Anyone working in a sales-oriented business will tell you that the hardest part about their jobs is generating leads. How do you parse from all of the potential clients out there to get only highly-qualified leads with the correct decision-maker in front of you?
You could cold call a list of businesses, or try to buy a database of contacts and send out emails. But none of these techniques will generate a large number of high quality leads. Many are proven to be a complete waste of time.
The good news is that the Internet is here to help. You might think that SEO is designed only for B2C companies, with companies like insurance players or phone companies trying to vie for the top SERP to get your money. But those very same techniques become even more powerful when applied to more niche industries.
Your business creates value by selling an expertise. People pay for that expertise. But in many cases a new target might not know who you are or even what you do. In order to gain their trust you have to prove yourself. This can come in a few different forms. Either you have a great client list that can silence skeptics. Or you can create a piece of content that delivers value by itself, and capture the people who want to access that content.
Blogs, like this one, give away great content to help businesses succeed at their digital marketing efforts. Blog posts are in a way mini-reports about specific subjects designed to attract people who search for those subjects on search engines.
B2B businesses also commonly have blogs, but in order to properly capture qualified leads, you have to go deeper. In many cases this takes the form of a downloadable report or white paper, which Wikipedia defines as “an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”
This is How White Papers Work
Figure out what type of learning or insights you have that people would be interested in. This is the core model of your business, and the things that you have learned while doing it that other people won’t be able to readily access. For example, if you run a firm that specializes in structural analysis of buildings you could create a white paper about the most common faults in reinforced concrete and how to fix them before corrosion of the rebar steel takes place. The value that you produce is first of all in sharing your expertise, the most common structural faults. Then, you can outline the different forms of treatment that make up the possible solutions. Since the white paper is there to help the reader make a decision, they would decide that they need a solution that you outline – which is, of course, a solution that you provide!
Produce a Report or White Paper
Whatever the format, you don’t want this content to be readily available. Instead, you should use a landing page and promoted posts on places like LinkedIn to draw attention to it. Traackr does this really well with their influencer reports. They provide valuable information about the ever-evolving influencer landscape.
Communications officers responsible for influencers are immediately attracted by their state of influence reports which are cleverly divided into industries like beauty and travel. In order to access the report, interested people have to enter their professional contact information. Then they receive the report in a rich PDF format.
As more and more people download the report, the sales team gets to work sending targeted messages to each lead based on their company.
Since Traackr has established value by providing a rich report for free, its natural that the client will want to follow up and hear more – especially if it’s pertinent to their specific company.
This technique works because only people who are very interested will go through the trouble of filling out the form, waiting for the email with the download link, and downloading the report.
The lead identifies themselves, and provides you voluntarily with their contact information.
Conversely, the more specific your topic is, the better it will perform. The goal is not to attract the largest possible number of people, instead you should try to find a balance. The more specific your content is to your business or an area of your expertise, the better the quality of leads you will get because the value of your content goes up for that particular person the more and more pertinent they are to your business. It’s quite the virtuous circle.
Take an example. If you release a white paper on digital advertising, you will attract everyone involved in that, from people who take care of marketing plans to media buyers to VPs who are trying to get up to speed.
If you release a report on optimizing budgets for RTB demand side platforms, you will lose everyone who is not specifically responsible for that function. But if you sell a bidding solution optimized by clicks, you will find yourself with leads from people who are very close to finding value in your service.
Find the Right Balance
Each type of report or white paper needs to have enough depth and value that someone who downloads it will be able to take away information that they didn’t have before, without giving them every single step to be able to do it themselves. Instead, the white paper should provide the reader with the understanding to better be able to understand and tackle a problem.
How then does the reader actually tackle the problem? With your services, of course! The white paper is sort of like a tee on the golf course, it allows the person reading it to set the up their problem (the golf ball) upon the white paper before driving it down the course with your service (the club).
There are many ways to do this – and the key is to not be too pushy and commercial. That’s why the white paper is such a good format, because you are providing in-depth, valuable content and plugging the holes with calls to action to get in touch with you when someone needs an actually solution.
These types of reports can also create demand by themselves, even without having a sales person follow up. By providing value but teasing the details, people will get in touch with you on their own accord to find out more. This is the best possible scenario: you don’t need to offer your service – and put yourself at a negotiation disadvantage, to potential contacts. Instead, when potential clients come to you, you are in the position of strength.
That’s what providing valuable content can do for you.
Your content, now that it’s created and nice and pretty, could also be used as a presentation at industry conferences. Many people attend salons to get professional contacts and leads, and there is no better way to than gain immediate authority and high visibility than by being a presenter.
The really great thing is that as you gather feedback on your presentation, you can continue to update your white paper to make it even more valuable to your leads. You can see which parts are redundant, which parts don’t have the impact that you’re hoping for, and where you have holes in your arguments to fill.
Linkedin’s Pulse platform provides a space to create content specific to Linkedin. This is one of Linkedin’s goals, so it shows this type of content to a wider audience than what you normally get if you post and link back to your content on your site.
By breaking up the content that you’ve created and releasing it in bits over time, you can create multiple high-visibility touch points to drive people to your site – and your contact form.
Another technique to get more engagement instantly is to tag your closer contacts when you publish a traditional post linking to your content. Make sure that the content is relevant to them. Most people won’t click through to your content, but if it’s relevant to their industries, they are more likely to share to their networks.
The sad reality today is that organic reach is on the decline on social platforms. There are just so many people creating so much content that algorithms have to choose what people see. This often comes at the expense of brands and companies who are looking for broad reach.
I recommend using a small budget to sponsor posts on LinkedIn and/or Facebook to start driving people to your content. If enough people start to visit it, Google will start showing it to more people.
It’s entirely possible to not invest in sponsoring your content, organic sharing and search might be enough, but if you’re looking to generate a serious quantity of sales leads, you should consider it. In fact you can figure out exactly how much you need to spend.
Reverse Engineering the Sales Funnel
The great thing about digital marketing is that you can reverse engineer and calculate how much you would hypothetically need to spend to achieve a certain goal. Let’s look at a detailed example.
You are a salesperson and you need to generate $10K this month in new business. Since you sell roofing supplies, your average order is about $1250, so you need 8 new customers this month.
From there, you need to know your closing percentage, or how often you can close a deal versus how many leads you have. As a ballpark figure, let’s call it 20%. That means you need 40 new leads this month to contact.
You content is going to be accessed from a download form on a landing page. The landing page is where people come when they want to get their hands on your content. The key metric here is the conversion rate, or how many people enter in their information versus how many people visit the landing page.
For many landing pages, the conversion rates are in the single to fraction of a digit. You can AB test and do a lot of technical things to improve the conversion rate. But to be on the safe side for the calculation, let’s say your landing page has a 2% conversion rate.
When you need 40 people at a 2% conversion rate, that means you need to have 2,000 visitors to your landing page that month. The good news is that an increasing portion of your traffic would be organic, so let’s say that you have 500 organic visits. In that case you need to obtain 1,500 visitors.
A fairly standard cost per click rate hovers between $1 and $2. In fact the average across all industries on Facebook is $1.72 according to Wordstream.
If you can optimize your asset and campaign over time to get it around $1 per click, the final calculation tallies up to $1500 to convert to $10K in revenue by generating leads from automated sponsored posts and a gated content landing page.
Your individual situation is probably very different from the one I described above. Every business has different sales cycles, margins, and targeting needs. But the basic formula stays the same.
The best part is that you can improve each part of that calculation through the most important part – the content. Writing a perfect title and headline is one way that can exponentially improve click through rates. Providing the right amount of teaser content on the landing page – and making sure the call to action is obvious and immediate – and you can improve your conversion rate.
Plus, the better the content, the more of your traffic will come to you organically, helping you to drive additional revenue through sales leads while slowly decreasing your sponsoring budget.
After reading this article you might think that it’s possible to create money out of thin air but don’t get me wrong, your competitors are doing it too. Your content might not get referenced very well or your network shows little enthusiasm for spreading it. There is no one fits all approach to this content-based lead generation strategy. But no matter what your situation, the first step is creating content that serves as both the hook and the fishing pole, drawing interested people in so you can bring them on board.
How have you found success generating sales leads?