A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: The future of publishing tools and the move toward strategic search and marketing tools.
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of FOUND Friday. Joining me today as usual is Ray, founder and CEO of Ginza Metrics. And I’m Erin. You can find show notes and information about the show on the GinzaMetrics blog which is GinzaMetrics.com/blog. You can also tweet to us live during the show or after words of questions and comments at GinzaMetrics using the #FOUNDFriday.
Ray, it’s been a little while since we’ve done one of these. Let’s get back in the swing of things. Leslie was great about filling in for you while you were in Japan. There are things that we’ve actually been talking a little bit about recently that are top of mind. One of those things is the surge in publishing tools for content marketers and the way that this has been added and weaved into a lot of different people’s feature sets.
As you and I were discussing earlier this week, publishing is a really big set of things. It’s not just the ability to publish a blog post or to send something to Twitter. It involves a lot of different channels that people want to post or publish things to. It should involve, in my opinion, the ability to engage back after you published something so it shouldn’t be a one way messaging system. And it has to interact across a lot of mediums.
We’ve seen some people in the content marketing space start to add more and more of these publishing tools into their dashboards. I actually personally don’t agree that this is necessarily the right feature set to be creating. My suggestion is that there are a lot of great publishing features out there already, and what people really need help with is what to publish. More of that prediction end of things, more of that intelligence end of things about what content should you be publishing no matter where you’re publishing it from or where you’re publishing it to. But what content should you be creating that’s going to attract that target audience?
That’s where I want to start the conversation. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What does this look like to you?
Ray: I agree. The publishing functionality is always really tantalizing to build as a vendor because it’s one of the things that if you feel like you nailed it and you take over a significant portion of the market and you’re right there in the critical part of any company’s content marketing workflow, you basically establish a position of dominance there.
That being said, the publishing side of the tools market is really fragmented and probably always will be just because there are so many different approaches. Each company has their preference on how they like to do things. You’re seeing new publishing tools arise in the market every year and start to do really well. Lighter and simple. Buffer is one of those tools that has come out of nowhere. It has really become a popular tool here among startups. There are lots of other similar examples.
I think it is a smart idea for companies to focus more on where they can really add value. For us, obviously that means the intelligence in helping people understand what they should be writing about, what they should be creating content about and measure performance on that scale. I there are probably other parts as well.
There’s definitely a lot of other innovation that can be done around the workflow side of things. There are a lot of other integrations where people can provide more of a comprehensive view across things like paid in content marketing channels and that sort of thing. There’s a lot of work to do for sure.
I wouldn’t say that no new publishing tool should ever be created. I’m skeptical of a company coming out in trying to create the entire publishing engine and on top of that I’ll also add additional value and features and do a really good job at it.
Erin: It seems like you and I are both on the same page that we’re not in a rush as an intelligence and strategic marketing platform to go out and provide a publishing tool. It doesn’t mean that eventually it wouldn’t be a great thing to integrate if it’s what the market wants and needs but there’s not a sense of urgency around that.
It seems like such an already crowded space with a lot of focus on publishing from a blog and landing page platform. So we’ve got of course the ever present WordPress situation which has a reasonable hold on there. You’ve got things like Unbounce and all their landing page creation. But then you’ve got this really big tightened set of forces in the social analytics monitoring and engagement area. For a long time, a lot of those things are kept very separate. There’s a lot of social monitoring, there’s a lot of social analytics, and then there was engagement tools. Everybody on the social side was in a constant rush to build all three of these things. Then a lot of those things got absorbed by larger companies.
We haven’t seen the same acquisition or kind of compression around search where search has a set of must-have features that are that cut and dry outside of search analytics which include things like rank and keyword distribution and stuff like that that have caused any sort of market decision to go out and acquire all these things and to get that. Why do you think it is that social seem to get completely absorbed into all this and search seem to lay a little bit below the surface on it?
Ray: If you look at this traditional product marketing view on the world which is in order to really succeed in any market and start to consolidate that market, you have to have what is known as a whole product. From a user’s perspective, you have to be able to both tell the story and demonstrate that you, as a vendor, have delivered the whole product which would be the entire set of solutions within a platform necessary to basically say you’ve carved out a product that is a viable thing in that space.
Social is one of those things that because of partly of when it became a thing in the last five years, APIs were such an assumed notion. When there are so many different APIs out there, it became relatively easy to build a whole product. You could build a publishing and analytics platform relatively easy and it was something that could add value in a very meaningful, measurable way to a company relatively quickly.
Larger companies, when they’re looking to acquire, they can say, “We’ll buy this and we have that entire suite of functionality that we can now add to our overall platform.” Salesforce obviously has done a ton of acquisitions in that space. Even companies like Oracle now are starting to move into that.
The search side is one of those things that because you’re dealing with major players like Google that specifically don’t want to provide APIs to a lot of their data, there’s a much larger technical hurdle involved in actually just building that whole product. I think that the SaaS market now is starting to mature so we’re starting to see that happen. We’re certainly working hard towards that vision.
There are other companies out there as well that are much closer than anyone was up until very recently on having what would be considered a whole product or complete product in the search space. But then now that that’s come to a certain level of maturity, the definition of what a whole product means again has almost shifted under the entire market. So you may have the whole product for the search side of things but suddenly search platforms are now being expected to be relevant players in the content marketing space, as well. That’s opening a whole other can of worms.
It’s largely a matter of, if you’re looking at from a market consolidation perspective, the hurdle to defining and achieving what it means to be a whole product in that space and really legitimately do that is just really high. Companies that have been trying to play in that space have had to figure out how to survive on a mixture of capital and just actual business execution in order to grow their businesses. There are lots of valuable businesses out there that are doing that but I would argue that it’s a much harder proposition than coming out with a new social platform because I think that it’s just a lot more to build.
Erin: I’d like to open the can of worms even if only just a little bit around content marketing and search and social – all three are interlinked. In some places more tightly than others but there is a common weave here with all the data, the way that all of them affect each other, creating good content leads to good search. Having great SEO makes your content stronger and more findable as well. Social sharing and a lot of that drive and engagement continue to propel the findability of content and SEO power.
When we’re talking about all of these three things, do you think that there will be a magical mix of content, search, and social in a single platform? Or do you think that things are going to all get glommed onto…? Like the Salesforce situation. They took a lot of different products and started what they were calling the marketing cloud or whatever their whole thing was. Other companies are doing similar things. Do think that they’re all going to stay in those things? Or do you think that somebody is going to create a super platform? You and I talked a lot about integrating a lot more content and social aspects to our existing search platform. Is that the way to the future?
Ray: You’re probably going to see both happen at the same time where venture funded startups are going to be aiming towards that super platform, but in order to get to a certain point of adoption without relying entirely on venture capital, they’re going to have to figure out how to provide some sort of market segment that they’re really good at and expand out from there, which will probably inevitably limit their execution to some point because it’s probably impossible to build a completely simultaneously horizontal and vertical solution that just carries everything and goes as deeply as everyone needs it.
On the other side, you’ve got these companies like Salesforce with tons of money where they’re buying all these companies and they can slap some marketing stuff on it saying, “We’ve got all this stuff,” but I think that the real technical challenge of integrating those platforms is something that will take years. You have got to have some really, really good product people in charge to actually make that a fully unified solution.
Erin: Does anybody have a better shot? Who do you think will win this?
Ray: I actually think Salesforce has a pretty good shot just because of the amount of data and platforms that they have acquired but I think their challenge now is really going to be around creating a unified platform that makes sense. What’s their latest offering is something like the universal sales marketing victorious cloud platform offering. Literally the name of the product is 17-word long. They probably want to revise that a little bit and trim that down and actually define what that means to people.
Part of the challenge is that digital marketing, analytics, and publishing and everything else around what we’re doing right now is we’re just at the beginning of this phase. If you look at the really big picture there are still massive amounts of marketing budgets and every type of budget that are being spent on things like TV and radio still. I think as we look at the next ten years, things are just starting to heat up, so there’s going to be a lot of really interesting innovation that comes out.
Erin: The Salesforce thing is really interesting to me because of the conversations you and I have. We operate in a very close ecosystem as a company because not only are we providing services for marketers but we have to do our own marketing and sales as well. Because we’re a small organization, we can very quickly see results and effects of making changes to things as opposed to a really large organization where a lot of that will take some time. You and I regularly go back and forth about how to accurately measure and follow people between marketing and sales things and so when you’re talking about stuff like content, social, and search and really understanding that the goal for most people, especially in the B2B sense, is to drive qualified leads and to deliver those to somebody who can follow up on them, depending on whether or not you have an on-demand or subscription service to have marketing drive a lot of people to an automatic signup process.
A lot of what you and I talk about is this gathering of information from a sales perspective as well. Sales people on the phone are talking to people, they’re having these conversations. As a content creator when I’m in that role, what I would like is that feedback so that I can create better content based on feedback in the existing conversations that our sales department is having.
There’s a lot of give and take. I think that Salesforce probably does have a unique perspective there as long as everybody’s using all the tools correctly. That’s a whole other ball of wax. A tool is only as good as people’s willingness to actually use it because nothing is a magic bullet.
Sales force to me could make a ton of money if what it would do is it would record your sales calls while you’re making them, transcribe that stuff, pull keywords out of it, and then add those notes to the contact field and send those keywords to marketing. I probably just gave Salesforce a billion dollar idea right there.
Ray: You’ve closed a billion dollar idea because they already record calls automatically if you want them to.
Erin: Well, somebody owes me 10%. Regardless, I’d like my kickback on that.
To me, there is like that give and take between those idea of marketing pushing people over to sales but because we are in such a huge earned media wave right now, which is great and really important, that needs to be a closed-loop system. I need the other side of that information back when we’re done.
Ray: Absolutely. It’s not an easy proposition. In one sense, if you look at companies like IBM who have been doing these sorts of things from a combination of technology that they have and armies of consultants, they would’ve solve some problems for people at a very large scale but it’s always been it’s very old school, top-down approach.
In the bottom we’ve always had these small businesses and startups and then big time. Really where the meat of the unsolved or the unchartered territories really in that middle ground, the middle market where companies they’re growing to have some money to spend on things but they don’t necessarily have the money to spend on expensive Accenture consultants or IBM consultants come in and tell them how to make this work.
I think that the challenge of a platform that’s truly going to gain traction across probably the largest spending and the largest size of the market is going to have to figure out on how to be really good at making the platform excel consultative enough that people can come in and use it the way that’s also scalable and efficient for the actual vendor.
Erin: It’s the thing that we all wish was easier to do, which is to create a platform that not only has all of the data. Here are myriad data points and insights and recommendations, and all kinds of stuff going on in there to, make workflows and usability for more than one type of audience and more than one type of problem and solution. We talk about this ad nauseam (all the time). And Salesforce, what a cluster. I hate that thing – kludgy, hard to use, hard to integrate. It integrates with everything but, good Lord, it’s awful. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.
But people are using it up a storm. I don’t necessarily know that I would say that I would go Salesforce route and say, “I obviously don’t need to care whether or not anybody likes the look and feel of our product because tons of people use Salesforce and they’re making money hand over fist with the ugliest and hardest to use product around.” But do you see that a lot of people are leaving for things like Close.io, especially smaller companies that don’t want to pay for something that is (1) hard to use and (2) really, really expensive.
If you’re going to be really expensive, you need to have the most seamless possible experience that you can and to let people get ramped up, especially in UI’s case. We don’t have an army of sales folks on our side and so we’re obviously not going to invest thousands of dollars in training one or two people on how to use Salesforce.
There’s a lot going on with that but the usability of platforms I think will probably be a key driving factor in who survives this and who doesn’t because a lot of content creation is getting left to junior-level employees, specifically at places like agencies and brands are outsourcing a lot to agencies. So when we’re talking about creating content and creating good content, you’ve got to make it accessible for people to get the data they need to make the best content possible and then you can’t make the platform harder to use than the creation of the actual content.
Ray: Yeah, absolutely. To your example of smaller one-off platforms, it’s one of the reasons that even in the large companies trying to do these one-off solutions because they’re not going to pay for the expensive consulting but they also need to get their job done. Even though it doesn’t fully meet their needs, it’s easier for them to pop down a couple of hundred bucks a month for a one-off solution and just cobble those together.
Erin: When we were talking about the cobbling together of a lot of solutions and we talked about it on other shows, and we hear it from our market all the time, there’s a lot of people – even at larger companies because it’s owned by one employee, so maybe not an enterprise business but a mid- to large-size company where SEO in particular may still only be handled by one, two, or three people. If that’s the case, a lot of times they’re willing to cobble together easy and free solutions that solved one problem at a time and get them from point A to point B really quickly.
Now the problem with that is when you’re doing one-off solutions one at a time for every problem that you have and you’re just getting from point A to point B to solve individual problems, what you’re never getting is that full view of the entire ecosystem and a measure of how solving each of those problems actually affected everything else. Like you’d have to be – you would have to remember every single thing you’ve done in order to make that kind of intuitive assessment.
Small solution is great because it’s usually cheaper and easier. Large solution is probably bigger picture, bigger integrations. That’s why the whole larger platform thing would be so much easier if, one, it was more affordable and easier to freaking use. Always in these discussions I’m like, “Why? Why did we talk about this because now I’m just mad?”
Ray: As we’ve been talking about this over the last few minutes, I’m trying to think of other platforms that have been hugely successful that are SaaS platforms. Someone made an interesting comment that the most successful SaaS platform in the world was actually not Salesforce, it’s Google Adwords where it’s a platform that’s generating literally probably billions of dollars in the last three seconds.
The reason for that is they’ve been able to successfully capture both the high end and the low end of the market. On the low end they’ve made it easy enough that anyone can go out and start spending money and probably not make a bunch of money in return. And on the high end, they have obviously the sales people and everything else going after it. Where it actually interestingly enough where I start to see AdWords fall down as a solution for a lot of people. It’s caught up in that bid market where companies are sophisticated enough to know that they need to optimize their campaigns so they’re not wasting money. They don’t have the money to pay Google or someone to come in the space and make sure it’s completely optimized for them.
We hear a lot about a lot of companies that they’ll turn to a lot of the different SaaS solutions out there for managing page search. Inevitably, those things are to whatever degree depending on the company their somewhat of the black box as well. It’s actually a hard problem in the middle but it’s probably also the most successful SaaS platform in one respect on the market.
Other platforms I guess would be Marketo and HubSpot. They are both doing very well. I wouldn’t say they’ve yet hit that point of “wild success” but they’re obviously very successful and continuing to grow every day.
The anecdote that I heard about HubSpot in the way they solve this problem – because they are very arguably a mid-market solution and continuing to push up market – was that they basically just solve their problem with customer success and tons of training and onboarding and everything for every customer. They actually I think require you to pay for training when you sign up.
Erin: I think that that’s a sad situation. I’ve raged against that machine a number of times. The average versus Marketo thing – I mean it’s not versus – but the examples are actually really interesting. So what you said about average is exactly true. It’s easy enough to go in and get started on your own. You don’t need anyone to help you and they’re doing insanely well.
Marketo is growing, doing well, and making money and yay for that. But you cannot use Marketo without attending training. They wouldn’t even let you use it. And we’re not talking about a day of training, we’re talking weeks of training. That thing is hard to deal with.
AdWords has a great situation. They’ll let you come in and they’ll let you spend a little bit of money and test the stuff out. We’re talking $2 a day. You can get in and mess around with AdWords if that’s what you want to do. And there’s no commitment issue there, there’s no you have to use this for months and months. They recommend that you leave stuff in market for a while to get maximum value out of it and then they’ll suggest that you’re being limited by budget. They’ll suggest new keywords. This is all brilliant stuff that they’ve got going on.
What’s crazy to me about the Marketo situation too is this idea of huge, long contracts up front without having a chance to try it out and get ramped up and see what’s going on first, because it is a big, kludgy, heavy tool. It’s clunky and getting clunkier to the elk of Salesforce clunkiness and to me this is like another shortcoming. Anytime you tell people that they absolutely have to take training to use any part of your tool, like you can’t do anything, that’s a really big problem.
For us, we do demos and we walk people through. You could set it up using the wizard on your own and you could get some data and you could get recommendations and you can get things out of the tool without having to ever speak to one of us. You can even go on the site right now and just sign up and go freely if that’s what you really want to do.
To me, the Marketo and Salesforce situation are training required. If you’re going to require training for something that already cost $1500 to $2000 a month, the idea that I have to pay you because you have crappy design and like a shit UI team – sorry folks over at Marketo and Salesforce but it’s true. And you know it. Let’s all be honest, we’re adults – you want me to pay you another $3000. Why don’t you just invest that money in hiring some UI folks to make your product less sucky.
Ray: I totally agree. The problem is you can’t really just solve that problem with UI people because there is UI, there’s UX. And UI I think would come in and make it a little bit prettier but they’re not going to solve the fundamental UX issue. The problem with most UX consultants is they don’t have the business or the data understanding of how things actually work to come up with the legitimate looking UX.
This would be a good conversation for an entire show. You and I talk about this quite a bit: how do you improve the UX of a product whereby bringing in UX experts when they don’t have a fundamental understanding of your business? These are very complicated workflows that we’re talking about dealing with the entire marketing automation or the Salesforce automation of a company is not something that a 25-year-old UX graduate from Stanford can come in and basically tell you how to change everything and be successful with that.
Erin: I think that there’s got to be some investment in the long-term growth of a UX person with your organization. You can’t hire them and expect them to start producing the next day. They need time to get to know stuff. I actually think that people that are already working internally could probably provide a lot of insight. People from across sales, marketing, engineering, customer success should all be having conversations around what would help improve things and then from an actual backend product building flow, there’s a lot of things where you can take that feedback and turn it into improvements, even incremental improvements over time.
Specifically when it comes to this whole UX situation about bringing someone on, we have conversations about engineering all the time. It’s hard to find good engineers because they can’t just be a good engineer; they have to also start to understand something about our market because there’s like a lot of things going on. We don’t have expectations of hiring anyone and having them be productive three days in. It takes months even for people to be fully ramped. It’s not to say that we don’t expect them to do anything for the first days, but there are a lot of learning curves going on.
So that expectation with UX which makes it a long-term investment I think is probably going to be – it’s going to have to be a really big shift for everybody in this market because you do have easy-to-use cheap solutions like Unbounce. That’s creating landing pages, which Marketo does. They do AB testing, they do analytics, they make your stuff, you can weave it in and great. There are tons of e-mail platforms that are far easier to use that you can integrate with other things.
What you and I were talking about just with Tropical.io, Intercom, Close.io, and MailChimp – if you mash all that stuff together and they all have APIs that talk to each other, that’s Marketo. So you can squish together a bunch of stuff and be Marketo. The problem is when you’re in Marketo’s actual atmosphere and you’re getting all these analytics and doing all these things, technically that’s supposed to be better. It’s supposed to be more scalable. It’s supposed to be higher powered and you can set user permissions across all of it, etc. From an enterprise over Marketo is the way.
But the problem is if you hire a new person who’s never used Marketo onto your marketing team and they join, that’s another $1000 to $3000 in training fees that you’re getting ready to have to pay which is sunk cost if that person quits in 90 days and you have to get them trained and now you’ve invested in their training to get them to use this system, but they probably not even going to be able to use honestly really well for three to four weeks. That’s a really big lag time, unfortunately.
Ray: I agree. I think we’ve discovered the topic for our next show.
Erin: Yeah, definitely. We will see you guys next time. We’re going to talk a little bit about UX next week and jump into that. I’ll see if we can actually get somebody to join us who has some UX experience. I know that we know some people that do UX from an agency perspective. I’d love to get that input because agencies tend to do a lot of UX work and there are a lot of those folks around so we will jump in there with them.
Ray: Cool. That sounds like a good plan.
Erin: Alright, thanks.