We caught up with Ekta Sivasriamphai
, who is currently heading Marketing at Thoughtworks based in Singapore, to understand how Content Marketing is shaping up for B2B Tech organizations in the COVID-19 times and here are some interesting excerpts from the conversation
Q. For a B2B Tech organization, content & marketing often go hand in hand. What do you envisage the role of Content for ThoughtWorks? Do you see it going beyond marketing in the coming years?
ES: Today, the sheer amount of content an individual is exposed to, is enormous. Content flows through multiple channels - email, chats, ads, leveraging a host of styles including promotional clickbait emails, flashing banners and subscription pop-ups. Given this environment, B2B tech organizations like ThoughtWorks need to focus on creating valuable and relevant content that can be easily consumed, and delivered through the right channels.
Our content-driven campaigns marketing initiatives continue to focus on educating and advising decision makers in an industry that is rapidly evolving, through thought leadership, our experience, and our expertise. For example, our bi-annual Tech Radar and monthly tech talks events are aimed at sharing what ThoughtWorks envisions will be the new wave of tech disruption, to help our audiences better transform towards modern digital businesses.
As a software consultancy, we continue to embrace technology to enable hyper-personalized marketing that can deliver insights into audience behaviors to better drive content strategies and deliver real value to customers. We expect this technology to go beyond marketing, to empower stronger collaboration between teams, organization and public and private-sector partners. As ThoughtWorks looks to build newer and larger tech ecosystems, we expect the role of content in educating and collaborating to grow.
Q. Do you believe B2B companies are much ahead of the curve when it comes to using Content for marketing? If yes, Why?
ES: Content marketing strategies for the B2B and B2C sectors will certainly differ, because the personas of both audiences are generally quite different. For B2C marketing, content is used to show a relatable voice that can invoke emotions and trigger brand engagement in end-users. Hence, communicating a style or a set of values that resonates individually with the customer takes precedence.
However, in the B2B space, content marketing is focused on educating the end-users and the content is hence geared towards highlighting thought leadership and successful examples. Ultimately, B2B content is designed to help the customer make better decisions on which solutions to invest in, that can solve business challenges and help move the needle on organizational goals.
While both sectors tend to use different marketing strategies to appeal to different audiences, we would not say that B2B Content Marketing is ahead of the curve. The acceleration of digital transformation means that both the B2B and B2C spaces may overlap more than we think, and product and services on the market today have been more complex as lines between both sectors have begun to blur. Marketing, whether B2B or B2C, will need to evolve with a new interconnected normal where our client’s experiences and outcomes are intertwined with their customers as well.
Q. Sales cycles are usually very long in the B2B sector, how does that change the role of content across the funnel for ThoughtWorks?
ES: We understand that technology is fast-evolving and companies may find it challenging to navigate digital disruption, especially in the current uncertain climate. Our marketing content across the sales funnel is therefore always aimed at helping companies embrace change and prioritize the right technology investments. As we work with multiple stakeholders when engaging with potential and existing clients, our content marketing will focus on providing thought leadership and digital expertise across all channels, platforms and touchpoints.
Being a consultancy with a long history in enabling digital transformation, we will also bring in shared experiences from our teams and clients from other regions and across the globe, and we encourage peer-to-peer content sharing as well, leveraging partners and customers who are our advocates. We believe the key to enabling this holistic approach, not just across the longer B2B sales cycle but also through the wider tech ecosystems, is to understand the multiple thought leadership channels present in our environment e.g. video, books, whitepapers, industry events, publications etc, and share our expertise and advice through the stakeholders’ preferred channels.
Q. Do you believe the world is moving to 'Human to Human' rather than B2B or B2C?
ES: Absolutely. We believe as our world becomes more digitally connected, marketing needs to evolve into a ‘Human to Human’ model. With the technology to track the decision-making process across the sales cycle and automate content now commonplace, we can leverage the massive amount of data generated from everyday operations to make hyper-personalization the new norm for both B2B and B2C marketing.
In such a climate where the offline and the online are blurring with the physical and the virtual, it is becoming easier to understand and meet the customers’ business and logical needs. Hence, developing an emotional connection will become even more crucial than before, as it will become the difference maker when getting to the end of the funnel, whether B2B or B2C.
As industries shift towards a more collaborative form of commerce, a ‘Human to Human’ model will make sense, as the alignment of values and cultures with partners is now being prioritized by business decision makers.
Q. Any content marketing campaigns or projects that you are proud of, in the last 6-12 months? And why?
ES: We have focused a lot in peer to peer sharing in recent months. Where everyone is navigating an unprecedented local and global environment with a lot of uncertainty, as a global organization we have focused on trying to share learning from different regions and different sectors to create an increase in shared learning and knowledge among peers and experts from within ThoughtWorks, our clients, and partner community. This has been well received by executives and we continue to get positive feedback on these initiatives.
Q. How is the role of content changing in these times of COVID-19?
ES: The current pandemic has made many organizations and marketers stop and rethink their usual strategies. With many organizations facing reductions in operating expenses which include marketing dollars, marketers have to be even more savvy and creative in thinking through their strategy to create, disseminate, and create positive business impact through content marketing. Leveraging digital tools that can create and sustain healthy levels of customer engagement will be key in enabling new business models that can flourish despite the uncertainty.
One example we have seen of repivoting content marketing strategies is from the Chinese retail sector. While the industry has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese economy is further down the pandemic and already looking towards recovery. Brands in China have shifted from traditional product branding approaches to showcasing authentic, customer-focused content during this period e.g. Nike and Lululemon which are livestreaming fitness and wellness classes on channels like Douyin and WeChat, out of homes and studios to consumers all over the country, and malls working with tenants to livestream stores and provide real time interaction with salespeople to quickly conduct retail transactions over WeChat and WhatsApp. These are just some of examples of how major brands are changing or expanding their content marketing strategies and we are seeing this across industries as businesses adapt to the disruption from the current pandemic.
Q. Do you see brands investing more or less in content during these times? What is the state of affairs at ThoughtWorks?
ES: Industries that have been severely affected have been forced to invest more, not necessarily in terms of dollars but in being creative with new business models. The current environment is now optimized for previously B2B businesses to pilot test direct-to-consumer models, as people are now more open to trying out new methods of consumption, and we have seen companies go outside the box with offerings that are outside of the core business to attract new user segments. For example, hospitality businesses are now selling bedsheets and bath and beauty products for people to re-create a hotel spa experience at home. Another example is the conversion of ride-hailing cars into delivery vehicles for groceries and food. These contactless preferences in a new normal, can lead to brand new revenue streams in the future.
At ThoughtWorks, our focus in content has shifted to focus more on topics that are top of mind today, such as providing content for developers to build their resumes and capabilities, and support up-skilling and job searching in the current climate. We also develop content relevant to business executives who are looking to navigate the sudden acceleration of digital transformation, including tips on how to stay operationally resilient and embrace new digital models. During this time, we have strengthened our focus on arming leaders with knowledge to help them navigate the new normal and build business resilience.
Q. What is your advice to B2B Organizations who are at the start of their digital content journey?
ES: We recommend that data-driven intelligence and building a human-to-human experience needs to be at the heart of today’s digital content journey. Companies will need to understand their audiences and their behaviors, be clear on how they can add value, and also leverage analytics and data to precisely identify channels that they can deliver meaningful content to.
This can create a cycle of “connected intelligence,” where data is constantly and seamlessly dictating the next phase of content development and customer outreach. The human connection also needs to be kept in mind, as it will become even more essential in an interconnected world where digital content can easily be tailored to meet the end-user’s business and logical needs. While the sophistication of digital content may become greater, end-users want to be seen as more than just possible transactions; they want to be recognized and treated as humans. They also expect their trusted business partners to embody the human qualities that resonate with them.