B2B Content Marketing: Why Strategy Still Matters for SEO & Sales 

Nick Arnaiz

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Today we're discussing Content Marketing for B2B. We'll talk about funnel alignment with assets, how to tell what is performing and what isn't, and we'll get into the exciting new research by Ascend2. To that end, our special guest today is Todd Lebo, Partner and CMO at Ascend2. His background includes more than 20 years of marketing and content experience with MarketingSherpa, Kiplinger and the National Institute of Business Management. You can grab a copy of his research report entitled "Strategies, Tactics, and Trends for Content Marketing Engagement" at this link:https://research.ascend2.com/2019-content-marketing-engagement/LeadCrunch[ai] uses artificial intelligence to drastically improve the performance of B2B demand generation campaigns through account-based "lookalike" modeling. Click the link for more information. https://www.leadcrunch.com/solutions/

Posted by LeadCrunch on Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hosts: Dave Green & Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): Todd Lebo

Topic: B2B Content Marketing 

Subtopic: Sales Funnel Content 

Duration: 28 minutes

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, seasoned marketing experts discuss B2B content marketing with guest Todd Lebo. 

TL;DR

  • Introducing Todd Lebo,  CMO of Ascend2, AKA ‘The Man’
  • The Relationship Between Engagement & High Quality Sales Leads  
  • Understanding Content Needs For Every Stage of the Funnel 
  • How Should You Measure Your B2B Content Marketing Campaigns?
  • An Easy, Actionable Tip From the Sales Lion
  • How Your Business Model Will Informs Your Revenue Attribution
  • Strategy, Home Buying & Construal Theory
  • Why Research is Good for Rapid Growth in Brand Awareness & SEO
  • Pro Tip on How to Build Industry Cred Fast 
  • SPORTS

Podcast Transcript

[INTRODUCTION]

[0:00:07.9] ANNOUNCER: Live from the city with the most perfect weather ever, San Diego, California, all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Green and Jonathan Greene, goofing off instead of working, while unlocking the mysteries of demand gen. The Green & Greene Show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which creates B2B look-alike audiences.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:37.6] JG: Uh-oh. It’s Green & Greene Show time. Prepare yourselves. I’m Jonathan Greene, obviously. I’m here with the Sultan of Sales, the Commissar of KPI. We’ve got Dave Green. I’ve also got Todd Lebo. He’s here to talk about some fresh, smoking hot, right-off-the-presses research. You will be a complete fool if you don’t sit and listen to this. How’s it going, fellas?

[0:00:59.6] TL: It’s going great. Thank you for having me.

Introducing Todd Lebo,  CMO of Ascend2, AKA ‘The Man’

[0:01:03.4] JG: It’s my pleasure. Todd, if you don’t know, is a partner and the chief marketing officer at Ascend2. He’s been doing marketing and content for 20 or more years with names like MarketingSherpa, Kiplinger, and the National Institute of Business Management. We’re not talking about some old scrub content marketer. We’re talking about “The Man” is in the house.

[0:01:27.1] TL: You got the old part right.

[0:01:30.6] JG: Well, welcome. Listen, I took a look at this thing and I was surprised at some of the stuff that I saw actually. I was surprised to find that SEO was the lowest primary objective for content marketing and brand awareness was the highest. What do you think about that?

[0:01:47.6] TL: It’s interesting. A couple thoughts on, a lot of times, how people rank things. Sometimes, I think, if they’re having a hard time moving their SEO, they just don’t prioritize it high, because maybe they haven’t had a whole lot of success with it before. I always encourage people. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t necessarily mean they need to shove it to the end of their priority list. I think, sometimes, that might be one of the reasons. I mean, SEO has got to be up there higher, because you can have the best offer, the best product, but nobody knows about you. You’re not going to have a whole lot of sales, unless you have the guru over there, Dave, selling your things.

[0:02:29.7] JG: You should all be so lucky. Personally for you, what are the biggest takeaways from that research? Guys, if you don’t know, I dropped a link to this research product down in the description. Go ahead and click on that. They’re charging the low-low price of your e-mail address for it. Totally worth it. I can vouch for a fact that they don’t spam you or any nonsense. Just go ahead and grab that. What were your biggest takeaways, Todd?

The Relationship Between Engagement & High Quality Sales Leads  

[0:03:00.6] TL: Well, okay, a couple of things I thought was when we looked at it. This is all about engagement. How do you get people involved? How do you get them starting to talk about your company, get involved in your content? We’re looking at that. When we looked at the challenges, and I think it really aligns a little bit with what you guys really are good at, but it’s improving sales quality leads.

David, I know you and I have done research in the past. Anytime you talk about lead generation, you talk about quality and this balance that people have on quantity versus quality. You can just see here that aspect of, “We need people to engage with us and our content,” but it has to be in these stages where you’re getting higher quality sales leads for your sales guys. Yeah, that jumped out right away. I don’t know what you thought, Dave, looking at it, but that was one point that I saw.

[0:04:08.7] DG: Yeah, I love this benchmark research. Todd, you and I have been involved with benchmark research for since before you started with Ascend, back in the MarketingSherpa days. As long as I can remember, there has been a high priority on improving lead quality for demand gen marketers. I think they really struggle with it, because they also have somebody whipping them saying, “You’ve got to get to a certain volume.”

[0:04:42.7] TL: Right.

[0:04:43.4] DG: Those two things usually come into conflict a little bit.

[0:04:47.5] TL: Yeah, it’s funny. We’re here a day away from the end of the month, and I always feel at the end of the month, the quantity tends to rule. Everybody, at the beginning of the month, is talking about quality and, “Oh, we need to have higher quality leads.” Everybody’s somewhat patient at the beginning of the month. By the end of the month, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, why don’t we have X number of leads?” I mean, we’re creatures of habit, but I don’t know, Dave. I know you’re more closely tied into this, maybe, than I am, but that’s what I see.

[0:05:22.1] DG: Yeah, yeah. Actually, it gets really crazy at the end of a quarter.

[0:05:27.5] TL: Yeah, it can. You used to have hair before the end of the quarter.

[0:05:34.8] DG: Todd, what has your research shown about ways where content marketing can actually help with driving higher quality leads?

Understanding Content Needs For Every Stage of the Funnel 

[0:05:46.0] TL: Yeah. There are a couple of things we see. One is determining what type of content you need at different stages of the funnel. For example early on you might need to just educate people on the fact that there is a problem they need to solve, or that there’s a need for a product. You don’t necessarily need to tell them it’s your product yet, but you need to make them realize that they have a problem, and that’s certain type of content. Benchmark research can be really good for that identifying what the problem is.

Then, you start getting into that aspect of, “Well, what are the solutions?” building trust with your brand, and maybe some case studies and things of that nature, looking at the type of content you need at various stages and all based on trying to build trust. That was one of the data points that we saw on the data. I’m going to look to the side, because I have the data over here, but it was asking what type of content is most trusted by audiences. For example, number one was researching case studies, infographics, photos, blog posts, it goes down. You really should download the report to see all the data, but you’re building that trust, getting people comfortable with you. Then, as they do, they’re going to take that next step and talk to a salesperson and hopefully purchase.

Get the eBook “How to Win the Love of Sales “

[0:07:24.0] DG: Yeah. I think we’re in an age of distrust with folks. You see, part of the rise of social media is just to be able to have a way to go ask somebody besides the vendor what they think, the rise of these review sites like G2 Crowd and Software Advice. There’s so much hype out there that trust is really breaking down, and it’s easy for people to exaggerate. I think that’s one of the reasons that they’re ranking benchmark and case studies higher. What have other people said about this? Who do you know that’s actually used this darn thing and having success with it? It’s actually not a very surprising outcome. It makes total sense.

[0:08:08.8] TL: Dave, when we used to work together at MarketingSherpa, they had this great vision. Early on, they knew that to really grab the attention of marketers, it was all about case studies, but case studies with the marketer. You’re not with the vendor, but with the marketer. Getting them up there and talking about the nitty-gritty. What do the numbers say? What did they do? How do they do it? How did it work? What were the challenges along the way? All those things. You can probably go through your products and some of the questions that you get from your customers and start using that as the basis for some of the content you create, answering those questions. By the time they get to your site, they’ve probably done a lot more research about you than you’re controlling. Yeah. I think you have to adapt.

[0:09:10.6] DG: Yup, absolutely.

How Should You Measure Your B2B Content Marketing Campaigns?

[0:09:13.0] JG: In looking at a couple of the key outcomes of your survey, I think I’ve found a misalignment, or at least it appears to be misalignment to me. Leads generated is sourced as a top metric. This is how people are measuring their content marketing. The top objective is brand awareness. Is there a misalignment there in the way that marketers are approaching content marketing, or at least measuring it, in your opinion?

[0:09:39.5] TL: There probably is. I think a lot of that has to do with maybe comfort level. Brand awareness has always been a challenge to quantify. I think, for example, leads generated is the important metric and it’s also something you can easily quantify. I think sometimes that goes into play. Brand awareness is always a tricky metric to get your arms around. We are finding more and more that marketers are sucking it up and trying to get metrics that are maybe a little bit more difficult to bring together but are very revealing. They reveal, I think, maybe what’s really working for a customer or for client.

[0:10:31.9] JG: Yeah. I love what you said a minute ago, because we spend a lot of time trying to consult with people and counsel people on aligning in their content marketing efforts with the various stages of the funnel. I think your response was pretty intuitive. You simply take whatever questions you’re getting from people at various stages of the funnel and just answer them with content and then curate it back to the market at large. That’s probably a pretty good starting point for strategy.

An Easy, Actionable Tip From the Sales Lion

[0:10:58.6] TL: It is. I remember a case study by Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. He had a pool company. He realized that he needed more content marketing to generate high-quality leads. He just went out to his salespeople and said, “What are the top five questions that we get from customers?” After he put all that together and made this top 10 list, he wrote his first 10 blog posts addressing those, and everything went from there. Just applying logic and information you have hopefully at your disposal with your analytics and with your marketing and sales professionals.

[0:11:44.4] JG: How can you tell when it’s working? This is a question that I get a lot. People want to know, “My content marketing, is it working, or is it not?” presumably with some mechanism other than lead generation. I tend to think that people don’t ask that question if their content marketing is generating a ton of leads. If it’s not, how else can you look at this thing to see if you’re skinning the cat correctly?

[0:12:08.8] TL: There were no injuries to cats in the making of this production. 

Well, it’s interesting. For example, this week, one of my clients came back and they ended up doing multiple programs with us. The metric they were looking at was a multi-touch, recurring revenue. To them, they’re a software company. Their model is recurring revenue. They were, I think, wise enough to look at multiple touches, not just looking and attributing the revenue to the first touch of a lead coming in, but looking at the eight to 10, 20 touches that that lead had, attributing revenue to those various touches.

How Your Business Model Informs Your Revenue Attribution

That gave them, I think, a much clearer picture of the success of the program. I think you really have to look at your business model. We don’t like to make things complex, but I think we do have to start getting a little bit more complex in looking at multiple touches, the journey that somebody goes through to make a sale. Until we get there, until we go through the hard work of figuring that out, I think we’re always going to have the danger of making bad decisions; first decisions on how this campaign worked. You might find out later it didn’t work as well as you thought, and maybe other campaigns worked better. I don’t know if I’m talking in circles, David, but I think those are some of the things I’ve been seeing with just adding layers to your analytics.

[0:14:01.9] DG: No, it makes perfect sense. We’ve actually talked quite a bit about the funnel and attribution here with different guests. I think one of the things I learned from one of the guys that you and I both know, John Powell, is it’s like that old carpenter thing: cut once, measure twice. Marketing is like that. You have to measure it from a number of different angles, sometimes, to really get clarity on what’s happening and why it’s happening in order to be able to even ask the right questions.

I think, sometimes, in our rush to make sure we’ve checked the box on 14 different things we ought to do, we don’t always take the time to slow down and just measure things and ask ourselves why.

[0:14:47.7] TL: Right. Sometimes we’re a little bit too quick to judgment.

[0:14:51.4] DG: Yup.

[0:14:52.8] JG: Again, I’m looking at the survey. I don’t want to give away all your cool stats, but it doesn’t seem like content marketing is waning. I’ve heard a lot of talk about peak content and this and that and the other, and how the internet had become so dense with content, that it wasn’t worth doing anymore. Looking at your research, a vast majority of people say that they’re going to either moderately or significantly increase their content marketing spend. Put on your futurist hat for a minute and tell me what this is going to look like in a couple of years and how we can prepare ourselves for it.

[0:15:27.8] TL: I see the trend continuing. The trend we’re seeing is definitely that marketers are seeing it’s not about making mass quantities of content, but making more targeted or higher quality content and probably repurposing things in a strategic way. I think there was that point where it’s just about getting as much content out as possible. Now we’re realizing that that’s just a lot of white noise.

If you can have your stamp on something, whether it be maybe a cool research study that’s helpful for your audience or some case studies and how-tos to really clarify not only what to do, but how to do it, and you’re putting it very strategically in that funnel, that’s where content marketing is going is really getting them aligned to the various stages of the sales process.

Even having multiple funnels. For example, here at Ascend2, we sell a lot to agencies and we sell to software companies, beta companies, marketing technology firms. It’s really a different sales process. The needs and what they’re looking for are very different, and we have to break out our content and our marketing to them in two distinct ways and really look at what we’re providing each audience. I think that’s like that aspect of really segmenting what you’re doing and having that deeper plan than what we had before.

[0:17:22.2] JG: Sure. What do you think, Dave? Deeper plans, yay or nay? Do you like this strategy thing, or what he’s trying to do?

Content Strategy, Home Buying & Construal Theory

[0:17:33.4] DG: I think we don’t spend enough time on strategy. I definitely don’t think we spend enough time trying to understand our customers and the questions they have at the different stages of the funnel. If you think about anything that you buy yourself that’s a considered purchase, the questions you have at the beginning are very different than the ones you have later on. Think about the last car you bought or the last house you bought.

Let’s just take the case of a house. You start by thinking. What do you get for a certain price range? What neighborhoods might be attractive? Those are the big questions. Then, when you get down to the house, it’s like, “What’s this neighborhood look like and do I like the layout?” They’re just different questions that you don’t bother with at the beginning, until you’ve narrowed it down.

I think, no matter what you’re looking at, you start thinking about the different questions that people are asking as they make progress, you can start to generate content that aligns to those questions that they’re going to have at different stages. I think we call it the construal level theory.

[0:18:45.1] JG: Yeah, we did an episode on that. If anybody’s watching and you’re interested in that, we did a whole Green & Greene episode on that. Go dig through the video tab on our Facebook page and find it, because we nerded out with John Powell on that topic extensively, whom you’ve already referenced once today. Real smart guy. Had a very interesting perspective on construal level theory. It’s a fancy way of saying what people need changes depending upon where they are in the process of becoming a buyer.

You think of it like a mental journey. You can set up mental gas stations along the way for them to fuel up and continue that journey. That’s what the basic idea of construal level theory is in a nutshell.

[0:19:31.8] DG: Hey, Todd. I want to ask you about integrating benchmark research into your content marketing strategy. Obviously, you guys have a vested interest, but I think it’s really just a fantastic idea. What are your thoughts about where to do it, why to do it?

Why Research is Good for Rapid Growth in Brand Awareness & SEO

[0:19:50.2] TL: Sure. Why to do it? We’ll start with start with that one probably. I think there are two different places where research really works well. One is that branding and early on, for example, something like we were looking at today on content marketing where you’re trying to first develop the why it’s important, what’s going on, and trying to really engage people early on. Research is really strong in that area. The second place I think it’s really good is whenever you are trying to distinguish yourself from the competition. 

When we’ve looked at other people in the industry, we benchmark here compared to our competition. You’re looking at maybe a Forrester-type report or a Gartner report where you’re showing and actually proving the fact that you’re the best at doing X compared to your competition.

Then the how. I would say, a lot of times, what we find is and what we try to work with our partners is just making sure that they maximize the value of the research. What I mean by that is you do a research study, you gather data, you create a report like you can download from us. Then, not everybody consumes content like that. A lot of times, a webinar or a live Facebook is a great place to take that research and then also digest it in that format, an infographic maybe.

A lot of times, research is really good. We talked about how difficult SEO can sometimes be, but media, they’ll cover research. If they cover your research and provide you backlinks, that’s a very powerful way to increase your SEO, increase your brand awareness, that trust factor. Trying to get third parties to cover your research can be fantastic in that area. I’m attaching it, then, to my PR efforts as well. Then, of course, attach it to leads by having maybe some of it gated, so people can download it, but you can start incorporating that conversation into your sales process.

For example, if I’m a salesperson, trying to engage Dave with my services, maybe I say, “Hey, Dave. We just did this research. Thought of you as a leader at LeadCrunch and here’s the report.” It’s a non-threatening way to start that conversation, to reengage Dave. As compared to, “Hey, Dave. It’s been 30 days. Why haven’t you purchased from me?”

I think there are a lot of different ways you can take that research and start just thinking about how to multiply it. As marketers, I think one of the things we see that can be a challenge is sometimes we just move on to the next project too quickly. We leave a lot of unused opportunities on the table for what we currently have. I think there are a lot of different ways to break it up, but those are some things that we’ve seen.

We just had some of our research featured last week by MarketingProfs. We’ve had it featured by Forbes and people like that. You get all kinds of great SEO juice from that, and just recognition. I’ve gone to conferences and people are like, “Oh, yeah. I just read your research report.” Right away, I know that we have overcome at least one hurdle of maybe trust and recognition. Those are some of the things that we find with the research.

[0:24:03.8] DG: Yeah, that point of sharing research and getting backlinks, that was something that we got a lot of when you and I used to be at MarketingSherpa. We’d send that out to various thought leaders. My goodness, lots of people would reference that. You can still find in Google searches references to benchmark reports that MarketingSherpa did six, seven years ago even.

This is stuff that has a long shelf life and a lot of appeal for that topic that we started with, organic traffic and SEO and how to do it well. Those backlinks are really critical, and I think this is a key compartment for that.

Pro Tip on How to Build Industry Cred Fast 

[0:24:44.4] TL: A matter of fact, one little tip I’ll give for free that really works for us. I have a list now of I would say 20 or 30 thought leaders and media companies that are important to our industry, to my industry. When we do research, I will send out personal e-mails to those thought leaders and media companies. Half the battle is just getting in front of them. Getting front of them. I know that if some of those companies, like last week, I said about MarketingProfs, when they featured us, I can guarantee that within 30 days, there’ll probably be a good 20 to 30 other bloggers that reference that research, because they’re going to the thought leaders in their industry to get ideas. My thought is if I can get a couple of those influencers to feature it, it’s going to trickle down very quickly. That’s been a great little thing that’s worked well for us and for a lot of our clients as well.

[0:25:54.6] JG: Guys, we’ve been discussing the content marketing engagement report hot off the presses yesterday, Todd Lebo and Ascend2 just released that, and he was nice enough to come on and talk to us. You can download that. We have the link in the description. Highly encourage you to do that. Their research is always on point.

We’ve got time for maybe a couple more questions, Dave. Do you have any burning desires you want to ask your man about there?

SPORTS

[0:26:21.2] DG: Yeah, who have you got in the NBA finals, Todd?

[0:26:25.8] TL: I’ll do the easy Golden State Warriors, man. In five.

[0:26:31.1] JG: In five, you say. Those guys can shoot the rock. Have you ever seen anything like that in your life?

[0:26:35.2] TL: I know. It’s crazy. You’ve got to defend them from half court.

[0:26:39.0] DG: Just Todd in driveway.

[0:26:41.8] JG: Yeah, defending Steph Curry from the parking lot. You’ve got to press that guy when he gets out of his car.

[0:26:47.8] TL: Exactly. Well, it’s funny. We’re talking about strategy and it’s fun to watch them play, because their offense is like an orchestra. It’s pretty cool to see.

[0:27:02.6] DG: All the non-NBA fans now are having a little bit of throw up come in their mouth. I thought this is going to be demand gen and content marketing. What’s this about?

[0:27:14.3] JG: It’s about whatever I say it’s about, Dave. It’s my show and you will listen to every word that I say. No, I’m just kidding.

[0:27:25.0] TL: I’m sure we can blame a Green(e) on this show. I mean, it’s two-thirds of the opportunity there.

[0:27:31.7] JG: Yeah. All right, I think we’re done. Todd Lebo, it’s always a pleasure. Thank you for coming on.

[0:27:34.2] TL: Okay. Thank you, guys.

[0:27:36.8] JG: Guys, you’re silly and ridiculous if you don’t download this report. Just figured I’d mention it one more time. That being said, I’m going to play the music and we will catch you on the flip-side. It’s been real.

[0:27:48.3] TL: It has been. Take care guys.

[END OF EPISODE]

[0:27:55.9] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in to the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and are starting a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, www.leadcrunch.com.

[END]