Content marketing advice from the best. An interview with Qorus

  • Qorus ranked 10th in our 2016 Inbound Marketing Excellence report
  • Highly ranked for their blog and content strategy
  • Interview with their VP of Marketing and internal content writer

Qorus ranked 10th in our Top 50 report, and a substantial factor in their high ranking was their blog and content strategy. We spoke to Heather Thompson– Senior VP of Marketing –  and Taryn Netterville to get an insight into how Qorus brainstorm, create and share engaging and inspiring content with the Microsoft Partner Network.

When we carried out our Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence Report we were looking for examples of Microsoft Partners who could provide awesome examples of digital and content marketing. Coming in at number 10 was Qorus, the Seattle-based software company that helps organizations be more productive when creating, managing and collaborating on business-critical documents. We were highly impressed by Qorus’ in-depth content strategy; they provide their readers with informative posts filled with character and a wide variety of content and sources.

We sat down with Taryn Netterville, and Heather Thompson, VP of Marketing to find out more. Located in Qorus’ Cape Town office—where most of their marketing, development and support teams reside—we picked their brains and to find out what’s at the heart of their marketing success.

The quality of your content speaks for itself and you were a Microsoft Partner of the Year finalist for Modern Marketing. With a pretty big office in Cape Town, do you use an internal team specifically assigned to content creation and ideas?

Taryn: “In terms of looking after the blog, that’s myself [content manager] and our digital specialist, Odette. Working together, we start from an SEO perspective. [Odette] will advise me on keywords for the month and we’ll brainstorm ideas.”

“We try to encourage employees to write as well, but it’s not always easy as most are not confident writers! Sometimes I’ll interview them to get their insights and make it easier for them to contribute. These posts are different to what we usually produce, with less of an SEO focus. I try to also include a few ‘culture’ posts that highlight our ‘personality’ and our company values. We also find that fun, topical posts – posts centered around Halloween, Christmas etc., – are popular, so we include them.”

Heather: “We work with a diverse mix of contributors. We don’t have a big team of in-house writers, so our “content team” is made up of both internal and external writers, as well as industry experts when we want to write something specific. This helps to keep it fresh and interesting. In fact, we’re currently working with our contacts at Microsoft to create a couple of posts!”

Obviously, Qorus have a wide variety of content and resources, from traditional blogs to infographics. How do you weight these different styles of content? Do you consider any of them to be more valuable?

Taryn: “We try to produce a mix of different styles. Often the style will depend on the situation. For example, we’ll come across statistics that would be a great fit for an infographic, or we have the opportunity to create a video or an eBook.”

“We also look at our key personas and try to work out what style of content would appeal to them, for example we found that webinars work well for Sales and Marketing professionals. Sometimes we’re guided by our partners or clients, like this month we’re working with several partners to create insightful opinion and thought leadership posts.”

Heather: “It depends on relevancy. If we’re trying to promote a certain industry and we have a relevant eBook, for example, we’ll amplify that copy more so than other content.”

“In terms of content priority, I think it’s difficult to single one medium out. Video is obviously very powerful, along with anything visual. Interviews can resonate very well with particular audiences. People are always looking for referenceable materials and how-to guides too. In terms of priority it’s whatever we believe will appeal the most to that particular audience. We try and get a holistic view before deciding which approach to take.”

You mentioned using an external agency; how useful do you find being able to outsource some content?

Taryn: “We work with external agencies in a couple of ways, sometimes for content creation, other times for SEO and digital work. It has its pros and cons, but if you’re looking for experts who are tapped into trends, then the right agency can be a huge help. I do find that clear briefing and building good relationships with external writers is vital though, and those take time to establish.”

Has your content strategy evolved over time or has it been more concrete?

Taryn: “At least since I’ve been here, we’ve always had a strong digital presence. Our inbound marketing strategy was already in place, which naturally requires a fair amount of content. At the time, this content was created by an agency that had little input from the marketing team (there just wasn’t time). Thus, I think there was a lack of audience knowledge which meant quality wasn’t as closely guarded and content wasn’t as ‘deep’ as it could have been.”

“Now our strategy has become quite fluid. The strategy is (and has always been) consistent blogging that speaks to our personas, is SEO optimized, and drives them to download an eBook or a similar content asset so that we can engage with and nurture them via email marketing. We’ll either try and target a specific persona for one month, then move onto another or we’ll spread it evenly throughout the month.”

Most companies know that a blog is core to gaining a strong relationship with customers, so for a lot of them this is their starting point. Creating such a variety of content, is a consistent blog still your main focus before ‘experimenting’ with mediums such as videos, infographics etc?

Taryn: “That’s a good question. Our downloadable content is core to what we do because it’s how we gather information about our potential customers. And our blog is designed to encourage people to download that content by completing a form.”

“Blogs form part of our ‘top of funnel’ content: they’re not always selling what we do, but are more about getting people interested in Qorus and the topic we care about. Videos are then further down the funnel; case studies or company showcases allow people to learn more about us. We very much work all our content through a sales funnel.”

We spoke to Michelle at our stand at WPC and she made similar remarks on the importance of planning your strategy. From publishing our Top 50 report, we found many Microsoft Partners struggle to get a streamlined and integrated strategy in place. What advice do you have for them?

Taryn: “I believe that it must start with personas – understanding your audience is arguably the most important aspect of content marketing. Once you know your audience, you can work out the search terms they use and build your content around the challenges they face.”

“The other side of the coin is distribution. Once you have created your content, you need to get it out there.”

Heather: “And that’s actually been one of our challenges – having all this great content and deciding on how to distribute it effectively. We’ve spent so much time, effort and money developing content, but if it simply sits on our blog and no one sees it, it’s all for nothing. Planning, and actually measuring, is very important.”

“Reviewing the success of content tells me whether we’re reaching the right people with the right content. But it can be tricky to measure content effectiveness. For example, one piece of content might perform better than another simply because we shared it more widely through our social and email marketing channels, or because we put money behind it and advertised it. You have to take a holistic view.”

“The notion of measurement is definitely an interesting one. Since you’ve been in charge of the content strategy, have you seen a consistent improvement in engagement or has it been more peaks and troughs?”

Heather: “I’d say we see clear peaks and troughs, not only in reach and engagement but also in sentiment and the comments we generate. Sometimes people won’t agree with your opinion – that’s bound to happen, and it can still be a good platform for conversation.”

Taryn: “We have also found that the way we phrase our tweets and posts when sharing our content is quite important in driving engagement. We try to ensure we encourage comments and conversation, so we avoid generic tweets like ‘read our latest blog post’… Lazy social posting defeats all the other hard work – something our digital manager taught me early on!”

Heather: “We’ve also gotten better at working out what content gets the best engagement – so we aim to produce conversation-starting pieces.”

“And engagement is something that can take time. We have found companies getting started with their marketing often consider a blog to be a ‘quick fix’; that they will immediately achieve 100 views but in reality it’s a gradual process.”

Heather: “Exactly! It takes time to build credibility. People will only share things that resonate with them or they find relevant. As huge a platform as social media is, people don’t just share stuff without thought. It’s got to be worth sharing. You need to see it as an investment in building credibility and developing your brand.”


how to create an event registration form

Creating an interesting event registration form using Typeform

  • Introduction to Typeform, the online event registration form creator
  • Step by step guide to creating event form through Typeform
  • Example of Typeform used on the Fifty Five and Five website

Back in 2013, Paula Balzer—COO of TBA Global—shared a Q&A with TIME magazine regarding the evolution of corporate events. In the interview, Paula explained how the expectations of the audience have changed over recent years, largely due to improved sophistication of technology. Retaining an audience’s attention is more difficult than ever, and you need to do everything in your power to both host a successful event, and make sure you fill it to the rafters

Company events are ideal methods for generating a buzz around your business. An opportunity to meet with likeminded individuals, company events—whether for a product launch, fundraising or networking—offer numerous benefits:

  • An effective means for communication at both the internal and external level
  • Enable and foster interpersonal relationships
  • Improve team motivation and work ethic
  • Reward achievements and recognize success
  • Promote business and brand recognition
  • Build a community around your company

Getting as many people as possible to attend these events should therefore be a top priority as a Microsoft Partner. And how can you do that? Well, much like technology has changed audience expectations, it can be used to improve the number of people you can get to attend. This is where Typeform can help you create event registration forms people can’t wait to sign up for.

Conversational forms

Most often, getting site visitors to fill out forms (like registering for your company events) is a difficult task – especially when they are bland and uninspiring. Typeform provides an interactive alternative that can offer your customers a richer, more engaging way to fill out event registration forms. Offering more natural progression like a real ‘human’ conversation, Typeform can help your forms stand out and achieve better completion rates.

In the rest of this post, I’ll explore how to create an event registration form using Typeform. I’ll take you through the process from building your event registration form to analyzing it for future reference and insight.

Build

how to create an event registration form

This is where the magic happens… on the left are your question options, ranging from simple Q&As to more complex payment stripes and legal terms and conditions. I’ll explore some of the most common and useful question types you can use to get the most from your form-fillers.

how to create an event registration form

Typeform is all about conversational forms, so you shouldn’t be afraid to use colloquial or chatty language. Spark rapport with your audience early – get them engaged so they’re more likely to fill out the entire event registration form.

how to create an event registration form

Having personality come through in your forms is important, and the best way to do that is to make things personal. “Piping” feeds information from one question into the text of another. When a user tells you their name, you can then refer to them throughout the rest of the form.

how to create an event registration form

This is a great way to gather information about those filling out your forms. It’s always useful to know who’s coming to your event. You can make certain answers required – although it’s best not to do so for every question as that can deter people. Make sure you allow people to choose multiple fields for questions such as these if appropriate.

This is a great way to gather information about those filling out your forms. It’s always useful to know who’s coming to your event. You can make certain answers required – although it’s best not to do so for every question as that can deter people. Make sure you allow people to choose multiple fields for questions such as these if appropriate.

how to create an event registration form

Our attention spans are shorter than ever – break up questions with statements that can encourage or persuade the user to keep going. Embed videos from sites like YouTube to break up the flow and inject a little fun. It’s all about keeping your audience engaged, and statements are a great way to do that – it’s like you’re having direct conversation with them.

Our attention spans are shorter than ever – break up questions with statements that can encourage or persuade the user to keep going. Embed videos from sites like YouTube to break up the flow and inject a little fun. It’s all about keeping your audience engaged, and statements are a great way to do that – it’s like you’re having direct conversation with them.

Design

how to create an event registration form

There are currently over 500 services integrated with Typeform, allowing you to connect other applications for a more seamless experience. MailChimp integration, for example, allows you to create new MailChimp subscriber lists based on Typeform entries. Some of the most notable integrations include:

  • Email and SMS notifications
  • MailChimp
  • Trello
  • Salesforce
  • Slack
  • MySQL Database

Metrics and results let you keep track of recipients’ answers, offering you valuable insights into what areas of your form worked well, and which struggled. This is also where you can get an overview of your audience: the most common ages, gender, roles… and the more questions you ask, the more accurate your representation of your audience will be. This will prove incredibly useful when it comes to events, as you can gauge your audience and cater for them ahead of the event. See two individuals that share similar interests and may hit it off? Make sure to introduce them to one another at your event.

You can also add a Google Analytics tracking code to your Typeforms to further track visitor behavior and demographics.

Typeforms are easy to share, and can be done so across all major social media platforms and via email. Better yet, you can embed your Typeform into your website for users to fill out within the same window. If users naturally navigate to your form, rather than clicking a button and opening an external window, you can expect the number that fill it out will increase.

You can still create a button or link to launch in an external window if you would prefer, or if there’s not enough space on the page.


CPS case study

CPS A cutting-edge web presence for a leading partner.

A leading Microsoft Gold Partner

Founded in 1995, CPS pride themselves on using integrated, joined-up solutions to help businesses the world over, earning them a coveted Microsoft Partner of the Year Award for 2016. As one of the leading Microsoft Partners, they know that an attractive and user-friendly website is of the utmost importance… yet it remained an area of need. A modern website overhaul – involving re-design, content and SEO – provided CPS with a slick and unified home for their services to mirror the core values of the company.

CPS case study

Design, build, content & SEO

CPS asked us to help them revamp their web presence to better reflect their updated brand. A modern overhaul met the company’s desire for a more content-focused approach to marketing: with revamped landing pages, interactivity, blogs and social sharing. As well as handling the design, information architecture and build work, we also provided CPS with fresh content to fill these new pages. Furthermore, we optimised all content for specific SEO keywords to enhance the visibility of the CPS website.

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Interested in learning more?

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Content marketing advice from the best. An interview with Cloud TP

  • Cloud TP ranked 6th in our 2016 Inbound Marketing excellence report
  • Highly ranked for their blog and content strategy
  • Interview with their Director of Marketing

Cloud Technology Partners (Cloud TP) ranked 6th in our 2016 Top 50 report, and a substantial factor in their high ranking was the strength of their blog. We spoke to Brad Young – Director of Marketing – to get an insight into how the Boston, MA-based business generates content, chooses topics, and puts together consistent and engaging blog content.

How do you generate new ideas for your blog?

“For starters, we look to our readers. Because we have a very specific target audience, we generally have a good idea into the topics they’re most interested in and we routinely poll our readers to ensure we’re covering the topics they’re looking to learn more about. We also turn to our sales and delivery teams who have a first-person view into the challenges our clients face everyday. We write about their greatest pain points and prioritize our blog ideas based on level of need and how they fit into our broader editorial calendar. Regardless of the topic, it’s also important to keep in mind that building a successful blog is not just about the quantity of content and new ideas, but really the quality. If your content doesn’t resonate with your readers, it’s just noise.”

“We invest the time to really to understand our audience’s interests and challenges. This enables us to then provide them the best practices and advice they need to be most successful. Cloud Technology Partners is a cloud-exclusive professional services firm and all of our content reflects this focus on cloud.  Because we have a consistent theme in our publications, our readers know what to expect when they interact with our brand.”

How did the Cloud TP blog get started?

“For starters, we look to our readers. Because we have a very specific target audience, we generally have a good idea into the topics they’re most interested in and we routinely poll our readers to ensure we’re covering the topics they’re looking to learn more about. We also turn to our sales and delivery teams who have a first-person view into the challenges our clients face everyday. We write about their greatest pain points and prioritize our blog ideas based on level of need and how they fit into our broader editorial calendar. Regardless of the topic, it’s also important to keep in mind that building a successful blog is not just about the quantity of content and new ideas, but really the quality. If your content doesn’t resonate with your readers, it’s just noise.”

“We invest the time to really to understand our audience’s interests and challenges. This enables us to then provide them the best practices and advice they need to be most successful. Cloud Technology Partners is a cloud-exclusive professional services firm and all of our content reflects this focus on cloud.  Because we have a consistent theme in our publications, our readers know what to expect when they interact with our brand.”

Do you currently have a content strategy in place? If so, how did you work to create it?

“Early on, our content strategy and editorial calendar was largely ad-hoc. We would cover important market trends in the blog, record a podcast here and there and produce case studies when major projects ended. Today our content strategy is much more prescriptive. One of the key drivers that helped us improve our publications was establishing a regular cadence for content deadlines. We decided that one podcast per week + five articles per week + one case study per month was the right mix for our thought leadership goals. You’ll have to determine what the right mix of content is for your business.”

“We recently expanded The Doppler into a quarterly print edition. The latest issue was 82 pages and focused on Enterprise Cloud Adoption. Adding a print publication to the equation has forced us to be far more organized with our content strategy and editorial calendar. For each issue our content needs to be finalized weeks in advance of the print deadline and we now actively plan ahead to determine the theme of each quarter.”

“Using the Doppler Quarterly to plan out our entire content calendar also helps us tie in our thought leadership activities with the rest of our company announcements and new service offering launches.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d recommend for starting a blog?

“Getting your theme right from the start is critical.  Come up with one sentence that encompasses the core theme of your entire blog. Every article you publish should support this foundational message. For The Doppler it’s “Expert advice to help you succeed in the cloud”.

“When you’re thinking about writing something new, ask yourself, “How does this support my umbrella theme?” This will help you stay on track and maintain the consistency that today’s readers expect.”


Digital marketing performance

Power your digital marketing performance with Maya

  • Measuring your digital marketing with Maya
  • Get an overview of how well your channels are doing and how to improve them

It’s no mystery that top-quality digital marketing performance is a crucial part of increasing business growth for your organisation. If you want people to buy your services, they first need to know about them – and these days, the internet is where they will look first. Digital marketing was once ‘the future of marketing’, now it’s simply: marketing.

But it remains a comparatively new innovation. Over many years, traditional advertising evolved proven methods to track and compare results. Digital marketing hasn’t managed this.

What we need is a tool that works as an all-purpose how-to-kit that benchmarks digital marketing success.

Diagnose your website

Maya plugs the gap in digital marketing performance analysis that we know exists for all digital marketers. This isn’t just another analytics tool; it’s a full purpose digital marketing benchmarker.  

Analytics platforms Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics and Twitter Analytics measure your success within their respective networks. But it’s still difficult to quantify the success of each individual part of a wider strategy – and even harder to determine how they all tie together.

Google Analytics, for example, tells you how many people have viewed your blog, but it has no interest in demonstrating how your wider social and SEO strategies influenced that number – and little advice on how to improve it.

Maya is different. Maya gives you the what, where and how of what’s good, what’s gone wrong, why this happens – and crucially, how to improve it.

Measuring your marketing with Maya

When you visit the website and input the relevant details, Maya runs an initial website diagnosis. Think of it like a full body health check for your blog, website, and social. Here are some of the main areas on which Maya gathers and processes information.

Blog and social engagement

Engagement: perhaps the statistic most fundamental to your digital marketing strategy. This is what everything else feeds into; the concrete number you seek to improve. What you want to know is how successful each blog, social post, and website is at driving traffic.

With Maya, you easily see what types of blogs and tweets perform best, how frequently you post, and where the traffic is coming from. How many people are commenting and retweeting your post? How many are following your links? What could these numbers be – what should they be, and how do you improve them? The answer is just a click away…

Content health and frequency

It’s all well and good knowing how to write good content – but how do you create a good content strategy. You need to plan an effective combination of different content types, knowing when, where and how often each of these should be posted.

Maya won’t just tell you how often you post – it’ll also tell you the optimal content schedule is for each platform, even establishing which time of the day is most optimal for engagement.

Link strategy

How many links are enough? Where do they need to be and where should they lead? Where should they come from? As we’ve mentioned before, an effective link strategy is an important part of getting traffic to your website and making it more navigable once they’ve arrived.

Anyone can tell you to ‘get links in your blog’. But what’s the right balance of internal vs. outbound links? Are you linking to the right sources? What’s the balance of backlinks to your website.

More importantly, what, where, and when do these different types of links appear on your website – and what should you do to improve it?

Mobile and desktop speed

This might seem something of a niche compared to other aspects of your SEO strategy – but Maya’s specialises in diagnosing even these most minute details. Everyone knows how frustrating it is to log onto a website and wait for it to load. Most don’t bother. If either your desktop or mobile speed is slow enough that you lose traffic– you should know.

Learning, tracking, improving

If this upfront diagnosis was all Maya achieved, it’d still be a pretty impressive tool. And if this is all you want from it, then all you need is an email address, a name and a URL to get started.

But the real value of Maya is not its ability tell you what’s wrong with your website; it’s in telling you how to improve. Those who want to get the most out of the tool don’t simply stop there – they sign up for an account, let Maya track their progress over time and record their improvements.

Getting a good overview of your website takes time. The best analyses don’t come from a frozen moment in time – they come from analysing the trends, spikes, and dips over an extended period.

Those that sign up for an account can also access an unparalleled library of informative content, which explains how to improve on each individual element of your content marketing strategy. Did we mention this is all still free?

Tangible results

The best part about the entire Maya process is the moment after plenty of hard work when you realize it’s paid off. Your website is healthy, your content is being read: the leads are flowing.

When that’s all happened, there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting in front of the evidence that links each improvement in that process to the ultimate result. You’ve done a good job: and here’s the proof.

The evidence that Maya provides has many benefits. If your team is sceptical about the potential that a strategy or investment could provide, you’ll have evidence that can help convince them. Get more investment and the information that’ll help you decide where to spend it.

If you clicked on this post thinking ‘what part of my digital marketing strategy can Maya improve’, we hope you’ve found your answer: all of it. The smallest improvement in your marketing could decide whether or not you generate your next lead. So why not make some big changes and see what the potential for improvement holds?

See where you’re at

Measure your inbound digital marketing channels right now

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