App Annie is global company headquartered out of San Francisco. I had the opportunity to talk with Kate Donahue, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at App Annie, about how the company uses content marketing to support awareness and acquisition as well as retention. She also talked about some of the key martech tools that keep the marketing team running smoothly.
Running a content marketing program
Donahue started at App Annie a little over a year ago to lead global content marketing. She works with a variety of teams overseeing content that is used across the company, from blogs to gated content and more. She works closely with research, product marketing and demand generation.
Before her coming on board, there was a content marketing program, but while there were teams in other regions helping an on ad hoc basis, there was no one person leading the program out of the San Francisco headquarters.
App Annie produces content in seven languages and has teams on three continents to power the content marketing program. Donahue said the teams are small and easy to navigate, helping with some of the complexities that globalization brings to the table.
The research team at App Annie has been in existence for three years, so they have a lot of data available, making it the bread and butter of App Annie’s content marketing program. When she joined, Donahue said she wanted to build on that and work to showcase data in different ways: new and emerging regions, vertical highlights, new product innovations.
She also wanted to work closely with product marketing and sales to help elevate the program to become not only data dependent but solution oriented. This additional focus on solutions enables Donahue’s team to better connect with prospects and new leads and gives her content that has a longer shelf life than data-oriented content.
The content marketing strategy is a mix of top of funnel and demand generation; educating on the trends in the mobile app space, providing market data related to the market overall, taking deeper dives into certain verticals and more.
They are also working across stakeholders to identify needs. Knowing what prospects are asking Sales, and working with CSMs to understand what existing customers are interested in is helping Donahue’s team define new content topics that will ultimately drive conversions and support retention.
The martech stack at App Annie
How does the content marketing team leverage marketing technology? Donahue said they have four main tools, which are not fully technically integrated but have a linear connection.
WordPress is App Annie’s content production platform for all seven languages. They use Heap for analytics. Donahue described Heap as “democratized data management.” With Heap, every movement on an app is tagged and tracked upfront. You then define queries based on those events and work to make sense of it.
The content marketing team uses Feedly for teams (an RSS reader) for trendspotting and to perform research on ideas or help spark new ones. Finally, they use Percolate to organize ideas across the full marketing team, planning and executing marketing activities, including managing content as it gets created, reviewed, distributed and measured.
Percolate helps not only the content marketing team but the entire marketing department keep organized and in control. When Donahue first started, the content marketing process was very manual and existed in silos. Content, campaigns, planning materials - all could be found in slide decks, spreadsheets, word docs, many shared only amongst the team developing them.
She said it was hard to get a holistic picture of what the whole marketing team was doing which resulted in missed opportunities for collaboration and the inability to easily see strategic disconnects. The biggest concern, aside from inefficient processes, was the potential break down from the end-user perspective. Mixed messages can be a major challenge for many marketing teams that aren’t well coordinated.
One of Donahue’s tasks was to improve the content marketing process, including project management and potentially identify a solution to support this improvement. However, instead of looking for a small scale solution that supported only her direct team, Donahue saw an opportunity to create a better view of what marketing was doing overall.
She wanted to find something that served the needs of all marketing and its ancillary groups (about 50-60 people around the world). She went through a rigorous RFP process at the beginning of Q1 of this year. As part of the discovery phase, she wanted to understand specific pain points at a regional level and how to better support other marketing teams. Her plan was to bring many stakeholders to the table to help them narrow down a tool that would underpin the entire marketing program.
It’s interesting to note that executive buy-in came fairly easily to purchase the Percolate platform. Donahue reports directly to the VP of marketing communications and community, and he was already open to the vision of bringing in a tool to help her team run better. Helping the entire marketing team instead wasn’t a difficult sell.
Cohesively managing marketing processes
Percolate is a fairly extensive platform. Donahue oversaw the purchase process, implementation and onboarding of both it and Feedly. She said they currently use about 80-90% of the platform, including task management, campaigns, a planner with a visual calendar, asset manager, approval workflows, as well as subtopics and tags.
They have implemented a scalable tagging solution that not only brings visual order to the planner but helps them quickly spot issues like over rotating certain markets or topics. Percolate also provides social media management that enables the marketing team to monitor and govern their social accounts.
A huge benefit of Percolate is its customizability, Donahue said. Her team spent a lot of time working with the platform to understand it and learn how to customize it in terms of forms and templates to work with existing processes.
One example Donahue provided was supporting translations. Two coordinators manage translations, one in London and one in Beijing. They work with outside agencies and vendors under some very tight timelines. Percolate enables them to manage the translation process much easier, according to already existing workflows.
Finding the ROI in marketing technology
Percolate has only been in use for a few months at App Annie (it was implemented in April, and most teams were on boarded by July), so Donahue noted that it is too early to look at overall ROI to demonstrate the technology’s benefit. But the marketing team is seeing benefits already. Donahue said it’s easier to find assets and see what other teams are doing, and it has unlocked opportunities to collaborate and support team members.
Percolate has an operating analytics feature that Donahue is excited to use in the future that will not only tell them how their content marketing is performing but also show areas for improvement. For now, they are working on internal surveys to start setting a benchmark for NPS and developing plans to improve adoption of Percolate in particular, but also other marketing technology.
We talk a lot about having a well integrated marketing technology stack to ensure things run smoothly. But App Annie demonstrates you don’t need a ton of technology, and it doesn’t all need to integrate tightly. This content marketing team has a process they follow to generate and develop ideas that use a couple of different technologies, and it seems to work well for them.
Percolate is the main platform because it enables the management of the complete content marketing process (and other marketing team processes). With a company spread across three continents and seven languages, that process is no small task.
What App Annie has on its side is in depth data from which to develop some great content. But they have to be careful not to reuse content differently across marketing channels, or to mix up the messaging that comes from this data. Good marketing technology, like Percolate, helps keep things straight. The ability to not only create new processes and improve existing ones is hugely important for many marketing teams adjusting to an almost completely digital experience.
As a side note, there are a lot of content marketing tools out there you can look at to help you manage your content marketing: DivvyIQ, Curata, NewsCred, Kapost to name just a couple. They aren’t identical, but there are similarities in feature-set.