Align Marketing & Sales. Build Customer Communities.
Today’s savvy marketers know that consumers want to have access to information 24/7 to help them navigate the maze of purchase choices. Content marketing – the creation, curation and distribution of relevant information to attract and retain customers – has emerged as a key component in marketing strategies with the aim of building communities of engaged customers and contributing to the achievement of sales targets.
- Lead generation (85%) and sales (84%) have been identified as the most important goals for B2B content marketers. B2B marketers consistently cite sales lead quality, sales, and higher conversion rates as the top 3 most important metrics.
But how effective has content marketing been in generating quality sales leads? To what extent is content marketing contributing to business development goals and revenues?
Just over half — 51% — of marketers told Forrester Research their content marketing efforts are only somewhat effective in delivering business value; 27% rated the strategy as “neutral”; 6% said it was somewhat ineffective at delivering value; 1% said it was not effective at all.
Providing more engaging, relevant content could possibly lead to an improvement in these results.
However, I believe that for content marketing to be effective, Marketing and Sales have to be aligned on the definition of the customers they target, on how prospects will be engaged and converted to customers and on key performance indicators.
Aligning Marketing and Sales
- Defining qualified leads
Generating a targeted number of sales leads from content marketing activities is not an indication that Marketing is effective or contributing to business success. What really counts is whether leads will generate sufficient revenues to achieve sales targets. Effective content marketing strategies build engaged communities of prospective and loyal customers who have the potential to generate new business that meets or surpasses sales targets. Therefore, Marketing and Sales must have a clear and common definition of a “qualified lead.” A “qualified lead” ought to be defined in relation to current and anticipated customer needs and the short to long-term revenue potential of the lead in relation to Sales’ targets. It is the responsibility of Marketing to ensure that content material provides relevant information, engages interest and prompts responses from consumers who will be considered as qualified leads.
- Managing the pipeline
The aim of pipeline management is to ensure that business development opportunities are optimized, target customer populations are reached and that qualified sales leads are generated and nurtured. This means that Marketing’s plans must be timed and managed in tandem with Sales’ capacity to follow-up on qualified leads to avoid clogging the pipeline.
Important planning activities should include agreement on data capture from engagement tactics, screening criteria to identify qualified leads and the content material that will be distributed at various stages of the customer journey. Both Sales and Marketing must work with a common data base, marketing automation or CRM system and agree on how interactions with potential and current customers will be interpreted in relation to needs anticipation and their place on the customer journey.
- Moving from content to conversion
Mapping appropriate content, its format and delivery to the various stages of the customer journey increases the likelihood of sales conversion. To do this, there has to be an understanding of how the target customer populations access and use content resources.
More importantly, Marketing and Sales must agree on a clearly defined business process for lead capture and determine the points at which Marketing refers qualified leads to Sales. Incentive compensation for referrals and conversions should also be integrated in the business process.
The table below presents high-level suggestions on the mapping of content to the stages of the customer journey.
Measuring content marketing effectiveness
Today’s marketing technology tools make it possible for marketers to identify and contact anyone who shows an interest in digitally delivered content. Under pressure to prove ROI, marketers devise tactics that are intended to create and build engagement. The download of an eBook, the posting of a favourable comment or interactions of any kind should not be interpreted as readiness to purchase and are not the best indicators of content marketing effectiveness.
Quantitative and qualitative engagement metrics and qualified lead ratios are better indicators of content marketing effectiveness.
- Community engagement and advocacy metrics –
The ratio of visitor engagements to social media impressions and/or visits to web sites indicates if the content marketing material has been effective in creating awareness and purchase consideration. Engagements include the number of clicks on social media posts and click throughs to other web pages, retweets, shares, comments and direct inquiries.
Customers, who are brand advocates, are loyal, repeat buyers, influence others to purchase and are considered a trusted source by their peers.
Advocacy is a very important qualitative and quantitative metric. Qualitative, because it involves observing what customers are saying about the product and the brand in on-line posts, discussions and various social media. The number of shares, followers and discussions initiated provides quantitative data on brand advocacy.
- Lead generation metrics –
Key lead generation metrics should focus on qualified leads as defined by Sales and Marketing.
Leads should be qualified using the data captured through engagement tactics. As explained earlier, leads should be qualified and categorized according to revenue potential and needs anticipation.
Cost per qualified lead and cost per sales appointment are two metrics that indicate the return on the investment in content marketing. They are calculated by dividing the number of qualified leads or sales appointments by the content marketing budget for lead generation or engagement tactics.
See the BIG picture.
The consistent measurement and analysis of results over an extended period of time provide benchmarks and trends that indicate the effectiveness of content marketing and the value it contributes to the business. Content marketing effectiveness should ultimately be determined by the positive correlation between the number of leads generated and the number of new customers acquired.
Focus on what’s important.
It is important to carefully assess the results obtained. For example, declining ratios may indicate that marketing activities are ineffective for all or some segments in the qualified lead population. This calls for corrective action, adjustments or changes in strategy and tactics.
Finally, the on-going investment of time and budgets required to profitably sustain engagement and loyalty of new customers must be assessed in order to justify repeat investment in content marketing.
Camille Isaacs-Morell develops performance-driven marketing strategies that produce measurable results in the areas of brand awareness, new business leads and sales.
She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of business-to-business enterprises and non-profit organizations in a senior leadership role with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.