In a case study on their blog Marketing Sherpa shared the incredible value of a real company’s B2B content marketing program.   Since this company took their program full speed in early 2010, here are the enviable results they have achieved.

  • 25% to 40% increase in revenue each quarter
  • Nearly double their average annual revenue per account
  • 70% increase in inbound leads
  • 20% increase in website traffic
  • 3-4x more site traffic on the blog than their website
  • Improving SEO Rankings for major keywords

The featured company was generous enough to share the outline of their program with Marketing Sherpa.  It’s a formula any company can follow, or at the very least use as a benchmark for their own efforts.

Five Steps to Sales Success with Content Marketing (via a Marketing Sherpa case study, May 12, 2011) (Apologies if the link no longer works, not all their content is evergreen).

Step #1. Create guidelines for messaging

Apply across every channel.

Step #2. Setup and monitor architecture

The client in the case study designed their program around the following channels:

  • Blog
  • Social media
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • LinkedIn
    • A local social network (unique to their geography)
    • PR

Step #3. Add more high-value content to the website

Premium content behind an opt-in form to grow database of new leads.

Step #4. Leverage automated marketing and respond quickly

Do not annoy or overwhelm.

Step #5. Measure, adjust and prioritize

The case study company monitors every source individually and tracks:

  • Number of leads captured
  • Ratio of leads to sales
  • Average value of sales
  • Average return-on-investment

Here’s the kicker. Marketing Sherpa claims, “Content marketing can increase the volume and quality of your site traffic, and doesn’t require a huge budget.  As this company shows, you can build a strategy from the ground up using mostly free tools and resources on hand.”

We wholeheartedly agree with the first assertion!  Content marketing can absolutely increase site volume and lead quality.  It’s the second part of that statement that we have to challenge.

Across all the companies we talk to and help launch their content marketing programs we continue seeing two big gotchas consistent with every program.   Yes, these challenges are surmountable, but don’t go in with blinders on!

Knowledge and Cost – Two Big Gotchas to Successful Content Marketing

First, there is a steep learning curve to launching content marketing and running these new types of lead generation programs. The marketing leader in Sherpa’s case study brought with them experience in designing and running in-bound / content marketing lead creation.  That’s a huge advantage over companies that have not done it before and lack the internal expertise of someone who has.

Talk to peers who have done this before and they will ALL tell you the same thing – it takes time and experience to get it working right.   Hire it, outsource it or engage consultants who have done it before.   You will save months of time vs. trying to learn it all on your own.    Look at our Lead ReadyTM offerings as an example of engaging short-term expertise to help you launch your program.

Second, a well running B2B content marketing program has costs, whether hard or soft, that companies need to anticipate. Don’t take Marketing Sherpa’s suggestion that “Content marketing… doesn’t require a huge budget,” or “you can build a strategy from the ground up using mostly free tools and resources on hand” to mean you won’t need to allocate budget and resource one way or another.   Here’s our quick summary of program expenses you need to anticipate.

  1. The cost of your marketing automation platform itself including software licensing, acquiring lists, and modifying your website to support the new platform.
  2. The cost of administering the program, creating the campaigns, messages and landing pages, mining the data, maintaining the databases and analyzing results.
  3. Engaging and managing the accompanying social media programs.  After all, social media is a big part of what makes these programs “in-bound”.  Getting your links, content, messages and ambassadors into all the relevant social media takes time and resources.  Those resources are either on your payroll or you will need to outsource the responsibility.
  4. Lastly, the content.  This company relied heavily on a company blog they launched as part of this initiative.   They also made the commitment to post at least five days a week, sometimes multiple times daily.  Later they added white papers, how-to articles and other ‘premium’ content.  They had members of their executive team (CEO included) writing posts and several members of the marketing team also became company ‘bloggers’.   None of these resources are free, nor cheap!

Does this mean you don’t make the commitment to Content Marketing?  Absolutely not!  It’s an imperative, a best practice and as these results show, a proven way to grow sales.  Go into it with your eyes open, but do it well and your ROI will make it all worth your while.