If you think you need to be Cisco or GM to have a profitable content marketing strategy, talk to Margaret Johnson.

She’s managing director of marketing for Oakwood Systems Group Inc., a technology consulting and services firm in St. Louis. The 30 year-old, 150-person firm has been using Genoo for marketing automation for about three years. She says Genoo  has been critical to the marketing outreach that has become Oakwood’s hallmark.  Growing nearly 30% in each of the past two years, the organization is positioned to see “hockey stick” growth in sales, in part due to the marketing efforts enabled by Genoo, says Johnson.

Best of all, she spends only one or two hours a week producing and distributing content. She admits she’s a faster than usual writer, and has 30 years in technology to speed her writing. (She also has her marketing automation platform and a solid content strategy in place.) But given that, she says any smart marketing person can do what she does in half a day a week.

Needing Nurturing 

Before adopting Genoo, Oakwood had no easy way to monitor its ongoing interaction with prospects or to nurture them if they “were interested in what we had to offer, but not for six months, nine months or a year,” says Johnson. If the CIO at a prospect suddenly announced `We’ve got to have this capability now’” there was no way to assure Oakwood but would be top of mind.

To remedy that, she created a series of regular client touchpoints, including a newsletter highlighting recent entries from the Oakwood blog, a comprehensive event strategy and the associated invitation cycles, and a series of topic-specific lead nurturing sequences.  The click-through behaviors of the client or prospect dictates whether they are automatically entered into further nurturing sequences, which automatically sends them content customized based on what they’re already read.

Show Me the Money

Oakwood has gotten great feedback from customers, such as “I love the information,” and “You’re the only partners I have that do they something like this, and it’s impressive.” As a result, “When they think about what they need to do, we’re at the top of their list,” says Johnson.

The real payoff, though, is increased sales. “To publicize our portals practice, we sent an email to about 600 people every six weeks, over a specific period of time” says Johnson. One reply was from a Fortune 500 company, who said, `You guys are really forward thinking. I like what I’m seeing here. We need to do a project.  Are you interested in proposing on it?’” The result was a $350,000 deal from a company Oakwood wasn’t calling on because they had previously determined “they weren’t buying our kind of service,” she says. Through the newsletter, “We found a latent opportunity and wound up closing the business.”

The Genoo software also informed Johnson that “one prospect was clicking through on every single thing we wrote that had to do with mobility. We were able to say to sales, you need to call on this fellow.” The result was a five-digit project to develop a mobile app for trade shows, with Oakwood continuing to execute further business with the client.

Another prospect signaled, through their reading behavior, they were interested in Oakwood’s services for migrating apps to the cloud. She alerted a sales person who followed up and “got a sales meeting with a huge account.”

Automate, Automate, Automate

Creating a plan and automating it is essential to generating sales without burning too much time.

She has configured Genoo to automatically create and send the client and prospect newsletter every 14 days, automatically pulling the three latest customer stories as well as an upcoming event list from the Web site. Whenever she, or one of her internal contributors, publishes a new post to the Oakwood Insights blog, a Genoo widget automatically posts that content on the appropriate portion of the website, and promotes it on social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Johnson still does a fair amount of writing, but is turning more over to outside writers and internal experts. “As I’ve opened this up to the entire organization I’m seeing blog posts pop up from unexpected sources,” she says. A formal training program helped, and the organization is working on a program that gives team members some form of internal recognition and/or incentive for writing blog posts. But the biggest incentive, she says, is that Oakwood team members want to be known and noticed.

Trust But Verify 

Her internal contributors have shown “excellent news judgment” under a “trust but verify” system where only their first few posts are reviewed, after which they can self-publish. She also suggests that her authors get peer reviews of their content, which most employees do “because they don’t want to look stupid.”

Her rules include: Business-relevant content, no client names, no client secrets, no Oakwood secrets, “and if I find you using an apostrophe `s’ to make a plural I will hunt you down!,” she adds, laughing.

And finally, she advises, use the blog for education, not overt sales pitches. “We sell more if we aren’t selling,” she says.

Margaret’s story (learn more in this video) shows that content marketing can work and be done by mere mortals. But you will need a strategy and a tool to automate at least some of the grunt work. 

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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