Partnering with a B2B content syndication agency is frequently touted as a game-changer for B2B companies with complex sales and high average selling prices (ASPs). The relationship starts out with the aim to generate marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), enhance brand recognition, and increase conversions.
Sadly, many end up disappointed and write off content and syndication services as a failure.
B2B content syndication is often pitched as a bag of magic closing beans. It most definitely is not that. But if done right and with patience, it can be a powerful strategy for generating conversions and revenue, akin to a good PPC campaign.
If you’re not doing this in-house, assessing whether your B2B content syndication agency delivers on its promises is essential. In this article, we'll explore why these agencies may not be the magic solution they claim to be and how to overcome these hurdles for better results.
Note: A good agency should already implement the best practices outlined here without charging you extra. There should be no additional fees to perform tasks leading to running a successful campaign, like creating email templates and managing lead nurturing.
Most B2B content syndication platforms are run on a cost-per-lead (CPL) basis. Your total budget should always be CPL x Number of Requested Leads. ‘Nickel and diming’ you is a warning sign that you’ve picked the wrong agency.
Many other content syndication platforms, agencies, and platforms adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, often failing to cater to your business's specific goals, needs, and nuances. This results in generic content like a blog post instead of a valuable eBook and promotional assets that hardly resonate with your target audience, diluting the impact of your marketing efforts.
What to look for: If the content syndication agency is creating the content & creative for you, work closely with them to tailor content that aligns with your brand's voice, target customer personas, and business objectives.
Create a collaboration plan using a platform everyone agrees on, like Slack or Asana. Regularly discuss progress and any needed changes as you approach the campaign launch. This ensures your content stays up-to-date and tailored to your needs, transforming generic outreach into personalized engagement.
When working with a content syndication services company, it's crucial to identify and prioritize the right metrics to measure success. Often, agencies can present metrics with high numbers but a low correlation with the success of a B2B content syndication campaign. The right metrics help an agency align its efforts with the client's business goals while also ensuring that both parties clearly understand what success looks like.
1. Page Views Alone: While page views from search engines can be good to measure, they don’t necessarily indicate the visitor's or lead's quality.
2. Social Shares: Although social media shares can provide some validation, they do not necessarily equate to high-quality leads or sales.
3. Number of Publications: Just because content gets syndicated on many media outlets and platforms doesn’t mean it successfully meets the client’s business goals. However, for transparency and to protect your brand, you should know where your content appears, but more does not equal better.
4. Immediate Sales: Content syndication to support the complex sale is about building long-term relationships using new and existing content rather than achieving immediate sales, so focusing solely on short-term sales metrics can be misleading. Short-term sales can and certainly do happen but should be something other than the focus of the engagement.
5. Impressions: This metric only indicates the number of times the content was displayed, not whether it engaged the audience or led a wider audience to any desired actions.
How to fix: Hold the agency accountable for delivering leads that convert to pipeline (the number 1 metric). It’s best to view conversion over a longer time frame, like six months or a year.
The agency and its syndication partners will manage metrics like impressions, email opens, clicks, and landing page conversions. However, the most important metric for you should be how these leads contribute to your sales pipeline, as this directly relates to lead quality.
1. Lead Quality: The primary goal of content syndication is lead and revenue generation. Focusing on the quality of leads generated—like high engagement rates or a high likelihood to convert—is a reliable measure of success.
2. Traffic: Syndicated articles and content will draw new visitors to the original article or website. Higher traffic numbers than usual during the campaign suggest that the syndication strategy is effective.
3. SEO: Push your agency to get a backlink from the publishers’ sites where your content appears. Then, measure the effect of syndicated links to blog posts and content on your site’s page authority. Backlinks and keyword ranking improvements can be good indicators.
4. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): Knowing how much it costs to acquire a new customer through syndicated content can be an excellent measure of efficiency. Divide your total costs (CPL x number of leads) by the new customers generated in the same period.
5. ROI: Ultimately, businesses want to know that their investment in content syndication networks is paying off. ROI can be calculated in various ways, but generally, it's the gains against the costs involved in the syndication process. Ideally, you’ll track the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) of all the closed deals initiated by the content syndication networks' program and divide it by the program's cost.
Every syndicated content agency will assure you they'll focus on your ideal customer profile. Lead quality will improve if you demand transparency about how they generate those targeted leads.
Most CPL-based content syndication campaigns primarily use email to place content offers. Email is the fastest way to distribute content and generate registrations and leads. When we talk about audience, we are primarily referring to email lists. Most reputable campaigns will also place your white papers in a directory listing or feature them in a newsletter, but the real traction happens in email.
There are two types of audiences when using CPL-based B2B content syndication networks:
Owned audiences: A good agency will partner with known industry publications, social media sites, and influencers with an owned, earned opt-in email audience who have consented to receive relevant offers in their inbox. This is the only type of audience your agency should partner with.
Scraped audiences: In recent years, the market has seen a surge in so-called content syndication agencies—often offshore—that resort to scraping emails and data primarily from platforms like LinkedIn. These agencies inundate inboxes with spam emails featuring your brand—already a red flag—and deliver dismal performance, often resulting in minimal to zero actual lead registrations.
They make up for this by sending you ‘leads’ from contacts who opened the email but never clicked a link or filled out a form, erroneously classifying these as qualified leads. To make matters worse, many of the ‘openers’ they are selling back to you are from email security software ‘opening’ the email to inspect it for viruses. That ‘$50 lead’ is really a bot opening an email.
When you get feedback like: ‘Many of the people we reached don’t recall downloading the white paper’, that’s a sure sign you’ve been sold bot openers and not genuine leads.
How to fix: Insist on full transparency regarding the content syndication media mix and properties where your content will appear. Only proceed with the campaign if the source used is a reputable publisher or influencer with verifiable opt-in email policies.
Many agencies simply ‘throw leads over the fence’ and take off. Next, you send the leads to your sales development reps (SDRs) and ask them to ‘close the leads’. This is another area where content syndication can get a bad reputation, leading to frustration between sales and marketing.
How to Fix: A better option is to pick an agency that insists on creating a nurturing program or helping with your existing one as part of the total CPL budget (again, not as an extra fee).
Only a small fraction—less than 5%—of leads from content syndication are 'in-market' or ready to buy right now or soon. The good news is that among the thousands or millions of potential targets for your service, you've identified hundreds or even thousands who express interest in the problems your solution addresses, as evidenced by giving up their information to download your content.
You're off to a good start in content syndication if you've tailored your target audience to fit your ideal customer profile. Now, you can easily align your follow-up sequences with potential buyers who have downloaded your assets, and as they come in-market, your solution will be considered.
When executed correctly and consistently over time, lead nurturing can be effective. Below is a chart offering insights from B2B marketers in 2021 on using content for lead nurturing.
B2B content syndication agencies often charge a hefty fee or retainer for their services on top of what you pay for media placements (the CPL). The more complex the pricing structure and the more added fees, the less likely you are to achieve conversions and revenue. Content syndication services and fees should be easy to understand.
How to fix: As stated repeatedly here, make sure your pricing is simple and includes a full-service offering.
Apart from upfront costs, hidden or unexpected charges, like additional fees for targeting a more niche audience, can inflate your marketing budget unexpectedly.
How to fix: Don’t accept last-minute fee increases because you have refined your audience. CPLs can increase in proportion to the difficulty in reaching your target audience. IT managers are more accessible to get than CEOs. Your target audience and the CPL you expect to pay should be clearly defined and agreed upon before signing any contracts.
When you hand over your content syndication strategy to an agency, you also surrender a degree of control over original content and where and how it's published. This could conflict with your brand's tone, ethics, or quality standards.
How to fix: The fundamental principle to ensure the success of content syndication is to demand transparency and evidence. Verify that your content appears on reputable websites and is shown to an audience that willingly accepts third-party content offers.
Agencies may need to be more swift to adapt to changes in your industry or strategy. Being locked into a contract with a less agile service provider can hinder your company’s ability to pivot as needed.
While B2B content syndication agencies may seem like a tempting avenue for rapid growth, they often must deliver true value for the investment. Issues ranging from misaligned strategies and poor quality lead to financial pitfalls and lack of control, making it critical for businesses to think twice before diving headfirst into this option.
In the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. It's essential to conduct thorough due diligence and consider alternative or complementary approaches to meet your business goals effectively.