There is no doubt that content marketing has become a core element of the B2B marketing playbook in 2015. In fact, 70 percent of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You have to do more than just create content and find an effective way to generate and measure results. When done correctly, content can be a key lever to increase inbound lead velocity. Additionally, when inbound leads cost on average 61 percent less than outbound leads, that’s a win for marketing.
In today’s post, we’re going to take a deep dive into four things B2B content marketers must do to ensure success.
1. Commit to a clear long-term strategy
For content marketing to be successful, it must exist in a strategic and editorial-driven framework. Looking at the same study from the Content Marketing Institute, we can see that B2B marketers are, on average, working on 13 different content initiatives and targeting at least four separate audiences with different strategies. That’s a lot of content to track and organize at once.
Not only that, but content is never going to be a quick win. It takes time to be successful, which is evident in even some of the most successful companies. For example, Unbounce’s CEO discussed how it took his team six months of blogging before the company started to realize results.
To be able to organize and track these initiatives over time, make sure you have a clear strategy from the outset. Before you start you should be able to answer these core questions without blinking an eye:
- Who will you target?
- How will you address the needs and pain points of your buyer personas?
- What tone and formats will be most effective?
- What will success look like, and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?
2. Use a framework that will allow you to measure and report ROI
Only 21 percent of marketers say they are successful at tracking the ROI of content marketing. This is a huge part of a successful content strategy.
There are five core attribution models you should assess to gauge content’s effectiveness and its contribution to your sales pipeline. They are:
- First touch
- Last touch
- First and last touch
- Time decay
If you want more information on these models, here is a great resource discussing attribution in Salesforce and another in HubSpot. Beyond these attribution models, you should also consider what tools and mechanisms you’ll use to measure results on the specific tactics within your content strategy. Tools such as SEO MOZ for keyword performance or Google Analytics for conversion metrics and engagement, and marketing-automation platforms such as HubSpot or Marketo, are all key pieces of the puzzle.
3. Test which types of content work best
Different buyer personas will want to engage with different types of content, and you need to adapt your strategy to account for this. But don’t just commit to a single content type or two. Instead, test which ones work best and how they can be used together to drive the best results.
Here are the six core types of content seen in the B2B marketing space today:
- White papers
- Free tools
Perhaps one of the best examples of an effective execution of this is Ellie Mirman’s reflection on the early days of marketing at HubSpot. In it she recounts how she and her colleagues were able to use their Marketing Grader (a free tool) to drive engagement to their webinars and e-books. From there, they were able to measure engagement and make educated decisions on where to invest time and scale their efforts moving forward.
4. Set your sales team up for success
Inbound leads are different than outbound leads and need to be treated accordingly. But in many organizations there is still a disconnect between how these inbound leads should be passed off to sales and how sales should follow up. This approach is one of the best ways to ensure your content marketing will be unsuccessful.
Take the time to set your sales team up for success, and unify your marketing and sales departments. One of the most important steps you can take is to sit your marketing and sales teams down to determine marketing-qualified lead criteria, the point at which a lead will be passed to sales to qualify further. Develop an MQL workflow that outlines the expected follow-up steps that sales will take with those leads. From there, establish your lead routing in a way that allows reps to follow up within 15 minutes of their engagement.
Doing this puts marketing in a better position to show its contribution to a company’s pipeline, and sales in a position to increase its close rates. That’s a win-win.
Applying these lessons to your business
By taking the time to do these four things before you put pen to paper, or more likely finger to keyboard, to write your first blog post, you will be in a much better position to ensure that your content will drive results for your business. When executed correctly, inbound leads can help you grow your business cost-effectively, and your efforts will result in compounding returns that just aren’t possible with other marketing strategies.