Content Marketing is More than a Branding Exercise

Once upon a time, branding was the main focus of marketing departments. As marketers, we spent our budgets on bold logos, memorable slogans, pricy sponsorships, advertising, and PR campaigns designed to get us in the Wall Street Journal. 

We did all of that because our salespeople needed a foot in the door. “I just want them to have heard of us when I call them,” retorted one salesperson I worked with at an enterprise software company in the late 90’s. 

Back then, a company that had established a strong brand could distinguish itself from competitors in the mind of a buyer long before a sales pitch even happened, and for sales, the stronger the brand, the better the odds of getting your call returned.

This is not to say that developing a strong brand is no longer a good idea. It’s just expensive—and the likelihood of keeping up with the Gorillas in your space are low and usually an impossibility for the smaller player. 

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that today’s B2B sales cycle has changed, mostly because people are shopping for solutions on their own through the internet, and they don’t think they need to talk to salespeople

In short, your brand is not opening many doors for your salespeople—at least not to the extent that it used to.

Even though companies are increasing their expenditures on content marketing, they’re still unhappy with the results. 

Why?

I believe that’s because they’re approaching content marketing from a perspective of branding instead of demand generation, or in other words, building sales pipeline. 

Content marketing done correctly opens the door for salespeople not because of the brand recognition, but because the content piques some sort of curiosity with prospects or touches a nerve that leads a sales conversation.

So, how do you know if your content marketing programs are successful and not just an exercise in branding?

If you don’t know, then your answer is: Yes, you’re wasting money on branding.
 
Of course, gathering those insights requires tools like marketing automation software and website analytics, but if you’re using those tools properly, you can have an unprecedented level of visibility into how prospects are engaging with your brand.

Of those who consumed a piece of your content:

  • How many downloads turned into leads?
  • How many leads turned into sales?
  • How much revenue was generated?
  • Did it exceed the investment? 

With the right analytical tools, you should be able to quantify every investment in content marketing.

Another benefit of today’s demand generation programs is that you can readily diagnose issues in the sales process. Here’s an example of how we did just that for a client and the changes they made to their sales process to correct the issue and increase revenue.

Search engines are the new outlets for information, and traditional sales departments have less influence. To make B2B sales today, you have to develop a variety of content and distribute it in a variety of ways to create and deepen the awareness needed to bring buyers closer to the sale. 

Small and mid-sized companies with tight budgets don’t have time or money to waste on branding. They need marketing-qualified leads today and sales-ready buyers tomorrow. Did it translate into a lead? Did the lead become a sale? 

Great content does what a traditional hard-working salesperson used to do: it shows up everywhere. A compelling white paper or infographic can be viewed, shared and linked to over an endless digital lifespan, attracting both identified and anonymous new buyers.

Placing that content in front of buyers—and tracking its success or failure—is critical for demand generation.

A great logo and a beautiful website may or may not attract visitors to your product. It may or not influence a sale. But the B2B sales cycle is complex, and traditional branding is only a small piece of the puzzle. The cycle is bolstered by technological tools, great content, and seamless departmental integration.

Content does solidify your brand, but branding should not the primary function of today’s B2B marketing department anymore—only an added benefit of the new lead-gen paradigm.

B2B Marketing Zone