Forrester thinks Content Marketing Isn’t Working – They’re Half Right

Over at Forrester Research, Vice President Laura Ramos recently talked to Advertising Age (“Marketers Still Struggling to Get Results from Content Marketing“) about what she perceives as a general lack of return from the investment so many companies are making in content marketing.

content marketingIt’s a fair characterization to say that the state of today’s content marketing in B2B circles is a mixed bag. More specifically, there’s a great deal of bad content out there (especially on social media), and many companies who haven’t quite figured out yet how to best leverage the content they have.

Even then, the data from Forrester’s own study seem to indicate that the results from content marketing aren’t quite as downbeat as the Ad Age article would suggest (though I accept that bad news makes for more compelling reading.) For example, in answer to the question “During the past 12 months, how effectively have your content marketing efforts delivered business value?”

• 51% responded “somewhat effectively”
• 14% responded “very effectively”

That means just shy of two-thirds of survey respondents felt that content marketing is delivering business value. And more still, I would guess, probably feel that their content campaigns are “working” (generating response, engagement, sales leads) but perhaps aren’t yet convinced of bottom line value. That hardly seems consistent with the characterization of marketers “struggling” to get results. And that contrary view is reinforced, as Ad Age notes, by a separate survey showing that 75% of B2B marketers plan to increase their content marketing in 2014. It’s hard to imagine that such a clear majority of marketers would be increasing spend in an area where they weren’t seeing clear value. Read More »

Case Study: How One Tech Company Used Humor to Launch a New Brand

In early 2014, Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS), a leading provider of managed IT, cloud, and recovery services, announced that it was splitting off as a separate company from SunGard Data Systems Inc.

Sungard AS asked its demand generation agency, Spear Marketing Group, to help introduce business prospects within the company’s marketing database to the new brand. This was a critically important initiative because Sungard AS employs an extensive lead nurturing program (that Spear helps design and manage) to maintain brand awareness within that database and convert prospects to sales opportunities. One of the significant risks inherent in the split-off was that those prospects would react differently, or not at all, to the new brand.

The goal of the campaign was to forge an immediate connection with the new brand for those prospects who had been interacting regularly with the old company. In essence, Sungard AS wanted to get the message across that they were still the same great company — just with a new look and feel.

This presented a challenge. Busy IT executives, who form the majority of the Sungard AS prospect base, receive hundreds of emails every day, many of them from vendors like Sungard AS. Even under the best of circumstances, it usually takes a compelling business message, and information of significant value, to coax a response from an audience that is constantly bombarded with promotional emails. Read More »

5 Common Content Syndication Mistakes

Though it predates what we think of today as “content marketing,” content syndication is still a cornerstone of many B2B companies’ demand generation strategies. Like other inbound marketing programs – search, social media, and the like – content syndication is one more way to increase the chances that a qualified prospect, on any given day and at any given time, finds and engages with your company when he or she is searching for your kind of solution, or even researching a relevant topic.

The primary appeal of content syndication to B2B marketers is that a) it’s targeted (you can typically filter on basic demographic criteria at little to no cost) and b) it guarantees performance (most publishers will negotiate deals on a cost per lead basis.) And yet content syndication is no slam dunk. Sure, you can, in essence, “buy” leads that meet your demographic criteria for a fixed price – but the price you pay, the quality of those leads, and the pace at which they arrive, all vary widely.

Here are 5 common mistakes that cause content syndication programs to underperform:

content syndication1. Excessive Use of Filters

Publishers and ad networks vary to the extent they allow you to filter leads. Most offer filters on geography and company size. Some will allow custom qualifying questions (“What CRM software do you use?”) But every filter you add adds incremental cost to the lead, for the simple reason that the publisher needs to recoup the cost of those prospects who downloaded your content but who don’t meet the required criteria.

So, filters are a balancing act. You want to eliminate bad leads but not to the extent the “good” leads are cost-prohibitive. Most marketers over-filter. Filtering on job title, for example is rarely worth the cost. If you’re placing content with a highly targeted, niche site (one that focuses on a particular vertical or technology, for example) you can get away with fewer filters compared to an ad network with broader reach. And your content can do the filtering for you. If you offer a white paper on “Salesforce.com Success Tips” you’ll attract users of Salesforce.com. For that reason, don’t shy away from re-titling a particular content asset to make it more desirable to a specific demographic.

Don’t worry excessively about eliminating every single lead that falls outside your target demographic. Sometimes it’s worthwhile accepting a certain percentage of off-target leads, because the net CPL of “good” leads will be lower as a result. (For a longer discussion on this topic, see this earlier post.) Read More »

But Wait, There’s More! Why Cheesy Copy Still Works.

Effective email copy is not like a letter to your grandma; unless, that is, you’re asking Grandma to sponsor you for the 5K Fun Run at the park. A good email campaign isn’t designed to make people feel warm and fuzzy about you, your company or your product, or generate awareness, or promote your brand. Good email copy does one thing – it generates a response.

As Seen on TVExperienced email copywriters use a myriad of techniques to get their readers to act, techniques that may seem aggressive, salesy or “cheesy” to the uninitiated. Below are a few examples, all legacies of classic direct marketing and even TV infomercials.

You may read these and say to yourself: “that’s not how we talk to our audience.” That’s your decision. The bottom line is that, even today, these techniques are proven to increase response.

“… and more.”

One reason why testing is so fundamental to email marketing is that different people respond to different offers, benefits, and creative in general. “… and more” is a classic way to end a list (of benefits, for example) because it implies yet more, albeit unnamed, reasons to respond, and increases the perceived value of whatever it is you’re selling.

“Plus …”

Hesitation is the bugbear of email success. Good email copy keeps the reader moving; any pause, hesitation, distraction or confusion, and the cause is lost. Beginning a sentence (or technically speaking, a sentence fragment) with “And” or “Plus”, though excruciatingly bad grammar, is one way to hustle the reader through to your next compelling point.

“Act Now …”

Even the most successful email campaigns have minimal shelf life. Success depends on not only getting people to respond, but getting them to do so immediately. Urgency is king. “Act now” implies there’s a price to be paid for delay.

Is Technology Making Marketing Agencies Obsolete?

Over at the IDC Technology Marketing Blog, analyst Sam Melnick posted an article recently with the intriguing title:

“Are Ad Agencies Keeping Pace with the Marketing’s (sic) Massive Digital Uptake? (Hint: Maybe Not)”

Melnick posits his question largely on the basis of IDC research that shows the rate of growth in digital marketing spend amongst technology companies significantly outpacing the equivalent growth of digital marketing as a percentage of agency revenue. Specifically:
Don Draper
• IDC reports that digital marketing spend by technology companies will surpass non-digital spend by the end of 2016. (Five years ago, those same companies were only spending 16% of their marketing budgets on digital.)

• In contrast, Ad Age reports that even though five years ago, agencies were already earning 25% of their revenues through digital, the rate at which that percentage is climbing is significantly slower than the equivalent growth of digital marketing budgets within their tech clients.

As a partner in a B2B marketing agency that 1) serves high-tech clients exclusively and 2) whose work is 90% digital, I found these reports somewhat surprising. Where I really started to pay attention, however, is when Melnick asks whether the numbers foretell a time where all or most digital marketing moves in-house:

“Does the agencies slower digital revenue growth give us a glimpse into the future where in-house marketers are the digital experts?”

Personal experience aside, I fear he may have a point. Like so many other industries, the agency business is changing radically: Read More »