How to Get Prospects to Read and Engage with Your Marketing Content

Marketing Thought LeadershipThis is a follow-up to my last article titled, How to Use Content Marketing to Establish B2B Thought Leadership. In that article I started with the basic and critical question: Can you be an industry thought leader? I then covered some ideas on how to find quality subjects to talk about and create marketing content that is both relevant and valued by your target audience. We will now  cover three additional questions you and your company need to ask to be a successful content marketing practitioner.

  • How do we get people to read our marketing content?
  • How do we get people to engage with our company?
  • How do we measure results and get better over time?

How do we get people to read our content? The first imperative to gaining readership is to write about stuff people care about. Understand that few, if any, people are going to read what you write just because they like you or feel an obligation. Those of us who have written books know how difficult it is to get even our family and friends to read what we write, whereas someone half -a-world away may peruse every word. Writers like to write about the things they are personally knowledgeable about and interested in, but in some cases, there may be little or no market for such content.

The trick is to align your expertise and interest with the needs and desires of your prospects. Perhaps the best way to do this is to answer questions that relate to pain points/challenges that our prospects face. For example, an article I wrote a couple of years ago titled, Just How Many Sales Leads Do You Need has received a ton of readership because marketers have so many questions about sales lead requirements.

Generally, no matter how terrific, people aren’t going to just stumble upon your content. You need to get it exposed via either paid techniques or social media. You can do this by logging onto and posting from each social media platform, or you can use a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to manage distribution on all, or most of your platforms.

How do we get people to engage with our company? Readers are great Marketing Content Influencebut opt-in contacts are much, much better. These are the individuals you have a chance to turn into customers, partners, or whatever. And after you have attracted them and educated them, the next step is to drive engagement. To put this in a different way, you want them to move deeper into your Circle of Marketing Influence. Here are some ideas to make this happen:     

  • Offer convenient ways for readers to subscribe to your blog.
  • Develop unique and compelling offers.
  • Give away some of your good stuff with no commitment but make sure to save the highest caliber content for those who opt-in.
  • Be pleasantly persistent. It usually takes multiple exposures to drive engagement. It really is a numbers game so the more often you share content, the better your chance of generating marketing influence and conversions.

How do we measure content marketing results and get better over time?

There are a number of quality tools for measuring social media/marketing content engagement, including Sprout Social, Buffer, Hootsuite, Kissmetrics and Cyfe (apologies to those I left out). I recommend that, if possible, you use the same tool for creating and propagating content as you do for measurement.

So what specifically do you want to measure? Here are six important metrics:

  1. Impressions: The number of people who are exposed to your blog, article or other content because it appears in their news feed or search results.
  2. Reach: The number of people you are reaching on a regular basis – How many followers, contacts, readers, fans, and connections do you have today vs. last month or last year, on your various social media platforms?
  3. Engagement: How many people are liking, favoriting, commenting, retweeting or sharing your posts and updates, or rating your YouTube videos.
  4. Conversion: This is a key marketing content metric because it refers to actions that can potentially impact revenue such as filling out a lead form, registering for marketing assets like webinars or whitepapers, or even making a purchase.
  5. Follower vs. following: One of the best ways to gain new Twitter followers is to first follow other people. However, you need to monitor the ratio between the number of people you follow and those that follow you to make sure this number doesn’t get out of whack. Twittercounter.com does this for free.
  6. Organic vs. paid traffic: Obviously, you can increase exposure to, and engagement with, your content using paid sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. However, when it comes to content marketing, you want your pull marketing (organic) programs to do the heavy lifting. And if this is not possible in the short-term, it should be your go-forward strategy.

Note that you can find different definitions for some of these terms (e.g. reach vs. impressions) promulgated by various software tools and social media platforms. The important thing is to implement the metrics that are most important to you, and use them to drive continuous improvement.

Producing marketing content that exhibits thought leadership in your industry is only one part of the equation. What happens when a piece of content falls in the forest and no one hears it? Make sure you’ve got processes to measure and retool your content to ensure your prospects are engaging with what you choose to publish.

6 key Rules to Expand Your B2B Marketing Influence

Marketing Influence NetworkingMarketing influence is a timeless subject but the ways we capture and communicate are constantly evolving. I originally wrote about this subject in 2011 and updated the material for my 2015 book, Winning B2B Marketing . And whether you are a one-person consulting shop, work for a mega corporation, or anything in between, you need to constantly expand your Circle of Marketing Influence.

Starting with your organization at the core, everyone that you can possibly do business with can be pinpointed somewhere in relation to the center.  As those individuals in the outer reaches of our marketing influence are brought closer, they become part of your inner circle. Those nearest to the core are friends, former colleagues, loyal customers, prospects in an active sales cycle and others you have direct influence on. Those farthest away comprise your total addressable market (TAM) but many or most of them may not even know that you exist.

Traditional lead-to-revenue (L2R) models track this movement through the marketing and sales sequence using terminology such as suspects, leads, qualified prospects, opportunities and customers. The idea is to locate individual suspects in the larger universe (TAM) and convince them to engage and then make a purchase. By contrast, in today’s pull marketing world, the idea is to broadcast powerful and consistent messages to the cyber universe and give people good reasons to engage with you. The key point is that prospects choose to engage with you – you do not have to chase after them. And they are much more likely to engage if they are already in your sphere of influence.

Over time, the inner- and middle circles grow as people become closer to you. Because you are providing the right message at the right time, people are educating themselves and they willingly engage – not because of the persistence and brilliance of your sales people and you pushing yourself on them, but rather because they actually need your products or services and are searching for a solution. The complexity of the sales process decreases, the sales cycle shrinks and your close rate goes up. This is what we call a winning trifecta!

Let’s take a look at how the circle of influence relates to your business.  The Inner circle is comprised of your key influence group including employees, partners, customers, active prospects, personal contacts, and blog contributors. The Middle circle is the moderate influence group and includes contact lists, blog readers, suspects, social media followers, group members (e.g. LinkedIn), affiliates, industry experts, press, and analysts. The Outer circle is the low influence group and includes your potential prospect universe/TAM including email lists, direct marketing lists, occasional blog readers, media readers, and suspects.

The Starting Point: Where you are today Marketing Influence Before

This first graphic shows where you may be in your current evolution as a company or individual, particularly if you are in a fairly new business. Sadly, even some older companies have a small circle of marketing influence. In this case, the size of your inner circle and contact lists are small in relation to the entire prospect universe (total addressable market). And it is also true that marketing is usually more expensive at this stage (relatively speaking) because you often have to spend marketing funds to first educate suspects before turning them into prospects. In fact, even though your goal is to build a strong push model, it may be necessary to do a fair amount of push marketing at this stage.

The End Game: Where you are going

Marketing Influence AfterThis second graphic illustrates the impact of how your consistent marketing and targeted outreach efforts will help you grow the number of key influencers and moderate influencers. Over time, these parts of the circle of influence will become a rich source of low-cost qualified prospects and customers. Also important to your fiscal health – your marketing campaigns can evolve from push marketing to pull marketing and you will generate leads and new customers at a much lower acquisition cost. In our practice we’ve seen the impact of building up the marketing influence database as it results in a two-third reduction in cost-per-lead over a two year period.

Rules for Expanding Your Circle of Influence

We’ve talked about the why, let’s now discuss the how. Follow these six rules to expand your marketing influence.

  1. Be intentional.  Amazing how I meet someone who has 300 LinkedIn contacts and they tell me their goal is to expand their network to produce better results. My advice to that person is to start today and add relevant connections throughout the year, with a goal of 500 connections (adding one per business day). A year later, I look at their profile and they have 320 connections. I call these accidental connections because a few people will connect even if you take no action.
  2. Be methodical. Expanding your circle of influence takes time and a bit of work, but not so much time or effort if you spread the effort out. To start, block 2-3 hours per week on your calendar to devote exclusively to social media and network building. The investment will take a bit of time to pay off, but it will pay off.
  3. Be available. Don’t ignore your network and then scramble to catch up when you need something. We all have those people in our lives who only reach out when they want something (job, reference, etc.) but are otherwise silent.
  4. Be valuable. If you have content to share, make sure it’s the good stuff not just a rehash of what everyone else is offering. Not to say that you need to give away your trade secrets but it is usually better to offer something unique.
  5. Be generous. Following up on the previous rule, you should willingly share information, references, comments, compliments, congratulations and so forth. You are planting seeds for the future.  Just like with real seeds, some will produce fruit and some will fall on barren ground. The point is that you have no idea which seeds are which – so do not try to be Machiavellian about your networking. If you are available and add value to enough people, you will gain in return. That’s the way life works, both at home and the office.
  6. Be realistic. Good networking is about quality of communication but it is also about quantity. If you wait until the perfect opportunity to reach out, you may have to wait a long time. The point is to communicate often enough to remain top of mind (without being annoying).

The Circle of Marketing Influence is an excellent way to remember that your mission in B2B marketing is to continually expand the number of people who know what you do and why you are the obvious choice in your market.

Porter Gale wrote a book titled “Your network is Your Net Worth”.The title really says it all.  Build your network, expand your influence and reap the benefits.

Patience and Persistence – A Powerful Combination in Marketing

marketing persistenceAs has been stated in works ranging from the Bible to the Beatles, there is a time for every purpose. Sometimes the best course is to persist and push through the obstacle and sometimes the best course is to apply a little dose of patience.  Here are some examples of when to practice persistence.

Be persistent in setting goals for your marketing programs.  Better yet, make them intentions. How many unique visitors will you have at your website?  How many inquires will you generate and how many of these will turn into legitimate sales opportunities?  How many opt-in inquiries will you add to your database?

Be persistent in doing something every day to move your marketing and sales programs forward.  You can always do a bit more to optimize the website, create more content, tighten your message, or figure out how to better add value to the selling process.  My last blog post: 10 Minutes to Marketing Success will give you some additional ideas.

Be persistent in learning the new skills necessary to succeed in a changing marketing world.  Since the web is such a powerful awareness and lead generation tool, anything you can learn about how it works is helpful.  So are specialized skills such as search engine optimization (SEO) and lead generation techniques like pay per click (PPC).

Be persistent in your social media initiatives. Write that blog post, update your LinkedIn, or send some tweets, even when you don’t feel like it.  Results in social networking don’t usually come quickly, but they will come if you stay the course.

This is plenty to be persistent about for now so let’s move on to the subject of patience.

Be patient in knowing that much of what you do will not have immediate impact. For example, it takes some time to set up a lead generation and follow-up machine that will crank out good results month-after-month.

Be patient in sticking with your marketing message.  It may feel like it is old and stale to you but that is because you are exposed to it daily.  You need to practice consistency and repetition until your prospects and customers are very familiar with your message.

Be patient in letting prospects buy at the pace they deem appropriate. You can cut your effective sales cycle dramatically by having a great website full of useful information, and by presenting all the information necessary to help them make the right decision (buying from you of course).  But there are times when pushing too hard, too quickly, will push would-be buyers away.

Be patient with others’ impatience, especially when they demand more than you are able to deliver, more quickly than is feasible.

Although vastly different attributes, patience and persistence are definitely a winning combination in marketing.