The Other Gap: creating connections between your content marketing and leads

Producing all of that content takes a lot of work and waiting for the phone to ring or emails to flow in is simply painful. Do you find yourself tired?  If you’re like so many other leaders of B2B firms, you’re probably asking “Where is the return?”

Content marketing is all the rage. Marketing departments have become publishing houses whose primary job is not telling the world what you do and why they should engage your services. That’s the past. Today’s marketers are storytellers, word-smithers and content creators. In the past you could put up a website, print some brochures and run a few ads. But those days are long gone.

The big goal these days is to create meaningful sales conversations that lead to deals. To foster these conversations, marketing and sales teams create blogs, webinars, white papers, case studies, videos, infographics and a plethora of other content — all hoping that something will catch people’s ears and they’ll engage.

But what happens when there’s no engagement or it’s a tiny trickle instead of a rushing river?

This is where more and more B2B companies find themselves every day. Here’s the bad news. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you can expect that trickle to dry up completely. That’s right. All of that effort, time and money you are putting into content marketing could end up producing zero meaningful leads. How do I know?

There is more content marketing being produced today than ever before. And folks, it’s only going to increase.  So if you are struggling now, it’s time to identify the root causes and make some course corrections. I want to help you do just that.

The other gap

For years, my company has helped heal the gap between sales and marketing functions at professional service companies. But there’s a new gap emerging that’s just as heinous and likely to render your marketing investments moot. The gap is between your content marketing and acquisition of your services.

Today these gaps are evidenced in four primary ways:

  • Gap 1. Poor lead quality. Much of the content marketing in existence today fails to produce meaningful sales conversations with prospects, not leads, who are likely to buy services. Often times these leads don’t have budget, aren’t ready to buy and aren’t a good fit for service offerings. Following up with these leads is a big waste of sales people’s time.
  • Gap 2. Ignored campaigns. Many content marketing campaigns simply underperform and get ignored by the market. Companies put a lot of effort and money into these campaigns and end up with only half the number of clicks, downloads, leads and other metrics by which they measure success.
  • Gap 3. Too few leads. Content marketing campaigns produce leads who have budget, interest and a willingness to engage in sales dialogue. But they are few and far between. The cost to produce the content equals or exceeds the revenue from client deals. Senior management has begun to question the return on investment of the content marketing approach.
  • Gap 4. No metrics. Content marketing campaigns are built and deployed with no formal metrics. Marketers don’t have measurable goals in mind when they build these campaigns and have no formal means of tracking them on the back-end. Content is created based on hunches rather than quantifiable data.

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you struggling with any of these gaps? The good news is that they are imminently fixable and that the right content marketing strategy actually does work. But first, we have to examine the brutal facts.

The root cause of gap 1: Poor lead quality

The root cause of gap 1 is usually a scatter gun approach to content marketing. Marketers who suffer from this gap have done many things right. They have produced engaging content and created the infrastructure to capture leads and entice them to give their contact information in exchange for the content. But the content itself is likely the problem.

If you languish in a world of poor lead conversion, take a close look at your content and ask yourself — how does our content address the goals, opportunities and challenges of our ideal clients? Focusing your content creation efforts around ideal clients, not just any client, will make a huge difference. You will likely see a reduction in overall leads but also an increase in meaningful sales conversations.

The root causes of gap 2: Ignored campaigns

The root causes of gap 2 are a little more complex. First, it’s important to set realistic expectations about metrics (clicks, downloads, leads). If you only run a campaign now and then, it’s not likely that the market will know your content reputation and relish the opportunity to access it. It’s important to find the right balance between content release frequency and content depth and quality. For instance, if you only produce one massive white paper every year and it’s very high quality, you’ll likely see a spike in leads followed by a long tail drop-off.

Another cause of being ignored is might-read versus must-read content. Might-read content is sort of interesting to your market and if they had more time and fewer projects on their plate, they might read it. Must-read content speaks directly to their goals, opportunities and challenges and they know they cannot afford to ignore it. What do I mean by goals, opportunities and challenges?

  • A goal is something that a company has already budgeted for, has on their radar screen and is committed to achieving.
  • An opportunity is something that fascinates them, but they are not yet fully committed and probably have not allocated budget.
  • A challenge is something that frustrates them and something they are willing to spend time investigating, and possibly budget, if you could offer a solution.

So if you find yourself languishing in the world of gap 2, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are we releasing enough content with enough frequency?
  • Is our content might-read or must-read?
  • Does our content truly speak to the goals, opportunities and challenges of our ideal clients?

The root causes of gap 3: Too few leads

The root causes of gap 3 are the most complex. These content marketers are likely producing content that speaks to the goals, opportunities and challenges of ideal clients. But with too few of them coming in, I’d recommend that you look at:

  • Formats.
  • Gating.
  • Lists.
  • Frequency.

Content formats are a critical factor in success. Some people like to engage videos, others white papers, others still webinars and some will only read articles. So if you haven’t delivered your content in these various formats, you’re already at a disadvantage.

This leads directly to gating strategy. Gating is the give-something get-something paradigm. Usually we give our contact information to get a piece of content. People are much more likely to give deeper amounts of information for a deeper piece of content.

What you ask people to give has to be proportionate to what they get. If you ask people for complete contact information including phone number so they can get your blog — you’ll probably have very few visits. But you can ask for that same information if you are providing a guide book that tells them how to reach their goals. Finding the right balance in the give-something get-something paradigm is critical to generating good leads.

Lists are also very important. If your contact list is too small or not targeted tightly enough toward your ideal client, this can impact opens, clicks, downloads and leads. If your list is old and hasn’t been refreshed in the last 24 months, it’s probably time to upgrade.

If you aren’t getting enough leads and you know you have good content, it’s probably wise to look at the frequency with which you touch your market. Somewhere between daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly lies the right balance. A daily blog. A weekly newsletter. A monthly webinar. A quarterly white paper. Which is right for you? This is a balancing act between having the necessary resources to produce the content and the frequency with which you need to touch your audience so they anticipate your ideas. A good rule of thumb is to give away at least one great idea every month.

The root causes of gap 4: No metrics

The root cause of gap 4 is probably the easiest to fix. First, and most importantly, don’t sponsor the development of any content marketing initiative that doesn’t have associated metrics. At a minimum, these should be opens and clicks on emails, session visits, unique visitors and time on page. But also consider registrations, downloads and sales conversations.

Second, if you don’t have tools to measure your content marketing, consider marketing automation tools. These will also help you efficiently provision the content. See my article on marketing automation for more.

Close the content marketing gaps

Content marketing may be popular, but it takes more than just churning out content to generate leads. Be honest with yourself about what gaps your organization may have. Address them and watch your leads change from a trickle to a steady stream.

About the author

Randy Shattuck is a senior marketing executive and founder of The Shattuck Group, a full-service marketing firm that specializes in growing B2B companies. You can access their Guide Book library by going to http://www.theshattuckgroup.com/thoughtleadership.html.

One Response to The Other Gap: creating connections between your content marketing and leads

  1. Nighthawk Marketing February 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Great article Randy!