This topic is of particular interest to us/me here at Add3 since we do a fair amount of our own blogging/content marketing for ourselves. We’ve bought in – but it’s because I believe we’ve got our expectations aligned with reality (#1 below). I think we’ve still got a ways to go on doing a better job at part 2 below, but it’s always going to be a work in progress.
So here it is – there are probably 2 primary reasons your B2B content marketing efforts are “failing”.
1. Your KPI’s are All Wrong
Odds are that you are expecting content creation & marketing to result directly in leads. An eMarketer report from earlier this year found that most B2B marketers are demonstrating an over-reliance on lead generation as the primary KPI for content marketing efforts. And by “content marketing efforts” – we’re pretty much talking about blogging here. There are a couple of problems with this.
Are Leads the Right Goal?
When it comes to the purchase funnel, content consumption (blog posts) live at the awareness stage or upper end of the funnel. Therefore – content marketing may not be the right tactic for driving “leads” as it were. Well – qualified leads anyway. Brands can use their blog to draw in visitors and offer up valuable content in exchange for email addresses – but these folks aren’t usually “leads” in the pure sense. They’re contacts – that can be engaged, nurtured & leveraged.
I’m not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t try to generate leads with your content marketing efforts, but considering content marketing’s place at the top of the funnel, metrics for some of the more tangible and intangible “awareness” and “thought leadership” benefits should be part of the scorecard.
Intangible metrics are, by their very nature, tough to measure. These would be metrics like awareness lift and propensity to buy.
That said – there ARE some metrics / benchmarks you could loosely correlate to brand awareness, thought leadership, etc.
- Links & citations
- Social mentions / shares / follows
- Contacts generated (make top of funnel content offers available)
- email list growth
- Offers to speak / present
You CAN Attribute Conversions to Your Blog Content
HOWEVER, when it does come to “leads” – don’t forget multi-channel funnels / attribution in Google Analytics. That last-click look at leads generated by content marketing will probably be pretty disappointing. But what about leads that were INITIATED by your content marketing?
2. You’re Not Targeting the Right Audience(s)
So lets say you’re on board with the awareness idea above. Now you may have a second problem. Are you targeting the right people to help you generate awareness?
Ideally – you’ve got target personas in mind and have actually gone to the effort of creating them. Need help? Check out this post: http://www.add3.com/insights/seo/processes-tips-tools-creating-personas-for-marketing/
Create Content for Target Customers AND “Influencers”
You should definitely be creating content that your target customers would be interested in. Duh. However, one target audience people don’t usually think about when creating personas is those of influencers and/or evangelists. A lot of times organizations will start blogging and content marketing programs because they want to improve their SEO. The SEO benefits of blogs are many, including awareness… sometimes the people that can help you generate the most awareness aren’t necessarily going to be customers. We’ll call them “influencers”. Examples of influencers might be:
- Press / media / trade pubs
- Industry enthusiasts
- Industry peers, influencers & experts
- Event/conference organizers
You may find that you can create content for this group that gets much more traffic and social attention and generated mentions and links at a higher rate than your target-customer-focused content.
Rand over at Moz covered this topic recently on a whiteboard friday: http://moz.com/blog/my-customers-wont-amplify-my-content-whiteboard-friday
In our own experience – check out our “most popular” posts displayed over there in the sidebar of our blog. The list changes but there’s a high likelihood that all our most “popular” posts aren’t necessarily those aimed at our target customer. That’s OK – these are helping to raise our awareness and authority – which will help us rank better and help our future content perform better.
The takeaway – consider adding “influencer” as a target group(s) for your content marketing… and keeping awareness as one of your content marketing goals!
Some more research from Content Marketing Institute for ya: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2014/10/2015-b2b-content-marketing-research/
And a great post from Buffer that covers quite a bit of the same ground: Why We Stopped Focusing on Direct Social media ROI