If you want to generate web traffic and generate sales leads online you need to generate content. In this post I take a look at why you need content, what kinds of content you need and how you can use it to generate leads.
Why do you need content?
Well, with digital marketing you are trying to bring people to a location on the web – usually your company website. When your visitors arrive at your site you want them to take an action – register for a service, purchase a product or submit some kind of sales enquiry.
You have four main options for driving people to your website – paid online advertising, search engine optimization, social media marketing and email marketing/outbound marketing. All of these forms of online promotion are more effective if you have good content, and some of them won’t work without it.
You can think of online marketing as fishing and content as your ‘online bait’. In most cases, basic information about your product or service isn’t good enough bait. You need to provide additional information that will help prospective customers solve their problems. This additional “content” – case studies, white papers, ‘how to’ guides, videos – is what will bring traffic to your site. The companies that provide the best content will attract the most customers online. The alternative holds true too – if you don’t have compelling content you’ll find it hard to drive web traffic.
When deciding what content you need to create for online marketing, start by thinking about who you are fishing for – your target customers. In business-to-business (B2B) it’s likely that you are selling to more than one type of buyer. For most complex technology sales you typically have to sell to end users, someone in the finance department, a technical gatekeeper and the executive who actually makes the purchase decision. (Check out how you can use “buyer personas” as a way to understand and describe these target customers. )
Next, think about the kind of information people need as they move through the buying process. People generally start with an initial “learn about this product category” step – this is the ‘Awareness’ stage, where they may need introductory information. Then they move to a research phase before narrowing down the list of potential suppliers (“evaluation”) and finally making a purchase decision. As they move through these stages the kind of information they need changes from high-level, educational material to more detailed product and pricing information.
Planning Your Content Creation
Once you know who you are ‘fishing’ for and what kind of ‘bait’ those buyers need you can create a plan for generating and distributing that content – your content strategy. Start by drawing up a table with your target buyers on the left-hand side and the buyer process stages at the top and then in each ‘cell’ of the table write down a list of documents and content you think would be useful at each point. (We wrote a previous blog entry on the kinds of content you can use for generating leads online – Creating Content that Generates Awareness and Demand). You will end up with a wish-list of content you’d like to use for your online marketing and lead generation campaigns.
Now comes the hard bit – creating that content. As a first step, check to see what you already have available – this is known as doing a ‘content audit’. Most companies will have case studies and other sales support materials and you may already have written white papers and marketing presentations. One great source of content is recent sales proposals – sales staff typically keep their best material for major client bids so see if you can reuse some of that material. List all the material you have and identify where it could be used on your content matrix. And think about a mixture of content media – videos, presentations and infographics as well as text-heavy papers or reports.
Next, identify the gaps – what content on your matrix needs to be created from scratch? List this content and identify how and when you will create it. In some ways this is pretty simple – either you will write it yourself, get some staff to write it, or hire an external 3rd party copy writer. If you need to pay for it then get some quotes and prepare a budget.
Next, decide when you will create the content – your ‘content schedule’. We are all busy people and money is a scarce resource so it is unlikely that you can create all of the content you require right away. So pick the most important content – material that can be used at multiple stages of the buyer process – and get it prepared as soon as you can. You can then schedule other material later in the year. Our recommendation is to start with case studies – they are the most useful pieces of content throughout the buyer process.
How do you use this content to drive traffic and generate sales leads?
The most common failure with Content Marketing is to create good content that no-one ever gets to see. You have to make it easy for your target buyers to find your content. You have to promote it, distribute it and share it as much as you can, across as many channels as you can. We normally start by placing the content on your website and ‘landing pages’. For example, set up a Google ad promoting your new white paper or research report. Next, mention it on your blog, tweet about it on Twitter and share it on Google+ and Facebook. For some content that is high value you should ask users for their contact details before they can access the information – this is known as “gating” the content. In other cases, such as infographics, you will share it across the web without requiring any registration.
You achieve results in two ways. The people who register for your high value content represent early stage contacts who may become real sales leads. To make that happen you will establish a regular flow of communications with them where you offer additional content over time and encourage them to move toward a purchase. This process is known as ‘lead nurturing’.
A percentage of the people who read your other content without registering for it will also eventually become sales leads, e.g. when they return to download higher value content or otherwise initiate contact.
Start Now and Prepare Your Content Strategy
Content is the fuel for digital marketing and online lead generation. If you understand your buyers and how they purchase your kind of product you can create compelling information that will persuade them you are their best choice. Start now and prepare your content strategy.