With the advance of content marketing as a mainstay strategy for B2B marketers comes the inevitability of great expectations. But, I often encounter B2B marketers who are recounting their experiences with content marketing as not living up to expectations.
I hear things such as:
"Other email campaigns generate much higher click through and open rates than our lead nurturing program is achieving. It's just not working."
To which I inquire: What kind of email campaigns are you comparing with your nurturing program results?
The answer is usually related to eNewsletters or sales discount offers. These are two very different vehicles.
- An eNewsletter will generally have multiple offers and links with a variety of information. The recipient list can include both customers and prospects. I'd expect response rates to be different.
- A sales discount offer is one of urgency with a deadline/expiration date. Sure more people will click and look - just to be sure they're not missing out on anything. Or perhaps because they've been waiting for a sale to buy.
Nurturing programs are based on soft-sell, educational and thought leadership content - hopefully matched with stage in the buying process. They are also designed to engage over the long haul of a B2B buying process.
In other words, are you really suprised that early stage leads aren't replying to ask for a demo or submitting an inquiry on your website? Seriously?
One of the things that continues to confound me is the obsession with quantity. Based only on the number of what's considered a low-volume response, many marketers will equate that to an unsuccessful campaign.
Here's a challenge to marketers who think that way - or those under pressure to produce quantity based on ill-perceived corporate expectations:
How many of those leads or "opt ins" are actually ideal prospective customers?
How many of them actually close?
If your campaign produces 150 leads, but only 20 are quality matches to your ideal customer profile, is it better than a program that produces a solid 20 high-quality leads?
Here's a hint: Everyone is NOT your customer.
When your programs produce higher quality leads, you're actually providing better service and enablement to your sales team based on higher marketing effectiveness.
Some of the benefits include:
- Sales spends less time sifting and filtering to find the "good" leads.
- Sales begins to believe in and rely on marketing to provide leads worthy of pursuit.
- Marketing can track cleaner ROI from initial contact to close - not to mention higher levels of sales accepted leads.
- Your marketing database stays nice and clean and is more effective for segementation and analysis.
- You can determine just where the best leads are coming from/found.
- Marketing can start to identify patterns in how your ideal customers buy, such as the frequency of messaging they respond to best, the types of information they prefer, which information is needed when (think mapping content to buying process), etc.
The upshot is that content marketing expectations must be calibrated differently than some traditional marketing tactics, batch and blast email campaigns, and sales-focused "marketing" campaigns.
Where the expectation really needs to refocus is from quantity to quality. I'd rather have 10 great leads any day of the week than 1,000 that I have to sift through to find the 10% that are actually viable.
If marketers can define, attract and concentrate on leads that have the highest potential to become customers, then the results they create for their company will not only contribute to downstream revenues, but become repeatable and consistent in delivering that impact.
If, instead, marketers continue to go after getting clicks from as many people as possible, regardless of who they are, they'll have to work twice as hard to identify patterns, determine frequency preferences and convince sales to follow-up.
I mean, it's got to feel good to tell your boss that you generated a gazillion leads from your last manifesto download offer. But what happens when you actually need to equate those gazillion leads to customer acquisition and revenue contribution? What do your percentages look like now? How are those numbers perceived by your boss and company? Impressive?
How do you think marketers' expectations from content marketing need to change to help better prove the value it can deliver for B2B companies?