Why Your Content Marketing Needs To Be More Active
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs recently released their 2013 benchmarks on B2B content marketing. Reading it, you will be struck by two realizations:
- Content marketing is huge
- Content marketing desperately needs conversion optimization
The “huge” part you probably already suspected from the deluge of blog posts out there on the subject.
However, this report quantifies that scale, and it is impressive. Of the B2B marketers in North America who participated in this benchmark (N = 1,416), 91% of them now use content marketing; 54% of them plan to increase content marketing or significantly increase their spending on it over the next 12 months.
On average, 33% of the marketing budget will be spent on B2B content marketing.
That is huge. And at that scale, it’s clearly an executive-level priority. The CMO, himself or herself, is making a big bet on content marketing.
The Performance Side Of Content Marketing
What should be more interesting to the readers of this column, however, is what these marketers expect content marketing to deliver. The top three goals for content marketing in this benchmark were:
- Brand awareness (79%)
- Customer acquisition (74%)
- Lead generation (71%)
Okay, brand awareness is obvious — it’s exactly the kind of thought leadership that is popularly associated with content marketing.
But most companies investing in content marketing are not satisfied with the amorphous benefits of brand building. After all, we live in an age where marketing is becoming performance-driven and accountable. They want to acquire customers and generate leads.
“Show me the money.” (Or at least the leads.)
In fact, these goals are being evaluated by concrete measurement criteria. Three of the top five metrics for content marketing include: sales lead quality, sales lead quantity and direct sales. (Web traffic and social media sharing are the other two.)
Phrased another way, these top goals are conversion rate, conversion quality, and revenue lift.
How Does Content Acquire A Customer Or A Lead?
Just to make sure we’re on the same page — a landing page, actually — how exactly does content acquire customers or generate leads in a measurable way?
First, we must recognize that the “content” deployed in content marketing is quite diverse. It’s not just blog posts. Content marketing employs a plethora of tactics such as webinars, white papers, research reports, infographics, in-person events, e-newsletters, videos, virtual conferences, podcasts, microsites, mobile apps, and more.
On average, content marketers use 12 different tactics. Many of these can be considered “premium content” that has more value in the eyes of prospects.
So, one way to generate leads is to trade content for contact information. For example, to gain access to a piece of premium content, the visitor fills out a short form with their contact information. This is classic permission marketing — the marketer is asking permission to share other relevant content with the respondent in the future.
This is what landing pages are typically used for, although you can certainly be more creative in the way you present such lead-for-content offers!
Another way is to connect a clear “next step” with the content. In this scenario, the visitor can freely consume the content right there at the moment of click through: watch a video, engage with an interactive app, or browse through a detailed microsite.
But, unlike a read-and-move-on blog post, there’s a compelling call-to-action that is directly associated with the content. It’s an invitation to subscribe, sign-up, get a free sample, take advantage of a special promotion, etc.
Active Content Marketing & Framing Core Content
We can call these kinds of content marketing delivery vehicles “active content marketing” because the content is presented in a way that actively moves prospects forward in the sales and marketing funnel.
This is in contrast to passive (“publish-and-pray”) content marketing tactics, like blog posts, where there isn’t a directly attached call-to-action.
With active content marketing, the marketer is concerned not only with the core piece of content, but also the “framing” of that core content.
Framing is everything in the Web or mobile experience that surrounds that core content, convincing people it’s worth filling out a form to access it or encouraging them to take the next step after they consume it. It connects the content to the buyer’s journey — without having to compromise the integrity of the core content itself, which usually resonates best when it’s not overtly salesy.
Clearly, framing can have a significant impact on the performance of active content marketing.
Of course, marketers should deploy different framing for different contexts — message match with the source from which the visitor clicked. This lets them reuse the same piece of core content, which is usually expensive to produce, to engage with a number of different audience segments.
And of course, marketers should test different ways of framing their content to see which generates the most leads and customers.
In other words, framing in active content marketing is really the practice of conversion optimization.
Active Content Marketing: A Call To Action
If you’re a content marketer, embracing the practice of conversion optimization may be one of the most productive investments you can make in the success of your programs in the year ahead.
If you’re a conversion optimization professional, I’d strongly encourage you to seek out and engage with senior marketers on the performance goals of their content marketing. By framing (no pun intended) your capabilities in the context of active content marketing, you can deliver enormous value to the biggest marketing mission of 2013.
After all, these active content marketing tactics are already proven — you’ve been doing this with amazing results for your respective organizations and clients for years.
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