Lead generation is a common goal for content marketing strategies. In fact, 63% of companies in a MarketingProfs and Junta42 survey said lead generation was their third most important goal for content marketing (brand awareness was #1 and customer retention/loyalty was #2).

Content marketing is a great strategy for lead generation, but you need to go about it the right way. In this post, I’ll review four of the most important things you can do to help your lead generation efforts.

Building Block #1: Understand your buyers. Really, really well.

Successful content marketing is built on the assumption you’re giving your buyers remarkable content that helps them solve a problem such as deciding what technology solution to purchase.  To create that remarkable content, though, you need to have a deep understanding of their priorities, concerns, buying criteria, and more.

Start by getting out of the office and talking to your buyers. Ask them questions, find out why they would or wouldn’t buy a product like yours. Dig deep and understand what types of information they utilize during a buying cycle.

Ask these questions regularly and often. And don’t just ask your customers. The big research payoff comes in talking to prospects – those who haven’t bought your product but are in your target market.

I guarantee if you do this regularly all the remaining steps in creating remarkable content are easy, because you’re no longer making stuff up. You’ll truly understand what content they need and want.

Building Block #2: Focus on “How can we help you?” versus “What can we sell you?”

The cornerstone of successful content marketing is not selling – at least not directly. It’s giving buyers helpful content that solves their problems.

Content that only touts your company and your products probably isn’t helpful. Phone calls from your Sales team when a buyer isn’t ready to talk is a turnoff. The key here is to step into your buyers’ shoes, do your research (see #1 above) and ask yourself what content can you create that truly helps them with their purchasing decision?

Perhaps an ROI best practices guide would be useful? A webinar series on trends in cloud computing? A blog post on how IT managers solve their most common problems?

The key is creating educational content not selling-based content.

Building Block #3: Give them the right information at the right time.

Your buyers have different information requirements at different stages in the sales cycle. Early on, they likely want high-level information about options for solving their problem. After they’ve evaluated the options, they might want information about how your company specifically solves their challenge and what differentiates you from competitors.

Developing content for each sales stage shows buyers you really understand their challenges, and you want to help. It thoughtfully nurtures leads, giving them carefully crafted information at the right time. And it makes buyers more likely to continue consuming your information and begin building a relationship with you.

Building Block #4: Expect incremental buyer movement

I love the term “incremental buyer movement” from Ardath Albee’s blog. It describes being patient with our buyers, not constantly bothering them to buy, and letting the content process work.

Content marketing done well means giving your buyers the right information at the right time. It also means caging your Sales team so they don’t pester buyers before they’re ready. And it means letting the content strategy you’ve created do its magic.

Yes, this can be tough to remember when the Sales Vice President is drumming his fingers on your desk asking for more leads immediately. The danger in giving into a “quantity vs quality” mentality, though, is prospects deleting, unsubscribing, and not wanting to do business with you.

Let content marketing do what it does best – guide buyers through the sales cycle at their pace which helps them know, like, and trust you and become high-quality leads.

The author is a content marketing expert for the technology industry and owner of Kim Gusta Marketing, a consultancy that helps technology companies engage their buyers with remarkable content. She has over 15 years experience in technology marketing with global companies including Symantec. She also authors the Technology Content Marketing Blog.