With almost half of marketers plan to continue implementing a content syndication strategy or start one, it’s one of the fastest growing B2B channels this year. A group of experts came together to discuss best practice and how to stay ahead of this fast and furious curve:
- Chris Vandermarel, Director of Demand Gen at PathFactory
- Dana Harder, VP of Strategy at Content4Demand
- Brooke Giroux, Senior Manager of Digital Operations at IDG
- Kate Athmer, Director of Demand Orchestration at Integrate
Watch the whole recording:
These are the highlights from the hour-long *live* broadcast:
How do people see content syndication currently working in marketing strategies today?
Brooke: Overall you want it to be part of your greater marketing strategy. So you not only want to have that content syndication piece, but you also need the greater Demand Gen strategy in place as well.
Dana: Content syndication becomes critical for making sure we are bringing in that fresh blood to our ecosystem and the Demand Gen system as a whole.
It’s a challenge to get content seen by news eyes today so content syndication is more important than ever. If we’re not refreshing the top of the funnel with new leads, we’re just hitting the same people over and over again.
Chris: That’s an interesting point that leads to other questions:
How do you know when you should repurpose content versus create net new assets?
Dana: Repurposing is a great way to get content in front of people, even the same people. Buyers tend to forget the content they’ve seen. Content is a huge investment everyone not just from a cost perspective, but time investment too. So the more we can reuse, refresh, repackage, the more you can fill your funnel for longer periods of time.
Chris: Absolutely. If we produce a 20 page eBook, we will create more content by breaking it up into smaller pieces, say 5 blog posts.
Kate: Repurposing also serves people who respond differently to different content types. I’m one of those people who won’t watch a video. But if you give me a checklist or infographic, I’m all over it. You really just need to test it out figure out how to reach the whole buying committee. When it comes to content syndication, it’s also important to ask your publishers what resonates with their audience. Really establish a relationship with them and figure out what content is going to convert.
Clearly, it takes time and deep consideration to get content syndication right. So is it worth it? Do the pros outweigh the cons?
What do people see as the main advantages, and the disadvantages of content indication?
Kate: For me, the disadvantage is that leads coming from content syndication need a lot more nurturing. Since they come in a bit more blind, they need a lot more education. You can’t send one of these leads right to sales because they’ll be like “I didn’t visit your website, who are you? Why are you calling me?”. At the same time, content syndication is kinda the only way you can use your content at scale. You’ve got to leverage other sites to expand your reach.
Brooke: The buying process is becoming shorter and more urgent and more complicated at the same time. We do a customer engagement study every year at IDG. One interesting finding from it is that
the average IT decision maker consumes seven pieces of content throughout their buyer journey.
What are your best practices for follow-up on leads that come in via content syndication? And how do communicate with your sales team along the way?
Dana: If content syndication is part of a larger campaign, I’m making sure we educate the sales team from the beginning. We know salespeople don’t want to read everything so we provide a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ style version for them. We give them the highlights: what the content is about and the journey a lead might have gone through to get to them as well as some talking points. It’s key because they want to have intelligent conversations and we need to arm them with tools to be successful.
We need to switch up our organizational mindset. It’s about quality over quantity, which is hard when we’re investing all that money, right?!
Dana: So you get your click. Now a lead may come in and view that one piece of content but if they aren’t served a next step they’ll walk away. As marketers, you need to give them the opportunity to interact more so they can reach that 7-piece of content threshold. How are you providing more opportunities to get offer more content at the right time?
Brooke: We actually use the PathFactory platform to engage buyers with multiple pieces of content. We package editorial or client sponsored content and we see a 42% lift in engagement across the board. 62% of people want to receive additional related content, so why not follow up with an analyst piece or whitepaper? And then further down the line an ROI calculator or demo? Nurture, nurture, nurture!
[Promise we didn’t pay Brooke to say that. Our customer just love us, what can we say?]
Chris: I love that. I think a huge area of opportunity is nurture based on interest. They’ve already revealed something directly about their area of interest, so it make sense to follow up with more content you know they want.
Kate: A little hack that we recommend to our clients and our customers is to make sure every piece of content that you are using for content syndication has a CTA, ideally two. We always offer a main CTA that points to another piece of content, and then we offer a secondary CTA that points to our website. So the instant they act they have another place to go to continue their research.
Chris: We are definitely advocates of the ‘no dead-ends’ way of thinking as well. In the age of Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify, consumers are used to uninterrupted sequences.
Your B2B buyer is the same person as the B2C consumer. So offering CTAs in content syndication provides your buyers the continuous journey they’re expecting.
Dana: We’re also big proponents of multiple CTAs leading to other content within content. I encourage my team to think outside the box and get creative. Embed links in PDFs, offer CTAs earlier in your content as well as at the end.
How do you select the right content syndication vendor to work with?
Brooke: I’m obviously biased to IDG as a vendor, but overall I’d say select a reputable vendor that has a strong presence within the market you’re targeting.
Kate: Start with working out your personas and being clear on how they’re doing their research.
Don’t tie yourself to one publisher. Talk to them about what content works best on which sites, what their personas look like and ask your peers in the industry where they get good quality contacts from. Then run some tests.
Chris: You’ll get some diminishing returns if you work with the same publishers for long periods of time.
In your experience with publishers and syndication partners, how is GDPR and privacy regulations being handled?
Kate: Firstly, you have to know what the rules are. We put source agreements in place with any publisher we’re working with. Our software helps document those agreements and facilitates secure data transfer so that’s great news for us! What’s nice about content syndication when it comes to GDPR is that you may not be able to buy the list but you can record the opt-in.
It’s also important for us to be good marketers and not spam people. So talk to your publisher about their methods of collecting leads and make sure it aligns with your values.
Brooke: IDG is a global company so while GDPR is focused in the EU it’s forced us to look at our practices overall. We’ve added a level of detail, especially on registration forms, that allows people to see who the publishing partner is. GDPR is forcing us all to be smarter overall about our practices. Instead of blasting emails to a huge list each month we’re now a lot more targeted and focused.
GDPR has lead to better overall health of the database. We’ve taken GDPR practices and started applying it other markets, assuming that will come at some point too.
Content syndication takes time and resources. How do you make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck?
Kate: At the risk of being product pitch-y, Integrate’s platform allows contact data to be transferred from publishers to customers. And helps document compliance along the way and keep reporting all in one place. Many marketers are scrubbing spreadsheets and formatting headers every time you add a publisher. That won’t work at scale, you need a tool to alleviate that manual work. That way you can spend your time doing the research and making smart marketing decisions.
Dana: A lot of content syndication decisions are made in silos when they could really be made simultaneously to save time. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Plan ahead and make sure all the pieces around content syndication–content production, vendor research, building the campaign etc.–are lined up.
So many moving pieces which highlights the importance of alignment across the marketing organization. We talk a lot about sales and marketing alignment, but what about marketing and marketing alignment? Demand Gen folks put a lot of research and time into finding the right partner but may not put the same thought behind the content they serve.
How do you make sure you’re serving the perfect pieces of content in your content syndication campaigns?
Dana: This comes down to doing foundational work up front. If we’ve got a content audit and we’ve aligned our content and we know what we have to those different messages and those different personas, Demand Gen should have a really easy time to be able to go through the audit and choosing the right content for the right content syndication opportunity.
Brooke: You definitely need to communicate within the marketing team and I’d involve sales in those conversations every once in a while as well. They’re the ones reach out to your audience so getting their feedback is crucial.
Any practices or programs you find work particularly well (or not well) when it comes to content syndication?
Brooke: When content spans the buyer’s journey it tends to perform better overall. You have the opportunity to engage someone initially and can then work them through their research process. Filling the pipeline brings more value to the table and gets your key points across.
Kate. We see best returns when there’s a process around the content in place. So not only do the research on publishers and content but also have a nurture preemptively set up. This way you have things planned from end-to-end including how you’re going to ensure the best leads are getting fast-tracked through the nurture and to BDRs. Being careful about only sending ICPs to sales ensures you’re not wasting their time.
Dana: I’d add on:
Give your sales team a heads up and let them know how to treat content syndication leads differently based on the content they’ve consumed, or the number of pieces.
How do you think of the relative value of a click from syndication?
Kate: The value will be determined by what you do with them next. If they turn into a customer the value is the same regardless. However, a click from content syndication usually means they come in at a different point in their journey and they’ll need more education. You have to expect they aren’t ready to talk to sales and will need a lot more nurture. So it may take more time but it doesn’t mean they are less valuable leads.
Let’s talk measurement: How do you know if your content syndication worked and actually helped someone move forward in their buying process?
Brooke: Content syndication is generally hard to measure, it depends on the systems and platforms you have in place. An email provider lets you track things on a high level but platforms like PathFactory can tell us actually engagement time. Overall, conversion to an opportunity is the best way to measure ROI.
Kate: Best to keep goals really simple and measure what you can with the tools you have available.
When determining the success of your content syndication programs, it’s also important to look at the performance and quality of the actual content. If you’re not seeing results that could be the culprit.
Dana: To Kate’s point, if you can start to move toward interactive content you can look at performance of the content on the backend. If nobody is making it past the first page of your eBook, maybe it’s the eBook that’s the problem. Marketers have the opportunity to take measurement further.
Chris: I’ve had successful ROI with a lot of good content syndication I’ve done simply because you’re only paying for good leads. If you have good content and a good product the marketplace needs, you’re inevitably going to find positive ROI with these programs.