Think like a publisher, not a marketer

Printer security isn’t a sexy topic. But HP knows it’s an important part of any company’s cybersecurity plan. So they decided to take their latest marketing campaign up a notch. Instead of just publishing some use case examples of how printer security is a serious thing, they decided to create a series of short films starring Hollywood celebrities.

Enter: The Wolf

In season 1, we see Christian Slater as “the Wolf”. Playing off his role in the TV series Mr. Robot, Slater demonstrates what happens when he infects a business printer with malware. It’s a pretty convincing story, with ominous music, great cinematography, and my favourite part, Christian Slater (one of my teen crushes back in the day).

Season 2 sees Slater’s Wolf changing up his hacking tactics and attacking the healthcare industry. From hacking into a medical practitioner’s legacy system to using an unprotected printer at the hospital, Slater’s Wolf is able to access confidential patient information, medical records, and more.

In season 3, Slater’s Wolf uses an idea from Betty Adewole’s cyber security specialist (and her Fixer, Jonathan Banks) to disrupt shipping plans for a powerful international trading company. “Doesn’t matter how protected you think you are. Inevitably, you’ll stumble and forget to turn the lock,” Slater says near the middle of the True Alpha 20-minute video.

These campaigns might seem over the top for a “regular” B2B tech company, but the idea is a sound one. HP is thinking more like a media organization than a marketing one. They know that content has a singular job: build a loyal audience of subscribers, whatever that looks like. This engaged B2B tech audience consumes and shares content like “regular” people.

Today’s savvy B2B tech content marketers are jumping on board of the media bandwagon and are injecting their marketing with more storytelling than ever before. But if you’re a traditional marketer or an organization that doesn’t have the millions HP probably spent on this campaign, how can you make the switch? Is there a way you can switch to behave like a media team instead of a marketing team? You bet.

Switching to Storytelling and Content Marketing

There are four ways a traditional B2B tech marketing team can pivot their mindset towards storytelling and content marketing.

  1. Treat your content as a product.
  2. Own your audience.
  3. Seek to retain and influence unique audiences.
  4. Play the long game in your marketing.

1. Treat Your Content as a Product

Treat your tech content marketing like a product - spacebarpressDOTcom

Marketers use content to sell products, which has the value; media companies treat their content as the product, which is where they assign value. The content has value for media companies and drives demand for other products (content).

What to Do Instead

B2B tech marketers should think the same way. Productize your content to drive interest and demand for the products you sell. This might be hard to sell to upper management, since they only want to see the sales and conversion numbers. Focus on the content as the star of the campaign, rather than the product. This will engage your audience and keep them coming back for more content. People want to hear the story of your products, not about the product itself.

2. Own Your Audience

Marketers are used to “renting” audiences on someone else’s platform; media companies own the audiences AND the platform. Nicholas Carr described the act of publishing content on YouTube, Facebook, Lynda.com, Medium, or any other online platform as digital sharecropping.

(It’s) the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few.

Nicholas Carr

Because each of these platforms aggregates content from so many on such a massive scale, it becomes a lucrative business for the platform owners. Each one of them owns the platform and the audience, and is able to monetize it in such a way that they make millions.

HP did the same thing by producing their Wolf short films and hosting them on their own website. The videos and content surrounding the marketing campaign resides on their own website. To find the videos, audiences are directed to their website, not YouTube or elsewhere (at least initially – the videos appear on YouTube as well, but they all point back to the original HP site where they were originally published).

What to Do Instead

B2B tech marketers should use a push-pull distribution model like media companies do. Push content to where people can discover it (social media, TV ads, trade show one-pagers), but don’t stop there. Pull them into your own sites and convert them into email subscribers. This way you’ll be able to produce even more content just for them because they’re your own private audience.

3. Seek to Retain and Influence Unique Audiences

UniqueAudience-spacebarpressDOTcom

Marketers typically strive to increase reach and views/clicks/whatever; media companies seek to influence and retain unique audiences.

This is where content marketing + storytelling can be an asset to B2B tech marketers. With them, marketers can craft really unique content that will attract, engage, and retain audiences time and time again. There’s so much content out there and so much competition for eyeballs that it can be challenging to get screen time with people.

It’s why HP’s The Wolf series was so good. It took a largely bland and boring business security issue (printer security) and made it sexy. They made it apply to a variety of industries and situations so everyone could imagine it impacting them. “Christian Slater’s ability to play a charmingly sinister hacker, combined with his popularity in the cybersecurity world, make him the perfect partner to expose security issues that leave businesses vulnerable to attacks. Stay tuned for how The Wolf story evolves and helps turn threat and vulnerability into HP Secure,” Antonio Lucio, HP Chief Marketing and Communications Officer said in a press release.

What to Do Instead

B2B tech marketers can do the same by using storytelling tactics and conversational copywriting to help bring even the most boring or complex technical topics to their audiences. People will want to hear and read more about it if they’re interested in the story and are drawn in by the writing.

4. Play the Long Game with Your Marketing

Marketers often play it short with their brand campaigns; media companies play the long game. It’s a little easier for media companies as they’re dealing with franchises and series, but B2B tech marketers can do the same thing with their content too. It’s interesting that B2B marketers often miss this idea, considering the length of customer journeys and buying cycles, but they do.

Rena Patel did just that with her content marketing strategy when she was in charge of Capgemini’s digital advertising and branding. She started by creating a website where employees shared their consulting expertise in a brand storytelling format. She made sure the content answered actual customer questions, letting the audience guide the editorial calendar. Patel also discovered that the majority of their audience is on LinkedIn, so she started creating and promoting content there as well.

After one year, the website had driven 1 million new visitors to their main website, generated more than 1.8 million shares of their content on LinkedIn, and created a LinkedIn company page that had 100,000 followers and was adding 3000-4000 more each week. Through Patel’s efforts, in that single year, they generated booked projects of nearly $1 million. – from prospects they wouldn’t have reached the year previously. Not only that, in Year 2, they generated nearly $8 million from the content marketing campaign, which they’d continued. That’s a nearly 10x ROI on their efforts over a two year period! An incredible ROI when a tech marketer started to think like a publisher, isn’t it?

What to Do Instead

B2B tech marketers need to understand that content marketing and good storytelling take time. Upper management needs to understand this too, otherwise they’ll never give you the time and resources you’ll need to create the kind of content and audience your business needs. Think more about audience cultivation and circulation, instead of sales, churns, and other KPIs.

Conclusion

When you think like a publisher and not a marketer, you’re putting your audience first. Your customers and prospects are what drive you to craft compelling content that they’ll eagerly read every time you publish it. When you’re able to make that switch from marketer to publisher, the reason why you’re producing the content becomes clearer. With that focus, you’ll be able to create content so compelling that anyone reading it would get caught up in the material and subscribe to your newsletter (or site, or whatever they can subscribe to). Just imagine the benefits your B2B tech company would enjoy when you have a constantly growing number of subscribers eager to read and share everything you publish. Who wouldn’t want that?

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