Last week, an intern in the Melbourne office asked how I ended up in content marketing.
Considering I trained as a military radar engineer, this was a reasonable question – and one I attempt to answer here.
The IT project-management days
In 2009, when I was a project manager at Hewlett-Packard, I had an account for which I had to choose a software product to drive a large active-directory migration project and then oversee its implementation.
To be honest, I knew nothing about active-directory migrations. I was fresh out of the Royal Australian Navy and had been in corporate life for only a few years. I was young, driven and hungry to learn. I was also eager to impress my older and more experienced colleagues. With this in mind, I did what everyone of my generation does and took to the internet to research this migration thing.
As you would expect, I found a lot of information about various software products, all of which looked to do the same thing. In fact, I was overwhelmed by the degree of choice in the field. I was more perplexed after my research than I was when I began.
Not more features…
All the companies I was researching had what I have come to call “glossy brochure websites”, claiming the usual features and benefits of their products with no clear differentiation between the choices.
In 2009, corporate blogging (in Australia, anyway) was only just taking off. So the information-rich, youtility-based blogs and content hubs we see today were almost unheard of.
Enter Quest Software
Then I stumbled upon Quest Software. Expecting the typical features-and-benefits pitch from the company’s website, I was pleasantly surprised when I found a wealth of information. It didn’t just focus on Quest’s products (though that was there of course), it boasted a range of content that answered a lot of my naïve, ill-informed questions:
- A useful article described “How to explain active directory migration to your board”;
- An e-book highlighted “How to create a project schedule for your migration project”;
- And a white paper detailed “The 10-step process for selection of IT system management software”.
I thought, Wow! This is amazing! Was this site actually written for me? It seemed too good to be true. So as you would expect, I consumed the content like a starved Tasmanian devil. I downloaded every gated asset in sight, read every article, took notes and subscribed to Quest’s migration newsletter.
After educating myself about the entire migration process, I could now create a migration project schedule like a pro. Before I knew it, I felt confident about the process, educating others on how we would roll out the software and articulating the project risks and issues as if I’d been doing it for years.
Of course, I recommended Quest Software as our preferred vendor. I mean, my entire rollout plan was based on what I’d learned from the company’s website. How could I not recommend them?
The content marketing penny drops
It wasn’t until after we’d completed a six-figure deal with Quest that the penny dropped for me. I was reading an article by now-guru Joe Pulizzi about this thing called “content marketing” when I had my epiphany.
Pulizzi spelled out what I later learned was the online buyer’s journey. He basically described my entire content consumption behaviour over the three months of my reading Quest’s pages.
“You need to give your prospective buyers what they want,” Pulizzi wrote. “Educate them through the sales process; help them with the purchase without actually selling them anything. If you do this, they will form an affinity with your brand and become an advocate.”
Wait! Hang on a minute
I remember thinking that I’d been had – that my entire purchasing decision had been influenced and orchestrated by this content marketing. I was hooked, and it became my passion.
I loved everything about this approach to marketing; there was something about its educational nature that gelled with me. I looked at other forms of advertising as ineffective fakes that delivered false aspirational messages or painted false pictures to convince consumers. This was different, and I liked that.
I studied it, learning as much as I could. I left HP and joined Quest. How’s that for brand affinity?
Following my time at Quest, I went to work for ExactTarget, an interactive marketing SaaS platform that was unknown to my IT colleagues.
Fast-forward five years
I am now lucky enough to be a director at King Content, an agency at the forefront of our industry. How lucky am I to be able to live and breathe my passion? And it all goes back to Pulizzi’s article and one very progressive Quest marketer (you know who you are).
Looking back now, the really amazing thing is how much Quest’s content did influence my buying decision. I’d made my decision before the salesperson even contacted me! This fact still strikes me so profoundly today. It’s the single reason I’ve made content marketing my life and my passion.
By Cameron Upshall – Director, King Content Melbourne