How do you create a single piece of thought leadership content that becomes the standard for your industry?
That was the question that an Austin-based startup marketer answered at a recent #AustinContent Meetup.
Amanda McGuckin Hager, the current director of marketing and demand strategy at Rackspace, came to speak to a full-capacity crowd about her time as marketing director at big data provider Infochimps (now part of CSC).
When McGuckin Hager joined Infochimps in 2012, the company was a provider of data services. But they quickly realized that data scientists were not willing to pay for data they could easily get for free. So they were stuck without a viable market – and some very robust data infrastructure.
The Market Pivot
Jim Kaskade, Infochimps’ then CEO, decided the best way to pivot the company was to turn it into a big data platform provider. The problem was there was no pipeline. The previous prospects were not buyers of infrastructure services.
So McGuckin Hager was tasked with a very ambitious mission: generate a whole new pipeline of enterprise leads really fast.
The Market Research
Partnering with SSWUG, the SQL Server Worldwide User Group, McGuckin Hager and her team commissioned a market research study of SSWUG members, almost all of them database administrators, to find out about the state of big data and to identify the market opportunity.
McGuckin Hager said they commissioned the study to confirm their assumptions about big data and the cloud, but were surprised to find that most database administrators were not interested in the cloud.
But what they did discover was very revealing: nearly 55 percent of big data projects fail.
They published the study in a report entitled CIOs & Big Data: What Your IT Team Wants You to Know. It was the first report of its kind providing never-before-seen stats and insight into the big data phenomenon. They also produced an infographic to support their findings.
Calling In the PR Big Guns
To give the report a push, McGuckin Hager hired a PR consultant, Jeff Salzgeber, to promote it. Describing him as an an “old-school” PR pro who pounded the phones, Salzgeber convinced some of the most prestigious publications to write stories about the research.
The report’s findings became some of the most cited research in the big data industry. In fact, the sentence “55 percent of big data projects fail” has been quoted repeatedly by high profile publications such as Forbes, Computer Weekly and the Wall Street Journal, and produces 641,000 results in Google searches.
They were also able to increase their in-house database by 94%, and their opportunity pipeline by 358%.
How You Can Leverage A Single Piece of Content to Impact Your Industry
So what lessons can we extrapolate from the Infochimps experience?
Here are a few that are easy duplicate, and some that require really good timing:
- Produce original research: Producing original research is a great way to establish yourself as an authority in your industry, You’ll add value to your audience while distinguishing yourself from the millions of “me-to” content creators.
- Work with industry associations: With about 100,000 members, SSWUG was an important factor in the report’s success. Working with an industry association carries the prestige of a third party endorsement, and can give you immediate access to the members who might be be a ready market for your products or services.
- Don’t neglect traditional PR: In our digital first world we tend to forget that some traditional tactics still work – spectacularly well. This is especially true as we enter the age of content shock. The “build it and they will come” approach to content marketing is long dead, and has been replaced by the need to actively promote your content.
- Be at the right place at the right time: McGuckin Hager admitted that her timing couldn’t have been better. Working for a big data provider at the cusp of the big data revolution, and publishing original research with never before seen data points, was either the result of incredible foresight or super good fortune. McGuckin Hager said she lucked into it. But as Seneca said, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. McGuckin Hager is pretty damn good at what she does.
Conclusion: Big Content Makes a Big Splash with Big Data
The research report mentioned here is not the end of the story. According to the Marketing Sherpa case study on the Infochimps pivot (which became one of their Top 3 Inbound Marketing Case Studies of 2014), in addition to the report in question, they published content on their blog, produced six technical white papers, one how-to guide, three data sheets, six case studies, nine webinars and seven event videos.
Finally, in 2013 they were acquired by Computer Sciences Corporation.
I think we can convincingly state, without a shadow of a doubt, that content made the successful pivot happen. And InfoChimps became a juicy acquisition target for CSC. I can’t see anything else that made as big an impact on their success as content did – it was the reason for their success.
Will content become the reason for your success?