Can You Increase Sales by Decreasing Content?

Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing at Shopify Plus, joins the Content Pros Podcast to discuss how business success changes the approach to content marketing.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Less Makes More

Working in content marketing can feel like running in a hamster wheel. You churn out content as fast as you can to keep up with all the other hamsters but it never feels like you’re getting anywhere. Hana has found a way to step off the wheel and push your content ahead of the pack.

While this solution may seem counter-intuitive, she’s found that producing less content leads to more results and engagement. Focusing on creating the largest impact with the least amount of content means taking a long, hard look at what truly appeals to your audience. By getting to know them better, your content creation process can become more efficient and impactful.

Because in the end, it’s not about traffic. It doesn’t matter if a million people read your blog if none of those people fit your customer profile. Spending more time on cultivating the right piece is better than spending time creating ten pieces that are only slightly applicable to your base.

In This Episode

  • Why better quality means less content
  • How business growth leads directly to a complete revamp of your content
  • Why well-organized content means making it easy to navigate for external and internal audiences
  • How a successful content marketing plan leads to spending more time with sales than marketing

 

Quotes From This Episode

“We wanted to make sure that we were setting a really great example in terms of how content marketing can not only be a vehicle to bring awareness, create thought leadership, but can also be a growth engine for your business.” —@HanaAbaza

Being successful with content isn't necessarily a quantity game. It's about quality. Click To Tweet

“The question we should all be asking ourselves as content marketers isn’t how do we get more traffic. It’s how do we get to the desired outcome with the least amount of traffic possible?” —@HanaAbaza

Your content has to be organized in a way that's easy for your visitors and your sales team to find. Click To Tweet

“ABM is not something that marketing can just go do in a silo. It really has to be a company wide’s strategic efforts to identify the right accounts.” —@HanaAbaza

Resources

 

Content Pros Lightning Round

What’s your flavor of digital TV? Narcos on Netflix.

I hear you have a black belt. What is it in? I have a fourth-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu and am also certified to teach kickboxing.

Transcript

Randy: Welcome to another episode of Content Pros. I am Randy Frisch from Uberflip. As always, I’ve got Tyler Lessard joining me from Vidyard, and today we have a very good friend of both of ours who’s joined us and someone who I’ve got a long history here at Uberflip. That’s Hana Abaza who in very many ways I owe a lot of gratitude for helping us build the brand that is Uberflip and is the content strategy that lives here inside of Uberflip day to day and so much more. So really excited because you know, Hana and I have been saying we’ve got to catch up with each other and we figured what better way to do it now that she’s moved on from Uberflip than to get her on to this podcast and talk all about some of the new challenges she has with the company she’s now head of Marketing at, which is Shopify Plus. Tyler, you know Hana really well, too. How did you guys get connected?
Tyler: It’s a real pleasure to have Hana on the show. Good day everybody and thanks for joining us. Hana and I have been road warriors at a lot of conferences in the past. We intersect a lot in the market. I’ve had a chance to see Hana speak on stage many times. We’ve had joint customers that we’ve worked with together and done Joint Thought Leadership programs around content and webinars and things like that. It’s always been a pleasure. Hana’s always had a great perspective, being someone who lives almost literally in the world of content and is thinking about it probably nearly 24 hours a day. Somebody I’ve always really admired in what you’ve done, not only your thought leadership but how you’ve put it into practice, which is probably the more important piece. With that, Hana, to kick things off, can you talk a little bit about your last five or so years? You come from the world of content as a marketer focused on that, but also as a company who is obsessed with content at Uberflips. Just tell us a bit about how that came to be and how your perception of content and content marketing changed in recent years, bringing you up to where you are today.
Hana: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me, guys. I have to say, before I get into my background and how I got here, I’m feeling a little nostalgic after those fabulous intros from you guys. Thank you for that.
Randy: We’ll always welcome you back into the MarTech world. I know there’s a spot in this world for you still.
Hana: Listen, I definitely miss my Uberflip family and everybody in the MarTech community. Hey to everyone listening, cause I’m sure there’s a bunch of overlap.

Last five years leading up to where I am now have probably been among the most intense but also the most educational years of my career. Really just stepping back, my foray into really doubling down on content, I would say almost started before I joined Uberflip. I was, at that point, doing a lot of consulting with a variety of companies from early stage startups to venture backed to some big corporate brands. The theme that I kept seeing was a lot of these guys were starting to take content more seriously, at least very forward looking in the very progressive ones. They were running in to a lot of problems. They were trying to create all of this content, and creating the content, as we all know from the many reports that we’ve seen, is always a challenge. They were also running into a lot of infrastructure problems. They were running into a lot of problems around having the tools that marketers need in order to actually operationalize this stuff.

I had been introduced to the guys at Uberflip. I got really excited about what they were working on and the content space and I think that part is history. I joined the team there, spent over three and a half years at Uberflip, and that was a content first approach that we took very deliberately. As most of you know, Uberflip is a content platform above all else. We wanted to make sure that we were setting a really great example in terms of how content marketing can not only be a vehicle to bring awareness, create thought leadership, but can also be a growth engine for your business.

I learned a ton at Uberflip. I had a ton of fun at Uberflip. Recently moved on. Joined the team at Shopify Plus. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shopify Plus, you may be familiar with broader Shopify. It’s an e-commerce platform. Shopify Plus is the business unit that’s focused on markets. While Shopify enables small business and entrepreneurs to create e-commerce stores and leverage selling online, Shopify Plus caters to those bigger brands that are already doing high growth, high volume sales online. That’s a totally different business model. That’s more of a B2B model. At Shopify Plus we have a sales team which Shopify hadn’t really had before Plus came into fruition.

Tyler, you put it earlier. I went from a company that was obsessed with content into the vast unknown. The really interesting thing for me was that content at Shopify, and Shopify Plus in particular, is actually one of the number one priorities, which if you go back five years, that probably wouldn’t have been the case for a lot of companies. I think that really goes to show you how integral content marketing is becoming as the foundation of a lot of our marketing growth strategies.

Tyler: One of the things that I think you did extremely well at Uberflip and I expect you’ll bring to Shopify Plus is this notion that being successful with content isn’t necessarily a quantity game. It’s probably, in fact, not a quantity game. It’s about quality. It’s about relevance. Creating content experiences that really engage audiences. I think you guys have always done that exceptionally well at Uberflip and it’s something we strive to do as well. Just curious on your perspective on that and how you think about what are the priorities when stepping into a new opportunity and thinking fresh about the approach to content.
Hana: I am really glad you asked that. The mantra that we’re drilling in to, not just the marketing team, but across the board, circles around this idea that it’s not volume. The thing I say to every new member of our team is that we really need to put into perspective what our approach to, not just content marketing, but growth in general. For example, most marketers, whether it’s content or people trying to drive traffic to a website or whatever it might be, think about things like traffic. Inevitably, the question comes up is, how do we get more traffic to our blog or our website or our whatever. The question we should all be asking ourselves as content marketers isn’t how do we get more traffic. It’s how do we get to the desired outcome with the least amount of traffic possible? That’s indicative of quality and that’s indicative of conversion. That’s our guiding force here. Trying to reframe how people approach content in general.
Tyler: You heard it here first, Randy. Less is more and we should strive for less people looking at our content. It’s been said here first, ladies and gentleman.
Randy: You know, it’s funny. We do a road show here at our company and we were in Atlanta a few weeks ago. Someone on the panel from one of the marketing agencies talked about it’s not about how many people come to your webinar or register to your webinar, it’s how many of those end up being one of your MQL’s or ultimately, opportunities. We’re not in the quantity game and I think that that’s something that people are starting to understand better. It’s not about quantity. It’s about focus.

I’m curious, picking up on that concept of focus. I found this really interesting when you told me that you were looking to join Shopify, but then you were more specific. You were joining Shopify Plus and this idea that Shopify Plus is, as you explained to all our listeners earlier, more up market. Maybe you could talk about this brand focus and mindset, again around focus, to actually have a complete separate brand, and how that strategy then began at Shopify. Then maybe we can eventually pull some content strategy in there too.

Hana: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really fascinating and ties together really well. Just a brief step back in time. Shopify Plus really started as an experiment from within Shopify. Historically, as I mentioned earlier, Shopify was selling to entrepreneurs and small businesses, maybe bricks and mortar business that wanted to start to sell online. Shopify’s been very successful. They’ve IPO’ed. They have tons and tons of merchants. They’re growing very quickly. The idea for Shopify Plus came about when we saw merchants that had signed up with Shopify years ago had started to grow and gain traction and turned into these big forces of nature in the industry. What we didn’t want to see happen at Shopify is we didn’t want to see those people move off of the Shopify platform thinking that, oh, we’re too big for Shopify now. As I said, historically, they’ve been focused on small business and entrepreneurs. Shopify Plus started off as an experiment. We took a look at product. We took a look at our services component. We put together a plan that we thought would cater to these merchants and it grew substantially on Plus. Or sorry, on Shopify.

The interesting thing is that it overtook all of our expectations when it came to how much these merchants wanted that up market package. Not only did we see people that were born on Shopify start to graduate to Shopify Plus because they were so successful, then we started seeing people migrating from other platforms into Shopify Plus. What started off as an experiment from within Shopify has evolved to almost a 250 person org at this point into a separate business unit that caters specifically to those higher volume merchants.

It’s actually been pretty incredible how quickly that growth has come about. When you think about the different audiences there, and this is really what it comes down to. It comes down to personas. I know any time we talk content we talk personas. Oftentimes it’s lip service. What I’ve really been doing since I joined here is really understanding the difference between the personas, and it’s a massive difference. When you’re looking at the Shopify persona against small businesses, entrepreneurs; when you’re looking at these bigger merchants, the whole buying process changed. Now there’s a sales team. Now there’s more than one person involved in that purchase decision. This is what all of us in the B2B community is used to seeing. But this wasn’t something that Shopify was used to. Shopify as an org had to learn how to build up a sales team and we had to learn how to start to grow that funnel.

There’s two really interesting pieces that came out of that. I think the brand piece is really interesting, and that’s something that is continually evolving and where we’re continually start to iterate on that. How do you distinguish between the two brands, Shopify and Shopify Plus, but still stay consistent? I can’t say that I have the right answer to that right now because those are the conversations that we’re having as we look to evolve and grow the Shopify Plus brand.

Randy: I’ll give you a break until you’ve been there at least a year. Until they expect that, right? They’ll go easy on you. This is really a fascinating evolution-
Hana: It really is!
Randy: It’s so early in the evolution. I know one of the things you told me is the amount of growth that’s expected from this Plus line is really exciting. It’s interesting. I think it’s something that both Tyler and I and Vidyard and you’ll remember, and Uberflip can remember too. A lot of our companies, over time, have actually gone up market and had to shift that mindset around persona. I remember sitting in a room with you once where we said we went up market. Why are some things maybe not working the way we thought they would? Then all of a sudden we realized, wait, have we changed our content drastically?
Hana: Yeah. Exactly.
Randy: I want to go more into that but we’re gonna take a quick pause here for listeners so you can hear a little bit more about what Vidyard and Uberflip actually does, and then I’ll let Tyler dig on you with all that content goodness.
Hana: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler: So picking up on that, Randy. One of the things I’m really interested in is this evolution of the content experience. It’s something that I think that you’ve talked about and it’s to your point, Randy. The experience you actually build around your content can really change the personas that you attract or the people you go after, the tone, even the styles and the mediums, right? If you’re using video versus content tailored for social or written blogs. All of those things impact, frankly, I think the whole business. It impacts the brand. It impacts who you’re bringing in. It impacts the types of people that are gonna respond. How do you think about that as you’re building the brand, and where do you prioritize your efforts to align content with brand and demand, which is something we’re all trying to do but easier said than done?
Hana: Oh, absolutely. Listen, content is a two pronged thing. Yes, it needs to support the brand’s story, but really, for us, this is the major priority. It’s a demand generator. It’s a lead generator. It’s something to attract people to your business. The way we’re looking at content now is number one, looking at this strategic shift that needs to happen and how we approach content.

For example, when you look at the Shopify blog, it’s incredible the amount of content Shopify has generated and created over the year. The blog is incredibly successful. They’ve got great everything. They’ve got great SEO, great topics, lots of great resources there. As we start to build up the Shopify Plus blog, one thing we want to keep in mind is we don’t want to duplicate the exact same thing, right? We need to change the type of content we create so that it’s more aligned with our personas as opposed to Shopify’s historical personas. We need to start to thinking of the breadth and depth of content that we create.

What I mean by that is, again, Shopify Plus is really in it’s infancy when it comes to building out its marketing and growth strategies. We’ve had a blog running for a little while, but as we start to build that out, the focus is going to be on tweaking the type of content that’s created and who we’re targeting. But also, we’ve gotta go beyond blog posts. We’re really looking at going into value at content. Things like guides. More lead gen content. More premium content. Doubling down on video. I think a lot of people are really amped about video right now. Particularly with all the stats you see about how much video consumption is gonna go up. For us, video is probably the best way to tell customer stories. I think for us a customer centric approach is gonna be really important in our content marketing.

Tyler: I think it’s interesting in the B2B world. We all appreciate the importance of peer validation and those customer stories. I think we’ve seen bringing them to life with video is such an important way to build that brand and that trust with potential buyers. Much more so than it even is in the consumer world because those folks are making a bigger investment and they need to see other people have seen return and payoff on it. I think it’s something, again. Brandy at Uberflip. You guys have been super successful with both video and customer stories. But the interesting thing there, I also see them being great sales tools.
Hana: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Tyler: Either of you guys feel free to jump in here. One of the big challenges that I know a lot of people face is we’ve got all this content. The blog. The videos. The customer stories. It’s great that it’s getting out there, but how do we get the sales team using it so they can go out and build their own demand and fuel it? Have at it, either of you two, cause I think it’s a universal problem most companies face.
Randy: Hana I’ll let you go so I can just be product pitchy. I am like, Tyler, you’re teeing me up for what we do, so let’s let someone who doesn’t necessarily need to be product pitchy go first.
Hana: Okay. I have to preface this by saying it’s hard not to be product pitchy with Uberflip because I did it for so many years. Speaking a little bit more broadly to this problem is the content itself is one challenge. You’re absolutely right, Tyler, in that the distribution of content, both internally and externally, in getting it presented in a way where it’s a) discoverable, b) consumable. The thing that I’m constantly saying, I even said this at Uberflip, is that your content has to be organized in a way that’s easy not just for your visitors to find but for your sales team to find, right? Content is probably one of the best tools that the sales team has. One of the to-dos on our list is to work with our sales enablement team to figure out how do we internally communicate this content? How do we actually categorize this content in a way that makes sense for people, sales team and visitors, to find it?

For example, if anyone’s ever listened to me speak in the context of content marketing or Uberflip, I say this all the time and I still see it all the time and it pisses me off so I’m gonna say it again. I never go to a resource center looking for white papers. Nobody ever says hey I really want to read a white paper. I don’t care what it’s about. Just show me a white paper. But every single resource center you go to is set up that way. It’s like, here are all the white papers. Here are all the guides. Here are all the webinars. It makes no sense. When you’re trying to plan out how that content is presented and distributed, I think the biggest win is to just make it findable for both your internal teams and your external teams.

Randy: Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t agree more. It’s funny, in a way, how people still do it in those ways, right? I did a talk recently and we called the talk The Silly, The Sad, and The Future. This idea that there’s these things that we do in the past that we look back on and they’re silly now. Going to Blockbuster. That was silly, right? The sad is when they’re doing it still today, right? There’s a lot of things obviously like that that for sure frustrate people like crazy.

Hana, I’m curious. You talked about, again, how Shopify Plus is more up market and you talked about thinking about these different assets and arming sales people. I’m wondering, with thinking about guides and thinking about these assets, how much are you getting into more the ABM craze that you heard about when we were here? How much is that infiltrating a company like Shopify in terms of mindset? I would assume with a more large fish type of prospect that you’re going after, it makes sense to really tailor content that you trust or that you’re working with.

Hana: It does. For us, we’re right now in foundation building mode. I’m hiring all the people and getting the infrastructure in place and re-visiting positioning and messaging and really understanding our segments and our personas. For us right now, while ABM is on our radar, and I think it’s gonna start to play a bigger role once we’ve got this foundational element in place. It’s not something we jumped into full fledged yet. But it is something I think in the future we’ll probably lean that way. I will say that, like any sales team, we have an inbound team and we have an outbound team and that is something that our inbound team has started to play with as well. As you guys know, ABM is not something that marketing can just go do in a silo. It really has to be a company wide’s strategic efforts to identify the right accounts. Then we do it. We’re not there yet. I definitely think that’s something that we’ll look at moving forward.
Tyler: Yeah I think a lot of us implicitly do some degree of ABM because it’s largely around understanding to your point the personas and the profiles of the target buyers and the companies they’re at and tailoring your outreach and your marketing strategy to that, which I think is that foundational step. The other piece of that I’m interested in your perspective is back to that sales enablement piece is not only making sure your sales teams can get at the content you’re producing, but are you actively working with your sales team to identify priorities, opportunities, and even technology and tools to use to help them be more successful in their outbound programs. Or is that something that’s still siloed a little bit within your world?
Hana: Yeah, 100% we’re working with them. I spend more time with the sales team probably than anybody else at this point.
Tyler: I’m so happy to hear that. We don’t hear that enough these days. I actually heard somebody the other day frustrated with the lack of relationship between sales and marketing. I was like, does that really still happen? And in most companies, actually I think it does.
Hana: Oh yeah. I agree. It’s so weird to me that it still happens because even in my conversations with our head of sales here, Mark Bergen, we’re both very aligned around it’s a revenue team. These teams have to be working together. We can’t create silos within those teams. Working a lot with sales … I think the biggest thing right now that is critical for us to start to understand is where the gaps lie from a content perspective. We’ve already started to identify those and some of the gaps are in case studies. Some of the gaps are in talking about specific value props. I would not be able to do anything without the sales team at this point.
Randy: We have a bit of time left and Hana, I know you so well. Tyler knows you pretty well. One of the ways that we end every Content Pros podcast these days is to get to know our guests so that everyone listening knows a little bit behind … Usually I gotta do all this digging, I gotta look up people’s first tweet ever, I gotta do all this kinda stuff, but it’s too easy for me. I know that Tyler tag teamed with me here because he’s gonna have more curious questions verus the obvious. I’ll start with one which impacts all three of us, okay?

For those who don’t know, Canada, or more specifically, Ontario, is the capital of marketing technology. There’s so much amazing marketing technology that has grown up and expanded out of this region. Quite often when we’re all at these conferences or we’re meeting people, we often say we’re all from Toronto, right? Now, Tyler is actually with Vidyard, which is based down the road as we described it. Which is a bit of a long road, but you know Kitchener, Waterloo. Now that you have to do that commute quite often, how close is Kitchener Waterloo. I will let you, Tyler, debate this, for a good thirty seconds here so that we get the real answer.

Hana: Tyler, do you want to give your answer first and then I’ll disagree or agree?
Tyler: Kitchener Waterloo is basically a suburb of Toronto. We’re right next to each other, because I live five minutes from my office. Hana, how about you? What do you think?
Hana: Yeah, so, Kitchener Waterloo’s about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Toronto with zero traffic and all things going your way when it comes to transit. But no, in all honesty, it’s not that far. The only thing I have to complain about when it comes to the Kitchener Waterloo commute is that I commute the opposite way of most people, cause most people commute into Toronto. If I don’t want to drive and I want to take a train, the train times are all wrong for me. That’s my only complaint when it comes to that.
Randy: That’s funny.
Tyler: All right. Public transit.
Tyler: We’re fixing it. Okay, so I’m the video guy. We talked about video and Randy brought up Blockbuster. For those of you who don’t know what Blockbuster is, congratulations. Netflix, HBO, pick a favorite show and tell us is it the storytelling, is it the acting, or is it just the pure visual graphics that appeal do you, Hana? What’s your flavor on digital TV?
Hana: I think I’m gonna go Netflix. It’s a tossup because I actually also get Hulu even though technically Hulu is only available in the U.S. We have some jerry rigging that we’ve done and some more work arounds-
Tyler: Yeah but go to show? Right now?
Hana: I’m trying to decide Netflix or Hulu. Right now what I’m catching up on is Narcos, which I’m a little bit late on, but I’m actually really liking Narcos. So let’s leave it at that, otherwise I’m gonna hem and haw and-
Tyler: Yeah. I love it. I got so pulled into that because of the human story telling on it. Us marketers can learn so much from every one of those shows.
Hana: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And the thing with Netflix too, really quickly, is you see them producing this stuff and it’s not these massive seasons that run for years and years. They’re short, they’re sweet, and they’re really excellent in content, which is what I love about what Netflix is doing.
Randy: Yeah. I think people out there listening to you now are like “Oh Hana seems so easy going and pleasant” And if they meet you, you’re the same way. But you’re choosing the very violent story of Narcos. Now, I’m going to paint you in an even scarier perspective for people. You have a black belt. Share with us what that black belt is in.
Hana: Oh. Yeah. So the previous life to the whole tech scene, I actually ran a chain of martial arts studios. I did the collective marketing and I was also general manager for two of the locations. I was teaching martial arts since I was a kid. I have a fourth degree black belt in jiu jitsu. Also certified to teach kickboxing, which is what I was doing towards the end of my career. The number one question I get is “Can you beat me up?” Which is not particularly original or innovative, but that’s usually the next question.
Randy: Awesome. Well, I think everyone’s going to know you a little bit on this podcast today. They realize you’ve got really dangerous chops and content marketing overall and now as well, martial arts. Definitely to be feared out there in the market.

Hana, it’s been great having you on Content Pros on behalf of Tyler at Vidyard and myself, Randy at Uberflip. You can find more podcasts like this if you’ve enjoyed at contentprospodcast.com. We’ve got a whole bunch of other podcasts that fall under the Convince and Convert family of podcasts. Check out social pros. Check out some of the content with Jay Baer’s specifically. It’s all great content, all designed to get you thinking ahead of your game and from the marketing perspective.

Hana, again, thanks so much for joining us. All the best at Shopify and everything you’re gonna do to conquer marketing there. Until next time, thanks to everyone for tuning in.

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