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Inbound Marketing

Building the Structure: How to Create Lead Generating Offers That Convert

When building both a house and a thriving inbound marketing program, once your blueprint is good to go, and your foundation has been laid, the next step is to erect a solid external structure. A home’s structure is held together by the walls, rafters, and floors, and when built correctly, it will survive the elements for many years. Likewise, in a marketing program, the structure consists of your evergreen marketing assets – your premium articles, ebooks, white papers, webinars, slide decks and any other content that resides behind a registration wall.

How to Create Lead Generating Offers That Convert

This article is lesson 3 in a 12-part series: The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Strategies and Tactics

These assets are the products you award to your prospects in exchange for their email addresses. Ultimately, it’s the permission to continue marketing to them, and the means to do so, that you’re after. That sought-after permission (the opt-in) is what converts visitors into leads, and the valuable marketing assets that you give away in return are what makes this an attractive exchange. With the "external structure" of these resources in place, everything else you do for ongoing inbound marketing activity is aimed at attracting relevant people to check your assets out.

What Kind of Lead Generation Content Works Best?

When considering your options for developing premium content offers, always remember that your goal is to help your ideal audience members, thereby cumulating the brand equity that will advance them along the conversion funnel. The most efficient tactic to move your potential customers from the top of the sales funnel (TOFU) to the meaty middle of the sales funnel (MOFU) is to produce attractive content that subtly expresses the value of your product in the context of educating and informing people.

To convert, your leads need their questions answered. Do you know what their questions are? Do you know who they are, what they want, which publications they read, their preferences and his motivations? Ultimately, you need to profile your ideal customer before determining what type of content he or she is most likely to consume. Find out what they want, and once you have the answers compiled, it’s time to decide on an optimized format.

Ebooks Are the Floor

The most common premium content offer is a comprehensive ebook; every inbound strategy needs one for TOFU marketing. They get shared a lot, they’re timeless, and they’re great for developing a reputation for thought leadership.

Given, however, that an ebook requires significant investment in terms of time, effort and money (the content needs to be straightforward and helpful and the design attractive and professional), the project can seem overwhelming. With the right methodology and tools, however, you can efficiently create one on a budget.

First, pick a specific topic. Since the ebook’s goal is to capture and educate leads, make sure that your subject not only addresses your customers’ questions and concerns, but also that the topic makes it easy for a prospect to advance from downloading your ebook towards holding a conversation with your sales team. The idea you use for your ebook should address your customers’ pain points, explain the merits of your solution and offer step-by-step instructions for overcoming your audience members' challenges.

Next, outline your content. You may already have all the content you need and can simply repurpose it as an ebook. For example, if you’ve already written a series of blog posts addressing various aspects of a particular customer challenge, it’s easy to convert these posts into chapters of a downloadable ebook, with just a few tweaks.

A common mistake that can lead to overwhelm and project completion delays is over-fixating on how long it needs to be. Although ebooks run from eight to forty pages, content does not need to be long-form to be compelling. Rest easy. The value is the determining factor – not length. Think informative and memorable.

Once you’ve determined your ebook's topic and content, look at some free templates. These tools make it easy to paste in your content, drop in your images and top the whole thing off with your logo. The next step is to incorporate visuals. Who's going to read a boring ebook? Pictures not only make your ebook more attractive; they should serve to highlight an important point or deconstruct the meaning of a concept in an accessible, compelling way. The ebook's graphical components, which may include photos as well as timelines, charts or other data visualizations, should enhance the reader’s understanding of your material.

Before you publish your ebook, though, be sure to incorporate appropriate calls to action within the text.

Whitepapers Are Your Walls

With an ebook, or a few ebooks, in place, it's time to get a bit more ambitious and creat a whitepaper. This will require that you compile an in-depth, authoritative, research-driven report on a specific topic, encompassing trends, challenges, and solutions.

Ultimately, whitepapers are little more than advanced problem-solving guides, like an FAQ on steroids, which will educate your customers while positioning your product or service as a key element to success. Whitepapers are the academic parts of marketing content. Keep in mind that their role is to inform and persuade based on evidence and perspective – not as a long form self-promotional item or a lingo-heavy sales piece. Whitepapers are factual bodies of information that are denser and entirely less skimmable than ebooks. Readers expect a high degree of expertise backed by solid, fully documented research.

If you’re getting the impression that whitepapers can be boring, you’re right – but they don't have to be. Remember that your premium content pieces need to match up with your prospects' various funnel positions. Whitepapers are aimed at a separate and distinct audience from ebooks – they’re targeted at the MOFU audience. With whitepapers, you’re serving customers who are further along the sales cycle. Those who are interested in this level of detail are seeking credible, authoritative resources and are much closer to converting.

To create a whitepaper, the first step is identifying the specific problem your audience is facing – the one your whitepaper will explore. Always consider your audience’s level of expertise; even though your whitepaper is meant to be well researched and professional, if your ideas go above readers' heads, you’ll lose them.

An "executive summary" introduction should describe the problem the whitepaper identifies and solves in clear, precise terms, along with your take on solving the problem. This overview will immediately indicate to the readership the extent to which the whitepaper is relevant to their own interests.

The rest of your content should include not only prose detailing specific aspects of the problem and background information but also charts, graphs, dates and visually illustrated theories. Ultimately, you will close by explaining why your solution is the perfect match for the details you've been discussing.

Webinars Are Your Cement

A fantastic alternative to ebooks, webinars have several distinct advantages. Since we’ve all been trained to skim content, including articles and ebooks, customers are likely not going to internalize (or even see) all the details that your browsable and downloadable content presents. A webinar, however, supports a similarly robust level of information, but it’s presented in a format geared more closely to the way we prefer to consume content today – visual, real-time, interactive and demonstrative.

Webinars are also highly trackable. Although it’s easy to document your number of ebook downloads, it’s impossible to be certain how many of your ebooks have actually been read. Leading webinar platforms, however, like ClickWebinar, for example, empower you to track dropouts and analyze how many participants disengaged – and at what point during the presentation. This information is exceptionally useful for optimizing future webinars.

When planning your first webinar, determine a topic based not only on the type of information your audience is seeking but also a subject (and title) with great appeal. Next, select a platform provider. Once you're set up with your preferred vendor, you will be provided with a registration link. Take that link and promote it in every way you can. Make sure that you capture registrants' names and email addresses, and that all relevant webinar information is provided on that page.

Webinar content is visual, often emphasizing designed slide decks, as it needs to engage the audience on a much more interactive level than an ebook or a whitepaper. In a webinar, the slides aren’t visual aides – usually, they are the visuals. That means both the sequence and design are critical. All good webinars have introductions, bodies and conclusions, so your deck will naturally follow this sequence. There are plenty of free webinar slide templates available to help get you started. Your webinar should be informative, inspiring and entertaining as well. Ultimately, your goal is to develop a virtual relationship with your viewers – and you’re live.

Finally, consider your call to action. What is the logical next step after your potential customers complete the webinar? You already have their email addresses – are you hoping they call to speak with sales? Make appointments for in-person product demonstrations? Be overt and clear about expectations for advancement along the sales funnel.

Ready to Build

Now that you know the importance of marketing assets, what you can create and how to go about it, you have both the knowledge and the resources to begin compiling an arsenal of tools. Each piece of premium content will reside safely and securely behind a registration wall. You will offer your leads free, high quality content in exchange for access to their inboxes. It’s a win-win.

Once you are ready to offer your leads the types of premium content discussed here, we will move forward to the next step of your home building and inbound marketing strategy – the roof you need to protect your valuables.

Written by Ryan Scott / May 20, 2015

is the Inbound Marketing Artist at Lean Labs. His marketing experience ranges from colleges to SMBs, and tech startups. When not marketing, he's sure to be enjoying something nerdy.

Articles by Ryan Scott