Joe Chernov isn’t short on opinions when it comes to content marketing. Chernov’s first content position was as the Director of Content Marketing for Eloqua in 2010. Just two years later, the company was acquired by Oracle for a reported $871M dollars and Chernov was named the Content Marketer of the Year. Since then he served as VP of marketing for backend-as-a-service start-up Kinvey, where he helped increase user conversion by 1300%. Most recently, Chernov joined HubSpot as the company’s VP of Content. I sat down with Chernov to find out how he approaches content marketing and what developers can do to leverage his tactics for their own companies.
How do you start a Content Marketing Plan for Developers?
Chernov: First, I’d take a hard look at how related brands that have succeeded with content-driven marketing have done it. I’d pick a few icons across a range of verticals — including at least one dev-focused company — and study them observationally. I’d sign up for their content offers and reverse engineer why they are sending me what they are sending me. I’d read their case studies, their SlideShares, their blog posts looking for examples of what metrics they attach to their content efforts. Then I’d ask them questions directly – on Quora, over email, on Twitter … whatever it takes to get a response. To be clear, I’m not talking about modeling your content program after a competitor’s. I’m suggesting you sample high-performing companies that in some way relate to your business. For example, a SaaS company might evaluate another SaaS company’s content marketing program, even if each serves a different market.
How do you determine which technology will power your content program?
Chernov: I’d look at case studies published by vendors, like HubSpot. I’d ask the practitioners themselves. Then I’d go to a site like G2Crowd or VentureBeat’s research arm to get crowdsourced reviews of the products. I’d rely on the crowd to tell me what software works – basically, I’d operationalize what we tend to do naturally anyway.
What do I need to do before I start talking openly about my plan?
Chernov: In the words of Bob Dylan, “I know my song well before I start singing.” I’d develop a preliminary plan consisting of software required, content needed, how content will be produced, procured, distributed and measured, timeline to get started, timeline to report results, and what results the company should anticipate. My plan would factor in the unique attributes of the developer audience — namely, that they’re analytically minded with a skeptical disposition. I’d present that “conceptual plan” to leadership – I’ve learned that great leaders roll up their sleeves reflexively, so presenting them with a finished plan in the first meeting is … not ideal. From there I’d propose a comprehensive plan. I would emphasize the need for a long-term plan, warning that dabbling in content may produce misleading results. Note that there may appear to be a disconnect here: I’d advocate for a long-term plan, but the plan itself would need to leave room for agility, given that effective content marketing requires constant rebalancing based on performance. But I think it’s possible to plan for the unknown, even if it sounds contradictory. If my leadership had engineering backgrounds, I’d use the “agile marketing” metaphor. Common language helps.
What’s the secret to justifying the ROI of Content?
Chernov: There are a number of ways you can prove the ROI of content marketing. If you know the percentage of leads that close, then by tracking the number of leads sourced via content, you can easily predict the revenue generated by content (versus the cost of that content and distribution). You can then compare the costs and revenue to outbound marketing (like tradeshows) and get a sense of the relative value of inbound marketing. More advanced still, you could look at time-to-close reports for content-sourced leads versus outbound leads, which will give yet more insight into the impact of content We recently published a report that spent quite a bit of time on the topic of inbound and content marketing ROI. It’s called State of Inbound. It might be worth checking out.