Marketing Profs B-to-B Forum Session 2: Developing Robust Online Content to Keep Prospects and Customers Engaged

by Nathan W. Burke on June 8, 2009

I’m really excited about this one, as I love Christopher S. Penn’s presentation style. He always gives usuable, actionable tactics that can be used immediately. That’s a rarity in a lot of conferences I go to. There’s a lot of high-level social media kumbaya, “join the conversation” talk, and things like that, but Christopher does an awesome job of giving real-world takeaways.

From the slides:

The Great Content Shift

  • Content-oriented marketing is undergoing a radical transformation.
  • Broadly speaking, this transformation has content moving from:
    – Promotional to non-partisan
    – Highly controlled to less controlled
    – Occasional to ongoing
    – Corporate voice to authentic, personal voice
    – One-way to conversational

The Golden Road to Great Content:

  1. Start with a Marketing Strategy.
  2. Make Content Useful.
  3. Consistent Message/Diverse Voices.
  4. Content Depends on Platforms and People.
  5. Dont Be Afraid to Lose Control.

Start with a Marketing Strategy

Aside from providing you with a framework for content development, starting with a marketing strategy gives you a way of measuring the success or failure of your content efforts.

  • Ask yourself:
    – Who are you producing content for?
    – What sort of content does this audience want?
    – How do they prefer to consume it?
  • Consumption habits are changing quickly with social media and community content increasingly in?uential, as this PJA/Toolbox survey shows
    – What do you hope to accomplish with your content?

Make Content Useful

  • Create content with your audience in mind by asking yourself,
    “Even if someone never works with us, would they still fnd this content valuable.”
  • Focusing on “use value” should also get you out of the “content = copy” mindset. Tools and apps are content, too. (HubSpot’s Website Grader – – is a good example of tool as content.)
  • Finally, if content is valuable in itself, there is a higher probability that people will share it with others. And sharing is GOOD!

Okay, enough slides. This is really an interesting topic for me, as I’m both the SEO guy and the Content Creation guy at my gig. Right now we’re planning out our site for our public release, and the next step is for me to sit in an isolated room with copious amounts of red bull to bang out the content. And since I won’t just be blogging, I’m looking for ways to make product pages have some real personality.

We’re also going to be incorporating things like video and audio, so I’m interested in hearing what’s up.

Well, presenter wants us to shut our laptops, so that’s all for this session.

I’m writing anyway.

The panelists:

Philip Juliano VP, Global Brand Management & Corporate Communications, Novell
Valeria Maltoni Director, Marketing Communications, SunGard Availability Services
Chris Penn CTO, Student Loan Network
Mike O’Toole President and Partner, PJA Advertising and Marketing
Matthew T. Grant Moderator, Doctor of Philosophy, Thought Ronin
Matthew Grant is talking now, and apparently he’s a stickler for not having people tweet, blog, etc. Never seen that one before, but hey, I understand. He’d be an excellent prison guard.

Content strategy starts with marketing strategy, so how does content fit into your marketing strategy?

The main point from the panelists is the idea that all content needs to support the master marketing plan. One gave the analogy that you wouldn’t just start building a house without a blueprint, so you don’t just start creating content without mapping it to a strategy. I’m definitely guilty of that a lot of times. At the new gig, I’ve been just going nuts because I’m not blogging there much yet, but it’s all part of a launch strategy. You really do need to create useful content that supports the master plan.

MG: How do you walk the line between being keyword-rich and spamming
CP: People are asking in his industry: “How do I pay for college?” and that’s the question he’s trying to answer on his site, and repetition is fine in that sense.

MG: What do you use for measurement to see if you’re hitting your marketing goals? What types of goals have you put around your content?

PJ: We start at the macro level and measure our brand, core messaging, solutions (awareness, purchase consideration) a couple of times per year. There are other ways we measure things on a  much more granular basis: CT rates, for example. They have a corporate magazine that they measure in terms of opens, views, etc. They’ve found a good correlation between purchase consideration and the overall direction of the company. Whether the macro or the micro, the measurements are absolutely critical.

CP: We look to see how many loans people have taken. One of the easiest ROI measurements is to ask “How did you hear about us?” You should collect as much data as possible, but you need to understand the “why” instead of just the what. For instance, you know that your home page bounce rate is high, but is it because your content is terrible, or was it because they found exactly what they wanted and left? The big question: are you making money? That’s really the big question when looking at how any campaign is working. If you’re selling a gulfstream jet that costs $94 million and you have a podcast with 100,000 listeners, but no one is buying, you’re wasting your time. If you have a podcast with 3 listeners and 2 buy the planes, you’re going to Maui for the next 2 years.

PO: It’s not about the activities, it’s about the outcomes.

MG: How do you manage the conversation so the message stays consistent on different platforms?

PO: At some level you can’t, when people are creating their own content about you, that’s somewhat out of your control. It’s important to be consistent, but not lock-step. You have to let people say their own things and let the personality come through. I’ve always been impressed with AutoDesk which has over 100 employee blogs. They do it well.

CP: Take a list of the top 100 customers you have, and go to twitter, facebook, blogger, etc and find out how many of them are there. If it’s a high percentage, you want to spend some time there. If they’re not, you’re probably going to waste your time. Another example: go to those same 100 customers and ask them where they spend time online. Great example: I was sitting next to an 80-year old grandmother on a plane, and she was stereotypical to a T except she had a kindle. I asked why, and she said that everyone at the senior center has one and loves it because you can change the text size to make it as big as they way. I asked “do you read blogs on that?” she said “what’s that?” I then took a look and she’d subscribed to a dozen blogs. I asked “what’s that?” and she said “oh, that’s the news.” The takeaway: People are talking about you and your industry/products, but they may be doing it in different places using different language.

Overall, this was a really good presentation, with the overall theme being:

  • Have a marketing strategy
  • Create content that maps to that strategy
  • Find out where your customers are
  • Talk to them there

Though the presentation wasn’t focused on giving any new information, it was an excellent way to reinforce the ideas that I think most of us are familiar with, but don’t always do. It’s difficult to have a strict process to come up with relevant keywords, create content to go after those keywords, measure how the content is doing, etc. It’s a hell of a lot easier to blog your ass off and hope good things are going to happen (ahem, what I’ve been guilty of a LOT), but I think the results prove otherwise.

On the Nathan Burke arbitrary rating scale, I’ll give this one 3 and 5/8 elephant eyes on a scale of multi-colored rugs to tin cans. (what?)

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