B2B marketers are starting to get glimpses of their 2017 pipeline goals and wrapping their heads around what percentage their teams will need to contribute next year. Quick analysis of conversion rates, database size, etc. are indicating for some that the only way to reach next year’s goals is to get way more prospects in their databases.
But what if you’re milking your organic social and search channels for everything they’re worth? And what if you’re at the tipping point on your paid search efforts where the only way to increase volume is to start settling for lower quality? How on earth can you keep scaling demand across your top-of-funnel marketing efforts so you can continue to fill your pipeline with qualified opportunities?
In our experience, one of the best ways to keep a steady stream of new prospects flowing in at the top of the funnel is to work with third-party media partners that can syndicate your high performing content to their engaged audiences. This approach to lead generation, when done right, can be a powerful key to ensuring a growing and engaged pipeline. When done wrong, it can leave you with not only a dirty database, but a massive headache as well.
Here are a few tips about what you need to know to effectively leverage lead data providers in your content marketing efforts.
It all starts with choosing the right media partners
Identify qualified lead providers – Working with new lead sources can sometimes be risky business. So it’s not uncommon when marketers have established relationships with a few providers to just stick with their services quarter-over-quarter. It’s important to achieve the scale you need that you constantly test new lead sources. Remember though, not all media companies are created equal. Make sure you invest due diligence in identifying qualified partners.
Know their audience – Ask questions about their audience. You want to understand as much as each partner’s database as possible. Basic demographics like age, income, education level and professional titles are certainly important. Ideally you also want to know what types of content they engage with and which companies they represent. The more closely aligned a partner’s audience is with your target customer profile, the better the opportunity for strong ROI on your lead generation programs.
Ask about their ABM capabilities – Sometimes you can find media partners that can help you execute your account-based marketing initiatives. So if you have a list of companies you’re targeting, be sure to ask providers what strategies they have to engage specific decision-makers within your target accounts. If you need help developing an ABM strategy, see if they offer those services as well.
Clearly defining program parameters is essential to success
Review available targeting options – A key step to starting any new paid marketing program is obviously determining your audience. This is often a bit of a balancing act. Specific campaign targeting gives you a greater opportunity to reach only your highest converting customer profiles – but it also comes with higher costs per lead and means lower lead volume. However, a lack of campaign criteria hampers conversion rates on the back end, increasing overall cost per opportunity. Lead providers can often help you strike the right balance between targeting and pricing.
(Many marketers decide to only capture minimal fields from media partners and append additional fields after they receive the leads. This can be a powerful tactic to get more data for your money.)
Select the right content – Once you define your target audience, work with your partners to choose the content they’ll use to generate leads. Some things to consider when you’re evaluating which content to use for your lead generation programs are:
- What assets have performed well for your inbound marketing efforts
- Which pieces are the most evergreen or timely
- Whether specific content will engage prospects who aren’t yet aware that they need your products or services
- What types of content resonate with the media partner’s audience
Discuss allowed marketing channels – You also want to understand exactly how each partner will use your content to engage their audiences. It’s pretty common for publishers to share content with their database via email, but often they have other tactics they use as well. Perhaps they promote it via ad placements on their digital properties. Some partners run search campaigns to capture leads through their own landing pages. (This is really important to know, particularly if you’re using those assets for your own paid search marketing. You wouldn’t want to be competing with yourself for the same search traffic, would you?)
Lead quality and data processes will make or break your campaigns
Accept only valid data – The more process you can apply to cultivating data quality as it enters your marketing funnel, the easier it will be to nurture those prospects into sales ready leads and convert them into opportunities. In order for leads to be valuable, the data must be valid. Leads need to:
- Contain accurate contact information, particularly email addresses, if you intend to follow up with prospects in any capacity.
- Include complete names if you want to be able to personalize follow-up communications.
- Be unique to your database, unless of course you don’t mind paying for leads that you’ve already engaged.
- Meet the parameters you defined at the beginning of your program.
Data quality is very difficult to enforce without some sort of data validation software. It can be done with human intervention to an extent, but it’s an extremely time-consuming process and nowhere near as effective at keeping invalid data out of your database.
Involve your marketing ops team – Speaking of your database, take the time to think through how you’re going to get newly generated lead data into your marketing automation system. It’s worth involving marketing ops in program planning discussions. If you’re going to run content syndication programs at scale, demand marketing and marketing ops will want to collectively determine whether it’s best to:
- Manually process new leads and upload them in batches to marketing automation
- Allow media partners to establish individual APIs to inject lead data directly into your database
- Invest in software that will process leads as they’re generated; validate and standardize the data; then route new prospects to the appropriate nurture tracks in real-time
Acquiring new leads is only the beginning of successful demand generation
Don’t pass those leads to sales – New prospects acquired via content syndication programs are very rarely ready for a conversation with sales. Think of them the same as you would think of a brand new person who visited your blog for the first time and downloaded a piece of top-funnel content. They’re engaged, yes and maybe loosely familiar with your brand, but cultivating relationships with them will take time. Be sure you have relevant nurture tracks in place so you can keep the engagement going. Only when they meet all the readiness factors that apply to your inbound leads should you consider passing them to your sales team.
Monitor their journey – Remember to track lead performance all the way through the customer lifecycle so you can attribute value back to the source of origination. Set up reports to monitor short- and long-term KPIs like click rates on first nurture emails, conversion rates to MQLs, average opportunity-to-customer close rates and lifetime customer value. Share data with media partners early and often, allowing them to fine tune strategies and deliver more of what’s working.
Optimize for improved ROI – Don’t pass the buck and expect lead providers to be solely responsible for program success. Marketing performance data gives insight to numerous adjustments you can make on your end as well. Often marketers simply drop lower performing sources. While that may make sense on the surface, sometimes lowering cost per lead or allocation can bring underperforming providers up to par with the rest of your content syndication efforts. Alternatively, sometimes your highest performing sources can do wonders with a little more budget. And performance isn’t always about the source. It can often be attributed to content and targeting. Don’t forget to look at making changes in these areas as well.
With an agile approach and a willingness to always be testing, content syndication can be instrumental in amplifying demand marketing’s potential. If you need some tips on additional content distribution tactics, check out this eBook we recently developed in collaboration with the great demand marketers at Uberflip: The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution.