The 3 Crucial Stages of an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

There are three key stages of implementing a content-based lead generation strategy — content development, targeting and prospect nurturing — that marketers should take into account. However, they often focus on one stage more than the others, missing out on opportunities for optimization.

That is one of the findings of a study released Tuesday byNetLine, a B2B content syndication lead generation network that processes more than 700 thousand leads monthly across 300 industry sectors.

Homing In on the Right Target

In the past year, 65 percent of lead generation campaigns excluded 17 percent of the active marketing audience, comprised of influencers outside the C-suite, the study found.

Targeting professionals outside of senior leadership can build greater credibility throughout the buying committee, according to NetLine.

Among the study’s other findings:

  • Professionals in the advertising/marketing industry accounted for the highest volume of content consumption by industry sector, 16 percent;
  • Senior-level leadership, including vice presidents and C-level executives, accounted for less than 15 percent of consumption volume;
  • Marketing professionals who self-identified as having a general management job function drove 55 percent of total consumption volume;
  • Only 40 percent of campaigns run in the past 12 months did not apply industry-specific targeting; and
  • Just 19 percent of survey respondents identified a single target industry — most commonly retail and consumer goods, or computers and technology.

Balls in the Air

“Most companies recognize the need to focus on these three [content marketing] stages,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“To the best of their ability, they’re trying to juggle them all. How well they succeed depends largely on their resources,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

There is often only one person or a small team of content marketers, who often are also responsible for social media, noted Cindy Zhou, VP and principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Reorienting Marketing’s Focus

“Marketing has a very hard time reorienting itself to a new target,” observed Michael Jude, a research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“Once everyone in a marketing organization has been trained on a particular approach, and collateral has been written and printed, and a campaign built, this huge investment in time, effort and money is not easily discarded for a new approach,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Companies that want to extend their focus to all three areas first have to understand their audience and customer base, Constellation’s Zhou told the E-Commerce Times.

They need to know “the top industries, buyer roles, and the challenges they face so they can create a content map, then hire content marketing personnel accordingly,” she said. “The companies then need to develop a content strategy and map assets according to target account, industry, customer role and other factors.”

The solution is part technology and part bandwidth, Nucleus Research’s Wettemann noted.

“Having the software that supports each phase helps, but a lot of the reason companies … focus on one [area] more … is that they just don’t have big enough marketing departments to manage it all.”

It’s the Strategy, Stupid!

“You can’t market without content,” maintained Rebecca Lieb, a strategic advisor and author of Content – The Atomic Particle of Marketing.

“Without content, there’s no message, no meaning — no nothing,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

“Marketers tend to ignore strategy and pump out the content without enough thought as to who they’re reaching and at what stage in that journey, and what the goal is,” Lieb said.

It’s not the case that companies focus on one strategic area at the expense of others, she argued, contrary to the NetLine survey’s findings.

“Lead generation has to be based on content,” Lieb said. “Content strategy is the overarching strategy. Part of that is who’s the target audience, how to reach them, and how to nurture that audience. I don’t believe these are separate.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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