The Monday Stack: Technology is the Content Being Marketed
I had two intriguing conversations this week with two vendors who create content around technology solutions in different ways and with different aims.
I think of TechTarget essentially as a pipeline accelerator for technology vendors, generating leads from visits to some 140 technology websites. I asked John Steinert, TechTarget's CMO if I had that about right.
"Yes," he said, "but that's a pretty big deal."
Steinert was talking to me at the SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange in Austin a few days ago, underlining the richness of the data TechTarget was able to generate from its network. The bottom line is that the data shows "what's shaping up to be purchase intent." A veteran of direct marketing, Steinert says "intent" really is a new term for "behavior." Identifying purchase intent means separating out purchase behavior from other online behaviors.
What that means is that simply having someone visit a site and click through a few pages certainly counts as behavior, but is a very weak signal when it comes to purchase intent -- it's widely distributed, it's typically anonymous, and it's not iterative. Another signal which is available, but not a very strong indicators of purchase intent, is news about a brand making changes to its IT organization -- through a press release or on LinkedIn.
A stronger signal, of course, is a known person and/or account showing interest on a brand's own website. What TechTarget does, Steinert said, is create content which supports the needs of potential tech purchasers. He calls the content model "purchase decision support." Of course, creating this kind of editorial content over a large network of websites (200 editors, 1800 freelance contributors) is expensive -- much more expensive than display ads: "It wouldn't be sustainable if it didn't prove out," said Steinert.
TechTarget has 18 million registered users (yes, TechTarget visitors are "known"), and some behaviors among the users qualify them for the "priority engine" -- they're considered real buyers at priority accounts. "Not prospects, not leads," Steinert said. "Deals happening right now.
With customers like Cisco and McAfee, TechTarget's network "tends to cover core systems, enterprise systems, rather than single solutions," Steinert said: expensive purchases with a long buying cycle. Because of the nature of the marketing tool set, coverage is relatively light. "If the price point is super low, our model doesn't work," he conceded. But there are niche tools everybody needs, he added, including the marketing department.
Would the TechTarget model work outside technology? "Personally I've thought about that," said Steinert, "but what [TechTarget's owners] are doing is anticipating that this will be a legitimate, monetizable space going forward. The problem with other industries is that it's hard to find as much investment or change."
Bertrand Hazard is a long-time Texas resident now, but it hasn't erased his French accent. He's also VP of marketing at TrustRadius, the platform which hosts 100,000 reviews of technology products, written by over 150,000 verified users. Where TechTarget leverages professional tech journalists, TrustRadius relies on contributions from tech users. "We have 300,000 unique visitors per month -- organic -- attracted by in-depth reviews," Hazard told me.
The data generated is valuable to vendors, but not in the form of leads (Hazard disagreed with a characterization by competitor G2 Crowd published here a few weeks ago). "TrustRadius studied converting traffic into leads," he said, "but decided to stay true to its mission of providing [content] which is independent." With a lead gen model, he said, "it would be hard to keep church and state separate."
What TrustRadius does do for vendors is provide a technology-enabled service to acquire content at scale. Vendors don't need to pay for profiles, but can drive users to TrustRadius. Paying vendors can use TrustRadius reviews in their own marketing and sales initiatives, work with the platform to acquire more and newer reviews, and even build product reports around the reviews. In order to focus the contributed content, vendors can provide custom review questions.
TrustRadius now markets a widget vendors can embed on their own web properties which surfaces quotes about their products from Trust Radius reviews, and links back to the reviews. The widget, which can be customized directly by vendors once it's set up, can boost conversion by 15-60%, Hazard said. TrustRadius also offers the capability of tagging and filtering reviews.
"We want to become the customer voice platform: Get customers on the record, at scale," Hazard said.
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