The Content Marketing Institute recently rolled out its 2016 State of Content Marketing report, which highlights, as you may expect, significant trends in content marketing. Despite the overwhelming popularity of content marketing, very few companies consider their campaigns as effective as they could be, and even fewer know exactly how to measure success. With 88 percent of companies using content marketing, the abilities to define and measure progress need to evolve to relate specifically to tangible business outcomes. Lead generation and sales are the ultimate goals, and content, as part of an integrated PR and marketing strategy, helps B2B brands foster the awareness that results in more leads and more sales.
Content needs to be part of the strategy, not the whole strategy To see just 6 percent of responding companies calling content marketing “very effective” is a sign a lot of B2B marketers need to add new components to their overall strategy of building brand awareness on the Web. Even if a prospect reads a white paper from a brand and loves everything in the piece, he is unlikely to convert if it’s the first time he’s heard of the company. Moreover, hearing a great product or service review from a colleague is just going to send a prospect looking for more information. Content marketing isn’t enough on its own. Integrated PR and marketing work together to provide relevant material for prospects, no matter their levels of familiarity with a particular vendor or service provider.
Looking back at the CMI study, 87 percent of respondents named sales lead quality as an important metric for gauging content success. Qualified sales leads are prospects who understand what a company can do for them and are in position to make a decision. Simply, they’re the type of people who have read about a brand on multiple platforms (owned, earned and paid) and understand the company value proposition. Content marketing is often the way these leads enter the sales funnel and become the qualified sales opportunities every B2B company seems to want. Depending on the market, it may take eight minutes or eight months for them to become customers after that initial interaction, but getting them to that final conversion takes more than just one tactic.
Integrating content with an overall marketing strategy Even with just 6 percent of responding companies reporting that their content marketing is “very effective,” only 1 percent said content marketing was “not at all effective,” with most companies saying it falls somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. Primarily, with content marketing, B2B companies generate greater awareness and visibility for their companies, which is measured by increased site traffic, social engagement and improvements in other Web metrics. These aren’t the ultimate goals, but they’re signs that the program is working to support lead generation and sales initiatives.
Eighty-five percent of companies included in the report said lead generation was a goal, 84 percent named sales and 78 percent said lead nurturing. Content rarely produces these results on its own, though. Integrated PR and marketing is about a multi-channel strategy. Content works together with proactive media outreach, social media engagement, analyst relations and other tactics. Moreover, unifying the strategy across channels produces consistent messaging in varying manners to appeal to prospects in different ways. Building content, whether it’s social media, blog content, white papers or any combination, only starts to have value when there’s enough high-quality brand content available that mixes with other PR and marketing activities to build the awareness and visibility that make people schedule demos or request the decision-level information that initiates a sale.