Proof That Your Content Needs Fewer Facts and More Story

Doug Landis, Growth Partner at Emergence Capital, joins the Content Pros Podcast to share his journey to becoming a bonafide storyteller and what that means for content marketing.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Tell Your Stories

It goes without saying that the CEO/Founder/President is fairly passionate about his or her company’s product. Not only do their pitches resonate on an emotional level with investors, but also they carry the weight of their position into every meeting.

Contrary to what you may think, your marketing or sales team cannot benefit from the pitch of an executive. While it paves the way for investors, it cannot be replicated by anybody except the executive.

Marketers and salespeople need to create their own pitches for the product and they shouldn’t rely on facts, figures, or the market to make their point.

In the rush for content to evolve into a one-to-many vehicle, an important skill has dropped off: storytelling. Storytelling brings that communication back down to a one-to-one level that engages with customers and keeps them coming back for more.

By encouraging your sales and marketing team to embrace the role of storyteller, it can truly revolutionize the communication of your company; both inside and out.

In This Episode

  • Why a CEO’s successful pitch doesn’t mean a slam-dunk for the sales team
  • How a sales and storyteller hat across an organization leads to a fundamental shift in both external and internal communications
  • Why talking about your company and the market to your customers means you’re doing it wrong
  • How bringing your weekend self to work leads to memorable presentations… in a good way

 

Quotes From This Episode

“We need to synthesize the 40,000 feet vision down into something that matters to the one person that we’re trying to present to or speak to.” —@douglandis

Everybody is a chief storyteller in their own little world. Click To Tweet

“I challenge everybody that listens to this to go look at your first call deck and look at your first slide. If it’s about you, if it’s about your mission, if it’s about who you are or what you do, then you’ve got it completely backwards.” —@douglandis

“For a customer presentation, 65% of your presentation should be stories.” —@douglandis

Facts and figures fade and stories stick. Click To Tweet

“Part of our job collectively in our organizations is to be curating great content and begin using that great content to get ideas about the next piece of content you want to create.” —@douglandis

“At the end of the day, just think about two things: what you’re comfortable with and who your audience is and how they like to consume whatever it is they’re consuming.” —@douglandis

Resources

 

Content Pros Lightning Round

You’ve been on 4 reality TV shows, so why venture versus reality? I’m a professionally trained actor, I went to acting school with little kids, I graduated from acting school in San Francisco from an organization called Jean Shelton Actors Lab. So for me, being on the camera, being on stage, it just kind of comes naturally. So doing a reality TV show was just kind of fun. Ultimately, the reality TV show option overstayed its welcome.

What are some of the ways on social you’re engaging more these days and has that changed at all? Primarily, I’m a Facebook and LinkedIn-er. Those are my two primary vehicles. Twitter would be a third.

Transcript

Randy: Welcome to another episode of Content Pros. I am Randy Fitch from UberFlip. As always, I’ve got Tyler Lasard joining me from Vidyard and today on Content Pros we’re gonna be joined by Doug Landis. Doug is at Emergence Capital where he’s seen some of the highest growth companies and what they’re doing around content and the way Doug can relate is he’s got a real interesting history in terms of his, big part of his professional career at Boxed.Com and the growth they’ve gone through and the way they’ve leveraged content along the way telling great stories. So real excited to have him here and learn about what it was like as a practitioner and now what’s it’s like finding the next trend. So, Tyler, you want to tell us a little bit more about what you’ve found about Doug and bring him into the show?
Tyler: Yeah, thanks Randy. As you said, Doug’s with Emergence Capital as a growth partner but what I found most fascinating is your historical path to getting here. You started off in training, moved into sales productivity and sales effectiveness where you led a large team at Boxed. But then you moved into a role called the chief storyteller, which I know many of us strive to. I know that’s what I want to be one day, frankly is the chief storyteller somewhere. I love the idea. So Doug, why don’t you introduce yourself, give a little bit of that background and is being a chief storyteller actually as glamorous as it sounds?
Doug: Well, one little caveat to that is that I think everybody is a chief storyteller in their own little world. So you can take that title if you like it as well. Take it with you up to Canada. It’s all yours.
Tyler: I like it, I like it.
Doug: So well thanks guys, I appreciate you having me on the show. I definitely I’d say it’s safe to say have had a really interesting background and as you mentioned, content has been a really big part of that. Really everything that I’ve done throughout my entire career … at the end of the day it’s funny cause one of the things you were mentioning, Randy, was the fact that I started in training and got into productivity and then ended up in this role called chief storyteller. At the end of the day, the reality is I’m a salesperson. So whatever all those titles might mean to say or what you might think it means, at the end of the day I care about selling and the profession of selling. And all of the things that we do as a company, all the things that are created, all the great tools and technology like Vidyard as an example are things to help the profession of sales get better, smarter and faster.

Interestingly enough, this notion of the chief storyteller is the title by the way I created myself when I was at Boxed. And it came out of this need for … that I noted over the course of four years that as an organization, as a company, we needed to get better at telling stories. And the reality is we needed to get better at telling our story as a company. Who we are and what we stand for. We needed to get better at telling our pitch, if you will, or our story to our customers as far as what value is delivered to them. And we needed to get better at telling our own story, our own personal story. Why do we actually work there? What gets us excited about it? About working at Boxed. And then finally, we needed to get better at telling our customer’s story.

So if you think about it, throughout the entire sales process every time you’re engaging with a customer or prospect you really are storytelling. And here’s something interesting I found over time, shifting to the role that I’m in right now at Emergence and working with all these great startups is what typically happens is you have a founder CEO that identifies a problem and they build this product to solve this problem. They gain some customer traction and then they go and build their pitch to go raise money. And when they raise the money and with that money they go out and hire a bunch of sales people and they take their pitch, which they use to go raise money and they kind of modify it a little bit and they give that to their sales team and say go, here’s the pitch.

Tyler: Right.
Doug: And that’s a fundamental flaw because at the end of the day a sales person is not the founder CEO. So they don’t have that level of insight or credibility, instant credibility, right? So the founder CEO of Vidyard knows this video communication space better than anybody else, right? You can argue. Same thing with Aaron Levee. Aaron Levee can talk about anything he wanted to anyone and people are gonna listen. But as a sales person, I can’t take what Aaron Levee’s pitching or presenting, maybe it’s at BoxedWorks or at a conference or he’s doing some thought leadership conversation about the future of content or technology, I can’t actually take that and then go deliver that to a customer with the same level of credibility that he can. And so the idea was how do we actually turn the content that we have, the content that marketing is creating into something that is much more useful and connect more to the customers and the people in which you are trying to talk with and engage with. That was kind of the thesis behind the chief storyteller role.
Randy: It’s so true. I mean Tyler you can probably relate to that too. Not only do we try and force the stories, I think we actually use the slides from our original pitch stacks. Pitching to investors and being like, let’s just use this in the sales deck. We’re definitely guilty of that.
Tyler: And it’s a classic sort of inside-out verses outside-in approach and when you’re starting off you tend to start with that inside out. You’re talking about market trends that you care about and you think your customers care about. You’re talking about innovations and technology that you care about but they don’t give a shit, right? The customers care about their problems and they’re trying to solve real issues for their business and that’s what, within our organization, one of the things I thrive on being a marketer here at Vidyard is we work really closely with our sales team.

I was having a conversation with somebody earlier today saying the most value I’ve gotten in my last two years here being at a company where marketing and sales is really aligned is I spent a lot of time with my sales team. And back to your earlier comment where you said Doug, that everybody’s a storyteller I think everybody’s a sales person too. So I actually think and act so much more like a sales person now than I ever have. And a big part of that is appreciating that dialog that needs to happen with customers that’s an outside-in. That’s as much listening, more listening than it is talking and architecting your stories around solving their needs, not the problems you kind of want to be pitching at them. I assume in your life in sales productivity, is that kind of what you found? And what were the things you were unearthing that you were like I’m not happy with the stories coming into my sales team, I’m gonna go do this myself? What led to that?

Doug: You’re absolutely right. I think if everybody throws on an “I am a sales person” hat, everyone across the organization and everyone throws on the “I am a storyteller” hat, I think you could pretty dramatically shift the way in which you engage not only internally but also externally with your customer. Because if you think about marketing being … marketing unfortunately, the job of many marketers is kind of one-to-many, right? So I create some content maybe I take a new product’s capability that’s still not communicated out to the masses but I’m still trying to communicate one-to-one. So fundamentally there’s a bit of a gap.

Just in terms of who the audiences are that we, regardless of what function they have in your organization who we’re trying to speak to and so what I noticed was marketing would create in silos, these decks. Like here’s the deck on our platform and here’s the deck on our core capabilities and here’s a platform on our security capabilities. And then it’s kind of up to the rep to pull it together and sort of hodgepodge what I would call a Frankenstein deck all in an effort to kind of articulate the story to our customers. And everybody wanted to do it in a way that sounded very much like what Aaron Levee would say. And it was just … it didn’t work. And it really doesn’t work for a lot of companies so I kept telling Aaron, you keep speaking at 40,000 feet and you keep being a thought leader and you keep coming up with these great ideas and concepts but guess what, we need to operationalize that. We need to synthesize that down into something that matters to the one person that we’re trying to present to or speak to.

Randy: Doug, it’s so true what you’re hitting on, it’s funny. One of my favorite games to play with my kids, I’ve got young kids, they’re like 10, 8, and 6, one of my favorite games to play is broken telephone. Right? Like you start with this really complex line and then you tell it to my 10 year old, he gets it pretty good but by the time my 6 year old’s got it, it makes no sense. It’s just been stripped down and it no longer is on point at all and I think what you’re touching on is exactly that in organizations, right? I mean you’ve got one person who starts with a very clear message but as we transition from marketing, who’s polished that message, they’re all about messaging and clarity down to sales it gets diluted it gets adapted and it comes out sounding completely the opposite of what that vision is. And I think, you know, that’s where we need, obviously, more alignment and that’s why I love this concept of you being that chief storyteller. I think that’s maybe part of it is we don’t just need sales productivity people. We need people who are going to actually help ensure the message is adapted.
Doug: Yeah. And so what’s interesting is, in fact that’s one of the first things that I do when I sit down with one of our companies is I’m like just give me your pitch. Just give me your pitch as if I’m a potential prospector customer. Because I want to hear it and I want to give you some immediate feedback because again, 9 times out of 10 it’s all about us. We think it’s about the customer because we’re sharing some market insights, right? Typically like oh here’s the landscape of the market here’s what we’re seeing happening. You know your customer on the other end of the phone is like tell me something I don’t know like I know all this, really? You know what I mean? It starts to sound more and more like a sales pitch, which is really frustrating.

I was fortunate enough that I got to buy technology for a long, long time so I’ve seen a number of these pitches. So one of my learnings and one of the things I tried to shift when I was at Boxed and I tried to do with our companies is get them to be more customer-centric and customer-oriented. Just think about this, even if you’re a company and you have 50 customers or 100 customers, you’re learning a ton about the value of what it is you do and what you bring to the table from those customers.

What often is lost is that learning, in many cases, comes from your customer success organization because they’re helping with the integrations or adoptions right? And so they’re learning all these nuggets about how your customers are really using your product and what they’re really getting out of it. How have you not captured that intelligence and pull that back into your messaging? How do you not capture what your customers are really saying and experiencing and feeling and gaining and pull that back into your messaging? And it’s what you need to do right out of the gate. It’s like hey listen, this is how I can speak to you with some creditability it’s because we’ve learned a lot from all of our customers. Over and over again we kept hearing the same things; that we’re struggling with the same things. And this is what we’ve learned from them. And I think that’s big piece that often missing in this whole notion of crafting your story. We have a tendency of getting very one sided, meaning we just talk about ourselves.

I challenge everybody that listens to this to go look at your first call deck and look at your first slide. If it’s about you, if it’s about your mission, if it’s about who you are or what you do, then you’ve got it completely backwards.

Randy: There’s actually an awesome deck that I know we used at one point so it’s more of an article, a piece of content by a guy named Andy Raskin and I think it’s something on ‘The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen’ I think is the title. I’m sure if you search it, it’s on Linkedin, I’m actually just pulling it up now. It’s got like 10,000 shares and 30,000 likes on Linkedin. We’re not the only one to have used it ourselves. We’re talking about content here, being on Content Pros but I think we naturally, as you’re pointing out, it’s about how do we take that content and allow it tell the same story at every stage of the buyer journey. There’s some great takeaways that we learnt ourselves from reading this article and changing the way our sales team tells the same story that, to be honest, I tell as the founder of our company, to reflect.
Tyler: One of the things I’ve found, Randy and Doug, is an important thing to be mindful of, is in the traditional world, most organizations, there’s product marketing who’s working on this core messaging and then you’ve got this connection between product marketing to sales enablement or sales productivity and somewhere in there, people are pulling together these pitch stacks. And it’s typically, from what I’ve seen, it’s skipped the marketing team and the design team and the folks that are focused on more external top of funnel marketing content. But in a lot of cases those are the people, product marketers are generally good at this as well, of shaping this into a story but I’m seeing more and more that need for the content marketers out there and those that are building that higher order messaging to get more involved at that sales enablement level and saying we need to be creating content that’s just as good as the stuff we’re putting out there on our social channels that we’re putting into the hands of our sales reps.

And getting those folks … and that’s what I love about the idea of a chief storyteller, is I think you’ve hit on something there where, when you’ve got people who are involved in all those different touch points. You can make sure the story you’re telling in a one to one sales conversation is not only consistent with how the rest of the buyer’s journey progressed but that it’s delivered in a way that harkens back to that nature of good storytelling of outside in thinking and customer centric thinking. Which, no offense to product marketing folks, but sometimes they can get lost in the weeds of that as well and being inside out.

Doug: 100% agree with that. Again, remember what the focus for a lot of marketers is. It’s the one to many. So when your communicating one to many, the story’s a little different, even the story arc is slightly different than it is if I’m communicating it one to one, right? It’s one of those things I would say for a customer presentation, 65% of your presentation should be stories. People have a tendency of thinking about that and going, wait a minute how do I actually tell a story from the very first slide and go ten slides. You’re telling me 6 out of those 10 slides I should be telling stories? And the answer is yes, you really should. Because that’s how we communicate. It’s how we consume information. In many cases, if you think about it, it’s what content marketers do an amazing job of. We do it with social channels, we do it with content we create whether that’s through video or podcast or PDF or blog, whatever. Then all of the sudden we get into a meeting with a customer and we start talking in fragmented bullets and facts and pictures. It’s like what happened to the stories? What happened to the stuff? The meat? Or you could say, the glue that connects human beings together-
Randy: I was going to say the humanity of it.
Doug: Absolutely. It’s this idea of the weekend self. You leave work and you go home to your family, you go home to your friends, you go out for the weekend and people are like so how was your day? You might even go home today and be like so I did this podcast today and it was really interesting and you tell a story about our experience just this morning and all of the sudden you go back to work the next day and what do we do? We go back to speaking in facts and figures and bullets and these truncated phrases. We wonder why people don’t remember things, we wonder why we have to take so many notes, you wonder why we have all these collaboration tools because we can’t remember shit with just a bunch of facts and figures because you know facts and figures fade and stories stick. It’s just remembering that the ethos of a great story is something that should be woven into every piece of content. Whether its content marketing content, whether it’s your first callback, whether it’s your website, whatever it may be, we should be thinking about the stories that we tell.
Tyler: Randy, tonight you’re going to go home and present a slide deck to your family on what you did today, right?
Randy: Absolutely. That’s what we do now instead of bedtime stories. Enough about the books and stories, they just want the point form versions of these things.
Doug: We’re calling it a modern day slideshow. You know way back when we were a little kid, we had the little slideshow you know, never mind.
Randy: We’re going to take a quick break here and hear from some of our sponsors. We’re going to be back and kind of flip over in terms of digging with Doug around the idea of how do you bring content together and how are they doing this at Emergence Capital.

So we’re back here with Doug Landis at Emergence Capital and we’ve talked a lot about some of the things he’s done at Boxed.Com over the years and now that he’s shifted over to Emergence Capital, what I find really interesting is, myself as a founder and operator of a startup, I actually find a lot of my content by going to thought leaders in the space of how to build a business. Often, that’s venture capitalist because they’re looking at a lot of businesses that are growing at a really high rate. One of the things I really admire that you guys have done at Emergence, Doug, is this campaign that you’ve put together at SASPlaybook.Com. Can you tell us a little bit about that, about how that came to be and what the strategy has been there so far?

Doug: Yeah, sure. So, by the way I totally agree with you there’s a lot of amazing content out there that I think is put out not just by venture capitalists, by other companies and different industries that’s really, really valuable. I think part of our job, not just at Emergence, but part of our job collectively in our organizations is to be curating great content and begin using that great content to get ideas about the next piece of content you want to create. Or a piece of content you want to build off another great piece of content you just read about. In fact, that’s one of the things we’re doing with the SAS playbook. Which we’re now rebranding the Emergence playbook.

The idea behind it was we don’t want to just create great content for the sake of creating great content. We want to pull together all the playbooks that we know exist out there in the world that could help startup founders get through the muck of building a great company. When I say the muck, it’s just because there’s a lot of things to do to build a great company from an idea on. In many cases it can be what’s the model that I should follow to build a pitch deck to go out and raise a series A or series B. Or it could be what’s the model I should use to build my financial model to show my revenue projections over the course of the next 5 years. Or what onboarding model should I use because I’m just a new company but I’m hiring 5 or 6 or maybe 10 people in the organization, how do I onboard them? And how is that model different than one on 100 people or 500 people?

So the idea behind the SAS playbook was to gives us a publishing vehicle, now as I said, the Emergence playbook, but to give us a publishing vehicle to capture these models and to share them broadly with the startup audience, if you will. But also to give us a vehicle to capture great curated content that we may read whether that’s from our friends over at First Round Review or from Jason Lemkin and Satcher or even you guys, wherever we can find great, meaningful content that’s appropriate and meets what we believe our audiences are looking for, our audience being startups because that’s who we spawned. That’s what we’re looking for and that’s how we’re using this idea of the Emergence playbook as a vehicle to deliver that.

Randy: So an interesting part that we were touching on just before we started recording today was, and you touched on this before, that you’re actually considering changing the way you publish and a lot of people who listen to Content Pros probably struggle with these same questions. Where should my content live? Should it be on my website? Should it be on Linkedin? Should it be on, today you guys are using Medium. Talk to us about that decision you made to own the content perhaps a bit more, bring it under Emergence, having it live on your own website.
Doug: Yeah that’s a really interesting question and I don’t know there’s a silver bullet answer to this. I think part of it is what are you guys comfortable with? You may have someone in your organization that knows Medium inside and out or maybe they know WordPress inside and out and they can build anything on WordPress. So it’s like okay so we’ll use WordPress. So part of it’s what you’re comfortable with and I think the other part is what does the organization want to use your publishing vehicle to do.

If you’re just creating… we actually have 2 places where we publish content. We have Thoughts which is on our emcap.com website and Thoughts are specifically from our partners, content that’s written by our partners and published by our partners and that’s where it lives. This idea with the playbook is going to be stuff that’s written by us, it’s videos, podcasts, whatever it may be, but it’s also content we’re curating and pulling in from other sources.

So the idea, right now it’s on a Medium site, we may end up switching it to a WordPress site. My only challenge with Medium, and this is my own personal opinion, is one, they’re starting to charge for their services instead of saying it’s a free vehicle to push content out and two, it always just pushes the latest piece of content and it doesn’t give you the flexibility to architect your content in a book format, if you think about a table of content on the left hand side and allow you to click into some of that content. For us, publishing that playbook content is going to have a lot of layers. It’s going to be some content directed to finance teams and some content directed to product teams and content directed to sales, marketing, and HR. So we want to give people that easy navigation to get to it. That’s one other reason why we’re pulling more of this under the Emergence brand because a lot of it is going to be our own and it’s another reason we may be switching off Medium. It’s a tough call. I’m not going to lie.

Randy: I think, one of the things I’ve found too, that people are struggling with is the mediums and modes of content are evolving and changing and in the old world where it was primarily blog posts and PDFs and written word, it was a little bit simpler. You’d just say great, I just need a blog and I can use this and I can use that. But more and more marketers and I know yourselves included at MCAP are using podcasts, you’re using video content, using infographics, using a variety of different content mediums and which, again harkens how do I keep all that content together in a place because I don’t want to send somebody off to a YouTube channel if they want to watch my video or send them to a Medium page if they want to read a written document. Is that something you guys consider as you do this and where’s your head at, Doug, in terms of the type of content you guys are investing and how that’s influencing your thoughts around where does it live and how do we organize it?
Doug: I think nowadays the content, you have to diversify in terms of the content vehicle you use whether that’s blog posts or whether that’s video, whether that’s podcasts written content, it could be tweets. You have to mix it up. I think it’s also dependent upon how comfortable you are with each vehicle, right? For example, I love podcasts, I love doing podcasts, I love doing videos, so we’re actually doing a lot more videos and a lot more podcasts for content instead of writing original content because it just happens to be a really fun vehicle that we’re enjoying that I think, it mixes it up. There’s so much content out there. It’s almost like you need to think about ways in which you can be somewhat different in terms of what you’re putting out there and at the end of the day, just think about two things. Think about what you’re comfortable with and think about who your audience is and how they like to consume whatever it is they’re consuming.
Randy: Okay Doug, I think we need to get you to be the chief storyteller for my company because everything you just talked about is what we’re trying to explain to people. You know, the need to organize content in those ways is dead on and I couldn’t agree more with you. So we’ve gone on you a lot professionally today. Heard about your story about how you started in sales productivity, moved into Boxed.Com, became a storyteller there, now gone to this side of venture. I’m just curious because we were doing a little bit of research before, on you, ahead of this and I’m wondering why you chose to go to the venture side. Just to get to know you a little better, because I know you’ve been on 4 reality TV shows so why venture versus reality? I mean both are over the top but tell us about the reality option.
Doug: Yeah the reality TV show option I think has overstayed it’s welcome. You know that was back in the younger days. Look, I’m a big believer in enjoying this life and being happy because we only get 1 of them. I’m a professionally trained actor, I went to acting school with little kids, I graduated from acting school in San Francisco from an organization called Jean Shelton Actors Lab. So for me, being on the camera, being on stage, it just kind of comes naturally so doing a reality TV show was just kind of fun. And as it turns out, I did more than 1.
Randy: Which ones?
Doug: The camera and I like each other. You know, I’m going to leave it up there for everyone to do a little digging to find out what they are. But I can tell you one of them was a terrible dating show, no it was not The Bachelor, fortunately my episode didn’t actually make the air because the show was so bad so they- one of the reality shows I actually ended up winning the entire thing
Randy: Oh wow!
Doug: Yeah it was a cool experience.
Randy: Now everyone’s going to be wondering. So getting to know you, you’re obviously on the latest and greatest technology given the role you have now. What are some of the ways on social you’re engaging more these days and has that changed at all in terms of just personal. Like are you more of an Instagram person or are you more on Linkedin or what’s your personal preference for how you engage socially?
Doug: I can tell you this much: I’m not a Snapchat-er. I think it’s funny, I think everyone gets comfortable with their own vehicles and then they stick with that. Primarily, I’m a Facebook and LinkedIn-er. Those are my two primary vehicles. Twitter would be a third, I think Twitter is a great place as a news source, it’s a great quick communication vehicle but for the most part what I want to share, I use Facebook and LinkedIn as my primary vehicles. That’s also where I have the most connections, to be honest.
Randy: Makes sense, makes sense. Awesome, Doug. This had been a ton of fun. We could literally talk for hours about some of the experiences you’ve had at Boxed, some of the things you’re seeing out there at Emergence right now. If people want to follow some of the thought leadership, I assume people can jump on that sasplaybook.com domain and that will eventually take them to the Emergence experience that you’re building out. I know people will be eager to see how that evolves and how you guys position your content to the different personas you’re working with.

Thank you so much on behalf of Tyler at Vidyard and myself, Randy at Uberflip, for joining us on Content Pros and saying to everyone tuning in, obviously you have a lot of different options when it comes to a podcast and we appreciate you showing a lot of interest in the content marketing space. If you have more interest in how to become a content marketing expert, I encourage you to also check out Convince and Convert who is behind this podcast and J-Bear who has put together thecontentmarketingclass.com. It’s a great resource for learning about content marketing, raising your game and really becoming the content pros that we get to have on this show on a weekly basis. Until next time, please tune in, find us at Content ProsPodcasts.com on iTunes, Stitch or Google Play and leave us a review in terms of what can we do to make this a better podcast. Thanks again to Doug for joining us and we look forward to tuning in next time.

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