Every year, different reputable companies conduct research in trending subjects such as digital marketing. In one study conducted by Smart Insights, marketers were asked to “select the single marketing activity that they think will make the biggest business impact for their business or clients”.
Majority of them, as shown in the graph below, choose content marketing. This question has featured in smart insights surveys for the last 3 to 4 years and each time, the answer has been the same.
What this trend tells us is that content marketing has grown to become one of the most effective methods for lead generation. This has been driven by two forces:
Customers Needs. Fed up with “in-your-face” sales and marketing tactics, customers have continually gravitated towards content marketing’s transparent, authentic, friendly and subtle way of advertising. Customers like to choose exactly what they want; they also want to only interact with the brands of their choice. Content has given consumers all these choices.
Marketers’ response to customers’ needs. After a lot of push-and-pull and countless debates regarding content marketing (as a part of digital marketing) and the relevance of traditional media in today’s world, marketers have woken up to the realization that if they want to reach, interact with, sell to and retain customers, their marketing approach needs to be different.
Old marketing tactics that worked before the internet cannot work the same way in today’s environment. The internet and social media have shifted power to the consumer, hence the way companies market and sell.
Content marketing is about building relationships. It forces companies to focus on what the consumer, not the brand, wants. This approach works: According to the 2019 State of Content Marketing survey, only a few years ago, a mere 6% of marketers felt that content marketing was the right marketing approach.
This number had grown to 70% in 2017 and currently, 96% of marketers feel that content marketing is effective for their brand. 89% of marketers also now feel that content marketing ties into their wider business goals.
Now that we are clear on the increasing importance of content in lead generation, let’s look at how b2b marketers can leverage content marketing to generate leads.
Before we dive into the best practices, it’s worth noting that investing in marketing automation will make your content marketing a lot more manageable.
That said, below are some best practices to help you get started with content marketing and to use it effectively as a relationship-nurturing tool.
1. Find out who your target is
For content to be effective, you must know “who” you want it to speak to. Identify your customers, find out their needs, and then create content that will give them the answers they are looking for. No matter how compelling your content is, it will not generate leads if it does not reach its intended audience.
Lead generation is all about having relevant conversations; it’s not about the number of shares or likes that your content receives. While such measures are important, relevant conversations with people who are interested in what you have to offer, are what will bring you the sales.
Therefore, create content:
- For the right audience,
- That people are searching for,
- That will resonate with decision-makers. This is especially important for b2b marketers as reaching decision-makers accelerates the speed of closing a sale.
2. First impressions matter
As with almost everything else, your content only has one chance to impress those who read or view it. At all costs, avoid the following:
- Fluffy content. Content that doesn’t make you sound like an expert will only lead to a higher bounce rate.
- Publishing unedited or sub-par content. Ensure your videos are produced by experts; unclear images and poor sound quality are a big put off. For written content, check for typos before you publish.
- Using Jargon unnecessarily. Jargon may be good in your professional circles but simple language goes a long way in convincing end users of the benefits of your product or service.
3. Create relevant content
Majority of people don’t convert on the first interaction with your brand. For conversion to happen, you need to have a series of interactions with them, during which you should demonstrate that:
- You understand their pain
- You know how to solve their problem.
Conversion is only possible once they are convinced that you CAN actually solve their problem. Relevant content will go a long way towards achieving this goal. Before you publish, ask yourself: does the content show a clear understanding of the customer’s pain and does it offer a solution?
Don’t just list features and hope this will do the trick; you need to show “why” the customer should buy, by illustrating “How” your product will help them. More importantly, show proof to support your claims. This could be industry reports, testimonials and expert reviews.
4. Always include a call-to-action
A call-to-action is an important guiding tool and should feature conspicuously in all your content. A call-to-action tells your prospects what to do next. Assuming your content fulfills all the “quality markers” discussed above, prospects will be keen to know what they should do next. For instance, can they try the product? Can they download additional material? Can they purchase immediately? Can they talk to someone?
All these questions translate into effective call-to-action.
Besides getting your prospects to take action, calls to action are important for these two additional reasons:
- They offer more information to help segment your audiences further. You can then take each segment as a separate audience and target them with content more suitable to their position in the purchase funnel.
- You can track customer activity around each call to action.
5. Produce content in multiple formats
You shouldn’t limit your content marketing to just written content. People respond to different types of content differently. Written content still has a dominant place in online marketing and actually has some advantages over other types of content such as:
- You need written content to rank. Search engines cannot pick up videos or images.
- It’s easier to skim through written content than a video. You cannot skim through a video. If you forward a video, you may miss out on important parts.
- Written content gives you more authority: you can quote, cite, and adopt a formal tone.
That said, video content makes your product marketing more compelling. If you want to demonstrate how your product works, video is more effective than text. More so:
- Video gives a face to your brand. People respond better when they know they are interacting with a person.
- As videos are more memorable, video content is a great way to stay top of mind. 80% of users say they recall content in videos they watched 30 days prior.
- Video content is shared 1200% times more than written content.
- Video generates more leads. For instance, real estate listings that include video generate 403% more inquiries.
In a nutshell, different types of content have their advantages and shortcomings. It’s better to incorporate all the different types into your strategy to avoid missing out on the advantages presented by each.
6. Promote your content
After you publish content on your platform, no one will know about it unless you get the word out. If you have optimized your content for the search engines, anyone searching the web for your topic will find you if you rank on the first page.
However, there are millions of other people who won’t be searching the web. They may not even know that they have a problem. Your biggest task will be to get your information in front of such people.
Some effective ways of promoting your content include:
- Promote on social media
- Speak at forums
- Guest post on other websites
- Issue press releases to announce the launch of a book, research paper, product, etcetera
- Include a link in your content so that all clicks lead back to your website.
7. Use lead magnets
Content will generate traffic. But once the traffic is on your site, you need them to not only consume your content but to also leave you their contacts. For this to happen, you need to give them a compelling reason to hand you their data. Email addresses and phone numbers are very personal; people only give these details if they are convinced that:
- They are giving them to a trustworthy brand
- What they will get in return is worth it.
Lead magnets should offer even more value than your blog content so that people don’t unsubscribe immediately after a download. There is no point getting hundreds of leads, only for the majority of them to go cold before you have had a chance to nurture them.
8. Use live broadcasts
Live videos will give you additional opportunity to “bring your natural self” into your interaction with prospects. There are many options for doing live broadcasts, such Facebook live which offers a large audience, rich metrics, and retargeting opportunities. Other platforms include Instagram stories, IGTV, YouTube or desktop tools such as BeLive.tv.
Note that your choice of platform may conflict with your objectives. For instance, if your objective is to improve SEO, your Facebook videos will not be easily found unless people know your channel. You also will not be able to control the adverts that run alongside your content.
Therefore, before you choose a platform to use, consider how it will sit with your marketing objectives.
That said, for your live videos to succeed:
- Do a regular show. You can start with once per week.
- Offer valuable information during your shows.
- Encourage people to share, comment and participate.
- Offer rewards for participation.
9. Post on niche websites
The internet is rife with forums where people can share industry-specific information and interact with people pursuing the same (or similar) goals. Social media is also taking on a similar trend. There are now niche social media sites that are dedicated to niche subjects.
Mainstream social media channels have their place, but they may not support your lead generation efforts. For instance, Facebook has a large audience and that is a good thing if your product or service is generic. But if your offering is niche, your lead generation efforts may be best spent on a more niche platform.
Find a niche community to join. Once you are a member of a niche community, be consistent with your posting and focus on building long term relationships with members. Once you build your credibility, people will naturally want to share your content.
Based on the statistics and points shared above, it should be clear that the role of content marketing in b2b lead generation is quite pivotal. Long gone are the times when organizations had the luxury of time to sit around discussing the merits or demerits of content marketing and whether it will fit in with a company’s goals and budgets.
96% of marketers are convinced of its importance (as shown above). What that means is that if you are not leveraging content marketing to generate leads, you belong to the 4% who are not reaching their audiences.
Brands that use content marketing as part of their lead generation strategies generate three times more leads at 62% less cost, as compared to those that use outbound marketing. If you are not using content marketing, you are missing out on massive benefits.