Alan Belniak is Global Director of Social Media for PTC, one of the world’s largest manufacturing technology firms. With no official content marketing division, PTC’s marketing team works together to figure out content strategy. But it’s Alan’s job to understand how content fuels the brand’s social media presence.
CMI sat down with Alan at this year’s Content Marketing World to discuss his social media publishing successes and failures, the changing role of the white paper in the manufacturing industry, and how data will drive future content and social strategies at PTC.
CMI: What problem are you trying to solve by using social media?
AB: The answer is probably not all that different from others in the B2B space where you have a long sales cycle. The offerings tend to be expensive. Decisions are made by committee. There’s plenty of competition. This isn’t something where you go out and buy a pack of gum and you choose between strawberry and blueberry.
The group making that decision needs to be very well informed. So, I think content can play a huge role in this to convince people, generate awareness, sway concerns, and make them feel like they’re making the right purchase.
To that point, how does content marketing work together with sales?
We’re doubling down on our efforts as of late to better integrate with sales. Marketing has worked with sales since the company’s inception.
What we’re trying to do is listen and work with sales to ask, “What keeps customers up at night?” Then we’re trying to bring that information back into marketing to create content that helps address those questions. If we can create that content and get it out there in front of prospects, we can help allay those concerns before the questions or issues are ever even raised.
How did content marketing get buy-in at PTC? Did you have to educate internally about what you were doing with content?
In terms of buy in, we don’t have a formal content marketing team or a CCO. That may be a consideration in the future, but who knows? Jay Baer says, “Content is fire and social media is gasoline.” That’s so great because if you want to be social, to help tell the story, you have to have something to be social about, which is what I preach at PTC.
We ask ourselves that question: What do we have to be social about? Then the light bulbs start going off and we realize that we have to start creating content that is inherently interesting, shareable, likable, and findable so we can start to tell that message more prolifically.
What tactics (like eBooks, videos, etc.) are you using within the company?
We use a mix of media. We have a fair amount of videos up on our own website, but we’re also cross-posting them to YouTube. Not all of our buyers are going to come to our site. They’re going to search for us in some other places. To a large extent, we need to be where our buyers are going to be. So, if our buyers are going to be on YouTube, we need to put content on YouTube.
We have a pretty good video staff. They know that when they put content up one place, they also need to put it up in the other. Most B2B companies exist in industries dominated by white papers. We have shifted over to do more eBooks. Before that, we leaned toward that whole three-column, 10-point text with one image. Now we’re shifting into things that are inherently more vibrant.
Part of what I bring to the table is making those eBooks socially shareable. For example, embedding a consistent row of buttons in the bottom of every page that lets readers tweet that they’re reading this eBook, including a link to it.
Has there been something that’s been particularly successful?
One example I like to highlight is our use of SlideShare. We had some really good success with an eBook that one of our colleagues wrote, digging through the numbers and saying, “Wow, this is really good. You know what would be interesting is to take three to four assets that are up on SlideShare and compare those to the traffic and activity levels that we’re getting off of our own website.” Sure enough, I think in three to four of the four instances we were getting more views and more downloads when that traffic was on SlideShare.
Someone said they didn’t understand why that was the case, and my guess is that people are going to go to your website when they already know what they want or when they’re pretty sure that they know who you are and what you have to offer. People search the internet at large, or maybe SlideShare in general, when they don’t know who you are or what you offer. When they stumble upon us and they see our stuff, we’ve created awareness.
Have you had many disappointments?
In our pre-SlideShare days, I put content in some feeder networks and ultimately tried to lead viewers back to our website. I saw mentions of our products on sites like Docstoc and Scribd and thought, “What if we put some of our content up ourselves?” We posted one or two different white papers that were pretty high performing the previous quarter. We took the first three pages as a teaser, ripped them onto a PDF, and added a fourth page that said, “If you want to keep reading this content, click here,” leading back to the website and the rest of the white paper.
It didn’t work very well at all. Maybe it was because of the way the message was worded. But I think some assets led readers to a form page. So maybe people were ticked off that they had to fill out a form to read the rest… and the form is on a different site, no less. It was a bit of a disappointment, but it was part of the learning curve and something that I certainly walked away from saying, “If I do that again, I’m definitely going to approach it differently.”
Where do you expect to go next strategically?
We want to have a better understanding of the right frequency of content. I think we have a good sense of it, but a sense is one thing and using data to help determine that is a different one. Our FY13 recently started, and we just had our marketing kickoff. We’re not wrapping up FY12; we’re kicking off FY13. We have a renewed focus on content because we want to educate the buyers throughout their entire process and make sure that they feel comfortable picking PTC as their solution provider.
As we produce more content, we need to continuously ask ourselves a couple of questions:
- Is it the right amount of content?
- Is it the right kind of content?
- Is it the right content for the right audience?
- Is it performing well?
Answering the last question helps answer the other questions. We’re all hip to producing more content, and that’s good and we’re shaking our hands and are rallying as we’re walking out of the meeting. But, when next week settles in and the shine of the quarter fiscal year kickoff is done, then what? It’s going to be using data to help drive the right content decisions.