No matter how deep into content marketing your organization may be, you have to evolve to stay effective.
As most marketers have heard too many times, it’s hugely important to plan out a solid strategy before you dive into content marketing. But that’s only half the battle. A good strategy can only take you so far without constantly evaluating the successes–and failures–of your content and methods of distributing that content.
After all, if a pro team runs a play, and it fails 9 times out of 10, do they keep it in their playbook? Probably not.
For example, take DemandGen, a leading consulting firm helping companies succeed at marketing automation and lead generation. When it comes to moving buyers through the purchase funnel, they’re in the big leagues. It is, after all, their job to help companies like American Express and Dell do just that. So how do they approach their strategy? By listening to what their clients and customers want, simultaneously analyzing which pieces of content drive the best results, and updating their strategy based on those factors.
We recently caught up with David Lewis, President and CEO of DemandGen, to find out how DemandGen uses content to move leads through the middle of the funnel, drive revenue, and remain relevant in an increasingly competitive industry. His insights fall into 8 major buckets:
1. Listen to Your Customers
Initially, we developed thought leadership content that talk about best practices and methodology. As our firm grew and we amassed tons of success stories with clients, we shifted our entire content strategy to profile the award-winning work we have done using the voice of the customer. Since the #1 question we always get is “what are you doing with other clients” our entire content strategy has shifted to answering that at the top of the funnel, mid-funnel, and in life-cycle marketing programs.
2. Establish Buyer Personas
We have two key personas that are segmented in our database using dynamic filters. Once a potential buyer enters our demand funnel, they proceed into our inquiry nurture (based on persona) and then into our MQL nurture assuming their lead score progresses high enough. The nurtures have a minimum of 4 touches each and use a conversational 1:1 content model. Our typical MQL to close duration is 45 days so the nurtures are fairly accelerated to keep the conversation active during the education and selection process.
3. Define “Qualified”
Our MQLs could be called AQL (Automated Qualified Leads) because we use lead scoring to determine the difference between an Inquiry and MQL. We use a “velvet robe” model, meaning that it’s pretty hard to be an MQL. Our two-dimensional lead scoring model incorporates fit and interest so only companies that meet our minimum fit criteria and have a high interest based on digital body language get to be an MQL. At that point, a lead development rep is assigned and follows a strict cadence of touch points based on written SLA’s (service level agreement) between sales and marketing.
4. Track Effectiveness of the Entire Conversation
We use nurture performance gauges that we custom-developed to determine the effectiveness of our mid-funnel content strategy. Essentially, they count the members who enter the nurture, and then it shows us what percent of the members exit successfully (achieving the goal of the nurture) versus unsuccessfully. We have a target percentage as well as baseline and if the guage falls between or above, we know our content is effective. This way, we remove the subjectivity of evaluating each piece of content in insolation but rather measure the conversation (the nurture) in its entirety.
5. Segment Further with Narrative Personas
We started by developing narrative personas for each buyer persona. When I say that, I am also including a persona that we don’t sell to. Call that the DQ persona. Then we took the narrative personas and identified 4 database fields and pick-list values that determine when someone falls into each persona. Call that a profile. For example, if someone uses Marketo and Salesforce.com and their company is a particular size and industry, they are one persona/profile. If they use a different marketing automation system, they might fall into a different persona profile. Although we’ve systematically developed 6 primary personas and one DQ persona, we only use 3 unique profiles for feeding the content tracks because there wasn’t a need to be so segmented. The pain points, motivations, and needs could be aggregated into 3 base profiles from the 6 personas. We do have the 6 unique personas segmented in the database, but we only use 3 content profile tracks.
6. Create Valuable, Digestible Content
Our target market is modern marketing professionals and the content that really resonates best with them is personable, conversational, educational, and entertaining. We blend those dimensions into various content pieces so the content is engaging, memorable, but purposeful.
7. Enjoy Your Successes, and Share Them Internally
The piece of content I am most proud of is the book I wrote on lead management entitled “Manufacturing Demand” (available on Amazon.com). If you’re reading this blog post, you deserve a free digital copy of the book and you can get one at ManufacturingDemand.com/vip. It’s the very first book written on this important modern marketing discipline. It has become a tremendous tool for establishing us as thought leaders and was a great vehicle for combining case studies with best-practice methodology. Best of all, it’s become the “playbook” for my team and our clients. However, my mom stopped reading at chapter 3 she tells me.
8. Learn from the Successes of Others
The best piece of content I’ve ever seen created was by Redbull which was the lead-up and live streaming of Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s free jump from space. If “Redbull gives you wings,” no piece of content could have underscored there message of pushing yourself to the limits than this one.
So how have these 8 buckets worked for DemandGen? “We believe our average sales cycle has been consistently shorter than most B2B industry averages because of our extensive use of lead scoring, lead nurturing, well-defined sales process, and engaging content.” Take a lesson from the pros. In competitive industries, a constantly evolving strategy is the only way to stay on top of your game.
David spoke about using content and marketing automation to move leads through the funnel at the Content Marketing Bootcamp in San Francisco. You can find his presentation below, and keep an eye out for more upcoming events in 2013.