by David Kirkpatrick
Distribion is a marketing automation company that serves a very specific marketplace. Its customers are all in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, insurance, financial services and casino gaming, and its product allows the sales channel to access corporate-approved marketing materials to send to prospects.
Because Distribion’s target markets are all very regulated, it is important for all marketing and sales messages to be approved at the corporate level to ensure the communication doesn’t run afoul of any rules.
Deb McAlister-Holland, Director of Marketing, Distribion, said the pain point for its clients is compliance. For example, she mentioned one customer who had to deal with 13 federal agencies and 50 state agencies when marketing in the United States.
She added that Distribion’s marketing pain point was building the brand, and creating awareness about its highly specialized product.
This case study looks at Distribion’s entire content marketing strategy, including a best practices blog to drive brand awareness, a revamped whitepaper and webinar program, and tips on utilizing strategic partners to increase the volume of content. Learn how this effort increased blog traffic by 2,000% and boosted company revenue 40% in the first year of the program.
This effort began just over a year ago in February 2011, and continues on an ongoing basis to the present.
Step #1. Create a blog to offer best practices in the field
In Distribion’s case, it is trying to create a space in the industry for what it calls "distributed marketing," which it defines as NEED. And to create brand awareness and awareness of distributed marketing, the company created a blog
to provide information on best practices.
McAlister-Holland said there were two strategic decisions around the blog, "One was that we were going to put it on its own domain, and not on our website, and that we were going to focus on best practices for distributed marketing."
The blog is updated three times per week, and the marketing team set up a separate Twitter account
just to promote the best practices blog content.
Although the blog remains on its own domain, the team made a later change and it can now be accessed from the corporate website, as well.
Step #2. Create a resource library on the website
Concurrent with launching the best practices blog, the marketing team also created a resource library on the website to feature whitepapers
and longer versions of the blog content. The team also launched a webinar series to provide even more informative content for the library.
Prior to this brand awareness effort, Distribion had only published one whitepaper and held one webinar in its six-year company history.
Step #3. Reach out to strategic partners to increase the content volume
"We recognized that trying to do it by ourselves was a little bit foolhardy," said McAlister-Holland. "So, we partnered with other companies for both our content and our webinars."
The marketing team at Distribion consisted of two full-time employees and one part-time employee, so to create the volume of content McAlister-Holland was planning on required strategic partners to help generate content.
When looking for strategic partners, the marketing team reaches out to peers who aren’t quite in Distribion’s specific niche. That way, they are serving the same space, but aren’t really competitors.
Distribion reaches out to other marketing automation vendors, data firms, compliance companies and industry associations for partnerships.
Step #4. Look for spin-off opportunities to spread the content beyond the company assets
Whenever McAlister-Holland felt there was a particularly high-value piece of content, be it a whitepaper or blog post, she sought to leverage that content for bylined articles in other media, and also sought speaking engagements with Distribion’s executives.
The goal was to reach at least four spin-off opportunities each quarter, and the marketing team well exceeded that goal.
Step #5. Set goals for the effort
Along with the spin-off opportunity goal, McAlister-Holland said the entire effort had a few goals tied to the program. She based these goals on her experience with corporate blogs previous to working for Distribion and by taking stock of the in-house resources she had available.
She had four keywords she wanted on the page one SERP (search engine results page) ranking by Q3 2011. She also wanted 500 readers for each blog post by the end of the year. At the time the best practices blog launched, the corporate website was averaging 900 to 1,500 visitors per month and McAlister-Holland wanted to double that number by the end of the year.
Distribion achieved both the SERP ranking for the keywords and the blog goal in less than 90 days.
Step #6. Use press releases to improve SEO and drive blog and website traffic
McAlister-Holland said she started her career in public relations and had a hunch that sending out press releases based on all the new content being generated would improve SEO to drive website traffic.
She found a vendor offering online press release distribution, and to test the service, she began sending a release with every other blog post. Half the time there was no release, and the other half a release would go out promoting the post.
McAlister-Holland added that the early releases were very simple with no special headlines and no photos. Even these simple releases on the new blog posts were successful in driving more traffic than the posts not supported by a release. Later on, she added photos to the release, crafted headlines to attract attention, and added social sharing buttons in the release as well.
Early on, no blog post received as much as 1,000 visits. But one particular post, on "who owns your LinkedIn profile, and it might not be you," took off and received more than 177,000 hits. She said the phone began ringing off the hook, and major news organizations were calling the company for interviews.
The downside of this successful blog post was the marketing team was caught completely unprepared for the volume, and worse, it did not have the post tied to a landing page to capture all that traffic.
Now the team runs banner ads on the blog to direct traffic back to the website.
For example, a post about email marketing might be accompanied by a banner ad for a free copy of content about testing subject lines that links back to the corporate website and requires a registration for lead capture to receive the free content.
That LinkedIn post remains the largest number of visitors for the blog. And although some posts do spike at more than 100,000 hits, the average post runs more like 700 to 1,000 visits.
McAlister-Holland added that she can’t predict what blog posts will resonate and generate a lot of traffic. She thought one post on email turning 40 years old last year was a "throwaway," but it received 102,000 visitors.
Step #7. Offer content for a wide range of people
Distribion’s product is very highly targeted to a limited group of industries, but the company still creates content for a wide range of online visitors.
The website focuses on the company’s products and services, but the blog is more general and geared more toward anyone interested in marketing.
McAlister-Holland said, "We have something to offer both sales-qualified leads and tire kickers, and it allows us to reach out to a much broader audience and build our brand at a very low cost."
She said the broader blog content drives conversions from people who self-select by saying they want to know more about Distribion’s products and services.
Step #8. Organize the entire content package
McAlister-Holland said that when the marketing team creates a new piece of content -- blog post, whitepaper, etc. -- multiple items are created at the same time
- The actual content piece
- The press release
- 10 to 12 tweets linking back to the content
- Abstracts for Reddit, StumbleUpon, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms
She added the blog frequently features guest bloggers. They love this approach because the marketing team provides so much material to promote the post.
Over the first twelve months of the effort, the marketing team at Distribion has created a large volume of brand-building content:
- Published around 228 blog posts
- Produced 8 whitepapers
- Held 9 webinars with around 400 to 500 attendees
- Created 14 presentations or PDFs for download at the website
For the spin-off opportunities, Distribion was able to accomplish:
- 7 speaking engagements
- 13 bylined articles in media such as Forbes, PC World and The Wall Street Journal
- 982 pick-ups in other media such as tech blogs
After Distribion began promoting the blog posts through press release, blog traffic increased more than 2,000% with weekly blog traffic improving from 700 to 117,000 visits per week.
The company’s revenue grew 40% last year.
Cost-per-acquisition is down about 15% from the previous year.
McAlister-Holland offered a key takeaway from this overall content strategy, "I used to say that marketing moved at Internet speed, and by that I meant that over time the marketing process had really speeded up to the point that (your customers) want to be able to click on it and they want it right now."
She continued, "But it is even faster than that now -- now my job moves at Twitter speed."
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Useful links related to this article
- The Distributed Marketing blog
- Twitter feed
- Whitepaper download page
- Multiple items created from a new piece of content
– Distribion’s public relations vendorContent Marketing: Analytics drive relevant content, 26,000 new monthly visits to blogContent Marketing: Inbound strategy pulls in 25% more revenue, 70% more leadsContent Marketing How-to: 5 tactics to improve results, pick topics, set goalsContent Marketing and SEO: The world doesn’t need another blog postPublic Relations: 5 tactics for getting your message to the mediaSocial Media Marketing: Going viral is so easy it’s hard