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120 | Customer-centric marketing: Being distinctive in B2B Tech

50 min listen

How can being meaningfully different establish a brand’s presence in a competitive industry?

This week, host Jon Busby is joined by Bea Whelan, who brings a wealth of experience from her role at Sage. Alongside her, Debbie Clark joins the discussion to delve into the intricacies of putting the customer at the heart of marketing strategies. They explore the challenges and triumphs that come with building a brand that truly resonates with its audience.

Highlighted in this episode are:

  • The importance of honest conversations in shifting a business's focus to customer-centric marketing.
  • The concept of 'content influenced revenue' and how Sage measures the impact of content on sales.
  • Strategies for maintaining emotional resonance in both small and large business marketing.

Intrigued by the insights shared in this episode? Read the full Sound Advice case study now. 



We'd love to hear from our listeners whether this is something they've explored yet - get in touch and let us know!

View the full transcript here

Jon Busby: Welcome to another episode of the Tech Marketing Podcast. Um, I'm really excited to be joined in the virtual Tech Marketing Podcast sofa, or chairs, I think as we have today, by one of my fellow Twogetherers, uh, Account Director Debbie Clark. Um, so Debbie, welcome to the podcast. I think it's your first time.

As we're together, we're on the TTMP. Is that right?

Debbie Clark: It's not. It's not? It's not.

Jon Busby: When did we have you on before?

Debbie Clark: Um, it was quite a while ago with Sigfox, talking around events.

Jon Busby: Ah, yes we did

Debbie Clark:. And, um, social media with, uh, the media team. So, first time in person.

Jon Busby: Yeah, first time in person.

Debbie Clark: Never, never done with you in person, so, glad to be back.

Jon Busby: It's a pleasure to have you back on the podcast today.

But what I'm really excited about is Bee Whelan.

Um, and hopefully I pronounced that name correctly. Yes. Good. So what I'm really excited is to be joined by Bee Whelan, Global Director of Content at Sage. Um, who, and we've been working together on some projects for quite a while now.

Bea Whelan: Yeah.

Jon Busby: Um, but before we dive into that, like you have, we were just talking about your art history degree. Um, and these wonderful paintings behind us. Like you have a really fascinating background. I think you joined, you originally started. selling AdWords in Google and now you're director of content for Sage.

Like, tell us how, tell us a bit about that journey and how you've ended up, um, running content at Sage.

Bea Whelan: Yeah, I started in Google about just over 19 years ago. It was my first marketing job and I was in the AdWords team and, and worked there for a year, mostly reviewing ad copy. So I'm sure they have lots of automated ways of doing that now.

But back then. Most of it was done by real humans and we would review the ad copy and also review the landing pages and I think in the year there I reviewed well over 100, 000 ads. So, it gave me um, it gave me a really good grounding in, you know, what great ad copy looks like, right? Um, and then I, I left Google and I started, um, a job as a website designer in a small local web design agency.

And I worked there for five years doing websites, mostly for small business owners, so that gave me a great grounding in the needs of small businesses, but also a very varied, um, Like when a very varied opportunity in the sense that as well as designing their website I would be essentially advising them on on their marketing plans or website content or SEO all of that Eventually went out to do that on my own so as a small business owner myself for a year and Whether it's true all of the struggles that many small business owners And then from there, I got a job in Sage.

So I've been in Sage for 13 years now in various social and content roles, and eventually progressed to content director that I am now.

Jon Busby: Do you think, you know, from your memory of running that business, how do you think that prepared you for your role at Sage?

Bea Whelan: Massively in terms of understanding the struggles of a small business owner.

And I think that's what largely allowed me to blag my way into Sage’s. I remember back in that interview talking about just how difficult it is to be a small business owner. Um, I went into that with lots of passion and determination, but quickly, quickly realized that that's not enough. You know, you need to have And I was lacking a lot of the knowledge and expertise that I would have needed around the financial management of my business.

And so when, when I ultimately exited my business, you know, it was at the time with a sense, a large sense of failure. And it was, you know, a massively devastating moment for me to close my business. Delighted, of course, to get the job in Sage. But I think. What that year taught me is really, um, how difficult it is to be a small business owner and many of the challenges that they face and we'll talk a little bit about the Sound Advice podcast I'm sure, but that's something that, you know, many years later when we were developing the idea for the Sound Advice podcast in Sage, I was thinking back to how can we create a podcast that would have helped me back then maybe not make some of those mistakes.

Jon Busby: I mean, I'm actually very similar. I used to run my own agency as well, and I made exactly the same mistakes. I had no idea what an invoice or a PO or any of this stuff was until I had clients either not paying me or, um, or, or maybe even worse. So I know exactly some of those challenges, but do you think some, you know, that Sage helped you fill in some of those gaps?

Do you think some of the, what do you think you learned that you brought into the role? Um, what challenges did you, did you address that helped you kind of achieve more as you come into Sage?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so I think for me it was about just the importance of data and knowing the numbers. You know, that, that's something that I, you know, would have brought from the hard lessons learned, you know, in my small business.

Um, Very passionate about doing web design and marketing, but ultimately, if you don't know, don't know the numbers of your business, that's what's going to catch you. You'll, you'll struggle on for a while. But I think what what Sage really taught me on what we try to support our customers with. Is the importance of understanding and knowing their financial strategy, really, so that they're setting themselves up for success and not being one of those businesses that fail in the first year, actually planning for the growth of their business so they can, you know, succeed in year one and beyond.

Jon Busby: It's a trend that I've seen a lot over the last year. I think we've gone through the I would say that over the last 18 months has been some of the most disruptive. Time that I've ever had in me to be marketing not only due to technology disruption, but due to economic disruption as well Do you think marketeers now have to get closer to those numbers having run your own business?

Bea Whelan: Do you mean closer to like the marketing numbers or do you mean closer to

Jon Busby: I think closer to the business numbers?

Bea Whelan: Yes,

Jon Busby: so, you know in marketing we often think about the number of leads we need to generate or MQL Yeah, and actually what we're finding is You Do you think marketeers need to understand how the business makes money today?

Bea Whelan: Absolutely. You know, I think gone is the day where Could get away with not knowing that, you know, for me in content, like we look at a lot of different metrics, but one of the metrics we looked at is, um, the contribution of content makes to the business revenue, you know, and ultimately our, our understanding our annual recurring revenue.

Yeah, it's not something that rolls off my tongue as you can, as you can tell, as a marketer, but being able to speak that language, especially when you're. Maybe presenting up to exec level, um, CMO, uh, CEO, absolutely being able to talk to how the activity you're doing is contributing to those numbers is massively important.

Debbie Clark: So numbers are very important, and it's how marketers are evaluated on how well their campaigns are doing. However, numbers can also be quite intangible, so you can hit numbers quite easily, but that doesn't necessarily mean a campaign's been successful. So We know that getting those leads and getting those leads numbers are quite easy, but what else do you think business owners need to be aware of?

And getting the lead is just the starting point. How do you then help that lead progress to be an opportunity or actually be valuable back to the business?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. So for me, I think first of all, it's understanding really what the objective of the piece of activity or of the campaign. I mean, It won't always necessarily be lead gen, you know, sometimes, uh, a lot of the, the work we do in content marketing is about building the brand.

Um, and so, you know, as we build that brand, that ultimately informs how that lead converts further down the funnel as well. So for me, it's about how we tell that story in terms of how the campaign performed or how the piece of activity performed, how the audience responded and reacted to that. And also how that lead, how those leads are performing further down the funnel as well.

Debbie Clark: Yes, absolutely. And especially now with, we know buyers come in and out of market the whole time, how do you adapt a content strategy to not have a Loads of new content coming in the whole time because, you know, feasibly you want a budget to do that. But how can you make sure that your content strategy is addressing those leads who are coming in and out of market the whole time to help them not just be that number at the first touch point, but keep them in that journey until they convert to an op.

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so for me, it's about having That kind of always on, um, activity. And that doesn't mean that you need to be publishing all of the time, but it does mean that you need to be building that audience. So, how we approach that in Sage with the content strategy is really all of the work that we do on the Sage advice.

It's called a blog, but I think to call it a blog is a little bit reductive. It's really like our inbound marketing hub. And really, our aim there is, is not just to build traffic, it's to build that audience. To build that audience that keeps coming back again and again and again. So then, as those people are coming in and out of market, we're constantly reminding them through the content on Sage Advice, not only who Sage is, But ultimately, how we can help solve the business problems and business challenges that they have.

And by doing that, it allows you to keep up that contact and have that, like, meaningful distinction in the market, um, for, for those customers.

Debbie Clark: Absolutely. And, um, that blog, it covers a lot of things. I know Sage specifically is around financial advice and you've got great assets around that. But, um, um, The blog touches on many different things.

So again, going back to our buyer and the audience, it's generally not just one person making that decision. So you're the, or the blog and the podcast, they touch on a lot of different business issues. Is that to help support, um, speaking to maybe a wider audience around the decision maker, or what was your thinking around looking at all of those different topics for that type of content?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so we do publish on a lot of different So, um, we have a lot of different types of content topics, but it's always tangential to the solutions that we sell. So, on Sage Advice, we publish about managing your finance, managing your payroll, managing your people. But, for example, we don't publish on how to do a marketing plan or how to manage your social media.

Because ultimately, we don't sell social media software and we're not HubSpot, we don't sell marketing software. So within the, within like the broad topics of managing your business finance, payroll and people, we do publish a lot of different content, but we're quite careful to stay within our wheelhouse of those topics because that's what helps build the association of those are the problems that we help you solve.

Um, and then within those, it's about looking at what's, what's topical, what, what are people interested in. What? What? Legislation is emerging that people will need help and support on. Um, I'm really just understanding what the current and emerging challenges are of our customers that do that they want to get that advice on.

Jon Busby: I think there's a couple of points you mentioned there that I want to dive into a little. So you almost talked around in market and out of market. And typically we talk around this 95 5 percent figure. So we say like only 5 percent of our audience in market at one time. You know, And you mentioned Always On.

So really what you're saying to me there is, is that feels very much like a brand campaign.

Bea Whelan: Yes.

Jon Busby: Um, how, you know, how do you approach making Sage stand out? I mean, it's quite a congested market talking to small business owners. Like, what's your strategy for getting Sage to stand up above the rest?

Bea Whelan: So for me, with, with the content that we do, it's really about how the content aligns with the brand promise.

So our brand promise is helping business flow. And that is something that, you know, as Sage builds its brand, helps us to stand out in the market. All of the assets that we do in terms of our advertising, when they're strong, give us really good, like, memorable, like, people remember the brand, who we are, but what the content marketing does is, like I said, help people understand and remember what it is that we, um, help to solve.

So yeah, as they, as they go in and out of market, um, the content that we produce ultimately has to flow, like go back to that grand promise of helping business flow. Now, there's lots of different things that get in the way of helping businesses flow and helping businesses thrive. It might be, uh, legislative challenges that are made in, it might be, um, business and kind of processes challenges that are getting them stuck.

It might be finance challenges like we have. Exactly, finance challenges. But, but ultimately that, that finance challenge actually is a is a planning. It's actually a planning challenge and it's a strategy challenge. Because if you were planning and managing your, your financial strategy better, the money will then flow, right?

So, um, yeah, so for me, it's all about how we, how does this content ultimately help remove a challenge or an issue that somebody has so their business can flow and it stays true to that brand promise. And over time, Um, I'm just saying, like, we've been publishing on Sage Advice for eight years now. So it's something that, when you do it consistently, over time people will start to associate you with that then.


Jon Busby: let's, just for our listeners of course, we should talk about what Stage Sound Advice actually is. Yes. So how would you define, it's something we're very proud of because obviously it's a podcast we produce. Yes. So I need to of course, an award winning podcast, I think I have to say that. Otherwise our, my marketing and growth team come and shoot me.

But the, how would you define the Sage Sound Advice podcast?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. So, I mean, for me to sound like that, the Sound Advice podcast is. a business advice podcast that helps you overcome the practical challenges to your business succeeding and thriving. And that was something that was like hugely personally important to me when we started the podcast three seasons ago.

Like, I really wanted it to be an antidote to this kind of, you know, hustle culture of, Go start a business. If you have the passion, you'll be successful. I knew that that wasn't the case. I need a passion and energy. It's fantastic, but ultimately to be successful and for your business to continue to work, you need to have that, you need to have that practical support and practical advice.

So for me, the blog is an audio and video format. What we try to do on the Sage advice blog, we do that on the podcast, but I think what the podcast allows us to do that's kind of maybe different to the blog is do it in a much more human way. So you get to hear, you know, the personal story. So for me, it's advice in story format, because I think when you hear the personal stories from business owners like you who had these struggles, you really start to, um, understand and identify Um, and it makes a lot more sense.

It's inspiring. Yeah. Really, isn't it? It's inspiring

Jon Busby: when you hear someone else going through that challenge. Yeah. Even if it's a completely different business.

Bea Whelan: Yes. Yeah.

Jon Busby: The one thing that I'm sure a lot of our listeners, I mean, one thing I'm thinking about having also run a podcast is how do you justify that investment back?

Like, how, how have you justified that back to your CMO and to your execs?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. Yeah. I think. At the, at the outcome, we put in a lot of effort to explain that this was going to be a long term project. So, we explained that it was going to, not going to be a year one success. Although in, in year one, it, it did have a lot of success in terms of It was a huge success.


Jon Busby: I think when did we win the award at year two? I think it did. Yeah, yeah.

Bea Whelan: Yeah, but like we kind of explained to them, you know, we're not going to, Launch this podcast and after three episodes get loads of customers, right? It's going to be a long term play And I think the moment was kind of right because there was a lot of people trying to do effective podcasting in the business and In our team, we wanted to do a podcast that would kind of be Kind of the standout podcast for the business, right?

I could could demonstrate to other teams in the business and our stakeholders in the business You This is how you do podcasting and this is how you do it well. If we put our customers in the center of the content and talk to them about their stories and don't make it all just about Sage, right?

Because he wants to hear Sage talk about themselves for 45 minutes, right? Then it can be something that people actually really want to hear. Um, and then over time, as the numbers come in, it makes a massive difference then. So we, we We did some studies, um, we talked to some listeners of the podcast and we were able to demonstrate that people who listen to the podcast are 68 percent more likely to buy from Sage.

So, um, when we were able to build the podcast and then do some research and get some numbers back, you know, to speak to that, that really helps land the mesSage internally.

Debbie Clark: That's incredible because something that, podcasts are great and a lot of people do podcasts.

Jon Busby: Of course they're great. Let's not downplay that.


Debbie Clark: on. Podcasts are amazing

Jon Busby: and you should have one if you don't have one. Sorry, Debbie. Carry on.

Debbie Clark: Absolutely. foundational to a lot of our client strategies, but something that we get stuck on is how to prove that they're, they're working, you know, how to prove that they're being valuable.

Bea Whelan: Yeah.

Debbie Clark: But that stat is incredible.

And the fact that you were able to get that out of your podcast is testament that really the longevity of it and, and staying true to you thinking that this is the right path to be on. It's showing great results. 68 percent of people that listen to the podcast. I mean, I don't know if we've got. those kinds of stats for other assets, but it's incredibly high.

Just out of interest,

Jon Busby: how did you measure that 68%?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so we worked with a partner, a research partner and we recruited them to go and ask people who had listened to the podcast and they measured, they asked, the many other questions as well and measured many other things like their awareness and their awareness of Sage first of all.

Yep. And their understanding of what Sage do and all of those metrics improved compared to people who had or and hadn't listened to the podcast, right? Um, so that, that number is massively important. But I think another number that, like, is a personal favourite of mine is the listening time. So, like, I think we have something like the average listening time is 35 minutes, right?

So to be able to say internally that this podcast puts us in the ears of our customers for 35 minutes every two weeks, I mean, you know, the amount of media spend that you'd need to do to, on, you know, radio, TV ads, to get in the ear of your customer for 35 minutes every week. So I think that's very impactful as well.

Jon Busby: I mean, some of those figures are incredible, but I always think there's a story underneath those figures as well. Like, can you think back to the memory of when you knew this was making a difference? Like, is there one customer story that you can highlight that shows, okay, this podcast has made a difference in so many ways?

I can tell you my story when I know the Sage Sound Advice podcast did, uh, Make a big difference as well, but I'll, I'll let you answer first.

Bea Whelan: I'm trying, I'm trying to think back because there's, there's been so, there's been so many. Um, there's been so many great examples, but for me it was, it was the reviews as well.

Mm-Hmm. . Um, when we, when we, and I think that's a great thing about podcasts is people also leave a review and will tell you quite honestly what they think. So for me, I think the moment I knew it was making a difference was when. We looked at the reviews on Apple and Spotify as well and just saw their reaction from the audience.

Um, kind of their, kind of more qualitative, you know, sense of how the podcast was performing I think was really important for me. I'm trying to think, I'm trying to think of, um, an individual guest. The one, the one that is a start there for me at the moment, but it's probably more because it's a really recent one.

And it's probably because it's an example that really. plays really well to the point of helping support businesses and knowing their numbers is the recent one with Julie, with Julie Wong. I mean, hers is a fantastic story of how she mentors businesses, business owners on getting their financial strategy right from day one.

And she's an accountant, which is a massive thing. Massively important audience for us as well. But I think a lot of small business owners think that an accountant is only there to help them do their books or do their VAT return. They don't realize that accountants can actually be that mentor for them.

Yep. So, and that's, for me personally, that's the person I was missing from my business. So I was like, I wish I'd had a Julie Wong. Yeah, yep. When I was managing my business. So, um, that's just a recent one that kind of, you know, reminds me of why, why we started doing the podcast. What was yours, John? You said you had a, uh, so

Jon Busby: I'll go through mine, but then I want you to answer the same question as well, Debbie, so you're not getting out of this one.

Um, and you can tell me if I imagine this. Mm-Hmm, , but I'm sure I remember seeing an advert for the Sage sound advice on the tube. Like, am I imagin this? Yes. No, you, yes.

Bea Whelan: You didn't. We did. And that's like, this

Jon Busby: is a B2B podcast. Yes. That is focused on selling. And so for to be. part of this as a togetherer. Um, I think that's just a fantastic example of how important Sage's scene is and how much we're reaching that audience.

So I know not quite as, I don't have a story that's personally connected to the podcast, of course, but that was, I thought that was a, that was a great example of how far this, this has come. But Debbie, same question.

Debbie Clark: There's been loads of incredible episodes. Um, you know, I think we're into the fifties now.

We're in season three. So throughout the season, there's been some really good ones, but I think it's the amount of adversity that so many people have overcome, how Software like Sage has helped them overcome that. And I mean, there's stories about people, you know, losing everything and, and on the brink of potentially even losing family and things like that.

And, and coming back from it and now telling their stories and helping other people, which I think, you know, if there's someone else in that position where they think, Oh, I don't know how to do another day of this. And they listened to that podcast and I think, no, there's a whole bunch of people that have been there, done it before.

There's support out there that can help me through it. Such as the support that Sage offers. For me, there's a number of podcasts that tell a similar story and that is incredibly heartwarming and going back to the content side of things and how numbers are good, but to get that content to really resonate it, it needs to tell a story and it needs to be emotional.

The emotion that we get through this podcast, it doesn't get raw, any more raw than what you hear from these people trying to make it work and succeeding. And I think that's the important part is that absolutely, you know, businesses go through trials and tribulations, but with the right steps and processes in place, you can succeed.

It's that story and that emotion, which I think has been so compelling and so memorable for everyone that that listens to it. But I had a thought or I had a question. Rather, podcast is a fantastic piece of the puzzle. How do you take that now? Is, um, you know, sort of part of the awareness level, always on, you know, one launches every two weeks and it feeds back into the blog.

How do you then take that further down the funnel? Because yeah, 68 percent of people who have listened to the podcast by Sage Software, where's, what's bridging that gap? So where do they go from the podcast? How do you actually get them to a sale and what does that journey look like?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. So what we try to do is have an animal journey, um, once somebody listens to podcasts.

And I think that's really important is. Really, the podcast is playing in the awareness part of the funnel and in many ways that should be enough. But we do want to help, um, those customers who want to find out more and want to put that advice into practical use, be able to do that. So we have a digital journey from the podcast.

We encourage them to go to Sage Advice. On Sage Advice, we have the full transcript of every episode of the podcast. But importantly, we also have downloadable assets for them as well. So everything from business plan templates, invoice templates, um, lots of different downloadable content that they can put into practical use.

Mm-Hmm. so that they can listen to the podcast. If they have a light bulb moment and are like, yes, I should be doing that, we then actually help them take that next step further, okay. By giving them assets and content on Sage Advice that they can download to do that. Then there's all sorts of nurtures and retargeting and great things that, that kick into play so that when they are then ready to buy Um, from Sage, when they are in market, that, that they think of us and remember that, um, those downloadables that we gave them were super helpful.

Jon Busby: What, what examples of like resources have you created? Like, I'm, I'm intrigued.

Bea Whelan: Um, So many, um, especially for the small business audience. So like recently we've done like a small business toolkit that had like seven assets. So as I said, like it had, um, a business plan template, uh, uh, payroll, um, a payslip template.

So even, uh, people who are pre, like, kind of, I call them, like, pre software. So that they're kind of understanding that they need to be managing all these things really well. And we want to support them to do that. Now, eventually, those people will need to progress onwards as their business grows and purchase software.

But in the meantime, we want to give them all those assets. So, yeah, payroll, um, templates, um, invoice templates, um, Things that they can actually use for their business put into practical use that type of content is is also the most popular Content to download as well.

Jon Busby: I was gonna say like it's a thing I remember trying to generate my first invoice Yeah, small business owner doing it two months late when I was probably overdue on rent at the same time You know that those kinds of pieces of content are incredibly valuable Yeah, like where do you see them fitting into a traditional marketing funnel?

Because that still feels quite high up. Yeah, yeah. Like, what's the, what's the Sage from, we've got Sage Sound Advice Podcast, some incredible templates. Like, how do you then make that brand and consistent message flow all the way through to sale?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so I think those assets, like the invoice template and the payslip template, they have to be legislatively compliant as well.

So they actually help people make sure that they're doing things. the right way, right? So how we move that down then is, um, as we go further down the funnel, we then offer things like Sage Individual and Sage Accounting, um, and Payroll, um, as part of Sage for Small Business to help people manage their finances.

But then for me, it's just about having that consistency of message as they, as they move down the funnel. So, um, So when they come back, for example, to the Sage for Small Business website, that message of how these solutions help your business flow, um, how it helps you have like your accounting, your payroll, and your HR all in one place so it all flows into each other.

Again, helping you be legislatively compliant and helping you understand and know the numbers of your business and work with your accountant and all of those great things. That we planted those seeds of up in the podcast. They're able to then put into use further down the funnel when they use such software.

Jon Busby: The, I think there's a really, maybe there's a debate here, and I'm not quite sure how to phrase it, but let's try and jump into it. For me, the changes in B2B buyer behaviour over the last, it's, it's really, it's been happening over the last 10 years, but it's definitely more stark in the last five, which is Buyers prefer doing a lot more of their own research online.

Um, they rely on, they, they don't necessarily rely on branded white papers to decide their purchase. They rely on either peer recommendations or recognizing the brand in order to go onto that shortlist. Um, yet so many technology companies are still putting out white papers, ebooks, uh, pieces of content that in, in my view on generating that value.

Well, the pieces that you mentioned, they're incredibly valuable for small business. Like how, what is your opinion on, on creating value with a piece of content?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. So I do think that eBooks and white papers like have a purpose for us, a certain type of, of audience for us. And as we like Sage markets to, you know, you know, Small business owners like sole traders, but we also market to much bigger Organizations and we do find like there would there would be personas in maybe more bigger Organizations that actually really fat value Probably the original research.

Yep. So rather than just giving an e book where there's pages and pages of information Giving them that original research that can help them, like, maybe benchmark how they're doing things against other businesses. Um, help them understanding what's coming down the line in their industry. I think that can be really important.

But I think, ultimately, people want, people want the soapbox, right? So if you give someone all of this information, you then have to help them put it into use. So for me, it's what's the so what? And I think that's where that, that type of those content assets that allow people to put it into a practical use, rather than it's a read and forget, it actually allows them to take that next step.

Jon Busby: Yeah. Yeah. I, I think it's something that we don't tend to think about with, you know, Coming back to the conversation we were having earlier about business outcomes and knowing how your business makes money as a marketeer I think it's the same reason why we should be more customer centric and understand what value they're looking for So you're exactly right enterprise customers are probably looking for more more, you know Enterprise type content.

Bea Whelan: Yeah,

Jon Busby: and some of those toolkits sound amazing for small businesses But I'm going to come back to a word you mentioned a few moments ago, which is Legislation, like that varies a lot for the UK, Europe, Ireland, US, Canada, all the different regions that Sage is in. Like, how does that then change the content that you're creating?

How does that vary per market?

Bea Whelan: It does. It massively varies per market. So when we started Sage Advice, we eventually grew it to, it's in 18 different markets globally. It's great. Um, and we kind of tried to have this balance of 30 percent of the content speaking to those kind of universal global teams of managing your business.

But then importantly, 70 percent of the content speaks to local challenges. And how we do that in a very practical way is have local content managers in region, um, like curating, creating and supporting that strategy. So everybody works to. The overall editorial strategy of we, we publish about these topics first stage because they align with the solutions that we sell.

But then when you get down into like the next layer of detail, the specific topics that they publish about in each market need to speak to local legislation. So for example, at the moment in Europe, Invoicing is a big emerging topic because it's, it's already in some ways a legislative requirement in some European, uh, markets and will, will continue to be in a much bigger way, especially for markets like France and Spain next year.

Um, but it's less, less so maybe in the US at the moment. So having those local content managers who really understand. Because they're in the market, they're listening to the local news, they're hearing the local budget, um, announced by their government. They know what the legislative requirements and announcements are, so they're able to really inform locally what we should be publishing about.

Jon Busby: I love that split, so 70 percent is in market, and 30 percent is global.

Bea Whelan: Yes.

Jon Busby: Yeah, so how do you Drive more awareness for Sage in markets where it's not your home market. Yes

Bea Whelan: So it's it's not always it's not always going to be content in in those markets content will play a part We still have Sage advice in the US, but I think we do other types of advertising in those markets So Sage do a lot of sports sponsorship, and I think that's That's a great way to get like wide ranging awareness for a brand.

Um, so for example, in the U. S. we sponsored a major league baseball, um, which is something that's really, really popular. Then for me, from a content marketing perspective, it's just knowing that that activity is happening at the awareness level. How we then pick up that interest with content when, when people come to Sage.

Jon Busby: Thinking about it with baseball, I don't think there could be a better fit between a financial brand that's about the numbers. Yes. And baseball, which is always about the numbers.

Bea Whelan: Exactly. Like it's actually,

Jon Busby: it's actually a really, really good fit. Yeah. But it's also, thinking about it, a strategy that worked well for some of your competition that came over here.

So it's kind of, you know, kind of, kind of trading blows between, uh, between the Atlantic Ocean there. So yeah, really, really agree. Um, so. Um, like we've talked, we've kind of talked a lot around the Sage Sound Advice podcast. Yeah. Talked about some absolutely fantastic numbers there. We we've kind of taken a journey through this funnel.

Um, but one thing I want to bring us back to is brand. Like everyone talks around brand to demand and what, and really what, what's been a thread that's gone throughout this entire podcast has been just how important brand is. So in your view, how do you make the brand meaningfully different for Sage?


Bea Whelan: Yeah. So. For me, in terms of how we make it meaningfully different with the content that we do, is just, again, going back to that brand promise of helping business flow. And we have our brand values as well, of like, things like being human is a really important brand value that we have. And I think the, the humanity aspect of it, Um, it's something that has really helped like distinguish Sage in markets, right?

So how we solve those problems for people, but how we do it in a really human way. And I think that's something that comes across really well. I spoke to before in terms of the podcast, just putting that humanity front and center and allowing people to tell their stories has given us a great distinction, I think.

Jon Busby: I actually think, and Debbie, you mentioned the word emotion earlier with B2B. Um, one of our previous podcast guests actually said they think B2B is the most emotional type of marketing. Yes. Um, and we've talked, you mentioned storytelling a few times. Like, would you agree that B2B is more emotional than B2C?

And if so, why?

Bea Whelan: Absolutely. I mean, I think, When we chatted a few weeks ago, when we were talking about this podcast, I actually start to choke up when you guys are asking me about my business. And it's funny, like all those years later, that's something that the emotion of the challenges around running, because it's people's livelihood.

And it's, it's like what you said, Debbie, like it, it impacts people's own personal families. It's, it's everything right. And So, yeah, I, I, personally, I think that B2B is actually the most emotional. You know, marketing context that anybody could have. Um, so, yeah.

Jon Busby: I completely agree, by the way. It is people's livelihood.

Like, you're making a decision that not only impacts your business, but the teams around you and so on. Well, if you buy an iPhone over a, I don't know, I'm using that as a bad example, but buy a Starbucks over a Costa, it doesn't impact everyone in the same way, so I completely agree.

Bea Whelan: Absolutely, yeah. And then, like, ask anybody who, I Hasn't been paid this month, right?

Why, why, why business is emotional, right? Um, and yeah, so for me, even as we move beyond like just the experience of the small business owner into bigger organizations who are trying to manage their people, pay their people, getting that right. Like, has such a meaningful impact on people's experiences in an organization.


Debbie Clark: And how do you think, we've spoken a lot about small business and it's really easy to bring the emotion through that. Do you see that emotion coming through in marketing that you do to bigger size businesses? Because small business one on one, it's really easy to bring that emotive storytelling into it.

And how do you keep that going through to the bigger organizations and to Keep, yeah, keep that going through.

Bea Whelan: Yeah.

Debbie Clark: Often it's, B2B is incredibly emotive and, you know, in the bigger organizations when you're choosing different software, well, that's potentially your job in the line if you make the wrong decision.

Yeah. Um, so how can you bring, keep that emotion into the storytelling, into those organizations without it sounding like you're maybe aiming for an audience that you're not trying to hit?

Bea Whelan: Yeah. So I, I do think doors. Emotional opportunities are there, even in more enterprise organizations, like, for example, that payroll example, right, of, like, if you miss a pay run or get somebody's pay wrong in an organization that has, like, a massive emotional impact on, on the colleague, right, so, um, we talk a lot about, you know, managing your payroll effectively, you know, paying, paying people, um, properly and on time, um, is something that I think has a massive emotional resonance.

But I also think what we try to do as we speak to more enterprise customers is kind of speak to the individual and where they are in their career. Because I think that has a strong emotional resonance for, because everybody ultimately wants to be successful, right? People want to feel like they're thriving in their career, like they're in flow in what they do in their career.

And so kind of speaking to their personal motivations in terms of how this, how this solution or this advice helps you ultimately become better at your job. Um, it's something that I think we really try to do. And then I think how we do that is rather than us saying it, we try to allow our customers to, to speak for it and say that.

And so customer stories, I think, especially at an enterprise level, are very powerful way to communicate that. That real human truth, um, and opportunity to people

Jon Busby: I actually I this is a debate that I'm personally very passionate about as well Which is so I'll try and phrase it as a question and see see where this lands But you know in with all of what you're trying to achieve with Sage's brand promise of helping businesses flow Correct.

Bea Whelan: Yes. Yeah,

Jon Busby: like who is the hero in those stories?

Bea Whelan: The, the customer is like our customer is absolutely the hero in those stories, you know, has to be,

Jon Busby: um,

Bea Whelan: it's not Sage. I was trying to be, I was trying to exactly, I was trying to deliberately drive a wedge in there

Jon Busby: to see, to see if you would disagree with me, but of course you don't, cause it is the customer.

We, we have to keep, you know, just what you were mentioning there around how the, you know, you bring those customer stories to life or bring those stories to life. It is about making them the hero, and you're just the tool that helps them get there and be more successful.

Bea Whelan: Absolutely. Yeah, because technology doesn't exist for the sake of it, right?

It exists to fulfill a human need. So, yeah, for us, the customer has to be the star of the story.

Jon Busby: Yeah, I was hoping we weren't going to disagree, but I wanted to jump in there and see if we would. Like, do you have a framework for how you try and bring that story to life? Like, as a content producer, yeah, that We've talked a lot about storytelling.

Do you have a structure or format that you can share with our listeners?

Bea Whelan: I think it's just, um, it's those brand values I talked about. So I don't want to be, I don't want to be all like, oh, here are our brand values, but they actually really help. And it's from, like, it's great in Sage when we're in calls or in meetings and somebody references.

a brand value, and then you know it's being used as a framework for content production. So our brand values are bold, uh, simple, uh, human, and trust. And we have an overarching value of do the right thing, right? And so often we'll be in calls and we'll be planning, we'll be planning content and somebody will say, I don't think that's bold.

I don't think that that aligns with that value. Um, or they'll say, I don't think that's human, like, so I think that's the framework that we try to, and we see and hear colleagues referencing that all the time when we're planning our content creation, or maybe reviewing a piece of content and so on, um, so rather than there being like a very rigid framework, I think it's just trying to align really to those values.

Jon Busby: I think it allows, essentially allows teams to be more autonomous. Yeah. '

Bea Whelan: cause

Jon Busby: they can make those decisions to say, this isn't bold enough, I'm gonna stop it and be bolder.

Bea Whelan: Yeah.

Jon Busby: Um, but also I just think it, it again, it's an inspiring journey for everyone to be part of it rather than it just be a formula Yes.

That you blindly execute. Yeah. So really interesting.

Debbie Clark: I had a question going back to you putting the customer at the heart of all of the marketing that you do, we still work with a lot of clients that, um, put the brand first or the product first. Not, um, necessarily because that's what the marketing manager wants to do, but because that's how the organization is set up.

If you were speaking to someone in your position at another company that's trying to get her seniors and the rest of the organization to understand why we should be putting the customer at the heart of the marketing that they do, what advice would you give someone in terms of how to get into that or how to get around that?

Bea Whelan: I think it's just to have like a really honest conversation, you know, and. Sometimes like calling out the elephant in the room. And what I mean by that is kind of just, I suppose, calling out the fact that people don't really want to hear companies talk about themselves all the time, right? That's, that's not human and it's not particularly interesting or exciting.

And so I think by putting your customer at the heart of your storytelling and your content, it almost. allows you to, like, take a shortcut, right? So rather than you having to put in all the work of kind of explaining to someone why they should be interested or why this is important, you go straight to the customer.

People tend to sit up and pay attention when they hear a customer telling a story, right? And so for me, that's how I think I'd approach it. You know, it's just kind of calling that out, which is sometimes difficult to call out, isn't it? Because companies love, right? Thinking about how important and great they are.

So yeah, it's it's not an easy one to have, but really important. Thank you.

Jon Busby: I want to start bringing us to a close here, but I'm going to come back to the question we asked a few moments ago, which is around KPIs. So you thought you get that wonderful figure of 68 percent of podcast listeners are more likely now to buy a Sage product.

Like what other ways are you reporting on content trends? up to the board and up to the CMO.

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so it really depends on what the objective is of the activity. And I think it can happen, you know, where people try to report on one metric when that was never the objective of that piece of activity, right?

So there's no point in trying to report how a brand piece of content ultimately delivered sales for the business Right. So for me, it really depends on on what part of the funnel I suppose that the awareness part of the funnel we're very interested in those KPIs around building that audience Um, so KPIs like people who subscribe to the Sage Advice newsletter, returning visitors to, um, the Sage Advice blog, all of that sort of stuff.

Um, we also like do brand story, uh, brand studies, so things like how it is, how the awareness and consideration of Sage are improving as well as a result of the content. But then as we move down the funnel, um, we definitely are looking at things like, uh, leads. Conversion to MQL SQL and ultimately content influenced revenue is a really important metric for us as well

Jon Busby: Content influence revenue.

So break that down. What does that mean?

Bea Whelan: So that means if somebody has consumed a piece of content and through their consumption we've managed to capture, um, like, identification details. So it might be through them downloading a piece of content, for example, if they subsequently go on to buy from Sage.

So if content was on their journey to purchase, we count it as content influenced revenue.

Jon Busby: I've definitely heard LTV be used a lot more when discussing customers. Um, and that's, I think the key point there, which I want to, which we don't need to dive into, but stands out for me is that we often talk about the funnel awareness consideration.

I kind of prefer a slightly different set of phrases, which is, you know, you want them to know you, you want them to like you, to trust you. You want them to try and then buy. But then we often think about what happens after buy. We forget about it. So it's, you know, you want them to continue to. Renew the product, and then you want them to refer others.

Yes. And actually they have an important part to play with the content strategy.

Bea Whelan: Yes, and what's really interesting to me is although Sage Advice was never created originally, but it was created to attract and engage a new audience to Sage, but what I'm seeing happening now in Sage is that our customer marketing teams want to use Sage Advice.

So we have customer marketing teams coming to us and talking to us about using Sage Advice in their marketing. And also how we use Sage Advice content actually in the product. So that's something that we're starting to do now with Sage Accounting is surface Sage Advice content, relevant Sage Advice content at different points actually within the software itself.

Jon Busby: To help increase the renewal rates and of course hopefully increase the referral rates as help them

Bea Whelan: ultimately get more value from the product. Right, and I think, um, like with the right data and right tagging of the content, you can have really relevant content. Right. Show up at a really important part in the product.

If somebody has never done a VAT return before, but keeps pressing that VAT return button in the product, we can show them articles about how to do your first VAT return, which is on Sage Advice. So that's just like one example of how content that was created really for the awareness part of the funnel can actually help right down at the other end.

Debbie Clark: And having a really connected content strategy to understand how you can put all of your different pieces of content together to make it work as well as possible for you.

Bea Whelan: Yeah.

Jon Busby: What stands out for me is also something we've not addressed today and we are not going to get time to address because we have not got the requisite five hours to debate it, which is content taxonomy.

Yeah, you just talked about tagging. Yeah, like that is a that's a minefield on itself, which personally as a digital marketer, I very much enjoy and I don't think people think about enough. Yes, but let's take that kind of one step removed and say you were ahead of the game. I think pushing the podcast when you did.

Um, and it's resulted in some of the award wins. It's resulted in some of the fantastic stories we talked about today. Of course, the last year has been incredibly disruptive with AI coming into and changing the way we generate content. But what's next? What are you looking at next on the horizon to say this is the next type of content that's going to make a big difference to our journey or to our customers?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so I think for me personally, it is about how we can. Reuse and repurpose those kind of content houses that we have built with Sage Advice and Sound Advice and how they can be used more in the context of AI. So we now have Sage Co Pilot, um, which is a generative AI assistant to help support people even more as they, as they manage their finances.

So for me personally, it's about how can that Sage Advice content be used and incorporated more into Sage Co Pilot, right? To have those, um, Because we have all of the content there, and it is all tagged. Um, so it's about really how to have that full funnel strategy and repurpose that content and make it work even harder for us.

Jon Busby: Is that something, do you have concerns around trust? Especially when we talk about generative AI, like how are you managing the trust issue?

Bea Whelan: Yeah, so I think, um, I think, Customers potentially have concern around trust and customers want to make sure that their data is not being used to help another company or a competitor succeed, right?

So for us in Sage, it's about building everything we do on, in AI on a trust framework to reassure customers that that's not what they're going to do, that their data is not going to be used in that way. But that by surfacing their data via AI. They can get insights about their performance and again their financial strategy that, that may not have occurred to them before.

Um, from a content marketing perspective, we already have all of that content there. So for me, it's, it, and the audience has shown us that they trust it. So for me, it's just about surfacing it to them in a different way now.

Jon Busby: B, it's been a real pleasure to have you on the Tech Marketing Podcast. This has been a wonderful journey, uh, diving not just into the award winning Sage Sound Advice Podcast, but in your wider content strategy.

Thank you for joining us on the Tech Marketing Podcast. Thanks, Jon. And we hope to see you again soon. Thanks, Debbie,

Bea Whelan: for having me. Thank you.

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