B2B companies are seeing high ROI from content marketing programs. How long it takes may surprise you.

Content marketing is one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing. Program ROIs are still high. However, the results don’t come overnight. Expect it to take 12 months or more to get consistent, bottom-funnel results. Here’s how to speed up time to payback.

How long does it take for a content marketing program to begin generating bottom-funnel results?

Our experience across hundreds of customers has shown that it takes approximately 12 months for a company to start seeing consistent bottom-funnel metrics.

Give your content marketing program 12 months to generate bottom-funnel resultsDefining bottom-funnel

A typical sales funnel has three components: top, mid and bottom funnel. Each component represents a stage on the buyers’ journey. Bottom funnel means that the prospect is ready to act. Metrics used to measure this stage include leads, email registrations and revenue.

Why does it take so long to generate bottom-funnel results for content marketing programs?

Companies might be surprised that it takes 12 or more months. However, if you step back and take a look at the process to get to generating consistent bottom-funnel leads, it will make sense.

Month 1

The first month of your marketing program establishes a cadence with the content production and publication. During that first month, you’re publishing may be your first or second blog.

Months 2 through 6The first month of your marketing program establishes a cadence with the content production and publication.

From months 2 to 6, you’re publishing content consistently. During this time, what ends up happening is that the search engines beginning to crawl your website and index the pages on it.

However, just because they index the pages on your website doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to the top of the search results for your desired focus keyword phrases. It’s just not realistic.

You’re competing with many other companies that are vying for the same positions on those keyword phrases. The reality is that once search engines index your website, you may not even show up within the first 200 search results — at least initially; over time you may.

Optimize your content marketing program by optimizing meta titles, meta descriptions, focus SEO phrases, and, most importantly, content amplification.Coming to the end of your first 6 months

As your program progresses, you’re going to see consistency in the number of times that you show up for specific search queries. You’ll be able to see this data through Google Webmaster tools. As you get closer to month 6, the number of queries that you’re appearing on increase. The number of clicks to your website increases, too.

Depending on the resources allocated to your content marketing program, it’s right around 4 to 6 months in when you’re going to start seeing some consistency in website visits.

At this point, you’re going to need to be able to optimize your program. Tasks include optimizing your meta titles, meta descriptions, focus SEO phrases, and, most importantly, content amplification.

type of visitor clicking over to your website begins to change when you start optimize your content marketing programIf you perform these tasks while consistently publishing content, your content marketing program will continue to march toward bottom-funnel success.

One other thing that you’ll notice as you optimize your content marketing program is that the type of visitor clicking over to your website begins to change. Your usual prospects are those at the top of the funnel educating themselves on your industry and types of solutions available. Now, they become more sophisticated and educated prospects. They already know that they have a need and are now evaluating solutions.

What if your content marketing program didn’t generate bottom-funnel results after 12 months?

Whether your content marketing program is in trouble is going to depend on a couple of different factors:

Your content marketing program should be narrowly focused1. How narrowly were you focusing your content marketing program? Was it too broad in nature? If so, it’s going to take you infinitely longer to be able to achieve results.

2. Take a look at your industry. Are you competing in a highly fragmented, ultra-competitive space? Or are you competing with just a couple other players in a niche area? If it’s in a very competitive space, it can take significantly longer to be able to go and achieve bottom of the funnel results.

3. The third issue could lie with the content type and publication frequency. Are you producing content that’s solely focused on the top of the funnel? Or are you developing content that gravitate toward the middle or the bottom of the funnel? Examples of middle- and bottom-funnel content are case studies, eguides, testimonials, extensive thought leadership pieces, how-to, webinars and much more. If you’re only creating content at the top, you’re not going to have much of a chance of getting people to move beyond that content itself.

resolve and identify issues of your content marketing program, so it can get back on track and generate results4. Content depth and posting frequency can also be issues. Are you producing short-form content and publishing them a couple of times per month or less? Is your content being optimized for SEO? All these factors can slow down the growth of your content marketing program.

These are just a few of the more common problems that marketers face. The quicker you resolve and identify these issues, the faster the content marketing program can get back on track and generate results.

How should you manage internal expectations while your content marketing program ramps up?

The best thing that a B2B CMO can do is set expectations for how the content marketing program should perform. CMOs need to take this action well before the content marketing program starts. If that’s done, everyone will be aligned and have the proper expectations of performance.

CMOs need to set expectations and define milestones to the company’s leadership teamIn our experience, CMOs need to establish milestones for achieving both top- and bottom-funnel results. As mentioned, it revolves around both top- and bottom-funnel achievements.

In summary

Most content marketing programs should be able to start generating sustainable bottom-funnel metrics within 12 months of launch. There are many ways content marketing programs can be derailed before achieving success. Uncovering and resolving them will ensure the content marketing program stays on track.

Most importantly, before the content marketing program begins, CMOs need to set expectations and define milestones to the company’s leadership team. When the C-suite is aligned and the content marketing team is narrowly focused on the right metrics and milestones, magic can happen!

Need content marketing help?

If you have a content marketing program or are planning one, download our ebook 100 Mistakes Businesses Make When Starting, Optimizing and Scaling Content Marketing Programs.

This ebook will walk you through the mistakes of hundreds of other companies and the challenges they faced in implementing their content marketing programs. To learn more about how Tempesta Media can help you streamline your content creation process and deliver quality content at scale, contact us today.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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