For many of us, writing down our professional thoughts for the world to read and judge is painfully time consuming. In fact, as the Operations VP for a B2B marketing agency, I find many of our technology, manufacturing, bioscience and software clients refuse to even write at all.
Think about it. Asking a busy engineer to be a part-time journalist is like asking a pig to fly. It just will not happen. The problem, however, is that the most interesting and engaging content lives with these thought leaders—your executives, engineers, partners, brand advocates, and customers.
The question becomes: how do you tap into this goldmine of content? This was the problem many of our clients faced and I’m guessing many of you face as well. Here’s my solution: Leverage a thought leader’s most accessible skill—talking—to produce large amounts of cross-media marketing assets. Read on to find out how this solution increased Backbone Media’s leads by 250%.
I set out to demonstrate that busy thought leaders would want to contribute content if the process was easy and the deliverable was high quality. So this past summer, I came up with a plan to speak with over thirty marketing experts about their hottest trends and predictions for 2015.
The process was simple. I would record the brief phone call and have my operations team format the audio into various forms of shareable media. From this minimal demand on a thought leader’s time, we would create a video, a transcript, a blog post, a SlideShare, a Pinterest page, a content app, and a promotion packet for each participant.
The ultimate goal was to boost traffic to Backbone Media’s website and drive conversions by demonstrating our services and capabilities within this engaging content.
It’s one thing to pitch an idea to the top influencers in the industry—it’s quite another to have them accept the pitch. Here’s what I did to improve my chances:
- I read Jay Baer’s blog post on “The 3 Key Ingredients in a Successful Influencer Pitch”.
- I pitched a popular topic as the New Year approached: trends and predictions. This topic also required little prep time for these thought leaders as it was already top of mind.
- I included an actual video demo to let the influencers get a better sense of how I would present them. Since I have worked with Paul Dunay on a number of previous projects, he was happy to help out.
These industry influencers accepted my invitation: Jay Baer, Jeff Bullas, Joe Pulizzi, Ardath Albee, Craig Rosenberg, Matt Heinz, David Meerman Scott, Neal Schaffer, Paul Dunay, Michael Brenner, Heidi Cohen, Katie Paine, Tony Zambito, Meagan Eisenberg, Debbie Qaqish, Brian Kardon, Erik Qualman, Justin Gray, Dan McDade, Glenn Gow, Chad Pollitt, Maureen Blandford, Tim Ash, Erik Wolf, Larry Kim, Andrew Davis, Douglas Burdett, Jeffrey L Cohen, Chris Selland, Amanda Kahlow, and Wendy Marx.
I also participated by providing my top three takeaways after speaking to these industry pundits, and we still have a few more participants in the queue to reach our goal of 100 marketing trends and predictions.
Although we did launch a press release and budgeted for a small amount of paid advertising, our promotion strategy relied heavily on the influencers socializing the content to their own networks.
To increase the odds, my team developed a promotion packet for each thought leader with links to their video and transcripts, suggested tweets, a sample blog post, and links to social collateral like a SlideShare and a Pinterest pin.
As a result, the majority of thought leaders shared the content on multiple channels. A few thought leaders also blogged about the initiative and Jay Baer actually likened it to “harvesting” which I thought was a great way to describe our efforts. His post “Capture Content First Format Content Later” continues to drive qualified traffic to the site.
- The power of SlideShare for driving high-quality traffic to our site was surprising. It may be due to the SlideShare audience’s longer attention span compared to that of Twitter, but I noticed a higher time on site coming from Slideshare visitors.
- I expected traffic to gravitate towards the trends and predictions that most resonated with each visitor. I was then expecting to glean some additional insight from an industry perspective. However, the size of a thought leader’s social media network and their co-promotional efforts were the biggest drivers of traffic.
- A New York-based marketing agency posted screenshots of many predictions on their blog without any attributions or linking back. We contacted them to fix this oversight, but I told my team this is a clear sign we are hitting the mark.
- It’s not surprising that the most popular category in the B2B Trends and Predictions series was content, but there were too few thoughts on marketing technology. It turns out this was due primarily to the participant list we used, so our next initiative will be exclusively about this facet of marketing.
- I expected more traffic to the site’s thought leader quiz. This was a content app meant to engage the visitor in a “Who Said It?” type game. I need to re-think this for the next initiative as I am a firm believer in interactive content marketing. So is the editor of Chiefmartec.com, Scott Brinker.
- Traffic to our website more than doubled throughout the six month period.
- Subscribers to our email list more than doubled.
- Quality of subscribers improved and included more corporate emails.
- Leads generated increased 250% as a result of this initiative including a handful of referrals from the participants themselves.
- Quality of leads improved and included more corporate emails and phone numbers.
- A new content production service debuted on the heels of my operation team’s successful execution of this initiative – ContentGiftCards.com.
- Don’t make the content about your product or service, rather try to demonstrate your product or service within the great content you deliver. For example, Will it Blend? is a video series produced by a blender manufacturer that asks the aged old question “Will an iPad blend in this powerful blender?” If you’re looking for a few B2B examples, our initiative is of course one example but here is another: The Data Analytics of Gas vs. Charcoal Grills. This is a blog post published just prior to the Fourth of July that visualized the growth in BBQ grill trends and was created with the client’s analytics software.
- As more and more executives in your industry are using mobile devices on their commute to work and throughout the day, be sure to leverage the power of audio and video. Audio, in particular, gives busy executives the ability to multi-task and is growing in popularity.
- Get the information out of the heads of the people in your organization first via a recorded phone call and then reformat it into cross-media assets like blog posts, podcasts, videos, SlideShares, content apps, and so forth. If you don’t have the internal resources to execute such an operation, then outsource the necessary skills and manage a remote media production team yourself. As a result of this initiative, Backbone Media now has the internal know-how to quickly execute for overwhelmed and under resourced marketing departments.
The Next Steps
- Even though this initiative was a six month project, we are continuing with weekly trends from marketing thought leaders. We have found that this kind of influencer marketing is an effective way to create high-quality content and rise above the noise.
- Since we would like to hear more thought leaders on various trends in marketing technology, we plan on rolling out a new site focused solely on why so many marketing technology rollouts fail. Stay tuned.
About the Author: Paul Salvaggio is VP of Operations for Backbone Media, a digital marketing agency based in Boston – Paul provides the tools, processes, services, and teams to best serve their B2B clients in the areas of data, technology and content. He leverages his nearly ten years of experience in the industry to help clients get their message out so they can focus on creating and fostering relationships. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org