McAfee: The Goal Of Good Content Is To Educate, Not To Sell

B2B buyers are doing more of their product research online – and that was becoming a problem for security software provider McAfee.

“We could grow the business when we had a seat at the table with our install base,” said Lisa Matherly, VP of content marketing at McAfee. “But when potential customers were conducting their research online before even engaging with a vendor, we were largely absent from that research.”

In the B2B space, where buying cycles can take months or even years and decisions are made by committee, McAfee was put at a serious disadvantage.

But in April, McAfee got a new CMO who put a premium on digital content marketing.

“We started to swing the pendulum and invest in developing content to educate our buyers, to get them to think about their challenges in a different way and to explain how we could help solve those challenges,” Matherly said. “But we’re not just pumping out content to pump it out – we make sure that it’s something our customers are looking for.”

AdExchanger caught up with Matherly to talk about distribution, attribution and how McAfee puts its data to work.

AdExchanger: Do people actually want to read white papers?

LISA MATHERLY: Some do. Technical audiences read white papers, but we’re also seeing consumption for short-form articles. It’s our job to help people understand security threats. We give them sound bites through our social media, links to blog posts where they can learn more and if they want to go even deeper, we have white papers and technical briefs.

Have you done research on your customers and how they consume content?

We have done primary research to understand the current thinking of our customers and how to approach their needs.

We’ve learned, for example, that our customers are interested in a layered security approach, which means using multiple security controls to protect against threats. It’s absolutely the right way to go. But we have a different way of thinking about layered security when it comes to implementation.

Many customers think that if they just keep adding security measures to their environment that it makes them more secure. But what they’re actually doing is making their environment more complex, and it’s that complexity that adversaries take advantage of. We go to market with the idea of an open architecture that allows customers to quickly and easily plug in the latest countermeasures – even if that means integrating another brand’s product. This idea also informs our approach to content. We just want our customers to be as secure as possible.

How topical do you have to be with your content when a new threat hits?

We have to be extremely topical. Beyond keeping up with new regulations like GDPR, we stay timely with threats in the wild as they start to percolate, like Petya, WannaCry and, very recently, the Bad Rabbit ransomware.

We stay very close to our researchers. But the goal is always to educate people, not to scare them or just to sell.

What are the specific KPIs tied to your content?

In addition to demand generation related to opportunities or bookings, we’re tracking early, mid- and late-stage keywords across the buyer’s journey. We look at engagement metrics on keywords, including downloads, likes and shares.

How do you attribute value to your content, as in: How do you really know it’s working?

It’s something we are not mature in yet. We just recently built up our marketing ops team, and they’re giving us some visibility into different touch points and the influence our content is having, but we’re still working through attribution.

What has been working well, though, is us doing primary research with third parties to bring new insights to our customers and prospects that we can deliver in an executive brief, followed up with a longer white paper.

We can see that C-suite and VP-level executives are engaging with the executive briefs, and we can see them sharing the reports with other people on their team, like directors and manager-level employees.

What sort of data do you collect, and how do your salespeople put that information to work?

On social, we can see likes and shares, and on our website, we can see traffic and content downloads. We share that information with the field marketing team and the sales team, which work together to understand activity and content consumption related to a particular account. Lead development reps can call on those accounts.

If they aren’t yet ready to make a purchase, field marketing and sales can look deeper at what content they’re consuming, to figure out what hot topics or projects might start to percolate in that account.

What are the best distribution channels for you?

That is a big question I’ve been challenging my team with, especially as we head into the 2018 planning cycle.

Honestly, what we do today is look at a deal we closed through sales and work our way backwards to understand where they were visiting, if these people saw banner ads, if they engaged with us on social, did they receive our email, did they engage with our content, did they visit our website?

But there isn’t a specific channel that’s really winning the race. It’s the various channels working together that’s helping us win.

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