Monetizing Content Marketing

Content marketing done well leads to revenue by creating sales opportunities. But producing and serving quality content to prospects doesn’t automatically convert them into customers. Successful organizations have to develop and implement content marketing strategies that go beyond just offering material that engages consumers. Content marketing also has to fully support prospecting and conversion by including the use of email and social media for targeting and timing; using content-distribution tactics that attract relevant visitors to company websites; gathering those visitors’ contact information; nurturing further interaction with them to help identify more of their specific needs; and understanding the trends and technologies that impact content-marketing performance.

Direct Marketing News recently invited a select group of marketing executives to an exclusive roundtable to discuss these issues; that is, how to monetize content marketing. B2B direct marketing specialist Greg Grdodian, Reach Marketing’s CEO, cohosted the conversation with Direct Marketing News Editor-in-Chief Ginger Conlon. The participants discussed such topics as B2B lead-generation best practices; how to maximize content-marketing initiatives through email while managing particular list-growth impediments; how to correctly target consumers on social media sites; what challenges and successes they’ve experienced while executing their initiatives in terms of audience quality; and what they see trending in content marketing. —Alison Lowander

Ginger Conlon, Direct Marketing News: Welcome to our content marketing roundtable. My cohost today is Reach Marketing CEO Greg Grdodian. We’re here to talk about how engaging content both captivates current customers and helps to convert prospects. Please introduce yourselves and share your company’s overall approach to content marketing. 

Doug Lee (World Industrial Reporter, Thomas Publishing Co.): I’m Doug Lee, publisher of World Industrial Reporter, which has a global website and a bimonthly newsletter. Our strategy is to find and present in one place engaging industrial-innovation articles to our readers. It drives traffic to and engagement with our advertisers’ content by presenting relevant articles to consumers and to professional industrial interests.

Margo Kornfeld (Time Warner Cable Media): I’m Margo Kornfeld, product marketing director, communications and insights, at Time Warner Cable Media. We use content in many different ways and we have a lot of groups to communicate to. One is our internal sales team. We have 700 sellers and about 300 people in the field who work with the sellers in client solutions. We communicate to them about what’s going on in the industry, such as demographics, category trends, etc. We also have an advertiser base that we regularly communicate to about programming—what we think may be a cable hit, or what’s going on in the industry, segmented to different categories.

Oltjon Abdyli (Lockwood Publications): My name is Oltjon Abdyli. I represent Lockwood Publications. We have a lot of local mom-and-pop shops as readers; our publications are very niche and reader-focused. We use email to create interest in our trade shows.

Kathy Narvaez (Thomas Publishing Co.): My name is Kathy Narvaez and I work at Thomas Publishing on the international marketing side. We have magazines, websites, and newsletters. We’re trying to get advertisers to place ads in these publications. And I want to do more online, try to get more eyes there to do more retargeting and try to figure out why, for us, social media doesn’t work that well. We’ve tried LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but we don’t see that it works.

Grazia Mohren (BizBash Media): I’m Grazia Mohren. I work at BizBash, handling the marketing for sales, corporate marketing, and event marketing. Our big strategy this year is to better understand what users do on our site, what pieces of content they’re steering toward. We do everything from whitepapers to webinars to different types of downloads. We have a large social media presence, so that’s been very helpful for us in terms of using the content on those channels. My job is to generate content to convert Web users into email subscribers because that helps drive more traffic to our advertisers.

Greg Grdodian (Reach Marketing): I’m Greg Grdodian, CEO of Reach Marketing. We combine our enhanced database technology with our audience development expertise to create innovative growth solutions for our clients. We have a strong customer base in media. Media is unique—you have two different businesses that you have to address: the advertiser side and the subscriber side. There’s a lot of opportunity and it’s all driven by content. 

DMN: Let’s talk specifically about how you all use content for customer acquisition. Grazia?

Mohren: The biggest driver to our website is our strong editorial content. Whitepapers have become important for us, because once somebody becomes interested in a topic, you get her to come back and download a piece of content. Webinars are very helpful for us, too. And we’re out there covering many events—events are such a big thing now. We’re always testing, trying new things to keep people engaged. We’re also trying to get things more automated.

Continue… 

 

Grdodian: We’re working with clients on delivering real-time content. We’ll deliver it to the visitors while they’re on the site. And based on their behaviors and contextual actions, we’ll be able to serve specific content related to their immediate interests. So, if visitors read an article about the service industry, for example, they’ll be presented with a recommendation to download a whitepaper on related topic. As a result of our strategy and technology, we’ve seen conversion rates skyrocketing by 200 to 300%. 

Lee: Our newsletter drives most of the traffic to our website. It’s a cycle: The website is where we publish first, so that’s where people will see it right away, and the newsletter drives clicks to the website. We use our analytics to identify the best-performing articles on the website, whether readers go there directly, come back daily or weekly, and whether readers found the article they clicked on from a search engine. We then select the best content and put that in the newsletter, and that in turn drives more traffic to the website.

One challenge is educating our advertisers on the importance of ads that include text—versus just a display ad—because of search engine optimization. That goes for educating our salespeople, too.

We also find it difficult to grow our email lists, especially in the global industrial space. We’re weak in Central and South America because our publication goes out in English, so we know we have a limited audience there. There are some people, especially in the industrial space, who are part of multinational corporations like Volkswagen or Mercedes Benz, and we want to reach those people. But how do you find new lists or new names in these markets?

Grdodian: Much like domestic audience growth, a key factor in international audience development is to deliver relevant, quality content. It’s also important not only to look at international broadly, but also to focus on different regions and have an approach for each region. 

Narvaez: As Doug just mentioned about his sales team, we also struggle with trying to get our sales reps trained to do visual products. It’s an older audience that’s not into the new technologies. But another thing is that we really need international demographics. For one of our international projects, for example, we looked only for readers in Central and South America. So, we have to know what countries they’re coming from.

Grdodian: You can do two things: You can pre-populate online registration forms based on the IP geography or you can request it as part of registration.

Kornfeld: You can try an offer, too: “Give us this information and we can enroll you.” I’ve had success with sweeps—even in the B2B space—but any kind of offer or free consultation, whatever it may be, could be effective.

Grdodian: Another way to do that is to state that if a viewer wants to read the second half of an article, he has to provide his email address, country, or any other data field that you don’t currently have in your database on that individual. We use progressive forms, so we’re always acquiring additional data. You can make it a requirement. But you should test it. Test it for two weeks or a month, look at the analytics, and see what’s generating better leads. It’s also important to understand what that eyeball is worth. 

Abdyli: Greg, you say that you can get information from IP geography. How do you go about targeting a company that you know has visited your site a couple of times?

Grdodian: There are two types of visitors: known and anonymous. We identify both, based on their content consumption, search terms, geography, demographics, etc., so the content we deliver is customized and highly relevant.

Mohren: Doug, I wanted to say that for international, you can translate content into a whitepaper or a PDF download. And social media marketing—if you target correctly on Facebook, you can get those names. You have to be very careful there initially, because people have caught on that the minute they submit their email they’re going to go into somebody’s funnel.

Abdyli: We don’t do a lot of social media because, as I said, our market is very niche. These are older folks, so we do a lot more in paper, email, and by phone. Our email list is concentrated with people who are in the industry, and they’re interested in reading our newsletter because they want to know what’s trending out there, how they can benefit, and how they can adapt to the industry.

Kornfeld: We use Marketo, and we develop content that we can use with the system to nurture prospects and retain customers. We have an email database, which is populated partly from what our sales force puts into the system, an external email list that we’ve built over time. We do very well with LinkedIn, so we generate a lot of visitors from there. We also do some paid media.

Mohren: We also use Marketo. We implemented topic pages on our site, so if somebody is interested in event technology, for instance, we know where they’re going. If they’re interested in meetings, we know their behavior. 

DMN: What trends are you all seeing in terms of content marketing that you’d like to optimize or try?

Mohren: Recently I read a case study on how a shipping firm implemented social media from a B2B perspective. It started a program in which people take photos of a company ship seen around the world; one photo was of the ship floating by a dolphin pod. They ended up getting 100,000 followers on Facebook—one of the highest in the B2B space. It made me think that the audience needs to perceive something as fun.

Narvaez: B2B social media is the biggest thing that I’d like to do more with. 

Abdyli: Idaho Potato did a similar thing. If you see the delivery truck, you take a picture of it and send it in, and people respond: “I saw it in New Jersey!” The campaign got great reviews because it really engaged people. They like the fact that they’re chasing something. You want people to react. Getting people involved gets them to listen to your message.

Lee: Those examples are like a lighter form of gamification, in that vein of being entertaining for people, making it a game so they become completely engaged with the content.

Grdodian: One of the challenges with social is quality of audience, but I view those campaigns you described more as branding, not lead generation.

Mohren: I keep reading that 2015 is the year for video marketing, but where do you start? We have YouTube campaigns for our expos, and we’re trying to integrate it more. We’re starting to do advertising campaigns on YouTube and starting to use video on Instagram and Facebook, but taking that video step and making it a big part of our content will be a challenge. 

Grdodian: I see creating videos for advertisers as taking off significantly. A lot of media companies are doing that now and they use video newsletters.

Lee: We know that video is incredibly popular. When our lead story in a newsletter has video we promote it—video is definitely engaging for people.

DMN: Any final thoughts, Greg? 

Grdodian: Audience development will improve your ability to engage and convert more opportunities. It’s so important to have strategies focused not only on creating content, but also on developing and maintaining key data elements on your customers and prospects. This will significantly increase the relevance of each communication and that is where your efforts can really pay off.

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