We’ve all seen the images from marketing technologist Scott Brinker that show that the number of martech solutions have grown dramatically over the years. At last count, the graphic released last week included 6,829 solutions — up from 5,831 solutions in 2017, 3,874 in 2016 and 1,800 in 2015. The growth is truly astounding. As CMO of a martech solution provider, this doesn’t just indicate to me that we are facing a lot of competition for revenue, it means we are facing tremendous competition for mindshare.
Content marketing is no longer seen as a nice-to-have tactic — by now, most B2B marketers are leveraging it as a fundamental component of their marketing strategy. So we can pretty safely assume that most of those martech companies are producing content and competing for the attention of largely the same audience. Meanwhile, personalization and machine learning have become such hot topics that many martech vendors are talking about them just like we are. I know it’s hard for our prospects to sort through all of the messaging to understand the true differences between so many different solutions.
So what were we to do? We decided that a great way to truly demonstrate our expertise in personalization and machine learning — and further differentiate ourselves from our competitors — was to write a full-length book to educate the market on what one-to-one personalization is really all about. In this blog post, I explain our strategy behind writing and publishing a book to help other marketing leaders who might be considering a similar approach.
Why a book?
We have had a robust content marketing program at Evergage for many years. We have an active, thought-provoking blog, and we regularly produce, update (and retire), and promote numerous eBooks, white papers, webinars and videos. We also have great talent in the organization for producing such content, including (but not limited to) the book’s authors: CEO and Co-founder, Karl Wirth, and Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Katie Sweet. Considering the program and talent we had and the fact that our biggest challenge as an organization was market awareness, we felt we were ready to tackle the challenge of writing and publishing a full-length book.
With a book, our goals were to:
- Educate the market that one-to-one engagement, at scale, is actually possible
- Increase brand exposure for Evergage and the association with personalization and machine learning
- Enhance Evergage’s credibility as a personalization thought leader
- Provide new speaking opportunities for our CEO
- Generate more and better qualified leads for our business
Why self publish?
You may notice that “making money” was not listed among our goals. We wanted anyone and everyone to be able to read this book. We wanted to make it available as a free download on our website. We also wanted to be able to send paperback copies to target accounts via direct mail campaigns and give them away to customers and prospects at events.
If we had worked with a traditional publisher, that publisher would (understandably) have had issues with us giving away free digital copies. And it would have been quite costly for us to purchase the physical copies we needed to support our prospect and customer relationship development efforts.
We also set a goal of having the book completed in under nine months. (Many here certainly made the inevitable comparisons to having a baby – there were certainly a lot of parallels!) Speed is critical in the hyper-competitive martech world, and we could move 3-4 times faster on our own compared to working with a publisher. We were also able to find an experienced proofreader and book designer to assist our internal resources in the final stages of production and a high quality, fast-turnaround printer.
With all this in mind, we decided to self-publish our book. We made the digital and print versions available on Amazon, and we offer free digital downloads in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats on our website. We also made sure to publicize the news which helped generate significant buzz for Evergage.
Why ungate the book?
As a demand generation-focused company, driving leads for our sales team is a key priority for us. But lead generation was not the primary goal of this initiative. Awareness and thought leadership were our primary goals. So it didn’t make sense to add any barriers that would prohibit someone from accessing and reading the book.
The “gated vs. ungated” debate is being waged in the world of B2B marketing right now, and, frankly, ungated is winning. And for this book, it was a no-brainer. Leads were a secondary consideration.
That said, we didn’t want to waste the opportunity to collect leads where we could. For any known visitors on our site (visitors who click through from an email or have previously identified themselves, either by registering for a webinar, requesting a demo, etc.), we are able to recognize them when they download the book. We use Evergage to track that action and record the activity in Salesforce. This, in turn factors into the person’s lead score and is used by our sales and customer success teams to improve follow-up.
For anonymous visitors, we set up an “internal retargeting” campaign using Evergage. After downloading the book, those visitors see a message when they visit another page on the site suggesting that they “sign up for more great content.” Not everyone who downloads the book signs up, but it allows us to collect contact information for those who do wish to opt in, and those leads are of higher quality.
What results are we seeing?
We have distributed hundreds of books at conferences and events and through direct mail over the last several months, and the response has been very positive. Customers and prospects appreciate the generous gesture and the valuable content, and our reps appreciate the sales support.
Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D., founders of CX Speakers, LLC, and authors of The One to One Future (and whom we reference several times in our book) have called it “an eminently practical how-to guide for succeeding in today’s world of predictive analytics, AI, and ubiquitous connectivity.” Research Director for Customer Experience and Commerce at 451 Research, Sheryl Kingstone, has said that “this book sheds light on important concepts and empowers marketers to take charge.” We are proud of these and many more endorsements the book has received.
The book was downloaded over a 1,000 times with the first three months and has become the most frequently downloaded content on our website. Of the downloads, 12% are identifiable people – not bad considering our primary goal, again, is awareness, not lead generation
The book has also helped garner eight speaking opportunities for our CEO since the book was published, including B2B Marketing Exchange, Digital Growth Unleashed and The Financial Brand Forum, just to name a few. He has four speaking engagements this month alone!
Deciding to write and publish a book is a major consideration for any marketing team, especially a lean one like ours. It was a substantial investment of time and energy from our CEO and from my team, especially the book’s co-author, Katie Sweet, program manager, Paula Crerar, and me as editor. And the benefits of the book are, admittedly, not easy to assess since an improvement in brand awareness is tough to measure. But even in the few months since it was published, we feel that the benefits of being the company that has literally “written the book on personalization” have far outweighed the costs.
If you’d like to get an appreciation of the quality of the book or, of course, have an interest in delivering personalized experiences for your prospects and customers, I encourage you to download One-to-One Personalization in the Age of Machine Learning for free on our site!