Content Syndication as a Foundational Element of Lead Generation

freya ward

In this episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged, Freya discusses:

  • Leveraging content syndication to increase brand exposure;
  • Attracting targeted B2B IT and cybersecurity leads;
  • Effective strategies recommended to nurture leads through different stages of the buyer’s journey;
  • How to enable the implementation of an ABM strategy to focus on improving lead quality;
  • And much more!

Freya Ward is the Global Sales Director at Headley Media, specialist in B2B technology lead and demand generation. With over 30 years in the industry, Headley Media is renowned for providing high-quality and transparent content syndication campaigns, operating globally across 60 countries in 32 languages. As a business leader with an impressive career, Freya has spent the last decade working in B2B marketing and sales positions across both agency and publisher roles. Freya dedicates her time to maximizing results for her technology clients, advising them on the most strategic B2B marketing and lead generation tactics to use based on their campaign objectives.

Given lead generation has become so integral for vendors and such a focus for IT and cybersecurity marketers, it’s no wonder that countless methods have been explored to produce leads.   

Search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, events, referral programs, account-based marketing – the tactics go on and on and on. But one method has stood the test of time and remains a vital foundational element of any cybersecurity lead generation program – content syndication.

Content syndication, typically performed via third-party media outlets, allows cybersecurity marketers to distribute valuable content to a wider and potentially more targeted audience than they can reach on their own.  But content can be found just about everywhere these days – so how do IT and cybersecurity marketers utilize content syndication to create an optimized lead-generation engine for their respective organizations?

I believe most of the work around a lead generation strategy comes way before you even start generating leads. So ensuring that you've got a nurture in place and within a CRM automation platform that is going to follow up those leads as quickly as possible.

Full Transcript

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. 

Mike D’Agostino: [00:25]

Welcome everyone to another episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged. I’m Mike D’Agostino, general manager with CyberTheory and your host for today’s program. Thank you for joining us. Cybersecurity marketers live, eat, breathe, bathe in, and are otherwise constantly thinking about lead generation. They have to. Marketing, to a large degree, is focused on creating intrigue and desire and ultimately supporting revenue opportunities and the sales function. So much lead gen all day, every day. Given lead generation has become so integral for cybersecurity vendors and such a focus for IT and cybersecurity marketers, it’s no wonder that countless methods have been explored to produce leads, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email marketing events, referral programs, account-based marketing – the tactics go on and on. But one method has stood the test of time and remains a vital foundational element of any cybersecurity lead generation program: Content syndication. Content syndication, typically performed via third-party media publishers allows IT and cybersecurity marketers to distribute valuable content to a wider and potentially more targeted audience than they can reach on their own. But content can be found just about everywhere these days. So how do IT and cybersecurity marketers utilize content syndication to create an optimized lead generation engine for their respective organizations? Well, to help us dissect this question and dive deep into B2B lead generation strategies, we’ve asked Freya Ward, the global sales director with Headley Media to provide insight and guidance. Freya, welcome to the interview series.

Freya Ward: [02:29]

Thanks so much, Mike. It’s great to be here.

Mike D’Agostino: [02:32]

Great to have you. And before we dive into the questions and to provide a bit of context for our listeners, please tell us a bit about yourself and take a minute or two to describe Headley Media.

Freya Ward: [02:47]

Of course. Thanks, Mike. I’m Freya Ward. I’m the global sales director at Headley Media. I’ve been at Headley Media for almost five years now. And during that time, I’ve seen the market evolve and change. New lead generation suppliers appear in the market and also clients’ priorities changed throughout that time. Prior to joining Headley, I worked at a B2B marketing agency. I worked with clients on building their strategy around their media plans and advertising, helping them show ROI and source new publishers to work with. That journey led me to Headley Media and I guess the rest of it is history. At Headley Media, we are a B2B lead generation specialist. As you rightly mentioned, we work with the technology companies worldwide to generate digital leads through content syndication. We believe that we really understand the technology decision-making committee and the nuances in each geo market. That could be by job title, responsibilities, or even native language. We’ve been in the industry for over 30 years now growing our readership and learning about them, building quality campaigns for our clients focusing on trust and transparency. We do absolutely no outsourcing. So everything that we do is done in-house by our team. We own six different brands across 265 websites in 60 countries and 30 languages. So it’s all owned by us and managed by us and run by us.

Mike D’Agostino: [04:19]

Great, well, sounds like a tremendous network and given your background, you’re perfectly suited to join Headley and help make progress with them. So we’ll get into more about the Headley network and some of the unique aspects of it regarding local language and some other things throughout the interview. But why don’t we jump in? So first and foremost, content syndication is an essential aspect of lead generation. So how are your technology brands leveraged for content syndication to increase brand exposure and attract targeted B2B IT and cybersecurity leads across the entire network of the websites that you manage.

Freya Ward: [05:07]

So our six technology brands were developed to provide trust and transparency in what we believe is an industry that’s often clouded by smoke and mirrors. So we work with our clients to provide total visibility into our lead generation process, be that the landing pages that we use explicit consent from every lead, and that full reader experience and reader journey all the way through to the validation process. We try and make that process super easy for our clients, and we do the heavy lifting, we really put our audience first. So we’ve grown and developed and nurtured our audience over the last 13-14 years and we truly understand them. We know that technology decision-making committee has expanded and especially those that are in IT and cybersecurity, they’re extremely time-poor, they need to be able to access relevant and educational materials in a convenient and trusted place. So we have absolutely no advertising across our websites, they’re very much resource libraries and reset destinations for our readers to come to without being targeted with banners and ads. And instead, they’re consuming content that is relevant to their active buying cycles and behavioural insights across our websites. We progressively profile the audience, we survey them, and we review their intent searches, and promote content to them based on this. Also, working in explicit consent means that our readers are only contacted by clients and technology companies that they really want to hear from, it means that they’ve consented to receiving further communications, and they’re building trust with our clients.

Mike D’Agostino: [06:48]

Good. Well, sounds like you have quite a good methodology there. And let’s talk a little bit about strategy. So developing relevant and engaged leads is crucial for lead generation success. So can you share some effective strategies that you’ve seen or have recommended to nurture leads through the different stages of the buyers journey? Because let’s be honest, everybody is looking for the most qualified prospects. So how do you handle or recommend to your clients to get through that buyers journey process?

Freya Ward: [07:30]

I think lead generation and lead nurturing strategy is just as important as the lead generation itself. So it’s often overlooked. And it’s not necessarily set up as well as it could be within marketing departments. So we work closely with our clients to develop their follow-up communications to get the most out of their lead generation campaigns. And I believe most of the work around a lead generation strategy comes way before you even start generating leads. So ensuring that you’ve got a nurture in place that within a CRM automation platform that is going to follow up those leads as quickly as possible. Some best practices include citing the brand they’ve downloaded the content from, so if it’s Headley Media, then it’s going to be IT corporate, cybersecurity corporate ensuring that you’re following up with more educational content that’s related to the piece of content that the readers have downloaded from the Headley Media portfolio to the common lead in the first place. Making sure you’re using any intelligence from the campaign. So that could be profiling questions, bank qualification questions, or even intent data in your follow up and your nurture. So you suggested that you had a particular challenge around this topics and making sure you’re then providing more content around that specific challenge. I think something as well, that’s important way before you set a lead generation campaign live and should be part of your nurture strategy is also internal stakeholder engagement and alignment. So I believe this is vital to the success of any lead generation campaign. And what I mean by that is working with our marketing managers, our clients, to communicate and align with anybody that is touching or reviewing the quality of the leads, or looking at the ROI of a campaign that sales, customer success teams aligning on the lead scoring model, agreeing what’s an MQL, what’s an SQL? Before the campaign even starts, we see when clients take the nurture seriously, then the lead generation process is set up for success. And they gain maximum intelligence from the campaign and push them along that buyers journey with the end goal of leading into converting into qualified prospects.

Mike D’Agostino: [09:39]

That’s great. Such great insights there. I think many marketers think that they syndicate content, and they’re going to get in return an Excel file or a spreadsheet with a list of names and a single timestamp of when that person engaged with their content, and then it’s off to the races. You can hand that over to your sales team and start making dials and the people are going to be ready to pick up the phone and have a sales conversation with you. But unfortunately, it does not work that way. You can find some diamonds in the rough definitely. But really the success of your lead generation and content syndication programs, as you’ve alluded to, really comes with the setup and the follow up. And you have to be mentally prepared to do that. You can’t just dive in and get the report and start dialing for dollars, as they would say over here in the US.

Freya Ward: [10:42]

Absolutely, we’d all be millionaires if that were the case, but it definitely is a much longer process, especially in the B2B buying committee these days, where they’re actively researching so much themselves before they even raise their hand. You need to be part of that journey earlier on to be thought leaders and be recognized brands that they trust and potentially want to work with.

Mike D’Agostino: [11:05]

Great point. Well, let’s talk about more of a global stance. So many entities, especially your larger, mid and large-size vendors out there, they do have a global presence. They may have started in a specific market or stronger in certain markets. But there are many IT and cybersecurity vendors that reach far across the globe. And many businesses operate in diverse markets with specifically various language preferences. So how do you approach a multilingual lead generation strategy to reach global audiences and engage prospects who speak different languages?

Freya Ward: [11:47]

It’s a great question and one I love addressing because local language – multilingual lead generation campaigns, I believe, are one of our specialties at Headley Media. With our content library website spanning across 60 countries in 30 languages, I believe the best way to focus on a multilingual strategy is to start with the client objectives, and the different regions that they want to engage with and reach. For example, we recommend where possible that clients run in local language if they want to reach target audiences authentically and build trust from that first interaction. Local language goes further than just simply translating word for word. And there are local phrases that need to be taken into account. There are cultural differences. For example, looking at does this word or expression have a different or no meaning in another country, it’s not always an issue though, if the content is an English language only. So B2B buyers in our experience are used to consuming content in English. First, a lot of technology content is written in English first. So they are used to that and it isn’t always a barrier. What we recommend at Headley Media is if we are engaging that market, we would go ahead and translate the landing pages, the promotional emails, into the target audiences’ native language using our native translators. But if your content or the clients’ content is in English, only, we would advise the reader before they download. So they have the full experience in their native language. But they know that the content they’re going to engage with is in English language and that we’re setting that expectation before they even populate a form and consent to further communications that builds trust with an audience and working with a trusted brand that is known in these local markets, like the Headley Media brands. We understand and we take into account the nuances, the cultural differences, and we can make recommendations. It could be as simple as changing a Z to an X, for example, or it could be looking at specific phrases. A lot of the time, marketing slang isn’t always transferable in specific market. So we work with our clients to highlight those areas of concern and help them cut through the noise and stand out in a saturated market.

Mike D’Agostino: [14:03] It sounds like it’s a lot more than just running something through Google Translate and copying and pasting the text onto a landing page. Little bit more nuanced than that. Well, let’s shift gears a bit and talk about ABM, account-based marketing, has gained tremendous popularity as a targeted approach for B2B lead generation. It sounds very obvious. I mean, entities and vendors are trying to get companies to buy into their products, not necessarily an individual, even though an individual may ultimately sign off on something and make a decision. It’s become obvious that it’s vital to educate and influence many more people other than just that specific influence decision maker. So how does Headley Media enable the implementation of an account-based marketing strategy to focus on high value accounts and ultimately improve lead quality?

Freya Ward: [15:04]

It’s a really good question. And I think with any campaign, ABM or not, it’s vital to understand the specific objectives and the success metrics and work back from there. It could be as simple as just layering a target count list on to a campaign and focusing on those accounts only. But we work with our clients to challenge where was the list developed? Who was it developed by? Is it a sales or marketing list? Is it a wish list of accounts? Are they net new? Are they dormant accounts that already have some brand recognition? What does success look like with the campaign? Just touching on your point, Mike, where you said, there are more than one final decision-maker now, when it comes to technology purchase, we always discuss the lead cap on account. So if you’re running a good ABM campaign, you should be considering the size of that decision-making unit is probably going to span multiple heads. Is that being considered? Should there even be a lead cap? So should we be capping it at five contacts per account? Or should we be opening it up to as many across these multiple job titles as possible to really gain traction within that account? You’ve got influencers, decision makers, researchers, all different levels of that buying committee that need to have some kind of brand recognition before they even consider purchase? Also considering things like integration, so if you’re running an ABM campaign, it’s likely that you’re doing more than just content syndication to that list. So if you’re working on social or other marketing elements, other digital factors is your integration setup properly, so that it’s coming through in your CRM leads to being scored appropriately. I think by understanding all of these factors, and many more, there are so many I could talk about, we can all work with our clients to build out the strategy and then recommend the tactics to generate leads that ultimately deliver ROI.

Mike D’Agostino: [16:55] Absolutely. And I think one of the main takeaways is that account-based marketing is more than simply having a targeted account list. Knowing the entities or the profile of the entities that would make for good buyers is one thing, but influencing as many decision makers as you can within an organization, that’s an art and science of itself. We’ve just got a few more minutes left here and a couple more questions to get through. So let’s talk about content. So lead generation involves creating valuable and engaging content. So what types of content have you found most effective in capturing the attention of B2B IT and cybersecurity professionals and ultimately, driving leads toward conversion?</p>

Freya Ward: [17:49]

I think when it comes to IT and cybersecurity professionals, we know that they are extremely time poor, so making sure that your content is educational and informative. It addresses specific challenges. Content doesn’t always have to be brand new either. So repurposing previous assets or assets that have been used in different areas can work really well. The standard marketing tips and tricks, so including job titles, and the synopsis, or the overview of an asset, including numbers, so five tips to x, y and z works well to make it very digestible. Depending on the stage of the leads that you’re looking to target and generate, I’d avoid super heavy technical content, I’d avoid data sheets, product sheets, where possible, because they’re going to come in more toward the bottom of the funnel, once they’ve got that brand association, brand loyalty. And they’re really going to come into play when it gets over to the sales team. When you’re running content syndication, and you’re trying to capture the attention of these B2B professionals, I think, meeting them on their challenge, providing them with solutions works well. And the format as well, easy to digest ebooks, we’re seeing much more traction from on-demand podcasts like this one that we’re doing. Video material has worked well for our clients following the pandemic. I think this work-from-anywhere mentality is having an impact in the type of content that our readers want to consume. But really, and truly educational, informative, and clearly laid out content performs best.

Mike D’Agostino: [19:26]

Absolutely. I think the comment you made on understanding top and mid and bottom of funnel assets can help put vendors in a position to capitalize off of that flow through the buyers journey. I think you said it upfront. There’s so much research that’s done these days before someone is willing to invest time with sales. It’s important that you’re there every step along the way and feeding them relevant content that will create awareness and keep them engaged throughout that buyers journey. Well, good. Just two more questions here, and then we can wrap up. So let’s talk about ROI. So metrics and analytics play a vital role in measuring lead generation performance. Which KPIs do you think should be for marketers to prioritize to track the success of their lead generation programs that your group specifically manages?

Freya Ward: [20:30]

I’ve said this a few times in this conversation, it’s going to depend on the specific campaign objectives. Expectation setting is a huge part of my responsibility at Headley Media. In my opinion, digital leads very much marketing qualified leads, they do require further nurture. And we try and be explicit about that when we’re putting forward proposals and campaigns for our clients. I think if you’re looking for a sales ready opportunity, then in my opinion, content syndication is not going to be the appropriate answer for that. I would also challenge a supplier if they advised you otherwise. However, there are intelligent programs you can run through content syndication, and enhancements that can be made. So including profiling questions, bank qualified questions, all these bits we’ve talked about in this conversation. And as a foundation, I think every client should be checking KPIs around quality, accuracy match against the ECP, explicit consent and timestamps, although that’s not all they should be expecting from their lead generation supplier, that definitely should be in there. And then as the leads, move through your own nurture, look for nurture indicators, how are they moving through the workflow, and continuously review that knowing your sales cycle and the length of your sales cycle. It would be, frankly, inappropriate to measure the success of a campaign immediately at the end of that campaigns delivery, and it should be monitored over a period of time that matches against your sales cycle.

Mike D’Agostino: [22:01]

Absolutely. I think takeaway is no one size fits all, you need to make sure you have your own KPIs, you have to know what those are before you run a content syndication program, and then work with the provider to make sure you’re hitting those KPIs. Well, let’s talk about the future with our last question here. So, B2B IT and cybersecurity industries are constantly evolving. Is there anything you’re seeing on the horizon in terms of evolving lead generation? Can you talk to us about the trends and changes that you’re seeing? What’s the impact that you’re seeing on B2B technology marketers?

Freya Ward: [22:50]

Yeah, absolutely. I think from our clients, there’s definitely a push to get to the source when it comes to lead generation and content syndication. They want to know where their leads are being generated, how they’re being nurtured and generated before being validated and delivered back. And I think that’s vital that marketing managers challenge suppliers and understand that process, because it all feeds into them, how they nurture them, and how they get the best success out of their campaign. There’s a big push for a focus on quality over quantity. I think some of this comes down to marketing managers, beginning to feed into sales or having revenue goals against their marketing campaigns, more so than ever before, in my experience anyway. So focusing on that quality of lead. And as we said earlier, the stakeholder expectation setting is becoming much more involved in the lead generation process. And using data to be more targeted, so ABM intent profiling, strategic nurture campaigns, pulling in or trying to identify trends between display through to lead generation and content syndication is something we’re seeing a lot of clients focus on at the moment. And also this constant review, analysis and optimization. So we’re doing a lot of campaign analysis reports, mid-campaign, post-campaign, to help our clients better understand their target audience as well as how they can maybe expand their targeting to include that wider decision-making committee that might even be falling within finance, HR, different departments within the business, and are responsible or have a responsibility when it comes to technology purchasing. So we’re seeing clients cut through the noise when they’re looking at expanding their target audience and focus on wider decision-making committees. Definitely one to watch.

Mike D’Agostino: [24:47]

I think one of the main comments you made there, the quality over quantity is definitely a theme that we’re seeing here at CyberTheory, especially with a bit of economic uncertainty still coming out of the pandemic to a certain degree, and just a maturing of the space in general. Well, Freya, this has been fantastic. You’ve given us a ton of information here. And just hearing all of your input, I think one of the main takeaways for me is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to content syndication, it’s evolved into a mature and sophisticated space. No longer are the days where marketers could say, “Here’s my filter criteria, I need 100 leads next month.” There’s a lot more to consider around it. And ultimately, marketers would do well with a consultant. They need people that they can work with, they need outlets that they can work with, that understand the content syndication and lead generation process, that understand how to set expectations and work with their clients in a bespoke manner to customize the outcomes for each individual campaign, because there’s just no one size that fits all.

Freya Ward: [26:11]

Absolutely, I totally agree, Mike. And that’s what keeps our jobs fun. Because there’s no one size fits all. We’re challenging the market, we’re challenging clients, we’re asking more questions. And they should be too, certainly have their lead gen supplier and also their consultants.

Mike D’Agostino: [26:30]

Great. Well, Freya, this was fantastic. Thank you again for joining us. Once again, it’s Freya Ward with Headley Media. Thanks for everyone for listening to our next episode of Cybersecurity Marketing Unplugged, and hopefully you can join us next time. Thanks for listening.