One of the key insights we took away from corporate marketers at Social Media Marketing World was that there weren’t enough sessions for B2B content marketers, especially when it came to examples and measurement tactics around use cases. Although there were some B2B marketers on panels, most of the sessions were focused on examples with no accountability.
It was even pointed out in this interview we did with Chris Penn about content and measurement that there was a lack of sessions around measurement and analytics, which is a big issue for B2B marketers:
But here’s the odd part – out of 105 sessions here, there are only 4 on measurement. There’s 32 on content creation, 33 on social media operations. There’s a lot of focus on doing “the stuff”, but not a lot on measuring “the stuff” to see if it’s working.
This poses a few questions. Is it that marketers don’t care about measurement, so conferences don’t address the issue? Or that the right marketers weren’t on stage at the conference?
From what I heard, people in corporate B2B marketing positions were a bit upset about the lack of measurement strategies that were used in all “the stuff” that was presented.
So based on this insight from B2B corporate marketers like you, I decided to put this guide together on how to scale and measure B2B content marketing programs at your company.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- Why you can do a lot with a simple setup
- Why there are specific tools you absolutely NEED or you won’t be able to get full ROI on your content efforts
- Why having the right distribution strategy significantly increases lead generation
- Why everything can be measured and tied to the bottom line (and don’t believe anyone who says otherwise)
This is a long post, so take your time going through it. If you’re wondering if you should read it fully, scroll down to the bottom part where we discuss our results. You’ll want to read it fully afterward.
So here we go!
Basic B2B Content Marketing Set-up Still Works
There seemed to be such a focus on live streaming, Snapchat, and video at the conference. Which I think is great from an individual standpoint. But what about B2B marketers? What works best?
Well, it’s still the same old setup that ends up working in the end: A great blog, amazing downloadable guides, optimized landing pages, and emails.
Some people might say that I’m stuck in the early 2000s, but hear me out.
Your Blog Is A Great Host
Here’s why blogs still work (and it was confirmed in the influencer marketing sessions at Social Media Marketing World by corporate marketers): It’s the most shareable content across the board.
- It ranks well with SEO if you structure it properly
- You can distribute it in email or RSS
- It’s easily shareable on social, especially on the B2B social networks like LinkedIn
- It encourages participation in comments (which leads to more SEO potential)
- It’s easy to digest on web or mobile
- It’s easy to measure success
Don’t get me wrong, videos are great. But they require a lot more production time and budget. And it’s a lot harder to measure lead-gen from video than blogs.
You can get a lot more content out (and faster) if it’s in blog format than ANY other format that exists. You can create internal linking strategies on your website to help drive traffic to certain anchor pieces. You can embed videos, photos, podcasts, social media posts, iframes, etc, in blog posts. It’s so versatile from a content marketing standpoint that you should not be thinking about other content mediums until you’ve mastered your blog strategy and invested enough resources in it to keep it going long-term.
If you’re struggling to get 2 blog posts out a month, then don’t think about other types of content. It will be a waste of time and effort, especially from a measurement and scaling standpoint.
Content Downloads Show Off Your Expertise
Think of guides and whitepapers in the same way as books vs. blogs. Blogs are easily digestible and will give you access to quick information. But if you want to dig really deep into a topic, you’re better off reading a research paper or a book on the topic.
Downloadable content allows you to show off that expertise, dig deep into your industry and strategies. It’s also one of the best ways to gather leads. People who are looking for in-depth knowledge on a certain topic will more than gladly give away their contact information to get your content. It’s also a great way to encourage people to subscribe to your email newsletter by giving them something in return.
You can still run a lead-generation content strategy without downloadable assets, but it’s a lot harder.
Landing Pages Work As Marketing Qualifiers
Landing pages should squeeze people off of your website onto a single page, and not give them an “out” unless they fill out a form (no navigation or anything). Having a number of landing pages for your downloadable content helps maximize your chances of capturing leads. There’s plenty of great articles on how to best build your landing pages. But here are my 2 cents:
- Keep your landing pages simple. You don’t need anything flashy on it, just compelling sales copy, a form, and some sort of visual.
- Get rid of navigation bars. You want people to complete the form, so if you give them other links to click that takes them off the page, it minimizes the chances of them completing the action.
- Repeat your call to action several times. It encourages the viewer to complete the form.
- Keep the form-fill simple. Don’t ask for too much information. What do you need to know about the lead? You can always use progressive profiling on your forms to ask different information for different downloads.
- Be descriptive with what you’re asking. If you’re not clear with your labels, you won’t get the information you need.
When you have a sophisticated marketing team, and possibly an analyst or developer on your squad, then you can think about A/B testing and optimizing your landing pages. But for now, keep your landing pages simple.
No Matter What You Hear, Everyone Still Uses Email
If you don’t have a sound email strategy for your B2B content, then it won’t work. Period.
Social media is great. SEO is great. Advertising is great. They can all help with lead generation and distribution of your content. But you need to repeatedly communicate with your prospects and contacts.
How are you going to communicate to them on an ongoing basis? How are you going to get their awareness, in a measurable way?
Business is done through email and phone. And your content strategy needs to include email, or it won’t work.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the setup, let’s move on to a couple of tools that are necessary for execution and measurement.
The Tools of The Trade for B2B Content Marketers
You absolutely – I repeat, ABSOLUTELY – need to measure everything in your marketing automation system and CRM. Screw Google Analytics (well, don’t screw it completely. It’s still useful). The best data will exist in your CRM. And you need to make sure that your CRM and automation system integrate.
Oh, and any other tools you use (which we’ll cover in the distribution section of this post) needs to somehow integrate with your marketing automation system and CRM.
P.S. If you haven’t considered hiring an engineer on your marketing team, you might want to. Marketing tech stacks are getting much more complicated to run, and you almost need an engineering mindset to make sure that nothing breaks.
Why Is Marketing Automation Important for B2B Content Marketing?
I’m a strong believer in making sure that everything you do from a content marketing standpoint should be measured back to the bottom line in some shape or form.
What’s great with tools today is that we’re getting closer and closer to full marketing attribution. Marketing automation really helps with this.
At the very least, marketing automation implements a tracking code on your website so you can track repeat visits and get a sense of multi-touch attribution for your leads.
When you start digging deeper into marketing automation, you’ll be able to score people based on how they interact with your content, then segment them and remarket to them in a much more targeted way.
Marketing automation also allows you to track campaigns in your CRM, so you’ll get a better understanding of what stages prospects might be in, and how they’re interacting with your content.
It’s basically the connector between your front-end marketing (website, content, landing pages, email, etc.), and your back-end data (your CRM).
We use Pardot at PostBeyond.
Why Is A CRM Important for B2B Content Marketing?
As much as you can get top-funnel analytics from a number of different marketing tools, your best data exists in your CRM. It’s really the place to go to get information about your ICPs.
It’s also a central database that usually connects a number of other tools together. Lead capture, task management, automation, billing and invoicing, etc. All of those connect to your CRM, because that’s where all the data is.
As a content marketer, this is a goldmine. You can look through opportunities, account records, and contacts to get a better sense of who your customers are. Then you can create content that speaks specifically to them. Amazing!
On top of that, this is where you keep track of all revenue projections and closed deals. Wouldn’t it be nice to attach your content marketing efforts to your sales pipeline?
Well, you can. If you set it up right.
We use Salesforce.com at PostBeyond. There’s a number of smaller CRMs that exist that have fancier user interfaces, but we’ve found that there’s nothing that scales like Salesforce.
Marketing Automation And Your CRM Must Integrate Seamlessly
Whichever CRM you use, make sure that your other marketing tools integrate with it, especially your marketing automation system.
Most lead capture tools integrate with Salesforce.com, so that’s a great choice.
If your systems don’t integrate seamlessly, then you won’t ever be able to fully measure your marketing ROI. So this is very important.
There’s a reason why a lot of marketers stick with the tried-and-true software (i.e. Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, and Salesforce.) These companies strive on their CRM integrations – they have to.
And if you ever want to start sending targeted email campaigns for your content, you’ll need to pull the data from your CRM. Anything that’s not connected could cause issues.
Now let’s move on to content distribution.
You Need Eyeballs On Your Content To Get Leads
If you create content that doesn’t get seen, does it exist?
A lot of B2B marketers focus so much on creating enough content that they don’t spend enough time thinking about how their ideal customer profiles (ICPs) will end up seeing that content.
I’m a big believer in balancing content quantity and quality. But there also needs to be appropriate distribution channels in place for B2B content to work, and for you to maximize your ROI.
Let’s dig deeper into it.
The Best Content Will Come From Customer Success and Sales
Our best content at PostBeyond came from a collaboration with Customer Success. One of our most downloaded guides about Employee Advocacy implementation was taken straight from some of the strategies our CSMs deploy with our customers, and is now associated with over $1MM in pipeline value.
As a marketer, how often do you review support tickets? How often do you meet with your field reps? How often do you look at CRM data to see how prospects are navigating in your cycles?
If you want your content to generate leads, you need to create content that serves a purpose and answers questions. Real customers are your best source of information. And who better to collaborate with than your frontline employees?
Use Your SDR Team As A Distribution Channel
Want targeted eyeballs on your content? Then send it to targeted people who care.
Your Sales Development team has an open line of communication with thousands of prospects. They know their pain points in-and-out. Who better to send content through?
You can use marketing automation to segment your database and send emails to the masses. But your SDR team is also a great distribution channel for your content.
And if you really focus on sales and marketing collaboration, your content should really help your SDR team open up doors and generate more pipeline. So they’ll be more than happy to share it with prospects.
On top of that, getting your team to send out your content will give you more insight on how people are interacting. Did they click on the article? Did they read it? Did they visit extra pages, or fill out a form?
Since you’re tracking everything in marketing automation (right?), you can use all of this data and send it back to your SDR team so they have more ammo to play with.
Repurpose and Reshare Your Content
In August 2015, we created a webinar with Maggie Huston of Oracle Social Cloud and Neal Schaffer of Maximize Social Business. It’s called 9 Most Important Questions About Employee Advocacy.
That webinar got turned into 9 shorter video segments.
Each video segment was turned into a blog post with a call to action that lead to the original webinar download.
Each blog post was turned into 10-20 tweets that we added to a content library in Bundlepost. These tweets get cycled and shared regularly.
The various blog posts then get added to our own software for employees to share on social media. Different variations of the posts and videos get re-added regularly so our employees can continuously help with distribution.
On top of that, one of the video segments from the webinar was about implementation, and was turned into our 11 Steps to Enterprise Social Media Advocacy guide.
And guess what? That guide was turned into 11 blog posts, which then got turned into 10-20 tweets each and added to our Bundlepost rotation.
And we continuously add these posts to our PostBeyond content hub for our employees to share.
So this repurposing strategy that started from one webinar turned into 2 downloadable assets, 9 YouTube videos, 20 blog posts, 200-400 tweets, and several hundred social posts from our employees.
I repeat: 1 webinar = 500+ micro pieces of content.
That’s quite the library we now have to play with. Not to mention the hundreds of leads we got from it over the last four months, with a steady flow of shares, traffic, and downloads.
Syndicate Your Content To Other Websites (Including LinkedIn)
Everyone that writes a blog post at PostBeyond immediately re-publishes it to LinkedIn. Why? Because it’s a purely B2B audience that’s not necessarily active on your website.
You need audience, and chances are that not everyone is aware of your website. But they might be active somewhere else.
LinkedIn is great, because everyone who has an account also has the capability to blog. It also creates opportunities to showcase your expertise somewhere else.
A lot of people also syndicate to Medium. Facebook Articles are being tested. It seems like a lot of social networks are experimenting with long-form content capabilities.
You can also try to get your articles re-published by partners, or other publications. We’ve recently had an article syndicated by Brian Solis about his OPPOSITE framework to digital transformation, which led to quality backlinks for our content. This all helps build audience for your content and brand.
Get Your Employees Active
When I first started at PostBeyond, I was a marketing department of 1. I had to redo the website, establish our content strategy, get active on social media, etc.
At that time, I had about 16K followers on Twitter, a strong LinkedIn network, I ran my own digital marketing publication, and I had a vast network of influencers and marketers to leverage. I had a personal brand, and I had reach.
And I used that reach to my advantage when I first joined.
There’s a time for advertising. When you’re looking to target someone specific with your content, sure it makes sense to promote it with paid media. But you’re fighting against ad blockers, people are trusting personal connections more than brand messages online, and you’re losing trusted clicks.
If you try to publish to your brand channels organically, you’re fighting a losing reach battle against algorithms. Facebook reach for brand pages is now in the single digits. LinkedIn has a similar newsfeed algorithm. And true impressions on Twitter are much smaller than you expect.
But what if you could have an army of employee advocates sharing your content? It’s much more personal. It’s much more trusted. And the aggregate of the reach can give you similar results as advertising.
We use our own software at PostBeyond to push all of our content through our employee’s social networks.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of content setup, tools, and distribution, let’s cover measurement.
Measure, Measure, Measure. Right Down To The Dollar.
Content can definitely be measured to the bottom line, no matter what anyone says. A lot of marketers dance around the issue because they just don’t know how to measure properly.
Is it 100% accurate and figured out yet? No, there’s still issues with attribution. But technology has come a long way, and getting better ROI numbers is definitely possible.
So let’s dig deeper into measurement.
Measuring Your Content In Your Marketing Automation and CRM
The great thing about Pardot is that it lets you add a score to your content, and score your prospects based on actions.
At its most basic set-up, prospects get scored when they download content, open emails, and visit our website.
But we’ve also set-up specific scoring profiles based on the intent of each content asset. For example, if they’re looking at a vendor scorecard, they’re pretty early on in their evaluation. It’s a good time to reach out with helpful information.
If they’re only reading blog posts and signing up for newsletters, then they might not be ready to speak with us yet. So that gets scored differently.
Once prospects reach a certain score, and have a certain profile grade that matches our ICP, we can follow-up with them and have a conversation.
On top of that, if you have everything set-up properly in your marketing automation, you can track content campaigns inside of Salesforce.com.
We have it set up so that every form on our website is attached to our CRM. So if you download our Buyer’s Guide to Employee Advocacy Solutions, for example, we track it in our CRM. If ever you become a prospect, or better yet a customer, we can attach that download to your profile and get an idea of how much pipeline influence the asset received over time.
You can also set up campaigns for your blog posts. There’s a way in Pardot to “call-out” specific URLs, and attach them to Saleforce.com campaigns. If a prospect returns to your website,] and reads a case study for example, you can track that specific page view inside your CRM, and see if there are any pages or blog posts that are performing better in terms of associated pipeline value.
There’s a lot you can do, and everything can be tied to your bottom line. You just need to roll up your sleeves and put a bit sweat into it.
The Proof Is In The Pudding: B2B Content Marketing Results
I could spew a lot of numbers at you, but let’s get straight to the point: Associated pipeline and campaign close influence.
Let’s look at the lifetime value of our downloadable content and newsletter. Here’s what’s up:
- We published our first downloadable asset in August 2015.
- Since then, we’ve had 6 active downloads and a newsletter popup.
- Total associated pipeline value of our content: $2,303,050
- Total closed influence of our content: $337,500.
Now let’s repeat this.
$2,303,050 in associated pipeline value.
$337,500 in influenced closed business.
That’s how much pipeline our content was associated with in 9 months. With a content team of 3 (only for the last 7 months) and an investment of less than $20,000 (not including salaries).
Whoever tells you that content can’t be measured to the bottom line is lying, or just doesn’t know how to do it. If you set it up correctly from the start, you can get full visibility into the value your content brings for your company.
Fortunately, we know someone who knows excatly how to do it. Our friend Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group is a pro at proving the business value of content. We’ve teamed up with him for a webinar called The Content Formula – 10 Steps to Content Marketing ROI.
In this webinar, you’ll learn…
- How to build the business case for content marketing
- Where to find the budget to establish a new content marketing program
- Steps to measure content marketing ROI success in business terms
- 10 actual calculations any business can use to show real content marketing ROI
Again, all content can be measured down to a dollar amount – and that’s critical for any marketing department. I highly recommend registering for this session if you want to take a more tactical approach to content marketing. It will help you build a business case for content at your enterprise in the language your C-Suite speaks.
This webinar is available on demand here. Check it out if you’re intetrested in showing your executives the real power of your content.
Do you measure your B2B content efforts to the bottom line? Why or why not? I would love to hear from you in the comments below, and feel free to share with your colleagues!