73% of B2B marketers use content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy, underscoring the critical role that content plays in today's digital landscape. Yet, the ever-changing algorithms of search engines pose a constant challenge for companies striving to keep their content relevant and visible.
One such company navigating these turbulent waters is Toggl, a productivity tool suite designed to help freelancers, agencies, and teams of all sizes track and manage their time more efficiently.
In today's podcast, we're thrilled to have Ilia Markov, the marketing director at Toggl, who will share some invaluable insights with our host Vianca Meyer into how the company adapted its content strategy to stay ahead of Google's algorithm changes.
Ilia Markov is the marketing director at Toggl, a company that offers productivity tools like Track for time tracking and Plan for visual project management. With a decade of experience in B2B SaaS marketing, he leads Toggl's marketing team with a focus on helping service businesses manage their time and resources effectively. A key part of his role involves developing Toggl's go-to-market strategy, including positioning, messaging, and monetization.
This podcast transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.
Vianca: Can you elaborate on what Toggl is and discuss some of the initial challenges you faced in spreading awareness about the brand?
Ilia: Toggl is a well-known brand that offers a suite of productivity tools. We have three main tools under the Toggl umbrella:
- Track — A time-tracking tool
- Plan — A project management tool that focuses on capacity and utilization
- Hire — A tool designed to help companies hire the best talent
As the Marketing Director, I actively oversee Track and Plan, although I do consult with the Hire team to ensure brand alignment. One of the main challenges we've faced is the perception that Toggl is primarily for freelancers, remote workers, or individuals interested in personal productivity, whom I refer to as "consumers" in the context of productivity tools.
However, we aim for Toggl to be a tool for teams, particularly what we call 'knowledge service companies.' These can range from a single individual to a team of a thousand. The idea is to cater to those who make a living by selling their knowledge. Since knowledge is not easily created, time becomes a crucial factor. Our tools help in tracking, analyzing, and planning time, thereby aiding in all aspects related to the concept of time and knowledge.
Toggl is renowned for boosting productivity. How do you ensure that your marketing goals align with this core mission?
The key to aligning our marketing goals with Toggl's mission of boosting productivity lies in understanding our customers and our target audience. Toggl has historically been popular among freelancers and individuals interested in personal productivity. However, since I joined the team, we've been focusing on what we call "knowledge service organizations," which can range from professionals to companies of various sizes. We aim to understand their needs and challenges deeply.
Our approach is a balanced one, split between learning from our target audience and educating them on how to overcome their challenges. When I say "educating," it's not always about pushing our product. Content marketing plays a significant role in our strategy. We almost treat content as a separate product within Toggl. If someone needs time tracking, they go for Track; if they need to plan their time, they go for Plan. But if they need to learn more about running an agency or a service business, or how to analyze profitability, they can go to the Toggl blog. That's where they'll find the "product" that meets that particular need.
Google's SEO algorithm changes can be quite challenging. How has Toggl been adapting to these changes? Do you have any specific tactics you're employing?
We've certainly felt the impact of Google's algorithm changes. The Toggl blog has been around for over a decade, and it has accumulated a lot of content from different eras and for different focuses of our three products. We recently conducted a series of audits, the last of which was particularly thorough. We examined each of the over 900 pieces of content on our blog to decide whether to keep it or discard it.
We found that a significant portion of our content was no longer serving any purpose. It was off-topic, off-brand, and wasn't generating any traffic, links, or even showing up in Google searches. So we decided to declutter and remove a lot of that content. I believe there's already too much clutter in content out there, and we didn't want to contribute to that.
Now, we're adopting a more focused strategy. We're revisiting and updating older content that still has value but needs to be refreshed for 2023. We aim to concentrate on topics that are genuinely helpful to our audience and to produce high-quality content around those topics. This approach aligns with our broader mission of being as useful as possible to our target audience.
There's a growing conversation about the rapid adoption of generative AI possibly signaling the end of traditional SaaS. What's your take on this?
AI has enormous potential to disrupt the SaaS industry, particularly in areas like time tracking and productivity. What we've found is that ease of use is a significant factor for our customers, many of whom switch to Toggl because they find it easier to use than other tools. This is where I see AI playing a significant role—making the user experience and data generation even more seamless. We're already investing in AI, adopting an iterative approach to make incremental improvements that will eventually lead to a fully automated experience.
However, there's another side to this coin, which is data privacy and ethical use of data. At Toggl, we have what we call an "anti-surveillance statement." We don't believe in surveillance as an effective tool, and we've designed Toggl to not be a good fit for those who want to use time tracking for surveillance purposes, like taking screenshots or measuring activity. As AI becomes more prevalent, concerns about data privacy will likely intensify. People are already uneasy about AI, and there's a lot of discussion about its risks. So, maintaining control over your data and ensuring it's used ethically will become even more critical in the age of AI.
At DesignRush, our focus is on connecting businesses with the best digital agencies globally. How important has it been for Toggl to collaborate with the right partners?
Partnering with the right agencies and experts has been crucial for us. There are times when we have specific needs that can be better addressed by hiring a specialized expert on a short-term basis rather than bringing on a full-time generalist. In such cases, a platform like DesignRush can be incredibly useful for quickly connecting us with the right partners. Another scenario where external collaboration is beneficial is when we want to experiment with a new tactic or channel. Working with freelancers or agencies allows us to test these new approaches quickly.
When it comes to giving advice, is there a golden nugget that you find yourself repeating often?
The advice I keep coming back to is: "Go and talk to your customers." And by talking, I don't just mean getting on a call with them—although that's important too. I mean immersing yourself in their world. Read the forums they frequent, browse through Reddit threads they might be commenting on, and watch YouTube videos that they might find useful. Understand their challenges, their lifestyles, and their needs. Become a geek in your domain. The goal isn't just to echo what your customers are saying but to develop new insights and innovative solutions that they will find valuable. That's the key to truly serving your customer base.
Given your extensive background in SaaS marketing, do you have any predictions on where the industry is headed?
I believe that AI will have a transformative impact on the SaaS industry, much like how cloud computing revolutionized software. While there's a lot of talk about AI, and the future is uncertain, I think it would be a mistake to discount its potential impact. One obvious way AI will change things is by becoming embedded in everything we do, allowing us to accomplish more with fewer resources.
AI will also play a significant role in driving software adoption. We've observed that any meaningful improvement in productivity and ease of use leads to higher levels of adoption. With AI enhancing both of these aspects, I think it's safe to say that its influence will be substantial. Despite the current challenges, such as market fluctuations and layoffs, I view these as temporary setbacks. The long-term future for SaaS and tech, in my opinion, is very bright.