If you were to toss a coin in the air 100 times, the chances of it landing on heads are about 50/50, correct? So, even if a coin lands on heads the first two times, one should assume that on the next round the probability of a similar outcome is still 50/50.
Israeli psychologists Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky found that even the brightest of us will erroneously assume that if a coin lands heads up two times, then the majority of the remaining 98 flips would do the same. Two out of 98 flips is too small of a sample size to draw any meaningful conclusion, especially when we know the odds are still 50/50. And yet, because we’ve seen something work a few times, we stick with it.
What if we’re applying this same fallacy to our content marketing? What if, because we’ve seen our current methods work in the past, we ignore other, better ways?
A truly effective lead-generating B2B content marketing strategy, however, goes beyond creating personas and having a posting schedule. Just saying you’ll publish 5 or 15 blog posts monthly isn’t a strategy. Just saying you’ll host monthly webinars isn’t a strategy. Just saying you’ll launch a podcast isn’t a strategy.
To generate more leads, you have to let go of some of the conventional rules of marketing, dig deeper into your audience and explore alternative executional plans.
It’s time to create a more sophisticated B2B content marketing strategy to achieve your marketing goals and deliver a bigger impact on your business.
Set Goals the Right Way and Define Success Measurements
Why is your marketing team creating content? Seriously, have you defined the specific goals you need to achieve, and clarified how these move the business forward? A year from now, what will your business need to see from the content efforts in order for you to call it a major success?
Is your content marketing goal to:
- Broaden reach and drive traffic?
- Achieve greater organic search rankings?
- Increase opt-ins to your mailing list?
- Get more sign-ups for your events and webinars?
- Accelerate new marketing qualified leads (MQLs)?
- Nurture existing leads?
- Or a mix of these?
If so, by what specific volume or percentage increase? Within what timeframe? Measured by what KPIs? And who is accountable for achieving these goals?
As an agency, we talk with many B2B companies with a wide variety of content. Too often, we find that these businesses don’t have a content marketing strategy, don’t have success metrics tied to their content, and don’t have a formal tracking, measuring and reporting process in order to continually optimize and ensure greater content performance. Often, they have no idea what they expect from their content marketing efforts. In other words, they are busy creating content, but it’s rudderless. They are mainly just busy being busy.
Instead, be strategic.
What are the end goals of your content marketing? In order to achieve these end goals, what specific process goals need to be in place? How will you measure these? How will you report on a monthly and quarterly basis on your content performance? What type of online dashboard will you have in place for more frequent monitoring? How will you structure ongoing analysis and optimization activities?
I speak at marketing conferences around the country. I often ask the audience if they have documented “buyer personas” for each audience segment they are targeting. Whether in Boston or Dallas or Chicago, less than five percent of attendees typically raise their hands. This is stunning – if you don’t know whom a content piece is targeting, then how can you develop it and amplify it effectively?
So, we have one big problem, in that many marketers are creating content without granular targeting, making lots of content kinda, sorta ok for some readers, but totally off the mark for many others, and not really nailing it for any specific readers.
Then we have another problem to address. Even if you have personas documented, you may be focusing on the wrong things. What if we told you that aspects of the traditional buyer’s personal are pretty much, well … useless?
Think about it: what good does it do to know your ideal client is 32 and not 46? That she has a dog and a few kids, is divorced and has a bachelor’s degree? That she prefers shopping at The Gap over Nordstrom?
All this information that marketers use to fill out buyer personas is essentially useless!
Instead, think about what really matters in B2B – what goals is she pushing her team towards achieving? What numbers does she need to produce? How is success being measured? What problems does she urgently need to solve? What keeps her up at night? What are the key threats from competitors? What are the keys to driving growth within her industry?
According to the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, nearly all of the most successful B2B marketers (90%) make the needs of their audience a priority, not their sales and promotional message. Every person in the company has different needs and problems they’re trying to solve. When you speak directly to what will be most valuable to your audience personas and answer their burning questions, you connect with them more directly and engage with them more deeply, setting your content up to be more valuable and to produce greater ROI.
Capitalize on Behavioral Intelligence for Deeper Audience Insights
Let’s pretend you’re at an industry conference. It’s happy hour, and you’re chatting with another attendee.
Hopefully, you don’t throw your business card at them and walk away. Rather, you start a conversation. As you talk, you notice how their eyes light up when you talk about content marketing, but they glance at the clock and lose interest when you mention marketing automation software.
Most likely, you’ll talk more about content marketing to keep their attention.
So why don’t you do this with your site visitors?
If you really want to amp up your lead generation content strategy, you have to know not only what is and isn’t working, but why. That’s why tools like Google Analytics aren’t enough – they show you only the what. They don’t reveal the why.
Google Analytics can show you no one is filling out your form.
In contrast, behavioral intelligence software like Hotjar, MouseFlow, Decibel, FullStory and Clicktale can show you a lot of people are filling out the first and last name fields and even their email in your form – but most people are hesitating when you ask for their phone number or zip code.
Now you know most people are interested in signing up; they just don’t want to give out all that extra information. Take out those fields and BOOM! Your lead generation just might skyrocket.
From click mapping and video recordings to form analytics and surveys, behavioral intelligence is the first step to figuring out what parts of your content are and are not working.
Well-researched personas and the use of behavioral analytics can help you create a solid content strategy, but according to CMI’s and MarketingProfs’ Content Marketing 2019 study, less than half of content marketers are actually taking the time to talk to their customers and understand their needs.
This is crazy! Because what better way to get personal than to talk to real, live customers? Why guess when you could figure out what questions they are really asking?
For example, the folks at Groove asked their readers what challenges they were facing and what solutions they wish they had. One reader said she was having trouble finding a technical co-founder for her business.
What did Groove do? They turned it into a blog post!
It was a hit, so they asked more questions and even stalked a few forums and essentially began stealing content topics from their audience.
When Stratabeat is developing content for our clients, we often interview our clients’ customers. In crafting the messaging for one client’s website, we spent more than eight hours on client interviews, and wound up using a variety of eye-opening insights that otherwise never would have been articulated the way the actual clients phrased them.
Instead of trying to metaphorically step into your customers’ shoes and guess what questions they want answered, just ask! It’s an easy solution that’s often overlooked, but has the potential to produce some of the best, most irresistible lead generation content.
Catch Tom Shapiro’s Neuromarketing Session and Up Your Content Game at Content Marketing Conference 2019 in Boston
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Atomize Your Content
The marketing team at SAP had 25 verticals they wanted to address. Scaling content marketing efforts to cover 25 verticals is a daunting proposition for any marketing team. If SAP followed the status quo, they would’ve picked a handful of the most essential verticals, created a few pieces of content for each, and then stopped there.
But when it came time to cover digital transformation (a topic relevant to all 25 verticals), SAP didn’t follow the status quo. Senior Marketing Director Ginger Shimp and her team rethought content scalability, and in the process helped SAP effectively scale its content to an entirely new level, fully covering all 25 verticals.
SAP’s content team started with a white paper. Then, it turned that white paper into a template so it could be customized for different verticals. Then, it brought industry experts in to offer a deeper understanding of each vertical.
The goal? Create a series of products (white papers) that were 80% the same and customize the remaining 20% by vertical.
Shimp didn’t stop there, though. She took it a step further and reevaluated what a white paper could be. At the end of the process, SAP had a suite of content for each vertical including blog posts, infographics, tweet cards, podcasts, webinars, Ted Talks, surveys and more.
Because the process was standardized, they could replicate it across every vertical. Each piece of content promoted the next to drive engagement and leads, and each suite of content was housed in industry-specific hubs to create a massive ecosystem of value-packed content.
The result: 650 pieces of content and a $23 million pipeline.
Resonating more directly with your audience means getting specific and targeting individual audiences with customized content. For mid- to large-sized B2B companies with many products, audiences and verticals, this can feel impossible. But if you follow Ginger Shimp’s lead, you’ll be able to create massive amounts of customized content that drives leads.
Deliver the Right Content at the Right Time
After behavioral analysis and some A/B testing, you’ve created a blog post that gets killer traffic. You’re hyped, but then you realize that traffic isn’t turning into any type of conversion.
Imagine a potential client comes to your site who is just starting their purchase journey. They find a rockstar blog post that they get a lot of value from, so they fill out the form that pops up halfway down the page. Awesome. There’s a lead.
But when someone arrives on your site who is deeper down the purchase funnel, they end up wandering around your site because they can’t find any relevant content at their stage of the purchase cycle.
The problem? Your content is all focused on the early stage of the buyer’s journey.
While general blog posts are more effective in the early stages of the buyer’s journey, other types of content such as case studies, interactive assessments, demos, video walkthroughs, product selectors and ROI calculators are more effective in the late stages.
If your content is comprised entirely of blog posts focused on broad topics, then it’s no wonder you may be unable to attract or engage with certain prospects. Your content is focused exclusively on the top of the funnel and ignoring the needs of those who are closer to making a purchase decision.
Identify the topics and types of content that your ideal client would find valuable throughout the customer journey, from start to finish. With a more comprehensive set of content, you’ll be better equipped to keep them engaged and interested in your solutions.
In 2015, Arrow Electronics made a bold move: they purchased 16 engineering sites, publications and tools from Hearst’s United Technical Publications, all of which were struggling to stay afloat. A year later, Arrow bought UBM’s entire media portfolio for $23.5 million.
Seems risky, right? But now, Arrow is the largest media company in electronics.
Arrow isn’t using these publications to promote their products. In fact, they’re selling advertising space to competitors!
One of the main purposes of the publications is to provide educational material to electrical engineers and ensure that engineers (and younger would-be engineers) in the industry are served well.
In short, they’re making sure their market continues to grow. They’re playing the long game.
Another, equally powerful purpose is to uncover deeper audience insights. When Arrow researched how electrical engineers kept up-to-date, they found that 16 of the top 18 methods involved media, including blogs and podcasts. It was then that Arrow decided to transform its content strategy and to make the acquisitions. They now use this broad array of publications with a massive user base for uncovering audience insights. After all, what other strategy would enable the business to tap into the minds of millions of readers?
With control of the publications, Arrow is able to see the topics that resonate most deeply with its engineering audience. It’s able to understand the questions that arise from its readers. It has access to superior editorial talent. It can test different headlines, copy and CTAs to uncover what works and what doesn’t. And it has a firmer grasp on the future direction of the industry.
Arrow’s content strategy ensures that they’re not only giving clients and engineers the tools and information they need to succeed, but they are also gleaning invaluable audience insights to help them drive more leads through their core business.
Learn to Develop a Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy that Drives More Leads!
Transform Your Content into a Lead Generation Engine
Too many companies create content that simply lacks lead generation firepower. Instead, it’s dull, it’s lifeless and it’s uninspired. If you want lead generation that packs a punch, then you need a backbone and need to be decisive. Do something different. Do something that can 10X your leads, instead of tinkering around the edges hoping for a 5% lift.
To create a true lead generation engine with your B2B content strategy, do something that others in your industry are not. Take Moz, the SEO software company. When Rand Fishkin started creating the Whiteboard Friday video series, in which he explores SEO and other inbound marketing concepts, it failed to gain much traction. However, he stuck with it, and over time it became a massively popular (and massively shared) content asset.
Tableau Software helps people see and understand data through its data visualization software. When Tableau launched a free version of its technology, traffic and usage exploded. It acted as an easier way to get prospective customers trying out, playing with and using its software. It was an entryway for a large number of future upgrades to its paid products. It might seem counterintuitive, but presenting a free or low-priced offering may open the floodgates for future revenue.
How are you structuring your content to generate new leads (and LOTS of them)?
Today, the options for lead generation triggers are nearly endless. There’s everything from related content downloads to exit intent CTAs. You can even link your text so that when it’s clicked a CTA form pops up immediately, without even leaving the page.
How about making your content more interactive? Tools such as Typeform, Qzzr, Outgrow, Apester, Ceros and I-On Interactive enable you to create interactive quizzes, assessments, calculators, funnels, and interactive infographics, white papers and guides.
With each content piece, have a distinct CTA on the page, but don’t stop there. It’s actually effective to include multiple CTAs on the page in order to increase your lead generation numbers.
Test, Test and Test Some More
Content strategy doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Conduct A/B testing to confirm what works best at maximizing your leads.
Let’s say behavioral intelligence shows you that the form at the bottom of your page isn’t getting any hits. In fact, most people aren’t even scrolling far enough to see it.
Rather than choose another option at random and hope it works, try an A/B test. You could have some visitors see a pop-up in the middle of the screen. For others, you could show a pop up in the bottom right corner. Then, figure out which one brings in more leads.
A/B testing can apply to just about any kind of content. For example, the content team at Groove decided to test a blog post. Some readers saw a post that began with a story. Others saw a post that jumped straight into the facts.
Both posts, at their core, provided the same amount of value. But 3X as many readers made it to the bottom of the post that began with the story, and their time on the page was 5X higher!
“The only way we can get results like these is by not being afraid to mess up by testing things that seem different or strange,” writes Alex Turnbull of Groove.
Here are Stratabeat, through A/B testing we recently uncovered that for one of our clients, using acronyms in their messaging actually hurt performance. For another, we found that adding pop-up CTAs improved lead generation for a white paper significantly for one client, whereas it had little impact for a different client in a different industry. For our own blog here at Stratabeat, adding a behaviorally-based subscription CTA increased mailing list opt-ins by 300%. You just gotta be testing!
Amplify Like Crazy
Most marketing teams know that amplification is important to increasing the ROI of your content by getting your content in front of your audience and new prospective audience members as well as driving traffic back to your content. That still doesn’t mean that they are actually doing it. In our experience, we see that many companies are hesitant to do more than a few social posts in amplifying content. After that, the content pretty much just goes into an abyss.
Start by amplifying your content to those websites, blogs and publications with audiences that would be most interested. See how Groove secured 1,000+ subscribers in just 24 hours using content amplification strategies.
But don’t stop there. How about building amplification into your content itself?
What do I mean? Look at Stratabeat. We often participate in interviews on third-party podcasts, webinars and blogs. For example, we have been partnering with WP Engine, the leading WordPress website hosting service, for years on a series of marketing webinars. When we are featured on a WP Engine webinar, we aim to provide their audience with as much value as possible. In return, the webinar is broadcast to WP Engine’s database and website visitors. WP Engine has more than 80,000 customers and a deep mailing list. We often have more than 1,000 registrants to our joint webinars. By partnering with WP Engine, we’re able to EXPONENTIALLY amplify our content to our target audience.
What are ways that you can look to drastically increase the amplification of your content?