At its most simple, lead generation is a two part process. First, finding people that show interest in your product or service. And, second, collecting prospective customers’ contact details and pushing them further down a sales and marketing funnel.
Online businesses today rely on content marketing to capture an audience. Content marketing takes many forms. It could be high-level, generic blog posts that relate loosely to your business. But it could also be highly-specific landing pages that target a high-intent audience. This audience can driven by search engine marketing or email campaigns.
Content marketing can be a scalable way to drive leads to your business. Once you create content, it becomes low effort. You can have huge impact by improving your business’s search engine presence and paid marketing campaigns.
But using content marketing for lead generation needs a coherent and consistent strategy. Your goal should be to capture a high-intent audience. And to drive that audience to your landing pages and lead capture forms. To achieve this goal, you need to decide which types of content to create and invest time to make it valuable and lead-driving.
Content Marketing and Intent
It is worth first talking about customer intent. Intent is whether a customer is looking to buy a product or service, rather than research a topic or educate themselves. Knowing how customer intent relates to content is important. It will help you decide what type of content to focus on, for the different audiences you need to target.
There are two types of audience you need to consider.
The first is informational intent. Visitors with informational intent are looking for content itself. They are reading either to conduct research, educate themselves or answer a question they have. Traffic with informational intent is less likely to convert to transactions straight away.
The second is transactional intent. These visitors are looking to buy a product or service. They are further down your lead generation funnel, so much more likely than an informational audience to convert today.
Knowing your audience informs what type and style of content you need to focus on. Visitors with transactional intent will enjoy content that talks about your brand and its product and services. So think of content like landing pages, product brochures, testimonials and white papers.
Lead Generation and Informational Intent
Now you might think that an audience with informational intent is less relevant for a lead generation strategy. It is true that such visitors are less likely to convert into leads or sales. And content about your products or services is less likely to appeal to these visitors.
But this audience is important, and you should spend most of your content marketing time and budget here. This is because customers spend more time researching, educating themselves and building trust than they do converting.
Informational content should be brand and product agnostic. The focus should be on educating rather than your brand or product. That is not to say that informational content cannot drive leads into your sales and marketing funnel. But that such efforts should be supplementary to the content itself.
You may include a lead capture form within your blog posts, or a sidebar, for example. Such forms can capture an audience that has consideration or transactional intent. But notice how they are in addition to the content – the content stands alone.
Inbound and Outbound Content Marketing
You can separate lead generation and content marketing efforts into inbound and outbound. Outbound lead generation is where you ‘reach out’ to find people that show interest in your product or service. Whereas inbound lead generation is driven by an audience that finds you.
Inbound marketing drives leads through organic search, SEM, blogging, video and press & PR. For a website, you can somewhat qualify inbound marketing by their intent. PPC traffic, for example, can be divided into transactional and non-transaction keywords.
Because inbound captures both audiences, your content strategy needs to provide both informational and transactional content. And it’s important that you deliver the right content to the right audience. You can achieve this by having different landing pages for different keywords.
Outbound marketing includes TV and radio ads, print, cold calling and direct mail. Online, it may also include display ads, provided this is not targeting an audience you have already captured. Since an outbound audience is ‘less warm’ than inbound, it benefits from informational content.
Deciding What Type of Lead Generation Content to Create
Visitor intent dictates the type of content you create. This determines whether you need to create informational or transactional content. Let’s take a look at some example content you may consider creating for each type of intent.
First, for informational content:
- Informational blog posts. In-depth blog posts on a topic are valuable. These can rank well on Google where other blogs underserve the topic. But be cautious to not focus on your brand and product!
- How to guides and videos. This type of content serves visitors that are looking to educate themselves or achieve a particular task. So think about what tasks or outcomes your audience is interested in.
- Data and original research. Data is a type of content that is often overlooked and underserved by content teams. By conducting original research, you can serve as a go-to and trusted source of information. Example: Sweet Pricing conducted original research into average mobile app size, which ranks very well in Google.
- Glossaries. Glossaries are useful pages if your industry has its own lexicon. These can help you capture searches like ‘What does original research mean?’
And now, for transactional content:
- Landing pages. Landing pages are the entry point to your sales and marketing funnel. For this reason, they should focus on your brand and product or service, and you should tailor the pages to specific keywords. Highlight your key selling points and land a clear call to action.
- Case studies and testimonials. Visitors with transactional content benefit from case studies and testimonials. This type of content is reassuring and builds trust with your brand. So make sure you are capturing reviews, and include them in your landing pages.
- White papers. For more complex sales (e.g. enterprise software sales), you may benefit from white papers. A white paper is a document that promotes your business and product, with a view to helping a prospective customer make a decision to buy.