Demand Generation’s Problem with Content Marketing Evangelism

I had my heart broken at Content Marketing World in Ohio this week.

I was very pleased to return to Cleveland for my sixth #CMW, and curious to see what was new at the show as I had missed last year’s event. Event founder Joe Pulizzi came back from a 9-month sabbatical (and 30-day technology detox) refreshed and inspired, delivering an aspirational keynote advising focus, dedication to your goals, and empathy and awareness for the good of others as well as yourself.

But then he went and said something that made my Content Marketing kool-aid turn a little bit sour.

The Good
Now don’t get me wrong, there were some great sessions and great takeaways. In one of the opening day keynote sessions, Robert Rose spoke to the “trust” factor in your content and how your audience needs to trust you and trust that you know what you are talking about. Trust that you are there to help them solve their problems and meet their goals. This is absolutely true.

The single biggest hole in the content lineup of practically every client I have worked with is at the top of the funnel, which is your first chance to establish credibility and build trust. This is your opportunity to educate your prospective buyer about the implications of that problem they know they have (but are not motivated to solve right now). If you show them you understand their pains and priorities, acknowledge the difficulty in changing the status quo, and above all provide advice that is helpful (no matter whether they become a customer) then when they are ready to buy they will remember you. They trust you, because you earned it.

The single biggest hole in the content lineup of practically every client I have worked with is at the top of the funnel, which is your first chance to establish credibility and build trust.

Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media Studios delivered an amazing talk on Content Strategy and SEO for Lead Generation that was interesting, funny and devastatingly blunt while tipping over some Content Marketing sacred cows. That blog you spend so much time on? It is “abysmal” for generating leads. But it is vitally important. When you regularly post quality content to the blog, people will link to it. These links give your site authority – which improves ranking – which can drive more organic traffic to the site – which you can guide to the pages and content that are good at generating leads.

Andrew Davis reminded us that content does not need to be short, “snackable” or bite-sized. We do not need to default to the short form, we just need to make sure our longer-form content is worth consuming. You need to structure (and promote) your content in a way that ensures you educate and entertain them with all of what you want them to know before they get to what they expected to learn. When someone says your content is too long, they are actually saying “I have no more questions” — because you told them everything they were expecting to learn from you already.

The Bad
So what did Joe say? What has been eating at me for the past two days? Why am I being so dramatic?

He said that if your primary Content Marketing goal is more leads or more money, then you are wrong. It needs to be serving the audience.

Oh, Joe. Why do they need to be mutually exclusive? And why are the needs of those folks creating content specifically for Demand Generation so easily dismissed?

Joe, meet Jane. Jane creates content for demand generation, and the one and only goal of her entire department is to generate leads that turn into pipeline and revenue (more leads, more money). She does this to help her company grow and meet its goals. She would not have this sweet job in Content Marketing at this company if her content did not generate demand (more leads, more money). If Jane’s content doesn’t help generate demand (more leads, more money) she will lose that sweet job. And Joe Pullizi, the single biggest influencer in Content Marketing, just told her that the metrics (more leads, more money) that her team are measured by are not important.

The Ugly
Let’s unpack this, but I want to be clear. It is not that I think you should ignore the needs of your audience in favor of the “pursuit of the lead.” This is a no-brainer. Jane has to serve the needs of her audience or her content will not work. Successful content strategy is dependent upon an understanding of the buyer and creating the content they need to serve their needs during every step of their decision-making process, and believe me when I say I believe that you need to create content with the aim of helping your customers.

So no, I’m not the Grinch – my heart is not two sizes too small. It’s not that I don’t want to help my customers, it’s just that I also need to help my salespeople. If I don’t, marketing loses credibility and I might lose my job. And yes, in a way Joe is correct in saying that your primary focus needs to be the audience … but here’s the thing:

It is a mistake to dismiss revenue generation as a valid, important goal (and KPI) for your Content Marketing.

The Reason
This persistent bias against revenue-focused content performance goals is likely borne from the persistent inability of so many marketers to effectively, accurately demonstrate the direct impact of any of their marketing activities on revenue and growth.

In other words, it is easier to say it isn’t important than it is to learn how to do it.

It is a mistake to dismiss revenue generation as a valid, important goal (and KPI) for your Content Marketing.

I went to one session where the speaker (from one of the sponsors of the event) shared a Google spreadsheet that folks could use to do a content audit to help evaluate the performance of their content. I was excited, so went to check it out because it is a company I have a lot of respect for. There are 18 columns to collect data, and the very last one was “New Leads Generated.” I approached her at their booth the next day to thank her for the sheet but asked her about what was missing. Opportunities were missing, pipeline was missing, revenue was missing.

She thanked me for the feedback, but then asked me “but how do I get that data?” I walked her through some steps like tracking every content interaction at the lead/contact level and tying those individuals to opportunities. Closing the loop. It requires a lot of setup, and diligence in tracking. But adds a whole new layer of credibility and understanding to what is really working.

Am I off base here? Or am I wrong in thinking that Demand Generation gets the short end of the stick at conferences like this? Or, even better, are you looking to close that loop and learn more about tying your Content Marketing to revenue? Let’s Connect.

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