August 27, 2014
Case Study

Content Marketing: How an energy data company's content strategy increased leads by 733%

SUMMARY: "Content marketing is like wrapping your sales pitch in bacon," said Lauren Patrick, Marketing Content Manager, Urjanet. "It's not an advertisement. It's not, 'Buy me now! Here's why.' It's, 'Here's a really interesting problem, and here's a way to solve it. Here's our solution.'"

Discover how Urjanet's new marketing team developed a sizzling content marketing strategy for this energy data company.
by Allison Banko, Reporter


Urjanet's foundation is a fusion of energy efficiency and big data.

"We provide the big energy data that enables companies and organizations to make smarter, more profitable and eco-friendly energy decisions," explained Gary Brooks, Chief Marketing Officer, Urjanet.

Such companies and organizations include governments, colleges, universities and energy service providers. By providing data about their energy consumption, Urjanet enables these companies to reduce their energy spends.

The company collects this data through a sophisticated technology, which was built in conjunction with Georgia Tech and the National Science Foundation. Founded in 2012, Urjanet dedicated its first two years solely to developing this technology.

After building this technology out, Urjanet attracted its first customers, and wins, through referrals — not marketing campaigns. But as the company matured, the need to attract a higher volume of prospects grew.

"We then got to the point where we really needed to fire up our marketing engine," Brooks said.


At the start of 2014, Urjanet's marketing team was born. The team is now comprised of six members who focus on everything from demand generation to business development to content.

To start, the newly formed marketing team wanted to focus its marketing strategies on the combination of content and demand generation in order to inform the marketplace of the benefits and availability of energy data.

"We knew that there was a huge void in the market for information related to this understanding of your energy spend," Brooks said.

But at the time, Urjanet only had two existing pieces of content: a case study on a customer and a white paper written by an independent firm with an energy focus.

Marketing had to build Urjanet's content strategy from the ground up — something the team embraced.

"I think it's easier to start from scratch than it is to fix something that's very broken," Brooks said.

With demand and lead generation in mind, the team laid out a six-month content marketing strategy that featured weekly content such as:
  • Infographics

  • Expert Q-and-As

  • Videos

  • White papers

  • Case studies

  • Events

  • Webinars

"I think we all know that content is really the fuel for great demand campaigns," Brooks added.

Step #1. Examine yearly revenue forecasts

The team began by taking a look at the big picture.

Marketing examined the year's revenue forecasts to determine how much Urjanet needed to generate per quarter and the number of leads that would translate to. The team broke things down further, determining the number of Sales-accepted leads, Sales-qualified leads and closures needed.

After completing the math, the team determined they needed to generate 500 leads quarterly.

"To get from where we had been historically before we joined the company to achieving these lofty goals, we knew that we needed some really good content," Brooks said.

Step #2. Get in the buyer mindset

Next, Brooks and his team brainstormed questions prospective buyers may need answered. They focused on the buying cycle instead of the selling cycle.

"We jumped onto the other side of the table, and we looked at if we were buyers, what would we want to know about Urjanet and the business problem we solve and the value we deliver?" he explained.

Some sample questions the team drafted included:
  • How does Urjanet receive billing data from utilities?

  • How many utilities is Urjanet connected to?

  • Can you deliver data from submeters?

Urajnet made sure its content would answer such questions.

Step #3. Build messaging framework and architecture

"We built out a messaging framework and architecture that served as the foundation for all of our content and all of our communications with the market," Brooks said.

Urajanet wanted to keep its messaging first as a conversation about the business value of reducing energy spending and second about communicating how Urjanet can help prospects do so.

The team discussed what Brooks called the "WIIFM," or "what's in it for me?" They focused on what was in it for the buyer, putting Urjanet in the background.

"Most buyers don't care about you or your product," Brooks said. "They only care about the material value that your product can deliver to them."

As part of developing Urjanet's messaging, the team defined personas with the help of the sales team. Sales already had good personas developed, Brooks said, but these personas were in their heads. The marketing team needed to pull them out.

Marketing met with Sales, asking reps to define these personas more clearly and asking them about certain prospects' challenges and value propositions. The team understood these personas would develop further as they learned more about Urjanet's buyers.

To encompass a messaging architecture with all of the above factors in mind, the team developed a pyramid containing the following (from the top, down):
  • Company name

  • Tagline

  • Elevator story

  • Platform story

  • Key messages

  • Proof statements

"That went through multiple iterations until we finally got to the point where it was locked in enough to start using it as the foundation for building content," Brooks explained.

Step #4. Build content calendar

With the messaging architecture in place, the team then built out a map of content they wanted to develop for Urjanet over a six-month period, keeping in mind that demand campaigns would revolve around those pieces.

The team planned to blast out content at least once a week via mediums such as:
  • Infographics

  • White papers

  • Case studies

  • Expert Q-and-As

  • Webinars

  • 15-minute video case studies on lessons learned from past webinars

Brooks and his team also mapped out what they thought could be key content topics to deliver, including:
  • What happens when energy data goes bad

  • Improving financial performance while reducing your carbon footprint

  • How reducing energy spend can help the bottom line

After determining content mediums and topics, the team drilled these down, slotted them into the calendar and began sending that content out.

Lauren Patrick, Urjanet's Marketing Content Manager, detailed one of Urjanet's infographics titled "Big Energy Data."

"That [infographic] walked through the problem that we're facing today as a nation, as a global economy, with the fact that energy costs are continuing to rise and everyone needs to be doing more to protect the environment," Patrick said.

The infographic contained a CTA to download a white paper on the same topic, titled "The Top 5 Things You Should Know about Big Energy Data." The team marketed the infographic on Urjanet's social media channels by using an email blast and a blog post.

Urjanet's marketing tools allowed sales reps to be alerted when prospects were viewing the infographic, giving reps the chance to call them in hopes of securing a sales meeting.

Step #5. Encourage internal promotion

Whenever Marketing launched a campaign, the team sent out an internal email called a "Campaign Flash" to employees, board members and friends of the company.

The Campaign Flash clued these individuals in as to what marketing efforts were being made, while encouraging readers to personally promote these campaigns on Facebook and Twitter. Marketing made this "Peter Rabbit simple" by composing tweets and statuses so that all recipients had to do was copy and paste the messages to their own accounts.

"It's a way of promoting the infographic or news or whatever we're doing socially by engaging all of our employees and friends of the company," Brooks said.

Step #6. Analyze results from the marketing dashboard

Weekly, the team refers to Urjanet's marketing dashboard to evaluate the fruits of their labor. Each team member has quarterly quantitative objectives tied to 50% of their compensation, while the other half is tied to revenue. Brooks said this keeps the team focused on helping Sales.

"At the end of the day, that's why we exist — to make the sales team successful," he explained. "That's why our board has decided to invest in a marketing team. If we're not helping the sales team find and close business, there's really no need for marketing."

Marketing's quantitative goals include:
  • Number of leads

  • Marketing-qualified leads

  • Sales-accepted leads

  • Sales-qualified leads

  • Unique visitors

  • Coverage in the media

  • Blog posts published

  • Social media followers

"At the end of this month, we'll know if we're on track to achieve our quarterly goals and how hard we have to press on the accelerator to get to those goals," Brooks said.


Through their carefully crafted content marketing strategy and respective generation campaigns, Urjanet's newly established marketing team has boosted leads by 733% so far.

"We've dramatically increased the number of our target buyers that are raising their hands," Brooks said.

His team has not only helped increase the number of leads, but their quality, too.

According to Brooks, Urjanet's marketing efforts are designed to elevate the brand and deliver opportunities for sales reps to have a human interaction. This could be a face-to-face meeting or a phone call with the ultimate success being a close.

From Q1 to the end of Q2, Marketing increased sales reps' human interactions by 331%.

The core of the team's content marketing strategy — providing the information prospects need — was instrumental to these high-quality successes.

"We don't want to generate content for content's sake," Brooks said. "We want to generate content because it helps accelerate the buying cycle by answering the buyer's questions at the various phases in the buying cycle."

From a content manager's perspective, Patrick added how key it is to invest time into one piece of the buying cycle so it can be marketed in different ways.

"It's not just, 'I'm going to publish this and post on my website and have people download it.' It's, 'How am I actively marketing this content across all of my available platforms?'" she explained.

Patrick said Urjanet is now in new phase of its marketing, refining its content marketing efforts even further. For example, the team is currently working on its first "About Urjanet" video.

Of course, at less than a year in existence, Urjanet's marketing team is just getting started.

"We've demonstrated that we can generate leads," Brooks said. "Our next phase is dramatically improving our conversion rates."

He recently expressed his ultimate goal for Marketing to Erik Becker, Urjanet's Vice President of Sales and Business Development.

"My goal is for him to come to the marketing team and say, 'Guys, can you slow down the leads a little bit? We can't keep up,'" Brooks said. "That's utopia for us. When that happens, we'll have a big party."



Creative Samples

  1. Messaging pyramid

  2. Big Data infographic

  3. Blog post

Related Resources

Content Marketing: How to serve customers when they shouldn't buy from you

Video Marketing: How VMware's Google Plus Hangout produced a 1,600% ROI

Content Marketing: How Copyblogger used content and a free paywall to grow its email list by 400%

Content Marketing: How a farm justifies premium pricing

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