Content Marketing for Lead Generation
While traditional, short-term marketing and advertising provide businesses an effective way to generate leads, content marketing focuses on long-term, reliable growth and high ROI.
To use content marketing effectively for lead generation, you must create a variety of content types, including blogs, product pages, white papers, and case studies. This content—optimized for Google’s evolving search algorithm—targets users at different stages in their buying journey. For example, blogs are used to target people doing research on Google who probably haven’t heard of your company. When written excellently and targeted to the searcher’s intent, they also enable businesses to reach the top spots in Google’s search results without having to pay for ad placement. In contrast to blogs, longer content such as white papers and case studies are used to engage visitors more deeply, acquiring their contact information for e-mail marketing and warming them up towards a sale.
This guide will help you understand the spectrum of content professionals create for digital marketing purposes and how to use each type of content to generate leads.
How Content Marketing Generates Leads
To explain how content marketing attracts leads and moves them through the conversion pathway, we’ll begin with a general overview of the marketing funnel.
The diagram below lays out the 3 stages of marketing conversion accompanied by the content types that marketers use in that stage to push visitors through the funnel.
Stage 1: Discovery
During the Discovery stage, content marketers earn inclusion in Google’s search results by creating excellent, keyword-targeted content. Businesses can also utilize the complementary marketing channel of social media during this stage by sharing content on social channels as it is published. (NOTE: Social media doesn’t generate leads, but it really helps in warming them up once they’re aware of your brand.)
The best content marketing attracts users by addressing their problems, needs, and interests.
Stage 2: Nurturing
The next stage in the conversion pathway, Nurturing, occurs after visitors have discovered your company. While it may seem like marketing is about getting visitors to notice you, an equally important part is building trust with those visitors, as the vast majority (often 99%+) will not convert on the first visit. Your goal is to get visitors to either (a) visit another page on your site; (b) sign up for your email list; or (c) follow your company on social media. By doing anything more than “land and leave,” visitors confirm their interest in your company’s offerings to some degree.
Effective nurturing means not just having calls-to-action that push visitors to one of the 3 goals above, but also interesting, personalized content that makes them want to learn more and follow your brand.
Stage 3: Conversion
Although conversion can occur at any point in a customer’s journey, it typically follows directly a visitor consuming content during Stage 2. That content – a white paper for instance – will have a call-to-action within it, moving the visitor further along within Stage 2 (e.g. to a Product page, or perhaps a Webinar) or directly to a conversion page.
How To Build a Content Strategy for Lead Generation
|Step 1||Define your target audience & create personas|
|Step 2||Determine your target audience’s preferred content types|
|Step 3||Develop a keyword strategy|
|Step 4||Create high-quality, targeted content for your audience along the entire funnel|
Define Your Target Audience and Create Personas
Before creating quality, targeted content, you must identify the most valuable target audience for your business. To accomplish this, interview your existing customers, asking them:
- What is their occupation or job title?
- Are they the key decision maker? If not, how close are they?
- What are the key obstacles they are trying to overcome?
- How can they be helped by your product or service?
The answers to these questions allow you to create detailed customer personas of your audience. Personas are in-depth descriptions of a fictional person that serves as a representative member of the target audience. Here is an example of a customer persona:
Your business will likely have several target audiences, and while you should create personas for each, you must also prioritize them by expected customer lifetime value. Focusing most of your content on 3-5 personas often allows your team to target the most relevant groups without overly diluting their focus.
Determine Your Target Audience’s Preferred Content Types
The customer personas you create will give you insight into what type of content your audience values, and therefore, what type of content your team should aim to create. If your primary audience consists of more junior staff at another company, then your content should consist of blog articles and guides focusing on the day to day details of their work. By contrast, if your target audience is primarily executives and other high-level managers, your campaign will be better served by reports and to-the-point case studies that quickly demonstrate your expertise.
Develop a Keyword Strategy
Google is the primary channel on which audiences find new content, and the next step in creating targeted content is to choose keywords by analyzing search intent. The most valuable keywords for lead generation have a transactional search intent, indicating that a searcher is actively searching for a direct solution to a problem, a product or service to purchase, or a company to partner with. The below table provides examples of keywords of varying transactionalities for a hypothetical company that offers rapid prototyping services:
|Topic: “Rapid Prototyping”|
|Highly Transactional Keywords||Research-Oriented Keywords||Non-Transactional Keywords|
|rapid prototyping services||rapid prototyping pros and cons||how to write a rapid prototyping proposal|
|rapid prototyping company||rapid prototyping methods||what is rapid prototyping|
|rapid prototyping solutions||rapid prototyping best practices||rapid prototyping news|
Highly transactional keywords are the most valuable initial targets for your content, as they will produce the fastest return on your investment. Research oriented keywords may be targeted later in the campaign, and often provide useful opportunities to create lead nurturing content that can be repurposed across multiple channels. Non-transactional keywords have little lead generation value, and should be avoided by most companies.
|For an in-depth discussion on creating a keyword strategy, refer to our articles on The Hub & Spoke Model and SEO Keyword Strategy 101.|
Create High-Quality, Targeted Content for Your Audience
Once keyword targets are determined, content creation can begin. Excellent content must:
- Respond to the reader’s search query, providing a solution to the implicit question that led them to read the content
- Use graphics, tables, formatting, and other visual elements to improve readability
- Provide the reader with actionable next steps
Responding to the reader’s search query requires that your content provide expert analysis or distill available research to provide readers with information directly relevant to their needs. Content can be structured in several distinct ways to aid this process. For a keyword such as “rapid prototyping services,” a reader will be best served by a landing page directly discussing services offered. A keyword such as “rapid prototyping companies,” however, warrants a comparison blog that ranks the best companies that provide rapid prototyping services.
Include content elements to improve skimmability so that readers can quickly identify vital information without losing interest. Including graphics and tables that illustrate the point in an attractive, consumable way is particularly effective for conveying complex concepts or summarizing research. Skimmability is essential, as readers will leave a page that does not quickly provide the information they need, or at minimum, a clear roadmap that leads to that information.
Conclude with actionable next steps through a clear and concise call-to-action section at the bottom of a page to help push visitors through your conversion funnel. Your CTA should be limited to one or two paragraphs, and link to a conversion page, such as a contact form or demo scheduling page. This provides interested readers with as little friction as possible on their way to becoming a lead.
Content Repurposing for Multiple Channels
Look for ways to repurpose content for multiple channels. For example, some blog articles make great scripts for speaking engagements or video content with minimal editing. Likewise, webinars may include graphics and tables that make great resources for blog articles.
By repurposing content in this way, you can reduce the overall cost of your content marketing campaign, thereby increasing your overall ROI.
Getting Help With Content Marketing
While any marketing team can initiate the process described above, successful content marketing takes time to master. Many businesses find that they lack the time and expertise needed to produce and execute a content marketing strategy that is capable of generating leads.
As a result, many companies choose to partner with an experienced agency. We have over 14 years of experience using content marketing to generate leads, resulting in high ROI for our clients. If you’re interested in working with a content marketing agency to generate high-quality leads, contact us.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.