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Content Marketing Strategy: What Are 3 Key Steps?

Strategic content marketing takes 3 steps:

  • surround the customer with content
  • be thought-provoking
  • turn content into conversions.

This 3-step approach enabled Tellabs’ content marketers to maximize its content, keep customers informed and drive sales. Here’s how Tellabs drove new customers and millions of dollars into its sales pipeline with strategic content marketing.

Here’s my 2-minute video on content marketing for the Business Marketing Association of Chicago:

Surround the Customer with Content

Wherever customer eyeballs landed, the goal was for them to find Tellabs’ content marketing. Tellabs delivered a consistent, relevant message about the ways it helped its customers succeed.

To win the battle for customers’ attention, Tellabs aimed to generate compelling, even thought-provoking, content. To advance its message, the company employed an array of media.

Since customers decide which content is best, Tellabs had to compete with trade media on editorial quality. That’s why it hired well-known telecom reporters to write Tellabs Insight magazine.

Tellabs circulated Insight through trade media, electronically and in print. For example, trade publisher Total Telecom distributed Tellabs Insight across Europe.

Total Telecom’s top 10 downloads of 2011, compiled by Nielsen NetRatings and audited by BPA, showed that:

  • Total Telecom reporters wrote 2 of the top 10 stories.
  • Tellabs Insight reporters wrote 2 of the top 10 stories.
  • No one else had more than 1 story in the top 10.

The Tellabs iPad app, including Insight and our annual report, was designed to be user-friendly. It linked instantly to a tablet-friendly website, blogs, videos and more. Tellabs offered a print version of Insight because print improves readers’ focus on content.

Tellabs told its story through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, e-mail newsletters, speeches, events and tradeshows. The company maintained dialogues with influencers such as news media, bloggers and industry analysts. News releases offered prominent, embedded links to blogs, videos, infographics and white papers.

To attract customers to its website, Tellabs employed search engine optimization, e-newsletters, advertising and promotions, social media and third-party content from news media and bloggers.

White papers pulled in customers, especially those that addressed fundamental questions. For years, Tellabs’ “Why 4G?” white paper has appeared on page one in a Google search of “why 4G” because it speaks to a specific customer pain point.

Make Your Content Thought-Provoking To Support The Challenger Sale

Thought leadership is necessary, but not sufficient. Customers expect companies to bring them commercial insights into trends and new ideas to improve their business. That’s a key to making challenger marketing in support of the challenger sale.

Tellabs’ thought leadership began with executives and experts speaking publicly. For example, Tellabs’ CTO spoke at Mobile World Congress on how mobility and cloud computing would converge to improve the user experience.

Tellabs worked with industry experts and analysts to develop trend stories that looked several years ahead. Such stories delivered the commercial insights that customers crave. For example, Tellabs released a study that showed mobile operators could reach the end of profitability in 3 years.

How could mobile operators’ profitability end? Because average revenue per mobile user was flat, while mobile data usage was growing due to tablets and smartphones. Higher usage meant higher capital expenses, so profits got squeezed. Obviously, customers wanted to examine such a study – all the way up to the CXO level, and for years after the study first appeared.

A newer study showed mobile operators that, by building smart networks and offering smart services, they could double their cash returns on invested capital. Higher returns potentially lead to a higher stock price, an idea that CEOs and CFOs find compelling. Such studies generated inbound calls from potential customers that Tellabs had never worked with before.

That’s why the best content marketing needs to go well beyond thought-leading to thought-provoking.

Convert Content Marketing to Conversations to Commerce

As Tellabs shared content to start a conversation, the content marketing team worked to stimulate soft conversions. Soft conversations included viewing a video, reading a blog, magazine article or white paper. These soft conversions grew from 10% in 2010 to nearly half of unique website visitors by 2013.

To trigger hard conversions — when customers go through a registration page to obtain content — Tellabs offered white papers and e-books. Drawings at trade shows also drove hard conversions.

As a next step, Tellabs scored inquiries and passed “A” leads to its sales force for follow-through. Content marketers incubated B and C leads with relevant content until they were ready to engage with sales.

Driven by content marketing, Tellabs cultivated leads, built a $20 million sales pipeline, and generated millions in revenue from new customers. That’s the ultimate measure of Tellabs’ content marketing success.

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