3 Keys to Making Content Syndication Programs Deliver

At a recent MassTLC DemandGen roundtable, the collective view of a group of 35 demand generation professionals towards content syndication programs was lukewarm. Jonathan Burg of Apperian described it as content advertising (to me implying the impact on metrics like MQLs are much further down the pike), and I’ve heard some of my colleagues describe content syndication as “super top of the funnel”.

Content syndication programs can be very tricky to get right; I have found these 3 Keys to Making Content Syndication Program Deliver as part of a demand generation mix. 

1.       Ensure the publishers are aligned with your metrics

Explain to the publishers you are working with that we have a closed loop marketing system which tracks programs and follows leads through to MQL, SAL and SQL and the opportunity impact, and that the way you determine future investments with publishers is based on the success of the program (hopefully this is the case or you are at least working towards this!).

This immediately aligns the publisher around your business metrics, not their publisher metrics which are typically going to be based on the volume of raw leads they are providing you.

What this also accomplishes is when running into the inevitable lead quality issues, it becomes a very easy conversation to get ‘make-goods’ because it’s in the publishers best interest to provide as much as possible for your program if they know that future investment with them is going to be based on how they perform relative to their peers.

2.       Align topics to those of prospects entering the buying process

For these cost-per-lead programs, publishers are charging you a flat cost per lead, but we demand gen professionals know that “not all leads are created equal.”

It stands to reason that the best way to drive the highest probability of higher quality (later stage) leads with highest probability of becoming MQLs and beyond, is to feature later stage assets for your syndication – Buyer’s Guides, Evaluation Guides, Vendor Landscapes.

These typically are not the first assets that publishers will recommend when constructing a syndication program with you, but that’s where it becomes vital to align the publisher with your objectives. I’ve had publishers say to me “we can use these assets, but we are going to get a lot less leads,” and my answer to that is “that’s okay.” I’d rather run, for example, 5 syndication programs across 5 different publishers that are 1/5 in lead volume but higher quality than a single syndication program of lower quality.

The key is that in a cost per lead program, your goal as the marketer should be quality and not volume. And you’ll unearth more quality with late stage assets than early stage.

3.       It’s okay to use top of the funnel assets but be prepared

If you have a limited budget and short term MQL aspirations, then focus on the late stage asset approach above, but if you have additional budget and looking to build a continuous demand gen program, then add in assets from further up the funnel – but be prepared around what’s happens next for the leads you bring in.

You will need nurture programs for the prospects, and be prepared to closely monitor, measure and evolve these programs. Like many types of programs in marketing, these are hard to get right and you will likely be underwhelmed with your initial results. You’ll want resources focused on continually improving and optimizing these nurture programs to get value out of the top of the funnel syndication leads.

If you can get all three of these pieces in place (alignment with publishers on metrics, a healthy set of late stages assets, and an MQI-to-MQL nurture program), then you can make content syndication a strong contributor to your demand generation. And the good news is you should be able to turn up he dial at that point to drive even more volume through your engine.

How does this compare to your experience with content syndication? Has it be a steady contributor for you and how have your content syndication investments been evaluated?