Marketo’s Ebook: A Lesson In Content Marketing

When marketing automation vendor Marketo released their “Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing” last week they knew pretty quickly they had a hit on their hands. Within 6 hours, 1,000 people had registered and downloaded the guide. Think about it: that’s 1,000 sales leads (and make no mistake, that’s what they are) in less than a day. To date, the company says the count is up to 1,700 and still climbing.

Not everyone can turn out a 38-page white paper on demand, but yet Marketo’s success story offers some compelling lessons that most any B2B technology marketer should take to heart:

1. The offer is the campaign.

Tell me if this sounds familiar … your boss asks you to launch a demand generation campaign, on very short notice, focused on a creative theme, or a new product, or a target vertical. Everyone is bubbling over with ideas for taglines, media venues, and tactics. When it comes time to choose the offer (and only because the creative brief forces you to name one), you survey existing collateral and cobble together a motley assortment of content that has all been available on the corporate Website for the last 6 months. The campaign disappoints. Well duh.

In Marketo’s case, rather than the offer being an afterthought – something to plug in at the last moment because the landing page needs to be live in 3 days – the offer was the campaign’s raison d’être. Marketo noted a void in the market – practical, lead nurturing advice – and rushed to fill it. For their efforts (the guide was a lot of work), they’re now engaged with more than 1,700 marketing professionals all with an active interest in increasing the effectiveness of lead nurturing – precisely what Marketo software enables them to do.

Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on media buys attempting to drive leads from bad offers. Think about how more effective those campaigns (and those media buys) could be if some of that money were invested in original, compelling content.

2. Don’t be afraid of longer white papers.

Marketo’s guide is 38 pages long. And not your end-of-year-term-paper-with-2-inch-margins 38 pages either. There’s a lot of stuff here. How often have you heard preached that no-one will read a white paper more than 6 pages? Rubbish. If the content is compelling, not only will people read longer content, they’ll rush to it. If anything, the length of Marketo’s guide increases the perceived value of the content, not diminishes it.

3. There’s nothing (inherently) wrong with self-authored content.

Marketo is a start-up, albeit a well-funded and highly successful one. Many companies in their situation would have automatically paid a third party analyst tens of thousands of dollars to write a white paper and add some name value (and, so the argument goes, credibility) to the content.

In contrast, the lead nurturing guide is Marketo-branded throughout, and makes no apologies for it. Of note – nowhere in the guide does the content sing the praises of the company’s software. But you can’t help but come away from the ebook thinking that these people know something about the topic.

Nothing against analysts – they’re bright people – and there are plenty of circumstances in which the logo of a reputable analyst or research firm on your white paper or Webinar will pay plenty of dividends. But there are also circumstances where paying for third party authorship is driven by either 1) a lack of bandwidth or resources, or 2) the conviction that self-authored content will automatically be dismissed either because “no-one has heard of us” or “people will assume it’s a brochure for our product.”

Marketo’s book is a shining example of how the effort required to create original content can be worth it, and that smart, quality, engaging information will attract sales leads no matter whose logo appears on the cover.

4. Leverage social media.

From all appearances (and OK, according to trusted sources), Marketo has invested little if any to date on outbound, pay-to-play marketing in support of the guide.

Upon launch, they emailed their database, put out a press release, added the ebook to their SEM ads, and (significantly) reached out aggressively to bloggers and B2B marketing thought leaders. I was one of those contacted, and I wrote freely about the guide in this space and on Twitter, not just because Marketo is a partner of ours, but because this was valuable content that I felt our readers should know about.

In 6 days since the guide’s launch, “definitive guide to lead nurturing” has appeared on Twitter 38 times by my count, representing thousands of “followers” exposed to Marketo’s message. Granted, it’s not on the level of Paula leaving Idol, but that amount of free publicity underlines the enormous demand generation potential of social media, of building a network of willing content partners, and of viral marketing in general.

In the days and weeks to come, Marketo may yet place the ebook on content syndication networks, sponsor third party newsletters, rent email lists, and advertise on B2B sites, but so far, they haven’t had to. And that’s an intriguing lesson that should make media sales reps everywhere very nervous.

[For more information on how to choose the right offer for your demand generation campaign, download a free copy of our white paper (sorry, it’s only 11 pages): “How to Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers.”]

3 thoughts on “Marketo’s Ebook: A Lesson In Content Marketing

  1. Dharmesh Shah

    Brilliantly done.

    Kudos to the Marketo folks for sharing their expertise as a way to drive interest and leads. This approach has worked well for us at HubSpot as well — we’re big fans of the model.

  2. Maria Pergolino

    Thanks for this post Howard. We (Marketo) believe in the power of creating good and useful information. Also, this may have been published by Marketo, but it is the lessons learned by over 200 awesome customers all doing amazing things with their own nurturing programs.

    Dharmesh – thanks for the positive comments!

  3. Jon Miller, Marketo

    Another great statistic from this campaign: more than 700 people have signed up for our webinar on this topic, and the only promotion we’ve done is offer it to people who downloaded the Definitive Guide.

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