If content is king, then thought leadership is the kingmaker
That feeling of limitless possibility and opportunity when you, awesome B2B marketer, get your hands on a new thought leadership content asset. You envision a future and funnel full of quality leads, pipeline, and revenue. Even more exciting, let’s say this new thought leadership asset does an excellent job at educating, differentiating, and agitating the problem your product solves. Adding a ton of tangible take-home value to decision-makers in your target accounts. This content asset checks all of the boxes for generating quality demand and pipeline.
This new content is so good your only motivation is to share it with the world – more specifically, your target audience. Sales will be singing your praises by the end of the quarter. Now the real fun begins. Time to go-to-market!
First-party content distribution channels
Creating and publishing content can feel like a paradox. Writing, packaging, and publishing a long-form thought leadership asset is hard. Really hard. It feels like an ending when it is a new beginning for the business. The goal was never publishing the content asset; it was the opportunity and leverage to generate leads and demand for your product.
Don’t call it a day when you hit publish, create the landing page, add a gated form, or put a link on your website. If content is king, then distribution is queen. And there are a lot more distribution channels under your control that just require a little planning and resources.
Note: Most of the items below assume the content is gated to capture lead info.
- Email everyone, seriously
- If the content positions you as a thought leader and adds value, then it is relevant to anyone, across all segments, even closed-lost deals
- Lifecycle and onboarding emails
- Share on social media channels
- Enable Sales to use the asset in prospecting and sales cycles
- Company-wide email signatures
- SEO; republish into long-form, multiple page guides with CTAs to “download PDF version”
- Website and landing pages
- News banner above the nav
- Featured content carousel on the homepage
- Call-to-action on blog posts
- Request Demo form on the asset Confirmation/Thank You page (try Clearbit Forms here)
- Feature on your resources page
- Exit-intent or time-based pop-ups
- Chatbot conversations
With enough inbound traffic, distribution alone can generate significant demand. Think about Hubspot, Intercom, or Marketo’s content strategies.
The curious case of content syndication and scale
Once you’ve made progress distributing your content across first-party channels, it’s now time to pour gasoline on the fire and increase the reach of your precious new asset. Here is where content syndication comes into the picture. But first, let’s set some context and clarity when we discuss “Content Syndication.”
Content syndication means different things to different groups. Social, PR, and SEO teams think of syndication as a republishing distribution like tactic for awareness, backlinks, etc. B2B marketers think of content syndication as a traditional channel where your content is gated and distributed through relevant third-party sites for lead generation, at a fixed cost.
If we zoom out and take a high-level view of the strategy, content syndication effectively is the distribution of your content to a relevant audience outside of your first-party distribution channels. For B2B marketers, the structure of content syndication comes in the familiar form of targeted Cost-Per-Lead, volume-based advertising. By this definition, almost all modern B2B marketers have done some form of content syndication.
If you’re advertising your content assets on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Display, that’s a form of content syndication.
And if you syndicate your content through a network of relevant niche publishers in exchange for leads at $X cost, that is traditionally what B2B marketers think about when we say “Content Syndication.”
Syndication at scale: Social Ads vs. Third-Party Publishers
Quick recap. We have additional clarity around what content syndication is, and it’s various forms, and still really stoked about this new thought leadership asset. Your ICP and Target Accounts have to check this thing out! You’ve run the content through your first-party distribution channels, and it is time to put your money to work for you and scale demand generation using your shiny new asset.
If advertising content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Display, and third-party publisher networks is a form of syndication, then where is the best place to focus your budget and efforts?
Let’s start with some underlying assumptions. Most growing businesses are biased towards short-term results, shorter feedback loops, instant gratification, “what have you done for me lately” sales expectations. Demand generation is a challenging role when performance has a significant lag time, and sales-cycles can be months, and in some enterprise markets, years. This tension can often pull you into playing the game of lead volume, MQLs, and top of funnel vanity metrics. But that’s okay. If you have a clearly defined and aligned Account-Based Marketing and Sales strategy, you can confidently take a leap of faith in generating more volume at the top of the funnel.
For these reasons, scaling demand with thought leadership content on advertising platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Display will give you the fastest Return on Expectations, and your investment vs. traditional third-party publisher content syndication. *This assumes your attribution model is oriented for first-action growth against the Opportunity.
Why Social Ads vs. Third-Party Publishers?
Targeting/Reach. You know this already, but the targeting and reach of social ad platforms is unmatched. You can create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences based on your Target Accounts, ICP, and ABM parameters (even on Facebook). They provide insights and targeting capabilities that go beyond Job Titles and Industry.
Intent/Readiness. When a prospect engages with your ad on Facebook or LinkedIn, they’re engaging with your brand, your content, and explicitly filling out the form and “raising their hand.” Warm leads. Sales will love these leads as opposed to third-party syndication leads, which are typically not as warm and are less ready to buy.
Real-time. With the right systems and processes in place, lead-gen forms from LinkedIn and Facebook instantly sync to your Marketing Automation Platform, CRM, and trigger lead scoring and routing. If a senior leader at one of your target accounts converts from a social ad, your lead scoring should be routing that immediately, in “real-time” to Sales to prospect and work. Lead Velocity is Demand’s secret weapon. In the words of one of my favorite sales leaders, “Time kills all deals.”
To help accelerate lead velocity and level-up your ability to scale demand, it is important to have a platform like Metadata. Creating a closed-loop demand engine based on real-time data from your marketing tools (Social Ads, Marketo, Salesforce, Bombora, page visits).
Patience and the fallacy of Cost-Per-Lead
Now we’re rocking and rolling. You’ve syndicated your thought leadership asset via social ad campaigns and third-party publishers, and all early indicators look good. And if you’re lucky, you have a platform like Metadata in place helping you scale your social campaigns even faster and more intelligently. But, there appears to be a roadblock. The volume is okay, but the Cost-Per-Lead is higher than you’re comfortable with. Do not hit the panic bottom. Be practical, patient, and objective. Let’s look at the data.
PSA. Successful demand generation with any thought leadership asset is contingent on proper lead nurturing, scoring, messaging/positioning, and sales processes.
Quantitative view. If the goal is to efficiently and quickly generate pipeline, I’m investing further in Option B. Why? Though the lead volume is lower and Cost-Per-Lead is 1.6x higher, downstream performance is much better than Option A and C. Option B is generating a more efficient pipeline (spend to pipeline ratio) in a faster amount of time (avg time to pipeline).
Qualitative view. It’s important to always consider the business objective around growth. If you’re moving upmarket or testing a new segment, you can’t limit the growth of the unknown, by measuring it with the performance benchmarks of the known.
Following these principles for growth will help you maximize the reach of your thought leadership asset and efficacy of your campaigns across Facebook, LinkedIn, Display, and other paid channels. According to the data above, when you put a $1 into Option B (Social Ads), you get $30 in pipeline. There’s a path to 2x, even 3x your budget for Social Ad Syndication. I can hear the sweet acapella sounds of Sales singing your praises now. But how long will that last and how much do you have to spend? Content has a shelf life, even in B2B. Content fatigue is real. Especially on social platforms, when prospects are checking their feeds several times a day. If a prospect didn’t convert and download the asset the 10th time they saw the ad, they’re unlikely to do it the 100th time either. Building a diversified channel mix based on stage and age of content assets will help extend the shelf life and solve for single-channel fatigue.
Extend the shelf life of your thought leadership content
Once you’ve reached scale with your social ad campaigns, it’s time to start thinking about the shelf life of your content, and ways to extend it. With any great thought leadership content, you want to squeeze every bit of pipeline you can get out of it before fatigue sets in with your audience. As you’re starting to see content fatigue in your other channels, this is where syndicating content via third-party publishers is a viable option to keep this thought leadership demand train rolling.
Third-party content syndication can occasionally get a bad rap. This is almost always due to poor execution in the lead nurturing, scoring, and sales and marketing alignment. There are several benefits to syndicating content via third-party publishers. You can acquire a large volume of leads that fit your ICP, are in your Target Accounts, at a fixed cost. With proper alignment and execution, third-party content syndication is a proven and predictable lead generation channel for B2B. It not only guarantees a certain number of leads at a specific price, but it also extends the life of your content assets. Third-party syndication is an opportunity to add an additional touchpoint for prospects in your target accounts that may not have responded in the other channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Display. A few B2B content syndication networks I would recommend checking out – Integrate, PureB2B, and Technology Advice.
We all know that content is king, but in B2B, thought leadership is the kingmaker. You should aspire to create a once in a career thought leadership asset for your product. Content so good, you have to share it with your audience. Great content is the fuel for growth, but also your inspiration, your muse. Achieving scale with thought leadership content can be achieved by distributing it through the first-party channels you control, and syndication across social ad campaigns and third-party publisher networks. Bringing your content to market is a marathon; it is not a sprint. Be patient and objective. Deeply understand the quantitative and qualitative goals and their impact on the business. And don’t let Cost-Per-Lead make you uncomfortable. Embrace it. Remember, you’re a badass B2B marketer, and your job is to generate revenue, not just leads.