Content: The Swiss Army Knife of Crayon's Marketing Strategy with Ellie Mirman
Lindsay Tjepkema: In the midst of any crisis, many of us are given the same advice, look for the good, seek out the silver lining. And while it can really feel impossible to see the positives in all that's happening right now, when we're speaking specifically about business and even more specifically about marketing, there are some glass half full things that can come from this time of crisis and uncertainty. Things we might even be able to carry with us after the crisis has passed. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted, the first and only marketing platform built for branded podcasts, and this is our podcast. Like many of you, we here at Casted have re- worked our marketing strategies in response to what's happening with the COVID- 19 crisis, including this podcast you're listening to right now. With so much change happening, we want to bring you closer to other marketers navigating this uncertainty right along with you. That's why we launched this series, season three of the Casted podcast. It's a little different than we had planned, and to be honest, I'm really loving the conversations and connections that are coming from it. That's because I'm talking with CMOs across the country, all from their own homes, just like I am right now, about how they're leading, how their teams are marketing and how their brands are coping in the midst of all we're experiencing together. Today, you'll hear from Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon. Ellie shares how she and her team are rethinking their marketing strategy, how they're working together in this crazy time and how they are finding the silver lining of all of it.
Ellie Mirman: Hi, my name is Ellie Mirman. I'm the CMO at Crayon.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Thank you so much for being here. I'm so glad to dig into this with you, albeit not under these circumstances. To say this is uncharted territory is an understatement, right?
Ellie Mirman: Absolutely. It feels like I am living something new for the very first time, just never gone through something like this.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely, and that's what we're going to get into today because what we are hearing, most often from marketers is," Hey, this is new and how do I possibly try to reach out to my audience right now? I have a slew of events plan that aren't happening. What do I do?" So on that note, I guess at the highest level, what have you done? What has your team been working on over the last three weeks to kind of pivot and rethink your strategy?
Ellie Mirman: About three or so weeks ago, we definitely got hit by this huge change in the market. I think we've never quite just completely turned on a dime like we did, where we had a whole bunch of different things planned that we just tabled straight up tabled. Didn't even scale them back, just said," All right, we're not doing these things. What are we going to do instead?" And so, a lot of the things like we were doing for events, of course all of those got pushed out. We were just gearing up for the spring season. And so that's not happening. And then of course, we work really closely with the sales team and the sales team has seen just dramatic shift in the way that they're able to chat with prospects and connect with them, and even the types of prospects that we're able to connect with. And so we revamped a lot of the different things that we're doing on the marketing side, and even made some changes on the sales side about who we're going after and how we're trying to engage them. We certainly shifted away from things like events. We even shifted away from things like a lot of the more expensive, high- cost, experimental activities that were really geared towards that high growth mentality. And now we're doubling down on something that we also love and we've been doing already. But content, inbound marketing, thought leadership, engagement, those are the things that we're really starting to focus on.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah, absolutely. And it's good to hear that because people still crave connection and relevant, being the most important part of it, relevant, valuable connection and content and everything online is the way to do it right now. So what does that look like? How have you had to retool, if at all, your messaging and the way you're actually reaching out to your audience right now?
Ellie Mirman: So on the messaging side, that's actually been something that's been interesting to dive into. We realized that the way that we've been talking about our product and the value that it offers, it needed to be adjusted based on the current market situation. So we've been playing around with different messaging and integrating that into all of our different content. And then we're really much more focused on how do we reach the right potential buyers? And that's sort of starting to shift as certain industries get hit more than others. And then how do we engage with them? Engagement's been something that we've always cared about, but we've been much more acquisition- focused in the past. What are the campaigns, what's driving opportunities, what's driving customers, all of that. Now we're taking more of a top of the funnel kind of lens to our marketing saying," All right, how do we expand our reach? How do we engage those buyers?" Some percentage of them are going to end up going through that whole acquisition process. But for those that maybe their budgets have been cut or other challenges in the mix, we're trying to build those connections so that when, hopefully, we get through all of this, we're going to have this big audience that we can hopefully engage into being a customer, but we want to build both for that longterm, knowing that there are a bunch of short term challenges.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Absolutely. So digging into that a little bit more, I think a lot of marketers are hearing that, like," Hey, we need to be focused on building relationships," is what it sounds like you're saying. Really building, establishing, strengthening relationships with our current audience and yeah, anyone else who comes in, we've got to build trust and build relationship and maintain connection so that when we do start to emerge from this, that we are the trusted provider. I've heard that a lot, I couldn't agree more. I've told my team that. But to the marketers on your team, what do they do with that information? What does that actually look like? What does, let's go build relationships look like? Like what are some of the steps that you advise your team to take, to start down that path?
Ellie Mirman: So that's definitely been something that's been a big mindset shift for us. We've been so acquisition focused, it's all about the leads and opportunities and what's that turning into in terms of revenue. And so a lot of the activities and mindset and goals are all centered around that. So first off, it was helpful to really just state that this is a shift. Just to reiterate that, actually we talk about it a lot, like the way that we've been doing things, the things that we've been focused on, this is a different time and it's going to be much more focused on engagement. And so one of the ways that that becomes very visible is we've changed the metrics that we look at on a daily and weekly and monthly basis. And so now we're constantly being reminded, all right, it's much more about traffic. It's much more about, yes, we do want leads, we want to engage a higher percentage of the folks who are engaged with us in some way. And so we're oriented around kind of these more top of the funnel metrics, and then a lot of the activities that we're doing are starting to shift. So it's enabled us to go deeper on the content side. We were already a pretty content heavy marketing team, content's always been a big part of our strategy. But when you're juggling all these other different goals, it's sometimes hard to have the time to go as deep as you'd like to. So that's one of the things we've been talking about a lot, is that this is actually presenting us an opportunity to go deeper into a lot of the marketing skills and the marketing tactics that we really love and that we always wanted to go deeper into but haven't had the bandwidth for. So we're doing a lot more content production. We're doing more, certainly digital oriented events. So webinars, we had done once in a blue moon, but now we're doing them a lot more, trying to almost fill that void that a lot of people are feeling with the loss of events, wanting that engagement, wanting that personal connection. And so we're investing a lot more on the content side. And then like I said, orienting around these new sets of metrics, which I think helps you make different types of decisions, where if you were focused on lead gen before and your focused on more engagement now, you make different decisions on the types of content and what good content looks like and things along those lines.
Lindsay Tjepkema: How much of that do you think is going to persist when this all clears up versus how much do you think you'll say," Okay, back at it, back to lead gen"?
Ellie Mirman: I think of this as kind of going back to our foundation and filling in the cracks and making it stronger. Again, it's the things that we've always to do but haven't had the time to do. And when you're at a high growth company, it's always like," What's the next thing?" and" What's the next thing?" But now we get to go back to this foundation that we've built and make it that much stronger so that when we come out of this, we will add things like events and some of those other acquisition channels that we've had tabled. We'll add those back into the mix, but we'll have that much stronger of a base on the content marketing front and we'll be able to build on that and repurpose that. I mean, one of the reasons that I personally am so in favor of a kind of a content marketing approach is that content is this like Swiss Army knife in marketing, it can be used in so many different ways. It can be used to expand your reach, it can be used for engagement, it can be used for acquisition, it can be used so many different ways that even the same piece of content can be repurposed for a bunch of different goals. And so I'm looking forward to having that much bigger, stronger base to be able to leverage as we add more things back into the mix.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So you mentioned sales, and working with sales. There's also kind of the other side of sales is customer success, right? Are the two teams that marketing tends to work with pretty darn closely. What has that looked like for you and your team right now? How are you working with your sales team? Especially if you're kind of digging deeper into content, that's always been kind of a thing between sales and marketing is how in the world does sales use this content? What's that looking like as part of your new approach to things right now?
Ellie Mirman: We've thankfully had a really close relationship with our sales team, really close and positive relationship. There's definitely a different dynamic now with everyone being remote. But in a way I think it's brought us somewhat closer together in a way. You're in a big meeting with the whole sales team, the whole marketing team, and the same people raised their hands and the same people contribute. You don't necessarily get to have as many connections with literally everyone on the team. One of the things that we're finding now is that everyone being on a Zoom call and all of their faces showing, it's a lot easier to have everyone speak up and be part of a conversation. And we're making much more of a proactive effort to make up for the fact that we're not in the same room together, so we'll have more meetings. We actually have a daily sales stand up that marching joins. Just a great way to have some sort of connection to everybody every day, have more of a pulse and a little bit more of a feedback loop of what's happening in the field and what can we do and ideas, and it's been so great. I feel like we are actually communicating a lot more and a lot better now, even though we already had, what I thought, was a pretty positive and strong relationship. It's just the dynamics of being remote have kind of shaken things up.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's great and I think that's actually something really important to hear right now, is the opportunities to actually communicate more, better, differently because of things like Zoom meetings, and just the current state of how we're all at home and just our lives are completely different, our calendars are completely different. What you just said, you can see when people are talking and everybody might not be literally in the same room, but you're on the same Zoom room, right? And there is an opportunity to involve more people in a conversation about content or a campaign or a strategy than before just because of the way things are right now. And so maybe this is an opportunity for marketing leaders to pull more minds into the mix as we think about how we're going to approach a new plan or a new strategy and to get more people to weigh in on it, and therefore more people to be bought in on it once it goes live.
Ellie Mirman: Totally agree. I think in a lot of ways, this has all felt like a reset. It's like a reset for messaging, a reset for our marketing channels. It's a way to take a fresher look at what have we been doing? Are there things that we want to do that are different? Are there things that have actually been working really well but we want to expand? And so we have everyone participating in that conversation. I mean literally today in our sales standup we had a whole brainstorm around messaging and we've been talking a lot and having people try out different things and share what's working and what's not, what challenges they're running into. And that feedback loop and that brainstorm cycle is happening a lot more frequently.
Lindsay Tjepkema: See that's great, silver lining. So what are, to the extent that you can and want to share, I mean even at a broad level, what are some of the things that you are doing in the days, weeks and months ahead in the absence of events and messaging that doesn't work anymore? What are some of the actual things that you've got in the works?
Ellie Mirman: Certainly a lot of it falls into the content camp, whether that be content that we're publishing on our side or publishing elsewhere, we're ramping up some more of that interactive content as well. And then we're also taking a closer look at some more of our internal pieces, more on like the product marketing and customer marketing side. You mentioned the customer success piece. Historically we've been really focused and really aligned with our sales team, but we haven't had as much bandwidth to focus on the customer experience, at least for marketers. And so one of the things that we're finding in this current environment is that engaging your customers and supporting them through all of this is that much more important. Of course, on the revenue side there, there's certainly a big aspect there, but I think everybody wants a little bit more support these days. And so what we're able to do or what we're starting to do is do some more marketing that's more geared towards our customers. We already find that our customers consume a lot of our content and our thought leadership that we're doing anyway, which is great, but now we're going to be a lot more intentional about it, certainly keeping them in mind as we're creating a lot of that content, but then also create content specifically geared towards them. So I'm excited about that. Again, it's one of those things that we've always wanted to do but haven't had the bandwidth for, and now it just makes so much sense, given the current market situation.
Lindsay Tjepkema: And that's really important too, to dig into, is the things that we always wanted to do but didn't have the bandwidth for and how important those things are becoming today. Right? I mean, our team is really, really focused on our current customers. But now, more than ever, it's like how can we really reach out and be the helpers and say," Hey, how can we help you? How can we make sure that this is a really smooth part of your day, that this is something that is a highlight of your week?", amidst everything that's going on and make those relationships stronger.
Ellie Mirman: One of the other things that I think goes along with this mentality around getting to do the things that we've always wanted to do. This is a tough time for a lot of people and kind of adjusting to this new reality, and making sure that we stay positive is really important. And so that's one of the things that I think has been important with working with my team is, keeping up that positivity, keeping up that energy. And one of the things that we've talked about is that, hey, this is an opportunity for us to level up our skills in a way that we've always wanted to. And so thinking about this as an opportunity that doesn't often come around. There are a lot of terrible things going on in the world, but if we can at least see the silver linings and try to focus on that, I think that it'll help us be that much more successful and get through this in a much stronger way.
Lindsay Tjepkema: What advice do you have for marketers listening, marketing leaders, marketing managers, people trying to manage a podcast right now, trying to manage content right now? What advice do you have?
Ellie Mirman: So I think a couple of things come to mind for one, move fast. I mean think that's a good thing to keep in mind in general, but especially right now, things are changing so quickly. So if you think that something is going to work, right now, go for it. Don't wait, just get it out there. Start to make moves because things are going to look different tomorrow, so definitely move fast. Dig deeper. We talked a little bit about this, but find those areas where you can level up skills or iron out wrinkles that have just been getting in the way of your team's success. Now is that opportunity to remove those obstacles so that when we do come out of this, we're going to be that much faster, stronger, better. And then the last piece is just, yeah, staying connected. It can be hard to stay connected with everybody when we're all remote and not physically in the same room together. But this can actually present a really interesting opportunity to get that much more tight knit. Make up for the fact that we're not interacting informally day- to- day and have more Zoom calls, have even just some informal like happy hours together. It makes such a difference. And I think that one of the things that I've certainly seen is it's made us that much closer, even though it wasn't that long ago that we were literally sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yep. Social distancing for relationship strengthening, right?
Ellie Mirman: Yeah.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I like it. Well, great advice. I love your positive attitude in the midst of all of this. It's hard times for sure, it's unchartered times for sure. But that doesn't mean there can't be some silver lining. So thank you for sharing the silver lining that you're seeing on your side.
Ellie Mirman: Absolutely. Thanks so much.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's our show. Thanks for listening. For more from today's guest, including bonus content not included in this episode, like the stories you haven't heard about their career and the advice they have for you, in your path to becoming a marketing leader, visit Casted. us to subscribe and receive our show as it's published, along with exclusive content each week.
In the midst of any crisis many of us have been given the same advice: Look for the good. Seek out the silver lining. And while it can really feel impossible to see the positives in all that is happening right now, when we are speaking specifically about business and even more specifically about marketing, there are some glass-half-full things that can come from this time of crisis and uncertainty. Things we might even be able to carry with us after the crisis has passed. Today, we’ll hear from Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon. Ellie shares how she and her team are rethinking their marketing strategy, working together in this crazy time, and finding the silver lining in it all.
📝 Shifting messaging and outreach to focus on engagement
🤿 Seeing the opportunity to dive deeper into content production
🧰 Content is the Swiss Army knife of marketing
🤝 Engaging and supporting customers
👀 Seeing the silver lining as a team
🧑🏫 Advice for marketers