September 07, 2005
First it was email newsletters, then webcasts, then blogs ... and now the newest, hippest, marketing tactic is podcasting. But, just because podcasting is incredibly hip doesn't mean it actually works for campaigns targeting high-level execs in the Fortune 1000. Or can it? Check out our exclusive Case Study detailing how one b-to-b marketer tested podcasting this summer. (Yes, includes sample podcast and results data:)
CHALLENGE "There's tons of clutter in the system," says Paul Dunay.
As Director of Global Financial Services Marketing for BearingPoint (NYSE:BE), Dunay faces stiff competition from hundreds of marketers also trying to get attention from top executives in the Global 2000.
When it seems like every other marketer on this planet is offering a Sarbanes-Oxley white paper, it's hard to stand out.
So, earlier this year, Dunay commissioned a series of research studies, partnering with the Economist's Intelligence Unit, to discover what top global financial execs were really thinking about. He figured the data would make great exclusive content, plus he'd discover pain points future white papers could address.
He was right -- the results were fascinating. But, given the competing clutter, even the most fabulous content in the world might not garner the attention it deserved.
How could his research grab prospects' attention?
CAMPAIGN Naturally, Dunay used his proven system for getting out the word about new white papers. (See link below for our Case Study on his system.) But he wanted to take things one step further.
So, he budgeted $1000 extra per new white paper for a podcasting test. (see below for links about podcasting.)
Step #1. Pick a format
Podcasting only started about a year ago, and few b-to-b marketers have tested it yet. Dunay had to invent his format from scratch. He considered three very different formats:
Interview format --
The first idea was to use audio clips from some of the survey interviews. Sounds compelling, top execs revealing their thinking. But, Dunay felt BearingPoint's audio quality would be a key part of the brand .. and recorded telephone conversations just don't have a high-quality production sound.
Plus, the goal was to demonstrate BearingPoint's thought leadership, not that of other companies' executives.
White paper format --
Dunay's second was to turn whitepapers themselves into podcasts. "We tried reading the whole dang thing into the recorder," he explains. Then he listened to the results. "It was 20 minutes long. I *really* wanted to like it. I listened to about 10 minutes but then I couldn't stand it anymore. It was so painful. It was killing me."
You guessed it, using one media as shovel-ware for content developed for another media rarely, if ever, works. Content prospects love to read is not the same as content anyone wants to listen to.
White paper summary format --
"I realized, the podcast has got to be no longer than that six-to-eight minute zone. We decided to do a Reader's Digest version of the white papers."
Dunay started by creating a nifty must-listen title such as "7 pitfalls of..." Then he copywrote a formal script for the podcast. (This is unlike many podcasts which often have that hand-held-film-style casual flavor.)
Step #2. Figure out how to measure results
As a paper summary, the podcast became the perfect format to offer the full white paper from. So, instead of replacing a normal white paper, the podcast served as a tantalizing preview of what you'd get if you downloaded the entire white paper. In short - the concept was podcast as white paper marketing campaign.
Just as they would for any white paper promo campaign, Dunay's team created a vanity URL to track incoming traffic and created a registration form landing page to post there. Dunay didn't focus on the number of podcast downloads. Instead his measurement goals were:
a. percent of podcast listeners who download a white paper
b. quality of these leads compared to other sources (determined by tracking via the inside sales department who qualified incoming leads.)
c. future activities of these leads on BearingPoint's prospect education site section (determined by cookies over time.)
Step #3. Develop the audio brand
Dunay worked with his interactive agency to create a branded audio logo for the podcast (see link below for info on audio logos), and to select an actor as BearingPoint's official "voice."
Worth noting -- just as with your graphic logo, the voice talent you pick becomes part of your brand over time. If you switch actors, it's a bit like switching logos. Prospects and customers can be confused. (In fact Audible.com has told us regular audio-version newspaper listeners complain vigorously when their regular voice is switched during the reader's vacation.) All vocals were recorded and mixed at a local recording studio.
Step #4. Promote the podcasts
Dunay wasn't sure if the podcasts would be a hit or not, especially as his key prospects tend to be fairly conservative. So he didn't roll out trumpets and strobe lights for the launch.
Instead, the team posted the podcasts and announcements at several related sites including Podblaze, FreshPodcasts.com, and iTunes (all of which currently promote podcasts for free.) They also rolled out a press release and an email announcement to the house list. (Link to samples below.)
Their first podcast launched quietly July 29, 2005.
RESULTS Joy and exultation! Hundreds of executives downloaded the podcasts. Dunay had hoped that 10% of podcast listeners would respond to the white paper download offer. Instead, 30% did.
This 30% proved to be just as qualified as other more standard lead generation streams. We suspect one key factor in this was Dunay's choice of topic. While his titles featured catchy-wording, they were specific and niche enough to cause prospects to be self-selecting.
Dunay acknowledges that a clutter-breakthrough tactic will only work this well for a limited time. The novelty value will wear off and results will lessen. In response, he's cranking out as many podcasts as he can to grab the attention while it's hot.
The team has put published five podcasts so far, with another three due for release shortly. Each is on a very different topic, designed to get new prospects in to read particular papers (rather than being designed as an ongoing series of 'radio shows' to the same audience.) Despite this 18% of listeners have downloaded more than one BearingPoint podcast - a number that startled Dunay.
Best of all, Dunay's internal client was delighted with results. "My boss loves them so much he wants them in Chinese, Japanese, German, British English.... Now we have to produce those for our other national sites."
Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples, including an actual podcast from BearingPoint: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/bearp2/study.html
e-tractions -- the Internet marketing solutions company that BearingPoint used to help create and promote the Podcasts: http://www.e-tractions.com
Audiolink -- the recording studio BearingPoint is using: http://www.audiolink.com
MarketingSherpa article 'The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting': http://library.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3049 (Open access)
MarketingSherpa's past Case Study on BearingPoint: 'How to Turn Your White Paper Promo Into a One-two Punch to Generate Better Leads': http://library.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.cfm?ContentID=2725