Where most B2B companies are investing in content marketing, less than a quarter are satisfied with their return. Many factors contribute to this dissatisfaction, but the primary reason that I’ve run across in discussions with companies is that they’ve approached the situation backwards.
It’s like they’re trying to build a house by digging a hole and immediately buying the windows and the wall treatments before meeting with an architect. And even worse, they choose an architect that specializes in bridge building.
Marketing has traditionally been focused on branding to create awareness. There’s certainly nothing wrong with more people being aware of who you are, but there’s a big difference between people being aware of who you are and what you sell, and those people actually engaging with your sales team and buying products and services from you.
That’s what a lead generation strategy is really all about.
So what are the building blocks of a lead generation strategy?
A demand generation strategy must map directly to the sales funnel to be effective, which is why most B2B content marketing initiatives miss the mark—they don’t understand sales process.
If you don’t have a sales process (because you rely solely on referrals), start there. Map out your individual buying personas, and most importantly, what their most pressing problems are that must be solved.
Identification of those pain points, along with the stages of their buying process, creates a matrix for you to then create content around.
In that way, demand generation is your starting pitcher generating interest and engaging with early stage buyers.
Sure, you can start writing some blogs and you might get some inbound traffic, but the leads will be substandard and it won’t help you hit growth numbers of 20% or more.
When we think about the early stage buyers (top of funnel), the content will primarily be videos, blogs, infographics, and long-form oriented content.
How do you get people to engage?
Once you’ve built content that attracts interest, you can use all of the digital channels at your disposal: email, social media, organic search, and, if it’s in the budget, paid search.
Driving traffic to your content that speaks to the high-probability pains your prospects face (you’re not yet talking about you or your products), you’re engaging them on things that they care about.
From engagement to conversion
Now that you have them engaged (they are reading these articles and consuming your content), you need to have some way of converting them, which means that they’re going to fill out a form and give you some information about them in exchange for something valuable.
Most people are unwilling to fill out a form to read a 500 word blog or article. If they did, they would probably feel duped and unsatisfied, leading them to opt out of further content.
Getting information on customers requires more of a premium, conversion-oriented asset—something that they’ll be willing to give up their information to receive. But remember—at this stage, they’re most likely researching because they have a problem and may not be searching for or even understand that a solution like yours exists.
Another mistake I see companies make is to put a form in front of their sales collateral such as a case study or a products brochure.
Instead, this is great place for an asset like a white paper where you’ve documented a much deeper analysis on this business problem in which you begin exploring the solutions to those problems.
Obviously you can help them solve those problems, but the prospect may not be ready to hear it.
Conversions are not (necessarily) prospects
Whether it’s an infographic, a white paper, or some other conversion asset, the reader has entered their email address and you know their name , but that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to buy or talk to a sales rep.
All they’ve done is indicate that they are interested in that topic. It doesn’t mean they have the budget, authority, need, or timetable to solve the problem.
Perhaps it’s not something their company can take on right now. It does, however, mean that you have a real person at a real company that is engaging with your brand, on a topic (pain point) that you can solve, so this is a very good thing!
The next step is nurturing.
If you think about content further down the funnel, (you’ve identified their pain point, they’re exploring solutions), they need help navigating this process. How do I evaluate vendors? What other criteria should I be thinking about? What are the mistakes I need to avoid?
This is where content like a case study can help (at the bottom of the funnel), where you’re presenting highly-specific, relevant content to these prospects to nurture them until they’re sales ready.
Combine all that with marketing automation that links your website with your CRM so that your sales team has the lead intelligence to know who’s clicked on what, what content is being consumed, and at what frequency, and suddenly you’ve identified the very best prospects that sales should be doing their business development work with.
When you combine quality content and technology, you’ve assembled the building blocks for a lead generation system using content marketing.