Saturday, April 06, 2013

Kineo - A Content Marketing Case Study

The term 'content marketing' has become very popular recently. There is even now a Content Marketing Institute which defines content marketing as:

"a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

I personally prefer the shortened version which says content marketing is about communicating with customers without selling. It is based on the belief that if you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers it builds familiarity and trust, and they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.

Whilst there is still huge interest in SEO marketing, as the graph from Google Trends below shows, there has been a relatively significant increase in searches for 'content marketing' in recent years. The searches for 'content marketing' (blue line) have risen relative to the searches for 'SEO marketing' (red line).

content marketing seo marketing graph

Kineo a Content Marketing Case Study?

While I was reading about the rise of content marketing it made me wonder whether Kineo was an early case study. Kineo was launched late in 2005 and by 2009 had become one of the UK's leading elearning companies, if not the leading company, winning awards such as Elearning Company of the Year.

As Managing Partner of Kineo I know that we spent almost nothing on marketing in those early years, as a start up we decided to build our reputation by simply sharing everything we knew about elearning through our website and through a regular newsletter. These were the days before Twitter, if you remember those days. We were heavily influenced by a book recommended by David Perring of ELearnity called Love is the Killer App. In essence it recommended you should give away knowledge as this builds trust and reputation but more importantly people return the love with recommendations and projects. I remember very clearly in the early days that some people thought we had lost the plot in giving away as much information as we could on how to design and build elearning. However, we firmly believed in the principle that you are what you share.

My colleague and Kineo co-founder Stephen Walsh led the development of masses of high quality free content and also edited the Kineo newsletter. We decided, much to the horror of marketing professionals around us, to make our content truly free and not require people to fill in forms to capture marketing data in exchange for the content. We felt if they wanted to sign up to the newsletter and give us their details they could. Very quickly we acquired over 10,000 newsletter subscribers and a high Google ranking which meant we also attracted a lot of web traffic without knowing much, if anything, at the time about SEO.

The development of content meant we built a substantial free elearning resources section on our website. This built familiarity, trust and interest in Kineo which was core to our early success.

We have continued to adopt a content marketing approach but increasingly using social media such as our @kineo Twitter account and our LinkedIn Elearning Group to promote our content. We have also been developing richer content over the years, moving from mainly text based white papers and articles to an increasing use of videos. Below is a recent example video which highlights ten trends in elearning from research with Elearning Age.

In summary, whilst we still have lot to learn, Kineo does seem to have been an early content marketing success story.