Interview with Seth Besmertnik, CEO and Founder, Conductor

Seth Besmertnik
Seth Besmertnik

“Technologies need to help marketers understand the entire picture – from a customer’s perspective.”

Tell us about your role and how you got here? What galvanized you to start an organic marketing company?

It started out over ten years ago as a side project. I was working on launching an online therapy business, and a friend and I helped companies with SEO for a few extra thousand bucks a month. Then one morning I got a call from Vonage, the phone company, saying they wanted to spend $50k a month with us. I was still working from my home, and it was a request for services way beyond anything we were scaled to provide.

That got my attention, and I realized it was the start of something big. The writing was on the wall. Consumers were changing from passive to active. People were making choices about what content they wanted to engage with. They could skip ads, stream content, and effectively block out unwanted messages. And they started turning more and more to organic channels to ask questions, find solutions, and make decisions. Marketers had to start creating valuable, visible content. I wanted to be a part of that change, so we started Conductor.

How has the New York tech scene changed since you first started?

Aside from growing, I’d say it’s changed in the way that all tech scenes are changing. People are talking less and less about how they can wrangle venture capital or hit hockey stick growth, and more and more about how they can actually improve their customers’ lives, and provide real value to people.

What would you say is the biggest driver for the change in the content marketing technologies?

Consumer power. Modern customers are infinitely savvy. You can’t fool them anymore. And that means that content marketing has to be so entertaining or useful that consumers seek it out. If you’re not providing what people want, then the market will ignore you.

How do you see digital experience platforms evolving with the maturity of AI/ML and voice? What challenges do you foresee marketers will face?

AI is going to bring more changes of degree than changes of type. Google still wants to provide the best user experience possible. The only thing that’s changed is that now the raw computing power they leverage to do that is exponentially greater. All Google cares about is quality. AI is going to be deployed in pursuit of that. We should stop trying to win at search marketing and start playing to win customers.

How do you see the content marketing technology evolving around omnichannel analytics experience and customer data management in the coming years?

Customers think in omnichannel terms. We should too. Technologies need to help marketers understand the entire picture – from a customer’s perspective.

Tell us about the new standards of B2B content and their idea of optimizing customer journeys?

You have to serve your customer before they’re your customer. Research shows that educational, helpful content makes people 131% more likely to purchase. So it can’t just be product pages or Q&As for people who have already bought what you’re selling. You need to provide content for the entirety of the customer journey, before they’re even considering your solution, and then provide support indefinitely post-purchase.

What has been your best digital transformation campaign?

One of our customers is WeWork – the global leader in co-working spaces and bringing energy back to the workplace. While they are far and above the market leader, they were hard to find digitally in some of the core markets. In record time, we worked with their team to grow their online presence by 400%, helping tens of thousands of qualified people connect with WeWork who may not have otherwise been exposed to them. The result was incredible and we’ve never seen a team move as quickly as theirs.

At Conductor, how do you help companies can transform customer relationships through the digital landscape?

The first interaction someone has with your brand usually isn’t through a customer service rep or a live chat system. It’s with your content, which they find through organic search. So, we make sure that our customers are positioned to provide the best possible answer at the most relevant moment. We help them help their own customers.

How should B2B marketers leverage customer data and content marketing for better audience reach and targeting?

Companies need to focus on what we call customer-first selling. That means providing value, education, and thought leadership even when people aren’t actively considering your product. You need to be a thought leader in the space long before the time comes to purchase. That’s how you end up guiding the conversation instead of your competitors.

What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?

We use Marketo and Salesforce, primarily.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

Don’t be threatened by AI. Google, Amazon, all the big AI players just want to provide an amazing customer experience. If you focus on providing value to the customer, you and the AI are going towards the same goal.

How do you bring together people and technology at one place?

Whatever technology you’re using should be brought in because it can serve the people. It should be an extension of their workflow, not another hoop to jump through. It should provide insights, not just data.

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

I could live without a lot of things, if I had to 🙂 However, my favorite apps are Juno, Uber, Mindfulness, and Linkedin.

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

Meditation is a huge help to me. I also take Kabbalah classes. Anything that helps you be more proactive and less reactive is going to help.

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

I like Simon Sinek a lot. His talk on why leaders eat last is a favorite of mine. I’ve read a lot on radical candor. I always make sure to read/watch Marc Benioff’s stuff as well.

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

Success and growth are commensurate with your own ability to grow and change. The more you can grow, the more success and impact you can have.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Marc Benioff

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

Seth is a passionate entrepreneur obsessed with disrupting traditional business culture and marketing strategy.

He leads a group of 200+ incredible people at Conductor with a common mission of turning marketing into something that adds great value and re-thinking how modern companies manage their people and business.

Conductor LogoConductor is the world’s leading organic marketing company. Our content intelligence platform, Conductor Searchlight, generates customer intent insights that lead to compelling content, increased traffic, and higher organic marketing ROI. Conductor’s technology enables marketers to understand their prospective customers’​ intent by revealing the trends and topics they are searching for at every phase of purchase process. Customizable dashboards and workflows guide marketers through the content creation process, empowering them to continuously measure, refine, and demonstrate the effectiveness of their SEO and content marketing efforts. Conductor’s forward-thinking customers include global brands like Citibank and FedEx, emerging leaders like Birchbox and JustFab, and leading agencies like iProspect and Acronym. Conductor was ranked #38 by Inc. Magazine in its Fastest Growing Private Companies list, and has been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in America for six years running.

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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