Hello, thanks for joining us. Welcome to episode 153 of the SaaS breakthrough podcast. I'm Ashley Levesque VP of marketing at Banzai. Banzai recently acquired Demio. So if you're wondering what happened at Demio, the answer is nothing. They were simply purchased by Banzai. Really excited about today's guest Thomas Peham is the VP of marketing at Storyblok. Welcome Thomas. Thanks for being here.
Hey, Ashley, thanks for having me.
Let's jump right in. How would you describe Storyblok in two sentences?
Oh, that's really a tough one as I like to talk quite a bit, but I'll try my best. So Storyblok is the first headless content management system that helps developers, marketers, and editors, really to build and deliver great content experiences on any digital platform. So I think that's just one sentence, but what it really means is that we want to give marketing teams, editors as well as developers, one central content management system, to organize all their content for any channel, because usually provisional content management systems were built for the web, right. In the past, we only had websites. That's where traditional systems come from. And our approach really is to give marketers a tool to build and publish great omnichannel experiences, no matter the channel and platform. So that's what we do. We're used by all sorts of businesses in all sorts of industries in more than 130 countries. And these days more than 80,000 projects, that could be really anything, run on Storyblok.
Wow, incredible. So here at SaaS breakthrough, we like to dig in deep on specific campaigns. So I'm going to jump right in to a really exciting one. So let me set up some context here for our listeners. So from December, 2020 to June, 2021, you launched over 15 white papers and ebooks with a specific goal. You wanted to position Storyblok among the marketers audience, and you wanted to set up a lead gen funnel, which generated thousands of new leads for you. So your goal and intent with this was specifically to position Storyblok as an alternative CMS for marketing teams. So you started with the goal. Now, walk me backwards. How did you get to, oh, let's try doing that positioning through gated assets?
Sure. And I think I have to start with my personal story because I'm a content marketer by heart, I would say. So when I first started working in B2B SaaS which was back in 2014, for me, the obvious first step as a content marketer was to start with content and content production and to utilize content in a way for certain business goals, be it awareness campaigns or lead gen campaigns. And since then obviously content marketing and the role has evolved over the few years. But I think one thing that stuck really with me and that was that content, if it's done right, really helps any SaaS business, I would say, especially B2B SaaS to build up expertise, build up brand awareness and also to drive lead gen and lead gen goals that you might have. So once I joined Storyblok mid 2020, we didn't have any marketing team by definition, but what the team were doing back then was that they were already creating a lot of create content for the developer global audience.
And that's how the company grew organically in the first few years before we actually started hiring the first people, when both of our co-founders Dominik and Alex really were blogging and were like building up both on site, as well as through like podcasts, newsletters, and really by sharing their knowledge to the broader developer audience. And that drove organic growth in the beginning. So once I joined and once we really step up the bigger picture on, Hey, how can we position Storyblok not only among the developer audience where they were doing a great job in four years, but also among the marketing audience, it was sort of quite an obvious and natural step for us to continue with those content efforts with that content marketing. So, as you said, our goal was really divided into, Hey, how can we build up brand awareness for Storyblok among marketing teams?
And how can we utilize that into a lead gen pipeline and setting up the blog, setting up our like gated assets was really the most obvious step I would say, because obviously if that's done right, both from also from a distribution perspective, through organic and paid, my assumption was we can build up a pipeline quite, quite easily, quite fast. And that's actually what happened and what we did. But I think the key there really is that we didn't really thought about, okay, how can we build up the funnel? But we also thought about what resonates with the audience, right? What are the pain points that our personas are having out there? What's our take on that? What's, what's our, like, both from a product as well as an expertise perspective, how can we provide (inaudible) not only through the product, but also through our content for that audience. So that's what we did. We did that (inaudible) for the e-commerce market because we have like a go to market initiative around e-commerce back in 2020. And yeah, that's why we built up the amount of white papers and gated assets that you mentioned and why, luckily it turned out quite fine for us.
So you mentioned a small team, so you have a small team, you have limited resources, walk me through, where are you determining what this content is going to consist of? How are you learning about the pain points? How are you, you know, addressing what needs to happen for your audience through these content pieces?
I mean, that's a great question, because I guess everything starts with the audience and with your personas and understanding them. So, so I think first and foremost, although like we've grown the team to around six to seven people in marketing, but back in 2021, when we started, it was basically me, two content creators, and in addition, we had a designer who helped us get started. But I would even say, you could even start smaller, right? Because all you need is you need the market expertise, you need persona expertise and you need a great content producer, you need someone who's good at writing, who's producing content video, audio, whatever the format might be. And that's really what we had back then and what we're now growing, because at the end of the day, it's really important for, for us to build up this knowledge in-house as well, right?
Because usually a lot of startups, a lot of small companies tend to outsource like content, content production, content marketing to agencies, but we basically decided from day one that we need to have that in-house because that's a core asset, that's a core expertise to have. And yeah. What did we do? I think we didn't only thought about, Hey, let's just create content, but we also thought thought about it in a more strategic way by an asset, looking at the marketing plan and looking at the go-to-market initiative and basically asking ourselves what's the market we're dealing with, right? Like what, what is the market? What defines a marketing team within an e-commerce business for example. Then we looked at the problem, what is the problem that we're solving as a SaaS product within e-commerce, for example, and within that persona. And we challenged that quite a bit because sure you can do customer research.
You can do qualitative quantitative research. But we really tried to get down to the fact by basically asking a lot of why questions, like, why do we think that this is a real problem that we're solving? And by just frequently asking that I think we really got down to the problems. But not only that, the next step really was how do we really know that that problem is something we can solve? Like, how do we define the success as a product? Like, how do we know if we really solved this problem already also from a product perspective. Also asking that ourselves was, is quite maybe a bit painful for some startups, but really key to really build building up the marketing side of things, and then looking at the audience. So who are the personas? Who's the ICP we're really creating this for?
Like, how can we define that? How can we do research around that? And yeah, also looking beyond just the marketing side, but also again at the product side, what, what is our product about right? What is the product really? That what question I think that we sometimes ask quite too soon sometimes because we tend to think in features capabilities also as marketers. But I think that came a bit later then what question. And then we try to map all those things out on a, in a funnel perspective from our side and those on a user journey perspective from, from the user side and the last step time, it really was okay, now we have all that information. What assets do we need to support that? Right? What are the assets along those journeys, along the funnel, be gated ungated, whatever those assets might be. And that's really how we approached the whole initiative from lead gen and awareness perspective.
So if we were to get tactical, you mentioned, you're sort of introducing yourself to a new market, which is marketers, right, but you're not new to the larger scope market, right. You're not a new company. So were all of your content pieces, what you would consider top of funnel or awareness based since you're kind of introducing yourself here? Or how did that come to be?
So we tried to map the full funnel starting with like top of funnel assets, top of funnel content really, really creating those pieces for the awareness stage. I would argue within the marketing audience, let's say, but also then, we try to look at it from like, what's the middle of funnel, what's the bottom of funnel, right? What's the, what are the areas we can talk about in the education stage, for example, when it comes to educating people about our topic, which we define as headless CMS, and it's quite a technical term, it's quite a technical concept. So we knew that there needs to happen a lot of education in between those like top of funnel and bottom of funnel assets. So I think that's, that's around the whole educational journey and looking at the bottom of funnel same thing there, right?
Like what, what actions, what conversion steps do we see closest sitting towards the product? What, what do we believe helps us in the activation stage as well? Right. Marketing doesn't stop at, okay now we acquire leads. We're happy, right? It doesn't stop there. It goes much further beyond that, from a product perspective, it goes into activation, it goes into enablement. How do we enable marketers using our product? How do we retain them? Like what makes them come back? The same thing on the sales side. So we really try to map the full funnel also from an asset perspective.
Can you give me an, this is putting you on the spot a little bit, but can you give me an example of what these content pieces are and where they are in the funnel?
Sure. So if we look at this e-commerce initiative, the first thing really is when, when I look at the top of the funnel assets that the questions are not okay, what do you guys do? What's headless CMS? Right. But it's rather about creating awareness for headless CMS. And how do you create awareness? You talk about the pain points, for example, that marketing teams have in e-commerce and that pain point can be, for example, siloed content. So these days, a lot of e-commerce businesses, they not only have a website, they have a mobile app, they might have point of sale screens. They might have Alexa skills. They might have content for social content for messaging apps. And usually when, at least when we were speaking with those marketers, they were dealing with a lot of content silos because they were, they were sorta of realizing, okay, we have all those different systems, but these are siloed and they are not really well connected, which makes it really hard to map out user journeys, which again, then becomes a pain point when it comes to personalized experiences or omni-channel experiences let's say.
So quite soon as we realized that that's a big pain point for those marketing teams within the e-commerce. The second big pain point is website performance, right? So a lot of marketers these days are dealing with topics around, our website performance is really slow. Our competitors have faster websites, therefore they sell more online. Than the e-commerce businesses usually feel that pain point also on the revenue side. So from a top of funnel perspective, when I translate that into content pieces, let's say we were thinking about how can we position those pain points on the PR side, for example. So we're looking at marketing outlets where we could position and talk about those problems in the first place. To really first of all, create awareness, not for us, but for the problem itself and why it really should matter to marketing teams that your website is slower than your competitors.
In case you didn't realize this was an issue, it is an issue.
Exactly. That's still, there's still, I think you can't talk enough about those problems, because usually, especially when it comes to website performance, it's quite a challenge for businesses because it's not only a marketing topic, right. It's an IT topic as well. So suddenly you are dealing with how much IT involvement does marketing teams have, et cetera, et cetera. But I guess that's another story. So, so first things first really utilizing PR, utilizing earned media channels working with some, let's say influencers in the industry on those assets to really talk about those problems. That was the first step. Really second step was okay, let's make the switch, let's create the bridge towards a potential solution, right. And that's really mapping out how can marketing teams improve their website performance, for example, by giving them a path by giving them tutorials, by giving them guidance through, for example, eBooks checklists, white papers to really get into the thinking of, okay, I'm aware of my website is slow. What can I do about it? Here's a checklist for your IT team. Here's a checklist for your marketing team. Look at that, use that, run with that, try some things, try to get into the concept of, let's say have less, or a tech set up that would allow you to have a faster website.
So in this, we've moved into like an engagement section now. So in your lead gen funnel, are we now kind of mid funnel for you? Or are we still top of funnel? Can you walk me through the operations of, you know, you talked about PR and influencer and some kind of off site engagement at the top of the funnel, how do we bring them in to bridge that gap? What does that actually look like in your funnel?
Yeah, so first things top of funnel, we talked about that. Our goal obviously is to bring them on our website because we believe once we have those people on our website, on our web property, we can convert them on the next step, be it middle of the funnel, where we can bridge the gap towards you're aware about those problems. now let's give you some guidance on how you can find solutions, because usually there is not one single path to your solution because these days, text ads, websites are quite personalized, quite customized. So let's, and we believe that needs to actually happen on our website. That should happen on our channels. That that happens on our blog, on the white papers, on all the resources, documentation that we have. So once we have you on our website, our marketing job really is to make sure that you find the right content pieces again, for your problems, for your story, for your journey.
And that's could be, for example, a tutorial that could sit on our site, that tutorial explain certain ways on how to do certain things in, let's say website's performance. And that tutorial doesn't necessarily has the main intention to convert you to a free trial or to convert you to a contact sales or whatever form that might be. The sole purpose of the tutorial is to give you, to offer you help, to offer you actual help for your problems . To give you a tutorial. And that's totally on purpose, and we're not forcing you to sign up for anything or to do anything beyond that. But what we then usually see is that once people go through that tutorial they're quite happy because it's a good tutorial and it's a valuable tutorial for them. So the most natural step afterwards is that they also look at our product. They look at how can we as a product, help them in their problem again, for example, having a slow website, and that's where let's say the whole lead gen kicks in where the whole product journey kicks in. So we do have like a free version of our product. We have different lead gen assets that really help you within that next step. And that's what's on the bottom of funnel side.
So let me, let me break this down because this is so cool. I want to make sure I'm getting this right. The main goal is to kind of, you know, get them onto the website. So you've got influencers, you've got PR, you're positioning yourself in the market. You're saying, you know, you're doing a lot of stories out there, podcasts, whatever, you want to get them on the website, you get them on the website and you funnel them to the content that's going to best serve them. The content that serves itself, right. There's nothing else attached to it. I'm assuming it's gated. That's part of this conversation, right? You are capturing their information when they access that content?
It really depends, but we have a lot of tutorials ungated, a lot of contents is ungated on the website because again, we believe that the tutorials need to speak for itself and especially looking more. And now we're talking all the more about the developer audience. A lot of developers don't tend to like gated assets. So we give those audiences rather ungated assets first, but it's a mix of both I would say.
But what you're finding is after they consume that content, they are self migrating to your product information. So they are finding themselves from the content that was so helpful and educational about something a little bit more expansive and pain pointy to, okay, well, let's look at the product that might actually solve for this. And that is where we're beginning to capture more of the request a demo information, or sign up for a free trial. Do I have that right?
Yeah, absolutely. And we actually, we also tested that quite, quite, quite extensively by basically pointing people to a lot of content first versus by people pointing them to our product slash some more gated assets first. And we saw that the conversion rates are much higher if you give your free content, if you give your valuable content first, without any strings attached to it. And from that journey, you naturally end up on the free trial. You end up on the gated asset whereas this, we directly send you to free trial, we directly send you to a gated asset.
Makes a lot of sense in theory. I mean, I think we all know that, but then we as marketers get in front of the website and we're like, let's just put a gate on it just to make sure.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.
So walk me through a little bit of, like, how is this content physically showing up on your website? Are we talking about like a hero image on your homepage, or like how, or is this a dedicated landing page or how is this content being found?
There are obviously different user journeys and paths to different topics and stories, but let's stick with the slow e-commerce website example, for example. So I would say there are different paths on how you end up on, let's say the ungated tutorial first, and usually that's, that's organic because people still tend to Google for problems that they experience. We, as a CMS, obviously have quite a strong opinion on SEO and organic content. So we try to be really up, up and center there as well, but we also do supportive like search campaigns, search ads on those topics as well to really support that. But usually it's, it's (inaudible)search intent that people end up on that tutorial for example. That's one, the most typical path, let's say. The other paths obviously are also through navigation through quite intuitive website search.
We try to really be up regularly optimizing the on site experience, starting from the homepage, because we also know that most people come in through the homepage because we do the awareness thing first, right? We do the PR thing. We do the influencer thing. So people tend to come in through the homepage. And we just try to give you a lot of options and not lock you into one particular funnel. And as, as we talked before, we're like, as marketers as businesses, we think too soon, too fast, and Hey, we need those lead captures. We need those lead funnels, especially in B2B. And then in B2B SaaS users are quite intelligent. They know how to find the right information if you give them the right tool, if you give them the right ways where to they find those information.
So we try to be really focused on optimizing that on-site experience starting from the homepage, or starting from a tutorial itself, because you end up there as the first journey point. And from there, you can take all different directions, but at the end of the day, obviously still, we do have main, like a priority of, let's say, lead captures, and what we show you at which stage. So there are like in, if I look at a typical tutorial, you would find different pathways to some assets, for example. So if you, if you've read a tutorial about slow websites and e-commerce, we probably have some in tutorial links to some e-commerce assets that give you further information that gives you further (inaudible) view. We might have in the content a link towards a newsletter signup, we might do some direct signups at some point for the product, if it does make sense from the journey, most likely it doesn't, but sometimes it does. So we really try to have that really inside the tutorial, for example, itself, besides all the other things that I mentioned before.
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let's talk results. What are you seeing?
I think we're now standing at the round in total 20 gated assets, let's say, so these are like the eBooks, white papers. We do have some checklists, give them the funnels. And in total I think we're standing at around one and a half thousand, 1,600 leads generated. We do have quite a good let's say MQL to SQL ratio of around 55%. So that's one of the first good or next signals from a sales perspective. But we also measure how does those, like, how do those leads convert on the product journey, right? Like how many, besides the sales funnel of, okay, now we have those SQLs, these SQLs converted in opportunities and certain percentage converts in customers, like, obviously the beginning, we didn't have any data on that. Now we have that data. We know that funnel is working so we keep pushing on it. But the second funnel for us really is the product funnel, right? So how many gated content leads convert also into free trial signups? Because for us, that's like that's as a SaaS product as a product lab, SaaS product, I would say that's, that's an equally important, more important funnel I would argue. And yeah, we also see some, some good success there.
Wow. Thank you so much. What a cool initiative, a cool funnel. I want to pivot over to something else that I'm really excited to ask you about, but before I do that, is there anything else you want to add related to this campaign? Like for example, if someone else were to say, oh, cool, I want to replicate that in my own marketing initiative. What are you going to say to them by way of watch out for, don't do, or make sure you do this first? What are you going to say?
I would say first, are you really sure you want to go this route? Because for one reason and I do have some, some SaaS businesses who ask me that regularly, I think content marketing is really something that needs to fit you as a company, from a culture perspective as well. It's not something that, that like compared to performance, for example, you put money in you, you see results immediately or within sales it's rather on the same thing. Content, content marketing is a much broader long-term perspective and sure you can do paid, you can do PR to really accelerate that. But at the end of the day, I think it really needs to fit you as a company, as a marketing team, or if you're even smaller as a founding team. Are you, from a personal perspective, great at writing content, producing content. Is that something that feels natural to you? If you can't answer that with yes, please don't do that. Please go the sales route, please do something else. But yeah, that's definitely something I would say.
Great advice. All right. Let's pivot to leadership. So I know you have a small team. You now are at six or seven as VP of marketing as a leader in the organization, what are you struggling with most this quarter?
I guess it's quite obvious. I would say it's hiring people or finding the right people. And, and by that, I really mean finding the right people on a global scale because we, like, we used to be like two or three people in 2019, by the end of 2020, we were around 25 people within the full company. Right now, we're standing at around 45 people. The goal is to scale that up and to double ourselves again until the end of the year to be standing at 70, 75 people by the end of 2021. And we are 100% remote. Like the marketing team is spread across I think, four different time zones. We have, like, I think we're the most international team within quite an international company of, I think, 19, 20 nationalities. And I think what we really look out for when it comes to hiring people is motivation and culture fit. Because as a remote team, we give people a lot of trust. We give people a lot of freedom to basically work whenever and wherever they want as an employee. It also means to be ready for this remote set up, to be ready for more asynchronous way of working, especially since we are sitting across multiple time zones. So I think that's really the biggest challenge. Basically since I joined the team last year.
Yeah, that's a challenge echoed by, by many I think, and as a, Banzai is also a remote first company. And one thing that I'm realizing is like you mentioned, for people who are not used to working remotely exclusively and working remotely with other team members who are working remotely, the need for really embedding that at a culture level is so important by way of streamlining communication, understanding what the business norms are, you know, as nitty gritty as it sounds, really having rules of engagement for how we do this, otherwise we can't do this. I'm spending a lot of time around that.
Yeah. That's a current, just to give you one example on how we try to establish such rules of communication and collaboration is by, for example, we established something that we call donut chats. It's basically a slack bot that randomly connects people, I think once a week or every two weeks to, and basically not to force them, but really make sure that people have coffee chats, right? Because we don't have a coffee kitchen. We don't have an office where people meet up randomly within the office. So we try to streamline the apps here, like small tools and initiatives like that to make sure people know each other people, talk to each other. And as we grow, I think that's really the number one thing we need to watch out for.
Yeah. I love it. All right. Lightning questions. You're gonna answer these as fast as you can, and there's three of them. You're ready?
I'm ready. Let's do it.
Number one. What is one thing you did this week to support your team?
I'm really trying to support my team every single day, but one thing that I think is really big for me is that tomorrow, I'm having a mentoring session with one of my team members and that's something I really strive for. And I'm really grateful that people use that. And we use my time for that.
I love that. Number two. What is your most embarrassing webinar moment?
Not sure if I would file that as embarrassing, but since I have a little baby daughter she's regularly crushing my webinar or zoom calls these days.
As she should. Number three, final one. What is your favorite tool that you can't live without?
It's a screenshot tool called CleanShot. And why I can't really can't live without that is we are a remote team with a lot of asynchronous work and a screenshot tool gives me the power to visualize something to a colleague sitting somewhere else.
Yes. Excellent answer. Wow. Okay, Thomas, you are a wealth of knowledge. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. One last time before we wrap up, tell people where they can find you.
Yeah, sure. People can find me on Twitter. If you look for Tom Peham and you can also find me on LinkedIn with Thomas Peham and go check out Storyblok.com if you need a new content management system.
Thank you so much, Thomas. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks for having me. Thank you.