Two marketers walk into a bar and sit down during Content Marketing World (here’s what I learned there last year). They’re chatting about their respective content programs and challenges.
Marketer 1: What’s the primary goal of your content marketing program?
Marketer 2: Thought leadership. What’s yours?
Marketer 1: To drive high quality traffic with trusted content that yields subscribers so that by next year our nurture program generates 7% of pipeline and influences 40% of revenue.
Which content marketing program do you think will continue to get budget?
Perhaps that was a bit extreme, but it makes my point. I recently wrote Six Elements of a Results-Driven Content Marketing Strategy (subscription required) because I’d had far too many conversations with clients that sounded like “we aren’t sure our content marketing program is working/not getting enough out of it” despite the fact that they had no articulated strategy or clear goals. Our friends at CMI have shown that only 37% of B2B and 40% of B2C content marketers have a strategy. I have very little sympathy for the ‘it’s not working’ refrain if we can’t all agree on what IT was supposed to be in the first place.
Enter ‘thought leadership’.
More prevalent in B2B conversations – but sometimes also part of the B2C content dialog – this vague statement suggests that our idea, put into the wild will be so amazing that prospects will start banging on our doors. Thought leadership is giving content marketers a bad name.
- It means one thing to your CEO: maybe it’s his name in lights on MSNBC or quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
- It means another thing to your head of product: she might think it’s the product management team being asked to speak at industry events and getting retweets from industry analysts.
- It means another thing to the agency you hired to do it: they think it’s driving traffic (if you’re lucky, maybe even engagement and conversion) based on keyword terms that are relevant to your target audience.
- It means another thing to your customers: unique, helpful ideas that make them think differently and contribute to their success.
I’m not saying that it can’t be part of a goal – but the idea of thought leadership must be in service to an overarching business goal and you must have specific objectives and metrics that define whether you’ve achieved success.
That means content marketers – regardless of industry – have to keep getting more and more comfortable with measurement. In fact, it’s one of my key takeaways from last year. Content marketers have the greatest maturity gap when it comes to analytical muscle for their programs. We do a lot of research on that topic and I’ll be digging into it when I hop to CMWorld in Cleveland in two weeks where I am particularly excited about the ROI/Measurement track. I’d love to hear who is doing really well and who is struggling to connect the dots.
Will I see you there?