Getting B2B Content Marketing on the Payroll

I’m on the phone the other day with my friend John Hall of Influence & Co and casually ask, “Do you know any Chicago-based wizards of content marketing that would be good panelists?” [My inquiry was anything but casual in that I’m emceeing the first day of Incite’s Content Marketing Summit and I’m a stickler for getting sharp and articulate panelists thus making my role a whole lot easier.] Anyway, back to the story. John suggests Charlie Breit, VP of Marketing at SurePayroll, a division of Paychex, and I have to say I was initially skeptical since this particular category is not, at least in my mind, inherently scintillating. Of course, I should know better than to” judge a book by its cover” and as you will see in our interview below, not only does Charlie know his stuff but also his approach is truly inspiring. Read on — this particular interview definitely pays dividends right to the last!

Drew: How important is content to your overall marketing strategy? What role does is play in the overall mix?

Content is a key strategic pillar for us within our marketing strategy.  Two-thirds of our new customers are either new small businesses (or households with Nanny Payroll) or new to payroll solutions (and also only have 1 – 4 employees), so they are usually not very familiar or knowledgeable about the ins and outs of taxes, payroll, etc.  Also many are new small business owners, so they are also trying to get their business up and running and often times can be overwhelmed by everything they need to do.  We see ourselves as a strategic partner that helps business owners simplify an aspect of their business that at times can seem difficult and hard to understand – but it doesn’t just begin and end with our payroll software.

Our content marketing program is a way that we can help all of our customers learn about taxes, payroll and running a business.  As a whole – our customers want a solution that is low-touch and software that they can manage on their own – with little help/inquiry to our service team as needed.  Content is a way that we can help educate our customers and provide them the support they need to be more successful in their business and help them get a better handle on taxes, payroll, etc. as they grow and develop as a business.  Content is something they can access and consume on their own time, which aligns to our main product/service.

We use content throughout all phases of our marketing program and mix – to help with acquisition to retention to advocacy.  We’re also looking at how we can develop content to improve our overall experience and support our Sales and Service interactions – everything from mining what topics come up in these interactions and building content to support our customers and prospects having a better understanding of the process and what is expected to helping them achieve their desired outcome without a call to using content as a pro-active follow up to make sure the customer/prospect has the right information.

Drew: Do you have a specific strategy for content? 

We are currently evolving our content strategy.  Initially, content was developed to supplement SEO and drive acquisition traffic and therefore content was developed around keyword and search opportunity. We are moving to a strategy that assess our small business owner and household customers’ needs and then developing content that will be designed to be self service and offer depth and breadth on topics that are important for our customers.  We will no longer chase keywords and search traffic, but instead look to use content to improve the value that we deliver our customers and increase the usefulness/utility that we provide.  As a result – content will also become more effective for retention and for deepening our relationship and engagement with our customers.

Drew: How do measure its effectiveness? 

The old strategy measured effectiveness through traffic driven to our site, leads generated and sales.  As part of our strategic move – gross volumes no longer are relevant, but instead we’ll look at success metrics focused on our target segments. We will still look at our acquisition funnel and see how our content supports acquisition, but in terms of our target market and not just gross volumes.  We’ll also look at retention rates for customers who engaged our content vs. customers who didn’t and our overall satisfaction with our customer experience (e.g. CSAT, NPS).  In addition – we’ll see if our other success metrics improve as we begin to implement our new content strategy.  Also from a measurement standpoint – we are moving towards looking at the effect of content over a longer term period and not just how it drives an immediate action.  We’re still determining metrics to measure this – but the goal is to better understand the long term impact of content and not just measure views, shares and leads generated when the content is released.

Drew: Is there a particular content program you have initiated in the last couple of years that you’re particularly proud of? 

Our SurePayroll blog is a great starting point for our content program as well as our Small Business Scorecard.  Both of these initiatives are focused on providing small business owners with content that is helpful as they are starting and building their business.  The Small Business Scorecard gives small business owners factual information about other businesses their size to help them benchmark and see what others like them are doing.  The blog has begun to bring a full breadth of content to our digital experience and look to be more helpful/useful than just try to sell something.  Both of these initiatives were originally started to improve SEO and drive traffic, but also helped provided small business owners with valuable content that helped them beyond just buying our product, so while we are pivoting the strategy – these are both initiatives that will be solid building blocks for our content program in the future.

Drew: With every business recognizing the need for content, how have you made sure that your content stands out from the pack?

First, we developed a brand story that provides us a starting point for what we are about and how we fit in with our target audience.  From there – we began to develop our brand voice and philosophy for how we want to align with our audience and how we could deliver value that was in context of our clients’ needs.  In the past – content was developed to chase keywords and traffic, so the only reason that content was aligned to what we do is that the traffic needed to have an interest in our solution at some basic level.  This meant that from an audience perspective there was really no rhyme or reason to why we developed the content that we did.  Content was optimized based on what worked, but “what worked” was driven by gross volume metrics.  In our new paradigm – we are looking at developing content from our strengths in the business and in alignment with “who we are” and “why we do it” of our brand.  This unique perspective and our commitment to being aligned to our audience’s needs provides us with a platform for standing out.  Our goal isn’t to be all things to all people, but a resource that our target audience would find useful and relatable too – and ultimately stand out from all other sources for this group – because we are focused on delivering value through our content  that is targeted to their needs and viewpoints.

Drew: If you were talking to someone new to content marketing, what would you say are the three keys to building a successful program?

  1. Target your desired audience:  Know who you want to connect and engage with and get to know them as well as you can – so that you can provide value to them in context of what they need and desire.
  2. Deliver value: Find ways to deliver value in all of your content.  Value is based on perception, so find ways to simplify, add utility or be useful that means a lot to your target audience – even if the general public doesn’t necessarily find value in what you are delivering.
  3. Be reliable: Consistently deliver content that is in the same voice, provides value and is something your audience knows will be there.  Content marketing should not be a flash in the pan project, but a commitment to the long haul.  How often or through what delivery vehicles/channels depends on your audience’s needs and wants, but your audience should know that they can rely on you to be consistent with what you deliver.

Drew: Are there brands out there that you think are doing a particularly great job with content?  If so, what do you like about their efforts?

The classic examples of brands using content very well to build community and passion for their brand is Red Bull and Disney.  As a consumer with young kids – Disney’s content has been extremely useful as we have planned our trips to Disney World.  We’ve extensively used their videos to have a better feel for what things are and aren’t to plan the trip and help us have a better experience.  Red Bull has done a great job for a while of connecting with their niche audience and developing content and being a part of experiences that are directly tied to their customers’ lifestyle.  They are targeted to their fans and their fans love all of it.  Also from a consumer perspective – I’ve been impressed with Home Depot’s content program and have found it very helpful as I try to tackle projects around the house.  They’ve done a great job of providing value beyond just being the place that I can buy supplies and tools.  Their content has been very helpful in better understanding what it would take to do a project right and sometimes shown me that it’s beyond my skill level and not worth starting at all.  I think the key denominator in my examples is that the content is directed at a particular audience and provides value or is useful in a way that’s not about buying something directly – but provides value in context of the relationship that I have with the brand.

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