Why Good Content Delivers Bad Leads

Your Leads Are Crap!! [Man yelling at cowering marketer]Congratulations, you are a B2B content marketer.

You have created a great industry blog and library of premium content. You promote your content through search, social, emails, newsletters, even banners.

You are seeing strong traffic, engagement with your blog content and a steady increase in registrations for your premium content.

There’s just one little problem: the leads are crap.

Ok, there are a few good opportunities mixed in, but most are not the decision makers you need to reach or they are from businesses that are too small. Others simply aren’t interested.

Education Is About Aspiration

Your content doesn’t tell people how to buy from you or why they should buy from you. It educates and informs. It focuses on their pains, priorities and opportunities, not yours. As it should.

Somewhere along the line, marketers forgot that people get an education because of who they want to become, not who they are today.

So why do you expect the people who register for your educational content will be appropriate prospects today?

Embrace the Bad Leads

No, of course you don’t want to focus on just getting more leads that aren’t in your market. But embrace the fact your content draws an audience looking for the information you are offering!

  1. Take a long term view. If you are just looking at the immediate results from your program, you are overlooking much of the value your content marketing program is creating.
  2. Segment and nurture responders. Some contacts will be appropriate for immediate followup or a nurture program built around an active buyers journey. Others should be added to a slow drip that continues to educate and provide additional stage zero content.

An all too common mistake is to focus on content that is only useful to immediate prospects. Unfortunately, this approach generally drops your content into the tactical weeds. Here are two (barely) fictitious examples: How SolutionX Integrates With Oracle or Migrating Your Email Program to ProviderY.

When someone is interested in this content, they are already seriously investigating a change and perspectives from your competitors, not you, have shaped their view of that change.

For mid-market and large companies looking to be leaders in their market, you cannot afford to leave that educational and stage zero content to your competitors.

So embrace the aspirations of the people drawn to your content and the opportunity you have to continue educating them.

Your Turn

Have you embraced educating your marketplace with your content, including those that aspire to be in your market one day? If not, why not? I’d love to hear your view in the comments below, on Twitter (@wittlake) or on Google+.

Photo Credit: gideon_wright via Flickr cc

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  • Eric,

    This is a very good point you are making. What it tells me is that buyers are in control; all you can do is keep educating them till they are ready and.most likely, they will come to you since you helped them along.

  • JeanneBrown

    Eric, Thanks for this. I love that you’re reminding us to take the long term view, but that’s a hard sell to business leaders. I think we need to add a step 1a or step 3 to also educate sales or the client or whomever about the benefits of building an audience for the future. Too often, marketing is measured on immediate results –usually leads — which means that’s what they’ll focus on.

    • Thanks Jeanne. I definitely agree. I’m a big proponent of taking a really long term view whenever you can: students? Perfect! Junior staff? Get them in your camp now! One of the great things about content marketing is you can afford to educate these audiences, it is a side benefit of what you are already doing instead of representing a direct and incremental investment.

      I think the other implication though is we need to not call them all leads. Marketers get a bad rap when they toss contacts over the wall to sales, even though a “lead score” says they are ready, just because they downloaded certain pieces of content. Wanting to be educated, and having a need to buy, may be correlated but they certainly aren’t equal.

      Thanks, as always, for adding!

  • ITBusiness+

    Eric, though I loved your article, I am yet to understand how getting leads that are completely useless today will become leads that add to my revenue in future !!! Can you help me understand this?

    • Sure, two ways:

      1. Some people simply aren’t ready to engage today, but are potential future buyers, in their current role and company.

      2. Others are at the wrong kind of company, but with many people switching jobs every couple years, don’t dismiss the value of educating them, particularly since you can do so with very little incremental investment.

      More on nurturing these kinds of people here: http://b2bdigital.net/2013/06/26/nurture-programs-you-need/

      That said, the other point I was trying to make is if you are publishing valuable, helpful content, you will get some leads that aren’t valuable to you today. Don’t knock the program or content because of it, it may actually be a sign that you are doing something valuable in the market. Instead, take the time to review everyone that is coming in and focus on the leads that are valuable today or have potential to be valuable in the future. You didn’t pay extra for the contacts that aren’t valuable, so don’t knock the program because of them.

      Hopefully that helps to clarify!

      • ITBusiness+

        Thanks for the taking the time out to explain !

  • Good article Eric. I have seen this in several content marketing campaigns. The quick jump to solutions. Marketing leaders should take heed to your message. All too often, there is a stated objective of reaching a certain number of leads in a quarter with no consideration of nurturing. Bad objectives lead to bad behavior which leads to bad content. Spot on Eric!

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  • Trent

    Great article. Depending on the size/length of your business it may have opened up an opportunity within a new audience/target market you didn’t think you were playing ball with. Is an additional audience such a bad thing…..it is about opportunities isn’t it?

  • Why is your image depicting a woman getting abused?

    • Unfortunately, I saw it as the common (unaligned) sales and marketing relationship, with sales complaining and marketing often cowering.

      Had I seen it as abuse, I wouldn’t have used it, thank you for flagging. I will have a more critical eye on future images. Thank you.

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