Tellab's Stenitzer: Tell your customers' stories rather than your own while content marketing

George Stenitzer

George Stenitzer, VP-communications at Tellabs and one of FierceCMO's 2013 picks for CMOs to watch, is a content marketing all-star. During his 13-year tenure at Tellabs, Stenitzer has taken the company's 30-year-old publication Tellabs Insights mobile, while including interactive content like videos, white papers and links to content on the website or blog. He sat down with FierceCMO's Tequia Burt to talk about how B2B marketers can most successfully leverage their content.

FierceCMO: What has the marketing department at Tellabs been focused on in the last year?
George Stenitzer: Well, we've really been focusing on three things. The first is delivering content to our customers before they talk to the salesforce to help them find reasons to be interested in our solutions. The second piece is sales enablement, so that when sales is in the field, they have the materials they need—the collateral, the presentations, the videos, the talking points, or whatever else that's useful. And the third piece is demand generation, so taking the interest that content and sales can generate with customers and turning prospects into paying customers and into revenue.

FierceCMO: Can you talk a little bit more about your content marketing strategy? What are some of the things that you are doing in that area?
George Stenitzer: Tellab's has a really long, deep history in content marketing; we've had a customer magazine, Insight Magazine, for about 30 years. What's changed about the magazine, especially in the last three or four years, is that it used to be us talking about us; now it's us talking about our customers and about the future. I just went back and looked at our last four quarterly magazines, so a years-worth of content, and in that time we were able to celebrate the successes of nine customers around the world who were working on their mobile networks, on their business services, delivery on consumer services, using Tellabs products. But they tell their stories to a journalist who freelances for us, so it's not written the way a marketer would write it—it's written the way a journalist would write it and that's really key for Insights. The other thing that we've added in the last year is eight industry analysts. And industry analysts are great to give you a sense of what are the trends, what are the questions to ask, what's important.

When I look at how our content performs on our website, I can see that stories about customers and about future trends with industry analysts are two of the biggest pulls that we have. And that same content, we express in other ways with our blog; we took our blog this year from once a week to twice a week and we've seen an increase in traffic, so it's working. We increased the videos that we are doing and those are again focused on telling the customer stories. We put investment into thought-provoking content—Tellabs actually commissioned an industry analyst to do a study and look at a trend that is going to have an impact on our customers. So this year what we looked at was how much customers are spending on their mobile backhaul network.

Now the mobile backhaul is everything between the antenna that picks up your cell-phone signal and the telephone company's network and the Internet; that whole link in there is what Tellabs works on. And one thing we showed the industry was that at the rate that they are investing right now, there will be a shortfall in mobile backhaul capacity because people are using their phones to watch videos and get information from the cloud and use a bunch of apps in email and that's creating tons and tons of traffic. Service providers have not found a way to profitably keep up with this because users don't want to pay more—we just want to use more. So in February, we showed how the total backhaul gap would lead up to about 16 petabytes. Now how big is that? That's the same as 200 years of HD movies. So there would be users on their networks by the year 2017, so looking out a ways, who wants to download these HD movies, but they can't get there because there's just not enough capacity in the network. And then in August we came back and showed that there is a new technology—software defined networking or SDN—and with that, they could close this backhaul gap by about half. So it doesn't solve the whole problem, but it gets pretty far along in closing that gap because that's really the biggest problem for our customers: users want to use more than we are willing to pay for. How can the service provider keep delivering a good deal of experience and still make money? This is a tough problem for our customers so we put a lot of time into that this year.

FierceCMO: What's on the horizon for 2014? Has Tellabs considered native advertising?
George Stenitzer: I guess it would depend on how you define 'native advertising,' but there are a couple things we do. For example, we mail our magazine directly to customers. We also distribute it through media partners. So, for example, if you receive Global Telecoms Business, you get it in a poly bag where it comes with Tellabs Insight Magazine. Similarly, websites like Total Telecom and Connect-World distribute our magazine electronically and promote it and advertise it. But what we're advertising isn't specifically a Tellabs product; what we're really advertising is a customer success story.

FierceCMO: Connected customers have forced many B2B companies to shift how they engage their customers. How has Tellabs moved on to this empowered customer?
George Stenitzer: Well, I think there a couple of ways. One is that you need to have what the customer is looking for before they talk to sales—so things that help them define: do they have a need and how big is that need, and how urgent is that need? And then the second thing is: How does your company's solution differentiate from what people are finding on competitors' websites? It's really about helping them identify the problem, helping them to see that there is a different solution at Tellabs than they might get from a competitor. You need to provide thought-provoking content and also content they want to discuss with sales. I was pleasantly surprised this past year when we got a call from Telmex, one of our big customers, about a study that we had released in 2011; it forecasted trends that went years into the future, so when customers come across it now, they're still interested in it. It has a very long tail, but customers want to hear about customers and they want to hear about how the future is going to be and how they can succeed much more than they want to hear a vendor talking about itself.

FierceCMO: What was the biggest challenge for B2B content marketers in the past year?
George Stenitzer: The challenge is winning attention even as attention spans get shorter. Everybody is diving into content marketing now—when we started with it, we didn't have a lot of competitors doing it. Pretty much all the competitors in B2B are doing some form of content marketing, so I think it's harder to stand out.

FierceCMO: We all know that mobile is becoming increasingly important; it's an integral part of our everyday life. But, unfortunately, various studies show B2B marketers still have a lot of work to do in this area. How do you think B2B marketers should be implementing mobile at their companies?
George Stenitzer: Well, there are three things that we already have done and there is a fourth that we plan to do in the year ahead. The first thing we did was make our site tablet-friendly—that meant getting the videos into HTML5 format rather than flash for all the Apple devices out there. The second thing we did was add applications. For example, Insight Magazine is available as an app in the iTunes store; it's also available as an Android app. The third thing we did was add a front-end for smartphones to make our website easier to navigate. In 2014, we are planning to push farther and go with responsive design on our website so that content is optimized for whatever size screen you're looking from—and there are a lot more screen sizes than there used to be—whether it is a PC, a laptop, a full-size tablet, a half-sized tablet, smartphone, a smartphone with a big screen, whatever; only responsive design really addresses that.

FierceCMO: What's your best piece of advice to B2B marketers?
George Stenitzer: Help customers have success stories and then tell those success stories—customers want to hear stories about people like them. We're telling our customers stories through our news releases, our videos and our magazine content. Insight Magazine is really about celebrating the successes that customers have had working with us and it's more about the customers than it is about the company. I think that's what our future holds—a focus on customers and helping them see things that are three to five years into the future that will have a big impact on their business. That's what our thought-provoking content is all about. 

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Tellab's Stenitzer: Tell your customers' stories rather than your own while content marketing