In this episode of the B2B Digitized Podcast, you’ll be introduced to Angela Hicks, Director of Education and Training at TapClicks. Angela will share her thoughts on using education to build a technology company.
Angela has spent nearly a decade in technology working with Apple, teaching classes on creative software at their flagship store in Boston, training millions of HubSpot users through a variety of certifications offered through the HubSpot Academy, and setting up an LMS (Learning Management System) at TapClicks.
Listen to the full episode of the B2B Digitized Podcast to learn more about:
- Creating content that you enjoy and you’re good at
- Creating educational content for different stakeholder roles
- Evaluating how content fits into your overall strategy
- Moving very quickly with video content
- Providing content to all buyers involved in a purchasing process
- Repurposing content for different formats
- Updating your buyer personas
- Using education to attract the right people
Watch the Podcast Interview
Listen to the Podcast Interview
Angela has advice on using education to attract the right people and building alignment:
“There's the old adage that everyone works in sales, but I think that everyone works in education. At least in B2B SaaS, we are all educators, no matter what our job role is.”
Angela also talked about the shift in video content over the last couple of years, with changing from professional video shoots to focusing more on getting content out fast:
“There's always a trade-off. Even if you have the budget, space, and equipment, it's still going to take time to plan. We've seen this shift over the past few years. People have finally realized with video, they can move very quickly. It is a great medium to use for getting an ever-shifting message out very quickly.”
Angela also shared how she sees the role of B2B changing with regard to education, training, and content:
“We've had very sophisticated buyers for a long time. They want to learn a lot, but way before they get involved with sales. We have the luxury of finding prospects that really want to know what our products and services are. You need to provide as much content that the person or individual needs as well as all of the others that are involved in that purchasing process. A few years ago it was found that for B2B, there are approximately eight people that are involved in every single purchase. That's a lot of stakeholders that you have to get on board”
All of this and more is discussed in this episode of the B2B Digitized Podcast. To learn more about Angela Hicks and contact her with any questions about the topics discussed, you can find her on LinkedIn or through her company’s website, TapClicks.
Lightly Edited Transcript
Joshua Feinberg: It's Joshua Feinberg from the B2B Digitized Podcast. And I have a very special guest with me today. Angela Hicks. Angela is the Director of Education and Training at TapClicks. Angela, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.
Angela Hicks: Joshua, thanks for having me. It's so great to be here.
Joshua Feinberg: Likewise. So the first place that I usually like to start with most guests is for you to give us a little bit of context on how you ended up in your current role. What was your career journey? Did you know that you always wanted to get into some facet of customer education and using education to grow a technology company?
Angela Hicks: Sure. That's a great question. The answer is absolutely not. I did not know that was where I would end up. I actually have a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a Master’s degree in advertising and PR. I've always loved technology and using computers and software. So that's always been something that I've enjoyed even as a very young child. But after I finished graduate school, I did have a teaching fellowship, and I got the itch to teach people great things. So I've spent most of my career working in SaaS. I've worked at Apple, HubSpot, and now I'm at TapClicks.
Joshua Feinberg: That's terrific. And you're right, it's a great time to be thinking about the role of companies in deploying education because so much of what we've gone through in the last 12 months or so has challenged K to 12 and higher education to rethink and find creative ways to get things done. Now we have seen over the last five, six, or seven years and SaaS especially that there's a really strong playbook around using education to attract the right people and get the right messaging out there and build alignment.
Angela Hicks: Absolutely Joshua, there's the old adage that everyone works in sales, but I think that everyone works in education. At least in B2B SaaS, we are all educators, no matter what our job role is.
Joshua Feinberg: You keep seeing that trend that people have been talking about for the last one to three years, about instead of building a traditional marketing team, build a media company. Companies are trying to get sales and customer success very actively involved in being seen as educators, thought leaders, and advisors. It definitely seems to be a really important part of the playbook for high-growth B2B tech companies. So with all of that in mind, what advice would you offer to someone that's just getting started in working for a B2B focused company, either in marketing, sales, customer success, support, onboarding, training, or education? What do you think is the most important area that someone should concentrate on that's right out of school, that's getting started in this kind of role?
Angela Hicks: I think for someone that's just getting started, it’s really finding what kind of content you enjoy creating and you're good at. There are so many ways that you can tell a good and educational story and then choose the format of that content. Much of this conversation that we're having now could have very easily been a blog post or lots of other different types of content. So that's what I would recommend is when you're just getting started, really stretching out to try all different forms of content creation.
Joshua Feinberg: So for someone that may be comfortable writing a blog post, what would you say is the next logical step for them to evolve into turning the microphone on and trying audio? If they're comfortable with audio, getting them to try video. If they're comfortable with video, maybe video in front of more people. Do you see a logical progression to be able to fill those different modalities or you do feel that there are certain kinds of people that are just really well suited for one kind of format and it’s best that they master that format?
Angela Hicks: Creativity is certainly a skill and a muscle that you can gain and stretch. I think for that person, if they wrote a blog post, trying to repurpose that content, there's no need to just create brand new content every single time. Take content that you already have and figure out what is the short form and what is the long-form. With a blog post, can I turn it into an audio snippet? Am I going to share it on social? What would that message be? What would the visual be to accompany that audio? And then, of course, video, especially over the past few years, we've all gotten a little more comfortable being on video since it's a part of everyone's day.
Joshua Feinberg: Video is a really interesting animal as well to tackle and think about. Years ago when I'd have a conversation with a small business client and they were brand new to video, their first reaction was that they needed to find a few thousand dollars for a professional video shoot to bring in a videographer for half a day. I'd have this overproduced video that took two or three months to go live. And because it was so painful, so expensive, and time-consuming, it would sit under something like museum glass for two or three years and not be touched. And then that information was no longer current and needed to be updated. On top of that, there are six other verticals and five other products that we need similar videos for. One of the silver linings that we've seen emerge in the last year is that people have finally gotten a little more comfortable with the idea that they can get an A or a B in production, but the content value and being able to get the content out fast seems to matter. And it’s absolutely not just about the aesthetics.
Angela Hicks: There's always a trade-off. Even if you have the budget, space, and equipment, it's still going to take time to plan. We've seen this shift over the past few years. People have finally realized with video, they can move very quickly. It is a great medium to use for getting an ever-shifting message out very quickly.
Joshua Feinberg: Just like Zoom has become the new studio and the production equipment is the webcam. And perhaps a better microphone, perhaps a better headset, maybe a little bit of lighting, but an order of magnitude easier, less expensive, less of an initial investment than people would have done in the past. And for years, everyone's been throwing around the statistics that in the next year or two, 80% of the traffic on the web is going to be video. It seems like we're headed in that direction.
Angela Hicks: If you look to YouTube or Twitch numbers, that's definitely where we are.
Joshua Feinberg: And Tik Tok. There were longer videos. Now there are videos for people that can only pay attention for 10 or 15 seconds. But video has become a really big medium. That's great advice for the beginner to start with just one particular content format and eventually grow from there. It could be someone that's working in a support or a sales role that realizes that every time they document a ticket or have a conversation they're potentially coming up with the content idea which can become a blog or a podcast, or that grows into videos or webinars or offline webinars or in-person events. What strategy, advice, or insight could you offer to someone that has been in a B2B technology role in marketing, sales, customer success, or onboarding, and maybe they're 10 or 20 years into their career and the last year has been really difficult. Maybe their company had a lot of turnover. Maybe their team had a lot of turnover. Maybe they're in an industry that's particularly hard. What advice would you offer them to use to help reset and get back on track?
Angela Hicks: So at TapClicks, I spend a lot of time working with customers that are using our platform to bring all of their data together and really get a unified look at all of their campaigns, everything that's going on across all of their platforms. For the advanced marketer, what comes to mind is some confirmation bias that can occur when you have all of that data. So with confirmation bias, you are looking for the data that supports what you think should be your next step. When you find what you're looking for, supporting your claim, and building a good argument with data, that can be dangerous. My recommendation is to really expand your horizons. Quantitative data is fantastic, but don't forget about qualitative data. If you've been working with your company for 10 plus years you probably know your personas and have written many articles about them. It takes some time to do research and interviews to make sure that your persona hasn't changed. If you're busy, if you've been in the business for a decade, your products and services have changed. That's just the reality. So that means that your personas continue to change their needs change. So that would be my advice for the advanced marketer.
Joshua Feinberg: So you think there's a danger in that? Sometimes the easiest things to measure with attribution are the ones that are put up on a pedestal. Some of the more difficult things to quantify are often ignored because you're trying to make the numbers look like you're successful with KPIs and OKRs.
Angela Hicks: Joshua, we were just talking about video and I could certainly surface some numbers -- look at all of these views that we're having. We need to double down on our efforts video instead of going in this direction and putting more content on this channel. That could be easy for me to find if I've been working with marketing analytics for a while.
Joshua Feinberg: So it's like the classic case of chasing the vanity metric, as opposed to being grounded in something we've talked about for years, the SMART goals, the ones that are relevant to the overall mission of the business. Expanding on that, what you're trying to accomplish and what fits with onboarding, it's probably product utilization and retention. If it's customer success, maybe it's expansion marketing as their top and middle of the funnel and sales has the bottom of the funnel, but I could totally see how someone looking for easy answers finds what's in front of them and tries to craft a story around that as opposed to taking a step back and doing it right.
Angela Hicks: That's really important, especially, when you've been in your role for so long to get out of the kind of tunnel vision of hanging around with the same people all the time.
Joshua Feinberg: How do you see the role of B2B changing as someone is planning a strategy to go through a full life cycle from awareness to consideration, to decision to post-purchase? What are you thinking about with education, training, and content to take the context of the life cycle into account?
Angela Hicks: We've had very sophisticated buyers for a long time. They want to learn a lot, but way before they get involved with sales. We have the luxury of finding prospects that really want to know what our products and services are. You need to provide as much content that the person or individual needs as well as all of the others that are involved in that purchasing process. A few years ago it was found that for B2B, there are approximately eight people that are involved in every single purchase. That's a lot of stakeholders that you have to get on board. In fact, Joshua, I was talking with a friend of mine who is not in B2B, but she was telling me about some new software that they were going to be using at her company. It's rather technical. I asked her why are you changing software? And she didn't really tell me what the benefit was to her, the end-user, the person that was going to be using that software. She didn't learn that in her training. And I, of course, was really disappointed that she was going to have to learn software, yet she didn't understand how it was going to help her in her job to work more efficiently. But I wanted to share that story because sometimes we forget about all of those stakeholders. There is a switching cost, whenever we take on new software, we really need to take into account every person that's going to be using that software.
Joshua Feinberg: You bring up a couple of really great points. With decision by committee and more stakeholders being involved, you have to find what the value is for them throughout the whole evaluation purchase. And if three or four of those eight people aren't really clear on how it helps them, you don't have an internal champion. You have potentially an internal detractor, right? It starts to unravel. And then the content piece, when I talk to companies that are just getting started with this kind of initiative, it's usually one extreme or the other, as they look at some large company that has dozens or hundreds of people that are creating blogs and podcasts. They think that they're going to emulate that in the first six months to a year. Or they see that they have a white paper and we did a webinar once and it didn't work and now we're not going to do content anymore. And you just think about the sheer number of eight stakeholders, three, four, five different stages that they go through and you start to realize very quickly companies that don't have a strong content editorial process, a publishing engine and mindset, are going to fall behind and may not recover.
Angela Hicks: And with content, those different stakeholders have different levels of interest. Unfortunately, those eight people are not all going to have the same level of investment in education. Perhaps the person that's in charge of the budget, maybe the person in finance, they just might not want to know every last detail about your software. They just don't have the time, and it's not going to necessarily impact their day-to-day, but they do need enough information to make an informed decision.
Joshua Feinberg: Seems like that goes along with the trend also that I've seen in the last year or two, where the role of the product marketing manager seems to be a lot more front and center as more and more companies in the B2B space are trying to create frictionless purchase experiences. They're hearing repeatedly that people don't want to go through two or three levels of sales qualification or spend a half-hour proving to the sales development rep that they have permission to speak just to find out what the product is and the pricing. It seems if anything, there's going to be an acceleration towards making it easier for people to look at the whole product-led growth movement. All seem to be supporting the same general trend that buyers are in control.
Angela Hicks: Absolutely. We've always talked about creating content for all phases of the life cycle as well as for different personas. But I think it is a little more clear for me just thinking about what kinds of educational content a person might need based on what their role is as a stakeholder.
Joshua Feinberg: That's great advice, content grounded in content, and these are their assets over time. What a lot of people don't realize also when they're trying to compare these to a one-time training event or at one-time marketing events, is that they're going to have something ROI-wise to measure when the PR initially launches. But in reality, even if it's reasonably evergreen, it will need some maintenance over time. Certainly, as SaaS platforms change customer onboarding and training can become out of date very quickly. These programs typically are assets.
Angela Hicks: And Joshua, I would say education is a great way for someone to get a sense of your products and services. Demos are great, but again, not everyone is going to have the time interest or perhaps the know-how to really make good use of a demo or a trial experience. Again, educational content can really help you out here for that person that maybe is not going to use the software. Know-how, providing enough educational content, whether that's a video showing walk-throughs of course, written information, instructional content describing how things work that can really help with further stages in that journey to becoming a customer.
Joshua Feinberg: I want to think about the education that seems it's solving one of the most important things with potential buyers of building trust. Depending on the kind of buyer, if you think about someone that's in an IT role or an engineering role, higher levels of education like Ph.D., it seems the level of cynicism would be even greater. Using education and trials, getting to see behind the scenes is more important than ever for overcoming people's fear.
Angela Hicks: I think you would see that in your churn rate and a way that you can get ahead of that is to make sure that you're not landing the wrong kinds of customers. And I think that most of the time, the wrong kind of customer comes from being an ill-informed prospect.
Joshua Feinberg: So short-term results as opposed to finding good long-term, right?
Angela Hicks: Yeah.
Joshua Feinberg: So with that in mind, what do you see as the biggest mistake that B2B focused teams are making with their overall strategy? Is it thinking too myopically when it comes to looking for data to tell the story that you already are convinced that you're going to tell, is it looking at vanity metrics, is it thinking too short term? What's the single biggest error that you see people making with their B2B strategy.
Angela Hicks: We've all been rather resilient in trying times, but that has also caused a great enlightenment period for creativity. I've seen a lot of people stretching out of their comfort zone and experimenting, trying lots of new things in marketing during such uncertain times. And with that, I think a mistake that's happening is that we're not evaluating those things. We all just needed to move quickly, take some risks. But now is the time to step back and reevaluate. We tried Tik Tok over the past eight months, how is that actually doing, are we getting the results that we want from that channel? That seems to be the mistake that people are making. Just continue to spread out and try new things, but not coming back together and evaluating how things fit into your strategy.
Joshua Feinberg: It's like being spread too thin and not really connecting the investments to the priorities for that persona or just the overall business goal.
Angela Hicks: Let's just try this. Let's see how this goes. But it's good to regroup and see if that is working towards what you're really trying to accomplish.
Joshua Feinberg: So in closing, where do you see B2B marketing, sales, customer success, onboarding, education, and training heading in the next 18 to 24 months? That's going to be a major inflection point where we're going to look back and say that was the big thing that really changed it all where people were getting better value, how companies were getting better value, and how companies were growing, and utilization was growing.
Angela Hicks: I think that we've seen a lot more automation. And we have been expanding to more channels. I think things are going to get a little more complicated as when you take on a new communication method, you do need to monitor and analyze that to see how your campaigns are doing, how effective is your storytelling. I think we are going to try even harder to get a good glimpse into the omnichannel like what we're doing with all of our marketing efforts. And I think something is going to change in terms of automation. I hope it's going to get easier in the next 18 to 24 months.
Joshua Feinberg: As we're trying to make sense of what's working really well, what's marginal, what's not working, the thought is that we'll have some tools that will help us in an automated way to figure out what's actually working and helping us optimize without having to dive in and out of 10, 20, or 30 different tools.
Angela Hicks: With my day-to-day sitting in education, I have seen educators from all over, even in K through 12, really thinking through how we measure the effectiveness of education. Perhaps if you were teaching third grade, five years ago, maybe you had standardized tests in the classroom experiences to count on and rely on, but even that industry is thinking through what metrics matter.
Joshua Feinberg: I’ve seen even with my own kids, how much there've been some teachers that really embraced running Google Meets and how to engage the class and what to do the right way and wrong way with webcam and audio. And some of them have just been in deer in headlights mode. A lot of the signs were probably starting three, four, or five years ago because many schools were providing professional development days around the technology. Some of the teachers were embracing it and some of them, not so much. This forced an acceleration of tech adoption, some have done well, some have not. And in a lot of cases, they're going to figure out what the future of education is going to look like, taking all of this into account going forward.
Angela Hicks: As we know, playing a video, visiting a page, getting a view does not have equal engagement. So I think that's what we will see more of an education, even more analytics that help us understand when someone is actually engaged and learning.
Joshua Feinberg: It's terrific and learning helps solve so many challenges with both up-skilling to enable people to propel their careers forward, propel their companies towards goals and their task partners, to make sure that they're helping to deliver value all around, and getting everyone on the same page. That's terrific. Angela, thanks so much for sharing so generously today. What's the best way for someone to reach out to you if they want to connect or have any questions? Is LinkedIn a good place for you?
Angela Hicks: Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn.
Joshua Feinberg: Great. And if they want to learn a little bit more about what you're working on at TapClicks, is there a particular resource that you recommend?
Angela Hicks: I would say to go to TapClicks, take a look around. We certainly have an academy just link at the top there, so you could come learn with me how to use TapClicks.
Joshua Feinberg: That's terrific. Angela, thanks so much for joining me today on the podcast. I really appreciate it and wish you all the best. And I look forward to keeping in touch.
Angela Hicks: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Joshua.