BMC Software, the fifth largest software company in the world, does business with about 90% of the Fortune 500. BMC had a challenge common to high tech companies marketing online: their prospects are not individuals, but rather committees composed of a wide range of job-functions from IT to high-level strategy to marketing. In addition, often some members of these committees need educating in the broad technology landscape before they are qualified to decide on BMC's product particulars.
Faced with this dilemma, many B-to-B marketers would put out a series of white papers, plant some articles in trade publications, and hope for the best. BMC decided to get aggressive and take marketplace education one step further. CAMPAIGN
Rather than using freelancers or asking marketing people to create editorial content, BMC hired Christian Sarkar, a full-time Editor in Chief with a strong tech magazine background.
Sarkar immediately made a critical strategic decision -- instead of adding editorial content to BMC's corporate site, he decided to separate it completely from marketing communications content by creating all-new sites which weren't obviously branded by BMC. He says, "Even if content on your corporate site is unbiased, it automatically appears biased and less valuable. The perception of virtue is almost as important as virtue itself."
Sarkar also recognized that the various members of a typical Fortune 500 committee have very different educational needs and content interests. Rather than creating one mega-site for them all, he opted to create a series of completely separately branded sites, each targeted to a specific type of professional. He says, "It's better to have 1,500 people interested in one topic rather than 200,000 people just bouncing around who aren't really interested."
Each site includes content updated monthly, plus a strong community section where members can discuss hot topics with each other on bulletin boards. The sites include:
QualityofExperience.org -- targeting the CXO level (CEO, CFO, etc.) and "ebusiness process owners"
AgileBrain.com -- targeting marketers and mid-level ebusiness directors with a "very non-tech" background.
NextSLM.org -- targeting executives interested in sophisticated service level management.
DBAzine -- targeting techies who are deeply interested in database issues.
Sarkar drove site traffic by issuing press releases; soliciting content from famous name-brand "gurus"; sponsoring email discussion groups on related sites; and through a short-term online marketing campaign created by Target Market Interactive in LA which included email newsletter sponsorships and banners on other sites.
BMC's presence on its sites is minimal. You'll see no BMC banners or big flashy ads. Instead you'll see a small, black and white "Sponsored by" line. Sarkar says, "We're not actively selling." In fact, only two of the sites include active offers to drive traffic to BMC's corporate site. Both NextSLM and QualityofExperience offer links within related articles to free site assessement tools at BMC.com
A stunning 50% of editorial site members go check out BMC's corporate site eventually simply out of curiosity. 85% of visitors who saw the editorial article about BMC's free assessment tool clicked over to the corporate site to take advantage of it.Sarkar notes, "We have a 5-6% return from the link that just says, 'Sponsored by BMC.' That's amazing!"
Each of the sites has been successful at attracting thousands of highly targeted executives. Sarkar says the most effective methods have been word of mouth and search engine optimization. Posting articles from famous-name gurus help on both counts. He's also discovered partnerships can make press releases more effective, "If you do a press release saying 'AgileBrain says' that's great; but, if you say, 'Price Waterhouse Coopers, Seybold, Sun and AgileBrain say' more reporters will pick it up, more people will read it and get back to us. Automatically we've created a bigger net."
Once targeted traffic arrives at these sites, it sticks around. Average visitor lengths range from 12 minutes for AgileBrains to 44 minutes on DBAzine.
Yes, Sarkar plans to launch more niche sites for BMC in the future!
NOTE: Sarkar feels strongly that to be successful, "high level" B2B Web sites must contain easy-to-navigate useful information. He says, "Marketing people just think it's all about Flash or looking good but your online brand is the experience online. It's not enough to have a fancy Web site that does stuff. You can't drop the ball anywhere."
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