By Emmie Atwood, Content Marketing Manager · May 20, 2022
Natalie Burge, Product Marketing Manager at Column, was recently interviewed on Pathmonk Presents Podcast to dive into public notice, Column’s growth plans, the usability of public interest information, and what it means to work at a public benefit company.
Laying the groundwork for a marketing strategy in an early stage startup is a monumental task regardless of the product category. Layer in an industry where tech has been more destructive than disruptive, and you’ve got a unique product marketing challenge to turn into an opportunity.
There are people who’ve built their careers modernizing such industries and understand a thing or two about mindset and buyer behavior. Natalie Burge is one of them. Here’s what she has to say about client acquisition channels, the role of product marketing at Column, and what it’s like to learn the ins and outs of a whole new industry.
On client acquisition channels:
The publishing space is a small, tight-knit industry. Through incentive alignment, we’re committed to proving that we’re a partner in the industry and not just a vendor. For many newspapers, public notice comprises between 10-30% of their revenue. It’s a critical piece of their business. For Column, we want publishers to stay in business because we believe in the necessity and value of local news. This is why we’re not a subscription-based software. We charge a processing fee for every notice placed through our software. Publishers’ success directly impacts our success.
“We firmly believe that it’s really important to have those distribution mechanisms [newspapers] in place so that local communities have awareness of what’s happening within their community and have an opportunity to raise their voice.”
We’ve been a consistent voice and partner to state press associations who are fighting legislative proposals that want to get rid of publishing requirements for public notices. In turn, state press associations have been great partners to us by introducing us to their membership and we've gained a lot of new customers through those relationships.
Additionally, our market heavily leverages event channels for discovering new products and services. In order to drive demand for our product, we need to be where our customers are. We’re investing in event marketing so we can talk face-to-face with our customers about industry challenges, our vision for the future of public notice, and how partnering with Column enables operational efficiencies, enhances their bottom line, and helps them combat destructive legislation through their state press association.
On what role a website plays in Column’s buyer’s journey:
We’ve learned that our customers discover new products and services through events and word-of-mouth referral networks. Rarely are folks searching online for public notice software of their own accord. They arrive at our website to gut check Column before a discovery call or demo to ensure that it checks the boxes and answers their needs.
“It's the place where people come to validate and vet."
Knowing this, we're redesigning our website to be more customer-centric and to remove barriers that would prevent future customers from getting the information they need quickly. We're also going to incorporate more customer testimonials and case studies. The new website launches this summer.
On the role of product marketing at Column:
As the company evolves and grows, this role will change along with it. Initially, the task was to assess the landscape and identify gaps in the customer journey where educational content is most needed. We’ve now developed foundational buyer and sales enablement materials and began a qualitative customer research initiative to get some baseline insights that will inform our go-to-market strategy.
Alignment with our product team has been critical to get advance notice of feature development so we can develop contextual narratives around usage and outcomes.
On learning a new industry:
“We need to be as close to the customer as possible. A lot of marketers over-index for learning technology and don’t spend enough time with customers.”
Any marketer jumping into a new industry will learn more by talking to customers than by any other means.
I’m learning new things about this industry every day. Initially, I began to follow industry insiders on LinkedIn and started listening to customer calls. That, and setting up the qualitative customer research initiative, helped me get insights quickly and identify patterns and themes from which we could build around.
I’m also establishing feedback loops by conducting closed/lost interviews and hosting conversations with customers who’ve reached a steady-state with our tool.
Watch the whole 20 minute interview here.
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