Many times in this space I’ve talked about the virtues of content syndication as a low risk way for companies to generate a consistent stream of low cost, in-profile leads. However, when we introduce the topic to potential clients we very often hear comments such as:
“We tried it, but it didn’t work for us.”
“We had real problems with lead quality.”
“We couldn’t reach half the contacts.”
“People said they couldn’t remember downloading the white paper.”
The common thread amongst these complaints is lack of 1) sales satisfaction and 2) lead quality. So what is it about some content syndication programs that create leads that sales reps don’t want?
In today’s economic climate, content syndication is one of the lowest risk lead generation vehicles there is. At our agency, the programs we negotiate for our clients are almost all performance-based, that is: they guarantee a minimum number of leads at a fixed cost. Furthermore, we’re usually able to filter leads on criteria such as geography and company size, so that every lead the client pays for meets that client’s minimum demographic profile.
With all this going for it, why then isn’t content syndication a slam dunk success? The reasons I believe lie in two critical areas:
1) setting proper expectations, and
2) prompt and effective lead follow up.
Without these two critical elements in place, even the best planned content syndication program can meet with sales apathy and disappointing results.
To the first issue: expectations, it’s important to recognize that content syndication leads are not like most sales leads. When someone registers to download a white paper or podcast or case study about the business challenge that your product solves, he or she is expressing an interest in that topic, not necessarily in your product. (That individual may well be a great candidate for your product, it’s just that he/she doesn’t know it yet.)
If you hand off content syndication leads to your sales force without setting that expectation, the program is doomed to failure. You will immediately start to hear comments such as: “They’re not interested in our product – they only wanted the white paper.” And once your inside sales team or lead development group concludes that a set of leads aren’t up to snuff, forget it: you’ll have a very difficult time convincing them otherwise.
In contrast, if those same reps are coached or scripted to inquire after the underlying issue, challenge, or topic that the white paper addresses, then you’ll be setting the stage for some very fruitful conversations. So lead-ins such as:
“I’m calling to find out more about your interest in [insert company name here]”
“I’m calling to find out more about your interest in [insert topic/issue here]”
The second key to content syndication success is lead follow-up. This is of particular importance because most content syndication leads, unlike those that arrive directly via say, a corporate Website or an e-mail campaign, don’t arrive in real time. In a typical scenario, content syndication leads are received by the media vendor hosting the registration forms, and then shipped weekly to a client in batch form. Unfortunately, this means that some leads could be as much as a week old by the time your sales reps even see them.
Prompt, efficient, and effective follow-up to these leads is therefore paramount. As a very basic guideline, every content syndication lead should receive immediate, automated e-mail follow-up upon being imported into your CRM system. This is key for a number of reasons:
1. As already stated, the lead may already be as much as a week old.
2. Content syndication leads won’t receive top priority from your reps, so it’s unlikely they’ll be contacted immediately.
3. It helps remind the prospect that he/she downloaded the content, and makes him/her more receptive to a follow-up call.
4. 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.
If you don’t have the marketing automation or lead management system in place to enable this type of automated response, you’ll have a very difficult time converting content syndication leads to qualified or “accepted” status at any kind of significant rate. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen too often: the rep calls the prospect days later and either that prospect is unavailable after multiple attempts, or perhaps doesn’t even remember downloading the content. All it takes is a handful of leads with the same result, and that rep will assume all other inquiries from the campaign are similarly worthless.
At a time when potential buyers for your product are few and far between, content syndication can be a highly effective complement to lead generation vehicles like search, by ensuring that your company is engaging with prospects actively researching answers to the problems your product can solve. However, as tempting as it may sound, don’t think that you can just buy X leads for $Y, press the proverbial button and walk away. Put the right lead follow-up processes in place, and only then will content syndication be a successful part of your demand generation mix.
Excellent post, Howard – and an important distinction about lead gen vs. sales readiness.
I’ve had great success with client syndication programs where the leads generated are put into a nurturing program with content offers that are extensions of the topic in the white paper. Then integrate inside sales calls to follow-up by discussing the lead’s interest in the issue in parallel to their response to the program. Taking the time to progressively qualify them during nurturing helps to create that sales-ready state.
Great post. I would use this as a great example of the importance of a strong lead nurturing campaign, and not necessarily putting all syndicated content straight into the pipeline. We’ve used the second response after a LN campaign to score high enough to hit the sales team.