Managing, Mentoring, and Measuring Content for Marketing at IBM

When it comes to producing content at scale, you’d be hard pressed to find a content operation bigger than the one at IBM. The technology giant operates in 140 countries, in 100 languages, and has over 100 million pages of content across its websites.

The challenge at such a large organization is to create valuable content that not only produces tangible results, but that’s also consistent in style and tone of voice. To begin to tackle that issue, the company implemented Acrolinx across a number of its business units. According to IBM Program Director for Marketing Content Platforms, James Mathewson, there have been three keys to doing so successfully to date: managing, mentoring, and measuring. Here’s how he breaks it down.

One of the biggest challenges IBM faced was having multiple content teams writing similar or duplicate pieces of content. This was both inefficient and a waste of valuable resources.

To get around it, Mathewson started using Acrolinx. Today, when his writers create content, it gets tagged with the relevant author, topic, product, keywords, and life cycle stage. This allows each piece to be placed exactly where it needs to be, and also ensures that it can be reused quickly and efficiently. That’s critical because IBM is constantly assembling content to meet the unique, and often very specific, needs of its customers.

Mathewson also used Acrolinx to audit IBM’s huge existing repository of content for the very first time. By identifying and then purging low-quality content, he was able to reduce the company’s content footprint by a massive 90 percent in some areas. In one case, he was able to reduce 1,400 pages of marketing content down to just 30.

Even with the best of intentions though, if you don’t have buy-in from your teams, you’re not going to get very far. In a previous role, Mathewson was editing white papers and giving feedback to writers, but with limited success. “I’d point out spelling errors or grammar mistakes and a lot of the time they wouldn’t actually believe me,” he says. But once they started using Acrolinx, the quality and accuracy of their work improved dramatically.

At IBM, he implemented a style guide and provided training to the writing teams. Afterwards, he saw a 25 percent increase in compliance. Style guides, however, are notoriously difficult for writers to adhere to. By contrast, introducing Acrolinx, which flags issues with spelling, grammar, style, and tone, as writers create their content, yielded a 50 percent improvement among those business units that have adopted the solution. Mathewson calls it “training in context,” where writers are mentored and learning as they work, and the learning is constantly reinforced.

Once they saw their content measured, scored, and rated, the pieces fell into place. Training and guidance go hand-in-hand, and when content writers understand how the software can help maintain quality and consistency, you get results, Mathewson says.

Everyone wants to see tangible results from their content marketing efforts, but they’re not always easy to measure. Mathewson favors an experiential approach to testing what content works and what doesn’t. “It’s the only way to prove your efforts are leading to business results,” he says.

By looking at the company’s KPIs of visitors, leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, and customers, and overlaying Acrolinx quality scores, Mathewson is able to identify patterns where he can see that better quality content leads to better results.

By measuring the results of individual teams, he’s able to see which areas need more help and which ones are doing really well. He’s also able to drill down and see the performance of content against each unit, brand, product family, and product. This helps him understand what’s working well, not just from a quality perspective, but from a performance perspective.

The results have led to valuable insights, such as how more personalized content doubles consumer engagement and drives sales. Measuring content performance in this way allows IBM to identify opportunities to improve and optimize its content and sites.

Achievable Outcomes for Companies of All Sizes
IBM believes the Acrolinx platform has given the company a clear understanding of what success looks like, and the metrics essential to demonstrate value and to drive future strategy. Although it’s still a work in progress — the company doesn’t plan to roll out Acrolinx across all of marketing until October — Matheson is very pleased with the results he’s seen thus far.

While IBM is running a successful content marketing program at massive scale, the same principles apply to organizations of all sizes. Being able to use technology to manage your content and content creators, mentor and teach your writers, and measure the success of your efforts should be the goal for every company.

To learn more about how IBM has implemented Acrolinx across its operations, watch the full presentation: