As the latest research, surveys and reports about content marketing begin surfacing, I'm wondering if B2B marketers are really embracing change or if they're stuck in the past? Time and again, I see lead generation as a top priority goal while lead nurturing comes in at the bottom of the heap - behind web traffic and brand awareness for crying out loud.
Lead Generation is a hello and a handshake.
Lead Nurturing is the art of building a relationship with purpose.
Big difference. HUGE.
To be successful, marketers need to integrate them both into a lead management process.
In the 2010 B2B Content Marketing Trends report from Marketing Profs and Junta42 they found:
"Marketers report that content marketing supports multiple business goals, led by brand awareness (78%), customer retention/loyalty (69%) and lead generation (63%); the least widely employed goal for content marketing is lead management/nurturing."
And "Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (56%)"
In another recent survey completed last month by TechValidate, they found that the biggest reason marketers create content is for a lead generation campaign (60%), but only 2.9% cited the need for a lead nurturing campaign.
Interestingly, they also report that thought leadership content is more effective than lead generation content and that 3rd party analyst content is more effective than content written in house.
Does anyone see conflict in the way effectiveness of content is matching up to goals? And, I might add that, with 3rd party content, you don't know if the person is interested in your company or the analyst information that they'd have to pay $ for elsewhere.
First, let's dispel this idea that an opt in is actually a lead. Because they're not. They're someone who was interested enough in the offer presented that they chose to fill out a form to gain access to it. Period.
What they choose to do next in response to your content and communications is a critical pivot point. One that won't happen if marketing programs stop at "lead" generation.
The evidence exists that buyers spend more time self-educating via the Internet than they do in conversations with salespeople. There's also proof that, due to this change, sales is only invited into the last 1/3 of the buying process.
With a complex sale, there's a lot of knowledge transfer that must happen. If they're not getting it from you during a nurturing process, which competitor are they relying on? And why do you think you'll suddenly pop up on their shortlist if you haven't been there, being helpful, all along?
And, if salespeople are cherry picking all the "leads" you toss them, what's happening to all the others? If they were interested enough to fill out a form, they may eventually become buyers.That's up to what you do in an effort to build a relationship [read nurture].
After all, the subject is top of mind enough to cause them to pay for content with information. So, what's the benefit of spending all that budget to let non sales-ready prospects languish unattended?
Some of the problems that are cited with content development are that it's too time intensive, too labor intensive, too costly and that companies lack the expertise necessary to create great content. I don't think avoiding solving these issues is going to help. In fact, I'd wager that it would be a good idea to solve them before jumping on the social media bandwagon - which seems to be one of the top goals for marketers these days.
Content marketing is a critical skill set. It's necessary to get beyond the "lead" generation mindset to prove contribution to revenues.
What will it take to get this status quo focus on lead generation to change?