When you consider that research from the Content Marketing Institute reveals that over 80% of B2B marketers are using content marketing as a key strategy to drive engagement and leads. And yet, less than 5% state that it is effective, now there’s a problem.

Why is this so? Clearly it is still early days for content marketing with most companies classifying themselves as ‘newbies’ when it comes to content marketing. Indeed, from the research above, a staggering 75% of organisations do not have a content marketing strategy and yet, most companies are in intending to produce more content in coming years.

In addition to a lack of a strategic content marketing plan, most companies still manage content and demand generation in separate silos despite the firm relationship between quality content and demand generation. Why is this important? Well average cost per lead can be between $150 to $350 per lead. And consider that leading B2B marketers are now spending over 30% of their marketing budget on content, it is more important than ever before to start generating sales demand.

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7 ways to create demand generating content

1. Document your Inbound Marketing strategy and editorial mission statement

Content marketing is characterized by doing – writing blogs, filming video, posting... No matter whether everyone contributes or whether your marketing function creates content, a significant effort is going into content creation that is largely unguided and built on a hope that it will work.

If the above scenario fits your situation, then it’s time to develop a comprehensive Inbound Marketing Strategy covering:

  • A situation assessment based on research insights
  • Comprehensive buyer persona and journey’s
  • Goals and objectives and ultimately what an ROI looks like
  • Content strategies and tactics per each stage of the sales funnel
  • Budgets, responsibilities and timelines

It’s critical to set expectations on content marketing’s role in demand creation. If you agree on KPI’s e.g. traffic, engagement, quantity and quality of leads, cost per lead, revenue growth, pipeline growth etc., then it will make conversations more strategic and actionable.

The last element to clarify is for everyone to understand what the audience should get from the content and the desired outcome. This is known as the editorial mission statement. From all of this foundational work, the content calendar should then be produced.

2. Get Sales and Marketing working on the same page

Sales and Marketing are two sides of the same coin when it comes to demand generation. Sales are close to the customer and intuitively know what questions customers are asking. The sales team have insight into the buyer persona and journey that marketers can’t access and its marketing’s role to be able to distill these insights into content ideas, planning and scheduling.

On the other side of the coin, marketing should ensure a consistent voice, but more importantly, they can provide feedback to sales as to what content is working and why. Marketing should also be nurturing prospects from the form fill stage through to the qualified lead stage via email, re-targeting and social media.

3. Focus content on the top and middle of the sales funnel

The same Content Marketing Institute research also provides insights around what stage of the sales funnel that businesses are getting the best demand generating value form their content. The chart below shows that the best return comes from a focus on the top and middle stages of the sales funnel.

How to use content marketing to generate sales demand_Pie chart-05-05

4. Focus on the purpose of each content type across each sales funnel stage

Further to the best return on content for each stage of the funnel, the type of content varies significantly depending on the stage. See below. Of interest is the importance of ‘in person’ events across all stages of the funnel while blogs are particularly effective for the early stage but not so forthe late funnel stage.

How to use content marketing to generate sales demand_ table-4

5. Quality over quantity

Creating quality content is perhaps the most pressing issue for content marketing to generate leads whether that be simply resonating with buyer personas, content that’s useful, creating content in-house with small budgets or the time to do all of the above. Here’s a few tips to the successful creation of consistent high-quality content.

  • Defer to a subject matter expert for accuracy and relevancy – approval
  • Create a team of internal and external contributors
  • Create an editorial team to curate
  • Create a consistent design style and tone of voice
  • Follow a defined and bespoke content creation process for your business
  • Provide training for internal staff to improve and grow their content marketing abilities
  • Reset, refine over time based on performance

6. Promote and amplify your content

Content marketing suffers from imposter syndrome. It deserves a full sales and marketing campaign treatment which includes how the content is promoted.

Organic reach only takes your content so far – which is not very far at all. And we know that reach is the number one requirement of effective communications, so paid media needs to be utilised to ensure the helpful, useful content gets into the hands of influencers, prospects and customers.

There’s a plethora of media vehicles available, however search engine marketing (SEM) is particularly effective given the solution-oriented nature of most search queries. And content is a natural bedfellow to appear alongside these questions and search results.

The last point to make about the promotion and amplification of content is to build frequency into your posting and ad schedule. Too often we see content that has been carefully curated and is provided just the one exposure opportunity via email or organic post. As the old saying goes, “repeat, repeat and you’ll be sweet”!

7. Use lead scoring and Marketing Qualified Leads to determine effectiveness of content

Lead scoring is a methodology that assigns a numeric value to your prospects that enables you to refine and prioritise your sales and marketing conversion efforts.

Without going into a full explanation of Lead Scoring in this article, the essence of this point is to use the relevant inputs of lead scoring to increase the number of Marketing qualified leads (MQL) that are passed on to sales.

MQLs are those prospects or leads with high engagement with your content i.e. downloads, pricing page visits. Therefore, content is a key criterion in this equation and therefore measurable. Finally, the benefit of building your custom lead scoring system will drive alignment between sales and marketing – one of the easiest and proven ways to grow your business.

Perhaps the focus on leads is too harsh a metric. Part of the role of marketing is to create markets. Marketing not only identifies demand, they generate it, too. Content marketing that builds an audience can be used in this way also.

Key takeaways:

  • Content Marketing can and will generate demand if you focus on quality and execute within a rigorous strategic and operational planning framework.
  • Content Marketing can take demand creation only so far. It requires sales and marketing alignment to get the best out the investment.
  • Paying close attention to different types of content depending on the sale funnel stage will optimise effort and outcomes.
  • Leveraging sales team insights and their knowledge of buyers and the questions they ask is a great starting point for accurate buyer personas and journeys.
  • Content Marketing is not a replacement for advertising or sales lead generation. It works best when used in an aligned sales and marketing strategy framework.

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