January 23, 2013, Ian Greenleigh
In my job as a B2B marketer, access is the name of the game. It’s what everyone’s after, at first. Our job is to create great content that gets people to engage with us, or to create that “positive familiarity” that warms up the call from the salesperson. We’re going for that moment of recognition: “Oh yeah, I know you guys. You put out that video about the future of the Facebook-enabled toaster oven. Sure, let’s talk.” Or something like that. The same forces are at work with business-to-consumer companies, too, except it’s the familiarity is geared to influence the moment of a consumer’s decision, whether online or in the aisles. One of the best ways to gain access to prospects is to write about their industry and challenges, and to mention their companies in the content. It’s a strange thing to say, but companies have egos, too. This angle shouldn’t be used wantonly, or in every piece of content you put out, but it does work when the tactic is used in a way that doesn’t alienate the rest of your audience for the sake of that single prospect. It also works well with existing clients.
A few years ago, I attended a conference in Las Vegas. It was the first conference I attended while working for Bazaarvoice, and I was going, in part, to prove to my then boss that conferences could help generate great content that would have an impact on the business. Normally, we’d only send salespeople or product marketers with deep knowledge of the technical side of our products (not a content guy like me). In retrospect, I’m a little embarrassed about how little I knew about what Bazaarvoice actually did at that point, but for some reason I didn’t think I would be put on the spot about it. When I arrived, I saw that one of our clients was presenting. This was a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 company, and yet our relationship with them wasn’t very mature yet—that’s marketing-speak for they weren’t using many of our products, and we weren’t getting paid very much (relative to their market cap). Fortunately, the topic was interesting to me, and I thought it would be interesting to our blog’s readers as well. I sat anonymously in the audience and took notes. I didn’t know the presenters, and I didn’t have time to introduce myself before the next session.
Later that week, back in Austin, I posted a recap of that session to our blog. I had a few back-to-back meetings, and when I got back to my desk, I saw that Bazaarvoice had been mentioned a few hundred times on Twitter in the space of two hours (this doesn’t happen often). The tweets were from employees and divisions of the company whose session I wrote about. That alone may have been enough to secure me a ticket to the next conference of my choice in the eyes of my then boss. Then I checked the traffic to the post. Through the roof—more traffic that day than any I could recall seeing, ever. A new email notification popped up on my screen, from the salesperson assigned to the account. He had forwarded me a thread that was sent to me by his internal champion at the company. It showed the extent to which the post I had written had wound its way through some of the highest levels of this organization. People there were proud that their colleagues had done so well in their presentation, and it made the company look really progressive. The last message in the thread was a note from our internal champion to our salesperson, thanking us for the coverage, asking if they could set up a meeting soon to talk about expanding the relationship.
This event recap model worked wonders for us again, a few times. After a Facebook executive spoke at our annual conference, I wrote a post about the ideas within his talk. I never directly sent him the link, but within a few hours of publication, our site’s servers were on the brink. Facebook, which (humorously) has a Twitter account with over 5 Million followers, tweeted the piece and posted it to its own Facebook wall. It was one of the highest traffic days in Bazaarvoice history. Companies have egos, and that’s great news for marketers.