Content Marketing: Your questions on B2B online lead gen, metrics, content from SMEs and more
In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, I interviewed Eric Webb, Senior Marketing Director, Corporate Marketing & Brand, McGladrey, about his impressive work with the accounting firm’s content marketing.
You can now watch the video replay of that webinar – “Content Marketing: A discussion about McGladrey’s 300% increase in content production.”
But most of the questions I asked him weren’t my own, they were from you. In fact, we got tons of your questions about content marketing, and Eric has been kind enough to answer some of them here today on the MarketingSherpa blog.
Even better, Eric also provided you a tool his team used to help with its 300% increase in content production. Click below to download the template …
And now, your questions…
B2B online lead gen as a topic. – Mor, online marketing manager
Eric Webb: We use content to generate leads 70% of the time. Via Demand Generation, and social media, we promote specific content that resides behind a form. We may ask qualifying questions as well to help discern where they are in the buy cycle.
To do this, you need to repackage the topic to leave a breadcrumb of content that helps you accelerate the sales process. You may have a white paper which shows they are in discovery of the issue, then a podcast with a client and a case study. If they download these, they are likely more interested and are considering or feel they can benefit in some way from the solution.
Finally, a self assessment or an offer for a free 30-minute talk with the expert tells you they are truly interested and deserve a call.
Creating content for niche industries and clients – Maddie, marketing analyst
EW: I recommend looking to industry publication editorial calendars for ideas, clients and outside speakers.
Specific metrics and related incentives for the content creation team, please. – Marshall, CEO
EW: For content, the metrics we most watch are clicks and downloads, or form conversions if behind a form. We don’t necessarily offer an incentive except recognition for the SMEs (subject matter experts) on how the content they create is performing. But, you clearly could offer an incentive based on form-conversion leading to an opportunity.
How much content is necessary? – Christian, director of marketing
EW: Depends on your objectives – if you are just trying to build awareness, then you may measure retweets, likes or +. You could also look at a benchmark of current visits to a section and just say 10% above that. But ultimately, you have to determine what your objective is.
How do you re-purpose other’s content? – Christian, director of marketing
EW: We do curate content to help fill out a section and drive more time on site or to attract more people. But only the first paragraph and then we link out to their site. Otherwise, we look to vendors or partners to provide some of their content in totality.
Besides social, blogs and email – any other outlets? – Christian, director of marketing
EW: Networking sites like LinkedIn updates and groups. Partner sites, publications and association sites; some of our most clicks come on the heels of someone commenting in a news article and providing a link to our content. Slideshare. Reddit. Digg.
I love the idea of creating energy around content for SMEs and am looking forward to learning more about this. – Dee, founder
EW: Basically it comes down to being able to provide a breakdown of specific metrics by each content piece (clicks, downloads, form fills and opportunities). Develop a monthly report to show the value that the content is creating and highlight the author. Also, if you have a PR group, get them to promote the author as an expert, showcasing their content to reporters.
How quickly do you plan from idea generation for content to getting it up and available? – Nick, manager
EW: It depends on the topic. A blog post is usually a few days, depending on approvals required, but a white paper can be weeks and months, especially if it’s a regulated industry. We try to get teams to use content calendars and think at least three to six months out by assigning topics to SMEs.
How to develop a thought leadership culture in the workplace? – Kim, senior email marketing manager
EW: I noticed a change when you could report the metrics. And, with our marketing automation system, we now are close to showing a measure of influence of total revenue and direct attribution of particular campaigns and content offered to opportunities.
Explaining how your audience buys – their buy cycle – and then being able to show how they read through content to ultimately filling a form and wanting to engage helps as well. Consistency is key.
With very small companies, of only one or two people, it is very difficult to create good content on a consistent basis. How would you approach this dilemma? We have thought about smaller chunks of information and answering specific questions from visitors as a start. Any other things we should look at? – Michelle, GM & VP
EW: We have some small groups as well and what I normally tell them to do is to do telephone interviews of subject matter experts, and writing from them or just editing the recording to make a podcast.
Most experts can easily be interviewed and don’t find it difficult to answer questions, it’s the blank page that stumps them.
So doing podcasts takes 20 minutes and you may get 2-3 minutes for a podcast. There are 800 number recording services you can use to capture people over the phone or just a simple recorder if everyone is in the office.
Then use a system like Audacity for editing the recording file. The other tool or effort to consider is to curate content. You can also interview clients, write generic case studies of recent successes, and/or invite a client panel for a webinar and record that.
Can we see some specific statistics/numbers around Web visits per month? For example, how many unique visits there were per month before implementation of the strategy, how the content was spread, and how that affected unique visit numbers? – Erna, webmaster
EW: In the presentation, I mentioned that we were averaging about 50,000 visitors per month and jumped to over 100,000, and have maintained that or go up to 130,000 occasionally depending on the issue.
Now we concentrate on each individual performance as each group may have different objectives. For example, we use URL shorteners like Bitly for tracking specific social efforts and give that link to people to place during conversations or as comments to a relevant article and can then measure how much impact that effort and the content is having. We created over 9,000 form fills just with that effort.
How do you increase productivity while maintaining quality? – Alison, copywriter
EW: Good question. We try to have a proofer that is dedicated to proofing review the content and make suggestions.
How do you repurpose content effectively? – Alison, copywriter
EW: Repurposing content effectively has to do with understanding your prospect or reader/visitor. Relevancy and timeliness are important and so is understanding how your reader consumes the content. We also try to find a different angle to the story instead of just regurgitating the exact same information in a different format. So we may write a case study, and also interview an SME in more detail about a certain aspect of the case study.
What is the content approval process? – Steve, president
EW: We have industry and line of business leaders that are the approvers. But we try to get an approval at the ideation stage and that’s why we recommend content calendars. From there, there is an approval after the first draft and then again last draft by the leader of the practice and or industry.
My biggest questions revolve around efficiencies; working for a small agency requires generating a great deal of content in a relatively short amount of time. What methods can I use to expand content generation without having to significantly increase time/costs? – Julie, content/writer
EW: Ride the coattails of industry publications. If you know a publication is going to write about – let’s say social media – you could develop several case studies and a webcast featuring a top expert to come out at the same time, leveraging their hype of the topic. Curating content is also a good idea, as are audio podcasts – simple to interview and then edit.
Qualities of a good content writer? – Bruno, strategic consultant
EW: Journalists are good – people that can ask questions and know how to research to build a story. You are really trying to tell a story. Also, if they can think in terms of infographics, that is becoming more important.
In order to produce more content, was more staff needed? – Jennie, graphic arts illustrator
EW: We started with two writers and after two years we have three, so we did not really increase staff except after the year that we showed a great increase in capacity and measure and then suddenly we were deluged with more teams wanting to develop content. We do have to rely on contractors for certain editorial meetings and occasional projects. Ultimately, if you measure it, it’s easier to justify more staff.
What type of designer should you have? Should you have a designer at all? – David, digital marketing manager
EW: We do have two designers in house and will use a third external occasionally, but what we are really looking for next is an infographic artist. Someone that can quickly consume information and picture it.
I see that Web visits have increased 100% … how has that translated into sales/profit? – Lloyd, communications coordinator
EW: When we first measured, we were only measuring unique visits and had not translated that to opportunities derived. With our marketing automation system, it can show influence and direct attribution.
Last year, our consulting group related $400,000 direct attribution to content. And, that is from rough measurement.
Our expectation is that we’ll get better at the direct attribution year over year, and in one group showed close to $2 million in direct attribution for a particular campaign effort that involved a survey.
Ways to monetize traffic. – Shay, owner
EW: If you can understand buying behavior and lay out your content so that it leads to a conversion event, it’s easier to monetize. Our marketing automation system does this through direct and influenced revenue measures as it connects opportunities created in our CRM to the last and all content assets the person consumed.
How do you convert a traditional content subject matter expert, content creator or creative team to one that can turn around digital content on a shorter timeline than their traditional workflow? – Chris, marketing
EW: We’ve been teaching our writers to think like direct marketers by having them read and take online courses. When they start thinking in terms of a call-to-action, a switch goes off that helps them understand why this content is being developed. We also have given them training on writing in the different channels. Some are faster at grasping this and do a better job and we try to then align projects to them that fit their abilities.
If only I have one content producer, how to manage the process. – Alisa, strategist
EW: If I had only one content producer or subject matter expert I would sit down with them and create a content calendar to think up ideas. I would then choose the easiest format of creation for them and just get them on a cycle of creation.
We have one Retail Analyst. He produces a bi-weekly “Retail Commentary.” It’s short, sweet and he has about 3,000 subscribers.
How did you find your optimal balance of directly produced content creation versus secondary curation? – Jarod, marketing
EW: I’m not sure we’ve found it for every group. What we try to do is just watch clickthrough rates by article in a newsletter. If we see that at a certain quantity we get less click through or one of the five, as an example, is left alone, we try to see if it will do better on its own to determine – is it the clutter of too much? Or just a bad article?
For newsletters, we try to have two features and three secondary articles or tips. One of those features is usually one of our pieces.
How to find and retain good writers without breaking the bank. – Michelle, content manager
EW: Start with Craigslist, poke around in LinkedIn, even guru.com and elance.com offer good prices for writers.
Advice on keeping writers motivated, energized and accountable. – Michelle, content manager
EW: We try to give our writers the meatier stories that might involve repackaging of content. They also appear to like to do the podcast interviews.
Just a friendly FYI – in the actual email invitation, the singular possessive should be plural possessive: “The company tripled writer’s productivity.” – Jude, account manager
EW: Editing was never a strong point for me, especially of my own work and we advocate that someone not attached to the content be the editor. Unfortunately for me, I had no help on this one.
(Editor’s note: As gracious as Eric is for taking the blame, I wanted to point out that the typo was the fault of our staff here at MarketingSherpa, not Eric.
I included the question and his answer in this blog post because it brings up an excellent point – make sure you have someone who didn’t create the content read it over, at the very least. Even better, a professional editor. Even better than that, both a content editor and a copy editor.
Even with that, mistakes do happen. Thanks to Jude for catching that one.)
Be interesting to know about the team required to really pull off worthwhile content. Both for producing and for marketing/managing. – John, content director
EW: You have to find writers that love to write, are motivated by seeing the reporting, and that they are making a difference. For the SMEs it is all about the numbers and maybe the content gets them interviewed by an outside publication.
How much new business from existing clients or prospects resulted from the increase in Web visits? – Norma, marketing director
EW: We’ve only been able to calculate that for our consulting group, as they took the measurement all the way through to the CRM. We had shown a $400,000 increase for them. Their visitors represent less than a third of all new visitors.
With our marketing automation system now providing attributed and influenced revenue, we are seeing some content pull in millions in direct attributed revenue. Ultimately people buy from people, so we can only offer that the content drove them to that discussion but didn’t sell it.
Is this strategy applicable for B2B communications? – Eric, senior manager, corporate marketing
EW: Of course. We are a B2B company and even our Internal Communications group watches clickthrough rates.
How to define the quality of content??? – Mansi, analyst
EW: Ultimately, quality is defined by how many people read and share your content.
How do you really activate co-workers to produce outstanding and relevant content? – Jos, marketing manager
EW: Educate them to understand its importance. Content as strategy is a concept that takes some time to understand. Metrics help tell the story.
How did you come up with this? – Dan, president
EW: Out of desperation, to keep up with demand and improve quality of our creation.
What other ideas did you try that didn’t work? – Dan, president
EW: We tried managing by Excel, inbox, with a different file folder for different groups. We tried to keep writers in a pool but found that aligning them to groups helped them be part of the team.
Why was your technique so successful? – Dan, president
EW: We could measure key areas: number of projects, complaints, clickthroughs and form fills. Ultimately, the metrics tell you if it is working or not.
What would it take for us to replicate your success? – Dan, president
EW: Consistency and constant education. To this day, we are improving and trying new things – re-educating teams and showing them results. It never stops. Now, we are educating people on nurture cycles and how to think of their content in terms of a nurture stage.
Creating the right content for a startup … leveraging content marketing and establishing authority for a new technology. – Paula, consultant
EW: New is always good. I’ve been in two startups and know how tight resources are.
I would suggest you keep it simple in the beginning and maybe think about your objectives. You likely want to draw and build the brand, and a blog might work best for this.
You might also task all employees to go join LinkedIn Groups that you know your target audience habits. They should listen first, then eventually, if they are trained on how to interact and engage, they can start to ask questions of the group.
From a pure content standpoint, start with some simple articles and interviews, maybe have a self-assessment in there. You could use content curation to drive a specific type of problem or content issue so your brand becomes known for it. Then eventually, start adding your own content.
Any advice on how to encourage company thought leaders to write content and contribute regularly? – Mike, marketing
EW: A content calendar is the best thing to use and you may want to put it in a public space where everyone can see it. Show title, date and author by week or month.
But, be deliberate about the content topics you choose. Don’t allow them to just pick anything – it should be content that supports your brand and service solution. You could turn it into a contest and have number of unique clicks or downloads written at the bottom of the content calendar for each topic at the end of each quarter. Winner gets X. Measurement is key.
Jumping Safely on Board the Social Networking Train (white paper PDF download via McGladrey)