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Marketing data management is key to understanding your audience marketing data, and the productive management of it, continues to be a challenge for all B2B Marketers – CMOs, demand centers, and marketing operations leaders struggle with keeping it maintained. Content marketers have traditionally stayed far away from the marketing database. In this paper, we’ll discuss ways to marry marketing data management practices with strategic content marketing creation, as well as methods content marketers can use to make themselves more valuable to the C-Suite.
Marketing Data: Vitamin D For Your Content Marketing
By Robert Rose,
Content Marketing Institute
Vitamin D for your
how strategic data
Vitamin D: The Value of Data to Healthy Content
There should be little doubt that content marketing as a strategic approach to B2B marketing is
expanding. CMI has found that a majority of B2B Marketers indicate they plan to maintain or increase
their budgets for content marketing initiatives– a consistent trend over the past four years. In fact, this year
it was almost 90% of those surveyed. Content – and how marketing and sales teams are using it to interact
with customers across an increasingly complex buyer’s journey – is fundamentally reshaping the way many
B2B businesses craft their go-to-market strategies.
However, this evolution isn’t without its challenges; the
largest being that so many content marketers struggle with
attributing measurable success to their content efforts. A July
2014 study performed by Forrester Research substantiates
this conclusion by finding that B2B marketers aren’t proficient
at the practice as yet. Their research found 85% of B2B
marketers couldn’t currently attribute any business value
to content activity. As the report’s author, VP and Principal
Analyst Laura Ramos, wrote: “this disconnect reveals a more fundamental problem with content marketing
today. It doesn’t produce expected results.” In fact, the study found that 62% of these marketers only create
content to “fill in the gaps” on a campaign-by-campaign basis. The Forrester report also revealed – 47%
of B2B organizations focus only on creating content for the company website, online ads, email and social
media. Ramos concludes “the data shows an acute focus on acquisition that practically ignores the rest of the
This aligns with our own research at CMI – where year after year, “creating enough content” and “creating
content that engages” are the two primary reasons that B2B marketers struggle with the practice
But the question is “why”? Why are B2B marketers struggling? One answer may lie in where B2B marketers are
focusing their content efforts – and struggling to connect content to the very customers they are trying to serve.
47% of B2B organizations
focus only on creating
content for the company
website, online ads,
email and social media.
Marketing Data Management is Key
to Understanding Your Audience
Marketing data, and the productive management of it, continues to be a challenge for all B2B
Marketers – CMOs, demand centers, and marketing operations leaders struggle with keeping
it maintained. Content marketers have traditionally stayed far away from the marketing database.
And with good reason. According to the Netprospex 2014 State of Marketing Data Benchmark
Report,– more than 25% of the average B2B database is simply inaccurate. And two-thirds of
companies surveyed had an overall data health scale of “unreliable”.
But that database can be an important key to capturing
the attention of your customers and prospects. A
whitepaper titled “Demand Generation Strategies”
isn’t nearly as compelling a title as “Tech Marketing
Strategies for a Startup Budget”. The ability to get specific
when promoting your content across channels where
attention span is limited, is often dependent on whether
the associated fields in your database are complete
and accurate. They can make all the difference in the
effectiveness of the pieces you write. Combine that contact knowledge with buyer persona
insights, and online behavior, and all of a sudden the content you’re creating is not only strategic,
but will actually drive conversions, engagement and ultimately revenue for your business.
In this paper, we’ll discuss ways to marry marketing data management practices with strategic
content marketing creation, as well as methods content marketers can use to make themselves for
more valuable to the C-Suite.
25% of the average
B2B database is simply
inaccurate. And two-
thirds of companies
surveyed had an overall
data health scale of
5 Data Management Prescriptions
for Healthy Content Marketing
In B2B, your company and contact database is the center of gravity for all your prospect and
customer communication. It also serves as an important resource for segmentation, targeting
and buyer engagement strategies for content marketers. But problems in quality lie just under
the surface and can de-rail the best-intentioned plans. In fact, according to the US Department
of Labor, even with still relatively high unemployment rates, almost 8% of Americans (almost 2
million) voluntarily leave their job every single month. With a total universe of about 146 million
Americans in the workforce (based on current unemployment levels), that theoretically means
that everybody changes jobs about every 5 years (actually 4.6 according to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics). Without even taking into account incomplete or bogus information, this provides a
pretty compelling case for every B2B marketer to ensure his or her data is as fresh as possible. In
fact, think of it this way: if the customer data is more than 4 years old – there’s an 88% chance that
it’s out of date.
Let’s get B2B Content Marketing into better data shape.
1. Create A Great Wellness Plan: Define The ‘Who’
One of the largest challenges that B2B content marketers have is actually closing the gap between the
personas they’ve spent the time and effort to create – and the verification of those personas against who is
actually visiting and consuming the content they are creating.
The investment in persona creation is considerable and - as many marketers discover only after beginning - it’s
a process that’s never really complete. People change, habits change – and the business’ ability to engage with
them as people change. But, at its core, persona development is mostly developed using qualitative information
that marketers glean from interviews, research studies – and ultimately a synthesis of that information into a
representative profile of the “needs” and “beliefs” of that person.
Successful B2B Content Marketers must have the ability to understand which of these personas are actually
engaging with various pieces of content. They must reference that with important data points at the individual and
company level. It’s only after the marketer marries this data to the target personas that he or she can answer the
questions: Are we describing their challenge and the solution to it in the most relevant and compelling way?
The first step is identifying the challenge and the existing gaps in our “knowledge”. Best in class B2B Content
Marketers are first taking a look at their marketing database and assessing the needs in concert with their persona
development. The key is getting together with the data management team (maybe that’s simply the marketing/sales
team or a partner or both) and starting to map out a plan to ensure the right data attributes are captured for persona
As one basic example, the marketer might ask: “can we map
industry data – which we can acquire without having to ask for
it - with the company name so that we can understand whether
engagement we are driving with our new content is actually
reaching the right size company or right industry?” This type of
exercise allows us quickly to revisit our personas and content
to ensure alignment with business objectives. Identifying the
gaps in our data capture plan – that will help us map a more
complete identification of who is actually consuming our
content is the first step in developing a robust wellness plan.
Establish a baseline metric for
your data health now (both
accuracy and completeness) and
a goal metric for health for six
months or a year from now.
2. Developing A Regimen:
Segment & Prioritize The Audience
Once the marketer has the gaps needed to marry the content with its consumption, the next
step is designing a data model that continually improves persona segmentation over time.
Remember, just like persona development itself, our approach to a “data story” is a process. It’s a
continuous process, not a project that will stop after a certain time.
Successful B2B Content Marketers don’t just identify the gaps in the data for a particular campaign,
or even a particular function (e.g. sales enablement or lead acquisition). Instead, marketers must
start to apply the different demographic attributes – as well as the beliefs and behaviors –of a
persona that can be collected at different stages of the buyer’s journey. This is a critical piece in
ensuring the ability to “measure all the way down” and truly understand where content is playing
an important role in not only generating MORE traffic – but actually attracting BETTER traffic – that
matches our targeted segments at a higher density.
Additionally, this work helps to identify the priorities for what “comes next”. The marketer may
make decisions about what kinds of programs will first “fill the gaps” of missing data – rather than
run programs to add new members to it.
It’s simple: getting quickly to the underlying “data story” is as important as getting to your content
story. Once the marketer understands where the gaps are in the immediate data collection – it’s also
time to take an assessment and then prioritize and plan where the data model can be made even
more complete over time. It may be a total re-marketing campaign to clean the data. It may be that it
just makes sense to start from scratch. Or, it may make sense to prioritize one particular target data
segment in order to develop keener insight.
Creating a segmentation and prioritization of data in both the short term and long term helps to
inform the targeting strategy with content. As a working example of this, one B2B manufacturing
organization we worked with discovered by looking at both their data and content that while
they were initially targeting an executive level buyer persona, they were actually attracting a high
number of lower level influencer personas. But, when they actually closed a deal, it was from the
buyer persona. Additionally, they discovered that many of these influencers were falling out of
the engagement process early on. So, what was happening? Basically, they discovered that the
influencers that had the capacity to understand
the executive-level content were making
a great business case to their boss. But a
good many couldn’t – and consequently gave
up. Therefore, based on this segmentation –
they (among a number of other things) decided to
prioritize more instructional content to the
lower level influencer – helping them to make a
business case to the executive buyer.
Ultimately, creating a great data story helps to
guide the content strategy, giving the marketer
greater insights into the customers needs.
Create a goal and an associated metric
for the persona targeted vs. persona
reached. For example, you may associate
your content targeting as 60%/20%/20%
toward three personas. Associate the
actual reach of your content to that goal
using the marketing data collected.
3. The Right Exercise at the Right Time:
Data Informs the Buyer’s Journey
Of course one of the keys of getting healthy is to match the right exercise with the right part of
the regimen. But there is, likewise, a need to understand how each exercise contributes to the
next phase of fitness. Similarly, mapping content to the buyer’s journey is only half the equation.
The data captured DURING that journey must also be managed in an intelligent way to understand
which data does (or does not) affect an outcome at some phase of that journey.
Jeff Ernst from Forrester captured this well in a blog post he wrote discussing how B2B marketers
still have a “blind spot” when it comes to the buyer’s journey. He said:
“You need to recognize that the B2B buying process is not one big decision; it is a series of micro-
decisions. And the company that wins the business is the company that is there to answer those
questions and provide fresh insights that influence how the buyers think about the problem so that the
buyers can confidently advance their journey”
This is an important point. Marketers not only have to develop a plan to deliver content at the
most relevant point in a buyer’s journey – they also have to develop a plan that asks (and actually
retrieves) the right data at the right point in a buyer’s journey.
Now, there has certainly been quite a lot written on “progressive profiling” – where marketers ask for
increasingly more information based on what stage of the journey, the frequency of the last visit or
even in type of content consumed. But if marketers go down the road of “progressive profiling” they
must do so intelligently – lest they build bigger databases, containing ever more fields of useless data.
As content marketers actually take the time to first identify the gaps in their existing data, then clean
and prune that data in order to make smarter decisions and priorities about segments to target – they
will also benefit by aligning the future data capture (as well as appending through third party services)
along the optimal content mapping and buyer’s journey insight.
The key here is to identify the absolute must-have information at each stage – and how that applies
to the decision that will be made at a specific point in the buyer’s journey. So, for example, one B2B
software company we worked with deployed a content marketing program that included a thought
leadership blog. Registration for subscription to the blog was part of the education portion of their
buyer’s journey. But, the next stage was not to pull them into the sales process – but rather just to
interest them enough to identify themselves for contact. Therefore, an Email Address was the only field
required. Using a data service, the software company could then identify the “quality” of subscriptions
they were getting – matching domains to industry and company sizing – and establishing email
campaigns to invite them to Webinars and other educational events based on that segmentation. Then,
and only then, was each of those registration forms expanded to include additional elements for the
next part of the buyers journey.
This is the critical piece here. It’s not just having one type of registration form that gates ALL content –
independent of the stage the buyer may find themselves in. Taking the extra time to understand:
What value is THIS content providing
What stage is the buyer likely to be in for this piece of content
What is the kind of content this customer is most
likely to want next (what should we be putting in
as a call to action)
How do we also progressively ask for more information
based on the “non-linear” nature of the journey
How can we use external data to enhance the
intelligence we have at various stages
As content marketing begins to play more of a
substantial role over more conversion points (the
“micro-decisions” as Ernst called them,) creating
a plan for progressive profiling and evolving data
attributes will be a critical piece of a healthy strategy.
Establish a baseline and an ongoing
measurement for form conversions.
Monitor the increase in conversions as
you both decrease and optimize the
fields for which you ask for information.
Additionally, measure the depth (by
pieces of relevant information gathered)
as customers go deeper into the funnel.
4. Monitor Your Heart Rhythm: Match Explicit Data
The concept of delivering the right content to the right buyer at the right time is the brass ring for a
healthy content marketing program. This is where the promise of delivering the right content to the
right person at the right time is met. But the only way this is achieved is by not only understanding the
explicit data that the customer provides (e.g. name, title, email, industry, preferences etc…) but also the
behavior of that individual over time. Best-in-class B2B content marketers are collecting this behavioral
data and integrating it into their marketing data strategy.
This is certainly one of the biggest benefits proposed by new web content management tools (or CXM-
Customer Experience Management as it’s called now) as well as MAP’s (Marketing Automation Platforms).
In fact, chances are that most B2B marketers already have a method to capture at least some level of
behavioral data – but don’t actually utilize any of it to optimize the content experience.
A study conducted last year by IBM (through recently acquired company Silverpop) found that 45% of
marketers are capturing and actually consolidating customer behavioral data. But then only 17% of those
surveyed assessed themselves as “practitioners” of using this data at all for marketing. But, according to
that same study, of that small group who is actually capturing, and using behavioral data – these marketers
find themselves contributing to 34% of the pipeline vs 26% for those not using it. That’s pretty easy math
to do: how would you like a 10% lift in your content marketing program – by incorporating data you are
probably already capturing in some capacity?
Context is truly one of the most important things that, as marketers, we can capture to understand the
true nature of the audiences we are trying to influence. And, the first step to developing a plan here is to
understand the different types of behavioral data you are already (or could easily be) capturing. Then, the
objective is to categorize it against the goals that you’ve set up in other parts of your plan (see above). There
are generally two types of behavioral data you could be utilizing:
Ambient Data. This is the data that we can derive without even knowing who the audiences are,
but is simply collected within the context of their consumption of content. For example, marketers can
use systems to acquire behavioral data that can both collect and optimize content display based on
browser type, or device (e.g. mobile vs. desktop), ad campaign URL’s, or from third-party data sets such
as weather, or even reverse IP (Internet Protocol) lookup on a company. Then, they can use this data
to serve up a more “journey optimized” experience for their content, or simply capture it to understand
visitors more completely. For example – one B2B organization we worked with is using ambient data
collected from visitors on whether they are arriving from a mobile device to highlight specific video
content (shorter, and mobile optimized) – and easy navigation to directions to their field offices.
Implicit Data. This is the data that marketers can derive from observing and tracking the behavior
with either a known or unknown visitor. For example, a team can track the behavior on a Web site and
begin to optimize experiences, and track the consumption, of specific pieces of content based on a
series of clicks. As a visitor clicks on more content in a particular category, certain preferences are
implied – and persona attributes can be assigned to that record if he/she becomes known through giving
some explicit data. One of the main drivers of using implicit data is, of course, lead scoring – where
certain platforms can assign weights to various CTA’s and once a critical threshold has been reached
– transform that prospect into a lead. But even beyond that, this behavioral data can be appended
to the database to provide additional insight into that customer’s attributes. This can be as simple as
appending the customer record with the list of white papers downloaded, blog posts visited and/or
webinars attended. Or, in a more sophisticated sense, can be used to assign new persona attributes
to a particular record. For example – we worked with one B2B company that was selling various types
of power equipment. They had tagged all of their content in a way that if someone came in and, for
example, browsed the blog post on solar power, attended the webinar on hydro-electric power, and the
CEO’s video on the importance of alternative power sources – they received a persona attribute of “Eco-
Passionate”. In this way – when it came time for a sales rep to have a conversation with that prospect –
the rep knew which way to immediately steer
Of course, integration of all of these types of
data into a holistic profile is what ultimately gives
the content marketer the ability to deliver true
value to a healthy content marketing program.
Understanding where and how you will grow your
target audience, by both enabling your technology
to capture it, and applying it from the top of the
funnel all the way through the journey is the key
to a successful content strategy.
This is what brings us to the final piece – which is
delivering that actionable insight.
Start to optimize content in real-time based on
behavior, then track engagement across your
consumed content by individual personas. Enrich
your marketing database with behavioral data
and measure the types of content being consumed
vs engagement of targeted personas (e.g who you
thought would consume it vs. who actually did) to
ensure the success of your content programs.
5. Track Your Progress:
Report On Actionable Insight
If someone is engaged by our content, submits as a lead, ultimately becomes a customer - but no
one is there to measure it, did it count? While looking at it from a business strategy we’d like to
think the answer to this is “yes”. However, there are still far too many content marketing programs,
where the answer to this question is a clear “no, it doesn’t count”. Why is that?
In our experience at CMI, far too many times B2B content marketing programs are cut short or
transformed into traditional sales programs – not because of the progress being made – but by the
inability to track the health of the program and create actionable insight out of it.
It is important to understand that one of the biggest benefits of a smart B2B data program, aligned
with a content marketing strategy, is not necessarily the generation of more activity through the
pipeline. Certainly more leads are often a positive result. But more traffic, more leads and more
activity at the top of the funnel can also be detrimental. When sales is wasting their time on leads
that are unqualified, or simply at the wrong stage in their buying journey, it can take precious time
away (as well as add costs) to the business.
As noted in the beginning, the Forrester Research study concluded that B2B marketers right now have
an “acute focus [only] on acquisition that practically ignores the rest of the buyer’s journey.” Developing
a measurement plan that reports on how marketing data is becoming deeper, more accurate and
generating even greater insight into our consumer can, in many cases, be value enough for a healthy
content marketing program.
Even B2B marketing is inching closer to focusing on “real-time” interactions with customers. The
requirement for us (despite the length of our sales cycle) to react more rapidly to the needs of our
customers has never been more pronounced.
Understanding the consumption of content
at an aggregate level through Web analytics
will only get the marketer so far. Truly
gaining insight into how your content is
improving the quality of leads, the value
of customers and the deeper insight into
them is only available through a robust and
healthy data management program.
A CMO at a financial services software
company once relayed to me that he no
longer looks at Google Analytics as a measure
of how his content marketing efforts are
moving the business forward. “Traffic”,
he said, “is the least of my concerns. The
blogs we have set up across our different
product groups are there solely to help
sales understand what topics, concerns,
discussions and challenges our customers
are having. The data generated by those
blogs is appended to every record we keep
on prospects and qualified opportunities.
My measurement is feedback from
our sales group – and the number of
quality discussions they have with those
opportunities. My goal is to simply help those
prospects come to the logical conclusion that
we are the best choice for them.”
Create a great dashboard for
measurement, one that tracks the right
things and will be the most effective way
to show your success. Today’s content
marketers need a dashboard that shows the
increasing quality, depth and overall health
of the marketing database overtime.
Not Just Healthy Content Marketing - A Healthy Business
So, what does the future hold for B2B Content Marketing and Data? One thing is clear. If B2B
marketers are to truly succeed with content marketing as a strategic cog in their marketing process
– they will need to change their approach to both content AND data more broadly. There is simply
no argument that both content and data are affecting the business. Research firm IDC has predicted
that enterprise data will grow at 60% annually. Forrester has predicted that enterprises are growing
unstructured content at a rate of 200% annually. So, content and data will affect the business – it’s now
just a matter of “how,” not “if”.
So for the B2B organization, content and marketing data
can be by-products of the organization; an on demand
service that simply operates from campaign to campaign,
occasionally helping but more often weighing down the
business. Or, content and marketing data can be the strategic
asset that it has (or can) become – helping to differentiate and
create success for every part of the business.
The marriage of creative content marketing, and intelligent
marketing data management is truly one thing that can keep
a company healthier than it was before, wealthier today and
wiser for tomorrow.
If B2B marketers are to
truly succeed with content
marketing as a strategic
cog in their marketing
process – they will need
to change their approach
to both content AND data
NetProspex is the smarter B2B data partner. We help marketing and sales organizations optimize their
revenue impact by increasing the quality and effectiveness of their marketing database. Thousands of
B2B organizations rely on NetProspex to manage their marketing data in order to fuel high-performing
marketing campaigns and accelerate the creation of sales pipeline. To make marketing databases
accurate, targeted and actionable, the company offers a suite of data services backed by its proprietary
CleneStepTM verification technology and the industry’s largest and most accurate reference database of
B2B contacts and companies. For more information visit www.netprospex.com
Not Just Healthy Content Marketing - A Healthy Business
1. Forrester Blog: Most B2B Marketers Struggle To Create Engaging Content
2. MarketingProfs and CMI 2014 Content Marketing Budgets Benchmarks And Trends
3. Sirius Decisions: The Impact of Bad Data on Demand Generation
4. Forbes: 2 Million Americans Leave Their Job Every Month
5. Bureau Of Labor Statistics Estimate on Job Tenure
6. Jeff Ernst Blog: Marketers Have A Blind Spot In The Buyer’s Journey
7. Behavior Gets Better Results
8. BizTech Magazine – Data Storage