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Episode 16

How B2B Companies Can Measure The Value Of Content Marketing

Tessa Burg
VP of UX and Technology Strategy at Tenlo

From thought leadership to engagement, there are many benefits of content marketing. But does the value justify the cost of creation and distribution for your B2B company?

Tessa Burg shares how to measure your content’s contribution to lead generation. What metrics and KPIs you should look at. Technology and tools that can help you gather data. And most importantly, how to use the data to prove the value of your content marketing.

Measuring content’s worth in B2B is definitely more challenging than B2C or ecommerce. But it’s possible. Listen to learn how.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Understanding the role of content marketing in lead generation
  • Metrics and KPIs worth measuring
  • Helpful tools and technology for capturing data
  • What to do with data once it's gathered
  • Why content marketing is more challenging in B2B than B2C or ecommerce
  • Common pitfalls for B2B marketers and how to avoid them

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcripts

Announcer: Welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio, a show where we help B2B and CPG marketers unlock the power of digital marketing to fuel growth and creativity in their organizations. Our host today is Cheryl Boehm, the Director of Copywriting at Tenlo.

Cheryl Boehm: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Lead(er) Generation. We’re switching things up today, so rather than hosting, Tessa Burg is our special guest today. Tessa is the VP of UX and Technology Strategy at Tenlo. She has a huge passion for integrating SEO and content marketing, but even more so in measuring and proving the value that content marketing can offer a B2B organization. So today she’s going to talk to us more about how content can contribute to lead generation. So welcome Tessa, how does it feel to switch roles and sit in the guests seat for a change?

Tessa Burg: It feels great. This is one of my favorite topics to talk about, and I’m excited to dig in, and I’m excited to be a guest.

Cheryl Boehm: Yeah, it’s going to be a change and as you know, as a writer myself, content is near and dear to my heart, so I’m excited about this topic.

Tessa Burg: Yes.

Cheryl Boehm: So a lot of our listeners are really familiar with your voice, but they may not be familiar with your background and your experience. So can you just tell us a little bit more about yourself and some of your experience?

Tessa Burg: Yeah. So I started as a developer. I’ve always loved, as my parents would say, “Working in computers.” And what I quickly learned is that I wanted to do more of the designing of the solution and not just executing it. Little did I know that my role was because of my age, not because of my ability, but I decided to switch careers anyway. And so throughout my career I’ve always sat between this tech and marketing seats. And today that has really served me well, being able to not just present a solution, but know how to actually execute it and how to execute it efficiently for clients has been an awesome job I never even knew I would have. So content is a big part of the solution, is a big part of experiences. And collecting data from it and using that data to inform not just front-end and experienced decisions with customers, but backend decisions is huge and a big opportunity for us and our clients.

Cheryl Boehm: And we know one of the biggest things that clients are looking for right now are leads, they’re trying to generate leads. So what role does content marketing really have in capturing and generating those leads?

Tessa Burg: Yes. So back in the day when I started, I had a position called web master, and that might date me a little, but it was the person who was in charge of all things on the website. And we had lots of content that made up that website. And then five, 10 years after that, there was this whole movement around content marketing, which is what we’re familiar with today. And at the beginning that took content off the website and the definition felt more like just blogs. So that was an interesting transition. And now I feel the more modern definition as content marketing itself has evolved is to include, really any form of content, on or off your website, in social channels, in email, that you use to engage and communicate with your audience. And I really love that definition of content. So the role it plays goes across the customer journey.

Tessa Burg: You want to make sure that when you’re thinking of content strategy, you’re not just pigeonholing yourself into a blog or into what should be on a microsite for a specific product or campaign initiative, or just what’s on your site. The role is to first make people aware of the problems you’re solving. So anytime someone is going to a search engine, or even a lot of the reason why they come online is to solve a problem. And are you putting content out there that gives them answers or introduces the solutions you’ve developed? And then in the middle of the funnel, once you’ve gotten that interest is, are you producing content that allows them to compare how you solve a problem versus others? There is never, “You’re not the first person to answer this,” just like most businesses have competitors, and if you don’t have competitors, you have substitutes. So it’s always really important in that middle of the funnel, to show that benefit to value story.

Tessa Burg: And then at the bottom of the funnel, it’s all about getting them what they want in the moment to make that buy decision. So, the role of content goes across the entire customer journey. And how well you tie each of those blocks together, typically informs the quality of your leads and the time to close.

Cheryl Boehm: I love your definition. That’s great in really incorporating that content across the buyer journey, and 100% agree with that. But one of things I know I personally struggle with and I’m sure a lot of the other listeners struggle with, is how do you prove that the content’s working and what kinds of KPIs and metrics should we be looking at to help prove its value?

Tessa Burg: Yes, that question comes up a lot, and I feel like it comes up more often for the content that lives off of our website. So, I’m going to start there. A lot of people have invested money in video content and social media content and doing articles or having a blog live on your site, that would be the best place for it, but you know, there’s arguments in other directions. And it’s at that top of funnel, so that’s where it gets real fuzzy and not all of it is directly on your sit, so that makes measurement that much more challenging. So there are a few things you can do. One, you first want to determine what is the role and goal of this content. So if I am looking to introduce our solution in a research phase, what makes that successful? Is it a click through to the website? Is it interactive content? Or I’m asking a question, so I simply need them to give me an answer? Is it shares? Is it the quality of the comments?

Tessa Burg: I think that those are all really good metrics for that top of funnel, but ultimately if someone says, which happens a lot, “I want the ROI on that content. It doesn’t matter to me that you’re getting these high-quality shares and comments. I want to know what leads is it driving basically, and are those leads good?” Then you have to take that next step, which has less to do with the content and more to do with the experience in ecosystem and tech that you’re putting around it. So, the first step is, do you have an analytics package on your website and have you configured it to recognize your referral sources? I know a lot of people use Google Analytics and so they will even use UTM codes on some of their media and social posts, and even if it’s organic, but even at a high level, as long as it can see the sources, that’s really important, and that you’ve set up landing experiences and pads on your site that help you qualify.

Tessa Burg: So for example, simply having a chat is a great way to allow people to ask a question without asking for an email address, but then the next step that could get you a higher-quality lead is to lock a part of that conversation that you’ve already presented at the top of the funnel. So maybe you presented your solution, you gave an example of how it would work, you’ve made all of the technical information available, but maybe what you’re lacking is a rebate for that solution or an expert consultation. So, a great way to measure that top-funnel content is not necessarily change the content itself, but think about what the next two to three steps can be, or I guess, your potential customers or even existing customers, and what types of really high-value interactions can you present to them so that you can better qualify if this is a good lead, if this is someone who’s ready to buy, or is this someone who I just want to keep a relationship with.

Cheryl Boehm: You mentioned Google Analytics, and I know it’s a tool that we use quite a bit, but there’s so much technology out there. So, are there any other must-have tools or technology that could really assist with gathering all of this critical data?

Tessa Burg: Yes. And this is a very big topic.

Cheryl Boehm: Huge.

Tessa Burg: And if you want to see all of the tools, I would definitely direct people to chiefmartec.com. We had Scott Brinker on the show and we talked a lot about the MarTech and technology landscape. So for me, what’s essential is an onsite analytics package, and very simply Google Analytics or something similar. There are a lot of different packages and they all vary in features, but I would say two, there are also a number of social media monitoring tools. We had a guest on who is also now here at Tenlo, Brittany Matey who uses social media monitoring tools and social posting tools to really see in real time, what are the quality of the engagements and the shares in social. And at that top, it’s really gone away from how many likes you’re getting and how much visibility, and really the focus is quality.

Tessa Burg: So I would say again, no matter what tool you’re using, make sure you’re paying attention to the right metrics. And on the backend, and when I refer to the backend I mean where your prospect data and customer data goes after it’s on your site, so in your marketing automation platform or your CRM, I think that’s another must-have. So something at the top, that’s allowing you to measure quality and making sure that the visibility, impressions, all that stuff that you’re paying for is really hitting the people who want your solution, who want you to answer their question. And then in the middle, your onsite analytics, making sure that the goals are programmed around measuring if you are doing a good job engaging customer. I think a lot of people program goals around where they would really want the customer to [crosstalk 00:11:51], “If they fill out this form, that’s our only conversion point,” which makes sense.

Tessa Burg: I mean, yes, we want people to say, “Yes, I want your product,” but we all know this, we’re marketers, there’s two or three steps ahead of that in the customer journey. And measuring how well you’re engaging them will get you higher-quality conversions down the funnel. So in that middle part, onset of analytics and not always making them download a white paper. I know we do that on our site and I love it. And we do it on a lot of clients sites, but the next step for measuring content is interactive content and gating parts of it, or not requiring an email address, but giving them something to plan. Estimator tools have been out there for forever. And that’s a really simple piece of interactive content, especially in things like construction service.

Tessa Burg: And it doesn’t have to be exact. A lot of clients will throw up their own blockers by saying, “Well, then they’ll think it’s real,” or, “Well, there’s zero way we’re going to know every single exact parameter of their project. So there’s no way we can do it.” If it can’t be the estimate of the project, what else are they looking at? So I would just challenge people to get more creative and not just rely on downloads for that middle, but then once you have the email, once you have that engagement, making sure your analytics and your marketing automation platform are also programmed to quality is of equal importance. And then the handoff to sales. Now there’s simple little things, like are you capturing the type of data that sales cares about? And sales will probably send you 15 things they really care about, which absolutely thinks should be required in every form. That’s another opportunity to get creative instead of explicitly asking what industry this person is in, are you creating industry-specific content and then tracking consumption of the industry-specific content by customer?

Tessa Burg: It’s all about that balance of gathering data to measure value of the content, and still not losing sight that your role as a marketer is to answer the question, to present the solution to the customer’s problem, and that you are there to solve something for them, not just sell.

Cheryl Boehm: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. You mentioned gathering the data, and this is an area where a lot of marketers fall short, they gather all of this data, but then they don’t do anything with it. So, once you have it all gathered, I know you mentioned making sure leads go into the CRM, but what else should we as marketers be doing with all of this rich data?

Tessa Burg: Yes. So I think one of the best, easiest places to start, so let’s say you got your onsite analytics set up, is you want to start measuring where are you getting the most engagements and visits, and then right out of the box, most, I want to say all, I haven’t seen one that doesn’t do this, shows you the next page path, because then you can understand not only what is my most valuable content, but where are they going. And I’ll give an example of something that we see when we start looking at that. A lot of people notice that they’ve been doing a lot of great blog content, they are ranking high in search engines for some specific keywords, they’re even getting some viral juice, like they might be a point of reference in some really credible industry-specific pubs, but no one’s converting.

Tessa Burg: This happens all the time. It’s like, “Okay, we get a ton of traffic, but why am I not getting any leads?” That’s the next step of measuring content value, is am I hitting my audience or am I just hitting an audience? Am I hitting the people actually buying? And if you’re not, then think about how to level up that content. I still wouldn’t change it because what traffic to content does is still give your domain value, there’s a lot of brand credibility that comes with that, but it does help you step back and say, “How do I level up to my target audience?” And it might not get as much traffic as that more viral piece, but it will get you higher-quality leads. The other solve is let’s say it is your customers who are coming and they’re just bailing. And you’re like, “What the stink?”

Tessa Burg: Well, that means on the page itself, you might not have a valuable hook. So what is their next step after they have this information? And it’s not to get married, the answer probably is not put a form on the page, but… I see you nodding and smiling.

Cheryl Boehm: Yes.

Tessa Burg: That is always what people ask for, like, “What is that? A form?” No, they were just there to read, they’re not ready for marriage, but at the same time we run a business, I get it, you need leads.

Cheryl Boehm: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tessa Burg: You will get leads faster if that hook is, again, something of value to them and gets them a little bit deeper in the site. So if it’s top-of-funnel content, what are you doing to get in the middle funnel? And then what are you doing to whet their appetite before that sales contact? So that’s the first thing you can do with data. That important step really helps you evaluate all the content that’s currently on your site, but then also the quality of the traffic that you’re getting from content that’s not on your site. When you look at what’s in your marketing automation platform and CRM, the first, most obvious step is customer segmentation.

Tessa Burg: And if you’ve started capturing some different values about the type of content your customers have interacted with, then you have an additional layer other than when they submitted a form and what explicitly was on that form. And if you compare that with historical buying behavior, then that becomes really powerful. The other piece that we’ve just started hearing with our clients, which I am loving, is we used to do persona research and market research way at the top of the process, and is a great way to get to know clients, get to know their customers, we have our sister agency that does lots of awesome market research, but we never took it… Bend down to the bottom. And that’s something now that we’re starting to take that persona in market research across the whole journey and across their whole experience with us. So when we get data back on this is the type of content this persona is most interested in, we’re using the data on the marketing automation platform to validate that, “Okay, how accurate is this persona? Do they stick within the parameters and values that we’ve assigned to them? And if not, why?”

Tessa Burg: we need to fill to continue this journey and make sure that, again, the experience is valuable to them and that we’re not always just rushing in to get married, because when you rush in, your conversion rate is lower. When it’s higher quality then the conversion rate will go up.

Cheryl Boehm: Yeah, you got to woo them, take them on a few dates first.

Tessa Burg: Yes.

Cheryl Boehm: All right, Tessa. Well, we’re going to pause here for just a minute to take a station break.

Announcer: What’s one of the biggest challenges that marketers face? It’s that the sales team doesn’t understand the value of digital marketing. To help prove your worth, simply boost the volume of ready-to-buy customers and help your sales team win more customers faster. To get started, download the guide, 5 Data Exchanges Between Sales & Marketing to Increase Win Rates. Download the guide at tenlo.com. That’s T-E-N-L-O.com. And now back to our show.

Cheryl Boehm: All right, we are back. Now, I don’t know about you Tessa, but I find that proving the value of content is way more challenging in the B2B atmosphere than it is for B2C or even e-commerce. So do you have any ideas why that is and how can we overcome it when we are looking at a B2B audience?

Tessa Burg: Yes. I miss working in e-commerce businesses because it was so easy. It is much more challenging for CPG, for B2B construction services, basically a lot of our Tenlo clients. And the reason being, a lot of the sale happens offline. Now, since the pandemic, there have definitely been some changes in behavior, but that relationship piece that’s happening over the phone or happening now over Zoom is still a really big part of the decision-making process. So we can’t just stalk someone online and put a pixel on our site, slam them with banners. Learn the whole journey, put it through an attribution model and be like, “Oh look, now we know the exact ROI on every single step.”

Tessa Burg: Back in the day when I worked in e-commerce and we started doing attribution management, I just felt like a genius. It’s like, “Wow, this is amazing. Now we know the exact ROI for every step.” And then in my side, where I was consulting with more physical product companies, it all fell down, we can’t get the salespeople to enter data in the CRM, we don’t know where this person came from, so-and-so has a really big Rolodex and we’re just calling them. And it just felt like, “Oh my God, this is all over the place.” And it was very hard to organize, but now where we’re at in B2B and so much of the process happening online, and a lot more actual buy-in from marketing and sales alignment, it’s something we talk about all the time, but marketers are finally proving their value to sales. And that’s a conversation that should never end.

Tessa Burg: So the key for marketers to continue to measure the value of content is to create data and measurement and conversation feed loops with the sales team. Are you having regular meetings where you’re hearing the language they use to describe customer objections? What I am not saying is that marketers should do everything sales asks of them, that’s very different. It was just like when I was a software product manager, it was not doing everything that sales asked me. Sales seems to have a lot of influence in many departments, or, “If we just make this one feature, the customer will buy.” That didn’t happen ever. And the same is true in the sales-marketing relationship, but a positive and good relationship is that you’re listening to the language that they’re using to describe objections, and that you’re going back and doing research around when and where those objections occur and using that to inform your content, and then applying all the measurement tools that we just talked about.

Tessa Burg: I think those are the big things that make it more challenging, that there’s more people involved and there has to be and there should be, that it’s not all happening on your website or all online or all in a way where you can stalk with pixels… Or stock might not be the right word, but that feels like what’s happening. And that our consumers are very discerning, but our buyers have a bigger process to go through. They’re not just making this choice for themselves. So our content really has to rise to the standard of empowering our buyer to get more yeses from their internal team to even get to the buy decision. I love that marketing is more challenging in B2B and I love that it’s collaborative and I love how much data we can get, but it’s definitely harder.

Cheryl Boehm: Yes, for sure. When a marketer goes about trying to measure out, improve the value of their content, what are some of the common challenges and pitfalls that they may run into and how can they avoid some of them?

Tessa Burg: So one, I’m just going to give a personal challenge first, I tend to get too technical and I get too in love with the data, and I want to tell everybody everything about all the content. And I will tell you, “Do not do that,” has never worked for me, I’ve learned the hard way. And it’s because I get so excited, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, look at everything we now know.” And that’s not a great way to report up value. So, I have modified that, and I’ve seen some of our colleagues at Tenlo, especially, and I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her out, but Patty Perabeck, our head of strategy, doing a great job of… Just like for great content, you have to think about who the audience is. When your… Value and the ROI, you have to think about the audience. So what does the CEO want to see?

Tessa Burg: What does the CMO want to see? What’s going to get more money. And then only report on the story that answers that question. So the ROI calculation is pretty simple, you take all the money that you’ve invested and you have to look at the return, and then people will say, “Well, it’s not a clear shot.” If you do not have some form of attribution or even attribution set up, compare it to baseline.

Tessa Burg: I won’t get into all the ways, but there is always a way to get to that ROI metric. The more important thing is that it’s… We call them super facts. Two to three super facts about this content is that you engage a persona or target segments at a higher rate this year than last year, and what percent of them became MQLs? Is it that your MQL bucket increased by X percent as a result of this content and the conversion to leads, or qualified leads went up. But those are the types of metrics, the MQLs, the conversion to the leads, the close rates, the value of the close, the size of the companies that the leads are coming from, that all say to a leadership team, “It looks like this content is going to help us make money.” That doesn’t make the other metrics unimportant, because the way you got to the money was by listening to the behavior of the people engaging on your site and in your social channels and in your email newsletter.

Cheryl Boehm: So it’s really about making those metrics tell the story that that specific leadership or audience wants to hear.

Tessa Burg: Yes. And another thing to keep in mind, if you’re feeling like this is getting complicated, it’s because it is. And there’s something in user experience that has always stuck with me. I was at a conference, the person speaking said, “To make things incredibly simple on the front-end and truly engaging, means all of the logic is on the backend.” So don’t put the onus on your executives to understand what it is that you’re doing, but at the same time, yes, you have to sift through all the detail, go through all the logic and then tell a very concise story. So it really is only two to three slides, not 96 slides, which… I mean, Cheryl, you know me, I-

Cheryl Boehm: Yeah, we’ve done the-

Tessa Burg:… definitely put together a 96-slide PowerPoint. And I’ve just accepted that, I had to put together the 96-slide PowerPoint, and I can pull out the two to three slides now that really tell the bigger story. And that doesn’t mean the 96 slides weren’t worth the time, otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to the beautiful front-end.

Cheryl Boehm: Yeah. That’s a great tip. I really liked that one, boiling it down.

Tessa Burg: Yes.

Cheryl Boehm: Well, this has been super fun and very informative. So thanks for switching things up and letting me join you today. Again, this topic is such a big one and so important to so many people. I know the listeners can reach you by visiting tenlo.com obviously, but what are some of the other ways that they can connect with you?

Tessa Burg: Speaking of tenlo.com, we have a ton of awesome content on there, a lot of which Cheryl is responsible for helping us produce. So, if you want to get deeper on how to create great content and how to measure it, definitely check out the resources section on tenlo.com. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Cheryl manages our LinkedIn presence, I am on LinkedIn. I am also now as of today, on Clubhouse, which I am excited about and have really enjoyed the conversations in there. So if you’re on Clubhouse, follow me, we’re going to be doing a few rooms. I’m sure we have one tonight. And we’ll have them on other nights, since you’re listening to this, I don’t know what time. So follow me and then you’ll see where you can come in and ask myself and other people at Tenlo, who are experts in content and social and SEO and all that great stuff, questions.

Cheryl Boehm: I guess this concludes this wonderful episode. And of course we’ll be back in another month and continue on with the talking about some great topics and having some great guests join us. So thanks again, Tessa. I really appreciate it.

Tessa Burg: Thank you, Cheryl.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to another episode of Lead(er) Generation by Tenlo Radio. Be sure to subscribe on tenloradio.com.

Tessa Burg

VP of UX and Technology Strategy at Tenlo

Tessa has 20+ years of digital marketing experience. She combines her marketing and technical skills with software product management experience and agile principles.

Tessa identifies target audience needs as well as where and how they find information to make buying decisions. She also guides how to best execute on-page, off-page and technical SEO. This generates high-quality website traffic that converts into ecommerce purchases and sales-ready leads.

Tessa is the regular host of the “Lead(er) Generation” podcast series. Plus, she’s published numerous articles and white papers. Read her article The Intersection of Content Strategy & SEO to learn how to increase your marketing team’s value with SEO-optimized content.