How Content Increased the Effectiveness of Our B2B Enterprise Marketing by 3x

Can a couple of books land on a marketer’s desk at the right time and change the destiny of an entire marketing department? Based on my experience, the answer is yes.

As I was ready to become the VP of marketing integration of the IT division at Schneider Electric, a global company that specializes in solutions for data centers and critical power products, I had a clear objective: to turn a successful but traditional marketing operation into a content machine. At the time, the division was dealing with stagnating lead growth. We needed a more advanced strategy, fast. But before I started to shape this strategy, I read.

The two books that helped me were Welcome to the Funnel, by Jason Miller, and Epic Content Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi. Despite different styles, both books shared a common focus: a step-by-step practical guide for defining content strategy in a large enterprise. They took complex marketing methodologies and broke them down with clear lessons and best practices. The day I finished them, I told my content marketing director to read them as soon as possible. Eventually, we bought 15 copies of each book and shipped them from France to New England, where most of the marketing integration team is located.

From that point on, all of our marketing efforts evolved for good.

Starting the journey

When I started at Schneider, I was joining a company that already understood sophisticated marketing. Take Energy University, for example, our free, award-winning online education program that had experts from around the world developing courses about topics like data centers and energy efficiency.

So there was content—good content—but it was scattered across the company without consistency. My team and I started assessing the situation, thinking about how we could develop a content marketing program from a product-centric marketing model. We called ourselves the marketing integration team and set up a solid infrastructure by hiring new freelancers, teaming with agencies, and buying syndicated content.

Within months, we started simplifying the old marketing process to make our workflow more efficient. We absorbed several editorial boards into one. We cut multiple editorial calendars down to one. We educated our internal team by hosting workshops and events with major content marketing experts, and we drove innovation through continuous experimentation with different mediums like podcasts, videos, and slideshows.

You walk before you can run, and if your bosses are pleased with the initial progress, they’ll give you the money so you can sprint.

While the old guard had analyzed buyer personas, we took the process a step further, identifying five target personas for the department to focus on. For each persona, we analyzed the respective buyer journey, mapping it out with new and existing content. I still remember those exhausting and exciting months as we prepared to change the company’s marketing culture.

Then we set up an editorial board, one of the most important parts of our transformation. The board, which consists of 20 people from around the world, handles all content-related requests and issues, manages the editorial calendar, and oversees internal communication. In large organizations like Schneider Electric, which has 180,000 employees, the editorial board also has the key role of making sure content created across departments stays consistent with larger company messaging and branding.

Our emphasis on internal alignment paid off when we were able to coordinate a content production schedule with our Data Center Science Center (DCSC). The DCSC acts like a content factory, where talented experts focus on creating blog posts, whitepapers, and e-books, and help fuel Energy University. We immediately reached an agreement and set up common content-creation objectives, such as securing at least one “big rock” piece of content per quarter and doubling downloads.

The role of pilots

A few months after those two books landed on my desk, my team set up a pilot program. In his book, Pulizzi stressed the importance of pilots as a way to get buy-in with execs. Essentially, you walk before you can run, and if your bosses are pleased with the initial progress, they’ll give you the money so you can sprint.

Using our blogs as a content hub, we launched our first bedrock pieces of content on specific IT subjects like edge computing, the Internet of Things, and data-center planning. Our content targets readers at the very early stage of the buyer journey, and the blog was the perfect destination. More than 70 percent of readers who land on our blog come through non-branded organic searches. We capitalized on that momentum by setting up a newsletter and shoring up SEO. The final piece of the pilot was to invest in paid promotion to sustain the growth. We’re now planning to launch new pilots in Brazil, India, and the UK.

Content leads to three times as many downloads as traditional marketing campaigns.

Know that you will fail at times, and you’ll need to refine your approach before finding the right formula for success. That’s why the small size of pilots are so appealing. For example, we learned that email newsletters drive more traffic than other owned channels, SlideShare and YouTube are great for B2B content, and that we need weekly governance calls with employees from each country to solve any immediate problems that pop up.

Over time, the results let us know that we were on the right track. Now, internal data suggests that content leads to three times as many downloads as traditional marketing campaigns.

The power of divisible content

Another important tip I picked up from the two books is about repurposing content. In his book, Miller refers to “Big Rock” content, or high-value stories that can be broken up into smaller components.

This has a lot to do with budget. You can save a lot of money by recycling your work for different platforms. E-books can become infographics, SlideShare presentations, blog posts, and videos before being disseminated on social media.

The idea is to develop an all-encompassing guide based on your keywords and specialities, which is written strategically instead of instructionally. The top-of-funnel content should ultimately help SEO, fuel social and lead generation, drive sales enablement, and maybe even support events.

With this in mind, we have just launched our first Big Rock. It’s the “Practical Guide to Data Center Planning and Design,” written by the DCSC and launched only a few weeks ago.

Cooperation with internal communications gave birth to an internal content marketing newsletter, the “IT Division Content Strategist (hat tip to Contently), which goes out twice a week.

The objectives were to increase internal awareness for our new content marketing techniques, list all new content we created, and provide continued visibility to the editorial plan. In a company with 180,000 people, you must pay attention to internal communication. The internal content marketing newsletter has become a success: The initial audience has grown 4x and the average open rate is 60 percent.

In his speeches around the world, Joe Pulizzi likes to say that the “content marketing approach is a long-term commitment.” After one year, we are still at the beginning of our journey. Next year, for instance, we plan to launch a new content hub to capture a C-suite audience. But delivering a steady stream of high-quality content remains our first priority. Not more content, but high-quality content. This is the commitment we have taken on as we continue our journey.

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