As a frequent traveler, most of my opportunities used to come from people I meet at conferences.
Unfortunately (or fortunately!), I entered a season when I didn’t fly as often. That meant that I’d stumble upon fewer opportunities.
In the age of the internet, that’s a huge shame!
When I was a teenager, my technology career started by working with people around the world.
Why can’t I keep on meeting new people online, like I used to?
After asking that question, our team at NorthStories.io built a system that allows us to reach businesses around the globe.
We don’t have to physically meet new people to begin a relationship.
Through online storytelling, we were able to build trust by showing the world what we’re about.
In this comprehensive guide, let me share with you how we’ve been generating B2B leads online, thanks to content marketing.
We’ll discuss the following:
- 📣 Chapter 1: B2B Lead Generation
- 👥 Chapter 2: How to Generate B2B Leads with Content Marketing
- 📝 Chapter 3: How to Produce Great Content That Generates Leads
Chapter 1: B2B Lead Generation
To generate a lead for a B2B product, there are special considerations.
Such deals are typically far bigger than consumer purchases. An ordinary consumer product can be a one-time $50 item. Your B2B product is more like a $400/mo service.
How do you keep in touch with your prospects, so you’re in their radar until they buy?
You’re in the right place. Read on.
LET’S TALK ABOUT LEAD GENERATION
What is lead generation anyway?
It’s the act of identifying qualified buyers who will be led to a sales opportunity.
Right now, your lead generation is ad hoc. It’s currently hard to replicate or scale. You can only meet so many people in person.
You also want to be sure that you are attracting qualified leads. They should likely move forward as prospects and sales opportunities.
According to Hubspot’s Inbound Methodology, a stranger converts into a lead after they opt-in. As leads, they’re ready to be converted by the sales team.
Below, Hubspot describes the science behind lead generation:
B2B LEADS ARE MOTIVATED BY ROI
If we’re talking about consumer products, the goals are different. A beauty product appeals to social acceptance. A sports product can appeal to a person’s recreational needs.
In B2B, your buyer can be a founder, marketer, or engineer. Their goals are driven by their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at work.
It’s not about beauty. It’s not about recreation.
It’s about how your products will support their careers and the company’s revenue.
As a result, B2B marketing requires frequent interactions that demonstrate how the product will produce ROI.
Through content marketing, keep showing up to your potential leads, showcasing why your products would contribute to business results.
HOW TO QUALIFY A LEAD
Salespeople use a qualification framework to determine if a prospect is likely to become a successful customer.
What’s the point of generating traffic or sign ups if you’re talking to people who wouldn’t ultimately purchase?
You want to qualify your audience so your marketing efforts are targeted towards relevant people.
A variety of companies use BANT, one of the old sales qualification framework, originally developed by IBM:
B – Budget
The importance of the purchase, its priority and if resource is allocated for it.
A – Authority to buy
Where the budget came from and who is involved in the purchasing decision.
N – Need for your solution
The challenges and pain points and the solution that you think can solve them.
T – Timeline
The time sensitivity of the purchase and the capability of delivering the product quickly.
The more your lead matches these criteria, the higher your chances of closing the deal with them.
You want to focus on generating traffic and sign ups from leads that meet these factors.
HOW TO GENERATE LEADS
Your potential customers need to be aware that you exist. There are different methods to make sure that they know of your existence, each with their own pros and cons.
Let’s explore the usual prospects in terms of generating awareness. From there, we’ll discuss how content marketing works in the mix.
Here’s a rundown of popular awareness methods that generate leads.
Conferences and meetups related to your niche is where you should find yourself at.
It is during events that you can have face to face interaction with potential customers. Studies show that there is a 40% chance of conversion for face-to-face prospects. You will miss out on getting good leads if you do not include joining events in your marketing strategy.
You always have to be updated what event is happening and where it is happening. They can sometimes be too far away from you or might be in conflict with your preferred schedule.
Your friends will always have your back, even in supporting your business. They can be your most avid and loyal customers.
Your friends can easily tell other people about your product. They are your personal source of good feedback and recommendation.
While this is a great source of prospects and customers, your personal network quickly runs of opportunities. You need to expand your target audience.
Showing up on Google is widely understood in terms of ROI, whether for consumers or business buyers. Check out these statistics about the value of SEO for business.
Using SEO tools and strategies, you get to match your content with your potential clients. If SEO is done right, your site can be ranked up high on the search results, where your highly qualified search engine users can instantly find you.
SEO results are not instantaneous. It easily takes months or years to rank high for certain keywords or content. Aside from that, you have to adhere to sometimes unpredictable rules.
Social media dominates attention. Top websites and apps are typically characterized as social networks. In other words, this is a major source of distribution and awareness.
Businesses are active on social media now more than ever. This is the reason why social media is now a very useful tool for B2B lead generation.
While it’s a significant part of your marketing strategy, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. A social network can easily change their rules or shut down. If you depend on them too heavily, your business is at the mercy of someone else.
There’s a major advertising platform popping almost every year. This gives marketers the chance to experiment with some of them to find out which ones have greater lead acquisition potential.
Advertising provides quick and massive results. Provided that you have the budget and right ad campaign, you can optimize your acquisition costs to match the ROI.
First of all, paid acquisition channels like Adwords and Facebook Ads cost you money. On top of that, sales results aren’t guaranteed. You better have great creative materials first, before you invest too much in a paid campaign.
The old-time favorite billboard is still being utilized by businesses with the budget.
There’s a sense of pride if your business can afford these physical advertisements. Yep, that helps your team and somehow contributes to the public’s perception of how serious you are.
On top of being expensive, the public is developing blindness towards print media. We’re too busy with our phones to pay attention.
People still spend time on television, watching their favorite shows or just to entertain on the background.
TV commercials still have an impact on the buying decision of most people today.
Just like billboards, TV commercials can also be pricey. After spending six figures, a majority of your audience will easily ignore your interruption of their favorite show. They’re simply more interested in checking their social media feeds instead of patiently waiting for the advertisement to end.
ONLINE AND OFFLINE MARKETING SHOULD WORK TOGETHER
Why did we discuss how leads are typically generated?
Both online and offline marketing can generate leads for you. You just have to know how to combine them in your marketing campaigns.
Colour Graphics shows you how to combine these two methods in your marketing:
GENERATE B2B LEADS OFFLINE AND ONLINE
The old ways of generating leads for your B2B business can still work. But there are new ways of getting leads that you can utilize, without the budget and without the hassle. Combine the old and the new if you must.
One thing still remains… There is no such thing as too much content to get out there to your social sites and other advertising channels.
Chapter 2: How to Generate B2B Leads with Content Marketing
How do you simulate a face-to-face introduction?
You’re not with the stranger in a bar. There’s no common friend to introduce you to a new acquaintance.
You don’t happen to be a huge brand like Apple or Nike.
Casually scrolling on their phone… a stranger discovers your website or social accounts. Most of them would not even give you 12 seconds of their attention.
In this case, how do you get strangers to feel like they’re getting a face-to-face introduction with you and your business?
That’s what it takes to generate a lead online.
You need to introduce your business through content.
Imagine how you’ll say “hello” in real life. How do you craft content so strangers will like what they see on their screen and they’ll proceed to sign up?
While supplemented with other awareness methods, content marketing is a killer. In fact, it’s not exactly an alternative to advertising, SEO, or social media marketing.
Content marketing is simply a way to organize your storytelling.
For our purpose today, the goal is to gain awareness and generate a lead by publishing pieces of content.
WHAT IS CONTENT MARKETING
What’s this thing that we’re speaking of anyway?!
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
See, businesses are successful whenever they inspire a favorable market response.
What are these favorable events, you ask?
- Sign ups
Those are some examples of marketing goals that your content should contribute to.
The aim of defining your “content marketing” activities is to be systematic about this whole thing. You can’t improve a capability if you’re not conscious about it.
By having a content marketing budget and defining what projects fall under this category, you can organize work and understand ROI.
Now, where does content marketing start and end?
Earlier, we mentioned that there are many alternative ways to gain awareness. You can resort to digital methods like SEO, social media marketing, and online advertising. You can also be more traditional with billboards or TV commercials.
Interestingly, content marketing isn’t a silo. It’s not a strict alternative to other methods.
For example, having content marketing capabilities will allow you to produce better advertising materials.
Content marketing is also the strongest force towards improving your SEO. In a sense, the two are largely interchangeable.
Why do we talk about content marketing as a separate thing, then?
Well, DigitalMarketer hit the nail on the head:
A pricing page is content.
The big misconception is that content marketing is blogging.
It’s not blogging, SEO or social…
Content marketing is about producing pieces of content that tell stories, enabling the audience to move forward.
This shines a spotlight on a set of capabilities and practices. This perspective is different from understanding the technical details of ad platforms or social networks.
Content marketing is about your use of storytelling, so you can build and nurture an audience.
- Through stories, you gain their awareness.
- Through stories, you close the deal.
- Through stories, you grow the relationship.
The focus here is your ability to tell the right stories at the right time.
Did they just discover your brand for the first time? Say “hello” with the right introductory content!
Are they torn about the buying decision? Walk them through with your pricing, ROI, and comparisons vs. alternatives.
Content is about sharing the right information at the right time.
CONTENT MARKETING JOURNEY: FROM STRANGER TO PROSPECT
How do you convert strangers into leads?
If you’re doing an outbound campaign, you can simply list ideas of potential buyers.
Content marketing is a different beast, though. It’s an inbound type of thing. You need to seduce, rather than interrupt.
Below are some points to consider:
STUDY THE TRAFFIC FROM SEARCH, SOCIAL MEDIA OR ADVERTISING
If you’re not 100% sure who your target market is, research your traffic. An in-depth analysis of organic, social media and advertising results will help you focus your content on your prospects.
Why study your traffic?
You would want to be sure if there are customers who are in need of what you are offering. It will be a waste if your marketing efforts are getting picked up by the wrong audience.
BUILD LANDING PAGES THAT CONVERT
You would want to create high-converting landing pages.
A good landing page needs to have an effective headline and a captivating opening that will make your readers want to read more.
It’s not about how colorful your page is or how many images you have. It’s how your page can get people to sign up for your offer.
The best practices for landing pages should point you in the right direction of how to create an effective landing page.
More than your designs, make sure that you’re sharing the right content.
Imagine the sexiest landing page with all the advanced parallax scrolling web technologies… but the copywriting doesn’t make sense to the audience.
What a waste!
Whether it’s a blog post or a landing page, your focus should be the substance of the content, not fancy visual styles or technical features.
OFFER THEM AN IRRESISTIBLE LEAD MAGNET
You won’t catch any fish if you don’t have a nice bait. It’s the same way with leads. Your lead will not take the time to visit your site or get to know more about your business if you don’t provide a good incentive.
A lead magnet is what will trigger your customers to get to know more. It should show how amazing your product is compared to other products. The lead magnet is your key to turning a stranger into someone who will be nurtured as a sales prospect.
WHY USE CONTENT MARKETING FOR LEAD GENERATION
You’ve exhausted your personal networks.
You have a large network of friends that know of your business already. They have also told their friends about you. You need to reach new people.
You want to reach a global audience.
There is a huge audience out there that you want your business to reach. Content marketing ensures that your pitch will be heard anywhere.
Especially if you’re in the software or remote services business, you don’t want to limit your reach to your local neighborhood.
You’re investing in the mid- to long-term.
You’re in this for the long run. Plans are set and budget is allotted. You know that your content marketing can make a big difference to your business.
WHY SCALABLE CONTENT MARKETING IS NOT FOR YOUR BUSINESS
There are cases when you have to think about content in a different way.
You’re not supposed to chase a big amount of traffic. You’re not supposed to focus on email sign ups.
When your business is new, you need to produce content for a very small audience.
While you should still use the same storytelling abilities, you’re better off sending 1:1 emails rather than the common path of publishing content for huge audiences.
Don’t obsess with high-traffic content if:
You don’t yet have product/market fit.
You still need time to study your market, find your target persona, and prove that the offer works. It will be pointless to create content that will not be read by the people you can convince.
You don’t have a small scale marketing & sales process yet.
Your leads get converted in the marketing and sales stages. They have to be set-up and existing so your leads will not go to waste.
You need to acquire just 1 customer immediately.
For such short term needs, you can focus on outbound sales. Your product or service is a one-time big deal. You want those customers right away because your offer has an expiration date.
USE CONTENT MARKETING FOR B2B LEAD GENERATION
Content is the first thing that your prospects will see. It is your incentive and your magnet. It comprises your marketing, both offline and online.
Keep publishing content so you keep showing up until they shop!
Chapter 3: How to Produce Great Content That Generates Leads
When was the last time your content generated leads for your business?
When you create more relevant content, you solidify not only your visibility but also your authority on your niche. That’s what your prospects will see.
You know what to write about. You have the topics all planned. It’s time to start getting those prospects and sign ups.
But how do you make sure that you’re producing content that can lead to sign ups?
1. Be Faithful to Your Brand
You want quality visits to your website, not just any traffic. Your site needs great content that’s aligned to your objectives.
There are 4 steps you have to think about to align your content with your brand:
- Reviewing what you stand for, your mission, vision, and values.
- Knowing your audience; who will buy your product.
- Getting ideas from similar brands; look at news sources and topics that fit your brand.
- Answering questions of your persona, their pain points and common problems.
2. Get Inspired by Popular Content
Take cues from leading brands in the industry. What do they often talk about? Get inspired by top content and how they are written.
Content formats can affect popularity. Written content can be made into graphics or videos. You can even repurpose your content and make them the same way popular brands are doing.
Some content format to create yours into can be:
- Media format: articles, ebooks, podcasts, webinars, slideshows images, and video
- Article types: how-to guides, lists, giveaways, interviews, and “what is” posts
Where is their content usually discovered? You want would your own content placed on those sites. Get them posted on high ranking and popular social sites like:
Well, it’s your lucky day! We’re not just giving you some theoretical advice.
You can put this to practice today with the following tools:
- Ruzzit – this is a free and easy tool for finding most shared content
- Nuzzel – discover the most-shared news based on people you follow and their network
- BuzzSumo or EpicBeat – discover best-performing content and influencers based on a topic
Based on trends, you can optimize your topics and content format in a way that’s proven to work with your target audience.
3. Answer Questions
Why? It’s a good source of writing inspiration. You only write what people ask for.
Not only is it a good writing exercise, it’s an awareness channel that can get you hundreds of thousands of views for just one answer.
Let me get this straight…
With Quora, you get:
- Writing inspiration & exercises
- To help a crowd hungry for answers
- To build your audience at the same time!
Now, this doesn’t just apply to Quora.
The same principle would work for forums, Facebook Groups, and Reddit communities.
4. FAQs from Your Previous Transactions
The key to winning content marketing is pattern recognition.
You need to repeat things that tend to work and avoid those that don’t.
How do you do it? You first have to identify what works.
Don’t make the mistake of not maximizing what’s already effective for you. This is the same if you already have a reputation. Use that to your full advantage.
You’ve seen this pattern, in terms of our earlier recommendations. We talked about answering questions and taking cues from trending content.
This is all about understanding what’s popular and not ignoring it.
How do you collect FAQs?
Take note from previous transactions and queries that you receive. They can be good sources of content for later use.
4.a. Marketing Pitches
Whether it’s a phone call or a real elevator pitch, there’s something in common.
Having a live conversation opens up opportunities to answer follow up questions.
In-person, you can see what words make their eyes light up. Maybe, you talk about a feature then they’ll immediately smile.
You have to closely watch these moments, like the way stand-up comedians do.
See if people are as excited as you whenever you make a joke or introduce a feature.
Interestingly, your audience might be more interested in points that you didn’t originally focus on.
Look at their facial expressions. Listen to their follow up questions.
Based on their reaction to what you’re saying, you can keep tuning your marketing pitch and publish that content as part of your website.
4.b. Sales & Support Queries
What emails do you usually get?
Do your customers on Twitter usually complain about a particular thing?
Digital conversations like email requests and reviews show you frequent keywords.
If your customers often mention particular questions or compliments, take note!
Use these points as blog topics or even keywords for your SEO meta tags.
Invest in your lead generation machine.
Maybe, you’re tired of sending outbound messages.
Maybe, SEO or advertising isn’t working as well as they used to.
Below are 3 tips for getting started:
Today, follow the tips above, so you can produce content based on your effective marketing pitch!