Nicoline Maes: Finding the Right Balance Between Push and Pull Marketing | Episode 017


Nicoline Maes Show Notes Page

Show Description

Content marketing has become a magic keyword in the world of digital marketing. However, despite its popularity, companies still find it hard to strategize and execute on a good content marketing plan. In this episode, Nicoline Maes shares her experience working with B2B clients and how you can come up with a successful advertising and content marketing strategy through the right balance between push and pull marketing.

Nicoline is an online marketing expert with a vast love for marketing that matters. Born in Amsterdam and raised in the South of the Netherlands, she’s a proud mom of two adult children: Teuntje and Stan. Her professional career came to fruition when she moved to the USA in 2006. She learned the tricks of the online marketing trade on the job when she joined Valorie Luther’s Creative Concepts team. She had the opportunity to work on major accounts for a company that leveraged the power of online marketing from it’s very first beginning. Upon her return to the Netherlands in 2011, she started her own company in Den Bosch. Forming flex teams with experts in the digital marketing field to suit the need of her clients allows her to learn from the best. The growing business served clients from a wide spectrum of markets, from building- and construction, machinery, engineering and sewer cleaning companies, to e-commerce businesses, companies in the travel industry, telecom and many more….Her agency works for start-ups to one of the 10 ten largest B2B multinationals in the Netherlands. Fully bilingual and speaking multiple European languages her focus now lies on internationally operating companies. Enthusiastic by nature Nicoline is fully energized when she’s able to bring companies and people into motion. No process is more rewarding than witnessing the companies she works with fully embrace the endless online marketing possibilities, without fear.



00:36 – Nicoline Maes’ background in B2B Digital Marketing

04:09 – What is The Push Paradox?

07:23 – Real world example: CX Global Media competitor

09:50 – The push/pull piece in Content Marketing

11:16 – Constantly evaluating your marketing plan

13:40 – The importance of information and analytics

15:58 – Overcoming the paradox

17:57 – The best first step in the push/pull paradox

20:51 – Recommendations for budget reallocation.

22:42 – Marketing is an orchestra

23:25- Investing in targeted funnels

25:26 – Becoming a disruptor in your digital marketing area

29:02- The one question every B2B digital marketer should be asking themselves

30:27 – Connect with Nicoline Maes


Memorable Quotes

“You need to constantly evaluate what is working and what is not. What has worked last year may not work within this year. Adjust constantly.”

“Measure everything and put the money where the results are.”

“Marketing disruptors are always solutions-driven.”

“You need to adjust with what is happening outside of your company.”

“Companies that thrive often adjust and are light on their feet.”


Links and Resources

Nicoline’s LinkedIn:

Nicoline’s Twitter:

Nicoline’s website:


Show Transcript

Click to access unedited transcript

Unedited Transcript

Jim Rembach (00:00):

Okay, B2B DM gang. We’re going to have a really good conversation today because we’re going to talk about a paradox that you’re probably living right now. And I have Nicholine Maes mace mosque. Uh, Nicholine Maes. Um, she’s actually from the Netherlands, so I’m working on my proper inflection. Uh, so Nicholine thanks for joining me today.

Nicoline Maes (00:22):

Welcome looking forward to it.

Jim Rembach (00:25):

We’re here. So if you could give us a little bit of background and on, you know, your education and your pathway, that’s kind of brought you to B2B digital marketing,

Nicoline Maes (00:34):

Um, kind of follow the different path than probably most, because I didn’t have a formal education in, uh, in marketing. I started as a, in, in art and I had like an associates degree in business. And then I did like voluntary work next, next to my raising my children. And, uh, there, I, I kind of went into PR and marketing a little bit. I really liked it. And then we moved to the U S in 2006 with my ex husband now her and, uh, and I had the opportunity to kind of revamp myself and I was thinking, what would I really, really like to do? And I, like, I felt marketing would be great field for me. And I had the opportunity to work with the creative concepts company in Fairfield, in Connecticut. And that’s where I got to learn the trick of the trade.

Nicoline Maes (01:20):

And I started working for fast moving companies, like, uh, big [inaudible]. We had eco fair, which is a Belgium company as a client. They are now taken over by methods. So, uh, some, some major, uh, fast moving companies. We had this clients back then, and then I moved back to the Netherlands in 2011 with the, like this pile of knowledge packed on my, then I entered the Netherlands and like I was ahead of the game. So then it was so funny, like not having the formal background, but still with a load of experience. So, and then I was asked for B2B projects and the first B2B project was for REO, net, and reunite is a sewer cleaning machine building company. And then I really got involved with like the whole two were below ground. It just, it’s a different world out there. And that’s what one of my other clients, [inaudible] who I met at a conference.

Nicoline Maes (02:23):

Then they were asking me like, what kind of clients do you serve? And I told them on it. And then I saw his eyes went like, what? And that was the marketing manager father. And Marvin is one of the biggest B2B companies in the Netherlands. And they do also do like sewer pipes and everything that that’s, uh, plastic and that has water running to it. And it’s a huge company. And we did like their content for all four years and it was super fun to do. And now we’re like kind of in a, in a combination between, um, construction, Telekom, uh, what else [inaudible] Jack companies. And, uh, and w we know I’ve a lot of, uh, governmental projects and it’s, uh, like a, the last one that’s B to B to C. So it’s like, uh, partners that work together, uh, that eventually serve all the people that have now lost their jobs or losing jobs or in between, and, uh, sadly, sadly, a great business to be in because there’s lots of work. So we’ve been really busy.

Jim Rembach (03:34):

And I think it’s really important to point out because, you know, you may be sitting here and listening or watching and saying, well, I don’t see how that type of job will fit or understand how that connects with the whole, you know, B2B, digital marketing, but, you know, I mean, very much so because we’re talking still about and what we focus in with that long sales cycle. Right, right. How do I support that long sales cycle? Because that’s, what is a key differentiator about the B2B digital marketer podcast and, you know, so you and I actually had a really good discussion prior to start recording. So I want to make sure we’re bringing some of that insight and dialogue and a conveyance of, of insight onto the show. And maybe the best way to do that is to talk about your book. Um, you know, which has not titled push paradox. If you could please share with, share with listeners, uh, you know, a little bit about this push paradigm,

Nicoline Maes (04:31):

Um, like one of the, as you work in B2B for longer time, and we have the opportunity to work with many clients, you kind of see that they’re pretty much all struggling with, um, the balance between push and pull marketing. And now like content marketing is, is a magic word for many B2B here in announced, like they all are, we need to do content marketing, content marketing, and they hire you to do content marketing, but then the content is left there to rot. Like nobody’s reading it. No we’re seeding it. And then when they start doing the advertising, then it’s mostly pushing products like the short cycle thinking and they, they want to push the product and they think too small, really. It should like a long, long term thing. You need to think every phase of the buyer journey you may do, do like first push content that informs them or three of them, or just makes them laugh, makes them notice you’re coming to me.

Nicoline Maes (05:30):

Then it’s the next phase and the next version, the next grade. And in the last phase, you can push content that will make them buy something from you, or get in touch with you or come to an event or to an online event. And that’s what the book is all about. The book is all about a right balance between push and pull marketing. Um, uh, also it’s, um, it’s a funny book because it’s like a really practical book yet. We were like practical marketeers. We do this shit every day. So like every, every, every chapter has like, um, uh, different materials and, uh, that can help B2B marketeers to work on their strategy, like bit by bit. And then every, at the end, they all can do some exercises and, um, they can either develop their own strategy to try the book, or they can check if their, uh, marketing agencies or their marketing departments are doing the right thing. So it’s also like kind of a little bit of a check from people that do this for, like, we’ve been doing this for, for over 12 years now. And, uh, it’s kind of a check and it’s our way of doing danger. I’m not saying this is the only way. Absolutely not, but it can help.

Jim Rembach (06:47):

Well, I think you bring up a very important discussion here because, and I’ll give you a real world example for me, um, that I was reviewing, and I was looking at an organization, a media organization that is, you know, one of my competitors at CX global media that was talking about their webinars that they produce and promote. Uh, and it said we have X, many registrants, X, many live attendees, and then X many on demand replays. And this is a media company now, from my perspective, if you do this properly and you don’t let things rot, like you’re talking about your on demand replay should be significantly higher than your live attendance. I mean, it be 10 times or more greater if you’re

Nicoline Maes (07:39):

It’s there forever. So, uh, it should convert.

Jim Rembach (07:43):

That’s exactly right. And it also has to be part of that longterm overall strategy thinking that you’re right. Marathon, that ultra marathon. Yeah. So for them, that’s not what they were promoting. It was, it was like the, the on demand, you know, access and replays, it was only like an eighth of what their live attendance was. And I’m like, that is lost value and opportunity that should happen.

Nicoline Maes (08:07):

Yeah. She’s always think about why I’m I doing this? What’s in it. What’s the goal that I’m going after. And that can be different. Like that’s not same for every company. It’s not the same. So, so, so maybe, maybe that’s their goal, like maybe on the Mount. I maybe they’re, I don’t know the, the, the goal, that’s what I’m like, I’m thinking now, do they really think about that

Jim Rembach (08:35):

Great point? So, you know, for me, I always talk about, um, you know, reverse engineering. I’ll talk about retrospective engineering. So in other words, what do I want as my ultimate outcome? And then, then let’s reverse back to figure out how we’re going to get, if I think about it from that perspective, if I’m talking about transactions and I’m talking about a specific campaign that has a specific, uh, you know, dated, you know, type of, you know, Hey, it’s a new release that I’m pushing, um, right

Nicoline Maes (09:04):

Then yes. But then, then, then they could be doing the right thing. Okay. That’s depends on their goals.

Jim Rembach (09:13):

Right. Um, but if I’m talking about a long sales cycle and I’m trying to build a relationship and I’m trying to create a brand and I’m trying to solve for somebody’s problem, something went wrong in that pathway to say very different story. And I think that’s important to all talking about that push pull paradox. So I am stuck with my head down and I’m creating content. However, if I don’t understand and take into consideration the whole push pull piece and how all that fits into that overall puzzle that you were talking about, it’s going to wither on the vine. Yeah.

Nicoline Maes (09:49):

Yes. And, and you get, she that’s like push and pull, but you can take as much broader, like all B to B companies are doing online and offline, and they also have like a sales department and she, it’s also frazzled, you know, they do, they do, they do them, they do this and that it’s not combined. Like they should really look at it as one big picture. Like there’s no such thing as sales, being a shepherd department. It’s, it’s smart. It’s, it’s marketing and sales marketing always like don’t, don’t separate two and think, uh, content from the full scope. It’s not like little puzzles and it’s content. It’s, it’s the offline things as you’re doing, it’s the JV team and it’s, and it, of course also the pushing the content with the right, with the right ads.

Jim Rembach (10:40):

That’s okay. So when you start talking about, you know, the, the content and the talking about that desired outcome and looking at, and all of that, what do you think that you see is quite overall overrated? As far as digital marketing is concerned?

Nicoline Maes (11:02):

Uh, overeat. It’s like, it’s kind of a hard, hard question, but I think like what I said before, it’s more the repetition of marketing planning. That’s most companies kind of looking for, like, you need, you need to have a plan in place I’m totally for that, but you need to stay light on your feet. And like, whenever you start to stick to a plan too much, I think that’s the most overrated thing. You should always be able to adjust based on what’s happening outside of your company. And, and, and being too far stuck, like the navel gazing, I call it leave gaging within your own company, being stuck in your own structure, a horrible I’m doing that right now. And so you

Jim Rembach (11:54):

And I were talking off my about this, and this probably requires a little bit more context and understanding, and you were talking kind of like, you know, if you put this into context of a content calendar, like, so I create a content calendar. And what you’re saying is that all you’re doing is, you know, taking that from last year and replicating it to this year, significant risks.

Nicoline Maes (12:21):

That’s a big risk because it doesn’t work. Usually you need to constantly evaluate what is working and what is not. And what has worked last year can not work within the half a year. Adjust constantly like constantly measure your success. Of course, you have a long term, like content plan in place, like the blocks and the webinars that you all go home as plan, adjust, adjust, adjust. And she too many companies that kind of like, they create like a year planning and then they created a monthly planning, but they tend to copy what they’ve done the year before the same trade shows to say, Nope, check everything, check if it works or not, and only repeat what works.

Jim Rembach (13:04):

So for me, as you’re saying that I’m starting thinking about how to take and create strategy from the tactical elements. And I start thinking about all the inputs and the information that could help me to be able to do that iteration work. Right. Where do you find most of your significant benefit when it comes to leading your decision to iterate and change?

Nicoline Maes (13:29):

I’m good. That’s a good question. Let me think. Well, there’s a couple of things that we always do, a couple things. So also when we develop a strategy, it’s about like going through all the analytics, of course. So you go to analytics, she makes sure you have monkey reports coming in and you draw information from data because you can see what’s working and what’s not, but also, uh, stay in tune, like, uh, listen to podcasts. Uh, we have groups of, uh, all the B2B marketeers that are all, they’re all like out there, testing the waters and discuss we open. Like we don’t, we have a lot of colleagues that I don’t, I don’t see them as, as competitive, not at all. Like we do, we learn together. So I learned from them. I see what’s working for them. I lots of information come from people that I could consider my competitors and the shame probably for them.

Nicoline Maes (14:27):

But we kind of like, that’s a very fast, uh, source of information. And then one other one is, um, of course what you see online, like you follow the right boss calls and the right, uh, blocks, and, uh, that will give you information. And, um, and then the lasting and that’s maybe, uh, that’s an important one. That’s also what we do when we strategize. We always listen to the clients of our, uh, of our over our clients. So they, their clients that will always be in touch with them and we’ll check in with them, but we’ll make the company check in with them regularly in whatever shape way or form and in multiple ways informed preferably. But they check in regularly with their clients to see what their needs are and how they are changed and what they are using at this time. And like that whole mix, that whole that’s the menu that makes the perfect dish.

Jim Rembach (15:23):

When you start talking about, you know, over overcoming the paradox, uh, and you know, the, the whole push pull component, if I’m sitting here and I, okay. It is a paradox. I don’t see, you know, the whole conversion happening. I don’t see how you know, where, where does somebody need to look in order to essentially get themselves out of the paradox?

Nicoline Maes (15:45):

Um, you need to, she, you need to check your ads relevancy. So you need to make sure that ads are relevant. I think that the metric is now changed, but you need to make sure that the ads are relevant to the people that you are sending your ads to. And if a lot of people comment negatively on your ads or how I try to hide them, you’re doing something wrong. So you need to be in tune with what you’re pushing out there and what we are always saying, because we all know that this discussion is happening in the Netherlands. As, as we speak, like we had a conversation on LinkedIn this week, like, so B2B marketers are like, Oh no, don’t do the ads. And horrible people hate them. But we always say, we try to like with the first thing you do is make great content.

Nicoline Maes (16:36):

And then the next thing is, do I have the code that should be found by the right people? So we say we assist people that are in there. They are motivated to find that content. We can help them. That’s the, that’s the best advertising, I think. But if you overdo it, if you push too much, as you push, push your products and people are, maybe they’re maybe looking for your knowledge and not per se your product yet, then give them the knowledge. Don’t push them, push the product. They will hate the product, but will love the knowledge. And that’s the long way in you will get, they will, will not forget you when they are doing Shayla’s when they are ready to sell, to sell or to buy. I mean, they will not forget

Jim Rembach (17:22):

Well. And even as you’re talking right there and, you know, we even mentioned how that, that formula and that success and that, you know, um, you know, optimal scenario is not the same for everyone, um, tenuous testing and that whole iteration piece. So, you know, I mean, for me, I’m also thinking about time and timeliness and, you know, risks and all of that. And I to make,

Jim Rembach (17:50):

Uh, my best first step, cause I don’t want that immediately be falling off the clip now. So in the push pole paradox, when, what do you, what are you saying to people in order for them to help determine their own? And I think this is the key, their own best, first step.

Nicoline Maes (18:10):

Um, I don’t think I will. I think we’re kind of guiding them a little bit cause I, we usually use, uh, like we, we check like, okay, let me answer a question in a better way. Um, you should start with, uh, checking, uh, what is the best liked and the most shared and commented on a gold dent that you already have. Maybe that’s a really good one because then you start with, what’s already popular and that will give you an insight into, Hey, there’s something happening here. That there’s a reason for that. So, so, so see what you can, what you can find from that. But you should also just divert your, uh, your, uh, target groups into different niches. And then she really asked them like as quitting your company to the people that know them. So I always say go to deeper into your company, not the marketing department go to like product marketing. She would what they know about the people that they serve, because they will know different things. Then the marketing department is so it’s, it’s, it’s the internal checkup research that you’re doing. It’s like the online analytical research that you’re doing, she was working on your channels. And then you asked him, asked your prospect as the prospect in that particular niche active, what is the biggest problem you’re having right now? What is the, the materials that you would download? What is the video that you would watch? That’s what you should start with?

Jim Rembach (19:48):

Okay. So then for me, if I was to boil this down, I start thinking that, uh, overcome the push, pull paradox, uh it’s to do more of the listing and the foundational work in order to be generate the content that is going to make the difference.

Nicoline Maes (20:05):

Yes, we, we believe in a, in a very strategic and a very like, uh, start with, uh, the people you’re doing this for.

Jim Rembach (20:15):

Okay. So then for me, I started getting into the whole, I have some constraints. I mean, I only have so many resources and budget that I’m working on. So if you were to give a recommendation, where would you tell somebody to reallocate your existing budget from?

Nicoline Maes (20:33):

Um, yeah, I see a lot of PTB companies. They invest in content marketing, a Legion, um, and then when it comes to ads, they do Google ads, uh, but not so much social media advertising. Um, and I also still see them doing like a lot of trade shows of which they do not know if that’s a valuable and attributing to the goals and also like TV commercials even, but they have no clue what’s the, what the results are. So I would say, let the figures, let the numbers do the talking, like, measure everything, let the numbers do the talking. You should really like be able to achieve a success to the money that you’ve put in. And then if I am honest and I look at what’s happening with trade shows and stuff, I see there’s all the money going out and it’s not really resulting in often. It’s not really resulting in any like Downey and down the line, any sales. So I would say, uh, put the money where the results are. And on average, that’s online for us. It’s online, it’s online, it’s digital marketing, content marketing, uh, like degeneration funnels. And, um, and I love campaigns. I love campaigns. And I did not like one campaign throughout the whole year campaign campaign campaign, always layered. Like we, all, everything we do is layered.

Jim Rembach (22:06):

I think also a critical, important note to point out is to me, it fits in what you were just talking about, you know, and kind of bringing it back full circle as far as getting out of the paradox, not letting things brought on the bind. It’s, you know, looking at them holistically, it’s layering and it’s, it’s doing all that from a strategic perspective. It’s the iteration. So, I mean, to me, that’s, that’s an orchestra.

Nicoline Maes (22:29):

Yes, it is. And it’s funny that you say so, because I used to have like a background image. I still will have it something with like a, uh, an orchestra, like, like directing the whole org. That’s what it is. In fact, if you want to do this Omni channel and you’re directing and all.

Jim Rembach (22:49):

Okay. So then I have to look at, let’s take off all the constraints, right? Okay. I have new budget, it’s unlimited budget and I can do whatever I want. What would you recommend to somebody to,

Nicoline Maes (23:00):

Um, really like targeted funnels, like all the way through, uh, combined to it smart campaigns. So the campaigns are like longterm, it’s all longterm. The base is great content, but then you start to develop like the content based of each phase on both the buyer journey, really drawing the people in slowly. And then when it’s all connected, like I see a lot of companies that have maybe one contact page. Like we do lead pages for every little like campaign and every little time group and like really divert, like make it smaller, a seed that they are themselves in the beach where you, where you bring them to like poorly differentiates too towards all these different niches, like, and then do the whole lead gen properly. That’s what I believe in and that’s where the money would go.

Jim Rembach (24:03):

Okay. So that’s a very interesting point because I had somebody on the podcast who was chatting in our, was talking about a strategy just as that. And he also does some professional speaking. And what he ended up doing is really building a very powerful public speaking business by creating literally hundreds of those types of, of landing pages, where it was very, very specific to your graphic location.

Nicoline Maes (24:36):

Yes. It’s like personalizing content is very important and has many tools to help you do that. So, but that’s a, that’s a great, that’s where I would put the money up.

Jim Rembach (24:47):

Well, I think that’s, that’s a, that’s a great advice. Um, okay. So w when I start, you know, looking at, you know, where you are and where you’re going and thinking about, you know, how can I actually, you know, differentiate and disrupt, you know what I mean? Cause you’re, you’re bringing on different perspectives and, you know, chatting with people who are at a different starting point than you are, where are you looking to actually do some disruption?

Nicoline Maes (25:14):

Me for my own company. Oh my God. Don’t ask me this question for question, because I’m not like my own marketing stinks. Like I, we get leads because we do a good job and that brings in more work. And like, if I look at my own marketing, I’m like, Oh no, I really did that. And we launched a book so that this is, this is kind of mine my thing. And it’s not like I used this as my own. Uh, it’s not per se a Mark, a marketing tool. But when I, like, when I answer a client and I’m allowed to make a proposition and I kind of do this, like, Hey, I bought the book, then they are looking at you differently. So that’s why I kind of own little thing, but the don’t look at me like, it’s never like, it’s the marketer, which marketing is not okay. But, uh, let’s say, um, different thing.

Nicoline Maes (26:13):

I feel like kind of drawing a bright line now what to do to really disrupt. Maybe, maybe disrupt is also something that is happening like right now. And I’m more of the longterm approach. So, so let me, let me give an example of one of my clients. Like we just redid the website, it’s a ditch website. So it probably won’t mean anything to you guys, but it’s a, it’s a, it’s a client that has been doing content marketing the right way, like one little trickle at a time for a long time. So to have a website with over 500 pages, with which we’re ranked on level one for, I think, seven or eight different keywords, which is huge. So, and then we were asked to redo the website. So we thought like, let’s do this life. You know, we, we, we rebuilt a website, well, the website stayed life not to disrupt the traffic.

Nicoline Maes (27:06):

Um, but he is number one in, in seven different. And now he’s number one, there may be 10. And which just by kind of redoing the website and like, is that a disruptor? No, but you number one. Yes. So that’s, it’s a longterm thing. So I, maybe, I don’t believe in being a disruptor like right now, but developing the right content like for wife. And we did a piece, um, uh, 10 measures to prevent urban flooding. So versus talking about all the solutions and products that they have, I added products from competitors really scary for B2B, but I, I did that. They let me, and so now this is the article is like the best read article on their websites. Like a crazy, like I went like crazy. So that’s, it’s disrupting because it’s it’s solution driven. The solution is prevent urban flooding. It’s not by my, by my pipe or, or use these water, uh, creates or that that’s all it is. It’s a solution thinking, I dunno, it’s not probably not the right dance for everything.

Jim Rembach (28:15):

Well, I, I mean, I think that is very helpful. Uh, and so for me, it comes back to that self-realization point of knowing where I am. And, and so if you, if you start thinking about, uh, B2B digital marketer, what is one important question they need to be asking themselves?

Nicoline Maes (28:32):

The most important question is what’s happening outside of my company. Am I still in touch with that? Like, am I navel gazing, duo? What book did I read last? Which workshop did I go to? What are my B to B marketing buddies who tell me their stories? Am I still in touch with what’s happening outside? I think that’s the most important thing. Like take over as an example, if you keep on doing what you’re doing, then you go for, it is a problem for everyone. But if you, if you don’t develop like methods, so you can do business online, like in any way, shape or form, you’re kind of, I don’t want to swear, but tape that’s not working. So you need to adjust to what’s happening without outside of your company. And I think COVID is the best possible example like that also business in COVID, she what’s possible for you. You know, there’s so many possibilities that is also companies drive because they, they adjust, they are light on their feet. So that’s yeah, I think that’s the, the biggest question. Am I in touch with what’s happening really in touch with what’s happening outside of my company? Am I able to adjust?

Jim Rembach (29:48):

No, that’s a very, very good and sound advice. Nicoline Maes. Uh, if you could, cause I’ve had a good time with you share with a B2B DM gang, how they can get in touch with you.

Nicoline Maes (30:01):

Find me on LinkedIn, find me on LinkedIn. And, uh, I’m on many different channels, but LinkedIn is the easiest and also in English because lots of my social channels are also in that show itself, often combination, but LinkedIn is in English too. So, uh, five minutes

Jim Rembach (30:18):

McLean, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, and we wish you the very best. Same to you. Good. Have a good day. Bye bye.