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In the first of this three-part blog series derived from conversations at our annual Marketing Madness event held in March, we’ll discuss key takeaways from the event, including using a gated vs. ungated strategy, making content last and the importance of following up with leads.
In March we hosted our fourth annual Marketing Madness event where marketing leaders from Salesforce, CCC, Sprout Social and our own team held table discussions about the hottest new plays in content marketing. Conversations were inspired by brand-new data from our inaugural Future of B2B Content report, which explores how marketers are using content to generate real business impact and uncovers insights that will prove valuable for anyone tasked with moving the needle on business performance in the next 12 months. These are some of the key takeaways from the event:
Research from our Future of B2B Content report found that more than half of B2B marketers don’t gate any of their content. For them, serving as a resource to their target audience by giving them easy access to content outweighs any potential benefits of gating. The case for ungated content can be further backed up by looking at click-through-rates, with Bizible finding that their gated content had a 55% lower CTR when compared to their ungated content.
Emily Johnson, Senior Marketing Manager at Salesforce, has found a mix of gated and ungated content to be effective. Discussions at her table concluded that it’s best to have short-form thought leadership content such as blog posts, tip-sheets and case studies be ungated. By first showing off your company’s expertise for free with these ungated pieces, you can gain your audience’s trust and make your long-form content, such as signature research pieces or white papers, gated and part of your lead generation strategy. Marketers at the table led by Brendan Shea, VP of Creative Services at Walker Sands, agreed that people are more likely to exchange their information to get a longer piece of content – making gated long-form content a vital asset to lead generation.
But remember, gated access is not an all or nothing approach. You should evaluate the goal of each asset and offer a mix of gated and ungated content – occasionally even on the same piece of content. Alicia Johnston, Content and Communications Manager at Sprout Social, recommends teasing a gated report with smaller, ungated sections. Show people why they should invest in the full report, and they will fill out the form to get it. Of course, every audience is different. Don’t hesitate to test by channel, and A/B test gated vs. ungated content to find what method works best for you.
It’s easy to burn out your content creation team by trying to push something new all the time, which can lead to poor quality of work and a loss of trust in your brand. Event attendees at the Salesforce table urged marketers to avoid spending months on end to create a piece of content, only to quickly move onto the next. Instead, think about what you can do to get longevity out of your content.
People need to see something multiple times and in different ways in order to really remember it. Try making your 25-page research report memorable by turning it into 25 unique social media posts. Or, find statistics in your content and turn them into unique GIFs and graphics to get longevity out of content and catch your audience's attention. It might seem repetitive to push the same content over a long period, but success is about quality, not quantity. It’s better to get a long life span out of a great piece of content than to push out a plethora of mediocre work.
Imagine a lead fills out a form to download a piece of gated content – what will your company do next? Hopefully, follow up. A surprising amount of business is lost by simply not following up when someone shows interest.
Create a process for who, when and how lead follow-up happens. Attendees recommended going a step further and setting a goal time frame for turning a form fill into a sales qualified lead. If a prospect downloads a piece of content and indicates they want to be contacted by sales, your team can follow up with additional content specific to their interest and needs – further proving your value and moving them down the funnel.
For content to work as a lead gen tactic, knowing your audience is key, according to Tom Williams, VP of Marketing at CCC Information Services. If prospects are engaging with your content but are not expressing interest in hearing more, consider if you’re reaching the right people. Dig into your data to see how your audience is interacting with your content and keep your eyes peeled for potential roadblocks that could be stopping them for converting into an SQL. Then, use this information to make your lead gen efforts even stronger.
Marketing Madness offered a lot of interesting insights, and these key takeaways are only the beginning. In the next Marketing Madness blog post, we’ll discuss attendees’ tips for creating killer content.