Despite what some small-fry marketing ninjas claim, most lead generation content doesn’t “kill it” right out of the gate.

In fact, tracing a sale to stand-alone lead gen content for any product more than $100 is about as easy as finding a frog with feathers!

You see, just as selling anything substantial in-person can’t be rushed (good salesmen do a lot of listening), neither can selling online.

And yet that’s exactly what a lot of marketers (especially small business owners) attempt to do.

Lead gen content = baby step

In truth, the job of lead gen content is to set up the second piece of content. The job of the second piece is to set up the third, and so on… until the sale closes.

That’s simplifying it obviously, but it starts with the basics. Lead gen content has to align with your tactics. For example, if you’re doing PPC advertising, your free content should include and speak to the search terms you’re paying for.

Based on a quick internet search, you’d be forgiven if you thought that lead gen was something esoteric… understood only by a few “experts.” It isn’t. Generating a lead is simply pulling a prospect into your sales funnel.

So you can see why pouring all your resources into one content piece alone is a little… sadistic. The customer buys when he’s ready, not when you are (you’re always ready).

Using the same lead gen content for every segment of buyers is another mistake small business marketers tend to make. Why is it a problem? Because it confuses prospects. Prospects online often can’t or won’t overcome marketing disconnects. For example, if you sell a tool that works for both gardeners and plumbers, you need to design separate lead gen pieces (even if 99% of the content overlaps). Otherwise, neither will think the tool is for them

One size NEVER fits all.

Lead gen to lead nurture

One of the reasons I think the myth of stand-alone lead gen content exists is because the alternative — lead nurturing — is painful. Think about it. If your first eBook, video, or demo doesn’t lead to a sale, it means you gotta keep working the prospect.

And there’s the rub; a lot of sales and marketing professionals don’t have the discipline and patience to nurture leads with targeted content.

Certainly automation software makes lead nurturing easier, but it’s not a panacea. The content can’t drop off at any point in the buyer’s journey if you’re playing the long game.

But that’s another issue. You can’t nurture a lead until you have one… and you won’t get one without the right lead gen content.

First, be warned: two common mistakes plague a lot of lead gen content. It’s not just small businesses that make these mistakes. Big corporations with healthy budgets make them too.

Two sneaky mistakes

I call them “sneaky” mistakes because nobody sets out to make them. They kind of just happen, usually because of a deadline crunch. Avoid them both when crafting your content and you’ll make a great first impression (which is all you can ask for):

Stunningly obvious content — is exactly as it sounds. It fails because any prospect who reads/watches/listens to your lead gen piece is investing time for which they expect a return.

For example, a “deep dive” into a basic concept, that doesn’t provide any takeaways, is a wasted opportunity. Your lead gen content has to be, at minimum, deeper than what shows up on Page One of Google.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that obvious content works if it’s packaged right. You can win with refresher or reminder content.

But even this has limitations; you’ll have a harder time promoting it. Why? Because you can’t sell stunningly obvious content as “new,” “breakthrough,” or “revolutionary.” Well actually… you can, but you’ll lose credibility.

Kitchen sink content — this is lead gen content that tries to tackle 2, 3, 7… even 10 problems at once. The problem with this approach is that you can’t go deep when the topic is broad; the content becomes unmanageable.

I ran into this exact problem last week. A marketing manager contacted me to clean up an eBook for prospects.

I understood the problem right away. The topic was too broad. The creator had a good idea, rushed in with enthusiasm, and then pooped out somewhere in the middle. The book dragged from the midpoint until the CTA at the end — grammar mistakes, tangents, and clunky transitions.

Banal content is not OK when you’re trying to make a good first impression with a prospect. Some managers will justify it, if it appears in the middle of the piece (like the eBook I edited), because “nobody reads it anyway.” That’s true in a sense — the middle is LESS important than the beginning and ending.

But that’s a pretty flimsy rationale. Your company’s authority isn’t worth saving a few pennies. Instead, cut the fat. In other words, slice the content thin: address one problem or benefit.

Make it “flawless”

Lead gen content should be short enough to practically… flawless. Flawless = important, exciting, free of errors. Remove anything repetitious or off-topic.

When prospects consume your lead gen content, the nurturing process becomes easier. Nurtured leads make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. Good lead gen content makes later sales conversations possible.

Many of your competitors won’t go through the trouble of designing worthwhile lead gen content. They’ll produce something obvious or monstrous and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s an expensive way to do business!

Here’s a better solution. Think of lead gen content as an introduction. You don’t have to close the sale… and frankly, you won’t anyway for a big-ticket item.

Once you put lead gen into context, designing the right content becomes less intimidating, more intuitive.

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