Scissors are pretty nifty objects. They’ve been around since the time of ancient Egypt and have remained an essential tool in nearly every office and home. They’re really good at cutting things.

But when you want to hang framed artwork in your office or home, those nifty scissors leave something to be desired. You need a tool that’s designed to get a nail into the wall, not a tool designed to cut things.

According to a 2016 study by Content Marketing Institute, only 30% of B2B marketers say that their organizations are effective at content marketing.

Many of these B2B marketers are getting lots of “likes” and “shares.” People genuinely appreciate their content—it’s helpful, engaging, and interesting. But while engagement is important, it’s not what B2B marketers ultimately need. 85% of B2B marketers say their top goal is lead generation, and 84% say it’s sales. B2B marketers are tasked with delivering quality leads that the sales department can convert to paying customers.

So why is all this content that’s delivering engagement not delivering leads or sales?

The logic of providing free, helpful content in order to generate leads and sales relies heavily on the principle of reciprocity: if I do something nice for you, you’ll be motivated (and feel obligated) to do something nice for me (like agree to a conversation with a sales rep). But according to psychologists, reciprocity has an expiration date. The more time that passes, the weaker the draw to reciprocate becomes. So when a prospect downloads your content, files it in his or her “to read” folder, then finally sits down two weeks later to read it, reciprocity really isn’t in play.

We know the problem isn’t content quality or a poor promotion strategy, because many marketers are seeing excellent engagement metrics. The problem is the content of the content—it doesn’t motivate prospects to take action on the next step in the funnel.

To move prospects to action, your content needs these three elements:

  1. Connection to a personal pain or gain
  2. A reason to act now
  3. A clear call-to-action that guides prospects to the next stage of the funnel

Let’s dive into each of these and look at how to put them into practice.

1. Connection to a Personal Pain or Gain

Research by CEB shows that “personal value is twice as powerful as business value in achieving a broad range of commercial objectives (including awareness, consideration, purchase intent, willingness to pay a premium, loyalty, willingness to recommend).”

The business value has to be there—you absolutely have to meet the business need or you won’t even make it to the consideration set. But let’s face it: unless you’re in a very niche industry or offer something truly revolutionary, most providers (your competitors) meet the business need.

Personal value is where B2B buyers look when trying to decide between several good options. Buyers want to know:

  • Which provider will be the easiest to work with?
  • Which service will save me the most time?
  • Which product is the least risky?
  • Which decision will get the nod of my boss?
  • Etc.

Action step: Create a list of each job title/role involved in the decision-making process. What personal value is each of these people looking for? You’ll probably need to do some research to uncover the answer. Once you know, start talking about the personal value you offer alongside the business value you provide. Customize your content to speak specifically to each decision-making persona.

2. A Reason to Act Now

People are wired to avoid loss. They fear change because it involves risk—a potential for loss. And that’s what a buying decision is: change, risk, a potential for loss. The default for prospects who read your content is to appreciate what they’ve learned. . . and change nothing.

Unless part of what they’re learning is that it’s riskier to keep the status quo than it is to move forward with the buying decision. When you clearly show prospects why their status quo is such a problem, outlining the costs and risks in concrete terms, you’re giving them a reason to act now.

Action step: Think through all the pains and problems associated with your prospects’ status quo. How much money are they losing each month they put off the decision? How much time are they wasting? What risks are they taking by doing nothing?

3. A Clear Call-to-Action

People are busy. Most of your prospects aren’t going to take time to figure out what the next step is after reading a piece of your content. Maybe they’ll call you—but probably not, unless you invite them to and make it easy for them to get in contact.

You know this, but it’s easy to forget in the mad dash to create more content: the more specific and clear a call-to-action is, the more effective it will be. Tell prospects exactly what they’ll get when they click that CTA button, and make the value crystal-clear.

When you’re crafting your lead-nurturing emails for prospects who have downloaded content but aren’t yet ready for a sales call, use your marketing funnel as a guide. A top-of-the-funnel eBook offer could follow up with an ROI calculator offer or a case study offer. Middle-of-the-funnel offers could follow up with a free demo offer or a brainstorming session offer. Each “next step” should not only be clear, but should also guide prospects down the funnel toward that sales conversation.

Action step: Map out your marketing funnel and be sure that each piece of content fits within it. Next, check to see if each piece of content includes a clear call-to-action that leads prospects to the next step in the funnel.

Just like the fantastic pair of scissors that’s designed for one task but not another, engaging content is great for getting comments, likes and shares—but it’s not enough to generate the types of leads you’re looking for. Try incorporating these three elements into your content and watch it transform into a tool that gets the results you want.