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Demand Gen Perspectives: Sprint’s Kevin Adams on Why Measurement Matters

By Steve Middleton – VP, Demand Generation at Tendo Communications.

In its annual survey on the state of content marketing, the Content Marketing Institute asks B2B marketers about their top challenges. Consistently, survey respondents report that finding quality content is a top challenge (the 2016 survey reports “engaging” content as a challenge faced by 60% of B2B marketers).


Kevin Adams

Tendo Communications set out to ask respected marketing leaders with deep experience in demand generation to talk about what makes quality or engaging content. What are the attributes, how do you create it, and why is it so important?

Tendo’s second in a series features Kevin Adams, a 30-year technology marketing veteran currently in product marketing at Sprint. (Read the first post in the series, about how quality content can delight customers, here.)

What is quality, engaging content in your perspective?

The key attributes that pop into my head are:

  • Accurate
  • Relevant
  • Timely
  • Focused
  • Fresh
  • Engaging

But it really all boils down to the content’s performance and how it’s measured. You can have something that’s timely, but if it’s not focused it’s not going to produce well. You can keep the content fresh, but if it’s not relevant or accurate it’s not going to produce the results you want.

I’m constantly asking, How do we measure performance? How do we measure what we do? And whether it’s demand gen projects I’ve worked on in the past or something I’m working on today, I’m always starting from What am I going to get out of it? So for me it comes down to measurement.

Is this something you’ve talked about with your teams? How to create quality or engaging assets?

Constantly. I learned a mantra early in my career and no matter what role I have, it’s still true: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. When I began my career, measurement was more difficult. It tended to be about the number of inbound calls we received from a print ad using key metrics from those conversations to understand what’s going on with our messaging. This process could take weeks to complete the cycle and provide insight.

But now that we have moved into the digital age, we can be more sophisticated, and there’s so much data available for analysis. The trick is to not get distracted by data points that don’t matter. Each of those six key attributes can be fully explored and the data utilized within minutes or hours of an actual customer or prospect interaction.

Regardless of organization size, financial status, or industry, it’s the details that matter. Measurement is key to managing a successful campaign.

What are the ways that people go wrong with creating quality, engaging content?

When they skip the details. They get into a project, and instead of thinking about how to build quality content at the earliest stages of the planning process, they focus on the creative elements then find themselves in a bit of a bind downstream seeking campaign measurement methods.

By then it’s too late to go back and figure out what they missed in order to meet their deadline. So they have to keep pushing forward and just keep their fingers crossed that things turn out well. That’s tough to explain to a CEO or CFO wanting to know the return on the investment.

I can’t stress enough the importance of the planning process. A lot of people skip or minimize that stage.

As you think back over content projects you’ve worked on, are there any that stand out as models, either good or bad?

Human nature is to separate yourself from things that go bad. The example I’m going to give you is one that I was not involved with, but this project always stands out for me, because it was a huge eye opener about how things can go wrong.

Back in the 90s, I was working at a company where many of our prospective customers had acquired other businesses. They found themselves with three or four disparate email and communication systems. We were selling a solution that would tie all those together.

The marketing team decided to build a dimensional mailer targeted to CEOs at the top 20 prospective companies, and one of those happened to be a major automobile manufacturer. The marketing team developed a three-dimensional box with three doors. You opened up one door and it had a sound chip in it describing the business problem. Another door had a bunch of loose wires to represent disparate systems that weren’t connecting. The third door demonstrated how our solution tied all those things together. These mailers cost over $300 each.

This was about the same time that the Unabomber was active.

These packages were mailed out. Now the CEO of the company I was working for and the CEO of the automobile manufacturer were friends. When this piece got into the prospect’s mailroom, they X-rayed it and locked the building down and evacuated. When it finally cleared, it got up to their CEO. He called our company’s CEO and said, “I just want you to know that we put this in our marketing ‘Hall of Shame’ as an example of what not to do.”

This is an example of how you’ve got to plan and overcommunicate. This was a team that was trying to gain all the glory and they forgot that there might be some environmental perspective they were not thinking about and didn’t bother to seek input.

That story speaks back to the attributes of quality content. It was highly creative, and probably could have generated great results. But from a timeliness standpoint and a planning perspective, it was a fail.

Absolutely. On the flip side, one that was really successful was the Power Your Ideas campaign for Sprint Wholesale. As a wholesale organization, we have technology partners who are looking for a way to bring their ideas to life—and the way they did this was through access to Sprint’s cellular network.

We developed an overarching theme about Sprint Wholesale enabling amazing organizations to bring their ideas to market. The icon for the campaign was a box with the top open and a light coming out of it, representing the Big Idea. We were able to develop case studies and advertising to support it using top-shelf brand case studies to prove our success.

It carried through into trade shows and events and really did resonate. It was an example of accurate, resonant, focused, engaging content. We saw a tremendous surge in content engagement and sales—it really was a stellar moment for the organization.

I clearly remember asking the Sprint and agency team in the development stages of the campaign whether or not the messaging was confusing or simple to understand. I think marketers sometimes forget to ask that question.

By Steve Middleton – VP, Demand Generation at Tendo Communications

Tendo Communications is a B2B content marketing agency in San Francisco. Tendo Communications has been helping companies develop quality content for a range of demand generation programs. To see examples and learn more, click here.