Lauren Kersanske

Lauren Kersanske Marketing Director of Crayon

How Did You Come To Crayon?

When I’m looking for a job, I typically look for companies where I can be the end user of the product, or at least heavily relate to the end-user and the problems they are trying to solve.

Competitive intelligence impacts every part of the organization, and marketing (mostly product marketing) is typically responsible for it in some shape or form.

I was also a customer of Crayon at a previous company, and was extremely impressed by the data it was able to gather across millions of sources. I really had never seen anything like it.

So I jumped at the chance to join Crayon’s marketing. Today, I’m responsible for the demand generation/revenue funnel.

We’re a happy and scrappy team of 3 people, so on any given day I can be writing a blog post, optimizing our website for search and conversion, putting together sales enablement material like one-pagers or battlecards, or running a large-scale campaign like our bootcamps. It’s never easy or dull, but it’s always fun.

What does Crayon do?

Every company cares about their competitive landscape, but they’ve never had a good way to stay on top of it. Historically competitive intelligence has been entirely human-driven—manual, expensive, and slow.

Crayon is a software-driven market and competitive intelligence platform that enables businesses to capture, analyze, and act on market movements from their competitive landscape.

Crayon automatically tracks each competitor’s entire digital footprint across hundreds of data types, and enables professionals to deliver insights to internal stakeholders through battlecards, dashboards, reports, newsletters, alerts, and more. 

What I love most about Crayon is that it’s focused on driving impact across the entire organization. We’re not simply focused on helping one team or another. Crayon uses CI to drive impact across teams—we help sales win more deals, product develop their roadmap, marketing refine their messaging/run better campaigns, inform executive strategy, and so on.

What’s your inbound customer journey?

We follow the typical inbound customer journey—Attract, Convert, Close, Delight.

Content is the lifeblood of inbound marketing, so 4 years ago we started creating tons of genuinely helpful content for buyers. We focused on how to solve their problems, how we can make them better at their job, and then mapped that content to the Buyer’s Journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision). 

We put a lot of our effort—and still do—into being found. We started with a simple SEO strategy and then built tons of helpful content on top of that to grow our following. Nothing super fancy—just good old fashioned inbound marketing.

The most important thing we did was making sure the content we were creating was genuinely helpful, which I think is what lots of marketers lose sight of—especially if you’re trying to grow very quickly. If you’re simply targeting keywords but your content sucks, you’ll lose people quickly and your rankings will likely suffer anyway. 

To keep these leads engaged and bring them to close, we continue to serve them helpful, relevant email content based on their previous behavior and where they are in the Buyer’s Journey. We also segment by persona to make sure we’re speaking directly to the problems they are trying to solve.

What are your most successful inbound marketing practices?

SEO and content marketing are by far our best channels, and what makes them the most effective is because it strikes at the core of inbound marketing itself—you are pulling people to you by providing helpful solutions to the problems they are actively looking to solve.

Another thing that makes any channel effective is simply investment—both time and money. If you “kind of” do SEO and content marketing then you “kind of” get results. You have to commit to it.

Over time, the fruits of our labor have born over 15,000 blog subscribers. It’s the biggest CI blog in the industry, and we’re only making it bigger. Organic search also contributes heavily to our bottom-line success as a business.

Beyond the numbers, the most gratifying aspect of inbound marketing is when we have a prospect or customer write to us and tell us that a certain piece of content we produced genuinely helped them, and they applied the practices to become better at their job. The numbers are always great, but the impact you have on people’s day-to-day lives is by far the most satisfying result from inbound marketing.

What’s your advice for startups just beginning inbound marketing?

Start simple. There is so much out there on inbound and there has been a lot of development since HubSpot began preaching it back in 2006(ish)—it’s tempting to jump into advanced stuff really quickly.

Start by figuring out the problems your customers are solving with your solution. Extrapolate that into keyword research, then begin creating content built around genuine prospect needs.

Another small piece of advice—move fast and learn quickly. 

What’s your advice for startups taking their inbound marketing from intermediate to advanced?

While you should have multiple channels, I think the key to getting “advanced” with inbound is getting extremely good at one channel.

If Organic Search is going to be your channel, then be the absolute best at SEO in your industry, then do all the things SEO requires and then some—the pillar pages/topics/clusters, the really technical parts of SEO, and so on.

Once you really nail a channel, start layering on new ones (e.g. paid social).

Where is the future of inbound marketing going?

First, I’d say we’ll eventually see companies fully ditch the traditional funnel in favor of the flywheel.

While Customer Marketing has been around for awhile, it’s become much more prevalent in recent years and companies are realizing that delighting your customers is not just a key differentiator, but also a massive revenue driver—both for upsell/retention and new business.

HubSpot introduced the flywheel a couple of years ago (2018, I think?), so I’d give it a few more years until it’s simply the norm.

Where can people learn more about you and Crayon?

You can find Lauren Kersanske here and see Crayon on LinkedIn.

And if you really want to know the heart and soul of Crayon, read (and subscribe!) to our blog. We have the biggest CI blog out there today (15k+ subscribers) and we’re always putting out new content that helps our readers use CI to make an impact in their organization.

Jessica King

Jessica King VP Marketing of Botkeeper

What’s your background?

I originally come from the restaurant space, having grown up in the industry, and working in every possible role you can imagine. As a young adult, I was fascinated with social sciences, and decided to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology, working full time while pursuing my college education. Over time, like many young adults, real-world exposure led me to feel at odds with my long term career goals. I found myself asking the same questions a lot of college students ask themselves, and opted to explore other roles while pushing ahead with my degree.

I eventually took on a sales role at an outsourced bookkeeping company, cutting my teeth on the traditional outbound lead generation strategies. At the time, this company had a very small marketing footprint, and I found myself going through the typical no-lead-gen motions. I was manually sourcing local lists, painstakingly enriching the data, cold calling, cold emailing, and doing a ton of in-person networking to build up relationships. As time went on, I saw the opportunity to continue developing my skill set, and pursue bigger, better sales roles in the B2B space.

A short time later, I was offered the opportunity to work at HubSpot, a reputable software leader in the Boston area, and an organization well known for their amazing company culture. I affectionately look back on my first few months there as a “baptism by fire”, having had the intense and fascinating experience of learning from some of the best minds in marketing like Darmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. During my time with HubSpot, I had an incredible amount of exposure to the core workings of sales and marketing with approximately 600-700 businesses, spanning numerous industries, and at various stages of growth, often helping them curate their inbound marketing strategies from the ground-up. I quickly fell in love with the creativity and science behind marketing, paired with the tenacity and “hunger” that came with sales.

Fast forward a bit, and in April of 2018 I was offered the opportunity to join the executive leadership team at Botkeeper, as Marketing Director. During the course of 2018, I built up our foundation with an integrated marketing strategy, and we had the privilege of experiencing massive growth. In the fall of 2018, Botkeeper closed its Series A for $18M, backed by Greycroft, and Gradient (Google’s AI investment arm).

From there on, the big focus in 2019 was about scaling and perfecting everything that we built in 2018. After seeing a huge amount of demand in the accounting space, the timing was right to move further up-market and put our focus primarily on our partnerships with CPA firms. I grew our marketing team, significantly enhanced our marketing efforts, and we’ve since closed our Series B for $25M in June of 2020.

Today, I oversee and manage all of the marketing functions, branding, PR, reputation management, and messaging for Botkeeper.

What does Botkeeper do?

Botkeeper is a Human-Assisted Artificial Intelligence platform that automates bookkeeping, purpose-built for accounting firms. Combining artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, with high-quality skilled accountants, we deliver a full-suite bookkeeping and pre-accounting solution to accounting firms.

Ultimately, we’re able to help accounting firms improve bookkeeping accuracy, increase capacity, drive better customer satisfaction, expand revenue, and improve margin.

What’s your inbound customer journey?

To ensure we’re supporting our prospects at every stage of the marketing journey, we’ve built an integrated marketing strategy that leverages inbound at every stage of the marketing funnel.

To ensure we’re positioning ourselves to be found for relevant topics and challenges pertaining to our solution, we use SEO and topic clustering methods to place ourselves in search, as well as off-page optimization to help drive up our domain authority.

We continuously produce blogs and free resources that engage our audience in various ways. With our target personas in mind, we start by asking the question “What is it we want our prospects to do once they’re here on this page? What would I want to experience if it were me researching here?”

To further engage the prospects once they’ve hit our site, we also practice a tailored cross-linking strategy, leading the reader to other associated content along the same track, and ideally contributing positively to their research.

In addition, we create content across a variety of mediums to offer up a variety of experiences. You’ll see that many of our blogs have an audio/video option, as well as a “take this blog with you” CTA, offering the PDF of the content, for those who want to read more later.

Lastly, we’re producing more interactive content like calculators, quizzes, and report generators that allow for the prospect to have a more enriched experience that stands out from the everyday site visit.

Botkeeper's economic impact calculator.

To convert prospects to leads, we create a ton of resources to bring value to the prospects, educate on our space, and offer a trusted, thought leadership-based environment.

Given that site visitors are going to engage with us at various stages of the marketing journey, we’ve designed our site pages to engage at various levels.

For example, for someone coming to our blog early on in their research, we’re not pushing the “start now!” CTAs front and center. Instead, we’re positioning a relevant conversion offer above the fold.

The “start now” option is always visible in our header, and footer for those who are ready to engage, plus, we leverage dynamic content that can also deliver specific offers to those who have been to our site multiple times or are already in discussions with our sales team.

From there, we promote the offers on social, as well as via email where it makes sense, broadening our opportunity and reach.

What are your most successful inbound marketing practices?

I can’t say that there is one channel that I feel stands significantly above the rest on the digital side, given it’s all so deeply intertwined. You need brand awareness for lead generation, and lead generation for driving revenue—inbound is an art form consisting of a lot of moving parts.

Combining multiple channels into a unified marketing strategy ensures that regardless of how someone is coming into your funnel, the marketing influence is there. We’ve seen really incredible success in running these main areas (inbound, events, partnerships) in tandem for the optimum result.

For example, when attending an event (which would normally be very traditional in terms of lead generation), we’re also promoting the event prior, on social, our website, and via email. We drive awareness and exposure to the events themselves to create joint interest between the bigger subject matter, as well as our solution. In addition, we leverage discounts or promotions pertaining to events on our website, which lets us capture any on-page interest pertaining to our events. When the prospect raises their hand to indicate interest in the event, we’re better positioned to enroll them in tailored content nurturing tracks, or begin conversations with sales.

Keeping our eye on the ball in terms of setting SMART goals and integrated strategies has worked incredibly well for Botkeeper. Since Q1 2018, my team has been able to grow our website traffic from around 2,000 visits per month, to 32,000 in our last calendar month. This growth has also been reflected in our lead generation, domain authority, presence in search, and general brand awareness.

We’ve seen substantial impact on our pipeline, and have had the privilege of seeing our methodology permeate through the accounting community — it’s been an amazing 2.5 years.

What’s your advice for startups just beginning inbound marketing?

One of my biggest takeaways in this space, is that you don’t have to tackle everything at once, BUT that doesn’t mean you have to focus on one area alone either. You can’t run 20 marketing departments effectively as a one-person marketing department, but with the right foundation, and some project management skills you can certainly get the wheels turning fast.

With all of the different approaches to marketing, it can be very overwhelming, so start by organizing your “method” and commit to it. If you’re just getting started, and not sure what I mean by “different approaches”—trust me—you’ll see very soon.

I’ve spent some time digging into the areas I feel are most effective, and built a matrix that helps me organize the core marketing segments that I know will need attention (top funnel, bottom-funnel, ABM, customer marketing, etc), and run those against the mediums with which I’ll tackle those segments (blogs, collateral, emails, etc). This helps me to quantify and digest what needs to be done, and helps ensure that I’m always covering the areas of the funnel that will have the biggest impact on the pipeline.

Lastly, the kind of marketing that yields compound interest, takes a while to yield results. As difficult as it may be, practice patience for the first several months. Spend the time in the beginning to work on those organic methods that will bear fruit long term!

What’s your advice for startups taking their inbound marketing from intermediate to advanced?

The tactic that’s worked best for me is to really segment our marketing infrastructure efforts from our promotional/short-term efforts.

Using the matrix I reference above, I recommend starting out by building your infrastructure. That means identifying your goals for each marketing segment, and determining what’s needed to ensure you are keeping each marketing segment consistent and healthy.

For example, we know we need to create top-of-funnel content and practice SEO to keep our top-of-funnel filled, and there are a lot of ways to get that done. We also know we need to create conversion opportunities via collateral to convert those leads for middle-of-funnel. And from there, we need to reasonably quantify those efforts based on our available resources (i.e., we need 4 top-of-funnel blogs per month, as well as 2 emails and 3 social posts per blog to promote them—which we know we can produce with our current team).

An example of Botkeeper's content matrix.

This really helps give a long-term content plan that can also determine what you’ll need in terms of resources.

Once your infrastructure is ironed out, there is the “promotional” side of marketing to consider. On the promotional side, there are efforts that will come with seasonality, new ideas that occur throughout the year, and unplanned initiatives. This kind of work will augment and/or complement that infrastructure and ensures you don’t lose momentum, and are getting the best of both worlds.

Where is the future of inbound marketing going?

I see a lot more in terms of AI and ML coming into the picture analyzing prospect behavior, search patterns, and cross-linking social data with site behavior and blog behavior to better target preferences and interests.

We’ve seen drastic evolution in these kinds of strategies over the last few years alone, and it certainly isn’t slowing down. This coupled with overall personalization will be huge.

I anticipate websites delivering a tailored and personalized experience via AI and database intel being the norm in a few short years.

Where can people learn more about you and Botkeeper?

You can find more about Jessica King here. And you can find Botkeeper here. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Anne Hay

Anne Hay VP Marketing of PayNearMe

What’s your background?

I started my career as a journalist, and then worked in marketing and sales at an educational technology company before I moved into financial technology. I’ve been working in payments and fintech for the last 15 years, and have worked for both small and large companies.

I joined PayNearMe in 2018 because it offered me the opportunity to lead marketing at a company with a great reputation and stellar product that was on the brink of transformation — both for themselves and the bill payment industry.

PayNearMe was previously more outbound and sales-driven, and as a company with a unique product and little competition — it worked. As they embarked upon a major solution expansion and additional markets, they saw the value in becoming a marketing-led organization, and it was exciting and enticing to me to be able to be part of it and lead it. Today I’m the head of marketing and we focus heavily on inbound marketing.

What does PayNearMe do?

PayNearMe makes it easy for companies to get paid by their customers. The PayNearMe platform lets customers pay how they want, with flexibility to adapt to business needs and the reliability to collect every payment, every time.

For customers, PayNearMe makes it easy to make payments using any tender type they choose (cash, cards, ACH and Apple Pay). Customers choose how, when, and where they want to pay with a convenient, consistent experience across multiple channels.

For example, PayNearMe allows customers to interact via web, text, email, interactive voice response, call centers, mobile wallets, apps, and cash all with the same consistent user experience, customer satisfaction, and reliability.

For businesses and government agencies, PayNearMe helps process more payments, positively engage customers with exceptional user experiences, and easily manage financial business operations. It also empowers agents to collect more efficiently with a PCI-compliant and intuitive interface.

PayNearMe enables banks and credit unions, consumer lending companies, mortgage servicers, sports betting and iGaming companies, municipalities and utilities, and property managers just to name a few.

What’s your inbound customer journey?

We stay close to our SEO strategy and keywords to ensure we create content that builds organic traffic for us.

At first, to make it easier for prospects and customers to discover us, we are very focused on our website as the heart and soul of our company and we publish to it in some way almost daily.

We turned our website into a 2-stage funnel by focusing heavily on two areas: blog content and product content. We use blog content focused on thought leadership and market challenges to draw customers in, and product content with ROI metrics and strong calls to action to convert them.

We also support that with paid campaigns where our offer is worthy of obtaining contact info (webinars, guides, etc).

Once we have drawn people in we have to keep them engaged, so we focus on consistency of communications across our channels (primarily email, social, and our sales/SDR teams). We publish 2-3 pieces of blog content per week, a monthly newsletter, and quarterly product update.

I am very proud of the relationship I’ve built with our sales team and consider them the “wind beneath our wings” when it comes to engagement. We make them a part of our process so they find the output valuable and are invested in its success.

They share blog content, articles and events with their networks actively, supported by signature marketing and pre-authored social posts.

I manage our SDRs, using engagement metrics to help guide their outreach and ensuring we are reaching prospects and customers who engage in a timely fashion.

And to convert those prospects to leads, our demand generation efforts center on a framework grounded in consistency and topic focus.

Our head of demand generation created a framework that allows the marketing team to have a monthly view into everything we will create to support lead generation across multiple types of content to our site including webinars, blogs, downloadable resources, videos, etc.

We also leverage a number of external channels we’ve built relationships with to pull from their sites to ours, such as channel partners, associations, and select paid publication engagements.

At the end of the day, the core of our whole inbound journey lies in consistency of messaging and creation of content.

What are your most successful inbound marketing practices?

When the pandemic started, we stood up a microsite guide with lots of information, all ungated. Being a nimble team, we were able to act fast and were of the first to market with content among our competitors.

We keep the guide relevant by following up with proof points, economic payment data from our clients, and case studies. It has been updated numerous times with additions and messaging refinement.

Before the pandemic, face to face meetings were a large part of relationship building in our industry and we counted on in-person events as a main source of our opportunity creation. As many did, we had to shift gears overnight pivoting our event marketing to almost entirely digital marketing — and we had to find a way to stand out in the noise.

So we formulated a content strategy with 3 goals:

  1. Remind our current clients of what features they already have access to in the platform and how they can use it to solve current and expected challenges.
  2. Communicate to our clients who could easily add other services and how it would benefit their business and customers.
  3. Engage with the market on real business challenges and how our tech could solve them.

6 months later, the guide is our most visited piece of content this year with over 20k unique views. This program helped boost us over 150% of our pipeline goal over the last three quarters!

What’s your advice for startups just beginning inbound marketing?

Don’t try to boil the ocean with your content. Make sure your content has a specific purpose and know what question it answers. Know what challenges your clients and prospects have, and give them content that informs and empowers them. Make them the champion.

One way to ensure content has a specific purpose is to talk with sales often to find out what their prospects and customers are asking.

Identify your differentiator(s) and what you want to be known for, then focus your content on it — and don’t be afraid to change it quickly if it’s not resonating. This is key especially when you are new to market and going up against larger, more established competitors.

Agility will be your best asset. Start, and refine from there!

What’s your advice for startups taking their inbound marketing from intermediate to advanced?

Use your metrics.

You likely know how your channels are performing, but are the inbound leads converting and how quickly? Are you attracting the type of prospects that best fit your solution or are they falling out of the pipeline in early stages?

Do your best to ensure your content is attracting and empowering the prospects that are the best fit for your solution — it’s win-win when you do.

Score your inbound leads, nurture them longer, and qualify them better to improve ROI.

Where is the future of inbound marketing going?

In the B2B marketing space, the use of AI and other tech to deliver more personalized user experiences. The better we get at speaking with our prospects instead of at them, the better we will be at breaking through the noise.

Where can people learn more about you and PayNearMe?

Anne Hay: