An Oral History of Miovision’s “Clear Signals” Campaign and eBook
“My question to marketers and organizations is: do you have a topic you want to talk to the industry about? Or does the industry have a topic they want to learn about? You need to start from the right place to be relevant. An eBook was just the appropriate medium. We didn’t start with, ‘We need an eBook!’ It was about creating the best content to address the market problems.” —Matt Trushinski
Introduction and Disclaimer
Cromulent Marketing had nothing to do with the project described herein. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
It’s just a really well-executed marketing initiative and—in the ongoing spirit of community and rising tides—I wanted to learn how it came about and also to share the tale so that others can benefit from this success story.
We know from the Waterloo Region Technology Marketing Spotlight that producing bottom-of-funnel content is a challenge in this region, that producing technical content is a challenge in this region, and that sales enablement is a challenge in this region—and with this campaign, the team at Miovision have succeeded (spectacularly so) in all three, and much more, beyond.
Surely we can all learn from their success.
Last week, Miovision hosted a webinar and released an eBook as part of their Clear Signals campaign.
Both the webinar and the eBook took their market by storm, garnering industry coverage and surpassing some very lofty campaign goals.
These two elements are ‘only’ the very loud crescendo of considerable effort, over several months and many team members, and represent only part of a much larger and longer-lasting campaign.
But these two elements are ‘only’ the very loud crescendo of considerable effort, over several months and many team members, and represent only part of a much larger and longer-lasting campaign.
I sat down with two of the people responsible to understand the larger story, so that others can learn what factors contribute to a successful outcome.
Success Factor: Beginning with a Plan
Back in December, the Miovision marketing team looked ahead to the new year and started to think big.
Matt Trushinski (Director, Marketing): “We looked at our calendar and said, ‘We want to do something BIG in Q1.'”
Crucially, they also started to think a bit differently.
“We’re trying to get better at—for whatever we create—having a series of things, rather than a discrete one-time thing.”
Matt: “In the past, we’ve done a whitepaper on a topic. Stop. We’ve done a webinar on a topic. Stop. We’re trying to get better at—for whatever we create—having a series of things, rather than a discrete one-time thing.”
But what was the big series of things that they could do?
Success Factor: Listening to the Market
“We asked ourselves, ‘What’s a big thing that’s real, that’ll make an impact with our customers and prospects, that addresses an actual need today?'”
Here’s another crucial factor: they didn’t start with “What do we want to say?” Instead, they looked for that powerful overlap between what the market is interested in, and what they were qualified to provide.
Stella Wilhelm (Senior Content Marketing Manager): “We asked ourselves, ‘What’s a big thing that’s real, that’ll make an impact with our customers and prospects, that addresses an actual need today?'”
And pay special attention to that last part: “that addresses an actual need”.
Too many campaigns start with someone in a room going, “I want to talk about X.”
Why am I belabouring this point? Because too many campaigns start with someone in a room going, “I want to talk about X.” Well, um, OK, but does the market want to hear about X? And are you qualified to talk about it? It’s best not to kid yourself. Here’s a handy diagram.
Enter: Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures—or ATSPMs.
Stella: “With ATSPMs, we knew that everyone else in the industry was very high-level, very superficial…living in the space of just defining what ATSPMs are, but nothing more. Our approach was, ‘We’ve been using ATSPMs for two years in real cities, and we have real data that shows that they’re incredibly effective at helping cities maintain their intersections…so why don’t we go out and leapfrog everyone else and give our audience actionable content that’s literally a step-by-step guide?'”
“Why don’t we go out and leapfrog everyone else and give our audience actionable content?”
Alright, the topic and general timing were known, now all they had to do was…everything else.
Success Factor: Hitting the Ground Running
Any large endeavour (recall: “we want to do something BIG.”) is helped by getting off to a strong start.
Stella: “It was actually December when we started thinking about this, and we hit the ground running in January.”
Matt set a specific ‘launch’ date which would meet the Q1 timing goal and also create some motivational urgency by setting a real deadline. There’s some seasonality in Miovision’s business, and it was important to have this campaign reach a crescendo at the right time if it was to move the needle.
Success Factor: Choosing the Appropriate Content Formats
As the team examined their goals, and what would be needed to reach them, they realized that a longer-form piece of technical content was needed.
The team really wanted to raise the level of awareness and knowledge in the industry by showing people what’s possible, both in general with ATSPMs, and specifically with Miovision.
Miovision’s solution is legitimately revolutionary for how cities manage and optimize their intersections.
Miovision’s solution is legitimately revolutionary for how cities manage and optimize their intersections, but this reality presents at least two problems that need to be overcome for a city’s intersections to be humming along at their potential:
- First, they have to buy the Miovision solution, which means committing to a new and different way of doing things.
- Second, once they’ve bought the Miovision solution, they have to be successful using it.
These issues were well-known to the Miovision team.
Stella: “Talking to actual traffic engineers—we’d be talking about using ATSPMs, and they’d say, ‘It’d be so great if there was a how-to guide on how to use these ATSPMs. I’m a traffic engineer, and I know what they are, but there isn’t really any training in the industry.'”
Matt: “Our customers and webinar attendees would say, ‘I know this is important, but I don’t know exactly how to get started.'”
As the team decided what topics needed to be covered to address these challenges, they determined that an eBook was the best format.
“An eBook was just the appropriate medium. We didn’t start with, ‘We need an eBook!’ It was about creating the best content to address the market problems.
And this brings us to a point that Matt stressed repeatedly in our conversation:
Matt: “An eBook was just the appropriate medium. We didn’t start with, ‘We need an eBook!’ It was about creating the best content to address the market problems. You need to be tuned into your industry.”
As if that wasn’t clear enough, Matt pinged me after the convo to reiterate: “Hey just to be clear since I’m not sure we adequately clarified it, the eBook was just the appropriate medium. It was never about doing an eBook—it was about doing a valuable piece of content.”
So, to beat this drum just a little bit more: if you start with, “We should do an eBook!”, then you’re doing it wrong.
Success Factor: Focusing their Efforts
Getting lots of quality work done requires focus. And here’s another part where many organizations and leaders fall down: they just throw more work on the pile and—as a substitute for real leadership and tough decisions—say dumb things like, “Work smarter!” Gee thanks, that’s a real help!
You can’t do everything, all at once, at high quality.
You have to learn—and be empowered—to say “no” to things. You can’t afford distractions when you’re trying to do something amazing.
Matt also explained that the Miovision marketing team is trying to focus more effort on fewer initiatives, a classic ‘more wood behind fewer arrows’ strategy, and that the organization fully supports (yay!) this approach.
So the Clear Signals campaign became the highest priority project for his team.
“When you really know that you’ve found a gap, that you’re onto something, don’t let noise within the organization distract you.”
But that didn’t mean there weren’t lots of activities. It did mean, however, that they needed to focus—to avoid distractions that would detract from the project.
Matt: “In the past, we were trying to do too many little things, whereas this was picking a topic and doing it well, and trying to get the entire market talking about one thing. And we knew there was demand for this topic and content.”
Stella: “When you really know that you’ve found a gap, that you’re onto something, don’t let noise within the organization distract you. Stick to your guns and just do it. Focus.”
Within the larger Clear Signals campaign (which was starting to take shape), the team also had to focus on the, um, content of the content.
Success Factor: Focusing their Subject Matter
Companies often struggle to focus their messages, and choosing the right place at which to draw the line was another key success factor. You can’t say everything all at once—if you do, then people don’t really hear anything.
“The scope of the eBook was even bigger when we started…we probably cut it down to a third of the information that we’d initially targeted.”
It shows great discipline (helped by an aggressive and looming deadline, of course) that the team keenly focused on one topic: ATSPMs. They resisted the urge to include everything that popped into their heads.
Matt: “ATSPMs are just one thing that our platform does. There are so many other things that we could’ve talked about. The scope of the eBook was even bigger when we started…we probably cut it down to a third of the information that we’d initially targeted.”
That being said, the result was still a ~70 page eBook.
Whoa, 70 pages? Isn’t that too long? (And keep in mind that this is pretty technical stuff.)
Matt: “Our buyers are engineers, so you don’t get them on emotional stuff. Content like some cartoon video of people driving cars, and saying ‘Traffic!’ won’t move the needle with them.”
My whole career I’ve heard concerns that long content doesn’t do well. That’s wrong. Long crappy content doesn’t do well. Long content is fine if it’s good, tight content, written for an appropriate audience.
“It’s a dense resource, but our main audience are engineers who are used to having textbooks on their desk. Ours looks like a leaflet by comparison.”
Consider ATSPMs: they are revolutionary for traffic engineering, but they’re so new that there’s no course in academia for traffic engineers to learn this stuff. So there are, quite literally, decades’ worth of traffic engineering graduates working as professionals who didn’t learn how to use ATSPMs in school, and have an enormous appetite to learn this stuff now.
Matt: “It’s a dense resource, but our main audience are engineers who are used to having textbooks on their desk. Ours looks like a leaflet by comparison.”
Another option is to break things up. I’ve encountered this in my own career, “Why don’t we break this up into two or three things, then we can trickle them out and…LEADS!”
That’s usually a dumb, ineffective approach because you quickly annoy and tire out your audience. They don’t to be teased with separate resources that take time and effort to track down.
Stella: “And you need this eBook to be three parts in one, because you need to tell the whole story—the pieces can’t stand alone.”
Matt: “They actually want to read it. Anytime you have to create artificial incentives for people to read stuff…maybe you need different stuff.”
Success Factor: Creating Quality Content
So how did they actually write the book?
Enter Sajad Shiravi, Senior Traffic Engineering Specialist, Market Strategy at Miovision—and an emerging force in the field.
Sajad’s a wizard with turning ATSPMs into safer pedestrian environments, faster commutes, and the increased economic activity that comes with people and things being better able to move around. He’s written a bunch of articles on LinkedIn and is incredibly active within the traffic engineering community.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d arrived to sit down with the team, Sajad—true to form—had been pulled into a helping some customer make their city smarter. Bummer for me, but good for the city.
“It was entirely new content. The examples were real, from things Sajad had worked on, but the wrapping and writing—all the rest of it—was new content.”
The content of the eBook itself was a back-and-forth collaboration between Sajad and Stella. Stella defined the overall form (three chapters, each serving as a platform for the next, culminating with examination of many real-world examples); Sajad provided the subject matter expertise, with Stella applying the editor’s touch of polish.
Stella: “It was entirely new content. The examples were real, from things Sajad had worked on, but the wrapping and writing—all the rest of it—was new content.”
I’ll pause here to point out another key element: it was new content. They didn’t just grab a bunch of blog posts and sprinkle some product stuff on, then lay them out into a long PDF and say, “There you go, it’s an eBook.” Again, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do lots of things, and just shoving together your existing content so you can check a box and pat yourself on the back for ‘producing’ an eBook is very probably the wrong way.
And I love the partnership, here, between a technical expert and a non-technical communicator.
Stella: “It is very niche. So I was learning as I was doing it, and asking Sajad lots of questions.”
Keep in mind that even traffic engineering domain experts who’ve worked in the field for years—maybe decades—don’t know this stuff beyond a pretty surface level. So Stella’s questioning was a great way to add clarity and to ensure knowledge wasn’t unfairly assumed. Even your technical content needs to be accessible.
One other little thing I’ll point out… Companies always struggle to scale, and one reason is that their “clone person X” projects always fail. Sajad is in high-demand, and this eBook will help many customers and prospects benefit from his expansive knowledge and firsthand experience, without needing him to jump on a call or do an onsite visit.
Success Factor: Getting Feedback Along the Way
Reviews are crucial for the success and failure of endeavours like this one: the right reviewer can spot things that would’ve been overlooked and can recommend changes that are difference-making; the wrong reviewer can bottleneck the whole project.
How many of us have been stuck waiting for reviews from people who just insisted they be part of the project, but who never make the time to do their part? I see a lot of hands going up.
“We did a good job of narrowing the reviewer field from the start, to the key players.”
So how did the Miovision team do in this regard?
Stella: “We did a good job of narrowing the reviewer field from the start, to the key players.”
Those key players reviewed for technical accuracy and provided industry perspective—reviewers included friendly customers and leading academics.
And it helped that the feedback was insanely positive.
Stella: “It was very energizing, because the feedback was so incredibly positive…there was almost a relief from people that someone in the industry was finally doing it.”
Success Factor: Working as a Team
The eBook itself was only one piece of a much larger campaign: it was paired with a Clear Signals webinar, which was promoted across every available channel (plus some others that came online as part of the campaign).
“We had design involved, digital involved—it was a whole team lift to get this thing done—communications…it turned into a project management exercise to execute this campaign.”
Plus, the webinar and the eBook really represent only the crescendo—activities are ongoing, as we’ll see a little later.
Matt: “We had design involved, digital involved—it was a whole team lift to get this thing done—communications…it turned into a project management exercise to execute this campaign. The amount of work that goes into coordinating the communication, setting up the ads, cobranding with partners, having the right tracking in place…We had daily milestones.”
Stella: “Our whiteboard became our real-life Jira board…and we had daily stand-ups to make sure everybody was on-track. It was nice to see it come together. We had to do a lot of new things this time, and there was a lot of learning as we went. At the time it was incredibly stressful, but in a good way!”
I saw the whiteboard—it’s impressive. And I love that it’s old-school…the team didn’t encumber themselves with a bunch of dumb digital overhead.
“At the time it was incredibly stressful, but in a good way!”
Success Factor: Setting Aggressive (but achievable) Goals
Goals really help to focus people, to get them aligned, and they played a role in this campaign’s success.
Matt: “We didn’t have a webinar registration goal, so one morning I wrote 500 on the board.”
And that target forced people to up their game.
Stella: “…And we beat it!”
Matt: “And wasn’t it great, watching those numbers tick up and then go past the target?”
Let’s be clear, though, that there’s a difference between a motivating goal and an absurd one. The goals should be aggressive, but plausibly achievable.
Matt: “It’s good to put a goal somewhere; that way at least you know where you’re pointing, what you’re striving for. As soon as we did that, Brent (Merswolke) came up with a fantastic idea about promoting the webinar through our software…because it’s still so valuable to our existing customers. So then we worked with the product team to promote the webinar and the eBook through our own product.”
Stella: “And that wouldn’t have happened without that aggressive target.”
I’m not gonna get into the details, but I’ll say this: the campaign ‘launch’ (i.e., the webinar and the eBook launch) was an incredible success:
- The team surpassed their registration target for the webinar, and registrants showed up in droves
- The eBook has been downloaded hundreds of times
- There is ample evidence—in the form of questions that customers and prospects are asking, resources that they’re downloading, links that they’re following—that people are reading the eBook right through to the end
In terms of lead generation, the campaign has been wildly successful (beyond the points above, new eBook downloads continue at a remarkable pace and, as noted previously, industry outlets are covering the program).
“The leads are awesome, and we shouldn’t lose track that we want to do demand gen, but this campaign is enormous for sales enablement.”
But the benefits of this campaign go far beyond lead generation.
Matt: “The leads are awesome, and we shouldn’t lose track that we want to do demand gen, but this campaign is enormous for sales enablement. Demand gen alone is such a narrow focus. This is a really important piece of content for existing contacts, who are in the middle of deal cycles.”
We often talk about top-of-funnel content, middle-of-funnel content, and bottom-of-funnel content as if they’re separate—and, indeed, in many cases they are.
But this campaign, and the eBook especially, transcend those sedimentary boundaries—this eBook covers the entire funnel: it brings leads in, escorts those leads and pre-existing ones through the funnel, and then helps push things over the finish line.
It’s a wonderful example of the type of content and results that are very difficult to produce and to achieve, respectively.
Recall that Matt said, “We’re trying to get better at—for whatever we create—having a series of things, rather than a discrete one-time thing.”
This campaign gives them lots of material to keep the momentum going.
Matt: “Now we can take this topic, written for traffic engineers who are our buyer, but we can strip all the ATSPM talk out of it and talk about traffic data, and show fewer examples, and simplify them… It’s about taking this and adjusting it for different audiences.”
Individual blog posts, more webinar content, short how-to videos, promotional campaigns, booth messaging, conference presentations—so much of this campaign content can be repurposed for a very long time.
More wood, fewer arrows. Or, in Matt’s words:
Matt: “Do something big and then leverage it as much as possible.”
“Is it helpful to tell people, ‘Hey, go and write about something that people care about,’ or ‘Be tuned into your industry,’?”
Before wrapping up, I asked Matt and Stella if they had any advice for other marketers and organizations.
Matt: “Is it helpful to tell people, ‘Hey, go and write about something that people care about,’ or ‘Be tuned into your industry,’? If you start with good content that people want, then demand and awareness will follow.”
For what it’s worth, I believe that yes, it is helpful. Sometimes we need reminders, both for ourselves and for others in our organization.
Matt and Stella both reiterated that the campaign was much bigger than most people understand, and that the eBook itself was a very difficult piece of content to produce. It dominated Stella’s schedule, especially (although Matt was quick to point out a bunch of other things she’d managed to get done in the meantime). And remember, we’re talking the start of January through mid-March. Good things take time.
Stella: “Spend your time doing it properly.”
Matt also pointed out that a lot of things have to be in place, organizationally, to be able to do this project. Crucially, you have to be empowered to say “no” to distractions.
“Spend your time doing it properly.”
And most importantly of all, you have to start from the right place.
Matt: “My question to marketers and organizations is: do you have a topic you want to talk to the industry about? Or does the industry have a topic they want to learn about? You need to start from the right place to be relevant. When you catch wind of a gap and you know you can help, you need to jump on it.”
Listen to your industry. Focus your efforts on fewer things, and do them well. Create lasting value.
Header/Featured image credit: Miovision