Gold winners: Autodesk ABM Content Team
We want to share what makes a content team an award-winning one. As part of our blog series to shine a light on various roles within the content world, we are interviewing winners of the 2021 International Content Marketing Awards to showcase what the best content marketing teams look like, how they work and what they do day-to-day to produce some of the best examples of content marketing.
Stephanie Losee, Global Head of Thought Leadership Research & ABM Content and Judy Wilks, International ABM & Executive Content Lead from Autodesk sat down with Marketing and Events Manager at The CMA (Content Marketing Association), Natasha Glazebrook, to discuss the launch of their account-based marketing content team and what led to them winning the gold award for Content Team of the Year at the 2021 International Content Marketing Awards.
This award recognises excellence and innovation from a team that is involved in the process of creating content. Teams are judged based on their level of output, how they work together, as well as their ability to meet goals and hit briefs while showcasing creativity and high-quality work.
When judging the Autodesk entry for this awards category, one judge said “To be able to deliver the work and results they have as a brand-new team within this type of organisation is really a great achievement. Their approach demonstrates their strategic knowledge and expertise. They have helped to shift the company to a thought leader and partner and not simply a supplier.”
Hi Stephanie and Judy, congratulations on your recent win! What a great way to recognise your team for their hard work. Thank you for chatting with me today, I am really looking forward to finding out more about the team. For those that might not know, can you explain who Autodesk is, and what it is that the ABM Content Team does?
Autodesk is a 40-year-old software company that is changing how the world is designed and made. Our technology enables architects, engineers, manufacturers and designers to create smarter buildings and innovative, more-efficient products that reduce waste. Our software has also been used for just about every Oscar-winning movie in the last two decades. So we have the great good luck to work not just for an inspiring tech company, but for a purpose-driven tech company that enables its customers to achieve their sustainability goals, their creative goals, and their business goals.
The team was formed to support the company’s ongoing transition to account-based marketing (ABM). This means creating content that is customer-centric and focused on building long-term rather than transactional relationships. We also support Autodesk’s focus on engaging senior executives at our target accounts to ensure that they consider us a partner to their businesses whose thought leadership can help guide their choices.
What roles do you have in this team, and why do you think they are necessary?
When the team was formed back in early 2020, there was a recognition that ABM content should be rooted in the regions so that the team could partner closely with regional ABM and Sales teams. Each regional lead serves as the glue between our content team and their ABM & Sales partners, which is key to delivering highly compelling and relevant ABM content. We also have an audience nurture specialist and an editor who supports the growth of our executive content hub Converge.
How does the team work together and with the wider organisation?
Nearly everyone on the team was hired post-Covid, so we’ve never met. Working together is a little conceptual so far. We keep planning ambitious offsites in beautiful European places and then postponing them. We have high hopes for May. In the meantime, we make vigorous use of Slack and get on Zoom at odd hours of the day or night in order to talk synchronously.
As for the wider org, there are few teams we don’t connect with. Our regional leads partner with their local ABMers and Sales colleagues, drawing on their customer insights to create content that will resonate with their accounts. At the same time, we connect with teams in Brand and Communications to ensure that our work aligns with their plans, and with various stakeholders in Campaigns who promote our research content. And we have frequent conversations with our executives and subject matter experts, who lend their points of view to our content and events. Our work relies strongly on relationships.
What is it that makes this team so great, and worthy of winning the gold award?
I think our internal stakeholders would be a better source of the answer. They often share stories of the ways our team’s thought leadership and ABM content help them to accomplish their goals. The first content project we kicked off after the team’s launch was a three-part research report called Strategies for Business Growth in the Next Normal that offered executives guidance for how to adjust their business models, workplaces and customer interactions to contend with changes triggered by the pandemic.
When the reports were completed, we made them into a hardcover book that we sent as a direct mail piece. A Sales partner just told us that the CEO of a target account stood up at the beginning of an Autodesk executive briefing, holding the book and thanking us profusely for it. The book was all tattered and marked up, and the CEO had told his exec staff to read it. That’s the kind of impact content teams live for.
How do you ensure that the team collaborates effectively with each other and with the wider business?
We are lucky enough to have people on the content team with completely different and complementary skill sets and backgrounds, from ABM to journalism to audience nurture. The one thing we have in common is a desire to learn and grow, so we all actively share our knowledge and enjoy learning from each other. We also share our challenges, and a common agenda item on our team meetings is how the rest of the team can help one of us approach a particular pain point.
As far as the wider team goes, Autodesk is a very collaborative organization and really encourages a growth mindset. So, for example, we are almost an extension of the regional ABM teams that we work with. Our goal is always to achieve real impact with the content that we produce, so we focus a lot on communication across the organization to make sure that all parts of the business know what we are doing and how they can leverage our content.
What did you look for in employees when putting this content team together?
A combination of content chops, learner mindset and grace. That word didn’t pop into my head when I was hiring for previous teams, but now that so many of us connect only through Zoom, I think we need an extra measure of courteous goodwill and focus on the needs of others to build and maintain these virtual relationships. I think our team sees the content chops and grace in each other, and that’s how we’ve been able to come together as a team of learners building a new function even though we’ve never spent a single minute in the same room since launch.
How do you work together to come up with new, innovative ideas?
It’s certainly not easy for a global, dispersed team that has never had the chance to meet in person! We’ve been experimenting with virtual brainstorm tools like Mural for quarterly design-thinking sessions. Part of it is also about mindset – we’re a team building a new function, so new approaches need to be the backbone of our work. We also encourage team members to feed their brains with inspiration from whatever sources they prefer – other Autodeskers, conferences, webinars, training, media – and then to bring that learning back to the group.
In your submission you said, “To achieve our goal, we needed to take a different approach to content creation – one that is outside-in and customer-centric ” Can you tell us how you went about pitching this change, and how you ensured a smooth transition?
Our team was scoped with that remit, so we had a certain amount of buy-in at the outset. But in order to ensure a smooth transition, we commissioned a study into our executive audience to understand their strategic priorities and to learn more about what they like to hear from technology partners. That informed our approach and we shared the insights with the rest of the organization.
Next, we characterized our content projects as pilots to make the point that we wouldn’t commit to untested formats or strategies. As each has proven out, we’ve scaled the pilots across regions. It’s been especially helpful to be able to show rather than tell what we’re going for in the way of content or results. And it keeps the investments modest at first.
Why do you think content is so important for account-based marketing?
Thank you for asking – this is something we are very passionate about! It’s all too easy in ABM to focus on the structure of your program and the data and not pay enough attention to what you’re actually going to say to accounts.
ABM is all about relevance – being as specific as you can about the audience you’re talking to. It’s also about giving customers fresh insight and a new perspective on their business. Lastly, when you are talking to executives, it’s all about a value exchange: giving them something of value in exchange for their time and consideration. Content is the delivery vehicle for all of this.
We talk a lot about content that is hyper-relevant and “outside-in,” i.e. it’s based on customer insight and talks about them not at them. We also aim to make ABM content that is thought-provoking and problem-solving. If you carry on using the same “inside-out” content that you’ve been using for lead generation, then chances are your ABM program will not see the results you’re looking for.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
We have research pieces, more modular content and co-creation pilots in the works, and we’re making moves to standardize and scale programs with global go-to-market motions and more predictable timelines and outputs so our GTM partners can plan much further ahead. Our long-term goals include an annual program of thought leadership releases that our customers can come to expect and draw upon for their own business planning.
How do you think that winning a CMA award will support those plans?
Possibly by reinforcing our stakeholders’ sense that we’re onto something, which has a way of shaking loose budget and helping to bust silos. We’re grateful to the CMA for recognizing our work, especially so early in our team’s tenure.
Do you have any advice for other content marketing teams this year?
We don’t have a magic formula, but we would say:
- Talk about your audience’s challenges, not about your company’s solutions.
- Talk to internal stakeholders about how content can help them achieve their goals, not yours.
- Invite your internal stakeholders to listen when you bring in outside subject matter experts so they can learn best practices along with your team.
- Express gratitude often. Your success requires a great deal of support.