To Successfully Measure B2B Content Marketing, Get In The Friend Zone

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Although it’s almost universally agreed upon that content marketing is necessary, no one can seem to agree on the right metrics to measure its success. The majority of marketers seem to fall into one of two equally flawed camps. The first is the “we’ve heard content marketing is good so we’ll do a lot and call it brand awareness” category.

Especially for B2B marketers, this can be a costly and inefficient path. Most B2B marketers only have a limited number of potential customers, so large-scale “brand awareness” is not only unnecessary, but will also never lead to revenue — at least not enough revenue to justify the expense.

Some CMOs have learned this the hard way, and as result, there’s another camp of people who believe that content marketers should be tasked with generating leads. When content inevitably fails to meet expectations for lead generation, the budget gets slashed further, ensuring that content marketing will never “work” for that organization.

Adjusting Your Expectations

The fact that we can all agree on is that marketing must eventually lead to revenue.  The problem is that most marketing organizations — those that are measuring at all, anyway — evaluate content marketing’s contribution to revenue based on how many leads it generates. All marketers can benefit from expanding the breadth and depth of their measurement, but for content marketers it’s critical. That’s because traditional marketing and content marketing must take different approaches to customer acquisition.

When the marketing team encounters a potentially interested prospect, it’s like an individual meeting a person that they think they might want to have a relationship with. (The “marketing is like dating” analogy is used so often because it’s just so accurate.)

Traditionally, a marketer tries to get this person to convert to a lead, or go on “the first date.” It’s always going to be a hard sell, a pick-up line, like, “You need cloud storage, I’ve got cloud storage. Let’s do this.”shutterstock_205168030-bar-pickup

If you’re trying to measure the success of a marketing campaign, tallying up all the people who say “yes” to a first date is an easy, straightforward way to do it.

Sometimes this is an effective way to measure, when the lead gets passed along to an inside sales representative and is moved into the next stage of the sales cycle. But for every emphatic “yes! Send me all your info” there’s someone else who is completely put off by the aggressive offer, or simply not ready to make a decision.

Entering The Friend Zone

That’s where content marketing comes in. Instead of trying to take someone out on date, the content marketer tries to become the prospect’s “no strings attached” friend, building a relationship based on valuable insight and interactions without asking for anything outright in return. Of course, the not-so-secret goal is to eventually find yourself in a long-term relationship.

In both dating and marketing, building a friendship before jumping into a romance is lot harder. You have to learn things about the other party. You have to demonstrate your own valuable qualities and, more importantly, you have to be consistent about who you are over a long period of time.

And the really hard part is that you need to be prepared to be patient and adjust your definition of success along the way. Basically, you have to be prepared to talk on the phone for hours about how cloud storage makes you feel.

But how do you measure your success? As with any friendship, you’re looking for deeper and more meaningful engagement. The problem with the way people measuring content marketing today is that they measure the success of each piece of content. How many people downloaded this eBook? Did this video go viral?

Measure Across The “Friendship” Lifecycle

What you should be measuring is whether or not you are deepening your friendship with specific target accounts across the entire lifecycle. So rather than setting metrics for your content pieces, set metrics for each account your sales team is trying to close. Are stakeholders from those accounts reading your blog? Do they attend webinars? Did someone read a case study and then share it with multiple coworkers?

Rather than thinking about how each piece of content is performing at each stage of the funnel, track your prospects through the funnel and look at what content they’re consuming, and how much. These types of metrics do more than allow you to go to your boss and say, “our content is good.” By measuring across the lifecycle, you actually have the ability to glean actionable insights.

You can say, “The accounts that closed most quickly all attended this webinar. We should create more content like that.” Or, “None of our in-pipe accounts read our blog. How can we fix that?”

You can also look at the content being consumed and determine what a particular account needs to see next. You can send them the right material, or help your sales team make decisions about what to discuss in the next meeting. Or, you can alert sales when an account is consuming a significant amount of content and recommend they follow up.

The bottom line is that although content marketing has its roots in publishing and journalism, it simply can’t be evaluated with the same success metrics.

If your content marketing is good, you build a relationship with your readers. If you have a relationship, at some point, they may take a meeting with sales, and then, if and only if the sales team can offer the right and solution and stay consistent with the personality to which you’ve introduced them, then the friendship will turn into a lasting relationship.

 (Stock images via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Rachel Balik is a writer and marketer with several years of experience in online publishing, B2B technology and digital communications strategy. In addition to serving as content strategist at Demandbase, she is a freelance journalist and advises startups on core messaging and content.

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