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How to Use Storytelling to Drive Unprecedented Market Demand

This episode features an interview with Kyle Christensen, VP of Marketing at Zuora. For nearly 20 years, Kyle has been shaping the marketing strategy for some of the fastest growing enterprise software companies, including Salesforce, Zuora, Invoca, Responsys, IBM, and 6sense.

In this episode, Kyle shares his demand gen master plan that centers on building a marketing strategy that permeates the entire company. Kyle explains why the best brand storytelling attaches you to a narrative of overarching change much larger than the company itself — and how that’s used to feed the demand gen engine.

Tune in to the episode (above) to hear Kyle reveal his demand gen strategies, including:

  • How to create a compelling, tactical content strategy that elevates a targeted, account-based approach
  • Why you must treat content marketing as a virtuous cycle. By helping your customers succeed and learn from their experiences, you can turn learnings into better roadmaps for the next customer
  • How to frame a great company pitch by thinking bigger than your product, your tech, or your business value, and attaching yourself to a narrative of change that’s bigger your company on its own
In this episode of the Demand Gen Visionaries podcast, we're joined by Kyle Christensen, VP Marketing at Zuora

Want to skip ahead to the highlights? Check out these can’t-miss moments:

Episode Highlights

(1:59) Launching a Career with Storytelling

  • Kyle started his career in product management and development
  • He was introduced to marketing by telling stories about the products he used to build
  • He’s chosen to work for companies that recognize in order to do great demand, you need to start with a compelling underlying story

(4:40) Building an Account-Focused Demand Strategy

  • Zuora is a strong fit for specific verticals, so they invest a disproportionate amount of attention and dollars on penetrating those verticals
  • Then they use ideal customer profiles (ICP) to determine accounts within those verticals that they should target
  • Develop very clear value props for these specific audiences
  • Bolster this strategy by investing in the right data and specific journey tactics based on how each type of company engages with Zuora over time

(7:49) Avoiding the Complexities of Persona-Based Demand Gen Motions

  • Focusing too much on personas can bring a ton of complexity that makes your machinery overbearing
  • At Zuora, they focus on three verticals and they often deal with three different personas within those verticals. But it doesn’t really work to develop nine different demand gen strategies for each of these variations
  • Instead, they become experts on deeply understanding that vertical and aligning clear messaging and content around what’s happening within that vertical

(11:40) Using Storytelling to Capture Market Demand

  • If you want disproportionate attention from the market, you need to attach yourself to a broader narrative beyond your own company
  • At Zuora, they wrote a book on the market shifts toward subscription business. They didn’t really talk about their product, but they helped shape the market narrative around the change
  • They weave this narrative across a range of marketing campaigns (direct mail, virtual events, content, etc.)
  • By creating an organic audience that’s compelled by this narrative, they can then use that as a prospecting tool for the sales team

(15:51) Kyle’s Three Uncuttable Demand Gen Budget Items

  • Content: They’ve hired great storytellers and data scientists to shape Zuora’s narrative
  • Direct mail: Given their account-based focus, it’s been productive for them to use things like their book to open doors with executives at target accounts
  • “Signals”: Channels and tactics for surfacing insights about what their target customers are doing (ex: G2 Crowd gives insight into intent signals when buyers are researching your category)

(22:30) Why Content Syndication is Losing its Effectiveness

  • Content syndication, where they push content out through partners, is losing its appeal because they lose the direct connection with their customer
  • Lose control over how your information is presented, and you don’t have clarity into how these people are being brought back to your doorstep
  • When sales reps try to get into touch with consumers of syndicated content, the buyer is often confused about who they are and why they’re calling them
  • They rather invest in channels that allow them to present their own narrative how they prefer, and trust the insights they get from viewers of their content

(32:49) “It’s Not Just a Marketing Strategy, It’s a Company Strategy”

  • Your company must fulfill your brand promise; it can’t just be a marketing strategy, but your promise must flow all the way through implementation and customer success
  • By delivering a better product, better data, and better insights, you find new ways to make customer successful and use that to sell to more companies
  • This becomes a virtuous cycle that feeds back into the top of the funnel because you can translate customer learnings into content and assets

(33:45) Zuora’s Two-Pronged Website Strategy

  • Zuora is building two separate website presences: one to house their thought leadership content (subscribed.com), and another to house their product-specific content (zuora.com)
  • Subscribed.com will become an education-based destination so that visitors who aren’t yet in the market for Zuora’s products can still learn from their narrative

(37:32) Quick Hits: Getting to Know Kyle

  • New shelter-in-place habits: Working out every day and frozen breakfast burritos
  • Recent binge: Alone on History Channel
  • First post-COVID activity: A trip to Maui

(40:17) The Essential Elements of a Good Brand Story

  • Think about your pitch in the lens of three themed rooms that you’re walking through, as if in a museum
  • The third room is your product and value proposition. What’s the compelling value prop that you offer and can’t be found anywhere else?
  • The second room is your business value. What can a customer do for their business once they have your offering?
  • The first room is the overarching shift that’s occurring in the market. What gives your company a reason for being?
  • The best storytelling companies start with the first room (the market shift) and work their way to the third room (the product)

Episode Quotes

“In order to do really great demand, you need to start with a compelling underlying story. Without that, no amount of landing page optimization or keyword spending strategy is going to work. The content and the message are really what drives things.”
“The way we think about it, this isn't just a marketing strategy, it's a company strategy. And it’s a completely virtuous cycle. The reason to go with us is because we have better data, better insights, and a better product, and we will guide you all the way through to implementation. Then we get access to better data, we find better ways to make our customers successful, and it feeds back into the top of the funnel. We translate that into learnings, content, and assets, and the cycle repeats itself and grows over time.”
“I think the essence of a good pitch is…what is the overarching change that's occurring in the market–in the world that you're operating–that gives your company a reasoning for being. The inevitable change that is happening whether or not you exist as a company. I think the best storytelling companies and the best pitch companies start there.”
“Don't evangelize why you have a really fantastic web-based contact management application (i.e. Salesforce), evangelize that there's a massive sea change somewhere in the world…If you really want disproportionate attention from the market and to attract the right talent, the most eyeballs, the most interest from the media and the press, you need to attach yourself to a larger narrative.”
“You can't do superficial content, because it’s not interesting. There's so much competition out there now for mindshare and time that you have to invest. You’ve got to have the right people, the right data, and the other right narrative that you want to attach yourself to. It's not enough to put out listicles and things like that to drive conversation.”

Ready to hear from more Demand Gen Visionaries? You can subscribe and find all episodes here.

Posted on
November 17, 2020
by
Megan Guy

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