Arms tied behind my back, if I could do only one marketing activity it'd be this

If I was allowed just one marketing activity – it would be customer interviews.

Not just any customer interview - a customer interview process whereby you leverage those interviews as content across all stages of the buying process. 

Here’s how I approach these:

Step 1 – Work with customer success team to identify customers to interview – could be as soon as when customers have completed successful on-boarding

Step 2 – Interview the customer over the phone (usually 30-45 mins). Questions go back to how the customer knew they had a problem they needed to solve, who did they involve in the decision, how did they talk about the problem, how did they find your company – straight through to how they implemented it, and what benefits they are seeing or expecting to see.

Step 3 – Edit into a conversation style interview, provide to customer to edit/approve, publish & promote (about an hr, plus promotion).

So in less than 2 hours you have quality content, in the customer's language, authentically speaking to all stages of the buying process.

These are some recent examples from Bedrock Data:

Now why would I choose this as the one and only?  It just does so many positive things.  Here are eight ways these help you:

#1 – Credibility content for sales

Great content for sales team to use to build credibility around specific use cases – in Bedrock Data’s case you are trying to integrate say, HubSpot and NetSuite – here’s an interview we did with our customer talking about how they approached the project, some of the challenges they faced and how they got around it.

Providing prospects with content that is relevant to specific to their situation – both in the problem they are trying to solve and the types of questions they would like to answer –is the best way to deliver value to your prospect while also overcoming the natural, and ever growing, lack of trust for vendor written content.

#2 – Conversational content to help prospects move through buying process

To that point of mistrust for vendor content, I find prospects are much more likely relate to the conversational style Q&A format of these articles, then overproduced case study templates. There is a true authenticity to the content which helps to break through the skepticism towards vendor content. And, ironically, it’s much faster to pump out these Q&A style articles then it would be to format into “traditional” case studies.

#3 – Proof points for website

These interviews cover every stage of the buying process, including questions around how the company helped the customer. These quotes become great proof point quotes to sprinkle into a website. You get them as a byproduct of conducting the interview and producing the content.

#4 – Quality SEO content

Each of these articles is keyword rich content, speaking to the problems your company solves. Using that word authentic again, they are an authentic way build out quality content as part of your SEO strategy.

#5 – Long form content to mine from / repurpose

Since the articles themselves are approved, published interviews – they create an asset for you for your marketing team to mine and pull from over time. As you add more team members, even interns, they can easily repurpose fro the topics covered in these articles – e.g. a composite piece on a specific topic, or a specific pull quote to address a specific prospect’s question down the road.

#6 – Helps create customer advocates

I’ve found the customers really appreciate the process of being interviewed, and then seeing their experience packaged up into an article. Oftentimes it gives something they can share internally with colleagues as a way to demonstrate the success they have had in the engagement.

Nearly all of the people I’ve interviewed have been happy to serve as reference accounts for Bedrock Data, and have helped to spread positive word about the company through word of mouth – references, webinars, events and social media.

#7 – Build out your buying journey map and customer specific semantics

The interviews also serve as continuous, first-party research to keep your pulse on the customer buying journey, Whether formal or informal, you can continuously evolve your understanding of the buyer journey. This interviews also serve as launching points for keyword ideas, customer stories for sales conversations and topics for other marketing programs.

#8 – It’s fun and rewarding

Lastly this work has been tremendously fun and rewarding. It comes across as a major win-win for everyone involved.

Bedrock Data benefits from the customer stories and customer advocates.

And every time I’ve felt that the customer gets a lot out of it, including as I already mentioned a testimonial of sorts for their own project for them to share.  I’ve been thrilled to see customers being so engaged by the experience that, without solicitation, they continued to spread the word about Bedrock Data. =

For example Luque Wang repurposed his article in this LinkedIn post, and Amanda Daume packaged her interview into an article on her own blog here

Not too shabby for less than two hours of work, right?

On NoMQLs, soft paywalls, PQLs and the winning demand gen formula

The great Scott Brinker recently took an “end of forms” blog post by Drift (startup from the also great David Cancel, whom HubSpot has to thank for their Gen 2 product reaching prime time) and coined this the NoMQL movement.  In short it’s:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away
  • Let your prospect self-educate and continue to consume your great content….
  •  … and they’ll seek you out when they are ready to try your product

Here’s my take on this:

The concept is sound but it’s too extreme. With the gated vs. non-gated content debate, I’ve always said you need to do both and that applies here too. 

I’d rather land on a model akin to soft paywalls of online publishers that goes like this:

  • Produce great content
  • Give it away  to start … and…. Ensure there are conversion paths as prospects move through the buying process. For example:
  • Article that introduces a topic (for free) and as prospect goes deeper into a detailed guide require some info capture
  • Give away a certain number of articles per month and then require info capture on a certain number of articles or specific “later stage” content

I’d also add another wrinkle which is ensure “later stage” content is promoting Free Trial or Freemium product trials. Another compelling trend in the demand gen circuit of late is the Product Qualified Lead or PQL (blurb here from OpenView Labs).  This dovetails well with the above as it says diligently focus on your free trial experience AND analytics such that:

  • Free Trial/Freemium become a strong pathway for purchase
  • Analytics on in-product usage allow you to monitor prospects through key product ‘gates’
  • Such that you can nurture prospects with content to best support the trial experience
  • And this product usage becomes a key element (along with other scoring criteria such as target demongraphics) in qualifying leads for sales, hence the “PQL” moniker

Not a surprise but the winners will be those who:

  • Maniacally define their target audience (company criteria, roles)
  • Maniacally work with customers to understand the buying process – how it started, who was involved, the questions asked, where they went for information -- and document it
  • Consistently product quality content to attract and engage this target audience – balancing quantity and quality (video content is increasingly effective)
  • Employ strategies to convert this audience at the right point in the buying process, and leverage SDR/Sales teams to build a relationship with prospects and accelerate them through the buying process (first in has an advantage - and does usually win)
  • Have engaging trial product experiences with the analytics and process to both nurture and qualify for sales
  • Have a bevy of customer stories aligned to each stage of the buying process to support the above process (ranging from “Why Change?” to “Why Now?” to “Why Us?”), delivered through blog, website and sales enablement

Did I miss anything?


When is a Blog More Than a Blog, Let's Count the Ways

The value of a company's blog in delivering a steady stream of topical, keyword-rich content for a company’s website to support its inbound marketing strategy (and inbound web traffic) has been well documented and is generally well understood.

But it may not be the most significant benefit a business gets from its blog, especially in the early going.

The blog as a vehicle for low friction, high volume content creation is potentially even more valuable, especially in the first 1-2 years where the blogging program will likely not cause a significant spike in web traffic.

TechValidate has done multiple studies on the challenges of content marketing, and top challenges for the creation of content include “takes too much time” and “too labor intensive.” By providing a medium for more “bite size” content without as heavy an approval process, many business have proven they can produce blog content at a much faster pace than other types of content deliverables such as white papers.

So the true value of the blog extends beyond the incremental inbound web traffic to leveraging the blog as a feeder to other content deliverables. These are 4 Ways to Leverage your Blog, Outside of your Blog that you may not be doing today.

1.       Create a monthly “Top 5 Blog articles” for customers or prospects

Instead of investing time in e-newsletters, you can link to “best of your blog” via email and tailor the articles you choose based on the audience. Apply the time spent creating a newsletter to other content creation activities while generating more audience for the blog.

2.       Create a quarterly Journal or Complication of Articles

Although blogs tend to be short form as standalone articles, if you combine 4-8 articles on related topics (e.g. by topic, vertical) you should end up with an impressive overview looking at a core topic from multiple vantage points. Lay this out into a document and then this can become a higher value asset you leverage for demand generation – content syndication, email offer, website resources – that otherwise might take you several months to produce.

Packaging it as a journal or compilation should also raise the perceived value of the content from “just a blog” for part of your audience.

3.       Lead Nurturing Content

Don’t overthink your content requirements for lead nurturing. If you have a blog on a specific topic, that is a great asset type to include as part of your lead nurturing. With the high volume of content required for lead nurturing, leveraging blog articles is a great way to feed the content beast.

4.       Package for Sales

Mine your blog for articles that sales can leverage… e.g. articles that speak to a specific customer objection, or perhaps those that tell the ROI story. The blog can be a great forum for sales to deliver credible content without as high a formality bar… maybe you don’t have a formal ROI model but you have a blog article with an Analyst discussing approach to ROI.

Sales can get immense value from blog articles but they will need to be “spoon fed” to the sales team with clear direction on when to use them.


So where are you reading this article about ways to leverage your blog, outside of your blog?  If it’s not on-page via an inbound search, now that would be very meta, wouldn’t it?