NXT: How did you start Trier & Co?
In 1996, I left the San Francisco Chronicle to work in Tech PR at the global PR agency, Burson Marsteller as Global Director of the technology practice, where I worked with many tech startups. The year was 1998 and every startup was getting funded and going IPO.
I left the agency to work in-house with a startup, but unfortunately the company got caught in the 2001 crash. So I took my team and started offering PR consulting services to tech companies, specifically B2B companies. We were very fortunate and our first client was Accenture. In 2001, I started Trier and Company.
NXT: Why did Accenture turn to you?
Accenture was interested in publishing eBooks and content for the company’s outsourcing practice and that required some serious technical background for someone to understand outsourcing, specifically Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), which was one of Trier’s niche areas of expertise.
Word of mouth, case studies, and referrals brought in more clients in the BPO vertical, and that’s how we got initial traction.
NXT: How have you evolved over the years?
We started off doing traditional media-relations PR. In 2009, I became keenly aware that content was going to be the real PR driver in the future. What that means is – I began to realize that every company is a media company. And every company has the ability to drive and shape PR via branded content. I also came to understand that the PR agency model was broken.
So, we shifted Trier and Company’s entire business model. Instead of having an account manager or account representative who oversees everything for a client and effectively creates a layer, or barrier, between the client and the experts, we structured our agency around practices – much like Accenture does. When a client needs the expertise from a specific practice, be it content marketing or social media or thought leadership, they speak directly with that practice lead. There is no middle layer at Trier.
And in order to scale our model, we hired top talent and built the business practice around their expertise. For example, after opening our Content Marketing practice, we opened a Brand Strategy and Thought Leadership practice with well-known Silicon Valley strategist, Liz Gebhardt.
Then in 2012-13 we opened our Digital Marketing practice. And currently the practice is managed by Kristin Kiser who comes to Trier from Stanford University where she managed digital marketing.
As our client roster has grown significantly over the past several years, so has our team in San Francisco and more recently, in London. And everyone at Trier brings practice expertise (versus general knowledge) to the table.
Now, we’re an Integrated Communications Agency with 30% of our work from B2C companies and 70% from B2B.
NXT: Why is integrated communications important?
As I mentioned before, every company has essentially become a media company. And, every company has to put out content in order to entertain, educate, and engage their customers.
So content creation AND content marketing are absolutely critical to brand awareness. And in order to deliver a compelling ROI, technology companies need an integrated approach to communications to fuel the sales funnel.
You can’t be creating content or putting yourself out there only in blogs and magazines. You need to create special content for different channels and you need to control the message across all channels. And then – you have to identify the personas who care about the content and get the message to them in creative ways including digital marketing and social media.
Having an integrated approach helps clients feed the omni-channels and get a bigger bang for their buck.
NXT: Can you share a couple of examples of how that works?
You have your owned media (think social like Twitter, FB, LI, and Instagram), your earned media (primarily word of mouth), and your paid content (like paid social ads or influencer promotions).
All working together and cohesively with a campaign philosophy can really drive your funnel.
You can spend money on building your brand awareness, and you can spend money on PPC and Ad campaigns. But if you do them right and you execute them together – one being aware of and leveraging the other – your ROI will be higher.
NXT: Who are your ideal clients, and how do you acquire them?
We are a midsize agency with 18 people in SF and 3 in London. We have to be very clear about what we do and with whom we work. We work with clients looking for true partners, because in a successful relationship there has to be some give and take.
We’re not order-takers because that doesn’t leverage our expertise and doesn’t let us develop out-of-the-box thinking that’s critical for success in a very competitive environment. There are many agencies that can do pure execution if that’s all you want.
We work a lot with a number of companies in various B2B tech sectors including Automotive, Manufacturing, Networks, Security, IoT, Cloud and Mobile. We also look for clients who don’t necessarily fit into a category as such.
One of our special clients is NTT Innovation Institute based in Silicon Valley. The company is an innovation lab dedicated to R&D across the board for NTT, the largest telecommunications company in the world. Lots of cool technologies are being sourced at NTT i3, and the team is seriously brilliant, led by a female CEO, Nina Simosko.
We source clients in the following ways:
- The #1 source is through referrals from our very happy clientele.
- We also work with startups who are more often than not referred to us by venture capital firms.
- Other times, the CMO of a company will move on and brings us along.
NXT: Examples of where you do your best work?
We work a lot with funded startups who want to reach the next milestone.
- Getting to series A in 12 months and then to acquisition in 18 months
- Working with a VC to help prepare one of their portfolio companies for acquisition within a 6-12 month period
- Working with an accomplished CEO to set up the company for sale in a 1-2 year period
On the other hand, startups that don’t have a very clear path and are just looking for content placement, like “I want to get featured on TechCrunch”… these aren’t a good fit for what we do.
NXT: What does a typical engagement with you look like?
It really varies, but let’s say a client’s goal is to get acquired with a timeframe of around 18 months.
For the first 30-60-90 days we’ll focus on messaging architecture and drill down to competitive analysis: what’s the company’s DNA, how do we put into words, and communicate the vision to the designated audience.
Then we focus on producing and promoting thought leadership content while enabling social media and digital marketing to step in and drive both influence and the sales funnel. Of course, PR is an integral part of the 360-degree communications plan.
We have a $15K/monthly minimum retainer and a 6-month minimum contract, both of which are necessary when you’re doing integrated communications.
NXT: What’s a missed opportunity you’ve noticed with B2B companies?
Trend: The more established enterprise companies know they have to have a presence on a variety of communications channels.
Missed opportunity: They usually have someone in-house or hire a contractor. But typically, they don’t use social and digital marketing to the full extent that they should.
They don’t have someone who is watching the analytics and monitoring the ads or setting up the metrics, etc. Video is a huge part of social influence and at Trier, we develop video content and video ad campaigns. Enterprise companies are more hesitant to go outside the box.
Example: SAP has done an excellent job at creating different divisions – TV, Innovation, etc. – to communicate with potential customers. But Oracle has stayed mainstream and has struggled to get it right.
Insight: Enterprise companies need to embrace cutting-edge channels, talk about innovation labs, and create hackathons to generate startup interest to acquire or partner with startups on the product side.