Brand publishing is having a moment, as more companies use original content to help them build more direct relationships with audiences. But one part of the puzzle remains unsolved: How to connect content with hard business metrics.
Hoping to be a major player in this space is AudiencePlus. The company, which announced $5.4 million in a seed funding round last week, has introduced a suite of software tools it says will help companies launch and operate media properties of their own. Founded by Anthony Kennada, formerly the CMO at Hopin, Front and Gainsight, AudiencePlus aims to help companies launch publications, leverage registration walls and paywalls on their content, understand audience engagement, and understand if and how content efforts are affecting their business pipelines and revenue.
AudiencePlus launched in private beta last week with customers including Gainsight, Zuora, Crossbeam and Nextiva.
Kennada joined this week’s episode of the Brand Publishing Podcast to discuss the top trends he’s seeing in the industry and why it made sense to launch AudiencePlus.
Highlights from our conversation are below.
Why content must connect with revenue
One of the trends we’ve been covering at Toolkits is the realization on the part of marketers that content and publishing is more than a vanity outing: It can create deeper, more meaningful relationships with prospective customers in a way that can translate to real business outcomes.
Kennada noticed this first when he was building marketing teams at other SaaS companies. While trying to figure out the role content could play to help build those businesses, he realized quickly that existing blogging tools weren’t designed for more built-out media offerings, and web analytics didn’t help (much) to get a picture of what was truly engaging audiences.
“For B2B leadership, building thought leadership through content isn’t just the right thing to do, it actually drives the business. It translates to revenue and other business outcomes in a much more sustainable way than some of the traditional channels we’ve been using,” he said. “We’re building AI and machine learning into the fabric of the platform because we’re helping companies understand that engagement. YouTube isn’t giving it to us, LinkedIn isn’t giving it to us — that’s not the kind of deep understanding we need on the topics that resonate with our audience. Connecting that engagement to revenue.”
Living the mission
AudiencePlus has spent the past seven months building its software but, in the meantime has invested in content designed to build an audience for the company itself, leading to an email list of 2,500 content professionals before launch.
“We started our journey in the content and community side. We’re trying to gain a lot of empathy for the customer, and educate the market as well. Like, take a lot of work that you’re doing at Toolkits too. We want to get everyone in the world to start thinking of brand publishing and owned media as core strategies for marketing.”
Headwinds are transforming traditional marketing rapidly
The inspiration for AudiencePlus came as Kennada was observing the fast-changing content and marketing landscape. One trend he noted was that companies had to become much less transactional in how they worked, and focus on building true relationships.
“We’ve been producing a lot of content for an algorithm. It didn’t matter if a human being ever read it as long as they clicked it. That’s not how people are ultimately consuming content today. SEO is just table stakes at this point. We have to create content in a way folks want to consume it,” he said. “Our relationship with social media is changing. We’re seeing a fraction of the impressions we normally did. All of this leads to the importance of building a first-party data set and understanding your audience; building a direct relationship with your audience.”
The other big challenge Kennada notes is that scrutiny of paid marketing continues to increase in a tight economic landscape. “It’s very hard to defend,” he said.