Beyond the white paper: content marketing that truly engages

When trade publishers think of marketing services and creating content for clients first thoughts are often custom newsletters, white papers and webinars. But, have you considered video? What about an app? And do you truly know the role of each of your content pieces and how it pushes a sale down the funnel?

During a recent ABM event, business-to-business marketers and agencies met with publishers to discuss the best types of content and how they help the ultimate goal of making a sale.

It’s no surprise that newsletters (and other content that require registration) lead the content marketing mix, noted Kevin Nalty, b-to-b marketing consultant, at the ABM and ISBM Brand Consortium last month. Nearly all of business-to-business marketers use content marketing for lead generation and almost half of b-to-b marketers choose lead gen as the number one goal.

“But is it fair to measure leads alone?” asked Nalty.

What about measuring how well you educate? How well you inspire? How well you entertain? These measurements, while not as concrete as leads, can also push a sale down the funnel, explained Nalty.

Content Marketing Matrix

Nalty has consulted and worked for leading pharmaceutical firms, such as Merck, for more than 15 years. He’s also a YouTube Celebrity who “shot to fame” with works such as MacBook Air Parody (an unofficial video comparing the MacBook Air to other laptop computers) and Mentos Movie Smuggling (a commissioned, branded video for Mentos). While these videos didn’t generate hard leads for their respective companies, they did boost awareness, the first step in the funnel, with entertainment.

In the graphic above, created by First10 and Smart Insights, different types of content are listed, showing how they evoke emotion and where they lie in the sales funnel. For instance, case studies and webinars, more typically created by b-to-b marketing services teams, and generate a healthy number of leads, serve to “Convince”; they lie more closely to the final purchase than branded videos and quizzes, which serve to “Entertain.”

But take a look at the video below, as Nalty cited during the ABM meeting. The video, led by Tim Washer, former senior product manager at Cisco, is an unconventional approach to content marketing. It doesn’t promote Cisco products but tells an engaging story about telecommunications and networking, Cisco’s industry.

“We produced a short documentary about how service providers, our customers, were pioneered [sic] the development of the telecom network,” said Washer in a TopRank interview. “It received a lot of exposure on YouTube, and was broadcast on TV … I don’t think that would have ever happened if we focused on our company.”

While the video may not have given Cisco passive leads, i.e., contacts that the company could go after, it gave Cisco active leads, i.e., engaged contacts that came to them.

Other Strategies: The Unconventional How-To and Utility Apps

Sungard Zombie InfographicSunGard, a leading software and technology service company, took another non-traditional approach in its campaign to promote its enterprise cloud product.

One of the benefits of SunGard’s enterprise cloud solution is “disaster preparedness,” which can range from a natural disasters, terrorist attacks … even the Zombie Apocalypse, the company explained an a downloadable infographic.

“Can a plan for surviving a zombie apocalypse help you when it comes to moving your enterprise to the cloud?” wrote SunGard.

This completely works for the audience, said attendee Ron Lichtinger, publisher for some of FierceMarkets’ verticals, including IT. Lichtinger explained that this audience is very into Sci-Fi and would be hooked by this campaign.

Also to note, to access the infographic users have to input their contact information.

During a presentation by John Favola and Andres Echenique, partners at leading b-to-b agency Eric Mowers + Associates, noted the importance of brands producing utility apps. Many trade publishers already produce apps for their own brands, and a few, like Edgell, are producing apps for clients.

Southwire, a manufacturer of electrical wire and cable, has rolled out a series of free calculator apps that help electricians estimate and calculate wire and cable costs on-site. While the company makes no money on the app itself, it most likely has a database of contacts who have downloaded the app and can position itself as the expert in electrical wire and cable.

There is an entire universe of content that b-to-b marketing services teams can create for clients — these are just a few examples. Before embarking on a project, however, all presenters noted that a clear goal should be in place, whether it’s building awareness, further promoting a product or closing the sale.

Just a note: ABM hosts this consortium twice a year, bringing together trade marketers, publishers and agencies. If you want to be invited to the next meeting, please email me at

By Elizabeth A. Reid


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