The following is a guest blog by Dinesh Rao, Director of ISV Co-Marketing within the Software and Services Group at Intel Corporation. You can reach him on Twitter @intdgr and @twdgr
All technology companies engage in marketing to drive awareness of their latest products. These efforts span the spectrum between mass brand awareness to lead generation for products and services.
Typically, brand awareness, particularly for the consumer segment, has used broadcast ad networks coupled with light but emotive content. By contrast, lead generation, particularly for the business segment, has used narrow cast online marketing with moderate to heavy content that has eschewed emotive hooks.
However, all that may be set to change soon, largely driven by economics and the tidal wave of consumerization of everything. Simply put, content marketing, typically the focus of the lead generation end of the awareness spectrum, is about to take a page from brand marketing in its use of ad syndication.
Before diving into the coming change, let’s look at how traditional content marketing – particularly for the business segment – unfolds. Typically, there is a piece of technical content that takes a lot of time and money to produce. Thereafter that content is delivered to direct and indirect sales-forces to make its way to potential customers. In addition, online marketing in various forms (websites, social media, etc.) are deployed, starting with “free” in-house options (such as existing websites, blogs and Twitter handles) and selectively moving on to paid options.
This is where things get even more expensive. It can take 3-4 times the cost of creating collateral to pay for online marketing aimed at delivering the technical content to potential customers via eDM, SEM/SEO, sponsored social media and other forms of paid media. Clearly, this makes it impossible to apply the additional uplift to all content.
Assuming one does a great job of securing additional budget and being judicious in selecting which content does get the uplift spend, there is the challenge of getting good analytics on who is being engaged. Even when lead generation is not the goal, some sense of the demographics of the audience being engaged is crucial. While this data is available from agencies that execute the uplift, it tends to be a one-time, manual exercise that doesn’t keep up with real-time and varied needs for analysis.
So, how does one address these challenges? Well, here’s our approach:
Start with a high quality piece of technical content. This should be something that is truly useful to your target audience, to the point that they’d be willing to do things like login via social media credentials or fill out a web form.
For each piece of high quality, technical content, create about half a dozen lighter pieces of summary content that can be shared in a non-gated manner via all forms of “free” and “earned media”. Put effort into getting as much earned media as possible and study what you can learn about the relationship between the halo of lighter content surrounding your technical content in terms of relative attach rates.
Based on an understanding of what gets the most traction, create a paid media strategy that maximizes what resonates. In our case, since we were more interested in driving awareness rather than generating sales leads, we decided to explore contextual advertising, with a twist.
Since we had been working with PaperShare for quite a while as a repository and distribution platform for both our high quality, technical content and lighter content, we decided that instead of the traditional surfacing of ad content triggered by keywords, we’d instead surface the content right were the ad was located.
In this endeavor PaperShare was an excellent partner because their platform supports the ability to dynamically serve content on 3rd party sites and helped us to couple it with Kontera’s smart syndication platform that intelligently places ads on the right sites in real-time.
At the time we were thinking through this experiment, we’d just finished developing a number engaging content pieces around the Intel Distribution for Hadoop (IDH), a technology for large-scale computer processing. In fact, while our goal was to raise awareness via this content, our real goal was to get people to download a trial version of the IDH software. Working with PaperShare and Kontera we were able to do just that.
Here’s how it happened:
To promote the Intel Distribution for Apache Hadoop, we developed a number of pieces of content, including an overview video, a short solution brief, and an in-depth whitepaper. These were published on PaperShare and then, using Kontera’s syndication network, we were able to dynamically deliver “content as an ad” to IT professionals on sites where they were already consuming articles about Hadoop and related topics.
Here’s where it gets interesting: instead of people clicking on the ads and being driven to a totally different site, with PaperShare we were able to bring up our content (PDF, Video, whitepaper) right inside the page on the site where people clicked on the ad. Furthermore, with PaperShare’s ability to surface related content, viewers were able to immediately explore deeper technical content. Most importantly, we were able to use PaperShare’s social login per piece of content (vs. a standard web form) to gain insight into the type of people who were viewing our content.
Example of a content-as-an-ad. When people roll over the an in-context ad, it brings up a window that displays the actual content – in this case a video – plus related content, including white papers and trial software. Viewers remain on the site they were on
The results from using PaperShare as the engine behind our content-as-an-ad program have been impressive. Compared to the usual content syndication many companies might use, PaperShare has delivered a five-fold rise in content impressions (the number of people who were exposed to the content). What is really interesting is that the number of reads on the content increased 22x.
(Data from the PaperShare dashboard showing the impact of reads of our content when delivered directly as an ad)
Why such an increase in readership? We believe it is because we made the content – and the process of gaining insight about the viewer – part of the ad experience. People want to consume content where they find it, and not be redirected to a totally different location.
This is just one example from a single piece of content. We have found similar results as we’ve continued to use the program with different content and topics. This has also given us a way to predictably generate number of reads for our content. And for content marketers, there’s nothing more empowering than knowing the return on your content investment.
So, where do we go from here?
Clearly, we feel our experiments justified our theoretical model. We now need to focus on how to streamline and automate the process significantly so that the decision of when to undertake this approach can be made by individual team members and budgeted for accordingly.
If content marketing proceeds at the pace we expect, it won’t be too long before content creators plan the journey of each piece of content in their constellation and are able to analyze whether things went according to plan – all the while engaging a growing community of audience members in an ongoing, potentially bi-directional dialog. And when that happens, everyone will understand why content marketing is the foundation for all marketing.