In Conversation With | Hana Abaza - VP of Marketing at Uberflip
Hana Abaza is the VP of Marketing at Uberflip, a content marketing software company headquartered in Toronto. Having worked with companies of all sizes and managed her own startups, she has an extensive background in both B2B and B2C marketing.
We are thrilled to have her on the inaugural panel for MARKET & sat down with her to chat about all things marketing.
Tell us about what you do at Uberflip
I’m the VP of Marketing, which takes on a lot of different meanings. Our marketing team consists of 9 people, split into 4 main functions; namely demand generation, content marketing, product marketing, and events/communications.
We are focused on lead generation and customer acquisition, but we try to ensure that we are speaking to marketers at every stage of the customer’s journey. As a result, we work closely with all teams at Uberflip: sales, customer success, and—especially since we’re building a marketing-tech product—the product and dev team.
What is it like marketing to marketers?
Not only is Uberflip a fun company in general, the fact that we get to market to our counterparts at other companies is one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. Since we’re marketing to marketers, we get to geek out on the stuff we love with people who are just like us.
Tell us more about Uberflip
Uberflip has recently gone through some big changes. I joined the team 2.5 years ago and the team is growing incredibly quickly. We were only at 30 people almost a year ago and just recently, we passed 60.
A lot of that growth has to do with the new direction that Uberflip has taken. I joined Uberflip when the company was on the verge of a complete pivot—they were about to release a new product that focused on an entirely new market. Prior to that change in direction, Uberflip was focused on a tool called Flipbooks, which converts static PDFs into a dynamic and interactive format. The original target user group consisted of publishers or magazines who wanted to produce more content online.
After a while, Uberflip’s founders began to realize that there was a bigger opportunity outside of publishers and that was to target content marketers. They started building out what is now Uberflip’s main focus—Content Hubs—into a comprehensive platform that help you create, manage, and optimize content experiences at every stage of the buyer journey. As a marketer, you can aggregate your content (be it an eBook, blog, social post, video, etc.) into Uberflip and use it to power a variety of experiences like resource centers, content libraries, or persona-focused custom content streams.
When it comes to content, most marketers see the value. What’s missing (and what we provide) is the infrastructure to ensure that the content succeeds.
What was your path to marketing?
Like a lot of people, it was unconventional.
Everything is marketing and marketing is everything. There’s a great quote from a book called Rework (great read, by the way), and I think it helps put things into perspective; “Marketing is in everything we do, regardless of your role.”
Before I entered the tech and startup space, I actually managed a chain of martial arts studios. I ran marketing for all of the studios collectively and was also the general manager for two locations. My main role was about marketing to our clients on a one-on-one basis, but we were also beginning to create an online presence. This was before most businesses had built up their social media presences or even had much of a website. I was able to take them into the digital age and that is sort of how I caught the tech bug.
To be honest, I didn’t really think of myself as a marketer. It was more about driving growth and building a business. I’ve always been marketing minded, but to me the purest form of marketing is product development.
As I progressed in my career, I did a lot of consulting and advising for different companies from early-stage or venture-backed startups to large corporations. While my experience is focused on growth and marketing, I actually have a finance degree. I don’t think there is one path you have to take. Good marketers can come from any background, be it technical or even financial. It is more about the way you approach things and the way you think, rather than what your educational background is.
What do you find most rewarding about your role?
Being able to see the real impact of what we’re doing as a marketing team is incredibly rewarding because that isn’t always possible in many companies. Often, marketers don’t have the level of transparency and visibility they need to really understand how their work is performing.
And of course, being able to work with really cool and smart people every day in and of itself is its own reward!
How do you define success in your role?
There are two aspects to this. First, ensuring that we have met the targets that we set for ourselves. Second is really around team dynamics and determining if I have enabled my team to do everything that they need to do.
At the end of the day, once you start building out bigger teams, it is less about what you do specifically from an execution standpoint, and it is more about removing obstacles for your team so that they can succeed.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
I think one of the bigger challenges for us right now is making sure that we evolve our processes as we scale and grow our team. That is something I think is often overlooked by growing startups; implementing the right processes as the team scales so you can ensure that things keep functioning in an efficient way, ultimately growing the business.
Additionally, as the team starts to grow overall, communication can start to become a challenge. You have to structure a little bit more. The smaller the team, the more organically communication and collaboration can happen, but the larger the team, the more effort is required.
How has the definition of marketing transformed in recent years?
Seth Godin was recently quoted saying that, “Marketing needs to be the first step in everything a company does.”
This is a huge statement, but when you think about it, marketing is finally evolving to a place where it should be in the organization. It is now seen as a driver of growth in most companies. It isn’t necessarily the case with all companies, but we’re getting there.
Marketing now plays a key role in all of the departments in an organization. We have a lot more tools to measure impact and we are way more accountable than ever before in terms of whether our initiatives are actually driving results. The rest of the business can’t report on actual results without having input from marketing. For instance, a CFO of a big organization now needs to talk to a CMO about what the business metrics are—especially in a SaaS B2B company.
So, Seth Godin has put it really well when he said that everything should start with marketing, or as I would say, at least with a marketing mindset.
How do you stay up to date with marketing trends?
Number one is our people. Our marketing team is full of marketing geeks, in the best possible sense of the word. Everybody loves it, everybody reads about it, and everybody naturally stays in the know about what’s happening. Not only does the marketing team create a lot of content—that is one of our key drivers of our overall marketing strategy, after all—but we also consume a lot of content to stay on top of trends.
I would say that even extends beyond the marketing team. We get great pieces of content sent to us from our sales team, customer success team, and founders. They all are deeply involved in this space and we all share relevant content around the organization when we find it.
We have fostered a great culture around sharing our knowledge and continual learnings. We do internal lunch and learns. Our sales team has weekly and monthly development sessions where we will pick a topic and have a speaker—either externally or internally—come in to talk about it. This is something we really want to try and keep going as the team starts to grow because the reality is that it is not enough to just have our marketing team be marketing experts. Since we are selling to marketers, we need every member of our organization to understand the marketing industry and its pain points.
To be honest, if you’re marketing to a marketer and you don’t know what you’re talking about, that marketer is going to smell bullsh*t.
What are your best sources for reading about marketing?
There are tons of great resources out there. If you are looking for marketing trends and tactics, definitely check out what our team is creating at Uberflip. Otherwise, it depends on what you’re focused on since marketing is such a broad category. Here are some of my favorites:
- For startup marketing/growth at the entrepreneurial level: Noah Kogan has a great blog
I don’t think there is any shortage of great marketing resources. What you need to figure out is what you want/need to learn about, and go from there.
What are your top 3 applications and tools?
1. Trello: For managing tasks. Super easy-to-use and it creates a clean dashboard.
2. Slack: For internal communications. Everyone at Uberflip totally loves it!
3. Google docs: For any document sharing/collaboration. It keeps everything super simple and it helps our team stay organized.
For personal use
1. Do.com: Helps organize meeting notes and agendas. It connects with your Google calendar, so everything is nicely organized in one place.
Best Time Saving Skill
On any given day of the week or month, there is always a ton to do. What I like to do is take 10 minutes at the beginning of the week, or even on a Friday, and create a list of things that need to get done.
Then, every morning when I come in, I take a small post-it and write down the priorities that I think can be finished that day. It helps keep me super focused on just that one post-it note. If it doesn’t fit on a post-it note, it’s too much stuff!
I also batch things a lot. I try to batch all of my meetings in the afternoon and keep my mornings clear for other tasks. It doesn’t always work in a team of over 60 people where you have to make concessions for other people’s schedules, but it is the ideal.
What does your team look like and how has it evolved?
The marketing team consists of 9 people and that’s actually pretty good for Uberflip’s current size. When we look at the company growth in general, there is a lot happening in the sales side of the house, which is always a good indicator.
When I first started, the marketing team was all of 2 people. We were also doing a very different type of marketing because, at the time, Uberflip was really focused on the SMB market at a low price point. It was pretty much a self-serve funnel; people would sign up on the website for a free trial and then convert at some point. For a while, that was what we were trying to optimize, but as the product started to evolve and the market started to take shape, we saw an opportunity in the upper- to mid-market and enterprise space. Now, we are more focused on building a marketing and sales engine.
What is the greatest piece of marketing advice you have ever received?
“Always bring people along for the ride.”Whether it is marketing or any other discipline, if you are building and working with a team, it is extremely important to be in constant communication so your visions and goals align. Constantly communicate and realign—even if it feels repetitive.
How do you define value of a product and how do you deliver or communicate that value?
You have to first fundamentally understand your customer and understand what value looks like for them. It is not about what you perceive to be the value, but rather what value your customer is deriving from the product. The only way you are going to find that out is by talking to people.
Once you understand that, and you have internalized it yourself, then you can think about translating their value into something that speaks to other people who are like them.The thing to remember is, that as the product evolves, your messaging should evolve with it. Understand how people associate value with each stage of their journey.
How do you suggest that others find their way through the field of marketing?
1. Stay on top of what you're interested in.
2. Start to execute. The more you do, the more you learn.
What are some of the things you look for when you hire someone for your team?
Obviously it varies a little bit from role to role, but some of the key things that I like to see is somebody who asks questions, is curious, and is obviously a learner who not only wants to learn new things, but is good at learning and views it as a constant evolutionary process.
I look for a combination of whether you have the skill set as well as the right sort of mindset to fit into our team. It is really about getting to know the person, making sure they have the right mentality and attitude. We like people who are enthusiastic about what they do as well as about Uberflip.