5 Inbound Marketing Tips from Mandiant and Chinese Hackers

Mandiant China Inbound marketing

Mandiant goes viral after China hacking report – Reuters News


It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of turning out article after video after white paper, but a well planned inbound marketing campaign will not only meet deadlines and word counts, but aspire to be different and break away from the crowd. Businesses understand that they need to get their messages through the clutter to potential clients, all while managing a limited budget. There’s nothing more effective than an inbound marketing campaign that goes beyond the same old boring topics covered by thousands of other sites.

This is about one very good example.

For years, the US government had been warning about the threat businesses face from hackers, but rarely was a finger clearly pointed at a culprit. The current and previous administrations have opted to whisper subtle rebukes in order to avoid upsetting the second largest partner in trade to the US. Something had to be said, but no one wanted to risk the backlash that would certainly follow.

It so happened that a virtually unknown (to the public) IT security company decided to buck the trend and publish a downloadable report detailing years of security breaches by the Chinese military. Mandiant, which specializes in automated cyber-threat intelligence, went viral and in the process, created a teachable moment for inbound marketers – specifically small to medium size B2B companies with a drive to get noticed.

While many companies might never get the chance to reach a national stage, what follows are 5 helpful observations from Mandiant’s trek out of obscurity and into virality with a well planned, executed and optimized inbound marketing campaign.


1. Find a Problem

Hacking activities emanating from China has fast become the number one security challenge facing technology companies. Most companies have gone through great lengths to keep these attacks under the radar for fear of reprisals from the hackers, so a vendor like Mandiant taking to the mic and becoming the industry’s spokesperson was a considerable step and has given Mandiant in an unrivaled position of authority. 

Constant monitoring of the industry is crucial to your inbound marketing program. Monitoring should ensure that any significant development or trend will be identified early enough to take advantage of them. Sign up to RSS feeds of industry, vendor and competitor sites, as well as sites where your prospects are most likely to go. Scour forums and groups for relevant conversations.

Explore all of the challenges that face your industry and more importantly, your customer. Ideally, this would be closely associated with your product objectives, but some products may be part of a larger issue that marketers can also leverage. Choose a hot topic that keeps coming up, has strong social activity and would directly effect your industry or target audience. 

2. Develop a Solution

With the Mandiant example, it wasn’t enough to just expose the security breaches. The firm also provided 3,000 indicators for companies to incorporate into their own threat monitoring activities. Help on such an important issue has bolstered the company in the eyes of many, but even to competitors, Mandiant is an authority. Offering information is one thing, but offering actionable information is an entirely different achievement.

Pooling together your best internal and external resources, map out all possible solutions and prioritize those that will make the biggest impact on your customers. Explore different ways of delivering the solution for maximum appeal and effect. This could be in the form of a video, a free tool, an eBook or for maximum appeal, could be delivered via different media.

Some companies may already have a treasure trove of data and content that can be leveraged, such as exit reports, customer assessments, processes, and surveys that can be reconfigured into new forms of content, or can be used to publish studies.

3. Ride the Wave…While it Lasts

The report was perfectly timed and published days before a crucial industry conference and as a result, the event was saturated with Mandiant’s report. Mandiant also held multiple speaking events at the conference and delivered a slew of interviews.

While only used to publishing about 1-2 press releases per month, the firm published 7 for February and blog posts increased from sporadic to daily. Social engagement on individual articles grew from 0-10 shares per article post, to 7-80 (excluding the post that featured the report). 

The timing was also perfectly planned to precede the launch of product offerings and technology partnerships. No doubt this has had an an immediate short term effect on sales.

Expectedly, this new found fame was short lived. New domain referrals dropped dramatically after just a few days. The takeaway here is to maximize the opportunity you get to its fullest extent. This can only be achieved with a well thought out game plan.

Majestic SEO Report

Majestic SEO Report


4. Convert the attention

APT 1 Report Landing Page

APT 1 Report Landing Page

What good is fame if not channeled to produce a desired outcome. The most important place to channel success is the conversion point, or otherwise known as a landing page. This is the point where a visitor will actually download or interact with your content.

The main goal of a landing page is to facilitate the positive movement of visitors along your sales funnel.

For this to be most effective, the page must be conceptualized and executed with a clearly defined and prioritized list of objectives. If, for instance, the objective is to achieve maximum awareness, then we might take Mandiant’s route which is to offer the PDF without any registration form.

There are a host of ways to encourage page visitors to take positive action towards your sales funnel, but what’s most important is that there be a clear primary objective and that other objectives do not risk getting in the way of what is most important. We can’t increase both registration and download rates without sacrificing one or the other.


5. Bank on its value

Once the content has proven its worth by generating significant interaction with your brand, consider launching a paid search and display ad campaign using the content as a free offer to target other high-value keywords beyond the content’s own set of ranking keywords.

The future will tell if Mandiant repeats its win from last month, but it has the opportunity to be a leader on this issue, if it choose to engage further. Inbound campaigns that are highly successful and stand out from the rest of your other content should be considered for a possible continuous effort. Providing a consistent platform, such a dedicated topic channel would help plant your brand firmly as a thought leader and ensure that your budget is applied to the most fruitful efforts.

Google Analytics has (not provided)


You’d be hard pressed to find a better website analytics tool than Google Analytics, but alas, it has its limitations. Amongst these, the most challenging in my opinion, is the loss of some user keyword referral data tossed into the “(not provided)” bucket  found in Traffic Sources > Overview.

Google’s reason for the veil of secrecy? Protecting user privacy of course. Since October 2011, Google began encrypting certain user information, such as referral data for those users logged into a Google product. This means, for example, that any user searching on Google while also logged into Gmail, will have their previously searched for keyword hidden under the “(not provided)” category.

This essentially makes it harder to identify which keywords are responsible for your traffic and is critically valuable information for optimizing SEO efforts and Inbound Marketing. At about the time of launch, Google said it did not expect the change to effect more than 10% of site visit data, but thousands of sites have reported up to 50% of data being affected and there seems to be no let down from Google.

So what can we do to ensure this doesn’t skew our judgement?



One work-around is to dig deeper into Search Engine Optimization > Queries where you’ll find a list of all referring keywords which include the hidden traffic. Of course this doesn’t replace all the missing information, but for those who may have missed it, this is a good place to see a complete list of referring keywords.

The second solution is to use your Adwords account to analyze the keyword data, because Google, unsurprisingly left the door open for paying customers. All you need to have is a statistically valid number of clicks on your ads to represent your site’s total visits and you’re set.

Anyone up for a game of monopoly?