Anum Hussain

Head of Content Marketing, Reforge; Co-founder of Below the Fold

Anum Hussain on Scaling the Demand Generation Process in Content Marketing

Demand generation is a crucial part of the marketing and sales process and involves a range of activities and tactics to attract and engage potential customers. Want to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your efforts to generate leads and convert them? It is time to scale your demand generation process. 

Anum Hussain, Head of Content Marketing at Reforge, talks to Anirudh Singla, Founder & CEO of Pepper Content, about scaling the demand generation process. 

Here are some excerpts.

1. How has your journey been in the content marketing space?

Content has been a part of my life even before my MBA, so it wasn't a transition; it was a constant. I started my career studying journalism and worked in news media before I pivoted to Boston-based HubSpot. I joined as a blog writer and spent five years there, during which time I grew from being a blog writer to a content marketer, and I learned about product marketing, growth marketing, email marketing, social media, lead generation, etc. 

Joining Reforge was my first preview into growth, and while working for the Founder and CEO of Reforge, previously VP of Growth at HubSpot Brian Balfour is when I started to evolve my content marketing playbooks. 

During my MBA, I used MIT's entrepreneurship resources to start my own business, which was at the intersection of news tech and content. I ran that for about two and a half years and learned a lot about what it means to run a business, how to be a founder, and bring in lots of people. I got burnt out and realized that content was truly my core passion all throughout my career. After I saw that Brian Balfour was hiring for a Head of Content Marketing, that's what brought me back into content marketing full-time. 

2. How was your HubSpot journey? As a content marketer at that time, what was your primary goal?

The goal during my time at HubSpot was purely demand generation. Content was for the sake of generating traffic that would ultimately convert to leads. We started content at HubSpot when content wasn't popular. I was building e-books in Microsoft Word; blogs were still new concepts; we were teaching people about blogging and lead generation while creating content for these. 

During that time, our focus was on publishing marketing content that helped our audience since the company had evolved into sales content. 

3. How do you scale the demand generation process?

There are various ways to scale any content marketing engine. It depends on the goals that you want to drive. At HubSpot, our goal was to think about how we can use the internet landscape, blogs, e-books, etc. During that time, a marketing e-book would cost hundreds of dollars, but we decided to give e-books away for free in exchange for email and contact information. 

Since then, we've evolved. At the time, scaling was about creating free content for the ecosystem, but that's not enough today. Everyone gives free content away today, so scaling the content process at your company depends on what your goals are. 

4. How have you structured your team to drive content marketing success?

You mentioned that every company is going to be a content company. HubSpot was a content company from the very beginning. Everybody at that company touches content in some way, shape, or form. When I first started, I was one intern, and there was one blogging manager. A few months later, we hired another writer. We were publishing every day because every single marketer on that team, whether or not content was a part of their official job description, was contributing content.

The content came from across the entire company in addition to our initial three-person team. Over time, HubSpot has evolved its market. Their blog team is huge now, and they have different blog managers owning different audiences, parts of the site, etc.

One of the things that I love about being at Reforge is that we truly are a content company. We sell, build, and give away content. Everything we do at Reforge is content, which implies that many people contribute to and run our content engine. 

5. How has your content marketing strategy changed at Reforge as compared to HubSpot? 

When I was at HubSpot, we had one audience. It was marketers, which over time expanded to sales, service, and others. At Reforge, we have four audiences - growth, product, engineering, and marketing. So you have to focus on reaching four different audience types with one content engine that has continued to be something that we are iterating and improving on. 

When we first started blogging at HubSpot, nobody had done that. We were naturally able to get a good share of the market for content because we were among the first to do it and our content was great. Now, there is so much content on the internet. So every piece you create must contribute some value to your audience because they have an endless option of places they can get content from. On HubSpot, I would write, edit, and publish a thousand-word blog post in one day. At Reforge, we spend two to three weeks going through, iterating, and improving a blog post that'll go out once a week. Publishing daily versus publishing weekly is very different.

Content marketing has evolved, and the competition for eyeballs is aplenty. We need to focus on making sure that we attract people through the value and quality of our content versus consistent publishing of content.

6. What does a content marketing stack look like in your head? 

Content analytics continues to be important and connecting that to your bottom-line revenue is forever a challenge. Everyone's Martech looks different, so the content Martech stack is a whole different piece of the puzzle. For me, the branding and design of how your content exists, thinking through how all pieces come together, and stakeholder management are important. 

Most of our time is spent on the iteration of ideas. We can get caught up in questions like - Where do our best ideas come from? Who's going to write those ideas? Who are we interviewing for those ideas? All of that happens before we end up on a content platform. So once we're on the platform, it should be more about whether the site structure is correct, if it allows us to optimize easily, whether we are able to draft, share, preview, link, and things of that nature, without issues, etc. 

7. What according to you should a content marketer not be doing?

Don't be impulsive. Content takes time. It's very easy to do something, feel that you didn't do well, and hop on to the next thing. You need a few reps on everything that you do, and if you're always impulsively jumping from one idea to the next, you're never giving any strategy or initiative enough time to bake to give you insight into whether there's something you should continue including in your playbook or not.

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