In this article, based on our interview with Matthew Whalley from Ilex Content, we’ll discover how to implement successful inbound marketing strategies for companies in the tech and telecommunication space by developing ideal customer personas.
- Q: Can you introduce yourself and share what inspired you to get into content marketing with us?
- Q: Could you share a little bit with our viewers about your process for creating value for your clients?
- Q: How do you help your clients develop that ideal customer profile or persona?
- Q: Do you have to do a lot of discussions and workshops, or is more data used to come to a decision? How do you help your clients?
- Q: Do you also help your client in content planning?
- Q: Do you have to adjust the content and update the persona along the way? If you do so, how often do you do that?
- Q: What do you think some writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
- Q: At Ilex, what makes your digital services special?
- Q: How are you currently helping your clients, especially the sales team, and enabling them with content?
- Q: What is some of the advice you have for saas startups regarding doing content marketing effectively?
Q: Can you introduce yourself and share what inspired you to get into content marketing with us?
I am Matthew Wally, the director, and co-founder of Ilex Content Strategies, a b2b tech and telecoms agency based in the UK, but we operate 100% globally. We are in Singapore, Mumbai, and geographies. We serve companies to billion-dollar businesses.
What inspired me to get into content marketing was a b2b journalist, covering international telecoms for about ten years. I enjoyed telling company stories. That’s what I loved about journalism. I was telling tech company stories, media company stories, and saas and IT company stories all the time.
I was learning about the people behind the brands. I was mining for stories, pulling stories out of businesses that weren’t always great at marketing communication. So many exciting things are happening in international telecoms; as the world was getting connected, the internet was ramping up, and more countries were coming online.
There were a lot of stories there, and then I put those stories together as a journalist. Now jumping to the other side, it was pretty seamless to get into content marketing because I was doing very similar things in both b2b journalism and b2b content marketing.
The goal is to get the story out, tell people stories, and help them communicate to their audiences.
Q: Could you share a little bit with our viewers about your process for creating value for your clients?
For inbound marketing, the number one thing is locking in a great story. In b2b tech and telecoms, they tend to think they have the best. If you have the best products or technology, you’re going to win and grow more business.
The challenge is, in this noisy tech world, the companies that are very good at marketing and communicating may have an inferior product, but they’re getting ahead. So these kinds of brands need to create demand that can express who they are, build trust, and be a business that you want to work with.
So ultimately, we go back to that story, getting that brand narrative, getting the message, and then locking that in to develop an inbound marketing strategy. Because our clients are our b2b, they are landing multi-year, multi-million dollar deals. They are not one-off transactions like the consumer world, where it’s straightforward.
These are long-term relationships, and then trust is critical to that. So they are getting their story, making sure people understand, building trust, and then facilitating that kind of partnership and collaboration over the long term. That’s what we’re focused on in creating inbound marketing content.
Q: How do you help your clients develop that ideal customer profile or persona?
The biggest thing is talking to people in the telecom and tech companies. They often want to demo a product or show us a platform.
Although we are more interested in hearing about how these b2b tech companies talk about technology? How do they relate to their customers? How they’re presenting themselves out, and that can be revealing.
So we interview the CEO, but then we question the product marketing managers, sales guys, or anybody in that ecosystem who is delivering the story to pull out who they are.
From the CEO to a low-level salesperson, their concept of who they are and what they want to be may differ. So we bring that together and help them crystallize a cohesive brand narrative and messaging.
First of all, all those different kinds of personas within the business have other goals and different objectives. We create that Venn diagram where we get the messaging aligned amongst them, and sometimes that process is great for brands to explore who they are.
Significantly, product-driven companies or sales-driven companies often haven’t stepped back and looked at who they are, and that’s a huge pain point. Many fast-growing businesses developing new software haven’t stepped back and thought about what they will be and how inbound marketing can help them go to another level.
So we get brought in, and they say,” Wow, we never thought about it that way, or we never know that the other guys were thinking about our business this way,” and then that could lead to some kind of tension that we helped facilitate.
Because they are the arguments that pop up ultimately and help get everybody on the bus and going in the same direction.
Q: Do you have to do a lot of discussions and workshops, or is more data used to come to a decision? How do you help your clients?
Coming from a journalism background, I run interviews where we do 15-20 minutes discussions. Often, companies say, do you want to get together and do the session?. But then I think that gets a lot of groups thinking instead of seeing how everybody’s looking at the same challenges.
I think listening is the key. At Ilex, we don’t need to sell products, blogs, or e-guides. We want to listen to tech marketing challenges or the company’s ambitions and then align that with brand narrative and messaging to create quality content off its back. So we’re not just selling content marketing; we are doing PR. It’s all very heavily integrated.
Q: Do you also help your client in content planning?
That’s the next step beyond the interview. After having the conversations, we think about building the foundation with the messaging and narrative. Then we think about it as a whiteboard where we see challenges and need to be as a brand or our ambitions.
We need to sell more to this segment, region, or audience, and then we will plot out that journey. So, what kinds of content could we create that will get us to that point. How long is that going to take?
So you have to start with the foundation, then about that journey. Consider the kinds of content that will matter or what will be determined by the objectives. So whatever your business objectives are will determine the relevant content and the tactics that we take to get there.
Q: Do you have to adjust the content and update the persona along the way? If you do so, how often do you do that?
Yes, depending on the client and how fast the client is moving. Content marketing is not just about ticking boxes; we have an active website, which is more about engagement. With the conversations, we have inbound leads coming into the sales team.
Q: What do you think some writers miss in the process that would make their content more effective?
The biggest thing is to write something that nobody cares about; only the client cares about it. So at Ilex, we’re very proactive in going back to the client and advising them on what client content will work or what content people care about.
So even if it goes back to my days as a journalist, when I wrote a story, I want people to read it. I need to find the hook, the interesting angles that will matter.
If nobody was going to read this, what’s the point of writing it? If the client wants that, we advise them against it, but we always do what they want. We recommend that perhaps this isn’t the best possible topic for achieving your goals.
Q: At Ilex, what makes your digital services special?
We are boutique agencies, and we are a small global agency. We are based in the UK, but we’re serving clients everywhere in the world. So a lot of people say, how can you do that? I think it comes down to three critical things about our business and that’s expertise, efficiency, and execution.
So we are talking about the news every day in tech and telecoms. My team is always, every day, comes to our catch-up calls, and they discuss the word of the day in tech and telecoms.
We’re tracking companies that we don’t work with yet, and so when we get on calls with potential clients, and they’ll say, “what do you know about our business” I said, well, we’ve been tracking your news or reading your content for the last five years or ten years.
So they’re always surprised, and I always say to them that one of the big things about us is that we’re deep in the industry and understand the technology. You don’t need to spend a lot of time explaining things to us for marketing strategy.
If you want to start tomorrow, we can start tomorrow. You don’t need to spend two weeks or three weeks teaching us about your business and your inbound strategy.
We can start tomorrow, and I can provide recommendations to you about content strategy as soon as the ink is drying on the contract because we’re already thinking about this stuff.
Then the other piece of that is efficiency; finding the most efficient solutions for clients. We want to be cost-efficient; not everybody has a massive budget. So we need to think about how we will be super-efficient in creating touchpoints to get their results.
The other thing is execution. We execute at the highest possible level, and this is why almost all of our business comes from word of mouth. We never deliver content that needs to get rewritten.
My journalism background is print, so we always say we will provide print-ready content. So it can go to press and be locked in. We don’t just burn hours; we don’t go through the motions. We are consistently executing all the time for our clients, which has led us to drive our business in many different directions.
Q: How are you currently helping your clients, especially the sales team, and enabling them with content?
We start with product messaging and then talk about the challenges that your products will address. So we’ll create that whole quick guide, especially for a sales team. We also make shareable things.
So instead of emailing them like ‘buy my stuff, buy my stuff, they’ll say, I found this is a quick guide to a challenge you might be having.
So we’ll give content to the sales team to send it out and offer helpful advice instead of pushing the product. I think demonstrating the potential of working together, instead of moving product, is a much more powerful way of communicating right now.
If someone sends me something interesting to read in my own business, I will have a better feeling about that, and I think those kinds of touchpoints that we’re creating with content and giving to the sales team build trust and drive awareness.
Q: What is some of the advice you have for saas startups regarding doing content marketing effectively?
I would say focus on efficiency and think about the long term and narrative. Many small or startup businesses get fixated on doing one big piece of content, and then they spend a lot of money on it.
They do not think about the long term. It’s better to have smaller but more efficient content all the time instead of having one big splash.
To me, a product launches in one day. It should be three months of communications because if you focus on just one launch and not the long term, you’re putting all your budget into one thing without thinking about a long time.
It’s better to have a lot of touchpoints. One touchpoint that you believe is fantastic, nobody’s read a blog twice. You never go back and read things twice. You often don’t watch videos more than once. So it’s better to have lots and lots of touchpoints and use the budget efficiently.