When talking to b2b marketers at the moment it all feels a bit like 1970 and the end of the hippy movement.

The last gasps of the halcyon days when merely publishing great content was enough to generate ‘free love’.

It’s not 2010 anymore. B2b brands can no longer publish great content, sit back and receive warm applause and lead flow. Warm applause in the form of audiences distributing content on their behalf and Google showing the love in the SERPs.

The problem with marketers becoming publishers is that everyone becomes a publisher. The result:  a content surplus in almost every b2b niche and segment.

Hubspot can still preach that this model still works. Because it will work for them. They have earned the audiences, built the domain authority and created an unassailable social media infrastructure for ‘free love’.

But for the majority of b2b brands the ‘fawning audience’ model is a long way off.

The reality of content promotion in 2015

Audience reach in 2015 = writing cheques.

Writing cheques directly to Messieurs Page, Hoffman, Zuckerberg and Dorsey through paid search and social.

Writing cheques to content discovery platforms like Outbrain and Taboola.

Even if you feel dirty paying for it directly, there’s little difference with paying an in-house resource or agency to go out and ‘earn media’ through influencer outreach programmes. Organic distribution has a cost too – it’s just hidden.

Content promotion and distribution is an expensive business

Driving engagement in the form of visitors to blogs and landing pages can be eye wateringly pricey.

Buying sponsored updates on LinkedIn is averaging out at a cost-per-click of £4. Yes you can lower CPCs by understanding LinkedIn’s relevance scoring model, but you still have to spend a lot to gain that understanding for each individual campaign.

Facebook’s demographic and psychographic audience profiling is still a relatively cheap alternative, but not as laser-targeted as LinkedIn. A 50p CPC can be a false economy when looking at conversion performance.

Twitter’s audience profiling around followers of specific Twitter properties is clever but contains a lot of waste. (Unless Twitter introduces a cost per lead model I don’t know how they can continue to offer a viable advertising model in b2b).

And don’t even mention click price inflation in PPC.

So what to do about it

First and foremost: stay the course.

Yes it’s harder.

But keep fighting the good fight of creating problem solving content for your audiences. Think long tail, think specifics.

It will ultimately generate ‘free love’. Just not as much as five years ago.

But the key fix:

Engagement is expensive: don’t waste it.

The most obvious method is conversion rate optimisation.

But even if you a/b test your way to a data capture conversion rate of 30%, that still leaves 70% of expensively acquired traffic clicking off – never to be reached again.

So catch them with the pixel.

Pixel power

A tracking pixel is the next best thing to an opt-in email address.

For the uninitiated, pixels are the little snippets of code that get placed in your website visitor’s browsers. Google, Twitter and Facebook and many third party ad platforms run them. LinkedIn is currently in the early days of experimentation with them.

So you capture and build an audience. You don’t know who they are, but you know what they did.

Your next visitor can be anonymously bucketed into a new database in Twitter’s Tailored Audiences or Facebook’s Custom Audiences. And they can stay there for up to six months.

You can bucket them according to what they did. So create an audience that you can remarket your content to based upon known behaviours and interests: e.g. ‘viewed case study’, ‘viewed services section of corporate website’, ‘viewed specific content landing pages’.

When you promote your next high impact piece of content you’ll have your own, qualified audience to promote content to in their Facebook newsfeed or Twitter feed.

And the cost?

Cheap as chips.

You spent a fortune in the first wave in reaching and engaging that audience. Don’t do it twice – use the power of the pixel to remarket to them at much lower CPC.

“And in the end.

The love you take

Is equal to the love

You make”.

Lennon & McCartney 1970

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