Software provider uses blog, e-newsletter to cross-promote

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Challenge: Oversight Systems sells continuous monitoring software to the enterprise market. While the potential customer base is large, the market is still emerging, so getting the message out about what the company does—provide ongoing auditing to find potential financial fraud or errors— isn't an easy task.

Before December 2004, the Atlanta-based company used traditional marketing vehicles to reach its customers and prospects, including a quarterly e-newsletter, direct mail and print advertising. Oversight Systems CEO Patrick Taylor wanted a way to change its marketing efforts from soliloquy to dialog, as well as boost the company's visibility in natural search ranks.

Solution: So Taylor, in conjunction with Atlanta-based marketing agency Arketi Group, decided to start blogging about the industry.

The blog, which is typically updated one or two times a week, didn't require a significant financial investment, Taylor said. The company uses Google's service, a free blogging tool that lets Oversight customize the blog so it has the same look and feel as its Web site. It also includes a FeedBurner XML link so people can subscribe to the blog using one of 15 Web-based news readers.

Content creation is split among four company executives, including Taylor, and requires less planning and editing than content on the Web site. "The blog's voice is more casual than [that of] the Web site or the newsletter but less casual than a one-to-one e-mail, so it's not something that you send around the company for infinite review," he said.

The biggest difference between the blog and the company's other marketing vehicles is focus, he said. Executives blog about newsworthy events or results of the company's own surveys. Posts are rarely—if ever—about Oversight Systems products or services, Taylor said. "We're trying to make it useful and timely. It's more about creating a dialog and serving the customer," he said.

Oversight Systems cross-promotes all its marketing content, so the blog is referenced in the e-newsletter and other collateral, and readers can sign up for the newsletter or download all the company's reference materials, including white papers and research, via the blog.

Results: The benefits of the blog were almost instantly apparent. Most important, Oversight Systems has seen its natural search rankings climb "significantly" as other bloggers and companies link directly to the blog. Google PageRanking—the system for determining a page's value based on factors such as how many sites link to the page—has increased from a 3 or 4 to a 6 or 7 (higher is better). "People view our posts as more authentic when they come up in search results because they have found us as opposed to us finding them with direct marketing," Taylor said.

The blog is also consistently one of the top external links (the blog doesn't reside on the company's Web server) feeding the site with visitors. Readers often e-mail the company directly with questions and comments, and sign up for its e-mail newsletter as well, he said.

This spring that authenticity turned into profit when one of the blog's readers became a partner, Taylor said. "Our new partner, [Charlotte, N.C.-based consulting firm] Visual Risk IQ, found one of our blog posts. They were doing a project for a client and were doing some classic Google searching," he said. "This spring they booked their first engagement using Oversight."

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