Just because B2B companies are investing heavily in content marketing doesn’t mean that they’re successful at generating the leads they need for business growth.
In fact, the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks Report estimates that only 30% of the companies surveyed consider their content marketing efforts to be effective. Additionally, 85% of the companies surveyed indicate that lead generation and sales growth was their primary objective for greater investments.
That’s a big disconnect. So what’s the problem? Why is it working for some companies and not others?
Here are six reasons that your content marketing efforts may not be producing the results that you want.
1. You’re using content marketing for branding purposes, and not lead generation.
Many companies have focused their content efforts on increasing brand presence and inbound web traffic by generating blogs, white papers, infographics and video, and they push that content out through email and social media.
That’s a good start, but with the sheer amount of content out there for people to consume, you can’t assume that’s going to be enough for people to find you anymore.
Not to say it doesn’t happen, but it won’t happen enough to move the sales needle. B2B Sales cannot live on inbound alone, and without a thorough conversion strategy and process for lead nurturing, it’s all just branding and awareness.
Demand generation requires a complete marketing program that not only attracts prospects to your website, but also converts them into leads, nurtures them over time through their unique buying journeys, and assists the sales team to close each deal.
You must convert this anonymous audience into known prospects for sales reps to have meaningful, consultative business conversations.
2. Your gated offers don’t actually add value.
The content that lives behind a gate should be an in-depth educational piece such as a white paper, webinar, or infographic that demonstrates a more advanced solution to a common problem.
If the piece on the other side of the gate does not add value, readers will feel tricked and ask themselves why they clicked on it in the first place
They probably won’t be clicking on your stuff again, and it can sour your brand in the long run.
3. Your content production isn’t integrated with your sales process.
Today’s customer finds solutions to their problems by searching the internet first, and talking to sales reps much later in the process. That’s significantly different than it used to be when sales reps were the primary sources of information, and most companies haven’t changed their internal processes to match the times.
Buyers engage with sales reps when they’re good and ready, and for companies with a complex sale, it creates a huge hole to fill in the middle of the funnel where a one-to-one interaction is still required.
Therefore, content must be developed for each stage of the sales process to plug holes in the sales cycle.
Unfortunately, there’s not a series of projects that you can assign to marketing that maps to this new buyer’s journey—it takes an ongoing process change where marketing and sales are continuously working together to figure out what pieces of content need to be developed that map to the modern B2B buyer’s process.
4. Your sales people are still required to pitch the entire game.
Modern B2B salespeople have great difficulty pitching the entire game (where they find all of their own leads, diagnose pain, nurture prospects through the sales process and close.)
Sure, they may have some success, but ultimately most will have difficulty making their quotas, and the company will continue to miss revenue projections.
Your content marketing engine should serve as the starting pitcher that drives demand, tracks digital behavior and generates lead intelligence.
But it doesn’t stop there.
One of the biggest mistakes B2B companies make is to reject leads simply because they aren’t sales-ready. They may be ready eventually, so it makes much more sense to maintain them as prospects and continue to feed them nurturing content until they are ready to engage with Sales.
When you start generating marketing qualified leads by studying digital behavior (link clicks, page views, gated content downloads, webinar registrations, etc.) a middle reliever in the form of a business development rep or inside sales rep is needed to follow up on those leads to turn them into appointments for closers.
The average number of touches that it takes to convert a prospect has gone from 7 over ten years ago to 25 currently, so it’s the middle reliever’s job to nurture them and determine what is real before passing it along to a closer.
Middle relievers are usually incentivized differently than commissioned sales people because—let’sface it—commissioned salespeople cost a lot of money and you don’t want them spending all their valuable time prospecting and nurturing when you’d rather have them closing. And typically, commissioned sales people give up after 3 or four tries, and that’s just not enough in today’s sales environment.
5. Your marketing automation system isn’t tied properly to a CRM for lead intelligence.
Measuring content marketing’s return on investment in B2B companies can be a complex calculation, especially if your solution is expensive, requires committee-based decisions, and has long and unpredictable sales cycles.
Because of the high volumes of content required to address all of the high probability pain points for everyone involved in the decision-making process, combined with the timing of where they are in the buying process when they consume that content, there’s no easy formula for calculation.
The point of content marketing in B2B sales is to collect actionable sales intelligence on your prospects at every stage of the buying process and attempt to replace the one-to-one conversations that salespeople used to get more readily. Many of those conversations now have to take place digitally—by people consuming your content and responding with interest.
Actionable sales intelligence is created over time by collecting it and tying it to their lead record in the CRM. Sales intelligence includes information such as:
- What pages have they viewed, what webinars have they attended, what infographics have they downloaded?
- If you’ve had discussions, who is involved in the decision? (What are their roles and what is their buying process?)
- How far down the sales cycle are they?
- Have they just started looking for a solution or are they down to vendor selection?
- How committed are they to solving the problem?
- Are they even qualified to buy from you in the first place?
6. You’re not producing enough relevant content (and nobody cares).
The right approach to content development is to identify the high probability pain points that your prospect is experiencing and develop content that helps them get rid of that pain. It has to do with your features, functions and benefits, and certainly not “buy from me now” messages.
It’s important to get this right because it becomes the basis for a well-trained sales professional to engage into sales conversations.
Identifying pain points requires asking questions like:
- What are the things that keep your prospects up at night?
- What are some of the typical business challenges that they face and are trying to solve?
- As they are exploring solutions to those business problems, what are the things they will care about throughout their buying process? (For example, are they an early stage shopper, are they looking at vendors, or are they actually narrowing down their selection?)
- A talented sales rep isn’t out there just talking about themselves and their product and telling everyone why they should buy from them — no one wants to hear that. They don’t want to hear it on the phone. They don’t want to hear it when they’re online alone. They don’t want to hear it face-to-face. They don’t want to hear it any place!
Prospects want to talk to you if you can solve their business problem. So a good sales rep begins with a consultative approach, asking about problems they may be experiencing and how they are impacting the organization.
In fact, the entire sales and marketing process needs to be reworked to be able to capitalize on the one-to-one conversations (digitally AND personally) to adequately work prospects through the funnel.