January will mark the 10 year anniversary of Work, Wine and Wheels. Publishing content online over the past decade has allowed me to learn while doing, giving me first-hand experiences that have made me a better content marketer.
There is a big difference between intellectually understanding something versus experiencing it for yourself. Ten years ago it was clear that continued Internet adoption, the move to mobility and rise of social media were fundamentally changing B2B and B2G marketing. I started Work, Wine and Wheels in 2008 as a cloud-hosted blog to learn new skills and separate hype from reality for clients looking to get started with content marketing.
That goal was accomplished and much more. I acquired technical and tactical skills that continue to assist clients today. By becoming a publisher myself, I became better at counseling my clients how to become publishers. I know first-hand the thrill of a story going viral (relatively speaking), for example when a mention and link from the popular site Lifehacker.com and a tweet from noted Finnish security expert Mikko Hipponen sent over 2,000 visitors in a few hours to my site in 2012.
Organic SEO is a standard part of any online marketing effort today. In 2011 one of my stories reached the #1 spot on Google for the search term “BMW quality.” (It’s still ranked high page two today). This didn’t happen via some black box gaming of the Google algorithm, but through regular publication of properly tagged content that readers appreciated.
Having my own online publication with respectable traffic put me in position to reach out to audience influencers for interviews. Some reader favorites include James Kobelius, then an analyst with Forrester Research; a talk with Roger Johnson, manager of the PRwise group on LinkedIn; David White, a well-known wine blogger and fellow communications professional; and Mike Miller and Alex Palevsky, respected authorities in the BMW enthusiast community.
I’ve even experienced being perceived as an influencer myself, albeit in a very nichey way. Numerous visitors have credited the information shared in my BMW SULEV warranty posts with helping them get BMW to honor a 15 year, 150,000 mile warranty on the unique fuel tank and filter on their cars. The repair can cost $8,000 or more, and owners have reported BMW dealers that don’t know about and/or dispute the existence of the warranty.
I learned a lot about the WordPress platform when I migrated Work, Wine and Wheels over to server space I purchased from Bluehost and the chrisparente.com domain. I needed to merge databases, design the site via a modified theme and learn some basis php coding. Figuring it all out was frustrating at times, but I discovered many generous people and free tools – there truly is a plugin for anything on WordPress. I also got a taste of the “ethos of the commons” that helped build the Internet in the first place. More details here.
Content promotion, analytics, SEO – Work, Wine and Wheels has allowed me to “walk my talk” when discussing content marketing with clients. I don’t have as much time for publishing new stories since launching my own consulting firm, StoryTech Consulting, in 2014. But the foundation built here has helped my firm be successful.
It’s been a great ride, and there is always more to learn. Merry New Year, and have a successful 2018!
My agency StoryTech Consulting has been keeping me very busy, and it’s been too long since I published an interview with an IT or media leader. So I’m pleased to present this interview with Ginger Kessler, a proven marketing executive who has spent years helping the federal government modernize its IT infrastructure.
Disclosure — Ginger is a friend and a former client of mine. Working with the talented people at Government Executive Media Group, we developed the web site ModernizeYourNetwork as an educational resource on topics such as Software-Defined Networking, DevOps, Machine Learning and Cybersecurity. Ginger’s embrace of a thought-leadership approach to B2G marketing powered by high-quality content made her an exciting client to work with on the engagement.
Ginger and I also know each other through Government Marketing University. In the interview below, Ginger talks about the mentoring program she has developed at GMarkU. We also discuss GMarkU’s upcoming GAIN conference, happening Friday, October 13th at the Reston Town Center Hyatt. GAIN is a conference focused exclusively on the government marketing community, offering an unparalleled opportunity for networking and for education in the latest B2G marketing best practices.
Ginger and I attended last year, and she’s exactly the kind of experienced B2G marketer you’ll meet at the conference. Click here for more information and to register. StoryTech Consulting is one of the sponsors – others include Government Executive, Federal News Radio, GovLoop and L&R Communications.
See below for the audio player. If your mobile device isn’t showing the player, just click here.
Recently the Government Marketing University reached out to me for a Q&A on business to government content marketing to appear in their newsletter. GMarkU is an emerging institution that applies a collaborative, community-based approach toward knowledge sharing and skills development in the field of public sector marketing. I’ve been involved since the early stages of GMarkU, and early this year became an adjunct professor at the organization.
Eventually GMU will offer training, research, certifications, mentoring, awards and community resources all in one place. This will enable students to learn, collaborate and accelerate their public sector marketing success. And in this way hopefully enable government to better deliver services to the public.
The Q&A on B2G content marketing appears below. If you’d like to know more about GMarkU, check out this promotional video – extra credit if you can pick me out in one of the networking scenes! And consider registering for or sponsoring the upcoming GAIN 2017 conference on October 13th in Tysons Corner, VA.
GMarkU: What are some new developments/players in the field?
Parente: The adoption of content marketing happened a bit more slowly in B2G than B2B, but has really come on in the past couple of years. There are so many more options now for government marketers looking for branded content! Established vendors in PR, event planning and social media all want to be full-service partners to clients, and they are leading with branded content services. Examples include MeriTalk, FedScoop and GovLoop.
Meanwhile, incumbent government IT publishers have no intention of missing out on the content marketing opportunity. They have responded by creating in-house branded content shops to address the needs of their advertising clients. Examples on that front include Government Executive’s Custom Strategies group and 1105’s 05 Group.
GMarkU: PESO model. What exactly is that?
Parente: Well, this is B2G so we have to have an acronym, right? But seriously, PESO is shorthand for classifying different types of marketing content. P is Paid (advertising), E is Earned (stories placed via traditional PR), S is Shared (ex. content promoted via social media), and O is Owned (branded content). More government marketers are understanding how important it is to view these different types of content holistically, rather than one-off efforts. Doing so ensures that the tactics are complementary and the messaging is consistent.
Some content blur these distinctions. For example, many of my clients engage StoryTech Consulting to place executive bylines in the federal technology trades. This can be a very effective tactic, because it combines the control of Owned content with the third-party validation that comes with Earned content.
The challenge, here and in most content marketing efforts, is to keep the editorial high enough so the trades welcome the content offered. Producing high quality content is not easy, especially in some government IT niches. It truly has to be journalism quality and provide valuable information to the reader — no blatant self-promotion allowed.
GMarkU: What’s the role of analytics in the CM approach?
Parente: Obviously analytics are critical because at the end of the day, no one goes into content marketing to become a publisher. They do it because it’s a proven way to support their business objectives. Effective analytics allows a company to connect content development into their sales funnel, tailoring content to those stages and creating a logical buyer’s journey. Most of StoryTech’s clients employ relatively long term nurture campaigns, establishing lead scoring to determine the best content to present to prospects.
More clients are also investing in analytics beyond Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a strong tool, but it’s a free tool and cannot tell you a great deal about a specific visitor. Making a small investment in a tool that can connect IP addresses to specific companies can yield much clearer information about who you are driving to your site, where they are coming from and so forth. When we know more about visitors, we’re in a much stronger position to develop content to support account based marketing, tailoring specific stories to specific prospects.
GMarkU: What developments might gov’t marketers see in the next 12-18 months in the area?
Parente: I expect the competition in the market to continue to heat up, which should benefit the government marketer. Communications vendors and established publishers bring different skills to the table.
A communications firm turned news platform has a lot of experience working with clients on their messaging, and putting the client’s interest above all. But are they good at journalism? The established publishers obviously have a great deal of experience in journalism — can they effectively serve the client while keeping editorial standards high? The winners in the marketplace will be the providers that can find the perfect midpoint.
Finally, I’d advise government marketers weighing potential vendors to watch out for the classic professional services “bait and switch.” This seems to be happening more as the market has heated up. Throughout the sales process the prospect meets senior level staff with a great deal of experience. Too often, these are not the people who will be working on the account when the government marketer signs on the dotted line. Ask specific questions about who exactly will be executing on your behalf before you decide on your B2G content marketing vendor.
Last month I was interviewed for a podcast on B2B and B2G content marketing. The podcast is part of an ongoing series moderated by Eric Koch, founder of The Creative Marketing Zone. Eric is a dogged and innovative marketer, and our firms have collaborated in the past on behalf of clients. It was a pleasure to contribute to his podcast series focused on effective marketing techniques.
Thankfully the adoption of quality content marketing in the B2B and B2G spaces has accelerated greatly in the past few years. Firms understand that producing consistent, high-quality content is essential for engaging prospective decision makers and differentiating from the competition. I spend far less time educating and more time executing than when I launched StoryTech Consulting.
Key Takeaways from the interview:
- How content marketing in the B2B and B2G space differs from the B2C realm
- New developments in the field of content marketing
- The importance of analytics and why it needs to be coupled with quality content
- And what marketers can expect in the near future with content marketing in the B2B and B2G sectors.
You can listen to the interview here. The podcast is also available via your favorite podcast app on iTunes, Google Play Store and Stitcher Radio.
Or you can stay here for a few minutes and use the embedded player below. If you agree, or disagree, with any of the points made let me know!
A few weeks ago Mary Meeker came out with her latest Internet Trends report. I’ve been writing about these for the past few years — here’s a link if you’d like background on her or the report.
Some nuggets plucked out by Recode that I agree are interesting:
- Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before. This is in addition to continued slowing internet growth, which Meeker discussed last year.
- Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.
- In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline.
- China remains a fascinating market, with huge growth in mobile services and payments and services like on-demand bike sharing. (More here: The highlights of Meeker’s China slides.)
- While internet growth is slowing globally, that’s not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28 percent in 2016. That’s only 27 percent online penetration, which means there’s lots of room for internet usership to grow. Mobile internet usage is growing as the cost of bandwidth declines. (More here: The highlights of Meeker’s India slides.)
- In the U.S. in 2016, 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
- Healthcare: Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016. Leading tech brands are well-positioned in the digital health market, with 60 percent of consumers willing to share their health data with the likes of Google in 2016.
This report remains one of the best examples of thought-leadership content. Meeker has maintained her personal brand over the years via this report, and I’m sure it contributes to brand awareness and business development for leads for KPCB. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t support it year after year.
Here’s the report itself — watch out, now at 355 pages!
When you do content marketing for technology companies, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest IT developments and trends. This is especially true in a field like cybersecurity. Fortunately, as part of client projects I’m often able to attend conferences and trade shows that both keep me up to speed and provide the fodder for high-quality thought leadership content.
Last week I attended a government forum on cybersecurity sponsored by FireEye. It was an eye-opening experience regarding how persistent the attacks are against the United States, and what can be done to improve national cybersecurity.
FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia laid out the challenge clearly in the opening keynote. Mandia is a former Air Force intelligence officer, and talked about how when he first started saying cyber breaches are inevitable it was an extremely unpopular message in government circles. As he put it the bad guys only need to be right once, while good guys need to be right all the time, and are always on the defensive.
National cybersecurity is hampered by the lack of any no rules of engagement. The United States is also more vulnerable than some other countries to cyber-attacks due to our reliance the Internet connectivity and our open society. There has been a significant rise in the release of stolen information to embarrass and discredit prominent citizens and the government. This isn’t much of a threat to countries without a free press to disseminate the information.
Mandia laid out five areas of focus for what the government could do to better protect critical infrastructure and the country at large from attacks:
- Defend our networks – there needs to be better information and vulnerability sharing.
- Develop a true deterrence – our adversaries know there is no cost involved in attacking the United States. Mandia explained there are only two kinds of deterrence – “money or might.” Either attackers are made to pay financially, or the United States needs an offensive capacity for proportional responses.
- Attribution – the Internet is not anonymous. Get attribution right, and make it public whenever possible to raise awareness.
- Work for international norms – this will not be easy, but over time it will be possible to segregate the bad actors, nations that want to exploit the Internet and modern connectivity for destructive ends.
- Design a “Shields Up” capability – even in American intelligence knew of an imminent cyber-attack, there is nothing we could do today to protect the targeted asset. This capability must be developed, then applied first to critical infrastructure and then to more and more potential targets in our country.
There are some signs things could be changing. Justice Department indictments of Russian intelligence officers for the massive 2014 Yahoo breach are good examples of the kind of attribution needed to identify and isolate bad actors. Government CISOs at the forum talked about moving beyond compliance to more proactive risk management online, and a growing understanding that security isn’t something you buy, it’s something you do.
America invented the Internet. It has powered an explosion in innovation, productivity and personal connectivity around the globe. But it was not designed with security as a priority. Today certain countries are operationalizing efforts that exploit that insecurity, and have turned cyberspace into a hostile environment.
It’s time we started defending ourselves better.
When StoryTech Consulting launches a web property for a client, we’re usually told something along the lines of “we’d like to know everything visitors do when they hit our site.” That’s a very logical request. With our content marketing focus, usually the most important visitor information the client is looking for is company name, physical location, the specific stories read and the referrer to the site.
Unfortunately, the next line we often hear is “there is no budget for web analytics, do the best you can with Google.” Google Analytics is an effective and powerful tool, especially considering it’s free. But it was designed to illustrate traffic trends, not identify visitors who have yet to take an action (such as a registration) on a client site. There are steps you can take — writing customized scripts, combining Google Analytics with other free or low cost traffic tools — but the visibility into users is never simple or complete.
Now we have a better tool. Recently a StoryTech client allocated some budget to improving our web analytics and better identifying our visitors. We’ve begun using a service called LeadForensics, and the initial results are very promising.
In a nutshell, LeadForensics works by matching up visitor IP addresses with databases of company IP addresses it has compiled. (More detail here from the company on IP tracking and correlation). Google Analytics tracks the IP addresses of visitors as well, but does not match up those IP addresses with specific companies. LeadForensics identifies the company, the geographic location, how they got to the site, all pages visited and more.
We log into a clean, customizable dashboard and now see visitor listings like this:
For an additional fee, LeadForensics can also provide a list of decision-makers inside the company, with contact information. (My client is not utilizing this feature.) Such IP tracking does not close the mobile gap in web analytics — for example, if someone from Company Y is working from home and surfing over their personal Internet connection, IP tracking won’t know them. But it’s such a pleasure to be using a tool designed specifically to identify previously anonymous web traffic, a challenge virtually all our clients face.
This kind of improved visibility delivers many benefits for the client. Obviously, seeing what content is most popular with our target prospects drives our editorial calendar. It allows the client to fine-tune our lead scoring methodology, and make smarter decisions on how to guide prospects through the sales funnel. And by knowing exactly who these visitors are, we’re in a much stronger position to execute real account based marketing, tailoring specific stories to specific prospects.
Every new LeadForensics customer gets assigned a “customer success manager,” and we haven’t met with ours yet. There may be additional benefits to learn — if we identify some I’ll update this post.
One more benefit – you can test drive the service via a seven day trial with no obligation. If your current web analytics tool struggles to identify anonymous traffic, I recommend you consider LeadForensics.