Editor’s note: We’re sharing insights from Content Marketer of the Year finalists in the blog before we announce the winner at Content Marketing World in September. This is the first year we will name a Content Marketer of the Year in two categories – B2B and B2C.
All content, all the time. If that’s not Heike Young’s personal slogan, it probably should be. Print. Digital. Audio. Video. Research. Blogs. Podcasts. Webinars. In-person events.
Every piece she creates reflects a research-driven focus on the customer and fits into a cross-platform plan supported by her homegrown toolkit for employee engagement. Her work at Salesforce, where she’s senior manager of strategy and insights, landed her on our list of B2B Content Marketer of the Year finalists this year.
Why she caught our eye: Heike’s one of Salesforce’s top bloggers, creator of the award-winning Marketing Cloudcast podcast, and co-author of the company’s first State of Marketing report. Not only is she an outstanding and prolific content producer, she’s the brains behind a brawny content marketing strategy in the retail vertical that earns high-profile press coverage and produces months of content from a small set of blockbuster original research reports.
Here’s a look at what goes into creating a winning B2B content marketing strategy.
Start with a love of content
This one isn’t a required ingredient for content marketing strategy, but it certainly helps.
You know the old adage: Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. If that’s true, Heike hasn’t ever worked. Instead, she’s spent years following what she says is her true calling.
From the time she studied literature at Anderson University, she set out to hone her skills in a variety of media: A nightly news internship at a TV station and college radio shows gave her the audio and broadcasting chops she’d later put to good use in her career.
As an editor for the consumer division of the “For Dummies” books, Heike gained experience synthesizing complex topics, capturing big ideas, and transforming information into something fresh that resonated with the market.
When print began to feel like a slow industry, she moved to a social media agency, where she managed social and content for a wide raft of clients, including the rapper 50 Cent’s headphone line, SMS Audio. Here, too, she gained new skills and an understanding of the retail market that would prove useful.
Once she landed at Salesforce (as part of its acquisition of ExactTarget), she put all this experience to use on the corporate content team, where she launched the company’s first marketing podcast, the Marketing Cloudcast. The podcast won the 2016 Content Marketing Award for best podcast/audio series and the 2017 Content Marketing Award for best content marketing multi-year program. Listen to one of her favorite episodes.
On that team, she applied the research and content distribution skills she developed at ExactTarget, where she’d co-authored Salesforce’s first State of Marketing report (which continues to be one of the company’s most successful thought leadership pieces) to content across many product lines.
Add a commitment to original research and content “upcycling”
Today, Heike applies all her content marketing knowledge to Salesforce’s retail and consumer goods vertical, where she creates data-driven content that helps retailers understand the behavior, desires, and needs of their consumers.
One example of a big-rock asset she created for this team in 2018 was the Shopper-First Retailing research report. This detailed study gathered insight from three forms of original research, in partnership with Publicis Sapient:
- A behavioral study of 1.6 billion e-commerce visits and 500 million shoppers.
- Survey responses from 6,000 consumers.
- In-person mystery shoppers at 70 brick-and-mortar retail sites.
Heike led the multipronged Shopper-First program, including:
- A blog and infographic series.
- A four-part webinar series.
- Influencer outreach.
- Podcast appearances, including the Jason & Scot show and MarketingProfs.
- Executive educational events nationwide.
As a result of her team’s efforts, Shopper-First garnered front-page coverage in USA Today and millions of media impressions.
Heike says collaboration and open communication between different teams made it all possible. For Shopper-First and other reports, she consistently works with data analysts, the blog team, public relations, industry marketing, industry content marketing, social media, sales, and beyond to ensure that research is never created in a vacuum. She credits her manager and fellow team members for being willing to take on both large and small research projects to address relevant audience concerns with data.
A second Salesforce survey-based report that Heike led, Consumer Experience in the Retail Renaissance, earned coverage in Adweek and other media outlets.
The report once again formed the foundation of a robust content marketing strategy throughout 2018. The content was activated across a variety of channels:
- A digital hub with a launch video.
- A blog series across Deloitte Digital and Salesforce properties.
- Presentations at Salesforce Connections and Dreamforce (where it was a top-rated session in the retail track).
- Slides used in customer meetings.
A core tenet of Heike’s content strategy: taking her content on the road. Her research is driven by the understanding that content only works if it resonates with the target audience – and to resonate, you need shared experiences, connection, and firsthand knowledge of what your audience actually wants to hear from you.
So as part of her role as a content creator, she goes straight to the target audience, meeting in person with marketers and e-commerce executives at top brands and at industry events, including Shoptalk and NRF, to ask what they think about current research and future plans.
These firsthand conversations give her invaluable insight to explore which content assets are the most powerful and relevant, and how they can help or inspire audiences to solve business challenges.
Heike and team continue to create unique, original, and valuable content that gets shared and upcycled across many channels, including LinkedIn video. A 30-second LinkedIn video Heike posted with trends and predictions about the new year – which then drove to a company blog post – was viewed more than 10,000 times.
Her team’s research isn’t limited to long-form, either. For Amazon Prime Day 2019, Heike spearheaded the creation and rollout of quick-hitting retail predictions and a data-driven recap. This “flash report” content burst included:
The real-time report earned Garf a spot on Yahoo Finance, among other top-tier coverage.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Enable employee engagement
As with most successful campaigns at large B2B companies, internal enablement plays a huge role. Heike explains that the challenge of internal enablement isn’t finding more resources to create content – it’s making sure the 35,000 Salesforce employees know about the content, and can use, share, and promote it easily.
To put things into perspective, she says, if every employee at Salesforce subscribed to the Salesforce marketing podcast she created, that podcast would likely be the No. 1 business show on iTunes.
But if employees don’t know about the content, or aren’t included in conversations about what future content will be useful, how can they be expected to share and support it?
To make sure they can, Heike piloted a new internal enablement strategy for reports in late 2017 through something called insights toolkits, which have since become a best practice within the team. The toolkits (hosted in an internal Quip doc) contain all relevant links to information about the content pieces. This simple, yet powerful asset makes reports and supporting content easily accessible. The toolkits enable Salesforce employees to use, reuse, and share valuable content with just a couple clicks. Toolkits are being used throughout the Insights team for all new launches, with another team already following its lead and implementing a similar tactic.
New features in the toolkits include copy-and-paste statistics, access to email templates for the sales department, and even videos created exclusively for internal use. By connecting staff to the content’s vision and messages, employees become empowered brand ambassadors and thought leaders in their own right. A strong content culture unites employees, drives change, influences stakeholders, and builds pride.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Engaging content results from engaged strategists
Heike considers herself fortunate to have been a part of the growth and evolution of content marketing. She remembers having to explain what content marketing was six or seven years ago whenever describing her job to others. Now she thinks the function is more widely understood, as she is focused on creating and distributing content as a tool to educate, connect, and inspire audiences.
Heike knows content is more powerful when it can live on multiple platforms and within different vehicles, and her cross-functional strategies help both internal and external audiences find, engage, and connect with the content and the Salesforce brand behind it.
Be there in person to learn who will win B2B and B2C Content Marketer of the Year. And while you’re at Content Marketing World Sept. 3-6, learn skills and tools to expand your own content marketing success. Register today using code CMIBLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute