The world needs smart marketers

I’m a marketer in the tech world and I often times hear, “developers don’t like to be marketed to.” It’s funny because I’m not sure anyone likes to be marketed to. This is the reason why the world needs smart marketers. Let me explain.

We are all consumers of things, whether in our personal lives or business lives. We’re constantly buying stuff or being an influencer in the decision making process. With that being said, in today’s information age, we are bombarded with options – too many options. As a marketer, it’s my job to match the benefits of my products to the needs of businesses. To do that, I have to understand the person I’m targeting. I’ve written about this before and I call it persona marketing. Once we have our persona and message down, two things have to happen: 1) we have to build helpful content that our persona can use and 2) we have to go distribute the content in the channels where our person can find the content. Long gone are the days where we blast a promotion to a huge general audience hoping you’ll get bait. It’s a conversation and you have to earn that right to have a conversation (see my previous post):

In yesterday’s marketing world, there were two challenges marketers faced. One, tracking – it was very difficult to show ROI on marketing activities. Second, integration -it was difficult to connect your programs that were all running in silo. With the rise of new software services in this digital marketing era, it’s now a lot easier to track conversions and see how each channel affects different stages of the buyer’s life cycle.

Distribute your helpful content to people who care

As a revenue marketer, I’m often asked how do you know how much your content is affecting the bottom line. Content plays a huge role in every stage of the buying cycle and in each stage, your success metrics will be different. For the top of the funnel, the awareness stage, I measure success based on traffic and engagements. We don’t expect someone to consume a piece of content for the first time and then convert. The goal here is to make sure our content is engaging and helpful. Some ways we distribute content:
Targeted social marketing – You can promote content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to a very targeted group of people. Stop blasting your material to people that don’t care.
Content marketing platforms – I’ve used platforms like Taboola and Outbrain for distributing content. It is a cost per click model.

Don’t let them forget you

We all know people don’t click on banners and that is the case even more so with  developers. With that being said, we do know that banners do have an influence. Instead of putting all your dollars in awareness banners, put all your spend in retargeting. If you do this, your conversion rates will be much higher because people have already consumed your content and you’ve already built trust and awareness.
Your banners do not have to be product specific or buy now specific, they can be related to the content they read. You can build targeted landing pages that might sample more content and could have a variety of call to actions such as inviting them to attend an event or a free consultation.
For those that have visited your site multiple times or abandoned their shopping cart, it would be most appropriate to target them with a “buy now” or “sign up now” call to action.

Get permission

With any activity you’re doing, you should always try to find a way to collect a name and email address. You can add form in content pieces, you for sure need to add the form on landing pages and you can also test out new ways like the Twitter Lead Gen form that just released. If you’re hosting any events, virtual or in person, you need to always find a way to collect contacts. It’s funny because I think in my world, I feel like our teams are more hesitant to collect email addresses but I think our target audience is willing to give their info because we’ve provided them helpful content (and sometimes free pizza, beer and t-shirts). Also, you must set expectations by making sure your prospects know they aren’t going to be spammed and provide them an opportunity confirm their opt in and always an opportunity to unsubscribe (here’s a good best email practices guide).

Continue the conversation

You’ve provided helpful information, you’ve earned their trust, you’ve reinforced your message in a variety of channels – don’t screw it up now. Depending on the length of your purchase cycle, make sure to build out a long outbound program with really good, engaging content. With marketing automation programs, you can easily insert new emails whenever you have an event come up so you don’t have to start tracks all over. Lastly, always add in a customized email in the beginning of the track that is pertinent to the last interaction with your prospect. If you got the contact from an event, the email should say “thanks for coming to xyz, here’s the presentation just in case you missed it,” then they can continue to be nurtured in the email program. Share your engagement reports with your sales team and prioritize the ones they should contact.

Below is how I see my integrated program. Of course, this is just a sample of channels you can use but I think it can be easily added on to.

marketing diagram image

Let me know if you have other thoughts.

BTW – How many times did I say content?

Things I learned while managing a corporate blog

I never applied for a job that had “manage the blog” in the requirements or did I say in my interview, “I would be great at managing your corporate blog.” However, over the course of three years, I’ve had the opportunity to manage the Rackspace blog.  The blog somehow fell onto my plate and I am glad it did. When I started managing the blog, Rackspace was 2600 employees. Today, we’re over 4000 employees. With this exponential growth rate, the dynamics of how we communicate online has evolved.

Managing the blog has been a learning process and I’m still learning. I wanted to share some of the things I learned along the way.

Content isn’t magical

If you’re going to have a blog, make it a priority. Often times, companies will make the blog as “part of someone’s job” or will hire an intern to manage it, along with managing the company’s social profiles. If you’re in startup mode, this can work. Once you’re company has grown their product set and employee size (or went public), you really need to dedicate 100% focus into managing the blog with the number one reason being that content isn’t magical people!

There is a lot of time and effort put into posting a single article on a blog. I am a  strong believer in preserving the voice of the contributors and don’t believe there should be a stringent editorial process. However, you’re part of the process early on (or should be) starting at ideation. This means brainstorming with stakeholders, interviews, ghost writing, etc. You’re a journalist! Additionally, once the content is ready for production, you have to make sure you have the right code, images, etc before it is published. And finally, you need to distribute across all channels.

In addition, your website team should be responsible for blog development and maintenance, not the blog owner. You cannot risk a channel that conveys the company’s voice to go down.

My point here is that unless the blog is a priority, your blog will not survive because there is a lot of work involved in keeping it not only alive, but relevant. The blog is the company’s voice and it’s imperative that your voice is conveyed properly.

Define success early on

This is crucial. As your company grows, the number of opinions from various stakeholders across the company consequently increases. The blog is a channel for their voice and unless you define success early on, the blog can potentially go haywire.

I’ll have to admit, this one was a huge challenge for me. When I started as the community manager for the cloud division at Rackspace (then more like a startup), we used the blog to voice customer stories, big company announcements and how to articles from our technical employees. Little did we know that the content we were producing would result in a significant amount of traffic to the website. This helped us determine which content pieces we wanted to focus on (the stuff that had nothing to do with our company did the best). But we still had to fit in everyone’s product announcement, the latest event and other company announcements.

At the end of the day, if you create quality content, success will follow. It’s the success that you need to define. Is it traffic? Social shares? Back links? Conversion? You have to have metrics in place so you’re prepared to have those conversations with stakeholders. Otherwise you become an order taker and can’t justify the value of the blog.

It’s not just about writing, it’s about relationships

Let me just start off by saying that while I love to write, I do not have a degree in journalism nor had experience writing professionally prior to managing the blog. However, a big portion of my job was to write. What made our blog a success was the relationships I built with employees across the company and the tenure I had in the industry. You can’t throw a good writer at a blog and expect it to take off. I had to sit in on long interviews with engineers and developers learning about topics database architecture, web development, and Linux system administration. In addition, I sat in on calls with customers working to bring their story to life.  If I were to give anyone advice about hiring a blog editor, I would put more weight on knowing the company and industry over writing experience.

These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way. I am now responsible for our acquisition content marketing strategy at Rackspace. The blog has evolved into multiple channels and we’ve dedicated a resource as managing editor for the blog.  My team will continue to use our blog as a channel for content distribution.

If you’ve been put in charge of your corporate blog and have questions, feel free to send me an email or submit a comment here.

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