Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

Lead-Gen: The Holy Grail Of Content Marketing

By Jason Patterson

Founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency
When it comes to B2B content, lead generation is the holy grail, and the content marketer's job is to keep that sacred chalice full so your knights of the sales roundtable can drink the glorious waters of eternal revenue. But not all chalices are holy, and not all leads are equally good.

Yes, Some Leads Can Be Bad

Content marketers love leads because they represent the end of the road for us. Leads are as far as we go. We lead the horses to water. We don't make them drink. There are usually too many other factors that influence a sale for us to really take credit for it. So naturally we're inclined to transform prospects into leads as quickly as possible, and we're often pressured to by various stakeholders. However, leads are not the end-all and be-all for your business.

Content marketing often tries to "fast-forward" the journey down the funnel by trying to go directly from awareness (which talks about the problem your prospects face) to lead-gen, skipping over the consideration stage (which educates prospects about what you sell) entirely, shifting a sizable (and critical) percentage of those education duties away from your marketing content to your salespeople.

But pushing the work to sales is not an absolute good. What happens when a salesperson tells a prospect something about what you sell that's a dealbreaker? The prospect leaves, of course, giving their business to a competitor, which wastes your salesperson's time, and does some of that competitor's marketing work for them. Congratulations, you've just spent a chunk of your sales budget serving up a nice juicy lead to the opposition.

But if that prospect had learned that dealbreaking fact while consuming a piece of consideration content instead, that salesperson's time wouldn't have been wasted at all. And your only sunk cost would be what you spent on the content, instead of the salesperson's time (the latter is usually more valuable).

Hurrying Doesn't Necessarily Get You There Faster

But even if that doesn't happen, a content marketer's time isn't necessarily saved by skipping over consideration, because the product education work still needs to be done, and sales will often need content support for that to happen, which will often involve creating new and different consideration content pieces than the ones you've already made (because the conversation will be unfolding differently under their guidance than it would if the prospect was learning entirely on their own).

Thus, ad hoc requests come back to you from sales, and you end up having to make more content than you might have otherwise needed if sales was doing less educating. However, content marketers shouldn't view this as a distraction, because sales is always educating leads that come in via other routes (tradeshows, prior relationships, etc.), though you do need to have the resources to handle these requests (because unexpected requests from sales always come up no matter how well you plan).

The takehome lesson here is that content marketers can't simply view leads as the end of the road, because if you skip consideration, you're effectively detouring those prospects to another road. And if you're wondering at this point which road is preferable, I certainly don't know that. And you probably don't either.

There are a lot of variables here. The only way you're going to know is to converse with sales and marketing leaders about this. Though if I was an in-house content marketer, I certainly wouldn't just talk to sales straight away. I'd talk to the head of marketing (i.e., your boss) first, because marketing and sales may have different priorities depending on how they're incentivized.

Lead-Gen Doesn't Always Work As Intended

One way marginal leads get generated is through gated content, because people will frequently lie, giving a false name and/or false email address in order to get the content. Then what have you accomplished? Sure, the content has (assuming it gets read) done the job of awareness, and if the prospect is looking to buy now, they may reach out to you after finishing the content.

But even if the content is very good and effective, the odds of that happening are fairly low, because B2B buying cycles are five years long, leaving only 5% of your prospects looking to buy at any one time. Which means that even if you get an email address, that person might have switched companies by the time their previous employer is ready to buy, putting you back to square one with them. So, again, leads aren't all they're cracked up to be.

How To Generate Better Quality Leads?

At this point, you might be getting a little tired of me poo-pooing lead-gen content. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm just saying don't do it recklessly. You need quantity and quality when it comes to leads. Be smart about it, so that you generate a better quality of leads.

Establish The Prospect's Intent

When you do lead-gen, be clear about what the prospect will be getting when they give you their contact details. Will they be receiving sales content? Will they be receiving awareness content (which sometimes they are if you're combining lead-gen with awareness). Will they be contacted by a representative? This clarity helps establish their intent, making it easier to know how to deal with them, and how to avoid scaring them off.

Minimize Gated Content

Marketers often love gated content. But content people tend to hate it, for two reasons. First, gating decreases your reach, a lot. Exactly how much is hard to say, but there's data out there suggesting it could be in the 50-70% range. Many people just aren't comfortable giving out contact details, with a recent survey of medium and large business buyers (same source as the just-quoted stat) indicating that 25% won't give out contact details for gated content under any circumstances.

And the second reason is the one we told you about in the previous section. A lead for Seymour Butts at is no lead at all, with that same survey suggesting that 25% of buyers will do something like this.

I'm not saying don't gate at all. There's always a balance of factors to consider. But on the whole, I tend to think that keeping your content ungated drives more leads over the long run than gating. Brandbuilding (i.e., mindshare) driven by freely available high-quality content will do what needs to be done, with gating the marketing equivalent of demanding a second date before the first date has really started.

But if you really have your heart set on gating, do it for content where buying intent is fairly obvious. For instance, if you sell data centers, and you have a content piece called "How To Shop For Data Centers," that might be a good gating candidate.

Pair Lead-Gen More With Consideration & Less With Awareness

Publishing more consideration content is bound to increase the quality of the leads that inevitably get through because whoever makes it will be better educated, and assuming you're selling something competitive and presented well, it stands a good chance of creating more leads overall than pairing lead-gen with awareness would, because a lot of people out there are introverts who find social interactions with aggressively friendly strangers awkward and uncomfortable, even if they're strictly online (over 40% of your customers would prefer not to deal with a sales rep at all).

And pairing lead-gen with consideration instead of awareness delays that first point of contact, thus minimizing the amount of time that prospect will have to deal with sales (an appealing prospect to introverts). And since introverts are going to be moving more into leadership positions in remote/hybrid workplaces than they were in the past, adapting your buyer's journey to them now puts you ahead of the game.

If you sell numerous products, probably the best consideration content to pair with lead-gen contact fields are product comparisons, or product category comparisons, as prospects can have a hard time determining the key differences between products by shuffling about between different product pages. Nothing beats side-by-side.

Some websites offer this feature, of course, and it's a good one to have, but a customized piece of content for a certain industry or customer category (SMBs, enterprises, etc.) can add some vital context that a simple spec comparison couldn't do on its own.

If your product range is narrower, then you need to focus more on comparisons versus competitors, or versus doing nothing. You'll also need testimonial-heavy case studies, which are good to have in any case (as fellow customers can often explain better why they should choose you better than you can).

Be Where Your Prospects Are

Another way to generate more and better leads is to devote more efforts to promoting your content beyond your owned channels. This might mean focusing more on forums like Reddit. Or it might mean focusing more on trade publications (some of which will let you publish your content on their site). Or it might involve stepping up your dark social efforts (i.e., Facebook groups).

Of course, there are two catches here. One, such efforts involve things that go beyond the usual purview of content marketing, therefore you'll probably need help from media relations or your sales team. And two, these efforts are often tied to the personal relationships of whoever is actually carrying the water for you. And if that person leaves your company, you may be back to zero. But still, this is a good area to explore if you feel that you're seeing diminishing returns using more orthodox methods.

Educate Your Content Writers

Good quality leads aren't just a matter of educating prospects, your content writers also need to be educated about your prospects. Who they are. How technical they are. What they ask. And what they need to know. Because if content writers don't know who they're talking to, the content they produce tends to be vague and written for no one in particular, and vague content produces either vague leads or no leads.

There are two good ways to educate content writers about prospects. One, arrange for direct dialog with sales. And two, start recording your sales conferences and let your content people watch the recordings (or read transcripts). This might not be perfect, but it's better than leaving it to guesswork.

And One More Thing

If you can successfully improve the quality of your leads, you won't need to worry so much about just getting more leads, which is good, because chasing leads all the time is bad. You want your content marketing funnel to look like a funnel, narrower at the bottom (less lead-gen content) and wider at the top (more awareness and consideration).

But if you ask for contact details at every interaction, every piece becomes lead-gen, which means you don't have a marketing funnel anymore, you actually have a marketing straw, which makes your brand seem used-car-salesy, thus undermining the brandbuilding work that good content can do.

So, that's it for the lead-gen stage of the content marketing funnel. If you want to learn more about awareness and consideration, follow the links.

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