Why do you create content? It takes time, energy, ideas and resources, so why do it? The answer boils down to one overarching objective: to generate leads. The primary goal behind all content marketing is to generate leads and nurture them toward becoming a customer. To do so effectively, you need to have content that will appeal to potential customers at every stage of the buying cycle.
Take a close look at the offers you currently have. Which of your customer personas are you leaving out? What stage of the buying cycle is a little thin? Auditing your existing resources is a key part of planning your content strategy for the future.
No matter what stage of the buying cycle (or sales funnel) you need to beef up, there’s sure to be an idea here you can use in your own strategy.
Your blog is at the very top of the sales funnel, offering useful information with no obligation. The blog is one of your primary tools for attracting visitors to your website. This may be a potential lead’s first introduction to your company, so use it to showcase your knowledge without pushing your products or services. While reading your blog doesn’t require any commitment, you can offer blog subscriptions through email that help bring a visitor into your circle of contacts.
As components of a blog post or as stand-alone content that you can promote and share via social media such as Twitter or Pinterest, infographics are another way of providing useful or entertaining information without asking for a commitment from your website visitors.
Not everyone loves to spend time reading, so videos provide a blog alternative for those who are more visual learners. Consider creating a video channel on YouTube to provide introductory, educational material similar to what is featured on your blog. And just as you do with your blog, include related calls-to-action that point viewers to more in-depth offers related to the same topic.
Podcasts provide yet another way of introducing yourself and your expertise in a low-obligation manner. An entertaining, informative podcast may be a welcome addition to the daily commute for your prospects, giving them a chance to get to know you and to trust you.
Ebooks are a great way to provide introductory material about a general subject, such as creating calls-to-action, which you can then expand on or discuss in more detail with additional offers.
Tip sheets/reference sheets
Sometimes a subject doesn’t require an entire ebook. Instead, it might lend itself to a reference sheet or list of tips. This could be just one or two pages that is the kind of thing someone would pin above their desk to glance at as a reminder or share in a meeting with colleagues, like this “cheat sheet” for webpage meta descriptions.
While your general introductory videos will typically be “ungated,” more in-depth webinars, whether live events or available for download, should require registration and contact information. As with the ebooks, this is a way to convert a casual visitor into a lead, who can then be nurtured through an automated workflow of emails with related content offers.
Who doesn’t love a checklist? It’s handy to have everything you need to do or pack listed out right in front of you, and ever-so-satisfying to put a big checkmark or ‘X’ through each item as you accomplish that task. Checklists are great offers as your leads move through the sales funnel, transitioning from offers that teach to offers that prospects can use in their work.
Since we know you are interested in inbound marketing, here’s a checklist of 10 things you need to do to run an inbound marketing campaign.
One of five characteristics of quality content is that it is useful. Reports cards are one example of usable content you can offer to your leads - provide them with a concrete way of judging how well they are doing an important task. In fact, being useful is worth 20 of the 101 possible points awarded in our Content Quality Report Card.
A template is another useful offer that can save your leads time in creating things such as reports or presentations.
Like templates, worksheets and spreadsheets create a framework that your leads can use to solve problems and work more efficiently. Ideas could range from calendars for scheduling to spreadsheets that calculate goals and report results.
Do you have access to original research and statistics that your leads would find useful? Creating original reports, such as the State of Inbound report published annually by HubSpot (JONES is a certified HubSpot partner), provides useful benchmarks for your potential customers and secures your position as an industry leader.
Showcase your customers’ success stories and your own approach to industry challenges with case studies. These can either highlight the success of a certain company or campaign with statistical results (like this Bellevue University case study) or focus on the steps taken and the best practices for addressing a specific challenge or situation, such as this website redesign case study.
White papers are another way to show leads that you understand their problems and know how to solve them. Outline a common challenge in your industry, then walk through ways of addressing that challenge, which could include solutions offered by your company, but be sure to also offer the other options as well. These offers are intended for leads that are moving down the sales funnel and getting closer to the consideration phase.
Testimonials and endorsements
As leads begin to compare and contrast vendors, you may want to offer them testimonials and other endorsements, showing them that their colleagues and contemporaries have found success with your business. These could range from testimonial videos hosted on your website to downloadable offers or printed materials to be included in a sales presentation.
Service or product information sheets
Toward the bottom of the sales funnel, as leads enter the comparison phase, they will likely want more specific details than you have offered in the past. Product information sheets can include features and benefits, technical specifications and implementation requirements.
The next detail they may want to see is pricing information. Be ready to present it in an easy to understand manner.
Once pricing is on the table, you can take the next step and offer an interactive calculator designed to help your leads determine what their likely return on investment would be when implementing your solution. This may not fit every situation, but where possible, it builds credibility by providing concrete information.
Sales presentations/consultation calls
If your lead is showing signs of being ready to make a decision, it’s time to offer something more personal, such as a sales presentation or a consultation over the phone.
Seeing a product or service in action can sometimes help sway a potential customer. Offer a demonstration to give them a chance to see just how the product works.
Take the demonstration a step further and let your lead try out your product or service on their own terms by offering a free trial.
B2C companies can use coupons as a way to not only gain sales, but engage customers and keep them coming back, especially when the coupons are downloaded from a company website (gated behind a landing page that requests an email address, of course).
Offers and communication don’t end with a signed sales agreement. Continue to engage and retain your customers with surveys that provide opportunities for them to give you feedback that can improve your products, services and marketing moving forward.
Appreciation offers for established customers, such as special opportunities for new products or special prizes are great ways to incentivize loyalty from your best customers.
Product support materials
Don’t overlook the materials your customers need to get the most from your products or services. The support provided by owner’s manuals, user’s guides, tutorials and help desk services are essential to keeping customers coming back to you for more solutions.
What did we forget? Share your favorite type of offer for generating or nurturing leads.