Our latest research explores the content marketing strategies of 150 professional service, financial service and technology firms. This is the last blog in a series looking at what content marketing leaders in this group do differently - across content planning, creation, distribution, and measurement.
Test and learn; test and learn. Every content marketing professional will tell you that you need to test different formats and channels so you can learn what works best for your audience and your resource. You should not embark on creating or distributing content until you know what you want it to achieve, and how you’re going to measure performance.
Yet so many marketers just dive in. It’s admirable in a way, but unlikely to be effective – at least, it’s unwise if you want to rival the industry’s leaders. Our latest research found that 85% of B2B content marketing leaders have defined KPIs for content, and measure accordingly – that’s compared to just 45% of ‘others’.
Leaders know that measuring content effectiveness is the key to improvement. Here’s what they do differently.
They use multiple metrics
Inbound marketing 101 says measuring sign-ups to specific calls to action, such as a newsletter, is a basic part of the strategy, so it’s no surprise that 92% of leaders do this – but only 44% of others do.
Likewise, the omnipresent page views also feature strongly. As we’ve said before, regular analysis of website activity remains one of the best measures of content marketing ROI. Not only can it show you the effectiveness of your previous content, it can also give you a useful steer on your audience’s interests and preferences, which you can apply to planning future content, online and offline.
But leaders go further; they collect anecdotal feedback from clients and snippets of media coverage. They commission formal brand awareness research and look at personal measures of influence such as Klout. Tracking leads – be it through gated content or through other forms of data collection – is important for both groups.
Reliance on one single metric only gives a snapshot of performance. To get a true overview of how your content is working for you, a range of relevant measures, multiple forms and processes should be in place, aligned to your strategic content goals.
They have strong calls to action
Creating content for content’s sake is an easy trap to fall into; everyone says you need content, so there is sometimes a panic to just get content out there. But leaders know that each piece of content, each item created, should serve a specific purpose. You should know exactly where it fits into your library, and exactly what you want a reader to do once they’ve consumed it.
Signing up - to a newsletter, social media, a sales chain, a nurture journey - is, of course, the most common call to action; it’s the most simple, and the best way to increase your database of prospects. It’s what 92% of leaders want vs 48% of others. Depending where in the decision-making process the content sits, you may also want the reader to find out more about your firm (77% of leaders, 55% of others), or to share the content with their wider networks – saying I found this useful, and I think you will too (77% vs 53%).
But there are other calls to action that you could include in your metrics, as suggested by the leaders. You may want the reader to discuss the subject matter with colleagues, or to continue their journey on your digital real estate by reading other material you have on the subject – the further you can pull them along a journey using content, the more likely that prospect is to convert. For later-stage content, you may want to measure clicks to contact the sales team or request a demo. Each of those calls to action can help you with the final piece of advice from the leaders….
They nurture leads
Content helps a prospect convert to a lead; that’s a given, and it’s been well documented. That’s why it’s so important that your content creation has a strong relationship between sales and lead generation.
Of those we surveyed, 77% of leaders said they knew each piece of content created was going to the right clients and prospects; just 55% of others said the same. Leaders are also confident that leads are nurtured using content, and delivered to the right sales person at the right time for a follow-up (62% vs 46%).
It’s this lead-nurturing process that is at the heart of many of today’s marketing automation plans. Systems such as HubSpot help you to adopt a campaign mentality, capturing data from target personas from an initial download and delivering follow-up content relevant to each stage in the buyer journey. The result is warmer leads for the BD team.
Of course, by nurturing leads and working side by side with the sales strategy, you will be able to prove the ROI of your content programme. From there you can develop further, test and refine, aiming for bigger and better things. It’s the virtuous circle of plan, create, distribute, measure – the circle at the core of the very best content marketing programmes.
What else can you learn from the B2B content marketing leaders? Download the report.