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Mark Stouse
Vice President – Global Connect, BMC Software

Content marketing to enterprise decision makers worldwide has increasingly become a decentralized and agile process at BMC software, according to Mark Stouse. The marriage of these two functions into one group is no accident. Staying close to the conversation with customers allows content creation, social networking and communication to constantly adapt to the customer is thinking about.

Is content marketing a centralized function at BMC?

I think content creation, when you see it fully matured within an organization, is actually very much like social. At the nascent stage, there’s typically a director of social media, or there’s a director of content.  And then what gradually happens is that everyone realizes that, to be effective and to get the multiplier effect, you need to decentralize, even while you maintain a coordinated strategy, with clearly enunciated values.

In both cases, social and content, if you need an army of dedicated people, you’re not going to get there. With social, it won’t be seen as authentic and transparent; it will seem contrived. At BMC, I steward social. We have a small group that evangelizes, gets people on board with being social.  We also enable them with ideas and factual elements, illustrations and other things they can leverage, but at the end of the day, they’re writing their own blog, tweeting their own tweets, or whatever it is they’re doing. Then we also measure their impact, both individually and collectively. The same is true of content. There are a lot of people within BMC creating content. They understand what the content should look like, what we want to convey at a corporate level, and things of that nature. So the fundamental rules of the road are there, but content creation itself is quite decentralized.

For example, one of the things that we did to accelerate social video at BMC was to create an app called “BMC TV.” It’s actually available through iTunes, and anyone can download it. If you’re an employee, a customer or any other stakeholder who wants to join the conversation, you can download it onto your iPad or iPhone. BMC TV makes it extremely easy to shoot video and upload it into a video cloud at BMC, where others can access it. We’ll lightly edit the video, but we’re allowing many different voices to contribute that content.

Our research indicates that B2B companies are now spending 25 percent or more of their marketing budgets on content.  How about BMC?

It may even be closer to a third of the total when you aggregate across the organization.  But I think one important point I could make here pertains to how we’re spending those funds and what we’re spending them on. Today, I believe the half-life of any piece of content is very short.  Whether it’s an infographic or a story in the Wall Street Journal, which probably cost $30,000 or $40,000 to pitch and secure, the half-life of that content is getting shorter. We also know that to be effective, we need to reach a person multiple times for our message to resonate. And the channels and device types by which we can reach them are proliferating. So we need to bring those factors into our thought process as we invest in content. We’re constantly striving to find cheaper ways to create and distribute content. Don’t compromise quality, that’s still very, very important. But find a cheaper way to do it. If you save even 10 percent, that’s 10 percent you can spend on the creation of additional content.

How do you measure the performance of content?

We have some very sophisticated tools, like Radian6 and other things.  One of the interesting projects we’re working on right now is a system to track where content goes to measure the speed with which it goes viral.  It’s all about getting people to take action, to share content. Take the example of a Wall Street Journal article or an InformationWeek article. These media have their own reach, but if the article goes viral, there’s a tremendous multiplier effect and it’s very trackable. The power and value of content is measureable in the social realm. They clicked on your content, but did they share it? Did they comment on it? I think these are factors that are very powerful in measuring the value of a piece of content.

Within your targeted audience of IT decision makers, to what degree is social a preferred mode of content consumption and sharing?

It’s very popular, actually.  When you’re plunking down a million dollars or more on enterprise software, you’re going to be triangulating. You want to manage your risk on that buy decision, and the preferred way to do that is communicating with peers.  Even five or six years ago, the primary way to accomplish that was by phone or some event or caucus. Today, they are doing it socially.

What types of content are most effective in engaging your audiences?

Video and audio are very effective because they can be consumed easily almost anywhere. But it’s really a spectrum. You can interest them in a subject through an infographic because its easily and quickly consumed, but you have to be prepared to give them something more substantial very quickly, and something even more substantial after that. You need to create a multi-course meal.  If you can’t do that, you’re going to lose people.

Ultimately, I think it’s going to be about creating very personalized content relationships. I think you will see more and more specialized applications that allow companies to personalize and individualize communications and content delivery based on what an individual is interested in, what types of content they want to consume, and what their relationship is with the company.

How does BMC assure that it’s engaging its key audiences around themes and subject areas that are relevant and timely?

One of the really powerful strategic ramifications of consolidating Customer Connect with Global Connect is that we’re constantly talking to the customer.  Consequently, we’re getting a lot of organic insight into what our customers are interested in, what they’re talking about. When we see an important new conversation that is emerging in one of our communities, we can very quickly create content that adds to the conversation. We’re constantly gathering intel that helps us stay ahead of the curve. I’d say today our responsibilities are equal parts action and intelligence.

How does that continuous adjustment impact the planning process?

I’ll walk where angels fear to tread here. Communications and marketing are two very compatible, very symbiotic functions – or should be – but with very different cultures. Communications is typically more agile and reactive.  Marketing is historically more about ‘plan the work and work the plan,’ more long cycle versus communications’ short cycle. Marketing wants to control the message.

It’s probably a false choice to choose between them, but given where audiences are going and everything we’ve been talking about, I believe marketing’s mindset and value system is going to have to become a little more like corporate communications. It will need to become more agile, more nimble and functional. I think the definition of planning has changed. What planning should be today is making sure that everybody has a clear idea of the value system and the objectives, so that they can adjust and make the right choices. There has to be a plan, but you have to be able to adjust based on the data and information that’s coming in.

“When you’re plunking down a million dollars or more on enterprise software, you want to manage your risk on that buy decision, and the preferred way to do that is communicating with peers. Today, our customers are doing that socially.”