Essential Ingredients for Developing a Content-Driven Lead Generation Strategy

There is a very good chance that the first thing your prospective clients see is a piece of content. Whether it’s a tweet, blog post, webinar, or white paper, your leads come from content.

Whether or not a prospect becomes a lead (and eventually a customer) depends largely on if that content is tailored to answer their question, propose a solution, and lead them deeper into your site.

A content strategy will keep you on track creatively, sure. But go beyond questions of what to post when by incorporating elements of you lead generation strategy.

This way, your content maintains creative momentum while driving real, trackable ROI for your business.

Here’s how.

Provide Value and Establish Expertise Before You Ask

There are a few different levels to this point.

First, your content’s number one purpose is to provide value to potential and/or existing customers.

Yes, you are also hoping to drive sales through new customer acquisition and upselling. But, first and foremost, as content creators we must remember that the best way to do that is to help our audience.

Second, you need to show that you and your business are experts in your fields, keeping in mind that the people who land on your site may not have any idea of who you are or what you do.

Address your audience’s need and prove your authority when a person first arrives on your site.

Only once your company has proved its worth, then you can pitch the sale.

Repeat after me:

Give value.

Then ask.

So how exactly do you give value? I’m so glad you asked.

Step One: Give Your Knowledge Away

You read that right.

In many ways, this goes against traditional business logic.

In the old days, nobody wanted to give away their secret sauce. Instead, everyone held their trade secrets close and made it so that people needed to come to you, hat and money in hand, for guidance and skills.

Times have changed, and it’s been proven again and again that the best way to bring in customers is to give something of your expertise away.

For free.

Write blog posts, film YouTube videos, host Twitter chats with industry experts. Use these platforms to engage with and educate your customer base.

This may seem scary to you. But, think of it less as giving away your secret recipe and more like educating your audience. By sharing even a fraction of your knowledge, you are proving that your brand is worth their time.

Remember what your English teacher used to say: show, don’t tell.

By sharing your knowledge for free, you are showing that you really are experts in your field. Doing this will help customers find you, and reassure them that their investment is well placed.

That said, if you’re giving all of your knowledge away for free, then how do you know the leads you’re generating are coming from content?

Which leads us to…

Step Two: Make Gated Content Worth It

Gated content is any information requires visitors to enter their contact details, like an email address, before viewing.

Consumers today are savvy to internet marketing tactics.

They know that entering their email into a form opens them up to being added to your email list, which means opening their inboxes up to the noise of yet another spammy marketing newsletter.

However, gating content is an important tactic for lead generation.

By requiring visitor information, companies are able to track the interactions an individual makes with marketing materials and determine whether or not the lead is hot enough to reach out to.

Lead tracking software allows you to assign a rank to each gated content piece. A gated case study may raise the opportunity score by two points, for example, while an ebook outlining Salesforce integration may be a ten point, instant flag for your sales team to reach out.

But remember, when gating content you must ensure that the information behind the gate is worth reading.

If a potential lead goes through the trouble of giving you their email, only to be disappointed by the content, they aren’t likely to download more content from you because your company failed to uphold your side of the deal.

In short, your company is no longer trustworthy.

Establishing trust with your potential customers is too important to risk on sketchy gated content.

Don’t alienate your prospects before they even get to the point of sale. Make sure your gated content is worth reading.

Lead Generating Content for Every Step of the Buyer’s Journey

When developing a lead generation strategy driven by content, it’s important to know what steps your potential customers are taking along their journey, all the way from researching their problem to signing on the dotted line.

This process is called the buyer’s journey, and each one is unique.

That said, there are three distinct phases that prospective customers move through to reach the moment of purchase. They are:

  • The Awareness Stage, when prospects research their problem
  • The Consideration Stage, when prospects directly compare competing products and services
  • The Decision Stage, when the final sale is made.

Each stage in the buyer’s journey requires its own content.

A prospect just becoming aware of their problem, for example, doesn’t need a consideration kit with pricing. Instead, they need free content that outlines their problem and steps that they can take to remedy it.

Awareness Stage

At this point in the buyer’s journey, the buyer is just starting to realize that they are experiencing a problem that could be solved. Often, the person isn’t even fully aware of what their exact problem is. They just know they’re experiencing a series of pain points, whether it’s slumping web visits or lost efficiency in the sales team.

Content developed during this stage will act as a top of funnel introduction to your brand.

Most of the time, you should leave your sales pitch out of it, because what you are doing is building awareness for your product or service and how real people are using it to solve their problems.

In general, this is the stage where prospects really are diving into researching their problem and possible solutions. 72% will turn to Google and other search engines to educate themselves through blogs, reviews, and testimonials from other people experiencing the same challenges (Pardot).

Because prospects are researching, most of your content here should not be gated.

Largely, your audience is not ready to be sold to.

Instead, this is where you need to be spreading your message and knowledge freely through blog posts, YouTube videos, Twitter chats, social messaging, and more.

However, one exception to this rule are webinars.

By hosting webinars on your site with experts and participating in outside webinars as the expert yourself, you will be getting your voice out in the crowd in a way that brings awareness of your brand to new audiences.

Webinars are usually gated, but they add value to the audience. Prospective customers may be more willing to give you their contact information for the chance to be part of the conversation.

Consideration Stage

Once buyers have decided that their problem can be solved by investing in a product or service, they start narrowing down their options.

Having been introduced to your company through the awareness stage, they now try to compare apples to apples; it’s you against your competitors.

This is where your gated content becomes really important.

As I mentioned earlier, investing in software that tracks what content a prospect has downloaded is an important aspect of your lead generation strategy. This way, you can actually keep updated records on each prospects and automate notifications when prospects complete qualifying actions.

A prospect who downloads an industry-specific consideration kit, for example, could be ready for a salesperson to reach out.

Someone who reads a best practices blog articles, on the other hand, probably doesn’t need a sales call.

Decision Stage

The buyer has support from stakeholders within their organization, and they are ready to choose a solution, which means you are inches away from a sale.

At this point, your prospective buyer should already be in contact with your sales team, and your sales team needs to be armed with content that can help finalize the relationship.

At this phase, case studies, testimonials, and concrete use-case examples will be your most powerful allies in securing the sale.

But even once the sale is finalized, your lead generation strategy isn’t over.

Continue to support your new customers with best practices, how-to guides, training resources, and more.

Customers who are using your product or service effectively and efficiently will be happier with their experience and more likely to stay on as customers, give you a testimonial, share their unique case study, and review your product on other sites.

Happy customers create buzz around your product, which in turn captures the attention of prospects who are starting out their own buyer’s journey in the Awareness Stage.

Then, the cycle begins anew.

Know Thy Customer, Know Thyself for Optimal Lead Generation Strategy

Creating content is undeniably fun. There is an art to it, and as a writer, designer, and creator, you are forever chasing that perfect equilibrium between craft and ROI.

The key to striking that balance is to develop a lead generation strategy that strikes the right balance of free content and gated content, with examples of each type tailor made for every stage in the buyer’s journey.

As with any new strategy, test and test again to determine what that happy medium is for you and your company.

Don’t just guess from within your organization, either.

We recommend surveying your audience directly – asking prospects at all stages in their process for what they find useful and what they are missing.

Have you noticed any surprising trends within your lead generating process? Share with us in the comments.

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Liz Millikin
About the Author:

Liz Millikin

Liz sees marketing as a never-ending puzzle to be solved. With a background in digital marketing that focused on content and social media, she believes that a passion for craft is key, but analytics are the lock. Together, they open the door to marketing that moves the needle for your business. When not writing, she can be found skiing, biking, or curled up with a book. Find her on Twitter @eamillikin.

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