Great speeds, nutrition and artificial intelligence.
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 handles it differently. The company’s editorial site Workflow launched in 2018 to engage C-level audiences with ideas rather than products. Focusing on the emerging technology and business strategies of C-suite leaders, the content covers “technology at 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 for the benefit of the company.
That’s why Workflow won top content marketing awards in Best Multi-Year Content Marketing Program, Best Marketing ROI/Content Measurement Program, and Best Agency/Customer Content Marketing Partnership (with Message Lab Agency) in 2021. It also received a final nod for Content Marketing Program of the Year, and Richard received a nod as a finalist for the 2021 B2B Content Marketer of the Year.
How did they make the program such a success? Richard shared with us some of the magic, including details of their keen focus on audience needs backed by rich analysis and a cadre of writers with journalistic backgrounds.
Raise the conversation level
“Executives are really interested in the strategic impact of technology, and to a lesser extent in understanding the ins and outs of solutions and technology. That is why we do what we do,” Richard says.
Workflow’s journalistic and research-driven storytelling approach aims to build awareness and deepen relationships with existing clients. “It is increasingly important to have strong relationships with key decision-makers in these companies,” Richard explains. About 80% of Fortune 500 companies are ServiceNow customers, he says.
Divide the audience
But while C-level executives share their “chairman” titles, they lead diverse areas. Workflow readers transcend disciplines, helping ServiceNow gain insight into its different audiences. As their CMA nomination explains: “We collected time and article metadata, then made a narrow audience on LinkedIn where we could be sure of (the reader’s) title.”
For example, they realized that members of the public who hold the title of chief human resources officer in the United States have different needs than the audience of people who hold the vice president of human resources at the same companies. They also learned that senior HR listeners are the most engaged readers of Workflow 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 allows users to click on their role (CEO, CIO, COO, CRO, CHRO, or CCO) and see content directly related to their interests.
This type of segmentation also helps Workflow create promotions with the most relevant content for your target audience segment.
More than 1,000 articles have been published since Workflow began in 2018. In addition to being ranked at the C-level, the Article Center offers visitors six topical categories – Customer Experience, Employee Experience, IT Transformation, Super Automation, Low Code, Security, and Risk.
The site also contains guides organized by topic, industry, and region, as well as extensive courses and core learning content.
Every quarter, it publishes a digital magazine called Workflow Quarterly, which contains featured stories, videos, data-driven self-assessments, and interactive graphics. Workflow Quarterly won Best Content Driven Website and Best New Digital Publication in 2020 and received several finalist nominations that year as well.
Data-driven content decisions and conversion analysis
ServiceNow uses a unique conversion to assess the effectiveness of content marketing – from visitor to reader. ServiceNow defines a reader as the person who engages with the article for at least one minute or navigates at least halfway through the page.
“Workflow, in particular, has emerged as a really interesting insight engine, not just about who the audience is, but what the audience is interested in, and what they are consuming. It creates a feedback loop that we use to improve the content,” Richard says.
The impact of the workflow grows every year. Sessions jumped 50% in 2020, even as paid promotions aimed at driving more traffic declined. The time spent by the average reader actively reading workflow content jumped to over two minutes.
This is great for lead generation too. Over 18,000 people who visited Workflow filled out a form on ServiceNow – that’s about 15% of all form submissions. As they explained in the CMA nomination: “These people were four times more likely to complete the form than someone who had not visited Workflow.”
Repeat visits to Workflow also indicated a higher probability of conversion through the ServiceNow model. While 1% of one-time visitors to the workflow completed a form, 9% of those who visited the site three times did so.
The regression analysis helped them dig deeper. The team created “time scales” that looked at visitor behavior in increments of five to 15 seconds. They learned shorter addresses and more verbatim images were more likely to keep people on the site after the 15-second mark.
Richard says Workflow has created a new reader metric—that defines what converts a visitor into a reader as someone who spends more than a minute reading an article or scrolling down at least halfway. This group is likely to eventually become a leader.
The Workflow team can access all real-time analytics through a dedicated 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 model a range of behaviours.”
Professional writers strengthen the work
A small team of in-house editors and writers works with Message Lab to produce Workflow. Freelance journalists who have written for major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune do most of the writing. Over 120 people appear on the Workflow Team Page.
As Richard puts it: “We see ourselves running a conversation, not just broadcasting all about how great ServiceNow is.”
Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute