My advice for picking the best assets for Content Syndication programs is pretty straightforward:
Use whitepapers and other high-value content that has already proven effective at key stages of your demand-generation strategy.
Content syndication is a powerful way to the extend your marketing reach beyond in-house lists. But it’s an extension – not a re-invention. The formula for success that Marketing and Sales have already developed doesn’t change just because you are opening a new demand-gen channel.
Content Syndication doesn’t mean redefining the account profiles or prospect personas you are trying to reach. The campaigns Marketing develops with Content Syndication partners must generate leads that Sales can and will effectively convert to closed business. And the assets you employ must provide high-quality, value-added learning that moves potential customers along their purchase journeys and builds trust with your brand.
So, content assets that have already proven to engage and activate leads are the best choice to send out to a broader, but very similar, audience via Content Syndication.
Seem simple enough, right?
Content Syndication Assets – Customer Personas – Back to the Basics
Of course, every step I just spelled out assumes your team has done the necessary groundwork for successful content marketing and has data that shows where you are winning and where you need to do better. And as we all know, that’s often not the case. Forrester reported last year that 43% of B2B marketers lost business because they did not have the right content to match customer needs, according to a recent article at Forbes.
It’s a real challenge, and it all boils down to the marketing fundamentals of knowing who your customers are and what they need.
Content Syndication partners can advise you as you develop your programs – our customer success specialists here at True Influence know what’s worked in ContentLEADS™ campaigns we’ve helped design and execute, and we can help identify which of your content assets will likely perform best at each stage of your funnel (a little more on that later). And we can enrich your campaign with Intent Signal Monitoring marketing intelligence to optimize results.
But successful Content Syndication, like all content marketing programs, boils down to these basics.
Content Syndication Assets Require a Serious Investment
Successful content marketing assets give B2B decision-makers useful information that educates them and supports the spending decisions they make on behalf of their companies. And that kind of value doesn’t come cheap.
MarketingProfs’ most recent content marketing survey showed that B2B marketers spent about 40 percent of their overall budget on content in 2017. This figure reflects an ongoing trend in spending more on content, despite that fact that Gartner reported overall marketing budgets were down that year.
Of course, some of that budget goes to blogs, social media and other content that isn’t devoted to direct conversion efforts, as most Content Syndication programs are. However, it’s clear that every time you communicate with your audience, you must add value, and that means focusing resources and budget on content that moves the needle.
Or, as content marketing guru Ann Handley puts it: “In 2018, you need to matter.”
Jayson Demers at Forbes agrees that focusing on quality, instead of quantity, is essential in getting the transactions you want. Demers also says many content marketers make the mistake of relying too heavily a single channel to distribute their best content and fail to re-market assets that are proven winners.
I’ll add that Content Syndication speaks directly to both these concerns. If you’ve invested in a whitepaper that’s performing in your in-house channels, it only makes sense to get it in front of a broader audience and realize greater return on that asset.
Content Syndication Assets Should Focus on All Stages of Your Funnel
One of the great missteps in B2B marketing is to focus solely on the raw volume of leads you can create, most often at the top of the funnel. Everybody just wants more leads – it’s become little more than an acquisition play.
It’s much smarter, I believe, to evaluate gaps or sticking points in your pipeline and then put programs in place to smooth out those rough spots and keep the sales pipeline moving toward closed business. The purchase journey is now so fluid that you simply can’t create a lead at the early engagement stage and just presume you’ll own that relationship all the way to close. Decision-makers are constantly researching and re-researching big purchases until they make the final call.
Great, value-add content assets are the hook you need to connect with them throughout this process and create a steady, predictable flow of new business.
Most businesses break down their customer journey to seven or so stages, from general awareness of your product or service to the final spend decision. You may not need to employ Content Syndication at every step, but in general you want to have assets that clearly describe:
• The benefits of your product or service, for early awareness campaigns.
• How other businesses are using your product, and the pluses and minuses of the options in market, for prospects who have displayed interest.
• Details of how your product can address specific pain points, including case studies and ROI analysis, for prospects who are ready to decide.
Content Syndication Assets Should Tell, Not Sell
Good B2B content marketing focuses on proving your value to customers – not pitching your brand or making a hard sell. This is particularly true in Content Syndication programs, when you’re often vying for the attention of decision-makers who aren’t currently engaged with your brand.
In the column I referenced earlier, Handley put it this way:
“Communicating with an audience-first mentality is an important mindset for any content program, because it means we are putting the needs of our audience above our own.”
Branding really has little value in content syndication programs. You need to be transparent about who is offering the content asset, but that should be handled in email or other messaging sent out via your syndication partner. And, again, focus on your customers’ needs, not how great your brand is.
Another quick note about email: When selecting a partner for your Content Syndication programs, be sure to ask about their expertise is crafting messages that comply with the net of filters, gateways and blacklists you need to navigate when your mail will be sent by systems you don’t control directly. This is a tactical area where an experienced partner like True Influence can add real value to your campaigns.
You Must Track and Analyze Assets’ Performance Before Using Them in Content Syndication
There’s really not a lot to add to this point, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that content marketers need to track the success of assets, not only in terms of initial response but also ultimate conversion to new business. You can’t use your best assets in Content Syndication if you don’t know which ones perform best.
This data is gathered by any modern Marketing Automation system, and your team should work closely with data analysts to develop a set of KPIs for your content asset investments.
This point seems obvious, I know. But marketing failures often come down to not attending to the most obvious issues. Which leads me to my final point.
Sales and Marketing Have to Agree on Exactly Who Your Audience Is
This is a foundation of B2B marketing. It’s also a major roadblock for so many companies. Optimizo, a sales benchmarking company, reports that as many as 70 percent of leads generated by Marketing don’t even get a follow-up by Sales.
This is unacceptable.
I’ve written about this issue before, and I plan to follow-up on our blog here at True Influence with more insights about building a detailed coverage map that describes exactly who your company wants to sell to. Sometimes, the misalignment comes from Marketing simply generating bulk leads at companies that don’t have the budget to buy your product.
Why do these kinds of breakdowns occur? Building real Sales-Marketing alignment is a lot of work – it can take months of focused effort, and everyone is busy. And both Marketing and Sales can be guilty of thinking they know what’s best. Either way, the end result is Sales complaining that it’s getting leads that are not the prospects it wants to hunt.
I’ll add that prospect personas are particularly important in Content Syndication, since many of the leads such programs generate won’t come from your named accounts list – that’s one of the payoffs of engaging in this new channel. But you’ll need to demonstrate a tight fit on your desired audience, including potential revenue from targeted accounts and decision-making authority, to get Sales excited about following through.
Content Syndication Takes Assets That Work and Makes Them Work Even Harder
Content Syndication programs can extend the reach of your best content marketing efforts to prospects who aren’t currently on your opted-in lists. The most successful Content Syndication programs are based on high-quality assets that are already winning business by addressing the needs of decision-makers who fit your company’s prospect personas. Developing these content assets requires an investment in great content and detailed market research, but the payoff is more than worth it.