Content Syndication is not dead. Here's how you improve it
Content Syndication - What seems an increasingly polarising demand gen tactic is not dead. How it is executed and followed up on is.
Content Syndication for many B2B Marketers was a saviour during the pandemic. When events, F2F meetings, and even direct mail went on a hiatus, digital content syndication (along with programmatic) helped us deliver our message to our audiences and provided measurable engagement and results.
MQL volumes kept growing and CPLs remained at a reasonable rate. However, for many Marketers, the quality or ROI came into question. Side-line commentators, usually the ones looking to promote their podcasts, were quick to declare that MQLs meant nothing to B2B Orgs and that content and dark social were the only way forward. This just isn’t true.
The reason B2B Marketers see a drop in ROI from content syndication comes down to a number of factors:
- Data & Targeting
- Content delivery
- Conversion tactics
- Follow-up & Nurturing
Whilst many vendors were quick to take larger budgets to drive more downloads - there were significant pieces of the strategy missing - the content, the delivery and the follow-up. Let's look at each area and how it can be done better.
Data & Targeting
Challenges: Either not first-party data, inaccurate/outdated data or relying on a vendor without the reach they had promised. In addition, not all markets have the same addressable audience - a target of 2000 MQLs across Enterprise Orgs in the US is very easy to achieve but taking the same goal and moving it to say, Ireland or Norway, and the addressable market is much smaller.
Solution: Data enrichment/cleansing via trusted third-party data vendors, bi-annual CRM audits, country-specific targets and goals based on market segment and geography.
Challenge: You need 1200 MQLs across EMEA for Q2 however there’s only one English language whitepaper and one case study that is relevant to the manufacturing industry. Gathering quality leads requires multiple content topics, themes, formats and relevant follow-up content based on account activity and engagement. Throwing non-curated content out to the market not only drives less engagement, it also doesn’t provide quality engagement insights that marketing and sales teams can use to better nurture and perform personalised outreach on.
Solution: Define your audience and personas. What are the key challenges they look to solve and develop content based on addressing these solutions? Educate and teach first, Once engaged, follow with a webinar invite or on-demand that’s relevant to the first piece of content. Repeat this process several times to further qualify and cross-reference with online website activity and display you have running on that account. Only then when you have a historical timeline of true, relevant, engagement is it qualified enough to pass along to the sales development team.
Driving impressions and clicks to your landing page is the easy part. The challenge comes when trying to convert those visitors into a download or video completion. Those same podcast side-liners that proclaim gated content is useless are wrong. By all means, offer content freely - Initially to garner an online following but when your content is regarded as high quality and beneficial, visitors will happily provide their details (and even answer several profiling questions) to download the asset. So long as they don’t receive a sales call within the next few minutes or the following week, they’ll see value in your content and you’ve also further qualified a potential lead for sales. There is a delicate balancing act so if you are gating content, ensure the process is seamless, you auto-populate as much as you can and your profiling questions aren’t too intrusive or lengthy - Opt for multiple choice and keep it under 3 questions. One question is ideal for the first or second touch.
Follow-up & Nurturing
As we touched on above in the Conversion section, follow-up needs to be delicate, restrained and measured.
1. Prospect downloads a whitepaper
2. Receives call from sales rep within 48 hours - 1 week.
3. The sales rep then indicates they know Prospect downloaded the whitepaper and proceeds with the pitch.
4. Prospect becomes annoyed and responds with “not interested” or “I don’t remember downloading that” to get the sales rep off the phone.
5. Sales rep closed out the opp and provide marketing feedback that the lead isn’t qualified enough.
- Prospect downloads a whitepaper from Business A and opts in to receive ongoing, relevant content
- Prospect receives whitepaper via email
- Prospect receives thank you for registering email
- Prospect opens their emails in the morning to see 2 new emails from Business A
- Prospect ignores the emails
- Prospect opens their emails in the morning to see another 2 new emails from Business A
- Prospect ignores the emails (again)
- Prospect sees yet another 2 emails come in during the afternoon of Day 3
- Prospect receives yet more emails from business A
- Prospect watches inbox fill up with more and more irrelevant content from Business A along with several other companies they downloaded content from. Oh, and another 2 emails from cold-email sales reps
- Prospect immediately regrets opting in for new content.
- Prospect becomes irate and receives calls from Busines A sales rep
- The sales rep leaves the call disappointed
- Prospect opens the most recent email from Business A and clicks on the unsubscribe link
- Prospect receives ‘sorry to see you go’ email
- Marketing and sales at Business A argue over the quality of leads and the lack of sales progression
Nurturing requires patience. Good nurturing builds trust, dependability and engagement. Good nurturing looks like this:
- Prospect downloads asset & receives it immediately.
- Prospect receives no further content for at least 1 week
- Prospect receives an email with the second piece of content that is relevant to the first - an explainer video, industry report, case study - something that provides greater detail and expands from the first piece of content. Let’s say it’s a webinar invite
- Prospect registers for the webinar
- Prospect attends - then receives email 24-48 hours later thanking them with a ‘key takeaway’ summary content & demo/sales request CTA
- Prospect can’t attend - receives on-demand email 24-48 hours later with a “sorry we missed you” email. Another 48 - 72 hours later, the prospect receives an email with a ‘key takeaway’ summary email with sales/demo request CTA
- Those that book demo enter the sales cycle. Those that don't go on to receive further relevant content across a reasonable frequency. marketing then analysis these engagements to build a more accurate picture of these accounts and progress to sales when enough engagement metircs and scoring has taken place.
And the above is by no means a strict process - you can manoeuvre and amend timelines and follow-ups as your audience engages - The key is to remain measured and relevant to your audience along with the agility to respond to their engagements in an increasingly impactful way.
Marketing and Sales have never had a better working relationship. Enablement tools, engagement data and common commercial goals have helped unify these battling siblings. Enablement becomes a core part of any B2B Marketing function - offering sales guidance, insights, leads, content and tools to help sales development teams with enhanced account intelligence, knowledge and assets they can deploy.
The challenge is that many have seen some short-term success with quirky approaches from widely popular gifs, memes and jokes personalised to a prospect's job role or industry in an attempt to make the prospect laugh and disarm them into a conversion. Whilst trying to personalise and generate an emotive reaction is admirable, it becomes diluted in a sea of other sales teams and Orgs deploying the same cliched punch line.
Having relevant and reasonable follow-up content and scripts can help enable sales to generate more fruitful conversations to convert into sales opportunities and pipelines.
Consider the nurturing phases and have enablement content and assets available to the sales team in line with the nurture flows. Collaborate with sales to define what that nurture and follow-up flow looks like. Run weekly sync with sales development, teams. Collate and aggregate all data from your content syndication campaign, programmatic, web traffic, inbound, etc to start building an account story on each of your target accounts. This intel starts to provide a clearer picture of the wants and needs of each account and decision maker engaged with your messaging.
So whilst commentators will say content syndication is dead, they misinform you. Content Syndication will always be a valuable tool (just as some of those podcasts are and always will be). What is similar between the two is the quality in which you produce your content, how you deliver it, follow up on it and enable sales with the engagements and insights it generates for you.
If you have a Content Syndication challenge or want to take it to the next level, get in touch to arrange a strategy session with the experts at B2B Media Group.