Content Marketing is a Commitment Not a Campaign
By Mike Pinckney
Generate Business By Committing To Content Marketing
Everybody wants the gold when it shines, but unfortunately it doesn’t come out of the ground in ready-made bricks. Like anything worth having, you have to work for it. I love content marketing because it’s one of those tactics where strong efforts equal results.
The issue people run into is the commitment. You can’t go on a coffee date with content marketing to see if you like it. You’re either all in, or you should never begin.
If you do decide to go for it, the results are very tangible and predictive but keep in mind this requires patience and a thorough understanding of timelines and deliverables.
Our Start With Inbound and HubSpot
Our Agency started using HubSpot (a sales and marketing software) over three years ago. At the time I didn’t understand what inbound marketing was or why I needed it. I thought I knew what marketing was and what it would be in the future, but it continues to surprise me.
Although I was on the fence about inbound marketing, I trusted my VP and reluctantly signed a commitment to HubSpot. Committing to HubSpot means signing a non–cancellable, annual contract. This might sound extreme, but it’s done for a reason. If HubSpot allowed businesses shorter-term contracts their retention rate would be poor. Marketers continually give up on Inbound before they are able to see their real ROI, because content takes time.
Patience is Key
There is a great deal of writing, planning, and executing involved in the inbound process before you will even begin to see your efforts paying off.
The good news is that once you develop a consistent and effective cadence, you’ll watch the lead faucet go from a slow drip to a nice even and predictable flow.
I’ll admit, at first I didn’t see the value.
About 90 days into the inbound efforts my lead flow and web traffic suddenly spiked almost overnight. I got excited, but not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I credited the spike to my recent search engine marketing efforts.
In my mind, HubSpot and the content plan my team had been executing had nothing to do with it. So I threw even more money into SEM and what do you know, the lead flow kept climbing—I was a genius!
I thought I had finally dialed in on my paid efforts until the same VP who introduced me to HubSpot walked into my office to share some results.
The Eye-Opening Results
My VP asked me two questions: How many leads did I think PPC delivered? And how many of those leads turned to sales?
I didn’t know for sure. To be honest, I didn’t think it could be measured. But I did know my lead flow was solid. She began by telling me how much I had spent in the past year, to which I raised my eyebrow, but as long as I was seeing results I wasn’t bothered.
She then told me how many leads I had and from what source. I was impressed. Again, I didn’t think we could source it.
She finished with how many of those leads I closed from search engine marketing. I closed ONE and I had spent thousands of dollars to get it.
Entering The World of Inbound
In this moment, I started attending the inbound marketing meetings and became a true believer. I had come from a world where you could put something ‘on air’ and things would just happen, and that world was changing on me.
I often say that if I knew what was needed to know to start a marketing firm, then I wouldn’t have done it. There is so much you have to understand to be relevant in today’s environment, traditionally or inbound-ly. It’s necessary to completely understand and do it correctly or you will find yourself frustrated with the results (or lack of).
One of my favorite sayings when talking about “doing it right” is “businesses don’t have the time or money to do it right, but they have the time and money to do it again.” There are no shortcuts when it comes to content marketing. People want the results, but the path to your sales qualified leads is not linear.
As an agency we went through a lot to get to where we are today. I personally did what most people do when they get excited about something–I jumped in with both feet and consumed as much information as I could. I went to the conferences. I pitched and landed the business, but sadly we were not immediately successful with it.
There can be a lot of anxiety when you first enter the world of inbound.
We quickly noticed that expectations in both the time it takes and the type of leads involved in our estimates became a huge customer disconnect.
You can tell someone how long it will take and about the different leads types, but they sometimes hear and interpret things independent of your intention. You can explain to them the process and the predictive modeling, but at the end of the day all they hear and care about is that one magic word…”lead.”
Leads, Leads, Leads
Content marketing is a lead generation machine, but not all leads are created equal. This was one of the biggest lessons of inbound marketing. You need to establish with clients that there are different types of leads and the type determines how you should engage.
Three buckets of leads:
Top of the funnel leads – TOFU
Middle of the funnel leads – MOFU
Bottom of the funnel leads – BOFU
The leads most people care about are BOFU. These are your sales ready leads–the people we are trying to get to your sales department. However, this is where we saw a lot of people making mistakes.
A lot of businesses treat the TOFU and the MOFU offers the exact same way. They would see a lead come in and immediately engage in a typical sales conversation, but the TOFU and the MOFU leads are not ready for the sales floor.
These are the people who took interest in your content and need to be handled independently of the way you would treat a BOFU offer. You do not want your sales person opening up the conversation with these people the same way as a BOFU offer. The TOFU and MOFU are in different stages of a research and discovery process. If you don’t follow the funnel, you will be very unhappy with the result of your content marketing efforts and you will largely miss its purpose.
Continue Content, Continue Growth
Content marketing is not the solution to every business, but content marketing when properly executed can be very powerful. The biggest trap to preventing it’s success are commitment and lead handling.
You have to come up with a plan and be diligent on its execution. It is very easy to fall out of step and that can be lethal if you just started to establish a degree of momentum.
The other very important thing I will leave you with is that sales and marketing must align. If you cannot get the proper lead handling then content marketing is not right for you.
However, if you can get them involved and engaged the right way, then there will be nothing that can stop your business from growing.