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Content Marketing Innovation: The Secrets and Successes of 5 Practitioners


Demand Gen Report’s Content2Conversion had its third year in NYC with close to 400 registrants and more than 300 attendees. The event, hosted by Andrew Gaffney, ran May 6th and 7th where content marketing and demand generation thought leaders presented on content strategy, demand gen and sales enablement. I’ve provided highlights of the event in this post, including “gold nuggets” from 5 content marketing practitioner interviews and 9 conference speakers.

As content marketing must be an intricate part of any marketing team’s nurturing strategy, I’m pleased to see Demand Gen Report moving towards the consolidation of content and demand generation strategies. Here are some key statistics from the conference that help to pull these two themes together:

  • 86% of readers prefer interactive, visual content
  • 64% of buyers want vendors to use more data and research to support their content strategies

To help provide as much value as possible for those of you who could not attend this year’s event – or may have missed these sessions – I’ve pulled together actionable takeaways from five practitioner interviews and 9 speakers at Content2Conversion 2014 from a CMO and content marketing perspective. The following is the list of  interviewees and speakers:

  • Keitha Maciel, Global Solutions Marketing Manager, Verifone @KeithaMaciel
  • Megan Bozman, Marketing Director, Verne Global @MeganBozman
  • Christine Elliott, Content Strategy Leader, Crowe Horwath @Im_Christine44
  • Valerie Kennon, Director Global Integrated Marketing Programs, Qlik @ValKennon
  • Michael Davis, Senior Manager, Digital Marketing, McKesson @mdav1979
  • Pawan Deshpande, CEO, Curata @TweetsFromPawan
  • Brent Adamson, Co-Author The Challenger Sale, CEB @brentadamson
  • Trip Kucera, CMO, Harte Hanks @TripKucera
  • Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions @ardath421
  • Pam Didner, Global Integrated Marketing Strategist, Intel @PamDidner
  • Tony Zambito, Founder, Buyer Persona Blog @TonyZambito
  • Dayna Rothman, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketo @dayroth
  • Jim Lenskold, President, Lenskold Group @JimLenskold
  • Matthew Papertsian, Research Director, SiriusDecisions @MatthewPaper

All insight is sourced, paraphrased and quoted from the respective individuals, except for my personal comments which are in [brackets].

Exclusive Interviews with Content Experts


Keitha Maciel Global Solutions Marketing Manager, VeriFone [Interview] 


  • Verifone is a global provider of electronic payment transaction technology($1.7B+ revenue)
  • The Content Marketing group, which is a part of Verifone’s global corporate marketing team, is responsible for developing and executing the strategy to produce ebooks, slideshares, blog posts and other digital assets. (i.e., they orchestrate the work conducted by other teams in corporate marketing, such as communications/social media and digital marketing(landing pages, web sites, media buying))
  • Although content marketing is a global team, regions can create their own newsletters and infographics to complement the content they leverage from corporate and other regions.
  • They use integrated marketing for their content marketing by choosing a topic relevant to the industry, creating a microsite/landing page and tying in recent events. In addition, they buy media and digital ads to drive traffic. [This is a great example of merging traditional marketing with next generation content and digital marketing.]
  • Campaign = planned set of activities with a common goal. [In their campaigns, some aspects continue and some things start and stop in order to maintain content and message freshness. Large companies need to develop a common campaign theme to coalesce their content team’s goals with their audiences’ needs.]
  • The Content Marketing group taps into expertise across the organization by interviewing subject matter experts(SMEs)(e.g., product marketers) to create premier pieces of content such as ebooks.
  • An ebook is only part of a larger content map which is developed by the Content Marketing group.  Many pieces of content are derived from an ebook, such as articles, blog posts, SlideShare presentations, etc. [This is a similar model to Curata’s Content Marketing Pyramid]
  • Greatest content marketing challenge?. . . Creating message consistency throughout regions
  • Innovative content example: Extensive eBook on the challenges and opportunities in mobile commerce [This eBook is a great example of adding visual elements to long-form content, helping to make it more visually engaging like an infographic or SlideShare presentation.]


  • Future challenge?  Breaking through the noise and overcoming content shock.


Megan Bozman Marketing Director, Verne Global [Interview]


  • Verne Global is a wholesale supplier of green data center space, based in Washington, D.C. and Keflavik, Iceland.
  • As a small company, Verne Global needed to find a cost effective way to reach their audience – enter content marketing.
  • Verne Global built a robust news and opinion site, with curated and created content, that has been the key driver in establishing Verne Global as the leader in green data centers: Green Data Center News/GDCN (
  • Verne’s Green Data Center News results?
    • Saves Verne Global significant $ for outbound marketing, staff and website costs
    • Connects with readers & customers on a daily basis
    • Achieves global recognition as a thought leader
    • Leading referral site of qualified prospective customers to Verne Global, with approximately 15% of traffic sourced from the site to Verne Global.
  • To build on this success, Verne Global is now expanding into a new, vertically aligned news site: Automotive IT news.
    • Automotive IT news is another great example of content marketing innovation: News & views about the technology that designs and drives cars.
    • This vertical approach will enable Verne to get in touch with CIOs across the automotive industry that need data center services.
  • For each site, they publish 5-8 curated articles/day and 1 created post per day. Created posts are internally sourced or written by one of their four freelancers. Freelancers were discovered in part from the authors Megan had curated from for the site. [If you’re thinking about hiring your own freelancers, check out our list of content writing services as well as our content marketing interview questions.]
  • Technology provider for these content marketing portals?. . . Curata (click here to learn more)


Lead Nurture 2.0: Christine Elliott Content Strategy Leader, Crowe Horwath [Interview & Presentation Takeaways]


  • Crowe Horwath is one of the United States’ top public accounting and consulting firms (~2,500 employees)
  • Crowe Horwath is a believer in the need for a content marketing executive, with Christine reporting to their CMO to take on this lead role[43% of organizations today have a content marketing executive in place.]
    • Content Strategy is a newly created virtual team, that will likely become an official, permanent team responsible for brand, messaging, media relations, publishing and all oversight of content development and management.
    • A key to success of this team is to focus resources, to manage all priorities related to content, including an approval process for content development to ensure content is strategically aligned.
  • Content Marketing is a centralized team, providing content for 11 industry horizontals & 5 service lines/businesses. We are not yet fully responsible for developing all content, but we are moving in that direction.
  • “This team is a strategic content partner at the table with our thought leaders to extract expertise, ideation and development.”
  • Christine and her team are shining examples of how content marketing should be intricately connected to marketing’s lead nurturing process:
    • Christine has been blazing this trail for awhile now:  “You can’t nurture leads without content. If the goal of a lead nurture program is to connect with buyers and influence them at every stage of the cycle so they’ll keep your company top of mind, you have to consider what their pain points are, and develop and strategically deliver content that serves their purposes.” (source)
    • There’s a strong link between business strategy, the content marketing team and the digital/Eloqua team.
  • Content Strategy development Steps:
    • Determine target market segmentation
    • ID business drivers – proactive and reactive
    • Evaluate personas/buyer types
    • Discuss buying cycle and critical stages/motivation
    • Conduct competitive content review & audit your content
    • ID content strategies to employ for biggest impact
  • Key questions to ask for mapping buyer types:
    • Key motivations for each buyer at each stage?
    • What questions are buyers asking at each stage?
  • Best-in-class example of a digital piece Dodd-Frank Act: Now is the Time to Prepare for Impact: (source)
    • Spent a lot of time on images [visual content is key success factor for content marketing] in content, but just as importantly with e-comms and landing pages
    • Intentional placement of CTAs
    • Provide opportunity for readers to choose what type of information they’d like to receive as a follow-up
    • 2 types of landing pages: created more engagement points through survey questions (responses captured through Eloqua) and quotes to highlight areas
    • Developed an ad: “Stress testing consult offer for Dodd Frank related work” to engage folks [Innovative opportunity to engage their audience.]
    • Nurture program:  969 participants; 6 tracks; 95 content assets; 13 content types to support the interactions [Use of Eloqua to capture survey questions as part of the engagement/nurturing process]
    • [Primary research is an awesome way to produce relevant, engaging content and turn it into an extended campaign]
  • What’s next for Christine & Crowe Horwath?
    • Nurturing: need more “little n” nurturing. For example, targeting sales opportunities that have died on the vine and figuring out how to resurrect them.


Valerie Kennon Director Global Integrated Marketing Programs, Qlik [Interview]


  • Qlik® is the world leader in Business Discovery and the provider of QlikView®, a self-service business intelligence platform. (~$500M revenue, ~1800 employees)
  • The Qlik content marketing team, which is part of corporate marketing, provides centralized content creation offers.
    • Collaborates with product and industry marketing teams and field marketing.
    • Helps to inform and educate the market with content, in particular, taking a non-egocentric approach to content development.(i.e., audience-based content and not product-based content)
    • Focuses on governance and providing infrastructure for content development, and not taking the role of a content factory.
    • Works with peers across marketing to create and manage the editorial calendar.
    • Identifies how teams can leverage the content that is created by the content marketing team.
  • Created the content council with representation from each group of marketers to determine what customers want/need.
  • Challenges:
    • Organizationally: visibility into who’s creating what, avoid duplication of effort. (The council is a great solution to help resolve this challenge.)
    • Separating product vs. non-product content.
  • Key success factor:  The Qlik content marketing team crowdsources content from across their organization; for example, one of their business intelligence experts, a former Gartner analyst, was their “go to guy” for the ebook, 10 Secrets to Winning with Analytics in 2014.
  • Qlik also “reimagines” content for use in different channels. For example, a successful customer article on data visualization(a hot topic in the BI industry) became an e-book entitled 5 Data Visualization Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them) which was then used for inbound/outbound campaigns as well as a homepage promo on their website. A number of regions also paired that e-book with a webcast on the same topic to drive greater usage and thought leadership.


Michael Davis Senior Manager, Digital Marketing, McKesson [Interview]


  • McKesson is a ~$130B+ healthcare services and IT company
  • Michael Davis leads digital marketing for one of McKesson’s business units, reporting to the group’s VP of marketing
  • Content marketing, responsible for content strategy and related technologies, reports into digital marketing along with the SEO, social media and search engine marketing teams.
  • Michael and his team interact with marketing leaders across their organization to create content in a coordinated manner.
  • The first step for content creation is to develop a strategy. (e.g., ID target audience, develop buyer personas, determine how to create pieces for each buying stage)
  • “We act like traffic cops and a Center of Excellence(COE) team to help groups let them focus less on generating content and more on longer term strategy for content marketing and sales for their own group.” [CoE strategy is very similar to other organizations, such as Adobe’s CoE team per the interview at Social Media Marketing World.]
  • Best-in-class examples of how McKesson creates visually engaging content:
  • Challenges moving forward?
    • Need to continue evangelizing content marketing across the organization, win sales teams with the value of sales enablement. [Content marketing is more than just a digital definition, especially since a lot of people still get their news (and content) off digital spaces.]
    • Need to change culture across a whole organization.

Speaker Take-Aways


Content Curation in Action: Pawan Deshpande CEO, Curata 


  • Content marketing increase: 93% of organizations are using content marketing and 71% plan to increase their content marketing budget this year
    • Challenge: how to differentiate and break through the noise in the online publishing industry
  • Content curation defined: Content curation is the act of consistently finding, organizing, annotating and sharing the most relevant and highest quality content on a specific topic for a target market.
  • Best-in-class content marketing mix :
    • 65% created content
    • 25% curated content
  • IBM saw a 291 percent increase in social referral traffic due to a more dynamic site with curated content
  • Content curation impact:
    • 63% saw an increase in brand awareness
      • 55% saw an increase in thought leadership
      • 41% saw an increase in quantity/quality of leads
  • Curation in action best-in-class examples:
  • Most popular curation channels: social media, blogs, newsletters
  • Content curation is ethical when done right
    • Give more than you take
    • Share only a portion of the original article
    • Give proper attribution to sources
    • Drive visitors to the original publication
    • Retitle and use new images
  • Add value when curating with annotation
    • Abstract
    • Retitle
    • Quote
    • Parallelize
    • Storyboard
    • Summarize


Challenger Marketing: Succeeding in Today’s B2B Battleground – Brent Adamson Co-Author of The Challenger Sales, CEB


  • Challenger sale–> sales folks need to teach versus simply sell
  • Sales needs content from marketing to help (i.e., sales enablement)
  • Key part for marketing in the Challenger Sales model is to:
    • Create a content ecosystem
    • Rethink lead management
    • Measure success
  • Customer Centricity. . . It all made sense. . . but:
    • Buying process changed –> customers can learn on their own
    • Buyers are 57% through buying process before calling sales [Check out The Buyer’s Journey Demystified by Forrester for more insight.]
    • Competitors aren’t driving commoditization, our own customers are
  • How do we compete vs. our own customers and their ability to learn?. . we need to disrupt that learning journey, and be part of the process.
  • What changes customers’ direction?
    • Teaching customers about their business needs/challenges
    • Providing customers compelling reasons to take action
  • “Understand your customer’s business better than they know it themselves.”
  • Check out Brent’s book, The Challenger Sale, for more information on his topic


The Content Continuum: Winning the Hidden Sales Cycle with the Right Answer – Trip Kucera VP of Client Success and CMO-in-Residence, Harte Hanks’ Data & Content Solutions Group


  • 80% of content marketers have some type of content marketing initiative in place, but how do you differentiate in this world?
  • 3 Fs of content success:
  • Best in Class folks:
    • Produce high quality content
    • Track # of qualified leads generated by content marketing efforts
  • Buyers’ critical questions that you need to answer [Use these questions across your content marketing pyramid – blog posts, eBooks, infographics, etc.]
    • Discovery:
      • What don’t I know?
      • How can I be successful at my work?
      • What skills do I need to be competitive?
    • Evaluation:
      • Who can help me solve this problem?
      • How can I reduce risk, maximize ROI? (content: ROI related)
    • Selection:
      • How will I succeed? Are we making the right choice?


Moving the Needle with Content Marketing: Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions, Inc.


  • Key question for you to ask yourself:  How are you different . . . what’s your distinct value?
  • Personas. . . yes, they are important, regardless of how much bad press they’re getting
    • “Composite sketch of a target market based on commonalities relevant to what they care about that you can act upon.”
    • Personas must be an active part of your team’s toolset.
  • Stories and campaigns: These must not be a one time event. . . they must be a continuum.
  • Metrics: Use them to determine progress and/or opportunities for improvement
    • Engagement: time spent on content, viewing “see also” content, frequency, self-propelled vs. click driven
    • Response: replies to messaging, posts, shares
    • Intent: leads that progress from stage to stage, and/or result in a sales conversation
  • Check out Ardath’s book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale


Repurpose, Reuse, Refresh: Pam Didner Global Integrated Marketing Strategist, Intel


  • Don’t do “campaigns” for content marketing since they typically have a start and finish date.  Content strategy must be a continuum.
  • Key editorial topics that drive Intel’s content = Mobility, Cloud, Big Data and Product Launches
  • How to better understand your audience?. . . conduct:
    • buyer & keyword research
    • interviews
    • social listening
  • Steps to take before creating content:
    • Personas
      • Create personas for all the rules on the buying process, but only market to a subset of them.
      • Include insight about the persona’s key challenges, and desires.
      • Determine where they consume content and in what format.
    • Budget
      • Prioritize your channels based on your available budget: Be focused.  You can’t please everyone.  You can’t go everywhere your audience is.
    • Editorial calendar
      • Strategic editorial topic needs to be very broad, on a monthly and yearly basis.  For tactic editorial topics, your calendar should be weekly, daily or even hourly (for social channels).
    • Curation
      • Curated content may not perform as well as original content for number of clicks, but it’s just as important to publish it.
    • Repurposing
      • Take one piece of content and dive into many different smaller pieces of content.
    • Next steps
      • Evaluate your content and perform an audit to see what can be repurposed.
  • To find freelancers: Use fiverr/tenrr, but quality is not guaranteed. (check out this ultimate list of content writing services)
  • Curate content to complement your created content. Check out Curata for curation success.
  • Check out more insights from Pam on her blog and in her new book Global Content Marketing.


How to Use Buyer Personas To Create Content That Matters to Buyers: Tony Zambito Buyer Persona Blog


  • Buyer personas:
    • Archetypal representations based on research with real people and customers.
    • Not a buyer profile.
  • Buyer personas represent a communication platform to help the rest of your organization know your customers and enablement better interactions with them.
  • Stop the insanity, avoid mathematical profiling with personas, focus!
  • Check out Tony’s eBooks for more insight into understanding your buyers.


Content for Lead Generation: Dayna Rothman Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketo   


  • Content themes and arcs: product releases, new services, new trends, hot topics
  • Don’t gate early and late stage content, but do gate mid-stage content.
  • Marketo creates one definitive guide per month, then repurposes that piece into webinars, ebooks, infographics, etc [Use the content marketing pyramid as a framework for repurposing content.]
  • SlideShare is a great way to create and share visually engaging content. [check out Todd Wheatland’s expert tips on using SlideShare for business]
  • Use $ incentives to encourage members of your organization to contribute to your blog
  • Content should always aim to be educational, not salesy 
  • To get the most out of your content, check out Dayna’s book Lead Generation for Dummies 


Measuring Content’s Contribution & Effectiveness: Jim Lenskold President, Lenskold Group


  • Management challenges: the impact of content is measured by lead generation metrics;  measures are more tactical; and single attribution measurements miss critical multi-contact benefits.
  • Measure content marketing impact per 5 areas: 
    • Differentiation: brand ratings
    • Engagement: re-engagement, lead and sales conversions
    • Education: content influence/ave. value per sale
    • Intelligence(for sales team): change in sales conversion rate, sales velocity
    • User experience: customer retention, perception ratings
  • Not all content should be for the same purpose, brand content is different than demand generation content
    • When comparing wins & losses, do you see different types of content being used?
    • Examine content combinations, order and frequency for multi-contact campaigns
  • Look beyond engagement and lead quality – some content has high engagement, but those readers never become leads
  • For more on content marketing ROI, read Jim’s book, Marketing ROI


Developing a Content Architecture: Mathew Papertsian Research Director, Demand Creation Strategies, Sirius Decisions


  • B2B is like sunken treasure. . has a lot of value, but takes a lot of work; and people aren’t willing to hold their breath to find the value content and make it more easily accessible.
  • 70% of B2B content is never used to close a deal.
  • Take a demand perspective to drive content effectiveness: 
    • Target and offer alignment;
    • Determine when to engage;
    • Discover what buyers are seeking;
    • Align conversation with buyer needs;
    • Scale the content process; and
    • Track and measure effectiveness.
  • SiriusDecisions content inventory framework


  • A reminder, consider buying cycle for Content Marketing creation: Education, Solution, Selection
  • Discover what buyers are seeking
    • Engage in “deal forensics” by leveraging touch analysis. . . helps move from personas based on assumptions to those based on data. [Jim Lenskold hit this point well in his recommendation to analyze how many of your 1st touch leads are reengaging, and with what types of content?]
      • Develop buyer journey maps to sequence content.
      • Align tactics, content & formats to buyer preferences, modify personas.
  • Hear the latest on content marketing from SiriusDeicsions at the their upcoming Summit(refer to Content Marketing Attendees to Meet).


Find this wrap-up useful? Check out these other resources for more event insights:

Or contact us directly to learn how Curata’s content marketing and curation software can help feed your content beast.

Michael Gerard

Michael was CMO of Curata, responsible for Curata’s marketing strategy and all related activities. He has over 25 years of marketing and sales experience, having successfully launched and sustained three start-up ventures as well as having driven innovative customer creation strategies for large technology organizations such as IDC, Kenan Systems, Prospero (mZinga) and Millipore. Michael received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as a BS in Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and an MS in Engineering from Northeastern University.

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