A lean, mean, underestimated lead-gen machine

If you think content marketing is fluff, it’s time to think again.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more potent, underestimated, low-cost lead generating tool (and misunderstood) than content marketing.

Think of high-quality content akin to long-distance running. If you stick with it long enough, you’ll see massive returns: high-quality, scalable, reliable lead generation.

The content in content marketing takes many forms, from case studies and blog posts to sales brochures and how-to guides. And one piece of content collateral can be used many times in many ways. Not only is it great for B2B (business-to-business) lead-gen, but you can use your content to support sales, customer support, and more.

However, these materials will be a series of isolated one-offs unless you create a solid strategy to bind your story and audience’s interests together. You can’t just crank out work willy-nilly without considering your business’s higher purpose beyond selling.

Content marketing 101

So, where do you begin?

You can start anywhere if you create engaging and informative content that resonates with your audience and mission. We can’t stress enough that you must find the sweet spot between what you care about and what your customers care about.

From there, your work’s form isn’t as crucial as its engagement. You can pick from blog posts, videos, infographics, or images that appeal to the specific target demographic you’ve identified.

We recommend first identifying your target audience and creating content pillars, then breaking out each one into long-form blog clusters — more on that in a minute.  

Once you have several long-form blog posts, you can distill them down into social posts, then distribute them into relevant social media channels (e.g., LinkedIn is key for B2B). It’s also smart to publish to syndication platforms like Medium.

Continuously optimize your content for clicks from search engines like Google and Bing. Doing this will increase the message’s maximum reach without paying for ads. You can do this by doing some keyword research.

Don’t let that term scare you; it means using a handy keyword tool like  SEMRush or Mangools to figure out which keywords aren’t super-highly competitive, especially if you’re just starting. You’re looking for high volume (i.e., lots of people searching) and low competition (i.e., it won’t be hard to get near the top of the list).

You might even want to consult outside support, like our buddies at Map & Fire, who can help you pick out the best opportunity for search terms that ensure your brand doesn’t get lost in the search engine shuffle.

Keep it real 

Quality content helps you build relationships with potential customers interested in what you offer. You’ll create authentic connections without pushing them away with hard sells and aggressive tactics. The days of outbound selling have gone stale as two-day-old bread. 

To compete with your predecessors, write about genuinely compelling topics instead of pushing a hidden agenda. 

People can see right through artifice.

On the other hand, everyone notices and appreciates consistent delivery of valuable information. For example, instead of writing a blog post on how awesome our creative services are, we created an in-depth piece on how businesses can find the right creative agency during economic turmoil. 

Notice how we kept things timely, helpful, and audience-specific.

Once you start creating work that people are searching for, you can establish yourself as an authority on specific topics, leading potential customers back to your website looking for more knowledge from a trusted source – you. 

Once you establish your brand as the ultimate authority on a sought-after topic, your audience will recognize and appreciate your presence and keep returning for more.

Good content comes back in infinite iterations

Remember: effective content does more than attract website visitors. It can also be used throughout the customer lifecycle (e.g., cold outreach sales emails, newsletters, and social media). According to Human, sending email newsletters with truly helpful advice tailored to groups of specific readers (your potential customer) has been shown to increase revenue by as much as 760%.

Like any other content form, a good newsletter educates customers, feeling more like a service than an intrusion, generating trust in the brand through additional educational material not directly related to selling products or services.

You can even use blog posts or longer articles on your website page as microsites that add prestige or generate leads from impressed readers. Or you can use long-form content to provide prospects with more granular detail about a product or offer than they would find at first glance on your home page or other general landing pages.

The best part? Content marketing effectively reaches potential customers without breaking the bank. Writing an article is cheaper than building a new product feature or, heaven forbid, discounting your product. It ensures that those prospects stick around for the long term because they trust you as an authority in your field who provides value above all else.

A step-by-step guide to content marketing

Figure out who’s who…and why they matter

Before creating content, you need to figure out the demographics it will address. If you don’t yet have a persona, you can do a little social media stalking. Look through your key influencers or existing customer base. What are their income, background, and hobbies? Tools like Sprout Social even provide demographic information. You might also consider sending out surveys to collect personal data with free tools such as SurveyMonkey

If you don’t have a buyer persona, social media stalking goes a long way. What are your top customers or ideal demographics posting on LinkedIn?  What content do they consume to address their problems?

Think about who you’re trying to reach. What interests them? What words do they use? Create content tailored specifically for your target audience by identifying their characteristics and what they care about. 

Pillars of strength

Once you’ve identified your target audience, start with the pillars of messaging, and work backward. Figure out how what you care about intersects with what your users care about. That’s where the magic happens. 

Once you locate the contact zone where your passions and your consumers collide, you can get to the fun stuff. We like to break out these common interests into long-form (2000+ words) blog topics.

Pick your megaphones

Since you know your target audience, it’s time to decide which platforms are best to distribute your content: choose from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and aforementioned syndication sites like Medium, along with search engine results pages like Google and Bing.

In order to ensure your message is reaching the right places and maximizing its impact, it’s important to remember that not all platforms are created equal. Consider which ones best suits your goals and target audience when creating content for distribution.

For example, if you're engaging professionals in a certain niche industry, then LinkedIn would be your best bet. Facebook, on the other hand, is well-suited to connecting with family, friends and acquaintances (think: consumers). Twitter is the go-to platform for quick news updates, while Instagram focuses mainly on visuals such as photos and videos.

If you want to reach a large audience quickly then syndication sites like Medium may be just what you need. These sites allow you to publish articles across networks in a matter of minutes, thus increasing visibility exponentially.

In short, depending on the size and type of content you plan to share as well as who exactly it should reach, it’s important to determine which platform(s) should receive priority.

Understand how different social media platforms function and what each one offers in terms of targeting capabilities. Then create and stick to an effective strategy for deepening relationships with followers to maximize your content’s impact and reach the desired results.

‍Create engaging content

Start producing the actual content itself. Naturally. 

You might create blog posts, videos, images, infographics, or other collateral specific to your industry. As we said earlier, we prefer to create pillar content, in the form of a series of how-tos, guides, and resources. Aim for less-but-better content over a firehose of mediocrity.

Keep the message relevant, witty, authentic, and approachable to draw readers’ attention and establish trust in your brand.

Shout from the (right) rooftops 

Promote and optimize your content: Now it’s time to get the word out. Publish your new content across your prioritized channels — this includes properly optimizing titles and texts, so they appear appropriately in search engines and social shares, while adapting promotional messages for different platforms depending on where they will appear online (think short tweets, pithy Facebook posts, and quasi-poetic LinkedIn posts).

Measure, rinse, repeat

Finally, review how successful each piece of content has been by looking at metrics such as website visits, click rates, and customer engagement (how many people liked/shared/commented on your post). 

Ideally, measure the ultimate metric: how many customers purchased a product or service after reading one of your articles. This data can give great insights into which pieces of content work best so that you can achieve more efficient, valuable results over time. Do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose… and be richer for it

Finally: recycle, reuse, and repost. You can reincarnate everything you create into another form. Blog posts can turn into how-to guides. Social media copy may morph into email marketing blurbs. Long-form blog posts can be stitched together to create pillar content. Remember that the life cycle of content is never-ending - don’t be afraid to re-share it multiple times, as it’s nearly impossible for all your followers to see the same piece at once. 

If you’d like to chat more about content marketing, let’s have a cup of coffee virtually or in person.