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Content Creation Mastery: Vinod DN's Guide to Lead Generation and Customer Retention

Vinod DN, Head Of Marketing at AppEx Networks

For this episode of Wytpod, Harshit Gupta, Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs, interviewed Vinod DN, Head of Marketing at AppEx Networks. Dive into the intricacies of lead generation with Vinod’s keyword research expertise and explore effective backlinking strategies. Unveil the power of customer reviews in building trust and witness the evolution of B2B content creation, where localization and industry-specific marketing take center stage.

AppEx Networks is a forward-thinking enterprise networking innovator, specializing in Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and SD-WAN solutions. 

Vinod DN
Head of Marketing at AppEx Networks

Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of Wytpod. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances at Wytlabs. We’re a digital agency specializing in SaaS and E-Commerce SEO. I’ve got Vinod with me today. He’s the Head of Marketing at Appex Networks. They are an enterprise networking innovator specializing in Secure Access Service Edge and SD-WAN Solutions. A big welcome to you, Vinod. I’m so happy to have you with me today.

Hey, Harshit. Thank you so much for having me here.

Brilliant, man. Now, before we dive into Appex Networks, can you please let viewers know a little bit about you and your professional journey so far?

Absolutely. I started off my journey as a pre-sales guy. That was a long time ago, almost a decade ago, or maybe not so long ago, if you ask me, and I moved up my way through the structure into marketing, handling, various aspects of marketing, to begin with, SEO, paid ads, and then social media marketing, email automation, so on and so forth. Currently, I’m now heading Marketing at Appex Networks.

Brilliant. Now, let’s talk about Appex Networks. Can you please tell our viewers a little bit about the company and its main focus areas?

Absolutely. Appex is an AI-based enterprise networking solution provider. What we do is accelerate applications, and provide you with a seamless, secure, and scalable network for your enterprise applications. We do so with our patented AI-based technology, which works on acceleration. We also have a global point of presence, which is more than 600 scattered across the globe. We ensure that your business traffic is seamless and always superior compared to what you get elsewhere, be it compared to regular internet or MPLS.

Okay. Let’s talk a bit more about some of the marketing channels. Now, I’m going to be biased and talk to you about SEO first. How exactly SEO is playing a critical role in increasing your online visibility? And within your organization, how do you optimize your content to rank higher on the service and attract the right target audience for you?

Absolutely. Seo is too important because in the world of B2B advertising or marketing, paid ads are too expensive and the budgets are too short. The best ROI is always from Google search. You know what they say, right? Google is the next Gartner or it’s the first Gartner. Before people even talk to Gartner or Forrester or anyone else for that matter, they do a quick Google search. If you’re not there on the first page, then they’ll probably miss you. It has always been an important channel for all the enterprises that I’ve worked for. My approach to SEO has always been to Start with keyword research. Thorough keyword research, your competitive analysis, and where your advertisers are advertising. No, sorry. Where your advertisers are ranking better, where you’re not, Where are the gaps? How good is your content from a reader’s perspective? Go through Google Analytics, and understand your time spent on the page. Your technical SEO is also extremely important for you to provide a seamless experience. All in all, SEO has always been top of the priority list for everyone across the organization. It’s not just me, because people understand the value of SEO now compared to how it was a long time ago, wherein people were just writing content without thinking about either the search engines or, for example, end users.

Nowadays, even content writing has been streamlined. It is more SEO and user-focused because when I remember back in the days, technical articles used to be filled with jargon that end users would not understand, and it would be heavy with images, all tags, and all the drill rights. It was not user-friendly or SEO-friendly. Now, things have changed. It is very simple. It covers the basics. It covers multiple topics. Now, back in the day, people used to write just one standalone topic, and that’s about it. Nowadays, I always people write umbrella content. What I mean by the umbrella content is, let’s say if I’m talking about apples, I also write about red and green apples. I also talk about fruits. I also talk about other fruits. I also talk about the proteins and everything else that you get out of it. It’s a little more holistic, and that is where I see a positive change happening. That is how I approach SEO in every organization.

You very correctly mentioned that building authority in a niche is important, and that is where the concept of umbrella and clustering comes into the picture. I think after the EAT update that Google made, they made it more evident. People have observed in the past that if you cover one topic and make your expertise into that niche, you reap good results. But after that update, it was quite clear that this was the way to go. Yeah, it makes sense. Now, because you are catering to a global audience, I would love to know, how you tailor your marketing campaigns to resonate with such diverse audiences across different regions and industries.

The same message does not resonate with everyone. Because I’m a fitness enthusiast. For me, something else matters. I’m a foodie. For me, something else matters. It’s the same for B2B also. The same message does not resonate with everyone, especially for each industry. Whenever we have any of the documents created, internal documents or customer-facing documents, we always ensure that it talks to a particular industry. We always take care of industry-specific challenges. When we talk about be it case studies or white papers or anything else for that matter. One more important aspect that we always try to cover is localization because globally, we have customers across various geographies, which is 1,500 odd customers, and they are all from various parts of the globe. And not everyone would like to read English content. So we understood that well in advance. And as much as possible, we try to localize the content. These are two things that we have always prioritized.

I wanted to understand what exactly your prioritization process looks like because you’re catering to so many geographies as well as so many industries. Say, for example, if you have to come up with a content piece, what would you prioritize? What you would maybe park for later? How exactly does that happen?

It’s a lot of back and forth because we as marketing and sales work in a closed loop Whenever we want to shift gears and penetrate a newer geography, our priorities change. Let’s say we want to expand, it would mean we want to explore another industry vertical, and then our priorities change. Based on this, based on where we see a sweet spot or a low-hanging fruit, that is where we work extensively. Let’s say, for example, if you look at it, every industry goes through its technological change and its phases. If you are in the consolidation era, if you are in the infrastructure era, if you are in the application era. Now, as digital transformation penetrates each of these industries, their need for technologies like what we are currently offering from Appex becomes even more important for them. And that is where we identify, Okay, these are the industries who are actively looking for a solution because of whatever reason. These are the content pieces that we want to create for us to educate the market about our solution. That is how our priorities align.

Do you also look into any specific set of analytics or data sets to come up with a decision? Is there anything on that front as well, helping you take care of this prioritization process?

We talk to multiple analysts who are sources of truth, and they help us understand where the market or the industry is moving towards. They act as a beacon of light for us.

All right. Now, I would love to understand because the concept of AI-based acceleration technology is quite innovative. How do you integrate this technical sophistication into your marketing message to make it like a general Joe like me could understand and comprehend what your business is like and what you’re offering? How do you do that?

If you had asked me the same question 10 years ago, it would have been extremely difficult for me to explain to you what exactly we do. Thankfully, today, because of ChatGPT, everyone understands what AI means. A huge amount of credit goes to them and a lot of other AI companies who are doing this. It becomes easier for other AI-based companies and marketers to explain their stories. The market is already aware. A lot of people are aware of what AI does and how it benefits. It becomes very simple and easy for us. If you’re asking about what exactly we do. Now, think of the internet. It is cluttered, it is crowded, and it is chaotic. Now, for enterprises, it means loss of business. If they rely on the internet to use the internet for their enterprise applications. To eliminate that challenge, enterprises move towards MPLS, which means a dedicated line. It’s your private highway. Only you ride on it, no one else comes. Again, it is very expensive. It’s not feasible. It takes a lot of time to deploy and all that. Later on, applliances came into the picture, wherein I give you a box at one end, and another box at another end.

It will optimize your applications. And think of it as compression. I’m sending a file. Of course, the speed will remain the same because nothing can traverse faster than the speed of light. But the amount of data that I’m sending is much less, so it will take less time. Now, the boxes are old. They can’t be read in the cloud era. Today, everyone uses Zoom for that matter. Office 365 and a lot of other applications are all hosted on the cloud, and it’s not scalable. It requires software patches, and hardware appliances, enterprises offline can’t handle all of that. Eventually, enterprises move towards a cloud infrastructure, wherein even with remote software updates, enterprises could still reap the benefits. Now, even with that, it is too expensive to use your MPLS. Now, even though I increase the pipe size, if the amount of water that is flowing is not increasing, then what good is the pipe? If it is not taking the best path from your overhead tank to your tap, then what is the point? That is where AI comes into the picture. It makes sure if you compare an overhead tank, it will easily reach your tabs.

Whereas the internet is a lot more complicated. How do your packets know which route to take, which path to select, and what algorithms will work to reduce the package size That is where AI comes into the picture. It is something which is very robust and it learns on its own. It makes the entire process much more sophisticated and efficient.

I think there couldn’t be an easier way to explain such complicated things. Kudos to you, man. I would love to know any specific examples of a successful marketing campaign or initiatives that have significantly contributed to your growth or even market recognition. I understand you’ve been in the company for the last 4-5 months now, but you can feel free to pick any of the past campaigns as well and just share that Can you share your story with us, please?

Absolutely. There are many to choose from from my past life. Seo, Our SEO campaign was a phenomenal hit because I remember when we were trying to rank for that particular keyword, a cluster of those keywords, it was a hot topic back in the day. The cost per click on Google Ads, if I remember it correctly, was $38.

Oh, quite complicated.

Extremely competitive, and extremely expensive, and it used to hit up a lot of our marketing budget. We ranked for that particular keyword in about 6-8 months. We got on the first page, and for the keyword that we wanted to be on top, we got there around the same time. That was an extremely interesting campaign. There were a lot of others wherein we ran a campaign for reviews through customer advocacy, and that gave us nice reviews, and a good number of them, because getting a good review is one thing, getting many good reviews, it’s a different feeling altogether for share rights. That was another successful campaign. The way we did that was through gamification, through an advocacy platform.

Was there any reward for the customer? Yeah, please tell us about that.

There was a leaderboard. It was gamified, so there was a leaderboard. People would get X number of reward points for doing X number of things. For example, if they were to share company content. They would get 10 or 20 points. If they were to testimonial, they would get 30, or 40 points. If it was a video interview, 50, 60 points, and so on. The entire process was gamified. They would get X number of points for X activities that they would do. Once they reach a threshold, there will be some rewards for them.

I would love to know because you mentioned customer reviews and testimonials. They’re the most powerful tool out there. I would love to know, how you leverage these two things in your current organization. Is there any positive impact that you see in your branding efforts and the reputation of the company online?

Absolutely. Reviews play a very important role for any organization, be it small or large. Because when enterprises see that their competitors trust you or people in their fraternity, someone with the same designation, title, or country, they work with you, it builds a lot of trust. That’s the easiest way to gain trust, I would say. Also, the most difficult thing is to get a testimonial. Gamification always helps. If not, good. They are always a game changer. They become best friends, not just for the sake of reviews or good business, but in general, a good CSM is always someone very good with the customer. They build personal relationships. Of course, getting a review out of a customer doesn’t become so difficult with the help of not just marketing, but with the help of good CSMs. These two teams always work hand in hand for these things.

Makes sense. All right, let’s talk about social media. What channels are you leveraging within social to promote the company and any specific strategies that have been working well when it comes to that?

For B2B, I think 90% of the enterprises rely on LinkedIn. Also, the rest of the 10% is Twitter Facebook, and YouTube. I’ve seen very few enterprises explore Instagram, but again, that is something that I haven’t done personally. I have always relied on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter because this is where we wanted to put the effort. After all, Instagram is mainly images and whatnot, and we didn’t have the bandwidth required. But these three have always been on top. LinkedIn takes up the lion’s share. For the strategies that I’ve worked on here, I would talk mainly about LinkedIn. One is LinkedIn events. That has worked tremendously, especially for webinars and so on. I’ve seen a very good number of registrations crossing at least 300 or so, even organically. And about 30 or 40% at least, registrations turned up in the live webinar. And that has worked great., along with, carousels on LinkedIn, memes, have also worked very well for me in the past.

I would love to know because, again, content is the touch point of any marketing initiative that you do. How do you create and what exactly does your content creation process look like? Any specific activity that you’re doing concerning your content that is also helping you with your customer retention and those areas as well?

Let’s talk about lead generation first, and then maybe we can move to your customer retention bit. Sure.

For lead generation, again, my bread and butter is keyword research, AMS. All those things play the most important role. The content creation process looks like this. Keywords we are not tracking for. We take out the Holy Bible, which is the keyword research. Excel. You bring that out, and you see which keyword clusters you’re currently not ranking. Pick which one has the highest number of average monthly searches. Go after those with a decent number of searches, not extremely high, but not too low also, because keep in mind that you are putting a lot of time and effort into creating a piece of content. If two fewer people are searching for it, it’s probably not worthwhile. You want to catch a bigger fish always. That is every marketer’s goal. Go with something decent and the content around it, optimize that content, and promote it extensively on all the social platforms. If need be, also try out paid ads, especially LinkedIn-sponsored content, to drive awareness and traffic to that particular piece of content. That should move the needle within a few days. If not, in a couple of weeks, you should see the results. Keep a close eye on the keyword tracking, and see what is moving, and what is not.

And sooner or later, your traffic will pick up, and your keyword ranking will pick up. That is when you need to park it aside and create cluster content around it. Make sure your interlinking is top-notch. See if backlinking or soliciting for a backlink makes sense because it is very time-consuming and you might not get the best results. Backlink, if you have the time and resources, if not, leave it. It is fine. It is good to have, but there are a lot of other things that can move the needle if you spend the same amount of time and energy.

Anything that you have done in the past to gain more backlinks? Any strategy that worked for you?

I haven’t spent a lot of time. Usually, we have approached those people who ask for a backlink. We tell them this was mainly with partners and stuff. Hey, they come to us, Hey, you have mentioned us, you haven’t backlinked us. Hey, we are more than happy to add a link, but you can also add us as a solution provider and provide us with that backlink. That was a low-hanging fruit for us and that has worked. But other than that, haven’t extensively gone after backlinking. Wherever we have seen mentions, but no backlinks. Maybe reached out to them, but not more than that.

What tool do you use for checking out unlinked mentions?

It was all the tools because we used to use two tools, mostly. One is Semrush. The other one was an experimental tool, not Moz. There was one more tool. It was a software company. I don’t remember their name. They were new in the market and they were doing something with AI. We were also using their tools. But Semrush has always been our go-to tool for all things SEO, mostly.

I understand. Semrush Anyways, because you’re doing extensive keyword research and it does the job brilliantly with regards to that. Plus, I think for backlinks, anyway, people trust Hrefs better than Semrush. That is the case. But yeah, Semrush does the job pretty brilliantly. Plus, they are a listed company. So more resources, more development, more new features coming out now and then. Yeah, I understand.

If I just think out loud here, from the time that I started using that tool, which was a long time ago, to what I see they provide now, and from a product perspective, they have done amazing. They did multiple features, though I don’t like their pricing a lot. I get that. But it’s a kick-ass tool.

They have expanded. Started with SEO, and now they’re doing social. There are tons of modules and where you need them- The content module, also has a PR module and all that.

They are adding a lot of functionalities that are good for marketers. Their social tool is also there, but it’s not really on par with what we have in the market, but baby steps. They’re definitely on the right path.

All right, Vinod. I think we’re coming to an end, and let’s do a quick rapid-fire. Are you ready for that?

Sure. Fire away.

Okay. If given a superpower, what would you choose? Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to talk to animals?

Talk to animals.

If you could travel back in time, what period would you go to?

Dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs?

When the dinosaurs work the Earth.

That’s a pretty dangerous time, man. Any funny nicknames your parents or friends or even work colleagues used to call you?

I can’t say that out loud.

It’s not safe for work.

Yeah, it’s not safe for work.

All right. How many hours of sleep do you need?

Six, at least.

Coming to our very last question, what’s your hidden talent?

I can do pottery.

Oh, interesting. All right, Vinod. Thank you so much. Thank you for your past experiences with us. I appreciate your time here with me. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much, Harshit. I enjoyed my conversation with you. Have a good evening. Bye.

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