At a recent Emerald Marketing Association presentation, I met a bright, cheerful, and enthusiastic marketing pro, Lindsey Muth, Marketing Director for King Retail Solutions (KRS).
Much admired locally (Eugene, Oregon), KRS has earned a reach and reputation well beyond its small-city beginnings.
I’ve been a fan of KRS for some time, and — as a content marketer — I’ve particularly noticed the company’s relatively low-key, but highly effective content marketing work.
This is a company that really gets content marketing, and it shows.
Naturally, I was delighted to meet the marketer behind those efforts, and was eager to learn more about their work, and to share what I learned.
King Retail Solutions (KRS) is a thriving, nationally recognized, award-winning, retail interior design and manufacturing firm, headquartered in Eugene, Oregon.
Under one roof KRS designs and creates store interiors for major brands. These shopping environments not only embody the essence of the brand owner, they also reflect KRS’s unique set of skills and insights into consumer behavior.
Lindsey told me she has worked in marketing since graduating from the University of Arizona (Business and English), first in a naming-branding firm, then for several years as Director of Communications in the corporate travel industry. She joined KRS about 2½ years ago. Remarkably, given how robust the company’s marketing is today, KRS did not have a formal marketing department when she arrived.
Lindsey’s rapid-fire insights were accompanied by a humble and approachable spirit, as she answered questions about KRS and her involvement in the growth of this company.
We’re a sales-driven organization. I report to the EVP of Sales. Our primary mission is to support the sales team, providing them with the materials they need for client interaction, as well as provide the tools for generating leads. We also support two of our VPs who are thought-leaders in our industry.
Examples of this support for sales include traditional, outbound marketing, like paid ad campaigns. But increasingly, Lindsey said, the company is reaping the benefits of customer-focused, inbound, content marketing efforts.
Lindsey described one recent offline content marketing piece:
We recently published a beautiful, coffee-table-style, hardbound book of case studies. These showcase several of our innovative retail interiors. The sales team can bookmark pages from this piece and present it to their prospects. This enables a personal touch by sales, while also presenting our product in a consistent and powerful way.
Another example of KRS’s innovative use of content marketing merited a longer explanation:
I am not all that comfortable with the ROI of traditional advertising in this B2B space. In fact, I had to have my arm twisted a bit to take on an advertising campaign using traditional and online media last year. We worked really hard, and came up with a campaign that we thought was very creative and very well executed. We even got several compliments on the campaign from outside the company.
Adjacent to the ad campaign, we were working on a separate content marketing piece. We had decided we needed to obtain some industry data that just wasn’t available anywhere. The topic area we were interested in is “Category Blurring,” which refers to the trend in retail toward bringing in new categories to traditional shopping experiences. We found out where consumers were purchasing groceries, clothing, fresh-prepared food, and services — in places that aren’t grocery stores, clothing stores, restaurants, and service businesses.
It took some effort, but we produced a survey of 1,200 consumers. A big component of our success and credibility came from involving a “dot-edu.” A professor reviewed the design of our survey and questions, suggested some additional questions, and reviewed the responses. They were able to get some data that they needed, which was valuable to them.
We recruited people with an even mix of urban, suburban, rural, male/female, and income levels. We used Survey Monkey, and did the data crunching, which was also a lot of effort, especially since many people didn’t spell store names consistently or correctly. In the end, we produced a document in the form of a multi-page infographic. We didn’t draw any conclusions, or put any spin on this, we simply reported what we found, for the benefit of the industry and our customers.
What was valuable was that since we couldn’t find this information, neither could our customers or competitors, so we were pretty sure there would be a demand for it. We made the information freely available on our website, made some announcements, and waited to see what would happen.
I asked Lindsey how the two approaches — outbound advertising versus high-value content marketing — compared in terms of results.
Overall, we spent about one third as much on the survey as we did on the ad campaign later in the year. But the response was very different.
For example, when we did the ad campaign in fall 2013 our web traffic increased about 25% on email days compared to same day/previous week…nothing in that advertisement led directly (to our knowledge) to a new lead, new client, press mention, etc.
By contrast, we promoted the study on our website and social media, and paid for the distribution of a press release at the beginning of February. At first, the response was good, but not overwhelming.
Then a reporter from Forbes published a story in mid-February of this year. When Forbes picked up the Category Blurring study, our web traffic immediately jumped to about 300% of normal and stayed up for several weeks. We expect our web traffic to constantly increase, but the coverage we’ve gotten on the study not only caused a momentary spike, it’s elevated our daily traffic growth rates. For example, our January traffic was 8% higher in 2014 than 2013.
We released the study in February 2014, and the press pickups mostly occurred in mid-to-late February. Our March traffic this year has been 105% higher than March 2013.
Beyond numbers — which are fun to look at but I honestly prefer to talk about real-world results — we’ve gotten multiple opportunities out of this survey project. These include contacts from potential clients who are interested in the results and may be interested in working with us in the future.
What was valuable was that since we couldn’t find this information, neither could our customers or competitors, so we were pretty sure there would be a demand for it. We made the information freely available on our website… and waited to see what would happen.
We’ve been approached for several potential industry relationships, some of whom are trade organizations, high profile non-profits, universities, and Fortune 100 companies who’ve expressed interest in the study and our company.
Beyond that, the study has already led directly to two high-profile speaking engagements for my team in the coming year, which is great for us. We love to attend industry events and always prefer to attend as thought leaders, whenever possible.
We went on to discuss the rest of KRS’s marketing mix, starting with social media.
We do use social media, but we don’t panic over social media.
We use Hootsuite to schedule and monitor our posts. We use Twitter to expand our reach, mainly around industry events and tradeshows. But the focus of our social presence is LinkedIn, where we do about one post a week. We made a conscious decision not to use Facebook. We didn’t want to be in the bathtub with our customers.
What I mean by that is we wanted to keep our social presence highly professional, fitting with our brand identity of a serious design company. We felt that Facebook was too informal, too tied to most people’s lives. And since we are connecting with the C-suite of major corporations, Facebook isn’t right for us. The people that hire us are business leaders, and they don’t do their work research on Facebook, they use LinkedIn.
I mentioned the concept of “Employed Media.” This refers to using employees to help boost and share your published content and extend its reach. Lindsey was enthusiastic:
We use that constantly. Every time we publish on LinkedIn, an email goes out to our employees about it, and they are reminded that we would love their help (they aren’t ordered, and we don’t track it) to share the content. Only about a third of our employees are on LinkedIn, and generally there are somewhere around 20 or so likes or shares that are generated that way. But it’s a big help overall.
She noted that KRS employs a 3:1 mix of organic to sponsored posts. They also have a mix of curated and original content. Overall, though, their spending levels are very low, especially as LinkedIn allows such a high degree of targeting, and a very reasonable rate for what is a precise match to their target customer.
More Than a Corporate Marketer
We made a conscious decision not to use Facebook. We didn’t want to be in the bathtub with our customers.
By the way, Lindsey is more than a busy and successful corporate marketer. She’s married and mother to two young children. She’s also a popular “Mommy blogger,” with around 6,000 daily pageviews. Lindsey described her blog, “Ot and Et”:
The blog’s name refers to my kiddos: Otto “Ot” who’s now 5 and Loretta “Et” who’s 2. I guess I’ve been doing a version of the blog for about 3½ years. It’s grown and evolved since the beginning and the name has changed a few times…From a marketing perspective, I’m super aware that I haven’t done a lot of things “right” but I also kind of don’t care.
When it comes to stats I haven’t even linked the blog up to Google Analytics yet. Although I know I should. I guess I’ve been trying pretty hard not to treat it like a business. It’s really my hobby. I’ve found some of my best friendships, with women around the country and around the world, through the blog and social media surrounding the blog.
I was thrilled to have this opportunity to get to know Lindsey, and grateful for a look inside KRS, a company that’s putting content marketing to work in a very practical — and rewarding — way.
The big takeaways for me:
- Long-form, valuable content delivers big results, especially when compared to outbound marketing.
- Valuable content can be produced with less financial investment, even for larger projects, especially when you can use in-house talent along with the right dose of external expertise.
- Making sure your social media mix matches your target audience will prevent wasted time and money by working in the wrong spaces.
Thank you, Lindsey!
I invite our readers to contribute your comments, thoughts, and questions on Lindsey’s words and KRS’s approach.