As more and more people tune out from traditional advertising, businesses find themselves striving to reach customers in new ways. A logical place to start is on social media, where many of us spend a significant part of our day. Enter content marketing:
a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Stantec, an international professional services company in the design and consulting industry, is one example of a company that’s using content marketing, in the form of blogs, to reach its target markets effectively.
The company has a well-developed editorial process that leverages employee experience for its blogs. Together, technical experts and marketing professionals create and disseminate powerful (and useful) stories that attract potential clients and win new business.
The biggest reason for blogging? It works (when you do it right)
Research shows that business-to-business (B2B) buyers rely on content more and more to help them conduct research and make purchasing decisions. (Demand Gen Report, 2014). And content. It’s also estimated that content marketing produces triple the number of leads as traditional marketing (Source: Marketeer)
But content by itself is not enough. There are two important factors to be considered:
- Content must have value
As Jodi Harris describes in a recent blog post for The Content Marketing Institute,
Consumers want to trust their information sources and are increasingly expecting that content be rigorously researched, factually accurate, and worthy of their time and attention – meaning that it helps them make better decisions and confidently complete the tasks they need to get done. (Harris, 2016)
- Content must be produced regularly
When inbound marketing and sales software firm HubSpot surveyed B2B companies in 2015, it found that organizations that blogged more than 11 times a month had almost 3 times more traffic and 4 times more leads that those that blogged 0 to 2 times a month.
Meeting these two challenges is not easy. In fact, in its 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the Content Marketing Institute found that producing engaging content and producing content consistently were 2 of the top 5 marketing challenges B2Bs said they were facing.
How Stantec is doing it right
Stantec’s blogs are a cornerstone of the company’s content marketing strategy. In posts spanning 17 categories, Stantec experts “share their personal ideas and insights on the trends, challenges, innovations, and best practices shaping [their industries].”
Recent posts include projects to improve water access for wildlife in Nevada, designing for indigenous health care and the benefits of artificial turf in sports facilities. No matter what kind of design project clients are looking for, they’re likely to find relevant information in Stantec’s blogs.
“Stantec started content marketing about two years ago,” says Jennifer Young, a water resources engineer at the Waterloo, Ontario office. (J. Young, personal communication, October 14, 2017).
“We were one of the first engineering firms to embrace content marketing.”
Jennifer specializes in Low Impact Development (LID), Green Infrastructure (GI) and integrated stormwater management planning, processes that allow to be developed while keeping watersheds healthy.
“Because LID and GI are emerging technologies, our marketing team asked me to write about them.”
Stantec’s editorial process
Stantec’s content strategy focuses on positioning its practitioners as thought leaders in their particular disciplines whom clients can rely on to provide valuable insights and expertise. The main objective is to drive readers to the website for more information on the services that Stantec can offer them.
To help ensure that company goals and reader needs are aligned, each Stantec expert is assigned a marketing professional who collaborates with them during the blogging process. Jennifer works with Marketing Specialist Courtney Coobs. (C. Coobs, personal communication, October 14, 2017).
“At the very beginning of the process, the marketing team identifies a topic and the reason for doing a blog post,” Courtney says.
“We provide the practitioners with a blogging guide and ask them to develop the first draft of a post. The we work with the practitioners to refine the posts.”
Or in Jennifer’s words, “They take it and make it 200% better.”
“We never want our practitioners to feel that they have to ‘dumb it down,'” Courtney adds, “but we will work together to create posts that the average reader can understand.”
Creating readable material is especially important since business partners who are responsible for making business purchases are not necessarily engineers themselves.
For experts who aren’t comfortable with blogging, the marketing specialists will find other ways to generate content.
“We might conduct a Q and A interview and then use the conversation as the basis for a blog. Or we might repurpose slide decks from conferences or voiceovers from presentations,” Courtney says.
The process doesn’t end when the blog is posted.
Public relations staff will create content based on the blog that Stantec experts can will be posted on a range of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Videos, like this one featuring Jennifer and engineering professor Bill Hunt, also extend the life and reach of the blog post.
There are a number of different metrics marketers use to determine whether a blog is successful, including the number of people who read the posts and the number of leads generated.
Although Stantec doesn’t publicize the traffic its blogs get, for Jennifer the attention her blog posts generate is well worth the effort.
“My first blog got 900 views – Not a bad return for two or three hours work.”
“And it’s not unusual for me to get calls from potential clients who’ve read the blog.”
Lessons for Others
Stantec demonstrates how companies can ensure quality, consistency and volume in employee-generated content marketing. Their best practices include:
Developing a formal editorial process to ensure high-quality content. Stantec’s process leverages the expertise of both practitioners and marketing professionals to ensure readability and consistency.
Mining existing content for blog posts. Stantec’s marketing staff draw on a wide range of materials, including slide decks, conference notes, Q and A sessions to create blogs when practitioners are unavailable to blog.
Extending content’s shelf life by repurposing it for other channels. Stantec’s public relations staff adapts content that can be pushed out via Twitter, FB, Instagram and YouTuvbe.
Remembering that one size doesn’t fit all. Stantec addresses the information needs of a wide variety of customers by highlighting content from all of its disciplines, with blog subjects ranging from designing for senior care to urban archeology.
Industry: Architectural, engineering, and environmental design and consulting
Name of Organization Contact: Courtney Coobs, Jennifer Young
Authored by: Beth Bohnert
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Content Marketing Institute. (n.d.). What is content marketing? Retrieved from http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/ on October 22, 2017.
Taylor, G. (2014, June 11). B2B content preferences survey: Buyers want short, visual, mobile-optimized content. Retrieved from https://www.demandgenreport.com/industry-topics/content-strategies/2746-b2b-content-preferences-survey-buyers-want-short-visual-mobile-optimized-content.html#.VHS_qIvF8xJ on October 20, 2017.
Kapost. (2012). Content marketing ROI. Retrieved from http://marketeer.kapost.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Content-Marketing-Kapost-Eloqua-eBook.pdf on October 21, 2017
Harris, J. (2017, January 11). Blogging trends that bring content marketing down to business. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2017/01/blogging-trends-content-marketing on October 19, 2017.
HubSpot. (2015). The ultimate list of blog statistics. Retrieved from https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics?version=published on October 21, 2017.
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Vittori, J. (2017, October 18). Work and wildlife: combining passions for the outdoors to give animals access to water. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.stantec.com/blog/2017/wildlife-water-volunteer.html on October 20, 2017.
Raber, B. (2017, October 17). Indigenous healthcare: A conversation, part 1. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.stantec.com/blog/2017/indigenous-healthcare-inclusive-respectful.html#.WeotfEwZOL8 on October 20, 2017.
Bendo, S. (2017, October 11). Play on: how to get the most out of your sports field with artificial turf. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.stantec.com/blog/2017/artificial-turf-sports-fields.html#.WepRVUwZOL8 on October 20, 2017.
Young, 6. (2017, June 29). Five facts you need to know about Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Infrastructure (GI). [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.stantec.com/blog/2016/five-facts-you-need-to-know-about-lid-and-gi.html#.WeokT0wZOL8 on October 14, 2017.
Stantec. (2017, March 27). Why use Low Impact Development (LID) and Green Infrastructure (GI) designs? Retrieved from http://www.stantec.com/video/2017/why-use-lid-and-green-infrastructure.html#.WeonQEwZOL8 on October 14, 2017.
Georgieva, M. (2017, October 22). 5 critical Metrics to measure business blog performance. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29315/5-critical-metrics-to-measure-business-blog-performance.aspx on October 22, 2017.