From infographics like The Message is The Messenger to videos about Revenue Management, content has become a science and an art at Eloqua, a marketing automation SaaS company. Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing, is leading the charge by acting not only as a savvy B2B marketer, but also as an editor-in-chief that crafts and delivers unique, memorable, and effective content. In this interview, Joe shares his thoughts and wisdom around all things content marketing.
"We want to create premium content in the way Louis Vuitton produces premium leather goods."
Social Nerdia: How has B2B marketing changed in the last decade?
Joe Chernov: I hate to confess this, because it keeps me up at night – literally – but being a “brand marketer” has become a dirty word. Much of marketing, especially in B2B, is about the data over image. “Brand” only matters if the data says it matters. Questions like: “How much is an organic visitor worth vs. an AdWord visitor?” dominate internal planning sessions. Marketers are expected to be accountable not only for revenue growth, but we are also expected to have visibility into the dollar value of each of our campaigns. B2B marketing is like the book, “Moneyball” – it’s about using data for competitive advantage.
Social Nerdia: Content seems to be a very important part of Eloqua's marketing strategy. Why is this?
JC: Because the data tells us it is. People who consume our content – even the more creative, “top of funnel” content like our infographics – are disproportionately more likely to buy our product. Content is also critical because it is invaluable to organic search – the inbound links, and social signals are vital for SEO. Content also drives our PR. If we launch a new product, we can expect a handful of articles to cover the news. But a compelling piece of content can generate hundreds of articles and blog posts.
Social Nerdia: What process do you go through when developing and distributing infographics like "The Message is the Messenger" and videos like "What is Revenue Performance Management?"
JC: When talking about premium brands, Richard Branson once said, “The best in anything is recession proof.” That stuck with me. My view when it comes to content is that we will never be the most prolific in our space. Someone else can have that status. Instead we want to produce the best. We want to create premium content in the way Louis Vuitton produces premium leather goods. I draw my inspiration from a company like LVMH, not the other vendors in Eloqua’s industry. The creative process is grueling. For any individual infographic, our design partner JESS3 will churn out more than a dozen comps. I think of each piece of content as a product, and we run a PR campaign around every single one, much as we would run a PR campaign around a product launch. I also believe that co-creation is a key to distribution. The more people that feel “ownership” of a piece of content, the bigger the distribution channel is on day one.
Social Nerdia: Why is it important to be customer-centric?
JC: Because, frankly, the customer needs an advocate. Companies are so obsessed with clamoring for the buyer’s attention that the noise can be deafening. It’s an affront. Consumers are barraged by thousands of advertisements a day, all of which put pressure on the person to do something in the sponsor’s best interest: buy, try, upgrade, download, switch. Enough already. Our view is different. We try to create content that is designed to help our audience stay current with their changing world, and we do so without any hidden agenda. We hope the person will later come back to us when they are ready to buy, but we don’t obligate them to fill out a form to learn from us. We give our knowledge way freely and for free.
Social Nerdia: We've heard you talk about suspects, prospects, leads and opportunities. Can you briefly describe how companies should think of - and target - each of these groups?
JC: This can be a very long answer, so let me talk about fundamental concepts. All of your potential buyers are at different stages of “purchase readiness.” So the first thing companies should do is identify these stages, and associate content with each one. For example, if someone has never heard of you, what content should you publish that “makes an introduction?" Conversely, if someone is comparing you to a competitor, what content do you want to supply that best presents your relative value? This basic philosophy – overlaying content on top of the buyer’s journey – is a “hiding in plain sight” solution for many companies.
Social Nerdia: What are your thoughts on the future of real-time marketing?
JC: If you find yourself unsure what position to take in a marketing debate, figure out what side David Meerman Scott (author of Real-Time Marketing and PR) is on, and pick that side. Because the guy is pretty much always right. I think we will see an increasing number of companies place a value on being fast, if not first, because doing so gives them an opportunity to “jack” industry happenings. Being the first to comment on an acquisition in your industry places you in every story about that deal. Being fast to respond to a complaint reduces the likelihood that the situation will fester. Speed is both a sword and a shield.
Social Nerdia: Just as writers have writer's block, marketers have creative blocks of their own. What do you do when this happens? Where do you seek inspiration?
JC: Of course. In any given week I have moments in which I am paralyzed by the fear that I’ve had my last good run of creativity. Ultimately you have to have the guts to propose something truly stupid, if only because it might lead to a path in which a good idea is hiding. I really don’t look at creativity as the birthing of ideas as much as I see it as the discipline to ferret out good ideas that are hiding from me. I also believe you should serialize your best ideas – which takes the pressure off of coming up with all new ones every time. For example, the public seemed to like our Blog Tree infographic, so rather than come up with an entirely new concept, we serialized that one. We are about to introduce our third in the series.
Social Nerdia: What advice would you give to young professionals looking to become tomorrow's marketing leaders?
JC: There’s a wonderful poem that reads: “Oh snail / Climb Mount Fuji / But slowly / Slowly.” My advice is to work hard, find inspiration in unconventional places, and don’t rush it. You will get there when you stop trying to get there.