Content marketing goes well beyond publishing text-based material. Your company can provide videos, slide decks, Twitter feeds and even Web-based tools — like ClickMail’s ESPinator.
ClickMail pairs companies with email service providers (ESPs) and helps them establish effective programs. For years, its marketers have published a blog and an annual PDF guide about selecting ESPs.
“We’ve always felt that we had a clear view of the strengths and weaknesses of the various ESPs,” says Marco Marini, CEO, ClickMail. “From that, we evolved into an annual guide on selecting the best one. It’s completely vendor-neutral. It doesn’t talk about any vendors at all, just what the factors are.”
The ESPinator is the next step in that strategy, Marini says. Launched last month, the tool asks users a series of questions and suggests up to three ESPs that are well-suited to their needs.
“Every vendor at a trade show says their solution is the best. There truly isn’t a best solution. It all depends on what your specific needs are,” Marini says.
“There are more than 30 ESPs in the tool, and we don’t have a relationship with the vast majority of them. So this is truly more for the email marketing audience.”
Upfront investment vs. long-term upkeep
Content marketing requires investment. Someone has to create the content and it has to be really, really good. You can either invest your time or pay someone else. Either way, there is no free lunch.
This is also true of ClickMail’s ESPinator, which took over two years to create and is still in beta. One of the biggest challenges was building its scoring system. Each ESP had to be scored in various categories so it could be matched against a user’s needs.
One such category is each ESP’s depth of integration with salesforce.com, a popular CRM solutions provider.
“All [salesforce.com] integrations are not created equal among ESPs,” says Cameron Kane, CTO, ClickMail, who headed the project. “Some may synch simply contact data, some synch lead and contact data, some work with custom objects, some will not work with custom objects” and so on.
– Keeping content alive
Some types of content — such as books — require a onetime investment. Once a book is published, it’s published. Blogs, on the other hand, require on-going investment or they will wither and die. ClickMail’s tool is somewhere in the middle and will require updates.
“When an ESP on that list comes up with a new version or enhancements, we need to go back and modify the scores on those areas that they have potentially improved,” Marini says.
Marketing plans to attract attention
The ESPinator is so new that ClickMail has just begun its promotion. The team launched it at the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit last month — the industry’s largest event — and plans to do more soon.
Ideas they are kicking around include:
- Offering co-branding partnerships to companies
- Offering the tool to prospects as part of the lead-nurturing process
- Pitching the tool to industry press and blogs (like this one) to score inbound links
Ultimately, the team hopes that the ESPinator provides a useful service and helps attract attention to ClickMail and its services. Furthermore, the tool’s calculated suggestions will help position ClickMail as a company that is well-suited to help marketers choose email providers.
“When you say content marketing, I immediately think of thought leadership,” Marini says. “Our company philosophy is to show that value upfront without asking for anything.”
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