5 ways content marketing can drive leads

Content marketing creation is fun, but no one should do it just to have a good time. Make no mistake: Content marketing is intended to drive hard business goals.

Yet it can be easy to lose sight of this fact on a daily basis. After all, the best part of the job is envisioning the most creative ways to create content.

This is why your content marketing strategy should have a clear focus on lead generation from the very beginning.

Why It Matters

How on Earth could any content marketer forget the almighty sale? Well, it’s surprisingly simple when you consider the various stages of the content marketing buyer journey.

For those who aren’t familiar, the sales funnel begins with the awareness stage, converts visitors into leads in the nurture stage and closes the sale during the commitment stage. (You can see the full infographic here.)

At the top of the funnel, content marketing focuses on gaining new visitors. We’d argue that this is where most “casual” content marketing lay. Blogs, videos and infographics are often meant to generate new traffic.

But this can be a siloed way of thinking. After all, it’s the middle and bottom stages of the funnel which generate cold hard cash for your business.

This is why content marketing should focus on converting audiences from the awareness stage to the nurture stage. In other words, you need to turn first-time readers into warm leads.

Let’s talk about how content marketing can do just that.

Webinars

Lead generation efforts should be conducted on a smaller scale than most content marketing campaigns. This is because successful leads are personal relationships which aim to develop trust. Only then can you try to convert your leads into actual sales (we’ll cover that in our next post in the series).

Webinars strike a perfect balance between personal touch and scale. You can host webinars ranging anywhere from 10 to hundreds of participants, all while having personal conversations.

We recommend keeping your own webinars on the double-digit side, however. This will allow for more manageable interactions, which can be key to warm leads.

For example, the Q&A portion of your webinar can surface your most interested participants. Offering them a personal, thorough answer to their pressing question may mean the difference between “casual webinar viewer” and “interested lead.”

Your topic should also target the leads you want to gather. Brainstorm ideas within your area of expertise that will most interest those who may purchase from your business.

For example, if your brand offers e-learning tools, host a webinar on how e-learning can improve new policy adoption among employees. This will attract corporate executives who may also be the ones pulling the trigger on budget.

Gated Content

This may seem like an obvious choice, since gated content is a lead gen tool at its core. Yet far too often, content marketers publish white papers and eBooks with nothing more than an eye on collecting email addresses.

This is why gated content should be planned with lead collection in mind. First, just like with webinars, you must choose a topic that targets the right leads. Focus on higher-up individuals who will gain the most benefit from your product or service.

Next, target the right individuals in your distribution plans. You may find it useful to have a lead persona in this case. Once you have the perfect target in mind, utilize the endless supply of targeting tools available through paid social campaigns. You might be shocked at how closely you can target users.

Just remember: As tempting as it may be to cast a wide net and grab as many leads as possible, they won’t be nearly as warm as targeted ones. You need to keep an eye on ROI in this case. Your Cost Per Lead will be much more successful if you eliminate those who aren’t really worth your time.

Promotions

Everyone loves a good deal. In fact, studies have repeatedly proven something called the “Rule of Reciprocity.” This persuasive principle has shown that people appreciate a special offer. In fact, they may have trouble saying “no” to it.

For example, have you ever gone to a party just because the host attended one of yours? No matter how tired you may feel that night, guilt will drive you across town to make an appearance. Dean Rieck uses a similar example to demonstrate the power of reciprocity.

This principle is perfect for generating leads using promotions or coupons. When you make an offer, those who bite have just identified themselves as your warmest leads.

In order to run a successful promotion or coupon campaign, make sure you’re offering something that will pique your lead persona’s interest. For example, you could send a “20% off” coupon or offer a free consultation.

Just be careful that you don’t enter into a downward price spiral. It’s entirely possible to tarnish your brand image if you lower your prices too far or offer promotions that run on forever. Think about that one furniture store which has been offering a “going out of business sale” for the last five years. Doesn’t seem very special, does it?

Quizzes

Quizzes are like webinars in that they offer a personal touch at a large scale. They create a feeling of self-appreciation for the reader, especially if the results inform them about who they are in a positive way. They also will trust your brand more, since it feels like you personally took the time to get to know them.

Once you give your quiz taker the warm and fuzzies, it’s the perfect time to request an email address and convert them into a lead. Offer a Call to Action that keeps the good vibes going, such as a promise to continue sending great content or a promotion.

Newsletters

Far too often, newsletters are meant to gain new subscribers. Even more frequently, newsletters become a thoughtless funnel for your recent publications without a thought about how the content can convert readers into leads.

But lead generation must be a forethought in your newsletters. This means a few things: First, create original content specifically for your newsletter. Make sure it’s prominently described as such. This will create a “members only” vibe that may prove beneficial to your lead gen strategy. Whoever clicks on your link should be marked as a warm lead and sent down the funnel ASAP.

Also, create Calls to Action outside of “Read more” or social media links. Encourage newsletter readers to chat with a member of your team or read your FAQs. You can also pair with above-mentioned strategies, such as coupon offers and webinar invites.

Finally, closely examine what content gets clicked on more regularly. More than that, keep an eye on who’s clicking on what content. This will help you target warm leads, as well as gauge their interest in specific topics. This can prove to be incredibly beneficial to your sales team when making calls.

A final note: We recommend a solid marketing automation tool for converting newsletter readers into leads. Once your subscriber base hits a certain number, it’s well nigh impossible to surface the right leads at the right time.

Obviously, lead gen requires a certain amount of individualized attention, which can be daunting. This is one of the main reasons top-of-the-funnel content gets pushed to the top of the priority list.

Yet lead gen is one of the best ways to generate ROI (not to mention, the easiest way to become your sales team’s favorite human being). After all, a dollar spent on many is not nearly as valuable as a dollar spent on a single one that converts.