by Erin Hogg
Sherpa Software, a software solutions company, provides email compliance, e-discovery and archiving services for Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange.
Beginning in 2000, Sherpa Software offered 10 products designed to help companies manage policy enforcement, archiving, compliance and PSTs (personal folder files, used by email platforms to store data locally).
These services filled a niche that both IBM and Microsoft did not fill themselves, and these companies relied upon third-parties, like Sherpa Software, to provide solutions.
Over the years, the company grew and aimed to provide solutions not only for email but for other data silos as well.
Sherpa Software has continued to provide email management and legacy products and began looking to build out and brand themselves within the information governance space, according to Doug Yarabinetz, Vice President of Marketing and Director of Sales, Sherpa Software.
"Our goal as an organization is to continually evolve, build out a very cost-effective, easy-to-use, technology-driven platform for information governance for organizations of all sizes," Yarabinetz said.
What sets Sherpa Software apart from the pack of other information governance companies is that the company offers many different elements of the overall umbrella of information governance (IG) in one platform. Sherpa Software provides its solution via the cloud service Sherpa Altitude IG.
About five years ago, Sherpa Software embraced traditional marketing campaigns, including brochures, and was diving into email marketing and producing white papers.
"It was a good foundation, but I wouldn't say it was a concentrated effort," Yarabinetz said.
When he joined the team in 2009, Yarabinetz saw other B2B companies looking at social media, determining how it could be used in the complex sales cycle.
The company started its social media efforts by creating Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, as well as a company blog.
In the first year, the blog's content was syndicated through software that tagged posts to appear on third-party microsites around the Web. For instance, there could be one asset that appeared on 20 different blogs relating to that piece of content's focus.
At the time, Google was not discouraging this practice, and Yarabinetz explained this was a strategy to help with overall SEO rankings.
After a year-and-a-half, the team experienced a wake-up call. Google shifted its algorithm, and the practices that were once working for the team were no longer viable.
"Google really focused on making sure that when you search something, you’re getting really reliable, good content. They closed down that window to be able to do the microsites; that wasn't any longer getting you the advantage that it was at one time," he explained.
Having duplicate content on the Web also results in Google penalties, and the team needed another way to effectively reach audiences.
Sherpa Software partnered with an SEO and PPC firm to devise a new strategy now that microsites were no longer an option.
Through this partnership, the team decided to shut down the microsites and bring everything back under the Sherpa roof on the website.
Through this effort, Sherpa Software has taken its strategy a step further to provide relevant content to generate leads and interest for the brand.
Sherpa Software's customers fall into various verticals, including legal, health care and finance — heavily regulated industries needing to manage sensitive electronic information.
However, Yarabinetz explained that if an organization had electronic assets, that organization was a potential prospect.
"Overall, we're casting that net for all types of companies in all industries," he said.
Step #1. Building relevant content
To create fresh and compelling content, the marketing team reached out to other team members at Sherpa Software and provided a list of potential blog topics.
Product managers may also provide content, including product release updates, to add to the blog.
To brainstorm blog post topics, the marketing team goes through what's currently trending in the industry, paying particular attention to professional associations such as the Association of Records Managers and Administrators and the Association for Information and Image Management.
From there, they evaluate what's currently top of mind and trending and lay out the blog content based on what expertise they have on those topics.
They then plan five to eight topics to help the blog contributors at Sherpa Software steer their thinking.
Outside of the blog topic scheduling, contributors are encouraged to send in ideas or topics they think would be relevant to the Sherpa Software audience.
"It might be a product manager who's researching a development in the product they're working on that says, 'Hey, I think this can be really valuable for the industry,' or somebody else that just likes to write says, 'Oh, I was thinking around this concept, I'd like to do this three-part series,'" Yarabinetz said.
This strategy centralizes the content on the Sherpa Software website versus the microsite blog posts floating around the Web. The team strives to keep it fresh with content that is constantly updated as well as keeping a non-sales tone.
Every other month, a company newsletter is sent out to Sherpa Software's subscriber list of clients and prospects, and the blog content is repurposed to fill that newsletter.
"We are big believers in inbound marketing … and it's all based around you creating those inbound leads by offering up really valuable content," he said.
In addition to the blog and newsletter, Sherpa Software leverages white papers to provide educational content "knowing that people will then look to us for solutions around those areas versus us leading with just a sales pitch," Yarabinetz said.
White papers are created by members of the Sherpa Software team and are available on the site for download.
One successful piece of content that raked in more than 1,000 downloads has been a series on building a corporate information governance program, authored by Rick Wilson, Sherpa Software'sVice President of Strategy and Solutions.
The four-part series has been published over several months, with the final installment set to be available in November 2014.
Step #2. Share content via email and social media
Once all of the content is collected for the Sherpa Software blog, it is curated into a newsletter and sent out to Sherpa Software's list every other month.
Recipients of the newsletter see all of the articles, and over time, the articles are slowly released on the blog for people who are not subscribed to the newsletter.
The main subscribers to the company's newsletter include customers and potential prospects who opted-in through the site to receive the newsletter.
Sherpa Software also delves into social media to share blog content. The company conducts internal training to aid employees to share content through social media.
Yarabinetz has seen that as the company has adopted in inbound approach, it's become even more important to leverage content.
"We're trying to do multi-purpose content like we do with the blogs and the newsletters. We will do that same thing with some of the other channels we use. We might do a campaign with ARMA, which might include a trade show as well as two webinars and two white papers," he said.
With this content the team aims to provide best practices with an educational value proposition for the reader to gain insight and knowledge.
"We try and structure all of our content like that, so that means trying to leverage our internal thought leaders. We'll meet with them weekly, if not monthly, go over ideas they might have, see where their bandwidth is" he said.
The team is looking to leverage other industry thought leaders in the content as well as continuing to partner with associations in the industry to see how that resonates with the Sherpa Software audience.
"Our goal is to help them, to educate them, to provide them value whether we write it, we're able to share that, share somebody else's [content], through the partnerships and the relationships that we've made," Yarabinetz explained
Step #3. Develop a keyword strategy
In addition to sharing content via social media and partnering with organizations in the industry for greater reach, Sherpa Software also looks to leverage SEO in each piece of content produced.
"We are also doing a lot of our SEO around our content strategy, so if you search one of our keywords and it comes up, oftentimes it's the blog page that comes up before our normal website page," Yarabinetz said.
The team constantly goes through reviews with the company's vendor to see what terms and keywords can be associated with Sherpa Software and its content.
"For instance, as we move into the information governance space, we Google that, we look at what competitors are defining that, we look at industry things like how does AIIM and ARMA define that," he said.
They also try to focus on long-tail keywords, which return more specific results in which Sherpa Software can leverage.
Yarabinetz said this processes is constantly evolving, and the team meets frequently with their vendor to explore new keyword areas Sherpa Software can incorporate into their content strategy.
"We're developing a list internally of terms that we see or we think should be there, and then [the vendor] will run a review on that to get us some statistics behind it," he added.
Step #4. Use content for lead generation
This content strategy also serves a purpose to generate and nurture leads through the sales funnel.
Through marketing automation, Sherpa Software has developed customer personas to target prospects with the appropriate content based on the information gathered through various form fields on the site.
"We work with our sales to team to design who are the key buyers within our audience. Who are the people we're selling to?" Yarabinetz explained.
This process includes evaluating prospect job titles, the prospect's industry and where they fit in their organization.
An example of that might be the email administration within the IT department of a small-to-medium-sized company. One of the newer personas for somebody Sherpa Software targets might be a records manager in an organization with 10,000-plus users.
"We design those personas, and then, as we match up content, we say, 'Here's the buyer's journey; each of those different personas or those different titles and positions is going to go through this cycle. What's going to be valuable to them when they're doing the awareness phase? They're just trying to get educated on what is information governance,'" he said.
Yarabinetz added that as the prospect becomes more educated and enters into the consideration phase, the team looks at content to provide them the appropriate information at that stage.
Finally, when a prospect is ready to make a buying decision, content is created with more of that buying decision in mind.
"It's all part of that inbound strategy. When somebody downloads a white paper, we don't want to reach out to them and say, 'OK, now can you buy our software?' We want to reach out to them, and say, 'Did you find that valuable? What else can we offer you? Can we give you some tips that might help you?'" Yarabinetz explained.
The marketing team develops this content and meets weekly, if not daily, with the sales team to walk through how the sales team can offer the appropriate content as leads become hotter.
"Then, at each of those different stages, they make the determination of what would be a piece here that I can offer. If you were interested in that, I think you also might be interested in this," he said.
"We'd want to develop that trust and that relationship that over time, when they need something, whether it's that day or a year later sometimes, they'll come back to us because they know that we're experts on this subject, and we've been helpful, and we've built a relationship of trust," he added.
Step #5. Analyze engagement
To truly see what is working, Yarabinetz and the team monitor engagement and analytics on the performance of their content pieces.
For instance, when Yarabinetz looks at downloads for a three-part white paper, he can see not only the total number of downloads but also which part was most valuable to prospects.
Looking at the bigger picture, Sherpa Software leverages a vendor to see the entire journey a prospect is taking, seeing what step of the funnel they clicked through to view the company website, what pages on the website they were viewing and how long they viewed pages, and more.
Armed with that knowledge, the marketing team will meet with Sales and go over the data and match it with what the sales team is seeing in the field.
"We say, 'You're on the front line. What are people saying when you follow up? How are you connecting to people? Are they requesting additional information? Has the feedback been positive? What stage are they when you're mapping up with what we're delivering?'" he explained.
Based on this internal review and communication between Marketing and Sales, Yarabinetz can go back and refine future content efforts.
"In every case, you're going to make certain assumptions as you're developing things and getting that out, that, oh, OK, this is something that people didn't find valuable, or [it] probably should have had it at a different phase of the buying cycle, and we make those adjustments," he said.
"I think as we get to know that market segment better, as it gets more defined, that our strategy will adapt on how to best reach them," Yarabinetz explained. "But I don't think we will be moving away from that content strategy or inbound strategy anytime soon."
From this aggressive content strategy, Sherpa Software has achieved:
- 60% increase in site sessions
- 67% increase in new users to the site
- 137% increase in conversions (any actions taken on the site)
From this effort, Yarabinetz and the team have learned that when you are so reliant on Google, with its ever-changing algorithms, you "don't want to get too many of your eggs in one basket."
"You constantly have to be reviewing to make sure you're staying ahead of the game, that when Google makes a change, you are ready to change and pivot as quickly as they did," he explained.
Yarabinetz stressed the importance of sticking to a strategy as well as analyzing and measuring analytics and reports on every content piece created.
"People are educating themselves. They're getting 60% to 70% through the process, coming to you where they kind of know what they want, and you've got to give them content. That's why it can't be just a sales pitch. They can see through that," Yarabinetz explained.
SourcesSherpa SoftwareLuna Metrics
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