I, and I’m sure many of you, have many experiences of those pushy salespersons. Buy this, buy that. Whether we needed the service or product was not on their mind in the slightest. Great thing is that today, we don’t have to be those salespeople and we can generate leads without picking up the phone.
So you’ve found this blog post. You might be the CMO of your company and your boss is grilling you about inbound leads, or lack thereof. Or, you could be the CEO of your small business trying to figure out how to generate B2B leads to not only have your top-of-funnel filled with leads but filled with quality leads. Well, I have good news: you’re in the right place!
First, what is content marketing?
I’m sure you’ve heard the term before but just in case you haven’t, it’s worth going over what content marketing entails.
A company participating in content marketing means that the company has a plan in place which dictates what type of content gets created, published, for which platforms and for who. The type of content can take many forms such as written, video, or even Instagram carousels if you’ve ever heard of those.
The goal of content marketing is usually to create brand awareness, recognition and generating leads for sales funnels which impacts the company revenue. There can be many other side goals with content marketing and will be different depending on the company.
What we usually hear…
- “Our business model is too hands-on”
- “We have tried before and it didn’t work”
- “It’s not important for us to generate leads online”
- “It takes too much time and money”
What it usually boils down to are a few reasons in my experience. The first one is that businesses feel safe with their current methods of working. The second one is based on bad past-experiences with agencies. Diving straight into the deep end of digital marketing or content marketing can be a radical change for them. This results in a knee-jerk reaction where the business won’t put forward enough effort such as time or resources in order to succeed. The bad experiences stem from working with an agency that wasn’t capable of a strategic approach in their work. Usually, they know one thing only and push that onto their clients when it might have not even been the right approach in the first place.
Even if your fears are well placed, unfortunately, you’ll soon find out your competition is out-performing your company in the market. Having a well planned digital marketing strategy is the first step in succeeding.
How marketing changed and the way we do lead generation
Since smartphones came into play, the way we communicate, find information, and make decisions has rapidly changed. No longer is the best way to hear about a product or service from our work colleague, neighbour, or the salesman cold-calling us. We proactively go out of our way to find solutions to our problems. The typical sales funnel has changed drastically, and the studies show that.
Before, salespeople held control of the sales funnel, from bringing awareness, all the way to the decision. Today, 82% of B2B buyers will look for an average of 5 pieces of content before making a decision. In fact, 95% of buyers look for organisations that provide relevant information and content for each stage of their buying journey.
Imagine how B2B sales have been traditionally done. Cold-calling, booking a meeting, relentless follow-up until the deal is closed. While this is still effective and true in today’s world, it isn’t scalable and the world has moved on.
Today, if you want to be effective in generating leads with content marketing, you have to get your ducks in a row before even thinking about writing your first post or doing any other type of marketing. Hoping your content gets magically pushed to the right people who will then become your loyal customers forever is not realistic.
While there is no way to do a deep dive into each topic about the fundamentals of digital marketing in this article as they are extremely vast, I’ll go over the basics of each one. I’m sure you’ll start to see the picture I’m trying to paint here.
Successful B2B lead generation starts with the target market
This is one of the most important parts not only for your plan but for your business. Without knowing who your clients or audiences are, you have no idea how and where to target them. Not only that, but you won’t be able to craft messaging that speaks to their problems. They’ll simply bounce off your marketing efforts.
- Who are your potential clients?
- Where do your potential clients hang out?
- Can you create buyer personas of your potential clients?
If you’re having trouble answering the first 2 points, ask yourself: what is your positioning in the market vertically or horizontally? Is your product or service niched down enough? It is important to have a strong positioning statement or your potential clients simply won’t believe you. Remember, being a full-service house is not an advantage.
Just a few places your potential clients might be hanging out:
- Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube
- Niche forums
- Publishing platforms such as Medium
- Q&A websites such as Quora
Guide your potential clients through a journey
Have you noticed when shopping on Amazon, at the checkout page, there’s no navigation or a way to click away from the website? That’s done on purpose to discourage people from wandering off from the checkout page without completing the order. While this example is B2C oriented, the same principles apply to B2B.
Your goal is to guide your potential client through your website in the order you want them to. So, remove any distractions and push them towards the intended goal even if that leaves you with just a wall of text.
Map it out
Mapping out your B2B customer journey is extremely important to get a cohesive plan for the next stage. Figuring out where, when, and what type of content you want to be reaching out to your customers with is crucial.
Consider the typical customer journey map. Usually goes something like this: Awareness -> Consideration -> Decision -> Advocacy. However, when it comes to mapping a B2B customer journey, the process is longer with more steps and touchpoints. For example, a service-based B2B business might add negotiations between consideration and decision stages as well as relationship after the decision.
Every stage of the customer journey map should have a detailed description of the activities, touchpoints, goals, KPIs, etc. Again, this could be a book on its own so I won’t go over any detailed plan as it would be completely wrong for every other business.
Content is king
Once you have your target market and customer journey figured out, you can start planning the content you’ll be creating. And if you’ve gotten this far and followed along, you should have an idea where your potential clients are and what kind of journey they’ll have while moving towards your goal.
Now is the time to put that info into good use. For this example, I’m going to assume you know your potential clients love to consume audio/visual content and love to learn. That means YouTube might be the right place to try to reach them. You want to make sure that the content you create is something you’re proud to share. People see through low quality hacked up content.
The key is to make sure it brings value to the person viewing, listening, or reading. Anything that gives your followers insight into something they hadn’t thought of before is valuable. You might think that you’ll be giving away all of your secrets by doing so. I’m here to tell you, you’re not. Share your knowledge and teach people. A lot of your potential clients will find it difficult to apply your knowledge to their own unique situations so they’ll come to you for help.
Here are some ideas on what kind of content you could start creating:
- Free resources and materials
- Case studies
- Email newsletters
This is where the content marketing plan comes together. We have three fundamental parts of your new content marketing plan ready. You should already have a pretty good idea of who your clients are, where they are, what kind of content they consume, and where you’ll reach out to them.
From start to finish
Let’s go back to the customer journey map and see which pieces of content fit with what stage of the journey. It’s easy to get mixed up so think it through. For example, offering a trial or coaching to somebody that has never heard of you before is likely to miss the mark.
The awareness stage is where the person you are targeting has never heard of you or interacted with you. They might have come across your content on social media and they’re now interested in what you have to say. The content, in this case, could be a video, podcast, LinkedIn post, or a whitepaper about something in their industry. The touchpoint is where your potential client hangs out.
In the consideration stage, your potential client has already consumed a lot of your other content. They are familiar with your website and perused through your offerings. This is where content such as comparisons, free consultation calls, or if you have a SaaS product, tutorials become very useful to the potential client. Help them make an informed decision.
Once you have the basics down and the pieces fit together, you’ll have the fundamentals of a content marketing plan set for success in your lead generation journey. Like I mentioned before, it’s difficult to go into extreme detail in a single post and end up with a post that’s actually digestible. I’ll go further into more detail about each topic such as content creation or funnels at a later date.
As a last note, I just wanted to mention that in the age of digital, now is the best time to start content marketing to keep your top of the funnel filled with leads. Never before have we had the ability to share information with so many people with very little monetary costs.
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Reigate digital marketing solutions
Since 2013 we have worked with companies to help them find their voice in the digital space. Our strategic approach ensures that we focus on the right methods and channels when growing your company online.