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Building an Integrated Marketing Strategy from the Ground Up: An Interact Story

November 15, 2011
Katie Sheridan of Interact Incorporated isn’t afraid to admit that the company’s marketing efforts have come a long way in the past 5 years. In fact, for many companies in the tech and telecommunications industries, the marketing game has changed significantly: With their target audience primarily going online to find information, and the numbers of competitors increasing, marketers have found that more proactive and aggressive online marketing campaigns are the only way to avoid extinction in the new virtual age.

Interact chose to take a two-pronged approach to their marketing; assess their internal capabilities first, then determine where and how to partner with external companies to boost their efforts. As Sheridan states, “like most companies, you try it on your own and find out what you can and can’t do,” and for what they didn’t have the internal capabilities for, Interact turned to TMC (News - Alert). Starting with presence at technology events, the Interact team ultimately developed a more formal, integrated marketing strategy with TMC to combine their marketing strengths for powerful results.

The Evolution of the IVR Systems Online Community

In 2009, Interact chose to sponsor an online community on TMCnet to reach their target audience, integrate their SEO initiatives and have a better organic ranking on major search engines in order to keep up with the competition. The site was designed to position Interact as a thought leader with content that distinguishes their company from others in the industry. Sheridan states, “we like to introduce cutting-edge offerings, so we want to put that information out there to show how our technology is evolving.”

But not every online community is a success from the onset, and Interact experienced some challenges getting their site off the ground. Here are 3 lessons Interact (as many other companies have) learned the hard way:

1)      Choose a Relevant Term that Get Better, as Opposed to More, Visitors: You may want to rank for a specific term. I mean really really want to rank for it. But sometimes being realistic about what you can expect out of a certain term is the hardest lessons for community sponsors to learn. Originally, Interact struggled with finding a term that spoke to the exact audience they wanted to reach, even though they were receiving a high number of hits with their Voice XML site. So, after a year, they opted to switch the term to IVR Systems and, as Sheridan states, “have generated a great deal more successful contact. The number “hits” are less but the quality of the hits are really paying off.”

Understanding what you’re really trying to achieve from your online community is crucial to achieving success, and getting insight from community-building experts can sometimes make all the difference, as Sheridan states, “TMC has been helpful to make sure we understand how to leverage our site, which has led us to look at our own web presence and what we need to do to improve that as well.”   

2)      Speak About the Industry, Not Only Your Company: One of the best ways to be successful as an online community is to provide non-promotional, educational and industry-specific, not company-specific, content. This is a challenge for many community sponsors who don’t want to feature a competitor, or want to use the site as a place to run ad after ad about their company. Sheridan states, “if you continually do that you won’t engage a following or leadership.” She explains that Interact doesn’t condone this practice because “people aren’t coming to [your online community] learn about you; they want to advance their own knowledge, learn and talk about industry trends and understand where Interact fits into that picture.” The more information you give your targeted audience, the more their trust in you will build, ultimately enhancing your position as the provider of choice when decision-making time comes.

3)      Be Involved in What’s Written About You: The more involved a community manager is with their content, the better quality pieces they will have available for site visitors. Sheridan states, “I work with [my TMCnet editor] Juliana and every week we are in contact a few times– she throws out ideas and if we have a blog we send it to her and she’ll form an article.” This helps expand the reach of press releases, white papers and other company updates through exposure on the online community, and also helps ensure all messages are consistent.

Educational Content as an Inbound Marketing Driver

For 2011, Interact is focusing on further building their online presence with high-impact content, like white papers. Sheridan states, “white papers were brand new to us this year.  We have 6 of them, and have learned a ton as we go with the campaigns.” Interact’s technology and capabilities are unique, and need white papers that reflect that and position them as a thought leader.  Here are a few things Interact has learned along the way to help meet these objectives:

1)      Beat the Buzz: Interact learned to take advantage of the hot industry “buzz” words of the moment in their white papers, writing pieces that cover topics people are talking about, and searching for.

2)      Focus on the Personal, Not the Technical: Sheridan shares that earlier white papers delivered by the company were “too technical” but, over time, have progressed to deliver messages and calls to action that resonate with their target audience. This helps get the white paper into the hands of key decision makers who have influence over whether Interact’s products are purchased.

3)      Promote Content with More Content: Content begets content, and using various online channels is the best way to promote a white paper. Interact covers each white paper on their blog and online community; social media sites and press releases are the icing on the content cake, as they provide the additional exposure and SEO-boost the Interact white papers need.

4)      Call in the Experts: Interact partners with TMCnet to promote their white papers through the exclusive content created for their IVR Systems online community and other online campaigns to ensure it gets in the hands of as many readers as possible.

The results? White papers have been an extremely successful undertaking for Interact, who are certainly reaping the rewards of their efforts. Sheridan states, “the majority of leads we’re getting are from white paper generation; that has been extremely successful from a numbers perspective for us and has been single greatest lead gen piece that we’ve done with TMC.”

One lesson learned from their white paper initiative was to have an internal process established for managing leads that come in from the assets. Sheridan states, “we were anticipating 15-20 leads per month, and are at a pace of 50-60, so that’s a good problem to have but are looking into tools” to help manage the prospects.

Integration Means Alignment

From changing their online community name to shifting white paper topics, Interact has learned meaningful lessons in integration from their multiple efforts. They found that alignment is the key to successful online campaigns: Alignment with marketing messages, yes, but also with what your target audience needs.

Moving from a technical to audience-friendly tone in their communications was a wise move by Interact. From changing community terms to IVR, a term more widely understood by decision makers than Voice XML, and writing white papers with broader educational insight than technical topics, Interact is proving their desire to align their business strategy and vision with all their online channels.  Sheridan states, “saying less, but the same thing over and over generates success. You can put out a website or channel site that says 100 different things but it’s not going to catch people’s attention.”

Interact has our attention, now- and we look forward to seeing them continue to expand their powerful marketing practices for 2012, and beyond.

About Interact Incorporated (News - Alert)

Interact Incorporated is a privately owned company that implements one-of-a-kind high performance communication solutions for enterprises and operators worldwide which far surpass industry standards. As the market continues to change and advance, Interact acknowledges these advancements and continues to add necessary features and functionality to their celebrated product line. Their goal is to provide the most streamlined, cost effective solutions to our customers for rapid revenue generation and a low Total Cost of Ownership. To learn more, visit www.iivip.com.

 


Anna Ritchie is product manager for TMC's Online Community Program. Previously, she worked as a change and communications practitioner for a global consulting firm, and as a freelance marketing and communications specialist. She received her master's degree in English from Seton Hall University and her bachelor's degree in English from Loyola University.

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