Episode #041: Brad Beutler, Content Marketing Director at Terminus
SEO can put your content on the map...you just have to do work.
Brad Beutler is the Content Marketing Director at Terminus. Brad has more than nine years of leading, orchestrating, writing, and designing strategic content marketing that powers all stages of the sales funnel. Prior to his current role, Brad has worked at organizations like hc1.com.
We’re talking about how to make B2B marketing more fun with content, the ins and outs of SEO, how to promote pieces of content, and so much more.
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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat, and there's absolutely no bullsh*t allowed here. And I'm your host, Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience and I've pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola. I have exceptionally high standards, and surround myself with people who get sh*t down. On this show, my guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truth about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. So first question, tell me something about yourself that few people know.
Brad Beutler: Yes. So I grew up in the state of Indiana, but what maybe a lot of people don't know, especially my Indianapolis friends and coworkers, I went to a small rural high school literally in the middle of a cornfield. I'm talking drive your tractor to school day, flannel Fridays, whatever it may be. It was amazing. It had a lot of influence on how I grew up. I still have a lot of friends from there, simpler times. You were able to maybe play more sports because you went to a smaller high school like that. So if you see a hint of farm boy accent come out as I talk in this podcast, that's probably why. But it's really shaped who I am today and how I grew up, and my beliefs and values and all of that.
Stephanie Cox: So when we're talking small school, how many students in your graduating class?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. We were under 200, which maybe isn't tiny. As a high school, we cover the most area in the state, but we're only a 2A or 3A high school, if that gives you any idea.
Stephanie Cox: No, it totally does because when we were talking about it, I was like, " That is exactly how I grew up," which is so funny because I grew up in Southern Indiana. And similar, graduating class of about 200, but it covered almost the entire county. And what was crazy about it was when you were talking about drive your tractor to school day, we had what we called the farmer's fair, and we got the day off school for it, and they shut the entire town down, and it's in the middle of town. So I totally understand.
Brad Beutler: Amazing. We treat things like that like a big deal with schools like that. I mean, we never won a state championship with say baseball or basketball, but soil judging, or any farm related thing, we always performed best, so I often joke about that. But I absolutely loved it. It was just a small town community feel. You were able to do a lot of things, have a lot of friends, everyone knew everyone. It was awesome.
Stephanie Cox: I agree, also shaped my life too. But we're here to talk about marketing, and you're at Terminus. And I know a lot of the Terminus team really well. There's been a lot going on.
Brad Beutler: A lot going on. We have been busy. We're on a constant mission to not make B to B marketing boring. So with that, there's a constant drive to always be doing something.
Stephanie Cox: So where did that come from, this whole idea of, it's time to blow up what people think B to B marketing should be? How'd you get to that idea and that need to do that?
Brad Beutler: Yep. I would say I'm give all credit to my boss, Justin Keller. He has an interesting and funny way of motivating his team, where he'll come up with the craziest ideas, and your first reaction will be, man, I don't know how we could do that. That is pretty crazy. And then he gets to talking to you a little bit more and you're like, " Okay, that would be cool." And then eventually by the end of the conversation, he's like, " Okay. Would you want to own this project?" And so he has a great way of motivating us to dream big, think of the craziest idea, maybe apply some practical or tactical ways to get it done and challenge you to do it. But he's also there to support you every step of the way as you see through with that plan. So we'll start with him, and then I would just say the talent on our team, we're all kind of on the same page of we've been there through the traditional marketing. We've gone through your standard lead generation practices. We're now at the point of our careers where we're just ready to shake it up and do something different.
Stephanie Cox: So he comes to you with a crazy idea. I think the most recent one that I saw involved you guys, baseball bats, and random things that you were breaking.
Brad Beutler: Yep, yep. That turned into, it was our first team meeting post pandemic, so that was really fun to get the team together in person. So we had a team lunch, we kind of planned out our rest of our half of the year with content. And then afterwards, yeah, we went and just smashed bottles and pineapple and cake, and had the camera recording for it. There was a purpose. It was for an upcoming event called Break Sh*t, so it was just to get people excited, and a metaphor, if you will. Breaking a cake with a baseball bat kind of signifies our mindset on some things that we need to let go of with B to B marketing, or in other words, break altogether.
Stephanie Cox: So as you think about trying to make B to B marketing not boring and doing more of these innovative ideas, you've mentioned how Justin kind of comes up with these crazy ideas, which I'm a big fan of crazy idea. But how do you start to then change people's mindset, especially within your organization, that we're going to do things a little bit differently? Yes, we're still going to do some of the things that we know we need to, like SEO, eBooks, but we're also going to do this other stuff that is a lot bolder and a lot, honestly, funner, oftentimes. We're going to have to measure it differently. How do you have that conversation to get everyone on board when you're trying to make such a big shift?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. That's a great question. And I'm not saying that you only take big bets. I think you need a few things in place to have that mindset, to sort of have that foundation to where you can take some risks or big bets. We're marketers here, so let's visualize that graph that you look at in Google Analytics every day, and you see peaks and valleys. Those big bets, those will give you the peaks. Those will give you the really good website days. Right? You need those. Can you 100% rely on that? Probably not. So you also need to cover maybe more of the boring side, make sure your SEO strategy is covered. Make sure your blog is active and you're publishing consistently every week or every month, whatever it may be. A lot of those traditional things, kind of the boxes you need to check and make sure you're solid there, great, that'll give you kind of that slow growth if we go back to that graph. The big bets, the breaking stuff, the... What did we do? Light a dumpster on fire, create a video game, whatever it may be, those will allow you to get those peaks. And having both of those together I think is really a recipe for success to not only have a great website day, generate revenue for your sales team, but also stand out as a B to B marketing brand that people admire.
Stephanie Cox: I think that is such a great point, especially around the standing out. One of the things that I think a lot of marketers forget is how noisy the market is, that we have, just as a consumer, I have so many messages put at me. And then as a leader in a company, I have so many other messages put at me, just from my job perspective. And the ones that stand out are the ones that do things differently.
Brad Beutler: 100%. And I think another, if you want to call it a core value or belief we have with the team is do what your competitors are not willing to do. I mean, if you're doing just the same thing as every other brand that your audience is looking at, you're probably not going to stand out. So teaching this internally to your sales team of the why behind it, this is why we're lighting a dumpster on fire, this is why we're making a video about 2020 was a dumpster fire, 2021 will be bigger and better than ever. This is why we're doing it because we don't see others doing it. And this will stand out on your target accounts timeline. And hopefully, this will be the right move to get our brand in front of them and have them engage with us.
Stephanie Cox: So the first time you had this to do something totally different, I know you mentioned what your experience was when Justin brought up ideas like this. What's the rest of the company's experience? When you take it to your CMO, or your chief revenue officer, or your CEO and you say, " Hey, we're going to do this event called Break Sh*t, and we want to market it with breaking things with cakes, and flour, et cetera," how do they react to that?
Brad Beutler: Yeah, we're lucky enough to be at a company that there's that developed trust between our team and the CMO, the CMO and the CEO, the marketing team in general, with the rest of the company. I think you need to earn that. I don't think it happens on day one. Things need to be going well. And you need to start with the why behind it. We are doing this event, and it's a little crazy, but here's why we're doing it. And here's how we're tying it back to the brand. This is how it will benefit the brand and the sales team. And so sure, you can be crazy, but you also need to cover your bases on the why, the strategy. Here's how it all connects. We're lucky enough to have a CMO that trust our brand team a lot. Maybe sometimes we leave him feeling a little uncomfortable or like, "I don't know if this is going to work," but he always gives us the freedom and flexibility to try these big risks to see what happens. It also helps that our CEO, Tim Kopp, is a former CMO, so he honestly always loves all of these crazy ideas and what we're doing, what we're cooking up next to stand out in the marketplace.
Stephanie Cox: And that matters such a great deal because oftentimes, you can't necessarily... You were talking about peaks and valleys. Right? And some of this big stuff can cause those bigger peaks. Some of it works and some of it doesn't work. And it's hard to measure that sometimes. So it's important to have someone that gets it because otherwise, I think oftentimes when we do something really bold, and if it doesn't deliver these amazing results, the first reaction is, well, we're never going to do that again, instead of realizing, no, just that one didn't work. It doesn't mean the whole concept of doing things differently isn't going to work.
Brad Beutler: Absolutely. Throw darts at a dart board, see what sticks. What we're talking about today on the podcast, I'm highlighting everything that has worked. What you're not hearing is a lot of things that didn't work. Did it discourage us? A little bit. But we didn't lose our confidence in our overall mission of let's try something different. So sure, we have failed plenty of times. I could rattle off maybe an event or a piece of content that we thought might take off and didn't. But I'm lucky enough to be on the podcast today talking about everything that did work. I respect the behind the scenes failures just as much as hearing the highlights on a podcast like this. I think both are important.
Stephanie Cox: So thinking about that just for a second, you talked about failure. I think it's important for everyone to realize the best marketing doesn't always work. And you do fail sometimes, and you've just got to realize not every hit is a home run.
Brad Beutler: That's correct. That's correct.
Stephanie Cox: So how do you think about the times where you do something, whether it's a piece of content, event, or some big, bold activity, and it doesn't work? What's kind of the team's rallying cry around that? And how do you move on? Because I think a lot of marketers, it's one of the things that's missing in their career, especially early on, is this idea that failure's okay, and that everyone fails, just few people like to talk about it. So how do you help create that kind of open culture where failure is accepted? Not all the time, you don't want to fail all the time, but failure's part of the learning process.
Brad Beutler: Yep. You need to check your ego at the door. And I'm lucky enough to be a part of a team where no egos are involved. We each own our own content projects, or failures, successes, and we call each other out, and proofread things, and review things and say, " I would change this, or I would do this differently," ultimately to make it the best version of whatever it is that we can. And so no egos, I mean, you need to swallow your pride, and I have no problem admitting to my team and our group, hey, we did this. I owned it, and it failed. I like to then analyze why it failed, and learn so I can apply it to the next. I think the failure becomes a waste if you don't take time to do that, and then you may repeat the same thing for the next campaign or piece of content. So I'm lucky enough to just be in the trust tree, or whatever you want to call it, a team where we're proud of what we're doing as a team. We're each other's biggest cheerleaders, and there are no egos involved. And whether Jillian, or Taylor, or Justin come to me with, " Hey, I did this thing and it worked, or it didn't work," I'll be there to talk about it and learn from it.
Stephanie Cox: So we've talked a lot about the stuff that, the big, bold stuff, but you also do a lot of the traditional marketing content that's needed for SEO purposes, things like eBooks. How do you balance the two?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. I think you need people dedicated on your team for each. And I don't mean that in a way where it's completely siloed, just I have a true passion for the boring side of marketing. I absolutely love SEO. And I would do that all day, every day if I could. Jillian, my teammate, is the most talented marketer with our video program and coming up with these awesome, creative campaign ideas. I'm not the best at that, so it's really yin and yang approach. Sure, just the two of us that I called out there, but across our entire brand team, I think both are important. And geez, I forget the analogy, but using every part of the buffalo, whatever that is. If Jillian comes out with this awesome campaign, I'm going to dissect it and find five or 10 different ways to use it for SEO, or a blog, or an eBook. So finding a way to blur both sides, but also having dedicated owners for each side, keeping tabs on metrics, and then finding a way for each side to work together I think is important. We often joke of this analogy as a team, where our brand team, we're crazy, and just imagine us partying in a minivan, driving somewhere. I'm more of the guy that's probably driving the minivan, just making sure we're getting there safely, making sure we have enough gas. My teammates are probably in the back, thinking up crazy cool ideas, or singing, or whatever it may be.
Stephanie Cox: But you need both.
Brad Beutler: But you need both. You need someone to drive the minivan. You need to act like a Ferrari, you need both sides. And honestly, it may not work with every team. I think you've got to find the teammates that want to own each side, but also work together to make sure both sides are complementing each other.
Stephanie Cox: So thinking about the stuff that you just talked about that you enjoy, when you think about how that helps Terminus move the marketing needle, what are the benchmarks that you set for yourself around SEO? How do you go into your SEO strategy? How do you think about your content strategy from the blog, eBooks, et cetera, to really help move the needle for the business?
Brad Beutler: Yep. I think you can't just rely on one channel. So I'll start with an example, if you are targeting a big, important account, whether they're a current customer or a hot prospect, you want your brand to show up in all related searches that they're... I'll relay the keywords that they are searching for. You want your brand to show up on their social media timeline, to show up on their LinkedIn, to get a personalized email. It takes kind of both sides. It takes your big bets, your big campaigns, as well as your plumbing or boring side of marketing. For me, in our SEO program, often naturally as human beings, we want to think of that as a silver bullet, and we can snap our fingers and say, " Okay, we want SEO to work now," and here comes a flood of traffic. It doesn't work that way. I won't take credit for this, but I've learned from the Mitch Causey school of SEO, if you will, that it comes down to what we call content dominoes. And the ultimately goal is to generate leads, generate more opportunities for your sales team through your website, through inbound and search traffic. Before you get to that step, there are five other steps that you need to go through, and it starts with just creating more content and content specific to SEO, to make sure you're ranking and showing up for all of the keywords and terms that are important to your business. That'll ultimately lead to more impressions and more clicks, and the right searches, which will lead to more traffic to the right pages on your website. And then if you optimize your pages in a way that's friendly to the audience, yet still educational, then that traffic will start to convert into opportunities. So I rattled off four or five steps there before you can get to the ultimate goal of saying, " Yes, SEO is working for us." There's a lot of hard work to be done, and it can't happen in a day, so you just need that mentality of this is a long- term play. We're going to keep at it every day. And in the meantime, we'll keep coming out with our big bets and keep doing cool stuff on the side.
Stephanie Cox: That is my favorite comments about SEO because it's so true. SEO is not a short- term play. And I think sometimes I've seen this in my career, you start maybe a big SEO initiative. And other people in the organization are like, " Okay, so it started. Where are the leads?" And I'm like, " Well, separate issue about leads," but it doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. And you can't just work on it for six weeks and then stop, and not continue to work on it, honestly, ongoing. It's a long- term strategy, but it also doesn't have the peaks and valleys like some of the other bolder stuff, like you talked about. So when you think about that, have you ever been in a situation, whether at Terminus or other places, where you feel like from an SEO perspective, people want those instantaneous results because all of us want instant gratification, and you have to explain to them that, that's not really how it works, and they need to be patient. How do you have those types of conversations?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. I mean, I will say it's the most humbling part of content marketing that I've experienced. You will think that you have it all figured out on one day, and the next, maybe Google comes out with an update or whatever it is, and you dip down. And so it's not getting too high, not getting too low, just consistently working at it. I don't think lead generation is the end all, be all goal. I know I first mentioned that. For me, it has, and this is from full support of my boss, my team, the company, I'm still constantly selling it internally. And I am reporting our progress along the way, so it's not just one metric to where it's either working or it's not working. I'm constantly saying, " Compared to other brands in our marketplace, here's our keyword growth." Or celebrating milestones along the way of, wow, account based marketing is a high stakes keyword for us. We're now on page one. We're now in position number seven. We're now in position number four. It's having those content dominoes, like I mentioned. It's reporting milestones along the way, and just communicating the importance of... I often go to the analogy of, okay, we spent money on this trends report. Right? And we've invested time and resources, and we promoted it on launch day. Right? You know how that goes. And you get some views. And then what? And then does it just sit on your resource hub and collect dust? SEO can put your content to work. If it's an ABM benchmarks report hiding on our resource hub, let's rank for the keyword ABM benchmarks report. And so when someone searches for that, they see our report front and center. So yes, of course, it's more traffic. It's more leads, more opportunities, whatever you want to call it. But it's also finding a way to get more mileage out of your brand content, your videos, your eBooks, whatever it may be, and just pairing it up with what your audience is searching for.
Stephanie Cox: Let's dive into that a little bit more because I think one of the things that you said is not how a lot of people think about SEO. Right? A lot of times, they think about the SEO words related to their business, but not necessarily related to big pieces of content that they've written. So when you do come out with something like you just talked about, that ABM research report, how do you build an SEO strategy around that, so it's not just a piece of content that kind of sits forever? What's the thought process that goes into it?
Brad Beutler: I think you need to be organized with your content calendar and communication with the team, so you know ahead of time this ABM benchmarks report is coming out in four weeks. And so I need to do what I need to do on the SEO side to make sure we're ready there. That's in addition to your social promotion, email signature banners, your paid promotion, all of that. I think it's just one more check mark in your promotion plan. Let's have a page or a strategy dedicated to the search side to make sure this piece is being showcased. And we're talking about one piece of content as an example here. It could be anything. It could be a campaign. It could be a product feature. You don't always need to rank for just your branded keywords. If you're coming out with a new, I don't know, chat product, then find 15 to 20 important keywords that relate to that, and start building pages that showcase your new product feature, but also how your platform can help the visitor.
Stephanie Cox: So as you think about your content calendar, I mean, how often are you think about putting out big pieces of content, as well as blog posts? What does that look like from a volume perspective? Because as you just mentioned, SEO is a little bit of, you have to create more content, which I don't think people realize. So how much content should companies be creating? How much are you creating?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. It's constant. It's constant evaluation of the content calendar. We meet weekly. There's probably 12 to 14 of us in that meeting, talking about: What does this week look like? What does the next week look like? If it's a little light-
Stephanie Cox: Is it all marketing people? Or is that other people from other departments?
Brad Beutler: Yeah. Within that meeting, it's just marketing. And then it's all... We have an understood mission to then make sure we share that calendar with everyone in the company. If someone has a question about an upcoming whatever, we will always point them there, knowing that it's our job to make sure it's updated and is organized and easy to understand. So you talk about the balance, it's like, " Okay, boss man, what do you want me to work on today? Do you want me to write this blog post, or this eBook? That'll take a little longer." You just need ruthless prioritization on what you're doing that day, how it lines up with the content calendar. For us, that looks like a couple of SEO pages a day, or a week, excuse me, a couple of blog posts a week. And while you're kind of chipping away at short- term content launches, I suppose you could call it, you're also in the background chipping away at that long- term eBook, or that long- term campaign launch, making sure that's on time. That's a little harder to do. You kind of have more instant gratification to work on a blog post, publish it, and get feedback on it. Working on an eBook for two or three months, it's harder. It's more difficult to stay motivated to work on that every day. So for us, we try to launch two or three case studies a quarter, and probably two or three big pieces, whether that's an infographic, or eBook, or interactive page, two or three of those a quarter as well.
Stephanie Cox: That's a lot of content.
Brad Beutler: That's a lot of content. And so we also don't want to fall into the trap of creating content just to create content. There needs to be a need communicated from the sales team, or any other team within the organization. We need to believe in it as a team. We need to have a plan of how we're going to use it. The worst is to create content just to create it, and have it sit there. So we're thinking just as much about after the publish date as we are about creating the thing and coming up with our promotion strategy, where it's going to be, how it's going to be showcased.
Stephanie Cox: So when you did create those pieces of content, you just talked about promotion strategy. How long are you promoting it? How are you thinking about making it work for you more so than just the couple times where it comes out, and everyone promotes it for the first three or four weeks?
Brad Beutler: Right, yeah. We have this big long spreadsheet of our promotion to do list, checklist, whatever you want to call it. Of course, there are a lot of activities on launch day, getting people excited about it internally. We'll fast forward through all of that. Everyone knows what that looks like. After that, you need to be bought in and make sure that you have some sort of sales enablement tool. Make sure it's front and center there. Your sales team knows where to find it, and it's easy to find. Maybe you have continued scheduled promotion on social channels, so you need to communicate with your social team and make sure they're bought in. Make sure it's front and center on your resource hub. And then of course, I keep going back to it, you're probably sick of hearing about it, but SEO. That's like your ticket for continued promotion. Post promotion day, if you do it right, then you'll make sure it's front and center on all related search terms, that piece of content, that campaign, whatever it may be. So that to me is constant promotion post launch day, that someone is finding every day.
Stephanie Cox: I know you mentioned sales enablement. Talk to me about how you enable your sales team on content to really use that effectively for the organization to help accelerate deals.
Brad Beutler: Yep. Over- communication, and do not assume anything. They are so busy, you cannot assume that if I hand over this piece of content and say a few lines about it, they are going to one, read it all, two, understand it, and three, be confident in sharing it with their prospects and customers. Hold their hand, list out the takeaways. List out here's who you can share it with and why. Here's why it's important. Here are the highlights. So we take that part really seriously. If we're launching an eBook, it's not like, " Hey, new eBook. Please tweet it here. Okay, bye. See you later." It's all of the notes that I just mentioned. It's giving them the link of where to find it, how to share it, how to continue, continuously use it for certain situations. That's just as important because you've spent, as marketers, we've spent so much time and resources creating the thing. At that point, we kind of owe it to ourselves to make sure it's being used. But it's up to you to create a program or a process to do that, to make sure everyone can easily understand it, so then they're confident in referring to it on the phone or in an email.
Stephanie Cox: And so what was it like getting the sales team on board with us? Have you had struggles with getting them to use content effectively, or just share it on social? And how have you thought about improving that? Because I think that's a challenge a lot of marketers have, is we send out content to the sales team. We know it's going to be helpful. They don't know maybe how to use it, when best to use it. To your point, they're so busy. They have a lot of other things going on. So how do you empower the organization to take advantage of this? And then hopefully, also amplify your reach by sharing it on social for you.
Brad Beutler: Yep. And so as marketers, we know our content best. Right? We're a part of the writing, or the designing, or the strategy. We know it at heart. And so sometimes you have that natural reaction to say, " How do you not know about this?" Well, they're so busy. We're so busy. You just need to have the mindset of constant promotion, even two months after it was launched. There may be new team members, or team members that were busy at that time, that they don't have a good idea of what it is, or how to use it. So we're in constant communication. Our sales team, they're really good at communicating. I just got off the phone with this prospect, here's a conversation. What would you follow up with? I always try to chime in there. I also try to actively ask the top five or 10 objections they're hearing on the phone or through email to try to pair up content that way. So it's hard, I don't think I have a simple, one sentence answer for you. It's constant communication. It's relentless promotion internally, so then they become comfortable enough and they remember to then promote it externally.
Stephanie Cox: I think that's the key to all of this. Right? You can't just do this once and expect it to work. You have to constantly do it, whether it's the content you're creating and promoting, whether it's educating your internal team, whether it's... I loved what you said about we have weekly content meetings to talk about it. You're doing everything continuously to reinforce the behaviors that you want.
Brad Beutler: And the other side of that is, as content marketers, maybe you have a piece that's six to nine months along, or old, and you think at that time, " Oh, let's write off this piece. It's too old. It's too stale. This was old news." Maybe we had an old template on it. Don't assume that people aren't still using it. For some, prospects, customers, or your own sales team, that's maybe a shiny new thing that they just discovered, or they just understand, or know how to use. So yeah, you have to be just as excited and passionate about promoting and sharing the older content as well.
Stephanie Cox: So last question for you. If you think about content strategy, what's the one piece of advice that you would give to marketers today of where they should focus their efforts?
Brad Beutler: Yep. As content marketers, we tend to overthink things. And so I'm constantly overthinking a page design. What kind of anchors me is: Okay, what would be most beneficial to the visitor, or prospect, or customer when they're consuming this content? How would, if I were in that position, how would I want the page structured? How would I want the eBook written? Would I want keywords or buzzwords over- explained in the first couple of paragraphs? Probably not. I would want it easily explained, easy to follow, something I can learn and take away. So constantly having empathy of how your audience consumes your content I think is a great place to start. That will ultimately lead into how you want to execute and present your content strategy. I think it's never too early to start a search or SEO strategy. That's probably the thing I regret not doing day one during the inaudible days. We built a great brand. And eventually, we caught up and we were able to up- level ourselves on the technical content side of things. But I think starting there on day one is crucial and important. And you can't just create content to create content on day one. Take the time to understand your audience. What's beneficial to them? What are their pain points? How does it relate to your platform, or product, or service? And then boom, that's a great foundation to create your next blog post, eBook, whatever it may be.
Stephanie Cox: You've been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you've heard, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. And don't forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn't be kept a secret.