Ask peers about your content marketing and they might say, “Awesome stuff, really well done.”
Ask your VP Sales, CFO or CEO, on the other hand, and the response might be, “Show me the money” or “Show me the path from your content marketing to business results.”
While content marketing is often associated with the top of the funnel (e.g. generating thought leadership and brand awareness), it must connect through to business results in order to retain support and funding from the organization.
For B2B companies, that means leads, opportunities and revenue.
It’s time to sort out ways to connect your content marketing efforts to business results. This post will help you do that.
Define Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are proxies for your future customers. Defining and documenting your buyer personas keeps Sales and Marketing on the same page, while helping marketers understand whom they’re writing for.
Clearly define each target segment and what you know about them. Are you targeting marketing managers who manage trade show and conference sponsorships? Maybe you’re targeting marketing ops managers who need to simplify their martech stack?
Understanding each persona and its unique pain points help you understand how to best reach them. If you try to create your B2B content marketing to satisfy everyone, you’ll end up satisfying no one.
Hint: your existing customers fit the profile of your buyer personas. So partner with teams that can connect you with your customers: Sales, Account Management, Customer Success, Customer Support, etc.
Content Marketing Institute published a useful article on how to leverage your customer support team to build buyer personas.
Define Key Metrics with Sales
Keeping lines of communication open with sales is important. Sales and marketing alignment is built on open dialog, trust and a shared set of agreed-upon metrics. Document what metrics you’ll track and how each metric is defined and measured.
Consider these steps:
- Interview each sales rep to understand the profiles of their customers and how those customers are utilizing your product or service.
- Identify the reps’ pain points and what you can do to solve them. Are they struggling with lead quantity or lead quality? Perhaps a little of both?
- Set up biweekly sales conference calls, with a different person each time or the entire team, to talk about what they’re seeing coming in, what is helpful about those leads, what isn’t, and any unique information they made note of in client conversations.
- Meet with sales management (e.g. Director of Sales, VP Sales, Chief Revenue Officer) to define key metrics, along with the process for how deals are handed off from Marketing to Sales.
Here are a set of sample metrics. I grouped them into two categories: metrics Marketing primarily focuses on and metrics jointly tracked by Marketing and Sales.
Time on site
Time on page
Average session duration
Inbound traffic from social shares
Number of lead generation content downloads
Number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
Lead-to-MQL conversion percentage
Cost per Lead (CPL)
Sales and Marketing
Number of Sales Accepted Leads (SAL)
Number of demos booked
Total pipeline (amount)
New customers per month
Total closed/won revenue per month
Average sales cycle (duration)
Content Marketing Strategy
Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves: creating a content marketing plan that targets your buyer personas and yields the key metrics tracked by marketing and sales.
As a first step, define the core assets you’ll create to drive net new leads. The most common formats used by B2B marketers are white papers and webinars.
Assess whether you have adequate resources in-house or whether you need to outsource work to agencies or freelancers. When working with suppliers outside of your organization, be sure to provide them with documented buyer personas to guide their content creation.
Next, plan out the ungated content that will drive brand awareness and garner interest in the webinars and white papers. Examples of ungated content include blog posts, contributed articles, case studies, infographics, presentations and social media posts.
Content Calendar and Tracking Progress
If you’re just getting started, planning your content calendar within a monthly or quarterly time period works well. As the sophistication of your operation evolves, you can broaden your horizon, while also looking to level up your content marketing game.
During and after these content campaigns, be sure to track progress against your metrics, especially those you’re tracking in conjunction with Sales.
If you successfully use content marketing to drive leads, opportunities and revenue, your peers on the Sales team will sing your praises.
And now, when the CEO and CFO stop by, their “show me the money” might become “keep up the good work.”