A recent Content Marketing Institute #CMWorld twitter chat inspired me to write this post bringing together important insights to help B2B marketers achieve success in their content marketing endeavors. As a content marketer, the never-ending pressure to earn your budget quarter-over-quarter is high. If you aren’t able to deliver results, those funds will just as easily get reallocated to another team or initiative that has proven itself more worthy. While content marketing doesn’t always come with a monetary cost, it most certainly has bandwidth costs. Therefore, whether you are spending time or money on your next content marketing initiative you need to be sure it ‘pays off’. Paying off could mean revenue, new accounts created, or it could mean an increase in traffic. I have outlined seven ways for you to ensure that your next content marketing campaign is a success. Dig in and tell me what you think:
1. Setting Expectations
You need to know what success looks like, by campaign type, so that you and management can identify when success happens, or doesn’t. Start by setting the goal for the content marketing campaign – and make sure you include management in this discussion. Next, how will the campaign be measured against these goals, what are the KPIs, and do you have access to the data/KPIs that will ultimately validate your efforts? Document the expectations with management. David Fortino shared in the twitter chat, “Isolate what you are trying to accomplish ask yourself how you will measure success. #ROI and #CYA are deeply connected.”
Here’s a real world example:
In Q1 of this year, I was part of a small content team that produced a series of research reports analyzing marketplace trends in long-form content consumption behavior. We had never done this before, we didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t have much to compare it with. So how did we determine what success would be for this campaign?
As a revenue driven company, the marketing team’s constant KPIs are always ‘number of opportunities created’ and ‘value of opportunities won’. However, in approaching this new content marketing project, we identified brand awareness as an important secondary goal, therefore KPIs such as traffic and report downloads were also necessary to track. To benchmark the first campaign we relied on non-content lead gen initiatives to provide a form a comparison.
(Here’s another great read on setting expectations, Get Back to Reality: 9 Content Marketing Expectations Busted by Neil Patel on Content Marketing Institute.)
2. Promotion and Distribution
You keep saying to management, ‘I need to create more content, more content, more content, more content’ and ‘more content will generate more leads.’ Then someone asks you, ‘how will more content generate more leads?’ Ut oh. You’ve been so focused on creating content; you didn’t get to the next step of implementing, promoting, and distributing content towards your end goal – lead generation.
Creating content is only half of the battle. Do you have a documented plan to carry out once the content is ready? This is important and something marketers often miss in the planning process and wait until after the content is created to determine where to put it.
If you’re goal is to get the content in front of as many eyeballs as possible, your promotional and distribution strategies are crucial. Let’s dig into these by inbound and outbound.
Inbound: meaning your content is going to live on your website and you will run campaigns to drive traffic to the content on your website.
Inbound is an important approach, that I believe all marketers would say you must do. Directing traffic back to your website to read your content is a great way to measure quality and intent of a prospect. However, this approach relies on the assumption that you can get the right audience and a large enough audience to your website — the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. But when you run the numbers, are you driving enough professionals to your website each month? Is this scalable?
Outbound: meaning your content will live off-site on third party websites and attract native audiences to engage with your content externally.
Outbound is complimentary to Inbound, and often not thought of by B2B marketers. This strategy rests on the fact that your target prospects might not be willing to venture to, nor even know about, your website just yet. Therefore, outbound helps you reach professionals across the web, where they are actively frequenting and engaging with content. Outbound is an extension or amplification of your content campaigns to increase your probability of success.
Needless to say, outline both the inbound and outbound tactics you will use to ensure your content attracts the best suited audience to increase your ROI.
(Here’s another article about the balance of inbound and outbound strategies, B2B Marketers Lose with Inbound Only Strategies.)
3. Audience Appropriate Content
The first step to content creation is learning about your target audience and their needs. Who are you trying to reach, are they C-suite level professionals or are they the influencers and ‘users’ of your product or service? What does this particular professional need to know and what do you want to educate them on? Content creation cannot follow a one-size-fits-all mentality.
One tactic recommended by Dennis Shiao, during the twitter chat, is to learn about your existing clients. He tweeted, “Speak to as many customers and prospects as possible. Costs nothing, but has huge impact.” However, not all clients are the same, so this is not the only approach to content creation, but it’s absolutely a great start to your content creation journey.
4. Action Oriented Content
Finding a content marketing campaign out in the wild that lacks any form of call-to-action physically pains me (that and bad visuals, and bad headlines…I digress). But the idea that we can spend so much time creating meaningful rock solid content and then not present next steps to capture and convert the user is excruciating. You’ve got them in the palm of your hand, and…we’ll see you later! Take our latest research reports I just mentioned, we included links to NetLine Portal and NetLine’s quality commitment where people can learn more about our solutions and values in B2B lead generation — or get started by creating a free account. How’s that for action oriented content? (See what I did there?)
(Here’s another article about effective content marketing CTAs, 5 Tips Every Content Curator Needs to Write Better Calls-to-Action.)
5. Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle
Marketers may choose to repurpose content for a variety of reasons. While some may find this to be more of a controversial topic, there are core benefits that I believe make repurposing content an essential tactic to ensuring content marketing success and ROI. Here are three main reasons to repurpose your content:
- Format by promotional type: Starting with a massive 30+ page research report you have a lot of content, a lot of data, and most likely many topics which creates a heavy document. Not necessarily an easy item to promote on social media for example. Create a supporting infographic of stats and takeaways from the full report, with links out to download the full report. You will reach a larger audience that you may not have been able to capture with the original piece of content.
- Format by audience type: There will be people looking for data intensive resources; while other professionals seek user related content about strategy. A short-form qualitative guide may be better suited for a content marketer, while the quantitative report may be more appropriate for the demand generation marketer. Refine your content for each personas’ needs.
- Budget and ROI: Don’t let budget hold back your team’s ability to start a new content project. You can solve for this by revisiting your top existing content assets and assess what can be done to refresh and recycle the content. Adding new stats, dividing into smaller content pieces, and updating visuals can go a long way to reaching new audiences and driving engagement.
An excellent strategy tip shared by Erika Heald was, “Create content with a plan for repurposing to stretch your resources. Structure an ebook to be a blog series, byline, etc…”
One powerful way to ensure your campaign will produce meaningful and measurable results is to run performance-based campaigns. For those of you not entirely sure what that means, here are two examples:
- Not Performance-Based: Paying $5k for a third-party email campaign (maybe a list rental) after reviewing the list demographics and average KPIs. This flat rate email campaign does not offer any guarantee for delivering results tied to your lead generation goal. You may receive 1,000 visitors to your website from the email or you might receive 10, either way you are paying $5k.
- Performance-Based: Running a lead generation campaign with cost-per-lead (CPL) pricing. This means that your campaign cost will be based upon the number of actual people to fill out a form to download your content. In the case of content syndication lead generation, you also receive earned media exposure throughout the duration of the campaign that you don’t pay for (in contrast to a CPM campaign). Performance-based pricing models greatly reduce risk and increase quality, as you are only paying for the end result. And in the case of CPL pricing, you are paying for leads which is directly aligned with your lead generation goals. (1+1=2)
While there is nothing wrong with diversifying your campaign strategy with unique campaign types, always insert performance-based campaigns to ensure you deliver on your lead generation goals for the month. It all comes back to the numbers. If you bring your sales team 75 leads at the end of the content marketing campaign – the outlook is going to be greater than if you cite the number of emails sent and how many people visited your website for fourteen seconds.
For B2B marketers with lead generation as their number one goal this year, check out the NetLine Portal where you can run targeted content syndication campaigns to generate quality leads, with cost-per-lead pricing to ensure success.
7. Data and Optimization
Content marketers, I have to tell you – data matters and you need to respect that. Sure, we care about context, relevance, education, and value but you’re lost without data. Caring about the numbers can help you make smarter decisions about your content marketing campaign that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. And you can do this without sacrificing quality.
Here’s an example: Most marketing campaigns are automatically attached to data; whether it’s free Google Analytics tracking, paid Adwords dashboard reporting, or NetLine’s campaign analytics. You should be able to see how your campaign is performing and gauge whether you will likely reach your goal, (there’s always a chance you may not.) If not, take the time to pivot your approach and optimize your results. This might mean pausing a campaign to make changes to your targeting, content, creative, or messaging. If there are updates that can be made to alter your results and increase the probability of success – make them! Any good solution/vendor wants you succeed and they should be willing to help you make the necessary changes needed to drive success and keep you as a loyal customer.
Success Starts Now
B2B marketers don’t need a massive budget to drive content marketing success. Sure it helps, but start small. Get scrappy. Work your way up. Prove your worth. In the words of Dennis Shiao, “Demonstrate impact with no budget. That will then justify investment to capitalize on further opportunities.” This list of seven tangible tactics to ensure your next content campaign is successful should help you make real progress towards building your content marketing program. Good luck! And if you ever want to talk through it together, reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.