The benefits of content marketing take more than a few months to come about.
Kate Lee, Senior Director of Strategy, recently wrote about a client who was disappointed in a newly adopted content marketing program and ready to quit — certainly they should be seeing more leads and more sales by now, right?! Since the company was just a few months in, the answer was no; that’s not how it works.
Content marketing is a long-term solution that helps businesses build brand awareness, grow their audience, and generate new leads and sales. But, like any good relationship, it takes time and effort to achieve results. You shouldn’t give up before the seeds you sow have time to bear fruit.
Just how long will it take for your content marketing strategy to yield results? Well, that really depends on your business and your goals, but you can count on at least six months. (Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says more like 18.) The point is, content marketing is not a magic, overnight solution. The reason reflects why content marketing is effective in the first place.
Let’s take a look:
Developing your strategy takes time.
Only 11% of companies without a documented content marketing strategy find their efforts to be successful, compared to 60% of companies with a strategy in place. (That number rises to 86% when the company designates someone to lead the strategy.) The significant increase in effectiveness can be attributed to the careful thought and research that goes into building a strategy.
You will need several months to build the foundation of your content marketing plan if it is to be effective. You need time to research the kind of content that resonates most with your audience and to truly understand the (very specific) demographic that finds value in what your company offers. Then you need time to determine and test which distribution channels will most effectively reach your target audience, to discern a plan for content production, and to build out an editorial calendar reflective of your strategy.
Without getting all of these pieces precisely right, you’ll waste an enormous amount of energy and resources working on an ineffective strategy. Take the time to evaluate the market for your business and its content marketing strategy, and you’ll realize results in time.
Becoming an authority takes time.
The goal of your content marketing efforts should be to be a consistent source of information and value to your audience, who gradually will come to trust your authority and reward you with their business when they are ready to make a purchase. And establishing yourself as an expert doesn’t happen overnight.
Consistency is key for two reasons. For one, the average B2B buyer consumes between two to five pieces of content before making a purchase decision. If your content is old, arbitrary, contradictory, or otherwise unreliable, buyers will chose a different vendor whose content is more trustworthy. Consistent and consistently good content keeps your target audience engaged and builds your credibility with them.
Secondly, search engines rank websites based on several factors, and one of the most important is consistency. If your company blogs every other month, compared to companies that post several days a week, your posts will be penalized in search results. And since very few readers click beyond the top five search results, you’re drastically reducing your organic search potential.
As a SumAll article put it, “Whether getting traffic to your blog or your content ranked in the search engines, it doesn’t happen overnight, but instead by repeatedly creating and distributing quality content on a frequent basis for the long-term.”
Building your audience takes time.
The B2B buying process is becoming longer and more complex because the majority of buyers (82%) are using more sources to research and evaluate products and services, and they are spending more time in the research phase itself. In fact, 71% of B2B researchers start with a generic search — rather than searching for a particular company — and do an average of 12 searches before even engaging with a specific brand’s site. They are 57% of the way down the sales path by this point, meaning they have already spent a fair amount of time educating themselves with the enormous amount of information available to them on the Internet.
This means you need to allow your target audience time to find you and complete thorough research about you and your competitors before you even realize that the lead exists. And likely there will be more time before a sale takes place.
Content marketing is much more about lead nurturing than producing instant results. As you build your reputation as a valuable source of information, you will simultaneously build a loyal following of readers and content consumers who continue to return to you for knowledge and, ultimately, purchases. Relationship-building is not a streamlined process, but it does foster the ever-valuable repeat business that will have a greater impact on your bottom line than a one-and-done sale.
Your sales cycle takes time.
Unfortunately, content marketing cannot decrease the length of your sales cycle. Thus, you can’t expect to see the fruits of your labors (in terms of dollars) until at least one cycle is complete.
There should be, however, hints along the way that your efforts are working. Metrics like increased website traffic, email registrations, and social reach offer clues that more potential customers are finding your business in their research. You should take these signs and continually evolve your strategy to accommodate what is working for your business.
Also keep in mind that while content marketing can have an enormous impact on generating and nurturing leads, it does not deliver sales on a silver platter. Sales teams still play a major role in building on those relationships and closing deals.
Give your relationship with content marketing time to play out, and don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy along the way if you find some things are working better than others.
- The B2B Buying Process Has Changed. You Need to Adapt.
- Adapting B2B Sales for the Information Age
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- Twelve-Step Guide to a Content Marketing Strategy