Let’s discover Lucia Barbato’s best practices to grow B2B tech and telecom businesses using content marketing in this article.
Here’s the outline:
- Q: Can you introduce yourself and share what inspired you to get into content marketing with the audience?
- Q: How did you decide that b2b telecom will be the space you want to work with and help them with marketing aspects?
- Q: What is your process for bringing the most value to your clients in the b2b tech and telecommunication space?
- Q: You said you work in partnership. How do you go about creating a client brief?
- Q: As your agency has Mathew, a journalist, and you as a pr. So can you share the process of quality content that you come up with for the client?
- Q: What do you think that some writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
- Q: If a freelance writer works on it, what do you think they should do to deliver effective content? What sort of process should they go through in that scenario?
- Q: From your perspective, the strategy and content planning in the b2b telecom industry should be one year long, or should it be short?
- Q: What skill sets are required to do the content strategy and planning properly?
- Q: What sort of input that you think people should take into consideration when they create a long-term content strategy?
- Q: If a company is new and they’re not established, and they don’t have a lot of budget, how do you advise them to do content marketing effectively?
Q: Can you introduce yourself and share what inspired you to get into content marketing with the audience?
I am Lucia Barbato, a co-founder and director of Ilex content strategies. My route to content marketing was slightly different. I trained as a lawyer initially, and I realized that I wanted something more creative, so I ended up in b2b tech and telecoms.
I worked for a few different agencies, and then the time came; I had my first son, and I wanted to be the master of my destiny. I have worked in several agencies, and I’ve seen how some agencies could be doing things better.
I wanted to put those ideas into practice, so I founded Ilex with Matthew, and we started as a b2b tech and telco content marketing agency from scratch. We never intended to do PR, but people come to us and say I want a one-stop-shop, so we do all the comms stuff.
We make everything from content marketing, inbound sales, pr, a complete communications package.
Q: How did you decide that b2b telecom will be the space you want to work with and help them with marketing aspects?
I think there is no other industry that touches our lives as much as the tech and telco space. I think it’s interesting that we take for granted that apps we have on our phones, the conversation we’re having right now seems to happen by magic, and there are lots of players making it possible for us to do that.
I found that interesting. It’s an area that’s constantly growing, and it’s fascinating. It also allows you to use your intellectual muscle a bit, which attracted me.
Q: What is your process for bringing the most value to your clients in the b2b tech and telecommunication space?
I think what’s different about Ilex and the reason why we’re able to give our customers such good value is that we work in partnership with them. So they don’t see us as an external agency; they see us as part of the team.
Because of that, we’re able to talk across various sectors. We can speak to the sales guys and speak to the marketing guys. Usually, business development or marketing is our first point of contact. Still, when we get into the door, we help them across the whole remit and work very closely with them to meet their b2b business objectives.
So they tell us what their extensive suggestions are, and we put a b2b marketing plan together as to how they’re going to get there, and that marketing plan depends on what they want to achieve, what their budget is, etc.
We work with a b2btechcompany in a partnership that I think is very different. We have access to lots of data, and we use that to work out the sweet spots we should be going for. Additionally, we have a lot of experience in the b2b market.
For example, Matthew was a journalist and a business writer for many years. My background was actually in PR. We know a lot of the stuff, and I think they have that kind of expert help.
They haven’t got to teach us from scratch. We can hit the ground running on day one and collaborate with them. It sets us apart.
Q: You said you work in partnership. How do you go about creating a client brief?
We have a lot of discovery chats about what they’re trying to get, the gaps, etc. Because they have exhausted their current agency or they haven’t got the capacity in-house, and they need someone to help them.
There are pronounced gaps that need plugging, and we help them do that. For example, we work with a large American cyber security vendor who came to us because the agency they had previously couldn’t target the middle east market.
One of their key markets, for example, was Saudi Arabia. They came to us initially on a project basis because they needed to get some stories out and get some quick coverage there.
Our thing is all about being borderless PR, so you can get a story anywhere as long as you’re telling internationally relevant, exciting, interesting stories that are backed up.
So we came in with them on that basis, and we got great coverage from Saudi Arabia and across the region. We were there, not invited to pitch, and by that point, we knew who they were, what they wanted to do, what they were trying to get at, and what territories were important to them.
We had lots of discovery calls to work that out. Then based on what we knew about them and what we could offer, we put together a very successful package.
So far, we’ve been with them for over a year now as a permanent client, and they continue to grow and do amazing things. But you know, lots of the stuff we work on is word of mouth.
Often, people leave the company that we were working with, go somewhere else and bring us with them, or start a new venture and invite us to work with them.
So we’re fortunate that we have already established relationships with many people we deal with, which makes it easier to have those conversations and find out what they want and their budgets.
Q: As your agency has Mathew, a journalist, and you as a pr. So can you share the process of quality content that you come up with for the client?
We always had a publishing model in which everything we share with the client has been printed already. When we send them to a client, they must be 99% perfect.
So we are very rigorous about what gets sent out. We have a team that we work for in b2b content marketing, and we’ve found the best way of achieving that is by growing our own talent.
So we have a very successful apprenticeship scheme, and we bring people in either as graduates or straight out of high school and train them ourselves. They get a qualification on the side, and most of their time is spent learning the job.
Then we have a very rigorous internal monthly training process. Mathew and I are very involved in the day-to-day work of making sure the stuff is good enough to go out. We make sure that the individuals can meet the standards.
So what people appreciate is they know that if they give us something, even if it’s a very, very thin brief, they know that we are perfectionists and that we’re going to provide them with something good to show their boss straight away.
We have very high standards, and we don’t send anything else out unless it’s printed already; that’s important. So as we train our staff, they understand the high standards, and we work with them.
So they can get there, and in the early days, Mattew and I are very hands-on, but as they progress through their career, they become self-sufficient and can contact us when they need it.
Q: What do you think that some writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
I think business writing is a specific style of writing. People come out of academia university; they believe they are great writers because they’ve been writing academic stuff, but It’s not the same.
I think there’s a skill to learn, which comes from consuming business writing and practicing. Becoming a good business writer is a different writing style and acquiring that industry knowledge.
So if you go out of school or come out of university, you’re not going to know everything about the b2b tech and telco industry.
I always say that we’re not reinventing the wheel. There is always a press release before a white paper or before there has been a video.
So getting familiar with that kind of content and how that is best executed helps you know if you’re an avid reader or going to be a good writer, and the same for content creators.
Q: If a freelance writer works on it, what do you think they should do to deliver effective content? What sort of process should they go through in that scenario?
I guess many freelance writers have been writing about that industry for a long time, and if they’re, they probably have a wealth of information themselves. If you’re an established writer, you’ve had lots of practice; you’re probably a good writer because that’s why people choose you.
But if you are starting out writing as a freelance writer and starting in this industry, I think taking the time to do your research is vital. I mean, as an industry, it moves very quickly. There’s lots of content out there that they can use and make sure that the sources are reputable.
We teach our newest staff, ensuring that you know who you’re quoting and that they’re a legitimate source. It is always valuable. We, as an agency, every morning do the news. We sit around, and we do it virtually. Everyone picks out their top tech or telco b2b story.
I think keeping abreast of just every day what’s happening in the industry is beneficial. An accumulation of knowledge always helps. You’re learning bit by bit every day without even realizing it.
But if you send an assignment, I think the number one thing is to research the industry topic you’re talking about and the company. You want to sound like them; how do they usually sound?
What impression do they give when you read any of the material? You want to mimic them as much as possible. I have to sound like it’s coming from the same writer, even if you’ve never worked with them before because the tone of voice is essential.
Q: From your perspective, the strategy and content planning in the b2b telecom industry should be one year long, or should it be short?
The important thing about planning is that you always remain flexible because you never know what curveball can be thrown at you. For example, we use LinkedIn a lot for our clients, and it’s the number one platform that they want to get in front of.
We might do several different campaigns, and each one will have lots of different touchpoints. So, for example, we might write an e-guide, and the e-guide will be on their website, and it’ll be sent out as an email to the database, but it’ll also go on their LinkedIn page, and it’ll also go on their personal LinkedIn profile.
It’ll go on Twitter, and we can then spin off a couple of blogs from that. That’s the plan in place, and we might think we’ll do quarterly guides. That’s something that Ilex tries to do themselves.
We do it for our brand, which I sometimes admit slips because client work comes beforehand, and the fact of the matter is even though we’re planning like a year ahead of what we want to do, you never know what’s around the corner.
Something far more critical will come through in six months, and then you have to park whatever you had planned.
So I think plan as far ahead as you possibly can. I think more than a year is too far because it will happen much sooner than that. So the quarterly guys, the monthly newsletters, whatever is planned, make sure that content gets as many different touchpoints as possible.
Q: What skill sets are required to do the content strategy and planning properly?
It would be very organized to run a tracker and come up with creative ideas. Get people behind you; one person will not create this content plan. Execute the content and deliver it all in one go. It’s often the work of a team of people managing your social media.
What you’re creating isn’t the person who necessarily writes the white paper, or you might be doing the email campaign, or you might build a blog post. So I think it’s essential to have a vision and execute on that by bringing in the best people to help you and getting the most out of your team because nobody does all of this work on their own.
You want to have consistency because it’s unhelpful even for all communications, different inflection points. Because by the time, if you’re only doing that, then by the time your next piece of content comes out, people can’t remember who you are.
Q: What sort of input that you think people should take into consideration when they create a long-term content strategy?
It depends on the business objectives and how many resources the business themselves have to support you. I think people often come to an agency hoping you can solve all their problems because it’s tough when you’re in the middle of something to see the wood for the trees.
You need someone to stand back and say this is the best bit of your story, and this is how we should do it. So gather as much information as you can from the company but have that relationship where they trust you to stand back.
Q: If a company is new and they’re not established, and they don’t have a lot of budget, how do you advise them to do content marketing effectively?
It’s always good to start with the basics, and you don’t have to go in with all the flashy, expensive stuff straight away. A little and often is much better than nothing at all.
We work with startups, and we do various things for them, and each company depends on what they want. But people often find it very useful to have some support in the beginning.
Creating content can be used across LinkedIn because many people see that LinkedIn is where they want to be getting their new customers.
They don’t want to be wasting their time on other channels. So maybe it’s good to get someone to help you write a blog to populate your website, and you can then use that content on your LinkedIn channel.