Why spend marketing dollars on campaigns and content that your audience doesn’t care about? On Episode 13 of ONNAMP, our host Will Davis and Marty Brandwin, VP Marketing at WorldAware, discuss why it’s so important to make data-driven marketing decisions that will actually benefit your business and feed your pipeline.
Disclaimer: The below transcript is AI-generated. It may contain errors and not translate verbatim to the podcast episode.
Will Davis: Welcome. With me today, Marty Brandwin, VP of Marketing at WorldAware. Glad to have you here today, Marty.
Marty Brandwin: Thanks for inviting me, Will.
Will: So Marty, we like to start off with a fun fact from our guests and we’d like to just hear a little bit about you, something people may not know.
Marty: So not many people know that back in the ’90s, I actually wrote an episode of “America’s Most Wanted.” So for people who remember the show, it was about the top most wanted people in America, got profiled with the hope that someone would call into it and hopefully find these people. And back in the mid-’90s, I was taking a class at American University, taught by the creative director of the show, and we all received research on an event. And we were able to write scripts on spec and mine was one of three chosen for an episode.
Will: Wow. How about that? Well, I’m glad that you wrote one rather than appeared in an episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”
Marty: I’ve heard that before. Actually, yes.
Will: We do this much.
Marty: Yes, I’ve also had people comment that they’re glad I wasn’t profiling them and it’s interesting because a lot of people still follow up with me who do know about it to find out what happened. And actually, the individual we profiled was caught a few years ago. So it took 15 years from the episode and actually it had nothing to do with the episode. But it was something that the people who were involved still tracked. An interesting community and kind of interesting to work with the U.S…with the federal agents who were involved in the case.
Will: Well, not unlike marketing. Sometime there’s a long period before you actually get to the end result.
Marty: That is true and I can actually say that marketing and my writing background, in particular being able to write for an audience, made a huge difference in how you kind of form a script.
Will: Great. Well, that’s a good transition. Tell us about WorldAware and what you do there.
Marty: So WorldAware helps organizations around the world keep their people and assets safe. And by assets, I mean facilities, it could be their equipment, trucks, ships, what have you. We do that by providing several different things. We provide intelligence, we provide technology, and we provide services. Intelligence is information about what’s happening in the world. It could be an environmental risk that exists. For example, hurricane or an earthquake. It could be geopolitical, it could be terror related, it could be transportation related. We report on these events. We create alerts, so that our clients know what is happening or what is going to happen. And that gives them… The forewarning gives them the ability to hopefully avoid a threat or risk that exist and be not in the vicinity of, you know, potential danger. We deliver that information through technology, through mobile apps, as well as web app. Individuals within our client organizations can actually have a mobile application on their phone. Everyone’s got a phone, everyone’s got it with them all the time and receive alerts directly. In other cases, security operation centers will receive the alerts and pass it on as appropriate to their people. And then finally, should someone find themselves in a difficult or unfortunate situation, our assistance and response teams are available to help coordinate and evacuate, or move those people to safety.
Will: Very interesting. So what’s your background? How did you end up there?
Marty: So my background has been in marketing. Most of my career started off on the healthcare side. Found that for me the healthcare industry was really rewarding because I saw the impact I was making on people. I happened to get into technology after that and spent most of my career in technology, until switching to WorldAware just two years ago and going back to WorldAware kind of reminded me about the people element of what you can do, whether you’re in marketing or in any other position. And it’s that impact on people that I think motivates many of us at WorldAware, if not all of us. It’s that, you know, that mission to help keep people safe. So for me personally, getting back to the idea of marketing a product, marketing a service, marketing a technology that actually impacts not just the company, but the individuals within the company, it’s been really rewarding.
Will: That’s really cool and, you know, it’s been interesting as you’ve talked about your background moving from healthcare and then through technology. And then, you know, dare I say, almost every company now is a technology company in some way.
Will: And there’s additional services, you know, often that wrap around that. You and I have talked about this in the past, but there’s been a lot of change in marketing, evolution marketing over our careers.
Will: You know, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen? And I’m sure you have some interesting stories around that.
Marty: Sure. So there has been a lot of change and I think the technology stack has seen a huge change. I have colleagues from other companies and people I’ve worked with, people I know from the marketing perspective manage a technology stack of over 20 different applications right now.
Marty: And that brings its own challenges because you then need to figure out who’s your expert, how many people do you need to manage them. And they’re doing that, I think, primarily because of the automation it brings and suppose to make our job easier. But the biggest change that I think it kinda plays into the technology is what you do with that information that the technology collects, right? The data. And for me, if I go back to the dot-com bubble, it was a great time to be a marketer. I had so much fun. Usually, the most fun I ever had in my career because we had… I don’t wanna say because, but there was no accountability, right? I worked for a company that was public and we were one of those companies where it seemed like no matter what we did, the stock price went up. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have…that we weren’t positive from an EBITDA perspective. It didn’t matter that we were losing money, that revenues weren’t, you know, that we don’t have incredible revenues. It was the idea of what we provided that people were reacting to which meant that as long as the stock price went up, everyone was happy.
So I remember one time going into our CEO’s office and I was the marketing director. I went in with our VP of marketing, my boss. We went into the CEO and we said, “Hey, we’d like you to look over this contract. We’re not sure if we wanna sign it or not.” And his response was, “I hired you to do a job. Just go sign if you want to.” It was a $2.1 million Super Bowl ad contract and he was just letting us do it if we wanted to. Like I mentioned, I was fairly young in my career. I was managing a $10 million plus online advertising contract with AOL Time Warner properties. We weren’t measuring results and it didn’t really matter at that time until the dot-com bubble burst. And then you look back on it and now for me anyway, I’m looking back on and I’m thinking, “Wow, we had no accountability. Look at all these dollars we wasted or we don’t know if we spent them well.” And it wasn’t clear to the company at the time, but it didn’t matter. But once that bubble burst and you’re thinking, “Wow, this company was losing billions of dollars. Why were we not paying attention to it?”
My next job after that company, after the dot-com bubble burst was with a small startup technology company that was run by a mathematician. So he was hyper-focused on accounting for the dollars that we spent and my experience plus his sort of push, made me focus entirely on the metrics. Are we getting what we want out of the dollars? I was negotiating an $80,000 contract for a series of advertising over the course of probably 6 or 7 months with a bunch of publications under the same publisher and I gave the information to our CEO. And he came back and said, “It should be $87 less expensive.” And I looked at him and I said to him… I won’t say his name, but I said to him, “I’m happy to go get you the $87 and I’m sure I can do it. But it’s probably going to cost you more in my time to do that. Do you really want me to go after it?” And that was the only mathematical battle I ever won with him. But it drilled into my head the importance of accounting for dollars and accounting for the results of those dollars. We did a lot of testing at that company. We would take all of our different advertising channels. We turned one off like, turned off Google AdWords, and we would see that everything else was impacted by it.
So we were able to look at the metrics, we were able to test, and we were able to see how every activity interrelates, and the importance of actually creating a comprehensive holistic plan. And thinking about not individual components, but about the entire web, how everything fits together. And I think for me anyway, that’s been the biggest change in my career is just focus on metrics and what you do with that information to impact your next activity.
Will: So that really is an evolution and a lot of change. I’ve got a few questions and I might rapid-fire all of them.
Will: So did you sign the Super Bowl contract or not?
Marty: We did not.
Will: Okay. Probably a good decision.
Marty: In retrospect, yes. From a perspective of how much fun we would have had making the commercial, who knows? I mean, we may have missed out on a little bit of fun.
Will: Second piece. So we’ve talked a lot, you started to talk about technology stacks and how people are managing them, and what they’re measuring. And that’s really driven a big change in marketing, too, you know. You started to say marketers have licensed these tools and built these stacks to create more efficiency, and to become more automated. But sometimes what I’ve seen actually happens is, you know, they thought we’d get more efficient, instead we created a whole new department. Right now, there’s all sorts of people to manage these tools.
Marty: Then that’s the challenge, right? You need to find the people, the resources, and the expertise. And, you know, the pace of change is incredible. How do we keep up with it, right? You know, a good sort of micro example that would be, how do you optimize for SEO, right? Because the algorithms are constantly changing. What do you have to pay attention to? We know there’s some certain major aspects that you always need to be aware of, but if you remember back in the day, there was keyword stuffing going on, right? People were putting keywords on pages and the same color as the background, no one knew it was there. And, you know, the biggest lesson from that is Google is smarter than us. Don’t try to be smarter or outsmart them because you’ll just get penalized. But the pace of change is so fast. So how do you keep up with it?
What I found for our own organization right now is we need to be careful, we need to be cautious, and we need to be smart about the technologies we implement because we can’t go spend a lot of money on a tool that we’re not gonna actually get value out of. You know, for us, it would be difficult to justify spending the money on, say, an attribution tool when I know we don’t have the resources or the time to fully leverage it to get value out of it. So we’re careful about what we do choose and what we don’t choose. That said, there’s a lot of technology that makes our jobs easier and there’s a lot of technologies that we still are trying to better use than we currently are, but we’re using at least 70%, 80% percent of the functionality. But I think it’s a big challenge, right? If you start to add to your technology stack, who supports it, who pays for it, and how do you actually know you’re getting value out of it?
Will: Yeah. And I think one of the things we talk about a lot and I sort of joke for most of these marketing tools, you know, you mentioned attribution. It’s certainly a data side, but on the kinda user experience and marketing automation, all these others, like, it doesn’t come with content, right? And so, I think that’s a big challenge for organizations too. Okay. I bought this thing. Now, what do I do? What do I send?
Will: What do I tell people? You know, great, I have dynamic content and personalization. But now, I need to create more content. So how do you guys feed the content beast?
Marty: In the past six or seven months, we’ve actually changed our content strategy. So we decided that most of what we do should be driven by content as opposed to content being driven by activities. So what I mean by that is in the past, we might have, say, an advertising campaign, a content syndication campaign plan, and that would drive the demand to create a new content piece. It’s hard to find efficiencies when you’re doing that and it’s hard to create enough content to support that so that you’re actually getting, say, the demand generation results you want.
What’s more efficient would be to create the content that your audience needs and then figure out how you’re going to promote it. The way we’ve addressed content now is… And we have a huge backlog of content we wanted to create, but we prioritize it. And it’s based on what we’re hearing from our clients, from our prospects. So we know where their focus is and we’ve got a lot of sources within the company providing us with that information. So really, anyone that touches the field could be a source of information and we’re able to monitor and track inquiries that are coming in, whether it’s sales inquiries, it’s specific questions from prospects or whether it’s clients asking about situation happening in the world, or a trend that they’re noticing. And we’re able then to start to create content which our DemandGen team will then look at and say, “You know what? We’re gonna run… In this magazine, I need this piece of content.” So they’re gonna pull from a library of readily available content and every time we create content, we know what assets we need to create with it. So we know we need a landing page and a form, and a workflow, and our automation system. So they were able to track leads and actually route them correctly.
So content is sort of the center of the hub and then we build out around that. And then our DemandGen team who’s the biggest consumer of content internally is able to kind of pull from the library and say, “This is gonna support this activity this month. Here’s what’s gonna support next month.” And we build it with different audiences in mind and all that is tagged on the contents. So we can see, are we meeting the needs of different audience segments and most importantly, is it content relevant.
Will: Very interesting. And I think that’s really critical when you talk about content being the first step, not saying, “Okay. Let’s start with the media and back into the content.” What we see that often driving to is the ability to make really effective content, to measure the effectiveness, and to continue to repurpose it, right? So, you know, this podcast today, it might turn into a 10, 12 other content formats, whether that’s, you know, an infographic or a blog post, or something else. And I think really squeezing that maximum value out of the efforts is something we’re seeing much more. Well, we’re seeing effectiveness out of it. I was gonna say we’re seeing more people doing it, but frankly, we’re not yet.
Marty: Well, in this whole idea of co-create once published everywhere and we are reusing contents much as we can. I think what’s most interesting about content is if you go back to when content marketing really became a term, everyone was thinking more, and more, and more is better. And I think it’s really changed to relevance, right? Is this the right content? And still today, we get requests from different parts of the organization, all levels of the organization, all departments to create content to support something and my first question always is why, right? I wanna know why they’re asking for it and what I discover is that sometimes it’s because the individual making the request, the department making the request thinks that this is gonna be good or they need it. But we don’t have a ton of resources. We need to act on data.
So I’ll go back to the data and the metrics discussion which is if we’re going to pursue an activity, pursue content that we’re going to create or what have you, I want to know that it’s important. So I want data to back up the requests because we don’t have unlimited bandwidth, we don’t have unlimited funds or resources. So knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and having expected outcomes is really critical to choosing which content we’re going to create and how we’re going to promote it.
Will: Yeah. I think that’s really the right approach. I mean, we’ve seen the stat kicked around everywhere now, 60% to 70% of marketing created content sits unused. And so, you know, someone once thought that they wanted this thing and then we made it, and then nothing ever happened to it. So it’s really critical to think about, okay, I used to tell this joke, the path and you talked about a few years ago when content marking really start to take off it’s like, step one, create content, step three, become billionaire. We need to figure out step two, but, you know, we’ll just keep creating content and eventually it’ll happen. I think smart companies have gotten much smarter about their approach there.
Marty: Yeah. And I think it’s challenging because I don’t know that everyone in the organization actually thinks the same way a marketer does, right? I think there’s still a perception that marketing is this creative art piece of the company and oftentimes it’s, you know, an expense, not an investment. But marketing is much more of a science than it ever used to be. And I think that’s an important fact that we have to keep in mind. We do create content, we do get requests for portals, and stuff like that to be created. We measure everything and when it’s not working, when our clients, our partners, our prospects aren’t actually accessing it, we’re not going to invest more time into that activity.
Will: So it’s interesting as we talk about content libraries and different types of content. Your organization, by nature, produces a ton of highly specialized really relevant, often really timely content for your customers and then there’s kind of that next layer of content that you produce that’s for the public, and maybe, you know, maybe it’s gated. And there’s that next layer of content that’s available for free, not behind a form, you don’t have to give up any information. How do you go about determining what that next looks like?
Marty: Sure. So I’ll tell you, we are really fortunate or I’m really fortunate to have this built-in content engine within the company. When I was interviewing, the founder of the company asked me like, “What’s one of the biggest challenges for a marketing person?” I said, “Content.” And his response was, “You have nothing to worry about. We have 120 people creating content every day for you.” So it’s been actually great because we do have tons of content coming in every day from all parts of the world covering all the different categories of what we call intelligence like, the threats and the risks that exist out there. That’s not always what our prospects or our clients want though. They also want advice about their risk management programs and relating a crisis management, crisis communications, how do I use social media to communicate better with my own employees, that sort of thing.
And what we have found is that multimedia is increasingly…this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, but it’s increasingly the preferred way of consuming content. For us, it doesn’t make sense to just go right into create a podcast, create a video, create a webinar. It’s let’s create the blog post, let’s create the podcast, let’s create the webinar, let’s create the white paper, let’s create the ebook, let’s do all those content pieces around it. And then serve that up to our clients or in our prospects depending on the piece and let them kind of consume it the way they want.
Now, what’s really important to clients is sort of that real-time nature of content. If it’s something happening in the world, if there’s an event going on that they wanna know about, getting them information really quickly is really important. That said, we do a currently quarterly soon to be monthly hopefully, sort of a news show video for our clients and that’s just about ongoing trends. And it’s a really popular piece. It actually came about because a client mentioned to our CEO that she really would like us to be able to provide this type of information that she was getting that day more frequently and it was sort of like, light bulbs go off, right? Listen to your clients.
Marty: And go deliver to them what they’re asking for. So you have to remain flexible. We have to be ready to deliver content in any way we can. So we have multiple people on the team trained to be able to spin up a webinar, to spin up, you know, a podcast, to write a blog or to repurpose content from our intelligence team into a blog. And, you know, besides having multiple resources, then you gotta think about what’s the editing process look like, especially for multimedia, who can do that, how can you do it, what’s the most efficient way to do it. But for us, the key really is delivering content in multiple formats and letting our clients and our prospects choose a format that’s best for them, and you can track all that. So now, you can start delivering it to them more proactively in the way that we want.
So we actually recently created a subscription service for our clients. I’m calling the subscription it’s free, it’s marketing content, it’s the intelligence we provide. But we ask them, what we said, “Here’s the type of content we can deliver to you. Here’s the frequency we’ll deliver to you. Go ahead and subscribe. Tell us what your preferences are.” And probably preference engines are better way to talk about it. And it’s improved open rates, it’s improved consumption of content because we’re not forcing it on our audience now. They’re actually choosing what it is they wanna hear about and how they wanna hear about it.
Will: I think that’s really interesting, too, is saying, “Okay.” You know, there’s some companies who have this perception of, “We just need to do videos,” or, “We just need to do…” You know, and it’s really, you know, listen to the audience and then give your audience what that person wants versus, “Okay,” you know, “We got some feedback that people love videos, so let’s spend our next 20, you know, content cycles on videos.”
Marty: Yeah. And it’s not just the media used to communicate, but we also measure the topic. So we know what topics are more popular than others and it lets us understand, you look at keyword research and all that. So we know that content we create around the term, “duty of care,” as an example might be more popular than around risk management policy or… I’m kinda making this up right now, but, you know, that’s the type of comparison we can do. We can look at specific terms, specific content areas, and we can figure out what’s the most popular, what’s not. And it helps provide that roadmap for what you’re gonna create next.
Will: Yeah. And making that kind of data driven and really looking at the effectiveness of the content and the data then gets us out of some of those conversations we used to have in the past where, you know, someone in the C-suite down the hall has a great idea about a piece of content, it’s way off message, it’s way off topic, and used to sort of have to acquiesce. And now, you may still have to acquiesce and sort of, you know, you’re $87 debate, right? But now, you have data and say, “Here’s what’s really effective.”
Marty: Yeah. And that’s the other question, is what does effective mean, right? So we might have a conversation in the office and maybe someone says to me, “Well, this piece of content got 100, you know, views.” And my response is gonna be, “Well, what does that do for us, for the company?” Right? Because if we’re not capturing, if we’re not converting, if we’re not driving revenue which is our company goal with our marketing efforts, then the views aren’t really that important. And that’s something that you debate all the time or I debate all the time, too. You think about, you know, someone will say, “Well, why aren’t we showing up on these search results?” Right?
Marty: It’s a common thing that everyone hears and I think from a marketer’s perspective, it kinda drives you crazy. So when you look at like, SEO, there’s keywords, there’s long tail keywords that you have already done a research on, you’ve already optimized for or you understand the need for it. And when someone says, “Well, why aren’t we showing up for the search?” It might be that that person is the only one in the world who does that search or it is not as important of a search. Maybe there’s 20 people versus 1,000 doing a search that you’ve already optimized for or the competition is so great for that word and you’re not gonna beat out the Fortune 10 company that owns that keyword, you know. Maybe you’re gonna advertise or maybe the advertising cost is too big and that’s why your ads aren’t showing up on that page.
So there’s a lot of considerations and again, a lot of it comes back to the data and what you’ve analyzed and how you’ve come up with your program that I think impact what effectiveness really means. And I think that’s an important part of any campaign, is understanding what are your goals, what are you trying to achieve, how are you going to measure it? And put that into place so that when someone says, “Hey, why don’t we do this,” or, “Why aren’t we showing up here?” You can ask why, right? Why is that important.
Will: So shifting gears for a minute. We talked earlier about marketing technology. What’s like the one piece of marketing tech you couldn’t live without?
Marty: That’s a good question. So there’s two pieces of marketing technology that I live in every single day. Marketo is one of them, right? So our marketing automation tool, the metrics it collects, being able to show me what’s working and what’s not from an email perspective, from a landing page perspective, and so forth is critical. And the other piece that I live and die by is Salesforce.com, right? And that is not just a marketing tool. That is a sales tool, it is a company tool, it is our system of record. And I spend more time in Salesforce making sure that it’s working the way it should from a marketing perspective, and a sales perspective every day because the data and the information we collect there is vital. And it’s also important to be able to track your results. Not just we got 50 downloads, but we got 50 leads. Twenty of them converted to discussions with a salesperson, five of those converted opportunity, two of those converted to revenue, and here’s how much, right? So we get that information out of the combination of Marketo and Salesforce. So those are the two pieces of technology I would say I probably could not live without.
Will: Flip side of that, anything that’s kind of a waste of time or overblown, or overhyped, or tech everyone’s talking about that you say, you know…I guess overblown is probably the wrong phrase. Maybe we’re just not there yet.
Marty: Yeah. I mentioned marketing attribution as an area that I don’t think it’s overblown, but we have workaround. So using UTM parameters, tracking first touch, last touch, second to last touch is giving us a good idea. Using Salesforce to track campaign, so we know what campaign someone has been in. Some of the automation we create in Marketo gives us a good workaround for that. I think having a marketing attribution tool would be great for us and it would give us a lot of insight. But the cost and the resources to manage and actually set up the models that work and test them, it’s just not something right now that’s a top priority for us.
Will: So metrics related. We’ve talked about that using these platforms to track things. Marketo, Salesforce, your key things. What are your KPIs that you look at? You know, you talk about being these tools every day. What do you guys really measure?
Marty: Yeah. So when we do our planning for each year, we kind of establish what those KPIs are and we work backwards, right? And I actually wonder why companies don’t do this more often because I talked to others who don’t do it. But we start with what’s the company goal, right? And let’s just talk about revenue, right? Here’s our revenue goal that we have as a company, how do we achieve it? What we’re gonna need based on close rates and time to close sales cycles, these many opportunities, right? And we know what our conversion rate is from contacts to opportunity and we know how many sales development reps we’ll need as a result of that to create the number of opportunities that are needed for the company. So we set up a whole sort of list of KPIs, metrics that we need to achieve, and it influences our hiring decisions, it influences our advertising. So I know how many leads I’m gonna need, how many people I’m gonna need to actually respond to those leads, and then I’m able to track it all the way from opportunity through to revenue. So we look at every single stage above the qualification as well as opportunities.
Will: Yeah. I think that’s… As you said, surprised more companies don’t do that because what it does is really wires every department into driving business results instead of driving, you know, kind of vanity metrics or, you know, “Hey, great…” As you were talking about before, “Hey, great. We’re really strong on page views.” Okay. But sometimes that’s a proxy metric for something else, but Matt Heinz who I see speak a lot and one thing he said a couple years ago that stuck with me, you know, he’s talking about marketing metrics when he was an in-house marketer and he said, “The VP sales said those metrics don’t matter unless you can buy a beer with them.” He said, marketing metrics you can buy a beer with, right? So how do we tie it to revenue? And if we can’t buy a beer with it, maybe it’s not a great metric.
Marty: Right, right. I agree with that. It’s interesting because I’ve been in those conversations about, “Well, our LinkedIn page, our Facebook page has this many views or hits,” or, “Why aren’t we getting more?” And the question is always like, “When people go there, do they come to our site afterwards? Do we capture them? Are we actually following up and creating leads, and opportunities from it?” And that’s really important. You know, even on the public relations side, right? There are metrics that are important to your business that you wanna talk about and one of my first days on the job is the first board meeting I sat in the current company, I was asked about public relations and how we’re measuring it. And I shared that I don’t buy into the whole column inch value because it’s more important that someone sees the article in “The New York Times” and then comes to our website and we can track some of that or we can ask them how they’ve heard about us, right? Or we can just see spikes that correlate with media coverage and then what do we do when they hit our site. And our general counsel is at the table and she started laughing because my predecessor had always talked to the board and sold them on the value of the column inch. I had no idea, but it really does come back to the metric you choose has to have an impact on your business, has to be a desired impact, right? What’s your business goal, then how are you going to achieve it. You used the term “vanity metric,” we use that all the time to talk about the metrics that really are important to the individual, but not to the company.
Will: Yeah. So one last question and we ask all the guests this, you know, what would the Marty of today give his advice to an earlier career Marty? What have you learned over time, you know, if you could kind of take that time machine and go back?
Marty: I think asking why I would rather have done that earlier in my career than I did and I think when you’re new in your career, you tend to just wanna do what you’re told. There’s a little bit less critical thinking maybe and trying to not disagree or put other people on the spot, but to make them think critically too about what they’re asking because we only have so much time in the day, we only have so much money in the budget. And if we’re not making the smart decisions and forcing others to think along the same lines and make those other smart decisions, then we’re probably not doing ourselves and our company, you know, a service. So if I were to change one thing, I probably would ask why little bit sooner than I started doing in my career.
Will: Great advice. Well, thanks for joining us, Marty. I really appreciate it.
Marty: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.