Lead generation, thought leadership, and brand awareness named top content marketing goals.

Lead generation tops the list of goals for content marketing programs, according to IDG Enterprise. Researchers talked to over 700 professional marketers on LinkedIn, finding that two out of three want their investment in original content to pay off in the form of new prospects, requests for proposals, and closed deals.

Even though IDG’s survey pushed “lead nurturing” to fourth on the list, I prefer to lump the two together. Strong content means your prospects will turn to you again and again for key insight and information. They may not request a quote on the first visit to your website or other owned media, but they may reach out to you for help by the 20th.

This works especially well if you’re cornering the market on thought leadership, the second of this year’s three top B2B content and inbound marketing goals. The first time I heard the phrase, I hated it. Smacking of ego and hubris, it reminded me too much of consultants I met during the first dot-com bubble. Over time, I’ve made peace with the phrase, but only when measured very carefully against key performance indicators.

True thought leadership means that a prospect or a referral partner should think of your name first when someone asks about your niche. For years, PR professionals measured this by counting the number of column inches or broadcast guest bookings their “thought leader” clients earned every quarter. Today, you can measure thought leadership in terms of products sold and services booked. Are you the person who prospects call for a “pick your brain” session at no charge? Or are you the trusted advisor whose rates don’t get questioned by eager new clients?

Have you tried to make a cold call in today’s environment? If you’ve got money to spend, you’re probably facing a full voicemail inbox before lunchtime. Outbound calling, passive advertising, and intercept marketing have all fallen out of favor, especially with time-strapped prospects. When your leads type what they’re looking for into Google, they should see targeted communication: your authoritative book on the subject, a link to your free newsletter, highlights from your website, and guest posts you’ve made on other industry blogs.

Brand awareness may have come in third on IDG’s survey results, but it really just reinforces the first two. To my ears, brand awareness sounds like wallpaper: it’s plastered everywhere, so it feels familiar to someone when they’re on the verge of qualifying themselves as a real lead. This third leg of your stool means that a white paper you released a year ago may have sit in the inbox on a buyer’s desk for months, but your logo staring them in the face all that time has burned familiarity into their brain.


Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram