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How data helps Telstra Wholesale create more ‘human’ content

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CX and marketing leader Karen Fellus on B2B content that cuts through and builds trust.

Rob Cherry loves fixing things. At home in Melbourne, he loves nothing more than tinkering with his classic Peugeots. At work, as a Senior Product Manager at Telstra Wholesale, he enjoys getting to the bottom of his customers’ complex needs.

Regardless of where he is or what he’s doing, Cherry likes using technology to find solutions. “I’m at my happiest when I’m exploring, testing, tinkering,” he says.

The slickly produced video of Cherry’s passion story is an example of how Telstra Wholesale is showing its best face to the world and achieving tangible marketing results. It’s indicative of how a large organisation can humanise content to connect with current and prospective customers and employees.

Karen Fellus is an experienced B2B marketer who has spent the past 14 years at Telstra. She’s Telstra Wholesale’s Principal, Marketing and Customer Engagement, leading a team of marketers responsible for brand architecture, events and experiences, social marketing, media and customer communications.

“We’re utilising the same amount of budget today to produce a year’s worth of content than what was spent on a single whitepaper.”

With so many prospective customers making significant buying decisions based on online research, Fellus says modern B2B marketers need to invest heavily in content. This, however, presents a challenge for companies looking to establish their point of difference.

“We know content, and particularly digital content, plays a really important role in determining the success of a B2B organisation,” she says. “But as a result, there’s so much content available online already – everyone’s competing for our customers’ mindshare.”

B2B marketers face another dilemma of their own making, Fellus says, when they create uninspiring content. “There’s so much content, particularly in the B2B space, that is bland and serious. It’s ‘me too’; really vanilla.

“So you have this hyper-crowded vanilla content landscape. How do you create space for the brand – a territory to play in? More importantly, how do you use content to build trust?”

Fellus believes B2B marketers can achieve cut through and trust not just by humanising the brand but by creating engaging content experiences. “Connecting with people is the way through,” she says.

Content starts with data

It may sound counterintuitive, but Fellus says the only way for B2B businesses to begin creating more “human” content is by evaluating existing data – the cold, hard stats delivering audience insights.

“If you don’t know your customers or prospects, if you don’t know what’s important to them, it’s very hard to play a role and get cut through,” she says.

“We have a whole lot of insights that we can analyse, on what has worked well in the past and what kinds of messages and content will resonate with our customers. Our close relationships with customers – and between customers and our sales teams – meant we could test our hypotheses, dig deeper and enrich our data with human insights, through in-depth conversations.

“We then started with a very basic sketch of what we needed to produce, then as we constantly tested we learnt a bit more and started painting a more precise picture of our customer personas. What they like, what they dislike, where they hang out.”

Telstra Wholesale’s second step was looking at what it could offer prospect customers through content. What are we? What value can we give customers? What is our point of view?

Fellus admits this isn’t an easy path for a traditional organisation. “Telstra Wholesale started off as very conservative – very quiet,” she says. “If you looked back three years ago, we didn’t have a content play at all and very little PR.

“So we went back to the data and realised our value proposition was really about our people. It was their passion, their expertise … the relationships they had with customers. We took that as our inspiration.”

Videos became Telstra Wholesale’s choice of medium, simply because customers prefer them. “We know our customers don’t engage in a lot of articles,” she says. “They like videos of our people or our partners. They like infographics. They like snackable information. They don’t want long whitepapers.”

Working content

Fellus’ team has now created a bank of content for each stage of the sales funnel. While much of it is at the branding/awareness stage, or features presentations from experts at Telstra Wholesale events, many videos are case studies or “how-tos” told in an engaging way.

“We’ve worked with partners to develop content that is cost effective,” she says. “We also utilise our events as a source of developing content we distribute through our channels.”

Fellus says the choice of channel is vital. While Telstra Wholesale houses its video content on YouTube, LinkedIn has been an important distribution partner.

“You could be pumping content out everywhere, but the reality is you need to understand where your customers or your prospects are and go to them,” she says. “We’ve found we can be so targeted in LinkedIn that we’re getting great results.”

Fellus says Telstra Wholesale’s LinkedIn content has been a standout performer when it comes to click-through and engagement rates. Compared with competitors in the Australian technology sector, its videos perform more than 140 per cent above LinkedIn’s benchmarks for click-through rates and up to 160 per cent above in engagement. “Our lead-gen form conversion rate is 60 per cent higher than the Australian tech benchmark in FY19, delivering an overall conversion rate of around 11 per cent,” she says.

Telstra Wholesale’s martech stack features Salesforce, Eloqua and Adobe, and tracks results across three categories – reach, relevance and return. “We keep a close eye on pretty much every asset we put out in market,” she says. “We know people like our experts and industry trends, though we’re constantly tweaking our approach.”

Fellus says Telstra Wholesale has a relatively small number of big clients with long sales cycles, which makes it crucial to monitor lead opportunities and conversions carefully. Impactful content, she says, has also had a positive influence on key business metrics such as net promoter score.

Telstra Wholesale’s video content works because “we stopped being bland”, she says. It builds a human connection between the people in the organisation and its customers. Just as importantly, it mobilises employees to become brand advocates.

“All of a sudden our staff started enjoying the videos,” Fellus says. “They started sharing them and saying ‘check out this video’. It was something fun for them to share to the right people at the right time and get the message across of what they did.”

Producing top-class, engaging content doesn’t necessarily come with a significant price tag, either. Since Telstra Wholesale embarked on its focus change three years ago, its content budget has remained constant.

“We’re utilising the same amount of budget today to produce a year’s worth of content than what was spent on a single whitepaper,” Fellus says. “It’s just working a lot harder, and we’re spreading our assets.”

Karen Fellus will discuss Telstra Wholesale’s content strategy at a roundtable discussion at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum in Sydney on May 22. For tickets, go to b2bmarketingleaders.com.au/sydney/

Further reading: Three ways to create more compelling B2B content

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