2 January 2024

2023 End of Year Reflections – In Conversation

In conversation with Nick Horton and Jeremy Balius, reflecting on 2023 and discussing what has happened with Filament as a B2B tech marketing agency..

end of year reflections video | Filament

Here are Filament founders Nick Horton and Jeremy Balius reflect on 2023 and discuss what has happened with Filament as a B2B tech marketing agency.

The conversation highlights various projects and achievements from the past year, including working with a Singapore-based client entering the Australian market, winning best content marketing in Australia, and providing go-to-market services for tech vendors. The importance of developing a strong value proposition and focusing on solving problems rather than selling products is emphasized. The conversation concludes with the key learning of being a partner to the businesses you work with.

Key takeaways include:

  • Develop a strong value proposition that guides all messaging and ensures consistency.
  • Focus on solving problems and providing solutions rather than just selling products.
  • Be a partner to the businesses you work with, offering valuable advice and support.
  • Continuously learn and adapt to stay ahead in the industry.
  • And so much more!

Click play to watch the discussion or read the transcript below.

Transcript of Nick & Jeremy's discussion on "2023 End of Year Reflections"

Jeremy Balius: you wanna kick off with a highlight from the past year that you were thinking about?

Nick Horton: Yes. Okay. I’ll just take the first one on my list.

Okay. Cool. The first highlight I wanted to talk about this year Was a Singapore-based client. They’re launching into the Australian market, and they came to us looking for a partner that can help them create the right sort of content, both from a content marketing and bound marketing perspective, but also from an SEO perspective.

And so we’ve been working with them now for just over four months. So far we’ve published a white paper landing page ten blog posts twelve social cards. Those emails gone out to a database which we help them develop for their market entry. And the feedback’s been really positive. They’re a a security vendor.

As I say, they’re international. The office is based in Singapore. They’re really using this as an to start to build some awareness for their brand, start to get some activity happening, and obviously generate some lead flow. And they’ve been really happy with the results so far. So that’s been a great highlight for me to be able to, work with a large international company that’s wanting to come into the Australian market, that’s looking for a partner that understands not only the dynamics of the b two b technology market, but also can produce the right sort of content for SEO and for inbound That’s gonna generate the results that they’re looking for.

So that’s been a great project to work on and looking forward to continuing the success into twenty twenty four with them.

Jeremy Balius: I think what’s really cool about that particular market entry into Australia, we’re so accustomed to working with vendors and larger channel programs where there’s an existing presence, but they’re looking to try to figure out how do they scale up locally, how do they enable their partners in region, and how do they go beyond having sales enablement or marketing enablement content that’s produced in the states, and how do they make it locally relevant. So I think the work that’s happening with the Singapore-based client is really cool as it’s effectively a fresh brand entry and, really trying to generate demand locally.

It’s awesome.

Nick Horton: Yeah. No. Yeah. It’s been a fun project to work on.

And the type of software that they that they produce is pretty heavy duty security software based around I did identity zero trust as a key component of that. It’s been I could tell that when we first started working together, they, we’re testing us out in terms of our ability to create content that works to those more hardcore topics, let’s say. These are the sort of Topics which are gonna appeal to a CISO to a security operations center type profile.

But we’ve I think with, the process that we go through with our writers and our briefing processes, actually, we’ve been really nailing it. And the Feedback that we’re getting back on the content that we produce is really quite minimal. And so it’s been a great process to go through that together. I think from a Filament perspective, increase our capabilities, increase the knowledge of our team and our writers, and Give them the opportunity to work on some different topics as well. So it’s been a really great project all around.

Jeremy Balius: I think you’ve highlighted another point for me that has really become prominent this year in that our larger clients as they first start getting to know us. So we’re pretty concerned that we’re not a large advertising agency, and they’re concerned around our capacity and capability. And when they then start working with us and realize the speed to market that we’re producing content, it’s pretty eye-opening for them. And I feel like that’s happen with that particular client as well as a range of other multinationals and other vendors where the team’s just able to start sprinting immediately and produce content, compelling, meaningful content in a way that and at a pace that they’ve not seen elsewhere.

Nick Horton: Yeah.

Yeah. And I think that’s the way that we work. That’s the way that we like to interact with our clients. But I think also, from the Filament perspective, I think we’ve been very purposeful in making sure that we’ve set up the Systems and processes and the resources in terms of the people that are that are operating those processes That’s really set up for that we wanna be responsive, that we want to be exceeding expectations rather than disappointing them. That’s I think part of our DNA as an agency and the real value that we provide.

Jeremy Balius: Speaking of the value. One of the one of the things that I think has been fantastic in this past year is very early on in the year we found out or maybe use the back end of twenty twenty two. I can’t remember the exact date. But when we found out that we one best content marketing in Australia for Yeah. The go to market we did with VMware and AUCloud launching effectively the company deeper down into their infrastructure as a service and their data sovereignty and a whole bunch of other stuff, Workspace ONE.

Coming off the back of that award. We’ve just been levelling up time and time again just in terms of the size of business we’re working with, the size of the Go-to-Market and the types of projects that we’re owning and delivering, and it’s been really rewarding to reflect back on. Yeah.

Nick Horton: I think so. And it’s also interesting, that campaign that we that we won the award for, the same rush award for.

That was a go-to-market campaign. And one of the things that you and I have really focused on, I think, this year and, even more focused probably looking forward into 2024 is ‘how we build out our capability?’ Because we think that’s a really unique part of our offering in terms of offering a go to market service for tech vendors and tech brands that are looking to go into a new market as I Talked about with the Singapore client that we’ve been working with. We’ll launch a new product or service, and you’ve got a great example of something that you’ve been working on. And actually, even extending into that joint go-to-market where there’s a number of different either vendor brands or vendor or channel partner brands working together to jointly go to market.

And I’m really excited to see the opportunities that’s gonna open up for us. I think it’s as I said, an area where there’s maybe not the same focus or the same capability as we think that we’re developing. But I’d love to hear, Jeremy, your sort of thoughts about how you see our go-to-market proposition evolving and maturing through 2024.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. So we’ve really been reflecting on this quite a bit, haven’t we?

It’s it’s a frame and it’s a lens of work that we’ve been doing since founding the company, and in fact, prior to this iteration of the company. Where we’ve already been doing this. We’ve been enabling business leaders to be very effective and efficient in how they’re launching new services or taking new products to market. A lot of times, that’s in the context of their partner vendor or multiple vendors. And, I think a real game changer for us as a company this year was the project that you led where we effectively were the backbone to Veeam and AWS’s alliance in the APAC region, enabling partners to take data protection services to market or to expand their footprint but doing that from the context of having multiple brand stories to tell Mhmm.

And weaving that into a story that makes sense for the partner’s brand. That. That takes magic and, real mouse and know how to understand how to do that. And because we did that at scale for a large number of partners across multiple regions, you’ll have to remind me. Was it six, seven territories.

It was Yep. Pretty widespread. Yep. Multilingual, in fact. So that was another thing we leveled up on in our content, now that we’re publishing multiple languages.

Yeah. You have to remind me. I think the Bahasa And Thai. Thai. Yeah.

And there was a third, I think. Was there? Yeah. I can’t

Nick Horton: No. No. Just those two. Just those two.

But yeah. Look and you know what you’re talking about, we’re Taking a service to market with Veeam and AWS in Thailand with a Thai partner, all of the material produced in Thai. That was a lot of work and a lot of effort to get it all lined up, but ultimately really successful.

Ultimately we’re creating bringing together the two propositions, creating a unique message around the partner’s data protection capability, And doing it for their market in the, in the language that works for that market. Yeah, that was quite something to work on.

Jeremy Balius: And, what was really rewarding is for us to recently get feedback from alliance directors and sales teams that the project was so successful and efficient. And when are we gonna it again, and we’re saying, tell us when we’re ready to go. And but that was really rewarding.

And just going back to your question, that was a real level up because of how challenging telling that partner marketing story with so many brands involved in the same story. Most business leaders aren’t thinking about the sheer amount of red tape that has to go through from a compliance and and legal perspective from a brand sign off perspective and dealing with multiple layers of the marketing organization within multiple organizations. tHat was a real level up, and I’m really looking forward to continuing that as we move forward into this go to market space.

Nick Horton: Yep. Agree.

Agree. I also touched on there and, what I’ve just been talking about as an example of going to market with two brands and a partner, And you’ve been through something very similar, probably maybe even more intense, one go to market, but a lot more moving parts. What would be maybe just tell us a little bit about that, but also, could you pull out kinda the key learning for you as you went through that process?

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. And I think we can speak quite openly about this.

This was this is a go-to-market for Probax, which is VCSP in the the Veeam ecosystem. They pivoted this year when they sold off their services side of the business to ThinkOn out of Canada. Can ThinkOn’s now got an Australian presence, which is super cool as they’re entering the region. Probax is pivoting to a SaaS-only business. They are deep in with Veeam, and they were utilizing Veeam’s launch of their v12 and more recently honed in there 12.1 around direct-to-object storage capability.

And so Wasabi is the third partner in that piece having the ability to have affordable storage on the back end to store Microsoft data or any other backups from end user businesses. So so that’s that. That’s been really rewarding over the recent couple of months building out that go-to-market framework, getting sales teams and executives at every level of all of those organizations involved, channel executives, channel sales, channel marketing engineers and many others are involved. So so that’s now launched. It’s launched in in, Australia, New Zealand, and is about to launch even further in the US as distribution goes live.

I think that sort of reflects and really solidifies where we’ve been moving as a company to be able to be the the point person on that from right across all of those teams ensuring that everybody’s on the same page, that value propositions are tightly defined, and, that’s a piece of work that you’ve really been owning with a lot of our clients as well around how you’re differentiating meaningfully in a way that can be understood by prospective buyers and seeing that right through all of the go to market collateral and then being able to deliver and implement on that as well. We’re able to bring that full end to end, which is a little bit different. And this is another success that we found out this year. But it’s a little bit different when we launched the Cirrus backup brand a couple of years ago, and you ran that one. That was too successful, and then they backed away from us because they didn’t need us anymore which I laughingly celebrate as well because of course, we would have liked to have worked with them ongoing.

But if they don’t need us, that’s great. But then to find out that Veeam had acquired Cirrus this year and which is hilarious because we also do a lot of work with Veeam, and it all just stays within the family as I jokingly laugh mentioned. But yeah, the have it having the ability to implement on an ongoing basis with this current project is is going to be really exciting. And I think that’s, we’re really setting up the next twelve, twenty four months of a scale up for this go to market. And

Nick Horton: with the and with that go to market, with that launch, I guess you are bringing together, three different, company messaging.

From the Veeam perspective it’s all about the, their superior technology and their ability to know, offer data protection at scale from a Wasabi perspective. It’s presumably about the, the quality of their storage and the fact that it can become immutable. And then from the ProBaks perspective, they’re looking at we’re really innovating around the availability of those services and bringing them together. So three quite different complementary but different sets of messaging. How did you get, all of the cats to kinda play nicely together?

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, there’s some herding of the cats that takes place. Yep. And I think it’s it gets complicated because businesses aren’t accustomed to that level of rigor or detail of planning, potentially. Mhmm. And so there’s a journey involved to understand how are we negotiating this, but I really feel that we as an agency and the IP that we have been developing and are owning can help smooth in that process by by just our volume of experience and expertise that we’ve gained to figure out how do we massage and weave these things together in a way that is compelling.

I think we’re in a space where this is so far beyond just a simple checklist, and the level of strategy required to get people on side and to agree even down to the individual wording on a media release. iT just takes effort. And maybe now that I’m reflecting on it as well while we’re talking, also a real sense of the unified team. I think it’s as long there’s a point where people can come together and really see that there’s a collective vision. And when people are collaborating truly and not necessarily just trying to fight to win something, but understanding that the mutual benefit is going to be far greater than anyone on their own. You can arrive at something that’s going to make sense for everyone. Yeah. Yeah.

Nick Horton: Oh, fantastic. Fantastic. It’s just as you’re talking, a key part of, I think, what you’re describing, what you went through is Developing out that value proposition. And in that instance, it’s really the value proposition that’s bringing together almost three different value propositions. And I think that’s I think that’s one thing that as a agency, we do particularly well.

I was With a client a couple of months ago and had been asked to come in for a workshop basically to help them define the value proposition for their go to market. So they’re Australian based business that helps manage complex technical integrations for managed service providers. So that they’ll provide a capability that managed service providers don’t have If they want to offer particular types of services to their clients. And so went into this workshop. There was a couple people there, importantly, the MD of the business.

And, I kinda went through the process that I go through in these situations, and I could tell from his body language and his feedback that he was I’m not gonna say resistant, but he was almost like a why am I here? Why am I bothering with this? But Preston, As we got to the end of the part of the workshop, we were really defining the value proposition. That’s something that we just do collaboratively in the workshop. It was almost like a light bulb went off for him, and he leaned forward and he said, Nick, I have to tell you that I’ve sat in about three or four of these types of meetings over the last, year or a couple of years, and all of them have been a waste of time.

And I just thought, oh, no. Here we go. It comes. Yep. I’ll get ready to leave now.

But then he said, no. No. No. But hold on. My real problem is none of my engineers, and they really pride themselves in this business on their technical capability, None of my engineers can actually say exactly what it is we do.

But what we’ve just done together, I can now hand to each of our technical teams And so read that and you will understand what we do. And that was just so gratifying to get that feedback because, we’ve designed this process around looking at how do we describe what we do, why we do it, and how we do it better than anyone else, and just turning that into a relatively pithy statement or value proposition. And by going through that process, it was like, As I say, the light went on for him and he was like, because of this process, I’ve now got this great clear messaging about how we can actually as a business, be much clearer about what we’re trying to achieve. And that’s something that I hadn’t thought about necessarily Before with regard to value propositions, maybe I’m too focused on a in terms of a marketing or a go to market perspective, and that’s gonna be what drives all of the messaging that we Use externally, but actually, what the MD pointed out is that messaging is just as valuable internally because it really helps to helps to describe in pretty clear and ambiguous terms, what it is you’re all there to do, why you turn up in the morning, why you keep taking the salary from them and not going to someone else.

That was a great learning that I had just on the value of the value proposition as a true unlock across the business.

Jeremy Balius: I think what’s really powerful about what you’re describing is the ability to refine how to even talk about the purpose of the business. We work with in the space that we’re we sit, a lot of the businesses that we’re exposed to are IT services types and system integrators and value added resellers. And a lot of these are pretty mature businesses. They, they’ve been around ten, twenty years.

They’re doing really well from a revenue perspective. They’d like to do better, of course, but, they’ve grown this off the back of delivering good services. They’ve never really needed to think about what is it that we’re actually solving for people in a it’s usually reflected in just doing the implementation of the service, keeping the lights on and keeping things secure, but it’s never really the business value. And that’s been an interesting shift in conversation as the leaders that we’re exposed to are recognizing the value of that team.

Nick Horton: Yep.

Yeah. And I think as well, there’s an interesting inflection point that businesses, as they scale, will inevitably go through, and especially in people centered businesses, but not just that. It’s that you can have, the founder or the MD and then the Let’s call them the head of sales or the chief commercial person, whatever their title is. You can grow the business a long way based on their networks, on their outreach, on their activity. But There comes a point where that just doesn’t scale.

You can add more salespeople, but they’re not gonna have as good a network Or they’re not gonna be as they’re not gonna have that ability to actually work their network to create the opportunities for themselves, And that’s the situation with the client that I was just talking about but also something that we’ve come across even in, as you say, mature businesses, There comes a point where if you really wanna keep growing, you need to be doing far more of that heavy lifting on a digital perspective, which I think really is where, our some of our value proposition and other services come into play because that gives you a language That is common, consistent, understood that really recognizes the value that you as a business bring That you’re able to communicate at much greater scale through digital means. That’s one of the one of the other unlocks, for that whole value proposition process. Yeah.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah.

It’s been a good year.

Nick Horton: It has. It has. I was thinking as well, sometimes just about another client, New Zealand-based client. And sometimes You’re bought into an opportunity to do one thing, but by going through the process, you recognize that actually to really Help the client, you’d need to be doing something else.

So just to describe large technology firm in New Zealand, one of the leading, couple of players in their category. Again, they have literally been around for twenty plus years the twentieth anniversary is next month. And they they had implemented HubSpot that had an agency that had come in and helped them do the implementation. They’ve been through the onboarding process with them, but they basically were paying, Several thousand dollars a year for a tool that didn’t really work for them. No one owned, and they didn’t really understand how to Get the value out of.

So through an introduction through one of our partners in New Zealand, we were introduced into this business and, started the process, the journey with them by doing an audit on their HubSpot installation. They had both marketing and sales professional subscriptions. And so we went through the process with them of doing that audit, understanding were there any gaps in the setup, and, yes, there were some technical capabilities that were not Implemented correctly, there were some let’s call it branding related items that were implemented correctly. But most importantly and, I think one of the Biggest unlocks of something like HubSpot when we talk about scaling is that it gives you that ability to categorize your database, categorize leads into different groups depending on their where they are in terms of their relationship with you or where they are in the sales and marketing funnel if we wanna be technical about it. And this business hadn’t implemented that.

And so by going through and, understanding that they hadn’t done that and then working with them to see how we could implement that and understand when, someone goes from a prospect to a lead to a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead. Actually, what we uncovered was that there was a a disconnect, let’s call it, between the marketing lead processes and the sales lead processes. The sales team were actually probably pretty happy with how they were using using the software, but it really didn’t connect up with what the marketing team were trying to achieve, And there wasn’t that overlap. So there was no elegant hand off between marketing to say, here’s a lead that we’ve qualified as far as we can. We think they’re a great opportunity.

Now you, sales team. You go and run with it. And so by going through the audit process and then looking at what we needed to do to rectify the issues that were uncovered, there was, of course, all of the technical level things, but most importantly for the business, it was this recognition of the needed to be a far better process To manage a lead from beginning, from a stranger through to a sale. How can we support, given our knowledge on what’s gonna work well from the marketing perspective, from the marketing side of the funnel, and then really tying that up with the sales side of the funnel. And It was that was, of course, not what we were contracted to do at all but that’s what we ended up spending a lot of time with because, And really recognizing that was where the greatest unlock was gonna be for the business.

It’s not about the tool. It’s about how people work together. It’s about having the processes To make sure that together the sales and marketing teams can be really successful.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. I think that was an amazing learning, particularly as we are expanding out how and where we deploy support around marketing automation and centralizing information and helping businesses scale up their marketing efforts when they generally have pretty small marketing teams or even just a single individual.

So that piece right there was an awesome unlock for the business itself and also gave us a better understanding of the meaningful value of what we’re doing, bringing that end to end visibility from stranger through to close deal. Mhmm. Yeah.

Nick Horton: Yeah. Fantastic.

I also just finally from me, thought about three great learnings that I’ve had this year. I just wanted to share them with you, get your reaction because, One of the things that I love about doing what we do is I’m learning all the time. That’s really important. It keeps me Kinda young despite the gray in the beard and so I thought of the I thought as I’ve been reflecting on this year and the things that have really stood out for me, I thought there’s three that I’d feedback to. First of all start with the value proposition.

We’ve talked about this already, but You really can’t do anything consistently without that value proposition that guides all of your messaging. That means that you’re consistent. That means that, everyone has the same features, benefits, and differentiation to be talking about. The second thing is, Especially in the technology space, but broadly, I think in b two b, no one ever buys a product. They buy a solution to a problem or they buy a solution to a job that they have to do.

Let’s continue to switch that around And talk about what’s the problem first, and then we can talk about the product because that’s how the buying process works. And then the third thing, and this has been Been something that maybe has been reflected through in our discussion from Filament perspective, from a agency perspective. Don’t be a supplier. Be a partner. I’ve had a number of instances where if I was a supplier, I’d just shut up And wouldn’t say anything, but because I see myself as a partner to the businesses that we work with, I’ve said things which main you know, maybe not that popular, but as the advice that I believe that that we should be giving because it’s gonna help, our partners get the best out of the opportunities that they’ve got.

So they’re my three big learnings. Start with the value proposition, Not about the product and be a partner for the businesses that you work with.

Jeremy Balius: Awesome.

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