Engaging audiences through storytelling

#B2Bstorytellers: Interview with Rob Israch, CMO, Tipalti

If you missed it, we’re hosting a virtual discussion on how to deliver better integrated B2B stories, and running interviews with the panel in the run up to the main event, 19th September, 4pm BST/8am PST/5pm CET. 

If you’re interested in joining the chat, more details here, sign up to follow the crowdchat here, and read the first interview with Gemalto’s Tim Cawsey here!

This week’s interview comes from the newest client to work with our US team, Rob Israch, CMO of Tipalti, who I’ve known since the days he was running campaigns for NetSuite back in its pre-Oracle days. Some fascinating perspectives on the opportunities for good B2B audience insight, his specialist subject for the discussion. Ask Rob more about it during the crowdchat!


Tell us about yourself and your role

I’m CMO for Tipalti, reporting into the CEO… prior to Tipalti, I worked at NetSuite for 8 years, where I helped bring them from $35m to $500m before I left. I ran branding, international marketing and demand generation globally for the company.

At Tipalti, my team is 8 people strong – we are very much a start-up – with 75 staff total, playing squarely in the Fintech realm. Our product is a global supplier payments automation solution, essentially managing the accounts payable workflow: basically, it automates the entire function, adding risk and fraud control.

My philosophy for running marketing programs is very much data-driven, results oriented and very technology heavy, focused on driving value from content marketing.

Consumer marketers spend a lot of time trying to understand their audiences – do you think us B2B marketers invest proportionately here? Do you think the same depth of information and insight is available?

I think B2B marketers these days have as much data if not more, but in different ways, as B2C marketers. In my view, if you’re not investing in richness of data to shape and personalize your message, you’re heading in the wrong direction. In the B2B realm, you get much more complexity in terms of marketing not just to one person, but to a company with a culture, and multiple people in your buying committee – influencers, approvers, gatekeepers and blockers. By industry there’s vast differences, ditto by company size.

Intent is key, and assessing and measuring this is really important in segmenting and targeting your marketing programs. In fact, there’s a lot of “profile” data you can get about an organization that would be illegal for you to hold on a consumer, as it would be ‘personal’. For example, with ABM / target account marketing, you can focus email, display ads, surveys, and other techniques in on an isolated set of customers in an isolated set of roles and largely personalize the experience based on the company. Find and invest in these data sources to help your targeting and understanding of your target market, and investigate the data sources available in your region – in the US, at least, there’s a lot available if you know where to look.

How much time do you spend attempting to understand the external factors that affect your audience and their purchase decisions?

We spend a lot of time profiling and codifying our audience pain points and hard coding them into our marketing automation and CRM platforms, making them extremely rich in terms of marketing intent, titles, business systems, business change triggers, and so on, making the job of personalization much easier. In our case, we personalize a lot based on industry, and a little based on persona and company size – so we can ensure our target audiences understand that we know their space. That’s where our primary personalization data points come from.

What difference can a better understanding of your audience make to your marketing storytelling?

We really believe in the power of demonstrating the value you can deliver to customers in their industries. So you need to make your content pieces super-super relevant. The same general themes may apply across your audience segments, but investing in giving it freshness and tailoring it to a specific customer’s space is critical. A lot of that understanding and authenticity comes from knowing what the customers are doing, and what we’re doing with them, what their pain points are and so on.

We have a strong good director of content marketing… and content marketing is particularly key when you are trying to convince people to buy a technology that changes the status quo. You have to talk about them – their issues, their challenges, what damage is being caused by doing things they way they are currently – and then show them the strategies and tactics they can take to get beyond that.

How do you gauge and understand, and time for, intent when it comes to addressing specific audiences?

There are lots of different ways, but a lot comes down to marketing automation insight, and predictive analytics scoring. We have custom fields in our marketing automation platform that we defined around specific business needs; fifteen of them, and we can track which customers are expressing which needs depending on which marketing campaigns, landing pages, surveys, content pieces etc., they interact with. From this, we can ensure we are sharing our most relevant content and personalizing their journey. We also work with predictive analytics partners to build models that help refine our targeting, and our sales engagement to improve conversion rates.

What best practice do you have for planning campaigns that resonate through different roles within your audience profiles, e.g. different levels in the hierarchy of decision making?

Where we are in our growth cycle, we’ve been primarily focused on general content playing at the most senior decision makers in the finance function. The biggest effort we’ve made in personalizing content has been focused on ensuring we can show good understanding of our customers’ industries. In time, it’ll become necessary to talk to more specific roles and functions within each target customer. We certainly have personas and train our sales team on how to personalize the experience by role and have some basic marketing content around this, but thus far, from a marketing programs and content perspective, we have invested less here than our other personalization efforts.

How do you codify your audience insights in order to brief your teams and agencies?

We have an extensive onboarding process during which we deliver messaging training, by industry, by company size and by role. How these different segmentation factors change how you speak to them and convey the value that we offer is a key thing for our employees and our partners to understand.

If you had to kill/kiss/marry a marketing discipline, what would it be and why?

I would kiss target account marketing (otherwise known as Account-Based Marketing)…. In the B2B realm, it’s increasingly important to target precisely, for driving engagement, and for personalization. I would kill ad-networks… in my experience, the ROI isn’t there, not for my audiences. And I’d marry PR: I think PR is definitely one of the most effective forms of branding out there. If you’re good at it, it’s good at pushing content marketing out there in a more credible way than you can with paid and social.

… and I’d also marry SEO… Search is how you’re most likely to be found. Prospects will be seeing you through the lens of Google, and you have to know what that view looks like. That in turn will tell you what your prospect or potential customer is seeing, what their pain points are, who your potential influencers are how they surface through search.

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