Staying Nimble, Almost 10 Years In

By Molly Castelazo

 

On December 12 it will have been ten years since I incorporated Castelazo Marketing Ltd. (Time really does fly when you’re having fun.) The atomic bomb that was the financial crisis had just exploded. The Dow was at 8600 – on its way to 6500. And it would be another year until the Great Recession officially ended.

It wasn’t what anyone would call an ideal time to launch a business. But we made it work. There were plenty of nights wondering if I’d be able to make payroll, for sure. But there were also the triumphs of milestones like our first full-time employee and our first six-figure profit.

December 12, 2008 – not what anyone would call an ideal time to launch a business. But we made it work.

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Business card circa 2008

 

Key to our success then was being as nimble as we had to be. We did research for think tanks and wrote product descriptions for beauty companies. We taught tried to teach accounting students how to write. But we also wrote corporate white papers and case studies and blog posts. More of those and less of the other stuff as time went on, which brought us to…

Our first pivot

It was 2013. We had become active with the Arizona Technology Council (hi Steve!) and I was spending a fair amount of time talking to tech CEOs and CIOs. When they asked me what I did, I would say something along the lines of “I’m founder and CEO of Castelazo Marketing. We’re not a marketing agency. We develop content – white papers, case studies, blog posts, and the like – primarily for tech companies.”

It was a great niche, but a terrible pitch.

It was a great niche for the same reason we were successful for four years before doing as wide an array of work as you could imagine: because we’re really good at understanding what the client wants to say, as complex as it might be, and then translating it in a way that is both true to the client’s intent and relevant, understandable, and compelling for the target audience.

It was a terrible pitch because, come on, no good pitch starts with what you aren’t. (Especially when it’s in your name, duh.) So we hired the incomparable Miss Details Design (hi Tanya!) to help us rebrand the company. We decided to adopt the dba name Castelazo Content (because, duh, that’s what we did). We changed the logo and wrote a new tagline. We built a new website.

Come on, no good pitch starts with what you aren’t.

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Business card 2013-present

And we celebrated with tacos and tequila.

The new brand was a near-perfect reflection of what the market needed. Remember, this was 2013, when content was just ascending the royal throne. Companies didn’t have content marketing managers. Tech companies, especially, with the complex stories they had to tell, found it difficult to find people who could develop content that was both an accurate reflection of their thought leadership and compelling for their audience.

But, they knew that content could help them establish themselves as thought leaders and even generate leads.

The new brand was a near-perfect reflection of what the market needed. Remember, this was 2013, when content was just ascending the royal throne.

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After the rebrand, when I would meet those tech company CEOs and CIOs, I would say “I’m the founder and CEO of Castelazo Content. We develop thought leadership and lead generation content for tech companies.”

I’d often be interrupted before I even finished. “We need your services,” the CEO or CIO would say. “We’ve been trying desperately to find someone who can explain what we do.” Great niche and great pitch.

But like all great things, it couldn’t last.

The more things change…

By the end of 2017, the content pitch was starting to lose its luster. In the four and a half years since our rebrand, companies had jumped on the content marketing bandwagon with fervor. They now had content marketing managers. They were developing content in-house.

By the end of 2017, the content pitch was starting to lose its luster.

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But the companies “doing content” weren’t seeing the results they expected. Naturally – because you can’t just produce content and expect miracles to happen. You have to put content to work as part of a broader marketing and sales strategy. That’s what we’ve always done (and why our clients get amazing results). But positioning ourselves as a content marketing agency didn’t reflect that. It made it sound like we produced content, end of story.

You can't just produce content and expect miracles to happen.

So the question was not ‘How can we add value in this new market?’ Our clients valued what we were doing for them. But it wasn’t just content. Our services had evolved.  We needed to reposition ourselves to better align the way we talked about ourselves with the value we were actually delivering to our clients.

See, for the last couple of years, we had, albeit unwittingly, pivoted again. We had started delivering not just content assets but full-fledged campaigns. We were working with our clients to build and execute lead generation, lead nurture, and sales enablement strategies that leveraged content to walk buyers through their journey. We were helping to bridge the gap between marketing and sales. We just weren’t talking about ourselves that way.

Other experts were, though.

Gartner research finds that, today, “Leading companies map out the customer buying journey, focusing on the key questions that customers must ask at each stage on the path to purchase” because “the best approach for improving lead management capabilities begins with the customer.”

Leading companies map out the customer buying journey, focusing on the key questions that customers must ask at each stage on the path to purchase.

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And SiriusDecisions’ 2018 Global CSO Study reveals that “Sales cycles can be reduced by focusing on orienting the sales process around the buyer’s journey so that the sales team is helping to guide the buyer efficiently through the decision-making process rather than trying to force a buyer through steps designed solely with the sales rep in mind.”

Sales cycles can be reduced by focusing on orienting the sales process around the buyer's journey.

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Just like in 2013 – when we realized that, really, we had been doing content since way before content was cool – we realized this year that, hey, we’ve been focusing on the buyer’s journey, and how content plays a role across the marketing funnel and sales cycle to, essentially, walk the buyer through the journey. At the same time that experts are just beginning to talk about exactly that as the path to success for marketing and sales teams.

And that’s why we repositioned the company. We’re doing the same work – and delivering the results – we have been. But talking about ourselves as a demand generation and sales acceleration firm, instead of a content marketing agency, reflects the fact that we’re not just producing content. We’re helping marketers generate demand and turn it into the leads that convert. And we’re helping sales more efficiently convert leads to customers, and customers to evangelists.

Talking about ourselves as a demand generation and sales acceleration firm, instead of a content marketing agency, reflects the fact that we're not just producing content. We're generating demand and accelerating sales.

Here we are on the crest of what in another five years I’m sure we’ll all recognize as the next big trend in marketing and sales.

It’s all about the buyer

It was before I founded the company, back when I was working as a freelancer, that I started using this slide when I made the point that “it’s all about the audience” (or the buyer, as it were):

Presentation slide circa 2008

 

I have no idea who Ashleigh Brilliant is. Never did. But his quote is so perfect, because it is so tragically common – still – for companies to want to yell from the rooftops about how amazing their products and services are. Yet no one cares. Another oft-repeated insight of mine: Buyers don’t care what you can do. They care what you can do for them.

It is so tragically common – still – for companies to want to yell from the rooftops about how amazing their products and services are. Yet no one cares.

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So the concept that “it’s all about the buyer” is back in full force in our messaging now. It’s why we’re not calling ourselves a content marketing firm anymore.

If we have an elevator stop together, we’ll tell you that Castelazo Content is a B2B demand generation and sales acceleration firm. Because that’s what our buyers care about.

Working with our clients from the very beginning of the marketing funnel to the very end of the sales pipeline, we deliver the results that drive revenue ($69 million last year alone). We do that by leveraging proven sales & marketing strategies and tools to deliver the right content at the right time, helping our clients walk their buyers through the journey – from pre- awareness, to decision, to evangelization.

Working with our clients from the very beginning of the marketing funnel to the very end of the sales pipeline, we deliver the results that drive revenue ($69 million last year alone).

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It feels in many ways like we’ve come full circle in the last almost-decade. Who we are and what we do really well – translating the client’s thought leadership (insights) into business results – hasn’t changed. It’s still all about the buyer. But while at one point offering end-to-end services wasn’t a good pitch, it now feels right.

Because it’s all about the buyer, and your buyer has one journey – from before they’re aware of their challenge and its solution to where they’re evangelists for you. So it just seems logical that you would have one partner to help your marketing and sales teams build and execute the strategy for walking those buyers through that journey.

That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.

For the next five years, at least.

Molly Castelazo
molly@castelazomarketing.com
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