Remember the days when marketing was a blood sport? When it required a ruthless approach to your competitors, deep pockets, and a scorched earth approach to capturing your “share” of the public’s attention so you could generate more leads?
Things sure have changed. Like many industries, the Internet has democratized marketing – but unlike other industries, that democratization hasn’t weakened or marginalized career fields (sorry travel agents). Rather, it has strengthened the power of a good marketing team – to the point that the average marketing budget has actually increased year over year for the last five years.
And it’s all about content. Today’s best marketing thought leaders are those that develop powerful, engaging, and most importantly, useful content for their readers. Content that solves problems, builds relationships, and guides readers in their pursuits. It also happens to capture email addresses, enter prospects into sales funnels, and generate significantly greater ROI toward sales than the scorched earth approach.
The best part of all? It’s accessible. You don’t need a six figure budget to write a really kickass eBook. You just need to know your audience and want to help.
If you are new to content marketing and are eager to learn how it works, and more importantly, how all those eBooks and blog posts generate more leads, here are 7 tips to do the same for your business.
Tip 1 – Identify Exactly Who Your Target Audience Includes
Without a doubt, you are probably an expert in your field. You know your business inside and out. No marketing agency or consultant could match what you know about your prospects. Why then are your marketing materials so generic?
An effective content marketing campaign strips out all the guessing, all the broad approach content, and all the 101-level “here you go” content from the start. You need to know exactly who your ideal audience includes and what their problems are.
HubSpot identifies this as a buyer persona and they get so specific as to give their avatars names and back stories. Imagine you are writing your book for one person – what does that one person (your ideal customer) need from you? How can you solve their problems? The subsequent book will be written with much cleaner, more focused language as a result.
If you’re not sure exactly how to break this down, perform an audit of your best customers. Who are the decision makers from those companies and how did you originally approach them? This is the core you’ll be focusing on.
Tip 2 – Answer Specific Questions in the Language They Recognize
The next step is to speak and respond in the language they best understand. Never assume anything when developing content for a marketing campaign. Here’s what we use when evaluating a target audience:
- Social Media – How do they interact on social media? Which thought leaders do they follow and what kind of content do those people produce?
- Groups and Forums – Visit LinkedIn Groups and industry forums and read the conversations being held. What are the most common problems cited and what language is used to discuss and solve those problems?
- Sales Teams – The sales team has the best insights into the problems held by these individuals. Ask your sales team to provide common questions and concerns and the exact language used to describe those. Recorded calls can even help here.
To make your point and ensure someone finds value in that content, you need to provide answers in the same language and urgency with which the questions are asked.
Tip 3 – Create an Automatic Followup Machine
It’s relatively easy to generate more leads with content online. Write an eBook or White Paper and drive traffic to it (which you can do with ads) to capture information. But someone downloading an eBook is not necessarily a qualified sales lead.
Content marketing is an active process that manages a large portion of the nurturing that was historically done by the sales team. Email marketing in particular is incredibly important, with 73% of businesses saying this is crucial to all of their marketing efforts, and overall ROI surpassing social media by 20%.
The reason why is simple. Email allows you to followup with your prospects on autopilot – sending more information to them at set intervals and creating touch points every 2-4 weeks that keep you top of mind.
This “top of mind” mentality is incredibly important because your prospects will go in and out of research mode multiple times before they ever approach “buying” mode.
HubSpot has a version of the above graphic that breaks it down into 3-4 steps. I like this one slightly better because it shows the nuance between stages, but the core concept is the same – A lead is not just a lead.
That individual is in a certain state of mind. The type of content they download from your website and the type of interaction they have with your business will determine what type of lead they are. Someone downloading an eBook about “how IT services work” is an Explorer – someone just getting started.
Even if they download more than one piece of content they are still relatively high in the funnel. It’s when they start asking you specific questions, attending webinars, or replying to emails you send that they approach sales-qualified. But if you don’t followup with an automated machine that creates multiple possible touch points, it’s impossible to know when this will happen.
Automation can be done in a number of ways. The simplest is with an email autoresponder that sends canned messages every 1-2 weeks. There are more, however. Website content that matches or changes to match the customer’s information is a great starting point as well.
Tip 4 – Diversify the Content You Create
Content is a broad term. It can mean any number of different mediums – blog posts and eBooks to be sure, but also infographics, videos, social graphics, and even audio clips. Visual content is processed 60,000X faster than just text by the brain and can have a much stronger impact when trying to capture someone’s attention online.
Additionally, keep in mind that not everyone learns the same way. Some people prefer to listen to information. Others are more hands on and want to do something with the information they are given.
There is no single type of content that will cover the needs of your target audience. Diversify with the same message across multiple mediums and you’ll provide a more complete solution.
Tip 5 – Be Consistent and Highly Active in All Channels
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a content marketing campaign is the “burst and wait”. So much work goes into creating a single good piece of content that people tend to get very excited and blast it out as soon as it is completed.
The problem with this strategy (or lack thereof) is that once you send out your content – by email, blog post, and social media – what’s next? If you don’t have anything else on tap, all of your freshly engaged leads will quickly dry up and find their information elsewhere.
A good content marketing campaign relies on two things – relevance and consistency. So your content needs to be engaging and relevant – targeting the specific problems you know this audience has – and it needs to be delivered at set intervals.
Frequency will depend on your audience, but a good starting point is to have weekly touch points of some sort. Here’s a breakdown of what we recommend as “minimum” engagement benchmarks:
- Social - Daily
- Blog – Weekly
- Email – Bi-weekly
- Download – Monthly
With four tiers of content delivered at varying intervals, you can engage with your prospects constantly without spamming them through a single channel. There is some overlap here (you will likely send an email and write a blog post to drive traffic to your new eBook), but the end result is upwards of 10 new touch points per week for your prospects, depending on where they connect with you.
Tip 6 – Ignore All of Your Preconceptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about your audience. You are, after all, an expert in what you do. But marketing is a tricky science. I’ve been working with business leaders and fellow marketers for more than ten years and in that time, I’ve been wrong as often as (and probably more than) I’ve been right.
The Achilles Heel of any good marketing team is assumption. Assuming you know how something will perform or making decisions based on what you’ve seen work or not work in other campaigns or on competitor websites can pigeonhole you to the point of failure.
Data is incredibly important in what the top inbound marketing companies do. I don’t make decisions without having a mechanism in place to test my hypothesis or at least run it through a smell test to determine if it’s wroth investing in.
It’s also a very effective way of trying something new for your organization without getting pushback from other decision makers. If you’re only “running a test”, there’s no long term commitment. If the test works, you look good and are given the thumbs up to continue. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to continue anyways.
There are a number of mechanisms you can use to test your ideas. Just be sure to actually do it before investing in an idea.
Tip 7 – Create a High Converting Machine on Your Website
Last but by no means least is the machinery used to deliver your content.
If you want to generate more leads with the content you create and ensure that people not only find it, but engage with it so you can followup in a sales capacity, you need a good machine on your website to do everything listed above.
There are three components to a good website “machine”:
- Strong user experience that engages the visitor
- Technically sound platform to perform in search engines
- High converting CTAs and landing pages to drive conversions
Each of these points lies with a member of your marketing team – #1 with your designer, #2 with your SEO, and #3 with the strategy and CRO experts.
Unfortunately, it’s number 3 that frequently gets overlooked. The “sexiness” of a new website or high Google rankings often overshadow the utilitarian value of a revamped headline on your top converting landing page, but here’s why this is arguably the most important part of the formula.
The average website converts at between 0.5% and 1% when we start working with it. This is historically what I’ve seen from the majority of “fresh” sites that have minimal digital marketing history.
A good benchmark for a B2B website after update is 1.5% to 2%. That number can be achieved through redesign and content optimization. I’ve seen new sites launch before that instantly doubled conversions, simply through revamping user experience and clarifying conversion points.
But there’s more. When landing pages are overhauled, rewritten, and targeted to the very specific people that they can most benefit, the conversion rate reaches upwards of 3% to 3.5%. Top performers cap out above 4% conversion across the website.
Imagine what that means. If your website goes from 0.5% to 4% conversion rate, you will be generating 8 TIMES more leads than you were before the updates were made. That’s a substantial difference. I’ve seen businesses get overwhelmed by the new volume, unable to keep up with the influx of people who need to be called every single day. It’s that powerful.
A good landing page will make a huge difference in your lead generation efforts. Don’t overlook just how important this can be.
What’s the Next Step
With all of this said, there are a number of things you can do right now to get your website marketing ready and start benefiting from the value that good content can offer.
We’ve crafted an eBook to get you started that discusses the 17 things you can and should do to make your website as Marketing Ready as possible for the new visitors that you hope to drive there. From content creation to SEO updates and conversion page optimization, these are 17 quick tips you can work on right now to start improving your conversion rate and using content to generate leads for your business.