Explore a Career in B2B Content Marketing - Discussion with Esther Lee Cruz, Insights & Content Marketer @LinkedIn
With all the excitement around Content and how great content can truly set a business apart, it only made sense for us to do an episode on it. Team Learn Educate Discover met up with Esther Lee Cruz, an Insights & Content Marketer at LinkedIn, to understand what the job of a content marketer is all about.
Here are our notes from the discussion with Esther. Check out the podcast below if you prefer listening (like we do!)
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey so far.
I started off as you said as a Math and Sociology major and had no idea what I wanted to do after college. And I decided to go into financial services consulting because it sounded legit and I hadn’t yet explored business. I had almost explored every other field that you could imagine throughout my internships — teaching, social work, law and I hated them. So, business was the last kind of frontier that I hadn’t explored and I just kind of dove in and I liked some aspects of it — the project management part, the speed…. But I didn’t like other aspects, I didn’t love the financial industry. And I knew that I wanted to kind of revive the creative aspects of work that I love and financial services consulting wasn’t going to do that. So, I went to business school and then after school I discovered marketing which is a really cool mix of analytics and creativity. And content marketing in particular is very creative and in some ways it’s pushing me to more towards that side.
Can you give us an introduction to what is content marketing?
Sure, content marketing is creating visual and written stuff that get people excited about your company or whatever products or services you are selling. And, that’s it. This content can be in any form, any shape — Infographics, blog posts, websites...
Can you share examples of how companies have successfully used content marketing to their benefit?
Linkedin actually is doing it quite well, I want to say there’s probably at least one or two other companies out there that are doing this as well. The best companies that are doing this right now are media companies, to be quite honest. If you think about Fortune, Buzzfeed, New York Times, their entire business is content and so they need really good content to survive. Whereas LinkedIn’s business is dependent on other things, and content is a way to get customers for those things. So it’s a little bit different.
Another example is the AirBnB campaign that ran quite some time back. They were a struggling start-up and in order to raise funds, they released these cereal boxes at the time of the Obama campaign. The cereal boxes were right on time when the campaign was going on and people bought a lot of these cereal boxes and that in turn generated a lot buzz, both for AirBnB and then of course it got them some revenue.
Then, there is this another campaign where they basically created an interactive Web experience that illustrated why AirBnB was adding a lot to the economy. That was a really engaging and creative content marketing campaign.
Uber kittens is another great example. And it gets you excited to be part of Uber and to get a kitten and it’s very shareable. They did a great job with that. On Uber Kittens you can get kittens on demand.
How is B2B content marketing different?
It shouldn’t be too different except that your target audience is companies rather than your everyday Joe. For me, I’m targeting the head of recruiting at every company in the world. It’s going to be different for whatever company you are in. But the work itself is the same. It’s just who it is that you’re going after that’s different.
How long it does it take for content marketing to be effective?
If you’re going to be in content marketing, it is going to be longer and depend more on the sales cycle, which for us is anywhere between one to six months. With consumers though, you have to get them on the spot and get them interested to buy whatever it is that you are selling. Because consumer attention spans are very short. So even for example with Uber kittens, you would hope that when people see this they start using Uber to get kittens and then hopefully start using Uber for traveling.
In B2B, I’m building a longer term relationship where I’m trying to get them to download multiple pieces and get them interested in researching who we are, finding out more about our products, the ROI of our products, why LinkedIn as a company overall you would want to work with and then after X amount of time (months) where they’re internally debating whether they should use us, I’m building a relationship with them. And then once they have got enough information, then that’s typically when they talk with a sales person. And by that time, they’re really well informed. The sales cycle will be shorter and we’ve kind of pre-qualified them.
Can describe for us what your role is and where it fits in among the broad set of activities that LinkedIn does?
There’s a lot of different activities when it comes to getting customers for your company. The very kind of “top of the funnel” that brought awareness to activities are public relations and brand marketing and so once they make it known who our company is, content marketing comes in and we share a lot of educational material, things that not only help them become aware but also keep them engaged and consider buying our products. And then once we do that and collect their content information, then we pass it along to demand generation marketing and they’re focused on securing that sale. Once they do their thing — they get their contact information and pass it along to Sales, Sales comes in and builds a relationship and then closes the deal. So, there’s this journey where the customer may not be aware of our company, we take them all the way through sales.
How do you qualify those people that you are finally sending as leads to demand generation?
The beauty of content marketing is that we don’t have to identify them. They self-identify themselves. So, basically by downloading any of our stuff they’re telling us that they’re the right audience. They voluntarily are giving out their contact information and when they continue to do that over a few times we know that Ok this probably is the person I want to be talking to.
So maybe you can share an example of a project that you worked on?
Sure. So one of my big projects last year was a report on the state of recruiting -what are the trends that are happening in recruiting right now that will affect you as a company and perhaps the job seekers. And publishing that report was a content campaign because we wanted to not only show that we were thought leaders in the industry but we wanted to capture leads for sales. Recruiting leaders who read that information are exactly the type of people we should be talking to as a company to make money. So, basically I worked on this for 6 months and that consisted of everything including doing market research itself which was surveys to putting together the actual reports and everything that went along with those reports — so infographics, blog posts, video interviews, stuff that would just bring that data to life. Once they downloaded our information, I was able to say that I have generated these many leads for sales and I have generated these many sales ultimately. So, it was exciting because not only did I get to see all the latest trends that were happening for myself, which I am personally very interested in, but I also got to have a profound business impact for LinkedIn which was cool.
Once you know who your customer is, how do you identify what kind of content will work?
We do some research beforehand to understand what excites them. As an example, in our surveys we’ve come to know that recruiters love infographics. We also try variations of the same report, like cutting by industry and country. We ask them in a survey, but often what people tell you is often different from what they end up doing. So, we monitor the results afterwards.
The buzz around Content is at an all-time high right now. Everyone says “content is king”. What is your opinion on that?
Yes, traditional advertising methods can feel pushy which is why a lot of companies are moving towards content marketing which is educational and helpful. Digital and physical ads are still a part of our strategy. With Content, you give them the option to opt in. They don’t have to see your content. And if they see it and give you their contact information, it makes it easier to identify the people that you are selling to.
Can you walk us through the questions that you have to think about — from beginning to end — when you work on a project?
First, creating a campaign strategy and this is crucial to determine your next steps. It takes a couple of weeks or a month. You determine the target audience, the timeline, who you work with internally to get this work done, your message (authentic and has to address the crux of the problem they are facing), tailor the message to different audience that you’re trying to reach.
Next step is getting the resources to execute that strategy. Talking to a creative agency to finalize the design and then, writing. Writing is 80% of what we spend our time on. This phase probably takes around 1–2 months.
After that, the campaign goes out and we measure it.
How do you measure the success of a content marketing campaign?
It depends on the goals. One type of goal is Brand awareness and engagement. The second type is Sales. The metrics of success change with the goals.
Anything else you would like to add about B2B content marketing?
Within our tech company — Brand Marketing, Product Marketing, Demand Generation Marketing, Marketing Ops, Marketing Analytics and Content Marketing are the major areas of marketing and there is a lot of interaction between them.
Brand Marketing and PR: Awareness
Content Marketing: We can help you solve your problem, here’s some information
Demand Generation Marketing: You are interested in us and we are interested in you. Let’s make this work somehow and let me give you the sales.
Marketing Operations: Machine behind it all — create websites, send out emails etc.
Product Marketing: Focused on the products
Does the role of Content Marketer differ depending upon which industry you’re in?
Yes, B2C is very different from B2B. B2C is very emotional. But, B2B has also started to gradually shift to the emotional side.
What is your day to day life like at LinkedIn?
I get in to work at 9 AM, have breakfast at work. Responding to emails from other marketers. Then, meeting with different team members. Meetings are usually feedback meetings on the content or meetings where I’m trying to get someone to help me.
You mentioned that campaigns are moving more towards the B2C model of emotional connection. How do you figure out what might work?
It is super subjective. However, there is still an underlying logic to it based on what the consumer does. Beyond research, a lot of it is putting yourself in their shoes and talking it through with someone. Eg: This is true for country content where you’ve written something that is translated to some other language, it gets completely botched. So, here you might need feedback from your team members.
How big is your team?
I was working with about 10 people from PR, Demand Generation, Product Marketers and Marketing Operations. And of course, Designers!
What are your working hours like?
Typically 9 to 6, and sometimes 7. However, 2 weeks before a campaign goes live, it gets busy (11–12 hours). Besides that, it’s pretty steady.
What are the most interesting aspects of working in B2B Content Marketing?
I am really excited about video and interactive content because it’s new and there is a lot of potential in it. To me it feels like that if you work in any other field of work, you might feel that no one is noticing your work. But, with content marketing if you do something interesting, they’ll think about it. That story telling aspect is nice because after you are gone, everyone will remember the story that you told.
Any challenging aspects of the job?
You never know what would work. It is so subjective. Somebody might say I wanna do an ebook about xyz, however ultimately that might not work and nobody might be interested in it.
What are the common mistakes that people make especially when starting out their careers in content marketing?
For me, I made a bunch of mistakes because I had no background in marketing. I thought I was a great content marketer because I was a good project manager and I could think strategically. But ultimately the most important skill you could have in content marketing is storytelling and writing. I underestimated that in the beginning.
What is the typical career path in this role?
Most people coming into this role have a marketing or writing background. So, some generalists are great content marketers. A lot of other people who succeed are social media marketers because you know what gets people excited. I didn’t have any of those things. So, I learned from grounds up. You can transition into any other marketing role from here.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy this job?
Some who is creative, who likes to write and tell stories. And if you are analytical, that would be a plus.
What differentiates the best content marketers?
Storytelling and project management. I consider myself to be lucky to be working in content marketing without having a marketing background. So, my advice to someone like me is to switch internally within your company because you already understand the business that can act as a transferable skill which you can bring to the table.
What skills are tested in the interview?
Creativity (via case studies, describe a time when you were creative), project management skills, writing, team work and communication. Also, somebody who can think strategically. Make a good work portfolio (writing samples).
Is there a way for someone interested in this field to get their feet wet before they go all in?
Start blogging and see if that is something that excites you. Content Marketing is somewhat like blogging and many other things on top of it!
What is the best way to apply for a job in content marketing?
Get a referral!
Thank you for listening! If you have any questions for Esther or for us, you can email us at email@example.com or tweet at us @led_curator.