Content Syndication can be a very effective B2B tactic or a huge miss if you don’t set it up properly. There are a lot of details that will make a difference on how well it works for you. And it all starts when and how you design and negociate the program with the vendor.
In this article I am summarizing my extensive experience with content syndication – take a look at these areas you need to cover to launch a successful program.
Establish, from the very beginning, what you want to achieve with a content syndication program. It’s lead generation from your target audience, obviously, but this tactic may also generate awareness, strengthen branding, or reach your audience in places other channels cannot.
Equally important, decide what the funnel stage you aim to address: bottom, mid, or top funnel. That will shape the campaign in terms of audience size, buying group to target, budgets, and content.
Pilot – Testing the program
In B2B, we use content syndication a lot and rely on the volumes (of leads) it can generate. If you haven’t worked with a content syndication program before, do know that you can opt-in for a pilot first to test the vendor efficiency. I advise towards a three-month pilot as best practice to capture the vendor effectiveness and potential issues.
B2B marketers make long term plans. That is why it’s essential to discuss scalability with content syndication vendors. Are they able to deliver beyond a successful pilot? Can they supply the client with new/existing contacts leads at a steady pace for at least six months? At what point would they reach their limit? In most cases, leads volumes brought in by the content syndication tactic represent an essential piece in the marketing mix, and you must ensure the vendor can and will deliver so things go as planned at your end.
Targeting Companies via Content Syndication
Send the list of companies you want to target plus the extra layers (function/department, job role/title, etc.) to the vendor and request a matching diagnosis: how many accounts from your list can they reach/map? Solid vendors will be able to cover 90% and higher.Provide a list of minimum 1000 companies to the vendor to obtain accurate results (in case you do target that many).
Make it very clear and state it in the Agreement / Insertion Order all exclusions you want for the program, i.e., no competitors, percentage of new vs. existing contacts, etc.
You cannot consider using the content syndication tactic unless you have a decent amount of pieces of content in your portfolio: from long-form content (e-books) to reports, blog posts, infographics, etc. The vendor will communicate the number of pieces they need, at least to start the program. Some vendors will be able to include webinars (live or on-demand) and other types of video content.
Don’t focus only on the required number of pieces of content. Be very thorough on best matching the content topic with the interests of the audience. This will help the vendor deliver high-quality leads that will be open/willing to communicate further with the client via nurture programs. The email program metrics mirror the quality of the leads: open rate, click to open, lead progression, etc.
Integration with Marketing Automation. Leads Pacing
Content syndication vendors are pouring collected leads into the client marketing automation platform via API. The integration between the two must be discussed and set up before the start of the program. Before you sign a vendor inquiry about the integration, make sure they are compatible with the platform you use (Marketo, Salesforce, Hubspot, etc.) and make sure they have someone in the team with the specific expertise. It’s not rocket science, but you need to know how it works. A vendor once surprised me when I realized that no one at their end could handle this properly. Also, discuss the form fields mapping, there might be minor differences between the form they use to collect leads (in terms of fields and their names) and how you set up your marketing automation and nurture programs.
Before you start the program, test the integration – require the vendor to send some leads through to check if everything works as planned. Request them to send the leads in excel/CSV format, too (for backup).
Very important – agree on the leads pacing with the vendor. Do you want steady pacing throughout the program? A higher percentage in the first quarter? Send them as they come in?
Concierge / Account Management
Unless it’s a 100% self-service, vendors will offer account management to assist you through program deployment and roll-out. Discuss from the very beginning what is being offered: reporting, stats and analytics, and how often, regular checkpoints to look at performance and tailored solutions for improvement, problem-solving, etc. If account management is part of the package, you must discuss and agree upon every single detail.
Branding, Awareness. Nurture
While you are setting up fantastic email nurture for the leads delivered by content syndication programs, be aware that you must engage with the prospects fast and smart. The prospects have likely consumed content from many other advertisers by giving out their details via forms. Make sure you start the conversation fast before they forget having shown interest in your content and your company. Equally important, take extra steps to ensure the correct association between the content and the company. Request the content syndication vendor to place the company logo next to the material when promoting it and on the form page, too. Further on, reinforce the association within the very first paragraph of the email you are sending to a lead (“Thank you for showing interest in x content from y company…”).
These requirements are essential for the success of the program further on: email nurture, lead progression, etc.
Data & Data Accuracy
When negotiating the program targeting and terms, be very specific about the data you expect for every lead: name, surname, company, department, job title, geo (country or more granular), etc. When it comes to email – critical information – accept business email only and request replacing all leads that are delivered with personal email addresses (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.).
From my experience, it’s unlikely that 100% of the data will be accurate; even the most advanced vendors cannot get to this point. Up to 10% of the data may be slightly inaccurate or incomplete. It’s vital that the vendor has a professional approach and correct this when flagged by the client. I have noticed that clients tend to embark on a long term collaboration with vendors that are fair and professional.
Last but not least, discuss the percentage of leads that will be exposed to more than one piece of content from your company. The higher, the better – these are the most valuable leads (high qualified).
GDPR & Permissions
Bring in the specialist for this one. Ensure the vendors are GDPR / Privacy Laws compliant. Since two parties are involved in collecting and using the data, the matter should be evaluated by someone with specific expertise.
In terms of opt-ins, ask vendors to allow you to add extra verbiage at the bottom of the field on contact permissions.