In this video, Rodrigo Fuentes, co-founder @ListenLoop, interviews Bambu’s Kevin King about social media management, employee advocacy, and account-based marketing (ABM). You’ll learn how to apply social media in the B2B marketing context, how to measure marketing success, and how to prepare a marketing launch plan.
Getting to Know Kevin King
Rodrigo: Okay I’m here with Kevin King from Bambu by Sprout Social. Kevin, please introduce yourself and tell us about Sprout Social and what you do there?
Kevin: So I am Kevin King, the marketing lead for Bambu by Sprout Social, which is an employee advocacy platform that we launched last year. Sprout Social is a social media metric platform. We have over 17,000 customers for anybody not familiar with social media management. Sprout allows you to aggregate all your social profiles and publish and engage from one place, and making it easier to basically build and engage at audience that you have — target anywhere from small businesses to enterprise, so kind of runs the gamut in terms of social media management.
Rodrigo: Cool. So I was looking at the client list, there are a lot of big names here — Bentley, Ticketmaster, UPS. I’m noticing a big bent towards B2C type applications and clients, but I do see a box on it, which I consider a B2B type client.
Can you tell us a little bit about how a social media management software can be applied in the B2B context?
Kevin: Yes, so really it’s about still just engaging, right? Creating relationships and establishing relationships, and building on those room of engagement. Sprout in general leans on engagement and also customer care, that’s like the big benefit that we push and emphasize. But basically, for B2B, it’s easy just to engage, build relationships. Sprout can easily identify relevant new potential businesses and profiles that you wanna connect with, and then it makes it easier to respond and engage quicker. So it’s really just about building up relationships. The same things would be for anything else, if that makes sense.
Is an individual at the B2B type company managing that social media management software? Or are multiple salespeople trying to harvest leads and create engagement through the social media channel?
Kevin: It depends. I mean, the size of the company is obviously gonna play a big part of that, but it is usually one person that they would distribute out to a team of people. Typically, for something like social selling, you’re talking about acquiring leads — that’s not something that Sprout really facilitates. That’s actually something that Bambu really facilitates, which is a whole separate thing. Be more from like the just social media manager who owns that and publishes and engages and everything. If it speaks specifically to that social selling and acquiring leads, then through Bambu, which is the other platform, you can get salespeople into the platform and they can share content out of their social networks, and then they can start engaging people to acquire leads. So that’s kinda how we split it that way.
Rodrigo: And I’m sure you guys get this often, it’s a question that I think is on marketers’ minds especially in the post 2010 world — measurement, ROI.
How does Sprout and/or Bambu think about measuring success when you’re talking about improving a metric like engagement?
Rodrigo: How do you guys talk about it and what is that conversation like with your clients when it comes to the question of, “Hey, how many leads did you deliver? How does it impact my sales funnel?” What does it look like for you guys?
Kevin: From engagement, we have reporting that we created around that. So obviously, when it comes to engagement specifically, it’s about timeliness like response rate, average time of response and making sure of that. As it relates to acquiring leads or just any type of ROI, it’s really just about having a proper tracking in place with your Google Analytics to make sure that everything you’re sharing out, you’re tracking back appropriately through UTM parameters and all that type of stuff. So it’s really just about having your house in order in that regard, and making it sure that you’re tracking it back.
Do you advocate using last-click attribution model for clicks coming through the Bambu or Sprout Social platform?
Rodrigo: Or are you doing more of like, “Hey this person has engaged at some point and doing more of a muti-touch attribution model across the buyer journey?”
Kevin: We typically look at last click just because that’s just kind of standard. There are ways that we look at the multi-attribution aspect of things and we want to get better at that. That’s one of the things that we’re always trying to figure out how to get better at. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint that down. Google Analytics has a lot of great reporting on that, but still, last click — it makes it easier to just be like, “Hey, that’s where this came from and you can follow that back,” as opposed to like trying to figure out what the start was, and then trace that back to the actual conversion.
Tell me about the biggest marketing challenge you’re facing as you enter 2017?
Kevin: Yeah, well it’s just really hitting growth but for Bambu specifically, it’s really trying to build that thought leadership in a space that’s like still kind of new and we’re getting to keep more and more people interested in employee advocacy, which is what Bambu supports. And that’s kind of difficult because it’s a niche concept, so as opposed to Sprout which is social media management that’s like much broader, right? We can talk about social media management as it relates to like any industry, and it applies to every business. People are doing it in some way, whether it be like locally, they have multiple franchises or whatever. Employee advocacy is very, very specific. So like really building awareness is a very difficult thing because we’re trying to attach that to other concepts that are larger than employee advocacy in ways that makes sense. So really trying to get ourselves out there, but yeah really, just kind of building that awareness in a significant way. I know that’s kind of general but…
Rodrigo: I think that’s really appropriate because I often talk about the spectrum between brand awareness and direct response campaign when it comes to the marketing mix, and I think a lot of marketers, especially those in management position are really focused on direct response. And sometimes, it can be a bit elusive. It’s hard to remember that by building brand awareness, you ultimately make your lead generation easier on your team — all the way from your SDRs to capturing form fills on your website. So I’m kind of curious how do you think about that? How do you balance the tension between brand awareness, sometimes doing untrackable campaigns versus a very targeted CPC campaign, capture that search content, get them to fill out a form, let’s start pounding the sales for calls. How do you navigate that spectrum?
Kevin: Whether it be a direct response, CPC, paid social campaign or search, we’re trying everything we can. What we’re learning is that with this niche concept, you probably are very familiar with this considering the fact that account-based marketing and who you’re targeting, that’s a longer sales cycle and also like research cycle, basically the buyer journey. So like from discovering your platform, reading the necessary materials, and all that type of stuff, and nurturing that journey all the way up to conversion. So it’s really just about like testing and trying what works. It’s, “Hey let’s people do a landing page to download a guide, they know enough to like actually go and download that guide right away? Maybe we need to test sending them a few other pieces of content before we send them to the guide. So it’s really trying to test every possible way that we could think of to get to the result that we want so we can optimize.
Do you ever get testophobia, where you’re testing so much?
Rodrigo: When someone on the team proposes something and then, the inevitable response is, “Yeah, we’ll test it.” Do you ever get that sometimes major reaction of, “Oh God, not another test.”
Kevin: Well, yeah, kind of. We do a lot. We talk a lot about testing and we do put out a lot of tests. Sometimes, it’s like we need to kind of do a gut check like, is this even testable or are we just saying tests, tests because we know what we should be testing. It’s interesting too because we’ve learned a lot with Bambu, growing basically from nothing because it’s a separate website, it’s a separate platform, everything…it’s a whole separate brand almost. In the early stages, we wanted to test, but it’s actually not appropriate because traffic was lower — you’re not really gonna get the results that you want and tests will take way longer to actually complete. So you’re just like, okay. So we had actually stopped testing for a while and now we’re back to testing. So, it’s kind of like that constant struggle back and forth — test, not test, test, not test.
Can you walk us through your marketing launch plan?
Rodrigo: You mentioned that you recently launched Bambu — I think it has been maybe a year or so. Walk us through that marketing launch strategy for Bambu. How did you think about it? What pieces were ultimately executed? What pieces fell by the wayside strategically as you started actually, putting troops on the ground and executing strategies?
Kevin: So my core competency, at least what I came up in was, my background is SEO and content marketing, so much like that’s the backbone of any marketing strategy or launch — that’s where we started. We started with a really small website. We did really launch to our Sprout customer base, announcing it and then, made sure we had the foundation placed on our website with a blog and some gated pieces of content to really make sure that we were building up to something. So it’s pretty straightforward in terms of like a launch. We probably could have spent more time on some paid search stuff and paid social stuff, but as time goes on we built that out. When we started, it was really focused on content marketing through blogging, really kind of going back to what I said earlier, attaching employee advocacy to those adjacent marketing concepts that can apply to employee advocacy, and then going from there. As well as building out really foundational evergreen pieces of content on the blog, like really answering those top of the funnel questions about what is employee advocacy, what is employee engagement and other benefit that we sell, what is social selling, and really explaining those in depth — really positioned us well know now because those are pieces that ranked really well on search and really filled the top of the funnel for us.
How much content do you like to prepare in advance of a launch?
Rodrigo: I know some people will put up 5 blog posts and “We’re good to go, let’s launch it.” Others, I’ve heard, will pre-write maybe 50 blog posts that will — maybe they’ll launch the site with 15 already ready, and then they’ll start dripping out a little bit of content multiple times a week to create some of that pre-traction on their blog or on their site. How did you guys think about that?
Kevin: It’s a good question. We actually did backlog a bunch of content. So like, when we launched, we had, I think like, it’s somewhere between maybe 7 or 10 articles ready, so like those key foundational ones. It was talking about what is employee advocacy, what is employee engagement. About like 7 to 10 blog posts and we had about like 2 to 3 gated pieces, like guides. We wanted to make sure that when we launched, we had like 4 published already and then we had a few that we could drip out for the next couple of weeks. We’re kind of different than Sprout in the sense that Sprout publishes many times a week, and we are like once a week, so your backlogging processes are pretty easy, although we’re still shooting from the hip, a lot of times. I would love to say that we have tons of content, just like ready to be published over the next few months, but no. We have our road map and we have ideas. It’s about just getting those created and then published. So I think as long as you have at least the road map, you’re good, but always having some foundational pieces of content backlogged is always gonna be way more comforting. Like for example, right now, we’re on kind of a blog publishing freeze because holidays are gonna be more slower and December in general is gonna be slower. So we’re taking that time to backlog as much content as we can. So like hey, when first of the year comes, we’re hitting the ground running with content and also it’s getting most feasibility it can. You don’t wanna waste a lot of great content during a time that may not be appropriate for your audience. So that’s kind of how we approach it now.
How do you advise marketers to wait for ROI on their SEO?
Rodrigo: So given that you kind of came up in SEO, how do you advise marketers to sit tight and wait for their content to generate some kind of return of investment? I know a lot of great marketers out there who will write great content and then they’ll start looking at the number of pages that they’ve received, and they’re saying, “Where are the pages? I delivered the content, that’s great. Where are the people? Where are the leads?” And everyone, of course, knows that content is evergreen, that it produces return of investment over a long period of time, but everyone still has a little bit of that immediacy requirement, right? How do you advise marketers to just sit tight and wait for their results to come?
Kevin: It’s something I struggle really on when I was focused on SEO because I didn’t have my hands in other aspects of our digital marketing marketing strategy or any marketing strategy that I was working on, but it’s really getting that, again, foundation side, that’s what kind of SEO does — build this really like great foundation to fill your funnel, but also getting your paid campaigns set up because those are the things that are gonna be able to counterbalance the fact that you’re not necessarily getting a return out of like content right away. So as long as obviously you have keywords that makes sense for paid search and you have creative for paid social that makes sense, you can do all that stuff in the side depending on your budget, and then just kind of like balance the conversions that way, and then content will start to grow and build an audience because you can see a piece of content maybe starts to rank pretty well, that starts driving traffic in maybe like 2 to 3 months. So it’s kind of like finding that balance, if that makes sense.
Rodrigo: But it’s gonna be pretty tough to do CPC campaigns, lead gen campaigns on a new category like employee advocacy because people aren’t necessarily searching for that.
How do you prepare a CPC campaign for a new category or product?
Kevin: Yeah, it’s a good question. We’re also still building that up. It’s a good thing, so like right now, I’d like to think that at least our content that we’re putting out… We came out at a time where employee advocacy is starting to be more kind of a trending topic and it has grown over the past 1-1/2 year, but when we did start like tier point, there were a lot of keywords for paid search that made sense. We’re still even trimming down on what those are and what those campaigns are. If that’s the case, you need to focus on paid social or even organic social, in balancing those two because in paid social, you are allowed to target and segment so specifically that you can test a lot of different ways, there’s that word again. But still a lot of different ways to get people in the door and start talking to you. But yeah, that’s definitely the way to go, I’d say, because at the end of the day, employee advocacy, our platform, it targets marketers and other job functions. In LinkedIn, in Facebook, in Twitter, you can target job functions, job titles, a demograph. Facebook is crazy in terms of the type of targeting you can do, so you can really, really, really get specific about who you’re putting your content in front of and that gives you a lot of insight into where you should be spending your time, even with paid search and your content.
Rodrigo: This is a great point to transition and talk about account-based marketing (ABM), being able to target specific job titles that you’re interested in and presumably, some platforms such as LinkedIn or ListenLoop allow you to focus in on specific accounts that you’re interested in.
Are you currently pursing an ABM strategy at Bambu?
Kevin: Yeah, actually, we’ve been thinking about it for a while. It’s just something that requires a little bit more buying and obviously, as you know, it’s a bit more strategic. You need to align yourselves, so it’s really kind of getting our house in order in regards to that for implementing it, but yeah, it’s definitely something we’re thinking about and excited for in the next year or so because I think it makes most sense for enterprise targeted platforms and audience. So yeah, it’s that. The big thing though is the sales and marketing alignment that we need to get in order, and then, we can move forward.
Rodrigo: You’re not alone in that. We hear a lot of marketers talking about that specific piece — the buying required to get multiple team members to coordinate on a strategy, right? Not just the marketing team who is executing the ABM strategy; now, it’s multiple departments. So tell me a little bit more about that.
Why is it hard to align sales & marketing departments?
Kevin: Well, I think that if any marketer has worked with sales, they know that sales has thoughts and opinions on who the audience is and who they should be going after, and ultimately, just who they want as a customer. Sometimes that doesn’t jive necessarily with who the audience actually should be, sometimes it does. So it’s really kind of like making sure that you’re communicating. So you understand, “Hey, we’ve done the research marketing to understand who the audience is and these are the right potential customers,” and then, getting on the same page, coming out together with a good target list of prospects, and then going after them. So it’s really about kind of figuring and coming and aligning on that targeted list of prospects, which would be the point of ABM, right?
Rodrigo: Yeah, absolutely. I think that you really nailed it on the head. That’s one of the biggest challenges that teams are facing, I think, before they implement their account-based strategy, and one of the biggest tool is to really get people to align is actually signing an internal contract, some kind of, they call it a social contract if you want between sales and marketing — that the two departments have come together. They have met, they have discussed who they wanna go after and why, and having the lead of each department sign on a paper that says, “We are committing to you this much resources or this much time and this particular thing for these particular customers, and I think that creates some kind of psychological commitment on both parties to say, “Okay, we’re both in it for the long haul. This is not gonna be a short one or two months campaign and if it hurts to not look perfect, I’m out of here. I gotta get back to whatever I was doing before, which seems to work.” That’s something that we’ve seen, it’s pretty special, it’s hard to do, but does generate a lot of commitment and creates more cohesion between the departments in ABM campaigns.
Kevin: Yeah, and that’s actually why I think ABM has become a more hot topic for the past couple of years and a strategy a lot of people want to like explore, and that’s part of why we’re looking at it or thinking about it. But it’s because in general, sales and marketing should be aligned anyway, and this is the kind of the strategy that — force is probably not the right word but you have to be aligned and I think that that’s why it works because that’s gonna be able to scale everything, a lot thicker — leads, revenue, growth, all that.
What is a challenge you’re facing while implementing an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy?
Kevin: It kind of goes back to what we talked about earlier about being such a niche concept. We could put our message in front of the people that we wanna be in front of, but they still might not necessarily understand what we’re talking about. So the struggle would be coming up with messaging that we know is gonna be good in front of the people we wanna talk to, like that actually resonates immediately, that makes them wanna talk to us. I guess that’s like the biggest problem with any strategy like this. For example, we did a direct mail campaign just last year, and that’s a similar strategy, right? We had a list of people we wanted to go after and we sent them a specific thing that has a specific message. We wanted them to do a specific thing, action and that’s really tough. Like, here’s your one shot to get in front of someone. What do we say to them? So it’s really about, I think, messaging and how you introduce that’s new. I’d say it’s probably just hard for anything that’s more established. You know, how do you stand out.
Rodrigo: Yeah, absolutely. Every marketer has their own challenges, that’s for sure. Okay, great. So I’m curious, I will leave our audience with this little tidbit.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about marketing in 2016?
Kevin: I think this might be a right answer, not that there’s a wrong one, but like your assumptions are — never assume, I guess, in marketing. So going into what we launch and preparing everything, we have a lot of ideas to like who our platform could appeal to because we’re like, “Yeah, we know that this is gonna benefit this department and this department and this, and all that stuff.” It’s don’t go off assumptions, try and test or actually ask people questions, like get real feedback from whoever it may be. If you have a couple of customers, ask them. If you can just do a survey, just don’t assume. Because like when we came out, we had these assumptions and we had to trim down our messaging and narrow it down a little bit because assumptions aren’t necessarily the way it goes. I guess, if that makes sense.
Rodrigo: That’s awesome, Kevin. Thank you so much for the time today. Join us next time as we interview more marketers and hear about their trials, tribulations, and successes of course, and Kevin, do you wanna leave us with anything before we say goodbye?
Kevin: Oh no, just thanks for having me. Obviously, anybody, if you’re out there interested in employee advocacy, check out Bambu by Sprout Social, check out bambu.com, and also, if you’re in the market for a social media management tool, check out Sprout Social, the parent company’s website and that’s pretty much it.
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