Content Marketing: A discussion about McGladrey's 300% increase in content production
Daniel Burstein, MECLABS, and Eric Webb, McGladrey
In this MarketingSherpa webinar, watch Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, interview Eric Webb, Senior Marketing Director, Corporate Marketing and Brand, McGladrey. You'll hear how Webb’s team developed a content creation engine to drive increased thought leadership and lead generation.
Webb’s team also saw how their efforts maintained consistent traffic flow between 80,000 and 100,000 visitors to the site a month, and sometimes even as high as 130,000 visitors per month.
During this webinar, Burstein and Webb discussed:
How McGladrey increased its Web visits per month by 100%
How Webb's team created energy around content for subject-matter experts, who in turn wanted to produce more content
How writers' productivity tripled
How to maintain project management workflow and transparency
When to use internal or external resources for content marketing
Burstein: Hello, and welcome to today's MarketingSherpa webinar. Today, we're going to be talking about content marketing and McGladrey’s 300% increase in production. Thank you for joining us today. I am Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content here at MECLABS. I'm in our corporate headquarters in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. In our studio joining me today from Charlotte, N.C. is Eric Webb, the Senior Marketing Director Corporate Marketing and Brand at McGladrey. Thanks for joining us, Eric.
Webb: Glad to be here, thank you for the invitation.
Burstein: I'm going to be talking much more about Eric in just a moment, but let me tell you about MarketingSherpa webinars. What we do is, we take a high performing marketer like Eric, we sit him down here with a lot of questions from you the audience, and then we just fire them at Eric. And I have to say, we got a lot of questions about this topic, seven pages to be exact. Eric actually went through and filled out answers for each and every one of them, so he's got a lot of great things to talk about today.
If you have any more questions feel free to use #SherpaWebinar, you can use that to ask questions, you can also use that to share your own tips about content marketing, and reach out to other marketers, network see what they're doing with content marketing. During this call, I'm just going to put this up briefly, I'm going to tweet through a few more resources about Eric's case study through #sherpawebinar.
But first, let's dive right into it Eric, so some of the questions we got were around the results you achieved from this. So specifically, Irna wanted to know, “Can we see some specific statistics and numbers around Web visits per month, for example how many unique visits per month before implementation of the strategy, how the content was spread, and how that affected unique visitor numbers?” So she's a webmaster, she's very interested in specific Web numbers, but why don't you give us a high level of your result Eric.
Webb: There's no doubt when we first started to look at our web visits we were averaging right around 50,000 as it shows there up on the screen, 50,000 unique visitors, that doesn't include employees. And when we went on the work effort to start producing more content, more high value content, we saw after that year that we were hitting around 100,000 visitors, and since then right into year two, we have started to hit up above that. That's sometimes hitting 130,000 or above depending on the content and the news around it. So if we're very timely with certain tax alerts or insurance issues, then that clearly pushes those numbers up much higher.
Other things we've done to measure to see how relevant our content is, we've moved outside of our own website, so we try to syndicate that content through other social channels and we leverage either Omniture analytics coding for that or we'll use just simple bitly, a URL shortening device, to measure the unique click-throughs from where we made those placements. So as you can see up on the screen we have 9,000 form fills just from probably six to seven pieces of content in which we were syndicating content out very specifically for some groups we work with.
Burstein: Those are some great results, but we got deeper questions too because marketers were clearly interested in results on content marketing. Beyond some of those intermediate metrics, people want to know about the money. So for example, Norma who's a marketing director wanted to know, "How much new business from existing clients or prospects resulted from the increase in Web visits?" And Lloyd, a communications coordinator, wanted to know, "I see that web visits have increased 100%, how has that translated into sales and profits?"
Webb: It's interesting, because we actually did a model a couple of years ago with our ad agency and the funnel works for us. The more people we draw in eventually they fall out at the bottom and for consideration, they consider us more, so the ultimate goal which was just visitors in the beginning; since then we've implemented some different measurement criteria.
We use a CRM system and we use a marketing automation system all tied in together, and it's also tied into our website analytics so we're starting now this year actually getting attributed revenue. So those opportunities that come to us we can actually link if they were the first thing they ever clicked on for us, was it some content we developed, and that was the first introduction to McGladrey, at least that we can see in any measurable way, and we also measure influence to revenue so we see if a particular campaign or piece of content has a lot of people, a lot of opportunities surrounding it, and that's called influenced revenue, and we've seen some great results.
Our consulting group as well measure very directly a lot of the social syndication to the web forms, through our CRM system, and they attributed just in a particular six-month period, $400,000 being attributed to content and the campaign surrounding that content. We've also attributed another $2 million into a particular survey campaign, what we call our McGladrey Monitor, which is a survey to manufacturers in the middle market.
Burstein: Let's talk about that influenced revenue for a moment because that point is really key. A lot of marketers struggle with content marketing not knowing the results that content marketing produces because they'll just look at did the content lead to a final conversion. So perhaps a direct click from a blog post, to a purchase or a form fill, but what you're saying is you're looking at the big picture of the entire funnel of how content might affect the decision maybe earlier in the funnel before it gets to the final conversion, is that correct?
Webb: That's right and I come out of the direct marketing industry, and at the end of the day my job as a marketer is to open up that door and begin the relationship. A piece of content is never going to close a deal for us, we're talking audit and tax and consulting issues here so it's a face to face that ultimately closes the deal. So we take a look at what is the first effort, first campaign that causes that person to want to engage with us and we give that attribution, because it's the first thing that opens that door.
Then we look at influence for out of all the campaigns, which campaign seems to be associated to showing up a lot beyond just the first click through. So because a campaign or a piece of content, an offer, as we know nothing is linear anymore, people come in and out as they engage with you. They may come in do some discovery with you, leave, come back and so that idea of measuring the influence, that multiple opportunities seem to show up against or align to certain content over and over. So that content seems to be very popular, we give that an influence ranking, so that you don't just discount that. Because clearly the content we produce should be influencing more engagement throughout the buy cycle of that individual.
Burstein: Now that we kind of talked about the big reward and the end results, let's talk about the hard work that went into it so other marketers can replicate your efforts. Really this case study started way back before you even joined McGladrey. All the experience a marketer has, they bring to their next company and it affects it.
I remember Eric and I met at B2B Summit in Orlando and we had dinner together, and I remember him telling me about working at the Chicago White Sox, which just sounded like the coolest thing ever. So I wanted to ask you, how your previous stints in your career affected the content you did at McGladrey? So as I said you worked for the Chicago White Sox, you also work for My Points at a really key point during the first Internet boom.
Webb: That's right. My Points was the first online incentive consumer points system in the world. What was interesting about that experience is I really had the chance to see the behavioral change that incentives give to people online. In this case it was just points; you receive points for going to a website or engaging with a client company. And if you think about that now people want information, they want education, that's their point now, that's their reason, their motivation for getting themselves through a solution or discover an opportunity.
So, My Points really helped me understand how online marketing can really motivate people to engage. And it was really on the threshold of the late or mid-90s that we were doing that, so it was a really interesting time.
The Sox helped me in regards to data. The Sox had a database of 500,000 ticket holders, not season ticket holders, but ticket holders, and it helped me understand how to segment and breakdown certain offers to entice those singular game visitors versus the season ticket holders and think through how do I engage with these folks in a different way. What was interesting for the season ticket holders was we actually ended up developing a season ticket holder newsletter that went to them and we also enticed them with sweepstakes to come and get a personal visit of the whole stadium from one of the coaches or one of the players. So that really had a lot do with segmentation and being more relevant in how we talked to each audience and so it was a good experience as well.
Burstein: And to some, extent I would think focusing on stars. I mean the White Sox, your marketing Frank Thomas, you're marketing whoever is there, and with content marketing you really have your content stars as well who you're trying to raise their visibility in the industry.
Webb: Especially in professional services, it's a real good point that when you're selling audit or tax expertise or business consulting expertise in regards to CRM or something, people want to know do you really know what you say you know. White papers, the case studies, the podcasts, interviews, all those things are in essence a taste of that expert's expertise, and so the more content that we put out there that shows our level of expertise, not just theoretical expertise, but actually doing it as well, it really helps us market our services.
Burstein: As I mentioned, I first learned about Eric's role at the White Sox when I had dinner with him at B2B Summit last year. This year we have Lead Gen Summit 2013, we changed B2B Summit because we realized, all the lead gen tactics we're talking about, like the tactics we're talking about with Eric today, are equally applicable to B2B and B2C companies who are generating leads, that's going to be in San Francisco this year.
I think one of the big benefits is not just getting to see the sessions on stage, like I got to see Eric's session we're talking about here today learned a lot from it, but also really getting to network and meeting with other top tier lead gen marketers like I was fortunate enough to do with Eric. So if you're interested in the beginning of October in San Francisco, beautiful location there, right on Union Square in San Francisco, and I'm sure the marketing team is going to send out a special discount code for you kind folks tuning into the webinar today.
Tell us a little bit about McGladrey. We had a question here from Eric he's a senior manager of corporate marketing. He wanted to know if your strategy was applicable for B2B communications as well. I think that's right up your alley with McGladrey, right?
Webb: Oh, for sure. There's no doubt that B2B companies most of all I think have the best way to reach out to those senior executives and business owners is through content. Content though that is not self-serving, so content that's educational, that's solving an issue you know that market segment has. And that's what you need to think about, you really need to put yourself in the shoes of that prospect and find content that will help them make a decision. The earlier you can get into that discovery process or what they call self-guided discovery, using your content, the more likely you are to be somebody they want to consider and bring in on a bid.
Burstein: And to do that, you have to demonstrate thought leadership, right? We have a question here from Kim. She's a senior email marketing manager. She wants to know how to develop a thought leadership culture in the workplace? How to actually get people to want to be those thought leaders?
So what we're looking at now is a numeric graph breaking up how you focus your efforts, and we see that 60%, you could've chosen to focus on anything, you could've chose to focus on McGladrey has a golf sponsorship, you could've chosen to focus on other things, but thought leadership seems to be very, very important to McGladrey. Why is that Eric and how did you foster that culture?
Webb: It goes back to the idea of showcasing or teasing people with a sampling of our smarts. The golf program is great, our advertising is great, but those aren't necessarily highly engaged moments. You see an ad and you get a specific short term message to that individual, whereas content is something you clearly can share, you can have discussions around it, it can give you an idea of that company's expertise, and we clearly thought that was very important, especially for a professional services firm.
It's nothing new, throughout the last decades attorneys and accountants have been putting out thought leadership, it's just now you have to think more about being more deliberate and then having a strategy around you put together, how you put together that content so that it really has impact for that individual and aligns to their buy cycle, how they're learning about the solution or trying to solve a pain point.
Burstein: But you didn't have that all lined up to begin with, right? You've faced a lot of challenges to get to the point where we're at today. We have several questions about that from Dan, he's a president. He was inspired and wanted to know, “How did you come up with this, what other ideas did you try that didn't work, why was your technique so successful, what would it take for us to replicate your success?”
Webb: Right. A lot of good questions there. The way I looked at it first was out of desperation. I pulled together a lot of these different trials and errors and effort, and the first effort really had to go back to I need prove to these accountants, because they are number crunchers they believe in numbers, and we looked at the metrics. When they produced good quality high content, we had increases in visitors, we could see that people would show up. Now it's just a process of continuing to engage those people and developing multiple pieces of content around that subject.
So once we're able to do that with one individual, somebody who's really on our team, one of our subject matter experts, who was willing to be the guinea pig and show the results that they would get to everybody else, everybody else wanted in they wanted to be part of that process and take advantage of it. The big earmark success for us was one particular individual in our risk and fraud space, his story, his white paper and his case study that he worked on those things got picked up by reporters, and they ended up getting him on CNN, CNBC and some other networks, and so it was a great showcase for us to show that story to the other subject matter experts.
But really it is a trial and error effort. You have to figure out what works for your team. I think metrics are the way to start because that's what most professionals and or any individual trying to see whether the content's worthy, you have to pick those key metrics and watch them.
Burstein: Speaking of metrics, I'm going to quickly go through some MarketingSherpa research about content marketing and then I want to ask you Eric, we're talking about McGladrey's a pretty big company, but some specific advice for smaller companies and how they can get going in content marketing.
So you see here some of our research, what's most effective for nurturing. This is what you're telling us: almost everything towards the top of that list is content. Sales calls would be the one exception. Marketers using email newsletters, white papers, you talked about thought leadership, thought leadership articles, webinars like this one, blog posts, all of that is content based. That's what they're telling us is effective for lead nurturing.
But also when you look at content, you can see on this chart the farther it goes to the right the more effective it is, the higher up it goes the more difficult it is. So you can see content is one of the more effective tactics. SEO being the most effective, content is of course an important aspect of SEO, but it's also among the most difficult. It's very near the top. Trade shows perhaps only the thing more difficult with all the logistics challenges that you face with trade shows, finding the right free swags to give away, but content is very difficult for marketers.
And yet when we look at this chart, and we look how marketers are expected to invest their future budgets. They're getting 62% of marketers are increasing their content budgets. So what you know, you know content works, but it is hard, so Eric's here to tell us it doesn't have to be and I want to specifically talk about small companies for just a moment, because McGladrey's a pretty large company.
We had a question from Michelle, she a GM and VP. She said the very small companies with only one or two people it's very difficult to get good content on a consistent basis. How would you approach this dilemma? We have thought about smaller chunks of information and answering specific questions from visitors as a start and are there any other things we should look at?
Webb: There's a lot of things you can do. I think there's a point in time where you take a look at all the things you can do as far as creating content right. Everything from a white paper or putting on a big event, an in-person event, to do just doing a simple podcast, kind of like what we're doing here, and realize it's easier to start small and build up to it.
So I'll give you a good example, we are a large company, but we're made up of niche practices, and in one case we have a retail expert, one retail expert in New York, and he produces all the content for that practice, but it's really just being consistent and constant. What we worked out with him in the beginning was that instead of you trying to come up with a white paper or a case study every month because he kind of struggled with that, let's just sit down and interview you, and we'll create a written document from there.
Then we moved for the interview to come much like this interview, so it's recorded, and we just started putting out a podcast every month. Now he has a regular subscription base of about 3,000 subscribers to his retail commentary, which is a written type of blog post write up on the retail industry. We built up to it, so he got the behavior in him as we worked something small that he could do easily, and then he saw success there and then he was willing to give more time. Most of it is that people have to get into the behavior to want to create content, and they won't do it unless they see results. So start small, but be constant and consistent with it.
Burstein: So you mention podcasts as an effective distribution channel. We have a question from Kim here. “What are your most effective distribution channels?” I would imagine, as we see on this side, the most effective content distribution channels is likely not just one channel. I know reuse was very important to you, that's creating content in one area and then putting it out through other channels as well, right?
Webb: That’s right. We leverage a demand generation using our marketing automation system to push offers out there. We have newsletters, we use social syndication, we've earmarked certain specific communities, LinkedIn groups, we also train our professionals how to use LinkedIn updates, and to promote the content and when it's out there that they're pointing a link back to our content. So we use a lot of different distribution channels to get that content out there, and we also, as this slide shows, try to build multiple assets around the same topics, so it's not just a white paper.
But if we consider this a high value topic we're going to try and build a podcast associated to that, maybe we're interviewing a client in that particular podcast, we'll do press releases, we'll do a webinar on it. Each piece giving a slightly different perspective so that we really dimensionalize the topic, and of course it makes you appear more credible because you've got all these different perspectives occurring.
Burstein: So when we put out the invitation, we got this great feedback from June, she’s an account manager. She said, “Just a friendly FYI in the actual email invitation the singular possessive should be plural possessive. The company tripled writers' productivity. We had writer’s, not writers’. I think right there, our own mistake, shows some of the real challenges that you have in creating content.
So let's get into how you increase writers' productivity, what your challenges were. Clearly one of our challenges was catching that error. What were some of your challenges?
Webb: The process involves a lot of people or in many instances when we first started it was myself and another person, and we had two writers, and that's for a big organization. So we lacked resources as well. We had writers who were on the bench basically waiting for somebody to raise their hand, and say hey I need help writing this, and so they were taken off and put to work. And I’d kind of lose sight of them until that project was done and then they'd come back.
A big part of that is just getting transparency in your work effort and understanding the resources you have, what are they working on, and when are they available and those types of things. So we went out and found a project management system. We started out with Excel, moved to Microsoft Access and then jumped over to Basecamp which is what we use now because it's cloud-based, and we can work with freelancers and those types of things. So having that transparency is really important to understand what all your resources, if you're using contractors or not. But you know when things are going to start and when they're going to get done and make sure you have specific time lines, and set expectations with all the people involved, that's subject matter expert, any writer you may use, or yourself, setting it up for yourself, you need to have your own project timeline and make sure you stick to it. Otherwise what you'll find is that you're scattered, you're jumping to the next biggest voice that's in your ear.
Burstein: So Milo specifically asks, “How did you increase productivity of writers?” And I think this workflow here really kind of shows it. Can you walk us through this a little?
Webb: Yes. So clearly when you look at the top there of the screen when somebody has an idea for a topic and gee I'd love to create some content around this topic and they're not quite sure what the initial content is, maybe a white paper or something else. They submit that request, that request goes to and we've moved down to a diamond here, it goes into my group and my group makes sure that an industry leader or line of business leader sees that request or that idea and they give the blessing. You have to figure that in a regulated industry like ours and as big of an organization as we are, a lot of times you could have people with the same idea and if they didn't go through a singular process like this we might have a lot of duplicate creation.
So it comes through the system it gets get put into our project planner and we start to set up an initial meeting, and we walk them through, here's what the milestones are, write a rough draft, the draft is going to be approved by the industry leader or line of business leader, it's going to come back to us and you'll look at it as the subject matter expert and you'll approve it, those kinds of things. You'll go through this stepping stone process, it's very methodical and we make sure it gets done.
Depending on how big the project is it could be weeks or months or it could be as quick as days. We have 30% of our projects, our turn around projects within 48 hours, so this process you see here may look somewhat long and it is to a degree, but when it's a hot relevant issue occurring like a tax regulatory change or something, we have certain parameters that we can cut through that process to gain approvals quickly. We tell people this is a hot issue, and so they're waiting to approve something, so we don't have to hunt them down and find them.
And that's understood and again that setting good expectations of everybody who you need support of, that subject matter expert, approvers, editors, proofers. A lot of people forget about proofing, as that other person mentioned in the previous slide is proofers are just as important as your creators because you want to make sure the quality is kept up to par and that you're hitting your brand guidelines and those types of things.
Burstein: We had a question here from Alan. "Hey, can I check your thoughts about external writers, using external content writers?" And I believe that's something you look at as well. You have your internal writers, you determine hey does this need an internal writer or should we use an external writer. How do you determine that?
Webb: We try to find external resources when it's repeatable. Meaning for a lot of our newsletters we use external writer/editor to work with the team because as a contractor we can only keep track or gain the reverence with a particular contractor if we can give them steady work, right? That way they'll be somewhat loyal to us. I try to pick things that are repeatable for contractors to work on, so they have kind of steady paycheck from us, and thus I gain loyalty. And it also helps them become part of the team, if they're the regular person I’m not shoving a whole new freelancer to the same group over and over.
The other thing I look for is just to have, in regards to writers and even graphic designers, a lot of people make requests for highly experienced individuals that are in a particular space and what I call Cadillac resources, and the reality is you may only need the Chevy. That is, you need a good journalist who can ask good questions and tell a good story, and the same for other resources you might use. If you have a subject matter expert they're the expert, they just need somebody to pull that story out of them and that's why you need good story tellers versus having to get a technical writer that really knows this space, let the subject matter expert use their expertise to do that and get a good story teller to work with them.
Burstein: And speaking of the subject matter experts, we have a question here from Dee at Founder. "I love the idea of creating energy around content for subject matter experts looking forward to learning more about this and how you did that." I think the transparency of the results you were saying is such an important factor, right?
Webb: That's right. Getting the groups to see what their content does for us. So what you see here is a website report , you get it for Google analytics, and you find when you pushed that content out, if you have URL link codes such as bitly and so forth, you can actually go back to Google report that hey your content created 10,000 click throughs and visitors to our site ... way to go. That energizes people, it energizes other practice leaders to want to jump in and it creates a little competition.
And we'll see here on a regular basis in group meetings where one group will say to the other leaders, "Well our tax digest is the most downloaded item on the website," and they're saying that to the consulting wing. So it creates quite a bit of competition. Once you get that measurement out there and can really pinpoint it, it really energizes those subject matter experts.
Burstein: Yeah I love that competition that you talk about at creating. That is absolutely fantastic, man. I think that's all our dream to get subject matter experts so jazzed up that they're fighting to get into the content.
So unfortunately we're up to 30 and that's all the time we have today. I want to thank you, Eric, for joining us.
Webb: You're welcome, and thank you for having me.
Burstein: And thank you to everyone on the line. I hope we get to see a lot of you at Lead Gen Summit in San Francisco. Have a good day.
Webb: Thank you.
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