Interview with Henry Bruce, SVP Marketing, Contently

Henry Bruce

“Strategically aligned, high-quality content helps break through the noise and build trust and intimacy with your customers.”

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Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of Contently?

As SVP Marketing, I am responsible for Brand and Corporate Marketing, Product Marketing, and Revenue Marketing. I was recruited in February 2017 by then-CMO Kelly Wenzel as a consultant to develop new messaging, positioning, and product packaging for the company. During the two month project, I saw the opportunity that Contently presented and decided to join as VP Product Marketing, reporting to Kelly, to implement what I developed and roll it out across the company. Kelly and I have known each other for almost 20 years, over which time we have collaborated in similar fashion at other B2B software companies.

Developing new messaging was a great and ambitious project, coupled with a company rebrand for which we recently won a “best-in-class” award from SiriusDecisions. After Kelly was recently recruited by Amazon to head marketing for their Amazon Pay division in January, I was promoted to SVP Marketing. I love Contently because everyday we get to practice what we preach, by telling great stories and inspiring our clients to become masters of content marketing.

What are the core tenets of the Contently Platform? 

The Contently Platform is a true end-to-end solution that leverages artificial intelligence, automation, and intelligent collaboration tools to improve every stage of the content lifecycle. What sets us apart from others is the Content Decision Engine™ (CDE), the central nervous system of the Contently platform, which pulls and pushes actionable insights throughout the creation process. We see the platform as a centralized space for marketers to manage, govern, create, activate, and optimize all their content. Every part of the platform is built around improving performance, efficiency, and alignment.

How has the global market for strategic content and automation tools for Content Marketing evolved in the last three years?

It has grown substantially and become far more sophisticated. As with other new technologies, early adopters and market leaders jumped in 5-6 years ago looking for the first-mover advantage and competitive differentiation in how they develop and implement their strategy and programs. Now, we’re seeing a clear set of best practices emerge from enterprises that combine technology with content teams and process to mature their programs, to drive business outcomes that matter. CMOs and marketers realize that to address the digital transformation challenge to their brand, they must move beyond antiquated tools like Microsoft and Google and embrace data-driven platforms like ours to win.

How do you see Content Automation technologies creating more opportunities for marketers?

Content automation allows markets to focus more on the creative aspects of their job while personalizing their work for their target audiences. Having these capabilities empowers marketers to think more creatively about how they reach their target audience and what breakthrough content strategies and campaigns they can develop that drive the specific topics and content they create for them. By freeing up time spent on tedious tasks, content automation enables marketers to create better-performing content for all their marketing programs.

How does Contently enable marketers deliver more impactful results in Customer Experience and Social Media?

We believe that content is how customers experience your brand across channels. Strategically aligned, high-quality content helps break through the noise and build trust and intimacy with your customers. Moreover, our platform analytics keeps your content accountable to this goal, allowing you to see what works and what doesn’t to drive a more engaging customer experience. The name of the game is quality and insights to continually optimize the process and content performance for all programs.

What technologies should Content Marketing teams leverage to deliver better omnichannel, cross-device impact? How would video and webinar fit into this stack in 2018?

Content marketing platforms, distribution platforms, social media management, and marketing automation are all critical, but how you piece it all together depends on your company and your customers. Video and webinar technologies are usually critical, though the technology for managing those are still early stages. In the early days, Contently was known for its pool of journalists and our storytelling chops. But today, over 20% of the content created through our network is multimedia content. Clients leverage our workflows, and distribution to drive maximum impact for their videos.

For 2018-2022, what are your predictions for B2B/B2C content strategies and performance evaluation of content automation stack?

Strategies must be driven by audience insights, aligned across the company, and continually reiterated based on performance. Strategy will become more infused at every stage of the content process, from ideation to optimization. Marketers will evaluate their content stack by what drives performance and efficiency, as well as which platforms are easiest to implement and use on a day-to-day basis. The winners will fit seamlessly into a marketer’s daily life while also enabling them to perform functions they otherwise could not.

What startups and technologies in the Martech industry are you keenly following?

Prosperworks and Wrike are two that come to mind that tap into major problems. All of the AI plugin providers are top of mind as well as they bring machine learning into the content creation process. I am also watching the Digital Asset Management (DAM/SAM) players like Seismic who provide powerful activation tools for enterprises with large sales and field operations teams, who are huge consumers of content in support of their customer bases. Enterprises are still reporting that as much as 65% of their content created never sees the light of day, so technologies that keep content fresh, highly visible, and relevant to the field workers are very valuable.

What Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you use?

Besides our own platform, we leverage Marketo, and ON24 for the marketing and sales team. The Sales team also uses Outreach and LinkedIn heavily for prospect development and target account research.

Would you tell us about your standout digital campaign at Contently? 

To establish intimate connections with senior marketers at global enterprises to share their content program success stories, we created our signature campaign last year called the Accountable Content Series (ACS).  The campaign grew out of a major company rebrand and message and positioning project in mid-2017 that focused our brand identity on creating engaging and accountable content for brands.  The campaign started in June 2017 and is still in process for the first half of 2018.

The campaign focus features interviews with a client or industry expert, case studies, and best practice tutorials to educate attendees on the most important skills and techniques needed to enhance and mature their content programs. Each iteration of the ACS campaign combines multiple in-person and online elements including:

  • Webinars that feature interviews with industry leaders on unique challenges they face and innovative solutions they use to drive results.
  • Articles and infographics that appeal to a wider swath of our target audience with thought leadership and topical opinion pieces on trends in the industry.
  • Collaboration with our sales team to align on targeting, topics, and resources that will be most impactful to the audience, highlighting excellent examples of closed-loop optimization.
  • Intimate dinners and roadshows that include prospective buyers and customers. This fosters personalized and genuine interactions between current clients, acting as brand advocates, and prospects. Members of Contently’s product, customer success, sales, and marketing teams also attend, giving prospects better facetime with the team, enabling better relationships and encouraging faster buy-in.

The most common feedback we hear from both clients and prospects was that it far exceeded their expectations because they did not feel “sold to.” It was peers talking to peers about their experiences with their own content marketing programs and networking in ways they rarely are able to do in today’s fast-paced business world.

Only 140 days after it was first envisioned, the Accountable Content Series had driven the following results:

  • 314 marketing qualified leads (MQL) from face to face time at our events with the target market
  • $2.02 Million in existing opportunities influenced
  • $400k in new pipeline created
  • $210k total in new closed won in less than 6 months.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader? How do you leverage AI/ML at Contently?

We plan to make significant investments in machine learning to drive greater content performance. We see machine learning as a critical part of creating a platform that serves actionable insights throughout the content lifecycle. Surfacing recommendations from strategies, tagging taxonomies, and metadata such as production time and contributor performance will ensure that our clients make informed decisions that drive better performing strategies and content programs. While many clients rely on a variety of data sources to measure their content, it can be difficult to know which metrics are most important. Contently uses our own analytics beacon to give clients insights into the data we think is the most important, and we use AI to go beyond raw data to help clients optimize based on their content’s performance, including why certain trends might be happening based on their actions over time.

How do you inspire your people at Contently to work with technology?

I paint a picture– a framework of the outcomes I want to create from our go-to-market strategy and program direction to focus the team on a collective goal with tangible KPIs. I also stress the importance of being data-driven in order to analyze and optimize, not only the “what and why” of our marketing strategy but also the “how and when.” This motivates the team to dig into the data to inform our decision-making and prioritization process. This approach ensures we are continually evaluating the relationship between people, process and technology.

One word that best describes how you work.

Collaboratively. I tell my team that this is the strongest marketing team I’ve ever worked with- and I don’t just say that to make them feel good about coming into work. The pedigree of my team makes collaborating very easy and really fosters an environment where we’re learning from each other, which is just a great place to be. A very close second and third is “focused” and “driven.”

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I used to be a MS Office junkie with heavy Excel, Word and PowerPoint usage, but now its Google Apps across the board, especially G-docs. I’ve become a Slack believer too – we live on it across the company and inside my marketing team. I’m very data-driven, so I use and Looker for pipeline reporting and analytics and to dig into individual accounts so I can “see for myself.” I’ve even been known to jump into Marketo, having been a power user in my younger days.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

As much as I value collaboration, sometimes I just need to GSD – Get Stuff Done. Since messaging and positioning is my specialty and passion, I occasionally work from home and schedule work blocks where I can really focus on the art and science of crafting messages that standout. In fact, doing this interview piece required significant time away from meetings to get it done.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I’m always staying up-to-date with the latest research from SiriusDecisions, Forrester, and Gartner. I follow the blogs of Fred Wilson, Brad Feld and Seth Godin religiously to name three, as well as a number of other bloggers and colleagues in the tech software eco-system. Anything written by Brene Brown as well as the great American buddhist and philosopher Pema Choudran. My son and I are huge mindfulness practitioners so we are always reading and attending workshops around the country. I do most of my reading on my 90-minute train ride each way into NYC, along with meditation and yoga too to help it all sink in.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Richard Currier was my first strategic marketing mentor (and he still is) and he always preached that flawless execution trumps strategy every day of the week. He used to say that when developing marketing strategy and plans, “less is more, and the three most important words in marketing are Focus, Focus, Focus.”

Thank you Henry! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

A creative executive business developer with proven ability to execute go-to-market strategies, integrated digital marketing programs and business community relationships that drive successful audience engagement and growth.

An expert in positioning an organization’s vision and marketing strategy that differentiates the organization in the marketplace to create brand recognition and gain significant traction with defined target audiences.

A passionate collaborative leader with high energy to build and lead high performance teams and drive organizational growth and innovation.

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Contently is a technology company that helps brands create great content at scale. We provide enterprise companies with smart technology, content marketing expertise, and vetted creative talent—journalists, photographers, designers, videographers, and all things in between. We are a software business built by content creators, and both our products and our philosophy reflect this. That’s why we count some of the best content marketing brands in the world as our clients. We’re the #1 content marketing platform according to Digiday, #100 on the 2015 Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies, and #29 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™ list of the fastest-growing technology companies in North America. Entrepreneur magazine named us one of the best entrepreneurial companies in America in 2015, and Crain’s named us one of the best places to work in New York City. We also recently received an ASJA award for investigative reporting.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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