Content Marketing: How a telecommunications company uses controversy to drive millions in pipeline
Tellabs is a global communications equipment company supporting telecom leaders such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon and Telefonica, and it’s able to hold its own in a cut-throat marketplace with competition up to 30 times its size.
“Tellabs is playing a David and Goliath game,” admits George Stenitzer, Vice President of Communications, Tellabs. “And content marketing is the slingshot that gives us a fair advantage.”
The rock in that slingshot is controversy.
“We want thought-provoking content: the kind of content that if you discussed it with your prospects in a crowded room, it should inspire an argument,” Stenitzer explained.
He cited the company’s study, The End of Profitability.
“We had a number of meetings with other industry analysts who did not share the point of view that we had in our report. They got in my face and said to me, ‘Look, your reports are all wrong. We have been following this industry for years. We don’t see anything like that coming. What are you talking about?’”
He walked them through Tellabs’ thought processes and the trends the company saw coming.
“What we found was in the course of those meetings, people were surprised,” he said. “Their eyes were opened. They gained a point of view that they had not seen before,” he says.
These kinds of conversations have helped Tellabs to:
- Attract prospects outside of its traditional marketplace, such as Google, government agencies and utility providers using the same services as telecom companies. This has created a multi-million dollar pipeline of pending deals every year.
- Gain worldwide industry attention. For instance, Tellabs is the only telecom company to have two stories featuring its content listed among the top 10 most-read stories for Total Telecom, an industry magazine serving readers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Here’s an overview of the steps the team at Tellabs takes to develop and distribute thought-provoking content:
1. They work with their public relations agency, one that specializes in the telecom industry, to come up with ideas which:
- Relate to their audience’s most pressing issues and problems.
- Point directly to Tellabs’ solutions.
They spend two months bouncing these ideas off professionals inside and outside Tellabs – from Sales and Marketing to industry analysts and journalists to customers. Stenitzer then has several face-to-face meetings with the public relations agency to hash out final ideas.
2. Once they choose an idea, they submit a request for proposal to identify an analyst firm to build a study around it. The selected firm spends several months doing research on the topic – including interviewing Tellabs customers. Actual customer quotes are always a part of their study. It’s a process that takes several months.
“It will save you a lot of work if you use your industry analysts and journalists to do the thinking, questioning, writing and framing of the issues in your study,” Stenitzer advised. “Our industry journalists are well-known and respected by readers; they know how the industry works – there’s a lot of expertise we capture there.”
Stenitzer hires industry journalists for this purpose.
4. They don’t give everything away. Instead, their goal is to pique prospects’ interests to learn more, because the only way they can do so is to set up a meeting with Tellabs.
“We’ve turned content marketing into something that helps Sales get their job done,” Stenitzer said.