For this week’s episode we explore how to rebuild a website, the role of generative AI, and what MarTech stack a successful organization needs with Brian Nizinsky, a Digital Marketing Manager at Paychex

The website redesign process can be a long and complicated one. But support from the relevant stakeholders and customer journey data makes it a much more manageable task according to Brian. Better yet, once you get a handle on how website visitors use your site, you’re equipped to make better decisions about the redesigning of your website.

Regardless of the company you work for, every organization needs a strong marketing technology stack. Brian talks about the MarTech tools that Paychex relies on to deliver everything from email marketing campaigns to data collection through Google Analytics. 

We also discuss the question: What really is content? Is it everything that makes up a marketing campaign or is it everything that supports your product or service? As Chris and Brian look to define what content really is at an enterprise, inevitably the role of AI generated content creation has to be explored. 

This is one jam-packed conversation about a variety of marketing strategies that you don’t want to miss. Tune in below!

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Hello Brian, welcome to WordBirds!

I’m very happy to be here. Thank you.

Excellent. Fantastic. Let’s go ahead and start with our quick fire questions. 

Amazing content is …

Amazing content is when the user interacts with it, reads it, watches it, etc. They think to themselves, “I have to share this with someone!” And whether that’s a colleague in their industry, or someone with a similar title or similar position. That to me is amazing content.

Concise or descriptive?

I would say concise. 

I wish I would!

The company with the best brand voice is…

The company with the best brand voice is the one where you actually believe what they’re saying is genuine. I can’t name one, I think it just comes down to consistency. And one that’s brave and willing to stay the course when things don’t always look so bright and cheery to all audiences.

Best piece of content advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of content advice is to make sure that you ask yourself the question “Who gives a shit?” when you’re looking at that content, in terms of the “who” being your target customer. If they don’t have a good answer for that then the content’s not good.

Fantastic, and when I’m creating content, I always …

When I’m creating content, I’ll always, always try to put myself in the shoes of the target and not in the shoes of my title, my colleagues, and their perspective. Also when I’m creating content, I don’t look at it in a quiet room where everything is controlled. I’ll multitask and then I’ll try to digest that content and then I’ll see if it actually makes any sense to me.

I think that in the content space you're going to have a lot more AI, creating a lot more versions. And then a lot of it's just going to be tested and sent out into the wild and optimized. Click To Tweet

I like that a lot. I think that’s interesting. I mean, when you create something and you sit there and you stare, stare, stare at it, it makes sense to you. Because you wrote it and you’re looking at it and it makes sense. 

But if you step away from it and just do it in a crowd, do it in a loud room, do it in a space where you’re doing other things, you’re on a call. And you ask can you scan this? What is the scannability of your content and does it hold up to that?

Right! One of our big target audiences is a small business owner. And what is a small business owner doing? They’re running a small business. They’re busy all the time. And when we review content for them, we can’t look at it in a vacuum where they’re sitting quietly and digesting. 

They may get a phone call, their kids have to go to bed, something else is going on. So are those key points really being looked at? And sometimes it doesn’t pass muster. Sometimes we get too in the weeds with things. So sometimes you have to take a step back and maybe revise something.

Speaking about your customer base, it would help to bring in a little context for everybody. Tell me a little bit more about your role and where it sits at Paychex.

Sure, so my role at Paychex is running a lot of the digital advertising and marketing programs that are targeting our various target customers. These types of programs are video, display, audio, sometimes search is in there. Search is kind of its own department because it’s its own beast, it’s lower in the funnel. 

On a blue background, with a headshot of Brian Nizinsky in the lower left corner, a quote reads: "The company with the best brand voice is the one where you actually believe what they're saying is genuine."

Most of what I’m doing is higher in the funnel. So it’s creating awareness to folks that maybe have never heard of us, or in some cases have heard of us, but we want to make sure they have the right impression of us in terms of understanding all the things we can do, above and beyond just say outsourcing payroll — which is what we’ve been known for for a long time. 

So we use marketing channels that help us enhance the brand that way, help us enhance our messaging.

It’s interesting. I’m using the word content, do you use the word content? Because content’s a problematic term! You’re talking about written words, you’re talking about video, you’re talking about billboards, you’re talking about audio. When I say content, do you batch all that into content or is there a broader term that you use that covers that?

There’s advertising content, so an audio ad on a podcast, as an example. It’s content on the one hand, but it serves a function that’s different from content marketing. Because we wouldn’t put an audio ad under content marketing unless that audio ad is advertising a guide to download as an example. So the guide itself would be considered the content to download, so that’s content marketing. 

There's a lot of people going back and forth about AI saying it's going to take everyone's job, it's not going to take everyone's job. I'm going to probably lean on the side that it's going to replace a lot of folks. Click To Tweet

But if the audio ad is just advertising Paychex as a whole, like a high funnel brand ad, I wouldn’t consider that content marketing. Of course it’s a piece of content that we created, rode, and refined. But when I think of content marketing I really do think of the longer production value of something like a 10-page paper on some new rules and regulations in a state or a webinar for an hour. That to me is content.

So, the things that live in the digital world are more, and I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but more conversion content. You’ve got your things that you’ve been given, and then demand has the programs that they’re running to bring people in and digital is conversion. So it’s the landing page. It’s the thing, it’s the trigger for whatever outcome you’re aiming for. 

Okay, fantastic. Because that’s the way that I’ve been talking about it and it’s great to hear that validated by somebody that does that every day. Because when I’m talking to folks about where content really hits — where the rubber’s hitting the road — it’s in that conversion point. The point of all of this that you’re being given is to fuel an action. 

Whether that action is just awareness or time on page, or that’s a click or a lead creation or a purchase, that’s a different thing. Your content that you’re optimizing and building is very different from a long form eBook or even just a general informational webpage. 

Right.

Okay, perfect. So, what role does demand gen play in your day to day? Like where do you live? Is it content marketing as a team, digital as a team, demand as a team, or is there a blend here?

I think a lot of people that sit in my seat think that about their company's website and identifying that balance of, I need to deliver information, but this thing needs to work. Click To Tweet

I would say demand gen is a team. We have people who are focused on what happens when the person has identified themselves by downloading or attending a webinar. So now we know them, we have their email, we’re tracking them. They’ve identified themselves somehow. That’s our demand gen, nurture team. They think about what to send them next, email cadence, lead scoring, the whole process. 

In terms of a marketing team, I’m more on the front-end marketing side of that equation. So I would work with someone who is functioning as a subject matter expert on, say, a part of our product portfolio. 

Let’s say as an easy example, a state mandates that all businesses have to implement a 401k if you’re of a certain size and there’s a deadline. So now there’s a rule change in the state. People have an incentive or reason to care about this because they could be not in compliance. So now I would work with people that are subject matter experts in that. We would start thinking, “OK, so what do these people need to be convinced that we’re the right partner for them?” 

Usually it’s education. How do you educate? Well, we’ll put on a webinar for free for an hour where we offer up some of our smartest people and have them talk for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, offer up 20 minutes of Q&A, again, all for free. They get into our database and that’s when the nurture begins. 

Really the goal is of course to let people know, we’re here for them. We’re going to be by their side. That’s part of our brand promise. And it’s very effective because people, especially your typical business owner, want to run the bakery, want to run the pizza shop, want to run the salon. They don’t want to have to deal with compliance and regulation and rules. That’s the hard part of their job that a lot of the time they really would love to be able to get rid of.

That makes so much sense because you’ve created a supply chain essentially. The content that’s coming in, the campaigns that are requesting it, and then the operational aspect of it in the middle to drive the business impact of everything that’s happening around you. And without all of those pieces, the other pieces individually don’t make as much sense.

Right.

So what are you doing to enable all of this? Like what does your MarTech stack look like?

It’s pretty typical. Well, I say typical as if there’s an atypical version. So we have marketing automation. We have a CRM. Marketing automation will track your lead scoring. CRM will be your database of records for people in terms of, “Are they in our system or not already? Is there an opportunity created for them? What’s the history?” So those are two of the biggest ones. 

This is relevant for any business, does the current website adequately reflect how we're A, going to market, and B, how our customers want to buy from us? Click To Tweet

We work with agencies and various ad platforms. Of course Google and the big ones like Facebook, there’s no surprise there, in terms of ad delivery and ad tracking on the front end. Those are the major pieces. We’re always looking and thinking about the future. Trying to figure out what’s the next piece that we can add to that puzzle that really can help us with tracking. 

Attribution tracking is a big one that we’re always looking for because we always want to understand how everything all works together. Because we know that people are multifaceted, they’re using multiple devices, they’re not just sitting in one place at one time, and it may take them a long time before they really start interacting with us. So we’re always adding to the stack and re-evaluating.

Okay, so the question that everybody asks everybody right now that touches content, what are you doing with generative AI?

Nothing in the images or video space right now. With our business, there’s not a lot of strong imagery that we can’t already find because of the nature of what we do doesn’t have a lot of strong image association to it. So on the image side and video, not much yet.

On the content side, nothing really official yet. We have writers on staff and other partners that we use. We’re very heavy on compliance because what we say we always review through compliance. Because what we say is incredibly important in terms of having to align with either federal or state laws, rules, and regulations, and not making any claims that we can’t back up. We’re probably more careful with things like that than businesses that aren’t in those industries that have to follow those types of rules.

Yeah, and it’s a challenge for financial services. As we talk to more and more companies about generative AI, I mean, it’s a fascinating new toy, and at an individual level, we’re all playing with it. But as a business, the risks far outweigh the reward right now. 

There’s a lot of space for enterprise software companies to come in and make it safe for the business. But in most cases, the solutions that are available today aren’t there. So it takes some of the wind out of the sails of, “Hey, this is going to be really neat.” Well, it is eventually. 

Right now it might serve you really relevant information or it might just tell you something completely fake and you have no idea. You just have to believe it. So that’s a huge business risk.

I’ve been thinking about AI a lot. And I think in our case, and I would imagine a lot of other companies’ cases, there’s a rule set, if you will, around content in terms of: here are the things you really can’t say, here are the things we don’t want to talk about. And it goes above and beyond the branding or the brand voice. It’s more around the style and then even the topics.

We know that people are multifaceted, they're using multiple devices, they're not just sitting in one place at one time, and it may take them a long time before they really start interacting with us. Click To Tweet

Eventually, someone’s going to come out with a product. I’m already giving someone ideas for free here. But someone’s going to come out with a product that is going to allow or train a ChatGPT specific for our business, where the parameters are understood, programmed in, and refined. And it doesn’t necessarily need billions and billions of inputs to create cohesive content. It just needs to take what it has and run it through the lens of how we want to create content. It gets to be a trained content producer and writer, if you will.

I try really hard to not talk about my product during these episodes, but I’m going to make an exception because you just described the press release that I launched two days ago. So on Wednesday morning, we announced AI Enrich for Acrolinx, and it does exactly what you say. 

You already understand the guidelines that we create. So all of the clarity, consistency, and character of your content. Now envision you identifying the collection of content in your business that you want to use to generate additional content. To generate short pieces, email campaigns, whatever it is. 

So let’s just say it’s your blog. We can identify and train, tune your own language model based on that blog. And then the generative output complies with your guidelines. So it’s not just your content being used to create new content. The content that it creates is aligned with your clarity, consistency, and character so that it works the way that your business works. 

So right out of the gates, you’re creating aligned content with everything else. You’re not breaking the model. A, you’re not bringing in content from outside. And B, the content that you do create that is aligned with your idea is aligned with your style guidelines. Anyway, I don’t need to linger on that, but that is a thing that just happened.

But I actually do have a question because there’s another interesting concept with that too. Is that system closed so that any input into that system isn’t then part of any type of Cloud infrastructure or available to anyone else? 

Really the goal is of course to let people know, we're here for them. We're going to be by their side. That's part of our brand promise. Click To Tweet

Yes. We’re not using ChatGPT. So you’re not training anybody else’s model other than your own.

Okay, good. Because that would be a concern of some other companies.

But I digress, sorry to everybody that’s listening. This is probably 50 episodes into the show and the first time this has happened. 

I’m glad I’m part of the first!

Anyway, let’s go back to you because I think one of the things we haven’t talked about is you led an initiative recently to redesign and replatform the entire Paychex website. A, why? B, how do you even start that project?

So it was a few years ago, but the methodology is definitely still relevant. So really what it ended up being was the concept of asking the question, and this is relevant for any business, does the current website adequately reflect how we’re A, going to market, and B, how our customers want to buy from us? So those two dichotomies, those two forces, if you will.

Essentially, in the years I’ve been in this industry, those two forces have generally been like this, if you will. If you’re listening, I’m pushing my fists together. It’s a conflict because you have your naming conventions for products, your sales conventions, your strategy, your everything, which of course is fine. That’s top down, and then bottom up, you have how people wanna buy. 

When I'm talking to folks about where content really hits — where the rubber's hitting the road — it's in that conversion point. The point of all of this that you're being given is to fuel an action. Click To Tweet

The project that we went through was a lot of trying to balance both, and a lot of that in larger companies is really inclusive of getting representation from a lot of different parts of the business, and keeping them engaged and informed through every step of the process. 

So when we had research that showed something about the website that customers wanted XYZ on the website, whatever that may be. We would then make sure that that part of the company, whoever was in that part, was informed of that and shown that and said, look, these are what our customers want. Now I understand you may not be able to give them all of what they want, but how much can we give? What kind of leeway do we have?

It’s that meeting in the middle, it’s that compromise. Because not everyone’s going to get everything that they want from a customer standpoint. But also we really have to make sure that we’re giving them enough so that the website’s actually working hard in terms of either conversion and branding and things like that.

I think that’s the whole balance. I feel like our website is very informational and we have very limited conversion points. And I think a lot of people that sit in my seat think that about their company’s website and identifying that balance of, I need to deliver information, but this thing needs to work. 

This is a thing that’s supposed to create something and how do we create more out of it has always been a huge challenge. And identifying the pathway that you follow to get to that balance point. That’s a tough one.

It is! And it’s always constantly changing. It’s never done. The site’s been through iterations even since then that I haven’t been personally involved with, but have seen and understood. There’s other elements and factors like natural search engine optimization, natural traffic, non-paid, making sure that pages are optimized for certain topics and certain words and the way people are searching.

A lot of times, it’s not necessarily the way product people are naming things. And sometimes that creates a conflict. It’s always helpful to have data — as another piece of advice to anyone. It’s also helpful to have search data to show and say, look, if we want these folks who are searching for this thing 100,000 times a month, and we name it something else, we’re losing all of those people. And if you’re okay with losing all those people and all that revenue, that’s fine. But that’s what I’m presenting to you now is the data behind that. usually will cut through a lot of the opinion based arguments.

The company with the best brand voice is the one where you actually believe what they're saying is genuine. Click To Tweet

Right. Perfect. Let’s get to the fun part of this. So PSOTD (Provocative Statement of the Day), everybody in the content space seems to have something that they hold close to themselves that they think and believe in, but maybe nobody else does. What’s your provocative statement of the day?

I exhaled like I was going to take a free throw in the finals! It’s about AI and I think that there’s a lot of people going back and forth about AI saying it’s going to take everyone’s job, it’s not going to take everyone’s job. I’m going to probably lean on the side that it’s going to replace a lot of folks. 

Not soon, because there’s a lot between today and where that has to be. I don’t look at the current state and say, “Oh, that’s not going to replace anyone’s job,” because that’s not the way you look at these things. You look at these things and go, this is version 1.0, or maybe public version 1.0. And they’ve already improved on it in less than six months in some regards.

Amazing content is when the user interacts with it, reads it, watches it, etc. They think to themselves, “I have to share this with someone!” Click To Tweet

So add in five, six, ten years and now all of a sudden you go, “Wait a minute this thing’s gonna be a lot bigger than it is right now.” And I think that in the content space you’re going to have a lot more AI, creating a lot more versions. And then a lot of it’s just going to be tested and sent out into the wild and optimized. 

The level of guesswork that’s involved in creating ads, content, videos, et cetera that exists today I think is going to be almost eliminated, and it’s going to happen probably sooner than people think. 

I’ll further that statement by saying that it’s going to get harder and harder to detect fake videos. I’m not talking about deep fakes per se, but AI created video content more than ever before. I think that we’re going to have some real issues. I don’t know when, because I’m not that smart, but I know we’re going to reach this point where it’s going to be almost impossible to tell the difference.

Fantastic. I love that provocative statement of the day. 

Brian, thanks very much for being on the show. Loved having you and would love to get you back here sometime.

Absolutely, thank you for the opportunity and best of luck.

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Charlotte Baxter-Read

is a Communications and Content Manager at Acrolinx, bringing over three years of experience in content creation, strategic communications, and public relations. Additionally, Charlotte is the Executive Producer of the WordBirds podcast — sponsored by Acrolinx. She holds a Master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy Institute, at Freie Universität Berlin, and a Bachelor's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London. Charlotte, along with the Acrolinx Marketing Team, won a Silver Stevie Award at the 18th Annual International Business Awards® for Marketing Department of the Year. She's a passionate reader, communicator, and avid traveler in her free time.