Brands now have the money, the personnel and the software to produce high quality content at unmatched levels. So why are they still struggling to generate quality leads?

A new report by the CMO Council highlights the many challenges of turning content into leads, but content production isn’t one of them.

Long thought to be the hardest part of a content strategy, content production has been streamlined into an efficient process, with brands consistently churning out a plethora of dazzling infographics, ebooks, slideshows and videos. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of B2B companies say they are creating more content than they did one year ago, and B2B marketers spend an average of 28 percent of their total marketing budgets on content marketing, a figure that the majority expect to rise over the course of the year.

And yet, the sobering reality is that 79% of marketing leads never convert to sales. Clearly there’s a disconnect between the production process and the thought process, and real results are achieved only when the two are aligned. Here’s three reasons why your content marketing probably isn’t delivering the results you need it to.

1) You’re investing in the wrong type of content

One of the most eye-opening findings in the CMO Council report is the disconnect between the content marketers produce and the content that actually generates leads.

According to the report, here are the types of content companies spend most of their resources producing:

  • Product brochures (84%)
  • Slide presentations (79%)
  • White papers (78%)
  • Videos (76%)
  • Corporate brochures (70%)
  • Infographics (65%)
  • Webcasts (64%)

And here are the types of content companies say generate the best quality leads:

  • White papers (24%)
  • Videos (22%)
  • Analyst reports (22%)
  • Webcasts (22%)
  • Slide presentations (15%)
  • eBooks (13%)
  • Infographics (12%)

It’s pretty alarming to see so much effort going into something like product brochures, and yet it’s nowhere on the list of top lead generators. It’s a symptom of companies not having a coherent strategy, which results in them throwing content against a wall and seeing what sticks. However, the findings in the report don’t mean that every company just needs to focus more on white papers and videos. All it means is that after producing and testing content across all formats and channels, companies should narrow their focus and investments only on the content that actually brings them results.

2) You’re producing for the wrong audience

48% of marketers surveyed in the report said their biggest obstacle to lead generation success is that their content isn’t tailored to specific audiences. That stat complements their concerns that content is not actually reaching the right decision makers (43%) and that content lacks relevance for a specific audience (44%.)

The report says:

While 49 percent of respondents feel they are developing and distributing content to continue or nurture engagements, only one in four is actually developing specific content designed for lead nurturing. Some 24 percent admit that they simply use the same content that is distributed for initial lead generation for the purposes of lead nurturing.

For marketers, it can be counter-intuitive to tailor content to specific audiences since content marketing is regarded as top-of-the funnel activity, designed to appeal the the broadest possible audience. But not all content needs to be that. To be truly effective, content needs to be personalized to specific audiences, and specific actions it wants them to take. It’s all well and good to continuously create engaging, entertaining content that gets plenty of page views. But what about the people who are already familiar with your content, and want to move to the next stage? They need a different type of engagement, one that is tailored directly to where they are in the customer journey. This doesn’t mean creating brand new content for each stage, for the most part it’s simply refining or repurposing existing assets. But there must be a thought process behind content, otherwise its lead-generating potential drops significantly.

3) You’re staying within your own network

Most brands have a content strategy that depends on getting as many people as they can to visit and stay within their network of content distribution. That means focusing on their owned websites, social media channels and developing a robust email list. While that strategy is great for fostering loyalty, there’s room for improvement, especially when it comes to prospecting newer leads.

From the report:

35 percent syndicate content through known channels (i.e., existing prospects, customers, corporate-controlled assets like web and social channels, partner networks, VARs and resellers), literally keeping content distribution and syndication within a closed circle of contacts with a slim chance for content to reach new prospects, likely diminishing the opportunity to embrace new lead flow.

To fully capitalize on the potential of content, companies need to go outside their current ecosystem, look for content syndication opportunities and experiment with placing their POV in publications where they wouldn’t normally. Inbound marketing has many advantages, and investments in it need to continue. But in our digitally connected world, its imperative for every company to go where the customers are.

Download the complete report from the CMO Council.