If you work in the business-to-business realm and target a very specific corporate niche, you probably have to get creative about your approach to lead generation marketing. In certain markets, you simply aren’t going to attract customers by putting an ad in the local paper or a billboard on the bus.
Yes content is king, and it’s especially true for B2B marketers, and that’s a topic that’s worth discussing. Why is content so important in today’s climate, and what’s the best way to use content for achieving your B2B lead generation goals?
A New Approach to Advertising
It used to be that if you wanted to build up your brand in the B2B community of your choosing, you simply had to ramp up your advertising efforts. If there was a certain niche market you were going after, you could target that market by putting ads in trade publications and on specialized websites.
That type of strategy doesn’t work so well anymore, and there’s a clear reason why: today’s customers don’t really like advertising. They try to avoid ads, and they’ve developed a trained eye to help them do it.
And no wonder that’s the case, says The Content Marketing Institute in “What Is Content Marketing?” “Companies send us information all the time—it’s just that most of the time it’s not very relevant or valuable. But content offers something of value. “That’s what makes content marketing so intriguing in today’s environment of thousands of marketing messages per person per day. Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think, behave and respond differently.”
So why not redesign your strategy? Take the same ideas, the same talent, and the same budget you were using to design ad campaigns, but redirect those resources into producing informative articles. This way you’re still building up consumers’ knowledge of your company and your brand, but you’re doing so in a way that’s useful and engaging, not “sales-y.” Your results will undoubtedly be better.
Stopping Short of the Hard Sell
There’s a delicate balance that goes into using content for lead generation. On one hand, you don’t want your content to be overly forceful. If every article urges readers to “Pick up the phone and call now!” then what’s the point? Your “news” site is basically the same thing as an ad. But on the other hand, if you’re not pushing people into the sales funnel at all, your content serves no purpose. So what’s the answer?
The secret, says online marketing content expert Larry Chase, is “don’t hammer [readers], but don’t beat around the bush either.” There’s a happy medium. “I know of very few people who like to be bludgeoned with a sales pitch,” Chase notes in “Top 11 Tips for Email Lead Generation.” “That said, I’m also amazed at how many email messages and websites don’t get around to asking for the sale, as if it’s in bad taste or something. Get to the point when there is one to be made. People actually do like relevant pitches.”
You’ll want to focus your articles primarily on being informative and building up subject matter expertise within your industry. Beyond that, though, why not gently nudge potential customers with a polite call to action at the end? Just a sentence or two at the end of an article can make a big difference.
Understanding the Customer Journey
Assuming you do have a call to action in your content, what action are you directing readers to take? In other words, where in the sales funnel are your readers, and where would you like them to move next? It’s crucial to think of content as guiding your customers through the funnel.
Connie Bensen, a global social media expert at Dell, says in “The Best Lead Generation Tips Ever: 24 Experts Share Their Lead Generation Secrets” that part of the challenge of lead generation is understanding where people are in that process and offering content accordingly. “Ensure that the content is the right type of content for the community that it’s presented to and the right place in the customer journey. Be cognizant of the many steps in your customer’s journey.”
Some readers will be fairly new to your industry, just looking to dip their toes in the water. They’ll be in search of information, not necessarily an immediate chance to buy. Others will be more ready to consider spending their money. They may even be ready to close a sale.
By interacting with customers and reading their feedback—maybe in blog comment sections, maybe on social media—you can get a better feel for what people’s interests are. Then you can cater your content toward their specific needs.
Designing a Multi-Channel Strategy
It’s important to note that even if you love a particular B2B lead generation strategy, mixing up your content types works best. Varied content types and channels bring in a wider pool of readers and thus potential customers.
Demand Gen Report’s 2014 Content Preferences Survey found that “there are now seven content types that are used by a majority of buyers: white papers, e-books, webinars, infographics, case studies, videos, and blog posts.” While text contents types are holding strong in resonating with B2B buyers, Demand Gen saw that these decision-makers were also extremely interested in visual content like infographics and videos—the more shareable, the better.
Provide your readers with engaging, useful content in a variety of formats to see the biggest results.
Integrating Content into Your B2B Lead Generation Strategy
Now that you’ve seen how content can boost your lead generation, you can start to build it into your marketing plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Offer value, rather than adspeak. Don’t get overly pushy or “sales-y,” but do include a polite CTA at the end of your content.
- Tailor information and content types to be relevant to customers at a range of specific points along the customer journey.
- Plan to provide a mix of content types to reach different sections of your audience. Supplement blog posts, white papers, and e-books with video, infographics, and webinars. And remember that you can repurpose content from format to format—each piece of content doesn’t need to be entirely new information.