[Editor’s Note: A version of this article appeared previously at Technical.ly Philly.]
The best way to sell in 2017 is to stop selling. Stop pushing your product or service on people. They’ll buy when they’re good and ready, and when they believe that you have their best interests at heart.
In other words, they don’t want to hear how awesome you are, they want to hear that you’re on their side and looking out for their best interests.
The content that breaks through is never about your products; it’s about the audience. And that has given rise to technology content marketing.
At Scribewise, we define content marketing as “the creation and distribution of journalistic, audience-focused material that ultimately increases customer acquisition.”
“Journalistic” because that connotes a higher level of quality, focused on providing value to the reader rather than some keyword-stuffed gibberish an SEO firm might create. “Audience-focused” because the content that breaks through is never about your products; it’s about the audience — make them the hero of your stories. And “increases customer acquisition” because this is marketing and the goal is to generate leads to drive sales; if you’re just writing for the sake of getting your thoughts out there, start a personal blog.
So, who’s doing a good job of content marketing in the local tech scene? Fortunately, we have some Philly-area companies that are hitting it out of the park.
I know, I know, your company has nowhere near the budget that SAP can get its hands on. However, when Michael Brenner launched content marketing at SAP five years ago, he was a man on an island. With almost no budget, he did most of the writing himself, then begged volunteers to pitch in.
“I created the site because our marketing efforts at the time were mainly speaking only to people who already knew SAP,” Brenner told me recently. “We needed customer-focused content produced like a publisher to reach and engage new audiences. Our key to success was harnessing the power of our internal employees and customers who wanted a platform to share their expertise. Our only editorial rule was that we did not allow direct promotion of SAP products.”
It worked. SAP has since built a massive marketing database for the company. What is now SAP’s Digitalist Magazine reaches more than 1 million readers a month, more than a lot of top business publications. They even sell some advertising to help offset their marketing costs!
RevZillaTV has been a huge factor in the company’s success, ultimately leading to last year’s deal with private equity firm J.W. Childs. The company has produced thousands of videos, has more than 300,000 subscribers and has garnered close to 100 million views on YouTube. Founder Anthony Bucci has said that the company’s approach to content marketing was to “give something of value away for free, sell something related.”
Bucci starred in many of the videos, which combined his enthusiasm and deep domain knowledge to create content you couldn’t help but consume. Bucci stepped down from the CEO role earlier this year.
RevZilla also runs the digital media outlet Common Tread, which averages 1.1 million views per month, according to company reps. Common Tread posts original content aimed at RevZilla’s core audience of motorcycle enthusiasts.
Before RJ sold to Magento last year, content marketing helped fuel the company’s rise. Specifically, data storytelling. The analytics company developed several viral content hits by rolling up its sleeves and digging into data to tell a compelling story, creating pieces like the 2015 benchmark report on Ecommerce Growth.
As RJ’s former director of marketing, Janessa Lantz told Scribewise last year that the company spurned the addiction of feeding the content beast with frequent blog posts, focusing instead on creating and distributing high-quality pieces that would have an impact.
“We ask ourselves what the industry is dying to know about, or whether or not someone would pay $150 for this research or blog post,” Lantz said.
Curalate has been blowing up lately, raising $27.5 million a year ago to fuel the growth of its visual commerce platform. Brendan Lowry started the company’s content initiative a couple years ago, and Curalate recently brought on former journalist Jared Shelly to manage content marketing. Shelly says there are four main goals the company is trying to accomplish:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Bringing new leads into the sales funnel
- Establishing thought leadership
- Helping to attract talent
As with all successful content marketing initiatives, the focus is not on what Curalate sells, but rather on what its customers are looking for — information that helps them do their job.
“People seem to really enjoy UNFILTERED,” said Shelly. “[It’s] a series where we interview Instagram influencers and dynamic marketers like Eric Toda of Airbnb or Nina Alexander-Hurst from Baublebar.”
Speaking of Curalate, one of their investors is First Round Capital, coincidentally another content marketing superstar.
First Round Capital
If you’re a tech entrepreneur, First Round Review is a must-read. It’s run by former Wall Street Journal reporter Camille Ricketts, with the goal of taking information out of the brains from tech biz experts and turning it into actionable insights for founders and aspiring founders. First Round has accumulated a massive audience through content marketing—more than 150,000 Twitter followers and 13,000 LinkedIn followers.
Tech should be a role model for the way diversity works. Right now, we have a problem. One solution: open salaries. https://t.co/Oe480dPxBb
— First Round (@firstround) March 2, 2017
Each of these companies has built a massive audience. More importantly, they’ve created trust with that audience. Done well, that’s what content marketing can do for your company—build trust with prospects and customers, lead to faster sales cycles and fuel growth.