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How SecureWorks Took Content Strategy From Guesswork to Game Changing


Editor’s note: Kira Mondrus is a finalist for 2017 Content Marketer of the Year. We will be sharing insight from all CMY finalists in the blog before the winner is announced at Content Marketing World this September.

Mediocre content marketing is often built on the shaky foundation of assumptions and generalities. Creating detailed personas and accurate buyer journey maps takes time, effort, and resources, and often it seems easier to skip those steps and dive straight into writing generic blog posts.

Poor targeting, however, delivers poor results, as Kira Mondrus, SecureWorks’ director of global marketing, knew when she joined its team in 2014. Unwilling to commit to content marketing without personas, journey maps, or useful attribution data, she set about building a firm base from which to work.

Commit to #contentmarketing with personas, journey maps, & useful attribution data @KiraMondrus. #CMWorld Share on X

Her team now references their personas and journey maps daily, continually refining and expanding them as they learn more about their audiences. They can also measure their impact on the business and serve up personalized content. This well-oiled content engine has now become central to SecureWorks’ success, and it’s also earned Kira a nomination for Content Marketer of the Year.

When visibility isn’t enough

Kira realized early that marketing was hindered by a lack of visibility into its impact. Her initial requests for metrics produced information about the marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) passed to sales and little else. Content’s relationship to the bottom line was invisible.

Additionally, even though a marketing automation system was in place, it was essentially a fancy email tool. It was clear that better data, progressive profiling, and personalized lead nurturing were needed, but Kira wasn’t willing to stop there.

“We didn’t just want visibility, we wanted awesome results,” she says. “That’s why we embarked on a full transformation, becoming more buyer-centric and putting our audience at the heart of all our content.” Part of that process was doing away with the campaign mindset and building a perpetual demand-generation engine.

Leadership didn’t realize how extensive that shift would be, but they did recognize that marketing as a function had been neglected and now needed serious attention.

A couple of years later, those in marketing can quantify their contributions to revenue, showing that when they’re involved the deals are larger and the win rate is better. Even more importantly for content planning, the team can see how each individual piece of content performs, including what gets the leads over the last hurdle before a purchase and which channels perform best.

But the team didn’t go from raw MQLs to meaningful metrics without putting in some serious strategic work. Before they could create content, they needed to know their audiences.

Before you create #content, you need to know your audience, says @KiraMondrus. #CMWorld Share on X

Learning more about real customers

Kira partners closely with sales leadership. This relationship made it easy to start the journey toward deeper customer knowledge by simply interviewing the highest performers on the sales team. The content team sat down with the best sellers in the different audience segments and asked:

  • Who do you communicate with?
  • Who are the champions?
  • Where are objections coming from?

From those early conversations, the content team identified a handful of clients to interview. That information helped them develop personas and learn more about their buyer journey. As with most persona projects, this step was among the hardest. Scheduling difficulties meant they only got about half their goal of six to eight interviews per persona, so they eventually branched out to others in their networks to get insight.

By the end, marketing had identified six distinct personas involved in decision-making for SecureWorks’ services. But that was too many for the launch of a new initiative.

They determined they could boil down the initiative to three conversation tracks. Then they built it for the two most valuable personas. After it went live, the team expanded the content for the third track.

Assumption-free journey mapping

Of course, personas alone weren’t enough to guide their content creation efforts. They also created customer journey maps around three general phases: engage, nurture, and convert.

Kira recalls that one of the most powerful parts of persona development was understanding the types of questions typically in people’s heads during each buyer stage and mapping them.

“What we discovered,” she says, “was that up front, at the start of the buyer journey, the questions very much differed. The decision-maker persona had much more business-driven concerns, and practitioners wanted to know how to make their life easier. But at the end, when they were choosing a vendor, questions converged.”

Understanding this commonality allowed the content team to reuse content in the late stage across multiple personas, which was a huge time- and money-saver.

Understanding commonalities among personas lets you reuse content @KiraMondrus @andreafryrear. #CMWorld Share on X

“Had we not done all the due diligence we may have gone on our own assumptions and biases and missed that opportunity,” Kira says.

Keeping the map relevant

Having invested enormous amounts of time and resources into their personas and journey maps, Kira and her team don’t confine them to a drawer. They reference them for everything they do, with their strategy now mapped to correspond to the journey and its stages too.

The process wasn’t short, but for SecureWorks it was time and money well spent. The content team believes in the results they’re seeing, and Kira says they’ve begun to suggest refining personas so they can provide even more customized content to a smaller segment of their audience.

And now that they’ve seen quantifiable success from the efforts, marketing has begun to build personas and journey maps for existing customers to help improve client outreach and retention.

Always a work in progress

Kira and her team were fortunate enough to see instant results following the launch of the website built based on their persona and journey maps, but the real benefits have come from the exponential growth quarter over quarter.

“This is not a quick fix,” she cautions. “Be prepared to invest in the content, to invest the time to do the up-front research and work. Be prepared to wait for your optimizations to take hold, and you’ll see results.”

Make plans to attend Content Marketing World Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio, to hear who wins Content Marketer of the Year 2017 and learn from industry experts so you may create an award-winning content marketing program yourself. Register and use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Editor’s note: A special thanks to Ardath Albee who scoured the planet looking for the best-of-the-best content marketers. She was instrumental in helping us find our 2017 Content Marketer of the Year finalists.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute