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Is Content Marketing a Viable Lead Generation Tactic?


Hi, I’m Josh. I’m a content marketer and proud to be one.

Content marketing is unique among marketing tactics. It aims to accomplish business goals by offering people something of real value that can make their lives better.

It’s not, “you are lacking something in your life, so buy our product.” It’s not, “Read these exaggerated claims about our product and buy it.” Content marketing (as part of an integrated digital marketing strategy, of course) only works if you provide value to your audience. How cool is that? You provide value, they buy stuff, and everyone goes home happy.

As nice as it sounds, though, the previous sentence is missing a sizable chunk in the middle. Without lead generation, this is your content marketing plan:

  • Phase One: Create Content
  • Phase Two: ??
  • Phase Three: Profit!

Phase Two is where content marketing gets real. We talk a lot about how content has to have value to be effective, but hardly ever talk about why. The reason content must be valuable is because we are asking for something valuable in return. We want to know who our reader is and we want permission to contact them again. We want to enroll them in a sweet lead nurture program—or put another way, we want continued chances to explain why they should buy what we’re selling.

So let’s talk about how you can offer your audience not just value, but a compelling value exchange:

It Starts with Creating and Amplifying Quality Content

Before you can use content to capture leads, you need two things: 1) great content, and 2) an audience.

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about creating great content. We’ll assume that you already know how to create something of value to an audience. But just in case, this SlideShare will give you a quick 101 (and a few chuckles):

Once you have killer content, help it find an audience with SEO optimization and amplification. Influencer marketing is another solid way to make sure your content earns readers you can convert into leads.

So you have your content. You attracted an audience. Now it’s time to pull in the leads.

How to Capture Leads with Four Types of Content

#1 – The Humble Blog

Many content marketers think of blogs as a tool for raising awareness and establishing thought leadership, more than as a lead generation powerhouse. But it’s possible to build an entire business with nothing but a blog – just ask Joe Pulizzi. You can capture leads from your blog in two ways:

  • Get e-mail subscribers. Regularly deliver such great content that your audience will opt in to hear more from you. Include a CTA to subscribe at the end of every post, and off you go.
  • Offer content upgrades. Your blog posts provide enough value to convince someone to invest their time reading it. Add an extra incentive to inspire them to share an email address, something customized for each post. It could be a PDF download of the post for offline reading, a checklist, a template—anything that adds just a shade more value to compel a conversion.

#2 – eBooks

Unlike blog posts, eBooks tend to be gated assets from the get-go. So your theoretical reader has to pony up before they see if the value exchange is worth it. Some marketers believe gating assets limits their potential reach. There’s no denying you will get fewer downloads of a gated asset than an ungated one—but the people who do opt in are more likely to be higher-interest leads.

To make sure you make the case for your reader to fill out the lead gen form, consider using the “Big Rock” model. Create a comprehensive, high-value piece of content for your gated asset. That’s your Big Rock. Then use ungated content—blog posts, SlideShare presentations, infographics—to make the case for the Big Rock. Each ungated asset can focus on a small part of the Big Rock, with a CTA at the end leading to the Big Rock landing page.

On your landing page, address specific benefits of the eBook in quick ‘n’ dirty prose. Well, maybe just quick. Dirty optional. Keep it to a short paragraph of introduction and 3-5 bullets that highlight specific things the reader will learn in the eBook. LinkedIn Marketing kept it short and sweet with this landing page:

LinkedIn Landing Page

#3 – Webinars

A webinar is a live streaming event your readers can sign up to attend. The act of registering for the webinar is the lead capture.

In many ways, the Big Rock promotional strategy works for webinars just as it does for eBooks. Use the theme of the webinar to produce ungated assets that encourage registration: blog posts that tease the content, infographics related to the key talking points, even a simple announcement on the blog can help drive people to the landing page.

A webinar is a good opportunity to partner with influencers, as well. Influencers can help publicize the event and provide more value for the attendees.

The only drawback of the webinar is it’s a one-time event—there are hundreds of landing pages out there, soliciting registration for an event that has already come and gone. It’s worth recording the webinar and making that the new gated asset to make it evergreen. You can continue to promote the recording with ungated interviews with participants, roundups of takeaways, etc.

#4 – SlideShare

LinkedIn SlideShare is a handy way to organize and share visual content. A high-quality, visually compelling SlideShare can be a great lead-in to a gated asset—you can include a CTA and a link directly on a slide.

You can also embed a lead capture form in the presentation as well. While including a link in your slides is free, embedding a lead capture form is a paid solution. But it does offer some advantages. LinkedIn can target a specific audience with its massive collection of demographic data, and users can autofill the form using their LinkedIn credentials for an easier conversion. This SlideShare breaks it down for you:

Take the Lead(s)

Lead capture puts the “marketing” in content marketing. Without it, we may be making people’s lives a little better, but we’re not making a stellar case for our continued employment. When it’s done properly, though, asking for something in return doesn’t diminish the value of what we provide. If anything, it enhances the content—it gives the reader a logical next step towards solving their problem. So put your blogs, eBooks, webinars, and SlideShare decks to work, collect the leads, and continue the journey with your lead nurturing program.

What’s your go-to tactic for turning content into leads? Let me know in the comments.

Need help turning your content into content marketing? We’ve got you covered.

Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing is a TopRank Marketing Client

Header image via Shutterstock

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Creating Breakthrough Content: There Ain’t No Magic Feather #SMMW17

Creating Breakthrough Content: There Ain’t No Magic Feather #SMMW17

If you want to write amazing content like Ann Handley, don’t be a Dumbo.

Dumbo was convinced he could only fly while holding a “magic feather.” When he lost the feather mid-flight, he plummeted toward the ground. It wasn’t until he believed he could fly without the feather that he was able to take off again.

Too many would-be content creators are searching for their magic feather--the book, online course, or perfect antique typewriter that will make them a writer. And while they search, they can’t or won’t write.

So Ann began her session at Social Media Marketing World by asking us all to recite a pledge out loud:

“I don’t believe in unicorns, fairies, or Santa. There is no magic feather.”

Despite the slander against Mr. Claus (who I have on good authority is very real), it’s a crucial first step. You have to know that good writing is a learned skill, not something magically bestowed on those with the right talisman.

You can do it. You can get better at it.

Here are Ann Handley’s five tips for writing “ludicrously spectacular” content.

#1: It Starts with Not Writing

At least half of the writing process doesn’t look anything like writing. Now, you may be thinking, “frequently what I’m doing while I’m supposed to be writing is not writing.” That’s not quite what Ann means, though.

“Not writing” means being in idea-gathering mode all the time, when you’re out in the world, bingeing on Netflix, or just daydreaming at work. Writers should gather ideas like squirrels gather nuts--always on the lookout, never passing one up, and stashing them where we can get at them later.

The difference between a productive writing session and a frustrating hour staring at a blank screen is having a stash of ideas to go through. Whether you keep them in a notebook, or a service like Evernote or OneNote, commit to hoarding at least five ideas a day.

When you’re ready to write, snag an idea from your stash and, as Ann puts it, “explore the daylights out of it.” Use tools like BloomBerry, Board Reader, and Buzzsumo to see how people are talking about the idea, so you can develop your own approach.

#2: Write an Ugly First Draft

When you do start to write your first draft, silence your inner critic and focus on getting the words from your brain to the screen. Know that you will revise the work at least once--probably more--before you publish. It’s incredibly freeing to accept that your first draft will be bad.  As Ann puts it, “You can’t write well without first writing spectacularly badly.”

That first draft doesn’t have to be a fully-fleshed out draft, either. It could be a list of points you want to cover, a really informal summary of the piece, or even something you dictate into your phone. The point is to give yourself something you can build on. It’s a giant leap from nothing to something--anything you do after that first leap will be easier. So whatever it takes to get something on the page, go for it.

After you finish your ugly first draft, let it rest for a while. Give your brain a little time off and let the piece sit. You’ll be better equipped to edit if you have some distance.

#3: Screw & Do

It’s not as salacious as it sounds: first, identify the ‘screw,’ the one key point for your reader that your whole piece revolves around. Second, do the editing you need to get to the screw as quickly and compellingly as possible.

How do you find your screw? Develop pathological empathy for your reader. Ann recommends the “so what?” process. Start with the statement you want to make, then imagine your reader shouting “SO WHAT?” Keep asking “SO WHAT?” and refining your message, and you will find the purest version of what you want to say, expressed in terms of benefit to the reader.

For the editing process, start with a self-edit by chainsaw. Ann says, “make every paragraph earn its keep.” In the first pass you’re trying to carve out huge chunks of writing that, while they may be very pretty or witty, aren’t serving your screw. Seek to create momentum for the reader by cutting out the junk that slows them down.

Then break it down to the sentence level. Edit with your scalpel, making sure each sentence is earning its keep. Edit for voice--when you read it out loud, does it sound like a person with a point of view wrote it? As Ann says, “If the label fell off, would they know it’s you?”

After the content is in fighting trim, then you can edit for grammar, formatting, all the small stuff. But the grammar should be the last consideration. There’s no point in repainting a condemned house. Get it structurally sound first.

#4: Write a Killer First Line

“Your reader is always looking for reasons NOT to read,” Ann says. You know it’s true--we’re always looking for the next distraction. A boring first line does your reader a favor; it gives them permission to move on.

Your first line needs to captivate the reader. Always lead with something that can capture attention. It could be a funny line, a wild statistic, or even just a strong point of view. Don’t be afraid to evoke an emotion, whether it’s amusement, wonder, or even fear.

#5: It’s All about the Voice

Your voice--or brand voice--can be a major differentiator in a sea of same-y content. Your voice should express:

  • Who you are
  • Why you do what you do
  • What you are like to deal with

Which means, of course, you need to know the answer to these questions before you start.

Marketers are often encouraged to ask, “If your brand were a person, would you want to hang out with it?” When you’re writing brand content, you’re asking people to hang out with your brand. Not every brand needs to be the life of the party, but your voice should communicate why your brand is a worthy companion.

Take the Spectacular Writing Pledge

Even in the age of infographics and videos, good writing and great content excel. From landing pages to blog posts, eBooks to ad copy, let’s pledge to create ludicrously spectacular content.

Feel free to stand up wherever you are and repeat out loud Ann Handley’s pledge:

“I will collect & hoard 5 ideas a day. I will not hit backspace while writing a first draft. I will not go straight from writing to publishing. I will have pathological empathy for the reader. I will not sound like everyone else. And there ain’t no magic feather!”

And if you do stand up and say it out loud, please take a video and tag Ann @MarketingProfs when you post it.

The post Creating Breakthrough Content: There Ain’t No Magic Feather #SMMW17 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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