How Comcast’s B2B Arm Creates Content

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Even with all TV shows, movies, sporting events and news programs delivered on its services, there are those at Comcast CMCSA -0.34% who have content challenges. Different challenges.

There’s Kathy Hickey, for example. Hickey is an Executive Director of Marketing at Comcast Business, the company’s B2B arm that sells data and Internet services to companies around the country. Hickey’s customers aren’t that interested in True Detectiveor the Kardashians (at least, not during business hours). They’re interested in things that will help them run their businesses quicker, better and wiser. And as recently as last year Hickey’s role at Comcast Business changed to meet those needs. Up until then she had served in various marketing positions. Now she’s in charge of delivering content to her customers (and prospective customers).

Getting the attention of business owners and managers isn’t easy even if you’re a big company with lots of resources and technologies. So what has Hickey, a big company marketing executive learned that could help your business? A few things.

 

Everything is education. Hickey launched Comcast Business Community last September and it’s already up to 450 articles and tens of thousands of page views. The topics are varied, from technical articles on switches and Ethernet and inventory management technology to best practices using hybrid cloud tools. And the audience is a wide range, from SMBs to enterprise. “Business customers just want information,” Hickey insists. “They don’t want to be sold to. They just want to know how, when, what and why. Our community is about thought leadership and providing great information on all different types of topics, from technology to management.” Today’s successful business content providers are not looking to jam a sales message down their customers’ throats. They’re looking to build relationships by helping them do things better. That means less selling, more educating.

Outsource heavily. You would think that Hickey, working for such a giant company, would have a giant staff at her disposal? Not at all. Hickey has a small team under her and the lion’s share of the work done on her site is outsourced. She uses a media agency in Boston that helps her manage the content both on her blog and social channels, source new materials and plan out the site’s content (“We speak every day and frequently more than once a day.”) She outsources the writing to independent specialists and other Comcast employees (“even though they can sometimes be terrified”). She partners with other companies, like law firms and hardware providers, who provide the site with material. She leans on syndication services like Outbrain and content partners like Entrepreneur and Inc. to deliver articles to a larger audience.

Publish frequently and avoid controversy. Hickey makes it a point to get two to three new articles on her site a day. She maintains a backlog. She re-purposes content from previously published pieces. She keeps the articles to a “snackable” size. She tries to get content out as quickly as possible so it doesn’t get stale (“sometimes a challenge because there’s a legal review requirement here at Comcast”) and she keeps the content non-controversial. “We try to avoid point of view and opinion pieces,” she explains. “Our readers just want information to help them run their businesses and that’s what we focus on.” She doesn’t mind, in fact encourages, comments from readers and makes sure that everything gets a response. Her media agency usesHootsuite to add provide about 2-3 tweets/updates to Twitter TWTR +0.00% and LinkedIn LNKD +0.96% for each article published. She plans more investment in video content, e-books and other forms of content delivery.

Rely on metrics. Like every good marketing manager, Hickey relies on data to show what’s working and what’s not. There are no surprises here. She’s interested in page views, click-thru’s and how long visitors are staying on her site. And where they’re coming from too (“80% are from mobile devices,” she reveals). She relies heavily on Google Analytics. And she’s careful to make sure the data isn’t misleading. “One time an article was getting a huge amount of response and we were thrilled … until we realized there was a bot on our site that was skewing all the numbers.” She’s learned that when something seems to be too good to be true, it usually isn’t. But when it is she does it again and again, using similar content for a topic that resonates.

So what’s her biggest challenge? It’s the same challenge facing every marketing professional looking to build a company’s online presence and content: converting visitors to leads. “We still haven’t completely figured that out yet,” Hickey admits. Right now, anyone can enter her community. In the future she plans a gated area for additional content where an email address is required in order to gather a little more information. She’s working with her team to better integrate their social media activities around the blogs to her CRM (the company uses Salesforce.com CRM -1.45%) so that she can get information out to the sales team faster. She’s looking add more dialogs and the ability for a user to request information while on the site. This is all planned and will be rolling out in the next year. But there’s no silver bullet, no exact answer to converting visitors into leads.

“The trick is balancing all this great content with providing a way for visitors to buy,” Hickey says. “That’s the loop we’re working to close.” Aren’t we all?

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