Content is versatile. Just about any marketing goal you set can be achieved (at least in part) through good content marketing. The question, then, is what goal you're most focused on achieving. If you're like a lot of marketers, the answer is all about leads.
According to HubSpot's annual "State of Inbound" report, 70 percent of marketing teams cite converting leads into customers as their top priority, yet 63 percent of them say that actually generating leads is one of their biggest challenges.
If you want to reach your goals, you've got to overcome that challenge — and content marketing can be your best weapon in that fight. To help you develop and implement a plan that delivers the results you want, here are the five essential components of an effective lead generation strategy:
The first thing you must have to implement a successful lead generation strategy through content marketing is really amazing, high-value gated content.
This isn't just a collection of blog posts that you string together and put behind a form (though I'd be lying if I said you couldn't use your published content as inspiration). This is content a member of your audience is trading valuable personal information for, and it has to be worth his while.
Great gated content offers exclusive insights or shares original research. It's well-designed and user-friendly. It's a webinar, a step-by-step guide, an e-book, or a checklist, template, or worksheet — any content offering that helps your audience. According to Content Marketing Institute, 62 percent of the most successful marketers say these kinds of resources, such as e-books and whitepapers, are the most effective type of content.
To create gated content that will actually entice potential leads, you have to know who your ideal customers are. What are they struggling with? What do they need more education about? What can you uniquely offer them to help them solve their problems?
Align your marketing team with your sales team to learn the ins and outs of communicating with prospects, and you'll be better able to create content that generates more qualified leads.
This content is called "gated" because it sits behind a door your audience members unlock by submitting some of their contact information via a form on a landing page. However, that page must be more than just a form. Forms on their own are boring, and they don't give visitors any good reason to exchange their information.
When your landing page sucks, qualified visitors don't convert into leads because they have no idea what completing this form is going to do for them. What's more, unqualified leads can trickle into (or even flood) your system because they signed up for something they didn't know was irrelevant to them and they had no need for.
Neither of these scenarios is good news for you.
Avoid this by creating clear and compelling landing pages: The benefits of your content asset should be clear to your visitors, and the language you use should compel them to take action.
It won't matter how great your gated content is if the right people don't convert. Make it easy for them with a landing page that appeals to their needs and demonstrates value.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools collect all kinds of information about your prospects and make it possible for marketing and sales teams to put that info to use growing your business.
Think about what would happen if you didn't have a process for storing and using all the valuable data your audience is giving you in exchange for access to content. How many hot leads would go cold waiting for you to follow up? How many potential sales would slip through the cracks? How many opportunities for trust and brand-building would you miss?
That's what makes a CRM tool such an essential element of a good lead gen strategy. The right CRM makes it much easier to turn leads generated into deals won — and to do it at scale.
Without it, your ability to manage your interactions with customers and prospective customers is severely diminished. That means delivering leads to sales is harder on your end, and sales communication is much less efficient.
When someone signs up for a webinar you're hosting or downloads gated content from your site, there is a 100 percent chance she's given you her email address. This is obviously necessary to deliver the content she's requested, but it also gives you the chance to start an ongoing conversation — and a marketing automation system makes that really simple.
Marketing automation platforms are designed specifically for marketing teams to communicate with their audiences at scale and automate certain tasks. So, when someone submits her personal information in exchange for your content, she can be automatically entered into a drip campaign that continues to send her relevant, helpful content and keeps your brand top of mind.
Plus, because a lot of systems have lead-scoring technology, you can automate custom outreach for leads that fit different personas or advance the conversation with more sales-ready leads.
Not all marketing automation systems are also CRMs, but HubSpot is an example of one system that handles both functions, and it's the one our marketing and sales teams use. Some systems automate just one thing, like MailChimp does for email, while others, like HubSpot, automate a series of marketing-related tasks.
You didn't think we'd talk about anything content-related without emphasizing the value of distribution, did you?
Creating that awesome guide and writing up fantastic landing page copy are important, sure — but if the ol' "publish and pray" method doesn't work for your blog posts, then it sure isn't going to work for your gated content. Just like any other asset in your content marketing strategy, your gated content needs to be actively distributed.
You can drive traffic to your landing pages by including CTAs to download content in your blog posts and through digital ads, social media promotion, and email distribution. You can even take it a step further by incorporating your gated content into your guest posting strategy.
Here's how that works. When you contribute expert content to targeted industry publications, include a link to the landing page of highly relevant, useful gated content or to a high-converting blog post (one that's equally relevant and useful).
Of course, that link has to provide value to readers and advance their understanding of your topic — otherwise, it's just spam. All editors have their own preferences when it comes to content on their publications, and they make the final call. (You can check out "The State of Digital Media 2018" for more insight into editor preferences.)
Not every link will make the editorial cut, so this probably shouldn't be your only tactic. But when you align your various pieces of content, contributing articles that link to helpful resources can be a fantastic tool for lead generation.
Meeting your marketing goals and growing your company requires new business, and that means lead generation will always be important. Content marketing for lead gen can transform your team's biggest challenge into your biggest opportunity for growth, and these five elements will help you make it happen.