to be interviewed.” There’s ability to reach somebody that you never would’ve been able to reach any other way, and you have them potentially for 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour straight, and just one-on-one. 

That’s been powerful for us that way too. So, lots of think about when it comes to content marketing, really is just this huge umbrella term that covers so many things that I think it’s still very early, I guess, even in the industry. There’s a lot to trickle out through the rest of the management to be following and understand it, I guess.  

Jary Carter (27:23):

Yeah. I mean, that’s exactly what we’re doing now. Gather smart people, let them share their ideas with us and share it out as content. You’re exactly right. One of the buzz words that’s coming up in marketing generally, and especially in digital marketing is digital transformation. I want to understand how you think about content fitting into digital transformation as you see it. So many companies that we talk to are thinking about and planning and organizing digital transformation. I think the pandemic has only accelerated the planning and thinking and execution of digital transformation. How does content fit into that? Maybe I’ll start with you, John, if you have some thoughts on that. And then I know each of you have a perspective on this, given your experience. 

John Kelley (28:24):

Yeah. Well, I think that represents just about everybody that we work with, is going through that, that digital transformation right now. I’ll try to keep this short because I know that this is a relevant topic for everybody, but if we think about this in the context, and I’ll just throw out an example there, in our world, working with craft breweries, there’s a couple of things I think to consider. One is that I think many times, we think about content and the context of it being pictures and words, and we’ve talked a little bit about video and audio here, but we also think it’s an opportunity to look at it in terms of your products and what you do from a design and brand aesthetic. If you’re a brewery, a lot of your content is focused around your products and the thought and intent that goes into them, the ingredients, the sourcing, things like that. 

What we really try to do is, breweries are typically great at creating the real world experience and the tap room and tasting rooms. Now that taprooms and tasting rooms are closed or at least a limited capacity, how do we extract and extend that brand experience into the real world? What they’re able to do very easily in the … I’m sorry, in the online world, but what they’re very easily able to do in the real world, now how do we create that same sense of engagement online? I think what we try to do is be able to effectively use technology to point people to those products, and ultimately what we’re trying to do is connect the story closer to the transaction. We think it’s also an opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves by the experiences that they’re creating online. So, I think for us, we’re seeing a lot of it real time right now, and once again, it’s, what is the ultimate customer experience that you’re trying to create and how do you leverage technology to do that? 

And let’s think about it different than just pictures and words, what are the other things that are really content that allow us to create that experience online? 

Jary Carter (30:42):

Thanks for that. Yeah. I appreciate that perspective. We’re starting to get questions in the chat about this specific topic. Maybe what I’ll do is allow Mallory and Seth the opportunity to provide some perspective. I may just jump into some of the questions that we’re getting around this, because this is a really important topic and I think we’ve hit on something, given the questions that I’m seeing. 

Mallory Russell (31:11):

I can jump in. 

Jary Carter (31:12):

Yeah, please. 

Mallory Russell (31:13):

I think what I’ve seen particularly since about March is just content has become so much more important across everything because businesses, in some cases, can’t operate the way that they used to, and they have to do things in a more digital environment, everything has to be content. When we’re thinking about it … A company like Square, we service small businesses, we know small businesses have lots of questions, so there’s like a place for education. We know that they’re looking for connection for understanding people going through the same situation and there’s room for content there. So, there’s been more opportunities I think, than ever before to do that. It’s just been more applicable. But even for those small businesses, a lot of the things that we’re teaching them is about like, how do you communicate with your customers now? How are you telling your own story? How are you communicating what you’re offering and how you’re offering it? So, I think in every piece of this, the content plays a role, mostly because we can’t interact in person and as much before as we did before. 

Jary Carter (32:23):

Right.

Seth Kravitz (32:26):

Yeah. And also, I feel like now, as far as transforming any business that didn’t really have a great online presence before to try and do something, I think now is the time where you can get away with, honestly, just the most bare bones things possible. As long as it’s online and your products are online and you can start selling online, I would say, just push it live because the customer’s never going to be more forgiving than they are right now. They’re never going to be more patient than they are right now. I was joking that there’s this local bakery about three, four blocks away from me that we used to go to all the time and they put up this just awful checkout experience to try to pre-order their stuff and you could stop by and grab and go. I put up with just this horrible checkout experience because I just want to support them and I want to buy their goods and want to make sure they have some revenue right now. 

I discovered the same thing from siblings and friends, we’re all doing similar things where we are willing to put up with e-commerce experiences that are not like an Amazon level experience because we want to support smaller businesses and things like that. I would say a lot of the excuses that anyone had before where, oh, we can’t roll out our site and sell online until it’s perfect, until it’s amazing, until it’s on Amazon’s level or whatever. It’s just like, I think the excuses are now just completely out the window. Now, it’s just time to get alive and benefit from the fact that customers are willing to put up with things they never would have before. 

Mallory Russell (34:01):

Yeah. It’s interesting. We talk to small business owners all the time, and that’s what they just started doing at the beginning of all of this. They just started putting up their … we have an online store product, they just get that up and start going and see how it works and iterate. And then, they came up with really creative ways to just get people to that, restaurants doing cooking classes on their Instagram accounts and things that they weren’t doing before, but it gave them a lot of room to experiment and try things and see how their audience reacts. And in talking to them, it’s things they wouldn’t have done before, but necessity dictated that they try something. 

Jary Carter (34:40):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. No, absolutely. I really liked those perspectives. I want to keep on this thread because there’s a lot of questions that have actually come in about the pandemic. One of those questions is, many businesses have had to change during COVID to accommodate for online ordering, but with reduced staff and change in the facilities, many ran into roadblocks to generate content. What tips would you suggest to enhance the online eCommerce experience? This goes in with Mallory, what you and Seth were talking about in terms of accelerating this e-commerce experience that people are trying to have. 

Mallory Russell (35:25):

I can give some thoughts on my general philosophy around this, which is a lot of … had asked a lot, how do we do more faster? I never think that’s the right question, I think it’s figuring out the thing, even just the one thing that’s going to work and do that well, concentrate and do it well. Because quite honestly, you could produce 10 articles that have the same results as one that really took the time to research, what keywords are people searching for? How are you going to show up? Where’s there opportunity to win on search? I mean, I think the foundation of any good content program is organic search and really building that up, is going to set you up for success. I think you can actually do a lot more with fewer pieces of content than I think some people think as long as you’re doing your strategy and research, like going in depth there. 

Jary Carter (36:19):

Right. I mean, it’s about creating like blockbuster content, really high value, high quality content that you don’t have to create as much of it. So it’s not, how do we create as much content as possible, it’s really, how do we create, even a lot fewer content pieces, but at really high quality. Seth, what would you recommend? 

Seth Kravitz (36:43):

I mean, I can piggyback a little bit off of what Mallory was saying was that your content marketing generally just requires patience, because I’ve done a lot of performance marketing too, it’s the opposite of patience. It’s [inaudible 00:36:56], it’s like, I got 100 headlines I want to test out, but it’s like, okay, how can I do that on Facebook in the simplest way possible? It’s totally opposite where it’s content marketing is like, actually, you know what, let me go interview a bunch of customers and see what they love about our product. And not even [inaudible 00:37:09], just what do they do in their daily lives? How does this product fit into their daily lives? Try to ask not leading questions, do customer interviews, they call them. Then I look at the product and look at the survey results and how people are using it, and then out of that, turns to more for a piece of content, that’s like, you know what, I think this would be a really valuable story that we could tell through the lens of one of our photographer customers, something like that. 

It requires a lot of patients though. It is slow. Some people joke that it’s like slow content. It is, it’s very slow content, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to invest a tremendous amount of money. I think people, they might think high production value and slow, they might think it’s going to cost a fortune. It’s honestly true, content marketing, I guess just really requires knowing your customer, your product exceptionally well and really diving into the underlying reasons. Just like a report of [inaudible 00:38:04], I mean, I think that’s why so many journalists and reporters have become content marketers because they’re really phenomenal at diving in and getting the real story, the real underlying thread that this American lifestyle way of somehow tying together three stories that seem completely unrelated into one beautiful narrative. 

Those are the pieces that do tend to do exceptionally well and are shared, and a lot of companies have … Square being one of them, been able to build things that I guess 10 years ago would’ve been called a blog, but now, they feel more like these magazines that happen to be run by a company, and they produce content sometimes on par and [inaudible 00:38:43] like the New York Times, little contents of that will come out of these kinds of marketing pieces. And that’s all very slow and patient, and I guess the opposite eCommerce experience, which tends to be very rapid and convert somebody now and try to get them an hour later with an abandoned cart email. That’s the speed of pace, I guess, is it’s three different between those two things. 

Jary Carter (39:08):

Right. John, anything to add? 

John Kelley (39:11):

Yeah, I think about it maybe a little bit differently, but it builds on what Mallory and Seth are talking about here. I think right now what we’re recognizing is people just want the information. They want to know how they can get their hands most conveniently on your products. And I think about Seth, your example with the bakery in your neighborhood, and what we see our brands doing is adapting and hustling. Their business doesn’t look anything like it did six months ago, but they’re fine with that because they’re pushing forward and they’re letting people know, here’s how you get your hands on our beer, here’s when we’re releasing things, here’s how we can make it convenient for you. I think what they’re doing is distilling it down to making sure that people have the right information to get their hands on the products is as easy as possible. I think simplicity and focus to a certain perspective right now as their businesses are adapting, let’s strip it down, let’s just get back to basics. 

The second thing is that consumers are being very, very flexible right now. Absolutely. Hopefully, that remains for a while, but at the same time, we’re also really discerning. If you look over the last 10 to 15 years, we as consumers really care about not only the products that we’re buying, but the companies and people that are behind these things. I think it’s a combination of both, reminding people about the ethos and the personality and the people and the spirit that are behind the brand, while at the same time, making it easy for you to get your hands on the products. 

Jary Carter (40:47):

Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for that. I want to shift, because we’re getting a lot of questions coming in about content strategy and metrics reporting, which I knew was going to be a topic that this audience was going to really care about. One question, and I think a lot of people have this question, is how do you recommend proving the value of top of funnel efforts, particularly to resistant stakeholders who want to focus on tactics directly connected to revenue? Seth, I think you’re absolutely right in highlighting that especially in e-commerce, there’s a lot of times, and impatience to conversion and a desire to see instant results, how are you proving to two stakeholders that maybe some of the top of the funnel efforts? 

Seth Kravitz (41:40):

I’ll just touch on it quickly, because I’m guessing Mallory has a lot of … she’s in a much larger organization where she has to deal with this, because every other day I could be like, now we’re going to do it this way, but the way I’ve done it, because intentionally, we hired an editor-in-chief, she is full time salaried person that is in charge of pretty much all the content marketing. We take their marketing seriously enough that we’re like, you know what, we should treat it like it’s its own magazine, its own thing, its own publication. It has its own separate and essence editorial process. That has helped me not ruin it by being like, okay, under this first paragraph, I want a buy button, and then on the third paragraph, I want another buy button, and then can we put an ad embedded on the second paragraph and can we have-

Jary Carter (42:25):

Can we optimize for all these keywords that … Yeah. 

Seth Kravitz (42:30):

I want to pop up at two seconds and then I want another pop up when they’ve been on the page for 30 seconds. To get in between myself and doing all that, our editor-in-chief, she stops me and says, “No, we need to deliver a great piece of content first. If they really engage with it, enjoy it, we will win. I promise, we’ll win. You don’t need to try to just ram something, whatever it is, some CTA down their throats.” That’s my experience personally. 

Mallory Russell (43:01):

Yeah. I think my first piece of advice would be one, you can’t do by yourself. Working with your entire marketing team, that philosophy has to be consistent across the entire marketing org. I’m fortunate sitting in a team where that is the case, where we do invest in brand and awareness. And so, if you’re investing in brand and awareness for your other marketing tactics, you should be doing it with content too. I mean, there are a lot of places where you just have a content marketing team because it is a pretty efficient way to drive demand. I mean, I think it’s again, not getting people to focus not on individual pieces of content, but how you actually all of those pieces of content work together. So, if you only created content for acquisition, that’s actually a small pool. You’re probably doing it with organic search, those search terms tend to get small or things that are really … where there’s really high intent, but there’s lots of search volume for things much higher in the funnel. 

And so, it’s about showing people that this stuff isn’t just to get people into the site and it’s just traffic. You’re getting them there, you’re creating journeys from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, through links in your content, through recommended articles, maybe an email capture where you actually get to serve that information through CTAs, through surfacing that content on other parts of your site. So, you have to paint that picture that it’s not any one piece of content, it’s the sum of all the parts, and by building the top of the funnel, you’re actually creating something that grows much more quickly and creates … You invest a lot less over time if you’re building the entire funnel just versus the bottom. 

Jary Carter (44:57):

Yeah. Anything else to add on this? 

John Kelley (45:00):

Yeah. I was just going to second what Mallory is saying here, because I think the way that we think about it is the content ecosystem more than any one specific piece of content. We’re very lucky in the sense that just about everything can be measured at this point, but that doesn’t mean that those measurements are meaningful. I think it’s one, not looking at any one single piece of content, focusing on the ecosystem, and then within that, kind of systems theory, take a big step back from it, focus on the areas where you think that there need to be some adjustments or enhancements, measure those things, make improvements there, knowing that the health of the ecosystem is going to drive overall results, but it’s not necessarily a direct line between a single piece of content and a sales number. 

Jary Carter (45:53):

Yeah, love that. I want to go, and this will probably be one of the last places that we can visit today. There’s lots of questions, and we talked about this even in our pre-call about distribution channels. One of the questions that came in that I thought was great was, how do you identify channels beyond your brands owned properties to drive more visibility of content, and do you tend to publish on medium or other similar platforms? Anybody have thoughts on that? It’s not for one specific person. 

Seth Kravitz (46:32):

Yeah. I’ll just start it-

Jary Carter (46:36):

Yeah, start it out. I’m sure everybody has thoughts on it. 

Seth Kravitz (46:40):

Because we rely very heavily on other platforms for our inbound things that we don’t control. We started off as a YouTube channel over a decade ago, so we started in essence, our whole journey as a third party platform, and then dropped that audience over to our site. I don’t know. I realized everyone wants to try to control the content if they can, have everyone come to their own property, but that’s just completely unrealistic today. So, everything we do is about syndicating our content out to as many places as possible. So, if we create a video, a video is going to go native to YouTube, it’s going to be natively posted to Facebook as well, we’re going to natively post it on Instagram, everywhere. We’re not going to try to link all of them to go to one place, we’re not going to try to drive already back to our site. We want people to consume our content on the platform that’s most comfortable for them, so everything we design is designed to be syndicated out a bunch of times. 

So, if we write an article, we syndicate it over to our medium magazine where we just duplicate our entire magazine experience on medium, in case somebody wants to experience our content there. Why force them to go to the site when they prefer to just do it inside the [inaudible 00:47:50] map? So, everything we do, from written to video, to image, goes out to probably seven to 10 platforms, depending on what kind of content it is. I want them to just experience it there, and if they come back to our site, then so be it. I realize it’s a very difficult thing to sell an [inaudible 00:48:07] be like, if they come back, so be it. Don’t use that line, but that is our strategy that’s worked very well for us. I guess those are my thoughts. 

Jary Carter (48:19):

Thanks. I really like that, Seth. I do see this tension of getting content or using content as an acquisition strategy. I really like the philosophy and the thought of just meeting customers where they want to consume content. Mallory, you think about this a lot in terms of content syndication. 

Mallory Russell (48:42):

Yeah. When you work in a place for a long time, there’s a few things that people know you’re always going to say, and this is one of them, which is whenever someone starts talking to me about content, I say, what’s the distribution strategy, to the point where someone made me a sticker that’s on my computer. I think about distribution a lot. To me, you can’t think about the content without thinking about the distribution strategy. I keep saying, we do think a lot about SEO, so any content we’re doing where that’s the foundational distribution, which is how are we going to search optimize this. We do rely a lot on our own channels. The content we produce gets pushed out through our social channels, through our different email channels, we cross-link with our YouTube channel a lot. The way that we’ve put together our content strategy though, we do it pretty holistically. So, the other thing that we think about is, we’re going to use all of our own channels, but how can we use pieces of our strategy to support paid campaigns that may be ongoing throughout the year? 

And so, we are always thinking about the multiple use cases of any piece of content we produce, and it’s proved quite effective for us. We also do some syndication partners. We do a lot of branded content now with publishers, so we are producing things where people can find them. My big thing is that once we’re talking about our own channels, not creating islands of that content, making sure that Island is, or that place, they can find content is one place, when it’s associated with our site, because otherwise, you’re really doing a disservice to one, building up a channel is very difficult, getting a lot of traffic to a channel. And so, if you put it all in one place, you’re going to continue building that traffic faster and those people coming in, rather than separating it all out. 

I think you get really creative though with your distribution. I’m doing some tests right now around earned media with the podcast that I’m pretty excited to see how they go. I don’t know if they’re going to work in reaching out to people and pitching in a way that we haven’t done before. I think you can get pretty creative with how you do that. 

Jary Carter (50:57):

Yeah. Awesome. Thanks for that. I want to get a sticker made, Tess, we should get a sticker made for a lot of people on this. All the attendees of the webinar, what’s your distribution strategy for your content? 

Mallory Russell (51:08):

I’ll send you guys some. 

Jary Carter (51:09):

Yeah, yeah. Send us a couple Mallory-

Mallory Russell (51:11):

I have an agency that [crosstalk 00:51:14]. 

Jary Carter (51:15):

We’ll have them replicated. I’m actually not kidding, we should figure out a way to do that. That’s great. John, anything to add on that? 

John Kelley (51:25):

No, I think these guys are the experts. 

Jary Carter (51:27):

Yeah. Well, they’ve certainly instructed us here today. Tell me, any final thoughts? We have a few hundred content marketing experts on the call who have come to hear our thoughts on this. What did we miss? Was there anything we missed in today’s conversation that you feel like … We have a handful more questions, which we’ll get to all the questions asynchronously, but I wanted to just open it up to the panel. If you have any final thought or anything you’d like to clarify or mention before we wrap up today. That’s a good thing. Sounds like we covered it. I’m glad there was like, we didn’t talk about this one thing that’s so important. I’m glad. I think distribution, we could probably spend a whole lot more time on that because I think that is … and we should probably just do a separate followup webinar about distribution and how to think about content distribution, because I think that’s such a hot topic, especially now when content distribution strategies are changing so rapidly. 

We’ve seen that in our business and in the businesses of our customers, both at WooCommerce and WordPress VIP, we just see customers, not just their physical distribution strategies changing rapidly, but their content distribution strategies are adjusting so quickly, and how they go to market is just dramatically changed. We should probably do a follow on there. With that, I’m going to wrap up, I’m going to thank the three of you for joining me today. I thought it was fantastic. Tess, I would love to just turn it back to you to close us out and tell us anything we missed in this. 

Tess Needham (53:23):

Well, I wasn’t on the panel, so I might not be able to tell you anything. They’re all the experts. Thank you all so much to the panelists for joining. Thank you to all of our participants and for asking such great questions. As Jerry mentioned, we didn’t get time to get to everybody’s questions, but we will be trying to answer those later asynchronously. Look out for some other materials to be published from the webinar. You’ll all be getting a recording of the video, but we will also be making it into an ebook where we can answer those extra questions as well. We have lots of great ones. And maybe, as Jary said, maybe another webinar just on distribution, sounds like it would be worthwhile. At WordPress VIP, we’re seeing a lot of our customers turn more and more to the content marketing to drive customers to their products, so it was just really great to have all of these content marketing experts on today to talk about their own experiences with that. Really appreciate everybody’s time, and look out for more from us soon. Thanks so much. 

Jary Carter (54:24):

Thanks everyone. 

Tess Needham (54:25):

Bye. 

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