In her ponytailed debut on the Block Blog, Crawford asked her, “Madeleine, do you know how to fix a laser aimer?”, to which she confidently replied, “Yes!”
The pair then demonstrated with charming aplomb a simple troubleshooting tidbit for Block’s medical imaging equipment customers.
The video was one of a slew of ideas that came out of a two-day retreat aimed at kickstarting a company-wide commitment to content marketing through their blog.
Since then, Block has seen an increase of approximately 150% in organic search traffic to their site, which has translated to more and better-qualified leads and shorter sales cycles.
Sales volume has increased significantly enough since September that the company—which had been in a slump—hired 13 employees, including 3 additional salespeople.
Block Imaging, a 70-person company in Lansing, Michigan, provides preowned and refurbished medical imaging equipment, including machines for MRI, CT, X-ray, C-Arm and mammography, to a worldwide market.
Their sales growth over the past year is to a great extent directly attributed to their focus on content marketing through their blog.
Four factors have contributed most to their blog’s success.
#1: Buy-In From the Top
The atmosphere at Block Imaging in summer 2011 was fearful and distrusting; sales were down and every department had scaled back.
Vice President of Marketing Krista Kotrla articulates that they had two options: “Are we just going to accept this not being a good year and cutting and scaling back on everything, or are we going to go all-in on something to try to grow this business?”
She had experimented with getting a blog going the previous December, but participation and results were spotty. “It was kind of relegated to the marketing department trying to get an article from the company president maybe once or twice a month,” she said.
Kotrla proposed a two-day company-wide retreat with a content marketing specialist to launch what she calls a “culture of content marketing.” Response to the retreat was extremely positive, generating a host of ideas for blog posts and videos such as the one Crawford made with his daughter.
“I had never written a blog before, and I had never done a blog video before, but I figured we’ve got to start somewhere,” Crawford said. “It really came down to being willing to be a little vulnerable and a little real with people.”
“It was a definite intentional shift from leadership saying that this is the way we are going to go, this is the wave of the future,” said Product Manager Chris Sharrock.
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#2: Make it Easy for Everyone to Contribute
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy at Block for coming up with content. Sharrock dove in wholeheartedly, and has no problem consistently cranking out two to three blog posts a month, but some others have needed a little more help and encouragement.
Some people can take a list of keyword phrases that marketing has gleaned from Hub Spot and run with it; others work better with a specific blog post title. Others are more comfortable verbally. “Some salespeople feel much more comfortable standing in front of the backwall we set up in the conference room and filming a short video,” Kotrla said.
And if there is someone who hasn’t sent any submissions in a while, “We pull them aside and in a one-to-one meeting, try to figure out what they need,” she said. “Is it more keywords, specific titles? Sometimes they just need permission to stop the daily grind and sit down and talk it out. Other times, they feel more comfortable if they know it’s being reviewed by an engineer, so we’ll take a salesperson and an engineer out to lunch and flesh out a few outlines.”
Block’s ambitious goal of one post every weekday means managers must keep on top of department quotas, but they find that an atmosphere of inclusiveness and flexibility has far better results than reprimanding people for not participating. To date, over 40 people from the 70-person company have contributed to the blog.
#3: Empower a Content Officer
One strategy that has helped tremendously is to have a single point of contact for all blog drafts, someone they have taken to calling the “Content Officer.”
Jordan Batterbee, originally from engineering support, emerged as a natural writer who can take a draft, outline or even a list of bullet points from another team member and craft it into a well-edited, SEO-keyworded post, injecting some humor and personality along the way.
Having him as the conduit for all posts has been “hugely significant,” said Kotrla, “Because it made it a lot easier for people to contribute very little and turn it into a post that they get recognized for. It makes it easy and comfortable for people to participate.”
Batterbee has increased his contribution to the point that he is about to move over to marketing full time. “I wish we had invested sooner in developing a dedicated person to carry more weight in helping to oversee our blogging machine,” said Kotrla.
#4: Make it Fun and Rewarding
The one factor that ties everything else together is consistently celebrating and rewarding contributions to the company’s content marketing, creating an environment where employees are intrinsically motivated.
“Every two weeks at the staff meeting, we reward two content superheroes who have contributed something significant to the blog. We have a Spiderman mask and a Wolverine mask that they put on and we take a picture that we share in the next all-team PowerPoint presentation,” said Kotrla.
“We also have a really cheesy Plinko board with gift cards at the bottom, so they get a gift card, too. But it’s not really the gift cards, it’s the fun of knowing that you contributed. We try to inspire in the team that all of their efforts are contributing in a significant way to the overall company vision.”
But besides the chance to unleash their inner superhero, the biggest motivator for Block’s employees is success.
Said Crawford, “When we get feedback when someone says, ‘Your answer to a common question helped me make a better decision,’ or when people begin to see that they helped someone get a better result or find an answer to a problem they were having, that’s a great feeling that people want to experience again and again.”
What do you think? Does your company have a blog? What strategies are succeeding or not succeeding in your content marketing? Leave your comments and questions in the box below.