Ben Plomion, writing for Convince and Convert, highlights one of the issues that often plagues inbound and content marketers: unrealistic expectations for their content. Too often marketers place too great a value on the "lead" they get from a content download.
Is a download a lead or not?
Plomion states that, "just because someone fills out a form and grabs your report doesn't mean they're going to buy your product now or ever."
Few would probably argue with that when it's stated in black and white. But, many of us at one time or another will also have counted up all the downloads and patted ourselves on the back for generating so many great leads.
Is it just semantics?
Part of the problem can be put down to semantics; what does a person mean by "lead"? This can vary widely from industry to industry or business to business.
For us in a B2B context, a lead is simply someone who is somewhere on the journey to potentially becoming something more meaningful (a marketing qualified lead, a sales qualified lead, an opportunity, or a customer). And where they are on that journey is what is important.
They might just be doing a little research by downloading your eBook. That research might by about a challenge that your product or service can help them solve, but they are probably not ready to be contacted by a salesperson. And they may never be.
Content for the whole buyer's journey
The length and complexity of the journey that a lead takes from awareness of their challenge to making a decision about how to address that challenge varies vastly from industry to industry. Every buyer's journey is different.
And so, the type of content you offer your leads should reflect where they are in their journey. Are they trying to understand the problem they are facing? Are they now looking for the available ways to solve that problem? Or have they moved on to making a decision about which companies are best suited to helping them?
In his article, Plomion shows us research that supports this. In that research, 75% of respondents said they look at at least five pieces of content before making a purchasing decision.
Understanding what content you need for each stage your leads might go through and helping those leads get a complete understanding of the options available to them will be more beneficial (to them and you) than simply totaling up a list of contact details and handing them over to Sales.
Content marketing can definitely be worth it, but perhaps it’s not meant to drive the hard ROI everyone expects. That’s because what we like to refer to as lead generation, one of the oft-mentioned goals of content marketing, is a little broken.