Sramana Mitra: Unfortunately, that’s the problem with enterprise sales cycles. They are just so very long.
John Sundberg: Exactly. I did so many demos of the software to them. It was ridiculous. In one of the demos I did for them, they had people from all over the world call. I had given a 1-800 number. The phone bill alone that I had to pay was $3,000 for this demo. It was an interesting learning lesson for me. 1-800 numbers are not a good idea. If the company doesn’t have enough money to pay you to call, they don’t have enough money for software. I got rid of that 1-800 number six months after that.
Sramana Mitra: That’s a decision I made too.
John Sundberg: The only companies that complain about not having a 1-800 number are telcos. If I interact with AT&T or ComCast, they’re like, “Do you have a 1-800 number we can call?” They pay attention to phone numbers. Some government places do too.
It was a lot of fun to sell to Intel. It was great to get that call. It was a great justification of my first Google Ads. Eventually, we did more and more sales. We did a fair amount of Google Ads and would spend $5,000 a month on them. That’s $60,000 a year. We get $4,000 to $5,000 in sales. It was certainly more than what we were spending. Probably about five years ago, we quit doing Google Ads. We put that $60,000 a year, if not more, into writing content that a customer would want to see. That was a wiser move for a lot of reasons.
Sramana Mitra: I’d like to investigate that decision and the execution of that. If you don’t mind, I’d like to double-click down on that. Content marketing is a very good strategy for marketing right now given what has happened in the industry. It has become really easy to publish your own stuff. We use content marketing as our primary marketing strategy as well.
Tell me more about what kind of content you were producing. Where were you publishing? What helped you most in propagating that content?
John Sundberg: I do experiments all the time. Quite frankly, every week we do some sort of an experiment. We do trade shows. We create videos. We host our own user convention. Those are all content-creating events. It’s true that it’s content marketing.
When I used to work at 3M, I was the one who suggested what we bought. Pretty much, I approach things as, “Pretend I’m the guy at the company that is making this decision. Do I want the result of $60,000 of ads or the result of $60,000 of content?” The answer is always the $60,000 of content.
Sramana Mitra: You see how people think and what value they add to my thinking.
John Sundberg: You got it exactly. Companies end up having a personality and you like that personality. You root for that personality, especially when they’re comparing you to a competitor. Do I like that competitor’s personality or the other? That’s how I approach it. If I were the buyer, what would I actually want? I do that in terms of how we design, license, and market our software. If I were the company, how would I want it? That’s much of the driver.
People want to see more videos of what we are doing. People want to see more samples and best practices. Much of the content that we create is put out on our site. We have kineticdata.com, but we also have demo.kinetic.com and community.kineticdata.com. I have no idea what the number is, but it would be roughly 2,000 pieces of content now over the last 10 years. I routinely talk to our customers and I would say, very confidently, that our customers love us. They also told me we are the number one company that they like of all the vendors that they work with. These are all big companies that have hundreds of vendors, and we are the number one. It’s because I think we share our content and thinking.
Sramana Mitra: That builds trust. For a brand-building strategy these days, content marketing should be one of the top five strategies for every brand. It’s difficult to do. Producing good content that people really want to engage with is extremely difficult to do.
John Sundberg: I don’t know in terms of the percentage of our content that’s really attention-grabbing. Some content is fluff. We certainly have that. We have a lot of content that is not fluff. There’s a mix. Every single tweet you make and every single white paper you release cannot be earth-shattering. It’s impossible.
Sramana Mitra: It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It has to be credible.
John Sundberg: Right. It’s good to be on-message and not confuse your readers.