Which Comes First: Content Marketing Or Thought Leadership?

Once upon a time, there was a little marketer with a big problem. Her sales executives said, "We need more leads." So she bought a big new shiny marketing automation engine . . . .

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I'm sure we all know the end of the story. The marketing engine didn't live up to expectations because data and content didn't come in the box.

More than ever, marketers view content as the fuel needed to run a powerful revenue generation machine. But the debate over the quality of the content created seems to have reached a fevered pitch. Look no further than posts from SAP's Michael Brenner, Marketo's Jon Miller, UK-based Velocity (the slide show here is a riot!), Dr. Liz Alexander, and SHIFT Communication's Christopher Penn to see the backlash against bad content marketing practices grow.

Why now?  I see four key trends converging on business-to-business marketers that drive interest in, and failure with, content marketing:

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The ROI Of "Owner" Communities

Two of the most common questions we receive from marketers are “How do I know if it’s worth having a community?” and “How can I prove to my executives that my community is worth their investment?” To get the initial funding and keep support coming for an owner community — one which you operate and fully brand on your own website — you must be able to clearly measure and communicate the value up to your CMO and CFO. That means capturing the effect it will have on your company’s profitability as a part of your overall marketing investments.

As a part of a new research report I just published today with Shaheen Parks, we built upon Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) methodology to provide you with a reference framework to estimate the ROI of your community. 

We suggest that you focus on these three qualitative benefits, which form the core of our framework:

  • New lead generation: How many new leads or prospects come to your company each year because of your community, multiplied by your average deal size and overall lead close rate.
  • Increase in lead close or conversion rate: The effect your community has on your overall lead close rate, multiplied by your average deal size.
  • Deflection of support calls: How many potential support calls get answered by the community, multiplied by your average cost per call.
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Deja Vu All Over Again . . .

Wait a minute . . . this all looks very familiar . . . I think I've been here before . . .

After almost three years at Xerox, I returned to Forrester Research in January to resume my quest to remake business-to-business (B2B) marketers and advance their standing in the corporate world. It's great to be back, and while much has changed, still more remains the same.

What's changed are my experiences and views on enterprise marketing. Marketing in a big company can be messy and complicated, often with as many steps forward as backward. But opportunities and resources are abundant, and you get to go places you'll never go in a smaller firm — like into the world of television advertising, corporate sponsorships, and a vast matrixed sales organization specialized by region, industry, and offering. 

I learned important lessons at Xerox, with two that stand out:

  1. Change is a constant, and necessary, part of corporate life.
  2. Brand matters, especially in the ways customers experience it.
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