We recently had a customer question the importance of content for their lead gen program. Our response: “Does a mousetrap work without the cheese?” OK, maybe that’s not the best analogy – after all, you’re not trying to trap a prospective customer (or worse, since it rarely ends well for the mouse!). Rather, you’re trying to provide value, to enrich them. That said, there is this element of truth in the comparison: Without good content, you have very little chance of attracting qualified leads.
Besides attracting leads, good content will educate your prospective customers. We’ve all heard the now infamous statistic that 70% (67% to be precise, according to the original study by SiriusDecisions) of the buyer’s journey takes place online before a prospect is willing to speak with a salesperson. Well, that’s probably not entirely true. Even the source of the study disputes this interpretation. But we do know that most executives will start their journey online and that much of the B2B sales journey will be self-directed.
The fact that your prospective buyers will educate themselves before contacting you is an important consideration when developing content for your lead gen program. If a prospective customer is at an early stage of their buyer’s journey, then they will be highly receptive to content that helps them understand their specific challenges and the spectrum of solutions available to them. If your brand is the source of the content your prospective customer finds helpful, that puts you in a highly advantageous position. Why? Because you have started to earn your prospect’s trust, and trust is an essential component of the B2B sales process.
If prospective buyers have a favorable impression of your brand and a better understanding of their needs and how your solutions can help meet those needs, that will make them much more likely to convert from a lead to a customer.
So how do you go about creating content that will accomplish these lofty goals? Following are five steps to creating the kind of content that will generate a steady stream of qualified, intent-based leads.
To attract prospective buyers that meet your ideal customer profile, you need a deep understanding of your prospects' challenges. One of the best ways to understand your customers is to perform the research required to develop buyer personas for your customers.
Hubspot defines buyer personas as “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. They help you focus your time on qualified prospects, guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers, and align all work across your organization (from marketing to sales to service).”
A well-developed buyer persona can help guide sales follow-ups, marketing strategy, and – most importantly for our present purposes – content direction. In other words, a buyer persona identifies your prospective customers’ key challenges so that you can create content targeted to their informational needs.
Not every company has fully developed personas, however. In the absence of detailed buyer personas, a shortcut to understanding your prospects' needs and desires is to talk to your sales team – the people who spend their entire day trying to understand customer challenges in order to pitch your solutions more effectively to them.
Healthcare marketing company Golden Spiral recommends your sales team regularly ask prospective customers these questions:
The answers to these questions can help ensure your content direction is aligned with the topmost concerns of your audience.
Of course, it’s not enough simply to understand your prospective customers’ challenges; you need to provide them with information that helps them fully understand the scope of those challenges as well as the range of solutions available to them to tackle them and achieve their goals.
And your content shouldn’t target just any problems your customers may be facing, but ones that you are uniquely positioned to address with your solution set. The topics you focus on in your content should fall into that overlapping area between your customers’ needs and your solutions. This is fertile ground for topic ideation – the area where you will find the themes for your content.
This doesn’t mean, however, that your content should be promotional. Buyers at the early stages of their journey are likely to be turned off by “salesy” content. Influential content – that is, content that establishes trust and guides prospects’ decision-making – focuses more on your customer than it does on your company’s solution set.
This is a different approach than traditional marketing. Even though the goal of content marketing may be commercial in nature, the approach you take in the content itself should be educational, not self-promotional. You want your content to provide value. By doing so, your reward is likely to be substantial.
According to Edelman’s B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, for example, 88% of B2B decision-makers – that’s nearly 9 out of every 10 potential customers! – state that high-quality thought leadership content enhances their perception of your company. The majority will use your content to assess your company’s level of expertise, and half state that your content is likely to influence their purchase decision. Forty-one percent state that they’d even be willing to pay a premium to work with a company that produces high-quality content.
Keep in mind, however, that the reverse is also true. Poor quality content can give prospective customers a bad impression of your brand, convey a lack of expertise, and ensure that they will not want to do business with you. That’s why it’s essential to invest in high-quality content development.
As the Edelman study attests, the quality of your content will influence your prospective buyers’ perception of your company. Too often, marketers treat their content as an afterthought. In reality, your content is the centerpiece of your campaign, and the quality of the content you use will determine the outcome of your lead gen success. Invest accordingly!
Remember, the quality of your content and your prospective buyers’ impression of your brand are inextricably linked. According to the 2021 LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report, 71% of B2B decision-makers say that less than half of the thought-leadership content they consume gives them valuable insight. And if a piece of content does not pique their interest within the first minute, 55% will move on. Poor quality content simply contributes to the glut of useless noise on the web and will do little to support the success of your campaign.
If you have staff with deep subject matter expertise, professional writing ability, and the bandwidth for content creation, then keep the content development in-house. Most companies, however, do not have the internal resources to develop content briefs, manage one or more writers, review and offer insightful feedback on multiple drafts at each stage of the creative process, coordinate the design aspect of the program, and make sure the project supports your big-picture marketing strategy – all while keeping the project on a strict timeline to meet your deadlines. As such, you will most likely want to work with a third party for your content development
When thinking about outsourcing your content, you have the option to go with a freelance writer or an agency. It’s fine to hire an individual writer for a quick job with fully defined parameters but, generally, a reputable content agency specializing in B2B content development offers several advantages that individual freelance writers do not. In addition to editorial management and access to a network of writers with deep subject matter expertise on the audience you’re targeting, a good agency will understand how to develop content in a way that supports your company’s strategic objectives.
You’ve created content that aligns with your prospective buyers’ informational needs and interests. It provides value and, in doing so, establishes your brand’s credibility and builds trust. Now what?
For the leads that are at or close to a purchase decision, it’s important that you offer a way for them to take action in order to continue their buyer’s journey. Make sure your content offers prospective buyers a way to investigate your solutions and how your products and/or service can solve their problems.
As we discussed, your content should not be a prolonged sales pitch. However, you’ll want to make sure you offer prospects a way to get in touch with you for more information. You may want to offer a free consultation or product demo.
A good number of leads will not yet be ready to make a purchase decision. For those leads, what other information might they need as they investigate their problem and explore the range of solutions available to them? This is when lead nurturing comes into play.
While the focus of this article is on developing content to generate leads, it would be remiss of us if we did not mention that you need to have an intelligent lead nurturing strategy in place to ensure that you can successfully convert those incoming leads into customers.
Many of your incoming leads may not yet be ready to make a purchase decision. According to one recent study, the average B2B buyer consumes 13 pieces of content before making a purchase. Further, marketers who nurture leads generate an average of 50% more sales-ready leads than those who do not.
Keep your leads fresh by offering a steady cadence of content offers that can move prospective customers through the awareness stage and closer to a purchase decision at later stages of their buyer’s journey. Your content should continue to provide value so that you can build trust equity with your prospective buyers along the way. Ultimately, a successful lead nurturing strategy will increase the ROI of your lead gen investment, so it’s important to have one in place before your campaign goes live.
Read: 4 B2B Pros Share Their Secrets for Converting Leads into Customers
Once you’ve followed these steps to develop your “killer content,” you need to promote it to the kind of actively engaged professionals that can help you grow your business. That’s where we come in!
Lead Marvels will syndicate your thought-leadership content among the engaged audiences of our association and publisher partners to generate warm, intent-based leads that match your ideal customer profile.
And if you need help creating your content, you can leverage our experience to create high-quality, targeted content that will build trust in your brand and generate more leads for you. Contact us for more information or request a demo to learn how our unique lead gen programs work.