Category Archives: Content marketing

Content Curation: The tale of the 76 Twitter-accounts

“Thanks for keeping me updated all these years about the developments in my market. I will be retiring soon and will not need your market news anymore”. Once a month, I receive a mail like this, although lately more often because people are going ‘in between jobs’ rather than in retirement. Most people that unsubscribe from our company’s daily mail newsletter are the ones that will not need the content of the mail in the new phase of their lives. Strange when you think of it: each day at 3.00 PM, 3200 of MCB’s customers receive an e-mail, for years now: in 2006 we subscribed about 4000 customers without asking, which means that 80% is still ‘in the mill’. Later on in this blog I will tell why they want to, and then I will also tell about our 76 Twitter accounts.

How do I become a curator?
Many companies  are busy working out ‘content marketing’, and acknowledge that in a few years, each company will become a publisher of some specific kind of knowledge. But if you want to help your customers with knowledge, you don’t have to do this with ‘fresh’ content, you can also become a ‘curator’, someone who collects and distributes knowledge that the target audience may find interesting. The term is relatively new, although at MCB we are working with the concept since 2001.

Scanning for Tarantino
2001. A crisis. At MCB, the Marketing Department was halved in size, a period filled with emotion. But also frustration: my plan to extend our ‘marketing intelligence’ went up in smoke, at least that was what it looked like because of the lack of people we needed to do that. Two people were working half their time on producing a (paper) clipping service, but they had to stop at that. And that is the moment I ran into Webagent.
Webagent was developed by a student, a fan of Quentin Tarantino who didn’t feel like scanning the TV guide each day to see if a movie of this director would be aired soon. So he built a website that did this for him: twice a day, a software ‘spider’ checked the online TV guide for the term ‘Tarantino’. If Webagent didn’t find anything, he didn’t hear anything, but as soon as it found something interesting, it alerted him by mail.
And that was exactly what our company was looking for: we wanted to extend the Marketing Intelligence, but had to do that with less people. I invited the student to MCB and gave him some money to make a special ‘tailormade’ version of Webagent (next to the open source version), and from then on the ‘spider’ went on a trip four times per hour past the news pages of competitors, customers, suppliers etc. We didn’t have to go out and look for market knowledge, we let it come to us. And in this way, we kept ourselves and later all colleagues informed on the developments in the market. And then the world…

Spam? Delicious!
In 2006, the system had extended considerably, and we were able to share all market knowledge with customers too: we decided to subscribe (without asking!) about 4000 customers to our daily tailormade market news mails. We did however make the threshold to unsubscribe very low, we did not want to spam our customers. Eventually, about 20% of all customers had unsubscribed from the mails, and a small sample learnt us that 30% wanted to be subscribed, but not full-heartedly. 50% viewed our daily mails as real added value.
And what makes it special: the daily news mail is completely tailormade. We know what products customers buy from us and in which market they are active, so we were able to produce a ‘news profile’: customers who buy aluminum receive news about the aluminum market, customers who don’t eh don’t. And customers that are active in construction don’t receive news about industry, and vice versa.

Permission to enter your mailbox
What I notice about many e-mail campaigns is that they are very ‘narcissistic’: the supplier and his products are in the center: “We have a new product for you” or “We have an interesting offer”.  If you then hear how few customers are still subscribed to the news letters of their suppliers, it doesn’t surprise me. One of the reasons that 80% of our customers is still subscribed after 6 years, is that THEY are at the center of our mails, or to be precisely: the markets in which they operate. We only mention our company or products a few times each month. Which is characteristic of the trend ‘permission marketing’: in order to have the right to interrupt people with your message, you will first have to do something for them. By the way: any one can subscribe to our news letter for free, although I have to add that it is in Dutch…(click here)

76 weekly papers, all for free…
Because whe have all market news digitally available, we were able to open 76 Twitter accounts, one for each product group and one for each sector we deliver in (click here, eh Dutch). Anyone interested in the aluminium plate market can follow @mcbaluplaat. Or @mcbopslagtanks. Or @mcbbedrijfsauto. Already, more than 1000 people are following one or more of these accounts. And because there are a lot of elderly people amongst our customers, who often say they don’t need news on a daily basis, we decided to make 76 weekly newspapers on the site (click here, Dutch too)

As said at the start: content is becoming more and more important, but you don’t have to be the source of it. When you help your market to find and distribute relevant content, you are a good ‘curator’. And perhaps customers will buy from you till their retirement…

This post is the eighth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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Inbound Marketing: all whitepapers gather behind the fence please

“Hey dad, I want you to UNsubscribe us from the ‘Do not call registry'”, my daughter of twelve told me the other day. “Why? Then all these salesmen will start calling us”. “Yeah, but that’s fun, I can verbally abuse them”. Hmmm if this is going to be a hobby for her generation, I presume that Inbound marketing will more easily outrun Outbound marketing than I had expected. In case you are not aware of what Inbound marketing is: it is sharing your personality and knowledge with the world, and make sure that you will be found through social media and Google. Much more effective and much less expensive than advertising and calling. Seth Godin explained it all in his presentation (click here) on a marketing congress in Amsterdam: “I am a marketer, I have money. That gives me the power to interrupt you […] But people are getting better and better at ignoring you”.

Quick dude, money
A lot of companies are switching to Inbound marketing at the moment and are putting content online, if only for the much lower cost than advertising (which comes in handy during an economic crisis). The thing that keeps surprising me is the urge of a lot of ‘inbound marketeers’ to put their content behind a ‘gate’: “You can download my whitepaper, but first you will have to hand over all your personal information, so I can tell in a second how much money I can earn from you”. Still outbound thinking then, because within 5 minutes after the download, you should be called according to the scripts.
Recently I was in a converation on LinkedIn with Bhaskar Sarma, he was surprised about what he called ‘gated content’ and the large amounts of personal information that the content owner gathers before you can enter this gate: “Dude, you will make for a very crappy first date when you ask all these things right after introductions.” According to calculations from marketing guru David Meerman Scott, ‘ungated’ content (no form) is downloaded 20-50 times more often than ‘gated’. But don’t you recognize this? You want to download a whitepaper and fill in a form, but then you think “oh no some salesman will call within five minutes and I am not interested in that”.

Frodo Wolverine?
Bhaskar also decided to only fill in nonsense in the whitepaper-forms from now on: “I am not going to get into details, but let’s just say that there are a lot of Frodo Wolverines with a funny sounding email ID living in 221B Baker Street, Atlantis in a number of customer contact databases”, and apparently a lot of people do this. He also adds that he will ‘lead the dance’: “My inbox has around 4000 unread mails. If I need something, I will mail you and ask for information. I, and most of your prospects, am not into you yet”. So be patient. And patience is not a quality of us marketeers, I noticed earlier, we find that ‘too passive’. The funny thing is that when you search for the terms ‘gated content’, which doesn’t sound very positive, that you see a lot of links of companies that can help you ‘gate’ your content. Apparently it’s a profession, a bit like marketingzoo-caretakers.

Patience in the trashcan
Actually it is very strange that we talk about Inbound marketing, but cannot find the patience to wait for the customer to approach us. The last time I looked, customers had phones that could call, and mailboxes that could mail. But even at the end of an article from Hubspot (click here) that pleaded for removing all gates around content, there was a link to a ‘free e-book’ of David Meerman Scott…but you should fill in  form first…

I believe that Inbound marketing with ‘gated content’ as bait is not REAL Inbound marketing, it’s semi-inbound marketing. With REAL inbound marketing, you trust that the customer will find you when you are being transparent. That you don’t have to hunt or push. And when nobody finds you when you are being transparent, apparently you are doing something that nobody is waiting for. In that case I advise you to stop, it will prevent you from ever having my daughter on the phone.

This post is the fifth chapter of the yet to be written book (click here) about ‘REAL Inbound Marketing’. All comments are welcome!


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