New energy and bigger budgets are being devoted to Content Marketing, and for good reason. It's a quintessential example of "Marketing as Service," a conceptual approach that has long informed Renegade's work and is now being trumpeted by many industry thought leaders. Jay Baer's new book calls this approach Youtility, and a few years back, Bob Gilbreath covered similar territory in his book, The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connecting with your Customers by Marketing with Meaning. The idea is that marketers can build meaningful relationships with prospects and customers by doing something for them, rather than just pushing ads at them.
Always searching for examples of content marketing done well, I caught up with Judy Hackett, the CMO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation, a private spin-off of D&B that provides credit and credibility solutions primarily for small businesses. Judy provides terrific insights into the breadth of content they are creating, how it is being integrated across multiple channels, and why her company is increasing its investment in this area. B2B marketers looking to grow their content programs should find her advice particularly valuable.
Neisser: Is content marketing a new thing for Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp?
Hackett: As more of a conscious marketing strategy to drive sales, yes. As an ongoing marketing tactic, no. We have been producing content from the start and have a resource center filled with loads of evergreen content geared towards small businesses. Early on it was all about authoritative content to drive SEO but it evolved. We developed our blog. We launched a monthly one-hour live stream event called Credibility Live. Our goal with content two years ago was to build our reputation as a small business advocate and influencer. The difference today is we are now carefully crafting a more integrated and meaningful content strategy to drive customer acquisition and upsell.
Neisser: Do you approach "content" creation differently than say, ad creation?
Hackett: Yes and no. For larger content projects, there is a creative brief drafted. So of course all of the same considerations are made, target, language/voice, call to action, marketing objectives, etc. Even the process is much like ad creation. There are rounds of approvals and legal considerations. Where it differs is in its ability to engage a prospect for longer and to tell a larger story. Infographics, videos, and links within an article can take a prospect deeper than an ad that is limited by time and/or space. The reality is if you're not creating content that fits your stated marketing objectives, then it's not worth producing.
Neisser: Is Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp increasing its investment in content? If so, why?
Hackett: Absolutely. The need is increasing not necessarily for more content but for more quality content. This is where our money will go. That and new technology to create, publish and syndicate content. We are investing in more dynamic content to speak to prospects and customers on a one to one basis for the purpose of upselling and cross selling. Some of this is being created in house and some through new technologies. As an example we are creating some pretty innovative one-to-one video content with multiple variables that will be delivered starting in September. It's highly customized to their businesses and what's happening in their credit reports.
Neisser: Do you have a specific content program that is really doing well right now? Tell me about it and, if possible, explain why you think it is working so well.
Hackett: Access to Capital, which is our thought leadership initiative for 2012-13. Ours is a complex sale. It requires sometimes a 30-minute education to help a small business owner really understand why he/she needs to monitor/build good business credit. Suppliers, manufacturers, certain business types know that building and maintaining good business credit can be critical to their growth. It's the other half that doesn't know anything about it, until they go to get a loan to grow their business and are denied. We set out to own the Access to Capital conversation and we're really starting to reap the rewards. We partner on a quarterly Private Capital Access index with Pepperdine University. Politicians and others often cite the study when discussing the divide between the banks that say they're lending; and businesses seeking funding but not succeeding. We are helping to bridge that gap with an integrated content strategy that includes an Access to Capital website filled with informative content. We've created our robust live events that in turn provide us with rich content on the topic of funding for future use.
Neisser: Its interesting to me that you've taken your content program offline to events. What are the benefits of this approach?
Hackett: The most obvious benefit is the content creation and marketing of that content that takes place prior to, at these events and following the events. Panels of experts on traditional, alternative, crowdfunding and start-up capital share their words of wisdom as do the business owners share their funding stories. All of these participants from businesses to banks and panelists to moderators become content generators for us. Attendees share their experience via social and I could go on and on. It's probably the single best way to create content!
Neisser: What kinds of content is Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp creating and are you finding some more effective than others? (If you can provide links to any of it that would be great)
Hackett: Video Content by far!
- We launched the first-ever 529-education savings plan with employer-matched funds called EdAhead this year. It is designed to help our employees save money to send their loved ones or themselves to college. In order to promote the program, we created a video in which our CEO explains the program to a boardroom full of children. It had over 200,000 views in just a few days.
- With the help of Stargreetz technology, we launched our one-to-one video content campaign via email in September.
- We'll do the same with the launch of our Business Credit Member Alliance. This program will utilize a network of strategic partners (e.g. micro and small business lenders) who are looking to help educate entrepreneurs on the importance of being creditworthy. We have shot a series of educational videos as well as produced print collateral and training materials. We will provide this content to these organizations free of charge and we will give them a free business CreditSignal credit report for each business. We already know how our free CreditSignal report performs and with these strategic partners we know we will be getting the warmest of leads. We're helping provide them with quality educational content and they in turn are providing us with highly relevant leads.
Also, our active corporate blog has been able to engage hundreds of thousands of people on a range of topics including educational material for small business owners, relevant opportunities for small business owners, and informative posts that help tell our story.
Neisser: What metrics do you use to evaluate the effectiveness of your content and how do you rank them in terms of importance?
Hackett: The BCMA will be measured on CreditSignal registrations and upsells. Our dynamic personalized email video content campaign will be measured on the results of three calls to action we are testing. Our Access to Capital initiative is measured on several metrics-- event registrations, products sold, partner satisfaction, press coverage, attendee satisfaction.
Neisser: With content, is it as simple as "build it and they will come?" Or do you need to "market the marketing" either via media (paid, earned and/or owned) to generate significant readership/viewership? And if so, can you talk about how you "market" your content?
Hackett: Definitely NOT the former. Your social team is critical. Content just can't be addressed in silos organizationally; you need collaboration between social, marcom, online, sales, etc. It takes a village. Also, we push our content partners hard to socialize and our employees are absolutely critical to the success of the content strategy. We do a great deal to provide our partners and employees with the material they need to market on our behalf. We occasionally support with social ad campaigns and press releases but it is the viral that makes it work.
I would add that we do extensive outreach to our employees, as in we send out an email to all our corporate employees each week that includes relevant events, interesting articles, new employees, and, most importantly, one "ask" at the top of the email. Through this "ask", we've been able to increase our employee engagement and generate substantial social interactions around targeted campaigns.
Neisser: What recommendations do you have for other CMOs when approaching a content marketing program?
Hackett: There has to be a content commitment across the organization and a great deal of cross-functional support. If you are thinking that this is the job of just your social marketing department or your communications department, it's not. The collaboration required to do it right -and by no means are we doing it right yet-is monstrous.