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WayBack Marketing Series: Joe Chernov on Starting Big and Producing 'Mullet Content' #WayBackMachine

by Aaron Dun  |  
July 19, 2013

Last week, we launched the WayBack Marketing series, in which we interview top marketers and dig into what kinds of programs they used in their early days that most directly led to their success today. Feel free to read the intro to this series for additional context. Thanks to comments and tweets, we know this topic is resonating with MarketingProfs readers, so we are pleased to bring you our first interview today with Joe Chernov, current vice president of Marketing at Kinvey and previously the vice president of Content Marketing at Eloqua.

Joe, many MarketingProfs readers are familiar with your groundbreaking and award-winning work operationalizing a content marketing strategy at Eloqua. Without getting too deep into that history, what are the top two or three things you did back when you got started at Eloqua that enabled you to scale the platform?

JC: The first thing I did at Eloqua was also the first thing I did at Kinvey---that is, start with something “big.” At Eloqua, we published the “Social Media Playbook,” which was, at the time, arguably the most substantive vendor-supplied guide on social media fundamentals. At Kinvey, we serve a different audience: mobile application developers. So, we responded to their specific needs by conducting primary research on one of their most dogged questions, “How long does it really take to build a mobile app?” and we turned that research into an infographic. Said another way, the most important decision when it came to getting started was to not “ease in” to content marketing. “Easing in” is a great way to go unnoticed. Start with a win, and watch how many supporters emerge from the sidelines.

That is a great point, Joe. I think it’s a natural tendency to do a “dip the toe in the water” test and see what happens. Here you are proposing that if you are going to dip a toe, make sure it’s a realllly big toe! So, how did you get started without easing in?

JC: The “get started” challenges were obviously very different at Eloqua versus Kinvey. Eloqua already had a killer marketing program running, and we needed to layer this whole “content thing” on top of it. So, it was primarily an exercise in change management---which I learned is not a skill that comes naturally to me.

At Kinvey, the challenge is different. The company had already started down the content marketing path before I joined. For example, it had effectively defined its category with a “backend-as-a-service subway map” that depicted the players in its industry and adjacent spaces. Instead, the challenge is the downward pressure limited resources applies to margin of error. We’re a startup. We can’t afford to “experiment” per se. Every investment needs to produce measurable results; we don’t really have the luxury of “learning” at the expense of succeeding. So, we need to be very confident that the content will acquire new names, accelerate conversion or otherwise support the sales process.

Well, limited resources is often a fact of life, unfortunately. However, we are already seeing some content marketing purists suggest that The Story is the thing, and the results will come. As I wrote in my measuring content marketing article a few weeks ago, the results are what matter first for many of us.

In thinking about your content marketing journey, what is the one thing you starting doing later on that you wish you had started doing earlier?

JC: Applying some of the hallmarks of effective “top of funnel” content---design, tone, length, and packaging---to “lower funnel” assets. Seriously, for far too long, I looked at top of funnel content as “fun” and bottom as “boring.” That was a false choice. There’s so much companies can do with lower funnel content.

Can you share any examples of how you are applying top of the funnel concepts to bottom of the funnel content?

JC: Sure! Despite the fact that we sell to engineers within large enterprises, Kinvey’s “demo” video is entirely animated and features crazy stuff like a cactus falling on a cat and a hovercraft busting out of a shipyard. Who says an enterprise demo needs to feature some guy in a Brooks Brothers shirt?

The video also is paired with an interactive landing page where visitors can dig in deeper---learning more about not only Kinvey but also our competitors. We know serious buyers are going to do their homework, so why pretend competition doesn’t exist? It shows immense confidence to acknowledge competition. Marcus Sheridan really proved this point with the remarkable work he’s done on the content marketing front.

That’s great! Anything cool and new in content coming up that you would like to share?

JC: We’re also working on a half-whitepaper/half-ebook hybrid---internally we call it our "mullet content: whitepaper in the front, e-book in the back"---where the meta message will be conveyed by the visual treatment a particular solution is given. Sorry to sound so cryptic, but like Jay-Z said, “The Streets is Watching” … and I don’t want to give my competition any ideas!

Totally understandable, and I think a Jay-Z quote makes a great way to wrap up an interview!

Many thanks to Joe for his time with this article. Stay tuned for next week’s installment in the WayBack Series as we explore more great marketers’ humble beginnings!

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Aaron Dun is senior vice-president of marketing at SnapApp, an interactive-content platform.

Twitter: @ajdun

LinkedIn: Aaron Dun

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  • by Leon Altman Fri Jul 19, 2013 via blog

    "Going Big" with content marketing is an approach that will not only get you noticed quickly but will probably also cut down on costs (if you think of how much the slow and steady approach can add up). Rich Schefren also talks about how going all out with his Special Reports has been the key to explosive growth for his company. Nice cliffhanger at end of the article (who doesn't want to see this mullet content now?)

  • by Tamar Sun Jul 21, 2013 via blog

    Hi Aaron,
    Really nice interview. I like how he mentioned the top funnel as "fun" and the bottom funnel as "boring," but that he was actually wrong. As you get further into your funnel you have the opportunity to personalize your content more and more which can be really fun when you identify strongly with the audience and have built personas to really reach them.

  • by Aaron Mon Jul 22, 2013 via blog

    Thanks Tamar, it's these kinds of insights that make looking back so interesting--to me anyway. At the end of the day, I think its about lining up your content to have the biggest impact at each step along the way. In a long, deeply personal sales cycle you could imagine that the end stages of the funnel require the most fun and most engaging content!

  • by Aaron Mon Jul 22, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for the insights Leon. Sometimes finding that "one big thing" that will blow up and go viral is hard, and feels risky to many. But, in the immortal words of Tom Cruise: "Sometimes you just have to say 'What The '...!"

  • by Joe Chernov Mon Jul 22, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Tamar. One point of clarification: I said that for too long I falsely assumed that top of funnel = fun, bottom = boring. I was responding to a question about what I wished I knew then that I know now. -Joe

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