Here is a transcript generated by of the The Content Mix podcast interview with content marketing senior manager Kristina Foster:

Carlota Pico 0:13
Hi everyone, I’m Carlota Pico from The Content Mix, and I’m excited to be here today with Kristina Foster, who is content marketing leader for industrial and flow technologies at Pentair and has over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications. Welcome, Kristina, and thank you so much for joining us today on The Content Mix.

Kristina Foster 0:35
Thank you Carlota. I’m very excited to be here.

Carlota Pico 0:37
The pleasure is ours. Well, Kristina, let’s jump straight into the interview. I’d love to learn a little bit about your background a bit about Pentair and how you got into your current role.

Kristina Foster 0:49
Okay, so that was a lot of in one space. So I’ll start off with Pentair. So Pentair is a global water treatment company, we have about 130 locations, up around 10,000 employees worldwide. And as I know that The Content Mix is focused on EMEA, we do business in EMEA as well offering both residential, commercial and industrial solutions.

Carlota Pico 1:20
Okay, very interesting. What about how you got into your current role? How did you end up in a water treatment company?

Kristina Foster 1:27
So, it’s actually kind of funny because there’s a saying in the water industry that most people don’t start out in the water industry. It’s not something that is well advertised. It’s kind of the silent industry in a way because people don’t immediately think of water even though it is life’s precious resource. And I actually have been in this industry now for about 10 years. Started off my career more in retail and e-commerce. But I came into an opportunity with a large company that actually is headquartered in EMEA, Schneider Electric. And that’s how I got my start in the industry. And since then I been very fascinated with the technologies that support water infrastructure and provide water. And so from Schneider Electric I went to another company called Sensus which does smartwater Technologies. And from Sensus I came into this opportunity at Pentair to lead their content marketing team for the industrial and low technologies segmrents.

Carlota Pico 2:33
Okay, I’m sure it requires a lot of technical language. So to go from retail, to e-commerce to water treatment must have entailed a lot of education. Is that a fair assessment? How did you transition into your current role and how did you equip yourself with all the necessary tools to carry out your marketing strategies globally?

Kristina Foster 2:58
So I’m a true believer that you have to be a marketer overall, you have to have a natural inquisitive nature, you have to be willing to ask questions. And you really do want to understand your customers, but not just understand them from asking internally. But getting out in the field, going to meet with those customers, understanding those customers’ challenges, understanding the solutions that you’re bringing to those customers and how that helps solve those challenges. That is translatable across all industries, in my opinion. So with that same approach, that’s how I was able to get up to speed so quickly on the water industry because I took the time to go out in the fields, go to the water treatment plants, go to sales calls with the salespeople, and meeting with customers, meeting with the value chain in water when it came to commercial and infrastructure, meeting with residential as well and understanding—because I am a consumer of water as well—and really paying attention to what do I need for my water to work? And not just thinking that it just magically comes out of the tap, or when I flush it, it just magically goes away. And so that’s how I was able to get up to speed and just taking my skill set that I acquired from hands-on experience in marketing, and just asking a lot of questions to really smart people.

Carlota Pico 4:25
Yeah, I mean, kudos to you Kristina for really leaving your comfort zone and and taking risks and pushing the envelope. I mean, that’s what every good marketeer should be doing anyways, but it’s always a challenge to move from sector to sector because there are a lot of sectorial nuances that oftentimes we overlook as as marketeers and gaining the expertise to be able to correctly and persuasively convince your audience that your product and your service is incredible requires a lot of curiosity as you mentioned and really getting to know your product in and out. I do want to talk about your base right now—you’re in North Carolina, but you run a global team. So could you talk to me about how you create content marketing activities that resonate with local audiences?

Kristina Foster 5:19
Yeah. So, again, I think this comes back to that fundamental principle of understanding your audience and understanding the objectives. So every piece of content, in my opinion has a purpose, you should never create content just for the sake of creating content. There’s, there’s a strategy behind it, there’s an art to it. And so, when coming up with content strategies, the content marketing specialists on my team work very closely with the subject matter experts within our company to understand what we’re trying to accomplish. So who are we trying to reach? Why are we trying to reach them, and how are we trying to reach them? And where are we trying to reach them? And from thinking through it that way we come up with a content strategy that will resonate with that local market, but also more importantly, resonates with the target audience.

Carlota Pico 6:15
Okay, do you also have like teams on the ground that help you understand each market culturally?

Kristina Foster 6:21
Absolutely. And as a global team we work with experts that are based in the local markets. And I also have team members that are based in Europe. I have team members that are based out of the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as we work with subject matter experts that are based in Germany, the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, and I’m sure I’m missing a few countries there. But yes, we absolutely have people that are based locally and understand the local cultures. And that’s also what makes it very interesting to work with a global team, and one of the reasons that I truly enjoy global marketing, because it… that is a big part of it is…you have to understand the cultural nuances. And also, not just from the cultural standpoint, but also there’s some differences in how the applications work within certain markets as well.

Carlota Pico 7:22
I will get to that further into our interview. But now that we understand how Pentair operates, I want to I want to understand Pentair’s clients. So who are Pentair’s clients? And then later on, we’ll get to how you’re addressing them as well.

Kristina Foster 7:40
Yes, so Pentair is, as I said, a global water treatment company. And so we offer a diverse set of solutions. And so our clients range from the consumer, so people can go to the retail stores and purchase our pumps, for example. They also can go to… we have commercial clients. So clients that are responsible for like the HVAC systems within a building because you need water circulation within a HVAC system and fire suppression systems. We also have clients that are in more of the municipal water space. So that state owned government type of water infrastructure and environment as well as that is a very complex value chain in itself that also entails consulting engineers, for example. And we also have industrial clients. So manufacturing plants that produce things like food and beverages, like breweries, for example, or the oil and gas companies as well. And we also have clients in the life sciences. And it’s not in my division of Pentair, but we also have a consumer solutions, part of Pentair that focuses more on home water filtration systems as well as pool systems, so pumps for pools and heaters for pools. And we’re all about moving, improving and enjoying water.

Carlota Pico 9:19
Okay, Kristina, my eyes are popping out of my head right now, because that just sounds like so much segmentation. So let’s go ahead and segment this conversation. How are you addressing your corporate clients versus your institutional clients? And then we’ll move into how you’re addressing your b2b clients versus your b2c clients.

Kristina Foster 9:40
Yes. So when it comes to the segmentation of our clients, there’s a few ways we go about that. First is, because of the way we’re structured as business units. So within each of those business units, we have certain client focuses. So some business units are more focused on the corporate clients and some business units are more focused on those institutional clients, for example. And when it comes to the content strategies, again, that comes back to working closely with those subject matter experts in the business unit to understand those clients, how we are trying to reach them, what’s the purpose of the content that we create? And so there’s going to be differences. The key takeaway is, we don’t create one piece of content and think that that’s going to apply across the board.

Carlota Pico 10:31
Okay, so on that same line, what type of content are you creating and for what audience?

Kristina Foster 10:38
So, for more corporate type of clients, for example, that would be more higher level type of content, to engage somebody who may not be as technical but they’re more responsible for decisions about their building structure, for example, and when it comes to the institutional type of clients—so when we talk about government, for example—there’s processes like RFPs, we have to consider, because the government processes typically entail their… They have a project that was scoped by a consulting engineer. It goes to that government, goes through that government’s process of going out to vendors. There’s responses, which entail content that have to be delivered to that, to that consulting engineer, they consult back with that government entity and then that government entity makes their decisions. And sometimes after that there may be a shortlist meeting that takes place before the final project decisions determined. But again, that can vary by market as well. In some cases, that process could be a lot shorter. In some cases, that process can be a lot longer.

Carlota Pico 11:50
Okay, what about like activities. Like, what are you developing when it comes to content marketing activities. Are you promoting Pentair or talking about Pentair through your blog, through your social media channels? Like what channels are you using per audience?

Kristina Foster 12:10
So, for the corporate, there’s industry trade publications that some of our… that we know some corporate audiences subscribe to. So absolutely we get into those publications through advertising and thought leadership type of articles. Also, again, there’s the feet on the street with our sales force. And, of course, our website and social media channels. For government entities, that’s a different type, different set of advertising that we do to reach those entities, as well as again, there’s events as well, that we make sure that we attend or participate in, in a capacity of exhibiting but then also, we present at events.

Carlota Pico 13:02
Okay, very interesting. So when it comes to the water market in Europe, what industry and also cultural nuances should a marketer keep in mind when addressing the EMEA region?

Kristina Foster 13:14
So, my greatest piece of advice when it comes to the water market in Europe is to understand that is a very fragmented market. So it’s very important to be strategic and understanding where your opportunity really lies, because in some cases, depending on the type of solution that you offer, some markets are more attractive than others. And so it’s not trying to do a blanket approach to go after all of Europe, but really digging into what countries make sense for your company. And then within that, the when it comes to a content strategy, then what type of content would resonate best with those audiences? And you have to take consideration the tone that you use or the type of difference—how do you convey it? Some audiences are more… they will care more about the value, the end benefit. Some some companies and clients may care more about the technical details. And so it’s really understanding those nuances when it comes to how you develop content in Europe and understanding that what works in one country like Italy, for example, may not work in the UK, or what works in Germany may not work in the Netherlands.

Carlota Pico 14:29
Okay, even even within the water industry, it requires a lot of segmentation within the EMEA region as well because that’s been one of my one of the common topics that I’ve been discussing with other marketers from across all industries in Europe is really about zooming into your local audiences because as you rightly mentioned, what works in Spain may not work in the UK etc. Because, but because water is such a global necessity. I thought that you were able to address the…your potential client, especially consumers in a very similar manner, especially within the EMEA region, but but you’re still segmenting your audience according to different market preference?

Kristina Foster 15:13
Exactly. Because although we all agree that water is valuable, it’s not always that apparent to people. So some people absolutely understand the value of water. For example, when we talk about EMEA, so the Middle East—Israel—they absolutely understand the value of water because they don’t want to waste any drop at all. And so they really care about water. Whereas in some parts of Europe, they, it may not be as apparent until they actually are communicated to about that value of water and how it’s life’s precious resource and it’s very important and why having a pump helps deliver water, why you should really worry about and care about having the right pump to deliver the water or in some cases, remove the water where you don’t want it to be. And so it’s it’s a matter of awareness can differ with different markets. And that happens with consumers that’s also from the commercial and industrial side too, as I mentioned our food and beverage, there’s carbonation and co2 recovery practices as well and that the awareness and understanding of those technologies and applications is going to vary by the different markets.

Carlota Pico 16:44
This does bring to mind the power of influencers as well when it comes to educating the general public and because we are talking about water, sustainable water practices is huge and I want to ask if you also incorporate brand ambassadors or influencers to help you educate your public on the importance of water maintainance, obviously sustainability and best practices.

Kristina Foster 17:11
So currently, the way that we approach things, it’s more the way we see it, every body at Pentair, we are all very passionate about the water industry. We are truly water people. And so having a workforce of 10,000 people, you can consider it we have 10,000 brand ambassadors.

Carlota Pico 17:32
Wow, my eyes are just popping up popping out again, because obviously water is just part of our everyday life, but I’ve never really thought about how to market water or the or really have thought about the importance of water except that I can’t live without it. But I haven’t really phrased that in an intelligent way in order to be able to promote that and then eventually sell services. So this interview is quite enlightening, because yeah, of course you mean water is part of everything that we do. And it’s just be important for every government, it should be important for every company because without water, you can’t even flush the toilet.

Kristina Foster 18:13
Exactly. Try to living a day without water.

Carlota Pico 18:19
Okay, well, I do want to talk about Coronavirus. The economic consequences of the coronovirus pandemic are far reaching and advertising and marketing budgets have been very strongly hit. When it comes to the water secto, what major lessons have you learned about marketing during this time? And what do you think the future of marketing will look like?

Kristina Foster 18:42
So, in the water sector, I would say, from my experience with the water sector, there’s been a lot of the approaches I’ve seen at many companies have been more of the traditional channels. It’s more of the on-site, in person, types of approaches and print is really big. But I think with this shift that’s happened where people are staying at home more, and people can’t travel. It’s really accelerated digitalization approaches, and really thinking through how we can leverage digital channels more to reach those customers. And, for example, instead of relying on the big trade shows, because a lot of those big trade shows have either been postponed or cancelled due to this out to this pandemic. There, they’re also exploring virtual trade shows or virtual channels like webinars. And so I think there’s a lot more opportunity and leveraging digital means to engage and reach the customers and prospects and we’ve only scratched the surface in my opinion, on, on optimizing these channels, there’s so many capabilities with digital. And I think in the consumer, when targeting consumers, many companies have been doing that for years of leveraging digital channels, but in the b2b sectors, I think there’s a lot more opportunity to go digital.

Carlota Pico 20:21
Okay. You mentioned digital trade shows. Could you describe what a digital trade show looks and feels like for those that have never participated in one and how you use that channel in order to build your network?

Kristina Foster 20:37
Yeah, so a digital trade show… I think a lot of people will think of it as a webinar.

Carlota Pico 20:44

Kristina Foster 20:44
But it’s more than a webinar. Typically, I’ve experienced virtual trade shows before in past previous experiences, and what’s really impressive is you’re able to have virtual booths. So it’s almost like a microsite that’s been created for your company for people to go to. And they can click through and watch videos, they can raise their hand to be contacted by a representative, they can see actually there’s opportunity for them to see more than what they probably would have seen at the on site event to be very candid, because you have more real estate through digital to provide more information. And when it comes to presentations, that part of it is similar to the webinar format where it you can see in cases of video capabilities, you may be able to see the presenter and other times you’ll just see the presentation, youll hear the presenter talking, there is a live polls that take place. There’s q&a sessions. But the great thing is, unlike when you have on on site shows, this is all now content that is available where you can revisit to and you can actually revisit that content at your own pace.

Carlota Pico 22:09
Okay, that’s extremely interesting. But what about like the networking aspect because from my experience in the b2b sector, it was all about building relationships. So when I went to an event, it was really to get hands on experience with my potential clients. Because although it’s a business that I was selling to, at the end of the day, there was always a human behind it. And those events gave me the opportunity to meet that human and create a relationship. So how is that done on the digital sphere when it comes to digital trade shows?

Kristina Foster 22:41
So a lot of the digital trade show virtual trade shows, typically will have a networking app, okay, so you have access to all other attendees. And typically those apps ask you to build a quick little profile so they in your they populate with your company name and your title, but you can indicate what your interests are. And through the app, you can match up with other professionals that have similar interests. And then you can connect with them through the app and, and chat with them or exchange email addresses.

Carlota Pico 23:14
Okay, I am learning so much through this interview because water treatment is not my area of specialty. And also, I haven’t been to a digital trade show I have led a trade mission before and that was all about curating and matchmaking companies to each other and also, of course, presentations, etc. But I’ll have to check out the digital trade show world as well and see what way I can use that as part of our marketing strategy. Okay, leading into our set of rapid-fire questions. I do want to ask you, your source of inspiration; is it an influencer, a professional role model? Who are you inspired by?

Kristina Foster 23:55
So there’s a… there are several influencers that I have. In some cases, it’s not exactly a person, as someone who’s passionate about marketing, I get inspired by other cool marketing campaigns that I see. So when I travel in Europe, for example, I pay attention to the television, I look at the ad campaigns that I see and I’m inspired sometimes by some of those ads, especially those ads that emotionally connect. And, and, and a big part of it is the sincerity. When I see a marketing campaign that is genuine because in my opinion, we’re long gone from the days of like… there’s a show called Mad Men in the States—I’m sure you’ve heard of it as well—That is a very old fashioned view of marketing. And now, marketing, the only way marketing is successful is you have to have the integrity. You have to be genuine. Everything you say, you don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t try to embellish and pretend that and play up something bigger than what it really is, because consumer, and also in the b2b sector, they can see through that. So it’s really important to me that I…to be inspired by those genuine marketing campaigns that emotionally connect. And I also am inspired by other professionals that are open and transparent in their communications. I think that there’s some like on LinkedIn that do a great job of letting people know what their opinions are, but also being very clear that those are their opinions like Arianna Huffington, who is a very inspirational CEO. She does a great job of engaging with audiences. But I also like the fact that she is pretty honest to you with her day to day routines where she will say: “Okay, I woke up, I tried this approach to relax, didn’t work as well as I thought it would.” And just giving some of that personal view into the life of a CEO.

Carlota Pico 26:14
I couldn’t agree more. In my former life, I was an entrepreneur and Arianna Huffington actually came to Madrid to give a small talk, a small presentation to female entrepreneurs, and I was lucky enough to be invited to that presentation. And I was, I mean, I absolutely fell in love with her. She is definitely a source of inspiration. Definitely very admirable, and just honest, straightforward and authentic. So, which is hard to come across, especially when it comes to very powerful CEOs, who oftentimes are…have to follow certain rules or sort of internal politics.

Kristina Foster 26:53

Excellent. What about a book or a publication that you’d like to recommend to our audience?

So when joining any new company, what I found helpful is a book called The first 90 days. It helps you level set on your own strengths and what your weaknesses are your blind spots. But also, it helps you plan put together your 90 day plan. What I always recommend to everybody is don’t rely on your manager to tell you what your 90 day plan is. You should come into a company ready to go with this is what I intend to accomplish in the first 90 days and then see if your manager has that same view. Because in some cases, your manager may not even realize or thought of some of the things that you thought of. And that’s also a way for you to bring some immediate value and to show that you’re proactive. And again, as marketers, this is also a way to help you establish your personal brand.

Carlota Pico 27:58
That’s really great advice, actually. What about your favorite app at the moment and why?

Kristina Foster 28:05
So I am not using it very often right now, because about the COVID situation, but I love Delta’s app. When it comes to travel, that is one of the best apps I’ve ever used for airlines. It’s so user friendly, they’ve come such a long way. And it’s reflective of showing they really did their research. They understood, how people travel, not just consumer travel, but also business travel, what type of information we look for, and they made it so easy to follow in a very user friendly and intuitive interface.

Carlota Pico 28:44
Okay, I’ll have to get their marketing director on the record to let us know how he made that happen.

Kristina Foster 28:50

Carlota Pico 28:50
How he or she made that happen. Okay, Kristina well, thank you so much for joining us on The Content Mix. It was an absolute pleasure to meet you and to learn about your experience.

Kristina Foster 29:01
Thank you. And it was a pleasure speaking with you as well.

Carlota Pico 29:05
Thanks! And to everyone listening in today, thank you for joining us. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out The Content Mix. We’ll be releasing interviews just like this one every week, so keep on tuning in. Have a great weekend and see you next time. Bye!

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