Content Marketing In Action

This is the story of how Spirent, a Devon based SME evolved their traditional marketing activities away from a push based, interruptive marketing model towards a pull based content marketing approach to help drive (international) growth. Did it work? Was it successful? Read on and find out, you may find a few parallels with your own current situation.

The Argument For A Content Marketing Approach

GPS technology was opening up new opportunities in several market sectors, most notably, chipset design and PC & mobile device integration. Many suppliers including Spirent, one of the worlds’ leading suppliers of test solutions for the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) markets needed to get closer to these new and emerging markets.

The issue was how to target a global audience with diverse needs, attract new customers and develop value and credibility across five continents with limited budget and resource and engage with an audience they didn’t know and who didn’t know them.

Now that’s a tall order.

The only certainty was that the current traditional marketing methods used e.g. print advertising, direct mail, email blasts, events and tradeshows would only target a small percentage of the total target markets and consume the entire marketing budget without achieving their stated aims.

It was time for a radical change to their marketing approach.

The Content Marketing Solution

There was only one method of targeting such a global audience with a limited budget and that was via the internet. To do so cost-effectively meant developing a plan to create and promote relevant content that would attract online searchers and pull them through to the Spirent website.

My first task was to carry out a content marketing audit to discover if there were any gaps in Spirent’s content offer. The results showed an inward looking, product led company whose content focused on highlighting how good Spirent was, rather than explaining how they could help their customers and prospects.

To resolve this problem meant moving away from the product based focus and concentrate efforts on creating content that promoted the benefits and solutions offered by Spirent’s products and services. The success would be measured against agreed key metrics that would allow the management and analysis of activities and results. The worry was whether this would work across different cultures where English was not the first language.

The intention was to use content to:

  • Position the company as a “Thought Leader” within its marketplace helping it to stand out from the crowd, rise above its competition and make it difficult for each competitor to directly compare their offerings.
  • Generate a specific value based proposition for each market segment being targeted.
  • Provide more compelling information to customers and prospects to ensure the website became a useful hub and drive repeat visits.
  • Generate and increase sales leads leading to higher conversion rates and more sales.

Stage 1: Content Development

Over a period of several months the content of each web page was re-written to emphasise the benefits, value, experience and expertise on offer. Key phrase research was undertaken to ensure the web pages were optimised to increase the likelihood of being found by the search engines. A blog and an editorial calendar was introduced that incorporated the creation of blog posts, video promotions, case studies and ebooks, each targeted at moving buyers along the different stages of the decision process.

As well as ensuring all web pages were optimised for search, they were also optimised for conversions by including call-to-action (CTA) blocks on each page promoting the ebooks, video, case studies and demo requests. Sign up forms were modified to only include necessary information fields e.g. name, company, country and email address and “thank you” pages provided visitors with another opportunity to engage by offering an invitation to sign up for newsletters, blogs or connecting via social networks.

Stage 2: Content Promotion

The activity plan consisted of a number of multi-layered marketing campaigns, incorporating email marketing, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and social media, targeted at both existing customers and prospects. Emails were sent out to a cleaned, segmented database of existing customers and active prospects. Pay-Per-Click campaigns (incorporating remarketing ads) were set up and targeted at Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific regions to drive visitors to (English language) landing pages, designed to persuade them to download and view the content on offer. Where appropriate these landing pages included video content and case studies supporting the call to action. This content was published on various social media sites to increase reach and encourage engagement.

A lead management process ensured that all leads were captured and those designated “hot” were passed directly to sales. Email autoresponders were set up to encourage prospects along the buying cycle e.g. anyone who downloaded content targeted at the top of the sales funnel was sent additional content to help them progress through to the middle of the sales funnel, if that additional content was downloaded, it was recorded and additional content was sent out until either the prospect contacted the sales team directly or an activity-based decision was taken to forward the lead to the sales team for follow up.

Stage 3: Content Monitoring & Analysis

Incorporating analytics tracking code in each email link and setting up Goal tracking on each PPC landing page enabled Google Analytics to record the traffic to each landing page, each video view, click-through and conversion as well as the general traffic to the website. This allowed the monitoring, tweaking and amending of content and campaigns and provided the ability to see what worked and what didn’t. Resource and budget could be redirected to those areas that were more successful, almost in real time.

The Content Marketing Results

Initially website traffic took a hit as the web content was re-written and it took around 4 months for the effect of our efforts to kick in and slowly attract web visitors. At the 12 month stage traffic to the website and blog began to grow rapidly. The graph below shows traffic from visitors who either spent more than 30 seconds on site or who viewed more than 3 web pages e.g. the engaged visitors. The rest of the traffic has been filtered out.

The total results at the end of this 18 month period were incredible:

During this 18 month period over 4800 email addresses were collected in exchange for an ebook download. The actual figure was far higher but the results were again filtered to remove emails from:

  • The competition (one of the downsides)
  • Personal accounts such as gmail and Hotmail
  • Nonsense addresses such as mickey mouse etc

Around 70% of these emails were from people and companies that Spirent had not done business with before. In addition:

  • 83 blog posts were published
  • More than 7000 datasheets were downloaded
  • 10 case studies were published
  • Spirent videos were viewed more than 1400 times
  • Spirent webinars were viewed more than 1000 times
  • There was some form of engagement across more than 70 countries

All of this activity fed a steady stream of qualified leads into the sales team resulting in increased sales.

None of this would have been possible within the timeframe and with the allocated budget through traditional marketing means.

Content Marketing Conclusions

It’s not possible to say hand on heart that all of the sales growth achieved was purely through the content marketing effort but it certainly had a massive impact on the growth of the contacts and leads captured from these emerging markets and you can see from the chart above that it certainly drove traffic to the website and increased engagement and conversions.

It also created an ability to reach out to an audience that hitherto had been unreachable or was only accessible via 3rd parties (at significant cost).

However, content marketing is not a silver bullet. This content marketing case study highlights that if you want to implement a content marketing approach you need to be aware of the following:

  • It’s not a quick fix but needs to become part of your marketing activity over the medium to long term
  • You need a plan and you will need some resource and budget, mainly for the content creation but perhaps also for content promotion via PPC advertising and the management of your social media accounts
  • For the plan to work, it needs an owner who can run with it, manage the project, drive activity and keep it on track. Especially if you need input from people outside your department or function
  • You need to incorporate search (SEO and PPC) and social media marketing into your plan
  • It helps if you have a lead management process in place to help filter out the dross and prioritise the hot opportunities
  • Content marketing is not just for medium to large-sized companies. It creates a level playing field for small businesses to thrive as you eliminate 3rdparties and deal directly with the end user
  • Finally, everything you do needs to be based on the underlying principles of marketing strategy. Content marketing is not a substitute so make sure any external agency or marketing consultant you deal with has that experience

Note: None of the above was achieved through additional budget but was implemented by the re-distribution of existing budget to new activities (yes, tough decisions may need to be taken)

I understand the importance of content creation, promotion and distribution to help businesses succeed. If you need help with your content marketing activities, get in touch.

Call on 01803 413481 or email [email protected]