Content marketing has the power to engage consumers at critical touchpoints along the customer journey. However, such efforts often result in lost opportunities and squandered resources when it comes to lead generation, as these strategies fail to resonate with consumers during the research phase of the purchase process. Marketers now recognize that they must align corresponding campaigns with the business needs of their sales counterparts to truly succeed.
The CMO Council's recent "Lead Flow That Helps You Grow" report aims to better understand the issues and challenges marketers face in their attempt to deliver timely, relevant, and robust content to the right audiences. Conducted in partnership with NetLine Corporation, this study surveyed 213 senior marketing leaders across industries and primarily throughout North America to gather insight into how marketers are leveraging content to cultivate high-quality leads and nurture prospective customers.
Overall, most companies continue to struggle to develop thought leadership content that engages consumers, produces quality lead flow, and advances sales performance, as the average organization lacks the collaboration and alignment necessary to perpetuate successful demand generation strategies.
The following statistics reflect what constitutes high-quality leads, how companies currently operate in today's business environment, and the key challenges that may continue to impede sales performance:
- Respondents typically define high-quality leads as detailed requests for contact initiated by the prospect, including specific details about the products, services, or solutions they're interested in (43 percent); prospects that are readily positioned to buy (36 percent); contacts previously assessed by an inside sales, tele-sales, or outside third-party (32 percent); and relevant contacts within a targeted industry, market, or geography (31 percent). Only 20 percent believe leads are complete and accurate with only email and phone details.
- Ten percent of marketers have no content strategy in place across the organization, while just 12 percent claim to create content with specific customers, targets, markets, or industries in mind. Yet, while the majority (34 percent) have adopted a more steadily paced plan, only 2 percent of all respondents believe their current demand generation strategies are highly effective.
- Overall, respondents agree that the top five factors derailing lead flow success are: content that's not developed for target audiences (48 percent), budget limitations (48 percent), irrelevant and meaningless content (44 percent), not reaching the right decision makers (43 percent), and not leveraging appropriate distribution channels (39 percent).
- Prior research revealed that only 20 percent of sales and marketing leaders felt that partnership and collaboration existed between the two functions. This alignment has only improved marginally, however, as 29 percent of marketers assert that sales has input on targets and lead requirements and 21 percent believe sales and marketing are fully aligned and developing strategies in total partnership and collaboration.
- Marketers distribute multiple types of content, with most using product brochures (84 percent), slide presentations (79 percent), and white papers (78 percent) to reach their audience. Yet, while 24 percent agree that white papers generate great leads, only 9 percent claim product brochures generate great leads, revealing opportunities for realignment and growth.
- While 49 percent of those polled believe they're developing and distributing content to continue or nurture engagements, only 25 percent are actually developing content specifically designed to nurture leads. Yet, while 24 percent admit that they use the same content that's distributed for initial lead generation for lead nurturing, as well, one-third have taken steps toward establishing more intentional, content-driven lead nurturing programs.
- To gauge acquisition success, marketers look to many metrics, such as download and registration numbers (75 percent), inbound inquiries for information (60 percent), lead quality (57 percent), and social sharing and "likes" (53 percent). However, only 20 percent of those surveyed consider upsell and cross-sell metrics, while 59 percent track revenue and sales growths.
Key takeaway: Marketers struggle to generate leads because most neglect to put their intended audience at the core of their content development and distribution strategies. Researchers, however, explain that brands must implement a systematic approach that allows marketers to personalize and make content relevant to a specific audience. Marketers also need to consider the customer experience journey and realign their strategies to meet the specific needs and expectations of their audience so they can deliver engagement that moves prospects further along today's non-linear sales funnel. Brands know that consumers conduct vast amounts of research before committing to a product or service, so they must establish content development and distribution strategies that allow them to reach prospects at crucial points throughout their journey. After all, 36 percent of respondents admit that their efforts to establish thought leadership depend upon those who generate the content. Therefore, fostering relevance and personalization will remain at the core of content creation lead generation indefinitely.