Nurturing leads with relevant content can be a tall order in some industries. Depending on how narrow a niche your company serves, finding quality content to curate can prove challenging. Marketers in broader industries face a different, but related problem: separating the wheat from the chaff.

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You could create original content, of course, but nearly all marketers face some limitations on staff resources and time. Curation helps, but sifting through the millions of pages of content available on nearly every topic today can take just as long as writing original material.

Enter licensed content: paying for permission to use content from your industry's top thought leaders that addresses your audience's needs and challenges.

Alicianne Rand is vice-president of marketing at content marketing software company NewsCred. One of the first five NewsCred employees hired, she helped build and lead the company from the ground up.

I invited Alicianne to Marketing Smarts to talk about content strategy, the role curation and licensed content play for brands, the value of influencers in the B2B space, and NewsCred's newest initiative, Insights (educational content for marketers, including blog articles and collections of content in different formats, arranged by topic or vertical).

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Before you spend a penny out of your marketing budget, know your KPIs (02:15): "There are so many marketing analytics and metrics to track. You have your organic search traffic, you have your social followers, repeat visitors, shares, likes article views, pageviews, the list goes on and on. One of the No. 1 things I've learned is the need to bucket those metrics into higher business goals—so not really focusing on the vanity metrics, but more importantly on the actual KPIs that our CEO cares about.

"We think about tracking those goals under three core 'buckets.' The first bucket is brand awareness and brand health, and here we're trying to answer the question, 'Is our content driving early-stage interest to our brand and also how do they feel about us emotionally as a brand...?'

"The second bucket that we look at is conversions. We're a very demand generation-focused organization. We are a B2B software company, so we're thinking about conversions: Is our content turning our prospects into customers, not only at the very top of the funnel, but how are we using content to accelerate leads down the funnel, convert them faster, and also increase our monthly recurring revenue per customer? Things that we measure underneath that bucket are subscriptions, leads by different content marketing channel, cost per lead, percentage of leads that are sourced by content marketing....

"The last bucket is all-around retention. So is our content driving retention and upsells? Here we're looking at specifically the onboarding process and the customer happiness score within that. Do they feel like they're getting the support and the strategic advice that they need to be really successful in their first 30 days? How does content impact the customer life time value? How much content do our customers engage with over their lifetime?"

Big brand marketers and SMBs alike can benefit from lead nurturing through content (07:51): "I really think that nurturing, at its very basic core, it is not complicated at all.... The whole idea is providing value to your prospect and customer to educate, entertain, and inspire them along their customer journey. And the more value that a company can provide, whether it's useful information, it's answering their questions and pain points, that's what's going to create happiness and, ultimately, more upsells and cross-sells.

"A small-to-medium-sized business can do that in a very simple way. Capture an email and newsletter subscription. Understand what topics your audience actually cares about, and then follow up with a one-, two-, three-step nurture plan that hits on those topics. Where you can get more complicated is segmenting your audience and segmenting your content, and this is a problem that NewsCred helps a lot of our customers solve."

To scale your lead nurturing efforts, look to licensed content (10:00): "We leverage a lot of licensed content to be able to scale our lead nurturing across different segments.... We have over 100,000 newsletter subscribers. It's really difficult to nurture all of those subscribers against their personalized journeys and their interests. It's really difficult to scale that with original content production, so we turn to licensed content....

"NewsCred sources licensed content from over 5,000 different publishers, ranging from TechCrunch, [to] Insider, [and] FastCompany—all these different brands. We syndicate that content and we allow our customers to host that content on our site.... That's the heart and the core of what NewsCred really stands for. We want the journalism industry not just to survive, but to really thrive.... We're paying the publishers as customers millions of dollars every single year to have the right to license that content.... We only choose the publishers that really are the highest quality out there.

"One of the biggest reasons to license content is that you're leveraging the thought leadership of the best writers, publishers, and experts out there. So when we choose the publishers that we work with, like AP, Reuters, the New York Times, so many of them stand for high quality journalism and excellence, so that is part of our vetting process.”

To learn more, visit and follow the company on Twitter @NewsCred. You can follow Alicianne on Twitter @AlicianneRand

Alicianne and I talked about so much more, including what's next for content marketing, why it pays to document your content strategy, and the three things NewsCred tells every client to do to ensure content marketing success, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

GoToWebinar—a leader in online events—is one of the easiest and most effective ways to connect and convert your target audience. You can generate qualified leads, establish thought leadership and build brand awareness for up to 1,000 attendees. GoToWebinar helps businesses worldwide reach over 40 million people each year.

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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