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Winning Strategies

The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation Through Content Marketing

Ask any marketer these days for solid piece of advice to gain traction online and the majority will most likely say:

Tell stories.
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.

What makes content so powerful? Does that mean social media's reign is over? Shall we now bid farewell to PPC?

Mastering Lead Generation Through Content Marketing

Content Marketing Institute's most recent survey revealed that 88 percent of B2B marketers are practicing content marketing.

This type of content marketing, the survey further explained, 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 you're figuring out what those other 12 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 for more.

Kaboom!

The truth is that there are no potions, chants, or spells behind each successful content marketing campaign. The marketers behind them were just quick to recognize that 96 percent of first-time website visitors are not ready to purchase and would rather take their time in 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 on content that screams value (not a sales pitch) to your prospects.

Building the Best Content

Once your team is given the go signal to push content -- from churning out blog posts to uploading webinars to nifty infographics, you throw them all into your cauldron! You're supposed to stir the contents and wait for 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 specific challenges your audience has (but no one else is talking about in the right way for a certain audience). 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 that's bigger than what you sell or what you do.And not everybody is going to want to be part of your squad. Which is exactly the point.

Using Social Media to Amplify Content

While the idea of 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.

Using Paid Traffic to Amplify Content

What if it's the other way around? How do your prospects find you?

With a digital landscape of fragmented audiences and channels, you have to tap into search engine marketing (SEM) to get your content found. PPC or pay-per-click advertising falls into this category.

There are many ways to drawn brand awareness; SEO is one of these. However, it could take time for the desired results to come. On the other hand, a thoughtfully constructed PPC campaign works extremely well as a launch pad to gain new website visitors and quality leads. This is particularly useful for brands who are on a tight budget but would love to see results right away.

In contrast to social media, PPC allows you reach your target audiences with laser-like accuracy through strategic placement of ads and day parting. 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.

Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

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!

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Quick Tip: Do not rely on verbal strategies. Document the whole thing. According to CMI's recent report, nearly half 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?

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Step 1: Know Thy Audience

Above all else, using content to fuel your lead-generating machine begins with identifying your prospects. After all, why would you talk about how Anthony Bourdain is the raddest food writer ever to a vegan audience?

This initial step can be divided into two: conducting market research and building buyer personas.

MARKET RESEARCH

For marketing guru Neil Patel, the best way to crack your prospects' real needs and wants is to turn to commercial keywords. No crystal ball nor mind reading skills required!

You can unravel your prospect's deepest pain points by pouring over the mystic scrolls of Google Adwords Keywords Planner (the Get Ideas section) as well as 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
  • 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

BUYER PERSONA DEVELOPMENT

In hindsight, a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal client/customer. The purpose of buyer persona development is 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 tend to focus on multiple personas. If you're still new to content marketing strategy, start small by picking one persona at a time! It's best to begin with the persona whom you reckon will be interested the most 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.

If customer mapping sounds new to you, you're not alone. In 2014, only 39 percent of marketers were confident that they ‘understand customer journeys and adapt the channel mix accordingly.

By and large, a customer journey map allows you to understand fully the process prospects go through when considering your product or service. Google refers to it as the Zero Moment of Truth.

Furthermore, each customer journey map is unique. Kerry Bodine of Moz has wonderfully explained the basics of customer journey mapping. Meanwhile, here's a no-nonsense guide to building customer journey maps.

Quick Tip: Keep in mind that not all prospects will follow the exact key points in your journey map. Some will make a 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 Which 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 TechValidate, the following types of content do well if lead generation is your primary agenda:

  • Customer testimonials
  • Case studies
  • White papers

In last year's CMI report, the majority of B2B folks agreed that case studies are the most useful content for prospect nurturing and lead generation.

So you want to write a case study that doesn't bore your readers? Take it from marketer Drew McLellan. He refers to case studies as the marketing version of Aesop's fables.

Structure your case studies like a story.

The Unbounce team has also outlined seven content marketing campaign ideas for lead generation.

THE CONTENT UPGRADE

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: Design a High-Converting Landing Page

Once you've crafted content to offer your prospects, creating a landing page should be next on your list. It serves as 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 the 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)

Quick Tip: A landing page isn't a brochure nor 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:

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.

Organic search
If there's one area in digital marketing that's 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.'

Syndication
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.

Paid
Content marketing outcomes take time. If your lead generation goals call for instant results, paid traffic is an alternative. The best way to use this venue is to direct your prospects to informative content. Many marketers, though, make the mistake of directing audiences to product pages. 

How can you build relationships with this tactic?

Quick Tip: You don't have to try everything at once. Focus on one channel at a time and experiment which bucket gives the most traffic.

Step 6: Establish Effective Conversion Paths

Establishing conversion paths help ensure that prospects and customers will reach your landing page. This step can be further broken down to the following components:

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 of 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.

Follow-Up Email
A follow-up email's purpose is similar to the Thank-You page, except that it has the potential to engage further with your leads because of its personalization.

Tried and True Lead Generation Tactics and Techniques

Lead generation doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of platforms for getting the word out and converting potential customers into leads. It’s just a matter of integrating the right techniques.

1. EXPLORE TRAFFIC SOURCES

With the prevalence of social media in our culture, everyone now incorporates social channels into their marketing plan. Social media has a handful of distinct advantages over other channels, but the main benefit is that it is free.

Aside from diving into advertisements, you can successfully run campaigns without spending a dollar. The trick is to engage with your audience rather than pitch.

Engagement requires you to provide value in every interaction. If your business sells leather wallets, your audience isn’t looking to you for election advice. They want content about different types of wallets, places you get your leather, and related stories.

Social Proof

Another benefit is the social proof that comes with engaging your audience on social media. The larger your fan base on your business’s profile, the better the chances that others will join - building your credibility.

In one study, researchers found that 63% of customers are more likely to purchase if there are accompanying reviews.

While social proof is one of the most useful methods of lead generation, bad reviews can have devastating effects. Work to provide exceptional value for your audience in order to avoid any social attacks.

Brand Loyalty

With social media, you have the opportunity to let your brand loyalty thrive. Satisfied customers may provide information or recommend your site and products to others. Social platforms give them an easy way to share and answer questions potential leads may be having.

Selecting the Right Channel

Depending on the goal, you can turn your focus to different platforms.

For instance, LinkedIn is better suited for promoting professional content while Facebook works great for sales, images, and interactive material.

Select the platforms that work best at engaging your specific audience. Don’t be afraid to try others, but don’t feel as though you need to use all of them. A poorly managed profile could hurt more than help.

2. Optimize YOUR LANDING PAGES

Creating great landing pages is a terrific way to increase your lead generation. With proper structuring they are highly effective - without a plan, they fall flat.

The Do’s

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 (Join 20,000 others who’ve…).

The Don’ts

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 side bars. The purpose of the landing page is to draw one reaction from the potential lead, and that’s to get them perform your desired action.

3. DEVELOP Interesting LEAD MAGNETS

Lead magnets entice your site visitor into providing identifying information by offering a useful free gift (ie. eBooks, guides, check lists). There are two key things to remember when creating your lead magnet:

  1. It has to be irresistible.
  2. It has to be specific.

Using a lead magnet like, “My Top 5 Posts of the Year” is greatly 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.

4. 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, go back through 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 amount 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.

5. ANSWER QUESTIONS

Finally, another free and effective technique to use is a question/answer site. Places like Quora or Yahoo! Answers provide not only a path for generating leads, but an opportunity to gain insight into what your customers want.

Conduct a search for various topics in your niche. When you find something related to your product, answer the question with as much detail as possible. At the end, offer more information by visiting your site.

The important thing to remember is that your answer has to be sufficient to their question. Giving a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and then linking to your site, will lower your answers ranking because it helps no one.

If you’re finding trends or doubts you could address with your business, do it. No one will provide you with better information about what they want than your potential customers. Sometimes, you may even be able to solve a problem they didn’t know they had.

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, Strategic Marketing Consultant and Facebook Ads Specialist Nicholas Kumich 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 are all yours!

Let's take a look on how you can leverage these three lenses to your lead generation strategies and gain high-quality leads in the process.

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.

Actionable Lead Generation Tips:

  • Put testimonials on our landing pages or opt-in. Short yet to-the-point testimonials with name, a photo of the person, and the name of the company makes you more trustworthy from your prospect's perspective.
  • Install instant chat on your website. This makes your brand appear more warm and approachable.
  • Display you 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 and 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 that are 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 that 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 that its 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 that correspond 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?".

Lead Generation Through Content Marketing

Ultimately, content that helps 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 promotors.

So, what's the secret to creating content that helps?

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 to me 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 is probably going to be your answer.

That's not deep enough for helpful content.

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 want to talk about.

If you're a mortgage company - stop talking about mortgages. Instead, talk about home decor, 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 for a month or two and see what happens to your lead generation rates.

Content Repurposing Toolkit

Written by Ryan Scott / June 16, 2017

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