Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with  Pooja Kanabar, Head of Content for Disciple, on the importance of community building in an effective marketing strategy:

Shaheen Samavati 0:13
Hi, everyone I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Pooja Kanabar, head of content at Disciple, which is a UK based community management platform. Thanks so much for joining us, Pooja.

Pooja Kanabar 0:23
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Shaheen Samavati 0:26
So could you just start out by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about where you’re from and what you do?

Pooja Kanabar 0:33
Yeah, sure. So I’m based in London in the UK and I’m working in marketing and content. I’ve got 10 years experience across global marketing and I’ve worked with a variety of different brands across a range of different sectors all across the world. So across both B2B and B2C. So that’s been really exciting as I’ve spent the last five years of my career working more in the tech and startup world, which I absolutely love. Currently, I work as the content manager for Disciple media. So we’re an SaaS company and we create fully branded and private community platforms for loads of amazing communities.

Shaheen Samavati 1:18
So could you tell us a bit about what attracted you to marketing in the first place, how you got into the field?

Pooja Kanabar 1:24
Yeah, sure. So I was always into marketing more from the advertising perspective as I was growing up. So I went down the conventional route, I studied global marketing at university. A lot has changed in the marketing world from when I started studying and everything that I learned in my textbook. So digital marketing hadn’t even really taken off, social media had just launched when I was studying. So marketing has massively changed in that time, I’m probably showing my age by saying all of this. When I graduated, I spent the first part of my career working more in contract marketing roles. So I worked in loads of different sectors, education, life science, professional training, construction, and then I moved more into the tech sector. Each role that I had when I was contracting gave me really good insights, not only into the different industries but I was also able to learn what marketing tactics were relevant for all of these different sectors. I also got loads of insights into how different markets operate and do business as well. So if you’re starting out in marketing, I can’t recommend the value you get from contracting enough. You learn so much about the industries and just how different markets communicate. I think that’s really important with marketing because one size doesn’t fit all. It’s really important to understand your market.

Shaheen Samavati 3:03
Absolutely. So could you tell us a bit about your day to day now as head of content at Disciple?

Pooja Kanabar 3:09
Yeah sure. So I’d like to say there was a typical workday, but in reality it is just spinning a lot of different plates. So my areas of responsibility cover everything from SEO, blog posts, backlinks, ranking on Google, creating lead magnets, like white papers, or webinars, writing case studies from our customers, managing our tone of voice and messaging, crafting emails, setting up automation campaign, social content, so it’s a really broad mix.

Shaheen Samavati 3:44
Okay, very cool. So to give us a clear idea of what you do, maybe you could share an example of a piece of content that’s worked really well for you?

Pooja Kanabar 3:57
Yeah, sure. So I think the campaigns that I’ve worked on have massively varied depending on the industry that I’ve worked with. But I’d say one of the most exciting things that I’ve done or one of the most unique things, is creating the documentary behind the people behind our brands. So I worked for an advertising agency, it was a social media agency at the time. The one thing that we really wanted to differentiate ourselves with, is that it was the people behind the technology and the people behind our brand. We had different offices in all of these different markets across Europe. So what we did is we created a documentary of the faces behind our brands, the people in these different markets, and listed like a day in the life of them, so that people could get to see who they’re working with and what our culture is, how our way of life is and we got the CEO involved and did a day in his life as well. Then what we did is we created these cinema screenings of the documentary in these different markets. That became a way for us to nurture our prospects into becoming customers. That was something that was exciting because it was almost like we were mixing the digital component of creating this buildup of excitement like you would for a release of a movie with trailers and the launch of the documentary, then blending that with offline activity of it being an event as well. So that was really exciting. Other things that have worked that are more digital focussed have definitely been things like thought leadership webinars, industry reports on trends, 30 day challenges, exciting video content. So there’s been a range of stuff. I think, again, which I’ll come to probably a bit later, it’s really important to focus on where you’re at in your buyer journey and who you’re targeting in that buyer journey as well, because the kind of content that I’m creating, for example, for someone that’s a marketing manager is going to be very different to the type of content that I would be creating for a SEO.

Shaheen Samavati 6:16
Absolutely. So going to that point, who is your target audience now a Disciple?

Pooja Kanabar 6:23
At Disciple we target a bunch of different communities, there’s literally a community for everything. I would say our main target audience are definitely entrepreneurs, hobby enthusiasts, charities, training and personal development, so life coaches. Then the wellness sector, fitness coaches, mental health coaches. But we also have the corporate companies that are using our software to develop community apps for their staff. We have celebrities who want a private space for their fans. So it’s a really broad mix. If you’ve got a community, then Disciple can help.

Shaheen Samavati 7:04
Okay, very cool. So how do you reach such a diverse audience? What are your channels for reaching them?

Pooja Kanabar 7:14
I would say that the most important channels for us have definitely been Google, search and paid, then also nurturing people through our email list, our automations and making sure that we’re creating valuable enough content for people to even want to opt into our funnels in the first place. Those are really key channels for us. We also have our own community called The Collective. So that’s a space for community managers to basically come in and upskill on the community building knowledge and to connect with others who are building their communities, which is also an amazing resource if you’re interested in community building.

Shaheen Samavati 7:55
I imagine that’s on the Disciple platform?

Pooja Kanabar 7:59
Yeah. It’s a place where you can see what our platform looks like firsthand.

Shaheen Samavati 8:05
Okay, very cool. Well, I also wanted to ask you, what do you think’s important to keep in mind when it comes to content marketing in your industry?

Pooja Kanabar 8:13
So I think it really comes down to buyer personas, so really lasering in on who we’re targeting, what’s important to them and how our content and our product can help them to solve their challenges. So delivering value and winning trust are definitely our key objectives. A lot of companies, especially in the tech sector, can get lost in focusing on their features and they end up losing sight of what their customers really want and more importantly, how they’re delivering on these ones. So for us, it’s really important in our industry to make sure that we’re tailoring our product and our content around what’s going to serve our customers the most rather than having this build it and they will come mentality. The reality is that consumers are now so spoilt for choice, they have so many options. So if you want to stand out with everything, whether it is your content, whether it is your product, I think it’s really important to go the extra mile. I’m really proud to say that at Disciple, we definitely do that. I think that’s a key reason why we’ve seen such a surge in communities selecting Disciple as their platform of choice for building their communities, because we definitely find it really important to go that extra mile.

Shaheen Samavati 9:41
Okay, so Disciple is kind of an alternative to Facebook groups would you say? I’m someone who has a lot of experience with Facebook groups, but haven’t used an external platform. So what’s the advantage of building a community on a platform like Disciple?

Pooja Kanabar 9:55
Yeah, sure. So originally, I think a lot of people started their communities, building them on Facebook groups, which is great initially. But as time has progressed, Facebook has massively changed, they’ve become a real kind of ad driven platform. So everything is about how they can generate more money. So you could create loads of content and it’s not going to reach your audience on Facebook or you’re going to have to pay to get it to reach your audience on Facebook. There’s not enough spaces to be able to really organize your content or there’s not options to monetize your content or your audience are getting bombarded. So your group, say you’ve got like 500 people in your group, and you’re sharing all of this content in your group on Facebook, when they’re logging onto Facebook, they’re getting distracted by so many different notifications. There’s so many people trying to fight for their attention, that the likelihood of how long they’re going to engage with your content is not going to be that high. So that’s the benefit of using a private community platform, you eliminate all of these issues, your audience aren’t getting distracted, they have a private space, it’s a safe space, their data is safe, because you’re the one that owns and manages the data, no one else. You’re the one that controls what your community see, you can monetize your content, you can brand your community to fit around your brand. There’s so many advantages of having your own private community platform outside of Facebook. So I’d say that those are the key differentiators.

Shaheen Samavati 11:39
Okay, makes a lot of sense. Could you go back to talking about the content that you create for Disciple? What’s an example of a piece of content that you’ve created?

Pooja Kanabar 11:54
Yeah, sure. So there’s lots of different things that we create. So a lot of our content is blog content, so how to content and just answering people’s questions. We have a lot of different guides, so how to set up your community from scratch, how to engage your community, ways to monetize your community. So things like guides, webinars, we have tools like online calculator tools. We also have our online community building course, which is free for people to take this course. Then we also have The Collective which has lots of different webinars or live streams that talk about community building as well. So there’s a range of different content that we create.

Shaheen Samavati 12:42
Okay, super, super interesting. So how would you describe your tone of voice in your content?

Pooja Kanabar 12:48
So for us our tone of voice, we like to go down the route of informal, chatty, most of all human. We like to really tap into the pain points of our community managers. So we like to use simple, relatable language that is able to educate and inform them and solve their challenges, without overwhelming them with loads of jargon that they don’t understand.

Shaheen Samavati 13:13
By the way, when you use the term community manager, I guess that’s anyone who leads a community not only professional community managers?

Pooja Kanabar 13:21
Yeah, so a community leader, a creator, if you have a community then we can help basically.

Shaheen Samavati 13:30
So talking more generally about content marketing, what do you think some brands or companies get wrong when it comes to content?

Pooja Kanabar 13:37
I think this whole one size fits all blanket approach with messaging. I think that’s a big challenge. People are used to wanting personalized content now, so it’s really important to laser in on your buyer persona, your customers, who they actually are, what their struggles are, what’s important to them and how you can help solve those challenges. A lot of brands or companies, they just don’t do that, they just have this very blanket approach. The other thing is a lot of companies in the tech sector, they can highlight their technical features a lot instead of really tuning into the benefits that those features offer to their customers and essentially for their buyers. That’s what buyers, that’s what consumers care about, like how is this going to serve me? How is this gonna make my life easier? Why should I care? Rather than just going well, this product has x amount of pixels more, if we’re talking about phones, like what does that mean for them, you know? Then I’d say that the other thing is that we now have this advantage in the marketing world to have access to a ton of data and we didn’t have that before. So we can clearly now see metrics on what people are clicking on, what people find engaging, what things didn’t land. We’re also bombarded with content all day long. So I’d say before brainstorming ideas for your next content campaign, it’s really important to just take a step back, get clear on who your persona is, where they’re hanging out, what types of content they benefit from consuming. What has worked with your campaigns in the past from that data and then making sure that the content is actually tailored around what people want, rather than just off the fly comments or inspiration from someone from your senior management team, or someone in a different department that saw a blog. Before getting stuck in that cycle, just take a step back and review is this actually going to benefit our audience? I think if companies did that, then they would be a lot more effective with their content marketing.

Shaheen Samavati 16:03
Totally agree. So what’s your personal favorite content or social media channel?

Pooja Kanabar 16:10
So I’m a massive fan of video. I definitely think video is just becoming more and more the future with content. I love YouTube for that reason. I’m also ashamed to admit this, but I will, but I’ve become a lot more of a fan of TikTok, probably a bit of a TikTok addict, just purely because there’s so much content all of the time and people are so creative on there. But once upon a time, I would have said that my favorite channel of social media would be Facebook, but honestly, I just feel like in the last few years, Facebook has just really had so many data privacy scandals, and all of these algorithm updates. There’s just so much trust that is being diminished in users and it’s really difficult for marketers especially to get an ROI on what they’re putting out there as well. So I would definitely say YouTube and TikTok are my top favorites.

Shaheen Samavati 17:20
When it comes to your own content production at Disciple, are you doing much video production? How does video play into it?

Pooja Kanabar 17:27
Yeah, so video is definitely one of our focus points for this year. We want to push out a lot more video, we’ve started to create more video, we have a lot of live streams in our collective, a lot of webinars. But I definitely want for us to push a lot more video this year 100%.

Shaheen Samavati 17:47
You mentioned the course that you’re offering as well that I imagine is video based?

Pooja Kanabar 17:51
Yeah, it’s a video course. So the community building course is a video course. Check it out. It’s really, really useful. I definitely think, for the future of content in general, personalization of content, live stream, video, all of that is becoming more popular because it gives a bit more of this human element to content. I think that’s what builds those relationships with people and makes people want to convert and buy into your brand.

Shaheen Samavati 18:21
Absolutely. So next question, what skills do you think are most important for marketers these days?

Pooja Kanabar 18:31
So, marketing is just changing so fast, especially since we’ve moved from this offline marketing world into digital marketing, tech is moving so fast. So with that, for marketers now, we have so many different software’s that we have to learn to use all of the time. Everything from Google Search Console, to the CRM software that we’re using, or social content software that we’re using. There’s so many different tools so I think it’s really important for marketers to just truly harness the power of these text ads and to just continually upskill and make sure that they’re maximizing the knowledge that they’re getting from this, because there’s so many things that these softwares can do but marketers can be so busy doing a million different things that they don’t actually invest the time into really learning the power of these tools. So that’s definitely something that is a really important skill. Also just inbound marketing, just really understanding the different phases of the buyer journey and how different pieces of content fit into those different phases of the buyer journey to make sure that you’re getting the results that you want from your content, rather than just throwing out content on the fly because you think that’s what needs to be done.

Shaheen Samavati 19:57
Any advice you would give to someone just starting out now in marketing?

Pooja Kanabar 20:01
I would say marketing is so broad now, so if you’re starting out in marketing, it’s really important to get an understanding of the different job titles that are available in marketing and matching your skillset to those titles. If you’re more into data, there’s more performance based roles. If you’re more into the creative side of things, then there’s so many different options for that as well. So I’d say just really break down your skills and what you enjoy and match those up. There’s also so many different courses that you can do online. HubSpot, is really great because they have so many online courses that help you to get a deeper understanding of marketing as well. Then another thing that I touched on earlier, which is when you are at the beginning of your career, I think it’s really valuable to be able to have internships or do contracts, just so that you can get an understanding of how different industries work and how people market so differently in these industries across the world because all of that is really valuable knowledge that helps you to grow as a marketing professional.

Shaheen Samavati 21:12
Well do you have any productivity hacks to share?

Pooja Kanabar 21:16
Yes, I’m not one of those people that wakes up at five in the morning and does all of these things. But I would say that my top productivity hack to stay on track with my time is definitely just blocking out 30 minutes at the end of each week and I use that time to just plan out the whole of the next week in my calendar. I block out time in my calendar to do different tasks. By doing that, it helps me to not have to think about it the next week. It also helps stop other people blocking out time in my diary for meetings, because you can get so sucked into meeting that you don’t always have time to actually do the work that you need to do. So that helps me to stay on track with my time and manage it.

Shaheen Samavati 22:02
Yeah, that’s a good tip. I totally agree with that one. Any favorite software tool or app?

Pooja Kanabar 22:09
Yeah Canva. I think for content marketers Canva is a lifesaver. It’s definitely just been so good for us and our team, it’s the quickest way to create content, push it out really quickly and to make sure that we stay on brand. So that’s been great.

Shaheen Samavati 22:28
Yeah, totally a big Canva fan as well. Well, who’s your professional role model or source of inspiration?

Pooja Kanabar 22:37
I would say, I’ve been lucky to work with so many different bosses. I think you learn so much from the different people that you work with but there’s been one who’s been really good. Her name was Bev James, I worked with her at the Coaching Academy. She was definitely someone who just really pushed me to grow. She trusted my ideas, she helped me to really shine and she was a really incredible mentor. She helped to open my mind just to different ways of thinking not just in marketing, but also my own personal development. So I think who you work for in your career, it definitely is really important because that massively shapes your abilities as well. So when you are looking for a job, you’re thinking about expanding your career in marketing, don’t just look at the role, look at the person that you’re going to be working for and how they’re going to mentor you because that plays a huge part in your success as well.

Shaheen Samavati 23:38
Absolutely, that’s another great piece of advice. So what’s your favorite marketing or business book?

Pooja Kanabar 23:46
So there’s been a few, but it was probably controversial saying the title of this book, given what’s going on with the pandemic right now. But the book is called Contagious by a guy called Jonah Berger and it’s such a good book. It’s all about what makes things catch on. So in terms of products, how things become viral, it has loads of different experiments that were conducted and psychology behind what makes things work. It’s such a good book, I’d definitely recommend it, especially for content marketers.

Shaheen Samavati 24:26
Excellent. Any other resources you recommend for staying up to date on marketing trends?

Pooja Kanabar 24:34
I’m subscribed to a website called Marketing Week and they give you updates of marketing news and lots of different campaigns that are running. So that’s been a really great way to stay updated. If you’re passionate about community building then definitely check out The Collective which you can find on our website, I’m just always keeping up to date with different blogs, especially like SEO blogs and Neil Patel is great for SEO. There’s lots of different things that I keep track of.

Shaheen Samavati 25:13
Well, Pooja, we’re reaching the end of the interview. Do you have any parting advice for other marketers in Europe?

Pooja Kanabar 25:19
Yeah, sure. It’s been great speaking to you Shaheen. I’d say, the final piece of parting advice for other marketers would definitely be whenever you’re inspired by an idea, just make a note of it in your notes app on your phone, take screen grabs of any ads or content pieces that have captured your attention. Don’t overlook that because you’ll never know when it will come in handy, especially during those moments where you’re just lacking inspiration. It’s great to just have a folder in your phone that you can dig into and pull inspiration from.

Shaheen Samavati 25:56
That’s a great tip and a great note to end on. So thank you so much, Pooja, for sharing your insights with us today.

Pooja Kanabar 26:04
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Shaheen Samavati 26:08
Thank you everyone for listening in, for more perspectives on content marketing in Europe checkout, and keep tuning into the podcast for more interviews with content experts. See you next time. Bye.

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