From how to generate leads perspective, the promise of content marketing is alluring. Shoot a killer video, create a viral piece of social, write a blog that’s shared by everyone from HubSpot to Medium – et voilà, the clients will be beating down your door.
Whilst content dreams like this do come true, the reality is usually a little different. It takes time and skill to execute a content marketing strategy capable of raising brand awareness, attracting more visitors to your website and turning those visitors into regular customers.
Whatever your marketing strategy, whether it be direct response, email marketing, social media marketing or even inbound marketing, to help you on your way, here are six key tips we’ve learned over the years to help you generate leads with your content marketing strategy.
Don’t push a sale
Peter Drucker, esteemed father of management thinking, said: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service sells itself.”
Which, as a one-sentence summary of content marketing, pretty much hits the nail on the head.
The success of your content marketing strategy depends on how well you know your customer – their needs, problems, challenges and ambitions. The better you understand them, the better placed you’ll be to provide solutions to their answers and help them succeed. And by doing this well, you won’t need to sell yourself because people will already be sold on you.
Remember, people often don’t like being sold to; they don’t like brands who talk about themselves in obviously sales-led ways. If successful selling is a conversation between two mutually invested parties, don’t be that person who constantly harps on about themselves (yeah, we’ve all met them).
People don’t like being sold to. But they do like getting what they want. So don’t focus on selling, focus on providing value.
Instead, talk about them. About their interests, their day-to-day lives, their dreams and the problems they face. Be entertaining, be interesting, be educational. And when you do need to talk about yourself, do it in ways that make your customer the focus.
So, don’t say:
- “We’re an independent financial advisor with over 40 years’ experience and a whole host of awards under our belt.”
- “Our 40 years’ experience and award-winning expertise mean your finances are always in safe hands, today and in the future.”
Pro tip: If your copy has more mentions of ‘we’ than ‘you’ and ’your’, then you’re doing something wrong. Amend your copy so that you’re talking more about how you help your customers rather than about how great you are.
Add value, add value, add value. And one more for good measure – add value.
If your content marketing strategy does nothing else, it should do that.
Going back to the Drucker quote, adding value means understanding your customers’ pain points so well that you become the answer to their problems.
People want to know what you do, of course, but more importantly, they want to know how you can help. By adding value with your content marketing – i.e. knowing the questions your audiences are asking and then providing answers to them – you prove that you understand your customer inside and out.
And the more you do that, the more you convince them that you’re the right brand for them.
55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority.HubSpot, 2018.
Pro tip: Develop buyer personas – representations of your ideal customers – so you can truly understand your audience. This includes details such as their demographics, their job, the daily struggles they face and their ambitions.
Once you have a detailed picture of your customers, you’ll know the kind of content that really adds value to their lives.
Be a guest blogger
Blogging is an excellent way to show the world that you’re an expert in your field – and thus generate leads by revealing your expertise.
If prospective customers are researching you, chances are they’re reading your blog. So how effectively written and value-adding your blog is could be the difference between securing a client and them moving onto one of your competitors.
But when it comes to your content marketing strategy, you shouldn’t just write for your blog, you should be seeking opportunities to write for others’.
Writing content for other websites means having your opinions reach a wider audience, boosting your brand awareness and improving your thought-leadership credentials.
Having your work appear on other sites proves to Google that you’re a trusted voice – and up the rankings you’ll go.
If someone sees you’ve written for well-respected industry articles, your standing will improve and you’ll become a voice people want to hear from.
Beyond the PR and the content kudos, there are SEO benefits to guest blogging, too. Google likes it when it sees your work on other people’s sites – to them, it’s proof that what you’re writing is good enough for others to share, which means it’s valuable content for readers.
In turn, backlinks to other sites reflect well on your website, improving your domain authority and SEO ranking.
The result? Your site will start to appear higher up search engine results, driving more traffic to it and generating more sales as a result.
Pro tip: Go for quality over quantity. Make sure whoever you’re writing for is reputable and related to what you do. This way, if anyone clicks the backlink and comes to your site, you have a good chance of being of interest to them. And try to achieve backlinks on high domain-authority sites – the better the quality of the backlink, the better it reflects on your SEO ranking.
Content marketing is a quid pro quo exercise. If you want potential customers to give you their contact details and their permission for you to include them on any future marketing comms, you need to offer them something of value in return.
A good way to do this is to create free gated content, such as an ebook, white paper, webinar or answer to a quiz they’ve taken (“Find out your personality type.”)
You need your audience’s permission to market at them. Offer them something they want and they’ll give it to you.
In order to access this content and receive the benefit of your marketing wisdom, your visitor has to offer up their contact information and their permission for you to market at them.
Just like securing a nice juicy backlink, gated content enhances your brand’s authority within your field. And even though an ebook, white paper or webinar might take time to put together, you can repurpose them for your blogs, social media and newsletters. So that from one piece of gated content, you might generate a month’s worth (or more) of secondary output.
Pro tip: Have your buyer person firmly in mind when creating gated content. What inspires them? What problems do they face? How can you help them get that promotion they’re chasing? Inhabit their mindset and create content to help them succeed.
Show your personality
As you might have gathered, providing value to your readers and viewers is always content marketing strategy’s primary goal. But you shouldn’t be afraid to show your personality whilst doing so.
This will likely mean including a little humour in your blog posts, showing some behind-the-scenes personality in your Instagram feed or writing an opinionated article for an industry magazine. Essentially, it’s about finding ways to make you look more human and less like a robot.
To highlight this, go through your LinkedIn feed and see which posts are most popular. Are they the ones that talk about the latest SEO update from Google? Or are they the ones that speak about human truths, the ones we can all relate to on an emotional level.
Spoiler, it’s the latter. Because even on the most business-centric social media platform, it’s having opinions, showing your personality and being human that resonates.
Pro tip: Create a clearly defined tone of voice and brand guidelines with a series of best-in-practice content examples to help your copywriters and designers produce consistently on-brand, personality-led messaging.
When most of the competition is failing to imagine, create and deliver work that stands out, those who do will be immediately memorable.
There’s a lot of content out there. From LinkedIn to YouTube, heads of businesses to kids in their bedrooms, everyone’s got something to say and a platform on which to say it.
You might consider an abundance of content to be a problem, but it actually presents a great opportunity. That’s because lots of content means lots of mediocre content that doesn’t do what it should – educate, interest and entertain. Sure, everyone’s got something to say, but that doesn’t mean they know how to say it.
And when most of the competition is failing to imagine, create and deliver work that stands out, those who do will be immediately intriguing and memorable.
Pro tip: Invest time and marketing budget into creativity. The first rule of marketing is ‘be noticed’. Find ways to do that and you’ve won half the battle already.
How to generate leads – a summary
Generating leads from your content marketing strategy takes time, especially if you exist within a competitive industry.
But whether you’re creating video content interviews, weekly blogs or daily social posts, ask yourself three questions:
- Does it understand, speak to and add value to our target audience?
- Does it reflect our brand personality in how it reads and looks?
- Does it cut through the noise by saying something different?
If you can say ‘yes’ to those questions, you’ll soon be creating content that resonates with your personas, that showcases your brand personality and that says something different from the rest of the crowd.