Aya Fawzy is a veteran start-up marketer who has traveled through the ranks. Now, as Director of Demand Gen at Skedulo, she wears many hats, building their marketing operation from the ground up. With her knowledge and experience, she’s up to the task, making sure she and her team do their job to get sales the best leads possible. In this Q&A, we caught up with her to chat about her career trajectory, the challenges of working with a distributed team, why she loves Blue Bottle Coffee’s approach to content, and the clever way she got her execs to produce more content. Enjoy.
C5: How did you end up in your current role?
AF: I received my B.S. degree in Marketing and Finance from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2014. I quickly realized finance was not my strength and enjoyed the strategy and creativity that marketing brings. Like most of you know, school doesn’t teach you modern digital marketing. I worked hard my senior year to get an internship in tech and ended up at ServiceMax doing marketing operations/demand generation, where I learned tools like Marketo and Salesforce.
Soon after graduating I joined a Martech start-up called Captora, where I quickly became a marketing team of one and had to learn about digital marketing on my own. Let me tell you, my first few months involved downloading Marketo’s definitive guides and Hubspot’s e-books to get up to date on the terms and best practices.
Being at a Martech company like Captora gave me insights into marketing best practices, and I was working with customers who were other marketers that I could learn from. I was also fortunate enough to test out programs and learn via trial and error, which I am grateful for. At Captora I had a generalist role, where I was responsible for social media, lead generation, sales enablement, content, events, you name it! Being a team of one allowed me to experience all aspects of marketing. But after a few years, I found that my sweet spot is demand generation.
Now I am leading Demand Generation at Skedulo, but like most start-ups, I picked up other areas of marketing as well.
C5: What does your team look like, and how do you all work together?
AF: At Skedulo we have a team of two marketers! YAY! We also have a marketing designer based out of our Australia office. I am responsible for Demand Generation, content, and sales enablement, while my counterpart is responsible for operations and events. We work very closely together and have weekly meetings to talk strategy. We also utilize consultants to fill in gaps in our team. For example, we utilize Scripted to help us scale our content creation and CS2 Marketing to help us with marketing operations. We have also utilized Column Five for infographics and datasheets. We usually look at where our gaps are, what our bandwidth is, and how we can fill that gap with a consultant to ensure we don’t miss a beat.
C5: What are the unique challenges and advantages of working with a distributed team?
AF: I have been working with distributed teams my entire career. Working for start-ups you usually have a small team and have to rely on consultants/agencies to help you scale. The challenge with working with a distributed team is that you end up being a project manager. I spend about 4-6 hours a week doing weekly calls with each vendor/consultant to ensure that projects are moving on the right track and to talk about priorities, challenges, etc.
However, I think as you move up into leadership positions, or even when you work on projects, you end up being a project manager, so I don’t really see this as a challenge. You just have to quickly learn time management. There are more advantages to working with a distributed team. I really enjoy having experts in the areas we are lacking because it enables me to learn more about that function. It’s also really nice to have people to bounce ideas off of and learn from what they have done or have seen work.
C5: Are there any individuals in marketing whom you really look up to?
AF: I look up to Meagen Eisenberg [CMO atMongoDB] and Stacey Epstein [CEO at Zinc]. They both are strong women in tech who have had multiple leadership positions and have driven change in their organizations. They are constantly challenging the status quo and are great marketers with unique ways to go to market and lead their teams.
I also love how Meagen talks to 2-4 Martech vendors a week to keep up with new technologies and how they fit with the rest of her stack. Both of these women are constantly sharing their best practices and how they work to influence others!
C5: How is working for a start-up different than working for a larger, more established company?
AF: I have never worked for a larger company. I enjoy the pace and workloads at start-ups. Working for a start-up has its advantages and challenges. I enjoy wearing multiple hats and interacting with different departments in the organization. I also get bored very fast, so the fact that I can own and work on multiple projects that are so different really motivates me and makes me happy. However, most start-ups may not have a mentorship program in place, so you are left trying to figure it out. I don’t really see that as a negative thing, but it really depends on the person.
C5: What are some of the challenges you and your team are currently facing?
AF: Skedulo started focusing on marketing as soon as I started in January 2017. So we had to quickly build everything from scratch: our marketing strategy, lead lifecycle, demand generation plan of what programs we are going to test, what technology to leverage, develop a BDR playbook, etc. In just 6 months we got a lot of the foundational work down, which we are consistently updating and making better. Now the challenge is:
- Data integrity: an outdated database with untrustworthy and incomplete data.
- Getting sales to follow-up on leads in a timely manner and in an effective way to keep them flowing down the funnel.
- Ensuring a holistic experience and tracking, especially when balancing multiple technologies.
C5: What are the most rewarding and the most frustrating parts of your job?
AF: The most rewarding part is knowing we are influencing pipeline and that sales can see the contribution from marketing. Marketing can get frustrating when the value of marketing is not seen, which can happen a lot since marketing has most of the budget and is often seen as a cost center.
C5: Which marketing trends do you feel will be on the rise within the next year?
AF: I think we will see a lot more creative and interactive content; video will be utilized a lot more. AI and machine learning will be utilized by marketing at a larger scale. I also think marketers are starting to think about how the ever-growing list of technologies they are utilizing work together and where there are gaps and opportunities. More holistic marketing strategies will start to emerge.
C5: What makes content great?
AF: There is SOOOOO much content out there. It’s honestly overwhelming. Does this sound familiar?
“We need a blog.” > “Ok, what should we write about?” > “Well, our company is focused on improving customer experience.” > “Perfect, let’s talk about 5 reasons why technology can help you improve customer experience.”
THIS IS PAINFUL!!!
Marketers get so carried away trying to sell themselves that the content being written is overly promotional, not interesting, repetitive, and just a waste of time and money. It’s more important than ever to produce great content. Marketers need to think outside of the box when it comes to content. I love infographics, direct mailers (when done right), interactive content, contests, quizzes, videos, etc.
One of my favorite content examples is Blue Bottle; they created a video series about brewing the perfect cup of coffee. So why is this “good content”?
- I love coffee, soooo they just won my heart right then and there, plus who still drinks Starbucks unless they are desperate for coffee?
- They utilized video, which is a great medium because if someone wants to learn how to make coffee, it’s easier to follow along and visualize it than read steps online in a blog format.
- They are short, digestible video clips.
- They know their audience. They aren’t straight-up selling Blue Bottle Coffee; they are utilizing their beans and have their logo everywhere to show their buyers (coffee lovers) how they can make this at home (hopefully with Blue Bottle Coffee, but maybe not). At the end of the day, it’s educational content that’s helpful, so buyers will return to them for information.
- Did I mention coffee?!
Really, what makes great content is being different and standing out! Don’t just fall into the trap of blog post after another that no one is sharing or reading.
C5: In your opinion, where does marketing start and sales pick up?
AF: Marketing is owning more of the lead lifecycle. Now marketing is responsible for feeding the top of funnel with high-quality leads; they are in charge of nurturing in the middle of the funnel, as well as at the customer/influence marketing stage, where they are creating video testimonials and case studies, as well as getting reviews to increase brand awareness.
Sales is now working towards more of the bottom of the funnel. Sales is no longer wasting time calling the entire database; they are talking to the marketing qualified leads that marketing passes along. Marketing’s goal is to generate qualified leads for the sales team, while the sales team’s goal is to close. But don’t forget the ultimate goal is the same: drive sales and revenue.
C5: What keeps you and your team motivated and excited about content?
AF: At Captora I created an executive competition to get our execs to contribute to our blog. Whoever created the most quality blogs in a certain time frame was to win a gift card and bottle of wine. This not only motivated the execs but also the company in general. We kept a running total on a whiteboard, and I sent in progress checks at the end of every week. I got a total of over 10 blogs in a month. Most execs cranked out 3-4 in a month! It was great!
I do not think you always have to incentivize people. In our small marketing team at Skedulo, we are motivated to create content because we understand that it drives demand and is critical for marketing success. To keep people motivated and excited, you just need to make it fun and original!
C5: What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to build a career in content marketing?
AF: It’s much more than being a good writer. I think people who have a journalism background make amazing content writers because they are good at storytelling. I think the most important thing to note is knowing why you are writing content. There is sooo much content out there. Understanding what the goal of each piece is and understanding how it plays with demand generation is critical for anyone who wants to build a career in content marketing.
Many thanks to Aya for sharing her thoughts. For more wisdom from game-changers in content marketing and content strategy, check out these Q&As:
- Ethan Zanat of Zendesk talks rebranding and creativity.
- Carly Stec of Hubspot talks about the challenges of building and running a brand publication.
- Course Hero shows us how to build a brand through user-generated content.
- CoSchedule shares the content strategy that increased traffic six-fold.
- Jeff Marcoux of Microsoft chats about implementing an Account-Based Marketing strategy.
- Business Insider’s Mike Nudelman tells us what publishers want from your content.
- LinkedIn’s Alex Rynne explains how to use LinkedIn to build your personal and professional brand.
Of course, if you need any help with your own marketing, we’d love to chat.