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Content syndication and other third-party demand generation programs gained a lot of attention in 2020. The reasons for this spike are varied and include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic causing teams to reallocate events budget to other demand-generating channels.
  • Plateauing results from inbound marketing efforts alone.
  • The rise in intent data and its positive results for third-party demand campaigns.
  • The improvement of third-party demand solutions/services themselves.
  • Improved education and skills among B2B marketers leveraging third-party programs.

Though the popularity and impact of third-party demand generation initiatives have significantly jumped over the last year, it’s important for B2B marketing teams to understand everything that goes into a successful program. You can’t simply set it and forget it.

Whether you’re trying to troubleshoot current programs or gathering insights before launching a new campaign, here’s a list of common third-party demand gen issues to look out for and how to fix them:

Media Partners Aren’t Generating Enough Leads

It’s fairly common for media partners (also known as publishers) to miss their lead-volume targets. And considering they have every incentive to fulfill their clients’ orders, their failure to do so often reflects issues beyond their control. Below are the most typical reasons media partners aren’t generating enough leads for clients.

Is your targeting too narrow?

While detailed targeting is important, being overly precise with your campaign targeting — whether regarding number of targeted accounts or the specificity of your personas — hamstrings your media partners.

My colleague Sarah Asbury, director of customer success and media partner relations at Intentsify, explains the challenge publishers face:

“When media partners have difficulty delivering on campaigns, it’s usually because targeted titles or qualifications are too specific. For example, I recently saw a customer wanting to target only property managers managing two or fewer buildings. Obviously, this represents a limited pool of individuals. Not only is it difficult for partners to ensure they reach these individuals with promoted content, but they also have to get them to download the content and opt in to be contacted.”

And that’s just the personas. Media partners are also frequently tasked with generating leads among a supplied target-account list (TAL). A short list exasperates the challenges media partners face. And when you cap the number of leads per account (which you absolutely should do), add on job-title targeting, deduplicate leads against prior campaigns, and require targeted individuals to “opt in” to being contacted, you severely limit the available pool of prospects.

To help achieve your campaign’s lead volume goals, it’s a good idea to:

  1. Provide media partners with a TAL comprising at least three times as many accounts as the campaign’s lead goal.
  2. Ensure that the accounts on the TAL employ your targeted job titles (this often means providing multiple job titles for similar roles; for example, “Director of Demand Generation” may also be “Director of Growth Marketing”).
  3. Leave some of the lead qualification for when you follow-up with prospects later, which will also keep your cost per lead (CPL) down.

Related Article: How Will the GDPR Impact Third-Party Lead Generation?

Are you selecting the wrong content assets to promote?

It’s easy to cursorily select which content assets you use for third-party demand campaigns. This is a big mistake. Not only does this selection influence who and how many targeted individuals become leads, it also affects how well follow-up messaging will resonate.

The best practice is to carefully select your assets according to your buyer-journey map, aligning content to the targeted accounts’ and personas’ interests and funnel stage. In general, content syndication campaigns are a top-of-funnel channel used to familiarize targeted personas to specific challenges, your brand, and your brand’s solutions (from a high level). The assets you select should:

  • Be educational.
  • Provide prescriptive guidance.
  • Briefly introduce your brand’s approach to solving a problem.

It’s best to provide your media partners with three to five content assets for each campaign. This will allow your partners to test different variables and optimize campaigns accordingly.

Further, put some thought into writing and providing media partners with quality abstracts for your content. Partners use these short explanations to promote your assets via landing pages, emails, ads, etc. And while media partners will sometimes offer to write abstracts for you, keep in mind that they’re usually not subject-matter experts, and can understandably miss the mark when trying to highlight why target audiences should download the assets. Providing abstract copy to media partners up front helps to ensure campaigns generate the quality and quantity of prospects you need.

Related Article: Content Marketing Hubs: A Safe Space to Meet Your Audience

Low Email Delivery Rate When You Follow Up With Partner-Generated Leads

New techniques, tools and types of account intelligence (e.g., intent data) have generally led media partners to generate higher quality prospects for their customers in recent years. At the same time, however, more aggressive filtering by email providers has created difficulties for marketing organizations when following up with prospects via email.

Kathy Macchi, VP of consulting services at Inverta, explains the problem in detail:

“Problems with email delivery for campaign follow-up is hands down the biggest challenge we’re seeing with content syndication and third-party demand programs. It used to be generally possible for brands to cold email a prospect as long as the message wasn’t particularly 'spammy' or the brand didn’t have a terrible sender reputation, and the email would get delivered and placed in an inbox. However, today, unless a brand has a phenomenal sender reputation (top 5%) many email providers used by prospects will often either block the email or place it in a 'promotional/advertising' folder.

“So, while a media partner may be generating quality demand, delivering a list of prospects with valid lead data, the data handoff from the partner to the client brand 'breaks' the data trail that most email providers are looking at to know whether to place an email in the prospect’s inbox.”

While this issue can greatly hinder program results, marketers can do a number of things to prevent or mitigate the email deliverability problem:

  1. Prioritize your email sender reputation. This includes building a long-term record of following email best practices. (Too much to go over in this article.)
  2. Space out your follow-up emails to partner-generated leads. Instead of sending out bulk email blasts all at once, send a few at a time. Generally, if you keep each send to fewer than 20 to 30 emails per send, and space them out by 3-4 hours, they’re less likely to be tagged as spam. 
  3. Give due attention to your email messages. Follow all email best practices, especially for the first email you sent to a new prospect. This includes looking both at back-end HTML, as well as the front-end copy/content of the message. Further, you’ll want to thoroughly test your email prior to sending.

Related Article: How to Deliver Credible Marketing Pipeline Forecasts

Low Conversion Rate of Partner-Generated Leads

Prospects from your third-party demand gen programs don’t convert for a number of reasons. Common and typically well-understood issues include larger marketing problems with understanding target audiences and the buyer’s journey.

For example, you may not be targeting the right personas or companies, in which case you’ll want to create or revise persona and ideal customer profile (ICP) charts based on new market research. Or your follow-up messaging may not align with the assets you provided your partners, in which case you may want to create or revise a content strategy based on your specific buyer’s journey.

But other, less-known reasons for low conversion rates often have more to do with timing.

Does your TAL include a lot of companies that aren’t in the market to buy?

Your persona and ICP targets may be perfect, but if only a fraction of your target accounts are currently looking to buy, you’ll still suffer from low conversion rates. Using intent data is critical here. It allows you to hone your TAL down to accounts that are actively researching solutions related to your products/services (i.e., showing active buy signs). This prevents you from wasting budget, time and energy on prospects that currently have no need for your solutions.

Is your lead follow-up delayed?

The longer you take to engage prospects after they download your asset from a media partner, the greater the chance they will have forgotten the content, your brand, and/or what necessitated the download in the first place. This obviously doesn’t help with email responses or conversions. To speed up follow-up efforts, you should set up integrations with media partners to have leads directly injected into your marketing automation system. Of course, before doing this, you’ll want to ensure you have an adequate lead verification process in place to ensure you’re not dumping duplicate, inaccurate or poor-quality leads into your database.

Third-party demand gen has emerged as an important pipeline driver for today’s B2B marketing teams. But like any other channel, results will vary based on the level of attention marketers provide their programs. Understanding all the issues that can occur and documenting standardized ways to prevent or fix them is the best way to keep this source of revenue flowing.