by David Kirkpatrick
, Senior Reporter
In recent weeks, we have covered the importance of content in B2B marketing, including a MarketingSherpa B2B newsletter how-to guide on content marketing basics. This week, we feature a case study illustrating how McGladrey, the fifth largest assurance, tax and consulting firm globally with 7,000 employees, realigned its online marketing strategy with a content-centric approach.
Eric Webb, Senior Director of Communications & Brand, McGladrey, presented this case study at the recent MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012, and we wanted to share this material with the entire MarketingSherpa audience.
McGladrey saw a marketing opportunity in focusing on its content.
Webb explained, "The opportunity that we saw was that our content, which in a professional services space, is so important because it’s a taste of ‘us.’"
This case study covers the four steps that McGladrey took to improve its content marketing efforts. Read on to find out how the entire process led to a 100% increase in monthly website traffic and a 300% boost in content production.
"We had to make sure that we thought a little differently about our content, rather than just individuals coming up with ideas and throwing it out there into the ether of the Internet," Webb said. "And, we saw an opportunity around becoming more deliberate and strategic around our content."
Step #1. Plan content with marketing campaign goals
Webb said the first stage of this effort was to build an entire strategy around content.
"We had to start thinking about the content we developed, and especially the thought leadership we developed, much like we would if we were developing a campaign," Webb stated.
He said previously content at McGladrey was created around "showing our smarts," but there was no objective or purpose for a result at the company around those content pieces.
The new content strategy focused on two areas:
- Is the objective around this content to build awareness of the firm?
- Is the objective around this content to increase the reputation of a particular subject matter expert or is it to generate leads?
"And, in some instances, it could be multiples," Webb added.
Another aspect of planning content with marketing goals in mind was determining how difficult it should be for the audience to actually receive that content.
In some cases, the content was readily available, but in others, the content was gated behind a registration form.
Webb explained if the goal is building thought leadership or awareness, then that content does not require a form to be viewed or downloaded.
He continued, "But, if someone said, ‘I’d like to generate some leads, or at least have a good understanding of who’s getting that content,’ then we would have to put a form or some other way to identify the people coming in to get that content."
Step #2. Repackage and extend the use of content pieces
Webb described the new content strategy, "Layer one was just defining an objective. The other layer was making sure that we repackage our content and we get the most out of it."
The idea behind repackaging the content was to align content types around one event, offer or topic with the buying stage of the audience.
Webb stated that the educational, or first, stage of the complex sale was previously very hands-on with buyers interacting directly with possibly multiple vendors. Today, those same buyers are going online and educating themselves before they ever make a call to a vendor.
At McGladrey, the goal of the content strategy was to reach three levels of the complex sale:
- Educate an executive seeking to understand a business issue
- Prove to that executive McGladrey can be the solution to the issue
- Provide information and testimonials for the final buying decision
Webb provided an example of how one content topic can be repurposed across multiple buying stage levels:
- Begin with an educational whitepaper
- Turn that whitepaper into a shorter article pushed to the marketplace for awareness
- Create a webinar or audio recording on the topic
- Produce a webinar featuring third-party validation by involving clients
- Reuse webinar recordings as separate content pieces
- Create a press release to boost engagement
"What we want people to do is, yes, get interested in that educational content, but also keep them engaged with us over time with the other types of content that are available on the same topic," Webb stated.
Step #3. Redesign the website to focus on content
Putting the overall concept behind the website redesign into the simplest terms, Webb compared the two strategic approaches to the site.
- The old site was "About Us"
- Content was buried in the site’s architecture
- McGladrey engaged in little content promotion outside of the site
- Instead of "About Us," the new focus was "For Them"
- Content on the site was prominently featured on the homepage
- Content was consistently promoted
He said the redesign was an important part the campaign to focus on content because there had to be a location to place all the new content where website visitors could easily find it.
He said, like many company websites, the old site was full of material talking about McGladrey and the services it provided.
The new site catered to website visitors seeking solutions or just education on McGladrey’s business area.
The "About Us" content was pushed several tiers down into the website’s navigation, and thought leadership content was pushed forward, according to Webb.
Step #4. Drive the website and content to the next level by thinking like a publisher
Webb said the way McGladrey took its content marketing to the "next level" was combining the content strategy and website redesign, and actually thinking of the website akin to a publication.
"What we want somebody to experience when they come to our website is total immersion in the topic of interest, and that they would find connecting points with multiple pieces of content," he explained.
Webb added, "We want to become a website that people view as a great resource because we not only have original content, but we point to other content that is related and may be coming from other sources."
To accomplish this, McGladrey implemented a seven-point production process to provide some rigor in its content creation:
- Implement project management – To illustrate the process, the team created a content creation flowchart.
- Develop a project "form" – In this case, an actual "Webpage & Content Project Submission Form" is used to improve communication through the content creation process, and establish deadlines.
- Create project transparency – This was accomplished through a project tracking system that involved project management software and spreadsheets with milestones, a calendar, deadline alerts, file storage and access to contractors who contributed content.
- Align and embed writers – This involved aligning writers and other staff to specific practice or industry groups. The result was better ideas and content strategy from the content creators.
- Align projects/people to specific levels of complexity – Webb described this concept as, "Not all assignments are created equal." For example, webinars, videos and events fall into the "difficult" end of the continuum; whitepapers, newsletters and case studies are in the middle; and audio podcasts, blog posts and articles are on the "easy" end.
- Determine internal vs. external resources – By this, Webb wanted to mix contracted content producers with internal producers, and added that podcasts, case studies and blog posts are best handled internally. More complex content pieces were outsourced.
- Archive content and report results – Webb said, "Archiving content helps repackaging efforts and organizes content. [You can] search by topic, author, industry, service line, keywords, buy-cycle alignment." He added that creating transparency by reporting the results -- visits to content pieces, conversion rates on form completion, etc. -- encouraged competition among the content producers.
The entire production process was designed to reach the overall goal of the new content marketing strategy -- to make content and thought leadership the focus of McGladrey’s marketing and website user experience.
"We believe that (thinking like a publisher) helps create more trust and more repeat visitors whenever they have an issue. They come back to the site and view it as a true publisher, or a great resource director if you will, of solutions," Webb said.
Since this effort began in 2009, the results include:
- 100% increase in Web visits per month
- 300% increase in content production (gross amount of content project)
- 200% increase in content productivity from writers (measuring the "busyness" of content producers)
- 60% increase in content promotion
- 4 new newsletters added to the content marketing mix
- Maintained 5% email clickthrough rate (CTR) and 19% social content CTR
Webb added that since July 2011, McGladrey can attribute $427,000 worth of business to its content marketing process.
He also said the key learning from the entire effort was the importance of better communication throughout the entire content production process and what is expected of each person creating the content.
How important does Webb see content marketing?
He explained it like this, "If the website is the center of the universe for all of marketing, the content -- especially the original thought leadership type of content -- is the cement of that foundation."
- Content creation flowchart
- McGladrey’s "Webpage & Content Project Submission Form"
- Content archive chart
SourcesMcGladreySlide deck for the McGladrey MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012 presentation
Related ResourcesEvent Recap: MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2012Marketing Basics: 7 B2B content marketing tacticsContent Marketing 101: 8 steps to B2B successContent Marketing: Four tactics that led to $2.5 million in annual contractsContent Marketing: 3 tips for how to get startedOverall Content Marketing Strategy Leads to 2,000% Lift in Blog Traffic, 40% Boost in RevenueMeasuring Content Marketing: How to measure results, find gaps and grab opportunities