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Your business has a website, and that website has one goal: lead generation. It’s there to tell the world what makes your company awesome, why your products the best, and how people can give you money for your services.
But, what if your site and content aren’t effectively optimized to capture information from prospective customers? If you’re driving traffic but aren’t seeing much return, then you have a problem. Make that two problems if no one can find your site in the first place.
Fortunately, there are reliable processes you can put in place to turn this situation around. In this post, we’ll show you the exact same process CoSchedule used to build itself into the company it is today, placing 153 on the Inc. 500 list in 2018 and becoming a leading content marketing platform on the Gartner Magic Quadrant.
Sure, there’s no guarantee this process will deliver the exact same results for another company. But we’re confident it’ll help get you on the right track, and it’s flexible enough to be applicable to all kinds of different business (and not just marketing software).
In order to execute this process, you’ll need some tools. Some of those tools might be paid, and some of them may or may not already be in your arsenal (or within your budget). In order to help you get started, here’s a downloadable kit with a handful of resources to get your team on the right track:
Take a moment to download them now. Then, move onto learning the process.
Without making this too complicated, a lead is someone that a company considers a potential customer, who has completed some sort of action to indicate they might be interested in their products or services. Typically, this means they’ve done one of the following things:
In other words, a lead is someone you’ve identified as someone who might (eventually) make a purchase. Once you’ve attracted a lead, your next goal is most often to move them toward the next step closer to making a purchase (ex: getting onto your email list, then scheduling a trial, consultation with a sales rep, or whichever next steps makes the most sense in your situation).
If you’ve ever received an email from a business after signing up for something, then someone is trying to convert you into a qualified lead.
Two terms you might encounter are “marketing qualified lead” and “sales qualified lead.” You might even believe these two terms mean more or less the same thing. However, there are some subtle but important differences that are important to understand.
Here are some simple definitions to help clarify what these terms mean:
These terms will be more important to understand later. But, for now, it’s enough just to know that this distinction exists and it matters.
In short, yes. Lead generation is the process of attracting potential customers to your business and turning them from passive observers into interested buyers. It can include a wide array of tactics to achieve this objective, ranging from driving traffic to opt-in forms on optimized landing pages, to collecting business cards at an event.
With the basics established, it’s time to dig into what this all looks like, step by step, from start to finish. This is the quick bullet-point version:
This isn’t everything there is to it, and your process may ultimately look a little bit different in some ways. But, in general, this is roughly how it works. For more detail, here’s an illustrated walk-through:
How exactly can you put all this into practice and start generating leads? It takes some time and effort up front, but once you get your flywheel into motion, it’s possible to turn content marketing into an ongoing ROI-generating machine.
Everything starts with understanding your audience and your customers.
This might seem like an obvious question, but the answer is important because it’ll help determine everything you do from here on. The better your understanding of your customers, the better you can create content that serves them, and drive more leads in the long run.
While mastering audience research is challenging and takes time, getting started is easy. If you don’t have the clearest idea who you’re serving right now, start with some simple questions:
If your company has done some audience research (or has a basic understanding of why its in business), then this should be easy to answer. But, your audience might change over time because you pivot toward a new niche, or because your product grows and your customer base grows along with you.
Whatever the case may be, the point here is that audience research should be treated like an ongoing exercise rather than a one-and-done sort of thing. And it’s also possible you’re in a position where you really aren’t sure exactly what your target customer base is dealing with.
In any case, here are some simple tips for getting a pulse on what’s up:
Content isn’t necessarily the only way to bring in leads. But, it’s an extremely effective approach, and it’s the one this post will demonstrate.
Content marketing is effective for lead generation because, when it’s done well, it’s all about connecting problems with solutions for your customers. If you know what your customer’s problems are, then you can start doing research into the solutions, and share them on your blog, social media accounts, video channels, in your email newsletters, and anywhere else you interact with your audience.
If you’re familiar with basic SEO, then you’re familiar with keyword research. In simplest terms, it’s the process of finding the words and phrases people are using to find information about your industry, products, services, and related topics.
Another way to think of it is this: if I had the problems my customers have, what words would I use to find answers on Google (or another search engine)?
Of the different types of keywords described in the graphic below, focus on Informational and Transactional keywords for lead gen purposes:
There are a number of ways to get started here, but you’ll need a few different tools:
To learn how to do keyword research well, Ann Smarty wrote an excellent guide on the CoSchedule Blog you should read right now.
If you’re creating content, you should be managing it on a calendar. They’re essential for planning content in advance. The benefits for matching keywords to topics and mapping them out on your calendar include:
So, how do you build a calendar? You have a couple options:
Whichever option you choose, getting your editorial strategy organized will help you succeed.
Now, if people are going to provide you with their information, you need to offer them something of value in return. In content marketing, that most often means one of the following:
That last point may not be a “lead magnet” (or content upgrade) in the traditional sense, but it still fits as a lead generation tactic.
What matters most is that you determine how your content (whether it’s a blog post, landing page, or website page) will capture lead information before you start creating your content.
Here’s an example of what a popup for a lead magnet might look like, from OptinMonster:
If you don’t have in-house design resources, here are some tools that can help you create lead magnets:
Whatever type of resource you create, it’ll need to be gated behind an opt-in form. Here are some tools that can help you create opt-in forms that you can place on your site and in your blog content:
For guidance on where to place your opt-in forms in your content, refer to this guide from SmartBlogger.
Before your carefully crafted content can start attracting leads, you’ll need a solid strategy in place to promote it. This doesn’t necessarily need to mean reinventing the wheel, but you need to know how you’ll get in front of your target audience.
SEO has always been core to CoSchedule’s content strategy. It’s how we’ve grown our traffic to over one million visits per month, which in turn has helped build our email list to over 400,000+ strong.
One of the best parts about SEO is that it can help generate leads long term without needing to continually crank out new content all the time. A single high-performing piece can drive business and leads for months, or even years, after being published with only minor updates made along the way.
Organic reach has been in decline for years, and you probably don’t need to be made aware of that fact. However, it’s still worth investing resources in organic social media for promoting content. Here are some ways to get the most from it:
You probably have some connections in your industry that would love to share your content. There are probably influencers in your space that would love to do the same. So, find them and reach out with your content.
You might not put this much effort into manual outreach for every piece you publish. But, if you have a killer piece of 10X content that’s built to bring in leads, spend some time promoting it.
Start by creating a list of people you can reach out to (this can be as simple as a spreadsheet with columns for Name, Company, Role, etc.). Here are some tools that can help with this process:
Then, craft some simple email copy that you can easily personalize to each contact:
Hi [INSERT NAME HERE],
Our team at [COMPANY] put tons of effort into creating this [NAME OF CONTENT]. Since we know your audience is involved in [TOPIC], we thought this might be useful to share so they can [BENEFIT] and improve [ACTION].
Feel free to share with your audience, and if you have anything cool our audience might be interested in, we’d be glad to check it out too.
You can likely write up something better than this. But, feel free to use this sample copy as a starting point. The key takeaway here is to explain how their audience will benefit from the content, and be sure to include something for your recipient to get in return too.
If you’re creating blog posts to attract leads, those will likely be easy enough to find as long as you have a smart category or tag structure in place. But, if you’re creating other types of content (like multi-page guides, landing pages, website pages, etc.) you might need to think about where they live on your site.
Same goes for content upgrades. At CoSchedule, we make sure every content upgrade we create is also placed in our resource library:
This helps make all that content we’re creating easier to find, while also directing visitors to a valuable page with calls-to-action.
Here are some ways to make sure your content (where your opt-in forms are at) are well-placed on your site:
This gives you a high-level process to follow in order to use content marketing to generate leads. But, that isn’t where the process of converting those leads into customers ends (and honestly, covering literally everything from start to finish would be a topic better served by a book than a single blog post).
If you’re looking for more information on next steps though, here are some great resources that can help you out:
Hopefully, this post has taken some of the murkiness out of what lead generation is for you, and handed you a process you can follow to effectively build your business with content marketing. Now, all that’s left is to put this advice into practice. Best of luck.
May 6, 2019
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