The B2B marketing landscape is a complex and evolving space, with unique challenges and opportunities. Navigating it effectively requires thoughtful strategies and insightful tactics. With many digital channels available, what are the best ways to connect, engage, and convert potential business clients? As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Amos, founder and CEO of Uplift Content.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! To begin, can you share a bit of your personal backstory with us?
I studied linguistics at university. I loved it, but it’s about as useful as a history degree in terms of finding gainful employment. So I hopped on a plane and spent my 20s galavanting around the world, travelling and working as an au pair, a receptionist, and finally an English as a second language (ESL) teacher. I had a blast!
Eventually, though, I got tired of feeling like a circus performer at the front of the classroom. I wanted a job where I could sit down and think. I also wanted a job where I had more control over my time, income, and career trajectory.
I knew I was a decent writer, so I took the leap and became a freelance writer. It was tough going in the beginning. With no portfolio and no local connections, I had to network like crazy, something I’m still not a big fan of to this day.
Eventually, I figured out that if I got to know all the web developers in my city, I could become the person they sent their clients to when they wanted a new website but didn’t have any content. It worked out well and I soon became the person people thought of when they needed web content in my city.
After 11 years as a freelance web writer, I decided I needed a change. Ironically, I’d never really loved writing, but what I do love is running a business. I enjoy the strategy, the sales and marketing, and the operational side of things. I decided to start a content marketing agency and have a team of freelancers do the writing and editing, while I took care of running the business.
As a marketer, I knew that I’d have an easier time marketing my content marketing company if I had a narrower focus. At that point, I had one B2B SaaS customer in San Francisco and I thought that could be niche for me. I knew that if I had one B2B SaaS customer, I could get two. And if I could get two, then I could get four. Six years later, we have a full roster of B2B SaaS companies all over the world.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?
I have had many business mentors and coaches over my 17 years in business (11 as a freelancer, and 6 as CEO of Uplift Content). All of them have helped me in different ways to become the business person I am today. One person in particular that I’m grateful for is Jon McGinley.
He has become an informal mentor of mine, one who shows up consistently to support me, ask hard questions, and push me to think beyond where I’m currently at. Whenever we meet for lunch, he always asks me what he can do to help me grow my business. As a business owner, it can be hard to ask for help, but I’m learning to lean in when someone offers to do something for me.
What is your favorite life lesson quote, and how has it been relevant to you in your life?
I’ve had a pink sticky note beside my computer for years now. It says: “What’s the best use of my time to drive my business forward?” As CEO (and CMO and COO), I wear a lot of hats and have a lot of competing priorities. For my business to be successful, I need to think about how to best use my time. And ideally, I should be asking myself that question before I do any task on my list.
All too often, it’s easy to procrastinate by doing the easy, low-value work. But instead, we need to prioritize the tasks that drive growth for our company. Often, these require real brainpower. They’re sometimes a bit daunting because we may not have done this particular task before. Or we know we need to push ourselves to do the task even better than we did it before. It’s easy to put off because it’s hard.
Perhaps there’s a task on your to-do list that you keep finding excuses to push to tomorrow. If this is you, I recommend this: Schedule it in as your first task of the day. You’ll not only get it done, you’ll enjoy a huge sense of relief at having finally finished it. All the other stuff can wait.
What are three strengths, skills, or characteristics that helped you to reach this place in your career? How can others actively build these areas within themselves?
1. Persistence: Persistence is the skill that helped me get my freelance business off the ground. I spent months going through the Yellow Pages (this was 2007 and that big yellow book still existed!) and cold emailing different business verticals. For example, one day, I’d tackle all the event planners in my city. The next day, I’d tackle all the furnace repair companies. It was a slog, but my persistence paid off and eventually I had a great roster of customers.
I also relied heavily on persistence when starting Uplift Content. It was a lot harder than I thought to network with big tech companies in San Francisco when I lived 6,000 kilometers away in a small city in Canada. Through sheer willpower and never giving up, I kept at it and eventually made some great connections with my target audience and have developed many great relationships over time.
My advice to you: Keep at it. Don’t give up. Just put one foot in front of the other and tackle one task at a time.
2. Plain language: Plain language is a skill that is so important in communication. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to read something several times before we understand it. Same goes for speaking with people. We don’t want to make people work to understand something. No one has patience for that. We need to write it or say it clearly the first time.
My time teaching English to international students really helped me learn how to communicate clearly. I had to really think about what I wanted to say and figure out how I could get it across in the simplest way possible so that my students could understand me the first time.
My advice to you: Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What do they already know about the topic? What questions do they have? What do they need to know? How can you communicate this information as clearly as possible?
3. Putting yourself out there: I’m a bit of an introvert so I struggle to put myself out there. But, what I’ve found over the years is that many of us are nervous when meeting new people. In my experience, people are often thrilled when I gather up my courage and introduce myself because then they don’t have to. And amazing conversations often ensue.
My advice to you: Take a deep breath. Walk over to someone and introduce yourself. Or send that email. Or make that phone call. What’s the worst that can happen?
Which skills are you still trying to grow now?
Seventeen years in and I’m still trying to grow my sales skills. I’ve taken a number of different sales courses over the years, but I’ve found that they just aren’t me. They often feel smarmy or shady to me. I’d much rather have a conversation with someone. I love to ask people questions. I love to find out what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night.
I find that if I can have a conversation with people, they tend to like what we have to offer because they can see that I’m honest and want to help them as much as I can. And because I’ve asked questions and really listened to their answers, I’m able to explain our solutions in ways that resonate with them.
I want to work on taking traditional sales skills and melding them to my personality so I feel comfortable using them.
How do you perceive the current landscape of B2B marketing?
The B2B marketing landscape continues to evolve. Marketing software and technology is advancing at lightening speed with AI-driven tools taking the front seat. The brands that are thriving in this environment are the ones that keep the human element front and center. These are the companies telling real stories, showing up with authenticity, transparency and courage, and daring to bare their “business soul” to their audience.
In the world of B2B, being human means creating meaningful, genuine content and interactions. Companies shouldn’t be nameless, faceless entities. They need to humanize their brands, creating real connections with their audience. Part of this means becoming vulnerable—acknowledging mistakes, encouraging feedback and being willing to learn and change.
How have recent market trends and changes influenced your approach to outperforming competitors?
The target audience for Uplift Content is B2B SaaS marketers. Unfortunately, the world of B2B SaaS has been extremely tumultuous in the past year. Every day you hear about more layoffs and more budget cuts. Because of this, my main goal this year has been to be empathetic and helpful.
I share job postings. I connect job seekers with other people in my network who may be able to help. We create content that shows we understand the challenges of the current economy and what our target audience may be going through personally and professionally. And we provide advice on how to do more with less. Above all, we want to be humans that care about humans.
B2B buying cycles can often be lengthy and complex. How do you maintain engagement and nurture leads throughout the various stages of the buyer's journey?
For us, it’s all about dishing up valuable and helpful content at the right time throughout the buyer’s journey. We make sure we know our audience inside and out. We create a customer journey map for each persona so we know what questions and challenges our different audience segments have at each stage of the journey. Then we create high-quality educational content that addresses those questions and challenges.
It’s important to remember that people like to consume content in different ways so we develop blog posts, white papers, webinars, ebooks, videos, email marketing, and social posts to provide the variety people are looking for. As marketers, we always need to stay one step ahead of our target audience by providing them with exactly what they need at each step of the journey.
Personalization is gaining prominence in B2B marketing. What are some ways marketers can effectively leverage data to deliver personalized experiences?
Since marketers tend to cater to at least a couple of different audiences, it’s important to deliver the right content to the right audience by using data to help deliver personalized experiences that are precise, relevant, and strategic. Use the data you collect to map out the interests, challenges, and needs of each audience segment. Then create content specific to each stage of the buyer’s journey that moves them down the conversion funnel.
For example, if you are a fintech company with major markets in Boston, Austin and San Francisco, then you may want to consider writing blog posts specific to each of those three cities. If your software is for HR managers, COOs and IT directors, then you will likely want to create email marketing campaigns specific to each audience.
ABM has also gained traction for its personalized approach to targeting high-value accounts. What advice would you give to fellow B2B marketers looking to adopt this strategy?
First, you need to get buy-in from the C-suite and sales team, and determine your goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs). Then, you should identify your high-priority target accounts. What companies do you really want to work with? What is the profile of an ideal, best-fit client? Think about factors like organization size, geographic location, annual revenue, etc.
Next, figure out who to contact at each of those companies. In addition to knowing who to reach out to, you should also develop buyer personas. Then, develop content for each persona at each stage of the buyer’s journey and figure out what channels your contacts spend time in.
Next, plan and execute targeted campaigns for each persona. While campaigns may share similarities, each campaign should be targeted and tailored to a specific account. Finally, measure the performance of your efforts. Analyze engagement by measuring website visits, email opens, and downloads.
Based on your experience and success, what are your 5 tips to improve your B2B Marketing strategy?
1. Update and optimize existing blog posts: You likely already have loads of blog posts. But are they performing? When was the last time you looked at them?
Our goal for 2023 is to update and optimize one existing post every week. For some posts, all we need to do is update the stats and add a few more internal links to the post. For other posts, we have to basically start from scratch by diving into the keyword research again, looking at competitor posts on the same topic, re-writing the post, adding examples, including templates, providing actionable takeaways, and creating graphics.
It’s hard work, but we’re getting results. In the past 6 months, we’ve had a 1,421% increase in sessions, a 1,644% increase in click-throughs and a 3,277% increase in conversions.
2. Use the language of your target audience: If you can describe your target audience’s pain and challenges the same way they would, your target audience will resonate with your content, build trust with your brand, and engage with your content more often. Speaking your customer’s language means paying attention to tone, voice, and vocabulary. Are you overly formal in your content when a more conversational approach would be more effective?
Using the language of your target audience also means not letting your message get lost in a sea of buzzwords or technical jargon. We often become so familiar with our products and services that we lose sight of how our ideal customers would talk about it.
Yesterday, my son wanted to know where I go for my yoga classes. Instead of saying that the studio is in Woodlawn on Tacoma Drive, I told him it was by Dairy Queen. He knew exactly where I meant.
To find out what kind of language your customers are using, listen to them. Your customers are out there talking about their problems and challenges on social media, in Slack groups, and at conferences. Just listen carefully.
3. Don’t give up on content that is underperforming: One of our lead magnets wasn’t performing at all. It had 0 impressions and 0 clicks in the previous 5 months. I was ready to pull it off our site and put it (and us) out of our misery, but then I thought about the time and effort that we’d put into producing it.
So we decided to give it one last chance. We repurposed it and threw it up on our site as a blog post. In the last 5 months, we’ve had 13,352 impressions and 282 clicks on the repurposed blog post. And we have 3 terms that are ranking on page 1 of Google. Not bad for an asset we were going to toss.
4. What’s in it for me? I recently got a mass email from a local business incubator inviting me to attend the launch of a new hub they’d created. They were proud of the effort they’d put in to build it, and the collaboration it took with other organizations to make it come to fruition.
The problem? Nowhere in the email did they tell me what the hub is, why I might be interested in it, and how it might benefit me and my business. Needless to say, I didn’t attend the launch. This was a great reminder to me of just how important it is to make the “So what?” immediately clear in all the content we create.
5. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose: As content marketers, we all know the struggle of trying to constantly create enough new content to feed the content marketing machines. But you don’t have to write every post, film every video, or design every infographic from scratch.
Instead, you can repurpose one new piece of content into a myriad of other formats and leverage these new pieces of content to their fullest in your content channels and funnels.
For example, if you create a new case study, you can repurpose it in the following ways:
- Metrics on social media: Share some jaw-dropping metrics that your target audience would love to achieve.
- Written testimonial on social media: Share a headshot and a customer testimonial or quote.
- Video testimonial on social media: Share a short video clip of a customer testimonial.
- Story teaser on social media: Tease the customer story on social and link to the full story on your site.
- LinkedIn carousel: Turn the customer story into a carousel for a more visual presentation.
- Nurture emails: Use case studies as proof points and CTAs in your emails.
- Blog posts: Boost brand recognition by publishing a newsworthy blog post about how you helped solve a problem for a well-known company.
- How-to guide: Create a guide that explains how to get certain results. Use examples from a few of your customer stories to illustrate the key points.
- Infographics: Appeal to your more visual prospects by turning a customer story into a shareable infographic.
- Newsletters: Repurpose customer stories into a newsletter article or include a teaser to the full story on your site.
- Ebooks: Compile 5 to 7 of your most powerful stories into an ebook for downloads.
- Webinars: Use your customer story as an example in a webinar, and if you can have your customer join the webinar, even better.
- Podcasts: Have your customer tell their story in their own words on a podcast episode.
How do you utilize data or AI to refine your B2B marketing approach, and what tools have been particularly impactful in gaining a competitive advantage?
We use a lot of data when refining our B2B marketing approach to SEO and organic search. We use marketing analytics tools like GA4, Google Search Console, and SEMRush for metrics, keyword research, competitor analysis, and overall site health. But I don’t think the tools are the competitive advantage. Instead, the competitive advantage is your company’s desire to create excellent content that your audience needs. This is what drives me to spend time, energy, and money to continuously improve our content and our SEO.
Which digital channels have you found most effective in reaching your target audience, and how do you optimize your presence across these channels to outshine competitors?
Organic search is the most effective channel for us. 90% of our leads come through Google. Every week, I spend an hour with my SEO consulting going through GA4 and SEMRush data to see which pages are within striking distance of getting ranked on the first page of Google. We also look at which pages have dropped in ranking, clicks, and impressions to see if there’s anything we can do to breathe some new life into those pages.
In addition, we look at what competitors are doing, try to uncover keyword gaps, and strategize about how to best use our time to improve our content for search. The rest of the week is spent making fixes, doing additional keyword research, and working with my team to create new content or improve the content we have. It comes down to persistence, tenacity, and consistency.
Are there any underrated skills or qualities that you encourage others not to overlook?
When I was seven, I was a Brownie, gung-ho on earning as many badges as possible. To earn a badge, you had to learn a skill and then visit a “tester” who looked over your work and tested your skill.
Visiting a tester involved calling (yes, on a telephone that plugged into the wall) and setting up an appointment. My mom made me do this even though I was petrified. To cope, I would script out exactly what I was going to say and read it when the tester answered the phone.
Fast forward to today and the phone (or Zoom) still makes me a bit nervous when I’m meeting someone for the first time, but I use it because it’s a powerful tool for bringing people together and creating real human-to-human relationships. I would encourage everyone to get on a call, even if an email might be easier.
Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would like to inspire women to be their own bosses so they can be in charge of their own professional growth and success. I want women to have the freedom and flexibility to forge their own path, choose to do what makes them happy, and decide what success looks like for them and their business.
Is there a person with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? They might just see this!
Ann Handley is someone I deeply admire. She’s the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, as well as a keynote speaker and the author of several books on writing.
I would love to have lunch with Ann because she’s so relatable. She started her career as a journalist and then started a content marketing business before content marketing was even a thing. And she’s written a couple of books that are much thumbed-through on my bookshelf. She’s truly the Queen of Content, and I’d love to hear more about her journey.
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