Content Marketing for Lead Generation – What Works?

The techniques discussed here will optimize your results when doing content marketing for lead generation.  Leveraging this knowledge will help cast a wide lead capture net that targets, engages and converts prospects into qualified sales leads.

The goal here is to implement a high ROI content-driven lead generation funnel. If you get the right mix of content working for you, published in the right places, it will result in a never-ending flow of quality leads.

DemandMetric’s research shows that content marketing has substantially higher ROI than other lead generation sources, creating an average of 3 times as many leads for 62% less cost.

Why is content marketing so effective at generating leads? Because high quality content positions your organization as a market leader. In simple terms, being perceived as a market leader significantly increases the quality of inbound sales leads. Sales conversions are higher and you can charge premium prices, driving substantial ROI increases.

Real Lead Generation Results

Content marketing for lead generation drives real results.

According to HubSpot 96% of B2B buyers demand high-quality content from industry thought leaders as part of the purchasing process.  Not only that, 47% of prospects look at up to five pieces of content before taking the next step with a sales representative.

It’s clear that high-quality content is now an essential element of B2B purchasing behavior.

According to DemandMetric 70% of people would rather learn about a company through content marketing than through an advertisement.

Why do prospects prefer content over ads? Three reasons:

  • Messages delivered through online content are often not perceived as selling, particularly if delivered in an engaging story format and it’s not written in a sales-y manner.
  • Content is generally consumed as part of the buyer’s own purchasing research (inbound, warm) rather than an ad being pushed to them (outbound, cold).
  • Content can be used to educate and develop the prospect’s thinking around solving their particular problem. As the prospect learns they naturally progress toward a purchase — especially if you are the one conveying the helpful information.

So what are the ingredients that go into a successful content-driven lead generation strategy?  The information below will help you hit the high points and get your content lead generation funnel going.

Your Content Must Educate Readers

At the top of the list is the need to focus on educating your readers rather than selling to them. Your content should seek to inform and impress your ideal target buyers.  It should also be SEO-friendly for search engines, but not at the expense of its readability and impact.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to answer questions from visitors to your website and social media pages. You can simply ask them directly for their opinion at the end of a post. Add surveys and questions to your social stream. Then use the answers to seed new content on your site that is tailored to your buyer’s specific questions and needs.

Length Matters

According to Curata long form blog posts generate 9 times more leadsThis means your posts need to be in-depth and educational.  Posts with 1500-3000 words rank better for more keywords on major search engines, meaning they inherently bring in more targeted traffic.  The time on page is longer. The ability to articulate nuanced information is much higher.  Using more screen real estate lets you add interest-generating images, content upgrade boxes, freebies, social proof, external references and other information that engage visitors at a deeper level.

Major search engines prefer sites with frequent updates and new content.  Scheduling content production with an editorial calendar will help you find the time to put these longer posts together.  Creating long form content around well-researched keywords with engaging additions can be a big project. A formal publishing calendar helps you implement a production schedule for your lead generation content.

Another high-impact technique is updating old blog posts.   We suggest using Google Analytics to see which of your posts are getting the most traffic. Then add to those posts until they become “pillar” pieces of content that deliver massive value.  

The premise is “invest further in what’s already working”. By doing this your most productive content from a lead generation standpoint will rise to the top of the search rankings and continually produce value.

Focus on the Pain Points of Your Target Audience

There are differences between content marketing for lead generation and content marketing for brand recognition. But many of the end goals are the same.  The key is to find out the pain points of your target audience and focus your content on those.

Depending on where the reader is in their buying process he or she will require different content. This buyer stages vs. content purpose flowchart below will help you tailor your lead generation content.

Unaware Stage

If the reader is unaware they have a pain then your content should be focused on telling a story that demonstrates that pain.  Humans are wired to respond to stories and create their own internal reality through relating to stories. This can prompt an awareness of the pain you solve (i.e. put them in a “pain aware” state), and ascend the reader to the next stage. 

You should produce broad storytelling content to attract unaware stage buyers to your brand.

Pain-Aware Stage

If the reader is aware of their pain but doesn’t yet know it can be solved (or have not begun looking for a solution) then your content should agitate that pain.  By expanding the reader’s awareness of the problem and its impacts on their life or business, you can create interest in solving it. This type of content elevates prospects to a “solution aware” state and opens the door to attracting them to your business. 

Pain-aware prospects should be targeted with content that describes problems they are likely facing, and the pains (results) those problems cause them.

Solution-Aware Stage

If the reader is both aware of their pain and actively looking for a solution, then your content should discuss different solutions and the pros and cons of each.  At this point, the buyer is considered to be “in market” from a sales standpoint. Since the reader is on your blog already, you are in the catbird seat to convert that reader using content marketing for lead generation.  Your content can achieve this by focusing on pain-solution combinations. Case studies are excellent for this. Your content should demonstrate “what it could look like” after the pain is solved (by your product or service of course!). 

Solution-aware prospects are generally motivated buyers — your content marketing to attract customers should focus here.

Product-Aware Stage

The last stage of the buying process is making an investment from a short list of solutions. Unless you’re in e-commerce it can be difficult to target and convert buyers in this stage with content.  The main reason is the buyer has likely already gone through the prior stages and are no longer “leads” but active buyers. And they’ve likely chosen a short list to purchase from already. This doesn’t mean you can’t “close the deal” with content at this stage. But your content must focus on helping the prospect make an actual buying decision — including pricing in most cases. 

Product-aware prospects should be targeted with product- and feature-comparison content that gives them a clear reason to buy from you now, rather than the competition.

Be Transparent with How You’re Using Content for Lead Generation

Transparency is one of the cornerstones of leveraging content to gather information from visitors and convert them into leads.

Use an opt-in process with a clear choice to receive marketing emails, a demonstration or a sales call (e.g. “I would like to receive information about your offerings” checkbox).

Below is an example of Adobe’s free consultation signup steps. The “Request a consultation” button leads to an opt-in lead generation form. That form has an additional checkbox at the bottom requesting a product demonstration (a typical step for businesses in the solution-aware or product-aware stage of the buying process.)

Because readers are often in the early stages of buying research when they’re consuming your content, it is essential to ask and obtain permission to directly market to them.

A transparent opt-in can create solid marketing leads when placed ahead of a strategy paper or other PDF download.

Because the research and engagement stage of the buying journey can take weeks or months, it is not a good idea to rush the prospect to a sales conversation.  This can easily put them off and take them out of the content funnel they’re working through. Assuming they are at a higher stage in the buying process when they are not can have negative results.

Conversely, after getting clear permission, prospects will be more comfortable sharing information about their pains and needs.

By clearly asking for permission, rather than assuming it, you can segment out the more immediate buyers. This can be done with an opt-in form choice like “Yes, I would like to receive information about your products” or “I’m interested in speaking with a Sales representative” checkbox. The quality of the subsequent conversation will always much higher when you segment your prospects with a clear opt-in choice.

Being Authentic is Very Important

Businesses with strong brands have a much easier time converting leads into customers.  Having a strong brand means customers trust your company to deliver value in a reliable way.

Building brand loyalty and trust means communicating with authenticity.  Your company should stand for something — a market position, elements of value your company delivers to customers, or a unique selling proposition.  These elements should be woven into your content so the message is authentic and matches your brand. This is the same whether your company sells to consumers or businesses.

User Comments

Ask blog readers for their input after interacting with your content. Leave your website’s blog comments open and actually respond in a timely manner. This is an authentic action.  It says “our business is run by real people who share the views of our content, and we openly interact with our customers in an authentic way.”

You’ll need to monitor your blog comments and respond accordingly.  The person responsible for fielding comments will need to communicate your company’s brand message well, and respond in a timely manner (daily is sufficient).

Comments are very useful for understanding your prospects’ and customers’ needs.  This is not limited to your own company. You can also glean value from the comments section on your competitors’ websites. This is a great way to find customer pain points and proactively weave them into your daily content marketing for lead generation activity.

Feedback Links

Another step you can take is adding a Feedback link to your website. This can be a footer link or a high profile button on every blog post. You an display a popup, chatbot or send the visitor to a feedback form. These do a good job of enhancing prospect engagement and driving new leads.

You can use a simple “Got a Question?” popup from OptinMonster or similar widget plugin provider with a button or link in your content to get feedback from readers. You won’t get a huge number of responses, but the ones you get will give you a lot of valuable information to go on.

Offering readers the ability to give “feedback” versus opting in for a marketing piece can start conversations with potential buyers before they are in the purchasing stage.  This can establish your company in the minds of prospects who are in open research mode. This is an ideal opportunity to build a trusted relationship.

These two-way interaction points are excellent tactics to use in your content marketing for lead generation. They help create authenticity and trust — which significantly increases the quality of sales leads when they arrive.

Include Tailored CTAs in Your Content

Tailored Calls to Action are very important when content marketing for lead generation.  If you are targeting prospects in the mid-to-latter stages of the buying process, it is essential to embed one or more CTAs in your content.  

Without a CTA, interested visitors will go to waste. According to Customedialabs 65% of visitors to blog posts leave without going to another page. If you don’t present your visitors with an opportunity to have a discovery conversation you are leaving sales on the table.

Here is a link to Dan Lok’s website presenting his High Ticket Closer program. It has a clear “book a call” CTA right below the course description.

Urgency in CTAs

One question is “how urgent should the CTA be?”  There is a big difference between a CTA that says “If you’re interested in learning more contact us” and “There is only one hour left before the sale is over.  Buy now!”

With B2B offers, it’s generally better to reduce the urgency level but increase the value level. Business purchases are usually made in a structured manner, particularly big-ticket ones. A button that says “Try Our Widget Today” will get more response than an hard-sell approach like “ Buy Today. This Offer Is Limited.”  Using consumer urgency in your B2B content marketing for lead generation CTAs will drive off customers.

CTA Frequency

CTA frequency is important with content marketing for lead generation. Generally speaking, increasing the number of CTA placements in each content piece has a positive effect on lead generation. Whatever your Call to Action is, repeating it at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of each content piece will typically increase response rates by a large margin over a single CTA.  This makes it easier for the buyer to take the next step — a step they’d otherwise have to search for.

The number of opt-in leads naturally increases with multiple placements on the page (within reason — you don’t want to clutter the page too much).

Positioning Your CTAs

Positioning your Call to Action is important.  Putting a CTA toward the top of the page (“above the fold”) so visitors see it before scrolling down typically drives more leads than a CTA at the bottom of the page.  

However, this is not always the case.  You must consider the buying stage of your target reader and place your CTAs appropriately.

If your content is a story aimed at prospects in the early stages of the buying process then placing your CTA at the bottom avoids interfering with the message you’re trying to convey.  It’s often better to replace the typical “contact us” CTA with a native text link leading the reader to another related piece of content where they can learn about solutions to the problem they just discovered.  The CTA in this case is to read the next logical piece of the overall buying story. This second or third piece of content can then have a more direct CTA.

CTA Images and Colors

Images can be used as CTAs, as well.  Research shows a subject looking directly at a Call to Action phrase embedded in a clickable image often works well. The image should have a high-visibility CTA with arrows pointing to it and perhaps other visual indicators. It shouldn’t just be a small link or arrow down in the left or right corner of the image.

The Color of your CTA button or link is important. Color can have large impact on response rates and should be tested. This is especially true if your buyers come from different regions or cultures. Contrasting colors that are complementary to your site’s colors — for example orange on a blue theme — will draw the eye and generate more clicks.