(3rd post in the series based on our primary research of 126 B2B marketing and sales professionals – 2011 State of Content Marketing. In the previous post, we identified the top best practices for content marketing.)
B2B marketing’s primary responsibility is to fill the sales pipeline with new prospective clients. A palpable theme in the responses to our 2011 State of B2B Content Marketing Survey was the importance of strong, engaging content in lead generation campaigns. Nearly 80% of respondents indicated the need to create content that directly influences the sales pipeline. An overwhelming 60% of that need came from content hungry lead generation campaigns.
But the question becomes what content do prospects value most?
Content including social proof scored high marks in effectiveness and engagement. 24% of marketing professions rated customer testimonials as the single most effective type of content with another 39% rating this type of content as very effective. Likewise, 73% of respondents rated case studies as extremely or very effective in their lead generation efforts. Given that humans are social animals, this type of evidence from peers can make a prospect feel much more safe in engaging with a company. The hitch, of course, is that this kind of customer-centric content requires more work to create and get approved. Interestingly, customer testimonials were rated much lower in terms of time spent to create and budget dollars allocated. On the other hand, case studies were relatively cost effective to produce, but time consuming to create (#2 highest time requirement).
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3rd part whitepapers and business/thought leadership were also highly rated in their effectiveness for lead generation programs. However, effective content doesn’t always come cheap: 57.4% of marketing professionals rated 3rd party whitepapers as the most expensive type of content to create in terms of budget dollars spent. Business/thought leadership content came in second with 47.2% of respondents rating this type content as the most costly to create.
Another critical point for creating impactful lead generation campaigns is personalizing the content to the prospect. 69% of marketing professionals reported that they customize content by vertical/industry and a significant 59.5% noted that they tailor content by solution or usage model as well. Marketing technologist Jason Stewart draws an impactful parallel on the DemandBlog that a good marketing campaign should resonate with its target audience like an old-fashioned mix tape. He writes further that just because email is fast and easy (like creating a playlist with MP3s) that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put thought into them. The mix tape metaphor continues to apply here – given you would never share a heavy metal playlist with a friend who only enjoyed classical music, why would you send a prospect content that falls completely outside their industry?
How Fusion-io Created Highly Targeted Marketing Content:
With TechValidate, Fusion-io published over 200 highly specific customer proofpoints from one project. This content supported personalized marketing and sales narratives by solutions and industry. Click here to see their marketing assets.
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It is imperative to engage prospects with valuable content in order to begin the sales process. A clear rule of thumb from the survey is that lead generation content addressing a problem (like thought leadership materials) or citing the experiences of other customers (like testimonials and case studies) rather than listing the features and benefits of your product or service is far superior for attracting and engaging new prospects.