This week, Lindsay McGuire of Formstack joins us for a new edition of Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers. In this interview, we talk about her experience moving from financial services marketing to SaaS content marketing. We also cover Formstack’s podcast and the recent Digital Maturity report. Marketers can also see how a commitment to volunteering has shaped her career.
nDash: Thanks so much for joining us for this round of Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers! Can you give marketers in our audience some background on your role at Formstack and your journey to content marketing?
Lindsay: I am currently the content marketing manager at Formstack. I celebrate four years in October. It’s crazy to think it’s been that long. I actually came in under the title of digital content SEO specialist. Then was promoted into the content marketing role within about a year at Formstack.
I graduated in 2013 from the University of Missouri—MIZ!—with a degree in journalism. As probably a lot of people who graduated at the time. I was thinking, “What am I gonna do once I graduate?” Because it was clear that the journalism industry was going through a lot of chaos and turmoil and layoffs and downsizing. A lot of people at papers were losing their jobs. Even if they’d been there for twenty, thirty-plus years. So I was definitely part of that cohort of, “What am I gonna do when I graduate? Because I don’t know if this is quite the route to go anymore.”
I was lucky that it timed right about when content marketing was getting its legs under itself.
It had started walking versus crawling, as far as a profession, as far as an industry. So I freelanced for a little bit out of college and then finally got my first full-time professional position in-house. I worked at Redstone Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in Alabama. I was there for two years, relocated to Indianapolis, spent two years in the nonprofit world as a content marketer, and then ended up at Formstack in the SaaS world. It was really just a way to figure out what I could do with my degree in journalism that wasn’t technically journalism. And it worked out! Content marketing was right at my front door.
It’s funny because things just come full circle, I think. I actually originally wanted to be a news broadcaster. That was my emphasis area. Got to year two, where you do your site visits. I visited our KOMU station and was like, “This is not the vibe I want. I don’t want to wake up at three a.m. to do the six a.m. news. This is just not a good life choice!” So had to pivot and ended up doing strategic communication. It all comes full circle now that I speak on video as part of my job.
nDash: Speaking of your journey, Formstack seems to be your first B2B SaaS marketing role. So what’s been the biggest challenge in pivoting from the nonprofit and financial sectors?
Lindsay: I think, in the beginning, it was definitely just wrapping my head around the acronyms and the things you talk about as B2B person marketers and as a SaaS person. Figuring out MRR and ARR and churn and all these things that were not part of my vernacular when I was in nonprofit or financial services. That was the first-year struggle. Just learning what these terms are, what these ideas are, and how they play a role in the work I’m doing.
It’s very different.
But when thinking about what I’m writing, the messaging, and what I’m creating, it’s a different vibe. Especially from my nonprofit role previous to this, which called for a lot of heavy, heavy storytelling, and a lot of emotional storylines. A lot of things that were “pulling at the heartstrings.” Now I’m talking about workplace productivity—which is not quite like a heartstring pull. Much more practical. A lot more tips and tricks and pointers.
But it’s been nice to have that diversity throughout my career, to have different niches I’ve served, different audiences I’ve served. I think with SaaS, marketers speak to a very finite audience. But for Formstack, we serve a very wide variety of customers with our top three verticals. They are health care, education, and financial services. Drastically different audiences, people, roles, and things they do. So it’s been trying to figure out, “What are the core tenets of our messaging that can resonate across all those people?” That’s been hard to do but also my most fulfilling challenge.
nDash: You host a podcast for Formstack called Practically Genius. How does that fit into the larger strategy for marketers?
Lindsay: I think the podcast really plays well into defining what we’re talking about as a brand that can resonate whether you’re someone at a college, whether you’re someone at a hospital, whether you’re someone at a bank or credit union or if you’re selling insurance, even. So really digging down into what each of these people are struggling with, even if it’s a different type of solution.
For instance, someone might be exhausted with the paperwork they’re doing in all their day-to-day work.
And it could be that it’s a student request form at a college, or it could be that it’s a loan application at a bank. But at the end of the day, the root cause is the same, and that is this resistance to change, the reliance on things that feel comfortable but might not necessarily be the best fit for you.
The podcast has been about figuring out what our overarching topics that can fit into all of those different roles, industries, and verticals. And being able to maybe humanize them a little bit. Bringing on people who have expertise in those areas or can really connect in those areas. Then I act as the guide helping out listeners walk through the various solutions or ideas or practically genius ways they can rethink the processes and systems they’re using.
nDash: If you had to pick, do you have a single episode you’d recommend to our community of content writers, marketers, and business leaders?
Lindsay: I know you said one, but I will give you two. If you want to go niche and go to one that is specifically about marketing, I would say go into our episode that featured Jay Acunzo. It’s the best fit for anyone reading this [interview].” The episode is season three, episode four, Why Resonance Matters More Than Reach: Rethinking Marketing. If you’ve ever heard anything from Jay, it’s really one of the huge messages he hits home and one I really appreciate. It’s really helped me redefine what I define as success for my own marketing, my own writing. Don’t be alarmed if you listen to it, and it talks about the show being Ripple Effect. That was actually the name of our show up until this last season. We’ve recently rebranded, so you’re on the right feed, on the right episode.
But if I were to highlight one from this past season that I think anyone can relate to, especially in the times we’re in now, The first episode of this last season featured John Kuforiji.
He’s a change management advocate. His episode is the first episode of season five, Change Management is More About People Than Process. It really resonates across any role. He talks about how marketers can get more comfortable with change. How marketers can ensure when you’re launching a project or new piece of technology or adding a new software into your systems—how to make sure you don’t do things that might delay your progress or even take you a step backward versus forwards. That episode had a lot of really good information that still sticks with me now. And I talked to him three months ago!
nDash: Formstack recently released the 2022 State of Digital Maturity Report. Do you have any key findings you can share?
Lindsay: Probably the biggest overarching takeaway we found from that report was that 51% of workers report spending two hours or more on repetitive tasks, which is mind-boggling to me. That is a LOT of time wasted, and that’s just doing really rudimentary things that aren’t probably making a big overall impact in your day-to-day work.
In the report, we divided those who took our survey into a spectrum of digital maturity: the least digitally mature all the way up to the most digitally mature. We found there were four segments within that spectrum. When you’re looking at optimized, which are the most digitally mature organizations, versus the limited, which are the least digitally mature organizations, there were some crazy discrepancies there that really blew my mind.
One of them was that 96% of optimized organizations frequently add new tools to their tech stack, while 43% of limited organizations report they rarely change or add new tools.
That shows the discrepancies between forward-thinking, digitally-progressive organizations versus those that are a little bit stuck in the status quo, relying on those comfortable systems. Even if they might not be the most efficient options, they’re the ones they have used for some period of time, so they don’t quite see the reason to change.
Another finding that I found interesting is that 86% of optimized organizations report improving the customer experience as a top priority, compared to only 40% at the limited stage. There’s a disconnect between the why and how you’re doing the work you’re doing. It usually comes back to, “We’re doing this to appease our customers, to fulfill the needs of our customers,” but there was a disconnect there.
If we go back to the more general stats of the whole group that took our survey, we found that 77% say their organization is challenged with retaining their employees.
I think we’ve all seen this in “The Great Resignation,” now the looming recession, especially within the B2B SaaS space. We’ve seen layoff after layoff, hiring freezes, and rescinded offer letters. So, hiring is still a huge challenge for these organizations.
We also found that 72% think that inefficient processes negatively impact their jobs. A lot of people are frustrated by the inefficiencies in their orgs and are wondering why, maybe, there’s not a higher-level initiative to take care of those.
nDash: Stepping away from Formstack, you call yourself a volunteerism advocate and have served on multiple boards. This may be a bit of a cynical question, but beyond the immediate fulfillment of giving back, how has your dedication to volunteerism affected your life and career?
Lindsay: I think that is a real hidden secret of volunteerism. You make an excellent point that you do it initially because you’re altruistic and because you’re trying to build a better world, and you’re trying to help other people. If you have children or siblings, or parents, you might be doing it to create a better world for them or for the future. But you are right, there are great things that can come out of volunteerism.
When I moved to Indianapolis five years ago, I was looking for an organization similar to Rotaract. Rotaract is the young professional version of Rotary. I wasn’t quite at a stage in my life where Rotary was the right fit for me. I felt like I was a little young and wasn’t quite ready for that chapter of my life. So I was trying to figure out what other groups were like a Rotaract in Indianapolis because there wasn’t a chapter. I originally thought, “Hey, I’ll start one,” but I moved to Indianapolis not knowing anybody. Literally, nobody. So I was like, “Yeah, that’s not a smart idea. Let’s not do that. And, Let’s not ultimately, epically fail in your first six months in Indy. Let’s not make that a bad situation.”
I started asking my friends when I was working at the nonprofit, “What are organizations that have a trifecta of service, professional development, and socialization?” I had a lot of people recommend Junior League to me. So, I went and did some research. I joined in 2018, and now I’m in year two of my board service with Junior League of Indianapolis. I have met some of my absolute best friends. And, I held the newborn baby of my best friend, who I made through Junior League, two weeks ago.
So there’s that socialization aspect of “I have literally met best friends in a new city, where I didn’t know anyone.”
I’ve also met a lot of women who do very drastically different things professionally than I do, and I’ve built a really strong network where, if I were to ever – hopefully not – need a lawyer, I know lots of lawyers now! Or if I needed to find someone in health care, in my board service now, I’m a member of a group with lots of health care providers. You can build this diverse network.
I also sit on the board for Circular Indiana, which is all about creating a more circular economy. I bring a very grassroots, individual perspective, saying, “Hey, what can we do, what do I need to know, how can I educate myself?” A lot of the other board members come from the industry side—the glass recyclers, the aluminum recyclers, and the people who work for the waste districts all across Indiana. Being able to connect with these people gives me a whole new perspective about something I’m passionate about—sustainability, a circular economy, ensuring that we’re using our resources to the best of our capabilities forever and ever and ever.
I would never meet these people without this opportunity, so as much as it’s me being altruistic, trying to save Indiana – because we have one of the worst recycling rates in the whole country0. I get to meet really amazing people, do really amazing work, and hopefully, see that impact for the next decade-plus going forward. Meeting people I would never meet otherwise. It gives you such great opportunities, and if you are reading this and you live in Indianapolis or in Indiana, please connect with me. Happy to connect you to where you want to be.”
nDash: You recently posted on LinkedIn about a team outing with Formstack colleagues to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. How do you evangelize volunteering activities to colleagues?
Lindsay: I think, first and foremost, helping people understand the why behind it. The event you’re bringing up was a trivia night, so it’s a little easier of a sell, I think, because we’re gonna go play trivia, right? That’s fun! That’s bonding! But it’s important to communicate what the underlying value is. So that was a fundraising event to be able to create three, four, five, however many more matches. And for me, it’s always a personal thing. I was actually a Big for about five years, so I think it’s that personal connection that really compels other people and being able to describe the why. Whether you’re going and building a house for Habitat for Humanity.
Whether you’re going to a fundraising gala for the zoo and that money is going to go back to making better facilities for animals, always being able to clearly communicate the value.
I went to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast when I worked at the credit union. And the executive director of an organization that helps foster children said at one point in her speech, “The best thing I’ve ever realized is that my cause, my organization, my passion is not everyone’s jam, and I have to be okay with that and understand that.”
I was like, “Oh my god!” It was just like this light bulb.
You have to realize you’re not going to get everyone. You’re probably not going to get even a majority. But if marketers can capture those few people and really ignite something in them, and have them not only understand what you’re doing but why it’s important, and maybe even invest further down the road? It was just crazy when she said that. I was like, “Oh, I get it.”
Going back to the Jay Acunzo message, it’s kind of the same idea. That resonance is so much more important than the reach. Yeah, I could bring fifty people to this event, and it’s one and done, and it’s like, “See you later,” but if I could find five people who are actually invested in your mission, vision, people you serve,, work you’re doing. That’s so much more valuable.
nDash: Let’s turn back to Formstack and content marketers. nDash exists to connect elite freelancers to legit brands. We love to see companies utilize the massive talent pool that exists in the freelance market. How do you and your team maintain a consistent tone and voice for Formstack’s blog while using freelancers?
Lindsay: We’ve been really, really lucky to have found some very strong freelancers. We’ve worked with them for multiple years, with whom we’ve developed very strong relationships. Finding the right fit is the first thing marketers need to do. Finding people who are probably in it for the long haul. “Long haul” is probably different according to your business structure and your type of organization. We have been able to identify a small pool of writers. They’re in it to have a multiple-year relationship with us. Which is really helpful. I think also having strong brand standards that not only are available in a shareable doc but even giving guidelines on real estate on your website.
We actually have an entire section of our website that talks about our brand throughout all sorts of different facets. Writers and marketers can see everything from our look and feel to our voice to our iconography and our logos. Having that in the forefront rather than behind the lock and key of my email inbox and my Google Drive is really helpful. And then, your in-house writers need to be aligned and cohesive. That way, you can’t really tell who’s writing each piece. I think the smartest freelancers can look at those pieces and mimic that voice. Ultimately, bringing in their own subject matter, expertise, and research, with their own little flair, does make it captivating. But still aligning with existing pieces, so I wouldn’t even know it was a freelance writer’s article.
Formstack is a secure workplace productivity platform built to produce ingenious solutions to the everyday work that slow organizations down. From eliminating paper forms to breaking digital silos, Formstack empowers anyone to quickly and easily build custom forms, create documents, and collect eSignatures—all without any specialized skills or coding.
nDash is the world’s first content community platform. Thousands of brands use nDash to build and manage elite writing teams of in-house talent, freelancers, and thought leaders. With a rapidly evolving set of features, nDash helps marketers generate compelling topics, streamline the content creation workflow, and rise above the noise.
Many thanks to nDash freelancer Janna Leadbetter for serving as the transcriptionist for this interview, Dumb Questions for Brilliant Marketers: Lindsay McGuire.