Here in Seattle, football is the flavor of the month. The Seahawks have made it to the second Super Bowl in franchise history, and suddenly everyone in town is a fan.
Most of the newbies are pretty upfront about their recent love for the Legion of Boom. In the Emerald City, these are the people like the urban hipsters, who still describe the Hawks as “that other team that plays at the Sounders’ stadium,” but who now sport a 12th Man shirt over their skinny jeans. Good for them! The more the merrier! However, we’ve also developed some bandwagon fans who purport to know everything about the Seahawks having followed them since we beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Content marketing suffers from the same phenomenon. Surveys show that marketers continue to spend large portions of their budgets on content marketing, and opinion pieces describe 2015 as “The Year of Content Marketing.” Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Suddenly your PR agency wants to talk about their content marketing capabilities and your SEO vendor wants to discuss buyer personas. Some of them may be obviously new to the field, but others will work hard to convince you they’ve been onboard from the beginning.
The problem is that, like the bandwagon fans of football, these guys may not have the staying power to make it to that rainy Sunday in October when the going gets tough and you still need to get a win on the road or, in marketing parlance, convert some of those wonderful leads into customers.
In the world of football, bandwagon fans can be annoying, but fair-weather fans of content marketing are much more troublesome. B2B marketers may find it difficult to identify the real experts from the newly knowledgeable. Luckily, the same techniques for spotting bandwagon fans can be used for both the Super Bowl and content marketing pitches:
Intercept the Inbound-Only’s
The easiest way to identify a football newbie is to listen to them describe the game. You’ll hear a lot about the backs and the receivers, but nothing about the offensive linemen. Now the quarterback is obviously much more visible, but without the offensive linemen he would not have much success.
There is a similar trend with content marketing newbies. Listen to them talk and you will hear a lot of talk about the top-of-funnel elements that bring in the leads, but relatively nothing about the equally important but less visible work required to move leads through the funnel.
As Joe Pulizzi passionately protests, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.” True content marketers look beyond simply attracting inbound leads. Instead, they follow the sales and marketing process all the way through to Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) and beyond to develop and facilitate powerful customer advocates.
Pulizzi’s blog is a great resource to help you start to spot newbies to content marketing. If your agency only wants to talk about generating leads, politely change the conversation back to their area of expertise, just as you would subtly shift the discussion to how Clint Dempsey is fitting in.
Give Metrics Double Coverage
In both football and content marketing you will come across some more prepared bandwagon fans. In football, this means that they can tell you how many yards Lynch rushed for and what Wilson’s pass completion rate is. The content marketing equivalent is dropping rudimentary top and middle funnel metrics into conversation. On the surface, this makes both sets of bandwagon fans look like the real deal, which is exactly what they want.
You can identify real fans by going deeper into the stats and, in particular, asking for comparative metrics.
How many yards did Lynch rush for after contact? How does Wilson’s completion rate stack up against Dave Kreig’s? The Super Bowl bandwagon fan won’t have a clue. What is the ultimate conversion rate from lead to closed deal? How does your cost-per-Marketing Qualified Lead stack up against the industry benchmarks? The bandwagon fans of content marketing will be similarly clueless.
For example, I was recently in a new client meeting where another agency was asked how the Cost-per-Click (CPC) achieved for a recent campaign compared with expectations for the industry. The answer: “We don’t know.” Although great in their area of expertise, they were bandwagon fans in the world of content marketing.
Push for the Playbook
Remember, you are looking for coaching support, and coaches don’t just know stats; they use them to put together plays. Our CPC friends are the equivalent of employing an offensive coordinator whose only play is a Hail Mary. Let’s just throw that campaign out there and hope it lands some leads who maybe convert to customers.
To get to the content marketing Super Bowl you need real experts who have studied the game for years and developed comprehensive playbooks through experience. A true content marketer will have a playbook that can get you through all of the first downs to success, including how to develop a winning content strategy, how to create and curate great content, how to deliver it to the right prospects at just the right time through marketing automation, and how to pass highly qualified leads to sales without dropping the ball.
In football, playbooks are closely guarded secrets but content marketers know the importance of sharing thought leadership, so don’t be fooled by any play-action when it comes to handing over the goods.
To show you we’re serious, here’s our playbook, The Modern Guide to B2B Marketing, has even more great tips on how to avoid bandwagon fans, so you can tell who can help you get the big win come rain or shine.