Selling content marketing to B2B executives is hard. At least harder than it should be. But what strikes me as odd is their willingness to requestion their decision after they've finally been convinced. I'm getting more and more requests from B2B marketers about how to present reasons why content marketing should stay a line item on the budget.
The number one reason I believe this to be happening is due to the continuum nature of content marketing.
Content marketing is not a campaign. With no stop date, it violates the nature of traditionalist marketers to be able to box in a final result and say "it worked" or "it could have been better." At least not quickly. Because content marketing isn't three touches and a sales pitch, your department may not be shuffling as many leads to sales.
This is often the scenario I'm hearing that causes executives to hit the brakes - especially if marketers are still incentivized or evaluated based on quantity. The exec looks at historical trends and says - "Hey - last year you ran a campaign in April that generated 1,000 leads. This year, you only generated 147 leads in April. WTF happened?"
This is when it's really great if you've got the metrics to say:
- Out of that 1,000 leads last April, we generated one sale.
- So far, of the 147 leads this year, sales has accepted 80% of them and has already had meetings with 50 of them. The pipeline forecast is 6 deals so far based on leads that have identified projects and budget and have welcomed sales into the conversation.
Think about the potential impact. It's not about quantity, but quality. I know that gets bandied about a lot, but it's true. And it takes time. Qualified leads are not hatched by download forms, they are nurtured over time.
Back to the issue of content marketing being a long-term approach. Even the ROI on Content Marketing eBook recently released by Kapost and Eloqua is predicated on 24 months of content marketing. The reduction to cost per lead is impressive, but is still factored over a longer term than many marketers are used to measuring. Or should I say, have the latitude to measure based on corporate orientation on the 3-month quarter.
This is a true shift for marketing professionals at every level in the hierarchy. And change is hard. It's almost like a withdrawal to not have dramatic "campaign" results to share. It's this notion of quick wins that prompts marketers to say - hey - let's switch to a campaign on X. Or, let's try that new approach to SEM, or hey, get the engineers to photograph the product from 86 angles and let's start a Pinterest board.
Shiny objects in marketing are like catnip. And they will send your content strategy adrift if you let them.
I'm not saying that marketers shouldn't incorporate new options into their content strategies, I'm asking you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
So keep the content marketing.
Here are a few reasons to do so:
See my recent post about What Tech Buyers Want: 79% said that the quality of information received significantly affects whether or not they'll do business with the vendor
You know your buyers have changed. There must be at least 9 gazillion blog posts circulating out there that say so. Buyers themselves have said so (see link above). Their behavior has told your web analytics and lead scoring it's true.
What's missing is true commitment from the company and its marketers. Think about the following consequences of abandoning your content marketing strategy before it's reached the tipping point:
- You're no longer meeting buyer expectations.
- You've abdicated the privilege to educate and engage your prospects to your competitors.
- Your search engine results will flounder.
- Your findability will fade away.
- Brand awareness will suffer.
- Your salespeople will go back to demanding lead quantity and then hate you for wasting their time.
- Sales will suffer.
- Customer retention will ebb.
- Customer loyalty will be up for grabs.
Can you see the ripple effect?
And if that's not enough, consider that we abandon tactics and strategies for something that looks better, more fun, more exciting...something shiny. In essence, we're combating our own boredom—irrespective of our buyers.
If the change we make isn't driven by what our buyers want, it's driven by what we want. What we want isn't going to convince buyers to buy. Especially over the longer-term, complex buying process.
Two things to do to combat Shiny Object Syndrome:
First - determine ways to measure your incremental wins with content marketing that tie to business KPIs. That's one thing that marketing automation technology and analytics can help you with. It's also something that salespeople can help you with. When's the last time you spoke with them about the leads you sent over?
Second - put some fun into your content marketing! Take a look at your personas and figure out a new way to approach them. Put a new spin on a topic you've grown bored with. Use a new format. Do it to engage yourself as much as you do it to engage your buyers. Just make sure it's an extension to your personas and strategy and you're good to go.
After all, if you don't like and enjoy content and think it's awesome, perhaps it's time to rethink your career choice. It's that dang ripple effect...again.