Today I’m here to debunk a myth:
That simply publishing great content will automatically fill your pipeline with qualified opportunities.
This assumption, my friends, is an incomplete and misunderstood statement that deserves a seat on Snopes.com alongside claims like:
Donald Trump was wounded and taken prisoner by the Viet Cong in 1963, only to be rescued by Vladimir Putin
The state of Michigan threatened local beavers with a $10,000 per day fine for failing to remove their dam
As a long-time proponent and practitioner of content marketing, I realize this article might seem a bit out of left field.
So I’ll start by explaining myself.
The truth about digital content
You’ll find thousands of white papers, guides, articles and videos out there telling you that if you want to generate leads, all you need to do is publish great content. Answer questions. Solve problems. Publish. Publish. Publish.
But here’s the all important missing insight that most content marketing “experts” don’t tell you:
Visibility for your content is either A) earned or B) purchased. It’s not awarded by default.
A website filled with great content is kind of like a great restaurant on a side street.
No matter how incredible the food might be, unless your name is Emeril Lagasse or Gordon Ramsay, you’d be a fool to assume customers will automatically line up around the block the night of your grand opening.
Instead, you’d devise a smart, targeted and intentional plan to fill seats (probably through some combination of PR, advertising, social media, direct marketing, etc).
Similarly, in the industrial sector, unless we’re DOW Chemical, Fanuc or Rockwell Automation, we can’t simply hit the “publish” button and assume our content will start generating RFQs.
Unless you come with a plan to navigate around them, a number of hurdles are likely to stifle your content’s visibility. Here are four big ones:
- Demand for information about your topic. Are enough people out there actually looking for information related to your content topics? Cross checking real search volume data in Google’s Keyword Planner can help you set expectations for the potential SEO impact of your content.
- Saturation of similar content. Is there already a ton of information out there about the same topics? If so, what makes your content more worthy than the rest of ranking first, second or third in a Google search?
- Your website’s authority with Google. How credible is your website from Google’s perspective? If your domain authority is dwarfed by that of industry giants, trade organizations and other authoritative sources, SEO can be an uphill battle.
- Your website’s lead generation system. If you’ve successfully navigated around the challenges of these first three bullet points and you’re driving a healthy volume of qualified visitors to your site organically, congratulations. You’ve accomplished what most B2B manufacturers won’t. But have you equipped your website with appropriate offers, calls to action, landing pages and user flows to convert those anonymous visitors into tangible leads with names and email addresses?
Listen, inbound marketing is a beautiful thing.
But it requires hard work – because the quality of your content alone isn’t enough.
Organically building visibility takes time, smart strategy and sound execution (see our article Fast Results vs. Sustainable Success: Take Your Pick). And in most cases, that means you need to support inbound marketing with proactive efforts to create visibility.
What follows are five ways to layer some firepower on top of your content so it can produce the tangible results you’re seeking.
1. Deliver your content by email to existing and past customers and leads
This is probably your lowest-hanging fruit.
If you’re already producing thought-leadership content for inbound and SEO purposes, why not also deliver it directly to those who already know, like and trust you?
Sitting dormant inside the collective Outlook accounts of your Sales professionals, Account Managers and C-Suite is almost certainly an abundance of qualified businesses contacts (existing and past customers and leads).
I’ve found this to be true even among our clients who actively use CRM and/or marketing automation software.
So start with them and begin delivering your insights by email at least once per month.
Over time, these simple touch points (that create value instead of hammering promotional messaging into their ears) will keep you top of mind and incrementally build trust in your expertise.
2. Deliver your content by email to new prospects
Your Sales professionals are already knocking on doors and cold calling potential future customers. But how effective is it?
How about this instead (or at least in tandem)?:
- Build your list of target accounts and individual prospects
- Craft a series of three or four very brief outreach emails that not only communicate elements of your value proposition and ask for sales calls, but also deliver a supporting piece of thought leadership content each time
- Use an automation tool to deliver these emails following a predetermined cadence
Now you’re extending your reach, expanding your number of touch points with prospects and creating value by delivering your expertise along the way.
3. Promote your content with paid social
If you’ve already built your list of target accounts, try LinkedIn Ads to push your content into the feeds of specific job title holders at these exact organizations (and others that resemble them too).
Yes, it’s possible to do this.
And while we’re on the topic of paid social, how about using Facebook (where your cost per lead will be significantly lower than LinkedIn, by the way) to target followers of Automotive News, Oil & Gas Journal or whatever trade publications and industry organizations your customers are already following?
Before you write off Facebook as a B2B marketing platform, take a look the demographics of Facebook’s user base and tell me your audience isn’t part of it’s 2.2 billion members.
4. Pitch editorial content to industry trade journals
Trade journals are thirsty for great content. And no, I’m not referring to advertorials.
I’m talking about your company’s subject matter experts crafting unique and insightful editorial content for the audiences of business publications in the industries you serve.
Think about it for a second. Who’s more qualified to help address the biggest challenges and answer the most important questions of their readers than the experts on your team who are in the trenches with them every day?
If you can write objectively (instead of promotionally), you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many media sources will welcome your thought leadership with open arms (and without a required fee!).
Guest authorship accomplishes a few things at once:
- You’ll add credibility to your content by publishing it inside of a respected journal’s platform
- You’ll leverage their (much bigger) audience to exponentially extend your visibility
- You’ll likely earn an inbound link from their site to yours (which signals credibility to Google and drives up your rankings in search results)
Some SEO experts will try to convince you that guest authorship is a stale tactic. I disagree because I continue to see it work. If your content is authentic and creates value your readers, it’ll be hard to go wrong.
5. Syndicate your content across media outlets
An alternative to publishing exclusive content for individual trade journals is syndication.
Content syndication can be executed manually or through a paid service. Our experience is mostly limited to the former – where we’ve helped our manufacturing clients pitch targeted content to a variety of relevant media sources simultaneously.
Some trade journals only accept entirely original content. But many are open to syndication – sometimes just requiring slight alternations to help make it their own.
As a form of guest authorship, similar benefits apply to syndication – from credibility to exposure to SEO improvement.
So there you have it
When your content is wrapped around the problems, goals, common questions and objections of the most important buying process influencers from the right types of companies, you have something that will resonate.
But don’t stop after you hit the publish button.
Promote your content, get the right eyes on it and then watch your sales pipeline grow.
Before we part, I’ll leave you with one more gem from Snopes for the road: Cargo lost in the Titanic’s sinking led to the creation of the Cinco de Mayo observance.