I just got off the phone with a successful entrepreneur who built two companies, sold them, and now is an advisor within a university startup incubator.
We briefly talked about content marketing and how it generates leads for business. Many companies would love to have their websites produce high-quality leads. Yet there are still too many businesses who aren’t taking the necessary first steps to make that happen.
Lead generation doesn’t happen by just writing one sales letter or tossing a brochure in an envelope and then mailing it.
And lead generation doesn’t happen until a prospect actually gives you their contact information.
I cringe when I visit a business’ website, notice they have a beautiful white paper and when I click on the title, immediately get the PDF to download.
All I can think about is how many qualified leads just vanished out the window.
That business just gave away free candy. There is no way they will know who visited their site and showed interest and no way to follow up with them.
If you hire me to write you a white paper, included in my fee is advice for promoting your white paper along with copy for a squeeze page. White papers need a roll-out plan, just like a new product or service. After all the hard work that goes into creating a high-value marketing asset such as a white paper, you don’t want to just give it away.
A white paper, like other pieces of valuable content, is meant to open the door to a conversation. That conversation won’t ever happen if you drop your content onto the masses without asking them for any information in return.
If you want to maximize the power of your content marketing and marketing assets to increase sales, here are some tips:
First, create a follow-up plan to generate sales.
As the late Dr. Stephen Covey said in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: start with the end in mind.
As I explained in my phone conversation with the successful entrepreneur, content marketing is an integrated effort. It’s not just doing one mailing or one email campaign. There are a lot of moving parts that go into making sure content marketing will get you the results you want.
What often happens is that a lot of planning goes into the execution of a content marketing strategy but the follow-up process is left up in the air.
Spend some time to think about what will happen when a prospect fills out an online form.
Where does the information go? Does it go immediately into an in-house list or is it first given to an inside sales rep for follow up? How is a prospect’s information organized? Are there any auto-responder email messages that follow a downloadable product?
Create a flow chart that details the entire process and all the elements needed so the sales team can make it work. Have everything in place on the back end before you receive that first opt-in from your website.
Offer something valuable and free.
Another part of my conversation with this entrepreneur focused on creating something of value for the targeted buyer.
Whatever you offer, it can’t just be about you. If you do this, you won’t have many takers.
For instance, many business people think that a great offer is a free “consultation.”
Yet ask a prospect and this offer will likely be one of the worst to gain his attention.
Because everyone knows the “consultation” is a thinly-veiled sales pitch.
Instead, create something of value that meets your buyer’s need. You just want to make sure that it is related to your product or service. So if you sell a SaaS product that tracks and prioritizes someone’s “to do” list, offering a tip sheet such as “21 Ways To Steal Time Back Into Your Day” would bring value.
Your content marketing is meant to get a conversation started. The more you can pre-qualify your leads with targeted, valuable information, the better.
Offer your valuable content marketing asset to the right people.
Another topic that came up in the conversation was buyer personas.
Many companies have no idea who their buyer is. They haven’t done the work to identify him or her. And when you talk about complex solutions, you will have multiple stakeholders involved in the buying process.
For instance, the person who does the work to find a solution is usually the one you want to target first. This person knows there is a problem and wants to solve it. It is their responsibility to do due diligence to evaluate the options.
Down the road, when you’re getting closer to the economic buyer, you’ll want to offer content that speaks to him or her. But in the beginning, you’ve got to focus on what is needed to solve that prospect’s problem.
Many times, sales executives will fall in love with their own product or service. They can’t wait to talk about all the “bells and whistles” and why their offering is better than their competitor’s.
But your prospect doesn’t want to hear about that. Not yet.
They will want to know eventually about the “bells and whistles” but it’s too early in the game to go there. They’re still getting to know you.
They’re wondering if you’re the type of business they want to have a relationship with. They’re asking themselves, “Can I trust you?”
When you create targeted, valuable content that meets the questions and needs of a targeted prospect, you’ll have a higher response and generate sales. Trying to offer content that will speak to “just anyone” with a vague need won’t get you anywhere. You’ll just be spinning your wheels wasting money on content that doesn’t resonate with your market.
Define your ideal buyer. Focus on those who really need your product or service. Purchase the most targeted lists you can if you’re conducting direct mail campaigns. Do multiple mailings, too, not just one. Several small, targeted mailings will usually be more profitable than a huge mailing that hits “everyone.”
Remember to track everything. Someone should record the responses: the prospect’s contact information, which offer they responded to, the date they responded, and any other information you’ve gleaned from them.
You also need to keep track of your statistics: response rate, lead quality, contact history, and sales.
By doing this, you will learn a great deal about the behavior of your buyers. It will help you notice patterns and develop future marketing strategies.
Bottom line: you’ll increase the efficiency of your lead generation efforts and really start to transform your website into a lead-generation machine.