SalesTechStar Interview with Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu
Marketing and Sales Tricks for a Remote World
Sharing effective and meaningful content is thekey to driving better business value in today’s remote selling and remote marketing environment, Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu weighs in with a few thoughts and best practices in this chat while taking us through Issuu’s experience during the 2020 pandemic:
Hi Joe, welcome to SalesTechStar! Tell us about the Issuu platform…
We’re the world’s largest SaaS content publishing and marketing platform. Content creators use the Issuu Story Cloud to transform creative designs from static files into digital-optimized assets for every marketing channel: web, mobile, social, email, and so on.
What were some of the biggest challenges and learnings the team faced through the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic?
Issuu is a company of just under 100 people with offices in the US, Denmark, and Berlin. Since the start of the pandemic, many of our team members have transitioned to work remotely. Because we have three offices, we were accustomed to some video conferencing for meetings, but we were still primarily an in-office company. We’ve had to adjust to coming up with ways to continue to have dynamic “hallway” conversations and discoveries remotely. So for US execs that used to travel to Europe often to connect with the team there, my team and I have implemented regular office hours where anyone in the company can drop in and ask questions or raise issues. We’ve set up weekly “Lightning Talks,” in which the team gathers on Zoom and one person from the company shares their knowledge about a topic for which they have great passion outside of the work environment. It’s given us a way to get to know each other beyond just the day-to-day job tasks. We’ve on-boarded nearly 40 people remotely, so we’ve had to adjust how we train and introduce the culture and ways of operating to those joining us.
We’ve made adjustments throughout the year in how we work. In particular, we’ve been focused on how to keep providing an important service that enables businesses and creators around the world to rely on us—to make sure their stories and content are shared in a range of formats across multiple channels.
In 2020, this included COVID-19 research from upstanding organizations, as well as storytelling about diversity, hard work, and challenging the status quo.
What are some of the biggest changes to martech and salestech adoption that you’ve been noticing during this time?
One of the big changes is that in-person marketing and sales activity is no longer possible. On one hand, it’s created the possibility of more efficiency. Instead of flying or driving to customers, those once mandatory face-to-face meetings are now acceptable over video. People can connect with more customers when they don’t have to travel. On the other hand, salespeople and marketers who were trained to sell in person have had to be retrained for a digital process. There have been a lot of components of people’s jobs that have required retraining that wasn’t planned and for which most companies were not prepared. We’ve all had to adjust on the fly. It’s been a year that has necessitated a level of flexibility that many of us didn’t know our companies could withstand.
On the Issuu front, people are having to make connections online now more than ever, so it’s no surprise to us that so many companies, brands, and individuals turned to our platform as a way to create and distribute meaningful content. The number of first-time creators on Issuu tripled last year as content creators expanded their content marketing to improve customer communications during these uncertain times, increase employee engagement, as a creative outlet, and more. The total number of new content files published also increased by 160 percent, speaking to the need for creators to share stories digitally.
Can you share a few views on the changing content marketing and sales content trends you are seeing during this time as businesses revamp their digital presence and outreach?
We’re seeing an acceleration of innovation specifically within content marketing and sales content distribution in the world of remote marketing.
For example, we started to see a flood of menus being posted as restaurants scrambled to respond to online ordering and takeout needs. Some even posted QR codes of Issuu formatted menus in storefront windows so patrons could view the menu and order food over the phone from the safety of their cars.
We also noticed an influx of real estate brochures, property flyers, and market reports from real estate agents. With restrictions on in-person showings and office walk-ins, the entire real estate industry began to adjust their sales process. We even saw sports teams such as the Miami Dolphins transforming printed playbooks into interactive digital ones that are even more compelling for fans.
And, we saw content creators who normally sell physical media start selling their content online, especially since we announced commission-free digital sales soon after lockdowns began. Between March-September 2020, sales of digital publication units via Issuu increased 841 percent.
How can marketing and sales teams use automation to drive better storytelling capabilities?
In past years, marketers and salespeople have spent too much energy on technical stuff and less and less on the creative part of content marketing. That’s changing in 2021, but it’s incumbent on martech companies to help by providing integrations so that business storytellers can more easily create and distribute their content.
For example, we recently announced integration with Dropbox. Users connect Issuu to their Dropbox account and all their creative files are ready for publishing, sharing, and promoting. On the output end, the Issuu Story Cloud allows marketers to create content once, and then turn that brand-approved content into the right set of assets so that it can be consumed on any digital canvas, meaning any website or blog, social network, embedded in emails, or distributed through martech stack tools like Mailchimp, Hootsuite, Hubspot, and others.
Can you talk about some of your most successful sales outcomes and customer-facing takeaways through the years?
Ultimately, like every company, we’re made up of human beings and we’re selling a product to human beings that have a need for it. Remember that. We’re all in this together. At Issuu, we’re in business to help businesses and content creators connect to their audiences. Our best wins come when our customers find great value in the products we create, in ways that make their lives easier. Really that’s it. The best wins are when our customers benefit from what our team makes available to them. All of this is happening in a rapidly changing ecosystem.
Up until a few years ago, digital marketing meant having a website and then taking your URL and putting it into your digital channels. You did search engine marketing to drive traffic to your website and make sales. Today, the web is just one of dozens of channels that marketers and salespeople can take leverage to tell their story. You can post your content on the web, but also on Shopify, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on, giving you much broader access to specific people for your particular product. The challenge is that each of those channels require marketers to create natively for each channel. Few people have the time, bandwidth, and knowledge to be able to do that while focusing on quality content. Issuu overcomes that problem by enabling marketers and salespeople to upload content once to Issuu, take parts of the content, and transform it for all digital channels.
This is the key to what has made us—and our customers—so successful.
A few hacks for sales reps and account executives to prospect better in 2021?
There’s no doubt that successfully closing deals during the pandemic is requiring most teams to rethink their approaches. Face-to-face sellers have had to become even more effective remotely. That will require delivering sales content such as one-pagers, eBooks and white papers digitally, engaging with prospects through social posts, transforming sales presentations into engaging, personalized sales collateral that can easily be shared via email etc. Basically, sales professionals need to have the tools to share conversion-oriented content wherever the prospect or customer might be. Salespeople who become successful storytellers using a range of channels and engaging, interactive content will thrive.
Sales people will have extra time that they used to spend in planes, hotels or other forms of travel. Use that extra time well. Use it to both connect with more customers and prospects than you otherwise have had time for. And just as importantly, use some of that time to take care of yourself. Exercise, meditate, go for a walk. Connecting more deeply to ourselves can only help to make us more connected to the day-to-day work we do and the people with whom we’re connecting.
A parting thought on your most memorable moment in tech or biggest goof-up and the learning that came from it!
In late 2005 and early 2006, I was interviewing for a Business Development (BD) role for a company that has since gone on to become one of the biggest tech companies in the world. I was interviewing for the Vice President of BD role. I interviewed with everyone on the management team with the exception of the CEO. The interviews went well and I was slated to meet with the CEO as the final step in the process.
That meeting never happened. Years later, I found out that while the rest of the management team liked me, the CEO didn’t want a VP in that role at the time, so didn’t want to meet. The company hired several manager-level people to do their BD efforts. Each of those people went on to very successful and lucrative careers with the company. It was a goof-up because I placed a premium on my expected title rather than the job and the opportunity with the company. Going in at a title below what I determined appropriate would have been a better choice and would have aligned me better with the culture.
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Issuu is the world’s largest SaaS content publishing and marketing platform. The Issuu Story Cloud empowers content creators to transform creative designs from static files into web-optimized assets for every marketing channel, including web, mobile, social, email, and more. Founded in 2006, Issuu is headquartered in Palo Alto, with offices in Copenhagen and Berlin.
Joe joined Issuu in early 2013 after more than 20 years of leading startup/growth companies in executive, business-development, and product roles. He served as CEO of Reverb during two rounds of financing; in addition, as head of SingleFeed, Joe oversaw that firm’s acquisition by Alibaba. Before that, Joe held sales and leadership positions at Gala Interactive, Yahoo, Flickr, and Virage. He directed the Economist Group’s business in China and has extensive board and tech-advisor experience. Joe was educated at the State University of New York in Albany and as a foreign student at Beijing Normal University in China.