Think back to your last great marketing campaign. It was creative, insightful, maybe even a bit innovative. It was a big hit with your audience, engaging them with just the right message at just the right time. Perhaps it even won some awards.
It was also expensive—but it drove engagement and sales, so overall it was a success.
Now consider this: Where is that content today? Is it buried so deep on your website that even Google’s spiders have a hard time finding it? Or perhaps you deleted it altogether, making room for the next campaign, and the next, and the next…
This is exactly what many B2B brands do, and it’s a shame. Great marketing campaigns that are part of a long-term, sustainable content strategy have much longer shelf lives, and therefore yield greater ROI over time.
Many B2C brands do this well. For example, you’re probably familiar with Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. One of the most successful marketing campaigns ever, it has helped boost sales from $2.5 billion to $4 billion and was named the Top Ad Campaign of the 21st Century by Ad Age. It’s also 12 years old and still evolving: what started with a billboard in London and Canada, asking passing motorists to vote on whether featured women were “fat or fit?” or “wrinkled or wonderful?” Then there was a series of print ads showing beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. Now, Dove produces inspirational commercials and YouTube videos like “Sketches,” which is one of the most viral ad videos of all time. The brand has also launched several successful social media campaigns, including #SpeakBeautifully and #WomenGetTold, all of which feed back into the larger “Real Beauty” theme.
Granted, it’s easier for a B2C beauty brand to sustain a long-lasting marketing strategy than it is for B2B technology companies to do so. Low self-esteem is a perennial issue, whereas technology changes quickly. So, it makes sense that brands create new campaigns for the launch of each new product or service. But if those campaigns are strategized to fit into a holistic content strategy, they don’t need to disappear as soon as the next product or service launches. Instead, each campaign ties into and accelerates the next.
Why is this a winning strategy? And how could it help B2B technology companies get more bang for their marketing bucks?
Like all brands, B2B technology companies have had to exist on the cutting edge of marketing transformation to compete in the digital world. Rather than sticking to the usual business content staples—white papers, case studies, client testimonials—many forward-thinking marketers are also launching podcasts, YouTube channels, gaming apps, virtual reality videos, and even short films. They’re telling great stories and using cutting-edge technology to do it.
But more often than not, these innovative campaigns are one offs—standalone content with short lifespans and big price tags. Even when they’re successful, they often don’t yield the ROI marketers hoped for, which can make it hard to justify future investments into similar content.
Rather than treating campaigns like moments in time that start and stop, brands can use them as acceleration points for growth within a content and editorial strategy. There are many benefits to this approach, including:
Because campaigns and their surrounding stories are related to other campaigns and their surrounding stories, there are ample opportunities to cross-promote and drive users back to the older (but still relevant) content. By giving content a longer life, this strategy increases the return on the investments that brands have made with creative agencies and media partners.
B2B brands across industries are looking to expand their business resource centers and their thought leadership presence on social media. That requires a lot of content—not just slapped-together content, but compelling stories and useful insights. And that, of course, requires time and money. Because having a long-term, holistic editorial strategy means content stays relevant for longer, it also means brands have more quality content they can repurpose, distribute across various channels, and use to build up their websites.
With a long-term content strategy, brands learn from each campaign’s performance and can use those insights to refine future campaigns. When they start from scratch, they also start out in the dark—not knowing if the campaign will resonate with their target audience or how the content could be better. This doesn’t mean brands should just do the same thing again and again. Keeping content fresh means introducing new topics, entering new channels, and experimenting with new forms of content. But having a central editorial strategy keeps brands focused on what their audiences need most from them—and poised to switch gears quickly when those needs change.
A unified content strategy helps brands distinguish themselves from competitors. Dove is known for making quality beauty products, but so are dozens of other companies. All those other brands are not, however, known for working to change women’s negative perceptions of themselves. That’s Dove’s thing, and it’s powerful stuff. When B2B brands find something to be “known for,” they set themselves apart from the competition. Instead of being just another brand in the crowd, they become go-to experts.
Want to be top of mind for your target audience and to extend the reach of your expensive marketing assets? Start thinking bigger.
Let’s be honest: B2B marketing has always been dry and a little boring—the kind of thing you need to read but don’t exactly want to read. Much of it still is, and in some cases probably needs to be. But there are also great B2B brand storytellers who are running robust news sites, winning film festivals, making video games, and generally proving that consumer-facing brands aren’t the only ones who can be creative and engaging.
The following B2B technology brands are among these innovative storytellers. Each created a successful marketing campaign. But each also missed opportunities to wrap that content into a longer-term, bigger-picture brand message.
New technology has given us more ways than ever to communicate, but it’s also made clear communication more difficult. Along with the clichés, buzzwords, and sports metaphors that already proliferated the business lexicon, there is now so much tech jargon that non-techy business leaders often find themselves in need of a translator. And that’s exactly what telecommunications company Avaya provided with its Translating Tech campaign.
In 2015 Avaya and its creative agency, FleishmanHillard, launched a multichannel campaign featuring Ava, the brand’s fun, hip digital persona. There was a social media campaign that encouraged users to poke fun at overused clichés and a series of humorous YouTube videos entitled Stuff Business People Say. These assets drove people back to Avaya’s site, where they could read Ava’s blog for helpful communication tips or use the Tech-tionary to translate tech jargon.
The campaign was a success, earning more than 22.3 million impressions and a social media engagement rate that was three times greater than Twitter and LinkedIn benchmarks. It increased web traffic by 244 percent and boosted online conversion rates by 18 percent.
Avaya was really onto something here. But a little over a year later, that content has been deleted from the company’s website.
Why? The business lexicon hasn’t gotten any less confusing. If anything, there’s more new tech jargon and and more buzzwords to learn (or to unlearn for the sake of clear communication). Avaya could have evolved Ava and the Techtionary, and created more content that solidified the brand’s reputation as a fun but trusted business resource. For example, it could have created a mobile Techtionary app, shared featured interviews with business communications experts, posted writing tips to help professionals clarify and strengthen its message, or started new social media conversations about the devolution of language. Or it could have acted on other similar ideas that its obviously creative team could think up.
Instead, Avaya removed the stale content and started over with new marketing campaigns. In doing so, it missed the opportunity to extend the life of some great content, to build on the idea and create new content around it, and to become known as the brand who can help businesses cut through the noise and better reach their own customers.
For decades, IT pros have been the unsung heroes of the corporate world—the always-on-call basement dwellers whom business professionals call upon when their computers are on the fritz, who fix broken office equipment, and who maintain the server rooms that confuse and intimidate the rest of us. Of course, the perception of IT is changing quickly. As companies increasingly move towards self-service IT models and third-party, cloud-based business solutions, IT engineers and leaders are being tapped for more strategic projects and more revenue-producing roles. They’re also responsible for protecting what is now the most valuable asset for most companies: their data.
Juniper Networks celebrated the unsung heroes who are finally getting some of the glory they deserve, using a format that most tech types can appreciate: a video game.
The network security software provider launched a mobile app game called Deception Force, in which the player (or hero) fights off creatures that embody common network attacks, such as SQL injections and Trojans. By gamifying its product, Juniper helped IT pros learn to “know, control, and expose” security threats. Juniper also created an engaging storyline to make the game entertaining and exciting.
To promote Deception Force, Juniper launched a digital marketing campaign, complete with a video trailer and social links that let users send selfies discussed as the game hero. Despite a limited release to targeted tech sites, the YouTube trailer received more than 9,000 views in 12 weeks, and the mobile game was downloaded 15,000 times in three months.
That was in 2014, which was also the last time the game was updated in the App Store. There are now new network threats and more opportunities to gamify Juniper products and services, or to at least update Deception Force, which undoubtedly cost a pretty penny to make and promote.
There are also new opportunities for Juniper to creatively position IT pros and leaders as heroes within their organizations. But the only story about a hero that’s currently featured on Juniper’s homepage centers around the end user—a NASCAR driver—not the techies who work for him and who provided the big data that helped improve his racing performance.
Juniper Networks had a winning idea, not only with the innovative content but with the editorial strategy behind it. Now the game has withered in reach, and the hero has been sent back to the basement.
Podcasts are not a new medium for B2B brands. Thought leaders use them all the time to share ideas and information, or to interview other thought leaders. But a serialized, fictional story about aliens and technology that feels more like an old radio play than a podcast—that’s definitely something new.
In 2015, GE launched an eight-part serial podcast called The Message, which follows a fake popular-science series called Cyphercast, about cryptographers investigating mysterious alien messages. In the first eight weeks, the suspenseful series had more than 1.2 million downloads and reached the top spot on the iTunes podcast charts.
Storytelling isn’t a new marketing strategy for GE. The Message marks the kickoff of the GE Podcast Theater, which is a digital rebirth of the General Electric Theater—a GE-sponsored, 1950s television show hosted by Ronald Reagan, where A-list stars from the day acted out stories adapted from plays, novels, films, and other works of fiction.
But The Message—and the latest GE podcast, LifeAfter—are different. They’re original science-fiction stories that touch on technological breakthroughs from GE. For The Message, it was sound-based medical treatments. For LifeAfter, it’s digital twinning.
This is storytelling at its best, but in a sense it’s also storytelling for the sake of storytelling. It provides exposure for GE, but I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of those 1.2 million downloads came from consumers, not healthcare leaders who might purchase GE medical equipment. Of course, business buyers are people too, and thus are inclined to love a good story as much as the rest of us. But The Message doesn’t appear to be part of any larger marketing campaign for GE Healthcare. The podcast’s micro site only has one link back to the GE Healthcare website. To get to it, you have to click on About and then expand the Disclaimer blurb. In turn, the podcast is nowhere to be found on GEHealthcare.com.
The attention The Message has brought to GE, both from listeners and the media, is enough to call the campaign successful. And the GE Podcast Theater is certainly something the brand can be known for. But what has it really done for the company in terms of sales and visibility with its target audience? GE hasn’t said, but considering the disconnect between the content and the rest of the brand’s marketing content, it’s hard to see how it could make much of an impact.
On the other hand, had this podcast been part of a unified marketing strategy, it might have complemented and elaborated on other branded content, driving two-way traffic between the different campaigns.
As you’re planning your various 2017 marketing campaigns, think about how you can connect all the dots with a cohesive, holistic editorial approach. What themes and subject matter are important to your brand? Which will have the greatest impact on your customers? And how can you use those themes to unify your content?
Yes, technology changes quickly, and so do many B2B technology companies. But when you find something that works, don’t let it run its course and then start all over. Build on it. Evolve it. Find out why it works and figure out how to make it part of all the other innovative marketing campaigns you’ll create going forward. Your content will last longer and work harder for you.