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:
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.)
2. Poorly-Written Abstracts
An abstract (the short description that accompanies your content on the site) is, essentially, an ad. If a prospect sees ten white papers on a similar topic, the title of your content and its abstract will be the difference between he or she downloading your content or your competitor’s. Yet most abstracts are written in a dry, almost academic tone, as if they’re describing a paper that’s being presented at a scientific conference.
Good abstracts do two things: 1) they describe the value of the information, and 2) they drive action. Use terms like “learn” and “discover,” be clear and specific about what the reader will take away from the material, and employ language like “Download” to drive action. In a crowded category, an effective abstract can increase lead pace and volume significantly.
3. Over-Reliance on Niche Sites
In the same way that many marketers tend to over-use filters, companies also tend to focus content syndication programs on individual Websites that target their favored demographic or particular technology. The fear, as I’ve heard expressed in client conversations, is that by placing content on larger ad networks, their content could “show up anywhere.” To which, my response is: Who cares?
If your content is titled appropriately, if your abstract is compelling and written to a specific audience, and if you’re employing the right filters, then ad networks can generate leads of the same or higher quality, at a lower cost, and at a much faster pace compared to individual sites. When you have a limited budget, ad networks are often the better choice rather than attempting to split up a limited spend amongst multiple publishers.
Examples of popular B2B networks include Madison Logic, Netline and IDG TechNetwork. Stephanie Tilton of Ten Ton Marketing has written a very useful report that reviews a number of the leading syndicators for B2B technology marketers.
4. Too Little Content
Understand this about publishers and others in the content syndication business. They want to deliver you as many leads that meet your criteria as they can, as quickly as possible. The sooner a publisher can deliver the number of leads contracted for, the sooner he or she can place a phone call asking if you’d like to renew your contract. As a result, publishers want as much content as you can give them.
The more content you use in content syndication, the higher the lead volume and the faster the pace at which you’ll meet your lead targets. Worst case, some content assets won’t generate many leads, but then they won’t cost you much, either. There’s really no reason to limit yourself to 2-3 content assets per publisher when, in effect, there’s no real incremental cost to doing more, except the time to write additional abstracts. In particular, it’s wise to test different form factors – white papers, ebooks, recorded Webinars, videos, ebooks, infographics – to gauge which types generate the best leads at the fastest pace.
5. Poor Lead Follow-up
As I wrote in this earlier post, one of the key factors that causes content syndication programs to fail is a lack of timely and effective lead follow-up. Because of the way content syndication leads are distributed to the advertiser, often on a weekly frequency, it may be days after the prospect actually downloaded the content before you even hear about it. That means, even assuming your inside sales reps follow up on new white paper leads dutifully, and many don’t, the prospect may not even remember downloading the content in the first place.
As a very basic guideline, every content syndication lead should receive immediate, automated e-mail follow-up upon being imported into your marketing or CRM database. This is key for a number of reasons:
• Again, the lead may already be as much as a week old.
• Content syndication leads won’t receive top priority from your reps, so it’s unlikely they’ll otherwise be contacted immediately.
• It helps remind the prospect that he/she downloaded the content, and makes him/her more receptive to a follow-up call.
• An immediate, relevant, courteous, personalized e-mail from the rep assigned to that lead will help ensure that no real and immediate opportunities are falling through the cracks.