It takes an average of 10 marketing-generated “touches” to progress a prospect from raw, unqualified lead to “closed one” according to Aberdeen’s 2012 Marketing Lead Management: From the Top of the Funnel to the Top Line report. Given this reality, marketing needs to answer one basic question: how do I get to 10?  Content marketing now plays a critical role in shaping buyers’ vision throughout the “hidden sales cycle,” and in transforming latent need into qualified (i.e. blatant) sales opportunities. In a phrase, content marketing is the alchemy of intent.

While generating that first touch or conversion is critical, the move to nurture-based marketing and marketing automation is driving the approach to content marketing for the majority of firms surveyed Aberdeen’s Content Marketing study.  Incorporating content into nurture marketing programs is the top strategic initiatives cited by top-performing companies in the study, as seen in the figure below (see definition of Content Marketing Leaders below).

Getting to 10: Strategic Content Marketing Initiatives of Leaders

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In addition, the other top strategies of Leaders paint a more granular view of how these top-performing companies achieve their success. Namely, 50% of Leaders focus on improving the targeting of content marketing efforts and nearly as many (47%) look to increase the quantity of relevant content being published to their website as top initiatives. So while we hear a lot of marketer talk about “feeding the beast” of lead nurturing with content, the focus of Leaders tells us that buyers are hungry for high-end faire.

Defining the Content Marketing “Leaders”

Aberdeen used four key performance criteria to distinguish the Leaders (top 35% of aggregate performers) from the Followers (bottom 65%). Leaders achieved the following performance metrics:

Ö    15.4% year-over-year company revenue growth vs. 1.6% for Followers

Ö    19.7% year-over-year increase in unique site traffic vs. 2.5% increase for Followers

Ö    3.7% average website conversion rate vs. 2.9% for Followers

Ö    10.2% year-over-year growth in marketing’s contribution to revenue compared with 1.6% growth for Followers

Perhaps more than any other content marketing capability, firms should focus on getting their content marketing “right:” right content at the right time for the right persona.  the alignment of their content marketing efforts from several perspectives.  Alignment of content to the funnel stage of the buyer and the buyer persona represent the essential elements of a content marketing map or matrix. Leaders are 93% more likely than Followers to align content to the stage of the buyer’s decision journey, as seen in the figure below.

Content Alignment Critical to Success

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Clearly “getting to 10” with content marketing isn’t just about compelling, thoughtful content (though that’s certainly a good start), it’s about getting the next piece of content right. Marketing content must do more than just be helpful, it must build and sustain the buyer’s vision of success that aligns both with their reality and the value proposition of your offering. To achieve this, put yourself in your buyer’s shoes, interview sales, and interview customers and near-customers about the questions they must answer in order to effectively de-risk a purchase. Then go build the content that gets the job done.

Download a free copy of the full report titled Alchemy of Intent: Content Marketing in the Lead-to-Revenue Cycle.