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What You Need To Generate Leads With Content

Find out the resources you need to build a scalable lead generation strategy with content and how to target your audience effectively.

What you need to generate leads with content

This is an excerpt from the B2B Lead Generation ebook, which draws on SEJ’s internal expertise in delivering leads across multiple media types.

What, exactly, do you need to create a sustainable and scalable lead generation strategy with content?

It starts with an exceptional piece of content that the leads want – your “lead magnet” – but it doesn’t end there. Modern content marketing requires resources.

Without a content marketing plan and the ability to execute it, you’ll quickly exhaust your audience pool, and the leads will dry up. The good news is you don’t have to do all of this internally, but you need to assess the best use of your resources.

Let’s start with a map of all the pieces required.

Assets & Bandwidth

The four major components of successful lead generation with content are:

  1. Understanding your available market audience and captive audience size.
  2. Consistently creating high-quality, hyper-relevant inbound content and the research behind it to reach existing and new audiences.
  3. Consistently maintaining a high volume of lead-generating content required for the audience and individual people within that audience.
  4. Consistently testing and improving your content.

Market & Audience Research

Research goes into every step of content creation. First, to create a “lead magnet,” you need to be super dialed in on your audience’s specific challenges and immediate needs that you can solve.

You need to understand what a model of success looks like for them and provide a resource that gets them at least part of the way toward that success.

In B2B, that doesn’t just go for your audience. You also need to understand the needs and problems your audience’s own audience has.

It’s a bit of a mind-bender. You must think backward and then forward at the same time. Before you can understand your audience, you need to understand what their audience is asking of them and get fully immersed in that consumer’s journey to your customer – and how that creates a need that applies to you.

When you provide a solution for your target audience, why is your target audience there? What is their audience asking of them?

Why does their audience need their solution, and why does that create a need for your solution?

You must think about all of those layers to provide the best content for them to solve their problem for their audience.

You have to create a whole experience of total immersion to create a remarkable lead generation strategy.

And you have to do this often. One lead magnet, solving one specific problem, gives you a lifespan of leads. But content becomes out of date, and the needs of your customers – and their customers – change.

The knowledge you need to create lead magnets isn’t a matter of a one-time research project. It’s the culmination of constant analysis and regular direct touchpoints with audience members.

You also need to know where you are now and where you can reasonably get to in terms of your audience size. Do you have an audience currently? How large is it? Do you have a plan to grow your audience?

While you absolutely can generate leads with direct tactics like ads, to do it with content marketing, you need an audience first.

The first step is knowing your current marketable audience. Then, develop a plan to expand it with your own content marketing efforts and partnerships that expose new audiences to your brand.

And, of course, you need to develop a distribution plan for your lead magnet content to put it in front of your current marketable audience and new audiences who might be interested.

Check out our upcoming webinar to get an exclusive peek into tactics we use when developing our own lead gen campaigns – case study style. 

Creating & Maintaining Exceptional Content

Audience research moves you toward planning content. As a business trying to generate leads, you need supporting content for each step of the process.

First, there’s the organic strategy that comes with building an audience. Here’s where the deep understanding of audiences really starts to matter.

Content that adds value for free creates trust and goodwill. It’s the kind of long-term thinking that allows you to generate leads from your own audiences and also creates leads passively from people growing to recognize and trust your voice.

Then, there’s all the supporting content that lead magnets need to thrive: landing pages, email copy, supporting articles, social media posts, ads, etc. All of these content pieces must also be carefully targeted toward the direct problems your audiences face, as well as the specific words and phrases that drive interest and action.

More than that, you need to understand what channels and platforms audience members with specific problems use. Your supporting content must be optimized for that channel and fulfill the expectations that users of that channel generally have in addition to the problems you address.

Creating Lead Magnets

Now, we come to the lead magnets themselves, which need to be exceptionally helpful.

An underwhelming experience with lead magnet content can turn a lead off. If you fail to uphold your end of the deal – providing a path to a specific definition of success in exchange for personal information – then you’ll struggle to convert leads.

Success could look like:

  • “With this resource, I can perform a difficult task more efficiently or easily.”
  • “With this resource, I learned something new, and I can use this knowledge directly to solve a problem.”
  • “I can use this resource as a reference that will save me time or energy.”
  • “I can use the data in this resource to build or change my approach to a problem.”
  • “This resource changed my perspective and assumptions about a topic I already know something about, and I can take this innovation back to my team to discuss a new approach.”

To build a content resource that meets one or more of these goals, you need deep and expert knowledge of not just the subject matter and your products, but also, how to be useful.

You need to know how to teach someone something or persuade someone into considering new perspectives. You need to know what information matters and why.

You need to be a leader in:

  • Knowledge of the subject matter.
  • The craft of content, teaching, and curating impactful information.
  • Empathy for your audience and the ability to approach problems from their point of view.

Then, there are the technical skills that go into data analysis, the design skills that go into laying out a document, visual assets, and much more.

One person might possess all of these skills. They might likely exist disparately among different people on your team, in which case you need to align them.

Very likely, you’ll need to find external partners to supplement one or more of these skills.

Testing & Optimization

Often, when content isn’t performing as well as a business wants, its answer is to put more money behind it in terms of distribution, for example, more ads.

That’s because it’s somewhat rare for a business to have the resources to keep content updated as frequently as it should be.

But if there’s a problem with the content, that’s what needs to be assessed. More distribution might get more eyes on content, but if the content is outdated or not quite the right answer, this will be a failing strategy.

Continually testing, updating, and producing new content can be a massive resource sink. Not only does every piece of the content puzzle need refinement – from organic intent analysis to CTA testing – but you also need consistent new and updated content to scale a lead generation strategy.

Updating and producing new organic content helps grow your marketable audience. And new lead magnets that solve specific problems create new opportunities to turn readers and subscribers into leads.

The “updating” part of this is critical. Many businesses focus on making new assets but not maintaining old ones. You should apply the insights that new research gives you about your audience to existing content.

But, again, we return to the problem of assets and bandwidth.

Get more tips on how we, here at SEJ, create holistic content campaigns to drive leads in this exclusive webinar.

What You Really Need Is A Content Team

When businesses apply ineffective fixes to boost content marketing, it usually comes down to resource issues, knowledge issues, or both.

Content marketing is the work of a skilled team of specialists.

Many businesses simply don’t have the resources to deploy the knowledge and time required to do it right.

Building content teams involves a mix of internal stakeholders and external partnerships. Even here at SEJ, where inbound traffic is our bread and butter, we use strategic distribution partnerships to expand our marketable audience. You can’t do it all on your own.

The great thing about a specialist distribution partner is they can help you build the knowledge and research you need to create stronger content efforts internally.

Publishers and influencers thrive on acutely understanding and serving the needs of their audiences. They’re a direct line not just to your audiences themselves, but also to:

  • Up-to-date analysis on trends your audience cares about.
  • Insights on the exact language your audience does and doesn’t respond to.
  • The tone and content types that resonate with your audience.
  • Deep understanding of your audience’s problems and anxieties and how they want to be helped.

But there are all kinds of external partners you can work with to fill gaps in your team, from content production to testing and research.

Don’t ignore the insight and knowledge you gain from working with external specialists, whether they’re helping you with distribution or creating the actual content assets.

Take everything you learn back to your team so that when you’re able to expand your resources, you have knowledge to build on.

The toughest thing about content marketing and lead generation is that all of these aspects flow into one another at different points. A sale could happen before someone even becomes a lead.

A lead could spend months in your “lead nurturing” (more later) flow before finally converting. And people can drop out of this process and never think about you again at any point.

Keep testing, perform new audience research, and relentlessly improve your value. That’s when you’ll start delivering exceptional leads to your sales teams through content marketing.

More resources:

Featured Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

SEJ STAFF Jennifer McDonald Branded Content Editor at Search Engine Journal

Jennifer McDonald is the Branded Content Editor at Search Engine Journal. With 11 years of experience in human-centric digital marketing, ...

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