Ask any marketer these days for a solid piece of advice to gain traction online, and the majority will most likely say:
Be genuinely helpful.
Share interesting notes.
Give out tons of useful info.
The responses are varied, yet they all dance to the same beat: content marketing. More specifically, using content marketing for lead generation.
What makes content so powerful?
Mastering Lead Generation Through Content Marketing
B2B marketers believe in the power of content marketing, with 91 percent of B2B marketers employing it as a marketing tool.
The survey further explained that content marketing involves "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
While figuring out what those other nine percent are busy with, you may also be wondering what sorcery is behind the success of marketers who craftily lure their prospects through content, leaving them spellbound and wanting more.
The truth is that there are no potions, chants, or spells behind successful content marketing campaigns. The marketers behind them quickly recognized that 96 percent of first-time website visitors are not ready to purchase and would rather take their time getting to know you more, checking out the competition, and discerning which brand suits them best.
This is why you should have a well-designed content blueprint, investing mainly in content that screams value (not a sales pitch) to your prospects.
Building Content that Converts
Once your team is given the signal to push content, from churning out blog posts to uploading webinars to nifty infographics, you throw them all into your cauldron! You should stir the contents and wait for the magic to happen. It may look easy, but it is not.
Consider what the Queen of Content Marketing Officers Ann Handley has to say about content that does real magic:
Good content is more about brains than budget.
A bigger story puts your company in the larger context of what people care about.
A bolder marketer upends the status quo, telling a story that hits on the audience's unique challenges.
A gutsier, braver voice is a differentiator in a sea of mediocre content.
You can use your bigger, bolder, braver content to convert more people into your squad, to align them with your company on a level bigger than what you sell or do.
And not everybody is going to want to be part of your squad, which is precisely the point.
Create Content Worth Reading
Inbound marketing is one of the best ways to produce qualified leads. The audience actively searches for answers to a problem that you provide solutions to. The hard part is providing enough value that they pick you over the competition.
One way to win them over is to have consistency in your publishing. Let readers count on you to provide material at specific times. It'll build trust and a constant stream of traffic to your site.
As you continue to publish more, optimize the content. If you create a new lead magnet, review your previous material and link it to where it best fits. Every article should have a lead magnet.
If you have content receiving a large number of visitors, or high engagement rates, strategize how you can turn that into a lead magnet. It's already proven to be a favorite of your readers, give new readers something to opt in for.
Answer Your Audience's Questions
Search for various topics in your niche. When you find something related to your product or the problems it solves, answer the question with as much context as possible. At the end of your response, share a link to a helpful blog post on your site. Include a CTA to a relevant offer within the blog post to capture the lead.
The critical thing to remember is that your answer has to comprehensively answer the question. Giving a generic, unhelpful answer or spamming your website URL will get your response downvoted into oblivion.
7 Steps to Boosting Lead Generation with Content Marketing
As Content Marketing Institute's (CMI) founder Jay Baer puts it, a content marketing strategy is not a nice-to-have; it's a requirement.
It's a tough job, but someone has to roll up the metaphorical sleeves and get the content marketing ball rolling. Once you have a content marketing blueprint in place to complement your lead generation campaign, the sweet rewards are worth it!
Quick Tip: Do not rely on verbal strategies. Document the whole thing. According to CMI's 2019 report, over 60 percent of content marketing strategists do not have solid documentation. Thorough documentation is a must to truly measure your campaign's impact..
Roll up those sleeves and let's begin, shall we?
Step 1: Get to Know Your Audience
Above all else, using content to fuel your lead-generating machine begins with identifying your prospects. You wouldn't want to talk to a vegan audience about how Anthony Bourdain was the raddest food writer ever.
This initial step can be divided into two parts: conducting market research and building buyer personas.
Conduct Market Research
For marketing guru Neil Patel, the best way to crack your prospects' real needs and wants is to research commercial keywords. No crystal ball nor mind-reading skills are required!
You can unravel your prospect's deepest pain points by pouring over data in Google Search Console and conducting surveys and interviews.
Your customer service crew and sales team should not be overlooked as well. After all, they're the ones who get to interact frequently with your prospects and customers.
Consider examining the following key areas during surveys and interviews:
- Basic demographic details
- Job roles and responsibilities
- Their main source of information and/or entertainment
- Common life goals
- Challenges and pain points
- Role in the purchasing decisions
- Common objections
- Common words or terms used during interaction with customer service and sales
Develop a Buyer Persona
In hindsight, a buyer persona represents your ideal client/customer. Buyer persona development aims to help pinpoint the type, style, and tone of the content you will create. It will also play a huge role in choosing your content delivery channels later in the campaign.
To get started with buyer persona development, we earlier outlined this helpful reference for beginners. Concurrently, the folks at ConversionXL came up with this comprehensive data-driven approach to persona development.
Quick tip: It gets overwhelming if you focus on multiple personas. If you're still new to content marketing strategy, start small by picking one persona at a time! Begin with the persona you think will be most interested in your brand.
Step 2: Map the Customer Journey
Building a buyer persona is only half the task. Mapping your prospect's journey is the other half.
How important is nailing your customer journey? According to Salesforce's research, 80 percent of customers consider the customer experience as important as the product or service they purchase.
By and large, a customer journey map allows you to understand fully the process prospects go through when considering your product or service.
Quick Tip: Not all prospects will follow the exact key points in your journey map. Some will purchase right away, while others may have to visit your website from various channels (mobile or desktop) for months before moving down the funnel.
Step 3: Decide What Kind of Content To Create
Content comes in various forms, and picking one without careful thought is the surest way to a failed content marketing campaign.
Ask yourself: What content is appropriate for your target persona?
According to HubSpot, the following types of content do well if lead generation is your primary agenda:
- Cheat sheets
- Customer testimonials
- Case studies
- White papers
Ultimately, the format isn't as important as the value provided and aligning your content to the various stages of your buyer journey.
To further set yourself apart from the competition, consider a content upgrade.
This approach is useful if you already have a library of content. Through your analytics tool, figure out which content gets the most traffic. Next, create additional resources hinged on your most popular content. A PDF version of the webinar or a checklist of the key points you discussed in a blog post are excellent examples of a content upgrade.
Quick Tip: No matter what form of content you've decided to create for lead generation, providing value should be a priority. Here's a quick look at how to create lead-generating offers that are chock full of value.
Step 4: Build High-Converting Landing Pages and Optimize Them
Once you've crafted content to offer your prospects, creating a landing page should be next on your list. It is an entry point for building relationships with your prospects through the content you offer.
The following characteristics set a high-converting landing page apart from dull ones:
- A compelling headline
- Strong, succinct copy
- A clear call-to-action
- A short video or memorable images
- Social proof (testimonials, number of subscribers)
Optimizing Your Landing Pages for LeadGeneration
Creating great landing pages is a terrific way to increase your lead generation. Proper structuring makes them highly effective - without a plan, they fall flat.
Your landing page needs to have strong copy that speaks to the potential customer's needs, fears, and desires. Every concern they have should be answered to increase the chances of them buying.
Your unique value proposition needs to be clear and concise in order to effectively engage the reader. The benefits of your product need to be written to illustrate how they solve your lead's problem, building off the UVP.
However the customer lands on your page, the design should be constant. For example, if they're coming from a Facebook advertisement, ensure the wording and color scheme matches your page. This lowers their guard and gives them confidence that they're in the right place.
Provide social proof early. Do this with reviews and provide images of the reviewer for greater effect or by using quantified facts.
Keep People On Your Website
Don't give your customer the option of leaving. Of course, you're not holding them hostage. You're just removing any temptation by taking your navigation bar off of the page. It distracts them from the purpose of the landing page and pulls visitors away from your message.
Also, don't clutter the page with useless information, graphics, or sidebars. The purpose of the landing page is to draw one reaction from the potential lead, and that's to get them to perform your desired action.
Quick Tip: A landing page isn't a brochure or a sales letter. Here are four essential components that every killer landing page should include.
Step 5: Promote and Distribute Content
Congratulations! Now that you've got content that's brimming with value and a well-optimized landing page, it's high time that you introduce these darlings to the world.
Content promotion and distribution can be categorized into the following buckets:
Utilize Social Media
While having everyone online to read, watch, or listen to your content is every marketer's dream, it is totally unrealistic.
This is where social media marketing (SMM) hops in! Social platforms will usher you into places where your prospects hang out. Once you've found these venues, you graciously introduce yourself with your content.
As LinkedIn's Senior Manager for Content Marketing and Social, Jason Miller emphasized:
Content Marketing will not replace social media by any means; they are and will continue to be two very different things with two very different functions. Social media channels are the tentacles from which your content extends its reach while opening up a direct line of communication with your customers and prospects.
In essence, social media helps you find your tribe, foster deeper relationships, and build a community that is centered on trust. You gain this trust by carefully pushing content that is appropriate and resonates with the entire squad. Going social makes the brand experience more personal and powerful.
Test Influencer Marketing
Identify the influencers in your niche. Build relationships by commenting on their blogs or re-tweeting. Be genuinely interested in getting into a dialogue.
Optimize Organic Search
If one area in digital marketing is slowly dying, it would have to be black hat SEO. Gaining traffic through search is possible through a combination of influencer links, keyword analysis, and thought leadership.
You can learn more about gaining organic search traffic, the most valuable traffic on the web, through laser-targeted 'SEO articles.'
While having your own content hub or platform is the best way to initiate a dialogue with prospects, syndication is a nifty way to keep that traffic coming during the early stages of your campaign. Publishing on Medium or uploading on YouTube are good examples of promoting content through syndication.
Try Paid Promotion
Content marketing outcomes take time.
It could take time for the desired results to come. On the other hand, a thoughtfully constructed PPC campaign works extremely well as a launchpad to gain new website visitors and quality leads. This is particularly useful for brands that are on a tight budget but would love to see results right away.
In contrast to social media, PPC allows you to reach your target audiences with laser-like accuracy through the strategic placement of ads. Next, it doesn't take a lot of effort to track results. Most of all, you get immediate results in terms of traffic. Paying only if someone clicks the ad further seals an inherently good deal.
Quick Tip: You don't have to try everything at once. Focus on one channel at a time and experiment with which bucket gives the most traffic.
Step 6: Guide Your Prospects Through Your Site
Establishing conversion paths help ensure that prospects and customers will reach your landing page. This step can be further broken down into the following components:
Have a Clear Call-To-Action
Distribute CTA buttons throughout your site -- from individual blog posts to your homepage to your resources section. Do not overdo this tactic, though.
Strike a balance between conversion optimization and a smooth user experience.
Thank You Page
Your Thank You page should have a link to the offer for which your prospect signed up. Adding social sharing buttons is also an excellent way to encourage visitors to share your content.
Also, don't be afraid to promote a second content offer on your Thank You page. This gives you an excellent opportunity to drive prospects down the funnel while also progressively profiling them through smart forms.
Momentum Multiplier Thank You Page
A Momentum Multiplier Thank You Page (MMTYP) is a variation of a traditional thank you page. Instead of simply delivering the lead magnet, you also push your audience to take the next step, such as scheduling a meeting.
Send A Follow-Up Email
A follow-up email's purpose is similar to the Thank You page, except it can potentially engage further with your leads because of its personalization.
Step 7. Develop Interesting Lead Magnets
Lead magnets entice your site visitor into providing identifying information by offering a valuable gift (i.e. eBooks, guides, checklists). There are two key things to remember when creating your lead magnet:
- It has to be irresistible.
- It has to be specific.
Using a lead magnet like "My Top 5 Posts of the Year" is ineffective. Instead, try something similar to "101 Ways to Improve Your Indoor Gardening".
The latter is specific, offering information to a distinct group of individuals, and if you're an indoor gardener, 101 ways to improve your hobby sounds pretty good.
Getting Attention and Increasing Conversion Rates
In spite of all the fancy landing pages and beautiful lead magnets, none of it matters if you can't capture and keep your prospect's attention.
Gain Attention by Being Useful
In her article 2 Golden Rules for the New Era of Marketing, account manager Hannah Ford writes of the first rule:
We must give before we ask.
This is further supported by social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School, and author of the bestselling book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently.
According to Halvorson, people make a first impression on you (or your brand) through three primary lenses: trust, power, and ego. You gain your prospects' long-term attention by passing through these lenses.
Halvorson further emphasized that your prospects are trying to gauge how useful you are through the three lenses. Once you've hit all three, your prospect's attention is all yours!
Gain Attention by Building Trust
"The trust lens is employed when people want to figure out if you are friend or foe," writes Halvorson. At this point, your prospects are gauging your warmth, friendliness, respect, and sense of competence. Trust is the foundation of every successful revenue engine.
Actionable Lead Generation Tips:
- Put testimonials on your landing pages or opt-in. Short , punchy testimonials with a name, a photo, and their company name make your brand appear more trustworthy.
- Install instant chat on your website. This makes your brand appear more warm and approachable.
- Display your business' contact details prominently on your website (toll-free number, email address, etc.). Leads are more likely to trust you if they're aware that they can easily pick up the phone or send you an email.
- Be mindful of the colors you pick for your website. These colors can either make or break your lead generation efforts. On Quick Sprout, for instance, the Hellobar -- a red bar on the top of their page accounts for 11 percent of all new leads.
- Be honest by telling prospects what to expect from you. While misleading click-bait titles can gain you more clicks, these leads will eventually lose faith and trust in your brand as they go deeper into the marketing funnel. It's better to have a small yet high-quality number of leads rather than have thousands only to lose them before they become customers. Such a waste of time and effort.
Gain Attention by Proving Your Value
The power lens doesn't just describe those who are literally in power. A prospect gazes through this lens to assess your brand's instrumentality. In Halvorson's words - prove yourself to me, or get out of my way.
Actionable Lead Generation Tips:
- Build a library of strikingly useful content that specifically benefits your target personas. You can consequently use them as gated content (guides for example).
- Avoid creating self-serving content at all costs. Prospects are savvy enough to spot a true thought leader from a pushy salesperson. Churning out content that deeply resonates with your audience means you don't have to work double-time in promoting it. Your audiences will do the job for you!
- Be overly generous. Focus on providing value that your competitors are missing in their strategy. So they're dishing out nuggets of blog posts? Do webinars! Marketers who broaden their scope on webinars are rewarded with more opportunities for ROI. Also, webinars are most cost-effective when strategically positioned across the marketing funnel.
- Run contests! According to HubSpot, campaigns such as contests acquire a 34 percent audience increase on average, while a third of entrants sign up to receive information from brands and their partners. Giving out rewards closely associated with what you offer (e.g. free 3-month subscription to your online course, a complete set of gardening tools if you're a gardening supplies company) will most likely rake in high-quality leads than giving out an iPad.
- Create quizzes. Interact's Josh Haynam emphasized that using quizzes successfully as a lead generation tactic should have these elements: fluid user interface, hyper-relevant topic, and tons of value in the end.
Gain Attention by Boosting Egos
When your prospect sees you through the ego lens, they are making sense of who's on top. "Subconsciously, people often want confirmation that they, or their group, are superior to other individuals or groups," says Halvorson.
When looking at the ego lens aspect of your lead generation efforts, you personalize your campaign and make your prospects feel they're part of a community.
Actionable Lead Generation Tips:
- Automate your email marketing campaign to make it more human. In fact, personalized email promotions have 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates than their non-personalized counterparts.
- Earn attention and engagement through dynamic content. Tailor blog posts, landing pages, or email content through demographics and past behavior.
- Change your email times and use headlines corresponding to your targeted prospect's time zones. Nothing feels more sincere than an email sent at the end of the day and headlined with "How was your day?".
Maximize Content Marketing Lead Generation
Ultimately, helpful content is a useful tool for attracting traffic to your website. Content that helps is a useful tool for converting leads. Content that helps is a useful tool in nurturing those leads. And content that helps is a great way to turn customers into brand promoters.
You'll have to answer that. But it's usually found in creating the content your prospective customers want. Talk about the things they want to talk about rather than your own brand or service.
It's interesting when we interview clients about their target customers. We usually ask about their pain points, their problems, etc. Every time a client talks about their target persona's pain points, it's always the exact solution they solve for.
So, if you provide better shopping bags, most likely, when you think of the problems your target persona has, the pains of using inferior shopping bags are going to be your answer.
That's not deep enough for helpful content, let alone content that generates leads.
You may solve a huge problem with your superior shopping bags, but your target audience isn't always thinking about their shopping bags. Widen your net, and talk about what they learn about.
If you're a mortgage company - stop talking only about mortgages. Instead, talk about touring houses, painting techniques, how to remodel on a budget, etc. Those are the things your customer really cares about. The mortgage is not what they dream about.
If you want to use content for lead generation, make it useful for your target audience.
Stop talking about yourself and see what happens to your lead generation rates. If that sounds difficult, unlock the Growth Playbook for a comprehensive guide on how to boost lead generation and customer acquisition.