This article originally appeared on Column Five.
Laura Winkenbach is VP of Product Marketing & Content for HR software company Zenefits. In an increasingly complicated industry, she’s tasked with educating and engaging customers to make their lives easier. Her tool? Content. We caught up with Laura to chat about how she uses content to make a great first impression, establish a relationship, and continue to provide value to Zenefit’s customers.
C5: Tell us a bit about your role. What do you do?
LW: I lead our product marketing and content efforts at Zenefits. We help educate and engage prospects in learning more about Zenefits and the HR space in general. With HR becoming a much more strategic and critical role at growing companies, it’s tough for HR leaders to stay on top of regulatory changes, business trends, and HCM in general.
C5: What role does content play in your overall branding and marketing efforts?
LW: Content is the tip of the spear in many of our efforts. We try to offer helpful and educational content to engage prospects. By offering valuable and exclusive research, thought leadership, articles, webinars, and more, we offer something to prospects before we ask them to learn about our products and solutions. The goal is to create a positive perception of Zenefits by offering value first.
C5: What does your team look like?
LW: We’re a lean team. We have two product marketers and two content marketers who work closely together on messaging, positioning, go-to-market, and demand generation.
C5: What is your team’s main focus right now?
LW: Right now we are focusing on increasing organic traffic and improving conversions of that traffic from visitors to leads. We’re putting a lot of effort into our blog and focusing on topical, editorial content.
C5: How do you measure results?
LW: We track our organic traffic patterns pretty closely, as well as how those visitors are engaging with content (time spent on page, visitors to form-fills, etc.).
C5: Which types of content yield the best quality leads for your brand?
LW: For us, leads who express interest in our products are clearly deepest in the funnel. For example, if someone downloads a product sheet or watches a demo video, they are more likely going to convert to a personalized demo or a free trial. But not all leads are ready to purchase just yet. That’s why we maintain a useful and thoughtful stream of content and communication to keep the relationship going.
C5: What role does your proprietary data play in your marketing?
LW: We actually just released one of our first research reports, the Benefits Benchmark report. We heard from countless customers that they were looking for benchmarks on what similar companies and businesses in their region were spending on employee benefits. We aggregated the data from our database and analyzed the findings into a number of key trends, all published in our report.
The great thing about this report is that it isn’t survey based, as many reports tend to be. It’s actual data. These types of reports are hugely valuable to current customers but also help drive leads from new prospects as well.
C5: In your opinion, which brands are doing content marketing and brand storytelling right?
LW: Salesforce always does a great job with going big and being consistent with a theme. They maintain the same theme throughout all their content, whether it’s their website, printed collateral, event signage, and more. Having this consistency makes them immediately recognizable even if you don’t see their logo. This type of brand and visual storytelling is tough to do, but they’ve aligned things well.
Personally, I’m kind of obsessed with Chubbies. Their stories and content truly bring to life their entire brand and mission. This resonates in the brand, their product, the messaging, and certainly in their content. They make me ready for the weekend. =)
C5: What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
LW: Getting positive feedback from prospects and customers that our content was useful is the most rewarding thing. While we certainly want to acquire leads and convert them to customers, it’s my job to give prospects a positive first impression of Zenefits. And if we can do that by offering them useful research or information that helps them do their job better, we feel pretty good about ourselves.
C5: At work, what is the biggest pain in the ass?
LW: Content distribution! If you build it, they don’t always come. It’s tough to make sure content is discoverable, and this doesn’t happen on its own. We’ve augmented our strategy quite a bit to focus more on SEO and keywords that are in demand. But it’s hard to make sure that everyone who has a question can find the content you created to answer it.
C5: If you had an “easy” button, what would you have it do for you?
LW: It would pretty much take over Google’s algorithm. Just kidding.
C5: What would you tell/teach yourself 5 years ago that would have better prepared you for your work today?
LW: I spend a lot of time thinking about leadership and what makes a great leader. I’ve learned a ton over the years and have been lucky enough to work with some amazing leaders. One of the best things I’ve taken from these years is that every moment can be a coaching moment and a sharing moment.
Nothing has meant more to me than when my leader or mentor gave me feedback, a special tip or trick, or spent time offering more explanation. These moments have helped me be successful in all kinds of situations. I try to do the same with my team now, to empower them to make decisions in their own domain, take risks, and share wins and failures equally. So 5 years ago, I’d have to tell myself to “always be sharing.”
C5: What piece of advice would you give someone interested in getting into content marketing and brand storytelling?
LW: I’d say the most important is to be purposeful. There is SO much content created because “someone thought it was a good idea,” because a competitor did it, or because it “feels like we should do something about X.” Without a clear goal, purpose, distribution plan, and success metric defined in advance, you run the risk of creating content that no one will read. And, worse yet, you won’t know if it was successful or not. My strong advice is to be purposeful in everything you build.
C5: Any last parting words or nuggets of wisdom?
LW: Umm, we’re marketers. Have fun! Avoid the jargon and just act as if you’re having a conversation with someone walking down the street. Too much writing has become so technical and formal. Even if you’re writing about technical subject matter, you can still be conversational.
Many thanks to Laura for sharing her thoughts. Follow Laura’s posts on the Zenefits blog and keep up with her on Twitter @llbrooks44. For more wisdom from game-changers in content marketing and content strategy, check out these Q&As:
- Course Hero shows us how to build a brand through user-generated content.
- CoSchedule shares the content strategy that increased traffic six-fold.
- Jeff Marcoux of Microsoft chats about implementing an Account-Based Marketing strategy.
- Business Insider’s Mike Nudelman tells us what publishers want from your content.
- LinkedIn’s Alex Rynne explains how to use LinkedIn to build your personal and professional brand.