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Alisa Maclin
Vice President of Industry Solutions Marketing , IBM Software Group

IBM's Vice President of Industry Solutions Marketing, Alisa Maclin, says that in order to have an effective content marketing strategy, it is essential to understand the interests and challenges of individual customers, engage them in a way that is timely and relevant, and build ongoing relationships.

In the Industry Solutions Group at IBM—which includes two of IBM’s key initiative areas, Smarter Commerce and Smarter Cities—content marketing plays a major role in familiarizing clients and prospects with IBM’s solutions and capabilities.

The market that Industry Solutions serves includes many types of roles, from procurement, supply chain, sales, marketing and customer service professionals to chief risk officers, chiefs of police and mayors. An effective strategy not only requires great content, but the manner in which it is delivered is highly important as well.

Maclin says that about 30 percent of her organization’s content is designed to impact the purchase decision, but much more emphasis is placed on content that builds awareness, including primary research, thought leadership and customer case studies.

“Some great examples of our primary research are our CxO studies conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value—such as the Chief Marketing Officer Study and the Chief Procurement Officer Study—which include the results of face-to-face interviews with thousands of senior leaders around the world,”* she says. “IT buying is shifting from IT to line-of-business leaders, such as CMOs and VPs of ecommerce and customer service, and we need to be able to engage these decision makers effectively. Thought leadership and market insight are key parts of our content strategy to demonstrate how the marketplace is changing and how our solutions and capabilities are helping our clients respond to and capitalize on these trends.”

An example of this is the “IBM Digital Analytics Holiday Benchmark,” conducted each year, which tracks and reports clients’ website traffic from different types of devices, in addition to purchase behavior.

“We make this benchmark data available to our clients so they know where their website traffic is coming from, and they can compare their results to the average for their category,” she says. “The data is available in real-time to our clients, and we post updates on key market stats to our website every three hours on key shopping days, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the U.K. For example, mobile saw tremendous growth through the holidays. Cyber Monday experienced the highest growth year over year, with mobile traffic up 50 percent and mobile sales up 55 percent. Around the holidays, we also report the benchmark results to the press. There is significant interest from the public in general on shopping trends during the holidays, and this information is highly relevant for our clients, particularly in the retail, consumer products and travel industries. As a result, the content not only provides our clients and prospects with timely insight, but it also creates awareness of our capabilities and generates leads.”

In terms of the value and relevance of content, Maclin says there is continued focus on tailoring to specific clients and roles. During the last few years, she says the Industry Solutions Group has invested more than $3 billion in acquiring new companies to build out their portfolio to address emerging customer needs. Many of those acquisitions are in new market areas, so they continue to improve their ability to reach buyers that they may not have engaged with previously.

Additionally, she says great emphasis is being placed on ensuring their content is available in ways that clients want to experience it—whether that is a physical document, website, mobile-enabled content, etc.—and that the content is geared toward specific roles and stages in the customer journey.

IBM tracks content consumption differently depending on the channel. For example, their marketing automation platform provides information about who is requesting information, which can then be routed for nurturing campaigns or possible follow-up from lead development representatives. For some social channels, on the other hand, IBM is simply tracking clicks to materials rather than collecting personally identifiable information to determine who is using or sharing that content. They also employ social sentiment analysis on campaigns such as the Holiday Benchmark.

“To better understand content sourcing and sharing behaviors, we have codes associated with everything, and we track those very closely to understand which offers are most popular and in which channels,” she says. “We then do a deeper analysis to determine which regions and in which accounts and stages of the buying cycle our offers have the most influence. All of our marketing content in any campaign is tracked from registration to pipeline and sales influence, so we have a good read on what is effective.”

Moving forward, Maclin says that tapping into new markets requires awareness, as well as substantiation on the benefits that other clients are seeing, ROI and specifics about their offerings. As a result, they continue to evaluate the most engaging ways to present this information.

“We are going to increase investments in web, social and mobile because more and more, that is the way our clients wish to engage, and our clients are increasingly interested in self-serve content,” she says. “We are moving much more toward delivering digital content in ways that customers like to consume and share, such as infographics that can be shared through social media and video.”



“"Thought leadership and market insight are key parts of our content strategy to demonstrate how the marketplace is changing and how our solutions and capabilities are helping our clients respond to and capitalize on these trends."”