June 15, 2011
How To

Content Marketing: Four tactics that led to $2.5 million in annual contracts

SUMMARY: Content marketing is a vital piece of the marketing puzzle. Whitepapers have long been one of the keys to B2B marketing, and even webinars and online video are both pieces of content marketing.

This how-to looks at four successful content marketing tactics a marketing automation company uses to create buzz, generate leads and drive revenue. Also, find out how a corporate journalist can help build your brand.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

Content is king. How many times have you heard this statement? It may not be a universal marketing truth, but content is absolutely the cornerstone from which almost any marketing effort is built. Email marketing requires copy, the same for website home and landing pages, and probably the most important tool in the B2B marketer's kit is the whitepaper.

If you’re hoping to get any inbound traffic via SEO or social media, you need content that a spider can crawl or a human can Tweet.

Because you become your own publisher with content marketing, it is a great way to build your brand without spending additional money on media buys.

Eloqua, a marketing automation software company, has an comprehensive content marketing department headed by Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing. This successful marketing effort hasn't always been the case at Eloqua.

"We had a pain," said Chernov. Eloqua was among the first companies in the marketing automation industry. And as that business area continued to grow, the company found itself with more competition. He continued, "This competition took on a shape that was unfamiliar to Eloqua."

One competitor specifically posed a challenge for Eloqua. Chernov said, "It was a really socially savvy company; a Web 2.0/marketing 2.0 company really active in content creation with a vibrant blog and everything that goes hand-in-hand with the social marketing phenomenon."

Chernov described Eloqua as being caught "flat-footed" and how, from the C-level on down, the company knew it needed marketing 2.0 in its overall marketing mix. Chernov defines "Web 2.0" as the shift from the transactional Web to the conversational or social Web. Marketing 2.0 reflects this shift making the entire marketing process more collaborative than in the past.

The result of the marketing 2.0 push at Eloqua was the creation a totally independent, comprehensive content marketing department that didn't draw any resources from its demand generation or other ongoing marketing programs.

The content marketing department was created in April 2010, and its first piece of content -- an infographic -- went out in June.

The department has three overarching goals:

o To fill the top of the sales funnel through awareness, completed Web forms and driving traffic to the website

o Create customer attention and customer satisfaction -- make the people who like Eloqua like the company even more, and people who aren't familiar with the company begin liking it

o Create content to improve SEO

Eloqua is now committed to content marketing. Read on to learn about four tactics Eloqua employs in its content marketing efforts.

Tactic #1. Differentiate yourself from the competition

Once the decision was made to make content marketing a focus, the challenge was finding a voice for that content.

The entire strategy was prompted by the efforts of competition that Chernov described as "noisy" (in a positive sense). He said Eloqua had asked internally, "Do we want to out-noise them?" and ultimately determined it would be a mistake.

Eloqua's answer was to create brand identity based more on a design "voice" through highly visual content and social marketing communications.

A big part of this brand identity is the frequent use of infographics as content marketing pieces. This also means everything from whitepapers to live presentations are given a heavier touch of design and graphics than might be expected.

For example, Eloqua's social media playbook was created for internal use and also published for anyone to download. This content piece was 42 pages long and profiled ten social media platforms. What set this content piece apart was that the entire work was filled with what Chernov described as, "beautiful, and actually funny, illustrations."

He added the overall feel had a, "comedy to it all ... a playfulness." This "lighter" approach purposely took on some of the informality of the social media and Web 2.0 mentality.

Because Eloqua is in an enterprise B2B environment, the playful feel is, "startlingly unexpected, and it absolutely without question triggers conversation because people just aren't used to seeing a playful side of a B2B brand," Chernov said.

- Sharing vs. Keyword-rich SEO

Chernov stated the focus on design helps Eloqua's content get noticed, and more importantly promotes sharing of its content. He said that SEO value comes more from sharing content than creating keyword-rich content, such as a whitepaper, that doesn't get distributed or republished by the audience.

"For me the SEO value isn't what is embedded in the content we create," he explained. "The value is derived when other people host, distribute or talk about our content."

Tactic #2. Brand your content

Your content should be used to complement, enhance or promote your branding efforts.

Chernov said Eloqua had a business goal of creating a new category called "revenue performance management." He knew this effort was in place when the content marketing program was started so he worked to create a groundswell of association between Eloqua and the term "revenue." With this in mind:

o the Twitter feed is called the "revenue stream" to mimic the idea of the Twitter stream

o the online slide hosting service SlideShare is the hub of Eloqua's content, called the "revenue hub"

o the blog is referred to as the "revenue blog," and is titled, "It's All About Revenue"

An animated video, was created to explain and promote the idea of revenue performance management, and was distributed through SlideShare.

The video itself was three and a half minutes long and done in the style of the old "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoons. So instead of a corporate talking head lecturing on this new business category, viewers saw a quirky cartoon that walked through milestones in business management from Edward Demmings and Total Quality Management to supply-chain management at Walmart, culminating in revenue performance management. The video itself was very lightly branded with the word Eloqua appearing visually and in the audio only once.

This animated video effectively combined the playfulness of Eloqua's brand identity with the concept branding of revenue performance management.

Tactic #3. Don't let the whitepaper hold back your creativity

The traditional whitepaper is maybe the content marketing piece for B2B marketing. Your customers expect whitepapers, and they offer an opportunity to provide information about your industry, your expertise and your products. Often, the whitepaper comes in a fairly predictable package -- a lot of text, some graphics, and maybe a little too much content in today's short-attention span online reading world.

Chernov said Eloqua tried to take the whitepaper concept and inject creative design into it. Part of this was splintering large whitepapers into individual, easy-to-read guides.

Eloqua came up with what it calls its Grande (think 16 ounces of coffee) Guides. The promise is it takes about 15 minutes to drink that coffee and the same amount of time to read the entire guide.

The playful design brand identity is in full-force with the guides. The layout of the guide looks like a well-worn moleskin notebook with what appears to be wet pages and coffee mug rings where someone might have "left" their mug on the page at some point in time, continuing the coffee theme.

Eloqua's guides cover a variety of topics both related to its core business and also broader issues of interest to marketers.

Chernov stated, "These are unequivocally our most important form of content marketing." The reason for this is the guides sit on the line between top-of-the-funnel work of the content marketing department, and the more funnel progression and conversion activities of the demand generation team.

Eloqua's basic sales funnel consists of six stages:

o Awareness
o Inquiry
o Marketing-qualified lead
o Sales-qualified lead
o Sales-qualified opportunity
o Closed deal

Eloqua distributes its guides to specific segments of its database. Example guide topics and distribution:

o Wikipedia is broad interest and goes to an inactive database segment to attempt to reawaken the relationship

o Lead scoring is very specific to what Eloqua does and goes to an active segment

o Social CMO was written for the VP and higher segment of the database

The larger goal of each guide is to generate and nurture leads.

- Nurture your most loyal fans

These database sends go out a few days before Eloqua releases the guide to the public, and at first the company resisted allowing recipients to share the guide before the official release by not providing, or even deactivating, links to the content. It became quickly obvious this was applying a Web 1.0 mindset to a Web 2.0 practice.

Now Eloqua provides links and gives its early recipients an opportunity to be "taste-makers" by being the first to distribute links to the guide.

"It just felt unnatural to send something to somebody and to prevent them from sharing it," Chernov said. "This is a culture of sharers now and your status is earned by the quality of what you share. We asked, '...what is the worst that is going to happen? A bunch of people see our great content?' That is a pretty good thing."

Tactic #4. Hire a brand journalist

A brand, or corporate, journalist is someone you hire to provide content, ideally independent from marketing control. This team member will typically write blog posts, cover industry trends and write about things that are of interest to your customers.

One thing a brand journalist is not is a typical public relations or marketing communications writer. Often a brand journalist has a career, or at least education, in journalism rather than business writing.

Eloqua hired a corporate journalist last year who previously covered business for the Boston Herald and the Boston Business Journal. When the decision to hire a brand journalist first came up, Chernov and Eloqua's CMO discussed the type of writer they were looking for. The initial idea was to find someone proficient in B2B marketing.

Chernov estimates Eloqua's industry is only around 10% penetrated. He argued to find someone who could speak to that 90% of the market that remained untapped. The result was hiring a general business writer.

He added there was no expectation for the corporate journalist to be a PR person. Chernov said, "His writing would be funky, it wouldn't be natural for him and I think the public would smell a rat. I once referred to him as a PR person and he barked at me. That is good."

Eloqua's brand journalist engages in everything from regularly contributing to the blog to interviewing customers on video. The job title of corporate reporter helps open doors that a public relations manager might find closed.

When the corporate journalist calls clients for an interview, he typically gets a positive response. And because many media outlets are shrinking their staff, but still have events to cover, Chernov offers his corporate journalist where he can write about topics that have nothing to do with Eloqua for other venues and Eloqua gets a valuable inbound link from these media outlets in their corporate reporter's bio.

The key result of Eloqua's content marketing department is it drives lead creation at the top of the sales funnel.

Even though the company doesn't have benchmarks to meet with lead generation -- because so much of the content is ungated, it's not possible to track the number of leads each content piece creates -- the company does measure the total number of leads created each quarter, measures the net promoter score of all its clients through surveys, and daily tracks its performance in search.

Chernov is held accountable for the success of all three numbers.

- Through four Grande Guides published in the second half of 2010, the company generated $2.5 million in annual contract value in closed business from customers who first downloaded one of the guides

- Another $3.2 million is currently in the contract stage from prospects who first downloaded one of the guides

- Once Eloqua developed a corporate blog, it reached the “Ad Age Power 150” within the first year

- The most highly desirable lead activity for Eloqua is viewing a product demo. People who discover the Eloqua website through content pieces such as guides, infographics, playbooks, etc., are 21% more likely to view a demo

- For one particular infographic, The Blog Tree, viewers of that content piece were 32% more likely to fill out a form at the website, putting that person into Eloqua's database

- On average 17% of visitors to Eloqua.com have the title of VP or higher, while 25% of the visitors who find the site via content pieces are VP or higher

- Customers who engage with Eloqua through social channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are 450% more likely to be brand promoters than the company's average customer, as found by net promoter scoring

Useful links related to this article


1. Infographic
2. Grande Guide
3. Blog post


JESS3 -- Eloqua's design vendor

Members Library -- Reformat, Reuse, Recycle: 5 Strategies to Stretch your Marketing Content

Members Library -- Content Marketing: Analytics drive relevant content, 26,000 new monthly visits to blog

Members Library -- Content Marketing: Inbound strategy pulls in 25% more revenue, 70% more leads

Content Marketing: Should you lure a journalist over to the “dark side?”

B2B Marketing: Relevant content must move beyond “glitz” and tell a properly sequenced story

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions