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Cisco Accelerate! Webinar – Follow Up Q & A with Ardath Albee – Part 2

- September 3, 2010 - 1 Comment

Cisco Accelerate! Program

This is Part 2 of our Q & A follow up to the Cisco Accelerate! webinar, “Content is Marketing Currency” with Ardath Albee. Read on to discover more great ideas from Ardath on how to get started with content marketing. We hope this additional information is valuable to you. Didn’t get a chance to read Part 1 of this Q & A, check it out here. You may also want to read Ardath’s recent guest post on this blog, You Need to Know What You Don’t Know About Your Prospects. If you have additional questions, please feel free to post them to the comments section.

Q. What tools do you recommend to measure the effectiveness of emarketing and digital marketing as a whole?

AA: The best tool, in my opinion, is marketing automation integrated with CRM. If cost is an issue, consider that there are two companies offering free versions of marketing automation that can get you started and help you prove value. Loopfuse is one and is the other. The limitation is in the number of contacts and emails, but you could choose one target audience and test the waters with a full nurturing program to determine the value to your company. The best part is that there’s no time limitation on either of these free versions. You can upgrade to a full version once you’ve proven contribution to revenues.

 Barring the use of marketing automation, there are various analytics programs available, like Google Analytics – which is also free and only requires a snip of code be placed on your website or blog. Another is Active Conversion, which can get you closer to individualized metrics – they have a free trial and start as low as $299 per month.

Q. Is there any B2B company that you believe has successfully executed a content marketing strategy with measurable success?   

AA: Yes, absolutely. The easiest way to see this for yourself is to look at the marketing automation companies. 

HubSpot,, Eloqua, Marketo and Silverpop all do massive content marketing and their salespeople are kept busy responding to inbound leads with most reps exceeding quota every single quarter.

 Although I don’t divulge client names in relation to outcomes, here are a few examples of results several of them have achieved:

  • IT software company increased the number of qualified leads produced for sales teams from 16 per month to an average of 75 per month within 8 months of starting a nurturing program.
  • IT VAR selling both software and hardware added $4.5 million to pipeline at the end of a 3 month nurturing pilot program.
  • IT Security company increased sales accepted leads by 171%, shortened sales cycles by 30% and increased telemarketing call acceptance by 200% during their first year of using marketing automation to support their content marketing efforts.

Q. Is it necessary to create content specific to each of the seven stages of the buying process you outlined or are there certain categories of content that can play across all stages?

AA: The simple answer is, yes, it’s necessary. There is no such thing as content that will play across all stages of the buying process during a complex sale. Well, let me modify that. If you did create content that will play across all stages, no one would read it because it would take entirely too much effort and lots of it wouldn’t meet their needs at the time. And if you think they’ll file it away to return to again and again as each new question arises, think again.

Consider your own behavior. Do you download and save content that you return to time and again? Do you even remember you have it? Or do you search for new content because you know the information has changed over the months you’ve been considering a purchase?

 There’s a big difference between the information a buyer needs when they aren’t convinced they even need to solve a problem to validating that your company is the option for them. Add in the fact that today’s buyers are busy with limited attention spans, and you’ll see the problem with the idea that content can play across a 9 month buying cycle.

The other thing you need to consider is the number and types of people involved in the purchase. It’s not just the “decision maker.” There are many people the project will affect, from end users, to IT to business executives. The solution could impact across departments. There’s just no way that content can be designed to address all of those components that exist within a complex sale.

Q. What are the best formats and delivery mechanisms? Are there some that are better than others?

AA: This depends upon your buyers’ preferences. Some prefer video, some text. Some will listen to podcasts to do their research during commute time. Some prefer the short read of a meaty blog post and others will want in-depth white papers or to attend a webinar to get both visual and audio and hear what questions their peers are asking. The key is to develop a mix that suits your prospects. This means trial and error to a large extent. Even more important than the format is the focus, style, tone and depth of the information in the content.

How your prospects become exposed to your content also depends upon their preferences. Email, Tweets, RSS feeds, etc. can all be effective. Make sure you’re offering them alternatives for how they receive your content and monitor their preferences for both delivery options and frequency.

Q. For a partner that has a very small marketing dept, what are the top 2 to 3 tips you can provide on how to make the most of their content? Where should they start given the bandwidth constraints?

 AA: Smaller marketing departments are served well by embracing a Content Hub concept.

  • Create a meaty piece of content – white paper or a webinar, for example.
  • Create or extract several articles and/or blog posts from the larger piece or focused on the same topic.
  • Use the content on your website, in your nurturing programs, on your blog, etc.
  • When planned this way all your research is done at once and because it’s centered around a theme, the creation of multiple content assets is much easier, plus they all serve to reinforce your companies stance and expertise on the topic.

If you have a plan for related content development, a small marketing department can easily create content around one problem-to-solution scenario for different stages of the buying process. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Pick your company’s key focus and put a stake in the ground. Accept that you can’t do it all, but that you can do extreme justice one scenario at a time.

 Q. How can I tell if my existing content is compelling enough?

 AA: Find out the answers to these questions:

  • Are my prospects reading it? Or do they bounce away from the page once they get there?
  • Are my prospects motivated to do whatever it is I asked of them? (Call to Action)
  • Do my prospects regularly engage with my content—or only sporadically?
  • Do my prospects come to my website of their own volition, or only when I prompt them to do so?

If the answers to any of those questions is no, you’re missing the mark. Try making adjustments and measuring changes to response.

 Q. What if I don’t have a marketing automation system or tool? Is that a requirement or are there things I can do today to more effectively utilize my marketing content?

 AA: There are always ways to improve the way content is utilized. The problem is that you need some kind of way to measure response or you don’t know if whatever you’re doing is working. This said, if you don’t have marketing automation, you likely have access to a variety of tools that can help provide insights. It will just take some manual compilation of statistics to help you assess what’s working.

This can be as simple as adding a blog and measuring the impact to website traffic, Alexa scores and search results for keyword phrases. Or refreshing your content and measuring increases to click through in email campaigns. Or perhaps you create a way for sales to provide feedback on the leads you pass them. Get creative and think about what you have at your disposal to learn more about what’s working.

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  1. With the cost of a marketing automation system running so far below the "base" compensation of a typical enterprise sales leader, it's hard to believe that anyone is foregoing this critical investment, particularly with the ROI stats you noted. Many marketers I know are wondering when compensation plans will shift to reflect marketing's expanded role in the sales process? And, assuming marketing's role in lead nurturing advances to the stage where the sales role requires less of a technical expert and more of an order taker, does the highly compensated enterprise IT sales leader follow the money to the marketing side - to online community manager or customer service/support? P.S. Ruth's referral has made me a raving fan, Ardath! , I hope you've enjoyed a boost in royalties from the many clients with whom I've shared your "eMarketing for the Complex Sale," and who have embraced your wise counsel!