83% of marketers are clueless on the value of content marketing, latest research reveals.
The new content marketing research released from Forrester in partnership with the Online Marketing Institute and the Business Marketing Association reminds us all how far we have to go to be really effective "content marketers." There is a boatload of great stats in this report that reveal the true state of content marketing, but instead of restating all those (which you can download here), I will focus on the one that tells the story. Eighty-three percent of marketers and marketing executives cannot tie business value back to content marketing. In that, I'd like to focus on how to fix the problem...instead of sulking.
Your first reaction might be, “WTF!” But if you let it sit for a moment, I think most of us will nod our head in a bit of disaffection and concur. We simply haven't matured, educated, or spent the right amount of time pulling the strategic into the analytic to make content a well-understood driver of sales revenue. More simply put, our team is not there yet and it is painfully overdue.
Let's fix it. Agreed?
Clear and Unilateral Understanding of Customers’ Buying Behavior
It all starts here. Getting everyone from the CEO to the intern understanding how customers purchase is critical. Otherwise, opinions and outdated marketing mantras will reign supreme.
Google Analytics Evangelist Justin Cutroni states that there is no funnel; customers do a lot of things and 90 percent of them are online when it comes to learning and deciding on your product. They, of course, Google a term, then read a blog post, tweet or Facebook like the post, read reviews, read another blog post or industry rag article, and bounce around like a fly you just swatted that is trying to escape the next attempt. In other words, they are all over the place.
The takeaway is, if your content is not found in those streams of research and searching, you have no chance. Remember, no one is going to read your great product spec sheet or website until they have proof that you have what they need first. And that is the core of content marketing. Let them discover useful content to help them eventually drive into a place of decision-making on your site.
Content is the core of your marketing. Without it, there is nothing.
Mapping It to Marketing Automation
Now, most B2B organizations have some sort of marketing automation (sometimes referred to as demand generation) program in place. Lead nurturing, lead scoring, and drip campaigns are all part of this strategic effort. Where 83 percent of us are failing is tying specific content to each of the stages we identify (for the more traditional sales-driven org, these are the "sales stages" we identify like lead, warm lead, opportunity, opportunity consideration, closed/lost, etc.).
For example, if we can identify a blog post as early stage content, a webinar as warm lead content, and so on, you'll see you can now assign relevant value to that touch in the sales cycle, and then use that value to determine the effectiveness of getting a prospect with that content to the next stage. Taking it a step further, you can assign a dollar value. So, if the average purchase for your product is $10,000, you might assign a $1,000 value to the blog post that your consumer reads, and $5,000 for the white paper she downloads, and so on. This will help get everyone’s attention when you start tossing dollar figures at them, albeit representative, in your monthly reports and meetings.
If you don't have a marketing automation tool or system in place, you can use your salesforce.com equivalent and track there, or even a spreadsheet. But you need to track, and more importantly, you need to have content for each stage of the sales cycle or you won't be in the consideration process when it comes time to purchase.
Got it? Good. Let's finish off on measurement (aka attribution).
You Can't See What You Don't Measure
The chicken and the egg dilemma comes to mind in this topic. We don't know the business value of content marketing because we haven't measured it. We haven't measured it because we don't see the business value. Well, it is pretty straightforward. If you use a little bit of the above marketing automation/lead scoring, then you are half way there. Now, we need to use our analytics (whether it is Adobe or Google Analytics) to track trends in what content is having the greatest effect on sales. You need to correlate who actually purchased to what content they absorbed, and you need to see the trends of what content is accessed and its frequency on the effect of net new leads, lead velocity, and sales. There are two key ways to doing this:
1) Set up your attribution modeling (assisted sales) report where you tie conversions back to an action of someone reading a post, clicking on a webinar signup page, or downloading a whitepaper. Set up these goals and then tie them to the attribution modeling reports (in Google these are at the bottom left of your sidebar navigation reports).
2) Use big data. Tying visits back to third-party data sources (and your own CRM data), you can actually understand what company and even what person is looking at your information. For the smaller business, this will have to be more internal as budgets may not allow for external spending. But for the enterprise marketer, there is simply no excuse. This is also called predictive analytics, predictive CRM, or big data marketing. And, of course, I am happy to provide a list of folks who do a good job here if you are so inclined (just ping me on LinkedIn).
So, start tracking value through simple analytic goal setting and attribution, and then start mapping it back to actual customers with big data. Yes, this takes time, but there are small immediate steps that can help right away.
Finally, It All Starts and Ends With the Culture of Learning
Instilling a level-setting education mechanism across the organization is key. You have to do it or else it is just little ‘ol you screaming (for the nth time) about this. Get ‘em reading the book, watching the video, taking eLearning classes (shameless plug, I know), or reading the research, and make it part of a regular process, not a one-off. A sustainable, consistent culture of learning is what will win the long-term attention and budget battles.
If you would like to learn more on the internal culture, talent acquisition/retention, and simple learning mindset, we have some research (our digital talent and skills study) to fire at those team leads, HR folks, and senior management.
And if this culture shift is not possible at your current company...frankly, I would be looking to go work for the competitor where it is possible. Sorry, HR.