Many of today’s marketers are focused on their outbound campaigns or events and grossly underestimate the power of content marketing. This needs to be a new priority for marketers.
The idea of content marketing is to get to prospects earlier in the buying cycle by providing them relevant content they can use to help them learn more about your category of product and how to be successful with it. Early in the buying cycle, prospects tend to be in information gathering mode. They are doing research, and in many cases are just trying to get a better understanding of the category in general. If you look at most company websites, you will find that the majority of documents are geared toward much later stages in the buying cycle. Items like datasheets and competitive guides typically get viewed much later in the buying process than items like white papers.
Consider recent DemandGen Report research that indicates a mere 22% of respondents still follow the traditional RFP path. The remaining 78% now narrow the field long before the RFP process (DemandGen Report, 2010). This means that nearly 8 out of 10 buyers are searching the web long before they get to you. The earlier you get to them in the buying process, the more likely you will be to participate in the end (i.e. make a sale).
The best content marketing programs I have seen leverage this knowledge to their advantage. Here are some strategies they have in common.
- Generate relevant content
- Syndicate content
- Track content usage
- Track and measure related behavior
- Behave responsibly
Generate Relevant Content
The first component of content marketing is the content itself. It has to be meaningful, helpful and geared toward the early stages of the buying cycle. In some of the best executions I have seen in this area, companies actually have a content plan for each stage in the buying process. For the rest of us mortals, I recommend starting at the beginning—you likely have content for the end stages in the process already.
The most obvious syndication vehicle is your website. There are, however, many others. Some important ones are industry-specific sections of social networks like LinkedIn, where groups of like-minded individuals in your industry are already gathered and where it is easy to post content. There are also many industry websites and blogs that accept content if you just ask. Also consider newly emerging services like the Ventana New Media Engine. (Full disclaimer: Ventana is a partner and we are a customer of theirs). Finding the right content outlets and doing content syndication yourself can be a time consuming task. Their offering is part service and part software that can syndicate your content through many relevant outlets very quickly.
Track Content Usage
Essentially, many demand generation/marketing automation systems, including TreeHouse Interactive’s, can help you track who is downloading your content. This is critical to being able to provide follow-on nurturing and marketing automation that develops an initial content download into a lead. One word of advice: some marketing automation systems will require a form to be placed in front of each piece of content (for the record, TreeHouse Interactive’s does not). My rule is that the number of questions you ask on such a form is inversely proportionate to the number of leads you get. Therefore, keep the content gate to a minimum.
Track and Measure Related Behavior (anonymous website visitor tracking)
Tracking your anonymous visits correctly can help turn them into incremental revenue. If you choose not to gate your content (or even if you do) you can track the companies that come to your website and determine who they are and what content they are both downloading and viewing online. There are many tools that do this today. You can then take that information and use a service like Data.com or ZoomInfo to purchase contacts at those companies that match your likely buyer profile. This enables you to begin nurturing the right contacts at companies that have displayed interest or even directly reach out to them. In addition to the content downloaded, sophisticated companies are tracking individual web visits, anonymous company web visits, page views, email opens, link clicks and more. The complete behavioral picture on a company and individual level helps you nurture potential buyers more effectively.
We all want to react quickly to leads generated by marketing efforts. Sometimes, however, you need to be judicious in how and when you take action. Most of the top marketing automation systems can alert a sales person when one of their leads returns to the website. Before calling that lead, it makes sense to look at their contact history with you and determine if they are ready first. There is a company that calls me every time I hit their website. I have never asked for a call nor have I ever filled out a form on their website that would indicate I am open to one. The salesperson typically opens with something like, “Hey, I see you’ve been on our site today.” This has really turned me off to the company’s products and makes me sorry I ever downloaded anything from their website. So, be judicious in your approach and how you use the information you are gaining from content marketing efforts.
In summary, if you execute an effective content marketing strategy, you will get to buyers earlier in the buying cycle. You will increase your leads and web traffic, and ultimately increase your revenue as a result if you use both information and automation responsibly.