Editor’s note: Randi Bartelmie is a finalist for 2018 Content Marketer of the Year. We’re sharing insights from all CMY finalists in this blog before the winner is announced at Content Marketing World this September.
Know your audience. That mantra is repeated in nearly every content and marketing discipline.
What’s easy to overlook, though, is that the process of getting to know your audience can lead you to the unexpected. And that can take your strategies in new directions.
Of course, recognizing the discoveries is one thing. Capitalizing on them is a longer process.
2018 Content Marketer of the Year finalist Randi Bartelmie, now Symantec Corp.’s director of content marketing, has spent the last five years building a content operation and, ultimately, a content platform, around a key insight about the company’s customers.
Through trial and error, Randi and her team hit on a content formula that works for the audience. They also doubled unique visitors to a key property compared to the previous year and attracted support – and even budget – from other departments at the security software company.
These lessons from her journey stand as reminders of what it takes to succeed with content.
Think beyond campaigns
Randi didn’t start out in the content world. She joined Symantec’s consumer business in a sales role in 2007. Once she moved into marketing, she found herself engrossed in campaigns.
There, she quickly saw the limits of a campaign model that lacked supporting content.
“We got to the point that our marketing campaigns were always about giving people 50 or 70% off our products,” she says.
During the 2013 holiday season, Randi had the idea to focus a campaign on the need for better device security when shopping online. She and her team introduced content, but it was a secondary thought in the campaign.
Content wouldn’t take a back seat for long. During focus groups for a new product, Randi noticed how the family-oriented features piqued participants’ interest. They wanted to know how to track their kids, see what they were looking at, at what time, and for how long.
That gave her the spark of an idea: Instead of focusing on product features and discounts, her team would create a family safety e-book to get consumers’ attention.
Using some undesignated money in her budget, she hired an outside agency to create the piece. The response to the gated e-book was, in her word, awful. “No one wanted to give up their email for it,” she says. Even so, its performance exceeded expectations in one crucial measure: revenue.
Although the piece didn’t generate downloads, all revenue attribution pointed to the e-book offer. And that was all the convincing the company needed.
“Not only did it spark people to say that we needed to create more content, they saw it needed to be a top priority,” Randi says.
The insight from the e-book project proved that offering content, not discounts, could help Symantec (and its consumer brand Norton) get people to engage and, ultimately, buy from them. And it would ultimately lead Randi to help develop the Internet Security Center in 2016, a major traffic driver for Norton.com.
Consolidate talent and resources
First, though, Randi needed to assemble a team.
In those days, a small content group produced a Norton blog as a standalone (and relatively unknown) site. Randi presented her boss with a brief explaining why she needed content talent on her team and got the go-ahead to adopt the blog’s writers, forming a new team in April 2016.
She also decided to migrate the off-property Norton blog to Norton.com. The original blog lacked SEO recognition and clear links to the Norton site. With the help of Norton’s SEO staff, Randi and the team organized content around top search terms in the new location, and the Internet Security Center took shape. The move helped content load faster, enabled better use of videos and infographics, and improved conversions by giving visitors easy paths to product pages.
Today, Randi focuses solely on content – she no longer manages campaigns. Her team includes:
- Four writers
- Strategist/optimizer, who makes sure links aren’t broken and runs tests on banners, images, and headlines
A simple strategy: Answer questions, especially when answers are needed most
Randi and team approach the Internet Security Center with a simple mission: to help people understand digital security and how they can better protect themselves and their families. Regardless of whether the readers are Norton customers, the primary goal is to help them make smart decisions about internet security.
They also aim to use content to guide people down the purchase funnel. Articles with short embedded explainer videos help people get answers to questions such as what malware or ransomware is, and, perhaps inspire them to learn more about Norton products.
The team takes a three-pronged approach to content development:
- Create an editorial calendar based on topics relevant to what people are searching for based on input from the SEO team
- Mobilize to help during rapid-response situations such as the Equifax data breach
- Respond to seasonal needs, such as tax time or holiday shopping, both of which prompt increased digital security threats
— Norton (@NortonOnline) February 22, 2018
Shortly after the Internet Security Center was launched, the Equifiax data breach, which exposed the personal data of millions of consumers, hit the news.
Seeing an opportunity to help people learn about how to make sure their personal information was safe and protect it from future exposure, the team created banner ads and social posts that clicked through to information about the breach and a soft product sell.
Randi and the team also created two emails. One notified customers their information was protected. The second went to non-customers in the database explaining what had happened and how Norton products protect personal information.
Though she can’t share numbers, this combination of content generated enough response to catch the attention of other internal teams. During subsequent data breaches, other Norton teams began putting their departments’ budget behind promoting the content.
Recently, the team has begun to blend content into product pages. For example, at the bottom of the privacy product page, content gives people the option to learn about ways to stay safe on public Wi-Fi.
This one addition led to an 8% lift on conversions. It also helps improve SEO rank because VPN is a highly searchable term, and most of the articles on the page include the acronym.
Build internal partnerships
Randi’s team isn’t flying under the radar. Not only are they attracting other teams’ financial support, they’re also fielding requests for new content.
Some requests consist of pieces that can be planned and slotted into their quarterly work. For example, they contribute multiple articles for Norton’s partner magazine, Digital Safety, every quarter.
Some requests involve co-creation. A writer from Randi’s team will meet with an internal client to brainstorm, develop, and execute the idea for the Internet Security Center. Randi’s team then tracks data and KPIs, and handles optimization of the resulting content over time.
Generate meaningful results
Though Randi hasn’t had a sales number attached to the content work, that doesn’t mean she isn’t producing results.
Content marketing for Symantec’s Norton brand turned in these year-over-year advances:
- 40% increase in time on site
- 100% increase in unique visitors
- 300% increase in article views
A more formal revenue attribution model is underway, which will help the team prove how these metrics contribute to the bottom line.
To find out live who is named the 2018 Content Marketer of the Year (and lots of things to help your content marketing program), register today for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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