Speeds, feeds, and awesome AI.
Many tech marketers emphasize those angles to talk about how great their products are, says Richard McGill Murphy, editor-in-chief and director, ServiceNow.
But ServiceNow approaches it differently. The company’s editorial site Workflow launched in 2018 to engage C-level audiences with ideas rather than products. By focusing on emerging tech and business strategy for C-suite leaders, the content covers “technology in the service of people rather than the other way around,” Richard explains.
Since then, Workflow has become a content program in the truest sense: content, data science, distribution, on-site experimentation, and agile publishing practices come together to benefit the company.
That’s why Workflow took top Content Marketing Awards honors in Best Multi-Year Content Marketing Program, Best Content Marketing ROI/Measurement Program, and Best Agency/Client Content Marketing Partnership (with agency Message Lab) in 2021. It also earned a finalist nod for Best Content Marketing Program of the Year, and Richard earned a nod as a finalist for 2021 B2B Content Marketer of the Year.
How did they make the program such a success? Richard shared some of the magic with us, including details of their tight focus on audience needs supported by rich analytics and a cadre of writers with journalism backgrounds.
Elevate the conversation
“Executives are really interested in the strategic impact of technology, and less so in understanding the ins and outs of point solutions and technology. That’s why we do what we do,” Richard says.
Workflow’s journalistic and research-based storytelling approach aims to build awareness and deepen relationships with existing customers. “It becomes more and more important to have strong relationships with the most senior decision-makers at these companies,” Richard explains. About 80% of Fortune 500 companies are ServiceNow customers, he says.
Drill deep into audience segmentation
But while C-level executives share “chief” in their titles, they lead diverse areas. Workflow’s readership crosses disciplines, helping ServiceNow gain insight into its different audiences. As their CMA nomination explains: “We combined engaged time and article metadata, then made narrow audiences on LinkedIn where we could gain certainty on (the reader’s) title.”
For example, they realized audience members who hold the title chief human resources officers in the United States have different needs than an audience of people who have a vice president of HR title at the same companies. They also learned senior HR audiences are Workflow’s most engaged readers across topics, while CEOs are most interested in how global events shape the workplace.
On the Workflow site, ServiceNow has a hub called the C-Suite Library. The dropdown menu lets users click their role (CEO, CIO, COO, CRO, CHRO, or CCO) and see content directly relevant to their interests.
That kind of segmentation also helps Workflow create promotions with the content most relevant to the targeted niche audience segment.
Over 1,000 articles have been published since Workflow began in 2018. In addition to the C-level categorization, the article hub offers visitors six topic categories – customer experience, employee experience, IT transformation, hyper-automation and low code, security, and risk.
Every quarter, it publishes a digital magazine called Workflow Quarterly, which contains deeply reported feature stories, videos, data-based self-assessments, and interactive graphics. Workflow Quarterly won Best Content-Driven Website and Best New Digital Publication in 2020 and earned several finalist nods that year, too.
Data-driven content decisions and conversion analysis
ServiceNow uses a unique conversion to evaluate its content marketing’s effectiveness – visitor to reader. ServiceNow defines a reader as someone who engages with the article for at least one minute or scrolls at least halfway down the page.
“Workflow, in particular, has emerged as a really interesting insight engine,” Richard says, “not just about who the audience is, but what the audience cares about, what they consume. That creates a feedback loop which we use to optimize the content.”
Workflow’s impact grows each year. Sessions jumped 50% in 2020, even as paid promotions intended to drive traffic decreased. The time a typical reader spent actively reading Workflow content jumped to more than two minutes.
And that’s big for lead generation too. More than 18,000 people who had visited Workflow filled out a form on ServiceNow – that’s about 15% of the total form submissions. As they explain in the CMA nomination: “These people were about four times more likely to complete the form than someone who hadn’t visited Workflow.”
Repeat visits to Workflow also indicated a greater likelihood to convert through a ServiceNow form. While 1% of one-time Workflow visitors completed a form, 9% of those who visited the site three times did.
A regression analysis helped them go deeper. The team created “time bands” that looked at visitor behavior in five- and 15-second increments. They learned shorter headlines and more literal photos were likely to keep people on the site past the 15-second mark.
Richard says Workflow created a new reader metric – defining what turns a visitor into a reader as someone who spends more than one minute reading an article or scrolling down at least halfway. That group is more likely to ultimately become a lead.
The Workflow team can access all the analytics in real-time through a custom dashboard. Message Lab described the project this way in their CMA entry: “The site itself has become a laboratory where we can measure, test, and shape a range of behaviors.”
Professional writers power the work
A small team of in-house editors and writers works with Message Lab to produce Workflow. Independent journalists who have written for major publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Fortune do most of the writing. Over 120 people appear on Workflow’s team page.
As Richard says: “We see ourselves orchestrating a conversation, not just broadcasting all about how awesome ServiceNow is.”
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute