By Tom Sandford on July 10, 2020

Editorial-led distribution: What is it and why is it highly effective?

Question: How do you generate hundreds of ideal prospects ready to purchase for a brand new B2B SaaS product? 

Answer: Editorial-Led Distribution.

Solverboard were getting set to launch and wanted to build a queue of eager buyers ready and waiting for the platform to go live. Long story short, we created a guide - the Innovation Blockers Report - and used the process of researching and writing that guide to make soft introductions to target accounts. We had a target list of 100 accounts, we asked them all to contribute. Few did, but, after we sent them the finished report we had 37 out of 100 accounts signed up to demo the product within three months. 

From that initial success the report has generated over 150 leads and contributed to the generation of over 350 leads within the first 6 months of working with the client. You can read the full case study here.

We’ve come to call the process we used with Solverboard and others 'editorial-led distribution'. We define editorial-led distribution as “a content marketing tactic which uses the content creation process to ensure that content is seen by the right people and generates leads as a result”.

It informs our thinking with many other clients and in this article I will outline why I think it’s useful for marketing teams with smaller budgets and the key elements that have worked for our clients.


What is Editorial-Led Distribution?


You may well feel that marketing already has a few too many jargony phrases. Why bother creating another one? A quick google search shows me that we’re the only ones to have used the term! Isn’t this either part of Account-Based Marketing (ABM), influencer marketing or just a good ol’ thought leadership program? Well yes, kinda.

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The Solverboard example is an ABM approach - at least that’s how we phrase it in our case study. We had a target list of 100 accounts, we did our research and we produced something that they found interesting. 

The bit of that story that warrants a new term (for me at least) is that we contacted them initially as potential contributors. We didn’t say “we made this report for you”. We said to them “we’re making a report and would love you to contribute”. 

That few of the target 100 got back to us initially didn’t matter. We’d made contact, sowed the seed, so to speak. 

The initial approach was an editorial one. “We would like to feature you in our report” is a lot softer than “read our report”. This, for us, is Editorial-Led Distribution. And in this case it was part of an ABM program. 

You might also say, “Ah! You mean influencer marketing!” And the fact is that yes, we do look for B2B influencers to contribute to these types of campaigns. But few would argue that getting a few people with large followings on LinkedIn and elsewhere to contribute to a report makes for a fully fledged influencer campaign. Editorial-Led Distribution is a tactic that forms part of an influencer campaign.

Finally, many of you may recognise the Blockers Report as a thought leadership campaign. 

It certainly has many of the features of a thought leadership campaign that I outlined in my recent article. I have found with many clients recently that calling something thought leadership can doom it to death by perfectionism. Many teams feel uncomfortable calling what they’re doing thought leadership. And more to the point, thought leadership doesn’t instantly convey how that content will be seen, it describes only the type of content. Editorial-led distribution does. 

So, in summary, Editorial-Led Distribution is not a strategy but a tactic to include in content planning. It can be part of an ABM program. But it can also be useful for marketing directors who are working with teams who don’t get off on marketing jargon. 

Are you still with me? Great. Lend me your eyes for a few more minutes and I’ll run you through what's needed and then you’re free to go and slag me off on social media. 


Key elements of Editorial-Led Distribution 


1. Research


You will need a target list (not personas) to work from. That typically means time on Linkedin Sales Navigator; first pulling the list together and then going through profiles looking for shared interests. You want someone creative to do this work as it’s unlikely you’re going to find a neat set of data points. More likely a feeling will emerge as they immerse themselves in the target list.

You may also link: Linkedin Sales Navigator: An essential tool for content marketers?


2. An idea that can grow


The Innovation Blockers Report has had legs. It’s a big issue, it’s one that resonates with innovation managers and innovation consultants and influencers. It’s got plenty of space to expand, and so plenty of potential for new contributors. Version one is still bringing in leads but version two - which is in the pipeline - looks set to do very well indeed. 

This is important for your idea, too. Make sure that the idea you commission can go through several phases.


3. Premium content


If you’re going to invest in research you’ll need to invest effort and a little coin making the content as sexy as possible. As Linkedin’s research shows, we pick up subtle clues from design and copy that feels rich. And of course - as I say in nearly every article at the moment - less-is-more when it comes to your content these days.


4. Appeal to egos 


“I read your article and thought it was fascinating and I would love to get your thoughts on X for our latest report. You’ll be featured alongside 10 other experts at RIVAL FIRMS.”

Who doesn’t want that? Well, many people it turns out but no one is going to mind that approach and all will be interested in the end result. Appeal to egos, to curiosity. Prime your targets with the content brief and you will be far more likely to get the interest you want. 


5. Make sure that the content naturally leads back to the product you’re trying to sell


The Innovation Blockers Report highlighted the issues. The Solverboard product offers a solution. Simple, right? But how many campaigns have you seen recently where the call to action feels jarring? This is one of the key elements of a commercial insight campaign (as outline in the Challenger Sale) and it makes lead generation oh so much easier. 

To conclude, editorial-led distribution is our term for a content tactic that generates awareness and leads for B2B SaaS firms. It is a tactic that can fit in with or stand separate from Account-Based Marketing, Influencer Marketing and Thought Leadership campaigns.  As a content marketing tactic, it works by acknowledging that the internet's default mode is “we don’t care” and cuts through this disinterest by playing to the target list of people by appealing to their egos. Effectiveness with Editorial-Led Distribution requires an investment in research, copy and design and to get the best ROI you need to work on an idea that can go beyond one report or guide and either spawn future content or become a mini product in its own right.  


Marketing is not short of buzzwords, but here’s another (you’re welcome). If you feel that this is the sort of approach that might work for your firm, or you have any suggestions on how it can be improved, I would love to hear from you.

Guide: How to adopt ABM

We help businesses to generate a stream of high quality leads through high impact content campaigns. Book a call here to discuss how we can help you.

NASA image: Johnson Space Center - With a half-Earth in the background, the Lunar Module ascent stage with Moon-walking astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. approaches for a rendezvous with the Apollo Command Module manned by Michael Collins.

Published by Tom Sandford July 10, 2020