If you were to ask a few different marketers, what are some of the best ways to generate business leads in 2021, no doubt the majority of them would mention content marketing.
Online content plays a much bigger role in the consumer journey now, than it did a few years ago. The internet has become an authoritative source of information for buyers and an avenue for marketers to advertise their products. A 2019 study demonstrated that 81% of consumers do online research before heading to the shop to purchase a product. With coronavirus forcing businesses to go digital, and consumers having less opportunity to shop in physical stores, there is a greater reliance on content marketing to satisfy the customer at several different touchpoints.
Similarly, Ofcom 2020 stats show that adults in the UK are spending a record 4 hours a day online, which demonstrates an increase of one hour since 2018. Marketers can use this data to their advantage by moving their target audience down the sales funnel with the use of high-quality, value-adding content that triggers the desired action and is then distributed via channels that offer a high return on investment.
There is no doubt that content marketing is paramount if you’re looking to reach your target audience and build trust relationships with them while adapting to the increasingly more digital “new normal”. Those relationships cultivated through the process of building up your online authority with interactive content, as well as having a carefully planned content strategy that supports your business’s goals are going to help you generate leads with content marketing. In this article, we will guide you through our 7-step guide on how to do this. To apply what you learn in this article, download our Content Marketing Strategy template and follow along!
What is lead-generating content marketing?
Developing and maintaining a competitive advantage that helps the business generate leads and convert them into sales and loyal customers is the main concern of digital marketers. By applying different processes they create a brand image and develop online authority that helps to attract and convert web visitors into leads.
Lead-generating content marketing often refers specifically to digital content and is a strategic marketing approach dedicated to the creation and distribution of valuable, relevant and consistent online content that attracts and retains a specific type of audience. Some lead-generating content, such as coupons, can drive profitable customer action when delivered to the customer at the right time.
At GLO, our content marketing specialists can attest to the fact that generating leads with digital content marketing can be a very successful online marketing strategy when supported by intelligent use and analysis of data. You can easily support your content marketing decisions with data gathered with Google Search Console and Google Analytics, which are both easy to add to your website.
One thing that’s undeniable when you want to successfully generate leads with content marketing is that you need a strategy. As the founder of Content Marketing Institute (CMI), Jay Baer says, “A content marketing strategy is not a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement.”
In this article, we will guide you through the process of writing your content marketing strategy for lead generation so that you can take your customers from the top of the funnel through to conversion. We’ve created a handy Content Marketing Strategy booklet with templates and an interactive Content Calendar to make it easy for you to develop your complete content strategy.
Reasons to add content marketing to your lead generation strategy
Apart from the customers demanding more online content in order to complete their research prior to making their final purchase, and people generally spending more time online, there are other reasons why you may consider adding content marketing to your lead generation strategy.
Content marketing is a form of ‘softer’ selling where you aim to provide a load of value to your web visitors before asking them to subscribe or pushing for a sale more aggressively. It adheres to the ‘Jab Jab Jab Right Hook’ idea, famously coined by Gary Vaynerchuk. This slower approach to marketing to your potential customers works well in the online space as a jab’s content aims to engage and trigger an emotional response while a right hook’s content aims to sell and self-promote. This 3:1 ratio strikes the perfect balance between the two and helps you to avoid a counterproductive result that too many right hooks could easily lead to – let’s be honest, no one likes to be constantly sold to!
Data collected by HubSpot further validates this, showing that 96% of first-time website visitors are not ready to purchase and prefer to carry out their research to compare against the competition. You want to be able to provide them enough ‘jabbing’ content to build up their trust in your business before going in for the right hook.
Promoting products or services to your target audience with the use of interactive content, not only meets their research needs but also has shown to be 3 times more efficient in generating leads, as compared to outbound marketing. Furthermore, 72% of companies surveyed confirm that content marketing increases the number of leads in their business.
Smart allocation of resources with a focus on avenues that generate the best ROI is what most businesses look for. Content marketing can provide this long-term. According to HubSpot, 1 out of 10 blog posts demonstrates a “compounding” quality, meaning that organic search steadily increases traffic to these posts over time. Even big brands, such as Coca-Cola have in recent years recognised the power of creating digital content and are now shifting the majority of their resources towards content marketing and away from TV advertising.
We are not suggesting you follow the big dogs and do what the likes of Coca-Cola are doing – your budget might not stretch that far. But even for those businesses with smaller budgets content marketing doesn’t have to be something that they get to do someday in the future.
A lot of the time when something is successful we assume it’s also pricey. Here’s the surprise! Demand Metric estimated that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing techniques. Learning how to generate leads with content marketing is something that even small businesses can invest in right now.
A lot of the time, those trying to generate leads with content marketing for the first time, find that it’s a time-consuming activity. For those short on time, outsourcing to content marketing agencies can be a better solution and one that may potentially result in much better results. Take one of our clients as an example – after our content marketing team took over Eagle Training’s blog management, we were able to achieve top first page rankings in Google for some of the topics that their target audience was interested in.
Whether you’re going to try to generate leads with content marketing yourself or hand it over to a specialist team, below we dive deep into the steps we believe should be taken to start generating leads through content marketing.
GLO’s 7 step process to generate leads with content marketing
1. Develop a content marketing strategy
If you recall Jay Baer’s quote from earlier – content marketing strategy is a requirement if you’re serious about generating leads via this particular channel. In fact, writing out a strategy for any marketing efforts you are investing in is an important part of the process. Creating amazing pieces of content without a strategy that will synergise your content and lead your web visitors down the sales funnel is frankly a waste of your time.
So how exactly do you write your content marketing strategy? There are a few steps that come into it and involve you putting your thinking cap on. Traditionally, you’ll get your pen & paper out and start jotting your ideas down, but since we are a 100% paperless digital marketing agency, we prepared a downloadable PDF with Content Marketing Strategy templates for you to fill in.
Let’s get started!
A content marketing strategy is not a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement.
Download your Content Marketing Strategy template!
1.1 Segment your audience and create buyer personas
Remember how we said that the ‘jab’ was the type of content that aims to engage and trigger an emotional response?
Your content marketing strategy will revolve around a lot of jabbing and a few strategically placed, and not so obvious, right hooks. But how can you evoke that emotional response in every single one of your web visitors with the same piece of content?
The answer is, you cannot.
Your audience needs to be segmented into smaller groups of people based on common characteristics and needs they have. From this activity, you can identify your ‘ideal customer’ or in other words your buyer persona. Having a more defined image of who you’re talking to, what they like and don’t like, what keeps them up at night and what their aspirations are, allows you to create content that directly speaks to their specific needs and triggers the emotional response you are looking for.
Most businesses with multiple products or services will find they have more than one buyer persona that when combined represent their entire audience pool. However, if you’re new to content marketing you can focus on just one that you think represents the buyer who is most interested.
So how do you put your buyer persona together? Well, you need data. This may be data you’ve collected in the past or data that you can derive from tools such as, Facebook Audience Insights or Google Keyword Planner. Both are great tools to build a picture of your ideal customer.
Once you have the data, you can put it into a buyer persona template and keep safe to guide any other marketing strategies you and your team are deploying. We’ve got a blank buyer persona template for you in our Content Marketing Strategy booklet.
1.2 Map the customer journey
Stepping into the shoes of your potential customers is important in order to understand what you’re doing well to meet your customer’s goals and where perhaps you’re not delivering enough value or making it too difficult to do business with you.
By understanding your consumers and their needs on a human level you can gain better insights into what it is they might need or expect from you once they’ve interacted with your content at the different stages of their journey. This way you can target their entire experience rather than just do the bare essentials of targeting the right keywords, which we’ll discuss later on. Discovering their unique journeys helps you to strategically choose the right content upgrades and lead magnets.
The easiest way to map your consumers’ journey is to go through it yourself and note down all the different touchpoints that happen on the way. These could include steps such as them landing on one of your blogs, seeing a pop-up about your new lead magnet, subscribing, receiving an email with the freebie etc.
To make it an interactive and flexible process for you and your team, use sticky notes to mould the journey of your ideal consumer.
When you’re clear on the steps your consumer takes and points at which they come into contact with your business, you can put it all into a consumer journey map like the one below.
1.3 Match content to the different stages of your sales funnel
Many businesses and entrepreneurs are already creating content – according to 2019 statistics, YouTube alone gets roughly 500 hours of video content uploaded every minute worldwide. But one of the biggest mistakes content creators make is they fail to move their potential customers down their sales funnel. We don’t want you to be one of those content marketers. Once you’ve mapped your consumer’s journey, use the online sales funnel to decide which content fits your consumers’ needs best at the different stages.
Pushing for purchase when marketing to someone who just became aware of your products or services is unlikely to result in a sale. At the awareness stage users are interacting with your content while gathering knowledge on solutions available to the problem they’re currently facing. By adding an emotional appeal to your content, which can be done with social proof, some of those users might express further interest in your products or services and will be willing to exchange their email address for a free resource that helps them with their problem.
The awareness stage is a great opportunity to find out which of your content benefits your web visitors the most. Another name given to this stage is Top of Funnel (TOF) as it’s where the process of sifting through your web visitors begins so that you can move the interested ones to the next stage – consideration, where you get to turn them into leads. For this to happen, it’s not only the content that needs to resonate with them. You also need to remove any barriers they may face when attempting to sign up.
Having successfully moved the consumer down to the point where they begin to consider your business more seriously by comparing your solution to other solutions, your job is to offer them whatever they need to choose you over your competitors. At this stage, your content marketing strategy may turn to inviting them to a free webinar or sharing an in-depth case study where you demonstrate your expertise. If they bite, they enter the decision stage and may look to you for reinforcement of their decision. If you’re a service provider, you could offer them a free consultation and follow up afterwards by sharing a testimonial someone else left you.
1.4 Identify what lead magnets you need to create
Lead magnets help you gather contact details in exchange for a free resource, such as a free trail or eBook. By growing your email list you get to interact with your target audience and create marketing material that is more personalised, which increases the interaction.
As consumers are becoming more demanding and discerning, it is no longer enough to write a good article and expect those readers to instantly become fans that keep coming back to consume other pieces of your content. Web users are looking for added value in the form of free resources. Being able to download freebies helps them to make up their mind on whether they believe the source is a credible and authoritative one.
But before you go ahead and create your first free resource, let’s consider what makes an irresistible lead magnet.
First and foremost, your lead magnet needs to solve a problem and offer your reader a quick win. Great lead magnets are easily digestible and can be accessed instantly. To help you build trust with your audience, your lead magnets should have a high perceived value and demonstrate your expertise well. To generate leads with content marketing you want your lead magnets to satisfy all of the above.
Recently, marketers have had a lot of luck with interactive lead magnets, such as quizzes, but there are many other freebies that have been working well for years, including checklists and eBooks. The type of lead magnet you decided to create depends on the needs of your target audience. Our Content Marketing Strategy booklet gives you many suggestions of different lead magnets you could produce for your content.
1.5 Put your ideas into a content calendar
If you’ve followed the previous steps, by now you’d know what pieces of content you need to be creating to move consumers down your sales funnel, including the freebies. But one of the factors that helps websites rank high in Google is publishing high-quality content on a consistent basis.
Content creators with many great ideas, and some understanding of how these pieces come together to encourage the consumer to choose their business, may feel confident about their content marketing strategy. But without accountability and a schedule that outlines when these pieces of content are supposed to be published, their good momentum will eventually stop.
Without a content calendar, you risk your sales funnel becoming leaky, with potential leads dropping out before they covert. Creating a content calendar may take you a few hours on the day that you decided to do it, but will save you many hours and headaches in the future. Not only will you know exactly what content needs to be created and published when, but everyone on your team will know too, and will be able to step in if needed. Furthermore, CMI 2021 statistics show that four out of five top performers use an editorial calendar while only half of the least successful do.
In your content calendar, for each piece of content you should make notes on some of the following details:
- The title for the piece of content.
- Who is it aimed at?
- What is your Call To Action?
- What content upgrades or lead magnets will be associated with this piece of content?
- What other pieces of your content will you be linking to?
- When the content is going to be published?
- Who is going to create the content?
There isn’t one unified formula to follow when filling out your content calendar. We would advise you to try and create journeys for your web visitors.
So let’s say your buyer persona is interested in one specific topic that you’ve decided to write about.
First, you’ll title it using the types of words this particular type of customer is likely to type into Google to search for the topic you’re writing about. You will learn this from your keyword research.
The next step is to think about the reasons why this person might have been searching for this type of content. Are they just researching or are they desperate for a solution now? What exactly was their search intent?
Based on those findings and assumptions, think about what sort of free resources you could provide them with in exchange for their email so that soon you can interact with them again, using another piece of content. Similarly, think about what other topics could they be interested in and see if you can make content to answer those questions. Then plug it all into your calendar in a way that maps their journey through the sales funnel.
Remember that different pieces of content suit the different stages of the sales funnel. You want to have a mixture of traffic-generating content, such as blog posts, social media posts, videos or infographics, and lead-generating content, which would include your free resources, eBooks, mini-courses, coupons, webinars or free challenges.
Within our Content Marketing Strategy booklet, you’ll find a link to an editorial calendar template we created on Airtable. We’ve filled out the first few fields to show you how to build journeys for your consumers with your content and move them down the sales funnel simultaneously. All you have to do is follow the pattern!
2. Apply SEO to your content
With the content marketing strategy out of our way, we finally arrive at step 2 of our guide on how to generate leads with content marketing.
This step is all about making sure that whatever content you create, you make sure to optimise it for search engines. After all, you are generating content for web users who are most likely searching for solutions in Google.
The type of keywords that will be relevant to your pieces of content will differ depending on the stage of the sales funnel you are associating the content to.
Long-tail keywords, along the lines of “how to generate leads with content marketing” or “what is the best way to generate leads online” might be something you include more in pieces of content that aim at attracting those consumers in the awareness stage.
Someone searching for commercial terms, such as “content marketing agency” or “content marketing expert” is likely to already be in the consideration stage.
Understanding the search intent behind the different search queries will help you stay focused on the most optimal keywords for each piece of content you produce.
To further indicate to search engines, which keywords you’re hoping to rank for you’d need to apply on-page SEO tactics, such as formatting your primary keyword with the use of H1 tag.
We go into a lot more detail on how to produce SEO-friendly content and the various on-page SEO techniques you should apply in our guide on How to generate leads online through SEO?
3. Make your content interactive
Capturing your audience’s attention is key to generating leads with your content. Our attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter. A study conducted by Microsoft all the way back in 2000 showed that the attention span of an average person equalled 12 seconds back then. Around 2015, this dropped to 8 seconds and since then it has been ever decreasing due to the abundance of information presented to us.
Statistics show that interactive content gains two times more engagement than static content. When your audience interacts with your content, it is more likely to be shared and so may have a lot higher reach than content that is static and doesn’t get entice the reader to pass it forward. Similarly, 77% of marketers say that interactive content has a “reusable” value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures.
Creating a variety of content, whether that is video, podcast, infographics, eBooks or quizzes is the best approach. Equally, within one content piece, such as a blog post, you can use several different types of content to keep the user engaged.
4. Distribute your content via high ROI platforms
Creating valuable, authoritative and interactive pieces of content is one step of the process. The next step is to promote that content.
Distributing your content should be a part of your content marketing strategy. Even if you haven’t been producing long-format content in the past, you may know which one of your social media accounts gets the most engagement and perhaps has generated some leads in the past. That’s the one that is most likely going to see a higher click-through rate when you start sharing links to your content.
If you don’t have any insights into the performance of your social media accounts, it’s something that you’ll have to test and adjust as you go along. However, to start off with, think about where your target audience is most likely to hang out. As a B2B digital marketing agency, more of our content gets seen by relevant users when we post on LinkedIn and Facebook, as opposed to Instagram. Depending on your business and what audience it appeals to, you can predict the social media platform that may work best for you. Pinterest is also a great place to share your work as it can generate a sustainable flow of traffic.
5. Promote your lead magnets with Facebook Ads
When you’ve created your irresistible lead magnets for your content, it’ll be a shame not to promote them to a wider audience. One great way is via Facebook Ads.
For years, Facebook has been collecting data on its members, which you can utilise to target your chosen target audience. Their AI is able to predict the buying habits of their users and knows about their preferences and interests.
With the wealth of knowledge Facebook holds over users all around the world, it makes a great tool for marketers who are looking to advertise to their target audience and generate qualified leads.
Advertising lead magnets via Facebook can work with audiences at different stages of the marketing funnel. Whether you’re trying to increase awareness or hoping to move someone from consideration to the decision stage of your marketing funnel, the audience selection tools within Facebook Ads Manager allows you to do that. You can build audiences based on your buyer personas and further suggestions from Facebook, or simply upload your email subscriber list and retarget to them.
Facebook users tend to like advertising that is more passive and so when coming up with creatives for your Facebook Ads campaigns, be sure to produce something that doesn’t disturb them while scrolling through their news feed, but equally grabs their attention so that they go ahead and subscribe to your email list in order to receive your freebie.
6. Look for guest blogging opportunities & other forms of collaboration
Writing blogs for other platforms that already managed to capture the attention of an audience that is similar to yours is a great way to generate leads with your content. It’s also a great way to secure a backlink that boosts your SEO.
Once again, it’s good to be strategic about your collaborations. First, research different blogs, podcasts, vlogs that your audience might be attracted to, and before pitching to those platforms, think about what evergreen content you could produce to benefit your audience.
Once you decide on the content, create a lead magnet that you can promote within your blog or while on the podcast. This will be the thing that determines how many leads you’ll get from your guest blog. Refer back to the qualities of an irresistible lead magnet and see if you can tick all those boxes. Additionally, make sure your lead magnet is highly relevant to the topic that you’re covering.
When writing your piece of content, you should create opportunities for yourself to talk about the freebie you have. Make your writing sound natural whilst at the same time mentioning something about your lead magnet throughout the body of the blog post. Another great place to mention your lead magnet is ‘Author’s Bio’.
By exposing you to a new audience, and giving you the opportunity to add value to those users with your expertise and the freebie, guest blogging enables you to generate leads with content marketing.
Other forms of collaboration could include being a co-host on a webinar. In recent years, webinars have been extremely popular with online users. In this way, you get exposed to a huge amount of people and connect with them on a more personal and interactive level.
7. Track analytics and insert content upgrades
Just as you need a strategy for any of your marketing campaigns, you need to track the analytics of those campaigns to gain insights on what’s working and what isn’t. Monitoring a few of the different datasets in your Google Analytics will help you make more informed strategic decisions.
By analysing the sources that your content viewers come from, you can determine which platform is generating you the highest return on investment and choose to focus more of your efforts on that particular platform. This goes back to step 4 in our process where we were trying to identify the highest ROI platform to distribute our content on.
Checking how many people viewed your content, and how long they spent on the page gives a good indication as to how interesting and engaging your content is. If, for example, you notice a trend of “How to…” guides performing better than other pieces of content, you can add more of those into your editorial calendar. High-traffic content pieces can easily be made into lead-generating powerhouses by simply adding content upgrades to them. Content upgrades work best as two-step opt-ins as you can hyperlink words within a short sentence in which you present the value of the freebie to then, once they click, send them to a contact form or a pop up where they can sign up. The two-step opt-in process has proven to increase the number of conversions.
Lastly, you want to monitor how many people sign up to get your freebies, which lead magnets are the most popular and bring in the most traffic, as well as where those people come from.
Data shows that out of those practising content marketing almost all (94%) top performers measure their content performance whereas only 60% of the least successful do.
Tracking your analytics gives you a view of the bigger picture and guides your entire strategic marketing process. In 2021, it is not enough for content marketers to know how to produce SEO-friendly content or interactive infographics. They also need to understand how content works across the board. Knowing how it can be leveraged and reused let’s you generate more leads with content marketing.
At GLO, we believe that tracking data and analysing it, allows marketers to derive insights that give them a superpower of marketing agility. This helps them to be more responsive to the ever-changing digital landscape.
Congrats! You made it through all of those 7 steps – we know it’s quite a lot to take in. We can imagine that by now, you either:
A) have your content marketing strategy written up and your editorial calendar filled with many ideas on content pieces that will help you to generate leads
B) have already given up on attempting to do this yourself and would much rather get a content marketing specialist to do it for you!
If the answer is B, get in touch with the GLO team and let us generate leads for you with content marketing.